ASSYRIA OR KURDISTAN?
It is a medical fact that if we did not use a certain part of our body over a long period of time, chances are that we might lose the use of that part. History continue to remind us that if we fail to mention aspects of our history for a considerable period, people will tend to forget them, even if those aspects were a historical reality in a certain period. On the other side of the coin, if we repeated something afresh over a reasonably long period, chances are that people will believe in it, even if it was a myth. This is the story of Assyria and the so-called Kurdistan.
Some people learn from their mistakes, others amazingly continue to repeat them! The Assyrians, as small-oppressed ethnic and religious minority in an Arab, Turkish, and Kurdish Moslem world, have only one chance to survive, through supporting each other. This, sadly, they did not practice. One expects that after centuries of genocide and massacres against the Assyrians, after many political setbacks, they would have learned to understand the advantages they would have gained if they had bonded in their national quest. Amazingly, when it comes to national affairs, the Assyrians have continued to allow few rascals to dictate how to carry their daily business and have allowed few midgets, obligated to this Kurdish and that Arab group, to keep them moving in empty circles for almost a century. These very few midgets and rascals have betrayed Prof. Ashur Yusuf, Naoum Faiq, Farid Nuzha, Dr. Fraydon Atouraya, Dr. David Perley and the other fathers of the Assyrian national movement. These few have created their own regional mini-kingdoms throughout the world and proclaimed themselves local lords and kings over a group of loyalist puppet monkeys around them. Whereas the majority of Assyrians have opted to remain uninterested in the national affairs, these "lords" and "kings" have seized the opportunity and have begun to run the Assyrian national affairs recklessly without any system of accountability.
One can easily go back to the early writings of the fathers of Assyrian nationalism and realize that much of what they have preached during the first half of the 20th century is still being reinvented on paper without any serious progress on the ground. Some individuals have argued that Assyrians would not find progress until they create a strong underground execution-type group whose job would be solely to eliminate traitors and ensure that those "kings" and "lords" are moving along an appropriately designed path.
Kurdistan: a Myth or Reality
The heart of modern Kurdish settlement in Iraq region has been parts of Sulaimaniya on the Iraq-Iran borders. Until some 70 years ago, parts of the present-day Sulaimaniya were considered Persian territories while others were considered Iraqis. The border disputes between the two countries were finally compromised with the directions of Great Britain, most of the Kurds of the region of Sulaimaniya became part of Iraq, and thus their numbers in Iraq increased. Added to that is the failure of the 1946 Kurdish Mahabad Republic in western Iran that lasted less than one year. As the Iranian army crushed the Kurdish revolution, many Kurds crossed the borders to Iraq.
History tells us that the oldest cultural settlements in the area of Sulaimaniya go back to Paleolithic times. We find that the Assyrians called this province and Shahrazour Plain by the name of "Samwa." In Derbandkawa, Kara Dagh Mountains, the Akkadian king Naram Sin (2291 - 2255 B.C.) immortalized his victory over the enemy in a famous stela of great artistry.  Other northern regions of Iraq were strongly Assyrian Christian in nature deep into the Islamic conquest. Hitti writes that the population of northern al-Iraq in the early tenth century was still, in the opinion of ibn-al-Faqih [Buldan, p. 315, I. 9] “Muslim in name but Christian in character.” 
The presence of Kurds have been documented throughout the centuries
in proximity to northern Mesopotamia (Assyria). The Near East,
as a complex region, was never an enclosed and isolated domain
to one absolute ethnic group, with perhaps certain localities
in the Hakkari Mountains, southeastern Turkey. Thus, the presence
of small groups of various tribal Kurds from Iran in Armenia is
only reasonable to accept, the same goes to Assyria. The presence
of Kurds is attested in the 12th century for example but let us
investigate the circumstances. Between (1185-1186), the Kurds
and Turkomans were involved in two main battles: The first, around
the regions of Nisibin and Khabor. The second was in the region
of Mosul (and not necessarily the city of Mosul itself). The Kurds
in Mosul province escaped to the mountains of Zagros and Hakkari
(between Persia and Turkey), close to the frontiers of Cilicia,
seeking protection on the borders of the Armenians. Bat Ye'or
writes on page 345 that the Turkomans attacked the Kurds there
and killed them all by the sword and the race of the Kurds disappeared
from all of Syria and Mesopotamia.  However, the Kurds later
began to move back again to northern Mesopotamia (Assyria).
Ibn Jubayr (1144-1217) was born in Andalusia, the name given to present Spain and Portugal during the Arab Islamic rule of the Iberian Peninsula. He was a scholar in Islamic studies and of literature. However, what he is most famous for is the three long journeys he took in the Moslem world at the time. Later, he described his travel experiences in a book titled "The Journey of Ibn Jubayr." About the city of Nisibin in Assyria, Ibn Jubayr writes on page 215 that they visited the city for one day and upon leaving the city, they were cautious because of continuous attacks by Kurds who he described as the disease of the region from Mosul to Nisibin and to Dunaysir. The Kurds, writes Ibn Jubayr, brought decay and spoiledness to the region and they lived in the protected mountainous region nearby the cities mentioned above. Even the successive sultans, adds Ibn Jubayr, were unable to suppress and tame the Kurds who might have sometimes and during their raids reached the gates of Nisibin.  Here, Ibn Jubayr attests that the Kurds lived in the mountainous regions beyond the cities of Mosul and Nisibin. He states that these Kurds in their raids might have sometimes reached the gates of Nisibin. The last sentence here proves clearly that the Kurds were not dwellers of the cities in question but rather the mountains near by and that in their raids they might have and sometimes, and I stress 'might have and sometimes,' reached Nisibin.
Despite the Turkomans actions, the Kurds continued to increase in numbers and they always needed new lands to crop. They attacked the peaceful Christian Assyrians of northern Mesopotamia, continued to seize new lands, and advanced slowly but surely into Mosul region. Around the 1790s, Olivier gave the following estimates for the population of Mosul: 7000-8000 Christians, 1000 Jews, 25,000 Arabs, 15,000-16,000 Kurds, and about as many Turks, or say 70,000 in all . Meaning, the Kurds were around 20% of the Mosul population around A.D. 1800. In the 1920s, and according to the British civil administrator and later by mandated Iraq, the population of non-Moslem minorities in Iraq was around 400,000 while the Kurds were estimated at 800,000 from a total of 3,000.000 Iraqis  On both accounts, regional and national, the Kurds did not make a majority. In fact, this has been the case throughout the history of northern Iraq, the heartland of Assyria.
Regardless to the fact that the Kurds origination is ambiguous in history, one fact remains unequivocal, and that is, they are not the indigenous people of northern Iraq (Assyria). Their presence in Persia (Iran) is described for example by Meisami. The author writes: "As for the Kurds of Fars, Ibn al-Balkhi notes that whereas in ancient times the indigenous Kurds were the glory of the Persian armies, with the coming of Islam they were all killed in battle or disappeared, except for a sole survivor who converted and whose descendants still live. The present Kurds of Fars were settled there by 'Adud al-Dawla, who brought them from the region of Isfahan." 
A. Hakan Özuglu states that there does not exist a fixed Kurdistan and a Kurdish identity. Although a "core region," which could be "imagined," defined as Kurdistan, exists and in relation to which the Kurdish identity is formed, the boundaries of perceived Kurdistan are always in flux. Therefore, the perceived identity of the Kurd constantly changes, corresponding the demands of time and space.  Scholars have been trying to find the link of the modern Kurds in history. One of the most cited works is an article by a British scholar G. R. Driver. The scholar finds early mention of the word Kurd in Sumerian clay tablet from 3rd millennium B.C., on which a land of Kar-da or Qar-da was inscribed. This land was the region of the south of Lake Van (in eastern Turkey) inhabited by the people of "Su" who were connected with the Qur-ti-e, a group of mountain dwellers. The evidence though is too inconclusive to rely on.  Vladimir Minorsky, the author of the entry Kurds in the "Encyclopedia of Islam" suggests that the origin of Kurds is from the Medes. However, he states that the origin of the Kurds in buried in ancient times. Thus, one can classify Minorsky as a member of the essentialist school.
Most reliable references to Kurds come with the invasion of Arabs of the 8th century. Hence, it is not a surprise to find that the modern word Kurd is of Arabic origin. Arab sources give systematic information concerning the distribution of the Kurdish tribes. The administrative term Kurdistan was used first by the Seljuk. In the 12th century, Sultan Sancar establishes the administrative region of Kurdistan in the eastern parts of the Zagros Mountains near Hamadan. The suffix –istan "the land of" is of Persian origin, hence, the earliest use of the name Kurdistan was is use by non-Kurds. Interestingly, the Arabs did not refer to Kurds as the inhabitants of Kurdistan, rather the inhabitants of Jabal (mountain), Zozan, Azarbaycan (Azerbaijan), and Armenia. The Arabs called collectively the people of unfamiliar Persian and Turkish languages as Kurds.
The earliest document that shows the perception of Kurdistan comes only in 1597-1598 from a book "Serefname" written by Serefhan Bitlisi, the ruler of Bitlis Emirate, located in present-time city of Bitlis. Serefhan in essence defines Kurdistan as the entire western Iran, including a line from Basra to Azerbaijan, little and great Armenia, southeastern Turkey, and to Malatya, most of Iraq, including Mosul and all the way to Diyarbakir. While this is most ludicrous since it seems that Bitlisi is considering the so-called Kurdistan every single region with Kurds in it, regardless to their population. It is silly to claim that most of Iraq, little and great Armenia or the Tur 'Abdin Christian region in northern Mesopotamia were in the past part of the so-called Kurdistan.
However, Ahmade Hani in his epic Mem-u Zin in the 17th century illustrates that the Kurdish conscious existed indeed. The Treaty of Kasr-i Shirin of 1639 between the Ottoman Turks and Safavids Persians gave certain Kurds relative autonomy. In the 18th century, the Safavid dynasty fell and the Ottoman government became centralized, this led to the rise of the Kurdish confederacies, like that of Botan dynasty, which includes Badir khan as one of her leaders.
In British source, there existed two Kurdistans: Turkish and Persian. A report by the British Political Department of the India Office describes Kurdistan as follows: "Kurdistan, (i.e. the Kurdish portion of Asiatic Turkey: there is also a Persian Kurdistan), as defined in the Foreign Office Memoranda—covers parts of the vilayets of Bitlis, Van and Mosul, but does not include the town of Mosul." (I. 5546/18) B. 303, December 14th, 1918, 'Kurdistan,' in Great Britain, British Policy in Asia: India Office Memoranda, Vol. 1, Mid-East 1856-1947, part 3 (London: Mansell, 1980). This is understandable since the Mosul Vilayet (Province) during Ottoman Turkish Empire in late 1800s was vast and was not even close to the present Mosul province of Iraq.
Assyria and Kurdistan
Mosul (Assyria) and Kurdistan were never the same regions. In Issawi's book, we read that Mosul was one of the great markets of the Orient. Most of the fabrics, drugs and Indian wares that come to Basra and Baghdad pass through it, going on to Constantinople or spreading out in the interior of Asia Minor. The same holds for the coffee of Mocha and Persian goods. Mosul also served as an entrepôt for gallnuts, gum tragacanth and the wax of Kurdistan, as also for cotton from neighboring regions.  The Jewish Encyclopedia states under the sub-title: Babylonian and Mandæan Dialects, quote: "In the region of ancient Assyria, Kurdistan, and Urumia dialects of Aramaic are still spoken by many Christians and by some Jews." Unquote.  Furthermore, under the sub-title Aramaic dialects page 189 from the Jewish Encyclopedia, we read, quote: "…modern dialects spoken at Tur 'Abdin and in Kurdistan, Assyria, and Urumia." Unquote. 
Hormuzd Rassam, the well-known archaeologist, wrote a letter from Twickenham in January 1875 to Dr. John Newman, who was about to publish his book "The Thrones and Palaces of Babylon and Nineveh from Sea to Sea: A Thousand Miles on Horseback." Rassam's letter was included in Newman's book. In his letter, Rassam states on page 367, quote: "My Dear Dr. Newman,—Agreeably to your request, I have the honor to communicate some information as to the Christian communities now existing in and around Mosul, and those scattered through Mesopotamia, Assyria, and Kurdistan." Unquote.  All the above historical references distinguish clearly between Mosul (Assyria) and Kurdistan as two different regions.
The Kurds have for around a century been referring to northern Iraq (Assyria) as Kurdistan. I guess they have repeated it for so long that even Iraqi have unconsciously began to believe that what was one day Assyria, and some 150 years ago the Mosul Wilayet, is today Kurdistan.
Learning From the Past
The Kurds have learned from their past. From a wild people split into some 200 tribes, speaking different dialects of Persian, and inhabit the mountainous regions of southern Armenia and Persia, and who live in rude villages, and migrate with their flocks, and dwelling in tents , the Kurds have turned to people of a parliament and international recognition and support. From a group with little written literature, and a language that have no alphabet of its own, which was divided into so many widely different dialects from one another , the Kurds have flooded library shelves with publications. From tribes who have been always in serious conflict with each other, they have learned how to work together for the sake of that dream of the so-called "Kurdistan."
By the way, who said that the work of scholars and historians is objective? Scholars in general are paid to propagate a political and social agenda. In handling the Iraqi minorities, scholars have revealed not objectivity, but rather its opposite, i.e. the use of ideology to mask self-interest of one group over the other. The Kurds have great teachers for the last few decades, the Israelis. The Kurdish intelligence and high profile individuals have benefited tremendously from the training they received in Israel in the last 40 years or so. According to a former director-general of the Israeli foreign ministry, Israel's help and cooperation with Kurds was part of a strategy that sought alliances with other non-Arab nations in the region. Pro-Kurdish feelings were also reinforced by the assistance the Kurds provided in the 1950's when Iraqi Jews were fleeing to Israel. In 1980, Menachem Begin, the prime minister at the time, officially acknowledged Israel's clandestine relations with the Kurds. He confirmed that Israel had sent to the Kurds not only humanitarian aid but also military advisers and weapons. Even today, the state-owned Israeli communications company Bezek transmits broadcasts on behalf of the Kurdish Democratic Party in northern Iraq every evening.  Eliezer Tzafrir, a former senior figure in Israel's Mossad intelligence service, said Israel kept military advisers at the headquarters of Iraqi Kurdish rebel chief Mula Mustafa Barazani from 1965 to 1975, training the insurgents and supplying them with light arms, artillery and anti-aircraft guns. He said the United States also took part in the campaign. In return, Israel received "a window onto an enemy Arab country," with access to intelligence the rebels gathered on Baghdad. 
One can find much similarity between the Kurds and Israelis in methods of controlling and seizing land; however, the Palestinians have been lately much resistant than in the early 1900s when they were simply selling if the price was right, contrary to Assyrians, who never saw any compensation for their lost lands and homes. The Kurds have succeeded to anchor the title "Iraqi Kurdistan" on a region that history never knew as such. The Kurds have succeeded to turn Mosul (Assyria) into part of the so-called Iraqi Kurdistan when they were not even the indigenous people of that region and when they still do not make a majority there. The Kurds said it and said it until everybody believed in it!
How did the Kurds increase so rapidly in the region of Dohuk for example, a region that was suppose to be assigned to Assyrians per the recommendations of the Special Commission of the League of Nations when the Iraqi-Turkish frontiers were being discussed in the 1920s? They controlled one village at a time. Throughout the 1900s, but mainly in the last few decades, small numbered armed Kurdish families have quietly yet methodically settled around the outskirts of Assyrian villages. Then they began to harass and terrorize the peaceful Assyrians of those villages and force them to vacate their lands and they moved in. 
The Acts of Deception
Deception is an art and the Kurds have perfected it. They presented themselves to the world through that democratic and civilized image (by allocating five seats for Assyrians in their Kurdish regional parliament in northern Iraq in 1992), however, they never stopped oppressing, killing, assassinating, kidnapping, raping, and terrorizing the Assyrians in north of Iraq. The indigenous Assyrians have no chances for survival in a religiously Moslem or ethnically Arab or Kurdish ruled region. History has proved this reality. The Turks did not keep their promises to protect the Assyrians as they promised the League of Nations through the Treaty of Laussane in 1923. The Iraqi governments did not protect the Assyrians as Iraq promised in 1932 before it was admitted to the League of Nations. The Kurds, as stateless people, have committed and are still committing today what the Turks and Arabs have committed earlier against the Assyrian Christians.
The way I see it, the Assyrian Christians of the Middle East must have some means to rule and administer themselves in order to ensure their survival. The introduction of an Assyrian region in northern Iraq (historic Assyria) within a federal Iraq system is vital to ensure that the indigenous Assyrians are safeguarded.
THE ASSYRIAN QUESTION &
THE SELF DETERMINATION RIGHT,
Scientists do agree that civilizations were formed through different eras of history and they went through different stages from hunting to shepherding, then agriculture followed by civilized structuring which came in the form of societies built upon social interlocking of the oneness of traditions, land, and history forming thus ethnicities with their own distinctive traits.
The formation of multiple civilizations on this planet led to infinite struggles especially where it concerned the Middle East area for reasons mostly economical which were created by the West for the geographical existence of the Middle East on The Silk Road (1) thus the West took advantage of the mosaic of religions within the peoples of the area.
Today, oil attracts the conspiracies and plots of the great nations for they again are taking advantage of the area where religions began, and the eastern mentality with its religious and sectarian rigor was responsible for the annihilation of millions through history where Christianity, Islam and Judaism meet and the followers of these religions don't agree upon any thing except that they all worship God while some don't recognize all that has to do with progress and accepting the other. Not to mention other reasons which are the cause of hostilities between the peoples of these religions. All this stems from ethnic ideologies which created contradicting outlooks which pour into the corner of "struggling for existence" within the same geographical spot, and as long as problem of "clash of religions and civilizations" continue without pin pointing and solving them, the situation is going to continue to intensify, increasing hatred between the peoples of the Middle - East, turning the indigenous peoples in the process into the "sacrificial lamb" in the struggle of the intruders.
The Assyrians who are an indigenous people of the Middle East, will be the focus of this article, since they have suffered over the centuries and still are while their rightful cause continues to be crushed between the West's imperialistic hammer and the anvil of a degraded neighbor...
The Assyrian Cause is a dilemma created by the intruders onto the national Assyrian homeland turning it into a "Case" which branched into different facets when the Assyrian ethnicity is faced with a fateful dilemma because of the ethnic and religious belonging.
During the past century, the Assyrian Cause entered as a "problem” through two gates into the arena of the Middle East, the first being religious and going back to the first centuries A.D. when the Assyrians embraced Christianity, and the second an ethnic one represented in the suffering which followed the first national revolt of 1915, in the time of the Martyred Patriarch Mar Binyamin Shimon.
The Assyrian people belong to Assyria (known as Mesopotamia), their language is “modern Assyrian” (which is the Old Assyrian [Akkadian] with Aramaic influences) and its use began during the time of the Assyrian King Sennacherib (705-681 BC). The language is also known as “Syriac” stemming from the Church literature and in reference to the Syrian Church. The Assyrians were the pioneers in establishing the first state-system in history that came about during the Akkadian period. Following the coming of Jesus Christ, the Assyrians embraced Christianity at the hands of the Apostles in the First century A.D. (I Peter 5:13) This was a reason for the massacres committed against them and specifically during the time of the Persian king Shahpur II (4th century A.D.) then during the Islamic Caliphate, and later the Ottomans whose history is smeared with the blood of its subjects, but especially the Christians.
The Assyrians number about 3.2 million people worldwide; the largest numbers live in the Diaspora because of forced deportations, while the rest still live in Assyria under the threat of most of their neighbors who came onto the land throughout history.
1- Fate’s Indignation (A historical overview)
The West's greed in the region goes back several centuries, and has had a basic role in the calamities that befell the Assyrians. After the treaty of 1535 between the Ottomans and France, the latter was permitted to send "missionaries" to the lands which were under Ottoman control, thus the Catholic campaign began upon the Church of The East with the Dominicans, Capuchins, Jesuits, and Carmelite missions’ arrival. This ended in separating a part of the Assyrians from their glorious Eastern Church heritage by joining Catholicism on April 9,1553. The new Catholic church prospered under the pressure and torture of the Kurds (!) who were paid by the missionaries into forcing the poor villagers to practice the catholic rites in their churches (2). Out of such suffering a new church was born in the Assyrian society, it has been spreading in the plains of Assyria since the mid-19th century, and is known today as the "Chaldean" Church being in union with Rome (Uniate Church).
For the longest time, the Assyrians asked for help from their neighboring Christian countries, to be saved from the Islamic persecution in the region. Frederick Engels gave an example of that in one of his letters to Karl Marx when he said: "As long as the Christians continue to be persecuted by the Ottomans, it's certain that they will look up to the Orthodox Church and its leader of 60 million Orthodox whoever he is, as their liberator and protector" (3). What affirms Engels's statements is a letter from the Patriarch Mar Rouil Shimon (1860-1903) to King Michael (4) on May14, 1868. In this letter the Patriarch states:"... We are a poor nation, my people have no place to sow a sufficiency of grain to provide themselves with bread ... The Kurds have forcibly taken many of our Churches and convents, they constantly abduct our virgins, brides, and women, forcing them to turn Moslems… The Turks are worse, they do not protect us, demand military taxes, poll tax, also the Kurds take our money for they consider us as “Zirr Kurr” (slaves - being Christians...writer's note)... Now, such being our condition, we beseech your mightiness, for the sake of Jesus, His Baptism, and cross. Either free us from such a state or to procure us a remedy… May God preserve you, Amin - Qudshanis" (5)
The Assyrians' suffering continued without any attention on the part of Russia, then 30,000 Assyrians of Iran joined the Russian Orthodox Church on March 24,1898 on the condition that Russia protect them from Islamization and persecution. The English and French missions forgot about their conflict to control the Church of the East and united in order to compete with the Russian Church. Their missions began to create plots claiming before the Iranians and the Ottoman Sultan that the Assyrians were collaborating with the Russians which caused many Assyrians to migrate to Russia in the 19th century, especially from the plains [Gawar, Albaq, Salamas]. Meanwhile, the Russians could not find the time for the "liberation" which the Assyrians had asked for, except in WWI when the signs of a general massacre began to loom in the Turkish horizon. When the Russians felt dangerously threatened by the Turks and the Germans on the eastern front [Caucasian Mountains], the French and English took advantage of the state in which the Christians were living in what is now known as Turkey. They promised the Assyrians independence and freedom after centuries of suffering if they joined the allies, as Britain did with the Arabs in 1916. The Arabs, on the other hand, did obtain their independence at the end.
Before the beginning of WWI, a nationalistic trend had begun to infiltrate the societies of the Middle East from Europe at the end of the 19th century influenced by the French Revolution. Thus, the peoples of the region began to move from religious racism to one that was more nationalistic. The Turks established the "Young Turks” association in July of 1908 " which developed into the "United and Advanced Party" calling for the Turkification of all ethnicities found within the lands still considered as Turkish until today. The Arabs on the other hand established the secretive "Al-Aahad”(covenant) and "Al-Aarabiyya Al-Fatat”(Young Arab) associations. The latter played a big role in WWI in convincing Al Hussein bin Ali (Mecca's noble - Sheriff) to join the allies on an "Arab" nationalistic basis after he had declared his stand against them at the beginning of war and had joined the Ottomans on an "Islamic" religious basis (specifically Sunni). As the Arabs were collaborating with the English to gain their freedom, so were the English in order to control the oil of the East as confessed bt Lawrence of Arabia (6).
Just like the Arabs, the Assyrians entered WWI with the allies seeking independence and removal of the Ottoman oppression. The Assyrians were known on the international platforms as the "Smallest Ally". During this period two thirds of the Assyrian nation was slaughtered. The massacres which were committed against the Assyrians were at the same time ethnic and religious and the goal of joining the war was so that the Assyrians would be liberated from oppression, to establish the Assyrian State in their historical homeland, and practice their right in self determination.
Following fierce battles against the Persians, Turks, and Kurdish tribes and losing more than 200,000 Assyrians [first two years of war]. A group of Assyrian intellectuals and leaders prepared a declaration "United Free Assyria" on July 28, 1917 which was known as the Urmia Manifesto. This declaration consisted of 20 clauses and acted as the Constitution of a sought after Assyrian State. It seemed far more advanced than most of the Middl East's countries constitutions for it recognized the rights of all ethnicities found in Assyria. This declaration was greeted with support from the allies who held a special meeting with the Assyrian leaders in order to discuss the project of an Assyrian State, this came to be at the beginning of 1918. The meeting was attended by representatives of Britain, Russia, and France; they promised the Assyrians an independent state at the end of war. This was also confirmed by the Russian consul in Iran, Vassily Nikittin, who represented the Russian side when he said: "the representative of Britain emphasized on granting the Assyrians their independent state following the war because they truly deserve it" (7).
This was the official beginning of the Assyrian State project for the first time in the Assyrian history since the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C. The "Assyrian National Council" was established in Urmia, Iran, only to become an Assyrian government for the free state of Assyria, but that did not last long. After the Russians took advantage of the nationalistic spirit of the Assyrians in order to realize military victories in the region of Azerbaijan in Iran, Lenin's Revolution broke out and the Russians withdrew from the war. The Assyrians were surrounded by their enemies: the Kurds, Iranians, and Turks, and continued to resist for several months until their ammunition ran out. The British took advantage of the situation this time (8) and persuaded the Assyrians to the plains of Assyria which is the most important part of the Assyrian national homeland [today's Northern Iraq].
In Iraq the Assyrians were settled in temporary camps where they were constantly and severely attacked following the 1920 revolution, simply because they were of the same faith as the "colonist”. This was a major reason for the Assyrians to be weary of being considered the “new enemy” by the Arabs, along with the Turks and Kurdish tribes. Great Britian again took advantage of this situation and began to create problems between the Iraqi government and the Assyrians whose role ended in driving out the Turks from the North of Iraq after bloody confrontations (9).
The plots of the English can be summed up in the "resettlement project”, when Turkey firmly refused the return of the Assyrians in the Lausanne treaty of 1923. In 1925 Mosul was joined to Iraq, thanks to the Assyrians who voted for that before the League of Nations' Commission. The Assyrians demanded to be settled within a homogenous population unit due to the dangers that they were facing because of the Kurdish tribes and Arabs, but their demand fell on deaf ear. Instead they were settled in the regions infested with malaria causing the death of a large number of babies (10). Some were settled in lands which could not be cultivated and were under the mercy of Kurdish bourgeoisie. They were separated from each other so that the Iraqi government used this card to refuse self government for the Assyrians (11) on the decision of the League of Nations. Britain continued to create problems between the Assyrians and Iraqi government which culminated in an Assyrian massacre in August 1933, whereby around 4000 men, women and children were massacred at the hands of the Iraqi army lead by colonel Bakir Sidqi (a Kurd) who was later on promoted to the rank of major-general as a reward for committing the massacre. He was helped by the Arab tribes under the banner of Jihad and under the direct supervision of Britain (12). Patriarch Mar Ishai Shimon was exiled to Cyprus with his family; followed by a fierce media campaign against the Assyrians in Arab newspapers, while Prince Ghazi the son of Faisal the first, the Hashemite who ordered the massacre was showered with greetings as the Assyrians were portrayed as the "colonist’s collaborators" forgetting who brought his family from Saudi Arabia to rule Iraq.
It is to be noted that these greetings came with an apparent Arab [nationalistic tone on the outside].... but in reality it was from the Sunni sect only. The Allies tried to relocate the Assyrians from Assyria to other parts of the world with the aim of melting them in foreign societies, as if the Assyrians were a people without a land, but their attempts failed with the insistence of the Assyrian people to remain in the homeland, while the project of an Assyrian State remained a dream after all the promises of the allies in WWI.
Because of those promises, the Assyrians were considered "collaborators" by the "intruders" who treated the Assyrians so badly that they were forced to ask for help from Russia and later on Britain, even though the Assyrians followed the same path as the Arabs in getting rid of the Ottomans. The latter were far less loyal to the English. It is worth noting here that even the Najaf scholars welcomed the British in Iraq following Turkey's defeat and sent letters of congratulations to King George V (13).
Thus, the de-facto powers are the ones to decide who is and is not a collaborator. These are the same forces that decide when to make collaboration legitimate. This has reached such an extent that the Assyrian is even cautious of saying any thing, for he is forbidden to mention the "Assyrian homeland" or the "independent Assyrian State" or he will be directly classified as "Zionist" or a "collaborator”, while the intruders who are in the Assyrian national homeland have the right to openly declare that they have the right for an independent state, and they have succeeded in imposing their demands on those who so call themselves "Arab" nationalists.
2- The Assyrian national movement lacks revolutionary thought
The enemies of the former Soviet Union followed suit by applying the international “Nationhood” for geographical-economical reasons regardless of ethnic affiliation, so the European Union was established and is formed of several nationalities and in turn will form the "European Nation" exactly as did the "American Nation”. The Arabs failed in realizing the "Arab Nation" which was supposed to be formed of all those who call themselves Arabs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian Gulf. The countries of the Middle East (Arabs and others) failed even in realizing a "nation" within a “state”.
Thus we can be certain that the Middle Eastern peoples who are dominating the Assyrian lands failed miserably in applying what they had imported from the west (that is the nationalistic theories). This failure is particularly evident in Iraq where there is a variety of nationalities and religions.
Today, the sincere Iraqis are looking to "nationalize" Iraq, that is to consider Iraq as a fully developed nation on its own merit, consisting of all the ethnicities and religions to the extent that some have suggested the withdrawal of Iraq from the League of Arab countries. Ohers call for a middle course in the Iraqi political thought, that is to correct the national ideas of every group with what is beneficial for it and for the national interest in general... But in reality the Iraqi body is decaying on the inside with religious racism hidden behind the slogan of tolerance, and degenerated thinking hidden behind the slogan of morals and religious traditions, and separatism hidden behind the slogan of federalism....
The Iraqi people and politicians are well aware of all this, also the Assyrian people are especially aware of this but its politicians continue to raise the patriotic Iraqi and Kurdistani speech above the Assyrian national speech and at the expense of the Assyrian nationality.
With the elimination of the regime which is blamed today for all the crimes in Iraq, the real intentions of all the political Iraqi groups surfaced, these same intentions were present at the London Conference which was held by the Iraqi Opposition in December of 2002. After the establishment of the governing council, the same statements which were used in the London Conference were used here. They do not apply to the diversity of the Iraqi people, such as the use of the denominational names for the Arabs (Sunni - Shiaa) and the Assyrians as (Christians) or the (peoples of Kurdistan) while only the Kurds are mentioned by their ethnic name, even though they are "Sunni and Shiaa" just like the Arabs! We noticed as well in the declarations of the new council that they carried Islamic tones such as using the phrase:"...In the name of Allah the merciful, the beneficent" and this contradicts the principle of secularism which was claimed by most of the members. In its declaration dated July 22, 2002 in the 3rd clause it mentions:” Respecting the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people"... without mentioning the other religions (Christians, Yizids, Jews and Sabaeans...) which are all Iraqis before the Islam.
The clash of civilizations and religions is still going on until today in the Middle East region, just like in Iraq where the indigenous people are under threats of religious persecution within a project of imposing Islam and a national persecution in the shadows of the Kurdish project which has turned to be the greatest danger on the Assyrian nationality since the beginning of the national Kurdish movement in the 20th century. The United States stands silent on the Kurdish project in order to use it as a rod to threaten the Arabs in Iraq, raising in the process the plots to justify the continuity of its existence in Iraq. The Arab countries remain silent towards the Kurdish project because its engineers are Sunni Muslims. Iran on the other hand supports the Islamization of the Iraqi regime because the majority are Shiaa, while the Sunni Arabs are waiting for the return of Saddam or the Sunni Hashemite "liberator"... In all this, the Assyrians are trying to come closer to all those who do not respect the religious and national beliefs and characteristics of the Assyrian people.
Since the passing of its heroes (Malik Yaqou Ismail, Mar Ishai Shimon... and others) the Assyrian national movement has become "submissive”, yielding and unsuccessful in organizing itself to face its degenerate surroundings which influenced its present as well as its future path.
1- Why are the Assyrians collaborating with the Kurdish tribes in political fronts so ambitious in establishing a Kurdish entity on the Assyrian Land?
2- Why do we keep on hearing the phrase "the Kurdish liberation movement" or "Palestinian liberation" ? And we don't hear about an Assyrian “liberation” movement?
3- Why does a Kurd and a Palestinian speak of an independent homeland, while the Assyrian has to sing the symphony of brotherhood and harmony while he knows well that he's surrounded by his enemies?
4- Why should the Assyrian beg others to just recognize his nationality? On his own historic land?
The mere thought of posing these questions gives the reader an idea about the level of degradation which the Assyrian national movement has reached at present, not to mention the weak positions of Assyrian politicians before the rest of the Iraqi currents. This was realized by the Assyrian public starting in 1991 which may lead to an isolation from the Diaspora where the real power of the Assyrians remains, and through which the Assyrian Cause can be imposed as a real dilemma in the Iraqi equation ... and this has never happened.
This degradation is a result of the plurality of decisions and in this the blame goes equally to all sides because the Assyrian national movement is suffering in general of a chronic disease which is the failure in programming a united political speech.
3 - Factors negatively influencing the path of the Assyrian National Movement:
3.1 - External Factors:
3.1.1 - Religious Factor: If we are to observe the Assyrian Cause, we would notice that its path has been greatly influenced by the religious nature of its environment, also the Kurdish density and power in the region which is influenced to a great extent with the religious nature of the Kurds. They entered in great numbers in Assyria and Armenia with the Mongols who gave them vast lands in exchange for their support, then the nomad Kurdish tribes were welcomed in Turkey in the beginning of the 16th century because of their Sunni Muslim denomination whereby the Ottoman Sultan supported and armed them to fight off the Shiaa Safawiyyin of Iran. Iranians did the same when they brought those tribes from Isfahan and today they are known as Iranian – Kurds (14) . They were again armed and supported against the Sunnite Turkey and its Kurds This increased the influence of these tribal groups within the two countries, so they caused trouble and destruction in the villages of Armenians and Assyrians whose complaints to the local governors in Turkey and Iran fell on deaf ears because they were non-Muslims.
Even today we clearly notice the Arab silence about the Kurdish separatism, also the clear and evident silence on swallowing what is called “Kurdistan”, and even the Arab media supporting and promoting this project. This unprecedented understanding for the problems of others is illogical on the part of the Arabs, if we do not take into consideration the religious and denominational factors.
If the Assyrians asked for their rights in their historical land, (as the Kurds are claiming) they would have faced the same fate as that of WWI and 1933 and at the hands of the Arabs of Iraq.
3.1.2 - National Factor: The Assyrians have always been faced with the attempts to obliterate their national existence in all the Middle East countries until today. The Arab revolution of 1916 marked the beginning of the Arab nationalistic trend in the 20th century. This movement progressed over periods of time bringing about more Arabic currents which were not any less chauvinistic from their Turkish predecessors, for these currents tried to Arabize all the ethnicities on the lands which they consider to be Arab, this also coincided with the beginning of a "Kurdish" nationalistic trend increasing thus the unsolved files in the Middle East, but especially in the Assyrian National Homeland. And today the Kurds ask for the Assyrian homeland using what power they have and taking advantage of the calamities of the countries which they live in side by side to the rightful owners of the land.
The Kurdish national movement followed the same chauvinistic policy towards the Assyrians as soon as they had the chance (15). The Behdinani Kurds deliberately followed an organized terrorism policy after 1991 in order to drive out the Assyrians taking over their lands, terrorizing them and assassinating their leaders as admitted by Mr Jalal Talabani (16). Therefore, the Assyrian nationality is in the position of a hostage amongst most of its neighbors.
Following the fall of the despised regime in Iraq, it became clear to those observing the Assyrian situation that both the [religious and national] gates which were briefly mentioned, are still opened for more probable massacres and that because of the mosaic of people, conflicts and quarrels in Assyria.
3.2 - Internal Factors:
3.2.1- Absence of revolutionary thinking in the Assyrian political thought: Being revolutionary does not necessarily mean armed struggle; on the contrary it is more of an intellectual rebellion (politics, literature, media, and social) on all that may threaten the dignity of a nation and its national existence in its historical land. However, the Assyrian reality is totally the opposite where it is represented in a totally excessive simplicity in political goals and futuristic views. It is noticed that those Assyrian parties which hold obvious liberating goals are very small and have no political influence in comparison to those adopting obscure goals and which are limited to some defeated phrases which proved useless to accomplish any thing for the past decades and which if they resulted in something it would be for a very short period of time in the Middle Eastern medium full of surprises and changes.
The rights which the Assyrians are demanding today may be granted for a certain period of time according to the inclinations of an eastern ruler or through the instructions of his western master, as it was in the time of the martyred President Abd el Karim Qasim in Iraq or the Shah of Iran (may they rest in peace), but at the end Qasim was killed and the Assyrian rights disappeared for 40 years during which more than 1.5 million Assyrians were forced to flee from the persecution of the central regime and the tribal Kurdish parties in Assyria. When the Shah was forced into exile, more than 150,000 Assyrians fled over a period of 24 years because of the practices of the Islamic regime thus today there are no more than 50,000 Assyrians in Iran ... and who knows until when ?
It is well noticed that the larger,deep rooted parties refrain always from mentioning the word "Assyria" or a "national Assyrian homeland" in their political speeches, so those who mention the two phrases would be ridiculed by the leaders of the "Assyrian national movement" whose organizations continue to build the Assyrian home on weak foundations and ideas empty of any hint for liberalism which led and will lead future Assyrian generations to walk in the same defeated path.
The activities of these organizations have been limited in culture, arts, and glorifying linguists and journalists and poets with rarely mentioning any revolutionary symbols. Futurewise these organizations had no plans and money was spent on graduating students in fields such as medicine, engineering, rather than in politics, international law, history, and military sciences...On the other hand some organizations glorified some revolutionary Assyrian symbols who died serving the Kurdish case.
Nowadays if a school is built in Assyria (specifically today's North Iraq) or if a ministry seat is designated as "Christian" is seen as a great national accomplishment according to these organizations while the increase in Assyrian submissiveness is on the rise before the Kurdish project and we see that the Assyrian individual shuns away from the debilitated Assyrian national movement. When asked about the reason behind this humiliation suffered by Assyrians on their historical homeland in the shadows of projects such as "Shiistan","Sunnistan" and "Kurdistan", the answer comes: "We can't" or "This is our fact", that is if being humiliated is acknowledged, otherwise the answer would be: “Here we hav a minister and thankfully they have recognized our existence, what else do you want"?
3.2.2- Submission to others: Because of the pressures exerted upon the Assyrian nationality in the Middle East, the Assyrian individual found himself obliged to take a ride on the train of slogans presented by the stronger currents (Arab and Kurd) even though these same slogans which are inclusive in their ideology are aiming the final blow at the Assyrian identity. This submissiveness did not only affect the Assyrian individual, but also some Assyrian parties which found themselves totally obliged to join the political fronts which are working to eliminate the Assyrian national existence in the long run such as the "Kurdistan Front" working in Assyria.
This came to be with the supple tone of the Assyrian political speech and the extra caution of not expressing the Assyrian ambitions as it should be, in order to avoid agitating the ally – or the enemy. This "obligatory" path of the Assyrian organizations in the Middle East is due to the weakness on the ground. This weakness in turn is a direct result of not collaborating with the organizations working in te Diaspora and which have a media and political power particularly in Europe and the United States. This can be considered as a crime against the Assyrian Cause on the part of the Assyrian national movement in this era and this crime goes back to the beginning of the Kurdish liberation movement on the Assyrian land whereby there was an Assyrian political vacuum over a period of time during which the Kurdish national movement adopted the geographical phrase "Kurdistani" rather than the phrase "Kurdish" and we see that in the names of Kurdish parties "Kurdistani Democratic Party” (instead of Kurdish...) same applies to the "Kurdistani Workers Party”, and the "Kurdistani Patriotic Union”.
Therefore, the Kurdish national movement succeeded in attracting other ethnicities to its groups and one of those was the Assyrian ethnicity which being isolated from the Assyrian Diaspora for decades, concluded that the "Kurdish" liberation movement was the sole place to remove the oppressive regimes. Some Assyrians joined the Kurdish parties in Turkey and Iraq and participated in the "Kurdish" liberation movement which in turn aims for the final blow on the land and the identity of the Assyrian people for it recognizes the Assyrians as "Kurdistan citizens" or as "Christians of Kurdistan". Thousands of Assyrians died and more than 220 Assyrian villages were continuously burnt and destroyed in Iraq and Turkey for the case which is aiming at doing away with their national identity, thus, the world did not hear of them as Assyrians.
What is astonishing is that until today those who graduated from this "Kurdistani school" are still loyal to the Kurdish project as much as they can, which is nothing more than: "Let's Kurdify the Assyrian land together...For we are all “kurdistanis” and brethren and let us therefore live together in peace"... Indeed the Assyrian Democratic Movement considers itself a representative of one the "Kurdistani" groups and also one of the "Kurdish" parties… this is obvious through its recent press releases.
3.2.3- The destructive ideologies to the distinctive Assyrian nationality: This factor is divided into two parts as well: the Assyrian politician’s lack for the historical knowledge, and the participation of some Assyrian members of foreign parties into the Assyrian national movement.
All the Assyrian parties (without exception) have historical errors in their principles, especially because the Assyrian individual is known for his unique national emotions, harmful to the preservation of the national ideology of the Assyrian society as whole. This trait is evident when he gathers all the Middle Eastern groups which at one time belonged to his religion as part of the Assyrian nation, or he gathers all the groups that spoke a language close to his...Then he mixes between the religious and the national names without really knowing what each means.
It is normal that when an Assyrian organization is established in the Middle East it would have former politicians who belonged to non-Assyrian parties at one point, but those politicians brought with them and diffused the ideas that they had learned from their old parties. That is why we notice the "Kurdish" tone in the speeches of some organizations working in Assyria, also the "Syrian Nationalist" and "Communist" tones, when they neglected the attributes of the Assyrian nationalism in equating the national “name” with the sectarian “nomination”, similarly about expanding the geographical location of the Assyrian national homeland. Also we notice the old influences in the theory of distribution of the Assyrian people and this can be seen within the organizations working in Syria and Turkey, regrettably these ideas found their way to some Assyrian groups in the Diaspora.
It is worth noting that the parties thankfully not recognizing the name "Kurdistan”, do not mention either the Assyrian homeland with its real name Ashur (Assyria), rather they use names which do not indicate the identity of the land and as an example "Bet Nahrain" which means “land of rivers”, "Garbia" which means “North”, and "Atra" which means “homeland”, and other trivial names. This is due to the submissiveness mentioned above, and all this will influence the national ideology of the coming generations, increasing the loss.
3.2.4- State of defeat in facing some simpletons and
sectarians in the Assyrian society:
3.2.5- Sense of defeat before the Iraqi currents: This can be summed up in the absence of a political stand for the Assyrian organizations working in Iraq, in the face of the biased plans towards the Assyrian nationality, begining with the conferences of the Iraqi oppostion parties in the 1990s until the current press releases of the Iraqi governing council and Ahmad Chalabi’s proposal for dividing Iraq into four regions without dedicating a region to the Assyrian nationality. Add to that the absence of positions in relation to what the Assyrians have and still are facing at the hands of the Kurds and Moslems in general, whereby tens have fallen victim since the fall of the previous regime that is now blamed for every crime. The role of those who consider themselves the representatives of the Assyrian nationality in Iraq is limited to media relations such as the meetings with Iraqis (leaders of the culprit currents most of the time) in addition to publishing some subjects which do not help in this time such as the activities of the Assyrian students, and the women's Unions as well as the farmers’ concerns in the so-called "Kurdistan". This policy has been followed since the establishment of the Assyrian Democratic Movement.
* * * * *
The Assyrian national movement facing many obstacles, both political and historical, has prevented the elimination of the heavy burdens carried by the Assyrian nation for over 2600 years, while the promises of the allies to the Arabs and Jews were fulfilled. The Assyrians are the most ancient and deprived people in the world, but at the same time their cause is the most concealed because of the policy followed by the Assyrian parties, ignoring the dusty Assyrian file in the archives of WWI allies indefinitely, while the Assyrian nationality continues to suffer from the arrogance of the other nationalities and religions living on its land... Hence the increase in forced migration while the Assyrians in Diaspora sing the praises of the glorious times of the Assyrian Empire thousands of years ago.
If we were to do a little calculation around the percentage of the Assyrians in the world who are forcibly out of Iraq we find out that they form about 30% of all Iraqis outside of their country, while the Assyrians who remain in Iraq form only 5% of the Iraqi population, which without any doubt clearly shows that the Assyrians have suffered the most amongst all the Iraqi groups.
In the event that the Assyrian organizations continue in their defeated path and continue with empty patriotic speeches (that is without paying any attention to Assyrian affairs in comparison with others), not one Assyrian will be left in Assyria in the coming years.
If we are to look at the headlines mentioned above, we would recognize that the Assyrian weakness in Assyria is due to their contact with their sister organizations around the world and sharing with them the Assyrian political decision rather than creating hurdles before any one who tries to work in the Iraqi arena.
All the Assyrian currents have to be well aware that it is illogical for one organization in Iraq or the world to singularly take decisions, and all the organizations have to collaborate together bringing about a total change in the present Assyrian national movement, and going out of the plurality of decisions by undertaking one central decision delivered by a cohesive Assyrian Front and not some temporary un real alliances. In the light of the danger surrounding the Assyrian nationality and the non - understanding of the Iraqi groups and currents for the necessities of the next steps to preserve the unity of Iraq, then the Assyrians have also to look for a brighter future.
Therefore, and because the Assyrian Democratic Movement is considered here the Assyrian decision maker vis a vis the governing council, then it has to break off the collar of surrender which has suffocated the Assyrian hopes for decades and it stop submitting and giving in to others preserving the Assyrian nationality's dignity by sharing in the following steps along side the rest of the Assyrian organizations:
1- Withdrawing from any front which aims at changing the identity of the Assyrian land and people, and joining instead the Assyrian Front while conserving good relations with all the Iraqi groups (Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmans) for it is a shame for an Assyrian movement to work in a Kurdish front while it drifts apart from the rest of the Assyrian organizations.
2- Representing the Assyrian nationality in any official Iraqi platform on the basis of "An Assyrian Front working in Iraq" and relinquishing the “Single Party” policy which is inherited from the degenerated regimes which the Assyrians used to live within.
3- Relying on a sound patriotic speech (taking into consideration the Assyrian national interest).
4- Holding an open conference as soon as possible with the participation of the Assyrian organizations and releasing a clear and candid program towards what is going on in the Iraqi horizon.
5- Working to correct the state of defeat and submission to the de facto situation on the part of the Assyrian organizations in general, for these political organizations are established to change reality and not to submit to it.
1- It was
the commercial caravans’ way between the western mediteranean
coasts to the Chinese city Lu-Yang-Chi, and it was the main reason
of conflicts between the supper powers during the past centuries.
[Z-info: This article was originally published in "Elaph" Arab Newspaper on 16 September 2003 and translated from from Arabic for use in Zinda Magazine by Ms. Mary C. residing in Canada].
DECLARATION OF THE CHALDEAN BISHOPS ON THE ROLE OF CHALDEANS IN THE NEW IRAQ
Courtesy of the Zenit News Agency in Vatican (17 September)
(ZNDA: Baghdad) The Chaldean bishops of Iraq have asked Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator for the country, to help guarantee the rights of their faithful.
The 19 bishops who signed the statement asked Bremer to "guarantee the rights -- religious, civil, social and political -- of all Christians of Iraq, first among them our Chaldean people."
The bishops recall that Christian Chaldeans are the descendants of the ancient inhabitants of Iraq. In recent decades thousands had to leave their land, willingly or forcefully, as their culture was suppressed.
Chaldeans are the third ethnic community in Iraq, after the Arabs and Kurds. Among the Christians, they constitute about three-quarters of the total.
In their statement the bishops affirmed: "We declare here our solidarity with all Iraqi citizens, Arabs, Kurds and Tremens, and all ethnic and religious groups living in peaceful brotherhood, especially with our Christian brethren: the Assyrians, the Syriacs, the Armenians and the Latins, for the purpose of building a new, democratic, free and prosperous Iraq."
On 17 September Fides Service spoke with Bishop Shelmon Wardoni, apostolic administrator of the Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans in Baghdad:
In this statement you say your rights are neglected in the new administration. Why?
We sent this letter to Mr Bremer asking why Chaldeans, who are the absolute majority of Christians in Iraq since the first century of Christianity, are not represented in the new government. We feel our rights are not respected, they are neglected. From the beginning we asked for respect for our rights, religious, political social and ethnic rights. We ask only for respect for our rights, nothing more. If we look back to when Iraq was still a monarchy, we see that our Patriarch was a senator in the government. Today we are the third largest group after Arabs and Kurds.
What role can Iraqi Christians play in the country today?
Iraqi Christians are citizens like all the others. They must be given a role in the rebuilding of the country, a task in which they must cooperate with all the other citizens. There is no difference from this point of view between Muslims and Christians. A true Iraqi will cooperate with others to build his country. As Christians we were afraid of fanatics: although there are some, the majority of Muslims want to cooperate and they want a democratic pluralist nation.
Iraq is often the centre of media attention. The media must report the truth and avoid creating problems. On behalf of all Iraqis I ask the media to tell the truth, not to enlarge problems and to tell also positive news not only negative news.
Tells us about Muslim/Christian relations since the war?
We cannot complain about relations and contact with our Muslim brothers. Indeed, today a new door for dialogue is open. On May 22 we Chaldean Bishops of Iraq had a meeting with Muslim leaders, Shiites and Sunni, at Najaf the Shiite holy city. We met Ayatollah Hakim, who was assassinated recently and Ayatollah Sistani: both men welcomed us warmly with great joy and they stressed that we must work together to build the new Democratic Iraq in which the rights of all citizens are guaranteed.
The following is the full text of the Declaration, dated 3 September 2003.
To Mr. Paul Bremer
The Chaldean Patriarchate sees its duty to declare explicitly its stand in regard to the actual situation in our beloved country, especially in regard to the role of Chaldeans in the now Iraq and their participation in the formation of its institutions. We have already issued a declaration in the name of Patriarchs and Bishops of Iraq, dated 29 April 2, 2003, asking you to guarantee the rights of all Christians of Iraq -- religiously. civilly, socially, and politically -- first among them our Chaldean people.
The Chaldeans are the descendants of ancient inhabitants of Iraq; its land is their country from thousands of years. Their ancestors embraced Christianity since its dawn, an filled the plains and mountains of this country with their towns and villages, their monasteries and churches. In the last decade thousands of them had to leave their land. willingly or forcefully, due to the injustice committed against them; in fact. their towns and villages in the northern region were destroyed as were destroyed those of neighbors, heir schools were nationalized. their culture was supressed [sic], and their resisting children were pursuit [sic].
According to their number and their percentage to the general population. the Chaldeans represent the third ethnic community of Iraq, immediately after the Arabs and Kurds; their presence in the social, professional and administrative field, is evident all over Iraq, particularly in Baghdad and the North. Moreover, since the founding of the state of Iraq, Chaldeans played an active and prominent role in the formation of the State; the Chaldean Patriarch, in fact, has been a Senator in the Iraqi Senate, up to t le establishment of the republic of Iraq. Among Christians, the Chaldeans are approximately 75-80% of the total, though their presence in the cultural life at large is much greater than their number.
Nevertheless, we were and still are mystified that, despite our appeals, your administration ignored, since the beginning up to the present day, these facts. Unfairly, the Temporary Council o Government was formed without any Chaldean presence and the structure and members of the new government have been announced without any participation of Chaldeans in the name of Chaldeans, as well. That is an injustice committed against our people, for which we protest hereby explicitly and insistently.
We hereby, duly request your administration to respect ethnicity of the Chaldean people, and recognize its relevance among the ethnicity's [sic] of contemporary Iraq, and include its children to exercise the role that belongs to them in their land, particularly in the high institutions of the State, moreover to include them in the Commission entrusted with the drafting of the new Constitution, having clearly in mind to mentions the Chaldean ethnicity and its rights, in the due order, among the other ethnicities of the country.
We declare here our solidarity with all Iraqi citizens, Arabs, Kurds and Turkrmens, and all ethnic and religious groups living in peaceful brotherhood, especially with our Christian brethren-- the Assyrians, the Syriacs, the Armenians, and the Latins, for the sake of building a new Democratic, free, and prosperous Iraq.
KURDS ARE BUYING PROPERTY IN ORDER TO TURN MOSUL INTO A KURDISH CITY
Courtesy of the KurdistanObserver.com (17 September); by Scheherezade Faramarzi
(ZNDA: Mosul) The old two-story house - six rooms built around a big courtyard - has been home to Shirwan Yousef, his three brothers and their families for seven years.
But Yousef, who paid 1.25 million dinars - about $700 at the time - for the house, doesn't officially own it. The law back then, when Saddam Hussein's Baath Party ran things, prohibited Kurds from buying property unless they renounced their Kurdish ethnicity and declared themselves Arabs.
So thousands of Kurds solved the problem by buying property in the name of a trusted Arab friend or neighbor.
Given years of repression by Saddam and widespread ethnic cleansing of Kurds to make room for Sunni Muslim Arabs - such trust among the two groups might seem surprising.
Yousef, who owns a barbershop, used all his savings to buy the house in the poor, mixed Kurdish-Arab neighborhood called Atshaneh. He put the dwelling in the name of his childhood Arab friend, Tarek Younis Ahmed.
"I know that the milk he drank as a child was pure," Yousef, 35, said, explaining the trust he put in an Arab who was also a strong Saddam backer and a member of his ruthless Baath Party.
"Arabs are our brothers. It was Saddam who caused rifts and hatred between ethnic groups," said Yousef.
Ahmed, a 37-year-old businessman, still proclaims loyalty to the ousted dictator.
"I love Saddam. He's my president," he said.
Regardless, Ahmed said, the law on property ownership was wrong. Beyond that he was flattered by Yousef's trust.
"I consider him like a brother. It was a wrong law. We are Iraqis and ought to be able to buy property in any part of Iraq. His family has been in Mosul since 1950. My family has been in the city since 1960," said Ahmed, a shy man.
When asked about Saddam's treatment of the Kurds, Ahmed sidestepped the question.
"All I cared about was that he provided me with security, money and employment," he said.
With Saddam gone, Kurds must now wait until a new central government issues laws to facilitate the transfer of property to its rightful owners.
In the meantime, people like Yousef and Ahmed are drawing up their own documents transferring property from Arab ownership to Kurdish.
Some Kurds also have begun buying property in their own names even though the deeds cannot yet be registered. Kurds have prospered over the past 12 years since they gained semi-autonomy in the nearby Kurdish areas in the far north of the country. They set up the region under the protection of U.S. and British air patrols to keep Saddam's army out after the first Gulf War.
With their new-found prosperity, Kurds are looking to invest and Mosul property looks good. That, however, is making many of the city's Arabs uneasy, fearful that the ethnic balance could tilt in favor of the Kurds.
U.S. Army commanders and Kurdish officials here say there is no cause for alarm.
"It's a matter of perspective," said Col. Joe Anderson, commander of 101st Airborne's 2nd Brigade, which is in charge of Mosul. "If 10 families did it (in one neighborhood)... that would be a lot because they (the Arabs) didn't have any (Kurdish neighbors) before."
Besides, he asked, how can the Arabs complain since they were the ones selling the property. "Everything here is about money."
Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of the 101st Airborne Division in northern Iraq, said the "rumors" that Kurds are trying to encroach on Arab lands "are spread by those who have a residual dislike for Kurds."
"There's no grand scheme to take over Mosul or something like that," said Petraeus.
But even some liberal Arab intellectuals remain skeptical.
"Kurds are buying property in order to turn Mosul into a Kurdish city," insisted Taher Hamed Mohammed, lecturer of Islamic History at Mosul University. He said the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of two Kurdish factions, was buying residential property in Mosul.
In Mosul Kurds live predominantly on the west bank of the Tigris River. The Arab majority is on the east - the old town and the financial pulse of the city.
Arabs and Kurds, not surprisingly, differ about the size of various ethnic groups in the town and the province of which it is capital. Census figures done under the Saddam regime are seriously questioned.
According to the governor, Ghanem al-Basso, an Arab, the population of Nineveh Province is 4 million. Mosul, he says, is about 2 million. Altogether, he claims, the population is 90 percent Arab. Kurds, he says, total just 150,000.
But his Kurdish deputy, Goran, says the provincial population is
only at 3 million and the Mosul count is 1.7 million. He claims
the city is between 50 and 55 percent Arab and 35 to 45 percent
Kurdish, with Assyrians making up eight percent. Other ethnic groups,
including Turks make up the balance.
70TH ASSYRIAN CONVENTION ADDRESSES THE IRAQI-ASSYRIAN QUESTION
Courtesy of the Assyrian International News Agency (18 September) - Online version at www.aina.org
(ZNDA: Chicago) The 70th Assyrian American National Convention was held in Chicago from August 28 to September 1. In addition to the extensive cultural, arts, and social events, the Assyrian American National Federation again hosted several political and historical panel discussions of interest to Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs) attending the convention from North America, Canada, Europe, Australia and the Middle East.
The panel discussion entitled Focus on Iraq on August 30 featured an impressive array of speakers including Mr. Firas Jatou of the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), Dr. Ronald Michael of the Assyrian American League (AAL), Fr. Ken Joseph an Assyrian activist now based in Iraq, Mr. Willy Fautre from Human Rights Without Frontiers, and Professor Walid Phares of Florida Atlantic University. The panel was moderated by chicago-based attorney Genevieve Daniels of the Assyrian Academic Society.
The panel discussion centered on the future political aims of Assyrians in Iraq. Mr. Firas Jatou of AINA presented an historical analysis of the demographic concentrations of Assyrians in the northern Iraqi provinces. Drawing on maps of Assyrian villages and historical sites from the 1960's, Mr. Jatou demonstrated that the greatest concentration of Assyrian villages remained relatively intact around the province of Mosul (ancient Nineveh) and Dohuk (Noohadra) despite centuries of persecution and upheaval. Mr. Jatou also showed that, despite the destruction of nearly 200 villages by the Iraqi government and Kurds from the 1960's until today, Assyrian villages remain prominent in Nineveh and Dohuk.
Dr. Ronald Michael of the AAL outlined the past year's lobbying efforts in Washington and plotted a course for future activities. Rev. Ken Joseph, having just flown in from Baghdad to participate in the panel discussion, described the difficulties in the daily life of Assyrians as well as the political challenges in Iraq. Rev. Joseph implored Assyrians in the Diaspora to remain committed to the Assyrians of Iraq by visiting and assisting. Rev. Joseph predicted that without an Assyrian autonomous area, the threat of Islamic pressures would drive Assyrians out of Iraq.
Mr. Willy Fautre presented the most detailed proposal for autonomous regions within an integrated Iraq based in part on a Belgian model that respected ethnic and linguistic minorities' rights. In Mr. Fautre's model, two overlapping forms of federalism are envisioned. First, the nation would have separate administrative "regions" each with its own parliament -- a form of territorial federalism. Each community e.g. Assyrians, Turkman, Arabs, and Kurds would also have their own parliament representing their communities throughout the country -- a form of community federalism. The community parliament would have full autonomy in schools, culture, agriculture, energy, religion, protection of monuments etc. The unity of the federal government would be guaranteed by a bicameral system with a House of Representatives elected directly by the people and a Senate appointed by the various communities. For legislation affecting linguistic, cultural, or religious rights, both houses of parliament would have to pass the bill. In addition, though, in the community-based Senate, a super-majority (e.g. 2/3) vote would be needed in addition to a simple majority of every represented community. In such a way, each community would enjoy virtual veto power in matters of language, culture, and religion.
Prof. Walid Phares of the World Lebanese Cultural Union (WLCU), began his presentation by asking why he as a Lebanese Maronite ought to be speaking on the political future of Assyrians in Iraq. "Simply," he answered, "because we are one people. We believe we are the Western Assyrians and you are the Eastern Assyrians." Mr. Phares added his historical perspective on federalism noting that during the Lebanese conflict the Syriac Maronites proposed a similar federalism as a solution to the Lebanese conflict, but the proposal was rejected and never implemented. Mr. Phares noted that after September 11 and the subsequent War on Terror, world opinion had shifted and that now was the time to press for federalism entailing an Assyrian province in Iraq. Mr. Phares added that Assyrian rights were in essence the test case for ethnic minority rights for all religious and ethnic minorities throughout the region including the Assyrian communities in Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iran as well as other religio-ethnic Christian communities in Egypt and Sudan. Mr. Phares advocated developing a regional strategy to "connect the dots" of the various until now disparate efforts especially between the Syriac Maronites and Assyrians.
The proposal for an Assyrian self-administered zone established in the environs of Mosul, extending to Dohuk in the north and Fesh Khabur to the northwest has gained increasing appeal among Assyrian activists, intellectuals, and political leaders. The current political challenges facing Assyrians in the newly developing Iraq include rising Islamic pressure, gross under representation of Assyrians, and a sometimes callous misrepresentation of Assyrians simply as a Christian minority without reference to the Assyrian political, cultural, and nationalist platform. As Mr. Jatou reflected, the increasing Islamic fervor as well as other challenges in Iraq necessitate the establishment of an administrative area for Assyrians and Yezidis, who are, along with the Mandeans of southern Iraq, the indigenous non Muslims of Iraq. Such an area would serve as a sanctuary to preserve and protect Assyrian language, culture, religion, and geography-- in short, ensure Assyrian survival.
Reflecting on the tone and direction of the AANF convention panel discussions, one observer approvingly noted a heavy emphasis on the current challenges of Assyrians in Iraq and the Middle East. "Seventy years ago," he stated "the AANF was founded by Assyrian Americans specifically in response to the massacre of Assyrians in Simele, northern Iraq by the newly formed Iraqi Army. The massacre of thousands of Assyrian women, children, and elderly was the first military campaign of the newly formed Iraqi State. Seventy years later our people are once again at the threshold of a newly emerging Iraqi nation. We need to make sure we Assyrians in the Diaspora along with all of our organizations remain focused and once again continue the commitment and guardianship over our people in Iraq."
[Z-info: © 2003, Assyrian
International News Agency. All Rights Reserved.]
ASSYRIANS OF TURLOCK REMEMBER SEPTEMBER 11
Courtesy of the Turlock Journal (11 September 11); by Michael Cipponeri
(ZNDA: Turlock) Somber remembrance mixed with cautious optimism last Thursday as Assyrian Americans joined together to reflect on the tragedy of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Attendees and distinguished guests filled the hall of the Assyrian American Civic Club, which was decorated with all manner of patriotic finery, and reflected upon their lives and future in the aftermath of the attacks.
Above all, there was a great feeling a love for America and a sincere sympathy for the victims of terror.
“We are Assyrian, but we are also Americans, and we felt it was our duty to remember the victims (of Sept. 11) and honor the people who tried to save them,” explained Bernadette Khanania, vice president of the Assyrian National Council.
“When I think about those terrible attacks, it gives me chills,” Khanania said.
Olga Kaleta, a fairly recent immigrant to America, still remembers the terrible tragedy vividly.
“I was very upset (when the attacks happened). My husband called me from Louisiana and told me what was happening,” she said.
Kaleta feels that there is some good in the changes the attack spawned.
“People are more friendly; they care about each other much more than they did before,” Kaleta said.
Joy Yonano is very familiar with changes, as her whole life was changed by the power of that event.
“After Sept. 11, I realized I needed to do more for myself so I went back to school and received my music degree,” Yonano said.
Yonano also noticed the profound change in people around her.
“I think there has been a loss of innocence among Americans, but I also think it has brought people together, that we have a better understanding of one another and more tolerance,” Yonano said.
“I think it is wonderful that something good like that can come out of something so horrible,” Yonano said.
Courtesy of the New York Times (18 September);
by Richard Lloyd Parry
The 5,500-year-old lifesize marble head, one of the earliest representations of the human face, was the most treasured artifact still missing from the museum after it was looted in the chaos immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
It was found in the small town of Khalis, 40 miles north of Baghdad, after a tip-off by local people. Police have arrested the owner of the property where it was buried. Museum officials believe that he had tried to sell it to foreign collectors but had failed to find a buyer because the statue and the fact that it was stolen was simply too well-known to make it saleable.
Middle East art experts were celebrating last night, as the news spread across the world by e-mail. "This is a great thing; it is a great happiness that this work has come back," Behnam Abu al-Soof, a leading Iraqi archaeologist, said. "It is the most beautiful carved face of a woman, a princess, not a goddess. To produce such a sculpture in that early time, in the fourth millennium BC, was truly amazing."
Excavated in the 1930s from the ancient city of Warka, or Uruk, the head dates from around 3,500 BC and is regarded as the highest achievement of the art of the ancient Sumerians. The statue has a round face, inlaid eyes, and delicate detailing, including the earlobes and parting of the hair.
Its recovery was announced by Mufid al-Jazairi, the new Iraqi Minister of Culture. It was found by Iraqi police who are investigating the whereabouts of up to 10,000 artifacts still missing from the national museum, which was looted under the noses of the invading US Marines.
"Local people informed the police about a piece buried in a private property, although they didn't know exactly what it was," Donny George, the museum's director, said. "The owner claimed he didn't know what it was, and that it had been given to him by someone who owed him money."
According to Mr George, however, the man appears to be an art dealer who had probably tried to sell the piece outside Iraq. "It seems that because it is a very famous artifact, no one was able to sell it even on the international market. This is the most wonderful news I have ever heard."
It is almost impossible to put a price on the unique piece, but according to Dr al-Soof, it could be worth more than ?20 million. The statue is expected to be returned to the museum in the next few days.
The museum was one of the world's greatest repositories of ancient Middle Eastern art. Some 3,400 pieces have been recovered, many of them seriously damaged. The Mona Lisa's companion piece, the Vase of Warka, was returned in 14 pieces in the boot of a car.
The 270kg bronze Statue of Basitki, an artifact of the Akkadian kingdom, was dragged from its plinth and has not been recovered. "When I hear that they have recovered Basitki, then I will be able to sleep again at night," Mr George said.
"In a way I blame the museum," Dr al-Soof, who serves as its adviser, said. "They should have removed every important piece before the war. But the Marines should have prevented it because they were near by. One of our boys from the museum asked an officer to come and help, but the soldier told him that it was not his business."
LECTURE IN SAN JOSE: THE FORGOTTEN GENOCIDE
Assyrian American Association of San Jose in collaboration with the Hellenic Heritage Institute
The Forgotten Genocide of the Assyrians and the Hellenes of Asia Minor
An Informative Lecture By Renowned Scholar and Writer, Mr. Stavros Stavridis (La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia)
Mr. Stavridis has spent much of the last few years of his work researching the Australian, British, and the U.S. State Department archives, and carefully documenting the facts surrounding one of the most horrific acts of ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the Turkish State (1914-1923) against the three Christian ethnic groups, specifically the least known people, the Assyrians. Mr. Stavridis is in process of completing a new book titled "Assyrians Do Exist" which will be published in the near future.
Saturday, September 27, 2003
Admission: $10 Members $15 Non-Members $5 Seniors
For Tickets and Information, please call:
Jacklin Bejan (firstname.lastname@example.org) Marina Moustakas
Assyrian American Association
THEATRE DRAMA: INANNA
On 15 October 2003 ZT Hollandia will present the music theatre production Inanna, which is based on the oldest myth handed down in writing, in the Transformatorhuis at the Westergasfabriek territory in Amsterdam.
Using the script by the American film maker Hal Hartley (Simple Men, Trust, Amateur) and the music by Louis Andriessen, director Paul Koek (Veenstudio) has created a contemporary version of this myth, in which lively dialogue, forceful music and dynamic film images alternate with each other.
The Assyrian Inanna, goddess of love, fertility and war, has descended from heaven to marry the shepherd Dumuzi. Spurred on by Inanna, he becomes king and founds a prosperous empire. Together they have a son. Mere knowledge of life does not, however, suffice for the insatiable Inanna. She craves for knowledge of death. She therefore descends into the underworld to meet her sister Ereshkigal, the goddess of the underworld. That, by so doing, she jeopardizes earthly prosperity, does not bother her. The enraged Ereshkigal teaches Inanna how to die, and everything on earth withers. Out of compassion for mankind and feeling sorry for the imminent destruction, Inanna's godly father, Enki, sends two accomplices to rescue Inanna. Ereshkigal is prepared to let Inanna go, provided someone else takes her place in the underworld. Inanna chooses her husband Dumuzi. His sister volunteers to share the pain. Enki then decides that brother and sister should each in turn stay in the underworld for six months, after which order is restored.
The Sumerian myth Inanna is over four thousand years old and has come down to us on clay tablets. The Sumerian culture, which flourished in the country now known as Iraq, was an enlightened culture, and writing and science were highly developed. The myth Inanna deals with a number of large themes, including the genesis of the ever-recurring cycle of (in)fertility. The myth, moreover, calls for modesty and respect for life and death. Only when death is given a place in life on earth, will a harmonious order be possible.
Inanna aims for a balance between eye and ear, between image and sound. The music, composed by Andriessen and Veenstudio, the words by Hal Hartley and the images by Paul Koek are autonomous elements which in this performance are juxtaposed, and which reinforce and continue to support each other.
S h o w T i m e s
1 Nov Westergasfabriekterrein Amsterdam
Composer: Louis Andriessen
Music performed by:
Electronics: Ton van de Meer
For Tickets :
THE MARTYR COMPLEX
Courtesy of the New York Times (14 September)
Who is a martyr? In the West, "martyr" is mainly reserved for Christian victims of Roman lions, or used facetiously for those who let others know of their self-sacrificing ways. But in the Muslim Middle East, where religious terminology permeates the culture, it seems as if almost everyone is a martyr. Realizing this is a small but crucial step in understanding a major cultural gap between the West and the Muslim Middle East, a gap that becomes more obvious with every audiotape supposedly from Osama bin Laden.
In editing the rough translation of the memoir of an opponent of Saddam Hussein, for instance, we kept running into martyrs. Originally, both "martyr" and the Arab equivalent, "shahid," connoted someone who witnessed for the faith, but the words have taken on different meanings in their respective languages.
Iraqi opposition groups viewed Saddam Hussein as not a particularly good Muslim. Still, the memoirist's use of "martyr" for anyone who died at his hands indirectly or directly — but not because of religion — seems inappropriate to Western ears.
After all, the war memorials in Europe and North America don't list martyrs, but those "killed in battle." In the Middle East, however, whether in Arabic, Turkish, Persian or Pashto Muslim society, shahid is today used for any man who falls in battle.
Does this mean that in the Muslim world, wars must be justified in religious terms? Yes. In popular perception, shaped by state-financed school textbooks and proclamations by religious leaders, all wars are against infidels. That's easy when war is waged against non-Muslims. But even when the enemy is Muslim, he must be painted as infidel, something both sides did in the Iran-Iraq war.
The Arabic term shahid has been borrowed by other Muslim cultures regardless of language. It has an equivalent in another Semitic language, Aramaic, once the lingua franca of the Middle East and today spoken almost exclusively by the region's Assyrian Christians. The term "sahda" was used originally for those who died for their religion, but more recently has been used to describe Christians like Nadam Yonadam, an interpreter for American troops in Tikrit, who was killed on Aug. 19.
But only in Muslim cultures is religion-infused war terminology so widely employed as a handmaiden of zealotry. Other widely used words that fall into this category are "jihad," meaning righteous war; "mujahidin," those who fight non-Muslims or heretics; and "muhajirin," applied to religious refugees.
The widespread use of a religiously loaded word like shahid in popular Muslim culture is a hint of a mindset that also makes it almost inevitable that Muslims in the Middle East will see the West's actions in their region in religious terms. And it is subtle cultural gaps like these that make it harder for us to live peaceably in a world that gets ever smaller — unless we make an effort to understand one another.
Dr. Eden Naby & Prof. Richard N. Frye
Dr. Eden Naby is co-author of “Afghanistan: Mullah, Marx and
Mujahid.” Prof. Richard N. Frye is emeritus professor of Iranian
CHRISTIANS IN IRAQ
Courtesy of LewRockwell.com (15 September)
Many public services such as water and electricity may be spotty in Iraq, but at least mail delivery seems to be going well enough. Christian Assyrian families all over Iraq have been receiving versions of the following letter delivered to them in their homes:
By the name of God the most merciful and compassionate!
To this noble family:
We hope that the head of this family will stand with the "brothers of Muslims" group and follow basic Muslim rules of wearing the veil and possessing honorable teaching of Islam that Moslems have continued from old epoch. We are the Iraqi people, the Muslim people that do not accept any mistakes.
If not – and the message will not be followed, we will take the actions of:
For the Christian community of Iraq, one of the oldest on Earth, the message is crystal clear. Convert to Islam, or at least comport yourself to Islamic law – including the veil for your women. Or else you will regret it.
The threats contained in this letter are, unfortunately, all too real. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Assyrians have been the targets of numerous fatal attacks. In Shiite-dominated Southern Iraq, there have been many accounts of Assyrian businessmen being shot dead on the street for such crimes as running liquor stores or selling other goods prohibited by Islamic law.
Under the regime of Saddam Hussein, Christians had been allowed to peacefully conduct such business without fear. Under U.S. and British liberation, many Christians are closing their shops or switching to other merchandise. Church officials have also been attacked. His Grace, Bishop Mar Adai of the Assyrian Church of the East was attacked on the streets of Baghdad. His assailants wanted to steal his gold cross from around his neck.
In the Kurdish enclave of Northern Iraq, America’s Kurdish allies have also been paying attention to the Christians in their midst. It has been reported by Assyrians in various villages scattered throughout Northern Iraq that they have been illegally forced out of their own homes and off their land. They report being constantly pressured to convert to Islam in exchange for guarantees of their safety from the Kurds.
Perhaps the worst of all have been the kidnappings. On August 6th the LA Times reported of these crimes, "The kidnappings have a dark, ruthless quality, often targeting children and teenagers, usually from Iraq's tiny Christian community where no tribal networks exist to fight back against the gangs."
Who Are the Iraqi Christians?
Most Christians in Iraq are ethnically Assyrian. The Assyrians are the original inhabitants of the land now referred to as Iraq. The Gospel was preached to the Assyrians by the Apostle Thomas himself, shortly after the Resurrection of Christ. The majority of the Assyrian population had converted to Christianity by the second century, giving the Assyrians a legitimate claim to being the first Christian nation in history.
Fired by their new faith, the Assyrians began one of the most successful missionary enterprises of all time. By the end of the twelfth century the Assyrian Church spanned the Asian continent, from Syria to the Philippines. Marco Polo reported that during his visit to China in the thirteenth century, he was astonished to find Assyrian priests in the Chinese royal court, and tens of thousands of Chinese Christians. The Assyrian missionaries had been there since the sixth century, and had made such an impact that the first Mongolian system of writing used the Assyrian alphabet.
Over the next centuries, however, Muslim rule and its attendant repression eventually reduced the Assyrians in number and sapped the vigor of their culture. By the mid-1800s wholesale slaughter of Assyrians was being reported at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, under whose control their homeland had fallen. Between 1914 and 1918, two-thirds of all living Assyrians were murdered in a genocide the world has chosen to ignore.
Today, on its ancestral soil, all that is left of the world’s oldest Christian nation is a desperate minority of less than one million people. It didn’t have to be this way. As one Assyrian anonymously wrote, "Today’s Assyrians are the descendents of courageous Christians who resisted many attempts of Arabization and surrender to the Islam. They repeatedly paid with their lives and all their possessions to preserve their beliefs in Jesus Christ. What is so sad, is that I honestly believe that if my ancient ancestors had chosen to adopt Islam instead of Christianity, today, Iraq would be an Assyrian country, not an Arab one. Just like Turkey or Iran, we would be a Muslim country with our own language and identity, instead of a persecuted minority whom the world has forgotten. For Christ, we have sacrificed all."
A Difference of Opinion
There are Assyrians, both in and outside Iraq, who believe the current U.S. occupation could be the answer to their prayers. They hope that U.S. forces will convert Iraq into a modern state, with a secular constitution and an autonomous region in which the Assyrians can live in peace. To this end, some Assyrians have supported U.S. troops in various ways, even risking their lives as guides and interpreters in the field. A few have been killed in action serving alongside U.S. troops.
There are other Assyrians who are not convinced that the occupation will make life better. They remember that when the British ruled Iraq, in the middle of the 20th Century, their situation actually got worse. Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant. He led his people into senseless wars that got hundreds of thousands of them killed. But, as these Assyrians point out, Saddam and his regime did have at least one redeeming characteristic – the genie of Islamic militancy was ruthlessly bottled up. Now that the U.S. and Britain have seized control of Iraq, the cork has been popped.
Islamic militancy is growing, and appears to be gaining steam. To make matters worse, civil wars appear to be brewing within, as well as between, the major ethnic factions such as the Sunni, Shiite, and Kurds.
So far the skeptical Assyrians seem to be the most prescient. U.S. forces in Iraq are spread thin, and taking casualties everyday. They are unable to prevent themselves from being assaulted, even when traveling in armed convoys. U.S. forces also appear unable to guarantee the security of Iraqi civilians. Many Assyrians view the rising tide of anti-Christian violence as evidence of U.S. impotence to protect them.
But even if the U.S. forces could protect the Assyrians from their Muslim neighbors, there is no guarantee that they would even want to. The Wall Street Journal has reported that U.S. policy makers in Iraq consider the Christians to be a "most inconvenient minority." Evidencing too much concern for Iraqi Christians, it is feared, would reinforce the idea that the U.S. is fighting a "war on Islam," thereby strengthening the resistance to U.S. forces. It is obvious to observers on the ground that Washington would prefer if the whole messy problem of Iraqi Christians would just go away.
Occupied Iraq is an unstable and dangerous place. Only now that the true bill seems to be coming due, are members of Congress and concerned citizens asking questions they should have posed months ago. In the cauldron of violence that is Iraq, the U.S. stands ready to lose men, money, and equipment seemingly indefinitely. They are losses that will be grievous, but as a nation, the U.S. will survive.
The Assyrians, in contrast, stand to lose everything, and no one seems particularly concerned.
Conservatives Don’t Care About Foreign Christians
No one expects liberals to care much for the fate of Christian communities in the Third World. On the other hand, almost anyone would expect conservatives to care about the persecution and suffering endured by Christians throughout the world. After all, aren’t conservatives pro-life, pro-Bible, and pro-prayer? Isn’t the Republican Party the party of the God-fearing? Given the rhetoric of many Republican politicians and pundits, one would definitely expect a great deal of concern.
Sadly, this just isn’t the case. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, no conservative politicians or pundits of note expressed concern over what an invasion would mean for the Christian community there. Now that the U.S. has occupied Iraq, and is failing miserably in its obligation to protect the Christian minority, the topic goes unmentioned.
Why Don’t Conservatives Care About Christians?
The answer to this question is surprisingly simple. Conservative politicians and pundits care little for the welfare of Christians outside the United States for one primary reason.
The Evangelical Christian base of the Republican Party doesn’t care. There have been no demonstrations protesting the inability/unwillingness of U.S. forces to protect Iraqi Christians. Their cause has not been championed by any of the televangelists. Christian persecution in post-Saddam Iraq has not been a centerpiece article in any of the Evangelical magazines. At the same time, there have been large protests against the Bush Administration’s ‘Roadmap for Peace,’ a plan many Evangelicals opposed as being too tough on the Israelis. The message is clear to Christians outside the U.S. – Israel matters and you don’t.
Worse still, even when Evangelicals do pay attention to Christians outside American borders, it is often tinged with hostility. Ask the Serbs or the Israeli Christians about that. Of course, the Evangelicals do not consider Catholic or Orthodox Christians to be Christians. Somehow, though, one has to doubt that Jesus feels that way, especially when so many of those suffering persecution for His name are from those communions. If strength in the faith under adverse conditions is the measure of a Christian, then surely many Catholic and Orthodox believers are among the greatest living. Would that the Evangelicals only recognized that fact, while there is still time to prevent any more suffering.
[Z-info: Glen Chancy
is a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Political
Science, and a certificate in Eastern European Studies. A former
University lecturer in Poland, he currently holds an MBA in Finance
and works in Orlando, Florida as a business analyst for an international
TIME TO LEARN
In the aftermath of the event, several Americans expressed their anger by attacking mosques and anyone who looked Arabic or Middle Eastern.
The Islamic religion was held responsible for the deeds of a few renegades. President Bush had to go on television to reassure our Muslim citizens and friends that our struggle is not against them and urged them to join us in the war against terrorism.
America learned about Islam only from the devastation that struck
us that day.
Yet another misconceptions is that all Muslims are Arab; whereas, most are non-Arab. Nor do most live in the Middle East.
But the attackers did not stop at Muslims. Middle Easterners became the target of venom.
In Chicago, the Assyrian Church of St. John was burnt to the ground, and the St. Mary's Assyrian church in Roselle Ill., received threats in the form of a letter: "Are you with the U.S. or with the enemy?"
Individual Assyrians and Assyrian businesses received similar threats.
Assyrians are not Arabs. Nor are they Muslim. They are a Semitic people who come from ancient Assyria, a part of the world that is today northern Iraq and eastern Turkey.
These people embraced Christianity as early as the first century, and they have retained their Christianity despite persecution.
They speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. They still retain the name "Assyrian."
Most of us are familiar with the Assyrians from the Old Testament.
They are not portrayed in a good light.
Two hundred years ago, nothing was known about them except what was written in the 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles in the Bible, where they are presented as fierce, invincible warriors, who regularly swooped down from the north, terrified the inhabitants of Israel, demanded exorbitant tributes and then went back home.
With the excavations done by British archaeologist Henry Layard at Nimrud, Ashur and Nineveh in the mid-19th century, we learned the rest of the story. The artifacts from these cities can be seen at the British Museum in London: enormous statues of human-headed winged bulls, other winged creatures, obelisk, stone slabs showing young men and women being flayed alive, prisoners hanging from poles or being impaled on stakes, stricken people being led away from their towns under heavy guard, battering rams attacking fortified city walls, blazing torches being thrown at the enemy.
The Assyrians may have been no more ruthless than other of their neighbors at the time, but they depicted their brutality on bas-reliefs that adorned the staterooms of their kings' places.
We first hear of their intervention in Israel in 853 B.C., when Shalmaneser came through Damascus, destroyed numerous towns and demanded tribute. Local rulers formed an alliance to oppose him, but futilely. Shalmaneser had an inscription made of his great victory:
"They rose against me for a decisive battle ... I slew 14,000 of their soldiers with the sword, descending upon them like Baal when he makes a rainstorm pour down. I spread their corpses, filling the entire plain with their widely scattered soldiers ... with their corpses, I spanned the Orantes before there was a bridge."
Shalmaneser again came in the reign of King Jehu in 841 B.C. The incident is not mentioned in the Bible but is represented in four panes of the stele called the Black Obelisk. It shows the Israelite king Jehu, bowed in abeyance offering tribute.
In 745 B.C., the energetic Tiglath Pilaser III undertook a widespread expansion of the Assyrian Empire. In three campaigns carried out between 734 B.C. and 732 B.C., the Assyrians destroyed many ancient cities: Megiddo, Hazor and the place that we now call Bethsaida.
Excavations show this great city fought valiantly but was overcome, and set on fire in the spring of 732 B.C. So hot was the fire that it melted the brick.
Assyrian arrowheads have been found at the site. Deportation of captured people became the policy under Tiglath. Israel was made a province of Assyria with Samaria as capital and a governor appointed there. The kingdom of Israel was at an end.
There was some intermarriage between the vestiges of Israel and the Assyrians. These people turn up later as the Samaritans.
King Ahaz of Judah had not sided with the consortium against Tiglath, but this did not guarantee safety. We read of the terrified king and his people plundering the temple and their own homes to make payments to keep the Assyrians at bay, but " all to no avail" (2 Chronicles 28: 21).
Judah was made a vassal of Assyria and forced to pay money each year.
Assyria wore itself out. In 612 B.C., combined forces from Egypt and Babylon destroyed the state.
The ancient Empire of Assyria came to an end, but the indigenous population of Assyria still lives in great numbers in the Middle East.
In the last 30 years, Assyrians have been severely discriminated against because of their ethnic difference. They have been denied basic human and civil rights.
In Syria, Turkey and northern Iraq, they are recognized as a religious minority though erroneously referred to as "Arab Christians."
Millions fled their homeland and sought new lives for themselves in America. Many live in Chicago.
After the Sept. 11 attack, they lined up by the hundreds to donate blood and to help the victims of the terrorists in whatever way they could. Yet the Assyrians became the victims of hate crimes, presumably because of their Middle Eastern background and a mistaken identification with Arabs.
Well had the prophet Nahum spoken: "O King of Assyria, your nobles slumber. Your people are scattered on the mountains and none to father them. There is no assuaging your hurt, and your wound is grievous." (Nahum 3: 18-19).
It has been said that Americans learn about geography only at a time of war. Does it take a terrorist attack to have us learn of other cultures?
Prof. Elizabeth McNamer
[Z-info: Prof. McNamer
is an adjunct professor of philosophy and religion at Rocky Mountain
College in Montana. Her article appeared under the Faith &
Values column of the Billings Gazette on 13 September.]
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