Sydney â€“ 13 July, 2007.
Mr. Hermiz Shahen, the Secretary of the Assyrian Universal Alliance in Australia received an invitation from Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile MLC to participate as a key speaker at the â€œMIDDLE EAST CHRISTIAN CONFERENCEâ€ held at NSW State Parliament on Monday 9 July, 2007.
The theme of the Conference was â€œAlleviating the Persecution and Suffering of Christians in the Middle Eastâ€.
The aim of the Conference was to examine the following:
1. How can we support and protect Christians in all Islam-dominated countries of the Middle East?
2. How can we assist, where required, their migration to Australia?
3. How can we ensure a favourable review of the Australian Immigration Policy?
4. How can we assist the establishment of an Assyrian Homeland in Iraq?
5. How should we respond to militant Islamists?
Over 100 people attended the conference including representatives from different Australian churches, Christian organisations, including His Grace Bishop Daniel Coptic Orthodox Church in Australia, and members of State Parliament.
Delegations representing many Assyrian organisations were also present at the conference including representatives from the Assyrian Universal Alliance, Assyrian Sports and cultural Club, Safe Assyria Front, Youth Group of the Assyrian Church of the East and the following prominent Assyrians; Mr. Paul Azzo; an adviser to the Assyrian Universal Alliance on foreign affairs Mr. Andy Rohan and Mr. Zaia Tooma, who took part in the panel and answered many questions in an eloquent manner.
Mr. Shahen made a presentation accompanied by a photo slide show of Assyrian history, maps and culture. He briefed the audience about the history and the achievements of the Assyrian civilization and then turned to the systematic acts of genocide and massacres perpetrated against the Assyrian nation, mainly by the Islamic fundamentalists, who caused the rich and developed Assyrian culture and population to dwindle in number and spirit and to become a nation of refugees.
An extract of Mr. Shahenâ€™s speech follows:
â€œCurrently in Iraq, the persecution and oppression of Assyrians by different Islamic Fundamentalist groups continues unabated. We keep receiving disturbing news on a daily basis including the following: Assyrian churches being bombed; Assyrians are still being killed, kidnapped or assaulted; young Assyrian girls are being raped by criminal gangs who abduct and forced to marry Muslim men; Assyrians are being removed from their homes in the cities of Baghdad, Mosul, Kirkuk and Basra; Assyrian students are being deprived of education; properties owned by Assyrians have been confiscated; Assyrian priests and children are being abducted and beheaded; and Assyrians are being persecuted and punished for non-compliance with Islamic (Shariâ€™a) Laws.
Non-Muslims have been told to â€œconvert to Islam within 24 hours or dieâ€ many have refused to convert and have been slaughtered. Recently in Baghdad, in the Dora neighbourhood, Islamists are systematically targeting the Assyrians forcing them to pay the jizya (a poll tax demanded by the Koran which all Christians and Jews must pay in exchange for being allowed to live). Almost all the Assyrians have fled from the area leaving behind all their belongings. Most recently a statement by an Islamic group that calls itself the Islamic Emirate of Mosul threatened all Christians living in Mosul to leave the city within three days or the group will behead any Christian who will remain in the city.
The Australian Government should take immediate, short term and permanent/long term measures to address the crisis facing the Assyrians in the Middle East including:
â€¢ Economical assistance to address the basis of the humanitarian needs of the Assyrian refugee population;
â€¢ Securing temporary visas for refugees in host countries;
â€¢ Whilst AUA policy does not support the uprooting of people from their homelands, the AUA is thankful to all countries accepting refugees and kindly ask the Australian Government to open its doors a little wider to Assyrian refugees for resettlement in Australia; and
â€¢ Supporting the Assyrian demands to establish a geographically viable demarcated region in the Northern Iraq as the Assyrian Autonomous region (encompassing the historic Assyrian triangle between the great Zab & Tigris rivers) with support from the Iraqi government as well as the international community, particularly the United Nations. The newly created Assyrian region in the said territory shall be administrated and protected by the Assyrians, under the jurisdiction of the central government.
Rather than having a migration policy for all of the Middle Eastern Christians to move to the western countries, the establishment of such an Assyrian region at the heart of the Islamic world with a constitution of its own and based on the western style democracies will impact the entire Christian population in the Middle East. It will not only be most crucial to the security and survival of the Assyrians in Iraq, allowing greater local Assyrian control within the context of their integrated, sovereign Iraqi state, it would also allow for political, educational, linguistic, religious and cultural protection.
In his concluding statements, Mr. Shahen said â€œAssyrians, the indigenous people of Iraq, are entitled to human and national freedom within a pluralist, democratic and federalist Iraq. The recognition of their needs and demands is essential in preserving the vulnerable Assyrian nation and in enabling them to remain in their homeland. The world is lucky to still have the Assyrians with their wonderful culture and language. Please save this rich legacy before it all disappears. I will leave you now with a very big question mark: HOW CAN YOU HELP THE ASSYRIANS? It is now in your court to find the right answer(s).â€
Mr. Shahen then also took part in the panel to answers questions and took suggestions from the audience.
Prior to the conclusion of the conference, the audience voted on the Final Manifesto which included this very important point â€œTo assist the establishment, within Iraq, of an Assyrian Homeland, where all Christians may live in safety and security, a homeland which may provide for Christians the beacon of hope which Israel so effectively provides for Jews; and to persuade our Allies in Iraq that high priority must be given to the protection of Assyrians, Chaldeans and Syriac Christians.â€
Mr. Shahen, congratulated Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile MLC on behalf of the Assyrian Australian Community and the Assyrian Universal Alliance for organising such a successful Conference and for taking the initiative in supporting the plight of the embattled Christians in the Middle East and in particular the Assyrian people of Iraq.
Assyrian Universal Alliance- Australian Chapter
PO Box 34, Fairfield NSW 1860 Australia. Tel: (02) 9823 5340. Fax: (02) 9610 2499. Mobile: 0407 235349