Iraq's Assyrians Seek Voice in New Government

3/28/2005 7:47:02 AM

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Supporters of Iraq (news - web sites)'s minority Assyrians urged the United Nations (news - web sites) and the European Union (news - web sites) on Friday to pressure Baghdad to give Assyrians more humanitarian aid and a voice in the new Iraqi government.

"Iraq was liberated to have freedom for everybody, not just the Shi'ites, Kurds and Sunnis," Andy Darmoo, who heads the "Save the Assyrians" campaign told a news conference at U.N. headquarters.

Iraq's Assyrians are Christians and speak Aramaic, the language of Christ. There are an estimated 1 million to 1.5 million Assyrians living in Iraq, most of them in the north.

They are the target of a "quiet campaign of ethnic cleansing," according to Darmoo, who left Iraq in 1965 and now lives in Kent, England.

He said Assyrians were excluded from the January election, they had no say in the drafting of Iraq's new constitution, and that people from other parts of Iraq as well as foreigners were flocking to the north, trying to force them from their villages.

When foreign aid lands in Iraq, none of it is earmarked for the Assyrians, Darmoo added.

Glyn Ford, a member of Britain's governing Labor Party and a deputy in the European Parliament, said he was supporting the Assyrians' effort to ensure that minorities received a portion of the EU aid money sent to Iraq.

Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, expected to be Iraq's next president, said recently that minority groups such as the Assyrians would have a role in drafting the constitution, Darmoo said.