Sorya Massacre: Another in a series of massacres targeting the Chaldean–Syriac–Assyrian people

The views expressed in this op-ed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of SyriacPress.

By Ramzi Hirmiz Yako

September 16, 1969 was not an ordinary day for the Chaldean–Syriac–Assyrian (CSA) people, and Iraqis generally, after they heard of the massacre committed in Sorya village by the slaughterer First Lieutenant Abdul Karim al-Juhaishi, an Iraqi army officer and one of the military authority’s servants. Under the pretext that the residents of the village obstructed the advancement of the Iraqi military forces on their way to suppress a Kurdish uprising. Al-Juhaishi gathered the residents of the village and shot them, sparing nobody, including a priest who came to the village to hold a Holy Liturgy there on that day.

The Sorya Massacre is one in a series of massacres that the Christian CSA people have been subjected to since the middle of the 9th century across Turkey and Beth Nahrin resulting in the killing of hundreds of thousands and the forced converse or displacement of many of the rest. In the countries of Beth Nahrin, the historical homeland of the CSA people, their numbers do not exceed 5% of what existed in the past.

The Sorya Massacre is the second massacre committed by the Iraqi government against the CSA, the first being the Simele Massacre of August 8, 1933, committed to quell calls for autonomy in the region.

The Sorya Massacre was so heinous and cruel that even children and women were not spared. Like the preceding and following massacres — including the brutal Sayfo Genocide in what is now Turkey in 1915, which killed more than 600,000 Chaldeans–Syriacs–Assyrians as well as 1.5 million Armenians and over 250,000 Pontic Greeks — the perpetrator were not held accountable.

Rather than admit any role in Sorya, instead, the Iraqi judiciary declared al-Juhaishi insane. No further investigations into systemic discrimination was made.

The Sorya Massacre has been ignored by successive governments in Iraq, including the current. Newly appointed Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi visited Nohadra (Duhok) Province on 12 September only a few kilometers from Sorya and Simele. Yet, despite mentioning in his speech the injustices inflicted upon Iraqis and the massacres committed against the Kurds, Yezidis, Arabs, and Turkmen, he made no mention of the massacres perpetrated against the Chaldean–Syriac–Assyrian people. In January 2014, the Islamic State swept across much of northern and western Iraq, including Nineveh Plains, killing hundreds of CSAs and thousands of Yezidis. Hundreds of thousands were displaced.

Before the onslaught of the Islamic State, in 2003, the U.S. invasion of the country led to a rapid destabilization of security that lead to numerous massacres.

The Iraqi government must acknowledge its responsibility for Sorya and other massacres that affected Iraqis, include them in the Iraqi constitution, and compensate the families of victims who have had their loved ones ripped from them and their homes and lives destroyed.

International organizations, especially humanitarian organizations, must push for the adoption of legislation protecting the indigenous peoples of the country in order to ensure their future in their homeland.

Moreover, decision-makers from the Chaldean–Syriac–Assyrian people, especially members of government, must demand the same legislation unless they wish to see the current CSA population 300,000, once estimated at two million, steadily diminish into oblivion.

Finally, we ask the Government of Iraq, especially after in the wake of 2003, what history will write about them and their responsibility for the displacement of these people and minorities. How will history describe them when the indigenous peoples disappear from Iraqi lands?