Assyrians (also called Syriacs and Chaldeans) are the indigenous people of and currently a minority in what is present-day Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Lebanon. The ancient Assyrian Empire was centered on the Tigris River in Mesopotamia (“Bethnahrin” in Assyrian, which means “the land between the two rivers”), found in today’s Iraq. The Assyrian Empire existed from approximately 2000 BC until it ceased to exist at the beginning of 600 BC.

One ethnic group

Assyrians are a Semitic ethnic group. They have not had a land to call their own since 612 BC and have therefore lived as a minority in their own homeland. The Assyrians were one of the first ethnic groups that converted to Christianity and to this day, the majority are committed to the Christian faith.

Today’s Assyrians speak Assyrian (also called Syriac, Chaldean or Neo-Aramaic), which belongs to the Semitic language group. Assyrians are also called Syriacs and Chaldeans, Assyrians Without Borders makes no distinction in our aid based on denomination, church affiliation or faith.

Geography

Mesopotamia is a geographical landscape based between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The area is bound by the northern Taurus Mountains, eastern Persia (Iran), the southern Persian Gulf, the southwestern Arabian Desert and the northwestern parts of Syria. This area, which corresponds to the size of Scandinavia, has come to be called ‘the cradle of civilization’.

The Assyrians are the indigenous people of present-day Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey. Due to war and persecution, many Assyrians fled to Lebanon, which has led Assyrians Without Borders to also operate there.

Genocide after genocide:

Throughout history, the Assyrians have been affected by persecution, murder and violations against them. There are three years that are forever imprinted in the minds of today’s Assyrians: 1843, 1915 and 1933.

The entry of IS (Islamic State) into Iraq in 2014 is once again an ongoing genocide and persecution.

The Massacre of 1843

Following Easter week in 1843, a bloody massacre took place on an Assyrian tribe in Tyari, Hakkari, Turkey. The villages were burned to the ground and over 10,000 Assyrians were murdered in cold blood.

Thousands of women and young girls were abducted and raped; those that were spared became slaves to their tyrants. The children were sent away to be sold as slaves or to be killed.

Seyfo 1915

Seyfo is the name of the Genocide that took place in the shadow of Word War I and is considered the first genocide of modern times. This tragedy that befell the Assyrians came to be called ‘the year of the sword’ (Seyfo). Seyfo began on the 24th of April, 1915 and according to some sources over 500,000 innocent Assyrians were systematically massacred by Ottoman and Kurdish swords.

The Swedish Government acknowledged Seyfo as a genocide in 2010.

The Simele Massacre of 1933

As Iraq became an independent state, the Iraqi government began suppressing all Assyrians’ quest for independence. In August 1933, over 1,000 unarmed Assyrians in the cities of Simele and Duhok were gathered and shot by Iraqi police and military. 64 villages were plundered and destroyed.

The people of the villages, the majority of which were women and children, were raped and murdered. In total, over 2,000 Assyrians were killed.