On March 8, three members of an Assyrian Christian family — Dr. Hisham Maskoni, his wife, Dr. Shadha Malik Dano, and her elderly mother — were stabbed to death in their home in Baghdad. The two doctors, who had left Iraq, the country of their birth, in 2003, returned five years ago to work at St. Raphael Hospital in the capital.
The victims, who lived in a neighborhood controlled by a Shiite militia, had been tortured, according to Ashur Sargon Eskrya, president of the Assyrian Aid Society-Iraq, in an interview with Gatestone.
Eskrya also said that the motive behind the killings — as in the case of an innocent Christian killed in Baghdad in February — had not been established, and that so far, no suspects have been arrested. “These murders,” he added, “are giving us yet another signal that there is no place for Assyrian Christians in Iraq.”
An indigenous people of the Middle East, Assyrians have been targeted and murdered over the centuries for their religion and ethnicity. Yet they were once the rulers of the ancient Assyrian Empire. The traditional Assyrian homeland contains parts of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq.
The Assyrian legacy to civilization is significant. Ancient Assyrians were pioneers in science, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, literature, art and technology. They were also exceptional builders, as shown by archaeological sites, including those at Ashur, Nimrud and Nineveh in Iraq. With the rise of Islam and the Arabian conquests of the 7th century, however, Assyrians and other eastern Christian peoples fell to a subordinate status — “dhimmitude” — which forced them to pay a tax, the jizya, in exchange for “protection.” Since then, they have been persecuted repeatedly. According to the Assyrian International News Agency, every fifty years, an Assyrian massacre took place, but the 1914-1923 Christian genocide in Ottoman Turkey dwarfed previous massacres and resulted in the systematic extermination of around 750,000 Assyrians – nearly three-quarters of their prewar population.