Syriac Christians, Jews , Mandeans and other minorities of Iraq has nearly been extinguished by islamic fundamentalists. Sorry, I forgot, you only protest when America or a western oriented democracy, such as Israel, is the alleged persecutor and the noble people of the third world are the so called victims. Enclosed are excerpts from an interview with Peter Bet Basoo, an Assyrian journalist, for the full article, click on the following link: http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=32012
Islamist Ethnic-Cleansing of Assyrians in Iraq
By: Jamie Glazov
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Peter BetBasoo, co-founder and director of the Assyrian International News Agency (www.aina.org). He was born in Baghdad in 1963 and emigrated to the U.S. in 1974. He obtained a B.S. in Geology at the University of Illinois Chicago (1980-1985) and a minor in Philosophy. In 2002, he worked in the State Department's Future of Iraq Project, in the Water, Agriculture and Environment group. In 2007, he authored the report, Incipient Genocide: The Ethnic Cleansing of the Assyrians of Iraq.
FP: Peter BetBasoo, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
BetBasoo: Thank you, Jamie.
FP: What has happened in the past 5 years?
BetBasoo: We are all aware of the sectarian violence that befell Iraq, the endless Shiite-Sunni violence, yet little reported was the plight of Iraq's non-Muslim minorities, the Assyrians and Mandaeans in particular, who have been driven out of Basra and Baghdad by both Shiites and Sunnis. Before 2003 Assyrians were estimated to be 8% of the population (1.5 million), now they are down to about 1 million. Of the refugees in Syria and Jordan, it is estimated that nearly 25-40% of them are Assyrians, though they only make up 8% of Iraq's population. This is no accident. They were driven out by the Islamists. The Mandaeans once numbered 60,000 in Iraq, now they are about 4,000. Most have fled the country because of Muslim persecution.
FP: Who are the Assyrians and other minorities? How did they receive the liberation of Iraq?
BetBasoo: There are five main minorities in Iraq: Assyrians, Turkmen, Yazidis, Shabaks and Mandaeans. Of these, the Assyrians are the only indigenous group, the only autochthonous group. The Assyrians are the descendants of the Assyrians you know from ancient history, the ones that build the Mesopotamian civilizations. Assyrians became Christians in 33 A.D. their language is Syriac (neo-Aramaic), and they have lived in their ancestral lands in north Iraq for nearly 7000 years. In recent times they moved to Baghdad and Basra. Assyrians are also present in Syria, Iran and Turkey and now the West, of course.
The Mandaeans are an ancient community, followers of John the Baptist. They are not Muslims, their language is Aramaic -- though this is being lost to Arabic. They historically lived in south Iraq.
The Yazidis live in north Iraq. They are erroneously called the "devil worshippers." Their religion is an amalgam of Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism and Judaism. It is not clear what their ethnicity is, but they consider themselves distinct from others. There are about 500,000 of them.
The Turkmen are of Turkish origin and are in general Sunni Muslims. They live in north Iraq.
The Shabaks are a Muslim group (70% Shiite, 30% Sunni) that also considers itself distinct from others. They live in north Iraq.
It goes without saying that these groups welcomed the liberation of Iraq. Though they were relatively safe under Saddam's regime, they were not free, they were living in a police state, and many suffered at the hands of Saddam's thugs. The promise of liberty was whole-heartedly received. But none of the groups anticipated what followed when Pandora's box was opened after Saddam's iron-grip regime was ousted.
FP: How did the Islamists treat these minorities?
BetBasoo: That depends on the minority. Non-Muslim minorities were targeted by both Sunnis and Shiites. The Assyrians and Mandaeans have suffered tremendously. As I document in the Incipient Genocide report, Baghdad and Basra have been essentially cleared of Assyrians.
After the liberation of Iraq in 2003 the murder of Assyrians was 2937% higher than for the years 1995-2002. The geographic distribution of the murders was 36.9% in north Iraq, 60.4% in central Iraq and 2.7% in south Iraq. Kurds, Sunnis, Shiites and al-Qaeda engaged in murdering Assyrians. Examples included:
• A 2 month old infant kidnapped, beheaded, roasted and returned to its parents on a bed of rice
• 14 year old Ayad Tariq decapitated because he is a "dirty Christian sinner"
• A 14 year old boy crucified in his own village in Mosul
• Fr. Paulos Iskander (Paul Alexander) kidnapped, beheaded and dismembered
5 priests were kidnapped and released after ransom was paid. 5 priests and 3 deacons were murdered, for a total of 12. 6 of these occurred in Baghdad, 7 in Mosul. 52 churches were attacked or bombed since June, 2004: 33 in Baghdad, 13 in Mosul, 5 in Kirkuk and 1 in Ramadi.
At least 13 young women were abducted and raped, causing some of them to commit suicide. Female students were targeted in Basra and Mosul for not wearing veils; some had nitric acid squirted on their faces. Elders of a village in Mosul were warned not to send females to universities. Mahdi Army personnel circulated a letter warning all Christian women to veil themselves.
Al-Qaeda moved into Dora, Baghdad (an Assyrian neighborhood) and began collecting the jizya and demanding that females be sent to the mosque to be married off to Muslims. Assyrian businesses were targeted. 95% of liquor stores were attacked, defaced or bombed. 500 Assyrian shops in a Dora market were burned in one night.
The Mandaeans suffered no less and proportionately have been hit harder. Nearly 90% of this community has fled Iraq. The full details of this horror are documented in a report by the Mandaean Human Rights Group. This community has been the object of murder, intimidation, threats and forced conversion.
The effect of this was to drive these communities into exile. Only 4000 Mandaeans remain in Iraq. About 500,000 Assyrians have fled to Syria and Jordan and 200,000 to the Assyrian areas in North Iraq.
FP: How did the Kurdish authorities treat them?
BetBasoo: The minorities living in or near Kurdish areas (in the north) are Assyrians, Yazidis, Shabaks amd Turkmen. The Kurds do not, in general, engage in religious violence, however, they are actively engaged in political violence and cultural oppression and denial of the rights of these groups in pursuit of their vision of a greater "Kurdistan." The Kurds are working on a subtler level.
Regarding Shabaks, Kurds insist this group is ethnically Kurdish and are aggressively attempting to annex their villages into the Kurdish region. The Shabaks categorically deny this. According to Dr. Hunain Al-Qaddo, General Secretary of the Democratic Shabak Assembly. "Shabaks enjoy different norms, values, traditions, recipes and clothes from Kurds and Arabs. They are neither Arabs nor Kurds and they do not intermarry with Kurds. Their language, Shabaki, is a mixture of Farsi, Arabic, Turkish and Kurdish and cannot be understood by Kurds." Shabaks have accused Kurds of killing one of their leaders. Muslims have also targeted this community.
The Yazidis face a similar situation.
The Assyrians are a special target of the Kurds because the Assyrians are the legitimate historical owners of north Iraq, which the Kurds are claiming as their own. Kurdish policy toward Assyrians is multi-faceted. There is the transparent attempt to buy the Assyrians through an Assyrian working for the Kurdish government, Sargis Aghajan. He is the Assyrian face of the Kurdish regime. He spends lavishly on Assyrians, building churches, rebuilding villages, but always delivering the Kurdish message and attempting to convince Assyrians to come under Kurdish Regional government rule. He has worked tirelessly to marginalize the legitimate representative of the Assyrians, the Assyrian Democratic Movement.
The Kurds blocked Assyrians from voting in the 2005 general elections. The Kurdish authorities charged with delivering ballot boxes to Assyrian districts in the north failed to do so. Assyrian election workers were fired on and killed.
The Kurds are engaged in historical revisionism. They claim that Arbel ("Howlar" in Kurdish) is their "capital" but it is not, Arbel is the oldest extant city in the world; it dates back to more than 4000 B.C., its name means "four gods" (Arb-El) in Assyrian. The Kurds base the beginning of their calendar on the fall of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. The current Kurdish year is 2620. Assyrian fell in 612 B.C. You do the math. The Kurds also assert that the Kingdom of Adiabene, an Assyrian Kingdom that was the first to accept Christ in 33 A.D., was "Kurdish", their historians and their apologists make this assertion. The purpose of this, of course, is to deny the legal right of Assyrians to claim their lands, which the Kurds want to incorporate into a greater Kurdistan. Assyrians have continuously lived in their ancestral lands, north Iraq, north-east Syria, south-east Turkey and north-west Iran, since about 4700 B.C. Kurds are from south-west Iran. They came to north Iraq circa 1100 A.D., when they were installed there to act as a buffer between the Turks and the Persians.
Assyrians are not seeking to re-establish Assyria, that is an unrealistic dream. Assyrians simply want to live in peace and freedom, to practice their religion, to teach their language and history. In the last 1400 years, thus has proven to be elusive, as every power that be wanted to assimilate Assyrians. We are called Arab-Christians, Iranian-Christians, Turkish-Christians and now Kurdish Christians, from a group who should know better, having suffered the same under Saddam. For many Assyrians, the Kurds are no different than the Arabs. The Arabs had their Ba'ath ideology, with its pan-Arabism, where everyone was an Arab, even if he wasn't, and the Kurds have their pan-Kurdism. Does no one learn from history?
The nexus of this tension and conflict is the city of Kirkuk, Iraq, a region rich in oil and coveted by Kurds. The Turkmen, Assyrians and Arabs vehemently contest that this is a Kurdish city and are not willing to cede it to the Kurds. For the record, Kirkuk
FP: What may the US departure precipitate? There is the possibility of an ethnic cleansing/genocide, no?
BetBasoo: With 140,000 US troops in Iraq, we witnessed the near eradication of the Mandeans from Iraq and the cleansing of Assyrians from Basra and Baghdad. The only Assyrian safe-haven now is in the ancestral Assyrian homelands in north-Iraq. If the US departs, leaving only one brigade in Baghdad, should we expect the situation for minorities to improve? Unless the Iraqi government reigns in the militias, makes political reform the top priority, engages in a massive reconstruction program and -- most importantly -- explicitly guarantees the protection of non-Muslim minorities through educational, civic and security measures -- the situation will probably get worse. With the US gone, the pressure on the Kurds would have been removed, and with their protectorate gone, they would very likely become defensive, assertive and bellicose.
I recently interviewed an Assyrian witness to the Muslim cleansing of Assyrians in the Dora district of Baghdad, between 2004 and 2007 (the interview will soon be published on AINA), and the overwhelming impression I came away with was this kind of ethnic cleansing can happen at any time and start frighteningly fast, within a day or two, and there is nothing that unprotected minorities can do to stop it.
FP: What can be done to protect these minorities?
BetBasoo: The best solution is let these vulnerable minorities protect themselves. The Assyrians, Shabaks and Yazidis must have their own local civil administration and police force, in accordance with article 125 of the Iraq constitution. The Turkmen are in less danger because they are backed by Turkey. For the Assyrians, this is slowly being realized in the push to establish an Assyrian administered area in the Nineveh Plain, the center of the Assyrian area. A police force of 700 Assyrians is now in training and it will be stationed in the Nineveh Plain.
The short term solution is to offer physical protection for these minorities -- they must be guarded with extra vigilance precisely because they are unable to defend themselves. The long term solution is to codify minority rights -- especially for non-Muslims -- into the laws of the land and to zealously enforce these laws. The culture has to be changed. This is admittedly difficult, but there is no other lasting way to achieve this. What is needed is affirmative action, not for jobs but for civil rights.
Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.