The savage Muslim persecution of Assyrian Christians and Yazidi (Zoroastrian/Hindus) by Sunni Muslims in the Middle East. ISIS has systematically murdered, tortured, captured, and enslaved Yazidi girls and women. They have done likewise to the Assyrians in Syria and Iraq. Iran has persecuted Assyrians as well.
In terms of ISIS in Syria and Iraq: It is important to note that Western-born and Western-raised fighters have joined these barbaric warriors. This is a dangerous phenomenon because these fighters are choosing barbarism over civilization.
Last week, two Yazidi women managed, miraculously, to recently escape their captors. Their information is very valuable. Through them we learn the following:
Assyrians are Christians. During World War I, 750,000 Assyrians (75% of their population) were killed, along with 1.5 million Armenians and 500,000 Pontic Greeks, by Turks and Kurds. On March 10, 2010, the Swedish parliament officially recognized the Assyrian genocide. However, the current Swedish government has yet to adopt the recognition and make it part of official Swedish politics in its dealings with Turkey.
Therefore, on Sunday, January 25, more than 2,000 Assyrians marched through six cities in Sweden, for genocide recognition. More marches marking the centennial of the genocide are planned.
There are less than 20,000 Assyrians left in Iran, and they are recognized officially as a minority group in parliament.
In Iran, Assyrian Christians are permitted to practice their religion in their native language (a derivation of Aramaic). Ayatollah Ali Khamenei even sent out Christmas Day tweets that called on people to “truly honor Jesus’ birthday.” However, on Christmas, 2014, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Revolutionary Court raided the home of an Assyrian pastor in Tehran and arrested everyone there. The guards, operating under Sharia Law, separated the men and women, and confiscated Bibles, mobile phones, identification papers, computers, and books. Iran’s Basij (“morality police”) arrested nine other Christians on Christmas.
Today, I had the privilege of speaking with David Lazar, the American-Iraqi chairman of the American Mesopotamian Organization, a group dedicated to advancing the rights of Assyrians globally. Since ISIS invaded northern Iraq’s Nineveh plain, Lazar has been in daily contact with his people, monitoring and directing humanitarian aid and logistics.
Although the situation on the ground is fluid, complex, and highly intense, David Lazar called for a “confederated Iraq with internal borders.” He clarified that if “Iraqi Sunnis want to live under Sharia law,” which will allow them to “marry their daughters when they are nine years [old],” they can rule themselves—but not Christians or others who want to live under “civilized laws.” He believes that Swiss-style cantons can exist in a new Iraq, one that allows the Kurds to have an independent state.
Lazar cautioned the Kurds against “independence, since that would put them at the mercy of the Turks or the Iranians.”
Lazar described a new volunteer unit of Assyrian young men, nearly 600 strong, who are about to be trained by Iraqi and private Western security specialists so that they can play a role in the spring offensive against ISIS.
Lazar expects a “new Iraq” to emerge, with a “modified Constitution.” He stressed that the Assyrians and the Yazidis have a long history of peaceful co-operation in Iraq. “We have never killed each other, we are peaceful, we have no issues,” he said.
He noted that Assyrians have not been receiving any of the necessary aid that other groups receive, such as the Kurds or the Iraqi forces fighting ISIS. Nevertheless, Lazar believes that a new Iraq will be seen “after June 10th of this year.”
I asked Lazar about Assyrian women. I did not want to ask outright about whether they had been kidnapped or sold into sexual slavery like the Yazidi women. His answer was this:
Assyrian women are strong-willed, they are the backbone of the household, most are educated, business owners, and professionals. There will be women fighters as part of the Nineveh Province Protection Unit (NPU) in the coming months if not weeks.”
This interview was arranged by the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) and I thank them for this opportunity.