Monday, July 13, 2020


Article Index


The country's population includes Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, as well as religious minorities including Chaldeans, Assyrians, Armenians, Yezidis, SabeanMandaeans, Baha'i, Shabak, Kakai, and a small number of Jews. Many consider the Assyrians and Chaldeans to be a distinct ethnic group. These

communities speak a different language, preserve Christian traditions, and do not define themselves as Arabs. The country also has citizens of African descent, "Black Iraqis, a population that community representatives estimated to number more than one million.

The constitution identifies Arabic and Kurdish as the two official languages of the state. It also provides the right of citizens to educate their children in their mother tongue, such as Turkmen, Syriac, or Armenian, in government educational institutions in accordance with educational guidelines or in any other language in private educational institutions.

During the year discrimination against ethnic minorities was a problem. There were numerous reports of Kurdish authorities discriminating against minorities, including Turkmen, Arabs, Yezidis, and Assyrians, in the disputed territories under the de facto control of the KRG. According to these reports, authorities denied services to some villages, arrested minorities without due process, took them to undisclosed locations for detention, and pressured minority schools to teach in the Kurdish language. Ethnic and religious minorities in Tameem frequently charged that Kurdish security forces targeted Arabs and Turkmen.

Within the three provinces of the IKR, there was little evidence of sanctioned government discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities, although there have been complaints that KRG authorities have been slow to return land confiscated by the previous regime that had belonged to Christian churches and Christian farmers. Minority communities operated their own schools and were represented both in the parliament and executive branch of the KRG.

However, incidents of societal violence against minorities in the IKR did occur. On December 2, between 300 and 1,000 rioters attacked legally operating businesses owned by Christians and Yezidis in Dohuk Province. The rioters burned or destroyed 26 liquor stores, a massage parlor, four hotels, and a casino. The riot followed midday prayers at the Rasheed Mosque in Zakho where the imam had allegedly denounced the businesses as anti-Islamic and had incited followers to attack them. In addition to promising compensation for those who suffered damages to property and businesses, President Barzani ordered the formation of an investigation committee, which concluded that some followers of the KIU "emboldened the violence against Christian businesses, that some leaders of the KDP "failed to control their members from attacking KIU organization centers, and that Dohuk Province security and administrative officials were "negligent in their control of the situation. As of year's end, no one had been compensated for property lost or destroyed.

According to press reports, Palestinians continued to experience arrest, detention, harassment, and abuse by authorities. A 2006 citizenship law prevents Palestinians from obtaining citizenship and Jews who emigrated to other countries from reclaiming citizenship.

Black Iraqis reported widespread economic and social discrimination. Black Iraqi leaders estimate that more than 20 percent of the Black Iraqi population was unemployed, compared to an overall unemployment rate of 15 percent. Minority Rights Group International reported that many were laborers or worked as domestic workers.

Vernellia R. Randall
Founder and Editor
Professor Emerita of Law
The University of Dayton School of Law