12-11-2007 Assyrian International News Agency
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in the spring of 2003 the situation of the Iraqi people in general and the Assyrian community in particular in Iraq has caused particular concern on an international scale. It is generally accepted that although the situation of the Iraqi people had been regrettably dire following the fall of Saddam's regime, the bombing of the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra in February 2003 marked a turning point in that 'this incident led to targeted killings of thousands of Iraqis from both communities (i.e. Sunni and Shi'a) as well as other groups on the basis of their religious identity resulting in massive displacement of populations.'1
This displacement crisis, according to Amnesty International, is now the fastest growing displacement crisis in the world with the number of displaced people now standing at 4.2 million.
The Assyrians, the indigenous inhabitants of Iraq and a predominantly Christian ethnic minority, have not been immune to such sectarian violence and have been particularly targeted in recent years as a result of their distinct ethnic and religious identity. The church bombings in 2004 are a case in point, but simply reflect just the tip of the iceberg.
Unfortunately, there still remains a large lacuna in the general public's awareness and knowledge of the plight of Iraq's Assyrian community and this is reflected by the paucity of media coverage on this issue in the western world together with a lack of initiative to resolve this issue within national and international political institutions. Although the recent resolutions emanating from the European Parliament and the Parliament of the United Kingdom, for which see chapter 2, are welcomed, it is clear that more must be done.
With this in mind, it has been felt necessary to compile a dossier containing various documents and information outlining the plight of Assyrians in Iraq with the hope that such a dossier can act as a reference tool for people to refer to when wanting to find out accurate information about this situation from reputable and reliable sources.
Before setting out to describe the general scheme of the dossier, it is helpful to resolve an important issue which if left unresolved can sometimes lead to confusion. As a result of a rich and ancient heritage, the Assyrians have come to be identified under many names throughout the ages and this is reflected in the human rights reports and political resolutions listed in this dossier by virtue of the fact that some documents use various names such as Chaldeans, ChaldoAssyrians, or Syriacs when referring to Assyrians.
It should be emphasised from the outset that all these names refer to essentially the same indivisible people and are simply the accumulation of a heritage spanning thousands of years. As such, these different names should not be allowed to act as an impediment to the understanding and resolution of the situation of the Assyrians.
Furthermore, it will be noticed also that many of the reports refer to Assyrians in Iraq simply as 'Iraqi Christian'. This is unfortunate as the term Iraqi Christian does not take into account the ethnic identity of the Assyrians and only emphasises their religious affiliation, despite the fact that 95% of Christians in Iraq are actually of Assyrian ethnicity.
In addition, some people also refer to Assyrians as Arab or Kurdish Christians, terms which are erroneous given the fact that Assyrians possess a different language, ethnicity, culture and heritage to that of the neighbouring Arab or Kurdish populations.
The first section of the dossier contains a general list of human rights reports from various reputable institutions and individuals worldwide such as Amnesty International, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), etc. Some of the reports deal with human rights abuses within Iraq whilst others concentrate on the refugee and displacement problem of Iraqis both within Iraq itself and the neighbouring countries such as Syria and Jordan.
Many of the reports deal with the situation in Iraq generally, within which many references to the plight of the Assyrians can be found, whilst some reports are specific to the Assyrians. The names of the relevant reports and their author(s) are written, together with links leading directly to the reports. The links are all correct at the time of compiling this dossier (December 2007).
The second section then deals with important political resolutions, motions or strategies that have been adopted by various supranational and national political institutions regarding the current situation in Iraq. Foremost amongst these has been the European Parliament which has adopted a number of important resolutions expressing concern for the situation of the Assyrian community in Iraq and the state of Iraqi refugees.
The texts adopted by the European Parliament have been referenced in full to ease the reader's access to them. Although such statements of concern and intent are a step in the right direction, it is clear that more tangible work must be done by all relevant institutions so that rhetoric can be turned into visible and effective action.
Although not human rights reports in the strict sense of the term, there are certain documents which shed more light on the current situation in Iraq and of Assyrians in particular and some of which also offer recommendations and proposals to resolve the deteriorating situation. Due to their importance in this regard, the third section is devoted to providing a brief list, identical in format as section one, of some of these documents.
Finally, the dossier ends with an appendix containing extracts from the Iraqi constitution which are of particular concern to the Iraqi Assyrian community. As stated in the appendix, the list of extracts does not intend to be exhaustive and for this reason a link to the UNAMI website is provided so that the full document can be read if one wishes.
It is hoped that, although a small contribution, this dossier can help in raising awareness of the plight of Iraqi Assyrians so that peaceful resolutions can be adopted as soon as possible and the current distressing situation can be alleviated with as little delay as possible.
The full report is available here: http://www.aina.org/reports/iiacstfosh.pdf
By Ninos WardaAssyria Council of Europe