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WikiLeaks: 2006-12-06: 06BAGHDAD4471: RRT Erbil - Assyrian Autonomy in Iraq - Another Slice of the Pie?

by WikiLeaks. 06BAGHDAD4471: December 06, 2006.

Posted: Thursday, October 04, 2012 at 07:09 PM UT


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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06BAGHDAD4471 2006-12-06 20:05 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
DE RUEHGB #4471/01 3402005
P 062005Z DEC 06
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 004471 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/05/2016 
1. (SBU) SUMMARY:  Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) 
Minister of Finance Sarkis Aghajan Mamando (Sarkis) told 
Erbil IPAO November 2, 2006 that he hoped the 'voice of the 
Assyrian nation' could reach the United States through this 
meeting.  Sarkis, an Assyrian (Iraqi Christian), said 
Assyrian displacement from central and southern Iraq is due 
to generalized violence but also serves his goal of an 
autonomous Assyrian homeland in north-eastern Ninewah 
province (the Biblical 'Plains of Nineveh').  He expressed 
concern over potential Turkish incursions against the PKK in 
areas of Assyrian concentration along the Turkish border with 
the KRG's northern province of Dohuk (KDP - Kurdish 
Democratic Party). END SUMMARY. 
Persecution and expulsion of Iraqi Christians 
2. (SBU) Sarkis Aghajan, KRG Minister of Finance and the only 
Christian in the KRG cabinet, told IPAO November 2 that Iraqi 
history was full of persecution against Assyrians.  He said 
that Kurdish and Arab attacks against Assyrians over the past 
century have repeatedly depopulated Christian villages, 
forcing many to flee the country. 
3. (SBU) Sarkis claimed that Assyrians wanted to return to 
Northern Iraq, many of whom had fled across the Syrian 
border.  He added that following the fall of Saddam, 
democracy provided breathing space for Assyrians in the 
north, while in central and southern Iraq their conditions 
worsened.  For example, since 2003, many Christians have been 
subject to harassment, persecution, killings, abduction for 
ransom, and cases of forced conversion, and have fled to 
Jordan and Syria in addition to northern Iraq. 
4. (C) Sarkis accused Kurds, especially those associated with 
the KDP which controls the Assyrian centers in Dohuk, of 
continuing to take over Assyrian land.  During the three 
years since 2003, he said, Assyrians are returning to their 
ancestral villages and want their village lands.  Sarkis said 
Kurds receive priority in law and challenges in court are not 
resolved in favor of non-Kurds.  Sarkis pointed out that in 
order to regain and retain Assyrian land, the village 
populations must be strong and stable. 
Assyrian rights in northern Iraq 
5. (C) Sarkis Aghajan spent 28 years as a leader among Kurds. 
 In those 28 years, he said he never backed down on the 
'sacred goals' of national Assyrian rights.  He accused Kurds 
of denying Assyrians rights on their own lands.  "The Kurds 
are not happy with my project, but I will stick to it.  Now 
that the dictator is gone, we have the right to demand our 
rights - liberation in Iraq was for all of the components of 
Iraq, including the Assyrians," Sarkis expounded.  He 
commented that Kurds, Sunni Arabs, and Shia Arabs have 
territorial rights and also support from outside Iraq.  He 
indicated that only the Assyrians have no support within Iraq 
or from neighboring countries, on either the basis of 
nationality or religion. 
6. (C) To end the exodus of Christians from Iraq, Sarkis 
emphasized, he had to take action; if it continued, 
Christianity would be extinguished in Iraq.  He described 
projects to increase village and town housing, support 
Assyrian education and community centers, and create a 
security net for vulnerable families as part of his program 
to encourage Assyrians to re-establish population centers in 
the Plains of Nineveh.  Sarkis said the increasing Assyrian 
movement to Iraq's north due to security concerns was 
enhanced as people heard about his assistance program. 
7. (C) Sarkis said he deliberately spreads the word of 
assistance to encourage more Assyrians to boost the Christian 
population in the focus areas.  Sarkis reported he is 
concentrating on the traditionally Assyrian areas of Ninewah 
province ("The Plains of Nineveh") and Dohuk.  He said he did 
not encourage displaced or returning Assyrians to go to Erbil 
because they need to create an Assyrian population 
concentration and density in Ninewah and Dohuk.  "Dohuk and 
the Plains of Nineveh are historically ours, and we are just 
returning to our own lands," Sarkis insisted. 
--------------------------------------------- - 
Autonomous Homeland in 'The Plains of Nineveh' 
--------------------------------------------- - 
BAGHDAD 00004471  002 OF 002 
8. (SBU) On September 29, 2006, Sarkis made a press statement 
calling for a national Assyrian homeland in the Plains of 
Nineveh.  He indicated to IPAO that this statement would 
encourage Assyrians to remain on their lands rather than 
leaving for Jordan or Syria.  He hoped that even Assyrians in 
the US, Europe, and Australia would find cause to return to 
an autonomous homeland in Iraq.  Following his announcement, 
he said, he received many offers of international support. 
9. (C) The districts in Ninewah province of Ain Sifni, 
Hamdaniya, Tilkef, and also Bashiqa in Mosul district will be 
the core of an Assyrian autonomous region, Sarkis said. 
Starting in Ninewah, he explained, they can establish 
strength and national identity.  Assyrian schools and all 
other 'national' functions should be based in the autonomous 
region, Sarkis said, to tie other Assyrian areas into a 
larger homeland.  This will enable them to demand "the rest 
of the Assyrian homeland," which he described as the 'top of 
the question mark' curving from Ain Kawa and along the 
northern border of Dohuk. 
Nation, rite, or party? 
10. (C) Sarkis said Assyrian political parties do not 
represent the people, claiming that in the last elections 
only 15 percent of Assyrians voted for Assyrian parties while 
the rest voted for either Arab or Kurdish parties.  He 
claimed that most nominally Assyrian political parties had 
been established by other groups.  The Syriac parties (Syrian 
Catholic and Syrian Orthodox), he said, had been supported by 
the PKK in the past.  Sarkis alleged that other so-called 
Christian parties were formed and influenced by the KDP, PUK 
or Iranians.  Sarkis said the ADM (Assyrian Democratic 
Movement), had occasionally helped Saddam, but this was no 
worse than others.  He reported that the ADM is now linked 
with the Shia parties.  He emphasized that "Those who say 
Chaldeans or Assyrians or Syriacs are 'separate' are either 
agents or are weak and trying to gain stature." 
Turkey and PKK in Assyrian areas 
11. (C) Sarkis noted that the PKK has camps in Assyrian 
mountain areas along the Turkish border with Dohuk.  He 
expressed great concern that a Turkish incursion against the 
PKK would result in significant damage to Assyrian 
populations and property.  Assyrians could suffer, he said, 
either as Turkish troops move through or because PKK 
militants might use the villages as shields.  He said many of 
the villages in this area are newly re-established and 
Family background 
12. (SBU) Sarkis was born in 1963 (although his ID says 1962, 
he says) in Diana in Soran district.  In 1975 his family 
moved to Iran where Sarkis finished Prep school (in Tabriz). 
He was the head of the youth union 1977 to 1979.  At that 
time, he was very religious and planned to be a priest.  An 
American priest Fr. Malloy (as heard) was influential in his 
life but left for Pakistan in 1979. 
13. (SBU) In his Tabriz high school, Sarkis established Hizb 
Democrati Atur (Assyrian Democratic Party, not to be confused 
with other grops with similar names).  He said was among the 
first to particpate in armed struggle against the regime in 
Iraq.  He was secretly leading this Christian party and 
working with Massoud Barzani.  He says he has a 'family 
relationship' with the Barzanis, as did his father and 
grandfather, so Massoud and Idris (Nechirvan Barzani's late 
father, d. 1987) insisted he join them.  Sarkis is unmarried 
and lives alone.  He has four sisters and two brothers, 
living in Japan, Austria, the Netherlands, Canada, and 
Germany.  His father died in 1992 in Iran and his mother 
lives in the Netherlands. 


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