An Assyrian Tragedy

by Rosie Malek-Yonan

Assyrian International News Agency

23 August 2010

Los Angeles (AINA) — What will you do if a loved one is kidnapped?  To what extreme will you go to see them returned safely?  Will you pay a kidnapper to have your child returned?  What will you do if the authorities do not mount an investigation?  Will you give in to the demands of the kidnappers? How much will you pay to have your teenage son returned?  What if you can’t come up with the thousands of dollars being extorted for the return of a brother or sister?  Would you pay the ransom knowing there is a chance you would still never see your abducted father or mother?

These are not just hypothetical questions.  They are questions Assyrians have been forced to reconcile with since the onset of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.  The targeted kidnapping of Assyrian Christians in Iraq has been big business and will continue to escalate with the U.S. withdrawal from the region.

How to pay for the release of a loved one is a monumental concern for those who have no means to pay the kidnappers.  On the other hand, paying off kidnappers in Iraq carries a greater ramification as the U.S. treats these Assyrian victims as colluding with Islamic terrorists.

But what if you didn’t have the means to pay the ransom?  What then?

This is the anguish Yonan Daniel Mammo’s family has been living with since his abduction several weeks ago.

Yonan is married and has two small children.  They live in the Assyrian neighborhood in Kirkuk. Yonan’s sister and brother also live in the area.  His children have no idea why they have been separated from their father, though I suspect his six-year-old daughter will most likely understand more than her two-year-old brother.  She is old enough to know her mother’s tears are caused by her father’s absence.

Yonan graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English from Baghdad University. He worked at Hammurabi Exchange Office on Al-Jamhwaria Street in Kirkuk and supported his family on a modest salary of $300 a month.

At 8 pm on 29 July 2010, when Yonan left his place of work, four armed gunmen jumped out of a BMW in front of the Exchange Office and took the Assyrian man as hostage.  According to witnesses, Yonan was stuffed in the trunk of his abductor’s vehicle.  That evening, Yonan’s family waited for his return.  There was no sign of him.  The family clung to hope and prayer.  Nothing else was in their power.  With the dawn of a new day, their hopes were shattered.

On 30 July 2010, the Muslim kidnappers used Yonan’s own cell phone to contact the family.  Yonan was allowed to briefly speak with his family.  He informed them that he was taken against his will. The kidnappers then demanded ransom in the amount of USD $150,000 for Yonan’s safe release.  When the phone went dead, Yonan’s family realized their nightmare had already begun.  Countless Assyrians had been kidnapped.  They knew all the stories.  All the lives that had been cut short.  And now the tragedy was theirs to live through.

Yonan’s family did not have the means to come up with this kind of money.

Two weeks dragged on.  When on 14 August 2010, the kidnappers realized that this was an impossible amount for the family to raise, they lowered their demand to USD $100,000.

On 23 August 2010, sources informed me that the local police in Kirkuk raided several locations in the city in search of Yonan but came up empty-handed.

There has been no other contact with the kidnappers.

This Assyrian tragedy has not come to an end yet.  Yonan’s future rides on the morals of his hostage takers as his family continues to hold on to hope that perhaps they will be able to raise the money to buy back Yonan’s freedom.

The Assyrian tragedy in Iraq is the hidden carnage that the world has chosen to ignore.  But what of the role of the elected Assyrian officials in Iraq?  What are their responsibilities towards members of their nation in these cases?  Why are they not publicly demanding the release of Yonan?  Why are they not publicly demanding a full investigation?  Why are they silent when so many Assyrians continue to suffer in this manner?  Why is Yonan’s release not being negotiated with the kidnappers?  Why must the family remain in isolation and live in fear of further retaliation from the kidnappers?

One family member writes in frustration, “Why am I Assyrian?  Why am I Christian?”  These are questions of frustration that stem from Islam’s intolerance of the Assyrian nation in Iraq.

What if Yonan were your father, brother, son, husband or friend?  What would you do?

© 2010 Rosie Malek-Yonan.  All Rights Reserved.

Rosie Malek-Yonan is an Assyrian actress, director and author of The Crimson Field.  She is an outspoken advocate of issues concerning her nation, in particular the Assyrian Genocide and the plight of today’s Assyrians in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. On June 30, 2006, she was invited to testify on Capitol Hill about the genocide and persecution of Assyrians in Iraq. The study of the Assyrian Genocide globally absent from the curriculum of educational institutions changed when in 2009 the SUNY system (State University of New York) added “The Crimson Field,” to its curriculum for a World Literature class.  She has worked with many of Hollywood’s leading actors and directors. She played the role of Nuru in New Line Cinema’s “Rendition.”  To schedule an interview with her please send your request to contact .

Advertisements