Aug 09, 2013

Commemoration of Assyrian Martyr’s Day 80th Anniversary

On Wednesday, 7 August, the Assyrian community around the world commemorated the martyrs of the Seyfo Genocide of 1914 and the Simmele Massacre of 1933.

The UNPO would like to join the global Assyrian community in commemorating the 80-year anniversary of the brutal attack on the Assyrian Iraqi village of Simmele on 7 August 1933. The deep-seated animosity felt by Iraqi nationalists, including then-Prime Minister Rashid Ali al-Gaylani, towards the Assyrians quickly spread as self-determination movements within the Assyrian community grew.  Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII, Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, demanded the Assyrians be given autonomy within Iraq, seeking support from the United Kingdom and pressing his case before the League of Nations in 1932. Proponents of a unified Iraqi identity- which would include the Assyrian and Kurdish people- took this as a slight and only furthered their discontent towards the Assyrian separatist movement. On 7 August 1933, Iraqi forces led by General Bakr Sidqi raided and looted the villages Zakho and Duhok before finally closing in on Simmele, which had become a refuge for fleeing Assyrians from the neighboring villages. Over 3,000 Assyrians were killed during these attacks. 7 August has hence been regarded among Assyrians as Assyrian Martyr’s Day.

The Simmele Massacre, coupled with the Seyfo and Armenian Genocides of 1914 later went on to serve critical historical significance as they were the basis behind the word genocide, coined by the Polish researcher Rafael Lemkin. Lemkin observed the violence that befell the Assyrians, Armenians, and Pontic Greeks of the Ottoman Empire in 1914 and later the Simmele Massacre of 1933, these events ultimately influenced his estimation of the crimes as genocide, or the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, or national group.

The UNPO joins the Assyrian community in commemorating those who fell victim to the Simmele Massacre of 1933 and Seyfo Genocide of 1914. We also condemn the ongoing violence against the Assyrians in Iraq and Syria, and call on the international community to shed light on the disproportionate violence against this ethno-religious minority.