Assyria: Peaceful Protest in Sydney Calls for End of Community's Oppression
For years, Assyrians have been victims of oppression by different governments and regimes. Since the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, which has led to an increase of political instability, their situation has worsened. Consequently, a wave of Assyrian refugees left their homes to seek refuge in neighbouring countries and in northern Iraq. Moreover, a large amount of Assyrians currently live outside the Middle Eastern region and especially in the United States and Australia.
Recently, a peaceful protest was organised in the streets of Sydney, Australia, to remind the international community of the terrible situation the Assyrian community is facing today. A number of key individuals of the local Assyrian diaspora spoke at the event. during the event. The protest concluded with an artistic performance by Mr Ramos Jacob, 2016 Young Assyrian of the Year.
Over 500 people descended on Martin Place in a public demonstration organised by the Assyrian Council of Australia. The demonstrators demanded an end to Kurdish aggression in the occupied Assyrian homeland as well as the brutal atrocities currently taking place against the Assyrian Christians in Iraq and Syria as a whole. The basis of the protest gave strong justification for the unremitting call for the establishment of an Assyrian safe haven under international protection.
The protesters entreated the government and media to take immediate action to end the genocide of Assyrian Christians. With a united voice the people chanted slogans though the streets of Sydney city including "Hey hey, no no, Kurdish occupation has to go" "1234, Land grabbing no more, 5678 Assyrian lands we must liberate" and "Hands off Assyrian Land".
The demonstration was teeming with demonstrators flying Australian and Assyrian flags and carrying placards.
Participants in the peaceful protest comprised mainly of the Assyrian Christian community from Sydney. They were joined by demonstrators from different backgrounds who stood in solidarity with Assyrians against the belligerent actions of the Kurdish Regional Government as well as the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS).
The protest was attended by Members of both State and Federal Parliament. The Parliamentarians delivered wholehearted speeches giving unconditional support to the establishment of an Assyrian homeland in Iraq as well as condemning Kurdish aggression.
Speakers were: Mr Craig Kelly MP, Federal member for Hughes; The Hon David Clarke, MLC, Parliamentary Secretary for Justice; Mr Milan Maksimovic, the Christian Democratic Party candidate for McMahon who represented The Hon Reverend Fred Nile MLC; Dr Nicholas Al-Jeloo; Gilgamesh Dawood from Entity of Abnaa Al- Nahrain; Ms Ravina Joudo from the Assyrian Patriotic Party; and Ms Sana Gewargis from the Coordinating Body for Assyria World Conference.
Mr Hermiz Shahen, the Deputy Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance delivered a speech on behalf of the Assyrian Council of Australia. During his address he expressed how "The Australian Assyrian community is profoundly distressed by the ethnic and cultural genocide perpetrated against their kin in Iraq and Syria. The Kurds are intensifying their aggression to occupy the Assyrian territory by force to remove the Assyrian population. The Kurds under the watchful eye of their regional government are systematically and unlawfully forcing Assyrians from their villages and homes in the occupied Assyrian lands in Northern Iraq and in Al-Hassaka province in North East Syria, declaring Assyrian lands as their own." He went on to declare that "These land-grabs are achieved by acts of aggression and violence exposing innocent civilians to imminent attacks, placing their lives in danger, and driving them out of their ancestral lands."
Mr Shahen propositioned the Australian government "to lay out a comprehensive strategy assisting the Assyrian nation's needs for the establishment of a self- governed safe haven in the Assyrian heartland in Northern Iraq (between the Upper Zab and Tigris Rivers) for the Assyrian Christians, Yezidis and Mandaeans, so that they can live in peace and security, where they can practice their religion, culture and language in freedom and with human dignity. This strategy does not necessarily need to include Australian boots on ground but could be accomplished by training and funding existing Assyrian Christian militia who can protect their lands themselves."
Mr Shahen also presented a letter on behalf of the Assyrian Council to Mr Craig Kelly MP requesting it to be hand delivered to the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister of Australia.
The protest also included an Artistic Piece performed and recited by the 2016 Young Assyrian of the Year recipient Mr Ramos Jacob. The piece was based on the poem 'Homeland' by Naum Faiq who is duly considered one of the founding fathers of modern Assyrian nationalism.
The Assyrian Council of Australia calls on all Assyrian organisations around the world to continue in their efforts to bring attention to the plight of Assyrians in Iraq and Syria and in particular their ancestral homeland of the Nineveh Plains and surrounds of Northern Iraq.