Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Ninth session. Item 7 – Future Work of the Permanent Forum, including issues of the Economic and Social Council and Emerging issues
New York, 19-30 April 2010
Arameans (Syriacs) as the Indigenous People of the Middle East:
Identity Endangered and Existence Denied in Turkey
Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
Shlomo 'al kulkhu! Greetings to all of you, as we say in our Aramaic mother tongue! We thank the Members of this Forum, including the Honourable Chairperson and the Rapporteur, for this most successful Indigenous Forum.
Once again, the WCA addressed the Interactive Dialogue with the UN Commission of inquiry on Syria at the 33rd Regular Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The first key message was to recognize, stop, punish and prevent acts of genocide committed by ISIS against Syria’s vulnerable minorities, such as the Arameans and Yazidis. Secondly, the ongoing attempts of the Kurdish YPG forces to forcefully Kurdify their fellow citizens in a self-declared region called ‘Rojava’ must be halted, not only because they fuel the conflict in the region and thus jeopardize the existence of minorities such as the Arameans who are on the brink of extinction in their homeland if the world does not act soon.
The WCA Delegate Jacob Harman from Sweden attracted the attention of the Commission, States and NGOs. He was assisted by Maria Manzano from Geneva and the WCA Syria Researcher from Sweden, Alexandra Tawaifi.
On 15 March 2016, the interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the Syrian Arab Republic commenced. During this segment of the 31st Session of the UN Human Rights Council, states, NGOs and other stakeholders were invited to share their statements on the situation in the country. The WCA presented the COI and the Members of the Human Rights Council the statement below.
Discussion of the special theme for the year “Indigenous peoples: development with culture and identity: articles 3 and 32 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”
Arameans as the Indigenous People of the Middle East: Identity Endangered and Existence Denied in Turkey
Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
Shlomo ‘al kulkhu! Greetings to all of you, as we say in our Aramaic mother tongue!
Geneva, 23 June 2016
Continuing the general debate under item four of the Human Rights Council Session, a number of NGOs, including the World Council of Arameans (Syriacs), took the floor to address the dire situation of the vulnerable minorities in the Middle East.
On 22 September 2015, the 30th Session of the Human Rights Council continued its session with a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. After addressing the UN Commission on Inquiry on Syria the day before, the WCA called specific attention for the neglected question of the Middle East’s most ancient indigenous people, the Arameans and their dying Aramaic language.
In her statement, the WCA’s Main Delegate to the UN, emphasized the urgent need for a UN Fund for Threatened Indigenous Peoples of the Middle East. This can guarantee the survival of the region’s native inhabitants who are not on the agenda of the UN Indigenous Peoples mechanisms.
The WCA gave a statement in Geneva during the General Debate of the 33rd Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council. It emphasized that the indigenous Aramean people of Syria and Iraq are facing excintion and that the world needs to speak up and prevent such a humanitarian disaster from happening. The WCA Delegate Alexandra Tawaifi from Sweden presented the statement. The other WCA Delegates are Maria Manzano from Geneva and Jacob Harman from Sweden.
Alexandra Tawaifi delivering the statement of the WCA during the UN Human Rights Council General Debate under item 4.
The WCA Delegates Maria Manzano and Jacob Harman are seated behind Ms. Tawaifi.
Geneva, 21 June 2016
On 21 June 2016, the UN Human Rights Council continued its 32nd Session of the interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the Syrian Arab Republic. With the presentation of its report, titled “'They came to destroy': ISIS Crimes Against the Yazidis” (15 June 2015), the COI argued that ISIS is guilty of genocide against the Yazidis and called upon the UN Security Council to refer this case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) “or to establish an ad hoc tribunal with relevant geographic and temporal jurisdiction.”
On Monday, 21 September 2015, the WCA was the first of 10 NGOs that were given the opportunity to speak about Syria at the United Nations in Geneva during the 30th Session of the Human Rights Council under Agenda item 4, Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic; for earlier meetings with the Commission, see here (18 March 2015), here (18 June 2014), here (18 March 2014) and here (17 Sept. 2013).
Concerned about the disappearance of Syria's vulnerable minorities, and thus of the pluralistic character of Syrian society, the WCA implored the Commission to consider two critical but underreported issues. Due to time constraints, we could not focus on the hundreds of Aramean Christians held hostage by Islamic State and other militant Muslims, incl. two Archbishops from Aleppo since 22 April 2013, over 200 Arameans from the Assyrian Church of the East since mid-February 2015 from the Hasakah Province and 255 Arameans from the Syriac Orthodox since 7 August 2015 from the Homs region. In any case, the distinguished Commisioners requested the WCA to send them detailed information about these and other crimes against the Aramean Christians who have become a vulnerable minority in Syria.
Ms. Sarah Bakir from the Netherlands (Main Delegate to the UN in Geneva) spoke on behalf of the WCA and was assisted by Ms. Nathalie Korkis from Sweden (Delegate to the UN in Geneva; delegated by the local Syriac Aramaic Youth Federation).
Thank you, Madam Vice-President.
Again we remind the world of the chilling fact that Syria’s indigenous Christianity is disappearing. Right in front of our eyes, the Aramean people of Syria, and of Iraq and Turkey for that matter, are crucified again, and again and again.
The World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) asks the COI to recognize, stress and promote the following two critical issues that are not addressed by the Report:
- First, unlike the much larger groups in Syria who receive all kinds of support from known states, patrons and sponsors, the small number of Arameans are alone in their struggle against an existential threat in their homeland. Moreover, until this day no humanitarian help from the UN or the EU has reached Syria’s native Arameans. Neither as part of the aid distributed to its population in general, nor as a distinct group like Syria’s Palestinians for instance.
- Secondly, the United Nations must stop dancing around the issue. In order to end the vicious circle of violence in Syria, it is time to approach the conflict as a proxy war. The Report should name and shame those states who aid terrorist networks, and demand accountability and a political solution.
Therefore, we ask the Commission of Inquiry on Syria to urge the UN Member States the following:
- First, to pay heed to the cries of Syria’s native Aramean population and grant political, humanitarian and other forms of aid to this vulnerable minority. This way, Syria’s ethnic and religious mosaic can still be saved.
- Secondly, to find and implement a political solution by forming a coalition jointly led by the USA and Russia that can eradicate the Islamic State and other terrorist groups, without delay. This way, the growing problems of terrorism, security and the refugee crisis will be solved too.