Immigration Threatens the Assyrian Community in Syria

Investigations Thursday 19th September 2013 |Yousef Sheikhu

Yousef Sheikhu - Al-Hasakah "A huge loss, not just to the Assyrian community, but to the nation as a whole," this is how the head of the "Assyrian Democratic Organization" Gabriel Moshe Koryeh described the immigration of Assyrian Syriacs which has doubled recently with the deteriorating situation in Syria. He added "Unfortunately, this immigration is one-way only...there is no coming back” Assyrian Syriacs live in Hasakah, Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs. The recent surge in immigration and the rapidly decreasing number of the members of this minority is the most serious challenge ever to face this community; especially that majority of immigrants are the young qualified professionals. There is no accurate statistics on the numbers of Assyrians in Syria. Local politicians estimate that there are around 200 to 250 thousand. According to Gabriel Koryeh 20% of them has left Syria during the past two year. But Bahnan Joseph Talia, an official in the "Assyrian Democratic Party," believes that the percentage of immigrants is higher. Talia, a member of the administrative body of the Assyrian Eastern Church, used to give away calendars to the Assyrians citizens in the villages of Tal Tamir, "we used to give away 3 thousand calendars every year in the Khabur area only (Al-Hasakah.) However, this year we gave 1700 calendar, almost 50% less." Who is responsible for the immigration? Talia explained that there are about 30 Assyrian villages in the Khabur area; all these villages are controlled now by battalions affiliated with the Free Syrian Army. Even though the battalions are not attacking or harassing the Assyrians, their presence there makes the whole area a target to the regime shelling and attacks. Koryeh, on the other hand, blame neither the opposition nor the regime for the immigration. Rather he blames the immigration on "the instability, the deterioration of living conditions, and the fear of the radical Islamist groups."