As ISIS loses ground in parts of Iraq, religious minorities join forces

March 9, 2017
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August 10, 2014: Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, walk towards the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Mt. Sinjar.

August 10, 2014: Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, walk towards the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Mt. Sinjar. (REUTERS/Rodi Said/File )

The religious minorities of northern Iraq are joining forces to form a province of their own in a region that the Islamic State had nearly decimated.

Assyrian Christians, Yazidis, Turkmen and other religious minorities have jointly made their case to the central government in Baghdad. The group said the only way to regain stability of the region would be to establish a semi-autonomous zone or province.

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“For the first time ever, the ethnic and religious minorities of Iraq are banding together to let the world know what they want…”

– Robert Nicholson,The Philos Project

“For the first time ever, the ethnic and religious minorities of Iraq are banding together to let the world know what they want,” Robert Nicholson, executive director of The Philos Project, told Fox News. “And what are they saying? ‘We want to stay – please help us.’”

The coalition is calling for the creation of the “Al Rafidein” region, which would include the three northern provinces of Sinjar, Tal Afar, and the Nineveh Plain. ISIS has lost its foothold in the region, triggering a discussion on how to retake it.

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The coalition is separate from the ongoing call made by the Chaldean community to establish a new semi-autonomous zone in the Nineveh Plain. While both groups are working independently to create stability in Northern Iraq, they've kept friendly relations.

“A consensus is emerging,” Nicholson says. “The minorities of Iraq want to remain in Iraq, but not as victims to be pitied – they want to be masters of their own fate.”

A member of Iraqi army walks at the remains of wall panels and colossal statues of winged bulls, destroyed by Islamic State militants in the Assyrian city of Nimrud eastern bank of the Tigris River, south of Mosul, Iraq, November 16, 2016. REUTERS/Ari Jalal - RTX2TYPA Expand / Contract

November 16, 2016: A member of the Iraqi army walks at the remains of wall panels and colossal statues of winged bulls, destroyed by Islamic State militants in the Assyrian city of Nimrud, south of Mosul, Iraq. (REUTERS/Ari Jalal )

On March 3, the Al Rafidein made its case to the central government in a letter of intent.

“The Turkmen, Assyrians, Yazidi, Shabak and other minorities are considered to be among the original Iraqi societies,” the opening of the Al Rafidein’s declaration read. “After all of the genocide, ethnic cleansing, persecution, abuse and injustice that has happened and is happening, we, the organizations, working in the name of the persecuted national societies in Iraq decided to join in a coalition that brings everyone together in order to defend our presence in Iraq.”

They coalition aims to obtain national, international and regional support in its efforts to create a region with “multiple Iraqi nationalities, religions, and cultures” free of racial and sectarian entrenchment. It also said it was acting in accordance with the Iraqi constitution, which allows the formation of new regions and provinces.

The coalition strongly believes that the creation of this new province will allow democracy to finally flourish in Iraq.

“This is just the beginning of the course. We have a lot of hard work in the future,” Ali Akram Al Bayati, president of the Turkmen Rescue Foundation, which is also a part of the Al Rafidein coalition, told Fox News. “We are trying to have open discussions with all political parties in Iraq. In the end, we will need parliamentary support.”

Al Bayati, who is Muslim, said he believes that the best way to stabilize Iraq is to set up a government similar to that of the United States.

“We believe that the fate of Iraq at the end of the day will be federalization,” he said. “But the question is on what basis? Sectarian? Ethnic? Geographical?”

Members of the minority Yazidi sect who were newly released hug each other on the outskirts of Kirkuk April 8, 2015. More than 200 elderly and infirm Yazidis were freed on Wednesday by Islamic State militants who had been holding them captive since overruning their villages in northwestern Iraq last summer. REUTERS/Ako Rasheed  TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTR4WJ6N Expand / Contract

April 8, 2015: Members of the minority Yazidi sect who were newly released from ISIS captivity hug each other on the outskirts of Kirkuk. (REUTERS/Ako Rasheed )

“We need to establish a new democratic face for Iraq. Away from all extremist ideology.”

On Tuesday, another coalition, one comprised of the Chaldean, Syriac and Assyrian Christian communities, released a letter also demanding a new province in the region.

“Out of a sense of responsibility towards our people, particularly all the dangers they are now faced with,” read a line from the letter obtained by Fox News, “we ask that you use the constitutional powers vested in your position to recognize the following demands.”

Perry Chiaramonte is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @perrych

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