Kurdish Christians ask international community to help Erbil and Baghdad settle disputes

Christians in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region have asked the international community for help in facilitating a dialogue between Baghdad and Erbil so that their political issues and tensions could be settled.

(REUTERS / Thaier Al-Sudani)A boy rides a bicycle with the flag of Kurdistan in Tuz Khurmato, Iraq September 24, 2017.

On Oct. 1, Christians from Iraq and the Kurdistan Region gathered for a conference in Erbil in which they pushed for a peaceful dialogue between the Federal Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government. The Christian Head of Church of the Kurdistan region also read a statement highlighting the suffering of the Kurds and Christians at the hands of Baghdad authorities, saying the minorities were the ones suffering because of the religious and political conflicts, Kurdistan 24 detailed.

In addition, the statement recalled how the KRG had welcomed displaced Christians since 2003, so they want the region to remain safe. They warned of another mass exodus of Christians or the eradication of this group if the conflicts go on.

"We hereby reject the decisions of the Iraqi government to punish all the people of the Kurdistan Region," said Wahida Yaqo, who is a Christian member of the Kurdistan Regional Parliament.

Yaqo also asked the U.N. and the European Union to respect the Kurdish people's decision during the independence referendum on Sept. 25. She said 89 percent of Christians in the region voted in favor of independence.

Meanwhile, a KRG security council official spoke to Reuters and voiced concern of an escalating crisis which was triggered by the independence referendum last week. The official said on Oct. 2, Iran dispatched a dozen tanks with artillery to the border it shared with the Kurdish region.

Baghdad, Turkey, and Iran were reportedly against the independence referendum as they feared that it could spark Kurdish separatism in their own territories. KRG President Masoud Barzani, however, defended the vote and insisted that it was legitimate.

Local media in Tehran said the deployment of the tanks was part of Iran and Iraq's joint military drills in response to the Kurdish vote. It is worth noting that Baghdad had demanded that the KRG surrender control of its airports to federal authorities. When the latter refused, Iraq banned international flights to and from two Kurdish international airports on Sept. 29.