Iraq’s Assyrian Christians; More of the same old

Iraq’s Assyrian Christians

To outside observers, the provincial elections recently held in Iraq were strictly a domestic affair, with internal groups vying for relative influence. For the Assyrian Christians of Iraq, however, the elections signified a desperate appeal to the international community.

Amid the ongoing tragedy of persecution and mass expulsion, the Assyrian Christians spoke in unison through the ballot box: They insist on remaining in their indigenous homeland of Iraq, and only autonomy will guarantee their future there.

After years of neglect, it is time for the United States to live up to its commitments and answer this plea.

The Assyrians went to the polls with the trauma of the last six years very fresh in their minds
Since 2003, over 40 churches have been bombed by Islamic militants. Numerous priests have been murdered, including the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, killed last year shortly after he reminded extremists that the Christians of Iraq predate Islam.

Knowing that Assyrians lack militias or regional backers, terrorist groups understand that for every bomb and slain priest many Christians will flee their homes. And to this end, the militants have been dreadfully successful: While representing only 3 percent of the population, Assyrian Christians comprise over 20 percent of its refugees. Perhaps half of the pre-war Christian community has fled, in what one Iraqi bishop has dubbed a “campaign of liquidation.”

While some have touted the success of the “surge” in reducing violence, the targeting of Assyrians has not diminished.

At the voting booth, Assyrians refused to abandon their rights. In Nineveh province, which includes Mosul and the Assyrian region of the Nineveh Plains, Christians voted overwhelmingly for the candidate put forward by the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council.

In 2007, I attended a conference in Erbil, Iraq, that established the Popular Council, which has united Assyrians of all denominations as well as six political parties representing our people. The objective of the Popular Council is to secure a constitutionally recognized autonomous region in Assyrians’ ancestral lands.

Unfortunately, the United States has thus far turned a blind eye to the Assyrians’ plight. Today, despite all their efforts, the Assyrians cannot survive without the support of the international community and specifically that of the United States.

The opposition from the dominant Iraqi factions and the violence that they wield are simply too much. Though he was not the one to begin this war, President Obama now bears responsibility for those so terribly devastated by it.

For the sake and the future of my people in Iraq, I hope this responsibility is at last acknowledged and this plea fulfilled.

Paul Isaac, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

More of the same old

Regarding the article “Obama pressured on Afghan troops level” (Feb. 13): I despair. President Barack Obama seems to be no wiser or smarter than George W. Bush. What on earth is the aim of this seemingly mad exercise?

More troops in Afghanistan will not lead to the capture of Osama bin Laden; they will just kill more innocent Afghan people. The U.S. has no hope of subjugating the Afghans. The British and Russians failed – and so will the Americans. Perhaps it will be left to the next president to withdraw bloodied and dispirited U.S. troops in 2013.

George Fink, Southbank, Australia