(AINA) — Yesterday ISIS destroyed the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, a city dating back to 1400 B.C. and was one of the capitals of Assyria. A week before that ISIS destroyed the Museum of Mosul, which contained priceless Assyrian artifacts. A week before that ISIS attacked 35 Assyrian villages in Khabur Syria, driving 3,000 Assyrians away, never to return. 6 months before that ISIS drove 200,000 Assyrians out of their homes in the Nineveh Plain in north Iraq, and they still have not returned, and most likely never will.
As they were being released, ISIS told the Assyrians from Syria to never return to their villages, else they would be killed. They are in Hasaka with only the clothes on their backs, all of their possessions lost forever, unreachable in their ISIS occupied village.
But the destruction of ancient Assyrian cities and artifacts in Iraq and Syria is the most devastating — because of its symbolism. In destroying Assyrian archaeological and historical sites, ISIS is striking at the very root of Assyrian civilization, erasing all traces of their heritage and extirpating them from their lands.
Renya Benjamin, an Assyrian woman from Hamilton, Canada, visited Nimrud in 2012. Upon hearing about the destruction of this irreplaceable world cultural heritage site, the city of her ancestors, she said:
Nimrud, Assyria. My favourite place in the world was destroyed by ISIS today. I will forever be thankful to the Assyrians of Baghdede [Qaraqosh] for taking me to visit this majestic place in 2012. And I will forever be devastated in knowing that my children will never experience the same pride I felt walking on the cuneiform etched tiled floor and touching the majestic Lamassu that my king once touched, 3000 years ago.
According to Renya, during her visit one of the local Arab tribal men who was a guard told her how happy he was that she came, as these were her ancestral artifacts. The men from the same tribe protected the site during the fall of Saddam when looters tried to access it.
Robert DeKelaita, an Assyrian immigration attorney in Chicago, said:
The responsibility for what has happened to the archeological treasures of Assyria, of Iraq and of the world really, lies with the ‘great’ nations that advocate human rights and democracy, and only slightly with savages who have no knowledge of civilization or history or science. The standard we should hold the great nations with is much greater than the standard with we hold the savages; barbarians who cannot see the destruction they have caused others is their own destruction.
The Assyrian people today are stronger and more united. Where their ancient manuscripts have been burned, they have taken their ancient language to the internet, allowing it a greater chance at immortality. Where their ancient artifacts, those great winged bulls and the walls of Nineveh, have been destroyed, they have reached deeper into their history and are much more determined to establish, before themselves and the world, a greater continuity with Nineveh and Irbil and Nimrud. And the atrocities committed against them, through the intentional acts of savages, and the negligence of the West, will one day be the subject of proper condemnation and judgment. As stated in Mathew, 12:41, The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it…”
Afram Barryakoub, the president of the Assyrian Federation of Sweden, said:
The Assyrian nation has gone through many difficult times, we have been subjected to genocide, massacres and all forms of oppression. The destruction of Assyrian artifacts and the ancient city of Nimrod will leave yet another scar in the Assyrian national soul. But we remain determined and we will be victorious in the end.
Dr. Nicholas Al-Jeloo, an Assyrian from Australia, associate of the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne and an affiliate with the Syriac Language Research Centre at Whitley College, said:
As we sit and watch from our computer and TV screens in the West, the final strongholds of Assyrian culture and national existence in their Mesopotamian homeland are falling one by one at the hands of fundamentalist extremists and religious fascists. The Nineveh Plain and now Khabur have collapsed, leaving behind thousands of refugees. With the dispersal of these refugees in the Diaspora and their inevitable assimilation into host cultures, the world will lose part of its intangible heritage — their unique language and culture. This humanitarian disaster has additionally been coupled with the destruction of tangible cultural assets — among them ancient sites, works of art, manuscripts, churches and archaeological artifacts that belong not just to Assyrians, Iraqis and Syrians, but to the entire world.
The Assyrians are not just being persecuted but are facing total extinction on all fronts. Preventing this is now in the hands of governments and citizens across the world. No tradition or religion is worth the extinction of an entire ethnicity, and no criminal gang should be allowed to destroy any part of what is essentially the world’s cultural heritage and historical legacy. I am sure that there are millions of people who would share this conviction — the right of Assyrians to survive as a distinct ethnicity. If we can unite on this principle across cultures and continents, ours can be the generation that chooses to maintain the beauty of the world’s cultural and religious diversity, that changes attitudes towards minorities irrevocably and that stands between the endangered Assyrians and their extinction.
Assyrian leaders have raised the alarm over the the disappearance of Assyrians from the Middle East, a land which they have inhabited since 4750 B.C.
In a speech (AINA 2015-03-05) delivered in Paris, Joseph Yacoub, honorary Professor of Political Science at the Catholic University of Lyon, said:
With the destruction of historical monuments that date back more than 3000 years of history and the demolition of churches and sanctuaries by a band of nihilist obscurantists, the memory of a people and traces of a civilization, Mesopotamia, one of the cradles of humanity, that holds a tangible and intangible world heritage, is being erased.
The Assyrian Universal Alliance, a global Assyrian umbrella organization, called for international intervention tp protect the Assyrians following the latest ISIS attacks on Assyrians in Syria (AINA 2015-03-05).
©Assyrian International News Agency.