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Middle East Issues





Media Ignores Assyrian Fight for Survival


Media outlets in the U.S. have done a decent job telling the American people about violence directed at Christians in Iraq and Egypt, but have not informed their readers and viewers about a plan to establish a safe haven for indigenous minorities in Iraq.
 
Clearly, the plight of minorities in the Middle East has attracted the attention of the American media. The murder of several dozen Christians at a church in Baghdad on Oct. 31, 2010 drew attention to an ongoing campaign of religious and ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Islamists in Iraq. Another attack on a Coptic Church in Alexandria on New Year's Eve drew attention to campaign of oppression and exploitation against Egypt's indigenous Christian population perpetrated by Islamists in that country.

In light of these attacks, the American people were confronted with a troubling reality: Attacks against Christians have taken place in two countries in the Middle East where American influence and presence are particularly obvious. The U.S. has tens of thousands of troops in Iraq and has given the government in Egypt billions of dollars over the past few decades. This influence, however, has not translated into safety for indigenous minorities in these countries.

While the story of Islamist violence against Christians, particularly in Egypt, has continued to get a fair degree of attention in the U.S. media, one story that has been lost in the shuffle is the effort to establish a safe haven – The Nineveh Plain Province – for indigenous minorities in Iraq. The plan is to declare the Nineveh Plane Province as the gathering point for indigenous minorities in Iraq and then provide the security and infrastructure necessary for them to live in safety. The province would not be restricted to Assyrian Christians, but to all indigenous minorities living in Iraq. The proponents of the province in the U.S. are asking Congress for $128 million to implement their proposal.

The Assyrian American Coalition, one of the major advocates of the Nineveh Plain Province Solution, asserts that establishing such a province would allow “indigenous people [In Iraq] to gain a stable foothold within the country from which they could sustain, develop, and grow a base population in a secure and stable environment.”

This initiative has gotten very little coverage in the United States. A recent search on Nexis for the phrase “Nineveh Plain” indicates that the phrase has appeared fewer than 30 times in the English-speaking media included in the Nexis database. The Washington Times published an op-ed by Ken Timmerman, promoting mentioning the proposal in early March 2011 and there is also some coverage on the internet of a movie “Defying Deletion,” about the plight of the Assyrian community in Iraq, but that's about it.
 

Regardless of the merits of the plan, which like any other public policy proposal, need to be closely examined, the Nineveh Plain proposal has all the hallmarks of a great story with great emotional impact. And yet for some reason, the campaign to save a group of minorities facing destruction has been ignored by the media in the U.S.

 

Part of the problem may be is that the so-called human rights community, along with the academy has, over the long haul, failed to address the document the plight of indigenous populations in the Middle East. Consequently journalists are able to respond to the attacks in Iraq and Egypt on an individual basis, but have yet to arrive at a comprehensive understanding of the problem and as a result do not pay any attention to possible solutions.

 

Violence toward indigenous populations in the Middle East was, for example, largely ignored at the UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance that took place in Durban South Africa in 2001.

 

Walid Phares, author The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East, (New York: Threshold Editions, 2010) reports that at the conference, there were no representatives from “Southern Sudan, Dafur, Kurds, Berbers, Copts, Assyrio-Chaldeans, Mauritanian blacks, Arabs in Iran, or other persecuted groups in the Arab and Muslim world …. Discrimination against ethnic groups within the Arab and Muslim world wasn’t even on the agenda. Organizers detailed past historical, and of course Western, racism, but didn’t utter a single word on the present-day sufferings of hundreds of millions of disenfranchised peoples from the Atlas Mountains to the Himalayas.”

 

The upshot is this: The efforts to protect indigenous minorities in Iraq is largely being ignored by Western intellectuals.
 
Will it take another attack to generate coverage of these efforts?

 


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