On this page, I explain a few elements from my undergraduate Thesis, “Preserving the Neo-Aramaic Language in an Arabised Mesopotamia” (2014).
My thesis examines Eliezer (Ben-Yehuda) Perlman’s system that ultimately caused the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language — an achievement that unified the linguistic diversity of the earliest aliyot to Palestine/Israel in the late 19th and early 20th century. Among the new arrivals to Israel, most spoke Yiddish, many spoke Arabic, Krimchak, Ladino, etc.; whilst many communities had come from same regions of the world (say, Persia), they had their own dialects. So I take Ben-Yehuda’s seven-step system for reviving Hebrew, and see if it could be applied to the Assyrian diaspora worldwide, and if the Assyrians will eventually have an independent nation of their own, what would their unifying common denominator be?
Surely if the vast diaspora of Mizrachim, Ashkenazim, and Sefardim can be united under one language in Israel, then the Chaldeans, Assyrians, and Arameans can be united — I am sure of it! The dialect continuum that exists between any two or three Neo-Aramaic dialects is a bit smoother, and we should focus on the many similarities that exist between Assyrian communities linguistically, culturally, and religiously, such as the Jewish diaspora did in the early 20th century. I am not implying that modern Israelis are perfectly united and content, but the revival of Hebrew was an incredible feat — a diaspora of an ethnic group, divided for many centuries, united under one language and in one country, over the course of only a few decades.
I think it’s pretty awesome, and efforts should be taken to maintain and promote the Assyrian language and culture—but not just that—and autonomy in their indigenous lands as well. Call me an Idealist, but it can and it will be done.
Since I had submit my Thesis on the spring of 2014 (precisely a month before the curse of ISIS desecrated an already sensitive Mesopotamia), I think it is time to work on an updated Thesis (an epilogue?) that calls for immediate action to preserve what is left of Assyrian culture and immediate efforts to guarantee its transfer to the next generations. From there, the next generation must be able to spread the language, strengthen the culture, and practise the faith without fear.
The Assyrian diaspora deserves their own undisturbed and independent state, akin to their ancestral homeland, where their own Semitic language can flourish…where Akitu (Assyrian New Year) will welcome the vernal equinox…where churches can burn their incense, ring their bells as loud as the sound of the adhan (an Islamic prayer call), and where the belfries are of equal height to the minarets (towering spires along the sides of a mosque). No, this would not be a pitiful autonomous region in north-western Iraq or north-eastern Syria. I actually mean, an independent country with its own capital, passport, parliament, laws, and military. We would need to redraw the borders of Syria and Iraq . . . but hey, those borders weren’t there very long to begin with, right? And it’s not like they worked out very well for us in the 20th and 21st century, right?! South Sudan was the most recent in 2011, and in time, Assyria will be next.
Who am I, an Arab woman (*gasp*), to have such a radical opinion?!
It is the truth.
Historically accurate? CHECK.
Justice for our contemporaries? CHECK (now more than ever, after waves of bloodshed, oppression, and exclusion, not that it would ever justify any of those horrific acts.).
Necessary for a prosperous, peaceful, and holistic future in the Middle East where oppression and violence against minority groups and different ways of life or thinking can thrive? CHECK
I support all causes that help to enrich the diversity that has always existed in the Near East and North Africa, as well as causes that promote a clean, safe, and sustainable environment in those areas. If you have any ideas or requests on calligraphy or illustration projects that I could work on to better connect with these causes (or if you have suggestions on charities or organisations that I should look into), please don’t hesitate to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for reading!