KRG officials urged to launch Simele Massacre site investigation

This article was originally published by The Assyrian Journal in September 2020. The original can be found Here.

By Yasmeen Altaji  | CHICAGO—A delegation of U.S.-based Assyrian leaders met with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials last Friday to discuss the fate of suspected mass grave sites believed to be related to the Simele Massacre of 1933.

Representatives of 11 Assyrian organizations from across the country, including the Assyrian Aid Society of America, GISHRU and several Assyrian American Associations, deliberated the history of the site and details of proposed protection plans with four KRG officials who were also present at the meeting.

According to a report provided to The Assyrian Journal by Assyrian Policy Institute (API) director Reine Hanna, the meeting focused “exclusively on the issue of the suspected mass grave sites in Simele.”

The Simele Massacre was an attack carried out by Iraqi armed forces against Assyrians over a period of five days in August of 1933. The targeted violence of the massacre in Simele, combined with that of a subsequent, larger genocidal campaign carried out across more than 100 villages in northern Iraq, led to the death of as many as 6,000 Assyrians.

After presenting background information about the Simele Massacre, delegation members outlined a number of proposals and recommendations regarding the site, according to the API report. Many of these proposals had been previously introduced in a joint letter published by API in August.

The delegation anticipates that the Iraqi Government and the KRG would be willing to work with Assyrian bodies involved to “determine a collective answer to the question of funding” required to survey the sites and conduct forensic excavations.

Currently, officials suspect that the locations contain items—including exposed human remains—that could warrant their designation as mass grave sites.

Resources for DNA sampling—one of the recommendations made in API’s joint statement from early August and rehashed in last week’s meeting—will be sought through universities and global experts.

A collective of Assyrian organizations is spearheading efforts to have the KRG and Iraqi government formally recognize the grounds and implement appropriate protective measures.

The Assyrian delegation is also in the process of engaging Members of Congress, according to the report.

A meeting between the delegation of Assyrian organizations and the Iraqi Ambassador to the U.S. has been scheduled for September to discuss the matter.

A section of the Simele Massacre site. (Photo by Miriam Zia)