Home | Government | WikiLeaks Information

WikiLeaks: 2009-07-13: 09BAGHDAD1890: Non-Muslim Endowment: Flush with Cash, But No One To Spend It

by WikiLeaks. 09BAGHDAD1890: July 13, 2009.

Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 08:36 AM UT


If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs
Reference ID Created Classification Origin
09BAGHDAD1890 2009-07-13 11:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
DE RUEHGB #1890/02 1941100
P 131100Z JUL 09 ZDK
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 02 OF 03 BAGHDAD 001890 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/09/2019 
* Missing Section 001 * 
BAGHDAD 00001890  002 OF 003 
and religious sites and that in order to maintain them more 
staff would be required.  When asked whether the endowment 
could utilize some of its budget surpluses to hire additional 
employees, al-Naufali told Poloff on June 15 that he had 
tried this, but had been told that there was a 
government-wide hiring freeze as a result of low oil prices 
and that the GOI did not want any government agency adding to 
its payroll.  In a separate conversation on July 7, 
al-Shammaa told Poloff that the Endowment had received 
permission from the Ministry of Finance to add 150 employees, 
but that they had to come from amongst a pool of employees 
who had previously worked for the GOI, specifically for 
state-owned industries that were reducing their staff. 
Al-Shammaa indicated that the Endowment was working on 
locating these employees so that they could be transferred 
Christian Endowment 
6. (C) Within the non-Muslim Endowment, the Christian 
Endowment is by far the largest of three religious 
affiliations.  According to Director al-Shammaa, the 
Christian Endowment has 85 employees (out of 98 at the entire 
non-Muslim Endowment) assigned to it.  The Christian 
Endowment is also responsible for the bulk of the 
non-Muslim's endowment spending.  Al-Shammaa told Poloff that 
as of July 7, the Christian Endowment had allocated 3 billion 
Iraqi dinars to renovate Catholic Churches (Chaldean and 
Syriac) in Baghdad, 1 billion dinars for Assyrian Churches, 
500 million dinars for Armenian Churches, and 500 million 
dinars to support places of worship in Mosul and the villages 
of Ninewah.  When asked about the selection process for 
projects, al-Shammaa described how the Christian Endowment 
receives proposals from the 14 officially recognized churches 
in Baghdad.  Al-Shammaa noted that while each of the 14 
churches wants their projects to be the priority, that the 
endowment works on a first come, first serve basis due to its 
staffing shortages.  He acknowledged that this process left 
some church leaders upset on occasion. 
7. (C) In separate conversations with Christian religious 
leaders, Poloff noted that there is a degree of frustration 
with the non-Muslim Endowment.  Monsignor Imad Albanna, the 
regional representative of the Chaldean Church in Basra, told 
Poloff on July 7 that the procedures to receive assistance 
from the non-Muslim Endowment were "very slow."  Albanna 
complained that as a result churches in Basra were falling 
into a state of disrepair.  In contrast, Father Augin Dawood 
of the Assyrian Church told Poloff on July 6 that he was 
extremely satisfied with the support his church was 
receiving.  At the same time, Archbishop Matti Matouka, the 
leader of the Syriac Catholic Church in Iraq, told Poloff on 
June 29 that the large scale emigration of Iraq's Christian 
community since 2003 has left the churches more dependent on 
the non-Muslim Endowment than ever because they can no longer 
rely on the donations and patronage of wealthy Christian 
8. (C) In addition to its support to places of worship, the 
Christian Endowment has also worked over the past year, in 
conjunction with the Council of Bishops, on drafting a 
Personal Status Law that would govern issues of marriage, 
divorce, and inheritance for Iraq's Christian community (ref 
A).  At present, these matters are regulated by Law 188, 
which applies to all Iraqis regardless of religion and sect 
and which draws heavily upon Islamic jurisprudence (ref B). 
At the request of the Christian Endowment, the Embassy's 
Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Office agreed to do a 
QConstitutional and Legislative Affairs Office agreed to do a 
legal analysis of the draft law to determine whether it met 
international best practices.  The analysis along with 
suggested changes was completed in May and returned to the 
Endowment for their consideration.  As of July, the Endowment 
was still revising its draft personal status law and had not 
submitted it to the Prime Minister's Office for consideration. 
Sabean-Mandean Endowment 
9. (C) The Sabean-Mandean Endowment is by far the smallest of 
the three non-Muslim endowments with just three employees 
assigned to it.  Nevertheless, its director, Zahroon Thomah, 
told Poloff on June 24 that the Sabean-Mandean Endowment has 
been able to complete a couple of projects that have 
benefited the community.  Thomah noted, specifically, the 
completion of a new Sabean-Mandean Center of Study and 
Research located next to the principal temple in Baghdad as 
well as new furniture that the Endowment was able to provide 
to Mandean temples in Basra, Erbil, and Imara.  At the same 
time, Thomah complained that it was impossible for the 
BAGHDAD 00001890  003 OF 003 
Sabean-Mandean Endowment to do its work effectively with so 
few employees.  He relayed to Poloff that the Endowment 
currently has a tender out to rehabilitate a Sabean-Mandean 
temple in Kirkuk and that there were plans to rebuild an old 
temple in Nasriyah, but that there was no one available to 
oversee the work.  Thomah said that in these cases, the 
Sabean-Mandean Endowment requests assistance from the 
Ministry of Housing and Construction to oversee the work, but 
that this is not an ideal solution. 
10. (C) Thomah also expressed frustration with the Provincial 
Councils of Basra and Kirkuk who he claimed were being 
unnecessarily obstructionist in providing lands for the 
construction of new Sabean-Mandean temples.  Thomah said that 
the current temple in Basrah was located next to stagnant, 
polluted water and that the Basra Provincial Council had 
denied the Sabean-Mandean request on the grounds that there 
are no available lands.  With respect to Kirkuk, Thomah 
stated that while the Provincial Council had not denied the 
request for land outright, it had told the Sabean-Mandean 
community there that they had purchase the land as it would 
not be given way for free.  At the same time, Thomah claimed 
that the Sunnis and Shias always seem to get large tracts of 
free land to build their mosques. 
Yezidi Endowment 
11. (C) With ten employees, the Yezidi Endowment is three 
times larger than the Sabean-Mandean Endowment, but remains 
dwarfed by the Christian Endowment.  Adding to its challenge 
is the fact that the Yezidi community is not present in 
Baghdad, making its work more difficult to accomplish. 
According to the director of the Yezidi Endowment, Sherwan 
Ismael, the Endowment maintains representatives and has 
numerous projects underway in the northern villages of 
Baghdada, Kara Kosh, Bashiqa, and Shehan.  In Shehan, the 
Endowment is building a guest house for pilgrims near the 
site of the Yezidi's most important place of worship, the 
Lalash Temple.  Looking ahead, Ismael discussed plans to 
renovate and preserve ten Yezidi shrines in Ismael complained 
that he has difficulty recruiting Yezidis to work at the 
Endowment because of the distance between the Yezidi villages 
and Baghdad, the security situation along the roads, and 
because of the small salaries that the endowment is able to 
12. (C) Whether this statement is true is a matter of debate 
within the Yezidi community.  According to Yezidi MP Amin 
Farhan, the bulk of the Yezidi community does not recognize 
the Yezidi Endowment in Baghdad because Ismael has been 
utilizing his position to direct funds to support his tribe 
rather than the Yezidi community as a whole.  In a 
conversation with Poloff on July 9, Farhan also accused 
Ismael of failing to hire Yezidis at the Endowment because he 
wanted to conceal the truth as to how funds at the Endowment 
were being spent.  Whatever the truth is, these statements 
reveal a real division within the Yezidi community as to 
whether they are really benefiting from the largesse at the 
non-Muslim Endowment. 
13. (C) In general, the story of the non-Muslim Endowment is 
a good one.  The robust budgetary allocations from the 
Ministry of Finance are an indication that the GOI has 
allocated hard money to back up its rhetoric concerning 
support for Iraq's minority populations.  Although the 
non-Muslim Endowment Directors like to compare their 
resources to the Sunni and Shia endowments, the truth is that 
these endowments will always dwarf them given that Iraq's 
Qthese endowments will always dwarf them given that Iraq's 
population is approximately 95% Muslim.  The more apt 
comparison is between what the Endowment's budget and 
staffing were in 2003 (no official budget/five employees) and 
what they are today ($15 million/98 employees -- and 
apparently more on the way).  End comment. 


Government ForumGovernment Forum

WikiLeaks InformationWikiLeaks Information

Do you have any related information or suggestions? Please email them.

AIM | Atour: The State of Assyria | Terms of Service