Iraqi Christians demand inquiry into killings, intimidation

Baghdad_(dpa) _ An Iraqi Christian member of parliament on Tuesday asked the speaker to request an international inquiry into the killing and intimidation of Christians in Iraq.

Yonadam Kanna, an Assyrian Christian from northern Iraq, petitioned Sunni Muslim parliamentary speaker Iyad al-Samarrai to formally request the inquiry, al-Samarrai's Iraqi Accord Front (al-Tawafaq) reported on its website Tuesday.

During a Tuesday meeting with al-Samarrai, Kanna asked for an international investigator to determine who was behind the killing of Iraqi Christians that Iraqi Christians believe are designed to convince them to leave their homes, al-Tawafaq's website said.

Kanna and other representatives from Iraq's diverse sects of Christians told al-Samarrai that many of the thousands of Iraqi Christians who have fled the killings and threats would like to return home, if they could be assured of their safety, al-Tawafaq said.

The representatives of Christian communities also asked for a higher quota in the parliament, to reflect what they said was the real number of Christians in Iraq.

Al-Samarrai expressed "his deep concern for genuine representation of all sects of Iraqis and the need for legal provisions to guarantee their rights, provided this would not harm national sensitivities," according to al-Tawafaq's website.

"Our religion calls on us to perform our duty and safeguard the rights of others, including the rights of all the sons of Iraq," al-Samarrai said.

Kanna's call for an international investigation came after UN special envoy Oscar Fernandez-Taranco arrived in the country Monday for what UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called "preliminary" meetings with Iraq's top officials regarding August 19 and October 25 bombings in Baghdad that together left 255 people dead and hundreds more wounded.

Iraq has intensely lobbied for an international inquiry into the bombings.

Since the fall of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's government in 2003, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled the country, driven from their homes in part by the bloodshed that has stalked the country, and in part by specific threats and intimidation from extremist groups specifically targeting them as Christians.

Fewer than 600,000 Christians remain in Iraq, down from an estimated 1.2 million before the 2003 US-led invasion. dpa zd zar ms


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