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Assyrians in Syria Protest PYD's Closure of Schools in Qamishli

Local Assyrians protest PYD closure of Assyrian schools in Qamishli, Syria on August 28, 2018.

On the morning of August 28, 2018, militiamen belonging to the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Sutoro, a force affiliated with the Syriac Military Council (MFS) and the Dawronoye, entered private Assyrian schools in Qamishli, Syria and expelled all administrators and teachers. When the school staff refused to turnover keys to the school buildings, the PYD Asayish and Sutoro proceeded to break the existing locks and replace them, declaring the schools were closed.

The school year is set to begin in a few days. Today was the first day of work for teachers after the summer holiday.

Sutoro occupying Assyrian school in Qamishli on August 28, 2018.

Hundreds of local residents staged a protest outside Sabro School in the Wusta neighborhood later that same afternoon, where they tore down signs reading "school closed", broke the new locks, and forced their way into the school. Children held signs reading "don't deprive us of our right to education" and "we want our schools, our freedom, and our childhood." Protestors chanted, "We will remain Assyrians and die in this land."

Sutoro forces reportedly fired gunshots into the sky to intimidate protestors.

Earlier this month on August 7, 2018, the Kurdish self-administration in the area ordered the closure of multiple Assyrian schools after administrators rejected a problematic new curriculum imposed by the PYD.

These private schools are administered by the Syriac Orthodox Church Diocese and have been in operation since 1935, serving Assyrian, Armenian, Arab, and Kurdish communities in the area. These schools follow the Syrian Government’s curriculum, but also offer classes in Assyrian as a liturgical language.

Since 2015, the PYD in Syria has attempted to impose a Kurdish nationalist curriculum onto all areas it governs. This curriculum centers all experience in the region in the Kurdish experience through histories and idealized maps of a Greater Kurdistan.

The city of Qamishli, known to Assyrians as Beth Zalin, was founded by Assyrians in the aftermath of the Assyrian Genocide of 1915. Prior to the start of the war in Syria, upwards of 25,000 Assyrians inhabited the city. Today, it is estimated that only half remain.


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