By: Ashur Sada
If you were to assess how 2014 went for Assyrians, you can sum it up in two words: “it sucked”!
How else do you describe a year in which the entire city of Mosul was emptied of its indigenous Assyrian Christian population, at the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)? and related to that, no Christmas was celebrated in the city for the first time in over 1800 years. A year where virtually every Assyrian resident of the Nineveh Plain was driven out from their town and village by terrorist. You are talking over 100,000 Assyrians driven from their homes and becoming refugees in cities across the Kurdish-dominated region in the north. Not to mention all the tens of thousands that left the country altogether.
In other words, if it wasn’t already bad enough for the Assyrians in Iraq (and to a smaller extent Assyrians in Syria) , it got a lot worse. It is like shooting a dying man in the heart to ensure he is finished.
Needless to say, 2014 is not a year Assyrians will want to relive anytime soon. It is a year we would like to forget and hopefully even undo, if time machine was a reality.
Or we can just look forward to 2015 and hope for a better year. So what can we expect from the new year? What do we want to see happen for our nation?
Without getting too ambitious, I think virtually every Assyrian’s first and most important wish is to see all our towns and villages in the Nineveh Plain be liberated from ISIS and all its residents returned. Once this happens and security is established, then we can be more bold and ask for more.
Next comes safety and security for our people and towns. Since we don’t have a lot of faith in Iraqi and Kurdish security forces to always be there for us, we should move ahead and build a capable Assyrian protection and defense force that can keep the peace and ensure our people are safe in their homes, towns and villages.
Then comes the more tough task of ensuring the immigration slows down or stops altogether. Assyrians used to number some 1.3 million before the US invasion in 2003 and now number less than half a million, if not less. Since the ISIS takeover of Nineveh province, this exodus from the country has accelerated even more and will likely stay strong until or unless the situation in the country is quickly resolved and improved. The new Iraqi prime minister has taken some steps to take the country in the right direction but a lot remains to be done.
But until our towns and villages are liberated, our people are still living in tents, unfinished buildings, out in the street and in some very poor and filthy conditions. The longer this goes on the less likely they will want to stay and return to their homes once their cities are liberated. We hope that in 2015, efforts by people and organizations will intensify to provide more humanitarian aid and financial assistance to our people that have become refugees in their own country.
US and Iraqi officials have made it clear that plans to liberate Nineveh province from ISIS are underway and may start as soon as January of 2015. The sooner that starts the more hope our people will have of having a future in Iraq.
Last but not least and as already alluded to, it is important that we have our own capable Assyrian protection forces that are ready to take over the security and defending of our recaptured towns and villages in the Nineveh Plain. Various Assyrian protection forces have already been formed and it is our hope that they unite and become one in 2015.
2015, please be kind to Assyrians and usher in a better future.