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Indigenous People in Distress
by Fred Aprim, author and historian, California. U.S.A. April 4, 2003.
Posted: Tuesday, June 17, 2003 at 11:05 AM CT
Throughout the media coverage of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the emphasis continues to be predominantly on the oppression of the Iraqi Ba'ath regime against the Shi'aa Arabs and Kurds. The world, despite to a very limited cases, have continued to neglect the suffering of the Assyrians, the indigenous people of Iraq.
When the thought for an urgent need for the publication of a booklet about the suffering of the Assyrians came about, I was given the opportunity and responsibility of gathering information and putting it together. In doing so, I used material from many trustworthy Assyrian web sites such as www.AINA.org (AINA), www.atour.com (Atour), and www.zindamagazine.com (Zinda). Other resources were information I have gathered throughout the years and are part of my upcoming book.
I hope that this humble work will give the reader a general idea about the Assyrians. The emphasis is on the Assyrians in the 20th century and the acts of oppression, persecution, abuse, terrorism, and massacres they have faced in the Middle East in general and Iraq in particular in that period.
Fred Aprim — Editor, April 4, 2003.
Iraq, known throughout ancient history as Assyria and known by the Greeks as Mesopotamia (Land between Rivers, i.e. Tigris and Euphrates), is the home of many ethnic and religious groups such as Arabs, Assyrians, Kurds, Turkomen, Yezidis, Mandeans, Armenians, and others. The Assyrians are the only true indigenous people of Iraq; they are the direct descendants of the ancient Assyrians and the heirs of the Assyrian Empire, whose heartland is in a geographical territory of what is today north of Iraq.
The Assyrians are one of the first people to accept the teaching of Jesus Christ in the First Century A.D. The Assyrian Christians make around five percent of the Iraqi population. They are also known by the following religious denominations: Nestorians, Chaldeans, Jacobites, or Suryan. The Assyrians use a dialect of the Aramaic, the language of Christ, known in the linguistic world as the Syriac language.
The English term Assyrians comes from the Greek "Assurios" through Latin "Assyrius." In their own language, i.e. Syriac (Neo Aramaic), the Assyrians are known as "Suraye" derived from "Asuraye" and yet earlier "Aturaye," originated from the ancient Assyrian Akkadian language "Ashuraye" or "Assuraye."
The Assyrians have experienced many massacres from the fall of their empire in 612 B.C., especially after adopting Christianity, but miraculously managed to survive. Assyrian Church and other historical records show that Persian Sassanids, Mongols, and Tartar massacred very large numbers of Assyrians. More recently, the Kurdish tribes under Badr Khan Beg massacred hundreds of thousands of Assyrians and destroyed many Assyrian villages in the middle of the 19th century (1842-1847) in southern Turkey and northern Iraq region. The massacres continued around the end of the 19th century by Kurdish tribes in the same region. During and in the immediate years after World War I, the Turkish, Kurdish, and Persian forces in Iran and Turkey committed acts of genocide against over 750,000 Assyrian Christians.
At the conclusion of World War I (1914-1918), the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 convened to settle the partition of the Ottoman Turkish Empire that fought beside Nazi Germany against the Allies. The entire Middle East, northern Africa and parts of Eastern Europe were one political region under the Turks for almost five centuries. With the conclusion of WWI and the Peace Conference, the political boundaries of the modern countries of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and others were drawn. Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine were put under the British mandate while Syria (including Lebanon) under the French. In 1921, the present-day Iraq became officially a republic under the British mandate according to the League of Nations (became the United Nations after World War II).
After years of struggle of Iraqi nationalists against the British presence and mandate, Great Britain finally promised to assist in the admittance of Iraq in the League of Nations, as an independent and sovereign state. The Assyrians, who aided the British, French, and Russians during World War I, began to bring to the attention of the League that if the issues of the Assyrian national rights and settlement were not addressed and resolved before admitting Iraq into the League, the Assyrians were going to face a great danger under Iraqi Arab rule. Britain and the allies betrayed the Assyrians and broke all the promises they had made to the Assyrians before World War I. Finally, in 1932; Britain admitted Iraq into the League but with reservations by the Special Commission of the League of Nations concerning the Assyrians and the other minorities.
The Iraqi government promised the League to respect the rights of the non-Arab and non-Moslem inhabitants of Iraq. The Declaration of the kingdom of Iraq, issued in Baghdad on May 30, 1932, on the termination of the British mandatory power and admittance of Iraq into the League, contains clear concessions given by the Iraqi government to the Council of the League of Nations. Such concessions are expressed, only for example, in Chapter One, Article 2:1, which guarantees a “Full and complete protection of life and liberty will be assured to all inhabitants of Iraq without distinction of birth, nationality, language, race or religion.” Meanwhile, Article 4:3 states that “Differences of race, language or religion shall not prejudice any Iraqi national in matters relating to the enjoyment of civil or political rights, as, for instance, admission to public employment, functions and honors, or the exercise of professions or industries.”
The above and many other concessions were not exercised nor were they implemented. In fact, only few months after the admittance of Iraq in the League of Nations and gaining complete independence the Iraqi army moved to north of Iraq and massacred in cold blood over three thousand unarmed Assyrians. That massacre will be addressed later.
Assyrians in the Middle East
Are the Assyrians indigenous people or are they ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities? To answer this question properly one has to distinguish between the various regions the Assyrians are living today, meaning, one has to address every country case separately. Dr. Lincoln Malik, an Assyrian nationalist, states: "Assyrians are the indigenous people of Iraq and not a national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minority. This is a very important distinction with major political and juridical consequences related to Assyrians’ human rights in their ancestral homeland of Mesopotamia (today basically Iraq and regions of southern Turkey and northeastern Syria). The distinction between a national or ethnic minority and indigenous peoples is the historical and cultural ties of the people to the land."
Malik adds: "A national and/or ethnic minority is commonly people that have migrated to the land from the outside. Assyrians on the other hand do not have an ancestral homeland outside Iraq. As such, Assyrians are the indigenous people of the country, irrespective of their numbers compared to the Arabs and Kurds. Many in Iraq, driven by chauvinist or other political motivations, have sought to label Assyrians as an ethnic minority, or as the regime has attempted, a linguistic minority. These are nothing short of attempts to abridge Assyrians’ legitimate human rights in their ancestral homeland." (Atour)
Therefore, the Assyrians of Iraq are the indigenous people of the country; they are not just minorities. Meanwhile, the Assyrians of Lebanon, for example, are ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities because they are not the original people of Lebanon.
Throughout the history of modern Iraq and other newly established Middle Eastern countries, harassment, oppression, persecution, and massacres against Assyrians have continued in various shapes. Below, we will list only a sample of these acts by countries such as Iraq, Turkey, and Syria.
1. SECTION ONE: IRAQ
THE SIMMEL MASSACRE
(Atour) Many of the Assyrians surviving the Holocaust of 1914-1918 had been gathered in refugee camps in Iraq pending final resettlement in an autonomous Assyrian homeland. In 1933, however, only few months after the declaration of the Iraqi Kingdom as an independent and admitting it in the League of Nations, the Iraqi government declared an ultimatum giving the Assyrians one of two choices: either to be resettled in small populations dispersed amongst larger Muslim populations that had recently been violently antagonistic or to leave Iraq entirely. Some Assyrians chose to leave to neighboring Syria and so notified the Iraqi government of their intention. In response, the Iraqi government first dispatched the Assyrian patriarch Mar Eshai Shimun to Baghdad for talks, but he was detained and put under house arrest. Later, the Iraqi government dispatched its army to attack the Assyrians fleeing into Syria. In the Iraqi army failed campaign against the armed Assyrians who crossed into Syria and some loses in their troops, the retreating Iraqi army massacred over 3,000 unarmed Assyrian civilians, mostly elderly, women and children in Simele and other surrounding towns in August of 1933. But before killing the women, they were forcefully undressed; pushed in the village street and paraded in front of the entire Iraqi army; violated; and then slaughtered. Upon his return to Baghdad, the commanding officer ordering the massacre, Bakir Sidqi, was hailed as a conquering hero and was promoted. Thus, the first official military campaign of the Iraqi army served as the newly independent government’s final solution to the Assyrian question.
The Ikha’ Party came to power in Iraq on March 20, 1933, under the Prime Minister Rashid ‘Ali al-Gaylani, Yasin al-Hashimi as the Finance Minister, Hikmat Sulayman as the Interior Minister and Nuri al-Said as the Foreign Minister. The Ikha’ and the Watani had condemned the Anglo-Iraqi treaty of 1930 and labeled it inconsistent with the sovereignty of Iraq on November 23, 1930, and promised the people to defeat it. But King Faysal was able to convince the Ikha’ and the new cabinet to accept the treaty for the time being since it brought independence to Iraq for a start. The Watani Party accused the Ikha’ leaders of compromising their party principles and began to put pressure on the government and issued a declaration on June 9, 1933, denouncing the Ikha’ government. The propaganda succeeded in undermining the confidence of the people in their government. In addition, the propaganda brought back the Shi’aa majority ruled by the Sunni minority issue. The government began to feel the pressure, started to lose its prestige, and needed a way out. The government exploited the Assyrian affairs as they demanded the implementation of the League of Nations decisions for a homogenous enclave or be left to seek a home somewhere else. The government used this to its own advantage and through it’s viscous handling of the Assyrians, it succeeded to re-direct the focus of the Iraqi people away from what was at hand and gain popularity once again. [Read Majid Khadduri. “Independent Iraq: A Study in Iraqi Politics since 1932”. Oxford University Press, London. 1951. pp. 39-40]
RELEASE OF ASSYRIAN (IRAQ) LEVY
In 1955 the Assyrian (Iraq) Levy was dismantled and the Assyrian Levies were released unconditionally. They lost years of service to this Iraqi-British organization. Very few Assyrians who were pro-Iraqi government were given the opportunity to transfer and be part of the Iraqi army. The Assyrian Levi was instrumental in keeping the Iraqi integrity in tact throughout the years when it suppressed rebellions against the government. It also prevented Turkish incursion into Iraq in the early 1920s. Most importantly, the force was instrumental in 1941 to protect Iraq from the coup of Rashid 'Ali al-Gaylani who has made pact with Nazi Germany and was planning to allow the German army to enter Iraq.
MARGINALIZING THE ASSYRIAN ETHNICITY
Decree # 251 of April 16, 1972 intentionally marginalized and undermined the ethnic and indigenous Assyrians. In that decree, the Baghdad Ba’ath regime granted the so called cultural rights to the citizens who “utter the Syriac language” from al-Athouriyoon wa al-Kaldan wa al-Suryan. The Arabic version of the decree stated: “Manih al-hiqooq al-thaqafiya lil-mowatineen al-natiqeen be al-ligha al-suryaniya min al-athouriyeen wa al-kildan wa al-suryan”. In other words, the Iraqi government presented the indigenous Assyrians as three religious denominations, Nestorians, Chaldeans, and Suryan (including the Jacobites).
The Iraqi government continues to refer to ethnic Assyrians as Christian Arabs while the Kurds in the north try to Kurdify northern Iraq by referring to Assyrians as Christian Kurds.
IMPRISONMENT OF ASSYRIAN SINGERS
October 19, 1978 to November 10, 1978
The Iraqi government imprisoned many Assyrian artists, especially singers and songwriters. These artists were accused of inciting Assyrian national feelings by performing Assyrian national songs in Assyrian festivals, parties and special celebrations. These artists were beaten and terrorized. They spent three weeks in jail without trial. In the first appropriate chance, the Assyrian artists one after another have fled Iraq to escape the continuous harassment of the Iraqi secret police.
The imprisoned artists were:
1. David Easha
2. Sammy Yaqu
3. Albert Baba (Oscar)
ARABIZATION OF THE ASSYRIANS
The Assyrians had established many private schools in Baghdad, Mosul, and Kirkuk in the early parts of the 20th century. In the latter parts of 1970s, the Iraqi government began to close these schools and prohibited the teaching the Syriac language. The Assyrian secondary school that was opened in Kirkuk, for example, in accordance to the so-called 1972 minorities cultural rights decree lost its Assyrian name from its title and was open to the public. Assyrian civic and athletic clubs were nationalized, given Arabic names, and membership was opened to the public in an attempt to control them.
ARABIZATION AND ISLAMIZATION OF ASSYRIANS PURSUED
In 1977 and 1987 Iraqi general census, ethnic Assyrians were prohibited from registering as so. They were given the option of registering as Arabs or Kurds only. Furthermore, in 1979, the Iraqi government tried to make it mandatory that Assyrian Christians study the Koran, the holy book of Moslems. The Iraqi government handed the Koran to the Assyrian students in Iraqi public schools and asked them to read it. Major unrest within the Assyrian community erupted throughout Iraq and the plan was withdrawn later.
DEPORTATIONS OF ASSYRIAN FAMILIES
Early in the Iraq-Iran War, which started in September 1980, the Iraqi authorities dragged many Assyrian families from their homes, loaded them in large lories, and deported them to Iran. These families did not have a chance for any type of a hearing. The deportation of many of these Assyrians who were born in Iraq was under the pretext that their parents or grandparents had moved to Iraq from Iran during World War I (1914-1918). It worth mentioning that even in 1918 the country of Iraq was not yet established and by the time when Iraq was created in 1921 these families were already inside Iraq and part of the population.
IMPRISONMENT AND EXECUTION OF ASSYRIAN NATIONALS 1984-1985
In the latter parts of 1984, dozens of Assyrian nationalists, members of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM), were imprisoned by the Iraqi authorities; they were terrorized, beaten, and tortured. On February 3, 1985, three Assyrians of that group: Yousif Toma, Youbert Benyamin, and Youkhana Esha were executed.
THE FATE OF THE ASSYRIANS IN THE ANFAL CAMPAIGN September 24, 1988
Whilst the Kurds appear to have been the primary target of the Anfal, other minority groups suffered also. Assyrians, also referred to by the Kurds as Kurdish Christians, were also subjected to torture and executions during the campaign, and many of their churches were destroyed by Iraqi government forces. The Chaldeans are a Catholic subgroup of the Assyrians, who are ethnically distinct from the surrounding Kurds. Assyrians have been allied to Kurds since 1960s. There are approximately one million Assyrians in Northern Iraq, and they form one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East. Most of them now live in Mosuk, Dohuk and Arbil, as well as in Shaqlawa. The rural Assyrian communities have mainly disappeared. Many Assyrian villages were burned and bulldozed.
MORE ON THE ANFAL
Barely two weeks after the arrival of the first deportees at Baharka, the official loudspeakers announced that some of the camp’s inmates should present themselves at the police station without delay. Those singled out were either Assyrian and Chaldeans (a Catholic subgroup of the Assyrians) or members of the Yezidi sect. What happened to these two groups remains one for the great unexplained mysteries of Anfal: a brutal sideshow, as it were, to the Kurdish genocide. A few days later, a single khaki-colored military bus arrived, accompanied by an army officer and nine or ten soldiers, to pick up twenty-six people from the Assyrian Christian village of Gund-Kosa. ... None of those who was bussed from the camps ever reached their homes, and none was ever seen in the camps, such as Mansuriya (Masirik) and Khaneq, that were set aside for relocated Christians and Yezidis. The inescapable conclusion is that they were all murdered. An Assyrian priest interviewed by HRW/Middle East said that he had assembled a list of 250 Christians who disappeared during Anfal and its immediate aftermath. (Iraq’s Crime of Genocide, 1995, Human rights watch, pp. 209).
The Iraqi government has continued to target minority groups within Iraq. The Assyrian population is mainly concentrated in the northern governorates and has suffered as a result of being accused of collaboration with Kurdish groups. In addition to the executions during the Anfal, many Assyrians, together with Turkomans, have been expelled from Kirkuk as part of the Arabization of the area, renamed Al-Ta’mim or ‘Nationalisation’, in addition to Khanaqin, Sinjar, Makhmour, Tuz, Khoramatu and other districts. An estimated 94,000 people have been deported to the Kurdish-controlled area since 1991. (US Department of State Country Report on Iraq 2000, section 2.c.) For more info, please read also "Genocide in Iraq," A Middle East Watch Report, 1993, pp. 312-317
KURDIFICATION OF ASSYRIAN VILLAGES IN NORTH OF IRAQ 1992
In 1992 some intellectual Assyrians published a communiqué, in it they warned against the continuous process of the Kurdification of the Iraqi people in north of Iraq. Then the ethnic and linguistic map of northern Iraq was not as it is today; some ten years after the no-fly zone has been established. For its importance, here is a passage from that communiqué:
“The Kurdish leadership, and in a well-planned program, had begun to settle Kurds and in large numbers around Assyrian regions like Sarsank, Barwari Bala and others. This Kurdish housing project was naturally to change the demographic, economic, and civic structure of the Christian regions in only few short years; a process that forced the Christian to emigrate as the vacant homes were overtaken by the Kurds.”
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL (AI) COUNTRY REPORT, IRAQ 1995
• Francis Yusuf Shabo: born 1951 in Mangesh (Duhok Province), married with four children. An Assyrian Christian of the Chaldean sect, he was an active member of the ADM. He became a member of parliament after the May 1992 elections and was a member of the National Assembly’s Economic Committee. He was also responsible for dealing with complaints submitted by Assyrian Christians regarding disputed villages in Bahdinan from which they had been forcibly evicted by the Iraqi Government and subsequently resettled by Kurds. He was shot dead by armed assailants on 31 May 1993 as he approached his home in Duhok. No suspects were subsequently apprehended.
• Lazar Mikho Hanna (known as Abu Nasir): an Assyrian Christian born 1933 in Mangesh, married. He was a member of the ICP’s Central Committee for the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and was also a member of a three-person committee responsible for the IKF’s financial affairs. He was shot dead by armed assailants on 14 June 1993 near his home in Duhok. No suspects were subsequently apprehended.
No effective or meaningful investigations into these and other killings have been carried out to date. All the above victims were killed after the Kurdish administration was established. In most of these cases, the Council of Ministers set up committees, headed by investigating or court judges, to gather and examine the evidence. None have so far resulted in any convictions.
Amnesty International has received numerous allegations attributing these killings to special forces within the KDP, PUK and IMIK. The security apparatus of the KDP, Re[^]kkhistini Taybeti, and that of the PUK, Dezgay Zanyari, are said to have units akin to assassination squads, whose members receive orders from senior party officials. There is also widespread conviction that such unlawful and deliberate killings could not have been perpetrated without the knowledge, consent or acquiescence of the leaders of these two parties, to whom the security and intelligence apparatuses are ultimately responsible.
INJUSTICES COMMITTED AGAINST ASSYRIANS IN NORTHERN IRAQ
February 1, 1996
(AINA) Assyrians await the outcome of Dohuk’s rulers with regards to prosecuting the criminals who committed the murder of Edward Khoshaba. They believe the murder was committed under the direct guidance and planning of Deputy-Governor Farazanda Zubair, whose father was an Iraqi government puppet who committed crimes against the Catholic Sisters of the village of Aradin. Today, Farazanda has brought under his jurisdiction the Assyrian village of Hazarjat. The Assyrians believe that the current regime’s inactive stance regarding these crimes clearly demonstrates the mistreatment of the Assyrians.
On the morning of January 13, 1996, Wasan Mishael, a 16 year-old Assyrian girl from Simele was kidnapped at gunpoint from her home. Under extreme emotional and physical pressure and abuse, she was forced to denounce her Christian religion and marry one of her kidnapers. The courage of the young girl and the Assyrian population’s outrage forced Assyrian political parties to take action and force the capture of the criminals involved. As of this writing, however, the criminals have not been brought to justice under the present law. Those in charge in the area have not shown any justifiable reason for the delay in applying the law in this case; perhaps hoping that it will escape the memory of the Assyrian people.
On January 20, 1996, another minor was kidnapped. This time the victim was 13 year-old Assyrian girl named Janet Oshana, who resided in the village of Mulla-Urab, near the town of Zakho. The perpetrator of this crime is a Kurdish man named Khorshid Othman Kalash. Although the Assyrian community’s anger forced the kidnaper’s apprehension by the authorities, the young girl has not yet been returned to the custody of her parents, and neither has the offender Kalash been brought to face justice.
Finally, in the middle of January of 1996, the shrine of Mar Sbar Odisho (Saint Odisho) in the courtyard of Mar Gewargis (Church of Saint George) came under attack by vandals who desecrated the holy site. The authorities in the area disregarded this incident, neglecting to pursue any leads. As similar crimes against Assyrians and their institutions were revealed, the responsible authorities in the Dohuk area stalled and procrastinated, failing to respond in their duties to serve and protect the Assyrian people. In the Dohuk area, Nachir Barazani, one of the ruling party’s leaders, has confiscated a great number of fertile lands belonging to Assyrians, intimidating and terrorizing the land-owners to dissuade them from seeking compensation in return for their properties.
ADDITIONAL KURDISH ATTACKS ON ASSYRIANS IN NORTHERN IRAQ
June 24, 1996
(AINA) The following are additional cases of recent Kurdish attacks, persecutions, kidnappings, land expropriations, and murders that have recently been brought to my attention.
Mr. Edward Khoshaba of Aqla was tending his sheep last year when he came across 3 Kurds who had killed and butchered some of his livestock. When confronted, the Kurds attempted to kill Mr. Khoshaba. Mr. Khoshaba was able to kill off 2 of the attackers before the third fled to his home village. Reportedly, when the Kurd returned to his home village, a celebration had ensued as the Kurdish villagers had assumed that the Kurdish intruders had successfully killed Mr. Khoshaba in addition to his livestock. When they learned that 2 of the Kurdish intruders had died instead, the entire village mobilized to exact revenge.
Mr. Khoshaba likewise fled to an area controlled by his Assyrian compatriots. A standoff ensued for some time until Mr. Khoshaba’s parents (fearing a wholesale escalation in violence) convinced Mr. Khoshaba to turn himself in to the local authorities for an investigation and trial. Needless to say, the Kurdish authorities released Mr. Khoshaba to the relatives of the Kurdish intruders. He was tied up in their village and eventually butchered into hundreds of pieces on March 6, 1995. Prior to his death, he was reportedly struck in the head repeatedly by an axe by one of the elder women of the village. NONE of his murderers have been brought to justice. There has been no investigation of these crimes. There has been no investigation of the authorities that evaded their responsibilities.
The Kurdish leader who reportedly heads this village is Qaem Qam Farzanda Zbeer. Mr. Zbeer has now extended his threats, persecutions, and vast land expropriations to the Assyrian village of Hzarjat. In another incident, on January 13, 1996 armed Kurds kidnaped Wassan Mishael, a sixteen-year-old girl from Simele. She was threatened and forced to renounce her Christian faith. Then she was forced to marry one of the Kurdish kidnappers. The attackers have been found and identified. The information has been brought to the attention of the local governmental officials. There has been no investigation. None of the attackers have been brought to justice, there has been no trial.
On January 20, 1996 an armed man named Khorsheed Uthman Galash kidnaped Janet Oshanna, a 13-year-old girl from Mal-Urab near Zakho. The kidnapper has subsequently been identified and all information has been provided to the authorities. No investigation has been carried out. The attacker has not been brought to justice. The young girl has not yet been returned to her family Sometime in mid-January, the holy room of Saint Sbar Eshoo located in St Gewargis Church in Zakho was burglarized There has been no investigation of this crime as well.
Almost universally, crimes against Assyrians by Kurds are tolerated and even condoned in the Dohuk area of Northern Iraq. The local authorities have made it clear that a Kurdish attack against an Assyrian will go unpunished. One of the leaders, Nasherwas Barazani, has actually used his position in government to prevent them from demanding proper compensation. He uses the ongoing attacks against Assyrians to encourage further destabilization and further land grabs.
There is a general belief that the authorities are engaged in efforts to effect a demographic change in the area. They aim to drive out the Assyrians.
PKK ABDUCTS ASSYRIAN GIRL
September 28, 1996
(AINA) Witnesses in North Iraq said that a group of armed PKK guerillas abducted a fifteen-year-old Assyrian girl named Ahlam Patrus Nissan from her village on September 16, 1996. Local farmers and others who witnessed the kidnapping said they saw the girl being carried off with an expression of fear on her face. The PKK admitted that they have the girl but they claim she joined them willfully. They have refused to allow anyone to speak to the teenaged girl. Apparently, it is common practice among some Kurdish tribes that after such abduction, the young girl is forced to marry her kidnapper. It is also common that in such cases, the victim is forced to renounce her Christian faith and convert to Islam.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL (AI) COUNTRY REPORT, IRAQ 1997
In May, two unarmed members of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM), Samir Moshi Murad and Peris Mirza Salyu, were killed in ‘Ain Kawa, near Arbil, by Kurdish students allegedly associated with the PUK. The ADM members were reportedly intervening to settle a dispute between Kurdish and Assyrian students when they were deliberately shot. Although PUK leaders condemned the killings, no one was brought to justice.
WHEREABOUTS OF ASSYRIAN EMPLOYEES IN SADDAM’S SERVICE REMAIN UNKNOWN
Posted March 1997
(ZINDA) In March 1997, Amnesty International wrote to the Iraqi government seeking clarification of the fate and whereabouts of six Assyrians arrested in October 1996 and the details of any legal proceedings made against them. All six Assyrians lived in Baghdad and were employed in the Presidential Palace of Saddam Hussain. They were arrested on suspicion of involvement in an attempt to poison President Hussain. No response has yet been received. The arrested are: Gewargis Hormiz Oraha, Yousip Adam, Khamo Amira, Kora Odisho, Shimon Khoshaba al-Hozi, Petros Elia Toma and William Matti Barkho.
For more information, contact...
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KURDISH MOB VICIOUSLY MURDERS TWO ASSYRIANS
February 12, 1997
(AINA) On February 10, 1997 two Assyrians, Mr. Lazar Mati and his son Havel Lazar, were dragged out of their prison by a vigilante group of 200 armed Kurds and were brutally killed. Prior to their murder, they were taunted, tortured, and finally butchered. Before the murder, 100 Kurds stormed the family home of Mr. Mati and burned it to the ground Mr. Mati and his son had been imprisoned in the governmental jail in Shaqlawa. Their was no resistance by the governing authorities. There has been no investigation into the killings. There is, once again, collusion between murderous Kurds and those entrusted (in the “Safe Haven”) with the public safety.
Apparently, Mr. Mati’s daughter had been forcibly kidnapped four years ago by a Kurd named Mohamed Babakir. It appears to be customary in many similar instances of kidnapping and rape by Kurds, that she had been forced to marry her kidnapper. She was a minor, younger than eighteen years old. I presume she had been forced to renounce her Christianity as well. There was no help forthcoming from the government. However, it is generally agreed that the families had met years ago and resolved the matter. There was reportedly no remaining animosity between them.
One day prior to the murders of the two Assyrians, the Kurd who had kidnapped Mr. Mati’s daughter was found mysteriously killed. That night at evening prayers, the local Kurdish mullah declared that only Mr. Mati could have wanted the Kurd killed. The mullah then proceeded to demand that the Kurds savagely kill Mr Mati and destroy his home. He reportedly declared that a Christian cannot kill a Muslim. Needless to say, there was no proof, no investigation. The savage mob was incited and the local security forces acquiesced.
The local Kurdish officials had arrested Mr. Mati and his son under suspicion for the killing of the Kurd found mysteriously dead. It was in the local jail that the Kurds found the two Assyrians and killed them. The government in Shaqlawa which had been so quick to arrest the Assyrians in order to seek out justice for the killed Kurd, now have done absolutely nothing regarding the vigilante killing of the Assyrians held in their custody.
Mr. Lazar Mati, the father was born in 1943 and his son, Mr. Havel Lazar was born in 1972. To his credit, Barzani came to Shaqlawa and reportedly condemned the killings. In addition, in his statement, he acknowledged recent acts of violence, burglaries, and arson by Kurds against Assyrian homes and shops in the Shaqlawa area. He noted a pattern of intimidation on the part of Kurds in the area. Neither he nor the local government have taken any concrete steps to investigate and seek justice in this case of extrajudicial killings. Reportedly, the Kurds have never punished one of their own when the victims have been Assyrian. It is generally believed that the recent rhetoric is simply that.
BACKGROUND ON MURDERED FATHER AND SON
March 1, 1997
(AINA) Regarding the most recent killing of the two Assyrians in Shaqlawa, the Kurd who had been found killed has been identified. His name was Mohamed Babakir, he had kidnapped the daughter of Lazar Matti, the Assyrian who, along was with his son Havel Lazar, was butchered by the Kurdish mob.
However, it is generally agreed that the families had met years ago and resolved the matter. There was reportedly no remaining animosity between them. The local government has not begun any investigation into the initial killing or the subsequent massacre.
Additionally, the father was born in 1943 and the son in 1972. To his credit, Barzani came to Shaqlawa and reportedly condemned the killings. In addition, in his statement, he acknowledged recent acts of violence, burglaries, and arson by Kurds against Assyrian homes and shops in the Shaqlawa area. He noted a pattern of intimidation on the part of Kurds in the area. As usual, though, neither he nor the local government have taken any concrete steps to investigate and seek justice in this case of extra judicial killings. The Kurds have never punished one of their own when the victims have been Assyrian. It is generally believed that the recent rhetoric is simply that. As you well know, only international pressure from organizations like yours can help to reduce these acts of persistent, recurrent, and premeditated terror.
ATTACKS AGAINST ASSYRIAN RESTAURANT OWNERS IN NORTHERN IRAQ March 9, 1997
(AINA) Over the past 12-18 months, three separate attacks have been launched against Assyrians in the area of Khalidia. The attacks have led to two deaths and one critical wounding. All of the attacks have been against owners/operators of clubs or restaurants (nadi) that serve alcohol. Allegedly, the Kurdish Islamic Fundamentalists have objected to the serving of alcohol in these areas. It is believed by many Assyrians that these attacks are in fact at least encouraged, if not provoked, by the government.
An elderly Assyrian woman whose husband was one of the murdered Assyrians has relayed this information to us. It has been very difficult to get even this small bit of information from her (over several interviews) because she is in tremendous fear of reprisals against her remaining relatives there. She has insisted that her name or her husband’s name not be used. This appears to be a recurring theme in the Assyrian community, and it makes news gathering more difficult. The widespread use of this terror makes it more difficult to expose it.
ASSYRIAN EXECUTED IN BAGHDAD, IRAQ
July 4, 1997
(AINA) On May 23, 1997, Kamal Kiriakos Ablahad, an Assyrian, was shot and killed in Baghdad, Iraq. Mr. Ablahad was employed at the residence of Jamal Al-Tikriti, the son-in-law of Saddam Hussein.
Following the shooting, Mr. Ablahad was immediately rushed to the hospital where he was declared dead. Mr. Ablahad’s kidneys were removed for organ transplantation. The medical examiner’s report declared the death a suicide. Examination of the body revealed a single gunshot to the head as the cause of death. In addition, Mr. Ablahad’s right index and middle fingers were shot off as a consequence of the shooting. Due to the gunshot involving Mr. Ablahad’s right fingers and head, members of the community in Baghdad have reported that the shooting was not in fact a suicide. It has been suggested that Mr. Ablahad was killed in execution fashion and that prior to being shot, he had raised his right hand in an attempt to shield his head and face from the gunshot. The bullet then passed through his fingers and head.
Since access to medical care has greatly deteriorated following the embargo against Iraq, it has been reported that the motivation for the killing may have been for the purpose of securing Mr. Ablahad’s kidneys for transplantation.
ATTACKS UPON ASSYRIANS IN CENTRAL IRAQ
August 16, 1997
(AINA) According to sources from Baghdad, Iraq, a recent series of violent murders of Assyrian Christians in the Baghdad area has left many Assyrian Christians deeply concerned for their safety and well being. On July 25, 1997 the Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat reported that the Iraqi National Congress announced that Uday, the son of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, had shot and killed an Assyrian girl earlier in June. The Assyrian girl, Asil Salman Mansour, was last seen walking home within the predominantly Christian Doura district of Baghdad. Witnesses reported that the girl was stopped by a “presidential” vehicle and was forced into the vehicle by Uday’s bodyguards. Ms. Mansour was taken to the Presidential Complex at Al Jadiriya. According to the news report, Uday tried to have sex with the girl but failed. In a subsequent fit of rage, he shot and killed the girl. Reportedly, Uday has become embittered, depressed, and easily angered since the failed assassination attempt on his life and his subsequent paralysis.
Following the girl’s murder, Uday ordered the payment of $700, an Oldsmobile automobile, and a fifty-dollar monthly stipend to the family as compensation for the loss of their daughter. The grief-stricken Assyrian family has been ordered not to report the incident; they have accepted the gesture out of fear of further reprisals by the government.
On the morning of July 27, 1997, three armed men entered the home of Polus Younan, a sixty-two-year-old Assyrian member of the Chaldean Catholic Church. Mr. Younan was originally born in Habbania. His home is located in the N’eriya w’Gayra’ section of Baghdad and was occupied by Mr. Younan, his wife Medina Shinoel, and their 16 year old son, Maffai. Ms. Medina Shinoel survived the attack and reported her account to the police. She witnessed the repeated stabbing of her husband in the back with a large knife until the blade of the knife protruded through Mr. Younan’s chest. Upon dying, Mr. Younan was rolled into sheets by one assailant as the other two attackers turned their attention to Ms. Shinoel. The attackers began striking Ms. Shinoel with the butt end of their rifles until most of her teeth were broken. Throughout the attack, the assailants demanded information regarding the family’s money and savings. The attackers then started slashing Ms. Shinoel’s 16-year-old son, Mattai in order to obtain more information. Since the boy is deaf and mute, he was unable to satisfy the attackers’ questioning. They proceeded to slash the boy until he began to slowly lose consciousness, at which point they moved him to the bathroom and placed him in a bathtub.
In yet another murder, another Assyrian, 35-year-old Yousif John Yacoub, was brutally stabbed to death on April 12, 1997 while in his home in Baghdad, Iraq. Three Arab men, employed as school guards in a nearby school, were allegedly instructed by a cleaning woman at the same school to attack and rob Mr. Yacoub. According to Mr. Yacoub’s neighbors who witnessed the attack, Mr. Yacoub was stabbed in the back, neck and abdomen. The neighbors notified the police, who arrived prior to Mr. Yacoub‘s death. Mr. Yacoub survived long enough to identify his attackers and to give the name of a nearby relative to be notified. The police kept Mr. Yacoub in his home for questioning while he was bleeding uncontrollably until his death. They never sought to transport him to a hospital in time to save his life. In addition, Mr. Yacoub ‘s relative was never contacted. The relative heard about the incident one day later, at which point Mr. Yacoub had already died. Mr. Yacoub’s relative finally arrived at the home only to find that the police had ransacked the place and removed any valuables or evidence. Two weeks later, Mr. Ameed Shurta, a high ranking police officer and member of the ruling Ba’ath party, along with his wife and children, occupied Mr. Yacoub’s house. The police have refused to return any of Mr. Yacoub’s possessions to the family. Mr. Yacoub’s sister, a Sumerian and Akkadian scholar residing in London, England, has requested that at the very least, the family’s photo albums which have great sentimental value ought to be returned. The police have refused. Mr. Yacoub’s family has reported that governmental and police personnel are accomplices in this crime. The police have released the cleaning woman and have claimed that one of the attackers has escaped. The other two were reportedly held for questioning but no recent information is available regarding their whereabouts. It is suspected that because of their ties to government accomplices, they will not be punished.
RECENT ATTACKS ON ASSYRIANS IN NORTHERN IRAQ
August 19, 1997
(AINA) The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has announced that at 8:10 a.m. on February 23, 1997, Mr. Francis Harriri survived an assassination attempt. Mr. Francis Harriri is an Assyrian from northern Iraq and is the governor of the province of Arbil. The attack reportedly took place during Mr. Harriri’s trip to the provincial headquarters in Arbil. Although Mr. Harriri survived the attack, two of his bodyguards as well as five civilian bystanders were reportedly wounded.
According to the KDP, their initial investigation points to involvement by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Specifically, the KDP has accused Mr. Kosrat Rasool, allegedly a PUK political officer, of masterminding the attack. The KDP has further suggested that the motivation behind Mr. Rasool’s assassination attempt may have been the intentional disruption of the recent Ankara conference and ongoing peace negotiations in northern Iraq between the two warring Kurdish groups.
In their February, 1995 report on human rights abuses in northern Iraq since 1991, Amnesty International (AI) has listed at least sixteen victims of political assassination in northern Iraq. One of the victims was Mr. Francis Yusuf Shabo. According to AI, Mr. Shabo was “born in Mangesh (Duhok Province), married with four children. An Assyrian Christian of the Chaldean sect, he was an active member of the Assyrian Democratic Movement. He became a member of parliament after the May 1992 elections and was a member of the National Assembly’s Economic Committee. He was also responsible for dealing with complaints submitted by Assyrian Christians regarding disputed villages in Bahdinan from which they had been forcibly evicted by the Iraqi Government and subsequently resettled by Kurds. He “was shot dead by armed assailants on 31 May 1993 as he approached his home in Dohuk, No suspects were subsequently apprehended.”
Another victim mentioned by AI was “Lazar Mikho Hanna (known as Abu Nasir): an Assyrian Christian born 1933 in Mangesh, married. He “was a member of the Iraqi Communist Party’s Central Committee for the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and was also a member of the three-person committee responsible for the Iraqi Kurdistan Front’s financial affairs. He was shot dead byarmed assailants on 14 June 1993 near his home in Dohuk. No suspects were subsequently apprehended.”
Regarding political assassinations, AI has noted that several Kurdish groups have established “assassination squads” in northern Iraq. “The security apparatus of the KDP, Rekkhistini Taybeti and that of the PUK, Dezgay Zanyari, are said to have units akin to assassination squads, whose members receive orders from senior party officials. There is also widespread conviction that such unlawful and deliberate killings could not have been perpetrated without the knowledge, consent or acquiescence of the leaders of these two parties, to whom the security and intelligence apparatuses are ultimately responsible.” AI also disclosed “details of extensive surveillance operations of named individuals, as well as references to killings and attempted killings by the Islamic Movement in Iraqi Kurdistan (IMIK).”
RECENT KURDISH ATTACKS AGAINST ASSYRIANS IN NORTHERN MESOPOTAMIA (IRAQ)
December 28, 1997
(AINA) Attacks against Assyrian civilians in northern Iraq and southern Turkey by various armed Kurdish groups have increased in recent weeks. According to a news release by the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) in northern Iraq, fighters from the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) ambushed seven unarmed Assyrian civilians from Mangesh, Duhok on December 13, 1997. Two of the Assyrians were immediately killed in the initial volley of gunfire. Five others were seriously wounded. The PKK guerillas reportedly approached the remaining five wounded Assyrians and, seeing that they were still alive, subsequently shot four of them dead as they lay bleeding. Those killed were all residents of Mangesh and included Slewo Khoshaba, Samir Esho, Majid Shimon, Arkhan Hermiz, Salem Yousif and Najid Mikho. One woman, Wardia Yousif the wife of Najid Mikho, survived with a serious leg wound until December 26th when she too died.
This latest attack follows an earlier attack against an Assyrian man and his wife belonging to the Syrian Orthodox Church in Mzezakh, Turkey. On September 25, 1997, Kurdish fighters entered the home of Mr. Iskandar Araz and his wife and brutally killed them without cause.
A press release by the National Liberation Front of Kurdistan on December 21,1997 denied PKK culpability in the December 13 attack against the seven Assyrians. The press release stated that the attack was “staged by the Turkish army together with the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) on the Assyrian village of Mankish in the Duhok region...” The press release further added that “the statements accusing the PKK of this dirty provocation were put out from Duhok which is under the control of the KDP.”
Over the past few years, Assyrian reports from northern Iraq and southern Turkey have detailed a pattern of escalating attacks designed to intimidate and terrorize the Assyrian civilian population of northern Mesopotamia by all of the armed Kurdish factions. The United Nations and international human rights organizations have documented that in southern Turkey alone, Assyrian villages are alternately attacked by PKK guerillas demanding aid in their war against Turkey and by pro-government Kurdish village guards as well as the Turkish military seeking retribution. According to the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO) over 30 Assyrians have been killed over the past few years. Different Kurdish groups have burned numerous villages. Scores of young girls have been abducted, raped, and forced to convert to Islam. As a result of the ongoing turmoil, less than 10,000 Assyrians remain in their ancestral homes out of a population of 130,000 just twenty years ago. Typically, Kurdish groups as well as the Turkish military involved in attacks against Assyrians accuse other Kurdish groups of responsibility.
In the United Nations Special Rapporteur Report on Religious Intolerance, Mr. Abelfattah Amor summarized the state of the Assyrians in Turkey: “In a communication dated 5 September 1994, the Special Rapporteur transmitted the following observations to the government of Turkey: They (Assyro-Chaldeans) are also reported to be victims of regular attacks by armed individuals and groups who not only rob them of their property and abduct their daughters, but also perpetrate murder, thereby creating an atmosphere of fear, apparently with the aim of forcing them to leave their villages. Thus, since 1975, more than 100,000 Assyro-Chaldeans have left the country and only 10,000 remain.”
In northern Iraq, both the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the KDP have been responsible for murders of Assyrians as well as assassinations of Assyrian political leaders. According to Amnesty International’s February 1995 report on northern Iraq, “The security apparatuses of the KDP, Rekkhistine Taybeti, and that of the PUK, Dezgay Zanyari, are said to have units akin to assassination squads, whose members receive orders from senior party officials. There is also widespread conviction that such unlawful and deliberate killings could not have been perpetrated without the knowledge, consent, or acquiescence of the leaders of these two parties, to whom the security and intelligence apparatuses are ultimately responsible. The names of individuals alleged to be members of assassination squads within the KDP and PUK have been submitted to Amnesty International, including by officials of both parties who supplied information about the other’s security and intelligence activities.” Amnesty International also disclosed “details of extensive surveillance operations of named individuals, as well as references to killings and attempted killings by the Islamic Movement of Iraqi Kurdistan (IMIK).”
In addition, land expropriations continue with over 50 villages remaining illegally and forcibly occupied by Kurds belonging to various groups. Abducti
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