Four years ago today, ISIS terrorists launched an assault on the 35 Assyrian villages in the Khabour Region in northeastern Syria. Dozens were killed in the attacks, hundreds of Assyrian civilians were taken hostage, and thousands more were forced to flee their homes.
Today we remember all those who were murdered and reflect on the suffering of the survivors, most of whom remain externally-displaced. We share the sorrow of those who mourn and honor those Assyrians whose remarkable strength and bravery saved innocent lives. We also draw particular attention to the needs of the survivors and their families as they struggle to rebuild their lives in new lands, and express our solidarity with those who remain with futures uncertain.
The Assyrians of Khabour are the descendants of the survivors of the tragic Simele Massacre of 1933 in Iraq, which claimed the lives of as many as 6,000 innocent Assyrians and drove tens of thousands into exile. The February 23 attacks remind us that the cycle of genocide continues—against which Assyrians historically have had no recourse.
The February 23 attacks also represent the international failure to prevent the ethnic cleansing of the Assyrian people. Prior to the start of the conflict in Syria, the Assyrian population in Khabour numbered upwards of 15,000. Today, it is estimated that less than one thousand remain. While the area is now free of ISIS, it exists largely in a state of devastation and the process of demographic change is underway. The disappearance of Khabour's Assyrian population serves as an urgent reminder that the Assyrian people continue to face an existential threat in their ancestral homelands.
The Assyrian Policy Institute will continue to press for measures to ensure that violence against Assyrians and other minorities is eliminated and advocate for policies that enable them to achieve full equality in their homeland.