PACE Standing Committee today held a current affairs debate on “recent violent attacks against Christians and other religious communities in Iraq” during its meeting in Antalya, Turkey.
Opening the debate, requested by the French delegation to the Assembly, Jean-Claude Mignon (France, EPP/CD) said the Assembly could not avoid discussing this issue. José Mendes Bota (Portugal, EPP/CD) said it was clear that there was a strategy to force Christians out of Iraq, which he described as a policy of “religious cleansing”. He added: “If the Christians disappear from Iraq, this will be a victory for Al-Qaeda.”
Tiny Kox (Netherlands, UEL) welcomed the creation of a new government in Iraq, eight months after the elections, and recalled that most victims of the conflict were Muslims. He said the Iraqi government must protect all its citizens, whichever community they belonged to.
Luca Volontè (Italy, EPP/CD) pointed out that Christian communities in Iraq had deep roots there, stretching back centuries, and asked why 800,000 had had to leave the country. “Almost a million people have had to leave their own country – against their will. This is a question of respect for human rights.”
A request was submitted for an urgent debate to be held on the same subject at the Assembly’s January 2011 part-session.