Assyria: Language and Culture of Assyrian Aramaic Christians Under Pressure
Syria is according to information received by the Society for Threatened Peoples -STP (Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker GfbV) increasing pressure on the Assyrian Aramaic language and culture. The international human rights organisation with its centre in Göttingen stated on Tuesday that the Syrian secret service has forbidden a performance of the popular Assyrian Aramaic musician, Habib Mousa, at a concert of another artist in the city of Kamishli in the north-east of the country. For the Assyrian Aramaic Christians this ban is a sign that the totalitarian Baath Party, which has ruled since 1963, is still pursuing its goal of forcible Arabicisation of the Assyrian Chaldaic and Kurdish ethnic groups”, criticised the chair of the German section of the STP, Tilman Zülch. "The intention is to ensure that the Christians give up among other things their New Aramaic language in favour of Arabic.” The opposition Assyrian Democratic Organisation ADO also sharply condemned the ban on the performance by the Syrian authorities.
As the STP from reliable sources in Syria learned, the concert was planned for 15th April in connection with the Easter holiday and the Ha B 'Nison, this year's Assyrian Aramaic New Year's holiday. One day before the performance however the secret service summoned the proprietor of the concert hall "Taj Almalek”. He was required to cancel in writing the performance of the singer, the reason given being that he had not been registered in time. For fear of further complications the proprietor cancelled the whole concert.
In Syria genuine and surmised opposition personages are threatened with torture and other forms of mishandling. For this reason the STP calls for the cancellation of the German-Syrian agreement on the return of refugees. This allows for the deportation of the approximately 7,000 Syrians living in Germany who belong to the opposition, some of these being Christian Assyrian Aramaeans, but mostly Kurds and Yezidi.
The approximately 21 million citizens of Syria, who often define their ethnic affiliation through their mother-tongue and religion, are according to the official doctrine of the Arab Republic "Syrian Arabs”. About 83 percent of the population of Syria are Arabs, who are in the main Sunni Moslems. Like the members of the minorities they are not allowed to vote freely nor may they influence the form of government of their country. The Christian Assyrian Aramaeans, above all in the north-eastern province of Al Hasakeh, but also in the large cities of Aleppo and Damascus, speak New Aramaic. Among the Syrian Christians, who make up about 15 percent of the population, they are the largest ethnic group. Rights of language and culture are also withheld from the more than two million Syrian Kurds.