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 Kurdistan's average Christians against death penalty for Saddam's former Deputy PM Tariq Aziz   

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Kurdistan's average Christians against death penalty for Saddam's former Deputy PM Tariq Aziz  15.12.2010 
By Saman Basharati 

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December 15, 2010

ANKAWA-Erbil, 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 Kurdistan.

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 against humanity.”

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 Ankawa.

“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 change.”

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 civilians.“

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 East.

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