The Assyrian Policy Institute held its first-ever Digital Week of Action between March 1-5, 2021, aimed at bringing greater understanding and awareness to issues impacting Assyrians in northern Iraq and the broader Middle East. Priority issues included sustainable, local, and legitimate security for the Nineveh Plain in northern Iraq; continued USAID assistance targeting minoritized groups in Iraq; U.S. recognition of the Simele Massacre of 1933; and excavations of all suspected mass grave sites in Simele, Iraq believed to be related to the Simele Massacre of 1933.
The Week of Action kicked off on Saturday, February 27 with a live virtual event featuring members of the API team, elected officials at the state and municipal levels, and Assyrian leaders and advocates joining the event from Iraq. Upwards of 100 participants received a policy briefing on key issues, learned critical skills on speaking with legislators, explored ways to be more informed and engaged on Assyrian-centered issues on a daily basis, and heard directly from Assyrians on the ground about urgent issues.
Each day during the Week of Action, activists, advocates, students, community leaders, and other individuals committed to advancing the rights of Assyrians took individual actions intended to help bring about the necessary changes to the policies and systems that stand in the way of a sustainable future for Assyrians in their homeland. As part of the coordinated campaign, 3,019 emails were sent to Members of Congress across the United States, hundreds of key messages were tweeted to government officials using #APIWeekofAction, and $2,468 dollars were raised for the API.
Concurrent to the daily actions, the API held more than a dozen Congressional meetings at both the Member-level and staff-level, including meetings with Reps. Lisa McClain (MI-10), Josh Harder (CA-10), Brad Schneider (IL-10), Brad Sherman (CA-30), and Jim McGovern (MA-02). In these meetings, API representatives were joined by activists, volunteers, and Assyrian-American community leaders, including representatives of the Assyrian American Association of Southern California, the Shlama Foundation, Etuti Institute, the Nineveh Plain Defense Fund, and the Assyrian American Association of Massachusetts.
"We are energized by the thousands of individuals who took a stand with us as part of our first-ever Week of Action. We look forward to building on this momentum and strengthening our community's capacity to mobilize in the future," said Reine Hanna, API Executive Director. "The API will continue to press for necessary changes to governance and security policies for the Nineveh Plain in order to establish the conditions that would enable a sustainable future for Assyrians in their homeland. But as we have always said, this work is greater than the work of the API alone, and must draw strength from our vast network of volunteers, supporters, and partner organizations throughout the United States. As we continue to scale up our own advocacy work on the Hill, we will keep collaborating with our own network and cooperating with external organizations." ■