Phoenix (AINA) -- The Phoenix School of Law's International Law Society presented an unprecedented look at an international human rights issue that closely mirrors the American Indian experience in Arizona: the plight of the indigenous Assyrian Christian people of Iraq, and their eradication by the majority regime and religious extremists. This symposium, "Nations within Nations," was held on March 19, 2011, at the Phoenix School of Law campus.
Since the liberation of Iraq in 2003 the Assyrians have been subjected to a low-grade genocide (report), resulting in thousands of deaths, the mass exodus of Assyrians from Iraq. It is estimated that only 600,000 Of the 1.4 million Assyrians who lived in Iraq in 2003 remain. Of the Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan, nearly 40% are Assyrians (report), even though Assyrians comprised only 6% of the Iraqi population in 2003.
Key speakers at the event included Claudette White, Chief Judge of the Quechan Nation Tribal Court, Siera Russell, Associate Judge for the Yavapai-Apache Nation Tribal Court; Steven Gonzales, Phoenix Law Associate Professor on American Indian Law and consultant for the United Nations; and Assyrian-American attorneys Robert W. DeKelaita and Kathy Sayad Zatari. The program was attended by representatives of Arizona's tribal community, the Assyrian community, representatives from the U.S. State Department and concerned citizens and academics in the Phoenix community.
All speakers noted that what the Assyrians are experiencing parallels the plight of American Indians within Arizona. The symposium explored the fundamental issues at the heart of Southwestern tribal autonomy, and considered their significance for Iraq's indigenous peoples, who are on the brink of extinction.
The participants expressed their joint commitment to the aspirations of indigenous peoples both in North America and in Iraq.
A video and podcast of the conference will be available in the near future.