Arameans of Aram-Nahrin Organisation sent a letter to the President of Syria, Dr. Bashar al- Assad on the situation of the Aramean indigenous people.
The Arameans of Aram-Nahrin Organization sent a letter to the President of Syria and ask for the recognition of the Aramean people. There are in Syria about 1,5 million Arameans of various denominations, such as: Syrian Orthodox, Syrian Catholics, Nestorian Chaldeand , Nestroian Assyrians and Melkites.
Netherlands, 6th of July 2009
The office of the President of the Syrian Arab Republic
His Excellency Dr. Bashar al-Assad
Dear Mr. President;
The Arameans of Aram-Naharaim organisation is an international cultural and human rights organisation to defend worldwide interests of the indigenous Christian Aramean (not to be confused with Armenians) people of Mesopotamia who have been present in the Cradle of Civilization for thousands of years. They have made a great contribution to world civilizations, in particular through their Aramaic language, spoken by Abraham, Moses and Jesus Christ. This ancient Semitic people, now divided into several denominations and spread throughout the Middle East, amount to approximately 8 million people worldwide.
We write you to express our gratefulness for your noble efforts to revive and strengthen the Aramaic language in the lands of the Aramean forefathers. This is a shining and commendable example to the entire Middle-East.
We wish also to underscore our appreciation for your hospitality to offer shelter to thousands of refugees from Iraq who have been forced to flee to Syria and other countries because of violence and insecurity since the start of the war in 2003. Among these refugees are the members of the various Aramean denominations in Iraq, like for example the West-Aramean Syrian Orthodox and Syrian Catholics, the East-Aramean Chaldeans and the East-Aramean Nestorian ‘Assyrians’ etc...
It was in Syria, formerly known as Aram, with Aram- Damascus being one of the most famous Aramean kingdoms, where Christianity took root. The establishment of the first church took place outside Jerusalem in Antioch by the Arameans, the converted Jews and the Apostles of Jesus Christ. In Antioch in Syria, the followers of Christ were for the first time called ‘Christians’ (Acts 11:26). This church is known as the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch and was the mother of all the churches whose patriarch currently resides in Damascus. Because of this, in the course of time Syria became an oasis for Aramean Christian denominations, including Aramean Maronites, Aramean Melkites, Aramean Chaldeans, Aramean Syrian Orthodox, Aramean Nestorian ‘Assyrians’ and Aramean Syrian Catholics.
We are grateful your Excellency that all of these Aramean denominations enjoy relative freedom to practice their religion.
The Arameans who did not embrace Christianity, converted in later times to other religions including Islam. Their conversion to Islam caused them to adapt Arabic language; hence they were Arabised with the result that they eventually forgot their Aramean origin.
Therefore, as a organization we do not exclusively consider those who call themselves ‘Christians’ as Arameans, but also those who lost their Aramaic language and consequently linguistically were Arabised, but not ethnically, and comprise today millions of people in the Middle-East. For example, when the Persians accepted Islam, they kept their language and hence were not Arabised.
In order to protect and defend the fundamental human rights of the Aramean indigenous nation of Aram-Nahrin, to promote brotherhood and unity between the Arameans of different faith and to represent Syria as an example to other nations in the Middle-East with regards to respecting the rights of its indigenous nation, we request of you the following:
1. The United Nation General Assembly adopted on 13th of September 2007 the resolution 61/295: United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We applaud that Syria was one of the 144 nations who voted in favour of this resolution. However, additional steps are now needed. It would only further establish Syria as leading example to other nations to bring this resolution into practise. This should be done by recognizing the Aramean people of Mesopotamia, in ancient times known as “Aram-Nahrin” in Aramaic, and “Aram-Naharaim” in Hebrew, as indigenous people of Syria, for the Arameans have been present for thousands of years in the region of the two rivers.
2. Following the establishment of a Aramaic school at the University of Damascus, next logical and necessary step would be to expand it to the level of Arameology department. In this department not only the Aramaic language would be taught but also the past and present history, customs, traditions and cultures of the Arameans of the Middel-East would be studied, with Syria as its focal point. In doing so, the Islamic Arameans would become aware of their Aramean origin, resulting in prosperity and stability not only in Syria but also in other parts of the Middle-East. In addition, this would facilitate solidarity and mutual respect between the Aramean Christians and Aramean Muslims through learning about their common Aramean ancestry. And this in turn would help to outmaneuver fanaticism and intolerance.
3. Free exercise of Aramean cultures and customs including the usage of the Aramean flag in agreement with the articles 8, 9, 11 and 31 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples without restrictions and without being labeled as “political activities”. We bring this to your attention your Excellency, because our experience with many Aramean spiritual leaders from Syria is that they do not dare to freely express their Aramean customs and traditions. For example, even when they mention the word “Aramean”, it is often referred to as a “political activity”, so that they do not even think of putting the Aramean flag on their desk. When other clergy in Syria appear on television, they always have the patriarchal flag and the flag of the Syrian Arabic Republic at their side, in contrast there is never an Aramean flag, because that is considered as a “political activity”.
We wish to conclude this letter by again underscoring our gratefulness and hoping that your Excellency will seriously consider our small but urgent requests towards improving the situation for the Aramean indigenous nation in Syria.
Arameans of Aram-Naharaim Organisation
P.O. Box 178
Copy sent to: European Union, United Nations, Embassies of Russia and United States