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Poly Sci Course on Assyrians Offered at UC, Berkeley

Course:  "Assyrians: The Forgotten Ones"
De-Cal Spring 2006
Wednesdays, 6:00 ­ 8:00pm
170 Barrows, UC Berkeley, California

                          Hala Samow               
                          Ramsen Goriel           

Course Description

The Middle East stands out as being one of the more ethnically and religiously heterogeneous regions in the world. The overwhelming majority in the region are religiously Muslim and ethnically Arab, Persian, or Turkish. The Assyrian minority is unique because they are not categorized under these ethnic and religious classifications. Assyrians are one of the smallest and least visible groups in this region. The Assyrians are a Semitic, Assyrian-speaking (Aramaic), and predominantly a Christian group whose history in the region spans over 5000 years. When evaluating and researching the various peoples of the Middle East, the Assyrian people have been largely overlooked because of their small population ­ they range between one and three million all around the world. They are one of the indigenous peoples of present-day Iraq, northwestern Iran, northeastern Syria, and southeastern Turkey. The Assyrian people have survived the defeat of the ancient Assyrian Empire and acts of oppression and genocide at the hands of ruling empires and invaders. Despite the divisive, hostile, policies of the Ottoman Empire and Arab dictatorships, Assyrians have been able to keep their culture and Neo-Assyrian dialect in tact, abstaining from the influences of the coming of Islam and the subsequent Arabization and Kurdification of the region.

This course will be a historical, political, and religious study of the Assyrians in the Middle East. The course will be divided into three parts: 1) Assyrians up until the coming of Christianity 2) the Assyrian experience of the past two millennia such as the coming of Islam, the process of sovereignty and assimilation, and the Mongolian and Ottoman invasions 3) the Assyrian experience in the modern Middle East: the genocide of 1915, The British mandate after WW I, the Baathist revolution, the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the Iran-Iraq war, and the two Persian Gulf Wars of 1991 and 2003.

We will expose the political dominance the ancient Assyrians practiced through its empire, military, and governance. We will examine how the roles of politics and power strengthened the Assyrian empire while tremendously weakening Assyrian sovereignty from the empire's fall up through the present day.

What will students know or be expected to do as a result of this course?

The objectives of the Assyrian De-Cal are for students to form awareness about who the Assyrians are, to recognize their contribution to modern civilization, and to examine the ramifications of politics all throughout history up until the present day. By the end of the course, students are expected to have a general understanding of Assyrian history, politics, language, and culture. Students will become knowledgeable about the tribulations the Assyrians have endured from the 13th century to the 21st century (i.e. different genocides, revolutions, and wars). Students will also be able to distinguish the differences between Assyrians and other ethnicities in the Middle East in addition to recognizing why it is important to do so.

Class Format: Classes will consist of powerpoint lectures, class discussions, guest
speakers, films, documentaries, and interactive fun!


1. Attend class sessions: only one excused absence.
2nd absence requires a documented emergency.
3rd absence = research paper (3 pages) OR receive a NP grade.
2. Complete assigned readings before class and participate in group/class discussions. Readings will be passed out in class.
3. Write two papers, approximately 2-4 pages each. Topics will be handed out.

Grading Evaluations:

Grading for this course is arranged on a "Pass/No Pass" basis. (Pass is a C or better)
?1st paper 30%
?2nd paper 30%
?Participation 40%

This symbol will be placed on the days when readings will be passed out-for the following week-so be prepared to discuss the articles in class.


01.25 Introduction: go over syllabus. Who is an Assyrian? Study the
map of Middle East and the Assyrian flag (explain its significance).

Ancient History: 2340 BC ­ 139 BC

02.01 The history of the Assyrian empire.

02.08 Introduction to Assyrian literature. Screening: "Endangered Mesopotamia:
Witnessing the Loss of History" (2.7.05).

Modern History: 300 AD ­ 1979

02.15 Guest speaker: Assyrian History: prior to 20th Century-the coming
of Islam and the Mongolian and Ottoman Empires.

02.22 Guest speaker: the roles of politics and religion in modern history.

03.01 1914-1918: Genocide documentary: The Untold Holocaust. Paper topics will be
handed out.

03.08 1918-1979: British Mandate in Iraq up until the Baath Party rule; Assyrians of Iran during Pahlavi dynasty and the Islamic Republic. 1st Paper Due

03.15 Guest speaker: conflicts in Iraq-Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Iran- Iraq War,
Gulf Wars of 1991 and 2003, and postwar Iraq.

Politics and Culture: 1979 - Present

03.22 Guest speaker: the future of Iraq and its implications on Assyrians.

03.29 ***SPRING RECESS***

04.05 How the Iraqi constitution undermines the Assyrians.

04.12 Where are the Assyrians today, and how has the diaspora affected Assyrians
politically? Essay topics will be handed out.

04.19 Assyrian traditions and culture.

04.26 Course evaluation and potluck.   Final Paper Due