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API Statement on Assyrian Remembrance Day 2021

"Simele 1933" by Paul Batou (2021)

August 7th is observed annually by Assyrians as a day of remembrance honoring the memory of all those Assyrians who have fallen victim to genocide, other mass atrocities, and persecution as a result of their distinct ethnic and religious identity. Notably, the day commemorates the victims of the Assyrian Genocide (1914-1923) and the Simele Massacre (1933). It is also known as Assyrian Martyrs Day or Assyrian Memorial Day.

August 7, 1933 marks the date that the Simele Massacre began, during which the armed forces of the Kingdom of Iraq systematically targeted and killed as many as 6,000 Assyrians—continuing the legacy of persecution exemplified by the earlier Assyrian Genocide. When Raphael Lemkin coined the term genocide in 1944, he cited the Iraqi campaign against the Assyrians in 1933 as one of the defining examples of what he meant by genocide, yet there remains a concerning lack of knowledge and awareness about these events.

Stopping the cycle of genocide begins by confronting the past and speaking truthfully about past crimes and genocides. This year, we express our gratitude to U.S. Congressman Josh Harder (CA-10) and U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (AZ-08) for their leadership in introducing two congressional resolutions calling for recognition of the Assyrian Genocide and Simele Massacre, respectively. These resolutions amplify the voices of Assyrian-American advocates and organizers nationwide who have long called for formal recognition of these atrocities, advancing critical understanding and awareness.

As our Week of Action draws to a close, we are deeply inspired by the thousands of pro-Assyrian activists and supporters who joined us this week in taking a stand for justice and recognition. We are reminded that there is more to the Assyrian experience than surviving genocide. While it's important to understand the atrocities committed against Assyrians and the systemic barriers that continue to oppress them, it is equally important to understand their rich history of resilience, innovation, and determination. Adversity often gets more attention because it happens suddenly and is easy to report and document. Resilience happens instead much more slowly, one day, one decision at a time, and often takes years to become visible—long after the news cycle has moved on to the next story. For Assyrians, resilience takes shape in various forms, big and small.

We believe that everyone has the capacity, and the responsibility, to effect change. During this time of remembrance, let us move pain into purpose and tragedy into triumph. We join in solidarity with Assyrians around the world to remember the victims and honor the resilience of the Assyrian people—who continue to suffer through cycles of genocide more than a century on. We renew our pledge to support Assyrians as they struggle to maintain their rights and will continue to press for changes to policies and systems that stand in the way of a future for Assyrians in their homeland.


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