Assyrians have been in diaspora for over 100 years and yet we are forced once again to depend on priests standing behind sultans. I refuse to celebrate this.
Everyone has seen the news and the powerful imagery and symbolism of the President of the U.S. signing a bill which legislates for the continuation of aid money to minorities in Syria and Iraq.
However, I advise caution: the bill continues the emphasis on religion, and empowering elements within our own community which by definition are sectarian and divisive — a pattern and trajectory we must completely resist.
I want to remind people that in the text of the bill, Assyrians are not mentioned once by their national identity, and that the only elaboration present is a sectarian one promoting the efforts of one Church among many:
“(4) Local communities and entities have sought to mitigate the impact of violence directed against religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria, including the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil (Kurdistan Region of Iraq), which has used predominantly private funds to provide assistance to internally displaced Christians, Yezidis, and Muslims throughout the greater Erbil region, while significant needs and diminishing resources have made it increasingly difficult to continue these efforts.”
It is no coincidence to see Bashar Warda, Chaldean Archbishop of Arbil, invited yet again by the U.S. (as well as encouraged and supported by the KRG and its motley crew of lobbyists and hangers-on) to take centre stage as the representative of our people.
This is a man who has no political mandate, yet advises the most senior figures in the U.S. government about the needs of our community. Warda has repeatedly voiced his opinion on matters concerning militias in Iraq, political solutions and strategies, as well as expressing unshakable support for the KRG and its party political Peshmerga militias — all after the meaningless disclaimer “I am not a politician”.
In 2017, Warda advised Assyrians to either join the Iraqi Army or Kurdish Peshmerga — which he describes as the only two legitimate security forces in Iraq even in the aftermath of our latest genocide in 2014 where both dramatically failed us.
This is a man who calls for us to have “political, economic and social privileges” in Iraq, whilst saying we “need the support and protection”, and that “everyone has the responsibility to maintain the Christian presence in the Nineveh Plain.”
All of these statements are in line with a sectarian vision where the Church occupies a privileged position within a hostile state, and where it is afforded protection and authority by state power, requiring nothing of its constituents other than that they continue working, worshipping and supporting the status quo — regardless of harmful policies.
In this scheme, the “responsibility” to maintain our presence is not carried by “everyone”, but becomes the job of others — not ours. If it were understood to be ours, Warda would be supportive of forces like the NPU which formed out of necessity, symbolising an effort by our own people to take responsibility for and contribute to our own security.
Kurds did this by creating forces of Peshmerga decades ago to protect their interests, deciding not leave it completely to others. Warda commends them for this, but condemns us for trying to do the same.
For a man of faith, he has no faith in our own people.
This is symptomatic of religious leadership and its attachment to established power. We have to understand that this act is a representation and manifestation of the status quo exercising its control, and the status quo has repeatedly proven to only ever been harmful for us as a nation.
Moreover, the U.S. has not only maintained its support for our oppressors, it is boosting it and normalising it in the only remaining areas we form a large demographic in our homeland: the Nineveh Plain. The signing of this bill should not overshadow the grim reality we must confront and fight with everything at our disposal. These are existential threats.
Here, the U.S. is legitimising the very instruments with which we are being subjugated by the KDP. It is legitimising structural discrimination, the disempowerment and the patronage afforded to KDP proxies who work actively against any kind of Free Assyrian agenda for their own benefit. It is making a mockery of our own agency, will, and interests outside of those imposed on us by a foreign nationalist agenda.
These are people who have been elevated into positions of authority and administration by a Kurdish political party. They have abused any and all Assyrians in their way. Lara Yousif personally called Kurdish asayish to kidnap and torture the mayor of Alqosh after losing a Federal court battle for the position. The mayor was then dismissed for “failure to turn up for duty” after being threatened not to by KDP asayish, with Yousif assuming the position by recommendation — by KDP to KDP. No other candidates competed for the position.
These are all things happening right now so I want to provide a contrast to the celebratory tone adopted by many online: I don’t celebrate sultanates or caliphates in any shape or form, nor the accompanying millet systems and middle-management they install upon us.
After decades of struggle, we have gone from finally having elected representatives who were relentlessly undermined, degraded and marginalised to unelected, unassailable, and unaccountable clergymen shown to be “getting results” by the very people whose policies they support and advocate for.
This regressive process took only fifteen years but we now find ourselves back in the 19th C — a period in our history that can only be remembered as a prelude to catastrophe.
Nothing about this event gives me hope or enthuses me — it does the opposite. It hurts me. I feel the excitement of others and I am angry and sad by it: this is reliving our nightmare, our false hopes, and our tragic history like a broken record.
Lastly, it should be noted, the KRG is open about pushing this bill through U.S. Congress themselves and wants credit for it.
Ask yourself: if an oppressive force which systematically enables the theft of Assyrian land; the flight of Assyrians from their homeland; the rigging of elections; the encouraging of inter-communal sectarianism through real material support; and ultimately the denial of any kind of national agenda among us — if this entity celebrates something, is it really a victory for us or for them?