Assyrians in the UK

Assyrians in the UK
Blog: Assyrians are the oldest inhabitants of northern Iraq, but wars and conflict have forced them to leave their homeland for Europe and America.
2 min read
27 Aug, 2015
Assyrians celebrate New Year on 1 April [AFP]
Assyrians, the oldest inhabitants of modern day northern Iraq, southeast Turkey and northeast Syria have spread all over the world since the collapse of their once great empire in 612 BC.

More recently, wars, conflict, and discrimination have forced them to leave their ancient homelands and many have settled in Europe and America, where they attempt to keep their rich heritage alive.

Al-Araby al-Jadeed
met Khoshaba Jaba, an Assyrian writer and activist who lives in the UK, to learn more about the community.
     London contains three churches belonging to communities of Assyrian descent, who are the Chaldeans, the Syriacs and the Assyrians.

According to Jaba, the Assyrian community in the UK does not exceed 5,000 people, while higher concentrations of Assyrians can be found in the US cities of Chicago and Detroit.

London contains three churches belonging to communities of Assyrian descent - the Chaldeans, the Syriacs and the Assyrians.

Furthermore, the Assyrian community has established the Assyrian Society of Great Britain, a cultural centre that has been operating in London since 1978.

The centre was founded by a group of Assyrians that had migrated to the UK in the 1950s. It doubled as a church until the establishment of Assyrian-specific churches in the city.

It also hosts talks on Assyrian history and culture, the fate of the community in their homeland and artistic performances.

An important function of the community centre is to host religious and cultural ceremonies and events such as the Assyrian New Year, which starts on 1 April and is traditionally accompanied by folk dances, food and singing.

Another important event on the Assyrian calendar is "The Day of the Assyrian Martyr" on 7 August, which commemorates a 1933 massacre of 4,000 Assyrians in Iraq by Bakr Sidqi, an Iraqi military general.

However, like most community centres, the Assyrian Society of Great Britain provides its 500 paying members with a place to enjoy recreational activities and socialise.

The Assyrian community in London used to have a school where children would learn their traditional language, Aramaic - the language spoken by Jesus - but the school was shut down due to funding shortages, according to Khoshaba Jaba.

"Now we try to teach children for a few hours at church," said Jaba.

The Assyrian Society of Great Britain also contains a small library that was created after Dr Victoria Sarmas, an Assyrian from Iran, left her apartment to the Assyrian community in her will and stipulated that they establish a collection of rare books.