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Yazidi Nationality Bill sparks debate and opposition in Iraqi Parliament

by on 2024-06-13
 

[Baghdad, 12 June] A proposal to recognise Yazidis as a distinct nationality within Iraq has ignited political controversy, particularly among the Kurdish bloc in the Iraqi parliament.

The Yazidi Nationality draft law, introduced by Yazidi representatives, aims to elevate the Yazidis to the same status as other recognised Iraqi nationalities such as Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen. This move has been met with resistance, mainly from Kurdish MPs, who argue that it could lead to division and further complications.

Last week, Yazidi MPs submitted the proposal to the Iraqi parliament, backed by signatures from 182 lawmakers across various factions. The Yazidi bloc regards the proposal as a crucial step towards justice for the community, which suffered genocidal attacks from Islamic State (ISIS) militants.

When ISIS occupied approximately a third of Iraq’s territory in 2014, they targeted the Yazidis in the Sinjar region, committing widespread and horrific atrocities that includes mass killings, abductions and sexual enslavement.

Naif Khalaf Sidou, head of the Yazidi bloc, confirmed that the bill has been referred to the parliamentary legal committee. He noted that the acting Speaker of the House has approved sending the proposal to the finance committee, and then it will be sent to the legal committee before it undergoes the first and second readings and is ultimately put to a vote.

Yazidi activist Maiser Saeed told The New Arab‘s Arabic-language sister publication, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the Yazidis have endured significant oppression under ISIS and deserve recognition as a distinct Iraqi nationality. Saeed stressed that the bill would treat Yazidi as a nationality in terms of rights and duties, while not negating their religious identity.

He acknowledged opposition to the bill but highlighted that with 182 signatories, the bill stands a good chance of being voted on, which heightens the anxiety of opposing factions. Saeed asserted that the law would grant Yazidis a unified political voice comparable to other Iraqi communities.

The initiative coincided with the anniversary of ISIS atrocities against Yazidis, underscoring the community’s ongoing quest for recognition and justice. However, the proposal has faced fierce opposition from Kurdish politicians, who view it as divisive and legally untenable.

Ibrahim Mirani, an MP from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), described the proposal as illegal, stating that Yazidism is a religion, not a nationality. He stressed that Iraq does not categorize religions based on ethnicity. Mirani reiterated support for compensating Yazidis but opposed the legislation.

Ismail Al-Sanjari, another KDP member, characterized the bill as politically motivated. He argued that Yazidis are a historic and integral part of the Kurdish nationality and cannot be separated. Al-Sanjari vowed to work with like-minded MPs to prevent the bill from passing and urged Yazidi lawmakers to reconsider their stance, which he believes does not serve their best interests.

Murad Ismael, a Yazidi activist, supports the proposed law in the Iraqi Parliament to recognise Yazidis as both an ethnic group and a religious community, emphasising their unique ethno-religious identity. He calls for respect towards the shared historical and cultural ties between Yazidis and Kurds, urging that Yazidis‘ quest for independent identity should not be seen as against Kurdish interests.

Under the current parliamentary quota system, the Yazidi minority is allocated only one seat, a situation that Yazidi politicians argue does not reflect their population size. This limited representation has forced Yazidi candidates to run under Kurdish lists, a reality the draft law seeks to address by granting Yazidis independent national recognition.

As the debate unfolds, the future of the Yazidi Nationality Bill remains uncertain, with strong sentiments on both sides highlighting the complexities of identity and representation in Iraq’s diverse and often contentious political landscape.

Courtesy: The New Arab of 12 June 2024