Opinion Editorial
EU Conference on Nineveh Plains Favors Kurds, Marginalizes Assyrians
By Max Joseph
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Swedish MEP Lars Adaktusson.
(AINA) -- Much has been swirling around on social media about an EU Conference (AINA 2017-06-24) organized by Swedish MEP Lars Adaktusson alongside sponsors such as Demand For Action. No sooner had I heard about it did I also see that it had been boycotted by the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) and the Chaldean Church, together with various other Assyrian parties and organizations, including the Assyrian Patriotic Party, and Abnaa al-Nahrain.

What isn't really clear, despite the flurry of statements, posts, videos and ponderous monologues, is the core reasons, laid out transparently with reference points, why these groups have chosen not to attend, especially since these groups naturally prefer a seat at the table.

My interest is twofold:

  1. In the agenda of the conference and why it was so badly received by boycotting parties. This agenda is largely determined by the political composition of attendees.
  2. In the controversial and rather mysterious "position paper" (or set of policy proposals) which would serve as the foundation for all discussions pertaining to the Nineveh Plain in an EU context.

The Agenda

Lets look at the agenda first. Mr Adaktusson has said that the conference will have "around 60 participants", ranging from Iraq-based or diaspora Assyrians, Western, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and Baghdad officials, NGOs, priests, all bases seemingly covered. For the sake of brevity, I will mostly bypass any Western attendees and focus on "our voice".

Related: Lars Adaktusson Issues Statement

Just glancing over the attendees reveals this composition, from the outset, is skewed quite favourably towards a KRG-driven agenda. Let's start at the beginning. Bear with me and you will see this claim become incontestable.

Here, we have the first real order of the day: the introduction of the position paper which sets the tone for everything after it (much more on this later). Nothing stands out here other than the introduction being given by Johannes de Jong, a man who divides his time supporting the Kurdish-led project in Syria as well as Christian persecution in the region.

Following that, we see two panels composed of the political parties tasked with preparing the policy paper.

Now that the Assyrian Patriotic Party and Abnaa Al-Nahrain have pulled out as well as the ADM, we are left with CSAPC, BNDP, CNC, BNPU and Chaldo Ashor from the above. It must be understood that all of these remaining parties are either direct creations of the KDP or were created in order to advance the KDP agenda from which they have never deviated (by the way, its always worth reiterating that this is the same KDP that presides over a Parliament they have unilaterally frozen for over a year and led by an unelected President two years past his term). Diversity in opinion and position here is null -- all of these parties openly declare their support for the Nineveh Plain to be annexed into the KRG.

Fast forward to the afternoon, and we see the emergence of the KDP more formally in the shape of Ano Abdoka, an Assyrian man who recently gave an interview to the Clarion Project in which he was introduced as a "Kurdish Christian Leader". This is a man who said "if you want to help the Christians, help Kurdistan get independence."

Later on, a fifth panel composed of Church leaders is supported by Johny Messo of the "Arameans" (Syriacs). The sectarian Arameanist movement Jonny Messo represents as current leader of the 'World Council of Arameans' (WCA) finds its roots in the manipulations of the bishop Julius Hanna, who here describes how he was motivated to fabricate the Aramean identity due to his disdain for the intellectual and social authority the secular Assyrian movement established across church boundaries in diaspora. Remarkably, he was later assaulted by Arameanists furious over these disclosures.

The Arameanist movement has no roots in the Middle East. It is crucial to note that the very recent tokenistic representation on the ground in Nineveh of Aramean/Syriac sectarianism has taken the form of the KDP-led establishment of a 'Syriac' military force and political party attached to the Dawronoye (whose tentacle, the European Syriac Union, is taking part in this conference too) under the control of the charlatan Salwan Momika. The most significant contribution of the 'Syriac Democratic Union' to Assyrian (or Iraqi) affairs thus far has been throwing a shoe at Yonadam Kanna.

The WCA issued a 'statement' upon the passing in 2015 of Mar Dinkha, Patriarch of the Church of the East, which concisely illustrates the combination of political and national passivity, sectarian rhetoric, and calumny that alone defines their output. Within the space of this short text, the WCA managed to cram fabricated hearsay, libel, sectarianism, a celebration of the failure of Assyrian independence, and a reduction of the Assyrian nation to an adjunct of Arab and Turkish politics. The fact that the WCA capitalized on the death of Mar Dinkha to publish such a text reflects their parasitic attachment to the Assyrian movement, the hatred of which forms the very essence of Arameanism.

While the intellectual basis of Aramean nationalism ostensibly encompasses Assyrians of all denominations, the WCA has consistently sought to place itself at the feet of the Syriac Orthodox Church, in full cognizance that it is only under the auspices of the SOC that Arameanism stands even a chance of 'success'. ('Success' for the WCA can be defined by the dissemination of a series of pseudo-national tokens and trinkets, like Aramean currency and ID cards, and using the momentum created by the Assyrian movement to 'convert' Assyrians of the SOC into self-hatred and delusion.)

Unfortunately for Messo, Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, the current Syriac Orthodox Patriarch, is far too wily a character to hand over the entire identity and orientation of his church to a fringe movement with nothing to offer bar the rancour of sectarian idiocy. This has left them in a desperate position. Given that the only legitimacy of the WCA is derived from their observer status at the UN and showing up to EU meetings carrying an air of urgency and seriousness (while representing no-one and nothing), their eagerness for involvement in this conference is unsurprising. Nor is the fact they were invited: their presence is a perfect way for those Assyrians and non-Assyrians involved in 'the Assyrian question as foreign determination' to point to their status as 'neutral arbiters' of the 'divided Assyrian people', while in fact obfuscating the truth of the plight and needs of Assyrians on the ground.

While these figures advance themselves politically by establishing their position as altruists seeking to 'give a voice to Assyrians' and 'present the Assyrian case to the world' (by jockeying for a place as the 'Christian legitimizers' of the KDP conquest of Nineveh) they can pretend that it was the failures within the Assyrian nation (so native, so angry) that led to our own self-destruction, pointing to the KDP-ventriloquised Assyrian forces as evidence that subjugation represents at least the partial will of Assyrians, and positing a diversity of political voices as a sign of democratic progress.

Moving on to the sixth panel, emphasizing "perspectives" from indigenous groups, is quite literally composed exclusively of individuals from minority groups who are instruments of the KDP.

Khairi Elias Ali Al Isso (or Khairi Bozani) is the KDP Director General of Yezidi Affairs. This is a man so loyal to the KDP that he does not even acknowledge the well documented fact that KDP peshmerga disarmed and abandoned Yezidis, his own people, to genocide at the hands of ISIS without firing a single bullet.

Salim Shabak MP is a curious character who has represented the KDP-aligned Shabak faction since 2006, and is repeatedly called a traitor by large sections of his own people. They have even made those silly hit-piece videos about him.

Emduldeen Rifaah Jameel and Muna Nabi Nader are two Turkmen from small parties which rival the Iraqi Turkmen Front, the more established party who is anti-KRG. The two Turkmen parties present here, Turkmen List and Turkmen Reform party, are also known as the Turkmen Development List and Turkmen Change and Reform respectively and are both aligned with the KRG, winning seats in the 2013 KRG elections.

Muna Nader (Kahveci) at an event celebrating the announcement of the KRG referendum last year.Lisa Falakadeen Saber, a Kaka'i described here as, quite neutrally, "writer and activist", was listed as a Member of the Foreign Relations Office for the KDP as recently as 2014.

So you can see, all five minority group members of this "perspectives" panel are only providing a pro-KRG perspective. There are no differing perspectives despite the shameless obfuscation of who they are and their current and previous connections.

So now at the seventh panel (its been a long day); after you had have been presented with the policy paper, after hearing pro-KRG Assyrians endorse the paper and after other minority groups lend their voices to that effect too, you can finally hear from the KRG itself in a direct and formal capacity on what their vision is for the Nineveh Plain. As of writing this, I'm told representatives from the Federal Government of Iraq have refused to participate.

The whole thrust of the event leads us to this point. The political composition, even if one included those parties who had boycotted, can be very narrowly defined as pro-KRG in nature. So yes, the conference most certainly has an agenda, one that has been deliberately determined by its organizers and sponsors. There is nothing accidental about the composition of this conference, and as you shall see, it all rests on a foundation as shameless as the very paper it is based on.

The "Position Paper"

From the start, an original list of ten Assyrian political parties and groups were consulted in the formulation of the paper. Nine of which are still listed on the agenda website (ADM have since been removed). Abnaa al-Nahrain and Assyrian Patriotic Party are still listed, but have also withdrawn, bring the group down to seven.

The ADM statement issued by Kaldo Oghanna linked to near the beginning included a few key points, which I will summarize here.

  1. The position paper does not make any mention of the Iraqi Federal Government agreement in January 2014 to turn the Nineveh Plain into a province. It is almost like this had never happened.
  2. The position paper offers a position counter to the one agreed on and published by a larger array of parties, including the ADM, Abnaa al-Nahrain and the Assyrian Patriotic Party, from back in March 2017.
  3. The position paper reproduces old problems which created the conditions ISIS exploited in Nineveh Plain, with old security paradigms (the Peshmerga) reintroduced as a central actor.
  4. The position paper reinserts a KRG coordinated and executed referendum -- something which had already been rendered off the table in the March 2017 agreement.
I tried to obtain a copy of the position paper to stack these claims up against the actual text. I asked representatives from conference sponsors Demand For Action, David Vergili of the ESU, Johannes de Jong (who is introducing the paper at the start of the conference) as well as several other individuals and groups to no avail.

Correspondences with Reps from ADFA and the ESU.Correspondence with Johannes de Jong, 26--6--2017From my understanding regarding the process, much of this is a lie. The document was not a collaborative piece approached in earnest by those coordinating the event.

There was a conscious decision made to pretend the Iraqi Government had not already approved a Nineveh Plain Province in principle, and also to override the March agreement, taking off the table much of what is holding us back as a people.

The demands of the ADM, cited here as "unilateral", were those already signed and agreed by all parties in March.

"The vast majority" described here also represent the groups most in tune and supportive with the agenda of the conference. Diversity and debate will not be missed for the purposes of this charade.

Despite these answers and pushbacks, I can reveal I have obtained a copy of the position paper (which nobody seemingly had and/or doesn't exist yet, depending on who you are talking to). I must repeat, this paper is not intended for public eyes at present, and contains damning evidence of policies which contravene the March agreement signed by parties with more representative presence than those attending this upcoming EU Conference.

I enclose it below with commentary in red alongside.

So the points highlighted in the ADM statement do stack up with the text of the report.

We can now see that the stance adopted to boycott the conference, given the political composition of the attendees but primarily what they will be steered by in the form of the policy document leaked here, is a sensible one. Bear in mind, at the end of the document, the very last line stipulates that attending parties would sign it, lending their support formally to the policies put forward, which include overriding the March agreement, the normalization of Peshmerga in the Nineveh Plain, and the KRG-imposed referendum -- all three things are definitely not in the interests of Assyrians of the Nineveh Plain.

In conclusion, its almost laughable that such a thing has even been put together within a Western institution like the European Union. To include so many fringe elements and proxy groups, all tied to one agenda which ensures the destruction of our own people on our own lands, is a travesty and the organizers and authors of the paper should rightfully be scorned.

I have written this after hours of sudden interest and research into the conference, its agenda and its attendees. Most doors were closed, and for good reason. Its frankly embarrassing and sociopathic that people can propose something like this is done in our name in order to secure a mandate for national suicide. It simply isn't done in our name, and that is why there is a lot to hide. If Lars Adaktusson and the other sponsors of this conference were confident the position paper would attract widespread support among the Assyrian population in Nineveh and the Assyrian diaspora, all facts would be on the table for everyone to digest.

But what are we left with?

We're left with a bunch of people desperate to rewind the tape of any modest progress we have made as a nation. We're left with people reasserting old problems which propelled us into this mess in the first place. We're left with people walking by and putting back on the table conditions and ideas we had already rejected and moved on from. You have to ask yourself: why is this happening and who benefits from it?

Lars Adaktusson MEP, Masrour Barzani, and Charles Tannock MEP.In an interview this month with the Washington Post, Bayan Sami Rahman, the KDP Representative in Washington D.C. is quoted:

"You can be Kurdistani and be Assyrian or Turkman or even Arab in places like Kirkuk. Not everyone in Kurdistan is Kurdish."
This sentiment is being projected onto governmental offices around the world by parties and individuals that benefit from it, and Western representatives are buying it. Not only do they buy it, they patronize the native who dissents, the Easterner, the poor men and women 'who need them' (they need me!) and the salvation they provide. Its an exercise in vanity. They imagine themselves as schoolteachers kneeling down and examining a simple algebra problem they have been alerted to. They grab the pencil out of your hand and dryly solve the problem before moving on to the next student, beating back your protestations with calm reassurances that they have shown you the way.

There is an agenda. If we want a chance of survival in Assyria with even a scrap of dignity, we and all of our parties and organizations have to be vocal and reject it at every turn.

Max Joseph is an Assyrian writer based in England.

Views and opinions expressed in guest editorials do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AINA.
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