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Assyrian people (Syriac: ‎), or Syriacs (see terms for Syriac Christians), are an ethnic group indigenous to Western Asia. Some of them self-identify as Arameans, or as Chaldeans. Speakers of modern Aramaic and as well as the primary languages in their countries of residence, the Assyrian people are Syriac Christians who claim descent from Assyria, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, dating back to 2500 BC in ancient Mesopotamia.

The tribal areas that form the Assyrian homeland are parts of present-day northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey, northwestern Iran and, more recently, northeastern Syria. The majority have migrated to other regions of the world, including North America, the Levant, Australia, Europe, Russia and the Caucasus during the past century. Emigration was triggered by events such as the Massacres of Diyarbak?r, the Assyrian Genocide (concurrent with the Armenian and Greek Genocides) during World War I by the Ottoman Empire and allied Kurdish tribes, the Simele Massacre in Iraq in 1933, the Iranian Revolution of 1979, Arab Nationalist Ba'athist policies in Iraq and Syria, the rise of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and its takeover of most of the Nineveh plains.

Assyrians are predominantly Christian, mostly adhering to the East and West Syrian liturgical rites of Christianity. The churches that constitute the East Syrian rite include the Assyrian Church of the East, Ancient Church of the East, and Chaldean Catholic Church, whereas the churches of the West Syrian rite are the Syriac Orthodox Church and Syriac Catholic Church. Both rites use Classical Syriac as their liturgical language.

Most recently, the post-2003 Iraq War and the Syrian Civil War, which began in 2011, have displaced much of the remaining Assyrian community from their homeland as a result of ethnic and religious persecution at the hands of Islamic extremists. Of the one million or more Iraqis reported by the United Nations to have fled Iraq since the occupation, nearly 40% were Assyrians even though Assyrians accounted for only around 3% of the pre-war Iraqi demography. According to a 2013 report by a Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council official, it is estimated that only 300,000 Assyrians remain in Iraq.

Because of the emergence of ISIL and the taking over of much of the Assyrian homeland by the terror group, another major wave of Assyrian displacement has taken place. ISIL was driven out from the Assyrian villages in the Khabour River Valley and the areas surrounding the city of Al-Hasakah in Syria by 2015, and from the Nineveh plains in Iraq by 2017. Since the expulsion of ISIL, the Nineveh plains have been divided into Iraqi and Kurdish-controlled zones, with Assyrian militias on both sides. In Gozarto/Northern Syria, Assyrian groups have been taking part both politically and militarily in the Kurdish-dominated but multiethnic Democratic Federation of Northern Syria project.

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Cavalry during the Assyrian Genocide.jpg

The Assyrian Genocide,(also known as Sayfo or Seyfo, ("Sword") Syriac: ? ? ‎ or ?) refers to the mass slaughter of the Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac population of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. The Assyrian population of northern Mesopotamia (the Tur Abdin, Hakkari, Van, Siirt regions of present-day southeastern Turkey and the Urmia region of northwestern Iran) was forcibly relocated and massacred by Ottoman (Turkish) and Kurdish forces between 1914 and 1920. Estimates on the overall death toll have varied. Contemporary reports placed the figure at 270,000. More recent estimates have revised that figure to as between 500,000 and 750,000.

The Assyrian genocide took place in the same context as the Armenian and Pontic Greek genocides. In these events, close to three million Christians of Syriac, Armenian or Greek Orthodox denomination were murdered by the Young Turks regime.

Since the "Assyrian genocide" took place within the context of the much more widespread Armenian genocide, historical scholarship treating it as a separate event is scarce. In 2007, the International Association of Genocide Scholars reached a consensus that "the Ottoman campaign against Christian minorities of the Empire between 1914 and 1923 constituted a genocide against Armenians, Assyrians, and Pontian and Anatolian Greeks." The President of Genocide Watch endorsed the "repudiation by the world's leading genocide scholars of the Turkish government's ninety-year denial of the Ottoman Empire's genocides against its Christian populations, including Assyrians, Greeks, and Armenians."

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Shimun Benyamin.jpg

Mar Shimun XIX Benyamin (1887 - 1918) the Patriarch of the Church of the East during the Assyrian Genocide.


Assyrians news

2 December

  • Muslim rioters attack liquor stores and massage parlours in Zakho in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq after Friday prayers. The attacks later extended to include Assyrian Christian owned shops and businesses in other cities including Dohuk and Simele. CNN

6 October


22 July

4 July

  • Following a joint fact-finding mission of the UNPO/FAA/ACE in April 2011, the Dutch Parliament passed a bill that gives Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal a strong mandate to support the recognition and protection of Assyrian rights. UNPO.org

29 June

  • The Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (I.A.O.), passed a resolution officially recognizing the Assyrian Genocide. Seyfo center

17 March

25 April

Selected biography


Naum Elias Yaqub Palakh (February 1868 – February 5, 1930), better known as Naum Faiq (Syriac: ? ?, Na?um Fayëq) was one of the founding fathers of modern Assyrian nationalism during the early 20th century. He was a teacher and writer throughout his life. A Syriac Orthodox Christian, he emphasized the importance of unity among Assyrians and encouraged his community to depart from "tribal mentality." He was born in Amid (present day Diyarbakir) in the Ottoman Empire and began his education there at the age of seven. After primary school, he attended the local high school that had been established by local "Brotherhood of Ancient Syrians". He spent 8 years at the school, where education was jointly in classical Syriac, Ottoman Turkish and Arabic. Naum also went on to learn several other languages, including Persian and basic French. After his parents died, he first lived with his older brother Thomas and then started teaching in a village near Diyarbak?r in 1888. He also taught in Urfa, Ad?yaman and Homs before returning to Diyarbak?r.

Naum wrote numerous books concerning the Syriac language and people. After the 1908 Young Turk Revolution and the proclamation of the second Ottoman constitution, restrictions on freedom of speech were lifted. In 1910, Naum began publishing a newspaper for the Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Syriac communities, entitled Kawkab Madnho ("Star of the East"). While written entirely in the Syriac alphabet, Star of the East was actually tri-lingual with articles in Ottoman Turkish, classical Syriac and Arabic. This newspaper, along with that of Ashur Yousif, signaled the emergence of Assyrian nationalism in the Syriac Christian communities of the Ottoman Empire.

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