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A Political and Human Rights Annalistic Vision for the Future of the Nineveh Plain and Minorities in Mosul

A Political and Human Rights Annalistic Vision for the Future of the Nineveh Plain and Minorities in Mosul

In light of the bitter reality experienced by minorities after being removed from their homelands in the Nineveh plain and Sinjar, there is much rhetoric nowadays about the liberation of Mosul. Therefore, there has to be a clear post-liberation strategy or at least a vision for the future following the end of Daesh to determine the destiny of minorities and the possibility of their return to their homes and lands after ending the presence of Daesh, and what elements are available to achieve the return, we must also look for solutions for the future of the whole area prior to launching the liberation operations.

In the beginning, according to the information we have collected from our humble relations, experience and follow up efforts, the Iraqi government has no clear strategy for the future of Nineveh post-Daesh. All the government can think of now is how to end the presence of Daesh and their invasion of Nineveh in this year 2016, in order to conduct the provincial elections in Iraq which is supposed to take place in 2017, without taking into account the political future of minorities’ territories, especially the future of the Nineveh Plain, Tel-Afar and Sinjar, how to deal with the IDPs’ crisis, and what are the elements of their return while their lands are still part of what is called “disputed territories”.

We support all efforts seeking to speed up the liberation of minorities’ territories as a solution to the IDPs’ crisis and to offer them an opportunity to return home, but there are a number of questions that must be asked in this regards and prior to liberation and return:

First:Who is going to carry out the liberation and what are his conditions? Who liberates the land must have certain conditions, because as it is well known, liberation is not free, human and material resources are lost, that’s unless the government carries out that task alone to impose its authority and sovereignty, and here a question arises; is the government with its national army capable of achieving victory without the support of the Peshmerga and the Popular Mobilization Forces (Al-Hashd Al-Sha'abi)? While other questions suggest; are the Christian forces and the Mobilization forces of the former governor of Mosul which consists of Mosul’s tribesmen capable of achieving victory with the support of the International Alliance? How capable is the US led International Alliance of neutralizing the Peshmerga’s participation in the battle of Mosul? or How capable is the US led International Alliance of convincing the Kurds to participate in the liberation and then retreating to the region, as is the case with the Kurds in Syria in regards to the battle of Manbij.

Second:After the liberation, who is going to take the responsibility of providing security to impose safety and guarantee stability?

Whoever takes such responsibility has to have the power to impose the rule of law, achieve justice and disarm the militias which could participate in the liberation. The same authority has to work on preparing the residents of the area to administrate the area’s affairs and gradually handle security under direct supervision until they’re able of securing the land, after equipping the area with the elements of survival.

Third:In light of the current economic condition experienced in Iraq and the need for reconstruction and compensation for IDPs who will return to their homes, the question that arises is who is capable of compensating them and barring the expenses of reconstruction? The Iraqi government, in the meantime, is going through an economic crisis, thus, without a doubt, is unable to do so. In this case, the Iraqi government will have to rely on the International Community which was barely capable of allocating 2 billion dollars for the reconstruction of Ramadi and Saladin governorates when Iraq needs international guarantees and an international fund dedicated to the development of these regions.

Fourth:What’s very important in regards to the return of the IDPs lies in the issue of trust and how to restore the lost trust, it’s clear that minorities, including Christians and Yazidies, have lost their trust in both the federal and the regional government, especially after being left behind, without a fight, as quarries to the beast of Daesh.

Fifth:The other important subject is related to justice, who is going to impose justice and law in these regions? Achieving justice is linked to prosecuting those who committed crimes and horrible acts of violence, because justice and building trust requires justice for the victims and accountability for those who committed murder, abduction, sexual enslavement, rape and destruction of property and religious monuments, we cannot talk about reconciliation and justice without accountability for those accused of negligence and the presence of a fair judicial system. In our opinion, Iraq, until this moment, has no such system qualified to establish trust with citizens, while there’s much talk about having corruption in the judicial system itself. So we wonder, how can we achieve reconciliation or encourage people to go back without having a fair system to impose justice for the victims and compensate them.

Indicators explain that the Iraqi judiciary is not qualified to achieve that in light of lacking national laws able to describe the crimes committed by Daesh as crimes of Genocide or crimes against humanity, the final question that should be asked here is; is the Iraqi judiciary capable of giving justice to those who forcibly converted to another religion in light of the Iraqi laws which doesn’t criminalize (coercion in religious conversion)? While the court of cassation describes minors whom were forcibly converted to Islam and following that returned to their original religion as (apostates[1]).

Sixth:Another very important issue is the internal conflict in between minorities, a conflict already existed in the Nineveh Plain which reached the surface in 2012 between Christians and Shabak, and today labels conflict between Christians themselves is raging, between (Assyrians, Syriac and Chaldeans). After the liberation everyone will be armed especially with the presence of militias following, directly or indirectly, other parties (Shi’ite, Kurdish, Regional, International … etc). If the conflict prior to 2014 took place without using arms, after the liberation it will be armed especially with everyone carrying a weapon, having armed militias, in such an environment the possibility of a civil war exists, and certainly the consequences will be disastrous with the absence of a strong security guarantee and a well done process to impose law, therefore in light of all of this – fear of return among IDPs is very logical, it is difficult for anyone to return to his home and villages in the Nineveh Plain while the future of that area is unstable, especially with the lack of an international security guarantee or any neutral party that is capable of demilitarizing the area and imposing the rule of law.

Seventh: There is much talk and demands for a minorities’ governorate, the idea is logical, constitutional and enticing for minorities, but it doesn’t serve the interest of Christians in the current time, because prior to the invasion of the Islamic State, Christians’ percentage in the Nineveh Plain was 22-23%, while in our estimations, after the liberation, it won’t exceed 10%, so eventually the governorate will not serve the interests of Christians because they won’t represent an effective percentage in the policy making process in that governorate, but if the government intended to be established is only for Christians and Yazidies then maybe that could be quite a positive move but challenges remain in regards to identifying its geographic borders and how to solve the issue of the towns and sub-districts of other components such as Shabak, Turkmen, Kaka’is and others, which exists in that same region.

There are parties that are pushing Christians, willingly or unwillingly, and to some extend Yazidies as well, to demand the formation of a governorate for them, this encouragement by outer forces, for unknown reasons, probably aims to combine their governorate to the suggested regions scenario, such as the Sunni and the Kurdistan region, and other regions such as the one provided by the intellectual Sayar Jamil titled the Mosul Region/Nineveh, which includes 6 governorates including the Christian lands in the Nineveh Plain.

Eighth:In our opinion, there’s a way out without demanding a governorate, which is to keep the old administrative structure while developing the autonomous aspect by holding new elections for the sub-districts’ and districts’ councils after the liberation, and to adopt the system of towns’ councils (city councils) for these councils to have the right to veto any decision taken by the governorate’s or the district’s council in case it doesn’t serve the interest of the population of their towns. The towns’ councils will be formed through elections, for example, Karemlesh to have its own council, and the center of Hamdaniya to have its own council, and the same for Ba’shiqa, Tel-Kief, Batnay … etc. thus Christian, Yazidi and Shabak towns could preserve its religious, ethnic and linguistic privacy, in addition to being protected from demographic change. This process should be accompanied by establishing new administrative sub-districts for the neglected Shabak and Yazidi territories which didn’t experience development, such as the town of Bazwaya which used to be a sub-district and then was cancelled during the previous regime.

Ninth: In any mechanism adopted to administrate the Christian regions and in case of the success of any of the suggested scenarios, whether it’s establishing a governorate or an autonomy, regardless of the administrative subordination, we have to know that one of the most important issues threatening Christians and which could incite conflict or a state of instability for Christians is the issue of land and what is being carried out for decades with the distribution of lands for citizens from outside the area to change the demography and the identity of the residents, therefore, there has to be a review of the old decisions related to the distribution of lands and its ownership, and the resolutions and orders issued for the distribution of lands from certain ministries which could change the identity of the land and the demography of the area. These issues have to be treated, to priorities the return to the count of 1957 in regards to residency and ownership, or any other mechanism aiming to preserve the identity of the land.

Tenth: Continuing campaigns – regionally and internationally – to recognize the Yazidi and Christian Genocide and to demand the Iraqi state to submit a request for the establishment of special courts by the International Community to prosecute Daesh terrorists or to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which is also called the Rome Statute, but challenges arise here, because such courts have long term procedures, while the Iraqi courts are faster, also the punishments used by International Courts don’t live up to the punishments of the Iraqi courts especially that the legal description of the crimes of Daesh is terrorism, therefore, according to Iraqi laws, Daesh militants will be prosecuted according to the Anti-Terrorism law which could produce a death sentence.

Eleventh: going back to the IDPs’ return issue, there’s much frustration among minorities in regards to the possibilities of return, and that’s for many reasons such as:

  1. The lack of light at the end of the tunnel in regards to the Iraqi political process, all available indicators don’t give people the idea that anything is advancing forwards, but its pointing to retreat and deterioration in the political process.
  2. The political conflict over minorities’ regions for being considered as “disputed territories”, with Kurds fighting to take the land from one side and the Arabs from the other side, while the people of land aren’t participating in any negotiations or solutions or meetings related to its future. While the central government in Baghdad has no strategy or plan to make minorities’ regions neutral and keep them out of the raging conflict with the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
  3. There are scenarios to include these lands in suggested regions such as the Sunni region which is being promoted by the former governor of Mosul Mr. Athiel Al-Nujaifi, but the lands are being divided in between these suggested regions with no consideration for the opinion of the owners of these lands.
  4. The widespread emigration among minorities, where the percentage of emigrants among Christian IDPs reaches a low estimation of 40% while the process is ongoing, therefore there’s much concern that their numbers would be quite low once their lands are liberated and the percentage of returnees, in light of the mentioned indicators, would be quite low, Sinjar is a clear example for this where only 5% of its residents have return after almost a year of liberation.
  5. Quite a large number of IDPs have adapted to life in the area they took refuge in, they established new relationships with the hosting communities and established businesses and interests that are hard to give away, therefore if return is a choice it has to be voluntary. Forcing IDPs to return to their lands is expected, they might be under pressure to return after the liberation of their lands. This violates Human Rights.

From this analysis we concluded the following:

  • Speeding up the liberation of Mosul and the Nineveh plain is an urgent need to end the IDPs’ crisis but it is clear that the Iraqi government has no post-liberation strategy or returning mechanism or a strategy for compensating the victims and rebuilding their areas.
  • Minorities aren’t involved in determining the future of their areas, in dialogues, discussion and meetings conducted in this regards, their future is being determined by others, as if they don’t exist or have no decision.
  • If the liberation of minorities’ lands is accomplished using the previous tools then we’re back to the starting point, meaning the return of administrative overlap over minorities territories between the federal and the regional governments, this doesn’t encourage people to go back because they lost trust in both authorities. Because the authorities supposed to protect them, either the administrative or the security ones, have failed them and showed their inability to offer protection.
  • Therefore, there has to be a qualified security guarantee or international protection guarantees, capable of imposing the rule of law, working to achieve justice and compensate the victims. Other than that, the percentage of returnees would be quite nominal, while emigration levels will rise among minorities and especially Christians and Yazidies.
  • In light of the current economic crisis in Iraq, the Iraqi state is unable to compensate the victims, in order to do so the Iraqi state has to ask the International Community to form an international fund box to compensate civilians and for reconstruction.
  • Minorities lands has to be made neutral and left out of the “disputed territories”, especially that those leading the dispute have no links to these lands. The participation of the land owners and the residents in any negotiations related to determining the future of their lands is very important.
  • If establishing a governorate for minorities is a must, the best option is to combine Christians and Yazidies as non-Muslim components, but this has to be approved by these minorities first. In regards to the subordination of the governorate, it’s better to work on making it a region linked to the central government rather than to the KRI or to any of the other suggested regions, because logic says that linking a portion to the whole is better than linking a portion to another portion. In all cases, this has to be determined according to the people’s decision by holding a referendum, but this shouldn’t happen prior to ten years from the establishment of the governorate and securing stability in it, because any referendum in unstable conditions won’t reveal the real will of the people and thus would impose the wills of others and the results would be misrepresentative and distorted.


[1]Apostasy in Islam is commonly defined as the conscious abandonment of Islam by a Muslim in word or through deed. It includes the act of converting to another religion, by a person who was born in a Muslim family or who had previously accepted Islam.