Archive for the 'Iraq' Category

Assyrian Organization Demands Autonomy in Iraq


The largest international Assyrian organization has convened its convention in Australia. The result of Assyrian Universal Alliance’s (AUA) 26th World Congress is a declaration which, in part, calls on Iraq to create an Assyrian autonomous region, demands land return from the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq and calls on Turkey to recognize the WWI genocide against Greeks, Assyrians, and Armenians.

Interestingly, the declaration calls for official recognition of Assyrians as Iraq’s indigenous peoples. The declaration, nonetheless, doesn’t claim the same in Turkey, Syria, and Iran, where modern Assyrians have previously claimed indigenous connection. It seems that AUA wishes to concentrate its efforts on a particular goal – mainly an autonomous region in northern Iraq. But given their small numbers (estimated at under a million), Assyrian’s righteous claim has little translation in Iraq’s realpolitik. Some even argue that Assyrian demands for autonomy in Iraq are a dangerous play in a region where Kurds and Sunni Arabs contest for power and control.

I don’t see a clear-cut solution for the Assyrian problem in Iraq, but I think a complementary relationship with both Kurds and Sunni Arabs is in the best interest of the Assyrians at this time.

Background on Assyrians: Known by different names, the indigenous peoples of Mesopotamia are often called Assyrians, Syriacs, Arameans, Chaldeans, Nestorians, Syrianis, Jacobites, and Phoenicians. Not all of the above choose to be called Assyrian, the general name often given to all these groups, and a more inclusive term, Chaldeans-Assyrians-Syriacs, has been emerging. The most active groups, nonetheless, consider the entire nation – Assyrians.

A small, stateless indigenous peoples spread between Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran, Assyrians are a little known nation with a recent history of persecution and even genocide. The likely descendants of the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians, modern Assyrians are an ancient Christian people who have survived for centuries. Surrounded by not just states but also by other stateless groups such as the Kurds, the history and problems of Assyrians are little known, discussed, or talked about.

According to various estimates, there are roughly four million Assyrians around the world. Less than two million live in their ancestral lands of what is now northern Iraq. As a result of the two Gulf wars, the number might have actually dwindled to less than a million there. In Syria, there are an estimated of 800,000 Assyrians, 74,000 in Iran, and less than 25,000 in Turkey. The largest diasporas are in the US, Armenia, Brazil, Lebanon, Russia, Sweden, and Australia.

Baghdad Man in Yerevan

Ara Ashjian, a pen pal I used to communicate with a few years back while he was still in Iraq, has left his beloved Baghdad for Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, and tells the moving story of leaving a homeland for a homeland.

Ara turned down job offers to the United States and Canada and chose his ancestral Armenia instead.

Karabakh Open has posted Ara’s interesting story, thoughts and feelings:

Welcome .. My Beloved Yerevan

After my brother and I had left my beloved Baghdad on September 6, 2007, we arrived in Damascus and then Aleppo by motorcars. Many Iraqis were leaving Iraq to escape the worsening security conditions. Their departure from Iraq was hastened after Damascus had announced that it will apply to the Iraqis who enter Syria a new regime of previously getting visas from September 10, 2007. In Aleppo we stayed at my older aunt’s house for ten days. My aunt is the only alive among her sisters after my mother and my youngest aunt had passed away last July. Finally, we took the plane to my beloved Yerevan, the capital of the Republic of Armenia, which we arrived in after midnight.

[…]My sister and her family had left Baghdad in July 2006 and emigrated to the United States. They left Iraq because of the insecure conditions prevailed in the country and after terrorists began targeting and threatening the life of Iraqi scientists, engineers, academic staff members, doctors and surgeons, among whom my brother-in-law.

First, I had to place my sick brother in the hospital to be under continuous medical care. I keep visiting him at the hospital to be reassured and watch his condition. I began working as a supervisor engineer in building roads and bridges in a site of the project placed near the Victory Park and Monument region, which symbolizes the fiftieth anniversary of declaring the Soviet Republic of Armenia (declared on December 2, 1920). The network of roads and bridges in the project I work will connect Hiratsi, Saralanj and Avetisian streets in a high place that overlooks the capital Yerevan. From this place, the fascinating scene of Ararat mountain (also called Masis by Armenians), which historically symbolizes Armenia and Armenians and is captivated by Turkey, clearly appears, especially in shining days. The two peaks of the mountain appear close to us, although they are at 55 kilometers from Yerevan.


The project is funded, as well as several other projects to reconstruct Armenia and NKR (Artsakh), by Lincy Armenian American Foundation. I


Before leaving Iraq a friend of mine, who lives in the United States, found, without asking him to do so, a job offer for me to work as a construction engineer in the United States. Ahead of that a friend settled in Canada promised to aid my immigration to Canada. However, I apologized to accept both offers as I have the great wish to live and work in my beloved Yerevan to make true the dream I have since childhood.

Among the difficulties I faced in work at the beginning was the different method used in putting engineering designs and its language. It depends, sometimes, on the Russian language commonly used in Armenia, for being one of the republics of the former Soviet Union. The Russian is widely used by engineers and workers belonging to the old generation. I begun learning some Russian words used in work and other spheres of life and to acclimatize with the work and its mountainous environment, which varies from the working environment in Baghdad. Perhaps I am the first Iraqi construction engineer, in the recent years, who enter such a domain. It also needs mastering the Armenian language (with its eastern dialect used in Armenia, other republics of the former Soviet Union and Iran) to be able to write reports on the progress and amounts of the work. The engineering supervision here is less strict than that we were familiar to in Iraq because of what I was told it is continuing of the system existed in the Soviet era.


Some workers and engineers confuse that I am from Iran for similar vocalization of the words (Iraq) and (Iran) in the Armenian language (also in English). To prevent such confuse, I say I am originally from Baghdad, Iraq. Workers often ask me about Iraq, its situation and ethnicities, including Kurds and Yezidis, 55-60 thousand in Armenia, who consider Iraq as their historical homeland. Many Yezidis are meat merchants in Armenia. The overseer of the workers, had passed three years in Adan, Yemen, in the eightieth of the last century. He always remembers with yearning those days and tells me the customs and traditions of Yemen s good-hearted people and comes near to me whenever I hear Iraqi songs on my cellular phone!!


I attended a meeting of Iraqi Armenians in Armenia in which nearly 120 Iraqi Armenians settled in Armenia were present. The meeting was aimed at setting up a union or league which would represent and follow the affairs of Iraqi Armenians in Armenia in front of the government and the public, international and humanitarian organizations working in Armenia. An Iraqi atmosphere prevailed the meeting in which the attendance exchanged ideas and thoughts on setting up this union and its aims. The meeting unanimously adopted setting up this union which needs to put its rule, gain official approval and elect its board of directors.

I always yearn to my beloved Baghdad, and follow the news of Iraq on Iraqi and Arab satellite channels, as if I am still in Iraq and didn t leave it. I feel pain for Iraq s tragic situation and for sectarian and ethnic artificial conflicts between one people created by the occupier to perpetuate the occupation, and are used by some Iraqi political forces to achieve own interests. I listen continuously to the songs of Iraqi singer Haitham Yousif and remember my beloved Baghdad, my life there and my deceased mother whom I see here in the faces of women at her age and feel sadness. My mother, how much I miss and need you, even if you were sick and I d take care of you, while I begin my new life in my beloved Yerevan to receive from you power and advice. Why do not you come to me in my dreams so I can talk to you, tell you how much I love and miss you and kiss your cheeks and hands? However, I feel your breath close to me while you watch me to be reassured on my new life here. My beloved and precious mother, I ask God to have mercy on you.

Ara S. Ashjian
An Iraqi Armenian settled in
Yerevan, Armenia
For Karabakh-Open