Assyrisk identitet, historia och politik

Mustafa Barzani's plans for the Assyrians

Kategori: Historia

Mulla Mustafa Barzani

On a cold winter day in 1967, Mustafa Barzani makes the following comment about the Assyrians: “To those who do not accept their Kurdishness, we will say; go to the Arabs!”


The ethnic cleansing of the Assyrians and the idea of ​​assimilating them as Christian citizens in a future "Kurdistan" seems to have been planned since the Kurdish revolution in Iraq began in the early 1960s. Here is a unique testimony from a former bodyguard to imam Mustafa Barzani back in 1967.

Massoud Barzani's father, imam Mustafa Barzani, began his uprising against the central government in Baghdad in 1961 and some Assyrian leaders in Iraq actively supported the Kurds. The Assyrians had faced the same dilemma as their brothers in Turabdin did later in the 1990s; to choose side between the PKK and Turkish government. In Turabdin, the Assyrians chose to be neutral but were nevertheless affected by assasinations and expulsion. Today there are no more than a few thousand Assyrians left in Turabdin.

In northern Iraq, some Assyrians were convinced that the Kurds were fighting a fair fight, thus those Assyrians wanted to be part of it, while others wanted Kurdish protection of their families and villages. However, the result was not much better than in Turabdin. Assyrians on leading positions within the KDP have often been eliminated, such as Arbil's Governor Franso Toma Hariri [1], while many Assyrians moved to Iraq's major cities or abroad to find a safer life. Kurdish families took over the villages that the Assyrians left. Only in Nohadra (Kurdish Duhok) province about 60 Assyrian villages are still occupied.

Francis Yousef Shabo, former MP in KRG Parlaiment

In 1992, the newly formed Kurdish Parliament of KRG decided that all occupied land should be returned to the Assyrian owners. But the decision has never been implemented. In 1993, the Assyrian MP Francis Yousif Shabo demanded that the decision be put into practice. Shortly thereafter he was murdered outside his home. The investigation of the murder was delayed for a long time. In a clip on YouTube (not available any more), Mr. Yonadam Kanna, the then housing minister in KRG, explains the circumstances surrounding the murder. He also adds that he asked Massoud Barzani why nothing happened in the investigation. Mr. Kanna was told by an adviser that all papers in the case had been destroyed in a previous fire in Arbil.

The Barzani clan, said to have Assyrian Christian origin (2) once upon a time, has used the Assyrians as a tool in their fight against Baghdad. But when the struggle would eventually bear fruit, the clan's intention seems to have been to put the Assyrians on the choice to see themselves as Christian citizens or disappear.

Here is a unique testimony by a former bodyguard [3] of Mustafa Barzani who later on left the KDP. According to him, Mustafa Barzani clarified his intentions regarding the future of the Assyrians in the future "Kurdistan" by using ethnic cleansing or expulsion. This happened at a meeting with Kurdish clan leaders in 1967 in his winter residence in the village of Delman in Ravanduz. Here's the full story:

The Kurdish clan leaders from various districts in northern Iraq had gathered at the home of revolutionary leader Mustafa Barzani to express their loyalty. As usual, he came to the meeting somewhat delayed, when everyone rose in attention and stood in line to kiss his hand. He patronized them each with a stern look and then said he knew they would find their way home after "selling themselves to the enemy". Everyone agreed and asked for forgiveness, while promising to show complete loyalty to their leader in the future. Barzani accepted their apology and the meeting could begin.

The clan leaders enumerated their strength of fighting men at their disposal. Then, Barzani asked his bodyguard to pick up a bag full of money which he distributed to the clan leaders by saying; "This is my weapon to buy the loyalty of those who do not believe in the rightful cause of our people". Barzani's closest man Ismail Tellani, who sat next to him, explained that the leader did not mean to buy the loyalty of those present, but wanted to inform how far the Kurdish revolution had come. He added; “Our leader has got America on its knees. Therefore, our opportunities have flourished like a rippling water source ”.

The clan leaders once again expressed their loyalty, while one of them, Fattah al-Hirki, expressed his anger that the great progress of "Kurdistan should be shared with the “Gavur” (Godless) Christian Assyrians". He continued; “We are all aware of the rich history they have. There is no one among us who does not know that Nineveh is their historical residence…” But Mustafa Barzani immediately interrupted with the following words:

“After our revolution is completed, my first goal will be to shatter the Assyrians living in our country and distance them from one another. I will spread them across different villages at least 100 kilometers apart. That way I will cut the ties between them. Another measure will be banning them from buying land. Over time, even so-called historical documents will disappear. But for the moment, I have to follow the same policy that the English once did. At present, our revolution is in great need of their combat power. When it comes to the post-revolutionary constitution, it will be in our hands and everyone who calls himself 'Kurd' will have a place in Kurdistan. To those who do not accept their Kurdishness, we will say; Go to the Arabs! ”.

Then some clan leaders declared themselves ready to immediately start expel the Assyrians. Tawfiq al-Barwari said he could remove the Assyrians from Barwari in less than 24 hours. Mustafa Barzani replied: “Mr. Tawfiq, you are in charge of your district. You can start the work slowly". Ali Halo said: "I will also start the same in Sindi and Zakho district". Pashdar Agha spoke: "Honorable leaders! I say this. If there is an ounce of honest blood in our veins, we must destroy the Assyrians. You know very well that the failure of Sheikh Mahmud's and el-Hafez's revolution in Barzan was due to the Assyrians. Therefore, the Assyrians must either leave Kurdistan or kneel to Kurdistan”.

Mustafa Barzani replied that he noted that everyone agreed but that one must wait till after the revolution, before taking action on a larger scale. The Assyrians were needed in the meantime. However, he would already send orders to the Peshmerga guerrillas in the Behdinan district to attack the Assyrians in the area and force them to flee.

But suddenly Barzani realized that he might have said too much (given that the bodyguard had an Assyrian mother) and immediately changed the subject of conversation by calling on his Assyrian life doctor Oro (Orahem). The bodyguard who had been searching for Dr. Oro returned with the message that he was not in his room, but was sitting with Assyrian tailor Isa Rihane in his studio. The meeting ended. This was a cold winter day in Barzani's home, concludes the former bodyguard his story.

 Fr Paul Bidaro (Beth Daro) 1973, a year before he passed awday.

In May 2006, Nineb Lamassu, a then PhD student at Cambridge University, wrote an open letter to the Kurdish revisionist Diayako Xarib in response to his article “Is there an Assyrian cause in Iraqi Kurdistan?” [4] Lamassu’s response had the headline “Fallacy of a Kurdish Intellectual”. He expressed the betrayal leading Assyrians had experienced by the Barzani clan, despite having fought side by side. One such Assyrian was Father Paul Bidaro - an Assyrian priest from the Chaldean Church - who had joined the forces of Mulla Mustafa Barzani along with many Assyrians. But he left the Kurdish movement after asking Mustafa Barzani: "What about the rights of my Assyrian people now?"

Mustafa Barzani replied: "We have carried our Burnu (rifle) on our shoulders. You can probably start doing the same". Father Bidaro immediately asked for Barzani's hand. When he stretched out his hand, Father Bidaro shook it and said; "Please accept my condolences, because you have just liquidated the Kurdish freedom movement. Every nation that does not recognize the rights of another oppressed nation is not worthy of its freedom".

Lamassu continues his response to Xarib: “Your assertion that abuses against my Assyrian people in northern Iraq is not because they 

are Assyrians is absurd. How is it that Francis Yousif Shabo, an Assyrian representative in the regional government (KRG, ed), was assassinated shortly after he demanded in Parliament that the Assyrian villages occupied by the Kurds be returned to their rightful owners? And it is no secret who ordered the assassination and his hierarchical position in power”. Lamassu refers of course to the Barzani clan.


(2) American historian Robert Brenton Betts states that the Barzani clan was originally Christian Assyrians who converted to Islam in the 19th century. ”The leader of the Kurdish separatist forces, Mulla Mustafa al-Barzani, is himself reputedly of old Nestorian stock, his family (from which sprang twelve bishops of the Church) having converted to Islam only a century ago”. Swedish Ambassador Ingmar Karlsson included this quote in his book “The Cross and the Crescent” in 1991, but deleted it in the 2005 edition. Nineb Lamassu also confirms in his reply to Diayako Xarib that the Barzani clan was once Assyrian Christians, called Raulnaye because their bishop was named Mar Raul.

[2] Jan Beth-Sawoce, Kürt Milliyetçiliği ve Ulusal Inkarcılık, pp. 7-11, Bet-Froso Nsibin, Södertälje, Sweden 1994. Quoting a report in the journal al-Turath belonging to the Iraqi Christian Democratic Party, volume 11, March 1989. The source for al-Turaht was Mustafa Barzani's former bodyguard, who had an Assyrian mother. She had been forced to marry a Kurd in 1918 when the Assyrians had been driven from Urmia in Persia to Baquba in Iraq.

[3] (The link not active anymore)


  • Ninwe Maraha säger:

    Vill anvanda denna artikel for publikation i Nineveh Magazine. Ar det ok?
    Tidningen kommer ut Januari 2020.

    Svar: Inga problem, Ninwe.Shlome
    Augin Kurt Haninke

    2019-11-25 | 21:10:43
  • Tomma tankar säger:

    Väldigt intresseväckande text

    2020-05-11 | 18:34:46

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