By Sargis Sangari, Special to ASSIST News Service
GARLAND, TX (ANS – June 10, 2015) — Currently some 660,000 Middle Eastern Assyrians are refugees or in displaced person status in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Lebanon. Many of them reside in camps and other temporary settlements that are under constant threat of attack by the Islamic State forces, also known as ISIS, that drove them from their homes.
A small but extremely determined and highly effective Assyrian army defends these camps and also the villages in the Nineveh plain that have not been overrun by this vicious terror group.
To date the Assyrian military forces in the Syria/Iraq zone of conflict have not received any direct support or funding from regional powers and Western nations in their fight against ISIS.
Regional powers and Western nations have, however, funded various Sunni factions and forces battling ISIS in the Nineveh Plains area. What’s more, funding as well as direct military aid and training has also been provided to the Iraqi central government, which is backed by Iran.
Other aid recipients are the KRG, which is intent on “administering” the Assyrian heartland of Nineveh Plains after ISIS is driven from the region, and anti-Syrian forces that are tied to various bad actors such Al-Qaeda.
In modern times the Assyrian people have promoted peace and tolerance in the region. To that end they have guarded the tomb of a Hebrew prophet Nahum, which is located in their homeland. It was Nahum who prophesized the fall of Nineveh in the mid-seventh century BC, several decades before the city actually fell in 612 BC.
The difficult job of defending the Assyrian people would be made easier if the overstretched Assyrian forces, outnumbered by Islamic State (ISIS) and lacking in all the materials needed for the fight, could leave Nahum’s tomb unguarded. Assyrian fighting men and women charged with protecting the ancient resting place of a long-dead Hebrew prophet–one who was, in his time, a dedicated foe of the Assyrian Empire–could certainly find plenty of employment battling the forces seeking their annihilation. But that is not the Assyrian way.
The Assyrians feel that it is their duty as a civilized people to resist the forces of barbarism in the region, and the fulfillment of that duty includes protecting the region’s culture heritage.
Thus, and rather ironically, Assyrian troops are protecting the tomb of a Hebrew prophet even as that prophet’s descendants are helping the Kurds [many of whom] who are Muslim Sunnis, to gain control over the Assyrian homeland.
This being true the Assyrians are still protecting the tomb of a Jewish prophet since last year when the Kurds cut and ran from the battlefield. The Assyrians do so even though they may never get the support they need from Nahum’s ancestors in their historical homeland. In effect, the Assyrians are performing a good deed that will do them no good on this earth.
But then, we should not be surprised by this outcome. The Middle East is a place where few good deeds go unpunished especially when the worship of the almighty dollar stands between understanding who is an enduring partner in the region and who is a partner who still considers you one of the people of the book as they do the Christians they are not supporting or annihilating in the region.
The name Nahum means “consolation” or “consoler”. And this is fitting name for the man who was chosen to comfort the oppressed people of southern kingdom of Judah. I wonder what he would think now if he knew that his grave is about to be destroyed by ISIS as it is protected by the descendants of the Ancient Assyrians who destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel while the Israeli businessmen are flying into KRG on a daily basis striking deals with the Sunni Kurds who abandoned his grave site in the middle of the night last August a month after the Israeli PM praised them as allies in the region.
Note: Partly edited by Dan Wooding
Photo captions: 1) Assyrian refugees sleeping out in the open. 2) Asir Salaam Shajaa, a Christian Assyrian, holds the sole key to the gate for the synagogue housing Nahum’s Tomb. (Photo by Abed al Qaisi.) 3) A Hebrew inscription on the tomb of Prophet Nahum of Elkoshi, in Al Qosh, Iraq. (Photo Abed al Qaisi). 5) US Army Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) Sargis Sangari.
About the writer: US Army Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) Sargis Sangari is Founder of The United Assyrian Appeal http://unitedassyrianappeal.org/ and CEO of The Near East Center for Strategic Engagement LLC and had six years of continuous combat deployment in the Mid-East. While in theatre he conducted 144 combat patrols, 22 Special Forces missions and survived 7 IED attacks. Born in Iran within an ethnic Assyrian family, Sangari has a deep skill set in Middle East languages and cultures and understands the plight of Assyrian and other Mid-Eastern Christians. He now uses his 20-year military experience to advise Assyrian Christians in their struggle against ISIS and in the region.
** You may republish this or any of our ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)