Opinion Editorial
The Kurds Must Support the Assyrians and Yazidis Militarily and Politically
By James Rayis
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(AINA) -- Today, in the midst of the greatest threat to a 6764 year old community's existence in Iraq, the Aramaic-speaking Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs), both Iraqi and expatriate, must look to the Kurdish Regional Government for immediate aid for those in the Nineveh and Kirkuk province from the risk of immediate annihilation. This means harboring all those fleeing from ISIS forces, then finding a place of safety, water, food and shelter.

Soon after, if indeed safety can even be achieved, and with international assistance, there must be carved out a protected and safe area where Assyrians and other minorities can live in their towns and villages without fear of attacks, kidnappings, rape and forced conversions they are now experiencing. The only alternative is mass departure and final end to this community. The fear of total annihilation is realistic. Sadly, there is recent precedence for similar exterminating genocides within Iraq, and not by unofficial militia forces.

A large and successful Jewish community, centered in Baghdad, remained rightfully proud of its position as a community of cultural and economic importance to the area both within the Persian and Turkish areas of control. As some of the community began to splinter off with calls of the Zionist movement, many tens of thousands carried on in government and businesses as did other Iraqis. With the end of WWII and the creation of Israel, officially opposed by Iraq and other Arab countries, savage reprisals were heaped on the Jews of Iraq. Key government figures and business owners were tried in mocking fashion and hanged publicly in the central square of Baghdad as Israeli or American spies. With the gruesome assassination of Iraq's King Faisal in 1958 by a new military regime, and contemporaneous with another Arab-Israeli war, Jewish leaders were again singled out and given the choice to leave without their property and money, or stay and face trial. Again, those tried were hanged as spies while attacks and robbery of Jewish Iraqis went unpunished. Mass exodus to Israel and the United States meant the final end to this historic community.

With the Kurdish provinces situated well within historic Assyrian areas, the suggestion of cooperation and assistance might appear as an obvious consideration, a humanitarian request easily made. Historic and emotional wounds have, though, resonated generation after generation and have left many Assyrians distrustful of cooperation with Kurdish authorities.

The KRG has actively worked against establishing an Assyrian autonomous region in the Nineveh Plain as well as the creation of local police and militia manned by Assyrians, which for years Assyrians have been calling for. Had this been accomplished, perhaps the outcome may have been different when ISIS entered the Assyrian Nineveh Plain. What actually happened was the Kurdish forces withdrew from their positions in the Assyrian and Yazidi areas, leaving them defenseless and forcing them to flee their homes.

We cannot be so naive as to predict that had a safe haven been carved out and set aside for minorities in the plains of Nineveh in 2005, there would have been no scourge of the ISIS invasion, and no telling how dramatic its consequence would then be compared to today. All of this was dependent on security forces and protection. We can say with certainty, however, that not having the cooperation of the KRG has meant that the efforts and decade of calling for a safe haven and protected area have yielded little.

Today, cooperation between the KRG and Assyrians will make possible maintaining an independent identity in Iraq. The idea of responding to a call for protection in Najaf, as has been made, is no solution to maintaining the culture, traditions and open practices of Christians in Iraq.

Only by cooperation can the KRG address the true grievances with Kurdish authorities and pesh merga forces, or even have them be aired and discussed in a constructive manner. Only by seeking KRG assistance and cooperation in immediate protection for besieged populations and carving out a safe haven in the Nineveh Plain can Assyrians move from immediate safety to longer term stability.

While men and children are being maimed and murdered with each ISIS advance, while girls and women being taken to give to ISIS fighters as prizes, as groups are trapped to starve or die of thirst, there must be a banding together in recognition of the desperation of this plight. KRG cooperation is necessary to save Assyrians and other minorities in Iraq under siege by ISIS. The depth of Kurdish assistance is not a subject that today needs to be addressed, only cooperation and assistance in immediate rescue, shelter, and the creation of a protected safe haven with international authorities.

James Y. Rayis is an international attorney in the Detroit area with Giarmarco, Mullins & Horton, P.C. He is the former Director of Global Justice Project Iraq, a U.S. State Department funded initiative on judicial and lawyer independence in Iraq. He has served as Chairman of the American Bar Association Middle East Committee and was U.S. Presidential Delegate to AIJA, a global bar association of younger lawyers. He served as a director on the boards of the Chaldean/Assyrian/Syriac Council of America, the Assyrian Aid Society of America and served as Special Legal Advisor to the Assyrian Universal Alliance. His published Articles include The Christian Crisis in Iraq (2005) with author Nina Shea, Get Out the ChaldoAssyrian Vote (2005) and Conditions for Judicial Independence in Iraq (2008), along with professional academic articles.

Views and opinions expressed in guest editorials do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AINA.
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