Iraq’s Arameans express deep concern about the lack of constitutional recognition as a distinct ethno-religious people and their uncertain future in their homeland in the Nineveh Plain which soon may be retaken from ISIS. Unlike other populations in Iraq such as Turkmen, Chaldeans and Assyrians, the Syriacs are not mentioned in Article 125 of the Constitution. Therefore, they are now forced to identify themselves by one of these identities, or the Arab one, and thus adopt an identity that is entirely foreign to them in the ID Cards that have to be issued. This has caused serious concerns and angry reactions among hundreds of thousands of Iraq’s indigenous Arameans in and outside Iraq who refuse to identify themselves other than Syriacs or Arameans.
The World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) (“WCA”) addresses this pertinent issue in a letter that has been sent by the WCA to Iraqi government officials and the media. The WCA and its Member Federations also sent the letters to Iraq’s Ambassadors across Europe, the USA and Australia, requesting them to share it with Baghdad and the dignitaries in charge of constitutional amendments and also requesting for meetings to further clarify the issue and the uncertain future of Iraq’s Aramean Christians in the post-ISIS period in Iraq, considering that the Nineveh Plains may be reconquered in the near future.
Scroll down below to download the letter of the WCA and the Syriac Orthodox and Catholic Archbishops of Iraq. Also, view the video message of the WCA President and the Vice-Chairman of the Aramean Federation in the Netherlands.
The Syriac Catholic activist Isho’ Majeed Hadaya (1954-2006) was murdered on 22 November 2006 in his hometown of Baghdeda (Qaraqosh), North Iraq, because of his Aramean Christian identity. At his funeral, the Aramaic flag was laid on his coffin.
On behalf of Iraq’s indigenous Aramean (Syriac) people, we express our sincere gratitude to Iraqi legislators for including our Aramaic mother tongue in Article 4 of the Constitution as “Syriac.” Until today, Iraq is the only country that can pride itself in officially recognizing our language and ensuring our constitutional linguistic rights.
It is also encouraging that Article 125 of the Constitution guarantees “the administrative, political, cultural, and educational rights of the various nationalities.” Unlike other groups, Iraq’s indigenous Syriac people are not mentioned here. Therefore, we appeal to Your Excellencies and ask your support for amending this article.
On 21 October 2015, three Syriac Orthodox Bishops and one Syriac Catholic Bishop requested you in their joint letter (see attached) to include the Syriacs as well in the Constitution. The World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) supports their appeal for a legal position and believes that the Syriacs are entitled to inclusion in the Constitution. This is not only because of historical, legal and demographic reasons. It is just and reasonable to constitutionally recognize the Syriacs as a distinct group, which is critical to secure their identity and presence in their homeland.
Because the Constitution does not acknowledge the Syriacs, they have no legal existence, are not able to enjoy the rights mentioned in Article 125 and the current Iraqi ID Cards forces them to adopt an identity that is foreign to them, such as Arab, Turkmen, Chaldean or Assyrian. Clearly, such a violation of their right to existence in the land of their ancestors flies in the face of international (human rights) law, common sense and the very spirit of recognizing, appreciating and preserving Iraq’s rich ethno-religious diversity.
The Greek-speaking world applied the term ‘Syrian” to the Aramean people and Aramaic language since the late third century B.C., while the Arameans chose to adopt it in their Aramaic language as a self-designation since the late fourth century A.D. In fact, ‘Syrian/Syriac’ is still the self-identification in the spoken and written Aramaic dialects of virtually all the Chaldeans, Assyrians (‘Nestorians’) and Syriacs (Orthodox and Catholics) of Iraq. In light of these facts, then, we propose Article 125 to be amended into one of the following recommended names:
1. “Chaldeans, Syriacs and Assyrians”: this order reflects their numerical presence in Iraq;
2. “Syriacs”: seeing that this ethnic name has been reduced to a religious name, in that it is usually applied to the Syriac Orthodox and Catholics only, it may find no support among the Chaldeans or Assyrians; or
3. “Arameans”: the Chaldean Patriarch H.B. Mar Louis Sako suggested this historically and academically sound name last year in a letter, whereas in their joint letter the Syriac Orthodox and Catholic Bishops claim Aramean descent for these three groups. Together they represent the majority of Iraq’s Christians.
Finally, we thank you and all Iraqi troops for the recent successes in retaking towns and villages from ISIS. We pray and hope that the entire province of Mosul will soon be reconquered. The World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) looks forward to cooperating with the Iraqi Government in helping the tens of thousands of Aramean families to return to their lost homes in Mosul and Sinjar, and help them rebuild their lives in their ancestral land.
We thank you in advance for your understanding, support and cooperation and remain, yours sincerely,
World Council of Arameans (Syriacs)
Watch also the below video message by the WCA President (English) and the Vice-Chairman of the Federation of the Arameans in the Netherlands (Arabic).