OF THE ASSYRIAN PEOPLE
history of the Assyrian people begins with the appearance of Akkadian
speaking peoples in Mesopotamia at some point between 3500 and 3000
BC, followed by the formation of Assyria in the 25th century BC.
During the early Bronze Age period Sargon of Akkad united all the
native Semitic-speakers and the Sumerians of Mesopotamia (including
the Assyrians) under the Akkadian Empire (2335–2154 BC). Assyria
essentially existed as part of a unified Akkadian nation for much
of the period from the 24th century BC to the 22nd century BC, and
a nation-state from the mid 21st century BC until its destruction
as an independent state between 615–599 BC.
Assyrians are culturally, linguistically, genetically and ethnically
distinct from their neighbours in the Middle East – the Arabs,
Syrians, Persians/Iranians, Kurds, Jews, Turks, Israelis, Azeris,
Shabaks, Yezidis, Kawliya, Mandeans and Armenians.
nationalism emphasizes their indigeneity to the Assyrian homeland,
together with cultural, historical and ethnic Assyrian continuity
since the Iron Age Neo-Assyrian Empire, and Achaemenid Persian,
Greek, Roman, Parthian, and Sassanid ruled Athura/Assuristan. Assyria
was a land stretching from Tkrit in the south to Amida, Kultepe
and Harran in the north, and from Edessa in the west to the border
of Persia (Iran) in the east.
These modern areas encompassed ancient Assyria between the 21st
century BC and 7th century AD. Much of this land is now also inhabited
by much later arriving Kurds, Arabs, Turks, Yezidis, Armenians,
Shabakis, Turcomans and others.
Assyrians are a Semitic people, with many (estimates range between
575,000 and 1,000,000) still speaking, reading and writing Akkadian
influenced dialects of East Aramaic. Today they are a Christian
people, with most being followers of the Assyrian Church of the
East, Chaldean Catholic Church, Syriac Orthodox Church, Ancient
Church of the East, Assyrian Pentecostal Church and Assyrian Evangelical
In prehistoric times, the region that was to become known as Assyria
(and Subartu) was home to a Neanderthal culture such as has been
found at the Shanidar Cave. The earliest Neolithic sites in Assyria
were the Jarmo culture c. 7100 BC and Tell Hassuna, the centre of
the Hassuna culture, c. 6000 BC.
cities of Assur (also spelled Ashur or Aššur) and Nineveh,
together with a number of other towns and cities, existed as early
as the 26th century BC, although they appear to have been Sumerian-ruled
administrative centers at this time, rather than independent states.
The Assyrian king list records kings dating from the 25th century
BC onwards, the earliest being Tudiya, who was a contemporary of
Ibrium of Ebla. However, many of these early kings would have been
local rulers, and from the late 24th century BC to the early 22nd
century BC, usually subject to the Akkadian Empire based in the
city of Akkad, which united all of the Akkadian speaking Semites
(including the Assyrians) under one rule.. The Sumerians were eventually
absorbed into the Akkadian (Assyro-Babylonian) population.
the fall of the Akkadian Empire, the Akkadians once more fragmented
into smaller nation-states, with Assyria coming to dominate northern
Mesopotamia, and states such as Ur, Kish, Isin and Larsa the south.
In the 18th century BC the south Mesopotamian states were subsumed
into a new power, that of Babylonia. However, Babylonia unlike Assyria,
was founded and originally ruled by non indigenous Amorites, and
was to be more often than not ruled by other waves of non indigenous
peoples such as Kassites, Hittites, Elamites, Arameans and Chaldeans,
as well as by the indigenous Assyrians.
was for most of this period a powerful and highly advanced nation,
and a major center of Mesopotamian civilization and Mesopotamian
religion. Assyria had three periods of empire; the Old Assyrian
Empire (2025–1750 BC) which saw it emerge as the most powerful
state in the region, extending colonies into southeast Anatolia,
the northern Levant, central Mesopotamia and northwestern Ancient
Iran. The Middle Assyrian Empire (1365–1020 BC) saw Assyria
emerge as the most powerful military and political force in the
known world, destroying the Mitanni-Hurrian empire, largely annexing
the Hittite Empire, forcing the Egyptian Empire from the region,
conquering Babylonia and besting the Elamites, Kassites, Phrygians,
Amorites, Arameans, Phoenicians and Cilicians among others. Middle
Assyrian Empire kings extended Assyrian domination from Mount Ararat
in the north to Dilmun (modern Bahrain) in the south, and from the
Eastern Mediterranean and Antioch in the west to the Zagros (in
modern northern Iran) in the east.
Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–605 BC) was the largest the world
had yet seen; in the north, it extended to the Transcaucasia (modern
Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan), to the south it encompassed Egypt,
northern Nubia (modern Sudan), Libya and much of the Arabian peninsula,
to the west it extended into parts of Ancient Greece, Cyprus, Cilicia,
Phoenicia western Anatolia etc., and the East Mediterranean, and
to the east into Persia, Media, Gutium, Parthia, Elam, Cissia and
Mannea (the modern western half of Iran). In 626 BC it descended
into a bitter series of civil wars conducted by rival claimants
to the throne, weakening it severely, and allowing it to be eventually
conquered by a coalition of former subject peoples. In 615 BC combined
attacks by an alliance of its former subjects; namely the Medes,
Babylonians, Persians, Chaldeans, Scythians, Sagartians and Cimmerians,
gradually led to its fall by 599 BC. However, Assyria was to survive
as a geo-political entity until the mid 7th century AD. The Assyrians
today speak dialects of Eastern Aramaic, which still contain an
Akkadian grammatical structure and hundreds of Akkadian loanwords.
This language was originally introduced to Assyria as the lingua
franca of the Neo Assyrian Empire in the mid 8th century BC by Tiglath-pileser
Assyrian Empire :
After the defeat of Ashur-uballit II in 608 BC at Haran, at Carchemish
in 605 BC, and after the last center of Assyrian imperial records
at Dur-Katlimmu in 599 BC, the Assyrian empire was divided up by
the key invading forces, the Babylonians and the Medes, with the
Medes ruling Assyria proper. The Assyrian people, after the fall
of their empire, fell under foreign domination ever since. Assyria
came under the rule of the short-lived Median Empire until 546 BC.
The last king of Babylon, Nabonidus (together with his son and co-regent
Belshazzar), was ironically an Assyrian from Harran. Assyria then
became an Achaemenid province named Athura (Assyria).
Median Empire was then conquered by Cyrus in 547 BC, under the Achaemenid
dynasty, and the Persian Empire was thus founded, which consumed
the entire Neo-Babylonian or "Chaldean" Empire in 539
BC. King Cyrus changed Assyria's capital from Nineveh to Arbela.
Assyrians became front line soldiers for the Persian empire under
King Xerxes, playing a major role in the Battle of Marathon under
King Darius I in 490 BC. Cyrus II returned the sacred images of
the Assyrians to Nineveh and Assur, established for them permanent
sanctuaries, gathered all their former inhabitants and returned
them to their habitations. At the news of the assassination of Bardiya
(son of Cyrus II), and this connection, Darius the Great declared
that several satrapies including the Assyrian satrapy revolted In
482 BC, Babylonia and Assyria were joined together in the same administrative
Assyrian people were Christianized in the 1st to 3rd centuries,
in Roman Syria and Roman Assyria. They were divided by the Nestorian
Schism in the 5th century, and from the 8th century, they became
a religious minority following the Islamic conquest of Mesopotamia.
They suffered a genocide at the collapse of the Ottoman Empire,
and today to a significant extent live in diaspora.
Christian period :
mosaic of an Edessa family, 3rd century
In Assyrian Church of the East tradition, the Assyrians are descended
from Abraham's grandson (Dedan son of Jokshan), progenitor of the
ancient Assyrians. Along with the Arameans, Phoenicians, Armenians,
Greeks and Nabateans, they were among the first people to convert
to Christianity and spread Eastern Christianity to the Far East.
Council of Seleucia of c. 325 dealt with jurisdictional conflicts
among the leading bishops. At the subsequent Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon
of 410, the Christian communities of Mesopotamia renounced all subjection
to Antioch and the "Western" bishops and the Bishop of
Seleucia-Ctesiphon assumed the rank of Catholicos.
Nestorian and Monophysite schisms of the 5th century divided the
church into separate denominations. With the rise of Syriac Christianity,
eastern Aramaic enjoyed a renaissance as a classical language in
the 2nd to 8th centuries, and the modern Assyrian people continue
to speak eastern Neo-Aramaic dialects which still retain a number
of Akkadian loan words to this day.
Latin and Greek Christian cultures became protected by the Roman
and Byzantine empires respectively, Assyrian/Syriac Christianity
often found itself marginalized and persecuted. Antioch was the
political capital of this culture, and was the seat of the patriarchs
of the church. However, Antioch was heavily Hellenized, and the
cities of Edessa, Nisibis, Arbela and Ctesiphon became Syriac cultural
Seleucid Greek hegemony :
At the end of the Achaemenid Persian rule in 330 BC, Mesopotamia
was partitioned into the satrapy of Babylon in the south, while
the northern part of Mesopotamia was joined with Syria in another
satrapy. It is not known how long this division lasted, but by the
death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, the north was removed from
Syria and made into a separate satrapy. Generally speaking, the
Seleucid rulers respected the native priesthood of Mesopotamia,
and there is no record of persecutions. There is proof that the
Parthians, when establishing their sovereignty over different parts
in the empire, retained the dynasts that had become independent
or had been acting on behalf of the Seleucids, as long as they accepted
Parthian sovereignty. Full overlordship of the Parthians was established
since the full establishment of the empire under Arsaces I of Parthia.
Aramaic was the official language of the Achaemenid Persian Empire;
after the conquests of Alexander the Great, Greek replaced Aramaic,
including up to the Seleucid empire. However, both Greek and Aramaic
were used throughout the empire, although Greek was the principal
language of the government. Aramaic changed different parts of the
empire, and in Mesopotamia, under the subsequent rule of the Parthians
it evolved into Syriac.
Syria became a Roman province in 64 BC, following the Third Mithridatic
War. The Assyria-based army accounted for three legions of the Roman
army, defending the Parthian border. In the 1st century, it was
the Assyria-based army that enabled Vespasian's coup. Syria was
of crucial strategic importance during the crisis of the third century.
From the later 2nd century, the Roman senate included several notable
Assyrians, including Claudius Pompeianus and Avidius Cassius. In
the 3rd century, Assyrians even reached for imperial power, with
the Severan dynasty.
Roman Syria in 125 AD. Roman sovereignty of Syria ceased
passed the Euphrates River
From the 1st century BC, Assyria was the theatre of the protracted
Perso-Roman Wars. It would become a Roman province (Assyria Provincia)
between 116 and 363 AD, although Roman control of this province
was unstable and was often returned to the Parthians and Persians.
When the Seleucids passed, it was the Iranian Parthians who took
their place, wielding the scepter over much of West Asia for some
400 years. It is during the Parthian period that the Christianisation
of Adiabene began. Despite the influx of foreign elements, despite
the changes in architecture, the presence of Assyrians is confirmed
by the worship of God Ashur, all proof of the continuity of the
Assyrians. The conclusion to be drawn from this is that the Greeks,
Parthians, and Romans had a rather low-level of integration with
the local population in Mesopotamia, which allowed their cultures
to survive. Therefore, the large influx of Greek and Iranian Parthian
elements did not wipe out the local population and culture.
Parthians exercised only loose control over Assyria, and it saw
a major cultural revival, with Ashur once more becoming independent,
and other Assyrian states arising, such as Adiabene, Osroene, Beth
Nuhadra and Beth Garmai, together with the partly Assyrian state
the dawn of Christianity in the 1st century AD the people living
in Assyria were Assyrians, bordered by Parthians, Persians, Greeks,
Persian hegemony :
In 225 AD Parthian rule over the Assyrian territories straightly
moved to the newly established and vibrant Sassanid Persian Empire.
population of Asorestan was a mixed one, composed of Assyrians,
Arameans (in the far south, and western deserts), and Persians.
The Greek element in the cities, still strong in the Parthian period,
was absorbed by the Semites in Sasanian times. The majority of the
population were Assyrian people, speaking Eastern Aramaic dialects.
As the breadbasket of the Sasanian Empire, most of the population
were engaged in agriculture or worked as traders and merchants.
The Persians were found in the administrative class of society,
as army officers, civil servants, and feudal lords, living partly
in the country, partly in Ctesiphon. At least three dialects of
Eastern Aramaic were in spoken and liturgical use: Syriac mainly
in the north and among Assyrian Christians, Mandaic in the south
and among Mandaeans, and a dialect in the central region, of which
the Judaic subvariety is known as Jewish Babylonian Aramaic. Aside
from the liturgical scriptures of these religions which exist today,
archaeological examples of all three of these dialects can be found
in the collections of thousands of Aramaic incantation bowls—ceramic
artifacts dated to this era—discovered in Iraq. While the
Jewish Aramaic script retained the original "square" or
"block" form of the Aramaic alphabet used in Imperial
Aramaic (the Ashuri alphabet), the Syriac alphabet and the Mandaic
alphabet developed when cursive styles of Aramaic began to appear.
The Mandaic script itself developed from the Parthian chancellery
religious demography of Mesopotamia was very diverse during Late
Antiquity. From the 1st and 2nd centuries Syriac Christianity became
the primary religion, while other groups practiced Mandaeism, Judaism,
Manichaeism, Zoroastrianism, and the old Mesopotamian religion.
Christians were probably the most numerous group in the province.
The Sasanian state religion, Zoroastrianism, was largely confined
to the Persian administrative class. Asorestan, and particularly
Assyria proper, were the centers for the Church of the East (continuity
with which is now claimed by several churches), which at times (partially
due to the vast areas the Sasanian empire covered) was the most
widespread Christian church in the world, reaching well into Central
Asia, China and India. The Church of the East went through major
consolidation and expansion in 410 during the Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon,
held at the Sasanian capital (in Asorestan). Selucia-Ctesiphon remained
a location of the Patriarchate of the Church of the East for over
period of Sassanid hegemony lasted till the advent of the invading
Rashidun Arabs between 633 and 638 AD after which Assuristan got
annexed by the Islamic Arabs. Together with Mayshan became the province
of al-'Iraq. A century later, the area became the capital province
of the Abbasid Caliphate and the center of Islamic civilization
for five hundred years; from the 8th to the 13th centuries.
After the Arab Islamic Conquest of the mid 7th century AD Assuristan
(Assyria) was dissolved as an entity. The previously basic civilization
of the desert-dwelling Arabs was greatly enhanced and enriched by
the influence and knowledge of native Mesopotamian scientists, physicians,
mathematicians, theologians, astronomers, architects, agriculturalists,
artists, and astrologers.
Aramaic language and Syriac Christianity in the Middle East
and Central Asia until being largely annihilated by Tamerlane in
the 14th century
Assyrian Christians especially Nestorian contributed to the Arab
Islamic Civilization during the Ummayads and the Abbasids by translating
works of Greek philosophers to Syriac and afterwards to Arabic.
They also excelled in philosophy, science (such as Hunayn ibn Ishaq,
Qusta ibn Luqa, Masawaiyh, Patriarch Eutychius, Jabril ibn Bukhtishu
etc.) and theology (such as Tatian, Bar Daisan, Babai the Great,
Nestorius, Toma bar Yacoub etc.) and the personal physicians of
the Abbasid Caliphs were often Assyrian Christians such as the long
serving Bukhtishu dynasty.
despite this, indigenous Assyrians became second class citizens
in a greater Arab Islamic state, and those who resisted Arabisation
and conversion to Islam were subject to religious, ethnic and cultural
discrimination, and had certain restrictions imposed upon them.
They were excluded from specific duties and occupations reserved
for Muslims, did not enjoy the same political rights as Muslims,
their word was not equal to that of a Muslim in legal and civil
matters, as Christians they were subject to payment of a special
tax (jizyah), they were banned from spreading their religion further
in Muslim ruled lands, men were banned from marrying Muslim women,
but at the same time they were also expected to adhere to the same
laws of property, contract and obligation as the Muslim Arabs. The
ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh had its bishop of the Church
of the East at the time of the Arab conquest of Mesopotamia. The
Arabs still recognised Assyrian identity in the Medieval period,
describing them as Ashuriyun.
people, still retaining Akkadian infused and influenced Eastern
Aramaic and Church of the East Christianity, remained dominant in
the north of Mesopotamia (what had been Assyria) as late as the
14th century AD and the city of Assur was still occupied by Assyrians
during the Islamic period until the mid-14th century when the Muslim
Turco-Mongol ruler Tamurlane conducted a religiously-motivated massacre
of indigenous Assyrian Christians. After that, there are no traces
of a settlement at Ashur in the archaeological and numismatic record,
and from this point, the Assyrian population was dramatically reduced
in their homeland. However, another theory posits that the migration
of many Assyrians out of Ashur began in the fourteenth century during
the Mongol conquests.
1552, a schism occurred within the Church of the East: the established
"Eliya line" of patriarchs was opposed by a rival patriarch,
Sulaqa, who initiated what is called the "Shimun line".
He and his early successors entered into communion with the Catholic
Church, but in the course of over a century their link with Rome
grew weak and was openly renounced in 1672, when Shimun XIII Dinkha
adopted a profession of faith that contradicted that of Rome, while
he maintained his independence from the "Eliya line".
Leadership of those who wished to be in communion with Rome passed
to the Archbishop of Amid Joseph I, recognized first by the Turkish
civil authorities (1677) and then by Rome itself (1681). A century
and a half later, in 1830, headship of the Catholics was conferred
on Yohannan Hormizd. Yohannan was a member of the "Eliya line"
family, but he opposed the last of that line to be elected in the
normal way as patriarch, Isho'yahb (1778–1804), most of whose
followers he won over to communion with Rome, after he himself was
irregularly elected in 1780, as Sulaqa was in 1552. The "Shimun
line" that in 1553 entered communion with Rome and broke it
off in 1672 is now that of the church that in 1976 officially adopted
the name "Assyrian Church of the East", while a member
of the "Eliya line" family is one of the patriarchs of
the Chaldean Catholic Church.
many centuries, from at least the time of Jerome (c. 347 –
420), the term "Chaldean" indicated the Aramaic language
and was still the normal name in the nineteenth century. Only in
1445 did it begin to be used to mean Aramaic speakers in communion
with the Catholic Church, on the basis of a decree of the Council
of Florence, which accepted the profession of faith that Timothy,
metropolitan of the Aramaic speakers in Cyprus, made in Aramaic,
and which decreed that "nobody shall in future dare to call
Chaldeans, Nestorians". Previously, when there were as yet
no Catholic Aramaic speakers of Mesopotamian origin, the term "Chaldean"
was applied with explicit reference to their "Nestorian"
religion. Thus Jacques de Vitry wrote of them in 1220/1 that "they
denied that Mary was the Mother of God and claimed that Christ existed
in two persons. They consecrated leavened bread and used the 'Chaldean'
(Syriac) language". Until the second half of the 19th century.
the term "Chaldean" continued in general use for East
Syriac Christians, whether "Nestorian" or Catholic: it
was the West Syriacs who were reported as claiming descent from
Asshur, the second son of Shem.
from the 19th century after the rise of nationalism in the Balkans,
the Ottomans started viewing Assyrians and other Christians in their
eastern front as a potential threat. Furthermore, constant wars
between The Ottomans and the Shiite Safavids encouraged the Ottomans
into settling their allies, the nomadic Sunni Kurds, in what is
today Northern Iraq and South-eastern Turkey. Starting from then,
Kurdish tribal chiefs established semi-independent emirates. The
Kurdish Emirs sought to consolidate their power by attacking Assyrian
communities which were already well established there. Scholars
estimate that tens of thousands of Assyrian in the Hakkari region
were massacred in 1843 when Badr Khan the emir of Bohtan invaded
their region. After a later massacre in 1846 The Ottomans were forced
by the western powers into intervening in the region, and the ensuing
conflict destroyed the Kurdish emirates and reasserted the Ottoman
power in the area. The Assyrians of Amid were also subject to the
massacres of 1895.
The Assyrians suffered a further catastrophic series of massacres
known as the Assyrian Genocide, at the hands of the Ottomans and
their Kurdish and Arab allies from 1915–1918. The genocide
(committed in conjunction with the Armenian Genocide and Greek Genocide)
accounted for up to 750,000 unarmed Assyrian civilians and the forced
deportations of many more. The sizable Assyrian presence in southeastern
Asia Minor which had endured for over four millennia was reduced
to a few thousand. As a consequence, the surviving Assyrians took
up arms, and an Assyrian war of independence was fought during World
War I, For a time, the Assyrians fought successfully against overwhelming
numbers, scoring a number of victories over the Ottomans and Kurds,
and also hostile Arab and Iranian groups; then their Russian allies
left the war following the Russian Revolution, and Armenian resistance
broke. The Assyrians were left cut off, surrounded, and without
supplies, forcing those in Asia Minor and Northwest Iran to fight
their way, with civilians in tow, to the safety of British lines
and their fellow Assyrians in the Assyrian homeland of northern
Iraq. Assyrians prominently served in Iraq Levies organized by the
British in 1919, and after 1928, these became the Assyrian Levies.
Assyrians from Hakkari settled in Syria after they were displaced
and driven out by Ottoman Turks in southeast Turkey in the early
20th century. During the 1930s and 1940s, many Assyrians resettled
in northeastern Syrian villages, such as Tel Tamer, Al-Qahtaniyah
Al Darbasiyah, Al-Malikiyah, Qamishli and a few other small towns
in Al-Hasakah Governorate.
1932, Assyrians refused to become part of the newly formed state
of Iraq and instead demanded their recognition as a nation within
a nation. The Assyrian leader Mar Shimun XXI Eshai asked the League
of Nations to recognize the right of Assyrians to govern the area
known as the "Assyrian triangle" in northern Iraq. The
Assyrians suffered the Simele Massacre, where thousands of unarmed
villagers (men, women, and children) were slaughtered by joint Arab-Kurdish
forces of the Iraqi Army. These massacres followed a clash between
Assyrian tribesmen and the Iraqi army, where the Iraqi forces suffered
a defeat after trying to disarm the Assyrians, whom they feared
would attempt to secede from Iraq. Armed Assyrian Levies were prevented
by the British from going to the aid of these defenseless civilians.
Eventually this led to the Iraqi government to commit its first
of many massacres against its unarmed minority populations (see
Assyrian Levies were founded by the British in 1928, with ancient
Assyrian military rankings, such as Rab-shakeh, Rab-talia and Tartan,
being revived for the first time in millennia for this force. The
Assyrians were prized by the British rulers for their fighting qualities,
loyalty, bravery and discipline, and were used to help the British
put down insurrections among the Arabs and Kurds, guard the borders
with Iran and Turkey and protect British military installations.
Assyrians were allied with the British during World War II, with
eleven Assyrian companies seeing action in Palestine/Israel and
another four serving in Cyprus. The Parachute Company was attached
to the Royal Marine Commando and Assyrian Paratroopers were involved
in fighting in Albania, Italy and Greece. Assyrians played a major
role in the victory over Arab-Iraqi forces at the Battle of Habbaniya
and Anglo-Iraq war in 1941, when the Iraqi government decided to
join WW2 on the side of Nazi Germany. The British presence in Iraq
lasted until 1954, and Assyrian Levies remained attached to British
forces until this time.
period from the 1940s through to 1963 saw a period of respite for
the Assyrians. The regime of President Kassim, in particular, saw
the Assyrians accepted into mainstream society. Many urban Assyrians
became successful businessmen, others were well represented in politics
and the military, their towns and villages flourished undisturbed,
and Assyrians came to excel, and be over-represented in sports such
as Boxing, Football, Athletics, Wrestling and Swimming.
in 1963, the Ba'ath Party took power by force in Iraq. The Baathists,
though secular, were Arab Nationalists, and set about attempting
to Arabize the many on Arab peoples of Iraq, including the Assyrians.
Other ethnic groups targeted for forced Arabization included Kurds,
Armenians, Turcomans, Mandeans, Yezidi, Shabaki, Kawliya, Persians
and Circassians. This policy included refusing to acknowledge the
Assyrians as an ethnic group, banning the publication of written
material in Eastern Aramaic, and banning its teaching in schools,
banning parents giving Assyrian names to their children, banning
Assyrian political parties, taking control of Assyrian churches,
attempting to divide Assyrians on denominational lines (e.g. Assyrian
Church of the East vs Chaldean Catholic Church vs Syriac Orthodox)
and forced relocations of Assyrians from their traditional homelands
to major cities.
response to Baathist persecution, the Assyrians of the Zowaa movement
within the Assyrian Democratic Movement took up armed struggle against
the Iraqi regime in 1982 under the leadership of Yonadam Kanna,
and then joined up with the IKF in the early 1990s. Yonadam Kanna,
in particular, was a target of the Saddam Hussein Ba'ath regime
for many years.
policies of the Baathists have also long been mirrored in Turkey,
whose governments have refused to acknowledge the Assyrians as an
ethnic group since the 1920s, and have attempted to Turkify the
Assyrians by calling them Semitic Turks and forcing them to adopt
Turkic names. In Syria too, the Assyrian/Syriac Christians have
faced pressure to identify as Arab Christians.
persecutions have befallen the Assyrians since, such as the Anfal
campaign and Baathist, Arab and Kurdish nationalist and Islamist
With the fall of Saddam Hussein and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, no
reliable census figures exist on the Assyrians in Iraq (as they
do not for Iraqi Kurds or Turkmen), though the number of Assyrians
is estimated to be approximately 800,000.
Assyrian Democratic Movement (or ADM) was one of the smaller political
parties that emerged in the social chaos of the occupation. Its
officials say that while members of the ADM also took part in the
liberation of the key oil cities of Kirkuk and Mosul in the north,
the Assyrians were not invited to join the steering committee that
was charged with defining Iraq's future. The ethnic make-up of the
Iraq Interim Governing Council briefly (September 2003 – June
2004) guided Iraq after the invasion included a single Assyrian
Christian, Younadem Kana, a leader of the Assyrian Democratic Movement
and an opponent of Saddam Hussein since 1979.
October 2008 many Iraqi Christians(about 12,000 almost Assyrians)
have fled the city of Mosul following a wave of murders and threats
targeting their community. The murder of at least a dozen Christians,
death threats to others, the destruction of houses forced the Christians
to leave their city in hurry. Some families crossed the borders
to Syria and Turkey while others have been given shelters in Churches
and Monasteries. Accusations and blames have been exchanged between
Sunni fundamentalists and some Kurdish groups for being behind this
new exodus. For the time the motivation of these culprits remains
mysterious, but some claims related it to the provincial elections
due to be held at the end of January 2009, and especially connected
to Christian's demand for wider presentation in the provincial councils.
recent years, the Assyrians in northern Iraq and northeast Syria
have become the target of extreme unprovoked Islamic terrorism.
As a result, Assyrians have taken up arms, alongside other groups
(such as the Kurds, Turcomans and Armenians) in response to unprovoked
attacks by Al Qaeda, ISIS/ISIL, Nusra Front and other terrorist
Islamic Fundamentalist groups. In 2014 Islamic terrorists of ISIS
attacked Assyrian towns and villages in the Assyrian Homeland of
northern Iraq, together with cities such as Mosul and Kirkuk which
have large Assyrian populations. There have been reports of atrocities
committed by ISIS terrorists since, including; beheadings, crucifixions,
child murders, rape, forced conversions, Ethnic Cleansing, robbery,
and extortion in the form of illegal taxes levied upon non-Muslims.
Assyrians in Iraq have responded by forming armed Assyrian militias
to defend their territories.
Thus far, the only people who have been attested with a high level
of genetic, historical, linguistic and cultural research to be the
descendants of the ancient Mesopotamians are the Assyrian Christians
of Iraq and its surrounding areas in northwest Iran, northeast Syria
and southeastern Turkey (see Assyrian continuity), although others
have made unsubstantiated claims of continuity. Assyria continued
to exist as a geopolitical entity until the Arab-Islamic conquest
in the mid-7th century, and Assyrian identity, personal, family
and tribal names, and both spoken and written evolutions of Mesopotamian
Aramaic (which still contain many Akkadian loan words and an Akkadian
grammatical structure) have survived among the Assyrian people from
ancient times to this day.