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13.11.02

Is Jesus' Language At Death's Door?

In the high mountains and plains of northern Iraq, a region above which U.S jets enforce the Kurdish "no-fly" zone, an ancient, minority Christian community still speaks the language once spoken by Jesus Christ.

Human rights groups say the Assyrians — like the Kurds — have suffered under Saddam's systematic attempts to "Arabize" the north, a process that includes driving ethnic minorities from their lands and seizing some of their properties, especially in the strategic, oil-rich northern region bordering the Kurdish enclave.

"The Iraqi government has also forced ethnic minorities such as the Assyrians, the Kurds and the Turkomen to sign 'national correction forms' that require them to renounce their ethnic identities and declare themselves to be Arabs," says Hania Mufti of Human Rights Watch. "In a way, it is a form of ethnic cleansing by clearing an area of its ethnic minorities."

- via Stand Down


I'm not a huge fan of the hook ABC hung this story on -- are the Assyrians and their language only important because of the Jesus connection? But it's still important to draw attention to how convoluted the ethnic situation in the mideast really is -- it's not "us vs them" or "us and some of them vs the rest" by a long shot. I feel bad for overlooking the Assyrians in the commentary I wrote on the Kurds for this week's Scarlet.

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