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Assyrian people

Christian ethnic group indigenous to Mesopotamia

Top 10 Assyrian people related articles

Sūrāyē / Suryoye / ʾĀṯōrāyē
Total population
25 million[1][2][3][4][5] [6][7][8][9]
Regions with significant populations
Assyrian homeland:Numbers can vary
 Syria200,000–877,000 (pre-Syrian civil war)[10][11][12][10] [13]
Diaspora:Numbers can vary
 United States110,807–600,000[19][20][21][22][23]
 LebanonUp to 80,000[27]
 New Zealand1,497[41]
 United Kingdom3,000–4,000[47]
(Assyrian, Chaldean, Turoyo)
Predominantly Syriac Christianity
Also Protestantism
Related ethnic groups
Arabs,[50] Jews,[50] Mandeans, Armenians

Assyrians (ܣܘܪ̈ܝܐ, Sūrāyē/Sūrōyē) are an ethnic group indigenous to the Middle East.[Note 1] Some self-identify as Syriacs,[Note 2] Chaldeans,[Note 3] or Arameans.[Note 4] Speakers of the Neo-Aramaic branch of Semitic languages as well as the primary languages in their countries of residence,[58] modern Assyrians are Syriac Christians who claim descent from Assyria, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, dating back to 2500 BC in ancient Mesopotamia.[59]

The tribal areas that form the Assyrian homeland are parts of present-day northern Iraq (Nineveh Plains and Dohuk Governorate), southeastern Turkey (Hakkari and Tur Abdin), northwestern Iran (Urmia) and, more recently, northeastern Syria (Al-Hasakah Governorate).[52] 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 Diyarbakır, 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.[60][61]

Assyrians are predominantly Christian, mostly adhering to the East and West Syriac liturgical rites of Christianity.[62][54] The churches that constitute the East Syriac rite include the Chaldean Catholic Church, Assyrian Church of the East, and the Ancient Church of the East, whereas the churches of the West Syriac 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.[63][64]

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. In northern Syria, Assyrian groups have been taking part both politically and militarily in the Kurdish-dominated but multiethnic Syrian Democratic Forces (see Khabour Guards and Sutoro) and Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria.

Assyrian people Intro articles: 47


Pre-Christian history

Part of the Lion Hunt of Ashurbanipal, c. 645–635 BC

Assyria is the homeland of the Assyrian people; it is located in the ancient Near East. In prehistoric times, the region that was to become known as Assyria (and Subartu) was home to Neanderthals such as the remains of those which have been found at the Shanidar Cave. The earliest Neolithic sites in Assyria belonged to the Jarmo culture c. 7100 BC and Tell Hassuna, the centre of the Hassuna culture, c. 6000 BC.

The history of Assyria begins with the formation of the city of Assur perhaps as early as the 25th century BC.[65] The Assyrian king list records kings dating from the 25th century BC onwards, the earliest being Tudiya, who was a contemporary of Ibrium of Ebla. However, many of these early kings would have been local rulers, and from the late 24th century BC to the early 22nd century BC, they were usually subjects of the Akkadian Empire. During the early Bronze Age period, Sargon of Akkad united all the native Semitic-speaking peoples (including the Assyrians) and the Sumerians of Mesopotamia under the Akkadian Empire (2335–2154 BC). The cities of Assur and Nineveh (modern day Mosul), which was the oldest and largest city of the ancient Assyrian Empire,[66] together with a number of other towns and cities, existed as early as the 25th century BC, although they appear to have been Sumerian-ruled administrative centres at this time, rather than independent states. The Sumerians were eventually absorbed into the Akkadian (Assyro-Babylonian) population.[67]

Assyrian soldier of the Achaemenid Army circa 480 BC, Xerxes I tomb, Naqsh-e Rustam.

In the traditions of the Assyrian Church of the East, they are descended from Abraham's grandson (Dedan son of Jokshan), progenitor of the ancient Assyrians.[68] However, there is no historical basis for the biblical assertion whatsoever; there is no mention in Assyrian records (which date as far back as the 25th century BC). Ashur-uballit I overthrew the Mitanni c. 1365 BC, and the Assyrians benefited from this development by taking control of the eastern portion of Mitanni territory, and later also annexing Hittite, Babylonian, Amorite and Hurrian territories.[69] The Assyrian people, after the fall of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in 609 BC were under the control of the Neo-Babylonian and later the Persian Empire, which consumed the entire Neo-Babylonian or "Chaldean" Empire in 539 BC. Assyrians became front line soldiers for the Persian Empire under Xerxes I, playing a major role in the Battle of Marathon under Darius I in 490 BC.[70] Herodotus, whose Histories are the main source of information about that battle, makes no mention of Assyrians in connection with it.[71]

Despite the influx of foreign elements, the presence of Assyrians is confirmed by the worship of the god Ashur; references to the name survive into the 3rd century AD.[72] The Greeks, Parthians, and Romans had a rather low level of integration with the local population in Mesopotamia, which allowed their cultures to survive.[73] The kingdoms of Osroene, which inhabitants was mainly a mix of Greeks, Parthians and Arameans,[74][75] Adiabene, Hatra and Assur, which were under Parthian overlordship, had an Assyrian identity


Emerging in Sumer c. 3500 BC, cuneiform writing began as a system of pictograms. Around 3000 BC, the pictorial representations became simplified and more abstract as the number of characters in use grew smaller. The original Sumerian script was adapted for the writing of the Akkadian (Babylonian and Assyrian) and Hittite languages.[76]

The Kültepe texts, which were written in Old Assyrian, preserve the earliest known traces of the Hittite language, and the earliest attestation of any Indo-European language, dated to the 20th century BC. Most of the archaeological evidence is typical of Anatolia rather than of Assyria, but the use of both cuneiform and the dialect is the best indication of Assyrian presence. To date, over 20,000 cuneiform tablets have been recovered from the site.[77][78]

From 1700 BC and onward, the Sumerian language was preserved by the ancient Babylonians and Assyrians only as a liturgical and classical language for religious, artistic and scholarly purposes.[79]

The Akkadian language, with its main dialects Assyrian and Babylonian, once the lingua franca of the Ancient Near East, began to decline during the Neo-Assyrian Empire around the 8th century BC, being marginalized by Old Aramaic during the reign of Tiglath-Pileser III. By the Hellenistic period, the language was largely confined to scholars and priests working in temples in Assyria and Babylonia.

Early Christian period

Map of Asōristān (226–637 AD)

From the 1st century BC, Assyria was the theatre of the protracted Roman–Persian Wars. Much of the region would become the Roman province Assyria from 116 to 118 AD following the conquests of Trajan, but after a Parthian-inspired Assyrian rebellion, the new emperor Hadrian withdrew from the short-lived province Assyria and its neighboring provinces in 118 AD.[80] Following a successful campaign in 197–198, Severus converted the kingdom of Osroene, centred on Edessa, into a frontier Roman province.[81] Roman influence in the area came to an end under Jovian in 363, who abandoned the region after concluding a hasty peace agreement with the Sassanians.[82] From the later 2nd century, the Roman Senate included several notable Assyrians, including Tiberius Claudius Pompeianus and Avidius Cassius.

The Assyrians were Christianized in the first to third centuries in Roman Syria and Roman Assyria. The population of the Sasanian province of Asōristān was a mixed one, composed of Assyrians, Arameans in the far south and the western deserts, and Persians.[83] The Greek element in the cities, still strong during the Parthian Empire, ceased to be ethnically distinct in Sasanian times. The majority of the population were Eastern Aramaic speakers.

Along with the Arameans, Armenians, Greeks, and Nabataeans, the Assyrians were among the first people to convert to Christianity and spread Eastern Christianity to the Far East in spite of becoming, from the 8th century, a minority religion in their homeland following the Muslim conquest of Persia.

In 410, the Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, the capital of the Sasanian Empire,[84] organized the Christians within that empire into what became known as the Church of the East. Its head was declared to be the bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, who in the acts of the council was referred to as the Grand or Major Metropolitan, and who soon afterward was called the Catholicos of the East. Later, the title of Patriarch was also used. Dioceses were organised into provinces, each of which was under the authority of a metropolitan bishop. Six such provinces were instituted in 410.

A 6th century church, St. John the Arab, in Hakkari, Turkey (Geramon)

Another council held in 424 declared that the Catholicos of the East was independent of "western" ecclesiastical authorities (those of the Roman Empire).

Soon afterwards, Christians in the Roman Empire were divided by their attitude regarding the Council of Ephesus (431), which condemned Nestorianism, and the Council of Chalcedon (451), which condemned Monophysitism. Those who for any reason refused to accept one or other of these councils were called Nestorians or Monophysites, while those who accepted both councils, held under the auspices of the Roman emperors, were called Melkites (derived from Syriac malkā, king),[85] meaning royalists. All three groups existed among the Syriac Christians, the East Syriacs being called Nestorians and the West Syriacs being divided between the Monophysites (today the Syriac Orthodox Church, also known as Jacobites, after Jacob Baradaeus) and those who accepted both councils (primarily today's Orthodox Church, which has adopted the Byzantine Rite in Greek, but also the Maronite Church, which kept its West Syriac Rite and was not as closely aligned with Constantinople). After this division the West Syriacs, who was under Roman/Byzantine influence and the East Syriacs, under Persian influence, developed dialects that was different from each other, both in pronunciation and written symbolization of vowels.[86] With the rise of Syriac Christianity, eastern Aramaic enjoyed a renaissance as a classical language in the 2nd to 8th centuries, and varieties of that form of Aramaic (Neo-Aramaic languages) are still spoken by a few small groups of Jacobite and Nestorian Christians in the Middle East.[87]

Arab conquest

The Assyrians initially experienced some periods of religious and cultural freedom interspersed with periods of severe religious and ethnic persecution after the 7th century Muslim conquest of Persia. Assyrians contributed to Islamic civilizations during the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates by translating works of Greek philosophers to Syriac and afterwards to Arabic. They also excelled in philosophy, science (Masawaiyh,[88] Eutychius of Alexandria, and Jabril ibn Bukhtishu[89]) and theology (such as Tatian, Bardaisan, Babai the Great, Nestorius, and Thomas of Marga) and the personal physicians of the Abbasid Caliphs were often Assyrians, such as the long-serving Bukhtishu dynasty.[90] Many scholars of the House of Wisdom were of Assyrian Christian background.[91]

Indigenous Assyrians became second-class citizens (dhimmi) in a greater Arab Islamic state, and those who resisted Arabisation and conversion to Islam were subject to severe religious, ethnic and cultural discrimination, and had certain restrictions imposed upon them.[92] Assyrians were excluded from specific duties and occupations reserved for Muslims, they did not enjoy the same political rights as Muslims, their word was not equal to that of a Muslim in legal and civil matters, as Christians they were subject to payment of a special tax (jizya), they were banned from spreading their religion further or building new churches in Muslim-ruled lands, but were also expected to adhere to the same laws of property, contract and obligation as the Muslim Arabs.[93] They could not seek conversion of a Muslim, a non-Muslim man could not marry a Muslim woman, and the child of such a marriage would be considered Muslim. They could not own a Muslim slave and had to wear different clothing from Muslims in order to be distinguishable. In addition to the jizya tax, they were also required to pay the kharaj tax on their land which was heavier than the jizya. However they were ensured protection, given religious freedom and to govern themselves in accordance to their own laws.[94]

As non-Islamic proselytising was punishable by death under Sharia, the Assyrians were forced into preaching in Transoxiana, Central Asia, India, Mongolia and China where they established numerous churches. The Church of the East was considered to be one of the major Christian powerhouses in the world, alongside Latin Christianity in Europe and the Byzantine Empire.[95]

From the 7th century AD onwards Mesopotamia saw a steady influx of Arabs, Kurds and other Iranian peoples,[96] and later Turkic peoples. Assyrians were increasingly marginalized, persecuted, and gradually became a minority in their own homeland. Conversion to Islam as a result of heavy taxation which also resulted in decreased revenue from their rulers. As a result, the new converts migrated to Muslim garrison towns nearby.

Assyrians remained dominant in Upper Mesopotamia as late as the 14th century,[97] and the city of Assur was still occupied by Assyrians during the Islamic period until the mid-14th century when the Muslim Turco-Mongol ruler Timur conducted a religiously motivated massacre against Assyrians. After, there were no records of Assyrians remaining in Ashur according to the archaeological and numismatic record. From this point, the Assyrian population was dramatically reduced in their homeland.[98]

From the 19th century, after the rise of nationalism in the Balkans, the Ottomans started viewing Assyrians and other Christians in their eastern front as a potential threat. The Kurdish Emirs sought to consolidate their power by attacking Assyrian communities which were already well-established there. Scholars estimate that tens of thousands of Assyrian in the Hakkari region were massacred in 1843 when Bedr Khan Beg, the emir of Bohtan, invaded their region.[99] After a later massacre in 1846, the Ottomans were forced by the western powers into intervening in the region, and the ensuing conflict destroyed the Kurdish emirates and reasserted the Ottoman power in the area. The Assyrians were subject to the massacres of Diyarbakır soon after.[100]

Being culturally, ethnically, and linguistically distinct from their Muslim neighbors in the Middle East—the Arabs, Persians, Kurds, Turks—the Assyrians have endured much hardship throughout their recent history as a result of religious and ethnic persecution by these groups.[101]

Mongolian and Turkic rule

Aramaic language and Syriac Christianity in the Middle East and Central Asia until being largely annihilated by Tamerlane in the 14th century

After initially coming under the control of the Seljuk Empire and the Buyid dynasty, the region eventually came under the control of the Mongol Empire after the fall of Baghdad in 1258. The Mongol khans were sympathetic with Christians and did not harm them. The most prominent among them was probably Isa Kelemechi, a diplomat, astrologer, and head of the Christian affairs in Yuan China. He spent some time in Persia under the Ilkhanate. The 14th century massacres of Timur devastated the Assyrian people. Timur's massacres and pillages of all that was Christian drastically reduced their existence. At the end of the reign of Timur, the Assyrian population had almost been eradicated in many places. Toward the end of the thirteenth century, Bar Hebraeus, the noted Assyrian scholar and hierarch, found "much quietness" in his diocese in Mesopotamia. Syria's diocese, he wrote, was "wasted."

The region was later controlled by the in Iran-based Turkic confederations of the Aq Qoyunlu and Kara Koyunlu. Subsequently, all Assyrians, like with the rest of the ethnicities living in the former Aq Qoyunlu territories, fell into Safavid hands from 1501 and on.

From Iranian Safavid to confirmed Ottoman rule

Mar Elias (Eliya), the Nestorian bishop of the Urmia plain village of Geogtapa, c. 1831

The Ottomans secured their control over Mesopotamia and Syria in the first half of the 17th century following the Ottoman–Safavid War (1623–39) and the resulting Treaty of Zuhab. Non-Muslims were organised into millets. Syriac Christians, however, were often considered one millet alongside Armenians until the 19th century, when Nestorian, Syriac Orthodox and Chaldeans gained that right as well.[102]

The Aramaic-speaking Mesopotamian Christians had long been divided between followers of the Church of the East, commonly referred to as "Nestorians", and followers of the Syriac Orthodox Church, commonly called Jacobites. The latter were organised by Marutha of Tikrit (565–649) as 17 dioceses under a "Metropolitan of the East" or "Maphrian", holding the highest rank in the Syriac Orthodox Church after that of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East. The Maphrian resided at Tikrit until 1089, when he moved to the city of Mosul for half a century, before settling in the nearby Monastery of Mar Mattai (still belonging to the Syriac Orthodox Church) and thus not far from the residence of the Eliya line of Patriarchs of the Church of the East. From 1533, the holder of the office was known as the Maphrian of Mosul, to distinguish him from the Maphrian of the Patriarch of Tur Abdin.[103]

In 1552, a group of bishops of the Church of the East from the northern regions of Amid and Salmas, who were dissatisfied with reservation of patriarchal succession to members of a single family, even if the designated successor was little more than a child, elected as a rival patriarch the abbot of the Rabban Hormizd Monastery, Yohannan Sulaqa. This was by no means the first schism in the Church of the East. An example is the attempt to replace Timothy I (779–823) with Ephrem of Gandīsābur.[104]

By tradition, a patriarch could be ordained only by someone of archiepiscopal (metropolitan) rank, a rank to which only members of that one family were promoted. For that reason, Sulaqa travelled to Rome, where, presented as the new patriarch elect, he entered communion with the Catholic Church and was ordained by the Pope and recognized as patriarch. The title or description under which he was recognized as patriarch is given variously as "Patriarch of Mosul in Eastern Syria";[105] "Patriarch of the Church of the Chaldeans of Mosul";[106] "Patriarch of the Chaldeans";[107][108][109] "patriarch of Mosul";[110][111][112] or "patriarch of the Eastern Assyrians", this last being the version given by Pietro Strozzi on the second-last unnumbered page before page 1 of his De Dogmatibus Chaldaeorum,[113] of which an English translation is given in Adrian Fortescue's Lesser Eastern Churches.[114][115]

Mar Shimun VIII Yohannan Sulaqa returned to northern Mesopotamia in the same year and fixed his seat in Amid. Before being imprisoned for four months and then in January 1555 put to death by the governor of Amadiya at the instigation of the rival patriarch of Alqosh, of the Eliya line,[116] he ordained two metropolitans and three other bishops,[117] thus beginning a new ecclesiastical hierarchy: the patriarchal line known as the Shimun line. The area of influence of this patriarchate soon moved from Amid east, fixing the see, after many changes, in the isolated village of Qochanis.

A massacre of Armenians and Assyrians in the city of Adana, Ottoman Empire, April 1909

The Shimun line eventually drifted away from Rome and in 1662 adopted a profession of faith incompatible with that of Rome. Leadership of those who wished communion with Rome passed to the Archbishop of Amid Joseph I, recognized first by the Turkish civil authorities (1677) and then by Rome itself (1681). A century and a half later, in 1830, headship of the Catholics (the Chaldean Catholic Church) was conferred on Yohannan Hormizd, a member of the family that for centuries had provided the patriarchs of the legitimist "Eliya line", who had won over most of the followers of that line. Thus the patriarchal line of those who in 1553 entered communion with Rome are now patriarchs of the "traditionalist" wing of the Church of the East, that which in 1976 officially adopted the name "Assyrian Church of the East".[118][119][120][121]

In the 1840s many of the Assyrians living in the mountains of Hakkari in the south eastern corner of the Ottoman Empire were massacred by the Kurdish emirs of Hakkari and Bohtan.[122]

Another major massacre of Assyrians (and Armenians) in the Ottoman Empire occurred between 1894 and 1897 by Turkish troops and their Kurdish allies during the rule of Sultan Abdul Hamid II. The motives for these massacres were an attempt to reassert Pan-Islamism in the Ottoman Empire, resentment at the comparative wealth of the ancient indigenous Christian communities, and a fear that they would attempt to secede from the tottering Ottoman Empire. Assyrians were massacred in Diyarbakir, Hasankeyef, Sivas and other parts of Anatolia, by Sultan Abdul Hamid II. These attacks caused the death of over thousands of Assyrians and the forced "Ottomanisation" of the inhabitants of 245 villages. The Turkish troops looted the remains of the Assyrian settlements and these were later stolen and occupied by Kurds. Unarmed Assyrian women and children were raped, tortured and murdered.[123][124]

World War I and aftermath

The burning of bodies of Assyrian women

The Assyrians suffered a number of religiously and ethnically motivated massacres throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries,[122] culminating in the large-scale Hamidian massacres of unarmed men, women and children by Muslim Turks and Kurds in the late 19th century at the hands of the Ottoman Empire and its associated (largely Kurdish and Arab) militias, which further greatly reduced numbers, particularly in southeastern Turkey.

The most significant recent persecution against the Assyrian population was the Assyrian genocide which occurred during the First World War.[127] Between 275,000 and 300,000 Assyrians were estimated to have been slaughtered by the armies of the Ottoman Empire and their Kurdish allies, totalling up to two-thirds of the entire Assyrian population.

This led to a large-scale migration of Turkish-based Assyrian people into countries such as Syria, Iran, and Iraq (where they were to suffer further violent assaults at the hands of the Arabs and Kurds), as well as other neighbouring countries in and around the Middle East such as Armenia, Georgia and Russia.[128][129][130][131]

In reaction to the Assyrian Genocide and lured by British and Russian promises of an independent nation, the Assyrians led by Agha Petros and Malik Khoshaba of the Bit-Tyari tribe, fought alongside the Allies against Ottoman forces in an Assyrian war of independence. Despite being heavily outnumbered and outgunned the Assyrians fought successfully, scoring a number of victories over the Turks and Kurds. This situation continued until their Russian allies left the war, and Armenian resistance broke, leaving the Assyrians surrounded, isolated and cut off from lines of supply. The sizable Assyrian presence in south eastern Anatolia which had endured for over four millennia was thus reduced to no more than 15,000 by the end of World War I.

Modern history

Assyrian refugees on a wagon moving to a newly constructed village on the Khabur River in Syria

The majority of Assyrians living in what is today modern Turkey were forced to flee to either Syria or Iraq after the Turkish victory during the Turkish War of Independence. In 1932, Assyrians refused to become part of the newly formed state of Iraq and instead demanded their recognition as a nation within a nation. The Assyrian leader Shimun XXI Eshai asked the League of Nations to recognize the right of the Assyrians to govern the area known as the "Assyrian triangle" in northern Iraq. During the French mandate period, some Assyrians, fleeing ethnic cleansings in Iraq during the Simele massacre, established numerous villages along the Khabur River during the 1930s.

The Assyrian Levies were founded by the British in 1928, with ancient Assyrian military rankings such as Rab-shakeh, Rab-talia and Tartan, being revived for the first time in millennia for this force. The Assyrians were prized by the British rulers for their fighting qualities, loyalty, bravery and discipline,[132] and were used to help the British put down insurrections among the Arabs and Kurds. During World War II, eleven Assyrian companies saw action in Palestine and another four served in Cyprus. The Parachute Company was attached to the Royal Marine Commando and were involved in fighting in Albania, Italy and Greece. The Assyrian Levies played a major role in subduing the pro-Nazi Iraqi forces at the battle of Habbaniya in 1941.

However, this cooperation with the British was viewed with suspicion by some leaders of the newly formed Kingdom of Iraq. The tension reached its peak shortly after the formal declaration of independence when hundreds of Assyrian civilians were slaughtered during the Simele Massacre by the Iraqi Army in August 1933. The events lead to the expulsion of Shimun XXI Eshai the Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East to the United States where resided until his death in 1975.[133][134]

Celebration at a Syriac Orthodox monastery in Mosul, Ottoman Syria, early 20th century

The period from the 1940s through to 1963 saw a period of respite for the Assyrians. The regime of President Abd al-Karim Qasim in particular saw the Assyrians accepted into mainstream society. Many urban Assyrians became successful businessmen, others were well represented in politics and the military, their towns and villages flourished undisturbed, and Assyrians came to excel, and be over represented in sports.

The Ba'ath Party seized power in Iraq and Syria in 1963, introducing laws aimed at suppressing the Assyrian national identity via arabization policies. The giving of traditional Assyrian names was banned and Assyrian schools, political parties, churches and literature were repressed. Assyrians were heavily pressured into identifying as Iraqi/Syrian Christians. Assyrians were not recognized as an ethnic group by the governments and they fostered divisions among Assyrians along religious lines (e.g. Assyrian Church of the East vs. Chaldean Catholic Church vs Syriac Orthodox Church).[135]

In response to Baathist persecution, the Assyrians of the Zowaa movement within the Assyrian Democratic Movement took up armed struggle against the Iraqi government in 1982 under the leadership of Yonadam Kanna,[136] and then joined up with the Iraqi-Kurdistan Front in the early 1990s. Yonadam Kanna in particular was a target of the Saddam Hussein Ba'ath government for many years.

The Anfal campaign of 1986–1989 in Iraq, which was intended to target Kurdish opposition, resulted in 2,000 Assyrians being murdered through its gas campaigns. Over 31 towns and villages, 25 Assyrian monasteries and churches were razed to the ground. Some Assyrians were murdered, others were deported to large cities, and their lands and homes then being appropriated by Arabs and Kurds.[137][138]

21st century

Assyrian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan, Armenia

Since the 2003 Iraq War social unrest and chaos have resulted in the unprovoked persecution of Assyrians in Iraq, mostly by Islamic extremists (both Shia and Sunni) and Kurdish nationalists (ex. Dohuk Riots of 2011 aimed at Assyrians & Yazidis). In places such as Dora, a neighborhood in southwestern Baghdad, the majority of its Assyrian population has either fled abroad or to northern Iraq, or has been murdered.[139] Islamic resentment over the United States' occupation of Iraq, and incidents such as the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons and the Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy, have resulted in Muslims attacking Assyrian communities. Since the start of the Iraq war, at least 46 churches and monasteries have been bombed.[140]

In recent years, the Assyrians in northern Iraq and northeast Syria have become the target of extreme unprovoked Islamic terrorism. As a result, Assyrians have taken up arms alongside other groups (such as the Kurds, Turcomans and Armenians) in response to unprovoked attacks by Al Qaeda, the Islamic State (ISIL), Nusra Front and other terrorist Islamic Fundamentalist groups. In 2014 Islamic terrorists of ISIL attacked Assyrian towns and villages in the Assyrian Homeland of northern Iraq, together with cities such as Mosul and Kirkuk which have large Assyrian populations. There have been reports of atrocities committed by ISIL terrorists since, including; beheadings, crucifixions, child murders, rape, forced conversions, ethnic cleansing, robbery, and extortion in the form of illegal taxes levied upon non-Muslims. Assyrians in Iraq have responded by forming armed militias to defend their territories.

In response to the Islamic State's invasion of the Assyrian homeland in 2014, many Assyrian organizations also formed their own independent fighting forces to combat ISIL and potentially retake their "ancestral lands."[141] These include the Nineveh Plain Protection Units,[142][141][143] Dwekh Nawsha,[144][145] and the Nineveh Plain Forces.[146][147] The latter two of these militias were eventually disbanded.[148]

In Syria, the Dawronoye modernization movement has influenced Assyrian identity in the region.[149] The largest proponent of the movement, the Syriac Union Party (SUP) has become a major political actor in the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria. In August 2016, the Ourhi Centre in the city of Zalin was started by the Assyrian community, to educate teachers in order to make Syriac an optional language of instruction in public schools,[150][151] which then started with the 2016/17 academic year.[152] With that academic year, states the Rojava Education Committee, "three curriculums have replaced the old one, to include teaching in three languages: Kurdish, Arabic and Assyrian."[153] Associated with the SUP is the Syriac Military Council, an Assyrian militia operating in Syria, established in January 2013 to protect and stand up for the national rights of Assyrians in Syria as well as working together with the other communities in Syria to change the current government of Bashar al-Assad.[154] Since 2015 it is a component of the Syrian Democratic Forces. However, many Assyrians and the organizations that represent them, particularly those outside of Syria, are critical of the Dawronoye movement.[155][156]

A 2018 report stated that Kurdish authorities in Syria, in conjunction with Dawronoye officials, had shut down several Assyrian schools in Northern Syria and fired their administration. This was said to be because these schooled failed to register for a license and for rejecting the new curriculum approved by the Education Authority. Closure methods ranged from officially shutting down schools to having armed men enter the schools and shut them down forcefully. An Assyrian educator named Isa Rashid was later badly beaten outside of his home for rejecting the Kurdish self-administration’s curriculum.[156][155] The Assyrian Policy Institute claimed that an Assyrian reporter named Souleman Yusph was arrested by Kurdish forces for his reports on the Dawronoye-related school closures in Syria. Specifically, he had shared numerous photographs on Facebook detailing the closures.[156]

Assyrian people History articles: 252