YES, THE ASSYRIANS DO EXIST
They’ve been getting a raw
deal for a very long time
By RALPH DOBRIN
A while ago I met a man from east Jerusalem who said his family hailed from Syria. Always keen to meet my adversaries and chat with them about our differences, I relished the opportunity to spar with a representative of one of the most hostile of Israel’s many implacable enemies. But when I referred to the conflict between Israel and Syria, the man reacted petulantly and blurted out: “My family might be from Syria, but we are not F***** Syrians. We are ASSYRIANS!” And then George (his name gives away his Christian affiliation) told me how his family had had to flee the massacres of the Assyrians during the First World War.
A few days ago, I found myself repeatedly sharing a thread on Facebook with a man called Chico Nooij – a very ardent supporter of Israel. He also posted a comment about the Assyrians. I am adding it at the end of this mail and I highly recommend you read it.
But first, I ask you to indulge me a few words about the Assyrians, which I have based on drastically condensed material from Wikipedia and from Ninevah On Line. (The name evokes a very ancient connection.)
The Assyrians (about four million) are the indigenous Aramaic-speaking descendants of the ancient Assyrian people, one of the earliest civilizations emerging in the Middle East, and have a history spanning over 6750 years. Assyrians are neither Arab or Kurdish, their religion is not Islam. The Assyrians are Christian, with their own unique language, culture and heritage. Although the Assyrian empire ended in 612 B.C., history is replete with recorded details of the continuous presence of the Assyrian people till the present time.
Assyria, situated in what was Northern Mesopotamia and the surrounding regions was partitioned after World War I by the victorious Allies, and is currently under occupation by Kurds, Turks, Arabs and Iranians.
Assyrians are a stateless nation and continue to be religiously and ethnically persecuted in the Middle East due to Islamic fundamentalism, Arabization and Kurdification policies, leading to land expropriations and forced emigration to the West.
So that’s a very brief background. Here is a section (slightly modified) of what Chico had posted on Facebook. As an ordinary human being and an Israeli, I was deeply moved by Chico’s words. This is what he wrote:
“Few people know that while the great, ancient Assyrian empire is gone, the nation is still alive. They have maintained themselves on the ruins of their ancient fatherland, and live in scattered communities throughout the northern part of the Middle East. But surviving wasn’t easy. And it’s becoming more and more difficult.
At the beginning of the 20th century, two-thirds of the Assyrian nation was massacred by the Ottoman Empire, but they recovered and rebuilt their nationhood. During the second half of last century, genocides and attempts at forced assimilation had forced about a million Assyrians to go into exile in North America and Europe. Here, Assyrians are slowly integrating and losing their own identity.
Those of their brethren that decided to remain in Assyria are losing their few remaining villages (due to Kurdish land appropriations) as well as their identity (as a result of Arabic forced assimilation). And many of them are being slaughtered by the rebel factions during the ongoing Syrian civil war.
The Assyrians need a homeland where they will be able to gain citizenship without any procedures, so that they can finally freely practice Christianity and speak their ancient tongue. Only an Assyrian state in northern Iraq can save Assyrian civilization from extinction. It must happen soon, though.
If we can strengthen the friendship between Jews and Assyrians, we can create a strong Assyrian lobby in Israel, so that Israel will support their restoration to the subcontinent. Similarly, a strong pro-Israel lobby would emerge in the Assyrian State. This would ensure a mutual commitment to each other’s national security.
Such an alliance would greatly weaken the Arab world’s fighting capability. The Sunni bloc would be forced to fight a two front war if it wishes to invade either of the two states. And Iran will have yet another powerful opponent to its west.
Assyria will be hated by the whole Muslim world. They will have to stand by the one country that faces the same problems. For the first time in its history, Israel would have a true partner. And so nearby, too!”
In this post Chico is calling Israel and the Jews of the world to support Assyrian independence. I don’t think matters whether people are Jewish or not, there should be universal support in order to fix a wrong wrought by self-serving colonial power struggles after the First World War. There are other nations yearning for independence such as the Kurds, constantly contending with vicious Turkish, Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian actions and the world ignores their plight as well, while the Arabs of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, in the midst of generations of trying to weaken and snuff out Israel’s existence, continue to gain massive world support. Things should be seen in perspective. Chico is trying to get the world to focus on his nation’s long-lasting predicament and the horrible injustices inflicted against it. There are a lot of websites on the subject. For starters you can click on Assyria-Israel Alliance in Facebook.