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Cablegate: Iraqi Religious Minorities in Jordan Face Similar

VZCZCXRO0369
RR RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHAM #1989/01 1880829
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 060829Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY AMMAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2995
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 AMMAN 001989

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

FOR NEA/ELA, NEA/I, PRM/ANE, DRL, S/I

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF KIRF PHUM SOCI JO IZ
SUBJECT: IRAQI RELIGIOUS MINORITIES IN JORDAN FACE SIMILAR
DIFFICULTIES AS FELLOW IRAQIS; MOST UNLIKELY TO RETURN HOME
ANYTIME SOON

Not for internet distribution. Please protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary: Iraqis residing in Jordan representing the
Chaldean, Assyrian, Sabean, and Yezidi communities claim to
be targets of discrimination and attacks in Iraq and do not
envision ever being able to return safely to Iraq. They
report financial and personal difficulties while residing in
Jordan, usually illegally, but no particular harassment or
fears of physical harm. End summary.

Complaints about UNHCR But Few Details
--------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Beginning in November 2007, as part of an ongoing
strategic outreach effort, Emboffs have met with
approximately 400 Iraqi Christians and their leaders
currently residing in Jordan, in order to learn more about
the experiences in Iraq that drove them to leave, as well as
their current living conditions in Jordan. Iraqi Christians
were often eager to meet with Embassy officials whom they
perceived as well-positioned to facilitate their interactions
with UNHCR and increase the likelihood of resettlement.

3. (SBU) The Ambassador and EmbOffs met several times over
the last six months with Chaldean priest Fr. Raymond
al-Moussali and over 60 Iraqi members of his parish, nearly
all of whom were registered as &asylum seekers8 with UNHCR.
Moussali reported that his parish includes over 10,000 Iraqi
refugees, and he holds four different services each week in
Amman and outlying areas. Most of the Iraqi parishioners
were well-informed of UNHCR/IOM resettlement procedures.
Many, however, shared assertions of mistreatment or bias at
the hands of UNHCR officials. When asked for further detail,
few could substantiate their claims. Nevertheless, Emboffs
relayed concerns to UNHCR offices in each case, which
promised to investigate any such allegations. UNHCR reported
plans to conduct a separate community outreach program that
would include religious groups, and has since confirmed that
its first session took place in mid-June. UNHCR Resident
Representative Imran Riza noted that UNHCR understood the
need to reach out to religious minority communities, but
wanted to avoid accusations of bias that could arise from
singling out specific groups for special treatment or
attention.

Reports of Targeted Attacks on Christians in Iraq
--------------------------------------------- ----

4. (SBU) All the Iraqi Christians met reportedly departed
Iraq after being specifically targeted for threats of
physical violence against themselves and family members.
Stories of oppression in Iraq ranged from merely verbal or
written (telephone threats or notes posted to their doors at
night), to severe (actual kidnappings and/or murder of family
members), to the extreme (stories often passed third or
fourth-hand of alleged horrific acts by extremists or
militias, such as cannibalism of kidnapped victims). Many
described specific instances of harassment based on religious
beliefs. Sabean-Mandeans noted that they often ran gold and
jewelry shops that were targeted by insurgents who viewed
them as easy targets with no defense. Sabeans explained to
EmbOffs that insurgents looted their stores, telling their
victims to convert or be killed. Some Iraqi Christians who
ran distilleries or sold alcohol in Iraq faced similar
discriminations by religious zealots who targeted them for
activities deemed to be un-Islamic.

Life in Jordan ) Better, But Still Difficult
--------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Complaints by Iraqi Christians have been similar to
those expressed by the broader population of Iraqis in Jordan
) increasing poverty, the lack of permanent status, the
inability to legally work, the fear of discovery and
deportation by authorities, and general distrust of
government officials. The Sabean-Mandeans, additionally,
described isolated instances of misunderstandings or
mistreatment by Muslims, although none complained of outward
harassment or fear of physical danger while they have resided
in Jordan.

No Return to Iraq Envisioned
----------------------------

6. (SBU) EmbOffs have not yet encountered anyone among these
Iraqi religious minorities who say they envision returning
home to Iraq during their lifetimes. All looked westward for
their future, hoping for resettlement in the U.S. or a third

AMMAN 00001989 002 OF 002


country, where many reported already having family members.

7. (SBU) Comment: Iraqi religious minority residents,
concerns are generally similar to the concerns expressed by
the broader population of Iraqis in Jordan ) poverty,
inability to work, and the fear of discovery and deportation
by authorities. In addition, Iraqi Christians show
themselves just as susceptible as the broader refugee
population to the vagaries of 3rd- or 4th-hand rumors and
&news8 affecting their lives, whether regarding the
situation on the ground in Iraq or perceptions of Jordanian
government or UN attitudes. Regardless of the genuine
efforts and real progress made in many of these areas, and
the need for further progress, engagement with this
population will have to continue to directly address the
combination of misinformation and legitimate fear that
pervades the refugee community and will surely affect
decisions regarding whether to return home to Iraq or remain
in Jordan.

Visit Amman's Classified Website at:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/amman

Rubinstein

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