Leading Assyrian Christian organizations have collectively penned an open letter to the five remaining U.S. presidential candidates, urging them to fight against radical terror groups and to recognize the past genocide that Christians have suffered under the Ottoman Empire.
The letter, addressed to Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump, states that Assyrian Christians are being "tortured, kidnapped, raped and murdered by radical terrorist organizations such as ISIS." Assyrians – also known as Chaldeans, Syriacs, and Arameans – are an ethnic group indigenous to the MIddle East who trace their ancestral homeland to today's northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey, northwestern Iran and northeastern Syria. Assyrian people are almost entirely Christians.
"We have seen this terror in Paris, Brussels, and other cities around the world, committed in the name of Islam by radical Islamic organizations. For Assyrians it feels like 1915 all over again," the groups write, referencing the ethnic and religious cleansing carried out by the Ottoman Empire, present-day Turkey, between 1915-1924, when 750,000 Assyrians, 500,000 Greeks and 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives.
"One hundred years have passed since the era of World War I when no one heard the cries of our ancestors, the Assyrian people, in their suffering in that genocide that is known as the Armenian Genocide," the letter reads.
"26 countries have recognized the Armenian Genocide. 12 countries, governments and institutions have recognized the Assyrian genocide. Turkey, however, continues to deny the genocide," the Assyrian organizations pointed out.
Assyrian organizations that are listed as signers of the letter are: Assyrian Genocide and Research, Federation des Assyriens de Belgique, Institut Syriaque de Belgique, Sefyo Center Belgium, Assyrian Universal Alliance Americas Chapter, Restore Nineveh Now Foundation, American Mesopotamian Organization, Institut Assyrien de Belgique, Central Union of Assyrian Associations in Germany and European sections, Assyrian Democratic Organization, and Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union of Canada.
The mass genocide of Christians marked its 100th year anniversary on April 24, 2015, bringing together world leaders to Yerevan, Armenia, to pay their respects to the dead.
"I bow down in memory of the victims and I come to tell my Armenian friends that we will never forget the tragedies that your people has endured," said French President Francois Hollande.
President Barack Obama faced criticism from Armenian-American activists, however, when he failed to refer to the 1915 massacre as a genocide last year.
"The president's surrender represents a national disgrace," said Aram S. Hamparian, executive director of the Washington-based Armenian National Committee of America, at the time. "It is a betrayal of the truth, and it is a betrayal of trust."
Although Obama had promised during his election campaign in 2008 that he would use the word, the White House later clarified that it does not want to sour its relations with Turkey, a NATO-partner.
In their letter, the Assyrian leaders reminded the presidential candidates that Secretary of State John Kerry has designated the ongoing massacre of Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria as a genocide.
"As President of the United States, would you do everything in your power to end these atrocities, bring the perpetrators to justice, and aid the survivors?" the Assyrian groups asked in the letter.
"As President of the United States, would you acknowledge the Ottoman Genocide against Christians – Assyrians, Armenians and Greeks – during World War I and support reparations for the victims?" they added.
"It is our hope that as President you would aid the victims of genocide, both past and present, and bring relief to their suffering."