A Homeland For Iraq’s Christians
A Homeland For Iraq’s Christians was first proposed in 2007 by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari as the solution to the plight of the 2.5 million Assyrian Christians of Iraq, a homeland in Northern Iraq, the historic home of Assyria is finally becoming a reality.
At its peak, with nearly 2.5 million people, or 10% of the Iraqi population according to prewar Iraqi Government figures, the Assyrian Christians, the original people of Iraq dominated key parts of Iraqi society and provided the historic context for much of the national narrative.
Tolerated, but persecuted severely during the time of Saddam Hussein along with other Iraqis, Liberation brought about a new set of challenges as the loss of the secular state brought about sustained religious persecution reminiscent of the early 20th Century Assyrian Holocaust in which nearly 2/3 of the Assyrian nation was massacred.
The proposal for an Assyrian Province in the Nineveh Plain was more of a practical convenience, as the plan was later discussed directly by Assyrian representatives with Prime Minister Maliki and President Talibani, both of whom endorsed the plan, provided for under the Iraqi Constitution as the only way to convince the nearly 500,000 Assyrian Christian refugees to come home.
Prime Minister Maliki going so far as to propose an Assyrian Security Zone to speed up the implementation of the process so the refugees could be brought back as soon as possible, a major headache for Iraq with her neighbors prodding her to take her citizens back.
Representatives of the Assyrian Christians were clear they would not bring their people back to live under and Islamist Government and only to an area they controlled in the image of the Kurdistan.
With the fall of the central government control over major parts of Iraq, the Kurdish takeover of Kirkuk, the Assyrian Regional Government is once again seen part of the solution to bring stability back to Iraq.
The so called “Biden Plan”, the Assyrians are proud to point was modified by then Senator and now Vice President Biden when he included Assyria as the fourth part of the plan including Shiastan, Sunnistan and Kurdistan.
Regardless of the outcome of the current difficulties Iraq faces, it is clear that some form of federalism in which the four major groups that form the Iraqi state are moving into regional governance models.
For the Assyrians, beginning with their limited security force of under 10,000 they need once again the support of the international community, this time not as refugees, but with help and assistance so the Assyrian Regional Government can become a reality and along with the gleaming success of neighboring Kurdistan be an example of what a successful Iraq can look like.
One former Assyrian Christian member of the regional Parliament said, “things are in flux right now and we are patrolling our areas and waiting for things to settle down so we can see the way forward.”
Assyrian Christians, though subscribe to a higher law – the historic promise in Isaiah 19 that there will be an Assyria once again.
In the midst of the confusion and handwringing of the debacle of Iraq, there is a silver lining that after over a millennium of wandering, the Assyrian Christians, with a little help from their friends can finally come home.
The sacrifice of 4,888 brave Americans who gave their lives, 32,000 seriously injured and 2.5 million who served so bravely must not be in vain.
Amir George’s family is from the Assyrian village of Mahoudi in Northern Iraq and author of “Liberating Iraq – the Story of the Assyrian Christians” at www.liberatingiraq.com