ERBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan -- Melinda Khubiar was moved to tears as she walked down the streets of Erbil in 2013. She had just landed in the city with a group of 30 Assyrians from around the world, as part of a annual cultural tour organized by GISHRU to communities across northern Iraq and Turkey.
"This is where my kings used to walk," she told Al-Monitor. "From the first moment of the trip it hit me that I'm in my homeland."
The following two weeks would change her life. After she returned home to Modesto, California, she became more involved in her local Assyrian community, learned the Syriac language and would later make two more trips to Iraq. In 2018, she decided to move to Erbil.
GISHRU, which means bridge in Assyrian, started organizing tours for Assyrians, who are an indigenous ethnic group that traces their heritage to ancient Assyria, in 2008.
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