Against all odds and thousands of years of disappointment, Assyrians poised to get some autonomy over ancestral lands
By: Ashur Sada
What are the odds of this happening? A great empire, after complete cultural and military domination for centuries, is finally
defeated. Its people go on to live thousands of years with no place to call their own, subject to constant intimidation from neighbors, wars, oppression, cultural subjugation, terrorism and even a genocide. Yet, despite all of this, the people-though scattered and oppressed-don’t die. Most of them remain in the same areas and around where their former empire and its capital once stood.
And let us further imagine that after all these thousands of years of demographic changes, forceful migration and land grabbing, these people remain defiantly rooted in the lands of their great ancestors. And at the end of it all, against all odds, they finally get rewarded with something simple for their efforts and persistence: they can claim something back and call it their own. At least symbolically…
If you guessed ‘Assyrians’ for these people, you are right!
Recent news of the Iraqi government agreeing in principle to turn the ‘Nineveh Plain‘ region-the ancestral homeland and center of the former Assyrian empire-into a province was a dream for a lot of Assyrians in Iraq and worldwide. In reality, nothing has yet been implemented or passed as a real law in the constitution. But we are now closer than ever before to seeing this dream turn into reality. Sure, Assyrians are not getting their own country back and few are asking for that anyway. Nonetheless, this is a good first step to ensure Assyrians-and Christians in general-are protected and their cultural rights are guaranteed within a multi-ethnic and federal Iraq.
Getting a province or some sort of semi-autonomy for the Christian Assyrian (also referred to as Chaldean and Syriacs) population in Iraq won’t magically solve all their problems. Nor will it help in solving Iraq’s many problems. But it is a good first step. For one, it will help in stopping the indigenous Christian population of Iraq from migrating to the west. At least we hope it will! Since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the number of Christians in Iraq has gone down from 1.3 million to less than 750,000 at the moment. An Assyrian province, one that is safe, coupled with a good and vibrant economy for its residents, will go a long way to ensuring some stability for Assyrians in the the country.
Assyrians have been extremely patient and suffered through so much since the fall of their empire. Yet, they remained defiant and persistent in their effort to survive and stay relevant and rooted in their ancestral homeland. Getting their own province is the least thing that can be done to reward them for their resilience.