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Will the indigenous Christians of Iraq survive?

Eden Naby

Eden Naby describes the plight of Iraq's indigenous Christian community, the Chaldo-Assyrians

In February 2004, a delegation led by Sargon Lazar, the deputy mayor of Kirkuk, visited Brussels to raise awareness in the European Union institutions of the challenges facing the Assyrian Christians of Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. A member of the delegation provides her analysis of the main concerns for the community.

A persecuted minority

For nearly two millenia, one of the oldest indigenous Christian communities in the world has continued to reside in Iraq. But this could change if conditions for the Chaldo-Assyrians do not improve. The community may be facing a final exodus from its homeland - Mesopotamia - a major portion of which falls into present-day Iraq.
The "land between the two rivers", Mesopotamia in Greek and Beth Nahrain in Aramaic-Syriac, is home to the last coherent body of speakers of the lingua franca at the time of Jesus Christ. These are the Assyrians, known in Iraq as Chaldo-Assyrians due to the majority status of the Chaldean Catholic Church.
Close to a million Chaldo-Assyrians remain in Iraq, roughly divided between the plains of the Nineveh governorate and Baghdad. This number also includes other Syriac-based churches of antiquity - the Syrian Orthodox Church (known until 1952 as the Assyrian Apostolic Church) and its uniate off-shoot, the Syrian Catholic Church.
Due to the Chaldo-Assyrians' opposition to the Ba'athist regime, the Baghdad government dropped this distinct ethnic and religious minority from the census in 1977 and thereafter. The trickle of emigration, which had begun with the massacre of Assyrian civilians at Semele in 1933, became a steady flow after 1980 as both urban and rural families fled Iraq under various pretexts. Some tell of pretending to head for vacation in Abu Dhabi, with their children, but making sure that in the furnished houses they left behind, all family photographs were torn to shreds to avoid their flight bringing retaliation on their friends. Estimates of the population of the diaspora from Iraq in the last half of the 20th century alone run to about one million, scattered from Amman to Detroit.

New reality

The change of regime in Iraq has improved conditions for Chaldo-Assyrians only slightly. For the first time in modern history, their existence has been acknowledged in the Transitional Administrative Law, adopted in March 2004. However, this same law throws most Chaldo-Assyrian villages under Kurdish rule without regard to the historic persecution of Christians by the Sunni Kurds, especially in the World War I genocide, the 1933 Semele massacre, and more recently in the three Kurdish-controlled governorates of northern Iraq.
Whereas Christians are represented in the city councils established in 2003 by the Americans in Kirkuk and Mosul, no Christians have had a voice in any of the city councils in Kurdish-controlled areas. Similarly, the Kurdish administration has prevented this, the second largest ethnic group in the north of the country, from receiving oil-for-food benefits, UN-administered rural reconstruction aid, medical aid and the like. The prospects for improvement remain bleak as Christian professionals in major towns like Mosul continue to be targeted for assassination.
What hope is there for Christians to remain Iraq? Hope will come from international scrutiny of non-discriminatory aid distribution, mechanisms for monitoring Kurdish administrative and judicial action with respect to the return of Chaldo-Assyrian land and illegally seized property, and from a future Iraqi constitution that allows a real voice for Iraq's indigenous Christians. For this to happen, the Chaldo-Assyrians need the support of the European Union and the rest of the international community.



Who are the Christians of Iraq?  

Assyriska rises to Sweden's promised land  Jan. 6, 05

To Vote in Iraq's Elections in California  Jan. 5, 05 

Will the indigenous Christians of Iraq survive? Jan. 6, 05

Members of ancient Turkish Christian community try to get back to normal  Jan, 6, 05

Paticipating in Iraq's Elections Jan. 2005 

Chaldean population in Sterling Heights to take part in shaping new Iraq  Jan. 4, 05

Minority Christian groups want more parliamentary clout  Jan. 4, 05

Egypt frees Christians detained over December unrest  Jan 4, 05

Bleeding of the Week  Jan. 3, 05 

World's Assyrians savour Swedish soccer saga Jan. 2, 05  

Christians provide their own security for Christmas  Dec. 25, 04

Wearing one seen as way to avoid violence Dec. 25, 04

New Hope of Syrian Minorities: Ripple Effect of Iraqi Politics Dec. 29, 04 

Iraqi Christians in Jordan Cite Bombs, Intimidation Dec. 25, 04

Iraq's Christmas Spirit: Fear Dec. 25, 04 

Christmas in Iraq  Dec. 25, 04   

Iraqi Refugees will not Be Home For Christmas Dec. 24, 04

Is Iraq Another Yugoslavia? Dec. 23, 04

Kurds: Bombers are militant splinter group Dec.23, 04 

USCIRF Letter to President Bush about the Non-Moslems in Iraq Dec. 21, 04

Christian orphans stuck in limbo in Iraq  Dec. 21, 04

Christian Plight in Iraq Dec. 21, 04

Chaldo-Assyrian Community of Iraq Dec. 21, 04

Despite Fear of Attacks Baghdad Christians celebrate birth of Christ Dec. 21 ,04 

Churches attacked in Mosul. Christians Kidnapped and Injured  Dec. 20 ,04

Christmas services canceled by fearful Iraqi Christians Dec. 20, 04

Turkey, the EU and the Assyrians  Dec. 20, 04

Voting ProceduresFor the Out Country Iraqi's  Dec. 16, 04

Iraqi Christians to Take Role in Elections DC. 15, 04 

Updated: Oppression and Murder of the Assyrians in Iraq Dec. 10, 04

Iraq's besieged Christians weigh taking up arms, fleeing into exile  Dec. 12, 04

Pope expresses concern about recent terror attacks against Iraqi Christians Dec. 8, 04

Iraq Churches Bombed; 1,000th American Killed  Dec. 7, 04

1,500 members to protect Christians in northern Iraq Dec. 4, 04

Christianity Under Fire In Egypt  Dec. 6, 04

Interview with younadam Kanna of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM)  Dec. 5, 04

Kurd's Tactics to Divide Assyrians into Insignificance Dec. 3, 04

The Advantages of a Governate Region Versus Safe Heaven  Dec. 1. 04

AINA: Appeal for a ChaldoAssyrian Safe Haven in Northern Iraq  Nov. 30, 04

Iraq's Christian Minority Under Threat Nov. 29, 04

More and more Christians Fear Life in Iraq Nov. 29, 04

Appeal for a ChaldoAssyrian Safe Haven in Iraq  Nov. 24, 04

Interview with Archbischop of Kerkuk - Louis Sakko Nov. 24, 04

US support seen as 'disaster' for Christian minority in Iraq Nov. 23, 04

Iraqi Christians seek U.S. support  Nov. 23, 04

A Conference for the Defense of Human rights for Minorities in Iraq  Nov. 18, 04

U.S. Must Protect Iraq's Christians  Nov. 16, 04

The Coming Elections in Iraq and the Expatritots  Nov. 15,04

The Ethnic Cleansing of christians In Iraq Continues  Nov. 13, 04

Northern Iraq's Mosul Tense After U.S. Air Strikes Nov. 12, 04

Bombs explode at Baghdad Orthodox churches Nov . 8, 04

Militants bomb Orthodox church in Baghdad  Nove. 8, 04

Is Mosul Next after Falluja?  Nov. 7, 04

Companions in suffering: An Interview with Thea Halo Nov. 6, 02

Iraqi Christians Face Escalating violence: Urgent Appeal For Help  Nov. 4, 04

Update of Opression and Murder of the Assyrians in Iraq Nov. 4, 04

Two Assyrians Killed in Syria  NOv. 3, 04

Assyrian Family Attacked in Baghdad, Two Killed  NOv. 2, 04

Restoring Sanity to Iraq  Oct. 25, 04

Apeal for an Administration region for the Christians of Iraq  Oct. 24, 04

Kurd's Confiscation of Assyrian Villages  Oct. 25, 04

Christians of Iraq under Siege Oct. 25, o4

Attacks against Women  Oct. 24, 2004

Christian Students stage Nonviolent Protest in Iraq Oct. 22, o4

Administrative Region For Iraqi Chrisitians Oct. 22, 04

Christians Wish to Stay, Build Future in Iraq Oct. 21, 04

World Maronites Condemn Iraq Church Attacks  Oct. 18, o4

Murder of the Assyrian Shcool Principle and threats to Christians Oct. 18, 04

Iraq church bombings leave empty pews Oct., 17, 04

shrinking Christian minority struggles to survive Oct. 16, 04

Iraq native returns to homeland to help with reconstruction Oct. 16, 04

Governor of Kirkuk Calls for Stability Among Ethnic and Religious Group.  Oct. 15, 04

Plight of Christians provokes calls for special protection Oct. 15, 04

Iraqi citizens tell their story  Oct. 15, 04

Iraq's Chaldo-Assyrians: Canary in a Coal Mine Oct. 12, 2004

Waning Christian Presence May Determine Iraq's Future Oct. 12, 204

Exodus of Iraqi Christians continues Oct. 12, 2004

Safeguard the Assyrians of the Nineveh Plains Oct. 7, 04

Safe haven for Christians of Iraq Octo. 05, 04

15 years Old Beheaded  Oct. 05, 04

Middle Eastern Christians Conference  Oct. 02, 04

Up Dated List of Assyrians Murdered  Oct. 05, 04

Reasons for the Exodus sep. 30, 04

Christian Exodus from Iraq  sep. 28, 04

Chaldean Patriarch helped the release of the Italian Hostages Sep. 28, 04

Nine Christians Killed in Baghdad  Sep.27, 04

Christians Fleeing to Syria   Sep.27, 04

Recent history of the Assyrians of Iraq  by Jonathan Eric Lewis

Iraq's persecuted Christians  Sep. 20, 04

The Looming Danger in Kirkuk  Sep. 17, 04

Kurds pour into Kirkuk sep., 15, 04

Two Assyrians beheaded in Baghdad  Sep. 15, 04

christians determent not to be driven out of Iraq  Sep., 14, 04

Adventist Church Attacked in Baghdad  Sep. 11, 04     

The Fate of Iraq's Christians    sep., 10, 04

Kurds Human Chess Game

Iraqi Christians seek sanctuary in ancient homeland   

Blast Hits Churches Across Iraq, 11 dead    Aug., 1, 04

Contributions to the Arab civilization

Children Murdered

Sisters Killed

Restoring the Past

The Last Assyrian

Languages provide a religious connection

Syriac Documents 

Uprooting of the Assyrians

No financial aid to the Christians.  

Christians leaving Iraq

British Parliament Debates the Assyrians of Iraq

Children kidnapped

Assyrians Fearing Persecution.

Kurds efforts to marginallize the Assyrians

Caught Between the Islamists and the Evangelists

Christians Asking for Protection

Iraqi Christians flee to Syria

Terrorists Blame the Crusaders

Iraq's Church Bombers vs. Prophet Muhammad

Faith Under Fire

Iraq's Disappearing Christians

Iraq Urges the Christians to Return Form Exile

Future of Iraq's Christians