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Levin Statement in Support of Ethnic and Religious Minorities in Iraq

Posted: Friday, September 23, 2011 at 05:51 PM CT

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.

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