News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan
The following article “Süryanileri duymak” was written by M. Ali Çebeli and appeared in Özgür Gündem. It has been translated into English below.
The first ever local elections in the Cizîrê Canton took place last week. Mayors and municipal councils were chosen in Qamişlo, Serekaniyê, Amude, Heseke, Derika Hamko, Girke Lege, Tirbespiye, Til Koçer, Çilaxa, Dirbesiye, and Ebu Raseyn. The election in Til Tamir however was delayed owing to the ISIS attacks.
“Til” or “Tel” means a hill or mound. ‘Tamir’ comes from ‘Tamro’ – a Syriac word for date. When said in Arabic the name of the town is pronounced ‘Til Temir.’ The stream which flows from Urfa to Serekaniye passes through Til Tamir and Heseke (Al-Hasakah) and is known as the Xabur stream (Khabur). Til Tamir is a very rich agricultural area.
The Assyrian-Syriacs are one of the autochthonous peoples of the artificially divided geography along the Iraq and Syrian border. They have suffered through many massacres. And after the Seyfo (genocide) and the Simele massacre they are not facing the savagery of ISIS, the trigger man for regional powers. The fate of the kidnapped Syriacs remains unknown. It is said that they were brought to the Shedade region as the YPG/YPJ, the Syriac Military Council, the Natoreh Assyrian Tribe and the Xabur Defence Forces were fighting to liberate the area.
I spoke with İshoc Gewriya, the president of the Syriac Union Party, at their headquarters in Qamishlo. Drawing attention to how in particular ISIS had built up its forces in Manacir between Til Tamir and Serekaniyê, he said “the Mancir region is predominantly inhabited by Arabs who were brought from Rakka. Most were brought during the Assad era, during the first part of the 1970’s.” Explaining that they were settled here as part of the Arab belt policy which sought to Arabize these areas Gewriya stresses the amount of time Syriacs had lived in the region. “We Syriacs have been living in the Cizîrê region for more than 7,000 years. As a family we have been in this region for about 250 years. Til Tamir is an historical place. In the Assyrian-Aramaic period there was a civilization called the Til Xelef in this region. Close to Til Tamir and close to Rişhayno, that is Serekaniyê. A civilization which extended as far as Urhoy, that is Urfa. There were Assyrian-Aramaic kingdoms in the region of Mosul. Their rule lasted until 241 C.E. There were Syriacs and Kurds living in the Til Tamir city center. The city had a population of around 40 thousand. There were some Armenians too but not that many. There were not many Arabs in the city center but they lived in surrounding villages. For example the Arab Begera tribe lived here. If we go back 10 years the population of Til Tamir was around 60% Syriac. A lot of people migrated in recent years. It has become an abandoned area.”
Seyfo And Simele
Ishoc Gewriya also invoked the Seyfo (Assyrian genocide) and the Simele massacre which took place soon after the United Kingdom used the League of Nations to recognize the independence of Iraq, saying “they would always say that ‘they migrated from the Turabdin and settled here.’ That is incorrect. When the Seyfo occured this area was under the administration of the Ottoman Empire. The Seyfo also took place here – in particular in the Qadurbeg region. Local villages here were put to the sword. Many of us left here for the Turabdin and spent one or two years hiding in caves. Then we came back. My family for example went to the Mor Augin Monastery and then returned here. This is to say that even in the time of the Seyfo there were Syriacs living in this area. In 1933 there was a massacre in the Ninova region of Iraq. We remember it as the Simele massacre. It was a massacre which took place in the time of King Faisal when the British were still present there. The British were there and the French were here. Because our people were facing a massacre many migrated to the Xabur region. Simele is now a district in [south] Kurdistan.”
The Ancient Civilizations Are Speaking Out:
“Syria needs a federal system without a center” says Gewriya, “our call is the call of oppressed peoples to world public opinion. We have been shouting from the First World War until today, but unfortunately no one has heard our cries. This people has lived in these lands for thousands of years and has given it its humanity, its civilization, its language, its everything. Unfortunately we are living through the shock of a world which in the 21st century is still in a situation of savagery. Our call is that the world hear our voice and the voice of oppressed peoples. Every people needs to learn to live with its own language, culture, civilization and to live with one another without attempting to assimilate one another.”
Yes – for the future of humanity this voice must be heard. The fire of sectarianism which is choking our blue skies must be put our before it draws closer. If we do not come together shoulder to shoulder the firestorm that is the ISIS ideology will engulf this whole region like matchbox houses.