Who are the Assyrians?

The Assyrian Kingdom Edessa, became the first to accept Christianity and converted in masses to the new religion of Christianity. Assyrians endured many massacres since the fall of the Assyrian Empire and their subsequent conversion to Christianity. In particular, the massacres under Bedr Khan in the 1800s resulted in the death of thousands of Assyrians and their forced conversion to Islam. Toward the waning of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century, Assyrians were also victims of the genocide perpetuated against the Empire’s Christian populations along with Greeks and Armenians. The Assyrian Genocide, known in Assyrian as Syfo, or year of the sword beginning in 1915, would result in the dispersion of Assyrians from their ancestral lands and would result in the loss of two-thirds of their population, an estimated 450,000 people living within the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire.

Following the unfulfilled promise of an Assyrian autonomous area under the British Mandate and their protection by the newly formed state of Iraq, the first act of the independent state was the massacre of Assyrians in the region of Simele in 1933 by the Iraqi army under the command of General Bakr Sadki, a Kurdish general. The massacre resulted in the deaths of 3000-6000 Assyrians, many of whom were women and children. Assyrians became victims of cultural genocide following the rise of the Ba’th regime in Iraq, and under the command of Saddam Hussein. Under this period, Assyrians were forced to identify as ethnically Arab or Kurdish in the census, were prohibited from teaching their native language, Aramaic, and were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands and villages in northern Iraq, only to be settled in cities throughout the country. They were also victims of the Anfal Campaign along with the Kurds in 1988.

Assyrians became optimistic of new hopes for a democratic Iraq following the 2003 U.S. led invasion. The reality, however, has been a stark contrast from the promises of a safe and secure Iraq. Since the invasion, Sixty-six Assyrian churches have been targeted by al-Qaida and other fundamental, militant Islamic groups throughout Iraq. This has resulted in an estimated 2000 losses of life, a major setback for an already numerical minority. The Assyrian population has dwindled from an estimated over one million to roughly 200,000, many of whom are internally displaced people throughout the country. Those remaining have sought refuge in neighboring countries in hopes of a more promising future in Western countries.

In conclusion, Assyrians have endured both physical and non-physical threats to their existence in the Middle East, and in the past few years, they are facing an existential threat to their existence in their ancestral lands. We encourage individuals, governments and non-governmental organizations to ensure that necessary measures are taken to secure and protect the last remnants of this indigenous community.


  1. Bakr Sadki was not a Kurdish general. He was an Iraqi nationalist and was a relative of Ja’far Pasha al-Askari, who was an Arab prime minister of Iraq. Sadki was actually known for advocating the Arab nationalist cause in the early 1900s, so calling him “Kurdish” is rather laughable and completely inaccurate.

  2. Assyrian Rights says:

    A Kurd can be an Iraqi nationalist or an Arab Nationalist and still be a Kurd. Political affiliations do not affect his ethnicity. Kurds had Taha Husein Ramathan under Saddam while he was attacking and gassing the Kurds, this doesn’t mean he wasn’t Kurdish… there were Kurds who were the Iraqi government.

    There are several references that confirm Sadki was a Kurd. Here are the references:

    Perhaps this is the most relevant reference since Eric Davis is one of the foremost scholar on Iraq:
    “Faisal’s premature death in 1933 was a great setback for Iraq. His young son, Ghazi I, was inexperienced and unable to rule the country effectively. In 1936, Iraq experienced the first military coup d’état in the Arab world. It was led by General Bakir Sidqi al-Askari, a Kurd who had commanded the Iraqi army during its massacre of Assyrians in northern Iraq in 1933. ” Page 445

    Can be found here: http://fas-polisci.rutgers.edu/davis/ARTICLES/DavisIraqLustOkar.610.pdf

    Liora Lukitz, Iraq: The Search for National Identity, Routledge, 1995.

    See also 4th paragraph from bottom:


    footnote 5 on page 3:


    The massacres against the Assyrians enhanced Sadki’s career momentum which in tern also benefited the Kurdish community’s expansion of their power in the North.

    Please let us know if we can provide anymore references.

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