Assyriac: Denied in Its Own Homeland But Accepted in England
The London Borough of Ealing is using Assyriac, as well as English and other languages, to make its official announcements regarding the upcoming parliament and local government elections for the year 2002. Last summer all British citizens, including Assyrians residing in Ealing, received this official message not only in English but also in our beloved national language.
Can any one imagine that such deep-rooted, noble language of an advanced and historic culture, which has spawned today's civilization could be denied in its homeland and recognized in foreign countries? Is it conceivable that an indigenous people in the Middle East could be deprived of its basic rights, be hounded by security police or even imprisoned because of claiming the right to use one’s own language, while at the same time a foreign country such as England provides that same people protection, work and study opportunities and the freedom to speak one’s mother tongue? Not only this, but this foreign country allows him to practice his culture and customs, to establish his organizations and political parties, as well as supporting him financially and legally.
I am sure that for most of us, as Assyrians, the answer will be YES. Such contradictions in our times are a reflection of the contrast between democratic countries and dictatorships. Facts, reality, truth, open-mindedness in understanding the differences and accepting others are the main principles of democracy, while falseness, betrayal and intolerance characterize oppressive regimes. Neither of them can rule without these principles and traits.
Assyrians living in democratic England display a diverse ethnicity, have their own language, culture and traditions. They represent fact, reality, an acceptable truth, and this sanctioned by the government, thus generating for Assyrians the rights of being different, of practicing their language and culture and of receiving the protection of the law. It matters not that there are no more than four thousand Assyrians living in Ealing as long as they represent truth and an acceptable reality to those who govern.
Consequently, their rights can not be reduced or denied since all British citizens, including the Assyrians of Ealing are treated equally under law. As a country of law and commitments, England subscribes to international laws and human rights treaties, and it will not deprive its Assyrian citizens of their ethnic rights. However, it should be kept in mind that no democratic country and human rights treaties will protect, defend or support Assyrians if they themselves remain silent and fail to claim their rights for themselves. We must thank those few Assyrians in Ealing who raised their voice to the local government and succeeded in having their language included in the official papers.
The number of Assyrians living in their homeland, i.e., Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries, is considerably greater than the four thousand who live in Ealing. They also have a different ethnicity and clearly form part of a nation with deep roots in history and civilization.
Nevertheless, for the dictatorial rulers these facts are false and unacceptable and, therefore must be rejected and resisted. The eyes of the tyrannical regimes can neither see nor understand such differences and consequently cannot coexist with them. Therefore, sooner or later Assyrians in their homeland will either submit to absorption into "Pan Arabism Pot" or they will resist and be deported. In April 1985 Amnesty International reported that “on 6 February 1985, three members of the Assyrians in Iraq were executed without trial. They were among a group of 153 Assyrians, members and supporters of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, have been arrested for demanding national and equal rights and for urging the government to cease its policy of wiping out the Assyrian community in Iraq”. To be an alien in a foreign country is normal; to be so in one's homeland is loathsome. These are the results of a tyrannical regime.
According to the ideology of the Iraqi Ba'ath party, concepts such “Assyrians” are purely products of imperialism and of local reactionism. For the ruling Iraqi regime, Assyrians do not exist as a different ethnicity. More so, the Assyriac or (Syriac) language is merely considered Arabic except with a different accent, and it is said to differ from real Arabic only in regard to religion. (For more details, see my book "Assyrians in Iraqi Contemporary Thought"). This is the fundamental principle of Ba'ath and of racialist Arabs in their false allegation that Assyrians are Christian Arabs. In order to conceal such unacceptable tyrannnical policies from human rights organizations and to improve its horrible record in human rights abuses, the Ba'ath ruling party has issued many resolutions with regard to Iraqi minorities rights which are no more than a piece of a paper, purely lip service and in no way genuine.
Moreover, the Ba'ath party has found a handful of Assyrians who are controlled by an inferiority complex and pant over the "generosity of the leader", particularly among clergymen who are no more than dwarfs and timeservers among our Great and Sacrificed Church. These opportunists provide a convenient spiritual cover in the legitimisation of a totalitarian policy of Assyrian Arabization. However, in order to formalize such a mania, the Iraqi government has issued a resolution giving the "right" to any Iraqi to change his identity (or ethnicity) to Arab nationality (ethnicity), in which it is very clear that small minorities, such as Assyrians, are the main target. We have previously congratulated the “Assyrian Arabists” for such a privilege and at the same time we have reminded them of the old Arab saying “Man Yankur Assluhu Fala Assel Lahu, Wa Man La Assel Lahu Fahuwa Naghal” which translates as follows: “He who denies his descent has no descent at all. Hence that person is a bastard”. But let us remember the honest and noble Arabs do not accept bastards among them.
One more recommendation to "Assyrian Arabists" "who have Arab blood flowing in their veins" is that if they have a chance and sufficient courage to read the book "Fe Sabeel Al Ba'ath" (For the sake of the Ba'ath policy) written by Michael Aflaq, the godfather of Ba'ath. Aflaq addressed the Christian Arabs in these terms "You can never be a worthy, faithful and loyal citizen of your country unless you understand and accept Islam as a spirit for you, because Arab is a body and Islam is its soul". Ironically, even for Mr. Aflaq, the misfortuned godfather, changed his religion from Christianity to Islam but was never a faithful and loyal citizen to his country, Syria. He died as a stateless person in Iraq. I am sure the same fate, if not worse, awaits the "Assyrian Arabists".
Finally, while talking about fundamental principles of a dictatorial regime, I would like to recall an old Arab allegory for our readers: There were two honey retailers in the same market. The first one was honorable and reliable in his trade, offering pure honey at a reasonable price but day by day his business declined until finally he went bankrupt. The second one was deceitful and untruthful, swindling his customers by selling adulterated honey and at a higher price than his colleague. His enterprise grew day by day until he monopolized the honey market. The first man made a demand appealing for justice. The astonished ruler asked him whether anything was wrong with his honey. The retailer replied, "Not at all, I used to offer pure honey in a highly esteemed way, while my competitor offered his adulterated honey in a dishonest and hypocritical manner". The ruler then shouted angrily at him: "Go and do the same".
The first time I heard this story was in the early 1970s from the renowned writer Shamasha Giwarkis De Asheta, who concluded that a despotic ruler cannot govern without falsifying facts, accepting imposture and legerdemain, deceiving people and forcing them into submission. Today the wisdom of the allegory helps us understand the policies of Arabization toward the small and peaceful Assyrian nation.