Assyrian Case for Autonomy
Written in consultation with Anthony A. D’Amato,
Esq. J.D., Ph.D. Professor of International Law Published By Political
Bureau of BET-NAHRAIN DEMOCRATIC PARTY Post Office Box 41034 Chicago,
This book was commissioned by THE SECOND WORLD
CONGRESS of the BET-NAHRAIN DEMOCRATIC PARTY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 1982
Books Reprinted By BET-NAHRAIN DEMOCRATIC PARTY THE TRAGEDIES OF THE
MANDATE in IRAQ Yusuf Malek (1935) Iraq HISTORY OF THE ASSYRIAN
K . P. Matveev (Bar Matti) (U.S.S.R.) 1949
This Book On Assyrian Case for Autonomy is dedicated TO OUR BELOVED
ASSYRIAN PEOPLE, who have suffered much in order to gain their
national rights in their homeland Bet-Nahrain-Iraq.
The SECOND WORLD CONGRESS of' the BET-NAHRAIN DEMOCRATIC
PARTY, which convened in Chicago, USA February 19, through 24, 1982,
commissioned this book on Assyrian autonomy.
The book substantiates the Assyrian people's historical,
cultural and political claim for autonomous status in their own
homeland Mesopotamia - north lraq.
The Assyrians As An Internationally Protected Minority
After World War1 ………
Legal And Historical Rights Of Assyrians to Mosul Vilayet
NOTES Chapter I…………………………………………….............
NOTES Chapter II……………………………………………............
A CULTURAL MINORITY with a proud and ancient heritage is
fighting today for its survival, but few seem to notice or care. The purpose of this book is to call to the attention of all persons who
care about cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity in the modern world
the position, rights and claims of the Assyrians in Iraq. This minority group of perhaps a million persons living in and around
Mousul and other parts of lraq is keeping alive a special Christian
tradition using the very language today that was spoken by Jesus Christ
two thousand years ago, the Syriac language of the early Christians of
the first century. But the Assyrian heritage goes back much
further than that, to the dawn of civilization of the year 3000 B.C.
Assyria and Babylonia were the two ancient fabled kingdoms of
Mesopotamia. Assyria being centered in what is now the city of Mosul in
The cultural contributions to civilization by the ancient Assyrians and
Babylonians are so vast that many scholars today devote their lives to
the study of facets of that culture. In art, language, myths and
epic tales, religion political organization, law and astronomy, the
accomplishments of these ancient peoples have profoundly shaped
our present-day culture. Their astronomical charts were so precise
and detailed that only in the nineteenth century, with the aid of
telescopes, were the ancient figures revised. And the impact upon law of
the Code of Hammurabi is so acknowledged as to need but mere mention.
Assyrian cultural remains adorn the major museums of the world, and
Assyrians art and literature are studied today as representatives, along
with Egyptian culture, of the two most sophisticated and important
civilizations of the pre-Greek ancient world.
The Assyrian minority in Iraq today wants to preserve its distinctive
culture and religion. Their right to do so tinder international
law is clear and absolute. Article 27 of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which has been ratified by the
leading nations of the world, including Iraq, reads as follows:
In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic
minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not he
denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to
enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or
to use their own language.
Moreover, Article 1 of the same convention as well as
Article I of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights, which also has been ratified by leading nations, including Iraq,
contain the identical provision which reads as follows:
(1) All peoples have the right of self-determination. By
virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and
freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
By referring to "all peoples" instead of
"all States," this article underscores the legal right of
minority groups to transmit their culture to their children and there by
to enrich the common heritage of mankind.
To be sure, the Article just quoted cannot practicably ensure to
minority groups the right to secede from the nations in which they
reside. For that would be a formula for political chaos and
continuing revolution. Yet the language of Article I is clear.
Therefore, it must be interpreted as providing for minority-group
development to the extent compatible with the overriding political
structure of the nations in which such minority groups are located.
In light of this reasonable interpretation of Article 1, and consistent
with its rights tinder Article 27 of the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights, the Assyrian minority in Iraq requests a
certain status of "autonomy" in the Mosul area which may best
realize its own legal rights and the legitimate political rights of the
state of Iraq. Indeed, this Limited autonomy status will result in
a far greater commitment on the part of the Assyrians to the Iraq nation
and its national interests. The Assyrians have prepared a
comprehensive legal plan (to be published in a separate volume) for a
Limited degree of autonomous status within the plenary authority of the
state of lraq which should realize these shared objectives.
The reasonableness and modesty of the Assyrian plan for autonomy
should not mask the earnestness and seriousness with which it is put
forth, nor its critical importance to the Assyrian people and to a world
order that seeks cultural diversity, and religious toleration.
The adoption of this plan will enhance Iraq's image in the international
community, The cost of rejecting this plan, however, is
The Assyrian minority should not have to petition for the
preservation of its language, its culture, and its religion. For
it is entitled to this preservation as a matter of international law.
Its right in this regard has been consented to by lraq when Iraq
ratified the two major human rights covenants previously quoted.
Tragically, in suppressing and subjugating the Assyrian people in their
own homeland, the Iraqi government has violated all the international
laws of the United Nations dealing with human, national and political
rights of minorities.
Hence, the Assyrians in Iraq, their Assyrian compatriots and friends
throughout the world recognize the necessity of appealing to all
freedom-loving peoples and governments of the world to rectify their
situation. It is to these ends that the Assyrian Case for Autonomy
is commended to the reader's attention.
In addition to the absolute protection to minority groups given under
present-day international law and embodied in the International
Covenants above quoted, to which Iraq is a party, the particular
minority rights of the Assyrians in Iraq were a legal condition
precedent to the emergence of the Iraqi nation following the termination
of the Iraqi Mandate in 1932. A legal summary of this history is
included in Chapter 1.
But there is another dimension to the Assyrians' claim for limited
self-rule in the Mosul area. It is a dimension that supports the
legal rights under the International Covenants and the conditions agreed
to by Iraq for the termination of its mandate and its emergence its an
independent State. This support is grounded on the historical and
political facts that the present nation of Iraq would not be seized of
its territory in the northern area were it not for the presence there of
the Assyrian minority. The presence of the Assyrians was the
direct cause for that land belonging to Iraq and not to Turkey. This thesis is demonstrated in Chapter II.
A careful consideration
of this history will show that, added to the claim of right grounded in
international law, is a claim based on history and the dictates of
The Assyrians As An
Internationally Protected Minority
After World War I
THE PROTECTION of minorities was first guaranteed in
treaties during the 1800's. For example, the Treaty of Berlin of
July 13, 1878, included provisions for the protection of minorities.(1)
The prototype for the 1900's was the Treaty Between the Allied and
Associated Powers and Po-land (Protection of minorities)(2) which
was drafted as a result of a study conducted by the Commission on New
States of the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.(3)
Article 2 of the Polish Treaty provided that Poland "assure full
and complete protection of life and liberty to all inhabitants of Poland
without distinction of birth, nationality, language, race, or
religion," and also provided freedom of public and private exercise
of religion. right to use and he educated in one's own language was also
protected.(4) According to Hudson, this treaty "became the
model for other treaties for the protection of minorities" in
Czechoslovakia,(5) Yugoslavia,(6) Rumania(7) and Greece,(8) as
well as for the minority provisions included in various treaties of
peace, and in the declarations made by certain states at the time of
their admission to membership in the League of Nations."(9) Also
following the same pattern were the minority protection declarations of
Aibania(10) and Lithuania.(11)
In 1925 the League of Nations Frontier Commission had recommended that
Iraq receive the Mosul vilayet subject to the condition that the
territory "remain tinder the effective mandate of the League of
Nations for a period which may be put at twenty-five years. .
."(12) Nevertheless, the Anglo-Iraq Treaty was signed on June
30, 1930.(13) This treaty was designed to terminate the mandatory regime
in Iraq, and its preamble acknowledged that "the mandatory
responsibilities accepted by His Britannic Majesty in respect of lraq
will automatically terminate upon the admission of Iraq to the League of
Nations." It contained no assurance of protection for the
minorities living in Iraq.
The proposal to terminate the mandatory regime was brought before the
League of Nations Council on March 9, 1929. (14) On September 24, 1930,
the Council voted to refer the issue to the Permanent Mandates
Commission.(15) The issue of protection for minorities living in Iraq
was raised several times by Commission members in subsequent meetings.
At the meeting of November 10, 1930, Marquis Theodoli (the Chairman), M.
Ortis, and M. Rappard all raised the issue of the protection of racial
and religious minorities in Iraq.(16) Marquis Theodoli reminded
the British representative of a report submitted by the Mandates
Commission to the Council in 1928, which states as follows:
It (the Commission) would welcome the entry of Iraq into
the League of' Nations if and when certain conditions were fulfilled, in
particular that it becomes apparent that Iraq is able to stand
alone, and that effective guarantees be secured for the observance of
all treaty obligations in Iraq for the benefit of racial and religious
In response to M. Rappard's enquiry about
guarantees of minority protection, the British representative states:
"With regard to the general position of the minorities after 1932,
the British Government had warned the Iraqi Government that the League
of Nations would probably require certain guarantees " He added
that he believed that "the Iraqi Government was prepared to give
the necessary guarantees" (18)
M. Ortis quoted from a statement made by the British Under-Secretary of
State for the Colonies on July 31 in response to a question asked in the
House of Commons:
We are satisfied that the Iraqi Government fully intend to give liberal
treatment to their minority, peoples and that full opportunity will be
afforded them to preserve their own language and culture. We are
also confident that the lraqi Government will be in a position fully to
satisfy the League of Nations on this point when the time comes.(19)
On November 11, M. Palacios brought up the Council
resolution of March 11, 1926, which had requested the Mandates
Commission to review annually the part of the Council's resolution of
16, 1925 (which (determined the Turkey-lraq frontier) inviting the
British Government as "Mandatory Power . . . to act, as far as
possible, in accordance with the other suggestions of the Commission of
Enquiry (Frontier Commission) as regards measures likely to ensure
pacification and to afford equal protection to all the elements of the
population . . ." (20) M. Palacios then reminded the British
representative that among the Frontier Commission’s recommendations
was that "the Assyrians should be guaranteed the re-establishment
of the ancient privileges which they had possessed under the Turkish
regime before the war; for example, a certain local autonomy, the right
to appoint their own officials, the state contenting itself with a
tribute paid from them paid through their Patriarch.(21) The
Commission's report had stated that "it is essential, in order to
satisfy the aspirations of' the minorities-notably the Christians, but
also the Jews and the Yezidi-that measures should be taken for their
protection."(22) It had also stated that "all Christian and
Yezidi should be assured of religious freedom and the right of opening
The British representative responded that as the mandatory power Britain
had attempted "to follow the spirit of the Commission of Enquiry's
report. . . in every respect ... The minorities were assured, for
example, of full religious protection.(24) He was unable to give
details as to the treatment of the Assyrians, though, because he had
"only been in the territory of Iraq for a few months" and had
no time to visit the Assyrians.(25)
The annual report of the Permanent Mandates Commission was submitted to
the League Council on January 22,1931.(26) In discussing the status of
Iraq, the report said:
The Mandates Commission considers it to be essential
that, under all circumstances, respect for the rights of racial,
linguistic and religious minorities should be ensured in Iraq; such
respect, moreover, constitutes one of the main guarantees of security,
public order and prosperity of the country.(27)
After citing with approval the recommendations made by
the League Frontier Commission in 1925 (see text accompanying Footnotes
21-23), the report concluded:
The Commission echoed the apprehensions felt, not only
by the parties concerned but by a considerable section of the public in
several countries regarding the lot of the minorities in Iraq since the
movement when the country began to prepare for complete independence,
and the supervision of the Iraq administration by the Mandatory Power
was gradually relaxed. The Commission has noted a statement by the
accredited representative of the Mandatory Power to the effect that
Iraq, when she gains her full freedom, would undoubtedly be prepared to
accept international obligations safeguarding the rights of minorities
in her territory. The Commission feels bound to refer to this
statement now, before there is any question of the various conditions
which may be laid down when the Mandate comes to an end, because it
thinks that such a statement may dispel the anxiety of the persons in
question and of those who, outside Iraq, are anxious about their future
(citation to report pages omitted).(28)
At the Committee's next session in June of 1931, Count
de Penh Garcia observed that "the Mandatory Power had had to show
great tact in dealing with the minorities and wondered "whether,
when the Mandatory Power was no longer there, the same tact would always
be shown.(29) After other Commission members voiced similar concerns,
Sir Francis Humphrey, the High Commissioner of Iraq, responded that
"the absence in the (Anglo-Iraqi) Treaty of safeguards for
minorities" did not mean that no safeguards were contemplated,
since "the necessary safeguards would be furnished by the
guarantees which Iraq would be required to give before being admitted to
membership in the League.(30)
At the June 19 meeting, M. Orts emphasized that the Mandates Commission
was "anxious" about the future of the minorities in Iraq, and
he inquired as to the political maturity of the nation:
Twelve years ago Iraq had been included among the
countries whose existence as an independent nation had only been
provisionally recognized on condition that they were guided by a
Mandatory. One of the reasons why Iraq was refused complete independence
was that it was not yet considered to possess that spirit of tolerance
which made it possible to place in its charge, without any apprehension,
the fate of the racial and religious minorities established in the
territories accorded to the country.(31)
Sir Humphries replied that in his thirty years I
experience with Islamic states, he had "never found such tolerance
of other races and religions as in Iraq" and if Iraq were to prove
herself unworthy of the confidence which has been placed in her, the
moral responsibility must rest with His Majesty's Government, which
would not attempt to transfer it to the Mandates Commission."(32)
Sir Humphrys also spoke against the suggestion which had "been made
in certain quarters that a representative of the League of Nations
should reside in Iraq who would be charged with the duty of supervising
the guarantees afforded to the minorities ... (There is little doubt
that such action would be regarded by the Iraqi Government as a
derogation of sovereignty, and as an indication that it was not to be
trusted to implement whatever guarantees it might have given "(33)
On September 4, 1931, the annual report of the Mandates Commission was
submitted to the League Council.(34) As regards Iraq, the
Commission reported that it would soon "be ready to submit to the
Council its opinion on the British proposal regarding Iraq."(35)
The Importance placed on protection of Iraqi minorities was again
stressed by the Commissions representative M. Marinkovitch:
The Commission suggests that the Council should request
the Mandatory Power to continue to give its attention to the position of
minorities in Iraq. It emphasizes the necessity of recommending
the Iraqi Government to be guided by a spirit of toleration towards
minorities, whose loyalty will grow in proportion as they are freed from
all fear of danger to their rights as explicitly recognized by the
Mandatory Power and the League of Nations. I am sure that the
Council will wish to associate itself with the Commission's suggestions,
which are prompted by the desire to ensure-now that the country is about
to apply for complete independence- that the highly varied ethnical,
religious and linguistic elements of the population of Iraq should live
on terms of whole-hearted collaboration.(36)
In fact, the guarantee of the protection of minority
rights had become a condition precedent to the termination of a
mandatory regime. On January 13, 1930, the League Council passed a
resolution requesting the Mandate Commission determine the "general
conditions" which were to be fulfilled before a mandatory regime
could be brought to an end,(37) At the September 4, 1931 meeting
of the Council, the Mandatory Commission submitted its draft resolution
in accordance with this request.(38) The section dealing with protection
of minorities reads as follows:
The Commission suggests that, without. prejudice to any
supplementary guaranteed which might be justified by the special
circumstances of certain territories or their recent history, the
undertakings of the new. state should ensure and guarantee: (a) the
effective protection of racial, linguistic and religious minorities.(39)
* * *
The minutes of the Commission meeting shown the
importance placed on this guarantee by the Commission members. They voted to omit from the original proposal the words "in
accordance with existing treaties or declarations on that subject"
(which had appeared after the word "minorities") "in
order not to restrict in any way the action of the Council.(40) They
also added the word "effective" to the original wording.(41)
The resolution was adopted by the League Council on the day it was
Four months later, at the Commission’s 21st session, the Commission
members were still concerned about the protection of the minorities. On
October 29, M. Orts was paraphrased as saying:
If the population of the country to be emancipated
(Iraq) had been homogenous, composed of individuals belonging to the
same race and religion-in other words, if there had been no
minorities-the Commission's task would have been far simpler ... The
population of the country, however, was heterogeneous and belonged to
different religions. Moreover, what-ever might be said to the
contrary, tolerance had not always been a dominant virtue of these
Levantine peoples. Formerly, a relative degree of tolerance had
been maintained between the various elements of the population, owing to
the presence of a common master who allowed no occasion for the
manifestation of intolerance. It could hardly be denied, however,
that since this damnation had come to an end, and since one of the
elements of the population had begun to feel its strength (due to the
fact that it was a majority), differences of race and religion had
become more acute and minorities had begun to grow anxious. In these
Near Eastern Countries, there always occurred a time at which it became
necessary to take steps to protect racial and religious minorities.
M. Orts concluded that it was "the duty
of the Commission to Maintain, its resolution to obtain effective
guarantees for Minorities.(43)
Count de Penha Garcia said that he considered "that the most
important of the guarantees mentioned in Part II of the Commission's
report to the Council was the one relating to the protection of racial,
linguistic and religious minorities.(44)
At the November 3rd meeting, the Commission members asked Sir Humphrys
questions regarding the operation of the judicial and educational
systems with respect to the Iraqi minorities.(45) The Chairman asked Sir
Humphrys whether "Iraq would be prepared to accept obligations for
the protection of minorities like those which had been accepted by
certain European countries"(46) Sir Humphrys replied that Iraq was
willing to do so and that "the Albanian Declaration would be best
for Iraq, except the nationality clause (Art. 3), which was no longer
necessary, as the principle had already been incorporated in the
nationality law of Iraq "(47)
Mlle. Dannerig stated that it was "most desirable to give
special attention to the Assyrian and Chaldean communities, which
represented the remnants of a civilization three thousand years
old."(48) When M. Rappard suggested that a League
representative be appointed to go to Iraq and make certain that the
minority guarantees were observed, Sir Humphrys reiterated his
objections to such a plan,, and related that when he had toured northern
Iraq he had been "asked by the minority communities why no
guarantees for the minorities had been included in the Treaty." He
had "assured the minorities that the League of Nations would,
before admitting Iraq, demand adequate guarantees for minorities, like
those which had been granted by other countries. The chiefs of the
various communities had expressed their entire satisfaction at this
solution ... The Iraqi Government would feel itself absolutely bound by
(an Albanian model) Declaration and would not contravene it."(49)
The Mandate Commission issued a special report on the proposed
termination of the Iraqi mandate to the Council on December 31,
1931,(50) Under 4(a) of the report, the Commission outlined the plan for
( a ) In the case of Iraq, the Commission is
of the opinion that the protection of racial, linguistic and religious
minorities should be ensured by means of a series of provisions inserted
in a declaration to be made by the Iraqi Government before the Council
of the League of Nations and by the acceptance of the rules of procedure
laid down by the Council in regard to the petitions concerning
minorities, according to which, in particular minorities themselves, as
well as any person, association, or interested State, shall have no
right to submit petitions to the League of Nations.
(I) This declaration, the text of which would be settled in agreement
with the Council, would contain the general provisions relating to the
protection of the said minorities accepted by several European states.
In addition, Iraq would accept any special provisions which
the Council of the League of Nations, in
agreement with the Iraqi Government, might think it necessary to lay
down as a temporary or permanent measure to ensure the effective
protection of racial linguistic and religious minorities in Iraq ...
(ii) Iraq would agree that insofar as they affected persons
belonging to the racial, linguistic and religious minorities, these
provisions would constitute obligations of international concern and
would be placed under the guarantee of the League of Nations. No
modification could be made in them without the assent of a majority of
the Council of the League of Nations. (Subsection ii further provided
that any member state could bring before the Council "any
infraction or danger of infraction" of these provisions, that the
Council could take action it deemed proper, and that disputes "as
to questions of law or fact" between Iraq and a member state were
to be referred to the permanent Court of International Justice- if
demanded by the other state-whose opinion would be final.(51)
The Commission's representative to the Council reviewed
the report at the Council meeting of January 22, 1932, and then proposed
the following resolution:
Having to consider the special case of the termination of' the mandate
1) Notes the opinion formulated, at its request, by the Permanent
Mandates Commission on the Proposal of the British Government;
2 ) Considers that the information available is sufficient
to show that Iraq satisfies, generally speaking, the de facto conditions
enumerated in the annex to the Council resolution of September 4th,
3 ) Declares itself prepared, in principle, to pronounce
the termination of the mandatory regime in Iraq, when that state shall
have entered into the undertakings before the Council in conformity with
the suggestions contained in the report of the Permanent Mandates
4 ) Accordingly requests (two committee Reporters and the
British representative) to prepare, in consultation with the
representatives of the Iraqi Government and, if necessary, with a
representative of the Permanent Mandates Commission, a draft declaration
covering the various guarantees recommended by the report of the draft
to the Council at its next session;
5 ) Decides that, should the Council, after examining the
undertakings which would be entered into by the Iraqi Government,
pronounce the termination of the mandatory regime over that territory,
such a decision shall become effective only as from the date on which
Iraq has been admitted to the League of Nations.(53)
The League Council adopted this resolution.(54) and thus
a declaration by Iraq guaranteeing minority protection became a
condition precedent to the termination of the mandate.
On May 19, 1932, the committee created by the January 22 resolution
reported to the League Council.(55) The committee submitted its draft
declaration calling for protection of the Iraqi minorities.(56) The
declaration asserted that its stipulations were both "fundamental
Laws of Iraq" which could not be abrogated (Art. 1); guaranteed the
rights of "life and liberty" without regard to race, language
or religion (Art. 2(l)), the right to free exercise of religion (Art.
2(2)); equal rights before the law (Art. 4); the right to use one's own
language (Art. 4); the right of minorities to maintain and control their
own schools and religious and social institutions (Art. 5); obliged Iraq
to permit non-Moslem minorities to settle issues of family law and
personal status according to their own custom and usage (Art.--6);
granted full protection to the "churches, synagogues, cemeteries
and other religious establishments, charitable works and other pious
foundations of minority religious communities" (Art. 7); the right
to educate children living in districts where Arabic is not the mother
tongue in their own language (Art. 8); and to provide minorities with an
"equitable share in the enjoyment and application of sums which may
be provided out of public funds ... for educational, religious or
charitable purposes" (Art. 8) (See Appendix A).
The committee representative reminded the Council that, according
to the January 22 resolution, the termination of the Iraq mandate. was
"subject to two conditions- namely: (1) The formal acceptance by
Iraq, in conformity with its Constitution, of the proposed declaration,
and (2) The admission of lraq to the League of Nations".(57)
During the discussion of the declaration, several Council members
stressed the importance of the minority protection provisions, and the
Council adopted the declaration.(58) The declaration was signed at
Baghdad on May 30, 1932, and entered into force on June 29, 1932.(59)
NOTES Chapter I
I. M. Hudson1 International Legislation 283
(1931), Carnegie Endowment for Peace, Washington (hereinafter cited as 1
2. June 28, 1919,225 Consolidated Treaty Services 412, 1 Int’l
Leg. 285 (registered Jan. 10, 1920) (hereinafter cited as Polish
3. 1 Int’l Leg., supra note 1, at 283.
4 . Polish Minorities Treaty , supra note 2 at Art. 2-9.
5. Treaty Between the Allied and Associated Power and
Czechoslovakia (Protection of Minorities).
Sept. 10, 1919, Int’l Leg. 298, entered into force July 16, 1919.
6 . Treaty Between the Allied and Associated Power and the Kingdom
of the Serbs Croats and Slovenes (Protection of Minorities), Sept, 10,
1919. 1 Int’l Leg. 312, entered into force July 4, 1920.
7. Treaty Between the Allied and Associated Powers and Rumania
Minorities), Dec. 9, 1919, 1 Int’l Leg. 426, entered into force
8. Treaty on the Protection of Minorities in Greece, August 10,
1920. 1 Int’l Leg.
489. entered into force August 30, 1924.
9. 1 lint'/ Leg., supra note 1, at 283-84.
10. Declaration Concerning the Protection of Minorities in Albania. Oct.
2, 1921, 1 Int’l Leg. 733, entered into. Force March 22, 1922.
11. Declaration On the Protection of Minorities in Lithuania, May
12,1922, 2 Int’I Leg. 868, entered into force Dec.11, 1923.
12. League of Nations Document C. 400, M.147,1925.V11, at 88,
(hereinafter cited as League Commission's Report).
13 . Treaty of Alliance Between in Respect of the United
Kingdom and His Majesty the King Iraq, June 30, 1930, 132 L.N.T.S. 364,
registered Oct. 3, 1932, hereinafter cited as Anglo-lraqi Treaty).
14 . 10 League of Nations O.J. 561 (1924).
15 . 11 League of Nations O.J.. 1512 (1930).
16. Permanent Mandates Commission (19th sass.), League of Nations
Document C.643.M.262.1930,VI, at 81-82 (hereinafter cited as Mandates
17. /d. at 85.
18. /d. at 86.
19. Id. at 88.
20. /d. at 94. See 7 League of Nations O.J. 192, 502 (1926).
21 . Id. at See League Commission’s Report, supra
note 12, at 90.
22 . League Commission’s Report, supra note 12, at
23 . Id.
24 . Mandates Commission, supra note 16, at 95.
25 . Id.
26 . 12 League O.J. 453 (1931).
27 . Id. at 456.
28 . Id. at 456-57.
29 . Permanent Mandates Commission (20th sess.) League of
Nations Document C, 422. M. 176, 1931. VI, at 125.
30 . Id. at 126.
31 . Id. at 134.
32 . Id.
33 . Id. at 140.
34 . 12 League of Nations O.J. 2044 (1931).
35 . Id. at 2047.
36 . Id. at 2048.
37 . 11 League of Nations O.J. 77 (1930).
38 . 12 League of Nations O.J. 2055 (1931).
39 . Id. at 2057.
40 . Mandates Commission (20th sess.) supra note 29,
41 . Id.
42 . 12 League of Nations O.J. 2058 (1931).
43 . Permanent Mandates Commission (21st sess), League of
Nations Document C.830 M. 411. 1931. VI, at 58.
44 . Id. at 62.
45 . Id. at 110-12.
46 . Id. at 112.
47 . Id.
48 . Id. at 114.
49 . Id. at 115.
50 . 13 League of Nations O.J. 606 (1932).
51 . Id. at 609.
52 . See text accompany footnotes 39-42, supra.
53 . 13 League of Nations O.J. 474 (1932).
54 . Id. at 479.
55 . Id. at 1212.
56 . Id. at 1347.
57 . Id. at 1212.
58 . Id. at 1213-1216.
59 . M.Hudson, 6 International Legislation 39 (1937).
Legal and Historical Rights
of Assyrians to Mosul Vilayet
PRIOR TO WORLD WAR I. the Assyrians were divided
geographically into three main groups: those living in the Hakkiari
mountains of Turkey; those residing in the plains west of Lake Urmiyah,
in Persia; and those living in the lowlands south of the Hakkiari
region, in the Barwari Bala and Nerwa Raikan districts of the Mosul
vilayet (state) in what was then Mesopotamia (Bet-Nahrain) and is now
The Turkish government had traditionally "allowed a
considerable degree of autonomy" to the Assyrians of Hakkiari
region, who were governed by the Patriarch of the Church of the East.(2)
Upon entering World War 1, Turkey sought the support of the Assyrians
living in the Hakkiari region, which was considered to be a strategic
area for war purposes.(3) The Turks demanded that Assyrians enter the
war against the Allies and join the battle against Russia. The
Assyrians hesitated and wished to remain neutral. Turkey then
declared war on the Assyrians and moved against the Assyrians with their
military might, killing thousands of Assyrians and destroying their
In the meantime, the first fighting in this part of the world was
taking place in the Urmiyah region. Urmiyah was in the northern
half of Persia and thus fell within the Russian sphere of influence.
In 1914 the Turks attacked the Russians at Urmiyah and forced them to
retreat until January, 1915. The Assyrians living in the area had
sought the Russian help to protect themselves against the onslaught of
the Turks but were left defenseless when the Russians retreated. Reverend Joel E. Warda, a prominent Assyrian historian, says in his book
The Flickering Light of Asia about 100,000 of these Assyrians fled north
to Russia, where thousands still live today.(5)
After the Russians had recaptured Urmiyah and moved west to Van, they
made overtures to the Assyrians in the Hakkiari region. The
expected help the Assyrians had requested of the Russians never came,
and after six months of fighting, scores of thousands of Assyrians fled
to Urmiyah in the face of Turkish attacks, states Reverend Warda.(6)
According to the League of Nations Frontier Commission, after reaching
Persia the Assyrians "continued to assist the Russians, who formed
several bodies of Assyrian troops. These troops fought under
Russian command until the breakup of the Tsarist army, though one
battalion was under the direct control of the Assyrian Patriarch,
asserts Assyrian historian Yusef Malek in his masterpiece The British
Betrayal of the Assyrians.(7) Early in 1917 the Russian front collapsed,
and the Assyrians were again deserted, although "during the early
part of 1918 the Assyrian formations joined the irregular force which,
under the command of Russian officers who had remained in Persia, was
defending the plains of Urmiyah and Salmas against the Turks.(8)
In February 1918 the Persian authorities ordered the Assyrians to
surrender their arms. The Assyrians refused and for a time
successfully defended themselves. The British had visited the
Assyrians and had asked them to hold their position, but Malek maintains
that a crushing blow was dealt the Assyrians when Simko, at the behest
of the Persian authorities, assassinated their Assyrian Patriarch, the
Mar Benyamin Shimon.(9) The Turks began to attack. Having run out
of ammunition, the Assyrians retreated to Hamadan, a city in the
British-controlled area of Persia. The League Commission reported
that "during this retreat the Assyrians were exposed to the
greatest sufferings; many were killed in battle, others died of hunger
and exposure. Along this journey, the Assyrians were attacked by
their enemy, and R. Stafford reports that more than twenty-five thousand
Assyrians died on this dreadful retreat on their flight to Hamadan.(10)
By August 1918 most of the Assyrian refugees (both from Hakkiari and
from Urmiyah) had been sent to a camp in Baquba, a Mesopotamian town
thirty miles northeast of Baghdad. Many of the men stayed behind
and formed four battalions (commanded by British officers) to counter
the Turkish threat to Teheran. After the Armistice was declared
these men went to Baquba.
The third group of Assyrians were those whose homes were in the Mosul
vilayet. Before the war they had served as "rayahs"
under the Kurdish Aghas. These Assyrians were also displaced
during the war and lived in the Baquba refugee camp. After the
Armistice they returned to their homes in Barwari Bala and Nerwa Raikan.
The Armistice between Turkey and the Allies was signed on October 30,
1918, and it came into effect on October 31. However, British
forces were still advancing north through Mesopotamia, and Toynbee
reports that "at the moment when hostilities were to cease,
something less than a quarter of the Mosul vilayet was under British
military occupation"(11) The Armistice did give the Allies the
"right to occupy any strategic points in the event of a situation
arising which threatens the security of the Allies" (Art. VII), and it provided that the Turks surrender all garrisons in
Mesopotamia (Art. XVI).(12) The British took the position
that the Mosul vilayet was part of "Mesopotamia" and on
November 7 the Turk leader Ali Ihsan Pasha agreed to General Marshall's
demand that all Turk troops leave the Mosul vilayet within .ten days.
Sir Arnold Wilson, the Acting Civil Commissioner of Iraq, approved of
this action, stating "Thanks to General Marshall we had
established, de facto, the principle that the Mosul vilayet is part of
Iraq ... We had done so in accordance with what we had every reason to
believe were the wishes of H. M.'s Government and of the Allies, but in
spite of rather than by reason of the terms of the Armistice, which were
not only ambiguous but inconsistent with the interpretation placed on
them by the War Office.(13)
Philip Ireland lists three reasons why Wilson "had long considered
the inclusion of Mosul in Iraq as essential."(14) The
occupation of the vilayet "pushed the Turks to a more natural
frontier" and "put the vilayet's economic resources, including
its revenue, at the disposal of the rest of Iraq.(15) Moreover, Ireland
emphasizes, the occupation "brought under British protection the
Christian population, including the Assyrians who, encouraged by the
Allies, had taken up arms against the Turks.(16) Although most of the
Assyrians were refugees at Baquba, a town thirty miles northeast of
Baghdad, the occupation of the Mosul vilayet by British forces was
needed to assure that those Assyrians who had lived in the Barwari Bala
and Nerwa Raikan districts in the Mosul vilayet before the war would be
able to return safely to their homes.(17)
Furthermore, the British realized that a portion of the Mosul vilayet
might have to be made available for the rest of the Assyrian refugees,
most of whom were the Hakkiari mountaineers whose homes were in Turkish
territory. With this in mind, Acting Commissioner Wilson submitted
a draft Constitution before the Interdepartmental Committee on Eastern
Affairs on February 20, 1919. In the draft,, Wilson stated that
his proposals were based on four assumptions. The assumption
regarding the Iraqi frontier was that Mosul vilayet and Dair-ez-zor will
be included in Iraq as also those portions of Kurdistan which are now
part of Mosul vilayet and which are not included in the future Armenian
state, i.e., the whole of the basin of the Greater Zab. This is
necessary in order to admit of inclusion of Assyrians.(18)
Wilson then proposed that Iraq be divided into four provinces, one of
which was to be Mosul, including the whole Mosul vilayet and such areas
North of Mosul vilayet as are not included in the new Armenian state.
Roughly speaking, the boundary of the latter North of Mosul should be
the watershed between Lake Van and the Greater Zab. This will
place the Assyrians in Iraq as they wish.(19)
Thus, the sole reason that Wilson gave for seeking the inclusion of
Mosul into the new Iraqi state was in order to provide land for the
Assyrians. Wilson's scheme was accepted by the Committee, and on
June 6 the British government sent a letter to Wilson stating that
the measures recommended by you were necessarily of a
provisional character; but they mark an important stage towards the
provision of a definite form of administration for the
occupied territories, the ultimate constitution of which must wait the
conclusion of which must wait the conclusion of peace with Turkey and
the final decision of the Peace Conference at Paris.(20)
Because of the need to settle the Assyrian refugees, the
British government effectively occupied some parts of the Mosul vilayet.
Toynbee reports that
the task of resettling tiling [the Assyrians] was thus
as difficult as it was pressing. The first plan was to plant them
in new homes in the district of Amadiyah, within the boundary of the
Mosul vilayet, where it would be easier to protect them than in their
almost inaccessible native mountains further north; and, with this in
view, the Amadiyah district was brought under effective British
occupation during the first three months of 1919.(21)
Subsequent anti-Christian uprisings in the Amadiyah
district forced the British to abandon this plan. In the spring of
1920, the Assyrian general, Agha Petros, proposed to establish an
Assyrian buffer state along the Turco-Persian frontier; His plan
was accepted by the British authorities and by a majority of the
Assyrians, but the plan eventually fell apart.(22)
Rev. Warda, in "THE CLAIMS OF THE ASSYRIANS BEFORE THE
PRELIMINARIES OF PEACE AT PARIS," ably pleaded the
legitimate right of the Assyrian people for autonomy:
... surrounded on all sides by vastly superior numbers,
short of guns and ammunition, face to face with total extermination
because of their siding with the Allies, sacrificing thousands on the
field of battle, and losing tens of thousands through actual starvation
and disease, the Assyrians never faltered. Through all the
vicissitudes and the turning tides of the war, and even after the
collapse of Russia, the Assyrians fought with the Allies,
and endured all for the sake of the freedom of all the Assyrians.
The independence which they now seek, they do not ask as a charity, they
demand it by appealing to the sense of justice and equity. They,
have purchased it with the streams of their own blood shed on the field
of battle. In Kurdistan, in Turkey, in Persia, in Russia, in
Poland and in France, lay the graves of the Assyrians, which stand not
only as splendid monuments to their valor, but also as a tremendous
price paid for the restoration of their lands, and for the independence
of their people.
A nation that has lost nearly one third of its numerical strength
because of the part it played in the world war (1), must surly be
entitled to recognition and independence, especially in the presence of
those political declinations which have repeatedly proclaimed the
inauguration of a new era, wherein the principle of self determination
was to be recognized as a sacred and inherent right of mankind.
The original land of the Assyrians embraced an area of
250,000 square miles. (Foreign) power seized the land, and planted
(foreign) elements in the newly confiscated territory. The name,
however, with whatever dialect pronounced, stands as an eternal deed',
showing that the house belongs to the Assyrians. And no tribunal
of justice can overlook this fact. The Assyrians, however, do not
pretend to claim all this original territory. But they do claim
that portion of upper Mesopotamia, where they abound in large numbers
The British needed to resettle the Assyrians of Baqubah,
and the British looked to the Mosul vilayet as the place of settlement.
Thus reports Toynbee:
In 1921 a new scheme was worked out for settling the
Assyrians under British supervision, and in agreement with the local
Kurds, either in their original homes or as near to these as suitable
locations could be found for them-starting with those whose homes lay
nearest to Amadiyah and sending them out from the base camp tribe by
tribe in succession. This scheme encountered an obstacle in the
uncertainty of the future frontier. All the Assyrians were
unanimous in their determination to remain within the British sphere;
but ... the homes of the majority of them lay to the north of the
northern boundary of the Mosul vilayet, and the Treaty of Servers,
signed on the 10th August, 1920, had drawn the frontier still further
south by leaving the Amadiyah district under Turkish sovereignty.(24)
In fact, the Turkish nationalist movement was now
strong, and in January 1920 the Turkish assembly had issued a national
pact which "demanded, either explicitly or implicitly, that Turkey
should retain the Mosul vilayet.(25) Nevertheless, the British
went ahead with their resettlement scheme. According to Toynbee:
Rightly or wrongly the assumption was made that the
frontier would be revised, and that at any rate the actual Mosul vilayet
would eventually pass to Iraq. On this assumption the process of
dispersal was carried out, in the hope that in due course it would be
supported and the Assyrian Christians not handed over once again to the
tender mercies of the Turks. In the course of this summer almost
all the Assyrians were settled successfully under British auspices-some
in the Mosul plain, others in the Dohuk foothills, others in the
Amadiyah mountains, and others in their old homes just inside or just
beyond the vilayet boundary.(26)
Since the beginning, the Assyrians acted as troupes to
defend the new nation of Iraq. Wilson states that in 1919
approximately two thousand Assyrians enlisted as members of the Levies,
the elite fighting squad put together by the British. These
Assyrians were "organized into two battalions for the defense of
the Mosul frontier, they were as good fighting material as could be
wished. . . [and] during 1919 and in subsequent years they performed
invaluable service as an integral part of the Defense Forces of Iraq.,
under the direct control of the High Commissioner.(27) The Assyrian
troops were tricked by the British to suppress the Kurdish rebellions in
northern Mosul since the Assyrians were familiar with the mountainous
regions. In August 1919, the British forces attempted to suppress
a Kurd rebellion in the Amadiyah district, an area which was
"closely wooded in places, and as mountainous as the most difficult
part of the North-West Frontier of India.(28) The type of fighting
required was "wholly novel to the vast majority" of the
British troops being used, and an ' "Assyrian battalion, composed
exclusively of Assyrian Christian mountaineers under British and
Assyrian officers, was sent up from Baghdad. 'They proved' writes
General MacMunn, a most valuable addition to our force, quite equal to
the Kurds at their own tactics.(29)
In September, 1920, the Kurds of the Aqra district rebelled against the
British administration. Wilson reports that the rebels were
ineffectively dealt with by a column from Mosul, and
were not finally defeated until some 600 of them had the misfortune to
attack an Assyrian repatriation camp thirty miles north-east of Mosul.
The Assyrians., though heavily out-numbered, made short work of their
assailants, - - - In this engagement the Kurds suffered losses greater
than were inflicted by all the punitive expeditions undertaken against
the Northern Kurds by regular troops in 1919-1920. "But for
this entirely fortuitous support" says General Hal Dane, it is
possible that a large portion of the Mosul Division might have been
swamped in the wave of anarchy...... This successful stroke on the part
of the Assyrians, coming at a critical moment, was of the greatest
value, and General Hal Dane was able to concentrate his attention on the
Middle Euphrates and the Dial regions ... (30)
In 1923, Turkey still occupied the Rowanduz district in
the northeast section of the Mosul vilayet. When Britain's attempt
to establish a Kurdish government in the adjoining district of
Sulaymaniyah failed, an Anglo-Iraqi force occupied the district. This force also captured Rowanduz from the Turks on April 22, 1923, and
Toynbee reports that "in this operation, the Assyrian Levies again
The Lausanne Conference had opened on November 20, 1922, and on its
agenda was the determination of the frontier between Turkey and Iraq.
The Lausanne Treaty was signed on July 24, 1923. The area occupied
by Britain and Turkey on this date became the provisional boundary known
as the "Brussels line," which eventually became the permanent
frontier between Iraq and Turkey. Clearly, the Assyrian military
actions caused Iraq to receive a greater amount of
Assyrians helped maintain British control of the northern portions of
the Mosul vilayet, (2) the Assyrians helped drive the Turks from
Rowanduz and its environs, which area subsequently became part of Iraq;
and (3) the ouster of the Turkish forces from Rowanduz separated the
portion of the Sulaymaniyah district, which was under the control of a
Kurdish ruler, from the territory administered by the Turkish
government, thus allowing the British to occupy the area after the
Lausanne Treaty was signed.
Article 3 of the Lausanne Treaty provided:
The frontier between Turkey and Iraq shall be laid down
in friendly arrangement to be concluded between Turkey and Great Britain
within nine months. In the event of no agreement being reached
between the two Governments within the time mentioned, the dispute shall
be referred to the Council of the League of Nations. The Turkish
and British Governments reciprocally undertake that, pending the
decision to be reached on the subject of the frontier, no military or
other movement shall take place which might modify in any way the
present state of the territories of which the final fate will depend on
At one of the conferences preceding the signing of the
Lausanne Treat, Lord Curzon had remarked in a memorandum addressed to
Turkey's Ismet Pasha on December 11 1922, that "the Assyrians who
were driven from the region of julamerk and the Persian border by
Turkish troops during the war, who died in thousands in their flight to
Iraq, and who had settled there, would fight to the death rather than
permit the return of their new homes to a people who to them were the
symbol of oppression."(33) Thus the British government emphasized
that the presence of the Assyrians in their new homes in the Mosul
vilayet was an important factor in favor of placing the Mosul area
within Iraq rather than Turkey.
In May, 1924, in accordance with the Lausanne Treaty; the parties met at
Constantinople. At this Conference the plight of the Assyrians who
had settled north of the vilayet border was raised. According to
the League of Nations Frontier Commission report,
At the beginning of April, 1924, the British Government
had notified the Iraq Government of its intention to demand the cession
to Iraq of a portion of the Assyrian territory ... and asked whether the
Baghdad Government would be prepared to guarantee that Assyrians who had
not yet settled should be able to acquire, on favorable conditions, some
of the abandoned land in the northern districts. The British
Government further asked whether the Iraq Government would be prepared
to grant all the Assyrians the same local autonomy as they enjoyed
before the war under Turkish rule. The reply of the Iraq
government, which was given on April 30th, was in the affirmative.(34)
Hence the British government argued for an extension of
the frontiers of Iraq to include a portion of the Hakkiari vilayet.
Sir Percy Cox, the British representative to the Conference, explained
that the proposed frontier would "admit of the establishment of the
Assyrians in a compact community ... if not in every case in their
ancestral habitations, at all events in suitable adjacent
Although the British line did not include all of the prewar home of the
Assyrians, it did include the portions of the Hakkiari vilayet which the
Assyrians- had reoccupied in 1921 with British approval and assistance.
Sir Percy Cox argued that "in this additional territory claimed for
Iraq north of the Mosul vilayet boundary, scarcely a vestige of Turkish
The Conference broke up on June 5, 1924, with no
agreement being reached between the two parties. On August 6, the
British government referred the frontier question to the League of
Nations. Again, the British brought up the Assyrian issue. In a memorandum dated August 14, 1924, and submitted to the
Secretary-General on September 20, the British government stated:
His Britannic Majesty's Government have given their
careful and sympathetic consideration to the undoubted desirability of
including within the Iraq frontier as much as possible of the old
Assyrian country. They have had to hold the scale between racial
and political considerations on the one side, and economic, strategic
and geographical considerations on the other. They have
reluctantly come to the conclusion that weight must be given entirely to
the latter considerations in the case of the Assyrian country which lies
to the north of the proposed frontier .... (But) to draw the line
further to the south in this region would, apart from economic and
strategic disabilities, produce such a panic among the Assyrians that
they would find no alternative but a resort either to mass emigration or
to a fight to the death in defense of their ideals. Peace and
prosperity upon this section of the frontier would be impossible.(37)
In August, 1924, a Turkish Vali passing through the
Hakkiari region was detained by members of an Assyrian tribe which had
resettled there. Turkish troops retaliated by attacking the
reconstructed Assyrian villages, and about eight thousand Assyrians fled
south to the territory under British-Iraqi occupation and arrived as
refugees at Amadiyah.(38)
In a letter submitted to the League of Nations on September 20, 1924,,
the Turkish government protested the British government's use of
airplanes to attack Turkish troops who had been used to drive out the
Assyrians.(39) On September 30, the British government responded
that the planes were used because it was "clear that Turkish
regular forces were definitely invading the area administered by His
Majesty's Government at the date of the signature of the Lausanne Treaty
and were willfully disregarding the status quo. On September 22,
the High Commissioner reported that detachments of the Iraq police and
of local levies . . . had been forced back to Amadia. Their
retirement was accompanied by the flight of a mass of Assyrian
Christians and Iraq tribesmen, who are pouring into Amadia in large
numbers."(40) Thus, although the Lausanne Treaty had provided
that "no military or other action shall take place which might
modify in any way the present state of the territories" Britain and
Turkey did not agree on what line constituted the status quo. To
remedy this dispute, the League Council, meeting at Brussels on October
29,, determined a provisional frontier line to be observed until a final
settlement was reached.(41) The line drawn was the "territorial
position in the area under consideration at the time of the signature of
the Treaty of Lausanne.(42) (The "Brussels line"), is
represented by the dark line on the map.) As Toynbee observed,
The so-called "Brussels line" did not depart
very widely from that trace of the northern boundary of the Mosul
vilayet which had been described by the British Government as defining
the northern limit of Anglo-Iraqi occupation and administration under
the status quo of the 24th July, 1923 (the Lausanne Treaty). The
effect was to leave under Anglo-Iraqi occupation the whole of the
Sulaymaniyah sanjag and to bring under it a fraction of the so-called
"no-man's-land" in Hakkiari north of the former vilayet
boundary, while bringing under Turkish occupation all the rest of the
Hakkiari "no-man's-land" together with some fragments of
territory on the Mosul side of the former vilayet boundary.(43)
On September 30 1924, The Council created a Commission
to present information and suggestions regarding the frontier.(44) After
visiting the area, the Commission reported to the Council on July
The Commission report suggested that the "Brussels line" serve
as the permanent boundary between Iraq and Turkey. Thus the 87,890
square kilometers south of the Brussels line which was claimed by Turkey
part of Iraq, and the 3,500 square kilometers north of the line which
was claimed by Britain would become a part of Turkey.(46)
The presence of Assyrians in the Mosul vilayet was an important factor
in the Commission's decision that all of the vilayet should go to Iraq.
After stating that the "Turkish Government has laid great stress
upon the importance of the wishes of the population of the disputed
territory" and that the "British Government also bases its
political arguments very largely on the views of the people, as it
conceives them" the Commission summarized. the views of the various
ethnic groups inhabiting the Mosul vilayet.(47)
The Commission did not, however, conduct a plebiscite. The
Commission report states that "as early as the Lausanne Conference
the Turkish government advocated a plebiscite among the population
concerned as the only equitable means of settling the dispute, whereas
the British Government seemed in favor of the appointment of a
commission to collect all such information as may be thought.
necessary."(48) After the League of Nations Council appointed the
Commission, the Turkish delegate again expressed his preference for a
plebiscite and requested that the Commission begin its investigation by
deciding whether or not a plebiscite would be a suitable procedure.(49)
The Turkish government argued that the population of the Mosul vilayet
should be "given an opportunity of freely deciding its own
future" as had the- populations of several disputed territories in
Europe. The British government responded that: (1) the inhabitants
were too poorly educated to place proper emphasis on strategic,
geographic, economic, and administrative factors; (2) it would be too
difficult to obtain sufficient neutral forces to maintain order; (3) the
voters might be inhibited by fear of Turkish reprisals if Turkey were to
be granted the areas); (4) the question involved the laying down of a
border, which question could not be settled practically by a poll; (5)
the wishes of the people were generally known to be sympathetic with
Iraq; and (6) the British government did not claim a frontier north of
that claimed because of the impracticability of conducting a plebiscite,
the plebiscite were accepted as the most suitable method
of reaching a solution, the British Government would feel bound to put
aside the reasons which induced it to exclude from the state of Iraq a
considerable area to the north of the Vilayet of Mosul; it would then
ask for a plebiscite to be held in this area also. The territory
referred to comprises the greater part of the original home of the
Assyrians; it would also include the country inhabited by certain
Kurdish tribes, which have made overtures to the Iraq Government, and by
certain Arab tribes. Of the Assyrians who formerly lived in this
region, some have now settled in Iraq, but many are at present scattered
about Russia, in the Caucasus and elsewhere. It would, of course,
be necessary to try to ascertain their views. In any case it would
be unfair to adopt the Turkish suggestion that the plebiscite be
confined to the Vilayet of Mosul.(50)
The Commission rejected the Turkish request for a
plebiscite, on the grounds that an effective, neutral administration and
police force could not be secured, and that the voting would
"scarcely afford a true reflection of the wishes of the people
since they would probably vote as instructed by their tribal chiefs or
vote out of "fear of Government reprisals."(51)
During its tour of the Mosul vilayet, the Commission members interviewed
numerous inhabitants of the area. Regarding the Assyrians, its
The Assyrians are anxious to be independent, as they
were in practice before the war. They asked to be placed under
European-preferably British-protection or mandate. If their wishes
cannot be wholly realized, they would be prepared to pay tribute to a
sovereign state provided that they could have a wide measure of local
autonomy. They are opposed, however, to being again subjected to
On the other hand, the Christians interviewed by the
Commission considered it "essential that a European mandate should
be maintained; if this form of control should come to an end they think
that a Turkish government would be preferable ... to an entirely
independent Arab government."(53) The Commission also noted that
although some witnesses hesitated to give an opinion in favor of Iraq
"due to fear of reprisals on the part of the Turks should they
return to the country, ... this fear did not prevent any Christian
witness from expressing his views."(54)
The opinions of the other groups were divided. Among the Kurds,
some expressed a desire for a separate Kurdish state under European
protection, some preferred a Turkish government, while still others
preferred Arab government, with or without the British mandate. Although some of the Arabs wanted the Iraq government, many were
pro-Turkish, while a third group was in favor of an Iraq government yet
"vehemently urged that the mandate and the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty must
come to an end as soon as possible. Some of them added that they
preferred Turkey to an Arab State placed under mandate or assisted by
foreign administrative advisors."(55)
In its conclusion, the Commission stated:
subject to the reservations made in the report in regard
to the opinions given, the fact seems to be established that, taking the
territory as a whole, the desires expressed by the population were more
in favor of Iraq than of Turkey. It must, however, be realized
that the attitude of most of the people was influenced by the desire for
effective support under the mandate, and by economic considerations,
rather than by any feeling of solidarity with the Arab Kingdom; if these
two factors had carried no weight with the persons consulted, it is
probable that the majority of them would have preferred to return to
Turkey rather than to be attached to Iraq.(56)
The final conclusion was that
important arguments, particularly of an economic and
geographical nature, and the sentiments (which all the reservations
stated) of the majority of the inhabitants of the territory taken as a
whole, operate in favor of the union with Iraq of the whole territory
south of the "Brussels line" subject to the following
conditions: (1) The territory must remain under the effective mandate of
the League of nations for a period which may be put at twenty-five
(2) Regard must be paid to the desires expressed by the Kurds that
officials of Kurdish race be appointed for the administration of their
country .... (57)
Since the disputed area was "inhabited by
Christians, Kurds, Arabs, Turks, Yezidi and Jews, in that order of
numerical importance,"(58) and since the viewpoint of the
inhabitants was an important factor in determining the fate of the Mosul
vilayet, the presence of the Assyrians (who comprised most of the
Christian element) and their unanimous desire to become a part of Iraq
under a League mandate was an overwhelmingly significant factor in
securing the Mosul vilayet from Iraq. Indeed, the Commission's
recommendation that Iraq receive the Mosul vilayet, contingent upon the
continuance of the League mandate, was identical to the view endorsed by
the Assyrians living in the territory.(59)
The Commission's concern for the Assyrians and their freedom was shown
at the end of the report:
We feel it our duty, however, to point out that the
Assyrians should be guaranteed the re-establishment of the ancient
privileges which they possessed in practice, if not officially, before
the war. Whichever may be the sovereign State, it ought to grant
these Assyrians a certain local autonomy, recognizing their right to
appoint their own officials and contenting itself with a tribute from
them, paid through the agent of their Patriarch.(60)
When the League Council met to discuss the Commission
report on September 3, 1925, the British representative argued that the
presence of the Christians in the area north of Mosul city was an
important reason for not adopting a frontier south of that proposed by
I refer ... to the suggestions of a partition of the
territory south of the Brussels line between Turkey and Iraq, a
suggestion to which the Commissioners have given greater precision by
indicating the line of the lesser Zab as a possible frontier... From the
economic and strategic point of view, any line south of the Brussels
line is, on the Commissioner's own showing, inferior to that line ....
More than that, from the racial point of view and the wishes of the
inhabitants, any such partition would involve the very maximum of
hardship and injustice to all parties concerned. It would exclude
from Iraq the great Arab center of Mosul as well as the bulk of the
Assyrian population which wishes to remain in Iraq, and still leave
excluded from Turkey the greater part of the Turkish element in the
Mosul vilayet ... (61)
Later in his presentation the British representative
stressed that were the Council to partition the disputed territory south
of the Brussels line, "there would be an immediate panic and flight
into Iraq of the Assyrian population" living north of such a
boundary.(62) The representative concluded by asking the Council to
reconsider the additional territory requested by Britain at the
Conference of Constantinople:
I refer to the claim which we have put forward on behalf of Iraq to such
a moderate extension northward of the present provisional frontier as
will both give the greatest measure of strategical security to Iraq
without any economic or strategical loss to Turkey and at the same time
enable the remnants of the Assyrian nation to live once again in, at any
rate, a substantial portion of their ancestral home.(63)
On September 4, the Council appointed a sub-committee
composed of three league members, including M. Unden, the Reporter, to
examine the border issue more closely.(64) A new controversy arose
during the 1925 session. In a series of letters sent to the
Secretary-General of the League, the first of which was submitted on
September 3, the British government alleged that Turkey was deporting to
Iraq the Chaldean Christians living in the area between the Brussels
line and the northern frontier claimed by Great Britain, thus violating
the Lausanne Treaty.(65) Turkey also alleged that Great Britain was
violating the Brussels line.(66) In a letter dated September 21, Britain
requested that the Council "dispatch such representative or
representatives to the locality of the Brussels line as may be required
for the purpose of investigating so far as possible the charges which
have already been made by the two Governments...."(67) On
September 24, the Council adopted a resolution that a representative be
sent to the area,(68) and on September 28, the Council appointed General
Laidoner of Estonia.(69)
General Laidoner read his report to the Council on December 10, 1925.
Although the Turkish government refused to allow Laidoner and his
assistant to investigate the area north of the Brussels line, they were
able to obtain evidence by speaking with the refugees who had crossed
south of the line. According to Laidoner:
In the district of Zakho there are at present some 3,000
deported Christians, and every day isolated groups continue to arrive in
Iraq. These refugees come from the villages situated in the zone
between the Brussels line and the line claimed by the British
Government; there are also some who have come from the villages situated
north of the latter line .... [A] II the refugees' statements are in
absolute agreement and may be summarized as follows: (1) Turkish
soldiers, under the command of officers, occupied the villages, and in
the first place obtained delivery of all the arms; they then imposed
very heavy fines and demanded women; they then pillaged the houses and
subjected the inhabitants to atrocious acts of violence, going as far as
massacre; (2) the deportations were deportations en masse .... During
the deportations several persons fell ill on the way and were abandoned;
others died of starvation and cold, for, when leaving their homes, they
had to abandon everything and were unable to carry with them either food
or clothing .... We have moreover seen ourselves that all those who have
arrived are in an absolutely pitiable state.(7O)
Laidoner concluded, "Among all the incidents which
have taken place in the zone of the Brussels line, it is beyond question
that the deportations of Christians constitute the most important fact,
especially if we consider that a fairly large population has been
deported from the villages and that these deportations are still going
on ...."(71) Moreover, Laidoner considered the deportations
"infinitely more important" than the other allegations because
"these deportations are causing fairly serious and easily
comprehensible agitation and nervousness among the Christian population
living south of the Brussels line and in the vilayet of Mosul, and also
among the Moslem population of Mosul which favors the claims of
According to Toynbee, "This meeting was believed to have had a
decisive effect upon the mind of M. Unden, the Council's rapporteur, who
was credited with having been in favor, up to this moment, of a
compromised decision. . . "(73)
If the Chaldeans who are Assyrians and religiously united with Rome.
were being persecuted by the Turks, it was conceivable that the
Assyrians living in the northern portions of the Mosul vilayet would
share a similar fate if the Council were to adopt a compromise by
granting part of Mosul to Turkey.
On December 16, M. Unden reported to the Council on behalf of the
Special Committee which had been created to examine the border
issue.(74) M. Unden stated that
the members of the Committee arrived at the conclusion
that two solutions were possible: (1) The allocation to Iraq of all the
territory south of the so-called "Brussels line;"
(2) The partition of the disputed territory by a line for the most part
following the course of the Lesser Zab. In view of the great
complexity of the problem and the special responsibilities of the
Council of the League of Nations, which was called upon to take a
decision in so important a matter, the members of the Committee thought
that they would benefit by consulting the opinion of their colleagues.
In the end, after all the arguments and factors mentioned above had been
taken into consideration, the first of the solutions, in fact, appeared
the better adopted to solve the problem submitted to the Council under
Article 3 of the Treaty of Lausanne.(75)
The Council voted unanimously to adopt the
recommendation of the Committee, and thus the Brussels line became the
permanent border between Turkey and Iraq.(76) The British representative
thanked those involved in the decision-making process and promised that
Britain would conform to the final decision, although he expressed
"regret that the council has not been able to accept [the]
proposals for a rectification of the present frontier, which would have
been preferable on strategic and, administrative grounds, and which
would have given security in their homes to the refugee Assyrians as
well as to the Goyan Chaldeans whose unhappy fate has been set forth in
the reports of General Laidoner's Commission.(77)
It may be concluded that the presence of Assyrians in
northern Iraq was a significant factor in the determination of Iraq's
boundary with Turkey. If not for the Assyrians, it is extremely
doubtful that Iraq would have received the entire Mosul vilayet.
NOTES Chapter II.
The presence of the Assyrians affected the Iraq frontier settlement in
the following ways:
(1) The initial British occupation of the Mosul vilayet in 1918 was
prompted at least in large part by the need to secure land in which the
Assyrian refugees could be resettled and protected.
(2) The British brought some portions of the vilayet, such as the
Amadiyah district, under occupation in an attempt to resettle the
(3) In 1921 the British resettled the Assyrian refugees throughout
(4) The Assyrians were persuaded by the British to suppress Kurdish
uprisings in northern Mosul and to drive the Turks from the Rowanduz
area of the vilayet.
(5) Because of the disputes surrounding the 1924 Turkish ouster of the
Assyrians who had resettled in the Hakkiari vilayet, the League of
Nations drew a provisional boundary, the "Brussels line" which
reflected the territorial position of Turkey and Iraq at the time of the
signing of the Lausanne Treaty. Thus, the acts of occupation (see
numbers 1-4) allowed Iraq to receive the vast Mosul vilayet under the
provisional settlement, which settlement was eventually adopted as the
(6) An important factor in the League's decision to cede the Mosul
vilayet to Iraq was the viewpoint of the area's inhabitants. The
Assyrians spoke out in favor of Iraq, if the League's mandate continued.
The Assyrians were the first largest group in the Mosul area, and their
recommendation was accepted by the Frontier Commission and adopted by
(7) One of the arguments for adopting the Brussels line submitted before
the Council by the British representative was that any line south of the
Brussels line would separate the Assyrians population of northern Mosul
from Iraq, and would result in an "immediate panic and flight"
of these Assyrians.
(8) just before the League made its Final decision regarding the
frontier, General Laidoner delivered his report of the Turkish massacre
and deportation of the Chaldean Christians from the territory north of
the MOSUL vilayet boundary. The other Assyrians south of the
Brussels line were apprehensive of their own plight, and this report had
a "decisive effect" upon the Council's rapportetir, M. Unden,
who had previously favored a compromise settlement but who now supported
the granting of the entire Mosul vilayet to Iraq.
1. See A. Hourani, Minorities in the Arab World, at
2. League of Nations, Report of the Commission 52, Doe. C-400, M.
147 (1925) [hereinafter cited as League Commission's Report].
5. Joel E.Warda, The Flickering Light of Asia, at 200 (1924).
7. Yusuf Malek, The British Betrayal of the Assyrians, at 17
8. League Commission's Report, at 82.
9. Malek, at 239.
10. R. Stafford, The Tragedy of the Assyrians, at 34 (1935).
11. A. Toynbee, 1 Survey of International Affairs 481 (1927)
[hereinafter cited as Toynbee].
12. Armistice Convention Between Great Britain and the Allied Powers,
and Turkey, 224 The Consolidated Treaty, Series 169 (C. Parry ed.
13. A. Wilson, Mesopotamia 1917--1920: A Clash Loyalties, 22 (1931).
[hereinafter cited as Wilson].
14. P. Ireland, Iraq: A Study in Political Development, 187
17. See Stafford at 44-45.
18. Wilson at 117.
20. ld. at 119-20.
21. Toynbee at 484.
22. Id. at 484-85.
23. Warda, at 204-205.
24. Id. at 485.
25. Wilson at 213-14.
26. Toynbee at 485.
27. Wilson at 37.
28. Id. at 150.
30. Id. at 291.
31. Toynbee at 489.
32. 28 League of Nations Treaty Series 17 (1924).
33. League Commission's Report at 79.
34. League Commission's Report at 79.
35. Id. at 79.
36. Toynbee at 497.
37. 12 League of Nations O.J. 1569-70 (1924). We may infer that
Britain's "giving up" of the area north of the proposed
frontier was an astute bargaining tactic to assure that the main
objective-the Mosul vilayet-would go to Iraq and hence safeguard the
Assyrian population from the Turks.
38.Toynbee at 501.
39. 12 League of Nations O.J. 1584 (1924).
40. Id. at 1586.
41. ld at 1659.
43. Toynbee 503.
44. 5 League of Nations O.J. 1360 (1924).
45. League Commission’s Report, supra note 21.
46.H. Foster, The making of Modern lraq, 160 (1935).
47.League Commission's Report at 75.
48./d. at 14.
50. /d. at 16.
51. /d. at 19. Again we may infer the effectiveness of the British
bargaining or "giving up" the northern area, see supra n.32,
since the British were thus able to convince the League Commission not
to hold a plebiscite when in fact a plebiscite might have been normal
and appropriate under the circumstances.
52. Id. at 79.
53. Id. at 16.
54. Id at 75.
55. Id. at 77.
56. Id. at 88.
57. /d. at 88-89.
58. /d. at 86.
59. Id. at 78.
60. /d. at 90.
61. 6 League of Nations O.J. 1314 (1925).
62. /d. at 1315.
63. /d. at 1316.
64. /d. at 1337.
65. /d. at 1436-41.
66. Id. at 1435-39.
67. Id. at 1432.
68. Id. at 1383.
69. Id. at 1405.
70. 7 League of Nations O.J. 304 (1926).
71 . Ibid.
72 . Ibid.
73. Toynbee at 520.
74. 7 League of Nations O.J. 188 (1926).
75. /d. at 188.
76. Id. at 192.
77. /d. at 193.