We, as members of the Assyrian, community, together with our Australian brothers and sisters of many faiths and backgrounds, have gathered here today to raise our voices in outrage at the violence that has been visited upon our peoples in our ancient homeland once known as Ashur or Assyria, the country known to us today as Iraq.
We have gathered here today because of the horrendous genocide that is unfolding in Iraq even as we speak, a genocide that, if left unchecked, will see every man, woman and child of Assyrian descent, ethnically cleansed from their indigenous homelands.
Three weeks ago, the ongoing attacks on our peoples culminated in fifty eight of our brothers and sisters being ruthlessly murdered as they peacefully gathered for Sunday Mass at Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad, Iraq.
We call on all governments of civilised nations, and in particular, the Federal government of Australia, to publically acknowledge and condemn the ongoing attacks on Iraq’s Christian population and apply firm diplomatic pressure on the Iraqi government to ensure greater protection of Iraq’s indigenous Christian population.
We call on the Federal government to recognise the plight of our brothers and sisters in Iraq and provide, in the spirit of the UN Refugee Convention, safe Asylum for the Assyrians that have left Iraq in search of protection.
The stalling tactics implemented through various levels of government bureaucracy serve as a time consuming ploy. However, such tactics undermine the efficacy of Australia’s refugee program and place Australia in breach of its obligations under international law. The situation in Iraq today is growing progressively worse as thousands of genuine refugees seek protection from racially motivated violence and persecution – these are, however, pleas and begs for mercy that are so often categorically denied.
We urge the Federal government to review its policy concerning the rights of refugees seeking protection within our borders – In particular, we urge the Federal government to recognise as genuine refugees all Christians of Iraq who seek asylum in Australia.
As both the frequency and severity of attacks on Christians in Iraq escalates, it is undoubtedly clear that genocide and ethnic cleansing is unfolding with impunity against our fellow Christian brothers and sisters.
The acts committed against Iraq’s indigenous Assyrian Christian population are heinous and the most severe of human rights violations – The significance of this is that human rights are universal and inalienable. Every person has the same rights, regardless of where they live, their race, or their religious, cultural or ethnic background. It is therefore an obligation for all States to prevent the flagrant abuse of its citizens. At this time, the State of Iraq is failing badly to uphold its obligations to protect its citizens and as a Liberating force the Australians, Americans and British invaders have turned their heads from these murders.
Furthermore, it is relevant to consider that according to the international community it is impossible for a person to exist without being the bearer of these inherent rights – the characteristic of being human is what enables those rights to subsist within them – in short, the right to live in peace, without fear is an essential right that is owed to every human being, a right that nobody can or should ever take away.
As the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom entered Iraq on the premise of establishing peace, freedom and democracy for its peoples, those civilised nations now have a distinct responsibility to protect and safeguard the minority Assyrian population of Iraq from the terrorism that arose from the instability created by their very own actions.
This responsibility to restore peace, freedom and democracy has not been kept. This no more evident than when one considers the no less than 66 attacks on Assyrian Churches since 2004. This is an appalling statistic. However, much more appalling is the immense loss of life; the large number of men, women and children who have been massacred by the scores in the years following the downfall of the tyrant.
An advisor to the recently elected Iraqi Government has recently stated that 9 out of 10 terrorist attacks against the Assyrian ethnic minority in Iraq are successfully quashed and effectively neutralised by Iraqi security forces, how much more then is the hostility that rises against the remnant of the former Assyrian Empire, and how much more evidence of ethnic cleansing is necessary before the international community, perhaps with Australia at the helm, leads the world in preventing the annihilation of one of the world’s oldest and most culturally rich civilisations.
Unfortunately the reaction of the international community to this consistent abuse of human rights and indeed genocide can only be described as apathy and indifference. The practical result of this is that little if anything has been done, practically or otherwise, to prevent the destruction of the indigenous Assyrian, Christian people of Iraq, peoples who constitute one of the world’s oldest communities.
It is incumbent, and we insist on urging the Australian government and the Australian public to consider the impact of this impending disaster and its responsibilities to protect human sanctity and inviolability. No peoples are deserving of such atrocities, and it lies within the power of the Australian, US and UK governments to protect these struggling peoples.
Australia has a very clear and unequivocal responsibility owed to the Assyrian Christians in Iraq. Every single day there are countless forces mobilised against these indigenous peoples – with the sole intent of destroying them and forcing them into exile through fear and violence.
There has been a mass exodus of Iraq’s indigenous Assyrian Christians, marking a significant genocide through violence and exportation – Iraq’s indigenous peoples are now treated as second class citizens in Iraq, where Iraqi security forces are apathetic to their situation and nobody bothers to acknowledge their plight.
Their cries fall on deaf ears, as nobody lifts even a finger to assist the wounded and the fallen – the majority of those injured in Iraq, not ten days ago were taken to European countries for medical treatment. While we are grateful for their intervention, and the care they have offered as a semblance of a common humanity, we must remain ever skeptical – for until the Assyrians and their Christian counterparts are entitled to manage their own affairs in Iraq, how can our people ever be truly secure? Without a Sovereign Independent area or at least a Regional Democratic Government with Autonomy, How can the Assyrians ever be afforded the same virtues of Life, Liberty and Self Determination the inalienable rights of every human being?
To live free from fear of persecution and wanton, arbitrary punishment;
To live free from fear of death, with liberty and right to a secure life;
To live free and to practice one’s culture and religion without homogenising forces –
These are the only demands of the Assyrian peoples within those nations – to be treated to the same uniform, minimum standard and recognised as the indigenous people of Iraq. Our brothers and sisters in the Middle East wish to be enabled and given the right to self determination and the right to the protection of their loved ones. The horrors of terrorism imprison the population through fear – people are frightened into submission, failing to comprehend the madness of the violence around them. Without knowing where the terrorists will strike next, our people are stuck with constant fear and apprehension, in circumstances that are both physically and psychologically debilitating.
The Genocide implemented against the Assyrians of Iraq today has evolved from the earlier methods visited upon them at the hands of the Ottomans, it is no longer the sword that claims the head of our brothers and sisters, the new face of terror is one which mindlessly destroys itself at the very moment he claims another 58 innocent lives – this is an unequivocally heinous and insidious genocide that serves to remove the indigenous Assyrians and ethnic minorities from Iraq, If there is no intervention by the invading, Coalition of the Willing.
Where once there was peace and multiculturalism, there is now only the charred remains of a forgotten society, as all the streets lay tainted and marred by the blood of Assyrians, the indigenous people of Iraq, a community subjected to constant genocidal attacks.
The Indigenous Assyrians have been pressed to the point of extinction following Australia’s invasion of Iraq. Over 1 million of our Assyrian brothers and sisters have been forced to leave their homes and life in Iraq due to the genuine fear of physical harm and murder – they have been forced to abandon their country and to dissipate into Diaspora abroad. The number of Assyrian inhabitants in Iraq, has dropped dramatically from nearly 1.5 million to under 400 000 due to the mass exodus and targeted terror campaigns.
The Australian military’s involvement in the invasion and resulting destabilisation of Iraq places it in position of special opportunity, and also important responsibilities under the Genocide Convention – It is pursuant to this responsibility under the Convention that we call upon the Australian Government to take the following course of action –
· For the Government of Australia to encourage and ensure that there is established a Security Force to protect the people and buildings that belong to the Indigenous Assyrian Community, to be made up of the Indigenous peoples themselves as the Iraqi Government and Security forces have demonstrated apathy and disregard for the welfare and security of the Indigenous and Christian peoples; and,
· For the Government of Australia to acknowledge the distinct ethnic identity of the Assyrians in Iraq and their claim to a separate national identity that is historically descendant from the Ancient Assyrians. This places the Assyrians as distinct from the national identity that is an extension from the state of Iraq, and known as Iraqi; and,
· For the Government of Australia to acknowledge the acts of violence perpetrated against the Assyrians, as constituting the International Crime of Genocide. Consequently the perpetrators must be punished in the appropriate manner, according to the international convention and the victims must be subsequently and effectively safeguarded against said crime; and,
· For the Government of Australia to encourage the International Community to designate a region in the North of Iraq where the Assyrian peoples as the Indigenous people of Iraq may govern themselves, enjoying the right to self determination and independence as a Nation State, whereby they may protect and safeguard their own interests as a separate National entity, free from bigoted persecutions and treatment as second class citizens, or
For the Government to promote and act towards designating a safe haven where Assyrians may live as an autonomous region within the Iraqi Nation, protected from racial and religious persecution, with the capacity to protect themselves from Islamic Fundamentalists and Terrorists and where they may be free from being treated as second class citizens based on their ethnicity and religious identity, where they may be able to live free from genocidal attacks and other violence.