Assyrian independence: Wikis

  
  

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History of the
Assyrian people

medieval icon depicting Ephrem the Syrian.
Ephrem the Syrian

Early history

Old Assyrian period (20th - 15th c. BC)
Aramaeans (14th - 9th c. BC)
Neo-Assyrian Empire (911 - 612 BC)
Achaemenid Assyria (539 - 330 BC)

Classical Antiquity

Seleucid Empire (312 - 63 BC)
Osroene (132 BC - 244 AD)
Syrian wars (66 BC - 217 AD)
Roman Syria (64 BC - 637 AD)
Adiabene (15 - 116 AD)
Roman Assyria (116 - 118)
Christianization (1st to 3rd c.)
Nestorian Schism (5th c.)
Asuristan (226 - 651)
Byzantine–Sassanid Wars (502 - 628)

Middle Ages

Muslim conquest of Syria (630s)
Abassid rule (750-1256)
Emirs of Mosul (905-1383)
Principality of Antioch (1098-1268)
Turco-Mongol rule (1256-1370)

Modern History

Ottoman Empire (1534-1917)
Rise of nationalism (19th c.)
Assyrian Genocide (1914-1920)
Independence movement (since 1919)
Simele massacre (1933)
Post-Saddam Iraq (since 2003)

See also

History of Syria
History of Iraq
Assyrian diaspora

The Assyrian independence (also known as the Assyrian Question) is a political movement and ideology that supports the creation of an Assyrian homeland for the Syriac-speaking Christian Assyrian people in the Nineveh plains of Northern Iraq. The issue of Assyrian independence has been brought up many times throughout the course of history from the end of World War I to the present-day Iraq War. The Assyrian-inhabited area of Iraq is located in the Ninawa-Mosul region in Northern Iraq where the biblical Assyrian capital of Nineveh was located.[1] This area is known as the "Assyrian Triangle."[2]

Contents

World War I and Genocide

Nestorian archbishop with Assyrian fighters in Persia.

Before World War I, about half of the Assyrian population lived in what is today Turkey, specifically the Hakkari region. In 1914, Young Turks began to systemically target Christians of Asia Minor with events such as the Assyrian Genocide. In the beginning, key Assyrian nationalist leaders and religious figures were wiped out of communities, whereas at one point the patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East was only twelve years old (Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII).[3]

The Ottoman Empire declared war against the Allies and the British in October 1914. For geographic reasons, it was important for the British to gain the support of the Assyrians.

Because of large oil fields, Britain wanted to insure that the Mosul region would be part of the newly-colonized Iraq instead of the future state of Turkey. The Assyrians promised loyalty to the British in return for an independent state in the future. After the invasion of Mosul by the Young Turks, the Assyrian army, led by General Agha Petros, fought intensively against the Turkish soldiers and pushed them out of the region, leading to Britain's control of the region. The battles are described in detail by surviving letters of Petros and British officials.

By the end of 1922, no sufficient Assyrian population was left in Turkey and a small population left in Iran. Many fled southward to join native Assyrians in the Nineveh plains.

The Assyro-Chaldean National Council stated in a December 4, 1922 memorandum that the total death toll is unknown, but it estimates that about 275,000 Assyrians died between 1914–1918.[4] For comparison, in the Serbian military there were also 275,000 casualties during the war.

Conferences and Treaties

Assyrian fighter during the 1890s belonging to the Tyari tribe.

After siding with the Allies of World War I, the Assyrians were promised an independent state of their own. This promise, however, was not kept.[5]

Paris Peace Conference

In 1919, the Syriac Orthodox Bishop Afram I Barsoum (later Patriarch of Antioch) wrote a letter on behalf of the Assyrians to the League of Nations. (See the original letter and a revised clearer version.)

In the letter the bishop wrote that 90,000 Assyrians had been massacred by the Turks. He also said that the Assyrian people were against the proposed autonomy of the Kurds. The letter convinced France to allow Assyrian representation during the upcoming peace conference.[6]

Three Assyrian groups were scheduled to participate in the Peace Conference: Assyrian delegates from the United States, Iraq and Iran.

The Assyrian group from Iran arrived in France first. The British, having no authority in Iran and fearing the presence of a group which it could not control, forced the Iranian Assyrian delegation to leave Paris and not participate.

Then the Assyrian delegates from the United States arrived. Their demands included the establishment of an Assyrian independent territory which would include Northern Beth Nahrain, beginning at the lower Zab River Diyar Bakir and extending to the Armenian mountains, and that the territory would be under the protection of the superpowers.

U.S delegate Rev. Joel Werda in his petition concluded;

We have the most conclusive proofs to show that the Assyrians were urged by the official representatives of Great Britain, France and Russia, to enter into the war on the side of the Allies . . . with the most solemn promises of being given a free state. The Assyrians, therefore, having risked the very existence of their nation, and having made such appalling sacrifices upon the altar of freedom, demand that these promises of the Allied governments now be honorably redeemed.

[7]

Great Britain and the U.S. delegates denied this petition, explaining that the U.S. President Woodrow Wilson had strong reservations concerning any plans to divide Turkey. The American Assyrian delegation returned from the conference empty handed.

The Assyrian delegates from Iraq, after many delays by the British authorities, were approved to travel to Paris on July 21 on one condition: that they pass through London, England first. Surma Khanim, the head of the delegation was kept in London until the conference of France finished its deliberations. His demands had been to allow the Assyrians to return to Hakkâri, that they be accorded equal rights, that all Assyrian prisoners be released, and that the individuals responsible for the atrocities committed against the Assyrians be punished.

Treaty of Sèvres

Map of Nineveh Plains
Map of Iraq, Assyria

The Treaty of Sèvres, signed on August 10, 1920 between the Allies and Turkey, laid the foundations for the new Turkish frontier after World War I.[8] Assyrians were not permitted by Great Britain to participate in these deliberations under the rule that the Assyrians were not an equal power with the rest of the participants. However, the Assyrian issue was discussed and the plan was to contain full safeguards for the protection of the Assyro-Chaldeans and other racial or religious minorities under articles 62, 63, 140, 141, 142, 147, 148, 149, and 150. As a result of this treaty, Mosul (Nineveh) was given to Iraq while France was guaranteed 25% of Mosul's oil production.

Article 62 of the Treaty states:[9]

. . . this plan must provide complete guarantees as to the protection of the Assyro-Chaldeans and other ethnic or religious minorities in this area. To this end, a commission made up of British, French, Italian, Persian and Kurdish representatives will visit the area so as to determine what adjustments, if any, should be made to the Turkish frontier wherever it coincides with [the] Persian frontier as laid down in this treaty.

Treaty of Lausanne

Assyrian soldiers who are ready to fight for independence - Oakland Tribune, February 11, 1923

November 20, 1922 The Treaty of Lausanne, signed on July 24, 1923 between the Allied powers and Turkey, was composed after Turkey requested that the issue of Mosul (Nineveh) be re-examined. Assyrians once again were not allowed to participate as Great Britain interfered, but they were promised again that their rights would be protected. It is worth mentioning that Agha Petros, General of the Assyrian Army, attended the opening ceremonies. The United States stood with Great Britain in these deliberations, the latter promising 20% of the oil industry business be awarded to American companies. Turkey lost its appeal to win Mosul back based on Great Britain's claims that the region would be saved for the future settlement of the Kurdish and Assyrian people, but no final agreement was reached.[10]

Article 39 of the treaty states:[11]

There will be no official restriction on any Turkish citizen's right to use any language he wishes, whether in private, in commercial dealings, in matter of religion, in print or at a public gathering. Regardless of the existence of an official language, appropriate facilities will be provided for any non-Turkish-speaking citizen of Turkey to use his own language before the court.

Constantinople Conference

The Constantinople Conference was between Great Britain and Turkey, May 21, 1924 The Assyrians were told that Britain was "fighting" their case for them and that there was no need for them to attend. A letter on behalf of the Assyrians and their settlement was written under the direction of Sir Henry Conway Dobbs, the British High Commissioner in Iraq, under "Statement of Proposals for the Settlement of the Assyrian People in Iraq", in that regard.[12]

The government of Turkey claimed Mosul as part of Turkey, and Fet’hi Beg declared that the Assyrians, who he referred to as Nestorians, are welcome to live in their previous lands in Turkey where they would find freedom. Sir Percy Cox stated that Mosul belongs to Iraq and that the Christian Assyrians need protection from Turkey.

This was part of his statement:

...His Majesty's Government has decided to endeavor to secure a good treaty frontier, which will at the same time admit of the establishment of the Assyrians in a compact community within the limits of the territory in respect of which His Majesty's Government hold a mandate under the authority of the League of Nations, if not in every case in their ancestral habitation, at all events in suitable adjacent districts. This policy for the settlement of the Assyrians has the full sympathy and support of the Iraqi Government, which is prepared for its part, to give the necessary cooperation for giving effect thereto.

[13]

Ultimately, no agreement was reached. Turkey then massed its troops on the border to occupy the Mosul Province by force. The Assyrian Levy Force of 2,000 was sent north to protect Iraq since the Iraqi army at this time was unfit to undertake such a task. The Assyrian force was largely responsible for the annexation of Mosul to Iraq rather than to Turkey, as an official of the League of Nations stated.

Recommendation of the League of Nations

June 16, 1925 The Commission presented its findings. It recommended that the Assyrian people receive full protection if they were to return to Turkey, that they be given their freedom, and that they receive reimbursements for all their loses during World War I.[14] The Commission further recommended the Patriarch, Mar Eshai Shimunbe, be given full authority over his people.

These recommendations were not approved. It was finally decided that the issue be referred to the Permanent Court of International Justice in The Hague, an integral part of the charter of the League of Nations. This court was later replaced by the International Court of Justice after the birth of the United Nations.

The Hague September

In 1925 the Permanent Court of International Justice took over the disputed border line issue and, in December 1925, adopted a resolution which refused the idea of the Assyrian's return to Hakkâri and gave that region to Turkey, while giving Mosul to Iraq and settling on a border line almost matching the same status quo line which was called the Brussels Line. Further, it recommended the continuation of the British mandate on Iraq for another 25 years to safeguard the Assyrian interests.[15]

Assyrian Human Rights

On November 11, 1927, the Assyrians continued to protest their mistreatment and continued to send letters to the League of Nations, requesting a report from both the governments of Britain and Iraq concerning the situation. The Permanent Court of International Justice in The Hague did not accept the reports of Britain and Iraq and requested that both countries fulfill their obligations towards the Assyrians.

British Treaties and Assyrian Petitions

The Assyrian triangle

Britain dropped the earlier established recommendations by the Mandate Commission on the grounds that those recommendations should be directed to the Turkish Government and not the Iraqi Government, Assyrians from the Hakkâri and Tur Abdin originally, escaped and have no intentions of returning to Turkey. Hence, they should occupy the land the Iraqi government has provided for them.

Several treaties were signed and ratified between Britain and Iraq in the next two years in what seemed to be Britain's preparations to clear the way for Iraq to enter the League of Nations.

Three petitions were received by the Mandate Commission stressing the fears of the Assyrians regarding the termination of the Mandate; they were dated in September 1931, October 20, 1931 and October 23, 1931. One was rejected by Sir Francis Humphrys on the grounds that it was submitted by a person not qualified to represent the Assyrians. Humphrys still pledged the moral responsibility of Great Britain to the future attitude of the Iraqi government.

The October 23, 1931 petition was submitted by His Holiness Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII, in Mosul, asking for permission to allow the Assyrians to leave Iraq before the end of the Mandate, stating that it would be impossible for the Assyrians to live in Iraq. This decision was reached at with the agreement of all the Assyrian leaders and when responses to this petition were delayed, the Assyrians decided to take action and planned for a general 'cessation of service' by all the Levies.

The Mandate Commission reviewed the Assyrian petition and was still not satisfied with Britain's and Iraq's assurances of protection of minorities. Worth mentioning here that Sir Humphrys was accused by his own fellow British officials to fabricate lies in regards to the Iraqi government's sentiments about the Assyrians.

The Mandate Commission gave its recommendations, stating that they are concerned about the Christians, and accordingly, average people were given the right to submit any petitions to the League of Nations, directly, in the future.

In partial compliance with requests of the petition, the Iraqi government set up a further land-finding committee. It discovered but little land both cultivable and available. In fact, they found malaria-ridden, swampy lands, and recommended expenditure on an irrigation scheme to produce more. Hundreds upon hundreds of Assyrians died with malaria in those lands.

The Council of the League of Nations accepted the recommendations and Iraq issued a declaration guaranteeing the protection of minorities on May 30, 1932.

Accordingly, Iraq was accepted into the League of Nations on October 3, 1932.[16]

Assyrian Massacre in Iraq

The Assyrian national question was taken to Geneva by the Assyrian Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII again when he addressed the Permanent Mandate Commission meeting and urged the council to fulfill its obligations toward the Assyrian Nation. The League yet again granted the Assyrians their rights of homogenous community in Iraq with a local autonomy.

Mar Eshai Shimum was quoted in the meeting:

If the (British) mandate is lifted without effective guarantees for our protection in the future, our extermination would follow.

After the establishment of the Kingdom of Iraq in 1932, an Assyrian uprising followed through the following year, refusing to sign a declaration of loyalty to King Faisal and agree not to thwart the scheme of the League of Nations for the settlement of the Assyrians, was deported by the order of the government on August 18, 1933 and deprived of Iraqi nationality.

The failed uprising led to the massacre of 3,000 Assyrians throughout northern Iraq.

The largest massacre was in the village of Simele. Eyewitnesses wrote numerous books about the events.[17]

The Levies, alarmed by this and the imminent withdrawal of British troops, decided upon a concentration of all Assyrians in the Amadia area for security. All Assyrian officers jointly presented a manifesto on July 16 to the commanding officer requesting discharge within 30 days. The other ranks also followed the lead of their officers. The British feared if this were allowed to happen they would lose all authority in Iraq. To buy time, they decided to allow discharge over a four-month period. A British battalion was flown in from Egypt when discharges commenced. After negotiations with Assyrian leaders, the Levies withdrew their request and the British battalion was withdrawn. In all, 296 were discharged. No Iraqi was held responsible for the massacre. A large number of Assyrians began to flee Iraq and find safety in Syria, under French control at the time. The transport and machine gun Assyrian companies ceased to exist as separate units, both being divided between the two Assyrian battalions. Kirkuk was occupied by a platoon from the 2nd battalion to guard the wireless and other RAF stores.

Due to the events of 1933, Assyrians mark August 7 as their martyrs day.

…We're washed up as a race, we're through, it's all over, why should I learn to read the language? We have no writers, we have no news — well, there is a little news: once in a while the English encourage the Arabs to massacre us, that is all. It's an old story, we know all about it.

[18][19]

Mar Eshai Shimun in Geneva with Yousuf Malik

After the Simele massacre, the Council of the League of Nations was absolutely sure that the Assyrian issue was still an unsolved problem. The Assyrian Patriarch requested the League to form an Assyrian and Kurdish enclave in the north of the province of Mosul under a special administration. The Patriarch reminded the Council about the plan originally suggested by Lord Curzon, the British Foreign Minister, on December 17, 1919.

In Iraq, Rashid Ali al-Kaylani, the Iraqi Prime Minister, announced that the Assyrians should find a new home outside Iraq and promised that the Iraqi government was willing to make very generous contributions to cover any expenses of such settlement. On October 13, 1933, the League of Nations appointed a committee of six of its members to look into this possibility.

On October 24, the Assyrians submitted another petition by Yousuf Malik, an Assyrian Nationalist from Iraq who was exiled to Lebanon and who moved between Cyprus, Beirut and Damascus exposing what was going on inside Iraq and the British games. This petition gives the details of many cases of oppression against the Assyrians in Iraq, details on hardships from government officials, and the facts about the Simele massacre.

From October 1933 to June 1935, the committee of six looked into many options. They covered Brazil, British Guiana, Niger, however, all failed. A further suggestion that the British Red Cross might send a relief party to Mosul was also objected to, apparently on the grounds that this would discourage the activities of the Iraqi Crescent, which has not carried out any relief work among the Assyrians. In September 1935, the plan of settling of some of the Assyrians in the Khabour and Ghab areas in Syria was approved. History shows that the plan was never followed up so it too has failed.

Things did not change for the Assyrians in Iraq until the outbreak of World War II, when the Iraqis revolted under Rashid Ali al-Kaylani who sided himself with Germany and wanted to force the British out of Iraq completely. The faith of the British existence in Iraq hanged in the hands of the 1500 Assyrian Levies' ability to hold the British Air Force Base in Habbaniya against the rebels of over 60,000 Arab tribesmen and regular troops who surrounded the base.

The Battle of Habbaniya is well described in the book, "The Golden Carpet" by Somerset De Chair, a British intelligence officer serving in Iraq during World War II.

Possibility for Assyrian Independence in the Post-World War II Era

With the end of World War II and with the eventual creation of the State of Israel in 1948, the call for an Assyrian homeland grew greater.

Mar Eshai Shimun at the United Nations

Flag of the United Nations.svg The United Nations was born in San Francisco (replacing the League of Nations). The Assyrian Patriarch, Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII, was there to present the Assyrian petition to the new world body of peace and was accompanied by two members of the Assyrian National Federation. In this petition the Assyrian tragedy was explained from World War I until the end of World War II.

Several petitions from the Patriarch in 1945 and 1946 were sent to the Secretary General of the United Nations to look into the Assyrian National Question. A letter from the UN General Secretary # 1100-1-4/MEJ dated Oct. 7, 1946 was received by Mar Shimun stating that he had referred the Patriarch's petition to the Commission on Human Rights.

Petition to the UN General Secretary about Assyrian Massacres in Iran

A petition concerning the Assyrian massacres in Iran was filed again by Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII, Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East. Mar Eshai struggled for over a half century at the League of Nations, then the United Nations. None of his petitions were taken seriously.[20]

Assyrians in the Republic of Iraq

Inspired by Gamal Abdel Nasser, officers from the Nineteenth Brigade known as "Free Officers", under the leadership of Brigadier Abdul-Karim Qassem and Colonel Abdul Salam Arif, overthrew the Hashimite monarchy on July 14, 1958.

The overthrow of Iraq's monarchy instilled new hope for the Assyrian cause. However, this hope was short-lived. Qassem was assassinated in February 1963, throwing Iraq into a period of political uncertainty. Out of the chaos emerged the Ba'ath Party who promptly took control of Iraq's government.

The Ba'ath brought promise to Iraq and the Assyrian cause when the new government recognized the cultural rights of Syriac-speaking citizens (Assyrians, Chaldeans and members of the East Syrian Church) in 1972. Syriac was to be the language used at all primary schools where the majority of pupils spoke that language in addition to Arabic. Syriac was also to be taught at intermediate and secondary schools where the majority of students spoke that language in addition to Arabic. Special programs in Syriac were to be broadcast on public radio and television and three Syriac-language magazines were to be published. An association of Syriac-speaking authors and writers was also established.[21]

Still, no autonomy was granted to the Assyrians. However, movements towards autonomy and independence remained active. In 1968, a new Assyrian flag was introduced and adopted by the Assyrian Congress in Tehran. In 1977, the Assyrian Provisional Government, headquartered from the Assyrian diaspora in the United States in Chicago, chartered a constitution for an autonomous Assyrian state. The Assyrians now had their goal set and would maintain it.

However, when Saddam Hussein rose to power, things began to change for the Assyrians in Iraq. Assyrians were deprived of their cultural and national rights while at the same time the Ba'athist regime tried to co-opt their history. The 1972 proclamation was reversed and Hussein began a strict campaign of Arabization on any non-Arabs in Iraq, including Assyrians as well as other groups such as Kurds, Iraqi Turkmen, and Armenians. During the Iran–Iraq War, many Assyrians were recruited to the armies of both sides. This resulted in Assyrians in Iraq killing Assyrians in Iran. It was estimated that 60,000 Assyrians were killed during the conflict.

When Hussein first assumed power, the Assyrian population in Iraq numbered 2 million to 2.5 million. Due to both persecution by his regime and subsequent emigration to Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, that number began to decline drastically.

Post-Ba'thist Iraq

Firas Jatou's results of his teams study of remaining Assyrian villages

With the fall of Saddam Hussein and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, no reliable census figures exist on the Assyrians in Iraq (as they do not for Kurds or Iraqi Turkmen), though the number of Assyrians is estimated to be approximately 800,000.

The Assyrian Democratic Movement (or ADM) was one of the smaller political parties that emerged in the social chaos of the occupation. Its officials say that while members of the ADM also took part in the liberation of the key oil cities of Kirkuk and Mosul in the north, the Assyrians were not invited to join the steering committee that was charged with defining Iraq's future. The ethnic make-up of the Iraq Interim Governing Council briefly (September 2003 - June 2004) guided Iraq after the invasion included a single Assyrian Christian, Younadem Kana, a leader of the Assyrian Democratic Movement and an opponent of Saddam Hussein since 1979.

Today, the Western media has a strong tendency to acknowledge only three major groups in Iraq: Sunni Arabs, Shi'a Arabs and the Kurdish people. The Kurdish Autonomous Region has claimed that it has been instrumental in the renovation and support of Assyrian churches and schools.

Assyrian Convention Addresses Assyrian Autonomy

Assyrian militia loyal to the ADM in the 1980s.

The panel discussion entitled "Focus on Iraq" on August 30 featured Assyrian politicians and activist from Iraq and the U.S., which was held in Chicago.

Mr. Willis Fautre's (from Human Rights Without Frontiers) 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 (Assyrians, Turkmen, 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 religion, culture, schools, agriculture, energy, and protection of monuments. 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.

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.

Current Situation

Assyrians make up a slight majority in two counties today in Iraq

The first of the many church bombings that were to come occurred on the morning of August 4, 2003, that left 19 worshippers dead.

As the attacks on Assyrians continue to escalate, with the 20th church bombed and the death toll of the Assyrians climbing in 2004, demands by Assyrian politicians for an autonomous safe haven reached at an all-time high. A meeting took place in the British House of Commons to discuss the subject.

A meeting was organized by the Labour MP Stephen Pound, in conjunction with the Assyrian Democratic Movement and the Jubilee Campaign, a Christian human-rights group. Mr. Pound demands were:

  1. Support an autonomous administrative region as a safe haven
  2. Support the infrastructure of the region
  3. Oppose "the active and passive ethnic cleansing" of "the only indigenous people of Iraq"

Mr Pound argued "the fate of the Chaldo-Assyrians in Iraq will define the socio-political structure of the Middle East."

The then Prime Minister of Iraq, Iyad Allawi, said he was considering the plan, but nothing resulted as he lost his position in the January 2005 elections.

The flag of the Assyrian independence movement.

On November 30, 2005, Iraq's Foreign Minister, Hoshiyar Zebari, supported the idea of an Assyrian administrative region by saying "They (Assyrians) are free to organize a province or regional government. It should not be just because we have Kurdistan, but should be organized around an area. If they can do it in three provinces or even one it should and can be done."[22]

In the same weekend, a further five Assyrian churches were bombed in Iraq. By the end of 2004, an estimated 40,000 Assyrians and other Christians have fled Iraq since the beginning of the war.[23]

Australia's Labor Party member Chris Bowen spoke about the possibility of autonomy for the Assyrians numerous times in the Parliament during 2005.

On February 24, 2006, Minister of Human Rights in Kurdistan, Dr. Mohammad Ihsan, stated "We don't mind Iraqi Christians concentrating anywhere they wish, and establishing a new province for themselves in the Nineveh plain, and bringing together Iraqi Christians from all over the world and their return to their houses and towns."

On March 18, 2007, it was reported that Muslims were forcing the Christian Assyrians in the Dora Neighborhood of Baghdad to Pay the jizya,[24] the 'Protection Tax' demanded from Christians and Jews by the Qur'an and Islamic law.[25]

On May 9, 2007, Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV dispatched a letter to the President George W. Bush pleading for immediate protection of the Christians of Iraq.[26]

The following week a group of armed Muslims set fire to St. George Assyrian Church in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad. The group of men poured gasoline on the church and set it on fire. This is the same church that was bombed in the first of a wave of bombings of Assyrian churches. When St. George was bombed in 2004, the church Cross was not damaged; the bombers tore the cross down with their hands after the bombing.[27]

European Support

The National Democrats in Sweden are supporters of Ethnopluralism, and support the foundation of an Assyrian state.[28] After visiting the Assyrians in northern Iraq, Dutch Parliament member Joel Voordewind of the ChristianUnion party asked the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Verhagen to increase the pressure on the Central Government of Baghdad through the European Union in order to execute a plan for an Assyrian police force for the protection of their towns and villages in the Nineveh plains.[29]

Assyrian Christian Police Force

During recent kidnappings and murders of Assyrian Bishops and priests in the North Iraqi region, Assyrians have demonstrated worldwide in the thousands in demanding protection for their villages and the Nineveh Plains region, which Assyrians hope will become an autonomous area under the control of the Assyrians and minorities in the North.

A $4 million measure will fund a 711-man local police force for the Nineveh Plain. It is part of a $30 million emergency relief package for the predominantly Christian region submitted to Congress last month by Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va.

In April 2008, the initial complement of 711 policemen were called up and began training. Another 4000 policemen will be needed to fully secure the region and establish checkpoints on all highways and roads leading into the villages.

See Also

References

  1. ^ Minorities in the Middle East: a history of struggle and self-expression By Mordechai Nisan
  2. ^ The Origins of War: From the Stone Age to Alexander the Great By Arther Ferrill - Page 70
  3. ^ The Forgotten Genocide: Eastern Christians, the Last Assyrians By Sébastien de Courtois
  4. ^ Joseph Yacoub, La question assyro-chaldéenne, les Puissances européennes et la SDN (1908–1938), 4 vol., thèse Lyon, 1985, p. 156.
  5. ^ Unrepresented Nations And Peoples Organization Yearbook. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. 1996. pp. 43–45. ISBN 904110223X. OCLC 36779050. http://books.google.com/books?id=rWB3Bv3vuyMC&printsec=frontcover#PPA43,M1.  
  6. ^ The Paris Peace Conference, 1919: Peace Without Victory?
  7. ^ Balfour to FO, Paris, 31.7.1919
  8. ^ The Entente and the Associated Powers were the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Japan (Principal Allied Powers), Greece, Belgium, Armenia, the Hejaz, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Yugoslavia) and Czecho-Slovakia
  9. ^ Treaty of Sevres, 1920
  10. ^ The Legal Regime of the Turkish Straits By Nihan Unlu, Nihan Ünlü - Page 32
  11. ^ Treaty of Peace with Turkey, 24 July 1923
  12. ^ Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide - Page 149 by Bat Yeor, Miriam Kochan, David Littman
  13. ^ Assyrians information Nineveh
  14. ^ League of Nations Documents and Serial Publications, 1919-1946 [microformguides.gale.com/Data/Download/3028000R.pdf]
  15. ^ Recueil des cours - Page 39 by Hague Academy of International Law
  16. ^ The Admission of Iraq to Membership in the League of Nations Manley O. Hudson The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Jan., 1933), pp. 133-138 [1]
  17. ^ Assyrians of Eastern Massachusetts - Page 66 by Sargon Donabed, Ninos Donabed
  18. ^ William Saroyan, "Seventy Thousand Assyrians," in William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze and Other Stories. New York: New Directions, 1934
  19. ^ Seventy Thousand Assyrians, William SAROYAN, WikiQuotes.
  20. ^ The League of Nations in Retrospect: Proceedings of the Symposium - Page 376 by United Nations Library - 1983
  21. ^ Twelfth periodic reports of States parties due in 1993 : Iraq. 14/06/96, Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (the Iraqi government's point of view
  22. ^ Zinda 30 November 2005
  23. ^ Iraq losing its best and brightest
  24. ^ More on Muslims Forcing Christian Assyrians in Baghdad to Pay 'Protection Tax'
  25. ^ USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts
  26. ^ Assyrian Patriarch Pleads Protection for Iraqi Christians
  27. ^ Muslims Burn Assyrian Church in Baghdad
  28. ^ "Den nya nationalhögern" (in Swedish). DN.se. http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=1058&a=577300. Retrieved 2007-12-15. "Högt upp i Nd:s program står att verka för en återvandringspolitik. Södertäljes syrianer och assyrier ska uppmuntras att skaffa sig ett nytt land, gärna med hjälp av generösa bidrag."  
  29. ^ English version
  • Some of the content is Originally based on an article by members.aon.at/omra, licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License, used with permission.

External Links


This article is part of the series on the

History of the
Assyrian people

File:Mor Ephrem icon.jpg
Ephrem the Syrian

Early history

Old Assyrian period (20th - 15th c. BC)
Aramaeans (14th - 9th c. BC)
Neo-Assyrian Empire (911 - 612 BC)
Achaemenid Assyria (539 - 330 BC)

Classical Antiquity

Seleucid Empire (312 - 63 BC)
Osroene (132 BC - 244 AD)
Syrian wars (66 BC - 217 AD)
Roman Syria (64 BC - 637 AD)
Adiabene (15 - 116 AD)
Roman Assyria (116 - 118)
Christianization (1st to 3rd c.)
Nestorian Schism (5th c.)
Asuristan (226 - 651)
Byzantine–Sassanid Wars (502 - 628)

Middle Ages

Muslim conquest of Syria (630s)
Abassid rule (750-1256)
Emirs of Mosul (905-1383)
Principality of Antioch (1098-1268)
Turco-Mongol rule (1256-1370)

Modern History

Ottoman Empire (1534-1917)
Rise of nationalism (19th c.)
Assyrian Genocide (1914-1920)
Independence movement (since 1919)
Simele massacre (1933)
Post-Saddam Iraq (since 2003)

See also

History of Syria
History of Iraq
Assyrian diaspora

The Assyrian independence (also known as the Assyrian Question) is a political movement and ideology that supports the creation of an Assyrian homeland for the Syriac-speaking Christian Assyrian people in the Nineveh plains of Northern Iraq. The issue of Assyrian independence has been brought up many times throughout the course of history from the end of World War I to the present-day Iraq War. The Assyrian-inhabited area of Iraq is located in the Ninawa-Mosul region in Northern Iraq where the biblical Assyrian capital of Nineveh was located.[1] This area is known as the "Assyrian Triangle."[2]

Contents

World War I and Genocide

Before World War I, about half of the Assyrian population lived in what is today Turkey, specifically the Hakkari region. In 1914, Young Turks began to systemically target Christians of Asia Minor with events such as the Assyrian Genocide. In the beginning, key Assyrian nationalist leaders and religious figures were wiped out of communities, whereas at one point the patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East was only twelve years old (Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII).[3]

The Ottoman Empire declared war against the Allies and the British in October 1914. For geographic reasons, it was important for the British to gain the support of the Assyrians.

Because of large oil fields, Britain wanted to insure that the Mosul region would be part of the newly-colonized Iraq instead of the future state of Turkey. The Assyrians promised loyalty to the British in return for an independent state in the future. After the invasion of Mosul by the Young Turks, the Assyrian army, led by General Agha Petros, fought intensively against the Turkish soldiers and pushed them out of the region, leading to Britain's control of the region. The battles are described in detail by surviving letters of Petros and British officials.

In Turkey Malik Yosip Khoshaba of the Bit Tiyari tribe led a successful attack against the Ottomans. Assyrian forces in the region also attacked the Kurdish fortress of Simku, the leader who had assassinated Mar Shimun XIX Benyamin, they successfully stormed it, defeating the Kurds, however Simku escaped and fled.

In Iran, The Assyrians in Persia armed themselves under the command of General Agha Petros, who had been approached by the Allies to help fight the Ottomans.

The Assyrians proved to be excellent soldiers, and Agha Petros' volunteer army had quite a few successes over the Ottoman forces and their Kurdish allies, notably at Suldouze where 1500 Assyrian horsemen overcame the far larger Ottoman force of over 8000, commanded by Kheiri Bey [5]. Agha Petros also defeated the Ottoman Turks in a major engagement at Sauj Bulak and drove them back to Rowanduz.

A number of smaller encounters with Ottoman and Kurdish forces also proved successful.

Assyrian forces in Persia were greatly affected by the withdrawal of Russia from the war and the collapse of Armenian armed resistance in the region. They were left cut off, with no supplies, vastly outnumbered and surrounded.

Assyrians were involved in a number of clashes in Turkey with Ottoman forces, including Kurds and Circassians loyal to the empire. When armed and in sufficient numbers they were able to defend themselves successfully.

By the end of 1922, no sufficient Assyrian population was left in Turkey and a small population left in Iran. Many fled southward to join native Assyrians in the Nineveh plains.

The Assyro-Chaldean National Council stated in a December 4, 1922 memorandum that the total death toll is unknown, but it estimates that about 275,000 Assyrians died between 1914–1918.[4] For comparison, in the Serbian military there were also 275,000 casualties during the war.

Conferences and treaties

tribe.]]

After siding with the Allies of World War I, the Assyrians were promised an independent state of their own. This promise, however, was not kept.[5]

Paris Peace Conference

In 1919, the Syriac Orthodox Bishop Afram I Barsoum (later Patriarch of Antioch) wrote a letter on behalf of the Assyrians to the League of Nations. (See the original letter and a revised clearer version.)

In the letter the bishop wrote that 180,000 Assyrians had been massacred by the Turks. He also said that the Assyrian people were against the proposed autonomy of the Kurds. The letter convinced France to allow Assyrian representation during the upcoming peace conference.[6]

Three Assyrian groups were scheduled to participate in the Peace Conference: Assyrian delegates from the United States, Iraq and Iran.

The Assyrian group from Iran arrived in France first. The British, having no authority in Iran and fearing the presence of a group which it could not control, forced the Iranian Assyrian delegation to leave Paris and not participate.

Then the Assyrian delegates from the United States arrived. Their demands included the establishment of an Assyrian independent territory which would include Northern Beth Nahrain, beginning at the lower Zab River Diyar Bakir and extending to the Armenian mountains, and that the territory would be under the protection of the superpowers.

U.S delegate Rev. Joel Werda in his petition concluded;

We have the most conclusive proofs to show that the Assyrians were urged by the official representatives of Great Britain, France and Russia, to enter into the war on the side of the Allies . . . with the most solemn promises of being given a free state. The Assyrians, therefore, having risked the very existence of their nation, and having made such appalling sacrifices upon the altar of freedom, demand that these promises of the Allied governments now be honorably redeemed.

[7]

Great Britain and the U.S. delegates denied this petition, explaining that the U.S. President Woodrow Wilson had strong reservations concerning any plans to divide Turkey. The American Assyrian delegation returned from the conference empty handed.

The Assyrian delegates from Iraq, after many delays by the British authorities, were approved to travel to Paris on July 21 on one condition: that they pass through London, England first. Surma Khanim, the head of the delegation was kept in London until the conference of France finished its deliberations. His demands had been to allow the Assyrians to return to Hakkâri, that they be accorded equal rights, that all Assyrian prisoners be released, and that the individuals responsible for the atrocities committed against the Assyrians be punished.

Treaty of Sèvres

The Treaty of Sèvres, signed on August 10, 1920 between the Allies and Turkey, laid the foundations for the new Turkish frontier after World War I.[8] Assyrians were not permitted by Great Britain to participate in these deliberations under the rule that the Assyrians were not an equal power with the rest of the participants. However, the Assyrian issue was discussed and the plan was to contain full safeguards for the protection of the Assyro-Chaldeans and other racial or religious minorities under articles 62, 63, 140, 141, 142, 147, 148, 149, and 150. As a result of this treaty, Mosul (Nineveh) was given to Iraq while France was guaranteed 25% of Mosul's oil production.

Article 62 of the Treaty states:[9]

. . . this plan must provide complete guarantees as to the protection of the Assyro-Chaldeans and other ethnic or religious minorities in this area. To this end, a commission made up of British, French, Italian, Persian and Kurdish representatives will visit the area so as to determine what adjustments, if any, should be made to the Turkish frontier wherever it coincides with [the] Persian frontier as laid down in this treaty.

Treaty of Lausanne

February 11, 1923]]

November 20, 1922 The Treaty of Lausanne, signed on July 24, 1923 between the Allied powers and Turkey, was composed after Turkey requested that the issue of Mosul (Nineveh) be re-examined. Assyrians once again were not allowed to participate as Great Britain interfered, but they were promised again that their rights would be protected. It is worth mentioning that Agha Petros, General of the Assyrian Army, attended the opening ceremonies. The United States stood with Great Britain in these deliberations, the latter promising 20% of the oil industry business be awarded to American companies. Turkey lost its appeal to win Mosul back based on Great Britain's claims that the region would be saved for the future settlement of the Kurdish and Assyrian people, but no final agreement was reached.[10]

Article 39 of the treaty states:[11]

There will be no official restriction on any Turkish citizen's right to use any language he wishes, whether in private, in commercial dealings, in matter of religion, in print or at a public gathering. Regardless of the existence of an official language, appropriate facilities will be provided for any non-Turkish-speaking citizen of Turkey to use his own language before the court.

Constantinople Conference

The Constantinople Conference was between Great Britain and Turkey, May 21, 1924 The Assyrians were told that Britain was "fighting" their case for them and that there was no need for them to attend. A letter on behalf of the Assyrians and their settlement was written under the direction of Sir Henry Conway Dobbs, the British High Commissioner in Iraq, under "Statement of Proposals for the Settlement of the Assyrian People in Iraq", in that regard.[12]

The government of Turkey claimed Mosul as part of Turkey, and Fet’hi Beg declared that the Assyrians, who he referred to as Nestorians, are welcome to live in their previous lands in Turkey where they would find freedom. Sir Percy Cox stated that Mosul belongs to Iraq and that the Christian Assyrians need protection from Turkey.

This was part of his statement:

...His Majesty's Government has decided to endeavor to secure a good treaty frontier, which will at the same time admit of the establishment of the Assyrians in a compact community within the limits of the territory in respect of which His Majesty's Government hold a mandate under the authority of the League of Nations, if not in every case in their ancestral habitation, at all events in suitable adjacent districts. This policy for the settlement of the Assyrians has the full sympathy and support of the Iraqi Government, which is prepared for its part, to give the necessary cooperation for giving effect thereto.

[13]

Ultimately, no agreement was reached. Turkey then massed its troops on the border to occupy the Mosul Province by force. The Assyrian Levy Force of 2,000 was sent north to protect Iraq since the Iraqi army at this time was unfit to undertake such a task. The Assyrian force was largely responsible for the annexation of Mosul to Iraq rather than to Turkey, as an official of the League of Nations stated.

Recommendation of the League of Nations

June 16, 1925 The Commission presented its findings. It recommended that the Assyrian people receive full protection if they were to return to Turkey, that they be given their freedom, and that they receive reimbursements for all their loses during World War I.[14] The Commission further recommended the Patriarch, Mar Eshai Shimunbe, be given full authority over his people.

These recommendations were not approved. It was finally decided that the issue be referred to the Permanent Court of International Justice in The Hague, an integral part of the charter of the League of Nations. This court was later replaced by the International Court of Justice after the birth of the United Nations.

The Hague September

In 1925 the Permanent Court of International Justice took over the disputed border line issue and, in December 1925, adopted a resolution which refused the idea of the Assyrian's return to Hakkâri and gave that region to Turkey, while giving Mosul to Iraq and settling on a border line almost matching the same status quo line which was called the Brussels Line. Further, it recommended the continuation of the British mandate on Iraq for another 25 years to safeguard the Assyrian interests.[15]

Assyrian human rights

On November 11, 1927, the Assyrians continued to protest their mistreatment and continued to send letters to the League of Nations, requesting a report from both the governments of Britain and Iraq concerning the situation. The Permanent Court of International Justice in The Hague did not accept the reports of Britain and Iraq and requested that both countries fulfill their obligations towards the Assyrians.

British treaties and Assyrian petitions

Britain dropped the earlier established recommendations by the Mandate Commission on the grounds that those recommendations should be directed to the Turkish Government and not the Iraqi Government, Assyrians from the Hakkâri and Tur Abdin originally, escaped and have no intentions of returning to Turkey. Hence, they should occupy the land the Iraqi government has provided for them.

Several treaties were signed and ratified between Britain and Iraq in the next two years in what seemed to be Britain's preparations to clear the way for Iraq to enter the League of Nations.

Three petitions were received by the Mandate Commission stressing the fears of the Assyrians regarding the termination of the Mandate; they were dated in September 1931, October 20, 1931 and October 23, 1931. One was rejected by Sir Francis Humphrys on the grounds that it was submitted by a person not qualified to represent the Assyrians. Humphrys still pledged the moral responsibility of Great Britain to the future attitude of the Iraqi government.

The October 23, 1931 petition was submitted by Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII, in Mosul, asking for permission to allow the Assyrians to leave Iraq before the end of the Mandate, stating that it would be impossible for the Assyrians to live in Iraq. This decision was reached at with the agreement of all the Assyrian leaders and when responses to this petition were delayed, the Assyrians decided to take action and planned for a general 'cessation of service' by all the Levies.

The Mandate Commission reviewed the Assyrian petition and was still not satisfied with Britain's and Iraq's assurances of protection of minorities. Worth mentioning here that Sir Humphrys was accused by his own fellow British officials to fabricate lies in regards to the Iraqi government's sentiments about the Assyrians.

The Mandate Commission gave its recommendations, stating that they are concerned about the Christians, and accordingly, average people were given the right to submit any petitions to the League of Nations, directly, in the future.

In partial compliance with requests of the petition, the Iraqi government set up a further land-finding committee. It discovered but little land both cultivable and available. In fact, they found malaria-ridden, swampy lands, and recommended expenditure on an irrigation scheme to produce more. Hundreds upon hundreds of Assyrians died with malaria in those lands.

The Council of the League of Nations accepted the recommendations and Iraq issued a declaration guaranteeing the protection of minorities on May 30, 1932.

Accordingly, Iraq was accepted into the League of Nations on October 3, 1932.[16]

Assyrian Massacre in Iraq

The Assyrian national question was taken to Geneva by the Assyrian Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII again when he addressed the Permanent Mandate Commission meeting and urged the council to fulfill its obligations toward the Assyrian Nation. The League yet again granted the Assyrians their rights of homogenous community in Iraq with a local autonomy.

Mar Eshai Shimum was quoted in the meeting:

If the (British) mandate is lifted without effective guarantees for our protection in the future, our extermination would follow.

After the establishment of the Kingdom of Iraq in 1932, an Assyrian uprising followed through the following year, refusing to sign a declaration of loyalty to King Faisal and agree not to thwart the scheme of the League of Nations for the settlement of the Assyrians, was deported by the order of the government on August 18, 1933 and deprived of Iraqi nationality.

The failed uprising led to the massacre of 3,000 Assyrians throughout northern Iraq.

The largest massacre was in the village of Simele. Eyewitnesses wrote numerous books about the events.[17]

The Levies, alarmed by this and the imminent withdrawal of British troops, decided upon a concentration of all Assyrians in the Amadia area for security. All Assyrian officers jointly presented a manifesto on July 16 to the commanding officer requesting discharge within 30 days. The other ranks also followed the lead of their officers. The British feared if this were allowed to happen they would lose all authority in Iraq. To buy time, they decided to allow discharge over a four-month period. A British battalion was flown in from Egypt when discharges commenced. After negotiations with Assyrian leaders, the Levies withdrew their request and the British battalion was withdrawn. In all, 296 were discharged. No Iraqi was held responsible for the massacre. A large number of Assyrians began to flee Iraq and find safety in Syria, under French control at the time. The transport and machine gun Assyrian companies ceased to exist as separate units, both being divided between the two Assyrian battalions. Kirkuk was occupied by a platoon from the 2nd battalion to guard the wireless and other RAF stores.

Due to the events of 1933, Assyrians mark August 7 as their martyrs day.

…We're washed up as a race, we're through, it's all over, why should I learn to read the language? We have no writers, we have no news — well, there is a little news: once in a while the English encourage the Arabs to massacre us, that is all. It's an old story, we know all about it.

[18][19]

Mar Eshai Shimun in Geneva with Yousuf Malik

After the Simele massacre, the Council of the League of Nations was absolutely sure that the Assyrian issue was still an unsolved problem. The Assyrian Patriarch requested the League to form an Assyrian and Kurdish enclave in the north of the province of Mosul under a special administration. The Patriarch reminded the Council about the plan originally suggested by Lord Curzon, the British Foreign Minister, on December 17, 1919.

In Iraq, Rashid Ali al-Kaylani, the Iraqi Prime Minister, announced that the Assyrians should find a new home outside Iraq and promised that the Iraqi government was willing to make very generous contributions to cover any expenses of such settlement. On October 13, 1933, the League of Nations appointed a committee of six of its members to look into this possibility.

On October 24, the Assyrians submitted another petition by Yousuf Malik, an Assyrian Nationalist from Iraq who was exiled to Lebanon and who moved between Cyprus, Beirut and Damascus exposing what was going on inside Iraq and the British games. This petition gives the details of many cases of oppression against the Assyrians in Iraq, details on hardships from government officials, and the facts about the Simele massacre.

From October 1933 to June 1935, the committee of six looked into many options. They covered Brazil, British Guiana, Niger, however, all failed. A further suggestion that the British Red Cross might send a relief party to Mosul was also objected to, apparently on the grounds that this would discourage the activities of the Iraqi Crescent, which has not carried out any relief work among the Assyrians. In September 1935, the plan of settling of some of the Assyrians in the Khabour and Ghab areas in Syria was approved. History shows that the plan was never followed up so it too has failed.

Things did not change for the Assyrians in Iraq until the outbreak of World War II, when the Iraqis revolted under Rashid Ali al-Kaylani who sided himself with Germany and wanted to force the British out of Iraq completely. The faith of the British existence in Iraq hanged in the hands of the 1500 Assyrian Levies' ability to hold the British Air Force Base in Habbaniya against the rebels of over 60,000 Arab tribesmen and regular troops who surrounded the base.

The Battle of Habbaniya is well described in the book, "The Golden Carpet" by Somerset de Chair, a British intelligence officer serving in Iraq during World War II.

Possibility for Assyrian Independence in the Post-World War II Era

With the end of World War II and with the eventual creation of the State of Israel in 1948, the call for an Assyrian homeland grew greater.

Mar Eshai Shimun at the United Nations

The United Nations was born in San Francisco (replacing the League of Nations). The Assyrian Patriarch, Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII, was there to present the Assyrian petition to the new world body of peace and was accompanied by two members of the Assyrian National Federation. In this petition the Assyrian tragedy was explained from World War I until the end of World War II.

Several petitions from the Patriarch in 1945 and 1946 were sent to the Secretary General of the United Nations to look into the Assyrian National Question. A letter from the UN General Secretary # 1100-1-4/MEJ dated Oct. 7, 1946 was received by Mar Shimun stating that he had referred the Patriarch's petition to the Commission on Human Rights.

Petition to the UN General Secretary about Assyrian Massacres in Iran

A petition concerning the Assyrian massacres in Iran was filed again by Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII, Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East. Mar Eshai struggled for over a half century at the League of Nations, then the United Nations. None of his petitions were taken seriously.[20]

Assyrians in the Republic of Iraq

Inspired by Gamal Abdel Nasser, officers from the Nineteenth Brigade known as "Free Officers", under the leadership of Brigadier Abdul-Karim Qassem and Colonel Abdul Salam Arif, overthrew the Hashimite monarchy on July 14, 1958.

The overthrow of Iraq's monarchy instilled new hope for the Assyrian cause. However, this hope was short-lived. Qassem was assassinated in February 1963, throwing Iraq into a period of political uncertainty. Out of the chaos emerged the Ba'ath Party who promptly took control of Iraq's government.

The Ba'ath brought promise to Iraq and the Assyrian cause when the new government recognized the cultural rights of Syriac-speaking citizens (Assyrians, Chaldeans and members of the East Syrian Church) in 1972. Syriac was to be the language used at all primary schools where the majority of pupils spoke that language in addition to Arabic. Syriac was also to be taught at intermediate and secondary schools where the majority of students spoke that language in addition to Arabic. Special programs in Syriac were to be broadcast on public radio and television and three Syriac-language magazines were to be published. An association of Syriac-speaking authors and writers was also established.[21]

Still, no autonomy was granted to the Assyrians. However, movements towards autonomy and independence remained active. In 1968, a new Assyrian flag was introduced and adopted by the Assyrian Congress in Tehran. In 1977, the Assyrian Provisional Government, headquartered from the Assyrian diaspora in the United States in Chicago, chartered a constitution for an autonomous Assyrian state. The Assyrians now had their goal set and would maintain it.

However, when Saddam Hussein rose to power, things began to change for the Assyrians in Iraq. Assyrians were deprived of their cultural and national rights while at the same time the Ba'athist regime tried to co-opt their history. The 1972 proclamation was reversed and Hussein began a strict campaign of Arabization on any non-Arabs in Iraq, including Assyrians as well as other groups such as Kurds, Iraqi Turkmen, and Armenians. During the Iran–Iraq War, many Assyrians were recruited to the armies of both sides. This resulted in Assyrians in Iraq killing Assyrians in Iran. It was estimated that 60,000 Assyrians were killed during the conflict.

When Hussein first assumed power, the Assyrian population in Iraq numbered 2 million to 2.5 million. Due to both persecution by his regime and subsequent emigration to Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, that number began to decline drastically.

Post-Ba'thist Iraq

File:Assyrian autonomy map
Firas Jatou's results of his teams study of remaining Assyrian villages

With the fall of Saddam Hussein and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, no reliable census figures exist on the Assyrians in Iraq (as they do not for Kurds or Iraqi Turkmen), though the number of Assyrians is estimated to be approximately 800,000.

The Assyrian Democratic Movement (or ADM) was one of the smaller political parties that emerged in the social chaos of the occupation. Its officials say that while members of the ADM also took part in the liberation of the key oil cities of Kirkuk and Mosul in the north, the Assyrians were not invited to join the steering committee that was charged with defining Iraq's future. The ethnic make-up of the Iraq Interim Governing Council briefly (September 2003 - June 2004) guided Iraq after the invasion included a single Assyrian Christian, Younadem Kana, a leader of the Assyrian Democratic Movement and an opponent of Saddam Hussein since 1979.

Today, the Western media has a strong tendency to acknowledge only three major groups in Iraq: Sunni Arabs, Shi'a Arabs and the Kurdish people.[citation needed] The Kurdish Autonomous Region has claimed that it has been instrumental in the renovation and support of Assyrian churches and schools.

Assyrian Convention Addresses Assyrian Autonomy

in the 1980s.]]

The panel discussion entitled "Focus on Iraq" on August 30 featured Assyrian politicians and activist from Iraq and the U.S., which was held in Chicago.

Mr. Willis Fautre's (from Human Rights Without Frontiers) 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 (Assyrians, Turkmen, 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 religion, culture, schools, agriculture, energy, and protection of monuments. 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.

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.

Current situation

in two counties today in Iraq]]

The first of the many church bombings that were to come occurred on the morning of August 4, 2003, that left 19 worshippers dead.

As the attacks on Assyrians continue to escalate, with the 20th church bombed and the death toll of the Assyrians climbing in 2004, demands by Assyrian politicians for an autonomous safe haven reached at an all-time high. A meeting took place in the British House of Commons to discuss the subject.

A meeting was organized by the Labour MP Stephen Pound, in conjunction with the Assyrian Democratic Movement and the Jubilee Campaign, a Christian human-rights group. Pound's demands were:

  1. Support an autonomous administrative region as a safe haven
  2. Support the infrastructure of the region
  3. Oppose "the active and passive ethnic cleansing" of "the only indigenous people of Iraq"

Pound argued "the fate of the Chaldo-Assyrians in Iraq will define the socio-political structure of the Middle East."

The then Prime Minister of Iraq, Iyad Allawi, said he was considering the plan, but nothing resulted as he lost his position in the January 2005 elections.


On November 30, 2005, Iraq's Foreign Minister, Hoshiyar Zebari, supported the idea of an Assyrian administrative region by saying "They (Assyrians) are free to organize a province or regional government. It should not be just because we have Kurdistan, but should be organized around an area. If they can do it in three provinces or even one it should and can be done."[22]

In the same weekend, a further five Assyrian churches were bombed in Iraq. By the end of 2004, an estimated 40,000 Assyrians and other Christians have fled Iraq since the beginning of the war.[23]

Australia's Labor Party member Chris Bowen spoke about the possibility of autonomy for the Assyrians numerous times in the Parliament during 2005.

On February 24, 2006, Minister of Human Rights in Kurdistan, Dr. Mohammad Ihsan, stated "We don't mind Iraqi Christians concentrating anywhere they wish, and establishing a new province for themselves in the Nineveh plain, and bringing together Iraqi Christians from all over the world and their return to their houses and towns."

On March 18, 2007, it was reported that Muslims were forcing the Christian Assyrians in the Dora Neighborhood of Baghdad to Pay the jizya,[24] the 'Protection Tax' demanded from Christians and Jews by the Qur'an and Islamic law.[25]

On May 9, 2007, Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, Mar Dinkha IV dispatched a letter to the President George W. Bush pleading for immediate protection of the Christians of Iraq.[26]

The following week a group of armed Muslims set fire to St. George Assyrian Church in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad. The group of men poured gasoline on the church and set it on fire. This is the same church that was bombed in the first of a wave of bombings of Assyrian churches. When St. George was bombed in 2004, the church Cross was not damaged; the bombers tore the cross down with their hands after the bombing.[27]

European support

The National Democrats in Sweden are supporters of Ethnopluralism, and support the foundation of an Assyrian state.[28] After visiting the Assyrians in northern Iraq, Dutch Parliament member Joel Voordewind of the ChristianUnion party asked the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Verhagen to increase the pressure on the Central Government of Baghdad through the European Union in order to execute a plan for an Assyrian police force for the protection of their towns and villages in the Nineveh plains.[29]

Assyrian Christian Police Force

During recent kidnappings and murders of Assyrian Bishops and priests in the North Iraqi region, Assyrians have demonstrated worldwide in the thousands in demanding protection for their villages and the Nineveh Plains region, which Assyrians hope will become an autonomous area under the control of the Assyrians and minorities in the North.

A $4 million measure will fund a 711-man local police force for the Nineveh Plain. It is part of a $30 million emergency relief package for the predominantly Christian region submitted to Congress last month by Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va.

In April 2008, the initial complement of 711 policemen were called up and began training. Another 4000 policemen will be needed to fully secure the region and establish checkpoints on all highways and roads leading into the villages.

See also

References

  1. ^ Minorities in the Middle East: a history of struggle and self-expression By Mordechai Nisan
  2. ^ The Origins of War: From the Stone Age to Alexander the Great By Arther Ferrill - Page 70
  3. ^ The Forgotten Genocide: Eastern Christians, the Last Assyrians By Sébastien de Courtois
  4. ^ Joseph Yacoub, La question assyro-chaldéenne, les Puissances européennes et la SDN (1908–1938), 4 vol., thèse Lyon, 1985, p. 156.
  5. ^ Unrepresented Nations And Peoples Organization Yearbook. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. 1996. pp. 43–45. ISBN 904110223X. OCLC 36779050. http://books.google.com/books?id=rWB3Bv3vuyMC&printsec=frontcover#PPA43,M1. 
  6. ^ The Paris Peace Conference, 1919: Peace Without Victory?
  7. ^ Balfour to FO, Paris, 31.7.1919
  8. ^ The Entente and the Associated Powers were the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Japan (Principal Allied Powers), Greece, Belgium, Armenia, the Hejaz, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Yugoslavia) and Czecho-Slovakia
  9. ^ Treaty of Sevres, 1920
  10. ^ The Legal Regime of the Turkish Straits By Nihan Unlu, Nihan Ünlü - Page 32
  11. ^ Treaty of Peace with Turkey, 24 July 1923
  12. ^ Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide - Page 149 by Bat Yeor, Miriam Kochan, David Littman
  13. ^ Assyrians information Nineveh
  14. ^ League of Nations Documents and Serial Publications, 1919-1946 [microformguides.gale.com/Data/Download/3028000R.pdf]
  15. ^ Recueil des cours - Page 39 by Hague Academy of International Law
  16. ^ The Admission of Iraq to Membership in the League of Nations Manley O. Hudson The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Jan., 1933), pp. 133-138 [1]
  17. ^ Assyrians of Eastern Massachusetts - Page 66 by Sargon Donabed, Ninos Donabed
  18. ^ William Saroyan, "Seventy Thousand Assyrians," in William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze and Other Stories. New York: New Directions, 1934
  19. ^ Seventy Thousand Assyrians, William SAROYAN, WikiQuotes.
  20. ^ The League of Nations in Retrospect: Proceedings of the Symposium - Page 376 by United Nations Library - 1983
  21. ^ Twelfth periodic reports of States parties due in 1993 : Iraq. 14/06/96, Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (the Iraqi government's point of view
  22. ^ Zinda 30 November 2005
  23. ^ Iraq losing its best and brightest
  24. ^ More on Muslims Forcing Christian Assyrians in Baghdad to Pay 'Protection Tax'
  25. ^ USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts
  26. ^ Assyrian Patriarch Pleads Protection for Iraqi Christians
  27. ^ Muslims Burn Assyrian Church in Baghdad
  28. ^ "Den nya nationalhögern" (in Swedish). DN.se. http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=1058&a=577300. Retrieved 2007-12-15. "Högt upp i Nd:s program står att verka för en återvandringspolitik. Södertäljes syrianer och assyrier ska uppmuntras att skaffa sig ett nytt land, gärna med hjälp av generösa bidrag." 
  29. ^ English version
  • Some of the content is Originally based on an article by members.aon.at/omra, licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License, used with permission.

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