The Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) should be proud of its reputation as a guardian of minorities, providing at-risk groups with security and shelter. However, despite its rich social tapestry, the political system within the KRI does not reflect its diversity. In order to give minorities a stronger voice in the KRI, this diverse ethno-religious constituency requires true representation in governance and civic life.
Currently eleven members of Parliament represent minorities (5 Turkmen and 6 Christian Chaldo-Assyrians), but they are only involved in crafting laws without real influence in decision-making and implementation processes in the Kurdistan Regional Government. One way to begin building upon existing mechanisms and ensure shared ownership of the system of governance would be via the establishment of two councils: one for ethnic minorities to represent Turkmen, Arabs, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Armenians, and another for religious minorities to represent Yezidis, Christians, Kaka’is, Zoroastrians, Mandaeans and Baha’is. Both councils should be integral parts of both the Parliament and the Government to guarantee them influence over the decision-making process at the highest legislative and executive levels.
Building the confidence of minority groups in the KRI’s system of governance would ensure not only lasting stability and acceptance, but the preservation of the area’s vibrant and rich social tapestry as well. Importantly, the future stability of the KRI, Iraq and the Middle East as a whole, is affected by the extent to which rule-of-law is implemented and human rights are provided and protected. Therefore, the formation of Minority Councils must be enshrined within the constitution to guarantee their participation in the process of legislation, implementation and monitoring.
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About MERI: The Middle East Research Institute is Iraq’s leading policy-research institute and think tank. It is an independent, entirely grant-funded not-for-profit organisation, based in Erbil, Kurdistan Region. Its mission is to contribute to the process of nation-building, state-building and democratisation via engagement, research, analysis and policy debates.
MERI’s main objectives include promoting and developing human rights, good governance, the rule of law and social and economic prosperity. MERI conduct high impact, high quality research (including purpose-based field work) and has published extensively in areas of: human rights, government reform, international politics, national security, ISIS, refugees, IDPs, minority rights (Christians, Yezidis, Turkmen, Shabaks, Sabi mandeans), Baghdad-Erbil relations, Hashd Al-Shabi, Peshmarga, violence against women, civil society. MERI engages policy- and decision-makers, the civil society and general public via publication, focused group discussions and conferences (MERI Forum).