AHRN: Statement on International Day of Indigenous Peoples

In December 1994, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed the 9th of August the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, and designated for that year the theme of “implementing the rights of indigenous peoples”.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is considered one of the most important international documents in this regard, since it acknowledges their fundamental collective rights, i.e., their right to have a cultural, lingual, and religious identity, more broadly than all other international human rights instruments. It is also certified by the General Assembly of the United Nations.
The Chaldean Syriac Assyrian people is indigenous and has been living on its historical land for thousands of years, but is still a victim of gross violations of individual and group rights, especially after the increased religious tension in the region, as if their destiny oscillates between the dictatorial regimes and the extremist religious groups.
In Iraq, the government continues to evade its legal responsibilities to protect the Assyrian Christian citizens who are subjected to systematic ethnic cleansing through violations committed by the extremist religious groups in the city of Nineveh, the Assyrian historical capital. Our researchers in Iraq have documented the migration of a large number of citizens whom ISIS threatened to kill. Concurrently, a process of demographic change and overtaking the peasants’ lands continues to take place in the Assyrian cities of Iraqi Kurdistan, while the regional government keeps silent despite knowing the perpetrators.
In Syria, Assad’s regime continues to prosecute and arrest a number of Assyrian political leaders and activists. Our observers in Syria have documented 32 cases of arbitrary arrest since 2011, where the detainees, a part of which are still under arrest, were subjected to the worst kind of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment. Meanwhile, the extremist religious groups in Syria continue to attack the Assyrian Christians in Al-Raqqa and other cities. Our researchers have also documented at least three deaths committed by these groups in Al-Hasakah, a governorate with a large Assyrian density.
In Turkey, the Assyrians are under significant pressure of the Turkish government to obliterate their national and religious identity by forbidding them to learn in their mother tongue. In addition, the Turkish government has attempted to appropriate some Assyrian churches, e.g., the historical Mor Gabriel Monastery’s case, and to turn some Assyrian churches into mosques. The Turkish government has also confiscated land belonging to Assyrian peasants in Midyat, and actively incited hatred against Assyrians in books and school curriculums.
In Iran, the Assyrians have been suffering from the whips of the tyrannical religious regime since 1979, where the Christian Assyrians are still deprived of expressing their national and cultural identity and from practicing their religious rituals, for which many clerics have been arrested.
In Lebanon, the political and security situation has affected the capacity of state institutions, especially after some Lebanese extremist groups, such as “Hezbollah”, have taken part in the Syrian war. The vacancy of Lebanon’s presidency, which has symbolic value to the Assyrians and the Christians of the Middle East, is considered one of the most prominent consequences of this crisis, which led some Assyrians in Lebanon to emigrate out of fear that the Iraqi or Syrian scenario may recur.
The Assyrian Human Rights Network seeks to have the Assyrian people’s voice heard in the human rights forums through the support it receives from several civil institutions. The network therefore appeals to the Human Rights Council and the United Nations to do the following:
– Pressure the governments of the countries where the Assyrian people live to immediately stop all forms of genocide, displacement and arrests committed against them.
– Establish a region for the Assyrian Christian in Iraq, Syria, Turkey or in any of their original lands to be their safe haven in accordance with the content of the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples especially the third and forth articles, which recognize the peoples’ rights to self-determination.
– Support the institutions that are concerned with the Assyrian affairs in the Middle East to ensure the continuity of this indigenous people group, enhance its participation in the political life, reconstruct the damaged areas, and provide political and financial support.
– Refer the perpetrators who committed the crimes of genocide against the Assyrian people, whether they were governments, groups, or individuals to national, to international or joined courts to prevent the recurrence of such violations against indigenous peoples in other parts of the world.

Assyrian Human Rights Network
Stockholm August 9, 2014

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