Volume IV, Issue 31                                                         December 7, 1998

In 1920 the new Turkish Parliament founded by Kemal Ataturk promised equal rights and representation for the Kurdish population in Turkey. Thirty Kurds were elected in the Turkiye Buyuk Millet Meclisi.  Not long after the establishment of the Turkish Parliament, a few of the Kurdish representatives were arrested, imprisoned and even assassinated.  The remaining group escaped from Turkey.  The wrath of Kemal Ataturk also affected the Christian minorities of Turkey ,as under his leadership, an estimated one and half million Assyrians and Armenians were massacred.

In 1991 the Kurds joined the general elections in Turkey and were represented by the so-called "Democratic Party ( DeP)". Twenty one DeP representatives were elected to the Turkish Parliament. During the inauguration ceremonies, however,  two Kurdish parliamentarians, Leyla Zana and Hatib Dicle, shouted "Long live the brotherhood of nations”.  Immediately upon hearing this a few Turkish Parliamentarians attacked their the two female Kurdish Parliamentarians and pushed them off the stage.  Afterwards, the Kurdish Parliamentarians'  incessant efforts to bring the Kurdish Question to the public attention ended when the High Court of Turkey banned the DeP and  removed the Kurdish Parliamentarians from office. One Parliamentarian, Mehmed Sincar, was killed by the Turkish counter-guerilla forces.  Leyla Zana and four others were arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison.  Five others and a sympathetic Turkish mayor were able to flee the country before their arrest.

Together with other Kurdish intellectuals and activists in Europe (PKK and CKP) the five former Kurdish parliamentarians have now founded the Parliament of Kurdistan in Exile.  During their initial discussions the founders agreed that the peoples of “Kurdistan”  include not only the Kurds, but the Assyrians (and Yezidis) also.  They approached the Assyrian organizations, federations and individuals of which only the Assyrian Federation in Holland presented Mr. George Aryo as an Assyrian representative to the Kurdish Parliament in Exile.

The following is an interview conducted by ZENDA's correspondent in Amsterdam, Mr. Matay A. A. Arsan, with Mr. George Aryo of the Assyrian Federation of Holland:

ZENDA:  Which Assyrian organizations were approached regarding the establishment of the Parliament of Kurdistan in Exile and how many Assyrians nominated themselves for the first election?

Aryo:  Several Assyrian organizations in Europe were contacted before the elections and we discussed the whole issue.  The Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO or Mtakasta), which has the greatest influence in the Assyrian cultural organizations in Europe was positive in the beginning but surprisingly negative in the later stages of our discussions.   It advised its members and sympathizers against sending a representation.

Well, finally four Assyrians, including myself, nominated themselves and were elected.   The other three were:

  • Petros Karatay (The Assyrian-Chaldean Federation of France)
  • Yilmaz Ozgun (The Revolutionary Patriotic Organization of Beth-Nahrin)
  • Musa Caklo (The Revolutionary Patriotic Organization of Beth-Nahrin)

The RPoBN members used to call themselves the Revolutionary Assyrians-Suryoye.

ZENDA: What were ADO's reasons not to participate?
Aryo: Well, they couldn't convince us with any rational political arguments and they told us that the Kurds are evil and Assyrians cannot work with them. This, I think, is more a village-mentality than a rational opinion.

ZENDA: Do you personally believe that this was ADO's true reason for not participating?
Aryo: No, I don't think so. I think they did not have faith in themselves and that they were not convinced of their capability to discuss our national question with other nations. I think this was the true reason behind it.

ZENDA:  Are you not concern that the Kurds are taking advantage of your presence in this Parliament as did the Turks in 1920?
Aryo: First, let me make this clear: we are talking about the Kurds of Turkey and not about those in Iraq. In the past the Kurds of Turkey did not govern themselves, rather were governed by others through religion. They did not have a national ideology. Today they have both a Kurdish leadership and their own national ideology. They are open-minded about other nationalities and especially to the Assyrians for the simple reason that we live in the same area.  Of course, not all Kurds of Turkey think in the same way! There are at least 50 thousand Kurds led by the Aghas who are the landlords paid and financed by the Turkish authorities.   They fight against their own people, their own freedom fighters, against their own struggle for independence! To return to your question of whether the Kurds will abuse our presence in this parliament for their own benefit, I wish to remind you of the words of Winston Churchill : "Britain has no everlasting friends, but everlasting interests!"  It is true that in politics there are no friendships, only national interests.  Whether we are in this parliament or not, the Kurds would have established it.  We say that we are a nation and that we are the true "owners" of Beth-Nahrin.  In the Parliament of Kurdistan in Exile, we discuss and decide about the future of this land with western- and non-western governments and organizations.  Our participation benefits the "Assyrian Cause", as we did not blindly become involved.   We had our demands as such:  The Assyrian people must have the same rights and privileges offered through participation in this parliament as the Kurdish people have in their cultural, linguistic, and media (radio and television).  This parliament has great authority over such things as  the Med-TV (the largest Kurdish television broadcast via satellite in Europe). We have our own Assyrian programs, produced by Assyrians and spoken in our own Assyrian language.  The national days such as Kha b'Neesan are celebrated together with the Kurdish celebration of "Nowrooz". The August 7- Assyrian Martyrs' Day-  must now be officially recognized. One of the most important demands was this: whenever and wherever this parliament communicates with other governments and organization,  not only the Kurdish question but the Assyrian Question must be discussed as well!  So far our demands have been met.

Many countries did not even know that Assyrians still exist! We have visited Russia, Europe, the Middle East, the Caucasian countries, and South Africa.  And wherever this parliament was the Assyrian question was discussed also! This is a great accomplishment for our people. When there is no voice for our people, especially from the homeland, then this work will not be permanent . From every corner and region our voices must heard- loudly.

ZENDA:  There was a second Parliamentary election. What happened?
Aryo: More Assyrians were elected. We are stronger and we are a unanimous voice. The new elected officers are:

  • Yaqub Bar-Sawmo (The Revolutionary Patriotic Organization of Beth-Nahrin)
  • Fikri Aho (The Revolutionary Patriotic Organization of Beth-Nahrin)
  • Petros karatay (The Assyrian-Chaldean Federation in France)
  • Ozcan Kaldoyo (Independent)
  • Myself, George Aryo (Assyrian Federation in Holland)

ZENDA:  How much  influence does PKK exert in this parliament?
Aryo:  PKK is the biggest force in this parliament with the largest number of representatives- twelve in all.  They do much of the work and so far they have shown a great concern for our people.

ZENDA:  For most Assyrians, particularly those living in the USA and Australia,  the PKK and Barzani are considered "murderers of our people”.  Can you comment on this?

Aryo: The information that reaches our people in the USA and Australia is often one-side and subjective. Because of the distance our communication is poor, and in many cases, we do not reach each other at all.  From the beginning PKK has thought of our people as an oppressed people and the oldest inhabitants of Beth-Nahrin. PKK believes that our people must receive as much attention as that of the Kurdish people.

The PKK has never been hurt by our people and therefore it considers us more as a friend then as an enemy.  But what Turkey and Barzani want from our people is that we stand up with weapons and fight against the PKK. They want us to take up arms against the PKK and prevent them from coming to our villages. Our people prefer to stay neutral  and refuse to fight against the PKK and do not listen to either Turkey and Barzani.  The Turkish government and Barzani started their dirty games and politics by killing innocent Assyrians and destroying buildings, and blaming the PKK. This is how the PKK operates: they kill somebody or act on something and then immediately claim responsibility for their action in a press release.

Our people in the USA and Australia receive their information from the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM or "Zowaa”).  ADM operates and lives in the area controlled by Barzani, who in turn maintains a close relationship with Turkey.  Zowaa is forced to spread this kind of wrong information.  This is wrong.  Zowaa is a political organization for the entire Assyrian nation! And it should refuse any such cooperation.

Maybe some will think  I am anti-Zowaa or they might think I am a follower of PKK.  This is absolutaly not true. Above everything, I am Assyrian! And the Assyrian National Question is for me holier than everything else!  I know Zowaa and its leaders well.  They too know me personally. I have helped Zowaa in the past  and I will still help Zowaa because of the simple fact that they are active in our homeland.  But Zowaa must have a policy for our nation and must recognize the friends and the true enemies of our people.  My view of the PKK will be the same as their view of my people!  I will be as open-minded and understanding towards them as they are towards my people.

Many more Kurds live in northern-Mesopotamia/Assyria  than Assyrians. We must be able to work together. Many nations were enemies in the past.  Today they work together. Look at the European countries and think back to fifty years ago. I have this to say to our people and the Assyrian organizations in the USA and Australia: We must be long-term thinkers. We must realize that the Kurds have been in Assyria/North-Mesopotamia for over 100 years too. If we want to live there in Assyria/Mesopotamia then we must begin to establish communication with them and have our demands. I cannot imagine how will can return and live there without any contact and communication with the Kurds unless we build a wall around ourselves.

ZENDA:   As you may have noticed our people have a negative view of the term "Kurdistan" in reference to northern Bet-Nahrain.  How do you feel about this?
Aryo:  I think that is a narrow way of viewing the situation. Kurdistan exists!  Can we say that Erzurum and Sivas are Kurdistan, but Nineveh is not!  If we handle this case in an organized way, then we can  call it Assyria!  By the way, the Kurds are not so hard-headed when it comes to the name “Kurdistan”.  More and more are beginning to use the term "Mesopotamia”.

We must face the fact that 95% of the inhabitants of North-Mesopotamia/Assyria are Kurdish!  When we do not do anything about our Cause, then they can name it whatever they want. We should not blame the Kurds for calling that land “Kurdistan”.  We have not stood up for "Assyria!"  The young Kurdish girls, boys, men and women return back from their comfortable western life, from Australia, Europe, and elsewhere,  to go and fight for Kurdistan.  Our people just stay in their homes in Chicago, Stockholm, Sydney, and Paris and shout: "Assyria or Beth-Nahrin/Mesoptamia is ours!"

ZENDA:  What do you think about our magazine?
Aryo:  I am very glad that ZENDA is an independent, progressive and an open-minded Assyrian magazine.  It is good that it reaches many non-Assyrians through the Internet all over the world. But what pleases me more is that although many of our people are in body and mind far away from our national question, there still are Assyrians, like the staff of Zenda, who still have that fire of true patriotism. My deepest respect and thanks go to you.  I hope that you continue to walk on this sacred path of Assyrian nationalism. Shlome and iqore (regards and respects) to all your readers.  Fushun bashlomo o b h’ubo d–Athro.