Hermiz Shahen/The Assyrian Genocide: 100 Years of Denial


The Assyrian Genocide: 100 Years of Denial
Hermiz Shahen

(AINA) — The World War I genocide of Assyrians of all Christian denominations has become an integral part of the life and collective consciousness of the Assyrian nation until the present day. The extermination took many forms and methods within the conditions and political realities of different conflicts experienced by the Middle Eastern countries and the world. The factors that surrounded them locally and globally affected the entity of the Assyrian nation adversely and catastrophically. In recent years, history is repeating itself for the Assyrian nation. They are systematically driven out from their ancestral lands in Iraq and Syria. They have been subjected to gross violations of human and legal rights. Murder, rape, assault, and forced conversions to Islam have become commonplace as armed death-squads attempt to force Assyrians out of their time immemorial habitats; exactly 100 years after the Ottoman Empire’s Caliphate government started its campaign of ethnic cleansing in 1914 against its Christian population. Nearly half-a-generation later, on August 7, 1933 over 6000 defenseless Assyrians were massacred by the Iraqi army because they demanded their rights.

Today, about one hundred and fifty thousand of Syria and Iraq’s dwindling Assyrian population has been forcefully displaced over a very short period of time. The jihadists have moved in swiftly and forcefully to claim several Assyrian towns, forcing their inhabitants to flee. They have destroyed homes ancient churches, Assyrian artifacts and the Assyrian archaeological sites. The major goal for committing these massacres has always been ending the national entity of the Assyrians as the original owners of the land and inheritors of history and civilization. It also aimed at the elimination of the Christian presence in the region, which according to the definition of genocide endorsed by the United Nations, is defined as “crimes against humanity” that pursue the persecution and physical extermination of national, ethnic, racial and religious minorities.

On the centenary of the genocide, the recognition by the international community of the last century’s genocide against the Assyrian, Armenian and Greek peoples is overdue. The modern Turkish Republic has continued its denial and its refusal to acknowledge its Ottoman predecessor’s involvement in these crimes against humanity. Recognition is an essential step towards saving humanity from the threat of future destruction. A defilement of the concept of human dignity is today the result of humanitarian disasters in many parts of the world including Africa and the Middle East. As a consequence of the 1915 genocide against the three nations, the link with eternity was lost when the symbol of that eternity, which is the Assyrian civilization, was killed in the massacre of 750,000 Assyrians. The most ancient human civilizations come from the region of Mesopotamia. The Ottoman Empire destroyed the last remnants of this civilization in that region. At the same time the Armenian civilization was substantially destroyed and half of that nation was exterminated. Those Armenians who survived lost almost all their historical territories .The depopulation of Assyrians, Armenians and Greeks from their ancestral homelands was part and parcel of Turkey’s policy of eliminating the Christian minorities.

The Assyrians, Armenians and Greeks have been crying out for justice following the atrocities committed against them a century ago. Our voices had fallen on deaf ears in Australia for the longest time. Until recently that is, when on 1 and 8 May 2013, a motion recognising the Assyrian, Armenian and Greek genocide was passed unanimously in the New South Wales Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly in Australia. This great justice would not have been possible without the courageous stand of two great individuals who moved this motion in both houses, namely; Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile MLC, President of the Christian Democratic Party and The Hon. Barry O’Farrell, former Premier of New South Wales as well as with the contribution and support of all the esteemed parties in the New South Wales State Parliament. To date the Swedish, Dutch, Armenian and Austrian parliaments have recognised the Assyrian Genocide along with the European Parliaments and His Holiness Pope Francis. We hope that other countries including Australia will follow suit. The three nations that suffered this horrific genocide will always remember with pride and honour the Australian & New Zealander heroes who were eyewitnesses to the inhumane acts perpetrated against them. ANZACs had rescued survivors of the massacres and deportations across the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1918, making the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek genocides a part of the Australian story.

Recognition of the genocide will guarantee that Turkey understands its contemporary obligations to protect both the human and collective national rights of its minority populations and to prevent any future genocide. It will also help to strengthen our Assyrian national existence in the homeland as well as in the Diaspora, and will initiate international awareness of the Assyrian nation’s rights to existence among the nations of the world. Let justice be done, souls consoled, broken hearts mended, nations reconciled, and honor given to all those who perished so needlessly during a dark hour in mankind’s recent history.

**Hermiz Shahen is the Deputy Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance.
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