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Assyrians in Iraq are an ethnoreligious and linguistic minority in present-day Iraq, and are the indigenous population of the region. Assyrians are about .5% of the population of Iraq. Assyrians in Iraq are those Assyrians still residing in the country of Iraq, and those in the Assyrian diaspora who are of Iraqi-Assyrian heritage. They are and have direct cultural and genetic lineage from the ancient Mesopotamians, in particular from the Akkadian peoples (Assyrians and Babylonians) who emerged in the region c.3000 BC, and the Aramean tribes who intermingled with them from the 9th century BC onwards.

Assyrians in Iraq
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Baghdad; Dohuk; Arbil
Habbaniya (pre-1990s); Nineveh;
Mainly Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, Chaldean Neo-Aramaic and varieties of Mesopotamian Arabic
Mainly Christianity
(majority: Syriac Christianity; minority: Protestantism)

Assyrians are a Semitic people who speak, read and write a modern-day Eastern Dialects of ancient Aramaic that has existed in Iraq since 1200 BC, of which retains even older Akkadian grammatical influences and loan words (the language which they originally spoke). They are mainly a Christian people, and follow a collection of ethnic-based Eastern Christian denominations which first evolved in the region in the 1st century AD. The Assyrians of Iraq adhere to Chaldean Catholic Church, Assyrian Church of the East, Syriac Orthodox Church and Ancient Church of the East, in addition to other recently formed Assyrian Protestant churches including the Assyrian Pentecostal Church and Assyrian Evangelical Church.

According to the CIA, the Assyrian Christians of Iraq or other religions (excluding Islam), make up .5% of the Iraqi population.[3] The last Iraqi census, in 1987, counted 1.4 million Christians, including the Assyrian community (4-5%), although many left the country during the 1990s when economic sanctions were imposed on the country.[4] Other indigenous Assyrian communities can be found just outside Iraq's borders in "southeastern Turkey, northwestern Iran and northeastern Syria".[5]


Ancient HistoryEdit

The Assyrians are typically Syriac-speaking Christians who claim descent from Assyria, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, dating back to 2500 BC in ancient Mesopotamia.[6] Assyria itself existed as an independent state (and often imperial power) in what is today northern Iraq, north eastern Syria, south eastern Turkey and the north western fringe of Iran from the 25th century BC to the beginning of the 6th century BC, and remained a geopolitical entity until the mid 7th century AD.

The Assyrians were an integral part of the Akkadian Empire (2335-2154 BC) which united the Akkadian-speaking peoples under one rule, and after its dissolution Assyria rose to prominence with the Old Assyrian Empire (c.2025-1750 BC), Middle Assyrian Empire (1365-1020 BC) and Neo-Assyrian Empire (911-605 BC), the latter two of these empires made Assyria the most powerful nation in the world at the time. At its height the Assyrians ruled a vast empire from their homeland in what is today northern Iraq, north east Syria and south east Turkey, an empire stretching from the Caucasus Mountains in the north to Egypt, Libya and the Arabian peninsula in the south, and from Cyprus and Antioch in the west to western Iran and the Caspian Sea in the east.

After the Assyrian empire fell between 612 and 599 BC, Assyria endured mostly as an occupied but named geo-political entity as; Athura, Achaemenid Assyria, Asuristan, Assyria, although during the Parthian Empire and early Sassanid Empire (c.160 BC- 260 AD) there was an Assyrian revival, and a number of independent Assyrian states arose in northern Iraq and north east Syria, including; Adiabene, Osroene, Beth Nuhadra, Beth Garmai, ancient Assur itself, and to some degree Hatra.

The Assyrians formulated the influential Syriac literature and Syriac script in the 5th century BC IN Athura (Achaemenid Assyria), and began to gradually convert from Mesopotamian Religion to Christianity from the 1st to 4th centuries AD, with the Assyrian Church of the East and its much later offshoot, the Chaldean Catholic Church being founded in the region, as too to some extent was the Syriac Orthodox Church.

Assyria was dissolved as an entity in the mid 7th century AD, following the Arab Islamic Conquest, and the Assyrians, as Christians and non-Arabs, suffered discrimination;[citation needed] they were banned from spreading their religion upon pain of death,[citation needed] were taxed a Jiziyah for not being Muslim, and found their word was not equal to a Muslim in legal and civil matters.[citation needed] Assyrians still formed the majority of the population in northern Iraq until the Middle Ages. The Assyrians suffered a series of severe religiously motivated massacres under Muslim Turco-Mongol rule in the 13th and 14th centuries AD, greatly reducing their numbers, and causing the ancient city of Assur to be finally abandoned after 4000 years of occupation.

British MandateEdit

In 1918, Britain resettled 20,000 Assyrian people from south east Turkey in Iraqi refugee camps in Baquba and Mandan after the Ottoman Empire instigated the Assyrian Genocide and a subsequent British and Russian-inspired Assyrian rebellion (see Assyrian struggle for independence), which although having success against overwhelming odds initially, floundered when the Russians withdrew from the war, leaving the Assyrian forces cut off and vastly outnumbered without supplies and armaments. From there, due to their higher level of education, many gravitated toward Kirkuk, Mosul and Erbil with their own long established ancient Assyrian communities, and to Habbaniya, (as well as to other areas in the north such as the Nineveh plains with age old existing indigenous Assyrian populations) where they were indispensable in the administration of the oil and military projects.

As a result, approximately three-fourths of the Assyrians who had sided with the British during World War I found themselves living in by now Kurdish dominated areas of Iraq, where their ancestors had existed for over five thousand years. Thousands of Assyrian men had seen service in the Iraqi Levies (Assyrian Levies), a force under British officers separate from the regular Iraqi army. Excellent, disciplined and loyal soldiers, they were used by the British to help put down Arab and Kurdish insurrections against the British, and to help patrol the Turkish and Iranian borders of British Mesopotamia. Pro-British, they had been apprehensive of Iraqi independence. Many of those thus resettled by the British have gradually been forced into exile, although by the end of the twentieth century, almost all of those who remain were born in Iraq.

Assyrians living in northern Iraq today are those whose ancient ancestry lies in the north originally, an area roughly corresponding with Ancient Assyria. Many of these, however, in places like Berwari, have been forcibly displaced by Kurds and Arabs since the genocides of World War I. This process has continued throughout the twentieth century: as Kurds and Arabs have expanded in population, Assyrians have come under attack as in 1933 (Simele Massacre), and as a result have fled from Iraq. (Stafford, Tragedy of the Assyrians, 1935)

Unlike the Kurds, some Assyrians scarcely expected a nation-state of their own after World War I (despite promises by the British and Russians), but they did demand restitution from Turkey for the huge material and population losses they had suffered, especially in northwest Iran, a neutral party in World War I invaded by Turkish and Kurdish forces. Their pressure for some temporal authority in the north of Iraq under the Assyrian patriarch, the Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII, was flatly refused by British and Iraqis alike.

Independent Kingdom of IraqEdit

In 1933, the Iraqi government held the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, the Mar Shamun, under house arrest. When he left Iraq to appeal to the British with regard to how the Assyrians were being mistreated in Iraq contrary to the agreement at Iraq's independence to refrain from discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, he was stripped of his citizenship and refused re-entry.

Assyrians continued to serve the British in Iraq (who maintained a military presence until 1954), despite earlier betrayals. Assyrian levies played an important role in putting down the pro Nazi Iraqi movement in World War II, and served the British in the Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and North African campaigns during the war.

The World Directory of Minorities states that there are over 300,000 Assyrian followers of the Chaldean Catholic rite in Iraq and that they live mainly in Baghdad. Until the 1950s, Chaldean Catholics were mostly settled in Mosul — in 1932, 70 percent of Assyrian Christians of all denominations lived there, but by 1957, only 47 percent remained, as they migrated southward due in part to ethnic and religious violence and regional and political tensions. It was estimated that about half of Iraq's Assyrian Christian's lived in Baghdad by 1979, accounting for 14 percent of that city's population

This period also marks the intensification of denominational antagonism among Assyrians in Iraq as some church institutions began to distance themselves from the members of the Assyrian Church of the East who were seen as magnets for Muslim antagonism.

Simele MassacreEdit

During July 1933, about 800 armed Assyrians headed for the Syrian border, where they were turned back by the French. While King Faisal had briefly left the country for medical reasons, the Minister of Interior, Hikmat Sulayman, adopted a policy aimed at a final solution of the "Assyrian problem". This policy was implemented by a Kurd, General Bakr Sidqi. After engaging in several unsuccessful clashes with armed Assyrian tribesmen, on 11 August 1933, Sidqi permitted his men to attack and kill about 3,000 unarmed Assyrian civilian villagers, including women, children and the elderly, at the Assyrian villages of Sumail (Simele) district, and later at Suryia. Having scapegoated the Assyrians as dangerous national traitors, this massacre of unarmed civilians became a symbol of national pride, and enhanced Sidqi's prestige. The British, though represented by a powerful military presence as provided by the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930, failed to intervene or allow the well disciplined Assyrian Levies under their command to do so, and indeed helped white-wash the event at the League of Nations.

The Assyrian repression marked the entrance of the military into Iraqi politics, a pattern that has periodically re-emerged since 1958, and offered an excuse for enlarging conscription. The hugely popular Assyrian massacre, an indication of the latent anti-Christian atmosphere among the Muslim Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen population, also set the stage for the increased prominence of Bakr Sidqi. In October 1936, Bakr Sidqi staged the first military coup in the modern Arab world.

Republic of IraqEdit

Recognition of the Syriac language by the Ba'thist regimeEdit

In the early 1970s, the secularist Ba'ath regime initially tried to change the suppression of Assyrians in Iraq through different laws that were passed. On 20 February 1972, the government passed the law to recognize the cultural rights of Assyrians by allowing Aramaic be taught schools in which the majority of pupils spoke that language in addition to Arabic. Aramaic was also to be taught at intermediate and secondary schools in which the majority of students spoke that language in addition to Arabic, but it never happened. Special Assyrian programs were to be broadcast on public radio and television and three Syriac-language magazines were planned to be published in the capital. An Association of Syriac-Speaking Authors and Writers had also been established.[7]

The bill turned out to be a failure. The radio stations created as the result of this decree were closed after a few months. While the two magazines were allowed to be published, only 10 percent of their material was in Aramaic. No school was allowed to teach in Aramaic either.[8]


Assyrian villages in northern Iraq.

In modern times, Assyrians, for whom no reliable census figures exist in Iraq (as they do not for Kurds, Turkmen, Armenians, Yazidi, Shabaks, Kawliya, Circassians or Mandeans), have been doubly mistreated.

Pre-invasion IraqEdit

Reports from various sources “indicate a better human rights situation overall in the Kurdish-controlled areas of Northern Iraq than exists elsewhere in the country “(AI 2000, 135; U.K. Immigration & Nationality Directorate Sept. 1999; USDOS 25 Feb. 2000)[9] Also, according to the reports, “while freedom of speech, religion, movement, and press are strongly restricted throughout Iraq, these freedoms do exist to a certain extent in parts of the Kurd-controlled area “(USDOS 25 Feb. 2000). However, reports regarding isolated human rights abuses continued in 1999. The US State government reported that in 1999 Assyrian Christian Helena Aloun Sawa was murdered, and according to AINA, "the murder resembles a well-established pattern of complicity by Kurdish authorities in attacks against Assyrian Christians in the north". The murder was investigated by a commission appointed by the KDP but no results of the investigation were reported by year's end.[10][9] There were also incidents of mob violence by Muslims against Christians in northern Iraq. Christian Assyrians were also targeted in a series of bombings in Erbil in 1998 to 1999, and Assyrian groups have criticized the KRG for the lack of investigation. According to the AINA, the KDP blockaded Assyrian villages in 1999 and "later entered the villages and beat villagers". However, after invervention by the International Committee of the Red Cross the KDP left the villages again.

According to the UK Immigration & Nationality Directorate “despite Tariq Aziz's lofty position in the Baghdad regime, Christians have little political influence in the Ba'ath government” (Sept. 1999)[11]

Education in any language other than Arabic and Kurdish was prohibited by the government in Baghdad. Therefore, Assyrians were not permitted to attend classes in Syriac. In the Kurdish-controlled northern areas, classes in Syriac have been permitted since the 1991. However, according to some Assyrian sources “regional Kurdish authorities refused to allow the classes to begin” However, details of this practice were not available, and Kurdish authorities denied the accusations. In 1999, the Kurdistan Observer claimed that “the Central Government had warned the administration in the Kurdish region against allowing Turkoman, Assyrian, or Yazidi minority schools.[11]

According to the UK Immigration & Nationality Directorate, “the Central Government has engaged various [sic] abuses against the Assyrian Christians, and has often suspected them of 'collaborating' with Kurds" (Sept. 1999). According to report by The World Directory of Minorities "Assyrians were unable to avoid the Kurdish conflict. As with the Kurds, some supported the government, others allied themselves with the Kurdish nationalist movement" (Minority Rights Group International 1997, 346).[11][12]

Post-invasion IraqEdit

Iraqi Christians have been victim of executions, forced displacement campaigns, torture, violence and target of Islamist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS. Since the 2003 Iraq war, Iraqi Christians have fled from the country and their population has collapsed under the Government of Iraq.[13][14] Majority of Christians have either fled to the Iraqi Kurdistan or abroad.

In 2003, Iraqi Christians were primary target of extremist Sunni Islamists. Many kidnapped Christians were forced to leave Christianity or tortured.

On August 1, 2004, a series of car bomb attacks took place during the Sunday evening Mass in churches of two Iraqi cities, Baghdad and Mosul killing and wounding a large number of Christians. Jordanian jihadist and 1st emir of Al-Qaeda in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was blamed for the attacks.

In 2006, an Orthodox priest, Boulos Iskander, was snatched off the streets of Mosul by a Sunni Arab group that demanded a ransom. His body was later found, the priest's arms and legs had also been cut off.

In 2007, there were reports of a push to drive Christians out of the historically Christian suburb of Dora in southern Baghdad, with some Sunni extremists accusing the Christians of being allies of the Americans. A total number of 239 similar cases were registered by police between 2007 and 2009.[15]

In 2008, a priest called Ragheed Ganni, was shot dead in his church along with three of his companions. At the same year, there were reports that Christian students are harassed.

In 2008, the charity Barnabas conducted research into 250 Iraqi Christian IDPs who had fled to the north of the country (Iraqi Kurdistan) to seek refugee status and found nearly half had witnessed attacks on churches or Christians, or been personally targeted by violence.

In 2009, the Kurdistan Regional Government reported that more than 40,000 Christians had moved from Baghdad, Basra and Mosul to the Iraqi Kurdistan cities. The reports also stated that a number of Christians families who are moving to the Iraqi Kurdistan is growing and they were providing support and financial assistance for 11,000 of those families, and some are employed by the KRG.[16]

In 2010, Sunni Islamist groups attacked a Syrian Catholic church in Baghdad during Sunday evening Mass, on 31 October 2010 killing more than 60 and wounding 78 Iraqi Christians.[17]

In 2011, Islamist extremists assassinated Christian randomly using sniper rifles.[18] Two months before the incident, 2 Christians had been shot for unknown reasons in Baghdad and 2 other Christians had been shot by Jihadist in Mosul. Human rights organizations has recorded 66 assault cases on churches and monasteries until 2012, as well as about 200 kidnappings. On 30 May 2011, a Christian man was beheaded by a Salafi extremist in Mosul.[19]

On 2 August 2011, a Catholic church was bombed by Sunni extremists in Turkmen area of Kirkuk, wounding more than 23 Christians.

On 15 August 2011, a church was bombed by al-Qaeda in Kirkuk center.[20]

In 2014, during the 2014 Northern Iraq offensive, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) ordered all Christians in the area of its control, where Iraqi Army collapsed, to pay a special tax of approximately $470 per family, convert to Islam, or die. Many of them took refuge in nearby Kurdish-controlled regions of Iraq.

After Saddam Hussein's fall in 2003, the Assyrian Democratic Movement was one of the smaller political parties that emerged in the social chaos of the occupation. Its officials say that while armed members of the Assyrian Democratic Movement also took part in the liberation of the key oil cities of Kirkuk and Mosul in the north, the Assyrians were not invited to join the steering committee that was charged with defining Iraq's future. The ethnic make-up of the Iraq Interim Governing Council briefly (September 2003 - June 2004) guiding Iraq after the invasion included a single Assyrian Christian, Younadem Kana, a leader of the Assyrian Democratic Movement and an opponent of Saddam Hussein since 1979.

Assyrians in post-Saddam Iraq have faced high rate of persecution by Fundamentalist Islamist since the beginning of the Iraq war. By early August 2004 this persecution included church bombings, and fundamentalist groups' enforcement of Muslim codes of behavior upon Christians, e.g., banning alcohol, forcing women to wear hijab.[21] The violence against the community has led to the exodus of perhaps as much as half of the community. While Assyrians only made just over 5% of the total Iraqi population before the war, according to the United Nations, Assyrians are over-represented among the Iraqi refugees (as much as 13%) who are stranded in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.[22][23][24]

A large number of Assyrians have found refuge in ancient Assyrian Christian villages in Nineveh plains and the Kurdish Autonomous Region.[25][26] This led some Assyrians and Iraqi and foreign politicians to call for an Assyrian Christian autonomous region in those areas.[27]

In 2008 the Assyrians formed their own militia, the Qaraqosh Protection Committee[28] to protect Assyrian towns, villages and regions in the north. In 2008 the Assyrian Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Mosul was assassinated by some Kurds while some have claimed assassins were hired by local Arab tribes. Rahho was a defender of Assyrian self-administration. Some observers have claimed that Kurdish KDP forces often used to practice their shooting on important Assyrian cultural heritage sites.[29][29]

Kurdish KDP security forces have been criticized for human rights abuses, abuses "ranged from threats and intimidation to detention in undisclosed locations without due process." In 2015, the local KDP security forces arrested and detained political activist Kamal Said Kadir, for having written articles on the Internet critical of the KDP. He was sentenced to a 30 years prison sentence. Some activists have claimed that party membership in Kurdish parties is necessary to obtain "employment and educational opportunities" in Iraqi Kurdistan. The US State department report said that "Kurdish authorities abused and discriminated against minorities in the North, including Turcomen, Arabs, Christians, and Shabak", and that Kurdish authorities "denied services to some villages, arrested minorities without due process and took them to undisclosed locations for detention, and pressured minority schools to teach in the Kurdish language". Christian minorities in Kirkuk also "charged that Kurdish security forces targeted Arabs and Turcomen".[30]

Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoonsEdit

The publication of satirical cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten on September 30, 2005 led to an increase in violence against the Assyrian community. In the beginning, the cartoons did not get much attention at the time of its original publish, but when the Egyptian media picked up on the publication in late December 2005, violence and protests erupted around the world.

On January 29 six churches in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Kirkuk were targeted by car bombs, killing 13-year-old worshipper Fadi Raad Elias. No militants claimed to be retaliating for the pictures, nor is this the first time Iraqi churches have been bombed; but the bishop of the church stated "The church blasts were a reaction to the cartoons published in European papers. But Christians are not responsible for what is published in Europe."[31] Many Assyrians in Iraq now feel like "Westerners should not give wild statements [as] everyone can attack us [in response]" and "Today I'm afraid to walk the streets, because I'm Christian."[31]

Also on January 29, a Muslim Cleric in the Iraqi city of Mosul issued a fatwa stating, "Expel the (Assyrian) Crusaders and infidels from the streets, schools, and institutions because they have offended the person of the prophet."[32] It has been reported that Muslim students beat up a Christian student at Mosul University in response to the fatwa on the same day.[32]

On February 6, leaflets were distributed in Ramadi, Iraq by the militant group "The Military Wing for the Army of Justice" demanding Christians to "halt their religious rituals in churches and other worship places because they insulted Islam and Muslims."[33][34]

Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversyEdit

The Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy arose from a lecture delivered on 12 September 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI at the University of Regensburg in Germany. Many Islamic politicians and religious leaders registered protest against what they said was an insulting mischaracterization of Islam,[35][36] contained in the quotation by the Pope of the following passage:

After the Pope's comments were known throughout the Arab world, several churches were bombed by insurgent groups. A previously unknown Baghdad-based group, Kataab Ashbal Al-Islam Al-Salafi (Islamic Salafist Boy Scout Battalions)[Note 1] threatened to kill all Christians in Iraq if the Pope does not apologize to Muhammad within three days.[37] Christian Leaders in Iraq have asked their parishioners not to leave their homes, after two Assyrians were stabbed and killed in Baghdad.[38]

There have been reports of writing in Assyrian church doors stating "If the Pope does not apologise, we will bomb all churches, kill more Christians and steal their property and money." [39]

The Iraqi militia Jaish al-Mujahedin (Holy Warriors' Army) announced its intention to "destroy their cross in the heart of Rome… and to hit the Vatican."[40]

Despite the Pope's comments dying down in the media, attacks on Assyrian Christians continued and on October 9, Islamic extremist group kidnapped priest Paulos Iskander in Mosul. Iskander's church as well as several other churches placed 30 large posters around the city to distance themselves from the Pope's words.[41] The relatives of the Christian priest who was beheaded 3 days later in Mosul, have said that his Muslim captors had demanded his church condemn the pope's recent comments about Islam and pay a $350,000 ransom.[42]

Massacres and harassment since 2003Edit

Massacres, ethnic cleansing, and harassment has increased since 2003, according to a 73-page report by the Assyrian International News Agency, released in Summer 2007.[43][44] [45]

On January 6, 2008 (Epiphany day,) five Assyrian Churches, one Armenian Church, and a monastery in Mosul and Baghdad were coordinately attacked with multiple car bombs.[46][47] Iraqi vice-president Tariq al-Hashimi expressed his "closeness to Christians", whom he called "brothers" in the face of this "attack that changed their joy to sadness and anxiety".[48] Two days later, on January 8, two more Churches were bombed in the city of Kirkuk; the Chaldean Cathedral of Kirkuk and the ACOE Maar Afram Church, wounding three bystandards.[49] Since the start of the Iraq war, there have been at least 46 Churches and Monasteries bombed.[50]

Threats on populationEdit

Leaders of Iraq's Christian community estimate that over two-thirds of the country's Christian population may have fled the country or been internally displaced since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. While exact numbers are unknown, reports suggest that whole neighborhoods of Christians have cleared out in the cities of Baghdad and Al-Basrah, and that both Sunni and Shiite insurgent groups and militias have threatened Christians. [51]

The gravity of the situation prompted Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to ask Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi to take steps to protect the Christian community. Sunni imams in Baghdad have made similar statements to their congregations in Friday Prayer sermons.

Religious official targetsEdit

Including those mentioned already, many other Assyrian religious officials have been targeted since 2003. Chaldean Catholic priest Ragheed Aziz Ganni was murdered together with subdeacons Basman Yousef Dawid, Wahid Hanna Isho, and Gassan Isam Bidawed after the Sunday evening Eucharist at Mosul's Holy Spirit Chaldean Church. Paulos Faraj Rahho, Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul, was found in a shallow grave in the northern city two weeks after he was kidnapped. Youssef Adel, a Syriac Orthodox priest with Saint Peter's Church in Baghdad's Karadda neighbourhood, was killed by gunmen while travelling on a car on April 5, 2008.[52] On April 11, President Bush was interviewed by Cliff Kincaid of the EWTN Global Catholic Network; after being informed about the detoriating situation of the Assyrians, President Bush was quoted as saying "This is a Muslim government that has failed to protect the Christians. In fact, it discriminates against them....It’s time to order U.S. troops to protect Christian churches and believers."[53]

Growth of Assyrian Security ForcesEdit

In October 2008, National Public Radio reported that a new phenomenon was spreading through the Assyrian Christian towns and villages of northern Iraq: Christian security forces, organized through their local churches, began manning checkpoints and working with the Iraqi police. Father Daoud Suleiman from the Assyrian town of Bartella testified that without the Christian militias, Bartella and other villages would be in much worse shape than they are now. A mysterious, media-shy, and wealthy Assyrian Sarkis Aghajan Mamendo was a key player in this apparently straightforward story of a small beleaguered minority learning to stand up for itself once more. He is the finance minister for the Kurdish regional government, and he is a member of the Kurdish Democratic Party believed to be close to Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani. New churches are going up across the north, paid for, everyone says, by Sarkis. New schools, more than 300 new apartments for displaced Christian families from the south, an Assyrian cultural center in Bartella — the list goes on.[54]

2009-2010 ViolenceEdit

Attacks against the community began again in December 2009 in Mosul and picked in February 2010. During this three-month period, over 20 Christians were assassinated and many churches of Mosul were targeted. The attacks led to 4,300 Assyrians fleeing Mosul to the Nineveh plains where there is an Assyrian majority population.[55] A report by the United Nations tracked the refugees and reported people fleeing to the following Assyrian towns and villages:

Arrival of displaced people
Bakhdida 1,668 Nimrud 210
Tel Esqof 558 Ankawa 138
Alqosh 504 Karamlesh 132
Bashiqa 396 Dohuk 102
Batnaya 378 Tel Keppe 96

The deadliest attack against Assyrians since the war began was the 2010 Baghdad church attack which occurred on October 31, 2010. The attack left at least 58 worshipers dead, including 2 priests. More than 100 had been taken hostage by an operation al-Qaeda-linked Sunni insurgent group the Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for.


A 1950 CIA report on Iraq estimated 98,000 Chaldeans, 30,000 Nestorians (Assyrians), 25,000 Syriac Catholics and 12,000 Jacobites.[56] The report used the name Assyrians, in the ethnic sense, for Nestorians, and also noted that Assyrians may be members of the Chaldean and Protestant Churches.[56]

The Iraqi Minorities Council and the Minority Rights Group International estimated that Iraq's pre-war Assyrian population was 800,000.[57]

According to statistics gathered by the Catholic Church when doing censuses of Chaldean Catholic diocese in Iraq in 2012 and 2013, Chaldo-Assyrians in Iraq numbered 230,071 people.[58][not in citation given]

Notable Iraqi AssyriansEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Ashbāl has been mistranslated in the media as Boy Scout. The Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic defines shibl (plural ashbāl اشبال) as meaning "lion cub; a capable young man, brave youth, young athlete." Compare with Ashbal Saddam (Saddam's Lion Cubs).


  1. ^ Christian Official: The Number of Christians in Iraq Has Dropped to Three-Hundred Thousand
  2. ^ "Guide: Christians in the Middle East". BBC News. 11 October 2011. 
  3. ^ CIA Factbook: "Arab 75%-80%, Kurdish 15%-20%, Turkoman, Assyrian, or other 5% [...] Christian or other 3%" [1]
  4. ^ "IRIN Middle East | IRAQ: Christians live in fear of death squads | Iraq | Other". 2006-10-19. Retrieved 2012-06-18. 
  5. ^ Reforging a Forgotten History: Iraq and the Assyrians in the Twentieth Century By Sargon Donabed
  6. ^ A. Leo Oppenheim (1964). Ancient Mesopotamia (PDF). The University of Chicago Press. 
  7. ^ "Twelfth periodic reports of States parties due in 1993 : Iraq. 14/06/96, Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (the Iraqi government's point of view)". Retrieved 2012-06-18. 
  8. ^ Retrieved February 28, 2007.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  9. ^ a b Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. "Refworld | Iraq: Chaldean Christians". Refworld. Retrieved 2017-06-08. 
  10. ^ "Iraq". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2017-06-08. 
  11. ^ a b c Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. "Refworld | The Leader in Refugee Decision Support". Refworld. Retrieved 2017-06-08. 
  12. ^ "U.S. Department of State | Home Page". Retrieved 2017-06-08. 
  13. ^ "On Vulnerable Ground". Human Rights Watch. 10 November 2009. Retrieved 18 November 2016. 
  14. ^ "Iraq". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 18 November 2016. 
  15. ^ Barrett, Greg (2012). The Gospel of Rutba: War, Peace, and the Good Samaritan Story in Iraq (in Arabic). Orbis Books. ISBN 9781608331130. 
  16. ^ "" (PDF). Retrieved 18 November 2016.  External link in |title= (help)
  17. ^ Shadid, Anthony (1 November 2010). "Baghdad Church Attack Hits Iraq's Core". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 June 2017. 
  18. ^ Retrieved 19 November 2016.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  19. ^ (PDF) Retrieved 7 June 2017.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  20. ^ CNN, By Mohammed Tawfeeq,. "Iraq church bombing wounds at least 20". Retrieved 7 June 2017. 
  21. ^ "Analysis: Iraq's Christians under attack". BBC News. 2004-08-02. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  22. ^ Qais al-Bashir, Associated Press (2006-12-25). "Iraqi Christians celebrate Christmas". Yahoo! News. Retrieved 2007-01-07.  [dead link]
  23. ^ (PDF);_ylu=X3oDMTByMDhrMzdqBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDNQRjb2xvA2FjMgR2dGlkAw--/SIG=12dpb27io/EXP=1247948212/** Retrieved October 31, 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  24. ^ (PDF);_ylu=X3oDMTBybnZlZnRlBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMQRjb2xvA2FjMgR2dGlkAw--/SIG=12cuifo46/EXP=1247949139/** Retrieved October 31, 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  25. ^ "Worthy Christian News » Iraqi Christians speed exodus to Kurdistan". 2011-02-08. Retrieved 2012-06-18. 
  26. ^ Rizan, Ahmed. "Displaced Mosul Christians celebrate Easter in Nineveh Plain". Archived from the original on 4 May 2011. Retrieved 5 June 2011. 
  27. ^ Timmerman, Kenneth (1 March 2011). "TIMMERMAN: Iraqi Christians to Congress: Please help". The Washington Times. Retrieved 5 June 2011. 
  28. ^ "Christian Security Forces Growing Stronger In Iraq". NPR. Retrieved 2012-06-18. 
  29. ^ a b HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT ON ASSYRIANS IN IRAQ 2013, by Assyria Council of Europe and the Assyria Foundation
  30. ^ Iraq report, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor 2005. March 8, 2006
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