An open letter to Congresswoman Anna Eshoo

Boy & Assyrian FlagDear Congresswoman Anna Eshoo,

I am an Assyrian and I am the grand daughter of a survivor of the Assyrian Genocide. This makes the issue of the Assyrian Genocide extremely personal to me. And I am not alone. We are millions strong living in every corner of the world and the Assyrian Genocide unequivocally unifies us as a people because we are all children of survivors of those horrific years of 1914-1918 when Assyrians lost two-thirds of their nation.

In the aftermath of the 750,000 Assyrians who were butchered by the Ottomans, Kurds, and Persians, in Turkey and Urmia, Iran, surviving Assyrians were left with shattered lives and broken families and by the grace of God, found the courage to begin planting seeds of new generations of Assyrians to protect the Assyrian bloodline.

Assyrians may be a stateless nation, but we are not invisible. We are not nameless and we are certainly not the “other minorities” as you have callously labeled us in your April 24, 2017 statement.

Though you are only half-Assyrian on your father’s side and Armenian on your mother’s side, you have no right to denigrate the Assyrian identity.

Assyrians are a proud and ancient people. We “never forget” or take for granted our past history and struggle. We are proud of our Assyrian identity and will not tolerate anyone, not even a half-Assyrian, to behave dismissively and with malice towards our Assyrian identity.

I say malice because this isn’t the first time you have denied the Assyrian name and identity. Once is a mistake to be forgiven and corrected. Yours is a pattern of denial time and time again. How many occasions have you referred to Assyrians as “Iraqi Christians” or “Christians of Iraq?” You do realize Assyrians are not all from Iraq?

Your reference to “other minorities” also included the Greeks who suffered greatly in this period of genocide alongside the Assyrians and Armenians. Is the Assyrian name so offensive to you that you couldn’t show some semblance of respect for the Assyrians as well as the Greeks in this case to mention them directly?

Congresswoman Eshoo, Assyrian blood runs through your veins and your name is Assyrian. Your denial of the Assyrian identity is a denial of yourself. You may not care, but Assyrians take offense when you reduce their identity to “other minorities.”

You, Madam Congresswoman, have no right to insult or degrade the Assyrian people as you have done when they have always respected, supported, and looked up to you as a voice for the Assyrians. Though you are a representative of the United States Congress and not a representative of the Assyrians, there are occasions when you can lend your voice to the Assyrian cause. But it seems you are too embarrassed and hesitant to utter the Assyrian name.

Perhaps you thought we wouldn’t take notice when you referred to Assyrians as “other minorities.” But we’ve all taken notice . . . again.

You shouldn’t have to be reminded to correct or issue another statement as some have suggested. You can’t un-ring the bell.

I believe what you do need is no more support from Assyrian organizations, groups, or individuals. What you need is no more invitations to Assyrian events and photo ops. What you need is no more Assyrian votes  or contributions from your district.

You’ve disappointed the Assyrians for the last time. It’s rather simple: Deny Assyrians and Assyrians will deny you.

Respectfully,

Rosie Malek-Yonan

Update: A followup article published in AINA.

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