Kurdistan's average Christians against
death penalty for Saddam's former Deputy PM Tariq
By Saman Basharati
December 15, 2010
Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — The execution order for
Saddam Hussein’s deputy, former Iraqi Vice President
Tariq Aziz - a Christian – has created a big
controversy among Christians living in Iraqi
Aziz, 74, was the only Christian with a top
leadership position in the Ba’athist regime’s former
Iraqi government. Hussein’s regime murdered hundreds
of thousands of Kurds in the north and Shiite Arabs
in the south of the country.
But in Iraqi Kurdistan many Christians now have
sympathy for their aged fellow Christian, believing
that Aziz should not be given the death penalty.
“Tariq Aziz did not commit any crime. Whatever he
did was under pressure,” said Gorges Maki, 70, a
resident of the predominantly Christian town of
Ankawa near Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan.
Tariq Aziz was the international face of Saddam's
bloody regime for years.
“Christians don’t commit
crimes,” he added.
Aziz, who was one of the top 55 wanted persons
hunted by the United States in the wake of the 2003
Iraq war, was sentenced to death by the Iraqi High
Tribunal in late October for “committing crimes
The verdict has inspired many reactions from both
within Iraq and the outside world.
As Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has said that he
will not sign off on Aziz’s execution order, similar
requests to commute Aziz’s death sentence have
reportedly been made by Italy, the Vatican, Russia
and some Arab states.
“Our religion does not allow us to harm anyone, said
Sabri Yosuf, a 66-year-old Christian living in
“You see, because we are Christians in Iraq, they
kill us on a daily basis,” he added.
Rafiq Nuri Hanna, a Christian psychologist, said he
was against the death penalty because the law should
not repeat the actions of evil people.
“Humans should not die in pain because they have
committed crimes,” said Hanna. “Everyone can
While most Christians are against the execution of
Aziz, two leading Christian politicians take the
opposite view, believing that the death sentence is
a just penalty for Aziz,www.ekurd.netwho
also served as Hussein’s foreign minister in the
late 1980s and early 1990s.
Romeo Hakkari, secretary of the pro-Christian Bet-Nahrain
Democratic Party, said Aziz had committed crimes
against Christians as well as Muslims and had done
nothing to improve the lives of Iraqi Christians.
“As a Christian, I ask for the implementation of his
death penalty,” said Hakkari. “Tariq Aziz
participated in the killings of hundreds of
Yunadim Yusuf Kanna, leader of the Assyrian
Democratic Movement, said Iraqis should all be given
equal treatment, and called for the “supremacy of
law and the implementation of the court’s ruling.”
Speaking of attempts made by foreign countries to
save Aziz’s life, Kanna said they “are not only
interfering in Iraq’s domestic matters but also are
against the beliefs of Iraqi Christians.”
Despite all the objections from Iraq’s Talabani and
other top world leaders, as well as from average
Iraqi Christians, many see the commuting of Aziz’s
death sentence as unlikely.
Ankawa is a town of about 20,000 people, in practice
a suburb of Erbil, Erbil Governorate in Iraqi
Kurdistan, northern Iraq. The town is predominantly
Assyrian/Chaldean, comprising mostly adherents of
the Chaldean Catholic Church and the Church of the
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