Assyrians are the only autochthonous people of Iraq, having lived in their ancestral lands in north Iraq since 5000 B.C. Assyrians are Christians, belonging to three main denominations: The Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Chaldean Church of Babylon. The native language of Assyrians is neo-Syriac (neo-Aramaic). This distinct identity of Assyrians, especially their Christian faith, sets them apart from the rest of the population.
Assyrians comprised 8% (1.5 million) of the Iraqi population in April of 2003. Since then 50% have fled the country. Of the 750,000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan up to 150,000 are Assyrians. Of the 1.2 million Iraqi refugees in Syria, 70,000 to 500,000 are Assyrians.
From 1995 to 2010 385 Assyrians were killed. For the years 1995-2002 there were 19 murders, averaging 2.37 per year. After the liberation of Iraq in 2003, the average number of murders for the years 2003-2010 was 55, 2316% higher than for the years 1995-2002. The geographic distribution of the murders was 39.85% in north Iraq, 58.17% in central Iraq and 1.98% in south Iraq. Kurds, Sunnis, Shiites and al-Qaeda engaged in murdering Assyrians. Examples included:
A 2 month old infant kidnapped, beheaded, roasted and returned to its parents on a bed of rice
14 year old Ayad Tariq decapitated because he is a "dirty Christian sinner"
A 14 year old boy crucified in his own village in Mosul
Fr. Paulos Iskander (Paul Alexander) kidnapped, beheaded and dismembered
66 churches were attacked or bombed since June, 2004: 41 in Baghdad, 19 in Mosul, 5 in Kirkuk and 1 in Ramadi.
At least 13 young women were abducted and raped, causing some of them to commit suicide.
Female students were targeted in Basra and Mosul for not wearing veils; some had nitric acid squirted on their faces. Elders of a village in Mosul were warned not to send females to universities.
Mahdi Army personnel circulated a letter warning all Christian women to veil themselves.
Al-Qaeda moved into an Assyrian neighborhood and began collecting the jizya and demanding that females be sent to the mosque to be married off to Muslims.
Assyrian businesses were targeted. 95% of liquor stores were attacked, defaced or bombed. 500 Assyrian shops in a Dora market were burned in one night.
Property was confiscated by Kurds in the north and Shiites in Baghdad.
Kurdish authorities denied foreign reconstruction assistance for Assyrian communities and used public works projects to divert water and other vital resources from Assyrian to Kurdish communities. Kurdish forces blockaded Assyrian villages
Children were kidnapped and forcibly transferred to Kurdish families.