I recently published a story that takes place in Ancient Israel at the time when Assyria was a powerful empire. As I did my research, curiosity led me to read up if they still exist today. Human history is fascinating – no matter which branch of it you take – and it’s incredible how much things can change.
In ancient times, their capital city was Assur (Or Ashur) – and their god was called the same name. The city of Assur became independent about 4,000 years ago. The Assyrians became a very powerful empire – so much so that some refer to them as the Romans of the Middle East. Known for their brutality and cruelty at the peak of their rule, they were warrior people with an objective to conquer other countries. Their territories reached as far The Mediterranean Sea at one point (They even attacked Egypt and captured it in 671 B.C.)! And they were the ones who conquered Northern Israel – scattering the Twelve Tribes forever. An attempt to conquer Southern Israel failed – the Holy Bible speaks of divine intervention, but many speculate it was probably the plague or some other disease spread by the rats in their camp. Because of this, Southern Israel was spared. Of course, rebellions from nearby countries eventually happened which led to the fall of Assyria. By 600 B.C. it was completely destroyed, no more than ruins in the territory that is now known as Northern Iraq/Southern Turkey. Some Assyrians survived the downfall and scattered throughout the Middle East, while others remained in their homeland – today’s Assyrians are direct descendants of the warriors in the past.
The Assyrians eventually converted to Christianity around the time of Christ, and Christianity is a part of their culture to the present day. While their homeland is still recognized at its place in Northern Iraq, they have been heavily persecuted by a terrorist group called ISIL/ISIS (You’ve likely heard of these groups). A key heritage site for the Assyrians was destroyed by the group – a 3,300 year old city called Nimrud. The degree of destruction is considered to be a war crime.
In case you’re interested in reading up on Assyrian history and the modern day dilemma these people face in their homeland, I’ll include some links for you to read. I was amazed to learn that not only do the Assyrians still exist today, but that they are facing serious human rights issues. They do not have the freedom to practice their traditions and culture in their homeland, being pressured to leave the area entirely or face cruelty and bullying. Today, they are considered to be the most widely dispersed indigenous people. In fact, some oppressive ideologies deny the existence of their heritage and they are often told they are not a distinct ethnic group. History tells us otherwise. They are indeed a distinct ethnic group with a rich cultural history.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose your country and to have targeted hate crimes committed against you in your own land. I hope that they will be able to take back their homeland in peace one day.
As someone who wrote about a small snap shot of their ancient history in my book, I felt responsible to do my research and bring light to their current situation.
Here are some links for reading:
Assyrians: 3,000 Years Of History, Yet The Internet Is Our Only Home: https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/assyrians-3000-years-history-yet-internet-our-only-home
Attack on Assyrian Historical Sites: https://www.livescience.com/50072-isis-attack-on-ancient-history.html
Who Are The Assyrians?: https://www.livescience.com/56659-assyrians-history.html