Monday, August 8, 2011

"An indigenous Assyrian response to how white-supremacist Anders Breivik appropriated our struggles

 "Maegan BetEnvia is a queer indigenous Assyrian-Iranian-American women of color currently working towards a Master's degree in Social Justice. From her hometown of New Britain, Connecticut she works in her own Assyrian community as well as surrounding communities of color to address domestic violence, homophobia, and police violence."

Anders Breivik. You do not get to appoint yourself the voice for the millions of ethno-religious minorities that have faced genocide in the Middle East. You do not get to work our tragedies and struggles into your manifesto of white-supremacy and extremist Christianity. Islam is not our enemy, the imperialist neoliberal policies that devastate our countries are. You do not call yourself our ally and then declare your intentions to wipe out our brothers and sisters in Turkey, Iraq, Europe, America, etc. Before being Christian we as Assyrians are first and foremost a Semitic people, ethnically closest to our Arab sisters and brothers. Our culture, our traditions, our history, and our language are for us to protect and negotiate with those surrounding us in our HOME countries of Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. As refugees in the western world we have rapidly assimilated, our Christianity being the only thing our HOST countries accept about us.

You see Anders, you are so very wrong. We do not need a white savior, it is white saviors like you that brought about to the massacres we faced throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
First the British colonized our homeland Iraq, they wrote about us as an inferior people, easy to manipulate through our Christianity and that desperate desire for our own country.  We are an indigenous agrarian people, we lived primarily in small villages and in the mountains.

They gave us food, they educated our youth, they asked for our men to serve in their armies, all while promising to support us in an international bid for a nation-state. They wrote about how ugly and animalistic we were, how our interpretation of Christianity was laughable. They knew that placing us above other Iraqis (both Arab and ethno-religious minority) would create a division so strong that all would remain distracted once they’d pulled out of our countries. It worked, we still massacre each other and most refuse to see how our western saviors caused our genocide. Remember Rwanda? Remember how imaginary identifiers were created by the British to divide the same people? The same was done to us. We were told that above all else, we must strive to bring back the Assyrian Empire so we could once again be great (like the British of course). We were told to resist any unification attempts of our home countries, that there could not be a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country for us.

In Iran it was similar, troops weren’t allowed in so the west infiltrated our countries in the form of Christian missions. These missions served to gather information while “helping” only Christian minorities in the region. These missions educated our young people, slowly replacing our cultural narratives with their own Christian imperialist interpretations. Again, the departure of the west sparked a series of nationalist based genocides against the minorities (Assyrians, Armenians, etc) resisting unification. As an indigenous people that faces rapidly dwindling populations, our personal and cultural safety are of critical importance. In the west we are being assimilated out of everything but our Christianity just as quickly as we are being massacred for it in our home countries. We need safety, we need cultural preservation, but not at the expense of others. We live in our home regions and we have grown tired of your meddling. We do not need another western man manipulating our struggles so that he can feel safe in his white-washed, capitalist, monoculture. We have lived in multi-ethnic, multi-religious, regions throughout our history and will continue to do so.

As population of around 3.5 million, living in this globalized world, we refuse to accept your twisted fantasy of closed borders and white crucifix carrying armies. I am as much Persian as I am Assyrian, and like many stateless people our identities are varied and overlapping. We will not be tempted like the Italians, Irish, Eastern Europeans, to rapidly assimilate into our HOST countries’ racist practices. Whiteness and Christianity won’t be dangled in front of us, won’t tempt us. We know where we came from and we know who we are. Our language, our foods, our beautiful traditions won’t be eradicated in your endless quest to assimilate only those that can be squeezed into your sick dream.  Ours is just one of many cradles of civilization, there in central Asia, where we began farming. You try to claim our achievements as your own, citing that your “Western Civilization” began with our slow colonization of the earth."