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Last Updated: Monday, 26 February 2007, 19:30 GMT
Iraq's minorities 'face violence'
By Jane Peel
BBC News, Baghdad

Iraqi Christians praying
Iraq's minorities include Muslims, Christians and Jews
Religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq are facing unprecedented levels of violence, according to a study by a human rights organisation.

The plight of minorities is being ignored amid the constant news of carnage in Iraq, Minority Rights Group International says.

Its report claims that some groups risk being eradicated from their homeland. Iraqi minority members have been abducted, tortured or killed, or forced to assimilate.

The study says some communities - many of whom have lived in Iraq for more than 2,000 years - are suffering terrible violence as a result of their religion or ethnicity.

Figures from the United Nations suggest that of the 1.8 million Iraqis seeking refugee status across the world, almost a third are from smaller minority groups.

According to the report, these minorities - which include Turkmen, Christians, Shabaks and Bahais - have survived a long history of persecution, but there is a real risk that they might not see out the current conflict.

Much of the violence against them, the study found, is based on faith.

Some groups are negatively perceived as supporters of the West or as disrespecting Muslim values.

As they do not have the tribal or militia protection afforded to the majority groups, they can do little to defend themselves.

The authors say the situation is steadily deteriorating and they are calling on the international community and the Iraqi government to recognise the special vulnerability of the country's minorities.

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