Mislabelling Assyrians as simply “Christians” erases their identity

Assyrians

The Assyrians, whose history reaches the Bronze Age and among the world’s first Christians, are often mislabelled as “Syrian Christians,” “Iraqi Christians” or “Middle Eastern Christians.”

Every time the term “Christian” is used to refer to Assyrians, here’s what happens according to the Assyrian Policy Institute:

1) Assyrians are dispossessed of their cultural identity.

Assyrians are a distinct ethnic group with unique cultural practices rooted in ancient traditions.

Using the term “Christian” strips them of their rich culture and heritage, reducing them to their religious identity.

2) Assyrians are disconnected from their long, separate history.

Using the term “Christian” contributes to the erasure of their modern history and unique experiences.

Assyrians are increasingly disconnected from their history, which results in present-day challenges.

3) Assyrian claims to land are undermined.

Stripping Assyrians of their ethnic identity erases their deep connection to the lands they have inhabited for thousands of years—undermining their rights to their lands and denying their indigeneity.

4) Assyrians are marginalized and rendered invisible in the societies in which they live.

As a result, their rights and social justice issues are more easily ignored.

Majority groups often have zero perception and understanding of who they are.

5) The inequalities Assyrians experience based on their ethnic identity are ignored.

Assyrians continue to face repression, marginalization, and discrimination on the basis of their ethnicity.

Using the term “Christian” overlooks these challenges and distorts Assyrian realities.

6) Atrocities committed against Assyrians are denied.

Assyrians have routinely been made victims of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and political violence due to their ethnicity.

Erasing Assyrian identity distorts these events and minimizes the gravity of the offenses perpetrated.

7) Policies of cultural genocide and colonization are perpetuated.

Waves of cultural genocide targeting Assyrians, including Ba’ath-era Arabization policies, have led to the ruination/disintegration of Assyrian social cohesion and to forced assimilation into dominant cultures.

Using “Christian” in place of “Assyrian” advances the ultimate aim of these crimes.

8) Erasing Assyrian identity ultimately leads to Assyrians being mislabeled and absorbed into dominant ethnic groups in the Middle East, i.e. as Arab Christians, Turkish Christians, or Kurdish Christians.

This enables false narratives and leaves them vulnerable to exploitation.

9) The erasure of the Assyrian people is advanced.

The erasure of Assyrian identity, whether deliberate or unintended, is far more than damaging—it is detrimental.

Properly identifying Assyrians helps them gain visibility, understanding, and a greater voice.


The Assyrian Policy Institute works to ensure that Assyrians struggling to maintain their rights in their homeland can make their voices heard.

Guest Contributor

This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor