human rights news & views

Who remembers the Assyrians?

Adolf Hitler is said to have assumed impunity for his Final Solution with a rhetorical, ‘Who remembers Armenians?’  His dismissive reference to the 1915-18 genocide of some 1.5 million Armenians under the Ottoman empire overlooks the genocide of 750,000 Assyrians by the same regime.

The Christian population of the Middle East — from the Copts in Egypt, to the Maronites, the Melkites in Lebanon, Orthodox and Chaldeans — is a fraction of what it was, and never more vulnerable than it is today, especially in Iraq.

a contemporary report of the 1914-18 genocide in The Washington PostAssyrian-American activist Rosie Malek-Yonan says Assyrians are indigenous to Mesopotamia, or modern-day Iraq. Pre-dating Christianity by thousands of years, Assyrians were among the first to adopt the new religion.

Malek-Yonan describes the heightened persecution of Assyrians since the war on Iraq began in 2003 as ‘ongoing genocide’.  Tens of thousands of refugees have fled to Syria and Jordan in response to ethnic cleansing.  The number of Christians in Iraq has halved.

Kurds, so foully treated by Saddam Hussein’s regime, are implicated in the current wave of persecution against Assyrians in Iraq, as they were back in the 1914-18 genocide, which occurred in what is now south-eastern Turkey and north-western Iran (Persia).  Kurds are persecuted in Turkey, Iran and Syria, but with US support, they now have the upper hand in northern Iraq.

Persecution is not confined to the north, however, with Assyrians under threat in Baghdad and Mosul as well.

Rosie Malek-Yonan has written an historical novel called The Crimson Field set during the 1914-18 genocide and last year she testified to a US Congressional Committee on the current plight of Assyrians in US-occupied Iraq.  (Her testimony was made into a documentary film called My Assyrian Nation on the Edge).

She calls on the UN and US to create a ‘safe zone’ within Iraq for Assyrians.  Others predict US withdrawal from Iraq would be disastrous for Assyrians.

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