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Destruction in the Middle East | Wiki­media

Ethnic and reli­gious minorities in the Middle East might be getting their own homeland soon.

On Sep­tember 9th, a bipar­tisan res­o­lution was intro­duced in the US House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in order to establish an inde­pendent homeland in the Nineveh Plain region of Iraq for per­se­cuted reli­gious and ethnic minorities, including the Assyrians, Yazidis, and Shabaks.

Many believed the province to be nec­essary since, prior to 2014, tar­geted killings, internal dis­placement, dis­crim­i­nation in accessing public ser­vices, attacks on reli­gious sites, and political dis­en­fran­chisement ter­rorized minorities in Iraq. Fur­thermore, during the summer of 2014, the Islamic State group bru­tally took over large ter­ri­tories in Iraq.

In response to this ter­rorism, many people groups affected by the diaspora expressed a desire for their own inde­pendent state.

Even though many Western powers made efforts to resettle Iraq’s Christian com­munity in the West, many Assyrians have expressed wishes to remain in and rebuild their anti­quated com­mu­nities.

As Juliana Taimoorazy explains, “Our ancestral homeland is the Nineveh plain.”

The bill was drafted by Jeff Forten­berry, the Institute for Global Engagement, In Defense of Chris­tians, and the Philos Project as a response to the US State Department and Con­gress declaring in March that the IS is com­mitting genocide against ethnic and reli­gious minorities.

US Rep­re­sen­tative Jeff Forten­berry (R‑NE) intro­duced the res­o­lution on Sep­tember 9th, stating, “Chris­tians, Yazidis, and other ethnic and reli­gious minorities have been slaugh­tered and driven from their homes by IS’s hor­rific genocide.”

In Iraq alone, the Christian pop­u­lation has plum­meted from 1.5 million in 2003 to current esti­mates of 275,000. cre­ation of this inde­pendent state would allow the native Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac Chris­tians, Shabaks, Turkmen, and Yazidis an oppor­tunity to return to their ancestral homeland.

“One next step must be the re-secu­ri­ti­zation and revi­tal­ization of the Nineveh Plain, allowing the repa­tri­ation of those who had to flee,” Forten­berry said.

The exec­utive director of the Philos Project, Robert Nicholson, agrees that cre­ating a safe haven would  “weaken violent Islamic fac­tions, and protect against a post-IS vacuum.”

The estab­lishment of an inde­pendent state in the Nineveh Plain would “ decen­tralize power to Iraq’s various regional com­mu­nities and allow each to protect and govern itself at the local level.”

This decen­tral­ization of power among Iraq’s various regional com­mu­nities hints at the United States’ potential strategy to weaken IS.

In addition to the indigenous people of the Nineveh Plain, the Gov­ernment of Iraq and the Kur­distan Regional Gov­ernment have both endorsed the idea, while the European Par­liament has “has rec­og­nized the impor­tance of securing the Nineveh Plain for Assyrians Chaldeans and others,” Nicholson stated.

The leg­is­lation des­ig­nates the land northeast of the city of Mosul as the safe haven province.

The pro­posed province is rem­i­niscent of when Iraq abounded with a mul­ti­plicity of diverse faiths and eth­nic­ities, including Jews, Mandean Sabeans, Arameans, Baha’i, Kaka’i, and others.

The res­o­lution follow up on the Iraqi government’s own ini­tiative in January 2014 to establish a province in the Nineveh Plain region in order to restore the ancestral homeland of its suf­fering minority com­mu­nities.

In January 2014, the Iraqi Cabinet of Min­isters decided to create a new province on the Nineveh Plain, in addition to three other provinces, but the advent of IS put those plans on hold.

This bill is simply asking for Iraq to resume that process once IS is rolled back and attempting to pledge as much US support as pos­sible.

Even though the estab­lishment of a province for per­se­cuted minorities may seem improbable, Nicholson cited a few his­torical examples of this strategy working well.

He explains, “History has shown us various examples of this concept working in practice, of minority peoples under exis­tential threat sur­viving and thriving by securing ter­ritory: Israel, Armenia, Iraqi Kur­distan, even (to a far less sat­is­factory degree) Native American reser­va­tions in the U.S.”

This leg­is­lation offers a chance at pro­tection for Iraq’s minorities who are living in per­se­cution, have fled the country, or are dis­placed.

Brown­field is a junior studying pol­itics and clas­sical edu­cation