Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Rosie Malek-Yonan and the ChaldoAssyrian Problem

I wrote a post before about a newly published book by an Assyrian author by the name Rosie Malek-Yonan (see 9/29/2005 post)…I did not realize at the time however how much this great woman has achieved…the other day I received an email stating that Ms. Malek-Yonan has gone to Washington DC to testify in front of the Committee on International Relations in Congress…here is the script and here is the audio of the hearing (Rosie’s testimony starts at 2:12 and on…make sure you listen to the chairman’s comments at the very end of everyone’s testimony).

Ms. Malek-Yonan’s statement had some very powerful words, and I am hoping that, as the Chairman said, Congress will pay some serious attention to the issue of the Iraqi Assyrian Christians. At the moment no one seems to be doing anything to help this religious and ethnic minority in Iraq, and it is shocking how much is going unnoticed when it comes to our suffering…In fact, despite of the use of the word “unnoticed” by Ms. Malek-Yonan, I believe that is actually an issue of noticing and yet ignoring or disregarding the matter. Not only by Iraqis, but also the U.S. is doing nothing to help the ChaldoAssyrian Christians, which is where I am hoping Ms. Malek-Yonan’s testimony will help.

Ms. Malek-Yonan states:

My churches are being bombed. My elders are being killed. My young brothers are being assaulted and kidnapped. My fellow students are being harassed and beaten. My children and neighbors are being beheaded. If my sister refuses to wear a Muslim hijab, she is raped or tortured by having acid thrown in her face. And yes, the majority of these incidents have gone unreported in the western media. These atrocities are occurring right under the watchful eyes of my American government since the “liberation” of Iraq.

Yes, I could not agree more…the U.S. government is doing nothing to help the Iraqi Christians, neither is the current Iraqi government. But then again, the current Iraqi government is doing nothing to help any Iraqis, let alone the constantly ignored and victimized Iraqi ChaldoAssyrians.

After reading a small passage from her book “the Crimson Field” to the Congress Committee, Ms. Malek-Yonan asserts:

That was an excerpt from my book, The Crimson Field. I could have very well been writing about the plight of today’s Assyrians in Iraq. History is repeating itself and no one is taking notice; No one except my people.

This is what happens when a problem keeps getting ignored and pushed aside rather than revealing the truth and taking steps to fix the problem and move forward. No one, except the ChaldoAssyrians themselves, wants to deal with our problem and try to amend things. In fact, even some of the ChaldoAssyrians are sadly working against our cause only because it means securing their own interests (such as those ChaldoAssyrians who decided to join other political parties who have nothing to do with the ChaldoAssyrian Christian cause).

We do not want our problem to be solved in a way that will bring on more violence, Iraq has enough violence anyways. We need solutions that will work, solutions that will bring about a real change in the situation. Violence never establishes anything. Furthermore, the problem of the Iraqi ChaldoAssyrian Christians will not be solved by this minority’s efforts alone. We are working hard to ensure that we get our rights like the rest of the Iraqis, but if we do not have the support of the other Iraqi segments, we will not be able to get anywhere. In order for the ChaldoAssyrians to continue their presence in Iraq alongside other Iraqis, we need the support of our Iraqi brothers and sisters. Those in power need to include us in their plans for a new and better Iraq, not only in a symbolic manner (i.e. by giving one ChaldoAssyrian a chair in parliament) but in actions too.

However, I do not believe that will be an easy thing to achieve or sadly even if it is possible. Many Iraqis, especially those in power, talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. They make statements where they claim that the ChaldoAssyrian minority are Iraqis as much as any other Iraqi and have nothing to fear because they will be protected by the government. Yet, the threats and assaults against this Iraqi minority are increasing everyday causing them to live their lives in complete fear and looking for the nearest exit out of their homeland into exile!

Ms. Malek-Yonan mentions in her statement that:

Today in war-torn Iraq, being denied their most basic human rights, these ancient and indigenous people continue to be the target of systematic oppression, murder, intimidation, kidnapping, and violence. Assyrians in Northern Iraq are marginalized by Kurds who have gained momentum and are exercising the same brand of violence they once complained of during Saddam’s dictatorship.

You would think that the Iraqi Kurds would be more sympathetic towards us given that they themselves were an oppressed minority not too long ago. But no, they are in fact treating us the same way as they were being treated under the Saddam regime. There are many villages north and east of Mosul that are inhabited by ChaldoAssyrians, and during the Saddam regime of course there was a Ba’athist militia base in each one of these villages just as was the case in the rest of Iraqi villages, towns, and cities. I was shocked to find out that instead of emptying these posts and allowing the elected ChaldoAssyrian officials to now run these villages as officials of the new government, these stations are now being housed by the Kurdish secret police and the Kurdish militia groups that are doing their best to intimidate the people of these villages. Also, the Kurdish propaganda machine claims that they are helping the people of these villages when in fact they are trying to occupy and control these Christian villages. Many ChaldoAssyrians have reported being abused by the Kurdish militia for protesting the presence of these people in their villages, and no one, neither the Iraqi government nor the American authorities have done anything about it. When the high Kurdish officials hear of these incidents they claim that they will deal with their people as long as the incident does not get reported to other authorities!

In one part of her testimony Rosie states that:

There is no aid or funding going to the Assyrian regions under our American watch. Basic medical need is non-existent for these Christians. A woman cannot have a c-section in her neighborhood. She has to drive miles away and risk her life and the life of her unborn child to receive medical care.
We, Assyrians, are not asking for anything beyond the aid that is already going to Iraq for redevelopment. But we are asking that Assyrians proportionally receive aid sent to the Assyrian regions.

That is true, but I would have to say that the “aid” money is actually not going to the rest of everyday Iraqi people either, but as I had mentioned in my posts before these funds are being pocketed by government “officials” and everyone else who can get their hands on it. There needs to be a change in the strategy for handling the money that is supposed to be used for the reconstruction of Iraq. Iraqis have yet to see even a small tiny result of the “reconstruction” effort. The government must start working on the essentials (water and electricity) and making them the number one priority while continuing their work on the security situation as well. I know that when water and power are restored, the Iraqis would then start believing again that there is still hope for the country. Restoring water and power might not seem like such a big issue that would actually change people’s attitude, but believe me, when the lack of water and electricity become part of one’s everyday life for a long time then it becomes very hard to bear, especially in a country where people had taken these things for granted in the good old days.

Ms. Malek-Yonan also states that:

It is estimated that if things continue to proceed as they now are, within 10 years, the Assyrian population of Iraq will be eradicated because of the ethnic cleansing, the forced exodus, and migration.

This declaration disturbs me a great deal…I find it hard to accept that there might come a day when I will actually be considered a “foreigner” when I visit my homeland, the country that I have loved and where I had formed many cherished memories…I hope and pray to God that a day like that will never come, because it is the most devastating thing to find out that what you considered to be your motherland does not consider you one of its children, and even more devastating when you feel like you do not belong to any land and are bound to be a “foreigner” wherever you go in this world!

People need to stand by the ChaldoAssyrian population…the Iraqis need to hold our hands, support us, and let us know that we are a significant part need for the rebuilding of a democratic Iraq just as the Arabs, the Kurds, and other minorities are…the government needs to protect us by not turning a blind eye and allowing others to abuse us in our own villages…and the U.S. needs to make it clear that the ChaldoAssyrians have their support, just like they did, and continue to do, with the Kurdish population of Iraq.

Other interesting points that Ms. Malek-Yonan brings up are:

Article (2)b of the Iraqi Constitution states: “No law can be passed that contradicts the principles of democracy.” Article (2)a of the Iraqi Constitution states: “No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam.” These two articles are in contradiction with each other.

I had made this exact point in one of my old posts (which I’m having trouble locating)…but these are the two opening statements of the Iraqi constitution, and I remember telling my dad well what if something applies to one and contradicts the other? It was after reading these two lines that I thought to myself “oh great so this is our new constitution!”

Finally, I thought that Ms. Malek-Yonan’s closing sentence offered a strong comparison; one which I’m hoping will have an effect on Congress to actually take action to help the ChaldoAssyrians Christians of Iraq:

How shameful it would have been if the tragedy of 9/11 had gone unnoticed. How shameful it is that the tragedy of the Assyrian genocide of last century went unnoticed. How shameful it is that the current Assyrian massacres are going unnoticed


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