Assyrians (ܣܘܪ̈ܝܐ, Sūrāyē/Sūrōyē) are an ethnic group indigenous to Assyria, a region located in the Middle East. Some Assyrians self-identify as Syriacs, Chaldeans, or Arameans. They are speakers of the Neo-Aramaic branch of Semitic languages as well as the primary languages in their countries of residence. Modern Assyrians are Syriac Christians who claim descent from Assyria, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, dating back to 2500 BC in ancient Mesopotamia.
|Regions with significant populations|
|Assyrian homeland:||Numbers can vary|
|Syria||200,000–877,000 (pre-Syrian civil war)|
|Diaspora:||Numbers can vary|
|Australia||61,000 (2020 est.)|
|Israel and Palestine||5,000|
(Assyrian, Chaldean, Turoyo)
|Predominantly Syriac Christianity |
Minority Protestantism, Judaism and Islam
|Related ethnic groups|
|Arabs, Jews, Mandeans|
The tribal areas that form the Assyrian homeland are parts of present-day northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey, northwestern Iran, and northeastern Syria. The majority have migrated to other regions of the world, including North America, the Levant, Australia, Europe, Russia and the Caucasus during the past century. Emigration was triggered by tragic events such as the massacres in Hakkari, the massacres of Diyarbekır, the Assyrian genocide (concurrent with the Armenian and Greek genocides) during World War I by the Ottoman Empire and allied Kurdish tribes, the Simele massacre, the Iranian Revolution, Arab Nationalist Ba'athist policies in Iraq (between the years 1968–2003) and in Syria the take over by Islamic State of many parts in Syria and Iraq, particularly the Nineveh Plains between 2014–2017.
Assyrians are predominantly Christian, mostly adhering to the East and West Syriac liturgical rites of Christianity. The churches that constitute the East Syriac rite include the Chaldean Catholic Church, Assyrian Church of the East, and the Ancient Church of the East, whereas the churches of the West Syriac rite are the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Syriac Catholic Church. Both rites use Classical Syriac as their liturgical language.
Most recently, events such as the 2003 invasion of Iraq by United States and its allies, and the Syrian civil war, which began in 2011, have displaced much of the remaining Assyrian community from their homeland as a result of ethnic and religious persecution at the hands of Islamic extremists. Of the one million or more Iraqis reported by the United Nations to have fled Iraq since the occupation, nearly 40% were the indigenous Assyrian people, even though Assyrians accounted for only around 3% of the pre-war Iraqi demography.
Because of the emergence of the Islamic State and the taking over of much of the Assyrian homeland by the terror group, another major wave of Assyrian displacement has taken place. The Islamic State was driven out from the Assyrian villages in the Khabour River Valley and the areas surrounding the city of Al-Hasakah in Syria by 2015, and from the Nineveh Plains in Iraq by 2017. In 2014, the Nineveh Plain Protection Units was formed and many Assyrians joined the force to defend themselves. The organization later became part of Iraqi Armed forces and played a key role in liberating areas previously held by the Islamic State during the War in Iraq. In northern Syria, Assyrian groups have been taking part both politically and militarily in the Kurdish-dominated but multiethnic Syrian Democratic Forces (see Khabour Guards and Sutoro) and Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria.