New Report: Improving the Status of Assyrians in the Iraqi Constitution


An Assyrian activist joins Iraqi protests in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square in October 2019. (Photo courtesy Hussein Al Alie)

The Assyrian Policy Institute announces the release of "An Iraq for All: Improving the Status of Assyrians in the Iraqi Constitution." This new report examines Articles within the Iraqi Constitution that negatively and disparately affect marginalized peoples in Iraq, including Assyrians and Yazidis, provides commentary, and makes recommendations aimed at improving their protection and advancing their social, cultural, economic, administrative, and political rights within the country.

"In producing and publishing this report, we aim to elevate the voices of Assyrians who have protested the Constitution since its adoption in 2005 and those Assyrians who continue to seek a more meaningful place in Iraqi society today. We have worked with experts in constitutional design as well as a number of Assyrian representatives and legal scholars in Iraq to identify key priorities for reform," says Jon Koriel, API Chairman.

The API has submitted this report and its recommendations to the Assyrian representative on the Constitution committee, Mr. Yonadam Kanna, MP for consideration, as well as the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) and the United States Department of State.


Download the report here.

In response to the massive anti-government protests that swept through Iraq in October 2019—which tragically saw hundreds of unarmed protestors killed by Iraqi security forces—a committee was formed to oversee the drafting of amendments to the Iraqi Constitution with the aim of meeting the public's demands and quelling weeks of unrest. Often lost in the national dialogue is the fate of marginalized communities such as Assyrians and Yazidis, who are still reeling in the aftermath of ISIS and now significantly smaller in number than when the Constitution was adopted in 2005.

The Iraqi Constitution is comparatively progressive, most notably in its recognition of civil rights, decentralization, democratic governance, federalism, and individual freedoms. However, it lacks protection measures for these basic norms and freedoms, and contains vague and conflicting articles related to the rights of minoritized peoples the role of religion, and political freedoms. Further, the Constitution does not adequately address some of the priorities of marginalized groups, and leaves their status contingent on laws that have yet to be enacted.

While there are robust provisions which guarantee the administrative, political, cultural, and educational rights of all nationalities, in practice, minorities have been denied even their most basic rights. Moreover, marginalized groups continue to lack access to justice and mechanisms to protect themselves from targeted violence and persecution; systemic discrimination in law and practice; and practical limitations on the exercise of administrative, political, social, cultural and economic rights.

The survival of these communities—along with their cultural, linguistic, and religious identities—remains under threat. Constitution drafting processes in post-conflict situations unavoidably—and even appropriately—reflect the effort to overcome sources of conflict in the previous political order. Iraq's Constitution, adopted in 2005, reflects the imperative of undoing the forms of violence perpetrated by the Ba'athist regime over decades. Iraq's present constitutional reform initiative can and should formally reflect the sources of persistent, institutionalized, and non-state violence, as well as sources of government failure and persecution experienced by all Iraqis. This study operates on this exact premise with a focus on Iraq's most vulnerable populations that face a true existential threat to day as a result of the failures of the constitutional design and implementation of the post-Ba'athist era.

This publication was made possible through the support of the Assyrian National Council of Illinois. The Assyrian Policy Institute is grateful to its donors Dr. John Michael, Tony S. Kalogerakos, Atornia Zomaya, Abe Yousif, Manny Goriel, Dr. Edison Ishaya, and Dr. Dennis Gelyana. The contents of this report are the responsibility of the Assyrian Policy Institute and do not necessarily reflect the position of the above-named organizations and individuals.

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