Rosie Malek-Yonan Goes to Washington
On Friday, June 30th, 2006, Ms. Rosie Malek-Yonan made a U.S. Congresswoman cry.
In the last 30 years of the Assyrian nationalist movement, little has been written or said that has moved the hearts of non-Assyrians. Rather than the usual dry, fact-filled speeches made by Assyrians in Diaspora pleading the case for the helpless Assyrians in the homeland, Ms. Malek-Yonan moved an entire room…and one Congresswoman to tears…with her words.
On the morning of June 30th, Ms. Malek-Yonan gave a powerful, riveting, emotional testimony before the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations – a Subcommittee of the House Committee on International Relations. The topic of discussion was the survival of religious pluralism. Chairman Christopher Smith (NJ) introduced Ms. Malek-Yonan as the author of “The Crimson Field”, based on the real events of the Assyrian genocide of 1914-1918.
Ms. Malek-Yonan had the unique distinction of not being affiliated with any Assyrian political or civic organization. In her comprehensive account of human rights violations currently being committed against Iraqi Assyrians by Islamist Kurds and Arabs, she pulled together and discussed – in one 25 minute speech – the Assyrian genocide of 1914-1918, the 1933 Semele massacre, religious persecution and ethnic cleansing (supported by U.S. dollars being spent on the Kurdish government that is promulgating these attacks), Kurdish sponsored voter fraud in the 2005 elections, and the inherent contradiction between promoting democracy in adherence with “Islamic law” in Iraq, making the Iraq a dangerous place to live for Assyrians, who are Christians.
Put simply, Ms. Malek-Yonan dared to say what most simply won’t, for fear of retaliation against the Assyrians in the homeland, or sounding “too harsh” or “undiplomatic”.
The room had a large audience of Congressional staffers, people representing various NGOs, and the general public, and while all those who testified before the committee had compelling stories of religious persecution, Ms. Malek-Yonan took the issue of Assyrian a step further: She did not argue that Christians in Iraq were being persecuted and marginalized – she made it clear that Assyrians were being eradicated, ethnically and culturally cleansed, and were being wiped off the map.
And the world, for some mysterious reason, is completely ignoring it.
In no uncertain terms, Ms. Malek-Yonan exclaimed that the 2003 “liberation” of Iraq has become the “oppression” of the Assyrians – particularly in the Kurdish north. What little aid, she said, that has been earmarked for Assyrians is being funneled through the Kurdish authorities, used only to build up Kurdish villages. As a token gesture to proclaim “pluralist democracy” to their current Western allies – they build a few Assyrian churches to show, on paper, that money is indeed being spent on Assyrians, while in reality the Assyrian people themselves are left homeless, hungry, without water, sanitation, proper health facilities and personal security.
Ms. Malek-Yonan stressed that this recent mass exodus of Assyrians happened, among other reasons, due to the failure of securing a safe haven for the Assyrian population after coalition forces removed Saddam – whereas the Kurds had a place to go, and now are in a position to flood once-Assyrian villages with Kurds in order to claim population majorities in the North.
Her straightforward testimony made it clear that ethnic cleansing was happening under the watch of the U.S. presence, with U.S. tax dollars, while the Western media is silent on the matter. The Kurdish authorities and Islamists – Kurd and Arab – have free reign to do as they please in the chaotic Iraq, with the inhuman, barbaric crimes against Assyrian going undocumented and unnoticed.
Ms. Malek-Yonan asserted the inherent contradiction in the Iraqi Constitution – Articles 2(A) and 2(B) claim that no law shall be passed that is in contradiction with democratic law, nor shall any law be passed in contradiction with Sharia law. This, she argued, is mutually exclusive. She quoted two Qu’ranic passages that dictate “He that chooses a religion over Islam, it will not be accepted from him and in the world to come he will be one of the lost” and to “slay [infidels] wherever you find them…Idolatry is worse than carnage”, as examples from Islamic theology supporting ethnic cleansing of infidels, and therefore, Assyrians.
It has become commonplace for Assyrians and non-Assyrians to plead the case of the Assyrians to the world by declaring we are the “indigenous Christians of Iraq”, believing that this can garner more support and sympathy from the West than saying “Assyrians” of Iraq. But during the question and answer session after her speech, Ms. Malek-Yonan made it quite clear – “(When the media refers to Assyrians in Iraq…) they say ‘Christians of Iraq’. We are not Iraqi Christians. We have a name. We need to be called by our name, not just generic Christians. We are Assyrian, and we want to be recognized for who we are.”
The lack of understanding as to what is truly happening to Assyrians in Iraq was revealed in a simple question asked by Congressman Smith; referring to a young Assyrian boy who was kidnapped and killed by Kurds, he asked, innocently, “Has there been an investigation launched (in Iraq) regarding this incident?”
Ms. Malek-Yonan’s testimony lasted almost half an hour, as she shocked the room with details regarding the state of Assyrians in their homeland, Western apathy, lack of media attention, and direct and indirect U.S. policy that supports the Kurdish regime committing gross crimes against humanity. She beseeched the U.S. lawmakers to give aid directly to the Assyrians, and not through an interim like the Kurdish authorities. She implored them to begin to take responsibility for the slow genocide happening under U.S. supervision. She expressed, quite candidly, that the so-called “democratic” Iraq is just that – “democratic” by name only.
She truly garnered the attention of the room in her closing paragraph:
“On 9/11 America experienced a reasonably small example of Islamic terrorism as compared to that with which Christians of the Middle East are familiar. The world watched in horror as we, the citizens of this great nation, mourned our loss. And the world mourned with us. How shameful it would have been if the tragedy of 9/11 had gone unnoticed. How shameful it is that the tragedy of the Assyrian genocide of the last century went unnoticed. How shameful it is that the current Assyrian massacres are going unnoticed”.
And it’s true – while the West is trying to figure out how to leave Iraq, and Assyrians in Diaspora are bickering about politics and official names – history is repeating itself in Iraq – and no one is noticing.
~ by Waleeta Canon, Zinda Magazine. Washington DC