Kurdistan’s myriad of ethnic and religious minorities is becoming an anomaly, in an increasingly homogeneous region. Kurdistan provides a home to often persecuted minority groups such as, Yazidis, Kaka’is, Christians (Armenians, Chaldean Assyrian and Syriacs), Zoroastrians, Mandaeans and Baha’is.
The many years of sectarian conflict that have plagued Iraq have created rifts that are difficult to bridge. To remedy this, confidence building measures are needed and a process to engage minority groups in the decision making process is required. Stability and security can only be achieved through genuine political participation. Iraq as a whole will have to learn this lesson if it is ever to bring its varied ethnic and religious communities back together. Therefore, if the Kurdistan Region hopes to maintain lasting stability and independence, it should ensure the rights of its communities are met.
To give minorities a stronger voice, a unique mechanism which guarantees true representation for the Kurdistan Region’s diverse ethno-religious constituency is required. With this in mind, two councils should be formed to represent both religious and ethnic groups. The role of such councils should be to develop polices and legislation for the KRG that protects minority groups. Similar projects have been successful in Romania, Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia, who have developed similar councils established with the aim of providing advice, monitoring rights and providing minority groups with a voice, at the highest level. The creation and establishment of two councils should not replace the current process of minority representation in the Kurdistan Parliament as it neither conflicts with their objectives or their authority. In fact, it bolsters the influence of these representatives by institutionalizing the rights of minorities.
The drafting of the Kurdistan Region’s constitution is also a unique opportunity to reconsider the Region’s system of governance while fostering an increasing level of democratization. This can be achieved through the provision of rights for all who reside within the region despite their religious and ethnic background. This will lead to an improvement in levels of social justice, a vital factor required to maintain peace, stability and security.
The system of governance in Kurdistan should be able to provide the adequate provision of rights that minority communities require. Otherwise, it is not an attractive model for these communities living in the disputed territories, the majority of which the KRG is now in control of, which become a major barrier in the future. More should be done to protect the cultural, educational, linguistic and religious rights of ethnic and religious minorities in the Kurdistan Region. This would ensure lasting stability and build confidence among the myriad of minorities that are based within the Kurdistan Region.