U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) introduced a bill to protect Christians and vulnerable minorities in Iraq, specifically in the Nineveh Plain region. H.Res. 741 facilitates the safe return of displaced peoples, helps assist victims of ISIS genocide rebuild their lives and supports the establishment of a self-governing province in the Nineveh Plain.
“The destruction of war, made even more devastating by Islamic State genocide, has ravaged the Nineveh Plain – the ancestral homeland of the Assyrian people and the heartland of Christianity in Iraq today. The rehabilitation of this area and safe return of displaced peoples is more important than ever,” said Denham.
The resolution supports the rebuilding and resettlement of the Nineveh Plain, which has been home of the Assyrian people for seven millennia and is one of the few remaining regions of territorial concentration for the Christian Assyrians in Iraq. While the resolution would directly impact those hoping to resettle in the Nineveh Plain, it is also important to local Assyrians.
“While the Assyrian-American community has been an integral, invaluable part of the fabric that is the Central Valley and Stanislaus County for over a century, one issue that has been and will always remain a matter of great importance to us is the plight of our people in our ancestral homeland. We thank Congressman Jeff Denham for being a strong, relentless advocate for the rights of Assyrians and other minorities in Iraq,” said Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock President Sam David.
In 2003, the Christian Assyrians declared their intention to make the Nineveh Plain a new, separate jurisdiction under Iraq’s burgeoning federal system with the express intent of actualizing their right of “self-administration.” The Nineveh Plain province formation process was underway in mid-2014 when ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant or simply Islamic State, an offshoot of Al-Qaeda) attacked Iraq, seizing Mosul and soon after the Nineveh Plain, thereby derailing the process.
During the attack, ISIL committed genocide and crimes against humanity against the peoples of the Nineveh Plain, killing and persecuting thousands and forcing survivors to flee their homeland.
In response to the attacks, the Nineveh Plains Protection Unit was established in late 2014 and is part of the Iraqi Security Forces apparatus. The Nineveh Plains Protection Units are the only Assyrian Christian force formally listed as an ally alongside United States and Coalition forces in Operation Conquest, to liberate the Nineveh Plain and Mosul from ISIL.
ISIL was driven out of Mosul and the Nineveh plains in 2017, ending its territorial control in Iraq. The resolution would recognize the importance of the Nineveh Plain Protection Units in maintaining order and facilitating resettlement and reconstruction rehabilitation efforts in the Nineveh Plain region and have the U.S. prioritize rehabilitation efforts in war-ravaged areas like the Nineveh Plain.
“The Assyrian American National Federation welcomes this piece of legislation that supports the development of sustainable, functional, and democratic forms of local administration and security in the Nineveh Plain within the framework of the united, federal Iraqi state. As Assyrians, we look forward to the restoration of land that many call home and the safe return of displaced populations. While the challenges before us remain vast and complex, we will continue to work with our partners in U.S. Congress to advocate forcefully for the rights, aspirations and hopes of Iraq's most vulnerable communities,” said Assyrian American National Federation President Martin Youmaran.
The legislation was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.