Report: Iraq minorities face greatest threat

A press release from Minority Rights Group International:

New York, (Jan. 26, 2006) Iraqis head a new list of peoples most under threat from persecution, discrimination and mass killing according to a comprehensive new report released today by Minority Rights Group International (MRG).

Minorities from Sudan, Somalia and other African countries dominate the rest of the top 15 in State of the World’s Minorities, the first ever report to comprehensively assess the situation faced by minorities all over the world.

The report details how states in every world region repress the rights of their minorities, or even deny their existence, and finds that in three quarters of the world’s armed conflicts violence was targeted at specific religious or ethnic groups.

Following a flawed constitutional process and violence that has continued since throughout December’s elections, Iraqi Sunni, Shi’a, Kurds, Turkmen, Christians and other populations were found to be under greatest threat when assessed against indicators relating to political violence, group division, democracy and governance.

Minority Rights Group International, which works to secure the rights of minorities and indigenous people globally, raised immediate concerns in the report about the violent repression of those communities considered as opponents of the US-supported government (Sunnis in particular), continued targeting of Shi’a communities by Sunni insurgents and widespread intimidation of other ethnic minorities that do not have a strong political voice in Iraq.

The US led global “war on terror” has also produced other areas of grave concern going into 2006, including Afghansitan and Russia’s North Caucasus.

Mark Lattimer, Executive Director of Minority Rights Group International said:

“Around the world today, civilians from minority communities are being presecuted, tortured and killed. Outrageously, some governments justify these practices as their contribution to the ‘war on terror.'”

Methods pursued in the fight against international terrorism have also proven a threat to the rights and freedoms of Muslim minorities in Europe, in the most extreme case in Chechnya but also in Western Europe.

In the UK a package of proposed anti-terror laws have been accused by some civil society groups of enhancing Islamophobia within mainstream British society.

Gay McDougall, the United Nations Independent Expert on Minority Issues has welcomed the report. She said: “From the Americas to Europe and Asia to Africa, we can see that degradation in the rights of minorities threatens the security of whole societies”.

Sudan was second only to Iraq in the report’s rankings. As has been widely documented, ethnic minorities have experienced mass killing in Southern Sudan and more recently in Darfur. The report shows that ethnic tensions still grip vast sections of the continent. Nine of the fifteen top countries listed were African countries.

In Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Burundi, Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Uganda and Ethiopia different ethnic groups face violence, disenfranchisement and exclusion.

Other minorities that feature in the 15 “most under threat” category are communities in Afghanistan (no 4), Burma (no 5), Indonesia (no 10), the Russian Federation (no 14) and the Philippines (no.15).

In his preface to the report, Juan Méndez, the UN Special Adviser to the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide said:

“The prompt prevention of genocide or other mass violations requires us to be much more aware of the ongoing situation faced by minorities. That is why I welcome this first edition of the State of the World’s Minorities, as a major new contribution to our knowledge of threatened and disadvantaged communities.”

MRG intends to make State of the World’s Minorities reporting part of its annual mandate. State of the World’s Minorities 2006 is the first attempt of any organization to present annual data and analysis on the situation faced by minorities globally.

See our last post on Iraq.