Life as a Christian in the Middle East is an ongoing struggle. For the indigenous people of Iraq, this has been the story of their lives for centuries. Running from one war to another, escaping one horror to find others. Its up to the Assyrian (also called Chaldean and Syriac) in exile to fight for these defenseless people and put an end to their suffering and their constant running. As the situation stands, there is nowhere left to hide.
‘A Demand For Action‘ is a grassroots activist movement established under the leadership of Nuri Kino, an Assyrian-Swedish journalist, who has just returned from a press conference in Capitol Hill DC and a meeting at the White House. You can read more about it in the article published by the Huffington Post by Nuri Kino. ‘A Demand For Action’ is working towards securing a safe haven for the Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs and other ethno-religious minorities in the Nineveh Plain. The movement is currently operating in 19 countries and across 4 continents to ensure the safety of of these people.
The Assyrians have a long enduring and unbroken history, which is being largely ignored by mainstream media. Pushing content that addresses their dyer situation with mention of their ethnicity is essential in their fight for recognition. The ongoing plight of the Assyrians is an extremely devastating one. Their history spans seven millennia, from which the roots of civilisation began. The Assyrians are the indigenous people of Iraq, as well as many parts of the Kurdistan Region. The Assyrians’ plight is fraught with multiple genocides, mass exoduses and over a century of being caught in the middle of sectarian violence and upheaval. They are, and have always been collateral damage to the Western powers, and as a result of betrayal and lack of protection, lambs to the slaughter. For all of this there is a plethora of solid evidence.
The Assyrians are still around, despite their seriously reduced numbers in their homeland (1.5 million in Iraq prior to the 2003 US-led intervention, to less than 450,000 today – 200,000 of whom are internally displaced as a result of the ISIS invasion and atrocities committed against them). All around the world, Assyrians are protesting, lobbying, writing articles, researching, donating and attempting to save their people from another genocide and ultimately, utter annihilation. They are facing extinction. Yet, they are being ignored, or, at least, their ethnicity and national struggle, which define them as a people, are being placed on the backburner. The Assyrians need the media and worldwide communities to hear them. They are sick and tired of being reduced to merely a religious group. Yes, they are Christian, but they have a distinct and unique ethnicity that separates them from other Middle Eastern peoples such as Arabs, Kurds, Turks and Persians. According to activist Mardean Isaac, leader of ‘A Demand For Action’ UK, “If Christianity is all that is at stake, we can worship freely in the west. An Iraqi Christian can easily become a Kurdish Christian or a French Christian. Our living history and all that it comprises it is irreplaceable: our link to the past and the future of our people is our land and our language”.
What the Assyrians seek is a safe haven in the Nineveh Plain for the ethno-religious minorities living there. These include the Assyrians (including the adherents of Chaldean and Syriac Churches), Yazidis, Shabaks and Turkmen. What ‘A Demand For Action’ asks is for Assyrian volunteers to be armed with the necessary military resources and training to defend their lands and families. What ‘A Demand For Action‘ wants is for the state of Iraq to be saved from the grips of terror and fragmentation. Contrary to common perception, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces are not protecting minorities to their full capacity, and people would be livid to hear the stories of their abandonment of the Nineveh Plain and Sinjar. Furthermore, the majority of humanitarian aid to the Assyrians has predominantly been collected and distributed by their own charity organizations such as ACERO and the Assyrian Aid Society, not from international efforts. Assyrians are not asking for land that is not already theirs, only the security to live there free from persecution. Why is this a complex situation to solve when there is a recent precedent for it in the same region? One which was resolved within five weeks of Kurdish displacement. Assyrian refugees from the Nineveh Plain and Mosul are living on the streets, under trucks, in gardens, lacking food, water and medicine, contracting illnesses, barely showering, dying daily from heat exposure. They’re being forced to endure a scorching Iraqi summer, and will soon be forced to face a freezing Iraqi winter, if an urgent safe haven is not established for them immediately.
‘A Demand For Action’ has people on the ground and has conducted a great deal of research regarding the current situation with constant updates, including testimonies from the persecuted people. They are not Iraqi Christians. They are Assyrian Christians who are indigenous to Iraq. By omitting this information, the media is failing these persecuted peoples, and moreover, contributing to the ongoing ethnic-cleansing of the oldest and richest cultures in the Middle East. You can read and learn more about us on facebook and twitter to keep up to date with the latest news.
For now, we must keep lobbying and demanding a safe haven and for a better Iraq.
Written by Assyrian Archaeologist and A Demand For Action Member Nineveh Yakou.