Christian party holds congress in Duhok, calls for autonomy


Romeo Hakkari, secretary general of the Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party

Dec 8, 2023. Posted by  Balkan Periscope - Hellas


The Christian Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party on Thursday held its eighth congress in Duhok, calling for autonomy and demanding increased efforts to prevent the emigration of Christians.

Romeo Hakkari, secretary general of the Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party told Rudaw that there are shortcomings when it comes to upholding the rights of the Christian minority in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq.

“In this congress, Bet-Nahrain Party demands autonomy, this is a right that is yet to be attained,” he said, adding that the party also has other demands including being represented in the government and the parliament of both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.

Thursday’s congress, which was held in Duhok, was the party’s eighth.

“As the Democratic Party of Bet Nahrain, we consider the whole of Kurdistan and the whole of Iraq as our homeland. We held the sixth congress in Shaqlawa, the seventh congress in the Nineveh plain in the town of Hamdaniya (Baghdeda) and now that the eighth congress is in Duhok,” he said.

The Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party is an Assyrian Party based in Ainkawa, a Christian-majority district situated at the northern edge of Erbil city. The party was established in 1974 by Christians from the Chaldean and Assyrian communities, and it held one seat in the Kurdistan Region’s parliament in the previous legislative term.
Migration is a threat to the future of Christians in the area

Hakkari said one of the main points the party’s congress focused on was what to do in order to prevent Iraqi Christians from leaving the country, noting that while the trend of emigration of Christians has decreased compared to the past, it nevertheless remains the biggest threat to the future of Christians in the area.

“We believe that the issue of migration and leaving the country is the biggest disease and threat to our future,” he said, adding that the Christians are a “peaceful community” who seek a peace that has been lost since the establishment of the state of Iraq in 1921.

“If there is no peace and stability anywhere, our people may seek better things and better places to live,” said Hakkari.

Hakkari acknowledged that while accurate data regarding the size of the Christian population of Iraq does not exist since no census has been held in the country for decades, the numbers have drastically decreased since the 1980s.

“In the 1980s, there were about 2 million Christians in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, but now I think we are 600,000-700,000 across Iraq,” he said.

Iraq’s Christian community has been devastated in the past two decades. Following the US-led invasion in 2003, sectarian warfare prompted followers of Iraq’s multiple Christian denominations to flee, and attacks by ISIS in 2014 hit minority communities especially hard.

Fewer than 300,000 Christians remain in Iraq today, according to data obtained by Rudaw English from Erbil's Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda last year.