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Rimon Albeer Misattr, a defender of the Iraqi Christian minority

In October 2010 a Christian church during Mass on Sunday was attacked, leaving 94 people dead or severely injured, according to 33-year-old Rimon Albeer Misattr, who is a member of the Christian minority in Iraq.

“The lives of nearly half a million Christians in Iraq are constantly in danger,” says Rimon. “Since 2003, dozens of churches and houses of worship were targeted, killing 900 people and injuring 6,000.”

Attacks on Christians in Iraq, often force them out of their homeland to Central and Northern Iraq, specifically Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Rimon explains. “While we are internally displaced, it is often difficult to find work because of over population in many of these cities.”

Rimon says that education is another area of concern for Christians internally displaced in Iraq. “Many have been out of education system for 7 years, waiting for their situation to get settled,” he says. From Central and Northern Iraq, Rimon explains that the Christians then often seek asylum in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Europe.

As one of the 13 Fellows selected to participate in the 2013 Minorities Fellowship Programme of the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva, Rimon was given the opportunity to learn about the UN system, human rights instruments and mechanisms. After completing the training programme, which was first launched by the Office in 2005, the Minority Fellows also took part in the 6th session of the Forum on Minority Issues, titled "Beyond freedom of religion or belief: Guaranteeing the rights of religious minorities".

The annual Forum provides a platform for promoting dialogue and cooperation on minority issues, as well as an opportunity to share best practices, examine challenges and create opportunities for the further implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of People Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

Rimon, who is a TV correspondent for the ISHTAR TV Broadcasting channel in Iraq, participated in the Programme to learn about the human rights mechanisms and to deliver the message of his people. “As a journalist, I strive to expose the problem,” he says.

As Rimon explains, after 2003, new sectarian and doctrinal factions created tensions and heightened security issues in Iraq, including for the Christian minority. Furthermore, the State has not been providing the necessary security and protection to its citizens, he says.

Rimon also says that many, particularly in the Iraqi city of Mosul, suffered from the inability to sell or rent their houses when they were evicted from their homeland.

In Rimon’s presentation at the UN Human Rights Office Minorities Fellowship Programme in Geneva, he called for an integration of a human rights education in the Iraqi school curriculum and urged the receiving countries to provide decent living conditions for the Iraqi Christian asylum seekers.

After participating in the five-week Minorities Fellowship Programme, Rimon plans to use his newly acquired knowledge to increase global awareness of the issues pertaining to Iraq’s Christian minority.

According to reports, on Christmas Day this year, about 30 people were killed in Christian areas of Baghdad, Iraq. One of the several attacks that day included a car bomb, which exploded as worshippers were leaving a Christmas mass.

26 December 2013

See also