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Iraqi Lawmaker Wants Protection For Ethnic, Religious Minorities

Mandaeans in Iraq (file photo)
Mandaeans in Iraq (file photo)
BAGHDAD -- A senior Iraqi parliamentarian has warned that Iraq risks losing its ethnic and religious diversity unless a special government body is established to protect religious minorities, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Khalid Amin Rumi, the sole adherent to Mandaenism in Iraqi's parliament, told RFI that adherents to the Mandaean faith are proposing the formation of a "minority security council" that would be directly subordinate to the prime minister as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

They say such a measure would enable Iraq to maintain its great religious diversity.

Rumi said elders of the Mandaean community adopted the idea following a wave of recent attacks specifically targeting businesses owned by Mandaeans. Mandaeans mostly own jewelery shops.

Rumi explained that rather than performing security duties in the strictest sense, the proposed council would act as a watchdog to ensure the legal process runs its course, as police investigations are often abandoned after a short time and suspects are set free before being tried.

Rumi emphasized that the envisaged "religious minority security council" does not entail creating a paramilitary force for every high-risk community. On the contrary, Rumi said, it will be a purely "legal and administrative follow-up body" to ensure that investigations of criminal attacks against minority groups come to a satisfactory conclusion.

William Warda, who heads the Hammurabi Center for Human Rights, a Christian NGO, told RFI that many points about the proposed council need to be clarified, including its legal status and jurisdiction.

Warda said that government involvement in such bodies will only further marginalize the country's minority groups. He advocated enhancing the capacity of the existing security forces to provide better protection for all Iraqis rather than creating another government agency.

Mandaeanism is a monotheistic faith based on the teachings of St. John the Baptist. Its adherents have lived in Iraq for nearly 2,000 years. Scholars say Mandaeanism is one of the last remaining links to ancient religions that flourished during the Roman Empire.

There are an estimated 60,000-70,000 Mandaeans worldwide, with the majority living in Iraq and Iran.

Many religious minorities in Iraq have been targeted by Islamists since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, leading to thousands of Christian and other non-Muslim groups leaving the country.