Peace unto you
Honorable Chairman Edward Young, we congratulate you on the occasion of your election as Chairman
Honorable members of the Permanent Forum for Indigenous People,
Honorable ladies and gentlemen,
Peace from the land of Nineveh, Babylon, Assyria and Ur of Mesopotamia (Iraq), the land of fertility and abundance. As you know, there is no international museum without antiquities belonging to the ancient Assyrians and their history and civilization. With more than 6,700 years of history, there are dozens of colleges and universities throughout the world devoted to studying Assyrian history and civilization and their importance, known as Assyriology
Regrettably however, today the sufferings we commonly share with other indigenous peoples, including the loss of land, language, history and culture, are crucial. Through the policies of previous regimes, which were in large part aimed at eliminating the presence of Assyrians as well as or trying to deny their very existence, they aimed at sending a false message implying that Assyrians are no longer in existence. In some ways, this was even worse than acts of genocide resulting from a war.
The observer of the conditions of Assyrians today will notice a marked increase in the numbers of migrants or displaced persons who are in urgent need of support these days. The population of the Assyrians in Iraq in 2000 was more than a million and a quarter (1.25 million), but post-2003 it declined to nearly seven hundred thousand (700,000) people.
Additionally, there is an urgent need to promote and support education in the native language for Assyrians in the Diaspora in order to help them preserve their ancient language, the language that Jesus Christ spoke.
It is also imperative upon us to focus attention on the revival of the Assyrian heritage which was built by our ancestors and preserve it through endowments. It is noteworthy that after the conversion of the Assyrians to Christianity, they became the pioneers in the areas of scientific and cultural systems, including translation, medicine, among others. They virtually translated hundreds of important books first from Greek to Assyrian and then to Arabic.
Nevertheless, it must be mentioned here that since 2003, the Assyrians have now been represented in the central Iraqi parliament and government in Baghdad as well as in the Kurdistan regional government since 1992.
There has been formal approval from the Iraqi government for the teaching of the Assyrian language in public schools since 2004. In the Kurdistan region of Iraq, education in the Assyrian language was started 20 years ago and has succeeded with the support of the provincial government. The determination and support from native Assyrians everywhere, as well as the efforts of our Assyrian Aid Society have helped. But the process still needs the support of a broader base to consolidate the effort.
In order to ensure the rights of the Assyrians as an indigenous people in Iraq, they must not be treated on the size of their population despite the fact that their population has decreased significantly during recent years.
We call upon you for the inclusion of the Assyrians as one of the indigenous peoples of Iraq and be eligible for support from programs funded by the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples, as well as support from other United Nations organizations in accordance with the UN Declaration on the indigenous peoples and their legitimate rights.
May all indigenous peoples live forever.