The recent massacres and expulsions of Iraqi Christians are only the latest chapter in the genocide of the ancient and exclusively Christian Assyrians, a continuation of the bloody campaign that took place in the Ottoman Empire, Persia, and Iraq throughout the 20th Century. The Chaldean Catholics who are bearing the brunt of IS attacks in northern Iraq are, contrary to popular belief, Assyrian, not Arab, and the Chaldean Catholic Church is an Assyrian church in full communion with Rome. Saddam Hussein’s Arabization campaign and the cluelessness of the mainstream media (mostly the latter of course) created a situation where true ethnic background of IS’s victims is obfuscated. Tarek Aziz, Saddam’s long-serving foreign minister was an Assyrian Chaldean Catholic. (Aziz, whose real name was Mikhail Yuhanna, adopted an Arab name when he became a Baath party activist. He was never described as an “Assyrian” by the media, but as an “Iraqi Christian” or a “Chaldean”).
The first modern outbreak of anti-Assyrian violence took place in 1915-1918 in the Ottoman Empire, when Turks and Kurds were massacring Armenians and Greeks. At least 275,000 and as many as 400,000 Assyrians lost their lives in what is known as Sayfo in Syriac. Ottoman forces even crossed into northwestern Persia where they proceeded to brutally massacre Assyrian refugees. Rev. John Eshoo, an Assyrian priest who survived the massacres described a scene from the city of Khoi in Persia:
The executioners began by cutting first the fingers of their victims, join by joint, till the two hands were entirely amputated. Then they were stretched on the ground, after the manner of the animals that are slain in the Fast, but these with their faces turned upward, and their heads resting upon the stones or blocks of wood. Then their throats were half cut, so as to prolong their torture of dying, and while struggling in the agony of death, the victims were kicked and clubbed by heavy poles the murderers carried. Many of them, while still laboring under the pain of death, were thrown into ditches and buried before their souls had expired.
Some of the younger and good looking women, together with a few little girls of attractive appearance, pleaded to be killed. Against their will were forced into Islam’s harems. Others were subjected to such fiendish insults that I cannot possibly describe. Death, however, came to their rescue and saved them from the vile passions of the demons.
A decade and a half later, in August of 1933, several thousand Assyrians were massacred by Arabs and Kurds in Iraq, before the eyes of the British. The events later known as the Simele Massacres were described by Assyrian historian E. Shimun:
Girls were raped and made to march naked before Iraqi commanders. Children were run over by military cars. Pregnant women were bayonetted. Children were flung in the air and pierced on to the points of bayonets. Holy books were used for the burning of the massacred.
In 1945 and 1946, brutal attacks on Assyrians broke out in Iran. The Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII described the violence in a petition to the UN:
In the town of Adda, both of the arms of one Assyrian, named Charles, were cut publicly; he was then burned to death by means of kerosene. In the town of Mushawa, Eramyah’s eyes were dug out while alive, and he was then tortured to death. In town of Khananisha, Abrahams’s fingers (both hands) were cut off and he was then forced to eat them in the presence of his parents. In the town of Salamas, Father Giwargis was cut to pieces in the church (Mart Maryam). In the same Church, many women and little girls were raped and numerous men tortured to death. In the city of Rezaieh, a parade of nude Assyrian women and little girls put to shame even the ruthless Moslem criminals.
All of these atrocities are similar, if not identical to the current outrages in Iraq. Then, the perpetrators of the massacres went unpunished and the long-suffering Assyrians continued to live under the Muslim sword. And now, with the post- and anti-Christian nature of the modern West and its rulers, what protection can the Assyrians expect.
Mosul Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Amel Shimoun Nona’s declaration has recently made waves in the traditionalist Catholic and rightwing sectors of the Internet. Nona’s harsh, truthful, and prophetic words deserve to be memorized by everyone in the West:
Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future. I lost my diocese. The physical setting of my apostolate has been occupied by Islamic radicals who want us converted or dead. But my community is still alive.
Please, try to understand us. Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles. You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home.