The Assyrians and the Permanent Iraqi Constitution

7/1/2005 7:38:03 AM
Assyrian National Assembly

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Ashur (Assyria) the motherland extends from the Tigris to the Khaboor Rivers till it reaches the Euphrates. It has been inhabited since ages unknown, estimated by archaeologists to be over a million years ago. There have been discoveries of many agricultural villages in this area such as Shamshara near Rania, the village of Garmo east of Kirkuk, Tel Hassouna near Hamam al-Aleel, Tel Debaghiya west of al Hadar and Arbija in the Nineveh region. The village of Namreeki west of Dohuk (Nohadra), there are also many of these villages in the Turkish and Syrian lands, but the most important is the village of Tel Halaf at the sources of al Khaboor river which was named Gozana in Assyrian because walnut trees were plenty in it, where the Assyrians had settled some of the exiled from the Jewish kingdom of Israel [1], when Shalmaneser V (726-722 B.C.) headed to Samaria and drove away Israel because Samaria had stopped paying tribute to the Assyrians and had contacted Egypt’s pharaoh. The Assyrian King’s aim was to prevent the Egyptians from reaching the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea because that would have hindered the Assyrian trade with the western world.

Prior to this date the king of Judah in Jerusalem had pleaded with the Assyrian King Tiglath Pileser to save him from the king of Israel “so Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath Pileser King of Assyria, saying, I am thy servant and thy son: come up, and save me out of the hand of the king of Syria, and out of the hand of the king of Israel, which rise up against me”.[2] Tiglath Pileser III rushed to his aid destroying in the process Damascus and Samaria.

Most of the archaeological and historical sources assert the fact of the migration of some Assyrians from the area of Tel Sinjar towards central Iraq seeking fertile agricultural lands where they had settled south of Baghdad and established the first Semitic State-Empire in Akkad, thus they were named Akkadians as per the city of Akkad which has yet to be excavated.

In their motherland Nineveh and Ashur, two of their five capitals (Arbil, Nineveh, Kalakh, Dur Sharukeen) were inhabited since the stone-metal ages. In addition to the sacred Assyrian capital Arbilla (Arbil) which hasn’t been scientifically excavated nor it has been revealed to the world till now, this city was also inhabited since the stone age as per most of the Iraqi and western archaeologists.

The Assyrian Kings list mentions 30 names of kings who lived in the B.C. era (before writing appeared). The first quarter of the second millennium B.C. the famous great Assyrian King Shamshi Adad I (1814-1783) appeared, who after expanding the area of the motherland Ashur, he proceeded west of the Euphrates “ for the first time in the history of Mesopotamia’s Kings and reached Lebanon’s tree covered mountains and that sea which represented then the end of the world”.[3]

Shamshi Adad I wasn’t only a great, courageous warrior king but he was a skillful administrator, a wise politician and a just ruler that’s why he paid attention to the judiciary system and laws whereby a set of Assyrian laws were found and named the Shamshi Adad I laws, thus these laws as well as those of Ashnuna were the main sources for Hammurabi’s code of law.

Five centuries after the passing of Shamshi Adad I, the Assyrian King Tukulti-Ninurta I(1244-1208) dashed through the walls of Dur-Karikalzo(Aqer-qof) liberating the land of Babylon from the Kishian occupation, hence for the first time Babylon had entered under the direct Assyrian rule… “In the midst of that battle I captured the Kashian king Kashtliash, stepped on his royal seat and neck then brought him chained and naked before the god Ashur. I subdued under my power the lands of Sumer and Akkad to their furthest limits extending the borders of my land to the lower sea with the bright sun.”[4]

During the Sargonid Empire, with Sargon II (721-705 B.C.) the son of Shalmaneser V, Ashur was expanded and became a great power not only in the region but in the whole ancient world at the time. Its needs for trade routes increased hence guaranteeing the control over the economy throughout the eastern coast of the Mediterranean became one of the priorities for the Assyrian foreign policy. In order to do that it was decided in Nineveh that enemies should be struck in their own lands, thus huge military campaigns started towards Egypt through Sinai during the days of Sennacherib (Sargon’s son), Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal where the Assyrian army used to pass back and forth through the outskirts of Jerusalem receiving logistic support from the Jews there, until all of Egypt and Upper Egypt were subdued.

Between (612-606 B.C.) the Assyrian State’s capital Nineveh fell followed by the last capital Haran on the Baleekh River in today’s Syria leaving behind capitals, cities, palaces, temples, libraries, great irrigation projects and enchanting sculptures as well as an intellect, educated, successful people fond of culture and arts in an un equaled manner in the East at the time.

Here we mention the murals which the archaeological missions had excavated from Sargon II palace in Dur Sharukeen and which were relief style murals on Iraqi marble, they had found enough of them to cover a distance of a mile and a half when lined side by side.

The Assyrian State left behind a name list of 117 Assyrian Kings who ruled continuously “such a continuity becomes more obvious when compared with 11 Kings of Akkad, 5 Kings of the 3rd dynasty of Ur, and 11 Kings from the 1st Babylon dynasty (Hammurabi’s Babylon)” [5] Thus, because of this we can say that even though Nineveh had fallen, but “the shadow of the Assyrian Kingdom loomed over the North of Iraq …, for it doesn’t seem that the Medes had the greed to acquire the Kingdom which they had contributed to its fall that’s why they retreated behind the Zagros mountains satisfied with their share of loots … While the Babylonians remained in control over the whole Assyrian realm but they never occupied it” [6]

The Assyrian motherland remained without an occupying power all through the Chaldee period in Babylon which lasted for 73 years only making it easier for the Assyrian people to heal their wounds, recover and return to their original cities in order to re-build them as well as the temples of their famous national gods such as Ashur, Enlil and Ishtar …

This is exactly what happened during the Parthian occupation of Iraq(126 B.C.-227A.D.) whereby we see the rise of independent Assyrian kingdoms subject to the Parthian authority such as Osroena (Osroene) in Urhai – the ancient Assyrian Haran. The name Osroene is a lesser name of Ashur in both the Assyrian and Armenian languages (meaning little Assyria) which was indeed smaller in comparison with the Sargonid Assyria! In addition to Osroene there was the Kingdom of Hadyab (Adiabene) with Arbil as its capital (Arbil being an ancient Assyrian capital). Then there was the Ashur Kingdom with its Assyrian capital Nimrod during the Persian-Sassanid era … “During this period the ancient Assyrian cities rose once more, such as Nozi and Kikzo … Ashur was also rebuilt into a large city as it was when the Assyrian Empire was at its zenith”[7]

Later, the two Assyrian Kingdoms Hadyab (Adiabene) and Ashur had sent their princes to Jerusalem to present gifts and pay homage for the infant Christ in Beth Lehem, in realization of Issiah’s prophecy: “In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria” [8] meaning that the Assyrian people were the first to believe in Christ’s message after the Egyptians and Jews. The Assyrians had arrived to Jerusalem as a delegation of magi princes who were Assyrians by race and homeland, but they were called as such because they had arrived from a land which followed Magianism at the time but they believed in Christ and bowed before Him in Beth Lehem.

The Assyrian teacher Mar Narsai who was born in the village of Ain Dolbi (near Dohuk [Nohadra] inhabited by Kurds at present) in the last year of the 04th century A.D. wrote about those Assyrian princes in a dialogue poem between St. Mary and the visiting princes bearing gifts and respect: “The great Assyria (Ashur) took notice and the magi were called and told, carry gifts, go the great king who is born in Judah and pay Him respect”. In another poem he said: “When Herodus felt that the Assyrians had humiliated him, he poured his wrath on the children without any mercy” [9]

In the distinctive book of Mar Addai’s (Thaddaeus) teachings, the Doctrine of Addai who presided over The Church of The East (33-45A.D.) we read the following:” Those who entered into priesthood at the hands of Addai, were preaching to their people in their Assyrian homeland”. [10]

One of the famous contemporary historians Harry Saks said about the Assyrian presence following the Fall of Nineveh:”… The destruction of the Assyrian Empire didn’t obliterate its people, for many were peasants and the land of Ashur always had the best agricultural lands, its descendants would build new villages on top of the old ones whenever opportunity was present and would continue their agricultural activities commemorating the old traditions. Seven or eight centuries later those inhabitants embraced Christianity and Christians along with the Jewish groups who lived amongst them didn’t only preserve their Assyrian ancestors traditions but they integrated them into the traditions taken from the Holy Book”. [11]

Many are the sources, proves and citations which assert the presence of the Assyrians in their indigenous Assyrian homeland even after the fall of their State, during Christian times till present, and we’re not going to go into details which will already prove what’s been established and obvious to all those who believe in the academic and scientific logic, in addition we have irrefutable linguistic proves which would take a complete volume to write about. Then there are the Assyrian customs, traditions, folklore, the Churches architecture and their building styles which are similar to ancient Assyrian temples. There are also the similarities between the ancient Assyrian religious hymns and those which are practiced today in the different Churches of the Assyrian people, thus Professor Simo Parpola says:” Converting to Christianity wasn’t difficult for the Assyrians because many of the earlier Church teachings coincided with the original Assyrian beliefs”[12] Then we have the names of today’s Assyrian cities, villages, and regions where most of them go back to the times of the Empire in every sense.

One of the most important features is the personal feeling when today’s Assyrians feel and are convinced that they are the descendants of ancient Assyrians, that they are Iraqis and patriots who tenaciously hold on to their homeland and they sacrifice for it just like the rest of society’s factions if not more.

In addition to all other resources we see two more which assert the Assyrian presence in the mountains and Plains of Ashur. Cardinal Amolis(1562A.D.) in one of his reports wrote:” The most honorable Abd Icho the Assyrians Patriarch who has been elected by the clergy and in agreement with their people”[13]

The Assyrians are also mentioned many times in Kurdish resources after the Kurds had entered the land and came in contact with Assyrians, however, we mention here what was said by Sharaf Khan al-Badlisi in his valuable book which was written in Persian in 1596, when he mentioned the impressive presence of the Assyrians in the Ashur (Hakkari) mountains “ in 1470 the Christians of the Dez district who are known with the name Assuri(Assyrians) were able to return Emir Asad al-Din Zarin Jank the Kurd to his inherited vilayet in Julamirk (the Hakkari Emirate)”[14]

THE ASSYRIANS BETWEEN THE DENOMINATIONAL AND THE UNIFIED NATIONAL FEELING

As it was mentioned, the Assyrians embraced Christianity in its early beginnings, hence we see the Diocese of the Assyrian Arbil which was founded in the last quarter of the first century A.D. with a continuous existence until 1310A.D. when for the first time since the second millennium B.C. Arbil lost its Assyrian identity when its citadel was invaded by the Mongols supported by some derwish mercenaries who came to Iraq from far away mountains. As for the Church of Kukhi in al-Mada’en (Saliq-Tisphon) or Cetisphon where the Patriarchate of The Assyrian Church of the East was founded in 97 A.D., that’s another irrefutable proof on the Assyrian existence.

It seems as if the mass conversion to Christianity came as a reaction and a desire to be distinguished from the Magi Persian society so that they wouldn’t integrate with them, but rather to create an Assyrian social, cultural, spiritual leadership which made the Assyrians rally enthusiastically around it to preserve the unity of the Assyrian national, intellectual and cultural structures for generations to come. The Assyrians didn’t have their own State during the Parthian and Sassanian eras but they had some kingdoms which were enclaves within the occupiers’ territory as mentioned before. However, the Assyrians worked, lived, and developed an intellectual institution and a belief system which was close to being a State within a State, that is, The Assyrian Church of the East which was called for a time “Nestorian” to distinguish it from other denominations which appeared amongst the Assyrians beginning in the 05th century A.D. and so on.

Then there was Shapur II persecution which he had mounted against the Church of the East for over 40 years, where tens of thousands of Christian Assyrians fell victims for their belief in God, being Assyrian and in their homeland, amongst them were three Patriarchs, tens of archbishops, many priests and monks… This was another proof on the strength of the Assyrian existence even under occupation and the fear of the Shahs who resorted to using the sword in order to preserve their rule in Iraq.

The organized Assyrian existence under the guidance of the Eastern Patriarchs in Saliq (al-Mada’en = Cetisphon) was felt by the Muslim Arabs when they entered Iraq in the first quarter of the 07th century A.D., and saw how the land was prosperous through the efforts of millions of Assyrian Christian peasants stretching from Basra to the Ashur mountains in the Upper Tigris and Euphrates Rivers [15]

In addition to all that preceded, the Assyrian Church’s stand vis a vis the Islamic Arab armies is well known when these armies first entered Heera, Koufa and Basra. This administrative, civilized and spiritual situation is what made some orientalists speak of the Assyrian Church in Iraq as if it was a true State! Thus, one of the well known French researchers in matters of faith, Father Jean Maurice Fiey compiled his famous book The Christian Ashur [16] as if he was comparing the Assyrian Church A.D. with the Assyrian Empire B.C.! … And why not! Didn’t the Assyrians have their schools and universities all through their homeland such as the school of Urhai (Edessa or Urfa), Nisibis (Nisibin) university, school of Ras-el-Ain (Resh Aina), school of the Upper Monastery in Mosul, the school of Beth A’abi west of Aqra, and the famous Jundi Shapur university where the Abbasid caliphs as they were establishing their rule used to send for its doctors, scientists and translators to Baghdad as it was the case of Gibrail Bar Bakht’Icho, his sons and many of his assistants who were asked by the Caliph Abu- Ja’afar al-Mansour to go to Baghdad. Hence, over time hundreds of Assyrian Christians (different denominations) amongst them doctors, authors, ministers and translators came to live in Baghdad, Mosul, Basra and Damascus… The Assyrians excelled in medicine to such a status that some Arab historians used the term (Nestorian medicine and doctors) during the Abbasid era and beyond, also the stature, position and importance of the Assyrian translators in the House of Wisdom of Caliph al-Ma’amoun was known to all.

Then we see the German theologian and sponsor of the 02nd Vatican theological assembly Karl Reiner doubt in the ability of those researching theology to complete their mission because as he puts it:” The reason isn’t in our human abilities, but rather because theology is a demanding field, because it involves talking about God who is above all speech”[17] Indeed, speaking about God in heavenly religions has the grace of entering into heavenly knowledge but it also takes us into a maze as a result of the human inability to talk about God’s specifications. Four centuries of Christianity in the East had passed before the clash of civilizations and cultures were brought to the Church by the different Christian peoples, which ignited disputes and struggles over the difference in opinions and interpretations… This malice brought its calamities to the Assyrian nation through the oldest Eastern Christian Church [The Assyrian Iraqi Church], when the above mentioned disputes were used politically by the two great kingdoms the Roman and Persian who interfered in the Church’s affairs in order to obtain gains on the ground.

When one of the Roman emperors sent a letter to the Persian king claiming that he had the right to oversee the Christian Assyrians’ affairs within the Persian State which was at the time in control of Iraq [18] wars and massacres were waged against the Christians when the Persians doubted the Assyrian loyalty because they shared the same religion with the Romans, and as time passed the feelings of dissension and differences reflected on the Assyrians’ feelings as well, when one Assyrian stood against his brother who belonged to another denomination, Church or religion…, drawing in the process denominational, Church and regional lines in people’s souls because of some within the Assyrian society itself and outsiders who were the rivals of the Assyrians and controlling their land.

If it wasn’t for this improper advantage taking of Assyrian sectarianism and the hidden intentions behind it, then naturally the subject would have been settled to the advantage of Assyrianism as is asserted by the opinions of a large number of researchers and historians, an example would be what the historian Abdul Massih Saadi mentions:” Just like the majority of other peoples, the Assyrians have different belief traditions for there are the Assyrians who belong to the Eastern Church (Orthodox or Nestorian) then the Catholics (Chaldeans) and the Protestants. In the same manner the Assyrians of the Western Syrian (Syriac) Church belong to different denominations, Orthodox (Jacobite), Catholics and Melkites (Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholics), Maronites and Protestants. At the end of the 19th century and in order to keep pace with nationalism, most of the aforementioned Church members preferred the Assyrian national name instead of the religious and denominational ones. Generally, the Assyrians of the Eastern Church were spread over the Eastern parts of Northern Beth Nahrain while the Assyrians of the Western Syrian (Syriac) Churches lived in the west and centre of Northern Beth Nahrain (Mesopotamia)” [19]

Thus for the Assyrians having a balance between the sectarian religious and national patriotic belonging depended on external factors built upon the extent of financial, political and safety support which would be extended to those who would overlook their national identity and cling excessively to their sectarianism. Hence, we see that the position of the Assyrian Chaldeans i.e. the Assyrian Catholics during the two centuries has always been with the powerful, for they would hold on to their sect and denomination denying their Assyrian national identity as long as that denial provided them with security and financial support. Buying the conscience of others and threats were openly practiced during past periods against those who held to their identity against sectarianism, examples on that were many but here we will mention one, that of the English man G.F. Coakley :” Mar Emmanuel, the Chaldean Patriarch had paid large sums of money illegally, and he had admitted to giving gifts continuously to Haj Rachid Beg the Emir of Barwar, in return the Emir used to protect the Dominican mission in Ashitha against the fury of the followers of the Assyrian Church of the East. [20]

The cases of murder, intimidation, forced migration, imprisonment, and burning libraries were many also there are many sources to corroborate those actions. All these had a great role in dispersing the nation. However, fair researchers and historians continuously indicate to the fact that all the different sects are Assyrians by identity and Iraqi patriots as an example we mention what the Russian Manshashveli said:” The Assyrian Christians are represented almost within all the Christian Churches, such as Nestorians, Orthodox, Jacobites, and Protestants”… Then he says:” Here and later on the Assyrian “Nestorians” are mentioned only”. This researcher continuously asserts that the Chaldeans are Assyrians:” Along side the Assyrian “Nestorians” there lived in Mosul close to 40.000 Assyrian Chaldeans and this was a name given to the Assyrians who recognized the leadership of the Catholic Church of Rome”. Then he says:” The proceedings of the religious order were complicated… and the Assyrian Chaldeans used to render services to the Kurdish leaders or Aghas during troubled times so as to be protected by them… Thus because the Assyrians weren’t religious fanatics it wasn’t difficult for them to turn to Protestantism, Catholicism, or the Orthodox beliefs, on the contrary changing beliefs became to them one of the methods for self preservation and survival” [21]

Lastly before turning to another section of this research we have to mention what the famous author Yousif Samaan el-Samaany said about the Chaldeans and others of different sects being Assyrians:” The Chaldean Assyrians are absolutely those who were called Easterners and Nestorians” [22]

THE ROLE OF OTTOMAN THOUGHT AGAINST ASSYRIAN NATIONALISM

The Ottoman State which ruled the Assyrian lands was an Islamic State in the political sense, hence it treated the Christians including the Assyrians differently than their Muslim neighbors (Arabs, Kurds,…) when it organized the Christian affairs according to the “mellet” system distinguishing them greatly from Islam, the Ottoman was also a religious State and it used that “weapon” in its struggle against the Shiite Persian State.

The compelling Assyrian coalition with the English against the Ottoman State in WWI was a call for spite and hatred amongst the Iraqi Muslims considering the Assyrians as “traitors” because they went into war against the Ottoman Islamic State.

As there were officers and leaders in the Ottoman army, some of them held positions in ministries or the army when the Iraqi State was established therefore they dealt with the Assyrian Cause in the same Ottoman spirit as previously mentioned. So when the Assyrians asked for some political rights in the new Iraq, they were subjected to a great persecution denying them their rights, citizenship and considering them merely as a foreign “Nestorian” sect. Soon after, these acts turned into organized military action which culminated with the hideous Simel (Simeleh) massacre, while the Kurdish movements against the English and the royal regime were considered as patriotic liberation movements, and the same case was that of Shareef Hussein in 1916 during the great Arab revolution against the Ottoman State with a full support from the English, even though Hussein’s son Prince Faisal (king of Iraq) was a member in the Ottoman delegates council but none of the Iraqi intellectuals thought of the Arabs or Kurds as traitors or collaborators with foreigners.

That was the Assyrians’ biggest calamity in their homeland Iraq when most of the politicians in the beginning of the establishment of the State’s political and intellectual thought were saturated with religious, political and military ideas towards the Assyrians. Since these men were mostly of Turkish, Turkomen and Kurdish roots…as they were the graduates of the Ottoman military schools and being the first pioneers of the new Iraqi intellect whose influence continued through later periods, their inherited position became a heavy burden in dealing with the Assyrians, their political, patriotic, national and even personal rights.

In order for the Iraqi rulers and politicians to remain in power and to realize the opportunist behavior which was precipitated in the minds of those during and following the founding period of contemporary Iraq, hence they wanted to find a political victim amongst those whom they ruled especially when they differed in their ethnicity and religion, the Assyrians became the perfect material for those rulers to realize their oppressive and tyrannical projects by pretending to be struggling against colonialism and its collaborators.

It’s evidence enough that we report one such a case of this shameful stand of the Iraqi rulers as was told by the Assyrian intellect Aprim Shapira quoting the Iraqi historian Abdul Majeed Haseeb al Quaisi author of “The Assyrian Cause in Iraq”, when he says:” Haji Ramadan was the head of the company which had arranged the Simel (Simeleh) massacre of the Assyrians, this Ramadan had killed an unarmed innocent Assyrian peasant with his pistol and when he was asked why he killed the poor man, his answer was “he’s an English spy”!!! at the very same moment Haji Ramadan was standing next to two English advisors of the Iraqi government [23]

This intellectual and political Ottoman background with the Iraqi rulers which was further established in the mentality of many influential and decision making Iraqis till today was exactly the same ones which agitated the hatred feelings against the Assyrians “causing a rise in oppressive campaigns against them culminating in the Simel (Simeleh) 1933 massacre, and the destructive results which followed and influenced their patriotic rights in Iraq” [24] The massacre was lead by the “hero” Bakir Sidqui a former Ottoman army officer who took advantage of the violence against the Assyrians appointing himself as a patriotic “hero” in preparation to leap to power three years later when he arranged a military coup d’etat, the first of many in the Arab world.

THE UNITY OF ASSYRIAN NATIONALISM AND THE CONTEMPORARY IRAQI THOUGHT

The Assyrian Christian Iraqi people with all its denominational and regional compositions possess all the characteristics which are recognized by specialists – as per the Ottoman administrative divisions and the states which appeared in the area following the fall of the Ottomans – The matter of Assyrian national unity is clear to all those concerned or those who would like to make certain of it. We have given some of this unity’s features in the previous pages.

We can also say that it’s normal for the Assyrian nation which has no power, embracing Christianity since 2000 years and being under the rule of other people who differ in religion, language as well as patriotic culture to have these denominational and sectarian names. Hence, a group of Assyrians were named “Nestorians for following the teachings and theology of Nestorius”

Another group was called Syrians (Syriac) for following a Church which was established in Syrian Antioch.

The other group was called Syrian (Syriac) Catholics for following the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, while others were called Chaldeans because Pope Eugene IV named them as such in 1445 [25] to distinguish them from their fellow Assyrian “Nestorians”.

The Kurds and Turks called them (fala), in Mosul (falihi) because they were the land owners and diligent peasants. Others called them (kawar) meaning infidels during the times of religious and derwish fanaticism, while some others called them (prangayeh) and (protayeh) for following the sects of the French and Protestant missionaries, in addition to being called Syriac speaking and most recently (Assyrian-Syrians(Syriacs)… Plus other designations and foreign names added to regional as well as tribal ones… However, all this doesn’t mount to denying the unity of the Assyrian nation and consequently annulling its existence in its homeland except for those who want to do so!

Those who deny the Assyrian identity, its existence and rights cling to all that may aid them in their aim: “Thus according to Iraqi thought… we have to first change the (sh) with the (th) sound, because in Iraq the Assyrians are known as Athuriyeen” [26] where some say that an Assyrian doesn’t equal an Athuri forgetting the status of the letters (sheen/SH) and (simkat/S) in the Assyrian language since it was written five thousand years ago till now. Although assyriologists know very well about how the (sheen/SH) changes to (tha/TH), (taw/T) and (simkat/S) therefore, saying Ashuraya, Athuraya, Atouraya, Assuraya and Suraya all mean Assyrian and nothing else… “When the word was translated to Arabic centuries earlier it became Ashuri, Athuri, Assuri”… [27]

Despite all the confusion and distortion intentionally or because issues aren’t dealt with seriously or scientifically, the Assyrians also played a role despite them in this distortion , for if some one has no will or decision then that person doesn’t have any other means but to be patient and submissive. However, the Assyrian national identity and its Cause remained present in the League of Nations, the United Nations and in many of the international assemblies concerned with human rights following WWI, through the Mosul crisis and beyond, as they were present in academic and eastern religions studies… Even in Iraqi as well as Middle Eastern politics, the Assyrian identity and people were always present in the plans of plotters and those who implemented them. As an example when Iraq signed its declaration of independence as it joined the League of Nations in May 1932 “Iraq was charged with a number of obligations and assurances towards the ethnic minorities with the Kurds and Assyrians coming at the first level”…[28]

In the summer of 1960 an Israeli delegation which was working in the North of Iraq stated” We have finally seen the Assyrians, and they are the descendants of that ancient, historical people who was mentioned in the Torah”[29]

An experienced American journalist who had traveled in the area of Ashur for over 40 years had said:”… The roots of Kurdish culture don’t go back to ancient texts, as is the case with the rest of the peoples and ethnicities in the area such as the Jews and the Old Testament, The Christian Assyrians and the New Testament or the Armenians with their Church possessing valuable manuscripts or the Arabs and the Koran”…

Hence clearly mentioning the Assyrian nationality in some decrees of the former regime or by Michel Afleck himself are the proof on the presence of the Assyrian Cause even with the attempts of obliteration and distortion. The latter in his book [For the Baath] wrote: “That’s why there was a religious and sectarian reaction against the fanatic ethnicities of the Kurds, Assyrians and Armenians”… On May 01st 1970 an Iraqi presidential decree was issued appointing the late Patriarch Mar Ishai Shimun as the head of the Assyrian ethnicity in Iraq. Then on December 25th 1972 a pardon decree was issued for the Assyrians who were involved in the 1933 incidents and their citizenship status was reinstated. As a result of the latter decision Malik Yakou returned to Iraq in 1973 and his citizenship was reinstated then another decree appointed him as the “head of the Assyrian ethnicity”.

The Assyrian national unity was hurt because the Iraqi mentality in the contemporary Iraqi thought didn’t desire or was incapable to differentiate between considering the Assyrians as a deeply rooted Iraqi nationality with different denominations and religions, and between their different sectarian names. Then the Assyrians and their history were treated on the basis of Christian denominations or unrelated Church sects to inventing compound names joining between a denomination, a sect and a dialect in addition to other definitions whose only aim was to deceive the Assyrians and the world by diminishing the Assyrian identity, its existence, rights as well as its cultural and civilized role in this land (Iraq) into nothing other than Churches and sects.

These chauvinistic positions vis a vis the Assyrian nation’s reality and history actively contributed to creating a hostile political and intellectual position amongst the Iraqi majority thus the accusations which were spread against the Assyrians and their patriotic movement since the Ottoman era were turned into an existing fact, hence the Assyrians were accused of being traitors and foreign collaborators while lately some began to call them Crusaders forgetting that many of the Assyrian tribal men in the North of the homeland were soldiers in Saladin’s (Salah al-Din) army fighting the western invasion to these lands.

At the Assyrian national level such destructive thought had such an impact and negative results especially amongst the Catholic (Chaldean) and Syrian (Syriac) denominations through the agitation of the tribal and denominational contradictions within the entire Assyrian society, this caused several denominations to distance themselves or relinquish their true national identity so that they wouldn’t have to face the tragedies and calamities which came upon their brethren who held to their Assyrian identity.

CONCLUSION

We do apologize in this rapidity for not serving the academic truth and depriving the reader of valuable information on an important subject that is the Assyrian Cause which has a relation to the glorious past of the homeland, the stumbling present and the promising future for all the inhabitants of Iraq and the region.

The Assyrians as we have seen are the oldest nationality, amongst the other different ethnicities and factions, which has left its impression on shaping today’s Iraq.

Due to their long history over different periods of time and civilizations it became normal to see the Assyrians having more than one sect, denomination, religion, language and social traditions.

The distinctive and necessary elements which form a living national existence are still present amongst the Assyrian people even with all the diverse intellectual and sectarian aspects that they possess.

The number of Assyrian Iraqis isn’t disappointing because they represent the third nationality without a rival if the millions of Assyrians who were forced to migrate, those who immigrated and those who were expelled would be considered as Iraqis with the right to return to their homeland and have the benefit of the Iraqi citizenship, because the small numbers of Assyrians who are today in Iraq are the result of the oppression and dispersion acts, so we can’t consider that to be the only reality otherwise we would be accomplices in the crime of persecuting and banishing this ancient civilized people away from its homeland.

The Assyrians don’t have any sensibility against the other Iraqi factions whether ethnic, racial or sectarian. On the contrary they are a peaceful, forgiving people and they love their homeland, work and culture. Therefore, having five or six Iraqi nationalities doesn’t hurt on the condition that such a thing wouldn’t affect the Assyrians’ rights on their ancestral homeland or their privileges as Iraqis without any racial, religious or cultural discrimination.

The Chaldean name was given to the Catholic Assyrians by the Roman Catholic Church in 1445 A.D. The Ottomans recognized them as a “mellet” of the Ottoman State’s mellets in 1845 A.D. as a result of French consulates pressure and in the midst of the Bader Khan Beg massacres against the “Nestorian” Assyrians in Hakkari.

As for the names such as Syrians, Syriac, Syriac language, Sureth, Suraya, Suryayeh, Syria, and the Syrian coast etc… We say even if these were linguistic derivatives of the name Ashur and Assyria, but all should be rejected for two important reasons:

  1. We are Iraqis and we have our national Assyrian name and a written, spoken living Assyrian language thus there’s no need for any other names which would further distance us from our genuine inheritance.
  2. There’s today a sovereign State with the name the Arab Republic of Syria and all the names which were mentioned before are bound to be connected to Syria, but as it’s known today a Syrian citizen isn’t an Assyrian or an Iraqi so why there are those who want to deprive the oldest civilized nation that is the nation of Ashur of its Assyrian identity, its Iraqi belonging and its heritage which amazes those near and far.

Our hopes from the democratically elected honorable Iraqi National Assembly in regards to the Assyrian daughters and sons of Iraq who are still struggling patiently are:

  1. Recognizing the Assyrian national name, language, culture and civilization as being a pure Iraqi heritage and as such preserving and preventing their distortion is an Iraqi matter even before it’s an Assyrian one. As such the Assyrian national name must be recognized in the constitution because whenever Iraq is mentioned the great power Ashur is mentioned, this great power which moved the human civilization for over 3000 years and till today despite all the suffering.
  2. Resorting to inventing new compound, sectarian, or denominational names under the pretence of agreement and understanding will only add more to the past’s negatives and precipitations as previously mentioned. The Assyrians don’t accept a replacement for their proud, true Assyrian identity and a people who have endured all these centuries refusing compromises and half solutions even with all the temptations, such a people is capable of enduring for centuries more in the face of tribulations in order to preserve its existence.
  3. As for the Assyrians who aren’t recognizing their true identity and who would approach this legitimate legislative Iraqi assembly and present other formulae, solutions, or suggestions trying to agitate the Assyrian endurance, to those and through your assembly we say: The Assyrians have nothing to do with those who deny themselves and their nationality. They are free to choose whatever titles they want but they aren’t authorized to decide a nation’s fate and future when they are refusing to be an active part of it.
  4. To those who are trying to prevent the constitutional recognition of the Assyrian nation, language and culture under the pretence that such a thing would divide the Assyrians, or by creating a new nationality, to those we say: The Assyrians have been divided since many decades now and the appearance of a new national identity or not is a subject that the Assyrians aren’t capable of dealing with at present. We want our Assyrian identity and we leave the right for others to endeavor for what they want.
  5. In regards to the previous point (the probability of creating a new nationality) we see that the different academic and scientific assemblies in the area should be consulted such as the ones in Iraq, Damascus, Cairo, Teheran, Turkey, and Georgia … If those would confirm or discard the existence of a Syriac, Chaldean or other nationalities and whether those had the same history and past in the building of the civilized Iraq then the decision would be for the Iraqi National Assembly.
  6. The Assyrians are demanding that a governorate should be established for them on their land Ashur, it would be connected to the central government with serious and honest endeavors to re-settle those who were forced to migrate and return them to this governorate so that they can preserve their cultural, linguistic and civilized heritage within the administration of this governorate and that shall serve Iraq as a whole.

Excuse us and thank you.

Information Bureau
Assyrian National Assembly
Baghdad 20/05/2005

REFERENCES

  1. II Kings. Chapter 17:5-6
  2. II Kings. Chapter 16:7.
  3. Girgis, Fathalla. Assyrian Research. Stockholm-Sweden, 1996, page 34.
  4. Roux, Georges. Ancient Iraq. Translation: Hussein Alwan, 1984, page 354
  5. Barot, Andre. The Land of Ashur (Nineveh and Babylon) Translation: Dr. Issa Salman and Salim Taha al-Takriti, 1980, page17.
  6. Roux, Georges. Ancient Iraq. Translation: Hussein Alwan, 1984, pages 504-505.
  7. Roux, Georges. Ancient Iraq. Translation: Hussein Alwan, 1984, page 561.
  8. Isaiah. Chapter 19:24.
  9. Homilies of Mar Narsai, Vol. I. San Francisco-U.S.A., 1970, page 92.
  10. Cureton, W. Ancient Syriac Documents, Amsterdam-Holland, page 16.
  11. Saks, Harry. The Power of Ashur. Translation: Amer Suleiman, 1999, page 409.
  12. Parpola, Simo. Assyrians after Assyria. Journal of the Assyrian Academic Society. Vol. I, No. 2, 2000, page 1.
  13. Father Dr. Jammo, Sarhad. Beth Nahrain magazine. The Two Factions of the Church of the East, Issue (95-96), 1996.
  14. Al-Badlisi, Emir Sharaf kahn. Sharafnameh. Translation: Mulla Jameel Bandi Rozbiani, Baghdad-Iraq, 1953, page 128.
  15. Gibbons, Edward. The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, chapter xlvii, page 48. Ashur’s Mountains: A historical-geographical term which was used until very recently, as per the above mentioned famous English historian.
  16. Fiey, Father Joseph. L’Assyrie Chretienne. Vol. III, Beirut-Lebanon, 1965-1968.
  17. Al-Mukhalisi, Father Mansour. The Contemporary Christ. Baghdad-Iraq, 2004, page 123.
  18. According to the English historian Edward Gibbons (the letter of King Tiathasis was full of contempt and deception against the Eastern Christians. This letter is preserved at the Library of the Vatican with a margin note of its copier mentioning that he had written the letter in order to provoke the Persian king’s heart against the Christians).
  19. Abdul Massih, Saadi. Journal of the Assyrian Academic Society. Vol.12, No 2, 2000. The Scythe of the Ottomans and the decimation of the Assyrian Nation, page 17.
  20. Coakley, J.F. The Church of the East and the Church of England, Oxford-England, 1992, page 313.
  21. Manshashveli, Albert M. Iraq during the British Mandate. Translation: Dr. Hashem Salih al-Takriti, Baghdad-Iraq, 1978, page 344-…
  22. Makhnouq, Rev. Kyriakos. The state of the successor versus the predecessor. Al-Mashreq magazine. Issue no 3, 1899, page 97.
  23. Shapira, Aprim. The Assyrians in the contemporary Iraqi thought. Beirut-Lebanon, 2001, page 79.
  24. Same as above mentioned source page 80.

    Translator’s note: The Church of the East had developed its theology long before the Greek Bishop Nestorius appeared and as such it’s erroneous to say it followed the teachings of Nestorius because that would mean that he was the one who established it while this Church goes back to the early centuries of the apostolic era.

  25. Aboona, Albert. The history of the Syrian (Syriac) Church. Vol. III, Beirut-Lebanon, 1993.
  26. Shapira, Aprim. The Assyrians in the contemporary Iraqi thought. Beirut-Lebanon, 2001.
  27. Ashitha, Odisho Malko. Today’s Assyrians. Baghdad-Iraq, 2004, page 52.
  28. Manshashveli, Albert M. Iraq during the British Mandate. Translation: Dr. Hashem Salih al-Takriti, Baghdad-Iraq, 1978, page 297.
  29. Nekdimon, Shomo. The Mosad in Iraq and neighboring countries. Translation: Bader Akel. Amman-Jordan, 1997, page 189.Randal, Jonathan. A nation in dissension. Translation: Fadi Hammoud. Beirut-Lebanon, 1997, page 33.