Chicago (AINA) -- August 7 is Assyrian Memorial day, a day when the Assyrian (also known as Chaldean and Syriac) community worldwide remembers its Martyrs. Reflecting the Assyrian Diaspora, events are planned for San Jose, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Chicago, Detroit, New York, London, Paris, Stockholm, Amsterdam, North Iraq, Syria, Iran and other locations.
August 7 was chosen to commemorate Martyrs Day because in 1933, between August 8 and 11, the Iraqi army, led by Bakir Sidqi (a Kurd), entered the Assyrian town of Simmele and its surroundings, in north Iraq, and massacred 3,000 Assyrian men, women and children, after they had been promised safety if the men surrendered their weapons. According to Colonel Stafford of the British Army:
A cold blooded and methodical massacre of all the men in the village then followed, a massacre which for the black treachery in which it was conceived and the callousness with which it was carried out, was as foul a crime as any in the blood stained annals of the Middle East. The Assyrians had no fight left in them, partly because of the state of mind to which the events of the past week had reduced them, largely because they were disarmed. Had they been armed it seems certain that Ismail Abawi Tohalla and his bravos would have hesitated to take them on in fair fight. Having disarmed them, they proceeded with the massacre according to plan. This took some time. Not that there was any hurry, for the troops had the whole day ahead of them. Their opponents were helpless and there was no chance of any interference from any quarter whatsoever. Machine gunners set up their guns outside the windows of the houses in which the Assyrians had taken refuge, and having trained them on the terror stricken wretches in the crowded rooms, fired among them until not a man was left standing in the shambles. In some other instance the blood lust of the troops took a slightly more active form, and men were dragged out and shot or bludgeoned to death and their bodies thrown on a pile of dead. (read the full account here)
Though inspired by the Simmele massacre, August 7 has become a day to remember all Assyrian martyrs. Assyrians also commemorate April 24 (called Seyfo, or sword), but that is specific to the Turkish genocide of Assyrians in World War One, in which 750,000 Assyrians were killed (75%), as well as 400,000 Greeks and 1.5 million Armenians.
In Chicago, home to 90,000 Assyrians, a commemoration will be held on Friday evening. A letter from Maria Pappas, the treasurer of Cook County, in which Chicago is located, was sent to Assyrian residents of Chicago; Pappas expressed her support for Martyrs Day.
In Detroit, home to 100,000 Assyrians (mostly of the Chaldean rite), a commemoration sponsored by the Assyrian Democratic Movement will be held on Friday evening.
The Assyrian American Association of San Jose (AAASJ) will host a commemoration in San Jose on Friday evening. In a press release, AAASJ said:
On Friday, August 7th, 2009, the Assyrian American Association of San Jose will host a memorial event in remembrance of Assyrians who have given their lives for the preservation of their cultural and ethnic identity. The event, which includes informative speeches and lectures by renowned Assyrian activists, theatrical & musical performances, a candle light vigil, poetry and more is scheduled to begin at 7:30 pm at San Jose State University's Music Hall.
August 7th, known in Assyrian as "Shava b'Dabakh," marks a significant national holiday among the Assyrian community worldwide. Originally commemorating the 1933 massacre of Assyrians in the Iraqi city of Simele, the day has evolved to honor all Assyrian martyrs thereafter. The recent bombings of 7 Assyrian churches in Iraq highlights the ongoing persecution of the indigenous Assyrian community, adds to the gravity of this year's memorial, and underscores the event's theme, "Simele, Never Again: A past and present revelation on the Assyrian Nation's fight against oppression and genocide."
The following organizations are participating in this year's memorial:
- Assyrian Academic Society
- Assyrian Aid Society Santa Clara Chapter
- Assyrian Democratic Movement Santa Clara Chapter
- Assyrian Evangelical Church of San Jose
- Assyrian Foundation of America
- Assyrian Presbyterian Church of San Jose
- Assyrian Student Association at SJSU
- Assyrian Universal Alliance
- Assyrian Universal Alliance Americas Youth Chapter
- Bet Eil Assyrian Church
- Church of Pentecost
- Mar Yosip Assyrian Church of the East
- St. Mary's Assyrian Chaldean Catholic Church