Report Release: The Last Generation of Assyrians?
A fact-finding report issued by the Assyrian Council of Europe, Finland-Assyria Association and the UNPO believes that Iraq risks being “severely and negatively impacted” by failures to safeguard the rights of Assyrians in the country
Below is an excerpt from the joint fact-finding mission report:
At a meeting of the Assyrian Universal Alliance world congress, held in Erbil, Northern Iraq on 2-4 December 2010 a new union was formed between Assyrian political parties in Iraq. The union represents a landmark in Assyrian and Iraqi politics and brings together political parties of all ideological backgrounds to advance and protect the rights of the Assyrian community in Iraq.
The union is a direct response to the attack on the Lady of Salvation church in Baghdad that claimed the lives of fifty-eight people on 31 October 2010 but also reflects a security situation that is deteriorating, ongoing discrimination in the workplace, and the steady emigration of thousands of Assyrians from Iraq.
A perceived failure in regional, national, and international policies is therefore seeing the tabling of new proposals. Chief among these are calls for the establishment of a Nineveh Governorate and for adoption of Article 35 of the draft constitution for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI).
It was against this backdrop and to gauge public and institutional support for the political union and its policies that from 27 March - 3 April 2011 the Assyrian Council of Europe (ACE), Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), and Finland-Assyria Association conducted a fact-finding mission to Northern Iraq.
As a result of its meetings, discussions, and interpretation of the testimony heard the fact-finding mission concludes that there may be one generation remaining in which to safeguard the Assyrian community in Iraq.
Throughout its meetings, a feeling of abandonment and entrenchment was widely evident. The continued flow of Assyrian community to neighboring countries and further abroad has left its existence on a knife-edge. Without support and promotion for security and sustainable economic development in the region there can be no firm basis upon which the Assyrian community can remain rooted in Iraq.
However, the sense of entrenchment has also demonstrated the Assyrian community’s belief that change is possible and that both Assyrian and Iraq have a mutual future. The fact-finding mission believes that the new political consensus between Assyrian parties, and increasingly between Iraq’s minorities as a whole, must be supported with responsible international engagement, and by the European Union in particular.
Initiatives to raise and broaden debates on local and provincial governance reform should be promoted to improve the current levels of debate. In a similar way there is a need to encourage historical reassessments of Iraq’s history in ways that can place proper emphasis on the role of minorities in shaping what was one of the Middle East’s most culturally dynamic centers. Looking to the past will be key to promoting the country’s past cultural heterogeneity and raising awareness locally and internationally of Iraq’s history of pogrom, discrimination and emigration that is at risk of recurring and causing the country and its reconstruction great and irreparable damage.
Based on the meetings held, personal testimony and evidence received, and the conclusions detailed within this report, the fact-finding mission believes that the following recommendations represent the short- to long-term actions required to secure the future of the Assyrian community in particular, and minorities in general, within Iraq. The fact-finding mission also believes that without consultation, and discussion of these recommendations Iraq’s ancient cultural heterogeneity, current reconstruction, and future sustainability will be severely and negatively impacted:
The Iraqi government should:
- Support the establishment of a regional university within the Nineveh Plains area to stem the current brain-drain, permit continuity of study amongst IDPs, and support economic development;
- Promote the economic potential of northern Iraq through greater international outreach, including but not limited to, the websites of its embassies and ministries;
- Facilitate international exchanges of elected representatives and their staffs, to build capacity within local, regional, and national governance structures;
- Facilitate feasibility discussions into the application of Article 125 of the Iraqi Constitution in the context of establishing an autonomous regional administration in the Nineveh Plains;
- Take measures to restore, maintain, and safeguard urban fabric and monuments reflecting the country’s Assyrian history and culture.
The Kurdistan Regional Government should
- Promote, without amendment, the adoption of Article 35 of the draft constitution of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and its provision for the formation of autonomous regions within the KRI;
- Work to ensure fair, transparent, and equitable hiring practices are observed, particularly in the education sector;
- Ensure the cultural and historical heterogeneity of the KRI is appropriately reflected in the use of Assyrian names for towns, and landmarks, and that Assyrian contribution to the history of the KRI is reflected in public collections and historical sites and discourse;
- Revise current land restitution procedures to allow faster and more equitable adjudication and compensation;
- Recognise the 1933 Simele Massacre and support construction of a monument as an important commemorative and educational initiative.
The Assyrian coalition should
- Establish committees capable of working collaboratively to inform and support initiatives to address insecurity, unemployment, and human rights contraventions;
- Support local investment assessments to augment the existing but limited information available from the National Investment Commission and other governmental bodies;
- Provide and publicise confidence-building measures to discourage emigration and encourage long-term investment in Northern Iraq;
- Facilitate youth programmes that aim to strengthen civil society, promote active citizenship, support job creation and develop skills
The international community, and in particular the European Union and its member states should
- Act immediately to halt the ethno-religiously motivated discrimination, intimidation and violence against the Assyrian community of Iraq
- Re-evaluate asylum policies that facilitate the large-scale exodus of Assyrians from Iraq without addressing the root causes of emigration that also prevent many Assyrians from returning to their homeland
- Promote investment by local and international companies and raise awareness of economic opportunities, such as micro-credit schemes, among both established communities and IDPs within Northern Iraq as a means of stemming the flows of asylum seekers to the EU
- Manifest their support for local sustainable income generation and reconstruction by extending financial, academic, and moral support for the construction of a Nineveh Plains University
- Support initiatives to safeguard, preserve, and protect for the future ancient Assyrian archaeological, historic, and cultural sites, particularly those that are thousands of years old.
To download the full report, click here. [PDF Format, 3.4MB)