"In the Service of One's Country"
By: Nenif Matran Hariri
Chaldeans, Assyrians, Syrians are the oldest inhabitants of modern Iraq;
they have a rich history dating back to the ancient Assyrian Empire. How
are they fairing in this new Iraq?
In this article I shall refer to them as a single body (CAS), firstly
because the new Iraqi Constitution classifies them so and secondly as
they are one ethnic group, with a shared history, language, religion and
all of whom originate from the same geographical region, Northern Iraq.
CAS have struggled to find their place in the new Iraq and not
surprisingly hindered by a shrinking population which now accounts for
only 1.1% of the population, 300,000 in Iraq, (Chaldeans 200,000 /
Assyrian 20,000 / Syrians 80,000). There are however as much as 500,000
CAS Iraqi passport holders living abroad. What makes it worse is they
are thinly spread throughout the country. Unfortunately for them size
matters in this new Iraq, historic bravado carries little weight.
CAS had envisaged a return on mass by their overseas brethren to augment
and complement their numbers, led of course by seasoned politicians but
that never happened, they were left abandoned at their hour of need.
Subsequently, the population here dwindled and with it went vital human
resources such as unity and financial prowess, essential requisites for
The repatriation of overseas CAS would have been the single biggest
political asset to aid their cause, had it materialized. Alas, they were
far too busy on the Internet, to sweat it out in Iraq. Their monotonous
writings, speeches and political demonstrations gained them no
influential friends overseas and made zero impact here, where it counts.
In fact, their wireless wrangling was a source of self-amusement, rather
than an organized petition to secure their Nation's destiny.
Unlike Arabs and Kurds, who diligently returned to contribute towards
their own ethnic ambitions and established flourishing enterprises to
help their communities. The overseas CAS on the other hand, didn't even
bother to vote in the elections and not a single penny of their
donations since 1991 has ever reached the people here.
Unfortunately, they chose to hide behind their computer screens and
studio sets, engaging themselves in fairytale politics and pointless
historical rhetoric, rather than returning to face the harsh realities
of local politics.
They hoisted their National flag on the wrong side of the Globe and
refused to even visit the land they claimed. Their magnamanus and
self-assured personas cracked and their true identity was revealed,
their political punch seemed no more than shadow boxing, designed to
fool their own kind.
The Iraqi CAS whose opinions have the greater effect on Iraqi politics
(as opposed to the self-appointed ambassadors overseas) were largely
ignored, left to their own devices and ill-equipped, they found the
going tough. Their efforts were not helped by thoughtless, provocative
and counter-productive verbal attacks by their overseas cousins on the
very people they share the land with, 'the Kurds' (CAS's only real
allies in Iraq). They forgot that 'minorities' need to make friends not
A further setback for the community was their failure to unite under one
National name. A single word with deep historical meaning and
geographical significance such as 'Assyrian' would have been a great
unifying weapon which they failed to agree on. The slightly ambiguous
'Chaldo-Assyrian' catch phrase never really caught on and was
subsequently not used in the permanent Constitution. Now, they are left
with this rather uncompromising and lightweight 'CAS' term.
Some Nationalist CAS overseas are intent on establishing a
self-administered area for Chaldo-Assyrians in the Mosul province, and
why shouldn't they, but it's a long shot. The new Iraqi Constitution
does not allow it and the local CAS do not posses the quantity, the
finance, the expertise, nor the will and above all the national unity to
pull it off. Even if they did, would the overseas CAS leave their cushy
lifestyles to live there? I don't think so. Also, who said that the CAS
currently living in Kurdistan would be willing to exchange their lush
green villages for desert dust?
So the need for 'geographical unity' has now become of paramount
importance for these people. The 'dream-landers' vision overseas seems
very distant from that of the local 'realists'.
A part of this 'realist' community has been co-operating with the Kurds
and the KDP in particular, for a long time to safeguard the CAS's
future. One can't help but feel this collaboration will yield the
largest fruit. After all, 'Kurdistan' is where more than a hundred of
their villages lie and it seems once again, that's where their joint
destiny will be.