FROM ANCIENT ARAMAIC TO THE CURRENT LANGUAGE OF FEAR:ASSYRIANS IN SYRIA

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NONE WRITES ABOUT THEIR SUFFERING IN SYRIA

NONE TALKS ABOUT THEIR TRAGEDY 

THEY ARE HURT BUT THEY ARE FORGOTTEN:ASSYRIANS/SYRIACS 

“Nobody can tell what I suffer! But it is always so. Those who do not complain are never pitied.”
―Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice 

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We all know to recognize the sound of beautiful Aramaic language. It is so soft and  delicate but also very rich and deep so it produced  later Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, alphabet of Farsi, Urdu and Greek language. The old language with the remarkable  history cant make us indifferent when we think how it was spoken among the first Christians and how it was always considered as a language of God.Through the times, it was modified but it has never lost its rare beauty and just transferred into Western and Eastern dialect. Western is a Palestinian dialect and Eastern is a Syriac dialect.

I was amazed to find the educational website http://www.learnassyrian.com/ which has opened the door of heaven for my curiosity. It was not enough for me to stay on language’s field but to try to  see  what is behind this archaic   language, facing up with the marvelous world of ancient  Assyrians and their modern suffering.

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In the time of the Middle Eastern madness, the tragedy of Assyrians is always somehow replaced with the main stream media explanations which exclude the particular attention to the people who are wounded by war, but rather include  the political curtain what is the best suitable for them. The Assyrians, as well as the Alawites, Yazidis and Druzes as well as all ordinary Syrians, aren’t any exception. They are only one more victim of the wrong chess game  of the global players. Nothing more, nothing less. However, their story is worth of writing and even more, worth of reading.

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Assyrians in Syria present about 4-5% of the whole Syrian population  which is about 500.000-700.000 people but they are different than other  Syrian Christians   from Western, Southern and Central Syria who speak Arabic by themselves. Assyrians are pre-Arabic indigenous people and they follow some kind of Eastern Aramaic language which is now a modern Assyrian language, based on  Akkadian and Aramaic but also adjusted to the demands of modern linguistic demands. It is interesting to mention that, according to their language, they consider themselves as ‘Suraya/Sur(y)oyo’. Most of them are located in the Al-Hasakah Governorate  but also in Qamishli, Malikiyah, Ras al-Ayn, Tell Tamer and in Damascus. They mostly belong to the Assyrian Church of the East, Syriac Ortodox Church and to the Chaldean Catholic Church. Like many other ethnicities and religious groups, Assyrians came to Syria to find a peace in liberal Muslim secular state. They have suffered through the history, especially in the period of  Assyrian Genocide (1914-23)committed by Turkish and Kurdish nationalists who wanted to liberate Turkey from Christian presence so they dealt violently with Assyrians and Armenians. Just 10 years later, it was the Simele Genocide as the first of many massacres made by the Iraqi government during the systematic targeting of Assyrians of Northern Iraq in August 1933. The cruel killing was all over the 63 Assyrian villages and about 3.000 of innocent Christian people were killed then. That was the deepest paradox ever. The people who fled from the anger of Ottoman Empire and the terrible Assyrian Genocide were trapped again in the same punishment, just for being Christians, but in another country. It was like a holding a grudge. Wherever you go, you bring your curse. It seems that Assyrians who found their peace in Syria also were the only one who would say that their position in Syria was safe and tolerated. The regime over there controlled the two worst fears of all Assyrians: Islamism  and Kurdish nationalism. The official Syrian government wasn’t so impressed by strong political identity and ideas of Assyrians but it was always limited. They have freedom but they couldn’t have misused it too much or at least against the government. Now, with the rise of radical Islam and the horror of the Islamic State, Assyrians are lost in the mist. They aren’t so favorable by Assad’s regime so to be always protected, they do not have good relations with aggressive Kurdish national fanatics, and they could definitely not deal with the jaws of  the ISIS’s Islam.

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Assyrians are dealing with so many challenges that I had to find the real person to give me some personal ideas about the current situation and to bring me a bit of Assyrian strong spirit in elaborating the crucial segments of their hard life at this moment, in Syria.Hereby, my guider on this journey into the  souls and hearts of Assyrian people, will be Mr. Robert Oshana, the founder of the above mentioned website for self-study of Aramaic language and one great presenter  of Assyrian heritage and culture because in his veins is the untold story of all Assyrians, his ancestry.

  1. Mr. Oshana, you are Assyrian by yourself, so how could you describe your people?

Assyrians (also know as Chaldeans and Syriacs) are the indigenous people of the Mesopotamian region.  They are one of the first to embrace Christianity and against all odds, have preserved their ancient Syriac (Aramaic) language.    Their liturgy has brought Christianity all the way to Japan and China as you can see with the Nestorian Monument.)  Their contributions to civilization are many.  They are now divided among the modern borders of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran with each trying it’s best to eradicate our existence.Assyrian International News Agency  is where you can find current news on Assyrians.

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2. You started your educational interactive website for learning Aramaic. I assume there are lot of interested people in  discovering this rare and old language. What is so special about Aramaic, from your point of view?

When I was very young, I had little knowledge of the significance of our language.  Mentioning Assyrian or Aramaic to anyone would have to be followed by a five minute history lesson.  Many didn’t show interest, so it felt like you were stigmatized for speaking this weird language that no one knew what it was.  Only scholars of the bible or languages would show interest.  Little by little, through movies like Stigmata and through news agencies mentioning the language because of the atrocities committed by certain groups, awareness grew.  But then one man made an almost lost language into a common household word.  Mel Gibson and The Passion of the Christ.  After that, explanations of the language was no longer a chore.  If gold is more valuable than silver because of it’s rareness, then our language is the diamond of languages.  My goal is to instill pride in our people and to preserve the most important part of our identity.

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3. Why the modern world is so much blind and deaf for ensuring Assyrian identity today?

That has been a question that most vexed Assyrians.  When our churches burned with members locked inside and priests who had their heads cut off, there was silence for over a century.  Even National Geographic for over a century hasn’t mentioned us since it’s inception.  And this is a magazine of anthropology and cultures.  After the war with Iraq, some news agencies picked up our stories when in one year, seventy churches were bombed.  That was harder to ignore along with the current atrocities.  Our loss would have to be very great to be covered in the news.

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4. If we go to the war zone in Syria now, how do you see the position of Assyrians? We always see the suffering of all others but it seems that none really mention Assyrian torment.

Very dire.  There is almost no Assyrian in the world who doesn’t have family in different countries or continents.  Truly we are global citizens of exile.  Children are separated from their parents and wives from their husbands.  Many doors are closed to them and one terrible law of the US is if a Christian is kidnapped and a ransom is paid, otherwise your child will be beheaded, you are automatically unqualified to seek asylum in the states.

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5. I read somewhere that Assyrians in Syria have some kind of ambivalent relation with Assad’s regime. What do you think personally?

The position is on a fulcrum, and the winning side can punish the Assyrians for not supporting them.   Assad respects minorities and has never persecuted Christians for being Christian.  All Assyrians want to live in a secular country.  The Islamic State of Syria is not good for anyone.

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6. What are the political tensions between Assyrians and Kurdish?

Another fulcrum.  They have killed more Christians than anyone except the Turks but do not want to face their past.  They have occupied many of our homes and the same land that has always been historically Assyrian is now Kurdish.  The dark reasons are the genocide.  They also control the funds that is given to the Kurds for the Assyrians by international agencies.  These funds are severally reduced once they reach the Assyrians.  Yet they control our fate since they are the many and we have to live by their rules.

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7. The radical Islam cant bring nothing good to anyone and especially not to Christians. Do you think that Assyrians will stay in Syria or they will leave?

Assimilation in the west is the end of Assyrian culture and language.  Yet in the east, they are being killed and persecuted.   Unfortunately, many if not most of the Assyrians have been purged, first from Turkey, then from Iran, and now from Iraq.  Many are leaving Syria.  If a secular state remains, there is hope for Assyrians.

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8. Which countries are trying to help to your people, if there is any?

Sweden and Australia have bent over backwards to help Assyrians.  Unfortunately, their political correctness in culture and religion has allowed many unwanted people into their countries that will never assimilate.  Assyrians assimilate very well.

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9. I  was also informed  that there are small villages in Syria where old people speak the Aramaic but the new generations have no idea what is that language about. Is that true ?

This is true, as the new generation is seeking education and employment in the cities and abandoning the villages.  There is also assimilation in the east, but not as severe.

10. The last but the most important, could you give me some final conclusion of the future of Assyrians. We all need to help them and to inform about their destinies. The people like you who share views on these issues are welcomed and should be cherished. The more information we have, the more will be ready to fight for our common Christian heritage and the courageous people who hold on their faith in  the scariest times ever.

The future of Assyrians is in the east.   The safety of Assyrians is in the west.  We are in a quagmire that does not look good.   The only way to preserve the Assyrian race is to have protection zones, such as the Plaines of Nineveh in Iraq, overseen by the international community.  Yet the international community doesn’t want to show preferential treatment to Christians, but this community has been persecuted to the brink of extinction.There are specific Assyrian charities such as Assyrian Aid Society and Assyrian Church of the East Relief Organization which bypass the Kurdish government and help Assyrians directly.

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SAVE ASSYRIANS!

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thought on “FROM ANCIENT ARAMAIC TO THE CURRENT LANGUAGE OF FEAR:ASSYRIANS IN SYRIA”

  1. The Assyrians are among at least 6 of the most prominent Kingdoms mentioned in the Bible concerning Israel and also the ‘end times.’ When thinking of the patrisrch’s Abraham, Issac and Jacob along with their wives, their lineage can be traced exactly to Mesopotamia in cities such as Haran. The importance of the kingdoms in eschatology fascinate millions of people worldwide as they seek to uncover when the end times will be and what will happen.

    This comment isn’t going to go through biblical prophecy as far as timelines as much as to expand on some Assyrian history. The prophecy that will be discussed concerns where Assyria falls within the World Emires in both the Prophet Daniel & the Apostle John’s visions. The world empires that must be in order to bring an end of times begins with Israel’s captivity in Egypt. Egypt is then the first empire. Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medio-Persia, Greece, Rome and a revived Roman Empire round out all seven empires. Assyria is famous in that the Kingdom took the 10 northern tribes of Israel into captivity. Babylon conquered Assyria but left it largely in tact as an ally.

    It is best to first state that all people in a nation are not responsible for a minority unless the majority of the people align with a leader who is hateful and vengeful. Assyria has had an up and down history of cruelty toward women where they could be killed if a husband believed her to be unfaithful. Mutilation was common. The extreme means of punishment in ‘ancient’ Assyria almost went without rival. This does not define everyone. Assyria comprised Syria, Turkey, parts of Iraq and part of Iran. Abraham, the father of Isaac and Ishmael, lived in Haran and was from Ur of the Chaldees who were moon god worshippers. The 12 tribes of Israel were also from this same region. Some would erroneously believe the Israelites were always located in the geography they are today but this is untrue. Jacob, of whom he had 12 sons with Rachel, were all originally from Mesopotamia and Jehovah gave Jacob the name ‘Israel’ after Jacob wrestled with the LORD in the night in a dream. Not to confuse geography, Jacob/Israel were not established in a central location until the tabernacle and later first temple were built in Jerusalem.

    Aramaic was the language of Assyria and was known by the patriarchs. It is no wonder part of Pontius Pilate wrote King of the Jews in several languages and one being Aramaic. Jesus being descended from the line of Abraham. Part of the Bible was written in Aramaic.

    This commentary is more of a diverse picture of Assyria trough history to view it from another lens. The author already delivered a smart discourse on issues the Syrian people face. This does not need duplication as it is well done. What I seek to do is provide information to support and give alternative viewpoints that readers may be unaware of. By doing so, the author’s discourse and mine can better inform the reader.

    Nineveh was the Capitol of Assyria and famously known by those who know the story of the Prophet Jonah who God sent to give a message to the people of Ninevah. Jonah tried every avenue to avoid going to Ninevah because its reputation was well established as gruesome and evil. As fate would have it, Jonah did go to Ninevah and when he preached repentance, the Assyrian King decreed all his subjects to fast and go about in sack cloth and ashes demonstrating humility and admission of guilt. Because of this, the destruction prophesied did not happen to Assyria during that King’s reign much to the dismay of Jonah who went out of the city and sat under a tree and watched to see the fires of God destroy Ninevah. This was an example of how even an evil person can change their heart and move many people to do the same for good. Assyria would be conquered by Babylon at a later date.

    The kings of Assyria are note worthy and I took from an online website to post a list of those Kings and their deeds in order of their reign.

    Ancient Assyrian Kings
    Assur-nasirpal II (885-860 B.C.) A cruel warrior king, he made Assyria into the most fierce fighting machine of ancient world.

    Shalmaneser III (860-825 B.C.) His reign was marked by almost constant war. He was the first Assyrian king to come into conflict with Israel. King Ahab fought against him, and king Jehu paid him tribute in 841 BC. His royal inscriptions were more detailed and more numerous than any other king. His building works were massive just like his father Assurnasirpal II. See Shalmaneser.

    Shamsi-Adad V (825-808 B.C.) Most of his reign was focused on Babylonia and his own internal conflicts.

    Adad-nirari III (808-783 B.C.) The little information about his reign mentions his building projects at Calah and Nineveh, as well as a conflict at Der in Babylonia and collecting tribute in Damascus, Syria.

    Shalmaneser IV (783-771 B.C.) The limited knowledge of his reign reveal some conflicts in Damascus and a period of decline in Assyria.

    Assur-dayan III (771-753 B.C.) The little information about this ruler reveals Assyria being in a period of decline.

    Assur-nirari V (753-747 B.C.) There is very little information about his reign. The king of Urartu boasted of a victory over this king of Assyria in an inscription.

    Tiglath-pileser III (Pul) (747-727 B.C.) He restored Assyria to a major world power. He is the “Pul” mentioned in the Bible and the one who began to destroy Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. He carried many away into captivity. This captivity is mentioned in his own inscriptions, the Babylonian Chronicle, and the Bible.

    Shalmaneser V (727-722 B.C.) He besieged Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. He died during the siege after imposing taxation on the holy city (Asshur), and his son Sargon came to power.

    Sargon II (722-705 B.C.) He completed the destruction of Samaria and the captivity of Israel. He was also famous for his magnificent palace with his colossal winged guardians.

    Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.) He was the most famous of the Assyrian kings. He mentions the name of Hezekiah on his prism during his war campaigns, he claimed to have “Hezekiah captured in his own royal city (Jerusalem) like a caged bird.” His army was defeated at the gates of Jerusalem by the Angel of the Lord. Sennacherib returned back to Nineveh and was killed violently by his own son, as mentioned in the Babylonian Chronicle, The Bible, and various other inscriptions. He also conquered Babylon.

    Esar-haddon (681-668 B.C.) He rebuilt Babylon, invaded and conquered Egypt by crossing over the Sinai Desert with Arab camels carrying water for his army, and was one of Assyria’s greatest kings. He died fighting Egypt.

    Assur-banipal (668-626 B.C.) He destroyed the Thebes in Egypt and collected a great library, innumerable clay tablets were found.

    Assur-etil-ilani (626-607 B.C.) It was under his reign that the Assyrian Empire fell.

    Moving on it is true the culture and language of the Syrian people would be lost if they relocate away from their homelands and assimilate. It is an inevitable conclusion to any people who either choose or are forced to migrate. No one should lose their culture and language. It’s what makes people groups unique. The fighting in Syria is hopefully going to resolve with Russia leaving for good and the Syrians choosing their own destiny. They don’t need anyone telling them how to live.

    In conclusion, Assyria has a rich history and down through Mesopotamia there is the cradle of civilization. For this reason and the reason all people have a right to stay located on their land of origin by choice and in safety. We should safeguard the cradle of civilization by asking what Syria needs and not assuming. The history is replete with many cruel kings and also good came out of the area. If all people in a country of a bad leader are evil or leaders are good or bad and everyone is an individual and should be judged on individual merit.

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