Head of Human Rights Commission in Kurdistan Region of Iraq Muna Yaqoo: Current quota system does not work for Chaldeans-Syriacs-Assyrians, leaves room for exploitation and manipulation

ERBIL – The head of the Independent Human Rights Commission in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), Muna Youkhanna Yaqoo, on her Facebook page published a proposal for a law amendment whereby the electoral position and representation of minorities will be improved. The minority parliamentary seats in Kurdistan’s regional parliament are currently open to votes from every citizen of voting age. Yaqoo wants to redefine the concept of ‘quota’ within the electoral law so that only minority members can vote for their own seats; Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian candidates could then be elected only by Chaldeans-Syriacs-Assyrians and Yezidis only by Yezidis.

She argues that the current system leaves room for misrepresentation and unfair practices. To this end, the constitution and the electoral law must be amended to ensure real and effective participation in the full sense of the word. Yaqoo points out that a democracy proves itself by the way it treats its minorities and therefore the voices and political opinions of minorities must be listened to carefully. This is best done through their representatives in Parliament elected only by them. This will make the political process more democratic and of better quality for them. By excluding outside voters, the chances of manipulation and exploitation are reduced.


That something is very wrong with the representation of minorities, and in particular for the Chaldeans-Syriacs-Assyrians, is evident from the situation in the central parliament in Baghdad where there are nine seats reserved for minority peoples. Five of them are for Christians in Iraq – of which the Chaldeans-Syriacs-Assyrians are the overall majority. One would expect these constitutional quota seats to be occupied by people nominated and elected by the Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian people themselves. In the last elections in October 2021, however, four of the five Christian seats went to Shia-backed candidates of the Babylon Movement and one to an ‘independent’ candidate of the communist party in the KRI. Such an electoral landslide away from real and independent representation could only be possible by means of non-Christian votes.

Immediately after the elections, strong criticism emerged from Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian parties over the results, speaking of voter fraud, vote manipulation and exploitation. Former Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian MP Joseph Sliwa (2014-2018), who participated in the October 10, 2021, elections for the Bethnahrain Patriotic Party, publicly voiced strong criticism over the conduct of the elections. The five winners of the Christian quota do not represent Christians because 90% of the votes they received did not come from Christians, Sliwa claimed, pointing out that non-Christian parties stole parliamentary seats from Chaldeans-Syriacs-Assyrians by putting forward puppet candidates and getting non-Christians to vote for them.

“Some parties are trying to dominate minority voices and exploit them for their own benefit. And this is not new. The Kurds, in particular the Kurdistan Democratic Party and some Shiite parties are trying to control votes of minorities in the Nineveh Governorate, Nineveh Plain, Kerkeslokh (Kirkuk), and other areas in which minorities compete,” Sliwa said in October 2021.

In his recent article with the telling titled “Stop giving Iraqi Kurds a free pass on religious freedom,” American Institute Enterprise fellow Michael Rubin calls the patronage, sheltering and protection of Yazidis, Christians and other minorities in the KRI by the Barzani-family led regional government a myth. Rubin says that “it was the duplicity of both Masrour and father Masoud that allowed the Yezidi genocide to occur.” By selling arms to Islamic State (IS) on the one hand and denying the Yezidis military aid and protection of their villages on the other, Barzani was able to present himself as the protector of the Yezidis after IS overran their villages and the Yezidis were forced to flee toward the KRI. The cowardly Kurdish Peshmerga had ‘withdrawn’ at the advance of IS.

Barzani’s “guardianship” of Christians in the KRI and the Nineveh Plain is also hypocritical. The leading Kurdish family in Iraq views the Chaldeans-Syriacs-Assyrians as “dhimmi,” i.e., second-class citizens under the direct protection of Messrs. Masrour and Nechirvan Barzani themselves. Rubin summarizes the unlawfulness, the violations and abuses against the Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian people as follows:

“While land-grabbing by Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias impede the return of Christians to ancestral villages, Barzani’s political party and peshmerga do the same as they enrich themselves with land speculation… Barzani’s government seized much of the lands surrounding the airport from Christians with neither warning nor reimbursement. Barzani cronies built many of the malls and housing projects on confiscated Christian property. To complain is to face arrest. Many Christians still hold deeds to land subsequently confiscated in and around the Barzani stronghold of Duhok and Zakho. Barzani’s militias harass to compel eviction.”