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Assyrians - The Forgotten People - Part I

Assyrians - The Forgotten People - Part I

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Published by: bgeller4936 on Jan 17, 2010
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10-01-15 11:42 PMAssyrians - the Forgotten People - Part IPage 1 of 6http://www.atour.com/government/docs/20000619a.html
Assyrian Government Network
Assyrians - the Forgotten People - Part I
by Frederick P. Isaac
Posted: Monday, June 19, 2000 at 09:09 AM CT
Assyrians, who are they? One often hears this question from non-Assyrians. Have you ever stopped to think why? Whether deliberately or out of ignorance, people mistake the Assyrians for Syrians and sometimes the media refer to them as Kurds. Also,Assyria is oftentimes mistaken for Syria. Syria is an existingArab state that borders Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan.Assyria is the historical name of an ancient kingdom that oncethrived in what is now known as Iraq. A landlocked region,Assyria bordered Urmia province, part of north western Persia;Hakkari region, south eastern Turkey; Khabur-Hasitcha province,north eastern Syria; and Mosul, Erbil and Kirkuk, provinces of  present-day northern Iraq
Their kingdom covered an arearoughly about 350 miles long by 350 miles wide. The name of their oldest capital city was Assur. The capital Assur was namedafter the second grandson of Noah’s eldest son Shem. The name Assur applied to the wholecountry, hence Assyria. The Capital Assur still stands as an historic site, south of the ruins of their last capital city Ninveh in northern Iraq. Assyrians are, therefore, the indigenous andoriginal dwellers of ancient Mesopotamia (the homeland of the two rivers, Tigris andEuphrates) of present-day Iraq. Assyria was defeated by the Medians in collaboration with theBabylonians. The Assyrians are Semite in race. There are only three Semitic races in theMiddle East: Assyrians, Jews and Arabs, chronologically.Being one of the main base roots of Mesopotamia, the Assyrian kingdom encouragedurbanization, building of permanent dwellings and cities. They developed agriculture,improved methods of irrigation and systems of canals and aqueducts. They enhanced their language that served as a unifying force in writing, trade and business transaction. Theyencouraged trade, established and developed safe routes, protecting citizens and property bywritten law. They excelled in administration, documented their performance and royalachievements, depicting their culture in different art forms. They built libraries and archivedtheir recorded deeds for prosperity. They accumulated wealth and knowledge; raised armies indisciplined formation of infantry, cavalry and war-chariot troops with logistics; and built astrong kingdom, an unique civilization and the first world empire.Assyrians, in and around Beth Nahrain, throughout the ages, had always advanced learningand extended it beyond their realm. Since early history, their unquenchable thirst for knowledge broke formidable barriers and entered new frontiers. While the Disciples proclaimed the New Testament westward and established Christian congregations around theMediterranean basin, through Anatolia (present-day Turkey), Greece and the Roman Empire,the (Nestorian) Assyrian missionaries preached the Word throughout the East - the Arab
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Peninsula, Persia, Afghanistan, India (Kerala), China, Mongolia and beyond. Thus Assyria, playing the leading role in contributing knowledge, throughout the centuries, led the world torecognize Mesopotamia as
the cradle of civilization
from which succeeding nations drew their sources and increased their knowledge and expanded further, emulating Assyria for its uniquecivilization, like the Persians, Greeks, Romans and Arabs.After its collapse, in 612 BC, Assyria became a vassalage and lost its importance as a world power. It became a bargaining chip that was exchanged between subsequent empires andconquerors. It gradually diminished in importance as a trade centre and was reduced to asatrapy. In the latter half of the 1
century AD, the Assyrians embraced Christianity.Henceforth, they diverted their attention to evangelism. They devoted their time and energy to preaching the Gospel and spreading the teachings of Christ. They built churches, monasteriesand learning centres. Being skilled tradesmen, the Assyrians also engaged in business andrevamped trade. They strengthened their business and social relations with many countriesand along the Silk Road to China and Mongolia. The Assyrian Church of the East (misnomer  Nestorian) expanded its missionary work and continued to prosper. Likewise, Assyrian tradelinks increased and business flourished. Christianity had mellowed them. They abandonedtheir bellicosity and were no longer described as warlike people. They became peaceful andcourteous in their dealings and attitude yet remained sharp in business. They maintained peaceful coexistence with their neighbours, building friendly relations with surroundingcountries. Assyria remained under the Roman sphere of influence until the Arab conquests of Mesopotamia in the mid-7
AD. With the emergence of the new religion of Islamand the rise of hostility, resistance waned against the successive waves of the Islamicinvading armies. Islam focused on spreading its religion. It diverted its forces and energyagainst the ‘unbeliever’, the infidel and the polytheist - the non-Muslim. Many countries wereoverwhelmed. The Assyrian people suffered great losses, persecution and humiliation for notrecanting their Christian faith and converting to Islam. They were isolated and languished in poverty. True, the kingdom of Assyria may have been vanquished, yet its people havemiraculously survived the onslaught and trampling of past and present invaders. After thetriumph and rise of Islam, the evangelistic activity of the Assyrian Church of the East wascurtailed and finally dwindled to a halt. The Assyrian Church weakened under the directcontrol of the Islamic Khilaphates. It shrank and lost its influence and thereon was restrictedin its movement and activity and confined to within its own locality.Under the Arab Khilaphate rule, land was awarded free of charge to converts or as a rewardin appreciation for their conversion and loyal service to the Khilaphate. While under theOttoman rule, conquered territory and unclaimed land became government property and fellunder its jurisdiction. It could seize land and dispense with it in any manner it deemed fit. Insome instances, the Ottoman Empire confiscated Christian farmlands and properties andleased them or sold them at nominal price to the Moslem Turkmen, Kurds and Arabs. Duringthe occupation period heavy taxes were exacted on Christian adults which forced Christianlandlords and proprietors to lose their property. Christians were squeezed out of their wealth.The Assyrians were forced to live a subservient life as retribution for their unshakable faith intheir Christian religion and steadfast resistance to conversion or change of their nationalidentity.Thus, Assyria was trodden by invaders throughout the centuries, its treasures looted and itshistoric cities laid to waste and eventually forgotten and abandoned. Like a pack of hungrywolves, its territory was preyed upon and chiselled away by neighbouring countries,especially after the Islamic conquest of Mesopotamia and the brutal repression of itsindigenous inhabitants. To complete the picture, at the end of the World War One of 1914-1918, the Mandatory Powers, England and France, abolished Mesopotamia and wiped it fromthe World Atlas. They struck off Assyria from the map, annulled the identity of itsindigenous people and denied them the right of ownership of their traditional homeland.
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During the First World War, in April 1916, on behalf of their governments, French ForeignMinister, Georges Picot, and his British counterpart, Mark Sykes, had developed and signed asecret agreement, namely, the Sykes-Picot Agreement to divide Mesopotamia between Franceand Britain after dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire. Western Powers, through theLeague of Nations, allied themselves against resettlement of the Assyrians in their traditionalhomeland. Britain failed to make good her promise in representing the Assyrians at theLeague. Acting as Judas Iscariot, Britain sold the Assyrians to their enemy Iraq, for 30 piecesof silver. The Western Allies had already predestined Assyria’s future. They refused to enter into any written negotiations with the Assyrian leaders for a political settlement. They blamedtheir unfortunate and hard circumstances on the changes to the Russian sphere of influencefrom which the Assyrians of Hakkari in Turkey and Urmia in Iran had been driven out. In thewake of the October 1917 Revolution, Russia withdrew from war and its zone of influence. Itrevoked certain agreements with the West and left many issues unsettled one of which wasthe rehabilitation of the displaced Assyrians. The territorial losses of the Assyrians werediscounted and described as unfortunate by the Allied Powers, under the terms of Article 22of the Covenant of the League of Nations. To exploit the oil wealth of the Middle East,insure its access and safe flow throughout several borders and redrawn borderlines andmaintain smooth relations, the colonial powers annexed the divided Assyrian homeland toexiting and newly created Islamic kingdoms and states.Deliberately choosing not to heed the racial, ethnic and religious diversities and thedemographic reality of the Middle East, the mandatory powers dismembered Mesopotamia.They partitioned Assyria and gave it away to its enemies. The Mandates vehemently rejectedAssyrian claim to their ancestral homeland. They foiled their attempts to unite their ranks,hold on to their territory and declare themselves independent. The Allied Powers, mainlyBritain and France, connived with the existing and newly created states to keep Assyriashattered under the yoke of foreign rule. To consolidate their hold on the Middle East andassert their authority, the mandates collaborated with the Islamic countries in restoring thearchaic
Millet Provision
. To minimize their number and lessen their political weight, themandatory powers supported the Islamic states in keeping the Assyrian people of the MiddleEast divided into several denominational groups. They based them on different Christiansects, rather than reunite them as one people of Assyrian nationality. They conspired againstthe Assyrians and prevented them from shaping their destiny to govern themselves in their traditional homeland, by keeping them divided and subjecting them to the millet provision.Under the authority of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, a clear agendahad been set for the assimilation of the Assyrians into the Arab nations.For the past twelve hundred years, or so, since the Islamic conquests the arbitrary rule of theArab/Turkic governments has clamped down mercilessly on the Assyrians. Their high handed policy wreaked havoc with the whole Assyrian nation. They inflicted heavy loss of life andsever damage to the social fabric of their very existence. Their oppressive rule, under themillet provision, slummed the Assyrians deeper into deprivation and misery. It was not only asetback but a catastrophe that regressed the Assyrians to undignified life of subservience. In post World War One and after over 12 hundred years of dormancy (750 to early 20
century), the Assyrians woke up to see their Islamic neighbours, in connivance with the West,nibbling at the doorsteps of what was left of their Assyrian territory, situated in Urmia,Hakkari and the Mosul region. The Quartette (Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria) have sinceannexed the Assyrian territory to their states. They integrated it in its entirety, as an extensionto the ever expanding Islamic (Umma) Nation, to encompass the whole of the Middle East.During that long period, hundreds of thousands of Assyrians, including neighbouringArmenians and also Greeks, men, women and children, were massacred and their villages 

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