The Fate of the Assyrians: Perspectives of Development
Dr. Khoshaba P. Jasim
Presented at the 1st World Assyrian Conference
Moscow, May 10-11, 2002
The contemporary Assyrians -- indigenous and in
Diaspora -- constitute a nation that is aware, conscious and constantly holding on their
identity which they had inherited from their forefathers. They have,
since the lamentable collapse of their Empire in 612 BC, survived many
tribulations. They have; meantime, attempted time after time to
reinstate their authority in their ancestral land -- Assyria.
The National Question Theory, which is a survival kit for unrepresented
people, classifies existing groups according to their social status;
i.e., a nation or a state. In case of the Assyrians, we recognize
them, as they stand today, as a nation because the elements that,
scientifically, go into the definition of a nation, are unequivocally
constant in their communities. These elements are:
The Assyrians, fortunately, are not an extinct nation as a few scholars
believe but a stateless national group. Their population today is
over 3.5 million and the majority continue as the indigenous nationals
in their ancestral homeland Assyria -- present Iraq. Others are
in Diaspora dispersed to 40 different countries including the United
States and Russia.
- A language
- An ethnic relationship
- A culture including customs, traditions, and folklore
- A common history
- Consanguinity or blood relations
The Assyrians as a nation are entitled to:
These two legal solutions require an authoritative entity that
functions within a given or defined territory.
- Claim a legitimate form of self-determination
- Reinstitution of their authority as a continuation to their
Today the Assyrians, as a nation, can not and do not have any political
implication such as prestige or influence. In the United Nations
and in Iraq, itself, they are registered, recognized as a
socio-religious group and as such they are not eligible to assume or
attain the status of a national or ethnic minority. If they really
desire or want to promote their communities, if they are prepared
to stand up for their political rights, unshaken and steadfastly,
they must work hard and hand in hand, cooperate, and persist on their
legitimate claim to autonomy which entitles them to ascend to the level
of a statehood.
A state’s edifice according to the International Law stands firm on
these two fundamentals:
As to the Assyrians, an autonomous state is their ultimate object, and
to reemerge or to revive their past rule, they have to push forward and
develop their social status from a national to a state level that has
political implications. This means that their standards will be
elevated to a strata or level parallel to other minorities.
- Government or ultimate authority within the territory
Under the prevailing situations, the right of the Assyrians to
self-determination can be basically classified to categories that fit
into their social and political reality. These categories are:
The Assyrian quest for a political entity in their ancestral homeland
Bet Nahrain must be relevant to
- Self-determination of the indigenous Assyrians who are
residing in their ancestral homeland and holding on to their identity
- Self-determination of the dispersed or Assyrians in
play an integral role in the promotional process and development of
self-determination claim of their indigenous brethren in homeland.
The foremost and most controversial factors that should be addressed in
this respect are the following:
- Domestic or local policies of the regime in Baghdad
- Strategic interests and concerns of the big powers and
In the affirmative case, the Assyrians must, and I repeat, must
reconsider, reshuffle, and marshal their classes under a progressive
party organization that will resemble, according to International Law,
an authority in exile that spear-heads their patriotic efforts. This
role, in my opinion, is being performed to a large extent by the
Assyrian Universal Alliance.
- How strongly the Assyrian nation at large is supportive of
- Are they as a nation and at this stage committed to a
Now let us turn to the domestic scene or local politics of Iraq and the
central regime in Baghdad. The Assyrians are the third national group
after the Arabs and the Kurds. The regime as is today does not
allow the rise of a representative democracy in Iraq; therefore,
Baghdad is not prepared at all to accept an Assyrian political entity
even on basis of a simple autonomy or self-rule.
- They must create a corporate will or solidarity
claim and must give up their old ways and rivalry in favor of a united
stand and an undivided leadership.
- They have to rely mainly on intellectuals and technocrats
flexibly apply pragmatic and practical strategies that inclusively can
benefit the whole nation.
- They must accumulate a budget in order to sustain the work
promotes their claim to autonomy and this action requires that they
conduct fund raising campaigns depending on the generosity of the
There are two ways that help solve this problem.
Either of these two solutions fits in Category (1) mentioned above;
i.e., Self-determination for indigenous Assyrians still residing in
their ancestral homeland.
- Pluralistic democracy that would secure
political rights of the minorities in Iraq and an active participation
on their behalf as an ethnic or national group.
- Autonomy accepted by the Central Regime in Baghdad and
the United Nations.
As to the position of the dispersed Assyrians or Assyrians in Diaspora,
their contributions in this respect come via their participation as
active citizens in local politics of their countries. But as
Assyrians linked to their indigenous brethren through the national
ingredients; i.e., common history, language, etc., they are obliged to
provide moral and material support to promote their claim on
international level; in the United Nations, UNPO-- Unrepresented
Nations and People’s Organization, and domestically through their
governments as we do in the United States.
This position fits into Category (2) mentioned above; i.e.,
self-determination of the dispersed or the Assyrians in Diaspora.
We now move to the other point which is the strategic interests and
concerns of the big powers and especially the U.S.A. The
Assyrians and likewise the other minorities in Iraq, as we are
aware, are claiming autonomy which perfectly
coincides with the democratic aspirations of the Iraqi people at
large. In my opinion, there are four important implications here:
The Central Regime in Baghdad is not happy with the situation in the
North. What might happen in future can be only projected or
inferred from the development of events in the Region and from the
strategy of the United States.
- How much their demography or population size in Iraq can
contribute or dedicate to the idea of an autonomy or self-rule?
- To what extent they enjoy or exercise the privilege of
making and independently controlling their ancestral territory?
- What is the volume of the contributions made by the
Diaspora to the question of promoting their claim to
self-determination? Will there be a reverse migration to the homeland
to strengthen and solidify the claim to autonomy?
- How smooth and polite are their relations and
other national groups in the North? To my knowledge their present
status in Dohuk is preserved only within the de-facto autonomous areas
protected by the No Fly Zone.
When Desert Storm was launched in 1991, the aim of the coalition was to
restore Kuwait to its status before the invasion by Iraq. The
liberation of Kuwait was the face card and the Desert Storm was
basically launched to strengthen United States role in the Region and
to accomplish certain U.S. vital objectives under the auspices of the
United Nation’s Resolution No. 678 to liberate Kuwait. There
wasn’t any consideration in the calculations to accord or grant the
minorities of Iraq autonomy, neither were the Kurds or the Assyrians a
part of the solution. They are today in the North maintaining a
tiny self-styled autonomy which is exclusive of the ingredients that go
into the formation of nation-states.
The following are a few questions that the Assyrians should consider
The answer to these questions is “No.”
- Are the Assyrians an indispensable and a meritorious asset
United States Middle East overall strategy?
- Do they possess the capabilities such as man power and
resources that may provide them with prestige and power to influence
the flow of events in the Region?
- Are they eligible and qualified to be considered as an
buffer that can counterbalance and quell unfriendly fundamentalist
Under such circumstances, the United States national interests make it
impossible for the Administration to choose between alternative
interpretations on ground of legal correction. Although the
Assyrians as a minority have a legal right, according to the above
points, they don’t possess the vital preferences that can attract or
convince the United States to support their quest for
self-determination. On basis of such an interpretation or
analysis, we can foresee in the horizon no opportunity or a glimmer of
hope for a revival or reemergence of the Assyrians as an autonomy under
the present circumstances in Iraq and in the Region, especially after
September 11 and the deterioration of the relations between Israel and
To promote themselves and to strengthen their solidarity and establish
broader means of communications, we suggest that the Assyrians should
wind up with:
The only prospect for them is to collaborate and actively participate
in the on going joint efforts to transform Iraq to a representative
democracy that will make it possible for the next central regime in
Baghdad to accommodate self-determination or autonomy claims of the
Assyrians and other minorities. Such an undertaking becomes a legal
binding force in form of a legislation unanimously approved by all
concerned and made an integral item in the new constitution that will
recognize Iraq as a multi-national country.
- An effective World campaign to assert themselves as a
- A national press center, news agency, and a capable lobby
publicize and attract world-wide support for their claim.
- A strong solidarity and a unified or affiliated endeavor
firmly assert their existence as indigenous people of Mesopotamia under
the guidance and leadership of a vanguard of intellectuals and
Therefore, the immediate task, the urgent responsibilities of the
Assyrians at this stage are as follows:
Finally, I urge the Conference to:
- Reshuffle their classes on basis of an elected leadership
includes representatives from the homeland and from Diaspora.
- Revive the close relationship they had with the Allies,
them of their vital role as the “Smallest Ally.”
- Apply a secular policy while pursuing their goal. This
procedure will induce the Assyrians of all
denominations to participate in the national effort.
- Get wealthy, wealthy, and wealthy. Money is the magic
solve social problems constructively and successfully.
Today is the hour. Let us translate our words to actions and to a
universally unified Assyrian front.
- Act now, be vigilant and prompt and act now.
- Setup a professional and career-oriented
will study and evaluate their present situation in
light of their past performance. This committee will precisely estimate
and find out whether their present capabilities can endure or withstand
a protracted pursue or folow-up of their political aspirations.
- Brief history of the Assyrians; Peter BetBasoo.
- In Abeyance (manuscript); Dr. Khoshaba P. Jasim.
- Law and Politics in International System; R. B. Finnegam, S.T. Juna, C. E. Wilson.
- Self-determination in New World Order; H. H. Morton, S.T. David, S. L. Patricia
- Political Ideologies; Baradat P. Leon
- The United States in the Middle East; S. P. Tillman.