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Wednesday, 15 August 2018 04:15 am

Assyrians gather in Kilbirnie for Martyrs Day

Aug 12th, 2009 | By | Category: Diversity, Front Page Layout, Latest News


(Clockwise, from top left) Poleen Ewas, Linda Shamon and Evan Ishak

YOUNG Assyrians living in Wellington marked the traditional Martyrs Day with a drama showing Assyrians in Iraq are still the target of persecution.

The modern-day play was part of acknowledging the Simele massacre in Northern Iraq on August 7, 1933.

On this day, “Assyrian civilians were killed without mercy”, said Sarjon Warde (pictured, below), chairman of the Assyrian Association during a speech to the association on Sunday at St Patrick’s Parish Hall in Kilbirnie.

Assyrian Martyrs Day commemorates all Assyrians who have been persecuted or killed because of their culture and Christian beliefs – both before and after the Simele massacre.

sarjon300To local Assyrians, the massacre remains a vivid part of their history. They recount that the  Iraqi government told Assyrian civilians if they surrendered all their weapons, they would be safe.

The government then systematically killed over 3000 Assyrians living in Simele. Religious leaders were targeted and men, women and children were indiscriminately persecuted.

Mr Warde said he was pleased with the audience’s reaction to the play: “Some of them were crying when an Assyrian was [portrayed as being] killed by the terrorists.”


Shmoni Abdo

The play was performed against a backdrop of New Zealand and Assyrian flags. Mr Warde said it was “good for the new generation to keep their Assyrian identity and language while embracing Kiwi culture”.

About 140 people attended, sharing stories, friendship and food.

Mr Warde says about 1500 to 2000 Assyrians live in Wellington today and the association meets regularly and assists new migrants and refugees.

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