Posted by: Democratic Thinker | March 6, 2015

Commentary: Who Are the Assyrians?

Commentary

 
 
The Assyrian International News Agency carries an article from the Khaleej Times about the Assyrian people.

 


Eden Naby, an Assyrian researcher and Middle East historian, says their modern history has been marred by violence and persecution. Between 1914 and 1918, more than 500,000 Assyrians were killed during the Armenian genocide in present-day Turkey.

Assyrian International News Agency.

 


Syndicated News
Who Are the Assyrians?
By Michael Holtz

 

Assyrian International News Agency Illustration.

An Assyrian boy holds a poster during a sit-in for abducted Christians in Syria and Iraq, at a church in Sabtiyesh area east Beirut, Lebanon on February 26, 2015 (AP photo).

For Assyrian Christians in present-day Syria and Iraq, religious persecution has been a constant for much of their modern history.The world was reminded of that stark reality Tuesday morning, when Daesh militants reportedly captured dozens of Assyrians — estimates range from 70 to 150 — living in villages along the Khabur River in northeastern Syria. Their fate remains unclear, but fit a pattern of Daesh persecution of minorities in areas it seeks to subjugate.

“We are watching a living history and all that comprises disappear,” Mardean Isaac of A Demand for Action, an activist group that focuses on religious minorities in the Middle East, wrote in a statement published on Facebook.

So who are the Assyrians? Alternatively known as Syriac, Nestorian, or Chaldean Christians, they trace their roots back more than 6,500 years to ancient Mesopotamia, predating the Abrahamic religions. For 1,800 years the Assyrian empire dominated the region, establishing one of most advanced civilisations in the ancient world. (An example of this is the city of Arbel, one of the earliest permanent agricultural settlements.)

The Assyrian empire collapsed in 612 BC during the rise of the Persians. Then, 600 years later, they became among the earliest converts to Christianity. They still speak an endangered form of Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ, and consider themselves the last indigenous people of Syria and Iraq. Following the birth of Christianity, Assyrian missionaries spread across Asia, from the Mediterranean to the Pacific, and built a new empire that lasted until Arab Muslims swept through the Middle East in 630.

Eden Naby, an Assyrian researcher and Middle East historian, says their modern history has been marred by violence and persecution. Between 1914 and 1918, more than 500,000 Assyrians were killed during the Armenian genocide in present-day Turkey.

More recently, the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, a secular dictator, has exposed Assyrians and other minorities to sectarian strife. Emigration has shrunk the community of Assyrians from about 1.4 million living in Iraq in 1987 to 400,000 at last count, according to Al Jazeera. Others live in Turkey and Iran.

About 40,000 Assyrians remain in Syria, according to an estimate from the BBC, a number that experts say is likely in decline. Christians are estimated to have constituted about 10 per cent of Syria’s 22 million people before civil war erupted in 2011. Many Assyrians have since fled to escape the ongoing conflict and violent attacks by extremist groups such as Daesh.

“These people along the the river are refugees,” Ms. Naby says in a phone interview. “They’ve experienced a hundred years of this.”

A majority of Assyrians now live among the diaspora in the United States and Europe, including sizable populations in Germany and Sweden.

. . .

(Read complete article at original site)

 

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