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Mounting Fears of Assyrian Genocide in Iraq
6/5/2007 Iraq (for the full story, go to AINA) — According to Assyrian Christian leaders in Iraq the future existence of Iraq ‘s dwindling Christian population hangs in the balance as violence continues unabated. Moreover, direct blame has been leveled at Iraqi governmental as well as Coalition forces’ inaction in the face of mounting attacks against Christian population centers.
The primary focus of the community’s concerns now centers on the deteriorating security situation of the Assyrian (also known as Chaldean and Syriac) Christians in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad . The Dora neighborhood lies 10 kilometers southwest of Baghdad . Prior to the war, the predominantly Christian neighborhood was home to over 5000 Christian households. Since the war and the subsequent insurgency, the overwhelming majority have fled the area.
On May 18, the Patriarch of the Ancient Church of the East, Mar Addai II reportedly stated that “only the families that agree to give a daughter or sister in marriage to a Muslim can remain” (AINA 5-18-2007). Moreover, homes not yet expropriated by force are being increasingly legally signed over by family members of hostages in exchange for their relatives’ release.
Despite numerous appeals to US and Iraqi government forces, Christian community leaders have not seen repeated assurances of assistance materialize. As one observer angrily noted, “Whether unwilling or unable, Iraqi forces along with Coalition forces have refused to assist us in any meaningful way. We have had numerous meetings with Iraqi and American security forces to underscore the severity of the crisis facing our people and yet have not had any response.”
In the only relatively stable area to the north, many Assyrian Christians are settling in the ancient historic heartland of Assyria , in the Nineveh Plain. But here as well, Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) paramilitary forces harass, intimidate, and sometimes assassinate Assyrian leaders not toeing the KDP line.
One leader summarized that “The KDP has opportunistically used the current crisis to squash any independent Assyrian political expression and representation.” Assyrians are referred to as “Christian Kurds” and assistance is contingent on agreement to incorporate the last remaining Assyrian region into a wider Kurdish occupied region.
In a bid to extend the occupation westward towards the Syrian border, the KDP has combined a “carrot” approach of assistance to a select group of refugees with a “heavy stick” of violence towards those who aspire to independent political expression. One leader lamented regarding the precarious position of Assyrian Christians inside Iraq by saying “Whereas the Islamists are attacking Assyrian population centers, the Behdanani Kurds of the KDP are attacking and subjugating Assyrian identity and national aspirations.”
Forced to choose between Islamist terror and Kurdification, the overwhelming majority of Assyrian Christians have simply voted with their feet and left the country entirely. With over half of the population now gone, the term genocide has slowly begun to creep into the war’s lexicon. According to Jackie Bejan, a prominent Assyrian American activist, “There are many who think that we are now witnessing another cycle of Genocide, very similar to the one inflicted upon our people in 1915 by the Ottoman Turks [and Kurds]…What is happening now to the Iraqi Christians and other minorities is certainly and rapidly approaching all requirements and measurements of the most horrific crime against humanity, Genocide.”
There is widespread concern about the real danger that the community will lose its critical mass and will be unable to sustain itself. One observer lamented, “By design or by neglect, the net effect is the same, the potentially irreversible loss of the indigenous Christian community in Iraq . Unless something is done and quickly the lasting legacy of this war will be the genocide of the Christians and other minorities of Iraq .”
Assyrian leaders are demanding immediate assistance to the besieged Dora residents. If US and Iraqi forces are genuinely unable to secure the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad, then Assyrian Christian residents wanting to flee ought to be assisted with a secure evacuation for resettlement in the Nineveh Plain in an Assyrian secured Safe Haven or Administrative Area free of KDP occupation with adequate resources to allow them to remain and survive within the country.