Part of the Global Perspectives on War and Peace Collection. Color video. A documentary featuring current interviews and stock footage highlighting the persecution of Assyrian people throughout the Middle East, including Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, and Turkey; and advocating for a separate Assyrian state.
0:00 Opening credits.
0:30 A narrator explains that the Assyrians fought with the Allied forces in World War I in exchange for assurances from Britain that they would be granted an autonomous state in the area where Turkey, Iraq, and Iran meet. Despite their valiance in this war, however, they were not given this autonomy, even after Iraq was granted independence from Britain in 1932. The Assyrian Christians were viewed as a threat by the new Islamic government of Iraq, who persecuted them. Eventually, this led to a mass migration by the Assyrians out of their homeland to Syria, Lebanon, and Iran. Later civil war in Iraq in the 1970s led to the continuation of this desertion.
2:15 A man describes his family’s exodus from Iraq, explaining that they had to leave behind everything – their house, land, bank accounts – in order to escape. “We just flew with our souls, and that’s all.”
3:00 Adam Benjamin, congressman from Indiana, reports on the “systematic extermination of the Assyrian minorities as well as other Christian minorities in the Middle East.”
3:30 A family of Assyrian refugees describes their continuing ordeal, thanking the United States for allowing them to live in freedom.
4:08 Voiceover explains that “the sub-committee office of refugees in the U.S. Senate, headed by Senator Edward Kennedy, helped the Assyrian Universal Alliance refugee cause considerably.” Footage of Kennedy voicing his support for the refugees and pledging continued help.
5:16 Leon Mesho, refugee, explains that there are still hundreds of thousands of families with nowhere to go, and that the families who were fortunate enough to be resettled in other countries face difficulties assimilating to the new culture.
6:23 An unidentified woman expresses sympathy for the difficulty of “being a stranger in a new land.”
6:46 Dr. Nariman Solhkha, psychologist, explains the difficulty Middle Easterners have transitioning to life in the West and to the low status of a refugee.
7:50 Narrator explains that the new area of concern for Assyrians in the Middle East is Turkey, where a system of mass genocide has systematically purged Christians from the country, from 1920s levels of 3 million to current levels of close to 100,000. He explains that Turkish Assyrians have an 83% illiteracy rate, making life in a foreign country difficult. The narrator poses the question – what is the answer? The remainder of the tape focuses on the proposed solution, the idea of creating an Assyrian state.
8:44 John McCarthy, of the U.S. Catholic Conference: “It seems that every race of every nationality – don’t use the word ‘homeland’ – has a place where they can live in safety, preserve their ethnicity, preserve their roots. We know our beautiful Jewish friends have a new state of Israel… It does seem unfortunate that our Assyrians don’t have that safe haven, that place they can say,’ When all else fails, here I can rest my head in safety.’”
9:27 Bob Wright, also of the U.S.C.C., explains, “I think that the idea of creating a safe area for your group is something that is very much needed, and also is very timely.”
9:44 The narrator explains that several U.S. senators agree that a “one-place solution” is the only answer. Congressman Benjamin describes refugee programs as short-term solutions and outlines the need for the creation of an Assyrian homeland.
10:23 Tony Coelho, Congressman from California, explains that homeland creation is the only ideal solution, and its implementation is only a matter of whether or not people are willing to help. “If they’re sincerely interested in helping out these people who have been persecuted – there’s no doubt about it, the facts are there, the history is there, both the Armenian people and the Assyrian people – and if there is a willingness to help out, if there is a willingness to take care of these problems, then it can be done.”
10:57 Charles Percy, Senator from Illinois, pledges to bring up the notion of an Assyrian homeland the next time he speaks on the floor of the Senate.