Sydney, July 23, 2023 - The Assyrian National Council Australia is pleased to announce that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Penny Wong, has responded to their letter addressing the protection of the Assyrian people in Iraq. The Minister expressed her gratitude for the letter and extended her appreciation for the kind words of congratulations.
During a meeting held in Sydney on May 3, 2023, Minister Wong, accompanied by the Minister for Climate Change and Energy, the Hon Chris Bowen MP, met with a delegation consisting of Mr Hermiz Shahen, President of the Assyrian National Council Australia (ANCA), Mr David David, Vice President, and Mrs Suzy David, Senior Advisor to the ANCA. The concerns of the Assyrian community regarding the situation of Assyrians in Iraq and across the Middle East were shared and acknowledged. Mr Hermiz Shahen, in his letter to the Minister, emphasized the urgent need for Australia, a nation that values diversity and human rights, to take a resolute stance against the persecution of the Assyrian people in Iraq and the Middle East. He further urged the Australian government to utilize its influence to champion the Assyrian cause on the international stage.
The delegation urged the Honourable Ministers to take decisive action on the implementation of Article 125 of the Iraqi constitution, which guarantees administrative, political, cultural, and educational rights for Assyrians and other minorities. However, they highlighted that the current provisions do not provide sufficient details on methods for implementation and fall short of the aspirations of the Assyrian people. The establishment of an Assyrian region, operating under the same legal framework as the neighbouring Kurdish region, is deemed crucial in bringing stability to northern Iraq. The Assyrians, as the first and indigenous people of Iraq, with a history dating back more than 7,000 years, rightfully seek the establishment of their own region or state.
In her response, Minister Wong acknowledged the community's concerns and expressed empathy for the hardships endured by Assyrians in Iraq and the wider region. The Minister also recognized the destructive actions of Daesh, which have resulted in the loss of precious cultural and historical artifacts belonging to the Assyrian people.
The Australian Government has been actively advocating for the rights and safety of minorities, including Assyrians, through its Embassy in Baghdad. Regular representations are made to Iraqi ministers and influential individuals within the Iraqi system to address the unacceptable treatment of ethnic and religious minorities. Additionally, the Australian Embassy has engaged with key figures, such as Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the National Wisdom Movement, and Yonadam Kanna, Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, to discuss concerns specific to the Assyrian community.
Moving forward, the Australian Embassy in Baghdad will continue its efforts to protect minority rights by advocating for fair representation and adequate funding for minority groups, including the Assyrians, within Iraqi Government ministries. Furthermore, discussions will be initiated to evaluate the adherence to Decision 86/18, an Iraqi Government resolution aimed at maintaining the representation of Christians in government ministries. The Embassy also intends to address the Australian Government's ongoing concerns regarding safety, security, and the presence of militia groups in Iraq.
While acknowledging the calls from the Assyrian community for the establishment of regional self-government in Iraq, Minister Wong emphasized that decisions regarding the creation of autonomous regions lie within the purview of the Government and people of Iraq.
The ANC-A extends its gratitude to Minister Chris Bowen for organizing the meeting with the Foreign Minister and expresses its appreciation to Minister Penny Wong for her prompt response and continued support for the Assyrian communities in Iraq and across the Middle East. The Council remains dedicated to advocating for the rights and protection of Assyrians and will work alongside the Australian Government to ensure the well-being of the Assyrian people.
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About Assyrian National Council Australia
The Assyrian National Council Australia is a leading organization representing the interests and concerns of the Assyrian community in Australia. It strives to preserve Assyrian heritage and culture, while advocating for the rights and well-being of the Assyrian people in the Middle East and around the world.