“The Christians are Leaving” by Salim Abraham

Assyrians, the indigenous people of the Middle East, leave home

On a sizzling summer afternoon in 1974, my mother was trailing behind me, running hastily home to escape one of the stone battles that raged between neighbourhoods in Syria’s northeastern city of Qamishli.

Once we crossed the sand bridge that separated the Assyrian quarter from the rest of the city, we were out of the slingshots’ range.

This one was the last battle youngsters from the Assyrian quarter fought against Khanika, a neighboring Kurdish quarter, as the government soon tightened its policing of neighbourhoods.

The weapons in the battle were giant slingshots (called stone canons) and ghee can lids; the ammunition was stones. It was like a real war with trenches dug along the frontlines of the fighting neighbourhoods.

At the time, I was seven years old. I didn't understand what was going on; why such wars broke out. The only thing my mother told me was: "It's a fight between us and the Kurds."

I don’t remember the logic behind those fights and how they were planned or started. But I do recall that the Assyrian quarter was vibrant and buzzing with life and robust youngsters ready to defend it and shut it off to intruders.

See who the people in this photo are, here

“It was the most active period of my life,” recalls Ashour Ileya, 47, an Assyrian plumber who lives in the Assyrian quarter. “It was like we were doing something big, like defending our community.”

Then, more than 400 Assyrian Christian families lived in the neighbourhood’s mud houses, which sprawl into the eastern part of the city. Now, only 30 Assyrian families live there and only two churches are still standing.

Almost all Ileya’s friends and most of his relatives have left for the U.S and Europe. He is waiting for his American visa to be issued as well.

The overall population of Qamishli was around 90,000 in the mid 1970s, according to official statistics. Assyrians were estimated to represent more than half the city’s population. Today, Christian Assyrians represent slightly more than 20% of the city’s 300,000 people.

The country’s Assyrians are concentrated in the al-Jazeera region, about 400 miles northeast of Damascus. The region, the largest among Syria’s 14 provinces, includes Hasaka, al-Malikeya and Qamishli. They also exist in Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and Iran in varying numbers.

The Assyrians once dominated the Middle East. In the seventh century B.C, their empire stretched from today’s Iraq through southern Turkey to the Mediterranean. They were among the first converts to Christianity and are divided into several churches, including the Catholic Chaldean, the Syriac Orthodox and Catholic and the Church of the East.

The Christian exodus from the Middle East came to light after the news of Iraqi Assyrians escaping the violence in their war-torn country following Saddam Hussein’s fall in 2003 made it onto the international news agenda. Almost half their population fled Iraq, leaving behind only around 700,000.

But the Arab leaders remained silent to their plight. The most recent Arab summit in Damascus, in March 2008, took no notice of their dilemma. The final communiqué did not make any mention of the plight of either the Assyrians or the Arab Christians despite growing evidence that their very existence in the Middle East is targeted.

In Lebanon, once a majority Christian country, Christians represent only 34% of its population of four million people, according to the World Christian Database. The database, which bases its work on church estimates, says Arab Christians’ percentage in the Palestinian territories has also dropped from 5.3% in 1970 to 2.5% of 3.7 million Palestinians today.

In Jordan, a country of 5.4 million people, the Christian population dropped from 5% in 1970s to about 3% now, according to a U.S State Department report. But, in Egypt, the number of Copts – Egyptian Christians – range from 5.6 million, according to Egyptian government estimates, to 11 million people, according to Coptic Church estimates. Nonetheless, they complain of discrimination in the most populated Arab country of 80 million people. One example of this is that the government still restricts the building of churches in Egypt.

The Christian flight from Syria occurred in part for economic reasons. In the mid-1980s, the U.S and the European nations imposed crippling 12-year-long economic sanctions on the country after a British court accused Syrian officials of being involved in an attempt to plant a bomb aboard an Israeli El Al plane. Syrians stood in long lines in front of government-run retail stores to get bread, vegetables, fruits and even napkins and grease. At the time, the Assyrian quarter was changing face. The stream of water that used to flow from Jagjag, the river which splits Qamishli into two parts, ran permanently dry. And the neighbourhood’s Assyrian population was dwindling, too. It was losing a few families to the West each year, where they hoped to find a more prosperous life. Many of them were selling their homes to pay smugglers to get them out of the country. Yet, the neighbourhood still kept its livelihood, with about 250 families living there and a football team named after Faris al-Khouri, the only Christian prime minister in Syria’s history who held the post for one year until October 1945.

But gloomier days for the Assyrians of Syria were yet to unravel. In October 1986, 22 members of the Assyrian Democratic Organisation – founded in 1957 in Qamishli to promote Assyrian rights in Syria – were arrested for opposing the government’s official policy of Arabisation. They were released after six months in detention.

The clampdown prompted many more Assyrians to leave the country. A former ADO official, wishing to remain anonymous and now living in Canada, who was detained during the crackdown on his party’s leadership, said: “The impact was immense on us. We were tortured physically and psychologically. I was a pioneer against our people’s immigration from the country. The detention experience has turned me into immigration promoter.”

An agricultural engineer, he owned a vast farm with hundreds of trees, apple, apricot and vine, in a village thriving on the banks of Khabour River, several miles northwest of Hasaka city. He blagged his way out of the country only months after he was released in 1987.

Had he stayed, he would have been turned into an informant for the security apparatus, the Mukhabarat, he said.

In Syria, freedom of worship is maintained and Syriac, the language of Assyrians believed to have been spoken by Jesus Christ, is allowed to be taught in church schools. Yet, the government does not recognize their ethnic identity as Assyrians. It refers to them only as Christian Arabs.

The Assyrians exodus from the entire Middle East also has psychological reasons deeply rooted in history. Their communities in the Middle East have been oppressed by rulers in both the distant and recent past.

In 1914, the Ottomans slaughtered about 1.5 million Armenians, 750,000 Assyrians and 350,000 Pontiac Greeks and drove hundreds of thousands of Christians out of their homelands. The religious and ethnic tensions in the predominantly Muslim region continued for decades.

In 1933, the massacre of 3,000 Assyrians at the hands of the then-Iraqi government in Simile, a small Assyrian town near Mosul, prompted the displacement of about 34,000. Colonel Bakker Sedqi, a Kurd, led the campaign.

Survivors of those massacres helped build Qamishli and Hasaka in 1925 and about 36 villages, purely ethnic Assyrian, along the Khabour River, in 1936.

As I grew older, I learned that those stone battles witnessed as a seven-year-old, between the Assyrian quarter and Khanika, were a reflection of old grudges. Assyrians have suffered throughout history at the hands of Kurds, as well as Turks, Iranians and, sometimes, Arabs.

But the construction of Qamishli marked the end of their suffering. It became a safe heaven for them and a place to maintain their culture and way of life.

However, government policies of Arabisation and discrimination against ethnic minorities, including Kurds, as well as economic crises are pushing these minorities – especially Assyrians – to abandon their homes they built brick by brick.

Looking at the four-story building rising above his home with new inhabitants, Ileya, the plumber, wondered why his community has dwindled so quickly.

“Nothing is left for us,” Ileya has said over a glass of beer in his home in the Assyrian quarter, “not even those stones we fought with.”  

Comments (121)

EHSANI2 said:

“In Syria, freedom of worship is maintained and Syriac, the language of Assyrians believed to have been spoken by Jesus Christ, is allowed to be taught in church schools. Yet, the government does not recognize their ethnic identity as Assyrians. It refers to them only as Christian Arabs.”

Dr. Landis,

Armenians are allowed to teach their language in their own schools (don’t have to be out of a church). They are also allowed to print their own newspapers in their native language. The reason of course is because Armenians are a foreign ethnic group. They are referred to in Arabic as “Qawmiyya Muhajjara”. They have no claim to the land. This is not the case for the Assyrians. Please note the similarity between the name and Syria the country.

July 15th, 2008, 10:58 pm


ugarit said:

What’s the difference between Siryani and Ashuri?

July 15th, 2008, 11:03 pm


EHSANI2 said:


“Siryani” is traditionally used to refer to those who embraced Christianity in its fuller form.

July 15th, 2008, 11:10 pm


Karim said:

Ehsani what do you mean by fuller ?

Ugarit ,Al Seryan is synonym of Aramaic and their historic and cultural center was north Syria and South Turkey ,especially Haran,Edessa/Ar Ruha/Urfa and the region called Tur Abidin north of Qamishli/Nusaybin ,the maronites are also of aramaic origin,the aramaics were not united and we had several kingdoms ,for example Damascus was an aramaic kingdom,the jews still call Aleppo Aram tzoba/tzova ,it was the great maronite patriarch Estephan al Duwaihy of Ehden who arabized the maronite liturgy and who founded the famous maronite school in Aleppo ,one of its famous professors was Al Mutran Farhat Germanos al Halabi(17-18th century) ,one of the most important arab intellectual in the ottoman era,the Assyrians are close but other people,they have their own church ,and their culturel center and political capital were located in north Iraq ,the region of Mosul ,Assur and Ninive/Ninawa but these cities were founded earlier by the Akkadians(the center was Akkad,from center and south Iraq ,most famous king was Sargon) or even the Sumerians.(who founded also Mari in Syria).All of these people are semitic and were originally beduins from the syrian desert and arabic peninsula excluding the Sumerians whose origins still unknown.

July 15th, 2008, 11:34 pm


Karim said:

Ehsani and more surprising according to the historians of Aleppo Jean Sauvaget(Alep 1943) and Sheikh Kamil Al Ghazzi(1930’s) ,some neighborhoods of Aleppo have preserved their aramaic names like Al Jalum ,Farafra and Bahsita.Aleppo was a holy city during the Aramaic era ,a German team has recently discovered the famous temple of the aramean God Hadad in the citadel.

July 16th, 2008, 12:16 am


Majhool said:

“The Assyrians once dominated the Middle East. In the seventh century B.C, their empire stretched from today’s Iraq through southern Turkey to the Mediterranean. They were among the first converts to Christianity and are divided into several churches, including the Catholic Chaldean, the Syriac Orthodox and Catholic and the Church of the East

This is not accurate.

Not all Syriacs are originally ethnically Assyrian.. Assyrian (Church) is a different brand of Syriac (Church) for those who are ethnically Assyrian.

July 16th, 2008, 12:19 am


Joshua said:

And to get back to your original point, Ehsani, the temple of Haddad, which Karim mentions was recently discovered in excavation of the citadel, has caused confusion. There are some beautiful frescoes, I believe. A cultural battle immediately began when it was discovered over how much attention was to be focused on the Christian era citadel as opposed to the Muslim era layers.

In 2005, when I was living in Damascus, a friend was working on the excavation and there was considerable debate among the ministries and the foreign excavators over how much of a big deal to make over the new discovery precisely because the Assyrians are not a Qawmiyya Muhajjara.

July 16th, 2008, 1:06 am


Joshua said:

Here is an email that Salim Abraham sent to me some time ago on the subject of Assyrian versus Syriani.

Just one thing to clarify… Syrianis or Syriac is the orthodox branch of the Assyrian people. They are often called Jacobites after Jacob Bardeuos who founded the sect in the fourth century AD. 90% of The members of the biggest Assyrian party in Syria, namely, Assyrian Democratic Organiztion, are affiliated to the Syriac Orthodox Church.

Syriani is just a transliteration of the Greek word Assyriani which means Ashori. In our language, Syriac, we call ourselves with the same name (Soraya or Soroyo). Herodotus, the father of history, is a great reference to clarify this point. And the name Syria is directly derived from the name Assyria. It’s all the Greek’s fault they don’t have a Sh in their language.

Cheers, Salim

July 16th, 2008, 1:14 am


norman said:

Karim ,

I did not know that you know about the Syrian orthodox more than i do .

The Armenian have a country called Armenia while the Christian Arabs live in their country and that is Syria and Iraq.

I think that Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox is from Iraq.

July 16th, 2008, 1:20 am


norman said:


I do not know where Salim got his info , we are Syrian orthodox originally according to my father from Mar-dine but lived in Ha-ma / Syria , We are not Assyrian , My dad read and wrote Aramaic , he used to be able to read Assyrian but did not understand it , I do not think that the Assyrians and the Surianis are the same ,

July 16th, 2008, 1:27 am


Majhool said:

With all due respect, Salim is mistaken. One of my best freinds is syriac yet he is an 100% arab from Sadad.

It’s confusing I admit.

Most Syrian Christians (Greek Orthodox and Greek Catthic) were Syriacs at some point in time. They were arameans and arabs.

Assyria (The empire) was arround even before The Arameans. Arameans come later and “Aramized” the entire region.

July 16th, 2008, 1:38 am


Karim said:

Norman you tought that i was mixing between between Armenian and Aramaic (Oromoyo/Suryoyo) that’s why i prefer to write it aramaic instead of aramean as i did for God Hadad as for the current patriarch Zaka Iwas of the Syrian orthodox church he is originally from Iraq yes.And the patriarchal seat is in Damascus and in the new monastry in Seydnaya but Syria was not the seat of the Syrian patriarchate it’s in fact recent history,it was transferred from Tur Abdin to Homs then to Damascus in the late 1950’s.

July 16th, 2008, 1:41 am


Karim said:

Norman and Majhool ,i tend to agree with you that syrians and assyrians are differents in dialect,culture,architecture,organization of the state,geographical location …and this is historicaly obvious …but they are close and the link between them is possible.as noticed in the mail of Salim Abraham,but there are also other theories .

July 16th, 2008, 1:48 am


ugarit said:

Aren’t we mixing language with ethnicity? Aramaic is a language. Anyone can speak it and write it. The Arab Nabateans wrote in Aramaic but they were still Arab. Or did they just use the Aramaic alphabet?

BTW, here’s a very interesting book which I recommend

Ghassan Resurrected

July 16th, 2008, 1:58 am


Karim said:

Norman; do u know the Maamarbachi family ,they were also originally from the beautiful city of MArdin but they became one of the leading families in Aleppo.They have lost all after this cursed baath coup in 1963.

July 16th, 2008, 2:00 am


ugarit said:

Dr. Landis:

It would be great if Mr. Abraham wrote an article about the term Siryani/Ashuri/Arami, etc and how they are related or not.

July 16th, 2008, 2:02 am


EHSANI2 said:

I believe that the followers of Yacoub Bradii became Ashuris while those in the main stream were Suryanis.

July 16th, 2008, 2:07 am


Majhool said:

“Syriac, the language of Assyrians believed to have been spoken by Jesus Christ”

This is also not accurate. Syriac is western Arameaic, Jesus spoke Eastern Aramiac (ma3lola language) which is different.

Most syrians are Arab/eastern Aramiac mix. and since Assyrians are western Aramiac, Iraqis are arab/western Aramiac mix.

July 16th, 2008, 2:12 am


norman said:

Ehsani ,
You are right,please look at this web site.


July 16th, 2008, 12:52 pm


ugarit said:


You’re mixing language with ethnicity. Aramaic is a language and not a people. I think you meant to say Aramaean.

July 16th, 2008, 1:59 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:

Wow this is damn confusing.

A lot of Assyrians live in Holland and i spoke to a few who consider themselves Assyrian and they call their language Syriac. I know wikipedia is not always a good source but i found those three pages useful. Note the differentiation between old and the Assyrian language which is called neo-aramic or Syriac.

Also please dont confuse Syrian Orthodox with Assyrians, see most Assyrians are orthodox but NOT all orthodox are Assyrians.




July 16th, 2008, 3:30 pm


norman said:

Print | Close this window

Syria’s Assad steals show at Paris summit
Sun Jul 13, 2008 9:27am EDT
By Samia Nakhoul – Analysis

PARIS (Reuters) – It seems only yesterday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was persona non grata in the West.

But Assad was the star of the international show this weekend, invited by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to attend a Euro-Mediterranean summit in Paris with 40 other leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and even to stay on for Bastille Day, a rare mark of French distinction.

Sarkozy showered Assad with praise for helping resolve Lebanon’s political crisis for now, a policy that in any case was to Syria’s advantage, and for starting indirect peace talks with Israel.

The French president also sought Assad’s help in using his good relations with Iran to resolve the stand-off over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, and with Palestinian Hamas militants to secure the release of a captured Israeli soldier in Gaza.

So are things finally looking up for Syria?

“This is a real win-win for Syria,” said one EU diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Syria was the only country in the region with whom the EU didn’t have a partnership agreement — and now it is the one that gets the special treatment.”

On the international scene, the Assad regime had broken out of its isolation, three years after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, which many believe was orchestrated from Damascus. Syria denies any involvement.

Mass demonstrations in response to the killing, combined with French and U.S. pressure, forced Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon after 29 years. Damascus has since shown it can play the spoiler in Beirut without a military presence.

A Qatari-brokered deal that ended the Beirut crisis in May brought Syria back into Lebanon’s political fray, entrenching its allies, led by the Shi’ite group Hezbollah, and giving them veto power in the new government.

On a domestic level, Assad’s autocratic regime is being legitimized by the West despite its crackdown on dissidents.


“The Syrians are trying to have the best of both worlds,” said Philip Robbins, a Middle East expert at Oxford University.

“On the one hand there is no sign they are severing their relations with Iran, Hamas or Hezbollah, and on the other hand they have been quite successful in improving their relationship with the French and Western countries.

“Three years ago Bashar was embattled … he and the family came really under pressure after Hariri’s killing. Now their position has improved,” Robbins said.

More importantly, analysts say, the U.N. tribunal that could prosecute elements of the Syrian leadership its investigators identified as responsible for Hariri’s assassination has been made to look irrelevant.

“It’s a non-subject in French-Syrian relations,” a French official said. “France has nothing to say on the subject — it is the international community through the Security Council that has taken this matter in hand.”

European officials dismissed criticism that Europe has upgraded Assad from pariah status without securing a real change in behavior.

“Syria has been helpful on some of the issues … particularly on Lebanon. Also there are Syrian-Israeli negotiations, so there is some movement,” EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said.

“If the Israelis have decided to talk to the Syrians, we have no cause to shun them, despite the past and certain unacceptable acts that, believe me, I haven’t forgotten,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told Le Parisien daily.

A senior official in Sarkozy’s office added: “The head of Hamas lives in Damascus. To think we can do anything without including the Syrians is to not want to do something.”

While some of the reasons for the thaw in Syrian-Western relations may be obvious, regional analysts suspect there may be other unspoken motivations.

In the background lies the February assassination in Damascus of Imad Moughniyah, the master of Hezbollah’s security network and a prized agent of Iran.

The bomb that ripped through his car and killed this most secret operative — top of the U.S. most wanted list for 25 years before Osama bin Laden emerged as the enemy of Washington — was placed in a high security area of Damascus.

Moughniyah — implicated in hijacking a U.S. airliner, in attacks on U.S., French and Israeli embassies, and in the abduction of Westerners in Lebanon in the 1980s — had been underground for two decades, moving mainly between Beirut, Damascus and Tehran. His whereabouts were kept secret even from top Hezbollah officials.

Whoever did it — and most fingers pointed towards Israel — is widely believed to have had top-level inside help.

Although they do not know whether Syria was complicit in the Moughniyah murder, some analysts believe he could have been a way for Syria to ingratiate itself with the West.

“There are many unanswered questions about the killing of Moughniyah. It is difficult to know what did happen. Unless we know, there will be speculation and hypothesis,” Robbins said.

“His (killing) may have built some confidence but there are big strategic issues at stake — peace in the region, the future of Lebanon and the role of Hezbollah and the Iranian posture.”

(Additional reporting by Mark John, Paul Taylor, Crispian Balmer and Francois Murphy in Paris; Editing by Paul Taylor and Caroline Drees)

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July 16th, 2008, 3:47 pm


Alex said:

Here is some background from http://www.mideastimage.com

Assyrian Christians from lake urmia in north eastern Persia in their traditional costumes. Women’s costumes resemble tibetan and mangolian costumes. The Assyrian church (Nestorian) was very active in Evangelizing India, China, Tibet, and central Asia.
The region around lake Urmia was the center of the Mangolian khannate Dynasty established by Hulagu the grand son of Jenkiz Khan until the 14th century.


The Patriarch of the Assyrian Church,Mar Benjamin Shimon photographed by a visiting English Missionary, ca.1904-1905, riding outside his residence in the remote and unaccessible village of Qudshanis in the moutainous Hakari region in south east Turkey. His iconoclastic Church has been called at different times, the Nestorian, the Assyrian, the Chaldean, the Eastern Syrian, and the Persian Church. The church was named after the Bishop of Antioch in Syria (Nestorius), who was elected the Patriarch of Constantinople (served from A.D.428-431), to be condemend and exiled to the Libyan desert at the Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431, instigated by Cyril the bishop of Alexandria, for refusing to acknowledge the title of ” Mary the Mother of God’.

Post-card,of wool merchant[Armenian], with a European trader, and the staff.The wool bales are stamped in french with the word Urfa for export.. Urfa[Edessa, Urhai, al-Raha] north of Syria,now in southern Turkey, was part of the Aleppo Vila’yet [Ottoman province]. Urfa’s history overshadows Aleppo’s,inhabited at least since the fourth millennium B.C.,perhaps related to Ur,or Uruk in southern Mesopotamia. Ibraham,settled in the near-by Harran[Center of the Moon and Sun worship],Seleucs Nicator re-named it Edessa in 303 B.C.,the old name of Urfa was re-established following the Moslem era in the seventh century,the Crusader re-named it Edessa during their brief occupation.Urfa was the center of Semitic Culture,and civilization for all the Middle East,wedged between the Greek/Romans and the Persians,with its semitic line of Kings. Urfa,s schools had the most influence on the early Christian doctrines, [ Gnostic, Nestorian Assyrians,Monophysite Syriacs].The large Armenian and Syriac communities, re-settled in Aleppo in the 1920’s.

An original painting form 1779 part of a series showing religious types from the Middle East. Assyrian Mar Elias Nestorian Bishop.

A postcard by the Cappucin mission in Mesopotemia of two Chaldean men from the villages surrounding the town of Mardin in South East Turkey, along the Syrian border. Chaldean Christians recognize the Pope as the head of the Universal Church. They split from the Assyrian (Nestorian) Church in the sixteenth century. Chaldean Christians are found in largest concentrations in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the United States (Detroit), Europe, and Australia. The head of the Church, the Patriarch, resides in Baghdad with the title of “the Patriarch of Babylon”. He has the rank of a Cardinal in the Catholic church. Their liturgy is in Aramaic.

An original photograph from the ancient town of Van, South East turkey showing an irregular militant group that attached Armenians and Assyrians villages in the area of Van, strategically situated close to Armenia, Persia, and Northern Iraq. Van was famous for its castle built on the rock of Van close to the shores of the salty lake of Van, largely inhabited by Armenians with many scattered monasteries in the area. the movie Ararat, directed by Armenian Canadian Atom Egoyan, was based on the fate of the Armenians of Van.

Col. Frank Derouin, U.S. military attache to Syria and Lebanon during a tour of Syria in 1943 seen with French officers at the Aerodrome in Hassake. Hassake, also know as Hassetche, a town in north Eastern Syria (Mesopotemia) on the junction of the Jaghjagh river (mygdonis) and the khabur river (Chabora), a turkish fort in the early 20th century (Kishla) to control Kurdish and beduin tribes in the area. It grew post WW1 due to an influx of Armenian and Christian refugees (mostly syriac Christians) from Mardin and Diyarbekir provinces in south east Turkey, and in the early 1930s by Assyrian Christian refugees from Iraq, who settled in villages along the Khabur river. The area is the center of active archeological excavations of early settlements dating back to the 6th millenium BC. It was well described by Agatha Christi who accompanied her famous archeologist husband Max Mallowan to escavate close to the Jaghjagh river mounds (tel chagher bazaar on the road between Hassake and Amuda, and tel Brak on th eroad between Hassake and Qamishli).

Post-card,of wool merchant[Armenian], with a European trader, and the staff.The wool bales are stamped in french with the word Urfa for export.. Urfa[Edessa, Urhai, al-Raha] north of Syria,now in southern Turkey, was part of the Aleppo Vila’yet [Ottoman province]. Urfa’s history overshadows Aleppo’s,inhabited at least since the fourth millennium B.C.,perhaps related to Ur,or Uruk in southern Mesopotamia. Ibraham,settled in the near-by Harran[Center of the Moon and Sun worship],Seleucs Nicator re-named it Edessa in 303 B.C.,the old name of Urfa was re-established following the Moslem era in the seventh century,the Crusader re-named it Edessa during their brief occupation.Urfa was the center of Semitic Culture,and civilization for all the Middle East,wedged between the Greek/Romans and the Persians,with its semitic line of Kings. Urfa,s schools had the most influence on the early Christian doctrines, [ Gnostic, Nestorian Assyrians,Monophysite Syriacs].The large Armenian and Syriac communities, re-settled in Aleppo in the 1920’s.

Post-card of celebration at the Syriac Orthodox Monastery in the Iraqi northern city of Mosul. The Syriac Christians ,known locally as Syriaan , belong to the Monophysite branch of Christianity,as do the Armenians and the Copts of Egypt ant Ethiopia.Their liturgy is Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, and their Patriarch resides now in Damascus. The seat of the Patriarch was at the Yellow, or Safron Monastery , known as Qasr al Za’faran,located few miles east of the ancient city of Madin,now in south-east Turkey and few miles north of the Syrian border.After centuries the Patriarch was forced to leave in the 1920’s.Some Syriacs have acknowledged the Pope in Rome and became known as the Uniate [in union with Rome ]or Syrian Catholics.

Photograph of the ancient city of Mardin with its famous Castle that dominated the Mesopotamian Plains,and resisted Tamer-Lane [ Timur-Leng ]in 1394 A.D. The Artuqids embellished it with Mosques, schools [ Madrasas ],and struck their magnificent coins there.Mardin was great center of the Syriac Church [ Monophysite ], the seat of the Patriarch until 1920’s, who consecrated Bishops for the Syriac communities in Karala, Cochin and Ceylon in the, very far Indian subcontinent. “It was a hard pull for the animals up the hill to Mardin.The castle was no doubt built on the most commanding and inaccessible height in the neighbourhood,and the town grew up naturally below it; otherwise it would seem that only a madman could have chosen such a place to plaster his town against the rock ” OSWALD H.PERRY, [ SIX MONTHS IN A SYRIAN MONASTERY], 1895.

July 16th, 2008, 3:57 pm


Karim said:

Be always careful with what we can read on internet and specially in sites of militant nationalist trend ,even the official sites of the patriarchates are often not accurate,the best sources are available in the academic works and i prefer the foreigner scholars over those of middle eastern origin .Ugarit,The nabateans they are arabs using Aramaic alphabet and speaking a form of Aramaic we can also say the same thing with the people of Palmyra ,most of Palmyrenian inhabitants were aramized arabs but they were influenced by the Hellenistic culture (and also Sassanian) ,queen Zenobia she was fluent in greek ,latin,aramaic and may be egyptian and persian ,his adviser and teacher was the neo platonist philosopher Longin …As for Bani Ghassan ,they are arabs but were religiously influenced by the aramaean christianity,so they believed in the monophysit concept.
Ugarit for Aramaic/Aramaean it’s like Arabic/Arabian ….i still use aramaic in order to avoid the confusion with Armenian who are non semitic but Indo European…
All of those:Assyrians,Arabs,Jews,Chaldeans, Ammorites,Arameans or Syriacs,Canaanites ,Phoenicians belong to the same semitic familly and they share many things in common like languages and dialects,culture,religions and of course geography.
But we can not say that the aramaeans or syriacs (suryoyo/oromoyo) and the assyrians were the same ,they have developed their respective cultures and had different destiny.

July 16th, 2008, 4:02 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Alex Habibi,

As usual, your pictures are great.

Love those Urfa, Edessa, Urhai, al-Raha guys.

“Urfa was the center of Semitic Culture,and civilization for all the Middle East,wedged between the Greek/Romans and the Persians,with its semitic line of Kings. Urfa,s schools had the most influence on the early Christian doctrines, [ Gnostic, Nestorian Assyrians,Monophysite Syriacs].The large Armenian and Syriac communities, re-settled in Aleppo in the 1920’s.”

I have been to this area twice. I must say that it is so hard to comprehend the above quote if you see the Urfa of today.

Speaking of schools and education, the results of the Syrian Baccalaureate were released earlier today. What is noteworthy is that 326,000 students took the exam which is an increasse of 16,000 over last year. Think of the number of jobs that need to be created to help absorb this number of people who are about to enter the labor force. It is so critical to get the country’s economy to grow as fast as possible and as early as possible.

“Winning” on the geopolitical level is great. It is imperetive that people don’t lose sight of the economic challenges ahead, and how a pro-growth economic policy is needed and NOW.

July 16th, 2008, 4:19 pm


Majhoool said:

I believe the bottom line is as follows:

Assyrians are more or less the original inhabitants of northern Iraq and parts of today’s Sothern Turkey. Most Assyrians living in Syria today did so as a result of Turkish repression and Assyrian/Kurdish tensions in the early 1900s.

On the other hand, the original inhabitants of Syria live among us today, they are (Greek orthodox/ catholic, Roman Catholics, Syriacs, and Muslims (since many simply converted). Ethnicity wise, Syrians are mostly Arameans(different from Assyrians) and Arab mix.

People converted from Syriac to Greek because it was the imperial religion (Byzantine)

Halab, Hama, and Damascus were Aramean kingdoms and NOT Assyrian and the fact that Assyrians ruled over it does not mean much in terms of ethnic makeup.

July 16th, 2008, 4:47 pm


offended said:

I’ve always had the idea that Syrian Christians are more likely to emigrate compared to other communities. I am not sure why is that….

July 16th, 2008, 4:52 pm


offended said:

And I am not sure the Wikipedia stats are accurate, 80,000 Assyrians in syria only? I am personally friends with 3 Assyrians (only one of which doesn’t speak the language).

It’s quite unfortunate that we do not study much of the Christian history of Syria at school as well.

July 16th, 2008, 4:55 pm


Karim said:

Offended no 80 000 is exaggerated for the assyrians in Syria…they are not more than 40 000 and their number is stable since the 60’s.They emigrate less than the syriacs …who are leaving Syria in very big numbers(entire families), there is also an internal emigration from the villages to Aleppo ,Homs and Damascus then to the west .

July 16th, 2008, 5:04 pm


Alex said:


I added Urfa just for you : )


After peace (if we ever get there) expect the return of religious tours … from Jerusalem to Damascus .. to many destinations in southern Turkey.

Here is a card from the most successful Tour operator from 1906.

Stationary of Demetrius N. Domian,[Tourist Agents Excursion Managers], mailed from Jerusalem to an acquaintance in Atlantic City,New Jersey in 1906.Mr. Domian was the junior partner of the famous Dragoman [guide ] in the Holy-Land, Mr. David Jamal in the late 19th. and early 20th. century. “I must cite him as an acknowledged authority, even among scholars, in all pertaining to the history , the ruins and antiquities of his native and beloved land. His address is is simply David Jamal , Jerusalem, Syria.” [Mrs Oliphant, Syrian Travel]

July 16th, 2008, 5:04 pm


Karim said:

Alex are you of syriac/assyrian origin ?

July 16th, 2008, 5:08 pm


Naji said:

Everybody should be watching TV (AlJazeera, etc.) right now…!!! Is the Lebanon the BEST part of Syria or what…!!!!!???? At least, The COOLEST… 🙂

July 16th, 2008, 5:10 pm


Alex said:


No I am of very nicely mixed origin .. there is everything in it

: )

July 16th, 2008, 5:11 pm


Syria1 said:

The Pope requested that the Syrian Christians (Greek Catholics/Melkite/Catolic/Maronites/Syrian) not be allowed to leave Syria with a Hugra Visa so that there are still Christian Custodians of the Catholic sites.

July 16th, 2008, 5:11 pm


Syria1 said:

Anyone heard new news out of Sadnaya Prison? Is that resolved?

July 16th, 2008, 5:13 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Brief follow-up on my Baccalaureate comment above:

Supposedly, 23 students received the full 260 out of 260 score wheras 44 students scored 259 out of 260.

Having taken this exam years ago (who can ever forget the experience?), one cannot but admire these 67 students. I would blindly offer all of them a job upon their graduation.

July 16th, 2008, 5:16 pm


Karim said:

It will be very good if Syria had better economy and freedom ,it would have not only stopped the exodus of its own christian population but also absorbed the christian refugees of Iraq without any problem.It’s very important for us the Muslims to preserve these communities and i hope it’s not late to see those who left to come back or a significant number….that’s one the reasons that i’m for quick regime change…believe it or no ,one of my first preoccupation as Syrian Muslim is the preservation of Syria’s christian character.Syria would be very sad without a weighty and dynamic christian population.

July 16th, 2008, 5:22 pm


norman said:


Don’t you think the test was harder in our time ?.

July 16th, 2008, 5:26 pm


offended said:

Karim, I might differ with you on the political side of things. But thank you, that was a refreshing comment.

July 16th, 2008, 5:26 pm


EHSANI2 said:


So, if the leadership improves the economy and “stopped the exodus of its own christian population”, would you be satisfied enough not to call for “regime change”?

In addition, who is your pick? A party that helps preserve Syria’s christian character? How do you plan to find this person and how do you expect to see him make his way through?


I am not sure. I think we (speaking only for myself) may have been dumber.

July 16th, 2008, 5:29 pm


offended said:

Ehsani, I don’t think you guys were dumber :P. I think the mechanism through which students are harvesting marks is now clearer and easier to follow.

the whole system should be revamped if you ask me.

July 16th, 2008, 5:33 pm


Karim said:

Offended :Karim, I might differ with you on the political side of things. But thank you, that was a refreshing comment.

I hope that we will have the opportunity to oppose our ideas via our elected representatives in the parliament and in the medias,and having different opinions among the same people is very healthy …We are not scheep in human clothing…Offendend in the 50’s ,Aleppo was the home of not less than 30 newspapers.Is that normal that a city like Aleppo and in 2008 whose inhabitant number is 3,5 millions does not have one independent newspaper ?Is that not a cultural genocide ?

Ehsani why are you always pessimistic when it comes to the syrian people capabilities ? are we less civilized than the people of Senegal ?Is the syrian diaspora not one of the most successful in the west ?Do we lack educated,patriot and honest people ?Or you resigned yourself to Nawaristan ?

July 16th, 2008, 5:38 pm


offended said:

what’s your practical plan to remedy the situation?

July 16th, 2008, 5:50 pm


EHSANI2 said:


That sounds like a great plan.

Identify a capable, civilized, succesful, educated and honest Syrian and then call for “regime change”.

I somehow thought that such a Syrian does not exist. Now that we know what to look for, the rest is easy.

July 16th, 2008, 5:52 pm


Majhoool said:


Can’t agree with you more

July 16th, 2008, 5:54 pm


Alex said:


The only thing I, or Ehsani, are trying to say is that “democracy” is not the magic solution to everything.

Qifa Nabki sent me today this amusing list of failed states:


Syria #35

not as failed as the more”democratic” Pakistan .. not as Failed as Lebanon or Iraq

July 16th, 2008, 5:56 pm


offended said:

Totalitarian ruling have one superb quality which a flailing democracy doesn’t; getting things done.

Honestly, i’d go for a good dectator (it’s arguably not possible to have both qualities in a man) than to be under the mercy of successive bieckering parites.

July 16th, 2008, 6:00 pm


Majhoool said:

“Identify a capable, civilized, succesful, educated and honest Syrian and then call for “regime change”.

I don’t believe the issue can be resolved by an individual. The solution comes with a system that brings about Syrian individuals who are capable, civilized, succesful, educated and honest to leadership.

July 16th, 2008, 6:01 pm


offended said:

precisely, and this system doesn’t exist and requires a generation to come about. I am hopeful that president Bashar is working toward getting this done.

July 16th, 2008, 6:07 pm


Karim said:

Ehsani ,worse than we have is impossible ,be ready ,in the next few years ,Sudan will rise above us in GDP/Capita.So we will comfort ourselves to compete with Mauretania in the bottom of the list.

Alex,i didnt said democracy,i’m realistic …a decade or 2 of a government of technocrats …and without debaathificaton or , it will happen automatically without violence…and most likely we will have pro west democracy,the Turkish model is interesting.In fact ,in many fields ,Turkey today look like the liberal Syria in the 50’s.
It was known that the great Islamic leader of the Turkish conservative muslims who was in fact a Kurd,Said al Nursi,the most influential personality in modern turkey ,was for a privileged partnership with the west ,this explain the pro western policy of the president Adnan Menderes who was close to him.

July 16th, 2008, 6:15 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Judging by historical and “actual” events on the ground, that capable, civilized, succesful, educated and honest Syrian also (or instead) needs a decent Tank batallion to back his list of fine qualities before he has a chance.

July 16th, 2008, 6:16 pm


Seeking the Truth said:

Ehsani said:
It is so critical to get the country’s economy to grow as fast as possible and as early as possible.

Without real political reforms, judicial independence, rule of law, good luck improving the lot of the average Syrian.

…one cannot but admire these 67 students.

The Baccalaureate test is essentially a measure for how well the student has learned by rote, and not his/her thinking skills. Besides, can one in all honesty assume no leaking of test questions has taken place?

July 16th, 2008, 6:17 pm


Karim said:

Ehsani ,ha ok i understood u now ,you are right …but history has its own logic ,we can not predict the events but only to perceive them ,i’m convinced that we will have a democratic and liberal regime but don’t ask me how and when.

July 16th, 2008, 6:18 pm


offended said:

But an educated, wordly and civilized man on the top of tank battalion sounds more like Bashar!

July 16th, 2008, 6:25 pm


Karim said:

No Offended ,the son of Tlass , eh shou bo Firas ?.Offended what happened to the comrade the legendary Masharqa ?

July 16th, 2008, 6:26 pm


Majhoool said:


You are partly right. A good example is Corporate America. It’s absolutely NOT democratic. Things get done by executive orders all to increase profit to the benefit of the shareholders (Goals).

Similarly, Syrian dictatorship is very effective in achieving its goals. The problem is that the goals of the dictatorship are NOT in the best interest of the shareholders (The people)

July 16th, 2008, 6:30 pm


norman said:


I have one for you ,,,,Alex or QN if he can bring Lebanon to the mother land.

July 16th, 2008, 6:46 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Ya Ammi Norman

I nominate Alex.

And he should make you minister of health, and Ehsani can be minister of economy.

And AIG can be the israeli ambassador.


Actually, that may lead to war all over again, never mind. 🙂

July 16th, 2008, 7:16 pm


EHSANI2 said:


I think Alex can do it all. He needs no help from Ministers or otherwise.

July 16th, 2008, 7:39 pm


Jabi said:

Is this article only looking at the Assyrian christian prespective of what is happening in Syria? In that case the article was very relatively informative. If not, Why ignore the muslims that are also leaving to western countries for better opportunities and a better life? It is not like the christians are targeted and forced to leave. As a matter of fact more muslims are leaving Syria and or Iraq than christians. I liked the information in the main article, but i get a sense of feeling that you believe the christian population in Palestine specifically are the only ones forced to leave especially since you don’t mention the reasons for the drop in population numbers in Palestine and Jordan.
I dont believe that the part about the Assyrian Democratic Organisation, and how members were arrested for opposing arabisation is a targeted attack against Assyrians cause there is a worse scenario like what happened to the muslim brotherhood when they opposed the entire regime.

“The Christian exodus from the Middle East came to light after the news of Iraqi Assyrians escaping the violence in their war-torn country following Saddam Hussein’s fall in 2003 made it onto the international news agenda. Almost half their population fled Iraq, leaving behind only around 700,000.”

Well aren’t those part of the Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers? I’m very sure that this issue has been raised many times in international news agendas as well as the UN. I don’t believe it is healthy to separate people into sectarian groups after all they are all suffering from the same consequences.

Also Turkey has been liberal, and as you see right now it is becoming more Islamic again not only in the political rise of the Islamic Justice and Development Party but also socially. If you believe that a western style democracy is what is needed in Syria then know that that will never happen.

July 16th, 2008, 7:40 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I agree with you.

But he has to at least make it look democratic. Otherwise people will call him a (benevolent) dictator.


July 16th, 2008, 8:04 pm


Alex said:

I love it! : )

So far I have three votes.

I will need a few more to be elected.

Please don’t tell anyone about my c+ in economics.

July 16th, 2008, 8:11 pm


Karim said:

Dear Jabi ,democracy is democracy what does it mean western style democracy ? India is the biggest democracy in the world and it’s very traditional country.But Turkey has proved that a conservative Muslim elected government is more pro west and more friendly than the nationalists and the westernized and secular kemalist elite.
Malaysia is another good example of Muslim dominated but tolerant society.(40% of Malaysia is non Muslim ,Chinese and Indians).
But that doesn’t mean that they are puppets of the west.
I don’t think that Turkey is becoming more Islamic ,but we have now a very rich conservative elite which is more visible and they control most of the Turkish medias ,giant holdings and the best schools in Turkey ,this union between pro Business seculars ,Muslim conservative ,former communists and leftists is very interesting,the AKP had 47 % ,the pro secular forces represent 30 % -40 %and many of those who voted AKP were of secular background …the problem in Turkey is that the CHP the kemalist party is not credible and Turkey is in need of a true Social democrat party that can compete with the Muslim democrats.Even if i’m pro AKP ,i believe that political alternative is a necessity because power monopoly for long time corrupts.
And the west has many good values,freedom,science,human rights(at least for its people)and even animal rights …i believe that if the prophet Mohamad was today among us ,he would have preferred the western world over the Islamic world.
But the same west has a very bad foreigner policy and still using a neo colonialist approach toward us ….they always preferred to deal with vulgar dictators and cover them.

July 16th, 2008, 8:37 pm


trustquest said:

The Assyrians call for greater Syria is a taboo under the Baath and its Arab National Regime. The peaceful call for greater Syria by the Assyrian which obviously impractical since it does not have strong ground to be materialized which can be classified as just a dream, has caused brutal reaction from the regime. This harsh treatment which caused exodus was not aimed only at this segment of the colorful society of Syria but actually applied to all segments of the Syrian society for the different reasons and caused the great exodus. The plight of the Assyrians is similar to the plight of the Christian, Sunni Muslim, Druze, Armenians, Kurds, Jews and others, all are parts of the large exodus which reflected on the 17 millions expats from the what is left inside the 18 millions. The key conclusions from this number is that all these groups with a realistic or non realistic agendas and dreams, all were crushed against their desire to have freedom of expression, freedom of worship, freedom to live accepted, respected and to be considered part of the society and caused the big exodus and great pain that no one knows how to solve. I think in the past 40 years the totalitarian regime, with no social agenda, only cared for his continuous domination to power with no flexibility to provide any leverage to others to live and express themselves peacefully.
Any presentation for minority suffering in Syria which exclude the large picture of the general environment witch affected all other communities from all parts of society which have diverge views from the System in power is distortion of the facts and would not lead to any solid conclusion. Many times on this blog specific minority were presented as the only victim of the regime. Syrian Authority and its officials showed the ugly face favoritism towards some minorities in trial to appease them but they achieved the reverse and reflected badly on other communities; like the Syrian Ambassador in Washing DC, who went visiting and praising the Syrian Jewish Community in NY, while offering the names of the peaceful Sunni Muslims, who live in the US, as a terrorist to the US Authority causing them loose their jobs and turning them from professionals to unemployed.

Recently after 40 years, the regime wake up and found that the reassures of the country is not him or his simple or even the language he adopt. The treasures are those lyrics, ruins, the neglected history, the colorful people their accents, the Damascene accent, the Allophone Accent (not their accent which not loved at all), the old houses in Damascus which neglected and still neglected, the Damascene Sword, the beautiful castles left by the crusaders (which neglected), the ruins of the Romans and the Greeks, the Assyrian old cities, Ebla, Mary, but for sure not them and their governing style and their oppression way.

Syrian regime on one hand advertise for the beautiful lyrics and ruins left by the Assyrians and sell it to the whole world, on the other hand he does not provide them with protection and he put their elites people in prison careless for their pain and exodus even when only handful of them left in the country.

July 16th, 2008, 8:40 pm


Majhoool said:


How do we accelerate its demise within a reasonable risk/benefit margin to the country and to those involved.

July 16th, 2008, 9:33 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Can I be your mukhabarat chief?

Don’t try to make me deputy minister of culture or something lame like that.

July 16th, 2008, 11:53 pm


norman said:


I do not think that you need any more votes,

You have me , QN and Ehsani and probably Shai,

So you are on your way.

July 17th, 2008, 12:00 am


Enlightened said:

“Syriani is just a transliteration of the Greek word Assyriani which means Ashori. In our language, Syriac, we call ourselves with the same name (Soraya or Soroyo). Herodotus, the father of history, is a great reference to clarify this point. And the name Syria is directly derived from the name Assyria. It’s all the Greek’s fault they don’t have a Sh in their language.”

Cheers, Salim


Many many many moons ago and several posts we had a discussion on the origins of the Name “Syria” I suggested to you that the name was derived from the word Assyria or the land to the east of the Asshure mountains. I couldnt recall where I read it but as Salim correctly points out in Herodotus.

Thanks Salim for clarifying the point. I should have pursued Ancient History studies at University, that was my true Love!

July 17th, 2008, 12:38 am


trustquest said:

Dear Majhool,
Most of the comments and counter comments regarding Syria affairs fall at the surface of the current moves of the Khalifa, Big kahoona, the nice eloquent dictator the son of the great dictator who saved his people from the fait of the Iraqi people. He is the Alfa Male whose smile can get his people to the shore of safety. It really does not tackle his dilemma in building a new civil country. You should feel sorry for his predicament and neither me or you or the wolves on the side eating the flesh can help him. It is a destiny. I like the recent article by Mr. Yaseen Haj Saleh, http://www.alsafahat.net/blog/?p=3428
Which explain that the organic thinking required in building a civil and new type of country is not on the agenda or the thinking of the decision makers, nor it is a tool they can implement to reach that end. The market economy main basics, the competitions, criticism, sectarian free enterprises, entrepreneurial initiatives all have no chance to be started in current environment. The picture like this: The System or the regime consists from the Family, the sect and the base of the Baath Party who has been playing the source provider of Officials, bureaucrats and supporters. The changes took place in the last 5-6 years has shaken this system and now it is function and tool is only oppression to continue and it can not use any other tools, exactly like Mr. Elhaj described it this article:
this is his conclusion that when the politics end, the politicians and the state ends too:
وحين يُقضى على السياسة يُقضى على السياسيين أيضاً، وعلى الدولة. فالطغيان، أي «الحكم بمقتضى الشهوة والغلبة»، هو أيضاً حكم بلا سياسيين. الطاغية أو طغمة الطغيان لا يسوسون أنفسهم ولا المجتمعات المنكوبة بهم. والطغيان المحدث في صيغة الشمولية، وكذلك النظم التسلطية، هي نظم بلا طبقة سياسية، أفراد مستقلون يعيشون للسياسة ولا يعتاشون منها حسب ماكس فيبر. قد يوجد فيها فريق حكم، لكنه طغمة مغلقة على نفسها، متماثلة مع السلطة وغير مستقلة، ولا سياسة لها غير «العض» على السلطة، فإن غادر أعضاء الطغمة مقاعد الحكم فإلى موت سياسي أو حتى موت جسدي. وبدل الدولة هنا ثمة «ملك»، أو إمارة استيلاء، أو سلطة محض متماثلة بدورها مع فريق الحكم، فإن سقط هذا سقط ملكه وربما سقطت الدولة، لا كمؤسسة حكم فقط، بل أيضا ككيان سياسي تاريخي

What I can say that is it a eternal struggle and it is taking shape right now and the change is hard to predict or influence. The important things is to keep doing what you believe in a smart way and for sure you will see results in the future.

July 17th, 2008, 12:41 am


Joshua said:

Salim just answered many of you by writing me directly. I have urged him to respond directly in the comment section. He writes:

Dear Josh,

I was really amazed by the amount of responses and views on this aticle. I appreciate and thank you for giving space for Assyrian issue to be discussed.

Here is my answer:

To start with, I am not a historian or anthropologist. But i will try to provide some evidence on why Syriac and Assyrian refer to one ethnic group.

When I interviewed his holiness Patriarch Mar Zakka Iwas, the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, exactly a month before the war on Iraq in 2003, he said, “You might know that my real name is Sanharib, the famed Assyrian king. And I come from Nineveh, the capital of Assyrians.”

But, he continued, “I can’t limit my church to one ethnic group because we have Indians; and we have Arabs in our church as well.

I m bringing this up because some of you charged that I am claiming that all members of the Syriac Orthodox Church are Assyrians. I haven’t said that. I am saying that Assyrians are “divided into several churches, including the Catholic Chaldean, the Syriac Orthodox and Catholic and the Church of the East.” In no way does this mean that 100% of the followers of those churches are ethnically Assyrians. Even the Assyrian Church of the East has Indian followers, and used to have Chinese, Mongolian, Korean, Japanese and Arab followers.

Herodotus, a well-known Greek historian from the mid-fifth century BC, clearly indicates that the word “Syrian” is merely a Greek corruption of the word “Assyrian”. He describes the Assyrian infantry in the Persian Army during the rule of King Xerxes (485-465 B.C.) as follows:

“The Assyrians went to war with helmets upon their head, made of brass, and plated in strange fashion, which is not easy to describe… These people, whom Greeks call Syrian, are called Assyrian by the barbarians. The Babylonians serve at their rank”[16]

The last part of this passage has also been translated as, “The Greeks call these people Syrians, but others know them as Assyrians.”[17]

In the first century prior to the dawn of Christianity, the geographer Strabo (64 BC-21 AD from Amisos in Pontus) confirms Herodotus’ statement by writing that,

“When those who have written histories about the Syrian empire say that the Medes were overthrown by the Persians and the Syrians by the Medes, they mean by the Syrians no other people than those who built the royal palaces in Babylon and Ninus (Nineveh); and of these Syrians, Ninus was the man who founded Ninus, in Aturia (Assyria) and his wife, Semiramis, was the woman who succeeded her husband… Now, the city of Ninus was wiped out immediately after the overthrow of the Syrians. It was much greater than Babylon, and was situated in the plain of Aturia.”[18]

Strabo also lists several of the traditional cities (including Nineveh and ‘Calachene’ [Kalhu]) in the Assyrian heartland, which he calls ‘Aturia’. To read more please click here: http://www.nineveh.com/WhoAreTheAssyrians.html

It’s worth noting that Syriac, the language Assyrians speak, is called by the Armenians “Asoreren” and they call all Assyrians regardless of their church affiliation by the name “Asori.”

That’s very little evidence, just a hint. For those who would like to go deeper into the subject, please read Richard Nelson Frye, the Harvard professor who wrote a brilliant article on the link between the name Assyria and Syria.

Re. Nabateans: Those people are not Arabs. They were Arameans who built a great civilization in Jordan. They are the ones who lent a great deal of vocabulary to Arabic, why Arabic is so close to Syriac. The modern day Arabic is nothing close to the Arabic spoken by ancient Arab kingdoms of Sabaa and Hemyar. Please refer to history books to know more about Arabic language history.

I am of the opinion that says Syrians, ethnically and even culturally, are, indeed, Arameans or Babyolonian- Assyrians. The Arabic Encyclopedia states that Damascus was inhabited by the Babylonians in the 3rd century BC.

Dear TrusQuest: Well, Assyrians are not calling for a greater Syria or even greater Assyria. All they want now is to live in peace with all other elements of Syrian society. All they are seeking is being respected and accepted as they are so that they can continue their existance in the lands that produced the basic tools for humanity to progress.

And thank you Ehsani for the notion of Qawmeya Muhajarra… You are absolutely right.


July 17th, 2008, 2:24 am


norman said:

these are the Syrians of India,


July 17th, 2008, 2:35 am


norman said:

The Assyrian and all other minorities should have their own societies and festivities but they should always make it clear that their loyalty is to Syria and that they have no intentions for a separation , I believe that is what Syria fears most ( The division of Syria into ethnic and religious kingdoms like during the Ara-means.

July 17th, 2008, 2:47 am


Karim said:

Dear Salim,

In this article ,the french archeologist who wrote a book on Petra says that the Nabateans are probably arabs but preceded by the word “obscure” that means here mysterious.In fact their origins are unknown ,but most of scholars and assyriologists believe that they were arabs.
and about the aramaic nabatean aramean alphabet and language :

July 17th, 2008, 3:25 am


trustquest said:

Thanks for the info, and sorry for mentioning the greater Syria without being specific and say “some” calling for greater Assyria, it is not my invention; I have seen this video for example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNXeN4PbpZk
And still I hope I’m wrong and my comment was about the tolerance required from any authority regarding this diverse society of the Syria.

On the other note: Would you please provide us with the site and the name of the researcher who collected the colloquial Arabic language spoken by people of Aleppo and the Damascus with Assyrianic origin? I went through it before and lost the site address, and I was astonished by the amounts of words used in everyday live with Assyrian origin.

July 17th, 2008, 3:32 am


Majhoool said:


Thank you. Haj Salih is a brilliant intellectual.

You said: What I can say that is it a eternal struggle and it is taking shape right now and the change is hard to predict or influence

Does that mean that opposition is useless? Isn’t the act of opposition an attempt to influence change?

What about the appeasement of “Togyan” or dictatorship? Seems like a wise thing to do given that influencing change is not possible!

July 17th, 2008, 5:36 am


Off the Wall said:

Independent of historical, archaeological,and anthropological arguments. The loss of any minority is a loss to the entire country. Syria and Iraq will be less than what they are, and i am not talking in terms of land mass. Our cultural and societal fabric is shaped by everyone, and we are the lesser and worst off that loss. The day Syria becomes a “homogeneous” country, the day it ceases to be the Syria i love.

I totally agree with you. I wish they teach Syria’s History, all of it.

July 17th, 2008, 5:39 am


offended said:

While you guys are cutting the cake, can I please have the ministry (or directorate) of counter-intelligence? (whose job is apparently going to be to kick the butts of katsas around the world)

July 17th, 2008, 9:23 am


Qifa Nabki said:


As I’m sure you know the DEPARTMENT of counter-intelligence falls under the MINISTRY of mukhabarat, which I’m sure that my good friend Alex is going to nominate me for.

But if you have your heart set on counter-intelligence, tikram 3aynak I will make you head of the department, as long as you provide my village with free olive oil and kishk for the next 20 years.


July 17th, 2008, 12:44 pm


trustquest said:

“Does that mean that opposition is useless? Isn’t the act of opposition to attempt to influence change?”
Good and evil, present and future all are eternal struggle, and in this stage of too many changes in the structure of the society in Syria and surrounding areas, make change hard to predict. It does not mean that opposition is useless, on the contrary, and always opposition is affecting change even behind the bars. Any free person with free idea (including Offended, or person from inside the system), is part of this change. The real struggle is taking place right now, is between the static and dynamic and the next phase would be between domination and multilateralism.
Dictatorship is outdated, and to accelerate its demise, opposition should keep singing the freedom song which dictator hate, they should keep uncovering the ugly face of nepotism which part of the dictatorship, I mean to strip them of their cover.

Dear Offended: please do not make mockery of your fellows who you share same birth country, and I wish you luck in the position you are seeking. All I’m saying here is my opinion if you do not mind, because I thought I have the right to post my opinion on the forum even if it weaken the psychology of the Syrian nation. So consider me as adversary not an enemy, even enemies are allowed on this forum.

July 17th, 2008, 1:45 pm


Majhoool said:

Thank you Trustquest, I agree with you completely. Rationalizing appeasement never really made sense to me.

July 17th, 2008, 3:50 pm


Alex said:

Habibi Qifa,

If you want to be a Syrian official, you will need to forget Olive oil. We have better things going on.


You will be wazir el-shabab wal riyada.

You know … since you are the youngest one here.

Counter intelligence is going to … I can’t say. This is not a public post.

July 17th, 2008, 4:36 pm


offended said:

I’d be happy to work with you mate. It’s gonna be lot of fun. First thing we’ll do together is to take a tour of our stations scattered around the world. And as our job involves countering suspicious people; we shall make sure to ‘vet’ the dubious female elements around the localities of those respective stations. By the end of the tour we’d have had great time and garnered lot of exotic experiences.

July 17th, 2008, 4:41 pm


Alex said:

Lak ya Offended,

Qifa’s wife has been kind enough to tolerate his addiction to SC … don’t make things even worse.

July 17th, 2008, 4:46 pm


Karim said:

There is also a lot to say on the substantial intellectual ,scientific and artistic contributions of the Assyrians and Middle eastern Christians to the Islamic civilization.(the most important name;Hunayn Ibn Ishak and sons).It was through their translations that the Muslims have known the Greek Philosophy and Medecine.
In fact this symbiosis had remained until the 1950’s with the major participation of the middle eastern Christians in the Nahda.

The so called secular and nationalist Baath and Nasserian regimes have ended this influence .

July 17th, 2008, 4:52 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


He’s got me there, ya Offended.

Don’t forget about the olive oil. And it sounds like Alex will need some for his village as well… Throw in some labneh too.

July 17th, 2008, 4:52 pm


offended said:

No problem Sir. But I see that your inertia has started to wobble at the dramatic prospects of our job? You’ve got to be ready for it Sir. First comes the duty, and everything else if a second. It’s all nice and dandy in the espionage novels, but ‘even zipping your zipper is hard in the real world’ Tom Clancy would say. It seems to me you’ve got a lot of catch up to do Sir. I don’t mind doing the ‘legwork’ though!

July 17th, 2008, 5:01 pm


offended said:

Screw it. I am not able to edit my comments.

July 17th, 2008, 5:10 pm


offended said:

Alex Sir, thanks for the vote of trust. I am indeed young (no bragging here old folks!) and athletic. The ministry of youth and sports is quite useful as a cover. We can recruit young people and train them. And then send them to spread the love around the world.

What I don’t like about the post though is that it reminds me of a person I diligently abhor; the bearer of the position in the former Lebanese government. Sawwada allah wajho.

July 17th, 2008, 5:22 pm


Karim said:

the bearer of the position in the former Lebanese government. Sawwada allah wajho….

Offended ,Dr Fatfat is a respectable surgeon,educated in the best universities in Europe,don’t be naive in front of the propaganda orchestrated by the tools like wahhab,qasem,habash and qandil,instead you should concentrate your hatred toward those who organized the rape of Syrian girls ,daughters of the best Syrian personalities and in front of their eyes and annihilated Syrian cities and those are in fact the protectors of your beloved bashar .Are there words like Karama ,Sharaf ,Ghire and Nakhwa in your dictionary of the free thinker ?

July 17th, 2008, 5:56 pm


offended said:

Generous, I’d rather prefer if you can keep your preaching generosity to yourself. Fatfat is the embodiment of hypocrisy in my opinion. Anybody that aligns himself with the crooks of Hariri would be so. A surgeon trained in Europe, so what? Why this doesn’t qualify as a good virtue in your books when it comes to Dr. Bashar?

And please cut it off with the stories of rape and annihilation, for God’s sake isn’t you the one who’s spewing cheap propaganda?

July 17th, 2008, 6:50 pm


Karim said:

Dr Bashar ,Dr Rifaat,Dr Monzer ….and Dr Basel …Dr Jamil ,Dr Bushra Dr or Engineer Maher and even those who have mental disease are doctors…Mashaallah this is a family of great scientists and doctors…Offended you know how such people got their Doctorates…I dont think that some months of training in britian can be called a great achievement.Dr Fatfat has followed a complete curriculum in Europe.
Bashar got his Syrian doctorate through the Military institution which is a tool in the hand of him….and that’s why he doesn’t deserve the Dr title.
Offended this is not cheap propaganda but the reality of what happened.No one can deny it.If you are ignorant about it so be informed…and the names of the victims are known .

Offended ,clean your house before looking to Lebanon …Is there more hypocrite and corrupt than the asads and makhlufs ?

And don’t believe this lie that bashar is clean and all the people around him are corrupt .

As for hypocrisy ,this the case of most of the politicians in the world …who is not hypocrit in your beloved regime or lebanese allies ?

July 17th, 2008, 7:07 pm


offended said:

When a crook, a smug and a lying hypocrite like Ahmad Fatfat is your role model, then nothing you’d say would surprise to me.

Keep spewing hatred and propaganda, one day they’ll consume you.

July 17th, 2008, 7:21 pm


norman said:


Bashar Assad graduated from Damascus university with an MD degree. he did not finish his specialization in Ophthalmology . He is a DR Though.

July 17th, 2008, 7:21 pm


Karim said:

Offended , do you fear or not the abu shahata mukhabarat ?or can you speak your opinion to a taxi driver ?didnt your parents forced you to avoid to speak with honesty your opinion and to criticize ,is that not hypocritization of the syrian people since the childhood ,do u know the repercussions on the mind ?….do u want the same for your children ,do you accept to be ruled by jazmat .Syria is your country not the personal property of asad or makhluf.
Norman ,same questions to u ….

July 17th, 2008, 7:31 pm


offended said:

Yes Karim, I love it and I want it.

I hope that you are not going to confiscate my choices now?

July 17th, 2008, 7:33 pm


offended said:

I meant to say that I love it the way it is for the time being, for reasons I and others explained on this blog hundereds of times before.

July 17th, 2008, 7:36 pm


Karim said:

Offended ok this is your choice.
Norman,less mad3oum than bashar can buy a diploma in the syrian universities ,am i wrong ?

July 17th, 2008, 7:41 pm


norman said:

Karim ,

I do not know about things now but when i graduated from Damascus university with a degree in Medicine , nobody graduated and was not worthy , some have got in without the qualification that the rest of us needed like high marks in high school , but they did not graduate and were not good.

July 17th, 2008, 7:50 pm


offended said:


it’s my choice and the chocie of so many other Syrians, you can;t deny it.

July 17th, 2008, 8:06 pm


Alex said:


Bashar (according to some of his best friends at university) studied hard and deserved to graduate just like the rest of them.

I understand your point though about some of the other doctors who got their degrees from Romania etc.

July 17th, 2008, 8:16 pm


Karim said:

it’s my choice and the chocie of so many other Syrians, you can;t deny it.

Offended ,you are right and people like you are seen in all the brutal dictatorships.The problem is when these dictatorships end …the same kind of people curse the former ruler.

July 17th, 2008, 8:29 pm


Karim said:

Alex,it’s possible…anyway he seems to be cultivated.
Now he promised that 2009 ,will be the year of the national reconciliation and political reforms ,according to his past i’m pessimistic… Dalila,Kilo,Sarem,Seif,the Bunnis are in urgent need to be freed and many others,they must not wait 2009.
If Alex ,one of those was your father ,how would you have interpreted bashar asking them to apologize ….this is a shame ..he should stop keep repeating such non senses and bad excuses.

July 17th, 2008, 10:21 pm


Majhoool said:


I had many friends buying their way to success in Syrian Universities. The price to be paid was anything from lard to olive oil, to 100$.

The sons of Mukhabarat heads, used to succeed by taking exams in the privacy of their homes and simply hand out the paper to the professor. They even used to brag about it. No one dared to fail them.

July 17th, 2008, 10:25 pm


Alex said:


I also have hopes for some clearly perceptible reforms in 2009 … nothing revolutionary though… and the extent of those reforms WILL still depend on outside forces making peace with Syria (including the Saudis and Americans).

I said before that I understand why they put Kilo and Seif and Dalila in jail but I am sure there were other ways to convey the same message. It is sad and disappointing that they are still in jail.

July 17th, 2008, 10:38 pm


Alex said:


I have been releasing your comments the past few days … but it seems you don’t understand … again today you are out of control (in many ways)

I deleted some of your messages in the moderation folder, I edited some others (removing your old propaganda tactics) and I released the parts where you are remotely making sense and not being excessively aggressive.

And it is 4 comments per day until you learn to stop calling everyone here a supporter of child murderous while you claim that you never support the killing of a child.

July 17th, 2008, 10:46 pm


offended said:

Khaseet, these people you’re talking about are the followers of Khaddam and the likes. I may have many gripes with the regime but would defend it against any foreign intervention (if that what you’re hoping for). Not everyone plays the dirty game of flipping sides at convenience.

July 17th, 2008, 10:51 pm


Karim said:

Offended :these people you’re talking about are the followers of Khaddam and the likes

Khaddam was their best friend and before hafez asad coup against salah jadid so what about the opportunists in majless el cha3b ?It’s a friendship of an half century between Khaddam and Hafez.
believe me that when the road will turn they will be the first to spat on them.
Offended ,about the foreign intervention ….it was hafez with his soviet made weapons and the international cover who bombed a whole syrian city on the head of its AMININ inhabitants ,such level of hatred even the worse zionist can not do it.And after the bombing ,they did the great sin with the disarmed children and women…and be sure that it’s not people like Rami and Maher who will fight against the foreigner invaders …they have already forged western passports and western ID s.They even oblige their wives to give birth in the west …Offended i think that you know the reason behind this.

Alex bey ,Bashar should stop his false excuses …Syria is in very urgent need of true and effective reforms and can not wait any more.And he should accept the idea that these reforms are in contradiction with his minority family rule.

July 18th, 2008, 9:13 am


Karim said:

Majhool ,very sad.they perverted Syria at all levels.

July 18th, 2008, 9:48 am


Karim said:

Alex:I said before that I UNDESRTAND why they put Kilo and Seif and Dalila

Alex ,if they put your father,brother ,mother or sister in prison,you would have understood this injustice against you and Syria ?

July 18th, 2008, 11:00 am


offended said:

If we are to have a constructive discussion here (and not a mutes’ exchange), then you’ve got to listen and please answer my questions with the same clarity and honesty that I am answering yours:

Do you, or do you not, support a foregin intervention to cause a regime change in Syria?

July 18th, 2008, 2:10 pm


Mazen said:


I hope the boxes have not been closed yet. You have my vote. Now you have four for sure.

What’s your next move?

July 18th, 2008, 2:16 pm


Karim said:

Do you, or do you not, support a foregin intervention to cause a regime change in Syria?

Offended i’m not against the idea,foreign support,at least logistical support,this is needed but how?

Israel is against regime change in Syria ,the arab regimes even if they hate each others ,they know that if an arab country falls ,we will have the domino effect and the democracy wave will reach their countries so this support will not come from them.

Now ,don’t ask me to forecast the future ….how the syrian regime will end ,Only Allah Knows .

July 18th, 2008, 2:42 pm


offended said:

You seem to me in a dire need for a crash course on inter-arab relations. Saudi and Egypt have been working very hard to destabilize Syria by any mean. Lebanese leaders, amongst which your role model Ahmad Fatfat is a joker, were calling for American invasion of syria. Now I am not saying that the fall of the regime in Syria, God forbids, is not going to cause ripples and trouble to everyone. But to suggest that the whole world is conspiring against the Syrian people in favor of the regime, is ludicrous and stupid. Who has given you the right to represent the Syrian people in asking for foreign intervention? couple of days ago you were lamenting how the iraqi women have been recruited to work as prostitutes in the brothels of the regime, while you forgot that it is the American invasion who made it impossible for these women to live safely inside iraq, or live with dignity outside it. Do you wish the same destiny for your 7areem?

You make me sick, I don’t wish to continue this discussion.

July 18th, 2008, 5:02 pm


Naji said:


July 18th, 2008, 5:56 pm


Alex said:


I said “I understand” but I do not support.

And I have to ask you … why do you care about a Kilo in jail if you are willing to potentially witness an Iraq-like situation in Syria post a US invasion (or “outside intervention”)?


Thank you … four votes is a good start. The problem is that in the Middle East 51% won’t do … I need 99% at least to be elected.

July 18th, 2008, 7:43 pm


Karim said:

Offended,we are not in better situation than the palestinians or the iraqis .Look at yourself ,you fear asadian regime more than the iraqis fear the americans and their puppets.
As for the fate of the syrian women under bashar regime.

She is the daughter of Akram Horani.


July 18th, 2008, 8:37 pm


Karim said:

And I have to ask you … why do you care about a Kilo in jail if you are willing to potentially witness an Iraq-like situation in Syria post a US invasion (or “outside intervention”)?

Alex …..they will never dare to invade Syria(or countries like Egypt,Algeria,Morroco and even Jordan) because they will not be able to play sunna/shia(do we have sadr,hakim or nasrallah in Syria ?)and the history of the syrian people is known when it comes to resist against the invaders.And don’t forget that we have boundaries with occupied Palestine and Bashar regime is the best neighbour available for them.Alex,i don’t fear the people of Hama,Aleppo ,Damascus …the problem is within some of these minorities who are not at ease among the other syrians,with their religion,their culture… ….and to be clear ,they are mostly found among the sectarians in the alawite community;and hafez and i think bashar too are part of them.The danger for Syria is more from those than from the outside.

July 18th, 2008, 8:51 pm


offended said:

Good grief. The sectarian spewing foray has started. Plug your ears everyone.

July 18th, 2008, 10:32 pm


Karim said:

Offended ,i call a spade a spade. ,i’m for Syria not a an alawite regime of paranoiac sectarians ,the essence of the power is in the hand of a minority in a minority.The regime in Syria is sectarian not me and it must be exposed as it is.Do u deny that because of your parent religion you are disadvantaged in many fields ?or it’s ok min ma akhad emi is my father ?

July 18th, 2008, 11:44 pm


norman said:

By the way Alex, I , so far , found no objection to your rule , So you got 100% , And for that we are proud of you , Just remember us in your Kingdom.

July 19th, 2008, 12:34 am


Gilgamesh and Nimrod Gabara said:

The Assyrians are the indigenous people of the entire region of Western part of Asia, whereby the Mediterranean sea falls to its west. Even the Maronite are 100 % Assyrians knowing that Mar-Maron, the ascetic monk who established the Maronite Church was originally from Western Assyria (South-East Turkey today), emigrated with his own followers to Mount Lebanon due to heathen persecution inflicted upon them earlier due to paganism of Roman empire. The last Assyrian Royal successor, Prince Assur-Uballit II (611-605), was in fact defeated by the invaders in what today called “Tur-Abden” Assyrian compound word which means (Mountain of Worshipers. His defenders were the local peasants whom fought the aggressive invaders with only their agricultural tools trying to repel the enemy, and defend their prince. That’s historic facts

April 2nd, 2013, 8:27 pm


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