Over 10,000 Iraqi Christians protest demanding self-rule

October 3rd, 2008 - 12:49 am ICT by IANS  

Baghdad, Oct 2 (DPA) More than 10,000 Iraqi Christians demonstrated Thursday in the northern Dahuk province, demanding self-rule in their area and restoration of a clause in the new election law that would guarantee their representation in provincial councils.”The demonstrators will present an official memo to the local authorities in Dahuk province to back their efforts and help them demand the rights of our people,” Jamal Zeno, the chief of the Chaldo-Assyrian Popular Council, told the Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency.

He added that they would intensify their efforts to restore Article 50, which the Iraqi parliament removed Sep 24 during a session to adopt a new provincial elections law.

Parliament’s decision to remove Article 50, which specified a quota for minorities in provincial councils, has sparked a heated reaction from several political blocs representing the country’s Christians and other minorities.

While the new law sets a fixed quota of 25 percent for women, it snubbed other Iraqi minorities such as Christians and Yazidis.

Some 5,000 Iraqi Christians demonstrated against the change a week ago in Nineveh province.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki expressed his concerns Sunday about the removal of the disputed article.

In a statement released by his office, al-Maliki called on parliament and the Iraqi High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to address the concerns, feelings of injustice and the sense of exclusion felt by some segments of Iraqi society.

Iraqi Christians constitute some 636,000 of the Iraqi population. Most of them speak an ancient Aramaic dialect. They live in the northern provinces of Arbil, Nineveh and Dahuk.

Under the new law, elections will take place in 14 provinces, but not in three northern Kurdish states and the oil-rich multi-ethnic province of Kirkuk.

The new law bans parties from campaigning in mosques and using religious figures to get votes.

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