Ethno-religious minorities in Iraq have been subjected to ethnic strife and the ravages of war. These ancient Christian people once numbered more than 1.5 million, but today are fewer than 400,000. As a human rights advocate and the daughter of immigrants who fled anti-Christian violence in this part of the world, Rep. Eshoo has been a leader in bringing attention to the plight of Iraq's minority communities.
Together with Rep. Frank Wolf, Rep. Eshoo co-founded and co-chairs the Caucus on Religious Minorities in the Middle East. She has been instrumental in obtaining funds to assist the ethno-religious minorities in Iraq. As a result of her efforts, the U.S. Department of State has provided $10 million in assistance to fund a range of medical and infrastructure assistance programs in the region for each of the last several appropriations cycles. Rep. Eshoo has also worked to ensure adequate refugee assistance for the many ethno-religious minorities who have fled Iraq and dispersed throughout the United States.
In November 2009, Rep. Eshoo provided special testimony for the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Appropriations Committee concerning the plight of ethno-religious minorities and the crisis related to the ongoing violence against these groups in Iraq. She joined with Rep. Gary Peters to request additional funding for the Nineveh Plains region in Fiscal Year 2011. She also joined other Members in passing a resolution on the need for the international community to focus on Christian minorities in Iraq.
Following the devastating October 31, 2010 attack on Our Lady of Salvation Assyrian Catholic Church in Baghdad, which left more than 50 clergy, worshipers and police dead, Rep. Eshoo sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton requesting an overdue clarification of the Administration's policy on Iraq's minorities, requesting the articulation of a comprehensive strategy for their protection. The State Department's response is available here.
In response to continuing concerns in the diaspora, faith and advocacy communities that the distribution of funds to protect Iraq's minorities has not been sufficiently transparent, Rep. Eshoo led a letter, joined by more than a dozen House colleagues and four Senators, asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the mechanism the State Department and USAID use for providing this aid. The investigation is ongoing, and Rep. Eshoo hopes that the results will pave the way for a more effective distribution of development and relief funds.
In January 2011, she testified before the Lantos Human Rights Commission on the plight of endangered minority groups in Iraq. Following the testimony, she worked with Members of the Commission, including co-chair Rep. Frank Wolf, to draft a letter to the Adminstration requesting the appointment of specific officials at Embassy Baghdad and Embassy Cairo to coordinate efforts on behalf of Iraqi and Egyptian minorities. She also joined with Rep. Frank Wolf and numerous other Members in introducing bipartisan legislation to create a Special Envoy for Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Asia. That legislation, H.R. 440, has been referred to the Foreign Affairs Committee, and she continues to work for its passage.
On April 13, 2011, Rep. Eshoo provided testimony to the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, once again requesting support for humanitarian development and relief targeted at Iraq's ethno-religious minorities in Fiscal Year 2012. She continues to conduct vigorous oversight of the Administration's handling of this issue in an effort to garner greater attention for it.
HEARING THURSDAY, JANUARY 20, 2011 10 AM ROOM 2359 OF THE RAYBURN HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING
This hearing will take place at 10 AM on 1/20/2011, in Room 2359 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
The Hearing is open to members of Congress, congressional staff, the media and the interested public.
DATE: Thursday, January 20, 2011 TIME: 10 AM LOCATION: Room 2359 of the Rayburn House Office Building
Please join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for a hearing on the increased sectarian violence in Iraq and Egypt. Last October, at least 70 people were killed during a siege on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad making it the worst massacre of Iraqi Christians since 2003. The Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaeda affiliate, claimed the attacks were in response to actions by the Coptic Church in Cairo. Less than two months later, extremists bombed the homes of more than a dozen Christian families throughout Baghdad. On New Year’s Eve in Alexandria, Egypt, at least 21 people were killed by a suicide bomber while leaving a Coptic Church following a worship service. It was the worst violence against the country’s Christian minority in a decade.
Levin Statement in Support of Ethnic and Religious Minorities in Iraq
U.S. Congress: Sandy Levin, 12th district Michigan. March 2, 2010.
Washington D.C. — Madam Speaker, I rise in support of H. Res. 944, which recognizes the persecution and displacement of ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq. This resolution calls on the Iraqi and United States governments to better protect the rights of persons of all ethnicities and religions.
This resolution comes as the Chaldean community mourns the two-year anniversary of the murder of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho. Archbishop Rahho dedicated his life to the Chaldean Church in Mosul and sought to build interfaith relationships while advocating for the inclusion of Chaldeans and other vulnerable populations in the new Iraqi state.
These vulnerable populations include Chaldeans, Assyrians, Turkmen, Sabean Mandeans, Yazidis, and Syriacs. Their unique languages and histories are among the oldest of the Mesopotamian region. Together, they represent the richly diverse heritage of Iraq.
Since 2003, however, members of their communities have suffered marginalization, harassment, and violence. Many have been forced to seek safety away from their homes, often outside the country's borders. Ethno-religious minorities formerly comprised approximately five percent of Iraq's population; today, they comprise almost twenty percent of all Iraqi refugees registered with the United Nations Refugee Agency.
Minorities fear such rates of displacement threaten the very future of their communities. Continued sectarian violence prevents the free exercise of religion, cultural expression, and political participation that are fundamental to democracy. This resolution underscores the importance that Iraq’s upcoming elections be free, fair, and safe, and that the rights of its minority populations be protected.
Madam Speaker, I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting H. Res. 944 and in urging meaningful support for Iraq's ethnic and religious minorities.
The Assyrian American National Coalition is pleased to report that the State Department announced it is allocating $28 million to benefit ethnoreligious minorities in Iraq. $10 million will be used for the construction of a hospital in the Nineveh Plain. The remaining resources will be used as microfinancing to support increased economic development for ethnoreligious minorities in Iraq.
We have many people to thank for this success. Certainly, without the support of our friends in Congress, this would not be occurring. So, thank you, Senator Mark Kirk, Rep. Anna Eshoo, Rep. Gary Peters, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Rep. Frank Wolf, and Rep. Sander Levin.
But most importantly, we have you to thank for this success. You have made this funding become available by sending our messages to Congress and President Obama. One of our goals of our current campaign, the Nineveh Plain Province Solution, has been to target the State Department for their failure to respond appropriately to the crisis facing Assyrians in Iraq. While we all know this funding is still not enough, we hope that you take heart in the fact that even though we only have several thousand Assyrian Americans in this country, when thousands of you do contact Congress, you can influence the foreign policy of the United States.
Let's keep working.
Thank you, The Assyrian American National Coalition
\ã-'sir-é-ä\ n (1998)
1: an ancient empire of Ashur
2: a democratic state in Bet-Nahren, Assyria (northern
Iraq, northwestern Iran, southeastern Turkey and eastern Syria.)
a democratic state that fosters the social and political rights to all of
its inhabitants irrespective of their religion, race, or gender
4: a democratic state that believes in the freedom of
religion, conscience, language, education and culture in faithfulness to the
principles of the United Nations Charter —
Ethnicity, Religion, Language
Israeli, Jewish, Hebrew
Assyrian, Christian, Aramaic
Saudi Arabian, Muslim, Arabic
\ã-'sir-é-an\ adj or n (1998)
1: descendants of the ancient empire of Ashur
2: the Assyrians, although representing but one single
nation as the direct heirs of the ancient Assyrian Empire, are now
doctrinally divided, inter sese, into five principle
ecclesiastically designated religious sects with their corresponding
hierarchies and distinct church governments, namely, Church of the
East, Chaldean, Maronite, Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic.
These formal divisions had their origin in the 5th century of the
Christian Era. No one can coherently understand the Assyrians
as a whole until he can distinguish that which is religion or church
from that which is nation -- a matter which is particularly
difficult for the people from the western world to understand; for
in the East, by force of circumstances beyond their control,
religion has been made, from time immemorial, virtually into a
criterion of nationality.
the Assyrians have been referred to as Aramaean, Aramaye, Ashuraya,
Ashureen, Ashuri, Ashuroyo, Assyrio-Chaldean, Aturaya, Chaldean,
Chaldo, ChaldoAssyrian, ChaldoAssyrio, Jacobite, Kaldany, Kaldu,
Kasdu, Malabar, Maronite, Maronaya, Nestorian, Nestornaye, Oromoye,
Suraya, Syriac, Syrian, Syriani, Suryoye, Suryoyo and Telkeffee. —
1: a Semitic language which became the lingua franca of
the Middle East during the ancient Assyrian empire.
2: has been referred to as Neo-Aramaic, Neo-Syriac, Classical
Syriac, Syriac, Suryoyo, Swadaya and Turoyo.