Assyrian Democratic Party

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Assyrian Democratic Party
ܓܒܐ ܐܬܘܪܝܐ ܕܝܡܘܩܪܛܝܐ
الحزب الآشوري الديمقراطي
PresidentNinos Isho[1]
FounderAdam Homeh
Split fromAssyrian Democratic Organization
HeadquartersQamishli, Syria
Paramilitary wingKhabour Guards, Nattoreh
IdeologyEastern Assyrian interests[2]
Syrian-Assyrian self-determination[3]
Christian politics[2]
Social democracy
Democratic Council
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Party flag
Flag of the Assyrians (gold and blue Assur).svg

The Assyrian Democratic Party (Classical Syriac: ܓܒܐ ܐܬܘܪܝܐ ܕܝܡܘܩܪܛܝܐ‎, romanized: Gabā Aṯurāyā Demoqraṭāyā, Arabic: الحزب الآشوري الديمقراطي‎; short: ADP) is an Assyrian political party active in Syria, that traditionally represents the interests of the Eastern Assyrians of the Khabur valley.[2] Although aiming for the peaceful implementation of democracy in Syria, the party has generally sided and cooperated with the Ba'athist government since the 1990s.[2][4] In course of the Syrian Civil War, the Assyrian Democratic Party has come to be closely affiliated with the Khabour Guards and Nattoreh.[5][6] It is part of the Syrian Democratic Council of Rojava.


Since its foundation, the Assyrian Democratic Party has been considered to be "overtly sectarian", regarding the Eastern Assyrians as the only "true" Assyrians while distrusting the Western Assyrians.[2] Since the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, the party has however gradually broadened its aims and become more inclusive. In 2014 it began to work closely with other Assyrian and Christian denominations in the "General Authority of the Chaldean Syriac Assyrians", a committee whose stated aims also include ensuring social equality and more rights for all Christians of al-Hasakah Governorate.[7] In 2017, the party declared that it wanted a new constitution for Syria that recognized all Assyrians as native people of Syria and granted them "cultural, administrative and other rights".[3]

The ADP also officially rejects partisanship and supports the peaceful implementation of democracy in Syria,[2][4][8] and is social democratic according to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.[9] Nevertheless, the party has generally sided and cooperated with the Ba'athist government since the 1990s, and supported pro-government militias in the civil war.[2][4] The ADP advocates the unity of Syria,[8] though has begun to support plans for the country's federalization since 2017.[5] By July 2018, an ADP member stated that the "federal model that was set up [in northern Syria] is satisfying as we feel sufficiently represented".[10]


Foundation and early years[edit]

The Assyrian Democratic Party was founded in 1978, when a splinter faction under Adam Homeh seceded from the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO). From its outset, the ADP understood itself as proponent of rights for the Eastern Assyrians as opposed to the Western Assyrians, who dominated the ADO. Over time, a strong rivalry developed between the pro-opposition ADO and the ADP, which shifted increasingly closer to the Ba'athist government in the 1990s. As result, the Assyrian Democratic Party came to present itself as the pro-government alternative to the ADO, and when taking part in various Syrian parliamentary elections, supported Assyrian candidates that were not strongly opposed to the rule of the al-Assad family.[2]

Activities during the civil war[edit]

When the Syrian Civil War broke out in 2012, the ADP openly opposed the Syrian opposition,[4][11] with some of its members even joining the government militias (Popular Committees) in Qamishli.[12] The Assyrian Democratic Party also expressed support for the pro-government Sootoro.[4][13]

In late 2013, the ADP lamented that the Free Syrian Army had occupied the Assyrian villages in the Khabur valley, saying that even though the FSA fighters did not harass the locals, their presence caused the area to become a target for government attacks. This in turn forced the Assyrians to flee their homes.[14] The ADP also protested against the declaration of the autonomous region "Rojava" by the Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria around that time. Party president Ninos Isho stated in early 2014 that it is "not logical to have 30 percent of the population [the Kurds] in this area rule over the other 70 percent [the Arabs and Assyrians]", and that "the Kurdish political groups must accept real power-sharing".[1] In September 2014, the Assyrian Democratic Party put up a shelter in Qamishli for Yazidis who had fled the Sinjar massacre, and distributed food, clothing and medicine to them.[12] The party also participated in the formation of the "General Authority of the Chaldean Syriac Assyrians" in the next month. This committee aimed at strengthening the cooperation of the different Christian churches, parties and organizations in al-Hasakah Governorate, and ensuring the rights of all Christians in the region. Among the participants was also the pro-Kurdish Syriac Union Party.[7]

After the assassination of one of its commanders by the YPG, the Khabour Guards (a small Assyrian self-defense militia) broke their ties with the Syriac Union Party and aligned themselves with the ADP around mid-2015.[2][15] In November 2015, the ADP issued a statement condemning purported human rights violations in Rojava by the governing Democratic Union Party (PYD).[16] Despite this, the ADP joined the PYD-led Syrian Democratic Council one month later, with Wail Mîrza serving as the party's representative in the assembly.[17] In January 2017, the Assyrian Democratic Party reached a deal with the PYD, according to which the Khabour Guards and Nattoreh would become the sole security force for the Assyrian villages in the Khabur valley. In return, the Khabour Guards and Nattoreh joined the Syrian Democratic Forces, while the ADP agreed to support the PYD's federalism project for Syria.[5] Nevertheless, the party continues to advocate "the unity of Syria, as a country and people".[8] On 13 April, PYD forces officially handed over the valley's villages to the Khabour Guards and Nattoreh, though the YPG kept a military base near Tell Tamer. The Assyrian Democratic Party said that this was a first step towards establishing Assyrian self-administration in the Khabur valley.[5]

Party President Ninos Isho also stated during a meeting with Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov in April 2017 that the party wants a new Syrian constitution that grants self-determination, more rights and recognition as native people to the Syrian Assyrians.[3] The Assyrian Democratic Party also took part in the Northern Syria regional elections in December 2017 as part of the PYD-led "Democratic Nation List".[18] Party official Wail Mîrza called the election "historical", and further said that such elections are what Assyrians "are striving for all over Syria".[19] The ADP took part in the Sochi peace talks of January 2018.[20]

On 20 September 2018, the Assyrian Democratic Party announced the creation of a united military leadership for Nattoreh and the Khabour Guards, known as "General Command of the Assyrian Forces". The Khabour Guards already left the "Assyrian Forces" in the following December.[21]


  1. ^ a b "Assyrian Leader: Kurds in Syria Must Accept Real Power Sharing". AINA News. 15 March 2014. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Mardean Isaac (20 December 2015). "The Assyrians of Syria: History and Prospects". Syria Comment. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  3. ^ a b c "New Syrian Constitution Should Recognize Assyrians As Natives". AINA. 21 April 2017. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e Aymenn Al-Tamimi (23 February 2014). "Christian Militia and Political Dynamics in Syria". Syria Comment. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d "Assyrians seek self-management in Hasaka over deal with PYD". Zaman al-Wasl. 13 April 2017. Retrieved 14 April 2017.
  6. ^ Rashid (2018), pp. 36, 37.
  7. ^ a b "Hassakeh Christians Unite". Syrian Observer. 27 October 2014. Archived from the original on 21 June 2018. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  8. ^ a b c Hourani & Hanna (2018), p. 14.
  9. ^ "Who's who in Syria?". Al-Araby Al-Jadeed. 27 July 2018. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  10. ^ Sylvain Mercadier (13 July 2018). "The Assyrians' challenge in a post-IS Syria". Al-Araby Al-Jadeed. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  11. ^ Aymenn Al-Tamimi (7 December 2012). "Syria's Assyrians, caught in the middle". Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  12. ^ a b "ASIA/SYRIA - Christians in Qamishli collect aid for Yazidis fleeing Iraq". Agenzia Fides. 3 September 2014. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  13. ^ Aymenn Al-Tamimi (24 March 2014). "Assad regime lacks the total support of Syria's Christians". The National (Abu Dhabi). Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  14. ^ Yousef Sheikhu (19 September 2013). "Immigration Threatens the Assyrian Community in Syria". Rozana. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  15. ^ Rashid (2018), p. 37.
  16. ^ "Assyrian Organizations Issue Joint Statement on Human Rights Violations in North-east Syria". AINA News. 10 November 2015. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  17. ^ "Executive Board of Democratic Syria Assembly elected". Hawar News Agency. 14 December 2015. Archived from the original on 2 April 2017. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  18. ^ "Electoral Commission publish video of elections 2nd stage". Hawar News Agency. 25 November 2017. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  19. ^ "Wael Mirze: Assyrians participating in historical elections". Hawar News Agency. 1 December 2017. Archived from the original on 19 December 2017. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  20. ^ "A statement by several parties in northern Syrian about participation in Sochi". Syrian Democratic Forces Ptress. 28 December 2017. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  21. ^ Mais Noor Aldeen (4 December 2018). "Assyrian official "SDF leaders seek to divide ranks between Assyrians in al-Hasakah"". SMART News. Retrieved 11 December 2019.

Works cited[edit]