Assyrians around the world come together to honor victims
August 2018 | By Yasmeen Altaji | Contributions by Rema Shamon, Robina Lajin, Anthony Narsi and Atorina Samuel
Tarzana, CA – Spectators in Chicago previewed an original film entitled “The Assyrian Journey.” On the opposite side of the world, others in Wiesbaden, Germany discussed with a panel of politicians and churchgoers the Assyrian status quo. Hours later, organizations in Turlock, Calif. hosted an assembly that attracted hundreds of local residents. The events, though staggered across time zones and hemispheres, marked a singular occasion: Assyrian Martyrs’ Day.
The commemorative processions take place annually on Aug. 7, a date the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) officially designated in 1970 (read more here). The event was initially intended to honor victims of the Simele Massacre of 1933. As acceptance of the date grew more widespread, the magnitude of the holiday expanded to immortalize the memory of martyrs of prior tragedies.
“We must develop the 7th of August into a Memorial Day for all of these martyrs, so that we can bring the children of this nation together as a single entity to commemorate these people and events,” says a notice on AUA’s website.
Decades after the establishment of the holiday, Assyrians across the globe came together once again on Aug. 7, 2018 sharing poetry, art and music in reverence of victims of massacre and genocide and in effort to highlight their relevance in modern Assyrian culture.
Notions of memorialization exceeded beyond the Assyrian population; in Turlock, California, State Congressman Heath Flora and Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth resolved to delegate Aug. 7, 2018 as Assyrian Genocide Remembrance Day. A second, more solemn ceremony on Aug. 8 brought, between hands doling dokhrana, the attendance of U.S. Congressman Jeff Denham, who explained his work to help Assyrians in Iraq with legislation he proposed entitled the Nineveh Plains Restoration Act.
“It is important that the parents teach their kids at home about the Assyrian identity and history so that they will have the wish to participate and work for the cause,” said Yousip Pithyou, a member of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, at Wiesbaden’s Martyrs’ Day event.
Photos from Assyrians around the world celebrating Martyr’s Day: