Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Humanitarian situation of refugees from Iraq

Delivered in Plenary - 15th February 2007

Mr President

I too want to focus on the Assyrian Christians who are now seeking refuge mainly in Syria and Jordan. Iraq’s Christian communities are amongst the world’s most ancient, speaking Aramaic, the language of Christ. They suffered terribly during the 1915 Armenian genocide, and then again under the Iraqi Hashemite monarchy for cooperating with the British during the First World War. Then they suffered again during Saddam Hussein’s days when he had the war with the Kurds. Today there are only about 6 000 to 8 000 who remain, mainly living in the Nineveh Plain.

As many as 60 000 Assyrian Christians, or perhaps even more, have fled since the beginning of the insurgency that followed the US-led invasion in 2003. Their exodus was accelerated in August 2004 after the start of the terrorist bombing campaign against Christian churches by Islamists, who accused them of collaborating with the allies solely by virtue of their practising the Christian faith.

Last April the European Parliament voted for the Assyrians to be allowed to establish, on the basis of Section 5 of the Iraqi Constitution, a federal region where they can practise their own unique way of life, free and safe from outside interference. I call again on this House, on the Commission and on the Human Rights Special Observer from the German Presidency, for this solution to be considered as a possibility.