Assyrians - the Forgotten People, Part V
The Treaty of Versailles of 28 June, 1919 is also known as the Document of Peace. Was the dislodgment of the indigenous Assyrians from their ancestral land an act of peace? The international community has shown a lack of moral courage to stand up and publicly recognize and solve the Assyrian dilemma. It lacks the fortitude to denounce once and for all the nagging, the greed and the uncompromising attitude of the Arab/Islamic nations. Islamic countries in the abode of peace (Dar Al-Silm) have never seriously and willingly accepted to reform their government system of the consultative council (Majlis al-Shura) or legislative council (al-majlis al-tashri’e) along the lines of Western democracy. Arab/Islamic governments interpret democracy according to their own concept and not the version of Western definition. For Islamic states, secularism and democracy connote atheistic trends. Such countries associate civil liberty and western democracy with decadence; even socialism means something completely different to them. Their governments interpret socialism within the strict framework of the teachings and interpretation of their religion. Anything other than that is unacceptable to them. They continue to demand and never compromise. The West has showered them with so many goodies that they believe it is endowed to them from on high as a reward for their adherence to Allah, Islam and the prophet. In their opinion, the infidel Christian is merely an instrument of Allah that passes these rewards to them.
Certain Arab/Islamic regimes shield themselves behind the West. Western countries gladly protect them because of oil and re-investment of their funds in the West. The West sees the Arab world as a brisk market of consumer goods and services for sustaining a steady growth of their economy. In return, the West expects from such regimes to secure their votes in the UN on certain crucial issues. The West gives the impression of being oblivious to the plight of the indigenous peoples of the Middle East. Lebanon has become an Islamic bridgehead to Europe. Christianity no longer poses a problem to their penetration and advancement into the West. Lebanon, both government and people, are held hostage by 40 thousand Syrian troops and about 20 thousand civil intelligence agents and Hesbullah. The main concern of the Arab/Islamic states at present is the creation of a Palestinian state and annihilation of Israel. Peace and democracy seem to be at odds with each other where indigenous nationals exist, causing frequent flare-ups and instability due to Arab/Islamic self-interest, greed and expansion. It seems that for Muslims, peace in the Middle East will only be achieved without the existence of Israel and other non-Muslim nations.
The conquering powers went ahead and created Arab Islamic kingdoms, states, sultanates, emirates, sheikdoms and protectorates by the dozen without any remorse, stretching from the southern tip of the Arab Peninsula all the way through to the northern tip of Mosul, Mesopotamia. They gave away unashamedly territories that by right belonged to the Assyrian, Jewish and Christian Arab peoples. The Mandatory Powers did not measure up to their renown reputation of ‘British Justice’ nor to the French famous slogan of ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’. At the time, except for a number of cities like Beirut, Aleppo, Mosul and Baghdad that were swarming with Armenian, Assyrian and other Christian refugees, the population density in the Middle East was so sparse the whole region in between was nearly empty and barren, void of human activity resembling a desert wasteland.
The mandatory powers became so oblivious to the plight of the displaced Assyrians and other natives of the Middle East that they began giving away land to the Arabs disconcertingly. In 1921, an Arab Sheikh of the Hashemite tribe from the Arab Peninsula, calling himself Amir Abdulla, led a few hundred horsemen and camel riders with their harem and cattle and proceeded to Trans-Jordan, then under the British mandate. The Amir pitched his tent in the Jordanian desert and declared the whole territory as grazing land for his camels and goats. He claimed the whole Trans-Jordan desert as Miri land i.e., he claimed the whole territory of Jordan to himself and placed it under his jurisdiction. Upon conditional support of the British, the desert sheikh was installed as military commander. In 1927, the Bedouin Amir became King Abdulla, and Jordan became an independent constitutional state called the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. King Abdulla’s brother, Faisal, had earlier laid claim rulership over Syria. Faisal’s attempt in Syria failed, and as a result he was rejected and ousted. He hurriedly left for the UK seeking help from the British for a kingdom. He too was later given a kingdom. He was installed king, by the British, over another newly created kingdom - Iraq, at the expense of the Assyrian disinherited people. So much for British justice.
The Arab’s presumption for claiming the whole region was that in the mid-7th Century AD, they had conquered the whole of the Middle East and beyond. Since they had helped the Allies drive the Ottomans away and ‘liberate’ the region again, the Arabs were entitled to reclaim sovereignty of the whole of the Middle East. They considered the liberated area from the Turks as their provinces, sort of ‘lost-and-found’ property. The Allies obliged. They ignored the appeals of the Assyrians that had been living there for centuries long before the Islamic conquests of the mid-7th century. The Assyrian plea fell on deaf ears and were denied even administrative autonomy. Instead of freeing the Assyrians from their oppressors and neutralizing their enemies, the Mandates went ahead and established Islamic states with rulers congenial to British and French interests. They failed to unshackle the Assyrians and the Arab Christians from centuries of Islamic chains of enslavement, and establish for them independent states. They disregarded the Assyrian people’s legitimate ownership right to their historical homeland. They failed in the holistic resolution of the Middle East. They discounted the role and say of the Assyrians during formation of the Islamic states in the region. They treated the Assyrians as aliens while at the same time considered their kinfolk the ‘Chaldean’ Assyrians, at the time of formation of Iraq, as subjects of the newly created monarchy. ‘Chaldean’ Assyrians of present-day Northern Iraq were muted. Their leaders and supporters were threatened with retribution if they sided with their ‘Nestorian’ Assyrian brethren. The millet provision continued to be a divisive way of alienating the displaced Assyrians from their existing Assyrian counterparts in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Persia. Great Britain considered as one of the world leading nations in discipline and justice, and its fluttering flag bearing two crosses representing God-fearing sovereign state and people, proved unworthy of the trust before God and humanity. Great Britain compromised the interest of the Assyrian people, tricked them out of their inheritance and left them with a bleak future at the mercy of their old enemy. Instead of establishing government systems within the framework of parliamentary democracy, Britain fostered the theocratic ‘millet provision’.
The Assyrian people as members of the global community have legal rights and values like any other country. As traditional inhabitants of Mesopotamia, they have the legitimate right of ownership and sovereignty over their ancestral homeland, Assyria. They have proven links and landmarks and historical demography in their ancestral homeland of northern Mesopotamia. The bones of their fathers, their forefathers and their loved ones have been buried there for hundreds of generations. Thousands of Assyrian families still survive in the highland of Nineveh, Erbil and Kirkuk of the northern provinces of Iraq and other neighbouring states.
Assyrians remember the past with regret and yearning, but look forward with hope to a brighter future. Whether their fate as a nation has been sealed is debatable. Deprivation does not mean illegitimacy. The Assyrians have the holistic right for the restoration of their traditional homeland and all the qualifying prerequisites for membership of the UN Organization. They are historically linked to their ancestral homeland that has been cut asunder. The Assyrian individual strives in an endeavour to improve his lot, yet he realizes that psychologically and nationally, he is in no better condition than another Assyrian in another country as long as he is separated from his people and loved ones, and cut off from his homeland.
The Assyrians today need to exorcise the foreboding millet demon and free themselves from its nightmare. The Assyrian individuals need to expel their fears, free their mind from the myth of the ill concept of the millet provision and openly seek restoration of their identity to its former status. They need to unite their ranks under one united Assyrian leadership, renounce the ‘millet’ misnomer with which they have been labeled and rebut its fallacy. Today more so Assyrians are waking up to the reality of their situation, linking up and communicating with their fellow Assyrians. They are plucking up courage and breaking away from their nutshell, stepping out of their political stagnation. By doing so, they are reconciling with their Assyrian fellows, bringing themselves into line, in unity with the Assyrian progressive march. This approach should not only be interpreted as a rise in nationalism, but rather restoration of their faith in their genuine identity - the Assyrian identity.
For those who believe in their Assyrianism, whether at home or abroad, in satisfaction to themselves and as an encouragement to their community members, need to continue to speak their mother tongue, revive the Assyrian culture and be proud of their nationality. It would be like freeing themselves and their children from bondage. Through their native language and practice of their culture their heritage will revive, grow and flourish in a new era of a better understanding of their brethren. It will bring them closer together to find their rightful place as a recognized society. Their unity, in addition to bonding them together, will have a political weight and a great influence on the future of Assyria and its people.
The effect of the ill concept of the millet on the Assyrians has been very severe in that it has kept them apart and alienated them from one another into fragmented groups within their own region. It has infiltrated the Assyrian society to the core, making it hard, but not impossible, to reach out for their Assyrian brethren in the spirit of unity. Through years of persecution and massacres they have been conditioned to think and follow the directives and guidelines of their foreign rulers, living in separate camps of allegiance to their overlords. The tactics of the millet provision of ‘divide and rule’ through sectarianism still has a legacy in the Assyrian nation. It is the primary cause of their lack of unity. They need to rid themselves of this abomination.
The period of dormancy for the Assyrians seems to have ended. The Assyrians have recently entered a new era of awakening. All the Assyrian diversified ethnic and denominational groups, realise that after all, they are all Assyrian and belong to one nation - Assyria. Presently, they are too fragmented under the millet provision to have any political weight or achieve any tangible results on their own, whether as individuals or as competing groups. They need to reconcile their differences and combine their efforts, pool their resources and pull together, in the right direction, towards achievement of their goal, namely, restoration of their usurped homeland. In order to achieve this, the Assyrians need first to speak out and declare themselves Assyrian in nationality without any ambiguity to enable them to establish a well co-ordinated coalition leadership under the banner of Assyria for the sake of its recovery and the welfare and wellbeing of the Assyrian populace.
The world has changed dramatically in the last 50 years and so has the concept of the United Nations. The UN has emerged not only as a peacemaker but as a growing power. It is gradually projecting itself very successfully as the arbiter and enforcer of the law. It is hoped that the UN will focus on the seriousness of the dispossessed peoples and help resolve their problem, especially the Assyrian issue which has long been forgotten by the United Nations. To bring peace, stability and economic prosperity to the Middle East, the international community needs to remove the inequity that has plagued the region and introduce reforms based on sound democratic principles.
It is the responsibility of the United Nations and the international community to right the wrong they have done to the dispossessed Assyrian people. They have the legal power and means to resolve the problem of the unsettled question of Assyria. It is the legitimate right of the Assyrian nation to remind the power brokers that its quest for restoration of its homeland needs to be addressed and resolved.
End of Article on the subject.
- the Forgotten People, Part IV