(AINA) -- The Assyrian Universal Alliance, an umbrella organization for Assyrians worldwide, has sent a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Antonio Guterrs, regarding the establishment of an Assyrian regional government in north Iraq, where the majority of Assyrians remain after being driven out of Iraq since 2004. The population of Assyrian has dwindled from 1.5 million in 2004 to 400,000 today, with most having emigrated to flee the violence from Muslim groups and their continued marginalization by Arabs and Kurds.
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In the letter to Mr. Guterrs, the Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance, Yonathan Betkolia, asks for a the same level of support for Assyrians as is given the Kurds, and lists a series of violations the Kurds have committed against Assyrians, including land expropriations.
The full text of the letter follows:
The Assyrian nation demands that the international community formally advocate for the establishment of an Assyrian Regional Government (ARG) within the framework of the Republic of Iraq. We call upon the international community to use all appropriate means at its disposal to assist the Assyrian people in achieving the objective of establishing the ARG.
The international community has directly and indirectly supported the establishment of a Kurdish region for Kurds in Iraq. The Assyrian people expect no less than the same support from the international community for realizing their own aspirations on their ancestral lands in accordance with Articles 115 and 119 of the Iraqi Constitution within a federal Iraq.
On September 25, 2017 the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) is scheduled to hold a referendum to determine the question of establishing a sovereign Kurdistan. The name "Kurdistan" means "Land of the Kurds," and as such, excludes all other ethnicities in the region. In anticipation of the referendum's expected passage, the KRG has over the past year relentlessly expanded its military and political footprint into Assyrian ancestral lands in Nohadra (i.e. Dohuk), Erbil and Nineveh Plain also known as the Assyrian Region.
The Kurds have no historical right of ownership over the Assyrian ancestral lands in northern Iraq; Assyrians are the indigenous people of today's Iraq and have resided there for over seven millennia. In 1991 the Iraqi government, under the international community's diplomatic supervision, offered administrative control over the Assyrian Region in northern Iraq to the Kurds in exchange for a settlement of the dispute over Kirkuk, which the Iraqi Arabs and Kurds coveted for its rich oil reserves. As a result, large numbers of Kurds began settling in Nohadra and its environs, displacing the Assyrian population. Using forged documents to seize property, Kurds of Iran, Turkey and Syria were resettled in the historically Assyrian Region.
Most of the Assyrian Region of Nohadra is now controlled by a small number of wealthy Kurds aligned with the KRG. Many Assyrians still hold legal title to their properties but have no way of asserting their ownership. The KRG was assigned administrative control over the Assyrian Christians within this area, resulting in a summary annexation of the Assyrian Nohadra by the Kurds. The Assyrian Region was subsequently formalized in the 2009 KRG draft constitution, which lists the individual districts of the Assyrian Region as part of the "historical entity" and within the "administrative borders" of the Kurdistan.
The Kurds have effectively made Assyrian Nohadra and Erbielo (Arbil) a Kurdish possession and have no intention of giving it back to the Assyrian Christians. They have used the 2009 KRG constitution to ensure that the Assyrian Region will be wholly a part of a future Kurdistan.
In September 2011, immediately after the formalization of the KRG constitution, the first act of eradication of the Assyrian Christians in northern Iraq was initiated in the form of a fatwa by a Kurdish cleric, who called for Kurds to attack Christians and Yazidis in Zakho. To date no one has been arrested for the crimes committed as a result of the issuance of that fatwa. This incident was followed by killings, kidnappings, property access denials and disputes taking place over a period of three years. In that time, Kurds who coveted the Assyrian properties murdered a number of Assyrian landowners. No Kurds have been prosecuted or arrested for their role in committing these crimes.
At the same time the KRG used the emergence of ISIS in 2014 to expand and consolidate its hold on the Assyrian Region, justifying its actions as a protective measure. The Peshmerga, according to Kurdish leaders, were defending the Assyrians from aggression by ISIS. This absurd claim was belied first by the disarming of Assyrians by Peshmerga forces at multiple sites in Assyrian Region and then by the Peshmerga's abandonment of the Assyrian Region to advancing ISIS units, leaving disarmed Assyrians to be brutally victimized. The Peshmerga forces fled abjectly from ISIS without firing a shot in defense of the Assyrian Christians they were supposedly protecting.
This same scenario of Kurdish "fright and flight" ahead of advancing ISIS units was repeated in the Yazidi stronghold of Sinjar, and in the 39 Assyrian Christian villages in Khabour River Valley in northeast Syria. In every instance the Kurdish-led military abandoned the battlefield and the villages to ISIS, leaving the Yazidis and Assyrian Christians to what frequently proved to be a grim fate as observed by the international community.
In recent months the KRG has strengthened its control of the region by interfering in the local politics of Assyrian cities, forcing the ouster of Assyrian mayors who oppose Kurdish plans to absorb the Assyrian Region into what will soon be known as "Kurdistan." In July 2017, for example, the Kurdish-controlled Nineveh Council dismissed the mayors of the Assyrian cities of Alqosh and Tel-Keppe and replaced them with hand-selected political appointees close to the Barzani-led KDP. What is more, the Kurds have arrested and imprisoned Assyrian Christian protestors in Alqosh who have voiced their opposition to the replacement of the mayors and the referendum for the creation of Kurdistan, given it would result in the absorption of the ARG by the Kurdish state.
The Kurds are also forcing Assyrian Christians from refugee camps and dwellings in Assyrian Region by cutting off the monthly funding due to those facilities as dispensed by Christian churches in the region. This action is meant to force the Assyrian refugees back into the Kurdish-controlled areas in the Assyrian Region where they will be compelled to either vote in favor of creating a Kurdistan or face the continued loss of the funding they need for their basic everyday survival.
The Kurds have also created and funded "Assyrian" political parties that serve the Kurdish agenda in the Assyrian Region. At the same time the Kurds have cut off funds to one of the Assyrian political parties opposed to their agenda. Further, the KRG has used the lack of international support for the unity agreement, which was signed by the Assyrian political parties in March 2017, as an excuse for not addressing the topics and issues raised in the unity declaration. The declaration stipulated that referendum politics were not to be a part of the process for deciding Assyrian Region security, development, and governance arrangements. Unfortunately, the international community has been slow in expressing support for the unity declaration and, as a result, the KRG has continued to use the political parties it has created as a means of justifying its expansion into Assyrian lands and support for the independence referendum since March of 2017.
Assyrian Christians in the Middle East are justifiably convinced that their survival as a community in their ancestral homeland depends on the creation of an Assyrian Region under the constitution of the Republic of Iraq. It is their intention that the Assyrian Region should be governed and administered by Assyrian Christians, not Kurds, and secured by Assyrian Defense Forces, not the Kurdish Army.
The establishment of this Assyrian Region will allow Assyrians and other ethno-religious people who choose to live under their administration to practice their own religions, speak their own languages, and cultivate their own cultures in a functional peace, with the freedom and dignity to which they are entitled by virtue of their immemorial historical connections with the land. These areas must be supported on the geographic basis according to Iraq's 1957 general census.
To that end, we request that the international community extend to Assyrian Defense Forces and the united Assyrian political parties, the same support it has given to KRG Peshmerga, providing the Assyrians with the training, arms, and equipment they will need to protect themselves and to secure the future of a viable Assyrian Region. If the international community does not support the Assyrian demand in their own historical homeland, then it will be remembered throughout history for choosing to allow the eradication of the Assyrian Christians, an ancient nation in Iraq, while providing support, training, economic development, security, and governance ratification for the Kurds who are invading the sacred and historical Assyrian homeland.
Assyrian Universal Alliance