Commentary: The Assyrian Christians Fight Back!!

By Ken Joseph Jr.

Washington, DC - Response from throughout the Diaspora community of Iraqis forgotten people -- the Assyrian Christians -- has encouraged many who are fearful that one of the last remaining Christian communities in the Middle East may be forced out.

In the face of an electoral system that is overwhelmingly stacked against them, the Assyrian Christians of Iraq - the indigenous people of Iraq - are fighting back with their own website in both English and the Assyrian language to register as many of their people as possible for the upcoming election.

The website at is designed so that members of the Assyrian Christian Community can get up to date information on the election, register to vote and get assistance in preparing documentation needed to register. 

According to IFES - the organization tasked along with the Iraqi Election Commission to help put together the electoral system the exact requirements have not been decided, but generally there are three categories that are expected.

First, those who have Iraqi documentation. This can include an old passport, a ration card or some form of documentation issued by the Iraqi Government.

The second group is those who have no such documentation but can prove they were born in Iraq either by a note `birthplace Iraq` on a foreign passport,  UN or other travel document.

The third group is the most difficult and that is those who have no such documentation. For these, it is expected that family members in their hometown can get a document from the local village or area certifying that they are, in fact, Iraqi.

When properly verified, this is expected to be accepted as proof of Iraqi citizenship.

The electoral system under which the Iraqi Election is currently being planned is called  `proportional representation` and is a `winner take all` plan.

When asked directly about the fact that the system itself guarantees a Shia takeover of the government, many call a `stealth coup de etat` setting up the Islamic Republic of Iraq, Carlos Valenzuela, in charge of the election for the United Nations, replied `If that is what the Iraqi people want it is what they should have.` 

According to former Coalition Provisional Authority official Michael Rubin `Iraqis favor constituency-based elections.`

He goes on to say the electoral system would `set Iraq on the slippery slope to the failed Lebanese style communal system. According to an Iraqi electoral commission official, (disgraced former CPA Admistrator) Paul Bremer agreed to a party slate system to bypass the tricky question of who votes where, thereby trading Iraq`s long term health for short term expediency.`

In particular, smaller communities like the Assyrian Christians, with an estimated 2.5 million within Iraq and another 3.5 million overseas, face an uphill battle to simply gain basic representation as the system provides for no local representation according to area.

While calling for an immediate change in the system from the proportional representation to constituency-based, which would provide for local representation as well as accountability, the community is preparing for a worst-case scenario, where they would be faced with the prospect of organizing a community to vote under such dire circumstances. 

As Christians, we will do our best to organize our people, get them to vote, but in the end we must trust that God will not abandon us who are the original people of Iraq,` says one of the organizers of the website

To date, according to the only Assyrian Christian member of the Iraqi Government, nearly 40,000 Assyrian Christians have already voted with their feet following multiple bombings of Churches and left the country.

Whether the community will be able to see the electoral system changed and organize itself to win a seat at the table is still an open question.


Rev. Ken Joseph Jr. is writing a book about his experiences in Iraq entitled "I Was Wrong"

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