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Thursday, 10 May 2007
Page: 181

Mr Bowen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in writing, on 20 March 2007:

In respect of the violence and persecution of minority Christians in Iraq: (a) has he, his office or his department seen reports on the testimony given by Nina Shea, Director of the Center for Religious Freedom, before the United States Congressional Committee on International Relations, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations, in particular, the statement that: “Government leaders in Iraq have been largely indifferent to the victimization of the small minorities. The Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, was quoted earlier this year urging kidnapping to target Christian women instead of Muslims. After addressing the kidnapping of his own sister Thayseer, the Speaker of the Iraqi National Assembly was broadcast by al-Iraqiya Television as stating: ‘Why kidnap this Muslim woman; instead of Thayseer, why not kidnap Margaret or Jean?’. The latter are Christian names, thus implying that it would have been better for a Christian woman to have been kidnapped, raped and killed.”; (b) what steps has he, his office or department taken to verify the authenticity of these remarks; (c) is he concerned about the ramifications of the Iraqi Speaker’s comments for those remaining members of Iraq’s minority Christian communities; (d) if these comments are accurately attributable to the Iraqi Speaker, has he made representations to the Iraqi Government regarding this matter, if not, why not; and (e) will he, on behalf of many concerned expatriate Assyrians, Mandaeans, and Chaldeans who live in Australia, make representations to the Iraqi Government concerning the Iraqi Speaker’s comments; if not, why not.

Mr Downer (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

(a)   Yes.

(b)   to (e) My Department is not able to confirm these remarks. The Australian Government remains concerned about the current security situation and how it affects all Iraqis. The Government has made representations to the Iraqi Government on human rights, including of religious minority groups, and will continue to make representations as appropriate.