Every year on 7 August, Suraye (Syriacs) commemorate the Martyrs of Simele, Nohadra (Duhok) province, northern Iraq. This Remembrance Day reminds of yet another bloody massacre on the indigenous Suraye population of Mesopotamia.
In the preceding weeks up to and including August 7, 1933, Iraqi troops and local Kurdish and Arab allies attacked the Suraye in Simele and dozens of neighboring villages. In those weeks, they massacred thousands of men, women, and children – most of them members of the Church of the East (now divided over the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East).
Hundreds of Christian Suraye were massacred in Simele on 7 August alone.
Thus, less than 2 decades after the Sayfo Genocide of 1915 on Syriacs, Armenians and Pontic Greeks, the Suraye once again became the victim of brutal mass killings.
In 1915 Suraye were systematically slaughtered and decimated in Hakkari, Tur Abdin, Mardin, Van, Omid (Diyarbakir), Siirt, Sirnak and all of contemporary southeastern Turkey. After their deportation and forced flight from those areas, many of the survivors got scattered over different regions in the Middle East. The umpteenth uprooting from their historic villages, towns, and lands. Some settled in Urmia, Iran. Others settled in the Iraqi regions of Nohadra and in the ancestral Syriac heartland of the Nineveh Plain.
Also Read: Why We Should Commemorate Sayfo Together!
In the aftermath of the 1933 Simele massacre, thousands of Suraye fled the towns and villages where they had only recently settled. They re-settled, with new refugees coming in the following years, on the banks of the Khabur River in the Gozarto (Jazira) Region in northeastern Syria under French mandate.
Now more than a century after the Sayfo Genocide of 1915 on Suraye and 88 years after the Simele massacre, the indigenous Syriac people again are confronted with destruction, killings, kidnappings and forced demographic change in Iraq, their traditional Mesopotamian homeland.
With the forced and massive exodus from the Nineveh Plains towns and villages, the atrocities perpetrated by Islamic State from 2014 onwards, its disastrous aftermath, the destruction of churches, monasteries and villages, combined with the geopolitical proxy fights by regional and international powers in the Middle East, once again represent a clear existential threat to the Suraye people in Iraq – and much so in Syria.
In a period of British presence and power on the ground in Iraq, in a period of international negotiations and conferences on the Middle East, international and regional powers neglected to take real action at that time.
In our present days, the Iraqi government so far has not recognized the Simele massacre.