Monday, 26 August 2013

Assyrians Demand Kurdish Apology for Last Century Killings

By Judit Neurink 19/8/2013
Assyrians Demand Kurdish Apology for Last Century Killings

An ancient Assyrian monastery in the Kurdistan Region. Photo by Judit Neurink

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The American Mesopotamian Organization (AMO) is demanding an official apology from Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani for the murder of Assyrians by Kurds in the past. Thousands of Assyrian Christians were killed in the region in the last century.

“Just as the Kurdish try to get recognition for the Kurdish genocide, we ask them to accept their responsibility for the killings of the Assyrians in this region,” says David William Lazar, head of the AMO in Los Angeles. 

Many of the Assyrians were killed by Kurdish troops working with the Ottomans and later the Iraqi Kingdom, he says.  “Compare how the German government later took responsibility for the Holocaust under the Nazis.”

Lazar leads one of the political groups that together represent around half a million Assyrians living in the United States, and lobbies with American politicians for their rights and the recognition of the Assyrian genocide of 1915. 

His organization recently made the news when it furiously deplored a message from Barzani on the occasion of the Assyrian Martyrs Remembrance Day on August 7 -- the first time that Barzani sent such a message -- on the 80thbirthday of the Semile massacre. 

The massacre was ordered in 1933 by the Iraqi government under King Faysal, and conducted by a Kurdish general, Bakr Sidqi. It did not only hit Semile but dozens of other Assyrian villages in the region between Duhok and Zakho. 

The death toll was officially put at 600, but unofficially at 3,000. Thousands of Assyrians fled the country, and the head of the Assyrian Church of the East was forced into exile. Even today, the church is led from the American city of Chicago.

In his message, Barzani expressed his “heartfelt consolation to the victims of that savage, dreadful massacre which the Iraqi regime carried out at that time.” 

He added that the August 7, 1933 catastrophe in the Semile area “is not erased from memory and is evidence of the fact that all the constituents of Kurdistan equally opposed the catastrophes, the lack of acknowledgement and the oppression.”

Lazar calls that message offensive.

“He (Barzani) called us Kurdistani components,” he says from his home in Los Angeles. “We are a proud nation of thousands of years. Kurdification of our ethnicity is unacceptable,” he adds, saying it “is a continuation of Arabization” that happened under ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

Lazar expresses fear that the Kurds want to “eradicate our Assyrian identity and culture.” He objects to the fact that the KRG calls Assyrians “Christian Kurds,” while they are ethnically not Kurdish at all. “Don’t call us Christians, which is our faith. Our ethnic background is Assyrian.”

One of the aims of his organization is the creation of an autonomous state for the Assyrians on the Nineveh Plains between Mosul and Duhok. That is one of the so-called disputed areas, governed by Baghdad but which the Kurdish Region wants to add to its map.

It is already under Kurdish administrative and military control, and the KRG has offered to make the Assyrian dream come true under its rule. It has even placed a clause on the issue in Kurdistan’s draft constitution.

But Lazar stresses that the new Assyrian province should be tied to Baghdad, and formed under article 140 of the Iraqi constitution. A proposal for five new Iraqi provinces is already on the table in Baghdad, including Nineveh. “We believe in a unified Iraq, we want to keep the country one,” Lazar says.

He says that he plans a trip to Iraqi Kurdistan later in the year. “I have nothing against the Kurds. They are misinformed. We just want them to behave as civilized people and treat all citizens alike,” he adds.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Turkish main opposition leader aborts Iraq visit

22 August 2013 Thursday
Turkish main opposition leader aborts Iraq visit

Turkish main opposition leader aborts Iraq visit
CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu will turn back to Turkey early aborting Iraq visit due to security concerns. 

World Bulletin / News Desk
Turkish main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu will turn back to Turkey aborting visit due to security reasons. 
News reports say that the CHP leader cancelled his Kirkuk trips after Baghdad officials warned him not to visit Kirkuk.  It was stated that it would be better to conduct the meetings with the Turkmen committee in Baghdad.
The main opposition leader also cancelled Necef visits because of the security concerns on Thursday. 
The leader is excepted to arrive in Turkey tomorrow. 
Kilicdaroglu met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki behind closed doors on Wednesday. 
On the third day of his Iraq visit, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu met with Iraq's Vice Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani in the Prime Ministry's Undersecretary building.
Kilicdaroglu and Hussein al-Shahristani made an announcement to press members and stated that they had talked about the development of bilateral relations. Shahristani said that they underlined that the agreements between the two countries should be made between the central governments and had shared their opinions about the mutual usage of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Iraq's reconstruction, as well as the Syrian crisis, were especially discussed between the leaders.
"Iraq is one of the strong countries in the region and has great potential. If Turkish-Iraqi relations are placed on solid ground, both countries would profit from it," Kilicdaroglu said by stating that they had discussed how to undertake more efficient efforts, particularly in energy in Turkish-Syrian relations and nearby countries of Syria," Kilicdaroglu said.
Kilicdaroglu stated that existing problems would be solved through mutual dialogue as the two countries made peace dominant in the region, contributing to their own development. The CHP's leader also said that Hussein al-Shahristani stressed that Turkish businessmen could make important investments in the reconstruction of Iraq. There was also a decision that the two neigbours should not intervene in each other's internal affairs.
In response to a question regarding the details of the issues of Syria and the water problem, Kilicdaroglu replied that the CHP's opinion is in favor of a conference being organized. He also reminded that they had announced their opinion two years ago and said, "the Arab League, EU, Iraq's neighbours and the parties in Syria can solve the Syrian problem by coming together. We clearly support the Geneva process of which some steps have already been taken. We hope the Syrian problem can be solved peacefully in these meetings."
Besides reporters and columnists, Kılıcdaroglu was accompanied by CHP Vice-Presidents Faruk Logoglu, Gursel Tekin, Erdogan Toprak and CHP Deputy Group Chairman Akif Hamzacebi, CHP MPs Osman Koruturk, Hursit Guneş, Ali Ozgunduz, Candan Yuceer and businessmen.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu said that his Iraq visit aims to protect Turkey's interests in Iraq and to reinforce stability in the region.
On his first day in Iraq, the CHP leader attended a dinner the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF) hosted in his honor. He also met with Iraqi government officials who attended the dinner. Sheikh Humam Hamoudi, the chairman of the Iraqi parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, and Turhan al-Mufti, the minister of state for provincial affairs, were among officials who took part in the dinner.
Arriving in Bagdad on Tuesday, the CHP delegation was met by Iraqi Justice Minister Hassan al-Shammari. Kılıçdaroğlu and Shammari had a short meeting at the airport, after which they spoke at a joint press briefing.
“A strong Iraq, a developed Iraq, a prosperous Iraq is the assurance of the Middle East. It is our duty to embrace the brotherly Iraqi nation and we are doing this with great honor and enthusiasm. As economic, political and cultural ties with Iraq improve, this will make us happier,” Kılıçdaroğlu told reporters.
“We want to show Turkey's warm face to Iraq,” Kılıçdaroğlu said as he described the reason for his Iraq visit.
Turkey's relations with the Maliki government have deteriorated over accusations from Ankara that the Shiite prime minister is striving to monopolize political power at the expense of Sunnis and other groups. Maliki, in turn, has said Turkey has interfered in Iraqi politics and that it has become a “hostile state” in the region. Tension, which peaked last month in the course of tit-for-tat accusations, has subsided over the past months.
The main opposition party's visit to Iraq was met with concern by the Foreign Ministry, which warned the CHP over security conditions in the conflict-ridden country in a letter sent to the CHP.
Following the letter, the party reduced the size of the delegation after the Foreign Ministry announced that the Turkish Embassy was not big enough to host such a large group. Cutting the number of businessmen and CHP members in the delegation from 100 to around 40, the delegation went to the country with a limited number of members of the press and columnists.
The CHP leader also came under criticism by Iraqi Sunni officials who found his visit “increasingly sectarian.” According to his schedule, Osama bin Abdulaziz al-Nujaifi, the speaker of the Iraqi parliament, is the only Sunni politician Kılıçdaroğlu is expected to have talks with. Iraqi Sunni officials have noted that no request was sent from the delegation to Sunni politicians for talks.