Monday, July 27, 2009

Assyrian People

(credited to UNPO)

Assyria was a political state centered on the Upper Tigris river, in Mesopotamia (Iraq), that came to rule regional empires a number of times in history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur (Akkadian: Aššur; Arabic: أشور Aššûr; Hebrew: אַשּׁוּר Aššûr, Aramaic: ܐܫܘܪ Ašur, ܐܬܘܪ Atur). The term Assyria can also refer to the geographic region or heartland where these empires were centered.

The Assyrians’ ancestral homeland is spread out over Northern Iraq, Northern Iran, south-eastern Turkey and south Syria. The region from the Hikkari Mountains to the Mosul district in northern Iraq is the Assyrain nation’s ancestral homeland, with Ninevah as its historic capital. (source: UNPO)

During the Old Assyrian period (20th to 15th c. BCE, Assur controlled much of Upper Mesopotamia. In the Middle Assyrian period (15th to 10th c. BCE), its influence waned and was subsequently regained in a series of conquests. The Neo-Assyrian Empire of the Early Iron Age (911 – 612 BCE) expanded further, and under Ashurbanipal (r. 668 – 627 BCE) for a few decades controlled all of the Fertile Crescent, as well as Egypt, before succumbing to Neo-Babylonian and Persian expansion.

Assyrian People

The Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac people (frequently known as Assyrians in English, besides Syrians, Syriacs, Syrian Christians, Syriac Christians, Suroye/Suryoye and other variants) are an ethnic group whose origins lie in the Fertile Crescent, their homeland today being divided between Northern Iraq, Syria, Western Iran, and Turkey's southeastern Anatolia. Many have migrated to the Caucasus, North America, and Europe during the past century. The major sub-ethnic division is between an Eastern group ("Syrian Nestorians" and "Chaldean Christians") and a Western one ("Syrian Jacobites"). There are diaspora and refugee communities in Europe, the former Soviet Union, North America, Australia, New Zealand, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon.

The Assyrians are considered to be one of the indigenous people in the Middle East. Their homeland was thought to be located in the area around the Tigris and Euphrates. There is a significant Assyrian population in Syria where an estimated 877,000 Assyrians/Syriacs live. In Tur Abdin, known as the homeland for Syriacs, there are only 3,000 left, and an estimated 15,000 in all of Turkey. After the 1915 Assyrian genocide many Assyrians/Syriacs also fled into Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, Iraq and into the Western world(source: wikipedia).

The Assyrian people trace their origins to the population of the pre-Islamic Mesopotamia, since the time of the Akkadian Empire. It was not until the Neo-Assyrian Empire that the Assyrians began to speak Aramaic, the language of the Aramaean tribes who had been assimilated into the Assyrian empire in the 8th century BC. due in part to the mass relocations enforced by Assyrian kings of the Neo-Assyrian period.

They were Christianized in the 1st to 3rd centuries, in Roman Syria and Persian Assyria. They were divided by the Nestorian Schism in the 5th century, and from the 8th century, they became a religious minority following the Islamic conquest of Mesopotamia.Celebration at a Syriac Orthodox monastery in Mosul, Ottoman Syria, early 20th century.

Culturally and linguistically distinct from, although quite influenced by, their neighbours in the Middle East - the Arabs, Persians, Kurds, Turks, and Armenians - the Assyrians have endured much hardship throughout their recent history as a result of religious and ethnic persecution.

The most significant recent persecution against the Assyrian population was the Assyrian genocide, which occurred at the onset of the First World War. This led to a large-scale resettlement of the Assyrian people in countries such as Syria, Iran and Iraq, as well as other neighbouring countries in and around the Middle East.

The total Assyrian population, including the Diaspora, is estimated at 3.3 million, with the majority living in the former Mesopotamia region, which is the Assyrian ancestral homeland covering northern Iraq, northern Iran, south-eastern Turkey and southern Syria. Outside of the Middle East, approximately 93,000 live in Europe, 300,000 in the U.S. and Canada, 64,000 in Armenia, Georgia and Russia, 33,000 in Australia and New Zealand and 150,000 in other countries.(source: UNPO)

The ancient people of Assyria spoke an Assyrian dialect of the Akkadian language, a branch of the Semitic languages. The first inscriptions, called Old Assyrian (OA), were made in the Old Assyrian period. In the Neo-Assyrian period the Aramaic language became increasingly common, more so than Akkadian — this was thought to be largely due to the mass deportations undertaken by Assyrian kings, in which large Aramaic-speaking populations, conquered by the Assyrians, were relocated to other parts of the empire. The ancient Assyrians also used the Sumerian language in their literature and liturgy, although to a more limited extent in the Middle- and Neo-Assyrian periods, when Akkadian became the main literary language.

The utter and complete destruction of the Assyrian capitals of Nineveh and Assur by the Babylonians and Medes ensured that the bilingual elite, perhaps the few remaining still competent in Akkadian, were wiped out. By the 6th century B.C., much of the Assyrian population that survived used Aramaic and not the cuneiform Akkadian. In time, Akkadian would no longer be used by the Assyrians, although many aspects of the culture associated, such as naming with Assur, continued, and do so today.

Achaemenid Assyria retained a separate identity for some time, official correspondence being in Imperial Aramaic, and there was even an attempted revolt of the two provinces of Mada and Athura in 520 BC. Under Seleucid rule, however, Aramaic gave way to Greek as the official language. Aramaic was marginalised, but remained spoken in Judea (Biblical Aramaic), the Syrian Desert (Nabataeans) and Khuzestan (Mandaic).

Classical historiographers had only retained a very dim picture of Assyria. It was remembered that there had been an Assyrian empire predating the Persian one, but all particulars were lost. Thus Jerome's Chronicon lists 36 kings of the Assyrians, beginning with Ninus, son of Belus, down to Sardanapalus, the last king of the Assyrians before the empire fell to Arbaces the Median. Almost none of these have been substantiated as historical, with the exception of the Neo-Assyrian and Babylonian rulers listed in Ptolemy's Canon, beginning with Nabonassar.

With the rise of Syriac Christianity, Aramaic enjoyed a renaissance as a classical language in the 2nd to 8th centuries AD, and the modern Assyrian people continue to speak Neo-Aramaic dialects.

The modern discovery of Babylonia and Assyria begins with excavations in Nineveh in 1845, which revealed the Library of Ashurbanipal. Decipherment of cuneiform was a formidable task that took more than a decade, but by 1857, the Royal Asiatic Society was convinced that reliable reading of cuneiform texts was possible. Assyriology has since pieced together the formerly forgotten history of Mesopotamia. In the wake of the archaeological and philological rediscovery of ancient Assyria, Assyrian nationalism has come to strongly identify with ancient Assyria.
(source: wikipedia)

Assyrians have practiced two religions throughout their history: Ashurism and Christianity. Ashurism was, of course, the first religion of the Assyrians. The very word Assyrian, in its Latin form, derives from the name of Ashur, the Assyrian god. Assyrians continued to practice Ashurism until 256 A.D, although by that time, most Assyrians had accepted Christianity. Indeed, Assyrians were the first nation to accept Christianity, and the Assyrian Church was founded in 33 A.D. by Thomas, Bortholemew and Thaddeus

Assyria and Aramaic language, the history "nearly" lost forever.....

Assyrian Genocide
In this century, Assyrians have suffered massive genocide, have lost control of their ancestral lands, and are in a struggle for survival. The Assyrian nation today stands at a crossroad. One third of is in a diaspora, while the remaining two-thirds lives perilously in its native lands. The most significant recent persecution against the Assyrian population was the Assyrian genocide, which occurred at the onset of the First World War. This led to a large-scale resettlement of the Assyrian people in countries such as Syria, Iran and Iraq, as well as other neighboring countries in and around the Middle East.(please refer to wikipedia on Assyrian Genocide)

Empty Promise
At the end of World War I, the Assyrians were left without any support and no choice but to retreat from Iran in order to reach the British forces in Baghdad. In this long and costly exodus, the Assyrians lost more than two-thirds of their population. In return for loss of their homeland in Hikkari (Turkey) and in compensation for great losses inflicted on them during World War I, Assyrians were promised by Britain, France and Russia a safe and independent homeland.

However, this promise was not fulfilled and Assyrians were again betrayed and left unsupported in a situation that culminated in the massacre of unarmed civilians in Simeil, Iraq in 1933.(source:UNPO)

Gulf War
From this time on, the Assyrian diaspora began and they fled in all directions as refugees to find a safe haven and protect themselves from total elimination. Prior to the Gulf War more than 400 Assyrian villages were obliterated by the Iraqi government and much of the Assyrian population in the north of Iraq were forcibly transferred to the larger cities such as Bagdad.

The 1991 Gulf war further aggravated the situation of the Assyrians and more than 250,000 Assyrians fled Iraq. The incursion of the Turkish army into northern Iraq in an attempt to end PKK armed activities in 1995 also took its toll on the civilian population including the Assyrians. Since 1996 up to now, the continuous internal fighting between the two parties of Kurds, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has led to several armed conflicts and general unrest in the region. From the Gulf war until the latest attack in northern Iraq in 1999, more than fifty Assyrian villages have been at least partially occupied by Kurdish forces at gunpoint to relocated the Assyrian population and replace them with a Kurdish population. Sometimes these land expropriations were carried out on the orders of and to the benefit of the leaders of the major Kurdish ethnic groups and political parties. At no time were any of the illegal land expropriations ever reversed or compensation paid by local Kurdish authorities. In this process, many people were kidnapped, tortured, wounded and killed. (source: UNPO).

Please pray for Assyrian people, they suffered more than Kurds, as they are not a military force, and many suffered in silence.

Note 1: Ironically, Iraqi Kurdistan is represented in UNPO by the two main political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), where Kurd civilian were also suffered from genocide by Iraq during President Saddam Hussein.
Note 2: There are some academician and politician who claimed that there are no Assyrian in actual sense from the ancient Assyrian Empire, the modern Assyrian people was actually Aramaeans. There may be some identity confusion for those who want to know or study the history of Central Asia/Asia minor or even Middle East history, to bear in mind it is a complicated subject. So Assyrian Genocide may be refer as Aramaean Genocide by some academician and politician.

For further details of Assyrian History, please refer to:
2. is an organization for Unrepresented Nations and People Organization). Note: In 1968 the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) was created: a world-wide organisation seeking to spread, uphold and enhance the Assyrian name in the world, to secure the human rights of the Assyrian people in their homeland and to attain a autonomous state in the Assyrian ancestral homeland. AUA became a Member of the UNPO in 1991.
3. Assyrian people,
4. Assyrian Genocide,

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