By Suphi Aksoy Executive Board member of the Bethnahrin National Council
Political and social struggle is vital and of existential importance for the Syriac (Assyrian-Chaldean-Aramean) people, as well as for all oppressed people living under political, ethnic, religious, cultural, and economic pressures and who face the danger of statelessness. With each attack on these peoples, the dynamics of existence inherent in the national identity and their associations with the homeland are weakened.
Being proud descendants of the Mesopotamians who founded great empires and even greater civilizations, the Syriac people however slowly began to give in to the defeats they suffered at different periods in history. The Syriac people entered a downward spiral of dispersion over regions and countries as a result of occupation and pillage by sovereign powers. Their survival as a people was endangered.
The Syriacs lost much of their geographic homeland. Their population continued to decline through genocides, massacres, and migrations. In addition to the loss of geography and population, the material and moral values of their civilizations were also plundered. With the Sayfo Genocide of 1915, this process turned another dark page. The spiritual world of all Syriacs was turned upside down.
Any hopes for social and national resurrection, however weak, were crushed in the Simele massacre of 1933. Since then, fear and foreign powers have held the Syriacs hostage, in every area, hindering their capacity for national struggle.
The movements created by the efforts of Syriac nationalists and patriotic intellectuals could not solve the historical and social problems because they could not transcend the local level, and the walls of fear created by the colonialists could not be overcome. Political, economic, and other developments arising on the regional and international level also affected the Syriac people.
The establishment of Lebanon, the spread of secular ideas in the region, the cultural organization of the Syriac diaspora brought new wind for the Christians in the Middle East and showed the Syriacs the way out. Many found salvation in leaving their home countries and emigrating to countries where they can live safer and more comfortably.
At a time when Syriacs en masse left their homeland and turned to the diaspora, when wars and conflicts intensified in the Middle East, when current problems grew and historical problems were not resolved, the idea for the establishment of the Bethnahrin National Council took shape. This idea was essentially an uprising against statelessness and a reaction against external attempts of national annihilation. Since this uprising stood for courage, sacrifice, patriotism, and new life, it began to spread in a short time at home and abroad. Thus, the chains of slavery were broken one by one, and the voice of the Syriac people rose with every action against oppression.
With the national struggle under the leadership of the Bethnahrin National Council, patriotism for the homeland and the sense of national unity of the Syriac people grew. This was based in concepts of modern organization and institutionalization. The ideas and groups that emerged in the late 1980s created new hopes and brought social enthusiasm for the return to the homelands in the 1990s.
By taking ownership to bring about recognition for the Sayfo and raising the subject on every platform around the world, Syriacs have now incorporated the Sayfo Genocide of 1915 as essential part of their national identity.
With the national struggle, national organization developed in every field and the spirit of solidarity and consciousness of the national unity among different sections and religious denominations of the Syriac people became widespread.
Tens of thousands of Syriacs have stood up and defended the national and social cause by making material-spiritual sacrifices and fulfilling their patriotic duties. Many steps have been taken against barbarian forces in politics, diplomacy, in the media and by organizing self-defense. In North and East Syria, democratic governance has been established by forming alliances with other peoples.
Since the purpose of the Bethnahrin National Council was to reject slavery and liberate the Syriac people, all kinds of sacrifices were made. Many great sacrifices have been made. Dozens of members, fighters, and patriots were martyred in the fight against the aggressive colonialists and the ruthless ISIS terror organization.
The declaration of political and national will of the Syriac people was made at the founding congress of the Bethnahrin Freedom Party (GHB-Gabo d’Hirutho d’Bethnahrin), held in the mountains of Mesopotamia on June 18, 2000. This declaration was a call to the Syriac (Aramean-Assyrian-Chaldean) people living in every part of Bethnahrin and in the diaspora. The strong response of our people to this call since then has elevated the national struggle to the international level.
Every Syriac should learn from mistakes in history. Only then will the awareness of his and her national duty arise and only then will we achieve new successes with every step taken for the freedom of the Syriac people. It must be known to all that the only guarantee to liberation is a strong organized and national struggle.
The views expressed in this op-ed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of SyriacPress.