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Assyrian Martyrs Day 2023

By: Anthony Israil

August 7, 2023

Today marks 90 years since the beginning of the Simele Massacre. This slaughter of indigenous Assyrians, resulting in upwards of 6,000 deaths, was just one of five major genocides that this resilient community has been subjected to in modern history. The Simele Massacre was the first campaign undertaken by present-day Iraq, upon gaining sovereignty 90 years ago. The indigenous Assyrians in Simele were targeted by the Iraqi regime with the hopes of eradicating the population completely in a supposed attempt to quell any risk of political unrest and uprising.

90 years later and the massacre is still not recognized by the Iraqi Government nor the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). Instead, the burial site of more than 4,000 Assyrians is trashed by local Kurdish civilians of Simele, has been made the site of a telephone tower erected by the Kurdish authorities, and subjected to archeological digs by international researchers who never obtained the consent of the Assyrian community to desecrate the remains of those who were killed.

Some might say that Assyrians are 90 years removed from this tragedy, but it is difficult to use a term such as “removed,” when there are obvious and devastating long-term effects lingering in our community to this day. 90 years later and the native Assyrian population still faces continuous persecution and deprivation of human rights in their homeland by their oppressors, the Kurdish authorities.

There is huge concern and uncertainty for the future of Assyrians living at home because the Iraqi Government and KRG will not recognize the massacre. This type of ignorance is what has led to the circumstances of Assyrians today and their current situation in present-day Iraq. This ignorance will only create more problems for them going forward.

August 7th marks the day where 6,000 Assyrians and 100 villages would fall victim to a government that continues to fail its native population 90 years later. The persecution and displacement of Assyrians dates back from the 7th century AD and onward. This devastating cycle needs to come to an end.

It is important for all Suraye (Assyrians) of all Christian denominations - Chaldeans, Syriacs, ACOE (Assyrian Church of the East) etc. – to come together in unity. Our slight differences as Assyrians from different backgrounds should not separate us from one another.

Our differences are also not any more important than the cultural genocide, persecution, land theft, and intimidation that Suraye still face in their homeland today. Suraye in the diaspora are more divided than ever, and that is creating more harm for those that never left our native lands because we are incapable of uniting in order to support those that need it the most.

‘Sada’ – Martyr (Also a last name for Assyrians)

The Suraye that are currently living in present-day Iraq continuously fight to keep our culture and language alive and to be the shepherds of our lands. They make the sacrifice of keeping their faith, beliefs, and devotion strong at the cost of their freedom and human rights. Suraye in the diaspora can live comfortably while those back home make a sacrifice for just staying in their native lands. Our circumstances don’t want us to be here, but it is 2023 and we still are. Our identity cannot thrive if we do not support the people that continue to keep the culture and language alive and fight to maintain our indigenous lands. In unity we achieve more.

‘Khouyada’ – Unity

Anthony Z. Israil


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