Monday, July 18, 2005

Iraqis split on rights of Jewish minority

One month before the deadline for the creation of the new Iraqi constitution, a debate on whether to include Jews as an official minority has broken out in the National Assembly, members of the assembly have told The Jerusalem Post of 18 July.

"There have been suggestions that when it comes to minority rights, we specify who are the minorities," Saad Jawad Qindeel, a Shi'ite member said in a phone call from Baghdad. "They [the Iraqi Jews] should not be included as a minority because their number is too small."

(...) In fact it is their small number that warrants Jews minority status, (says human rights lecturer Joshua) Castellino, who is working on his second book about minorities.

"In general, the Iraqi Jews' low number is more of a reason to extend them minority status as basic recognition of their existence in Iraq and as a means of further protection," he said.
Yet while only a few bachelors and old people remain in Iraq, hundreds of thousands of Jews of Iraqi descent live abroad. Many of them even voted in Iraq's National Assembly elections in January, although they have not seen their native country for decades.

According to the present interim constitution, the Transitional Administrative Law, the expatriates are eligible for citizenship, meaning that their potential influence in the country is not negligible.

However, no Iraqi Jew has a seat on the special commission appointed to write Iraq's constitution by August 15. The document is meant to represent all the different ethnic and religious groups. Jews are the only minority group that does not have a seat on the commission.

Even the right of the descendants of Iraqi expatriates to gain citizenship is in question. According to Qindeel, the law may be changed to prevent descendants of Iraqis living abroad from obtaining a passport. At present, anyone whose father is Iraqi is eligible.

To many Iraqi Jews living abroad it would be a crime not to be mentioned in Iraq's constitution.
"In my opinion it's discrimination," said Hod Hasharon resident Albert Eini, 77, who left Baghdad 55 years ago.

"We were born in Iraq, our roots are in Iraq, we have more than 2,500 years of history in Iraq. It's not possible that they don't include us. We are part of the Iraqi people," he said.
"I wish that one day we can go back to Iraq as Iraqis, and not as foreigners, to live or visit as we like." Read article in full.

No comments: