The Assyria Region – A Clarification
On Monday, September 12, Cristina Silva published a piece in the The International Business Times titled Christian Homeland The Answer To Islamic State Violence? Christians In The Middle East Demand Sovereign Nation.
Silva begins her article by writing, “A Christian homeland in the Middle East would help protect persecuted Christians fleeing violence from the Islamic State group and other militant threats, a growing group of Christian leaders insist.”
Although Silva never says so directly, her piece presumably (at least in part) allude to H.C.Res.152, a resolution introduced on September 9th, 2016 by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, with the intent of “Expressing the sense of Congress that the United States and the international community should support the Republic of Iraq and its people to recognize a province in the Nineveh Plain region, consistent with lawful expressions of self-determination by its indigenous peoples.”
Any relationship to H.C.R. 152 aside, Silva’s opening statement is bold, provocative, and as misleading as it is untrue.
First, H.C.R. 152 does not call for the creation of a Christian homeland or sovereign nation in Iraq. Second, and perhaps more importantly, there are no “Christian leaders” “insisting” on the creation of a “Christian homeland,” let alone a “growing group.” The one overtly Christian organization that Silva mentions in her piece, the International Christian Union, has, according to its website, one member, Joseph Hakim. While RNNF does not know Hakim well, and he may be a well-intended soul, he is not a leading figure concerning events in northern Iraq.
While this statement by Silva is less untrue than her first, it is not wholly accurate. RNNF works closely with the Philos Project and In Defense of Christians, and since the story went up, has communicated with the leadership of both by email.
In the case of the Philos Project, which is headed up by Robert Nicholson, RNNF has learned that Silva never spoke with Mr. Nicholson, despite quoting him at length in the piece. In response to Silva’s work, the Philos Project posted the following clarification concerning HCR 152:
“Does this resolution seek to create an independent Christian state?
No. The province called for in the resolution is neither Christian nor a state. It is a province inside the federal Republic of Iraq designed to aid in the resettlement and protection of all minorities who have been affected by ISIS.”
Why do these distinctions and clarifications matter?
They matter because what Iraq (and the greater Middle East) badly needs at this time is less, not more, sectarianism and inflammatory language. Silva’s sloppy and inaccurate piece does just the opposite.
As for RNNF, we have, since our founding, advocated for the creation of three provinces in northern Iraq; Nineveh Plain, Sinjar and Tal Afar, with each province representing the traditional homeland for Iraq’s Assyrian (in Nineveh Plain), Yezidi (in Sinjar) and Turkmen (in Tal Afar) peoples.
While most Assyrians are Christians, the Yezidis are Yezidi, and the Turkmen are Shiite and Sunni Muslim, these three peoples have for centuries lived and worked peacefully together. Taking advantage of this unity, these three provinces would further cooperate to form one region, the Assyria Region of the Republic of Iraq. Such regional cooperation already exists among provinces in the northern, Kurdish region of Iraq, and the Assyria Region would serve an identical function for its residents, and in doing so safeguard the rights of Iraq’s minorities and the region’s ethnic and religious tensions. The Assyria Region would take its place among Iraq’s other regions, all of which are bound together under the constitution to form the Republic of Iraq.
While RNNF fully supports international intervention in Iraq and the protection of the minorities in the North, it is not a call for the creation of some new area, some new “safe zone” in northern Iraq. Until very recently, the Assyrian, Yezidi and Turkmen peoples of Iraq had “safe zones” in the form of their cities, towns, villages, homes and property. The restoration of the places they have owned and worked for thousands of years is their right and it does not have a religious test.
The United States, the Republic of Iraq and the rest of the global community must restore what has been stolen from the peoples of the Nineveh Plain, Sinjar and Telafar and in doing so, recognize the rights of all peoples to be peaceful masters of their own fate.