The Political Status of the Assyrians in the Iraqi Equation
Are the Assyrians included in the Iraqi equation or not? Are they in or out of it? The Assyrians need to know where they stand in regard to their political status and future in their homeland Bet Nahrain of Modern Iraq.
This question is asked amidst the increasing escalation and steady spread of racial conflicts between the Moslem groups in Iraq, particularly between the Kurds and Arabs, disregarding the rights of the rest of the Iraqi segments.
Each group seems to be hectically busy, making claims and counterclaims. They are frantically engaged in demarcating their turf, sending cautionary advice, posting warning signs to others, to stay away, keep off, and not to trespass on their turf or face death: the Shiites in the south, the Sunnis in Central Iraq, the Kurds in the north and the Turkmen in the northeast. Whether by threat or open and organized form of coercion, the unprecedented level of violence has become a daily occurrence.
Even with the fall of the tyrant Saddam, the Assyrians have continued to be intimidated into silence. Their racial identity and political rights continue to be suppressed. The Moslems ignore the racial identity of the indigenous Assyrians, while they continue to identify publicly all other groups as Arab, Kurd and Turkuman.
The growing division is mainly between the Arab Sunnah and the She'ah sects over power. They are engaged in an ugly struggle, each trying to get the lion’s share to maintain full authority over the whole of Iraq. This struggle has traditionally been the case between the Sunnis and the Shiites since the establishment of Iraq in the early twentieth century.
Still worse to come is the contentious issue of the fabricated name “Kurdistan”. The Kurdish Democratic Party (PDK), under the leadership of Massoud Barazani and the Patriotic Union of “Kurdistan” (PUK), of Jalal Talabani, are fostering the fraudulent name change in an attempt to annul the use of the name Assyria.
Assyria is the historical name and landmark of the Assyrian Nation, in Bet Nahrain (Mesopotamia). Since post World War I, hundreds of Assyrian villages have been expropriated by the marauding Kurds. Thousands of villagers have been forced out of their homes. Many Assyrian families have withdrawn to big cities, mainly Ninveh (Mosul), Arbil and Kirkuk, or have left the country all together for fear of reprisal, for refusing to abide by the false Kurdish type Democracy, modeled on the Islamic Shari’a law.
Currently, the restive Kurds are engrossed by their own machination to obliterate the name Assyria, to deny the surviving Assyrians in the north their political rights and rights of ownership and access to their property and lands in general. The Kurds are determined to sever a large chunk of Assyria, and stake it under the name “Kurdistan". They are sending threatening messages of cessation. They want the oncoming permanent government of Iraq to recognize the entire north as the official region of the Kurds, under the illegitimate name of “Kurdistan”. They are also demanding that the fabricated name be officially recognized and endorsed in the forthcoming permanent constitution of Iraq. Sedition of the Iraqi Kurds, under the leadership of the Barazani PDK and Talabani PUK, poses a real threat to the future existence of the Assyria/ns and unity and stability of Iraq and the whole of the Middle East.
The Kurdish demand that Assyria be officially named “Kurdistan” laughs in the face of the Arabs and surrounding states of Syria, Turkey and Iran. Giving in to their unlawful demand will undermine the integrity of the United Nations and the Charter of Rights it professes. For all its political power, with the international resources available to it, the UN (the champion of international justice and human rights) seems incapacitated, showing incompetence when addressing the Assyrian question, placing one bureaucratic obstacle after another before this aggrieved small nation.
The whole world and the media know that the Kurdish population is noncontiguous. Historically, although known as alien residents, the Kurds have never been mentioned as native inhabitants of Mesopotamia. They have no tangible landmarks to relate to their name in Assyria, or for that matter, Mesopotamia itself. Kurds are nomadic tribes that traditionally inhabited the outpost region of the Zagros-Taurus Crescent, beyond the Bet Nahrain border realm. They encroached on the Assyrian territory in the 11th century, only after the Islamic invasion and conquests of the Middle East in the seventh century AD.
The Kurds are spread in all directions, drifting from the neighbouring “stan” countries into Assyria, without restraint. The Kurds’ deceptive methods and treachery is evident in their vicious design of changing the names of the Assyrian villages and historical landmarks to Kurdish, with intent, and the approval of the past and current governments of Iraq. The Kurds falsely claim to advocate democracy while discreetly plotting to cut off the Assyrians from their homeland, Bet Nahrain.
The Kurds continue to suppress the name, Assyria. They claim to be on good terms with the bulk of the existing Assyrians living in the north. They occasionally show an Assyrian official in Kurdish attire to calm the fears of the local beholder, re-assure the Arabs and becalm the West that they are on very good terms with the Assyrians. Yet, they continue to understate the Assyrian population as dwindling and even non-existent in certain areas that have long been occupied by the Kurds. They claim that the Assyrians in the north speak Kurdish, and that the Assyrians have no qualms at all with the Kurds. Just as Saddam Hussein’s regime tried to label the Assyrians “Christian Arabs”, so do the Kurds avoid the name “Assyrian” and “Assyria”. Hussein’s regime may have been removed, but its evil policy against the Assyrians continues with the Kurds.
During World War I, the victorious Western Powers struck secret deals with the demised Ottoman Empire. They went ahead and dismembered part of Armenia and Greece, and the whole of Assyria and Mesopotamia.
During the Ottoman rule, Assyria was a Turkish colony, inherited from the Arab invaders earlier, and treated by the Turks as any other Balkan State. At the time, the Kurds were engaged in massacres of Christian Assyrians, and pillaging and looting their property. Yet the Allies, although victors, failed to effectively subdue the Turks, and bartered the suffering and beleaguered Assyrian Nation for access to the oil-rich lands of Mesopotamia. The gratitude owed by the Allies to the Assyrians for their sacrifice during the Great War was bartered for economic gain.
Turkey gained more land and added more territories to its original landmass than it had expected. Territorially, in the view of some historians, Turkey came out the winner rather than loser.
The Western Allies treated Armenia and the whole of Mesopotamia worse than how the Turks treated the Balkans. At least the Balkan states of Eastern Europe regained their independence. The non-Moslem colonized States of the Middle East did not. They all suffered, namely, Armenia, Lebanon, Assyria and Israel. Part of Armenia was lost to Turkey. Lebanon was partially, and belatedly restored (in ’46). Israel and Assyria were completely eliminated and wiped out from the map and their people extinguished, described as non-existent. As if liberty was a European birthright, other nations were not entitled to it. Middle Eastern nations that had been suffering under the brutal rule of the Mongol Turks were not the concern of the West.
The West treated the Christian and Jewish colonized nations as throwaway. They abandoned them. The West turned their back on them and left them at the mercy of the abhorrent Islamic Shari’a millet rule. Darfur, in southern Sudan, is currently facing that same dilemma.
The political voice of all the aggrieved states was gagged. The international media represented the voice of the victorious Allies and defended their actions. They remained neutral or mute about the mistreatment of the Assyrian nation. They did not lift a finger or protest about the injudicious decisions made against the Assyrians. They are still playing ignorant of their folly. They are shielding themselves behind unholy treaties, such as those of the Treaty of Versailles of 28 June 1919, and the Treaty of Lausanne of 24 July 1923, with Germany and Turkey.
The United States is now being accused of hegemony partly because of Europe’s injudicious past actions. Instead of helping the ex-Turkish colonies to regain independence, the West compromised its principles and sold out the non-Moslem colonized nations in the Middle East such as Armenia, Assyria, Israel and Lebanon to replenish its empty coffers. Europe does not have the guts to admit its past errors. It is throwing its unresolved problems on the United States to sort out the mess which Europe itself had created. Instead of accepting responsibility for its past mistakes, correct its attitude and come out clean, certain European countries such as Germany, France, Italy, and to a certain extent Russia, including the shamefaced Turkey have taken the reclining seat. They are waiting for the escalation of the crisis in the Middle East to reach its breaking point, then stand up and play the role of the Wiseman at international conferences and the UN, pointing the finger at the US – as if saying “you see, we told you so!”
Europe’s argument is that their power of arbitration continues to diminish due to America’s growing influence in the region as the world supreme power. Europe wishes to secure a more powerful part to play the role of direct arbitration in the arena of world politics. Germany and Turkey seem to want to have a larger ‘place in the sun’ and more influence. Reminiscent of the barbarity of the 3rd Reich, and brutality of the Ottomans, Germany and Turkey are remindful of Judas’ kiss of betrayal. It has become a habit of Germany to cause World Wars, and Turkey massacres en masse.
America has good reason to show concern and be cautious. The defunct League of Nations was embarrassingly lax and ambivalent in implementing certain articles of the peace treaties, which it concluded with the warring nations. The League of Nations denied Assyria the right towards gradual independence. It foiled Assyria’s attempt to unshackle itself from Islamic domination. In particular, it quashed Article 12 of Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points, rejecting it as irrelevant. Assyria lost sovereignty over its entire territory. Europe left the Middle East in shambles. Now it is crying foul at America because of its reluctance to right the wrong. Europe’s misdeeds have backfired in its face, with an adverse effect on its reputation.
During the Ottoman rule, Assyria had been run as a Turkish colony similar to those of the Balkans. Instead of dismembering the Ottoman Empire and reducing it to its former original size, as punishment for the crimes it committed against humanity, the Allied forces pressured the defunct League of Nations to forsake its human attributes and act contrary to its conscience. The West abandoned their smallest ally – Assyria, and left the Assyrian Nation to a miserable fate.
The problem with the Assyrian outstanding issue is that it lacks international support because players on the stage of politics come from the same old school. Assyria does not have an official line to acquaint the world with its current position. Assyria lacks legal statehood-status, absent of an official line as to its Assyrian racial identity like the Arab, Kurd and Turkuman. Officially, today in Iraq, the Assyrian name does not exist, not even on paper. They are identified as mere Iraqi citizens – Christians perhaps, but not as Assyrians. The Assyrians have since not been officially recognized as indigenous and native citizens of Mesopotamia. Since their dispersal, the Assyrians have been politically marginalized to deny them their traditional rights.
The Assyrians need the support of at least one member of the Security Council of the United Nations or a group of members of the General Assembly to resurrect the Assyrian case and bring it before the General Assembly for discussion.
Assyrians need a dedicated body, with the moral courage and the political will, to openly state the official line about the situation of the Assyrians on the ground. The Assyrians, as any other nation, need to declare their aspirations, invoking the Assyrian dossier sitting dormant at the UN archives. They need to demand their traditional rights of their homeland – Assyria. They strongly object to living under the Kurdish illegitimate name "Kurdistan". The direction for the resumption of talks is pointing at the UN. Assyrians need to focus on that direction, as did the Bosnians, the “Kosovars” and the native inhabitants of East Timor. The Assyrians must demand the attention of the international community to officially respond to the Assyrian line in order that the Assyrians and the rest of the world may know where they stand in regard to their official political status.
The Arabs, including the United Nations, would not tolerate the indecorous Kurdish behaviour of insurgency. Why should an Iraqi Kurd be considered higher in status than an Iraqi Assyrian? Religion aside, precedence should be given to the Assyrians. The Assyrians are the indigenous and original dwellers of Bet Nahrain, Modern Iraq. Creating a Kurdish state at the expense of the Assyrian Nation of Bet Nahrain in the north is a blatant violation of the international laws and a crime against the dispossessed Assyrian nation.
The Assyrian dossier, currently archived in the UN, needs to be resurrected. The Assyrian issue, not being legitimately resolved in Post WWI, was transferred from the defunct League of Nations to its successor, the United Nations. The West, in order not to be exposed of its ill treatment of the Assyrians and of mishandling their case, extricated itself by withdrawing from Iraq prematurely, in 1932. To salvage their reputation and save face, the parties implicated in the Assyrian case, decided to hurriedly close the Assyrian dossier and file it away.
The UN is knowingly keeping the Assyrian dossier under wraps. The Assyrian issue needs to be brought up and the relevant dossier re-activated. The issue has been kept dormant for nearly a century. It is high time that the Assyrians woke up to themselves and realised that they have legal rights on a par with any other dispossessed and aggrieved nation. The Assyrians have more rights than the Kurds to have their voice heard. The Assyrian case cries louder for justice than that of the pretentious Kurds.
The defiant stance of the Kurds, with open hostility and threat of insurgency, will most certainly implicate the neighbouring countries, and affect the overall make up of Iraq, if not the entire Middle Eastern region.
The borders of Iraq should be closed to non-Iraqi nomadic tribes. The archaic tribal laws of the right to herding goats and sheep to graze and pasture in the north should be restricted to genuine Iraqis. The country’s borders should be controlled and closely monitored to stem the flow of Kurdish insurgents and others drifting into Iraq illegally and under the pretext of pasturing rights. The peaceful Assyrians are steadily losing ground. They are unable to protect their farms and villages. They are being taken over by the Kurds.
During the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein, many Assyrian villages were evacuated. The villagers were stripped of all their possessions. They were moved to remote and isolated locations and resettled in inhospitable areas, absent of all amenities. All the villages in the region of Barwar, Mishna and Zibar were affected and so were numerous other villages such as Hariri, Batasi, Qaltsur, Hinar and Derbendoke. The Kurds take advantage of such upheavals. They obstruct the Assyrians and make it difficult for them to return to their villages. Yet, they allow the Kurdish people to occupy them with the excuse that Assyrians are reluctant to return to their villages. They add that the Assyrians have other plans, perhaps migrating to the West.
It is now up to the Assyrians – all the Syriac-speaking segments – to unite as one people, form a political coalition, and speak in one voice, demanding their traditional rights of returning to their ancestral land and be masters of their own destiny, independent and under their own sovereign rule.
True democracy is the weight that balances the scales of justice in granting equal rights to a forgotten and aggrieved nation that has partaken in building the cradle of civilization in Mesopotamia – now orphaned and neglected by humanity. The yardstick of democracy is the equal measure of rights to all - to each and every segment of the mosaic Iraq – not just Arabs and Kurds. How about the Assyrians, the indigenous people of Assyria, northern Iraq. Do the Assyrians have to remain subservient to the Arab desert Bedouin of the south and Kurd mountainous Bedouin of the north?
Copyright © Frederick P.
Isaac, 2004. All Rights Reserved.