Assyrian Democratic Movement

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Assyrian Democratic Movement
ܙܘܥܐ ܕܝܡܘܩܪܛܝܐ ܐܬܘܪܝܐ
الحركة الديمقراطية الآشورية
Leader Yonadam Kanna
Founded April 12, 1979
Headquarters Baghdad, Iraq
Student wing Chaldo-Assyrian Student Union
Military wing Nineveh Plain Protection Units
Ideology Assyrian rights (Iraqi)
Colours Purple
Seats in the Council of Representatives of Iraq:
2 / 325
Seats in the Kurdistan Parliament:
2 / 111
Website ,- English

The Assyrian Democratic Movement (Syriac: ܙܘܥܐ ܕܝܡܘܩܪܛܝܐ ܐܬܘܪܝܐ‎; Zawʻá Demoqraṭáyá ʼÁṯuráyá) popularly known as Zowaa (Syriac: The Movement) is an ethnic Assyrian political party situated in Iraq, and is currently the only Assyrian-based political party to be voting within the Iraqi parliament.


The Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa) was founded in April 12, 1979 in a general conference that was held in secrecy in several meetings in Kirkuk, Mosul and Baghdad. The party was established to satisfy the political objectives of the Assyrian people in Iraq, in response to the oppressive brutality of the Ba'ath regime and its attempts to forcibly expropriate ethnic Assyrians from their native lands. The movement took up armed struggle against the Iraqi regime in 1982 under the leadership of Yonadam Kanna, and joined the IKF in early 1990s. Yonadam Kanna in particular was a target of the Saddam Hussein Ba'ath regime for many years.[1]

Since its inception, the ADM have joined with the Iraqi patriotic factions in the fight against dictatorship. The movement has also participated in the political field since 1982 along side other groups. It started by issuing its central newspaper, Bahra, in June of 1982. In 1988, fighter members of the movement and its headquarters as well as the rest of the Kurdish parties were attacked in the Al-Anfal Campaign. ADM participated in the uprising in 1991; then won parliamentary elections for the Kurdistan region of Iraq in 1992.

The ADM is credited with the development of education in the Syriac language in both elementary and secondary schools as well as the initiation of different organizations such as the Chaldo-Assyrian Students' Union, Hammurabi Scouts and the Assyrian Aid Society.

The ADM has endured a struggle through the sacrifice of its martyrs' in the arena of armed struggle. The most famous martyrs' are those of founding Zowaa members, Youssef Toma, Youbert Benyamin and Youkhanna Esho who were detained in Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad in February 1985 among dozens of members and supporters were executed by the Ba'ath government of Iraq for treason. The trio endured torture and would take the blame for other members of Zowaa to ensure no more members would be executed. Indeed, other martyrs include Jamil Mati and Sheba Hamey who were killed by the Iraqi Army during February of 1984 while holding off the army to allow other Assyrians to escape in Simele.[2] Some ADM members were victims of political assassinations such as Francis Youssef Shabou who was assassinated by Wahid Kovli, a KDP hitman who was not charged with the murder. [3]

Prior to the Iraqi invasion[edit]

Zowaa fighters in northern Iraq in the 1980s.

Due to successful lobbying from influential Assyrian-Americans and from Congressman Henry Hyde, American President George W. Bush designated the ADM an officially recognized Iraqi opposition movement. In a December 9, 2002 memorandum, President Bush invoked both articles four and five of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 as a means of allowing the United States government to provide financial resources to the ADM and other Iraqi opposition groups. Kanna himself participated in a September 2002 meeting of Iraqi opposition leaders in New York and addressed the London conference of Iraqi opposition leaders in December 2002. In February 2003, Kanna addressed both Iraqi opposition leaders and U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad at a conference in northern Iraq. Just hours prior to the American-led war against Iraq in March 2003, Kanna stressed the importance of the coming war for the history of the Assyrian people. He noted that some Assyrians were leaving the cities for the villages and urged diaspora Assyrians to provide humanitarian aid to their brethren.

After the fall of Baghdad[edit]

Yonadam Kanna is now the president of the party. He served on the temporary Iraqi Governing Council before it was disbanded in favor of the elected body formed after the January 2005 Iraqi elections.

The party's website,, describes it as "a democratic and political organization -- national and patriotic -- to defend our people and their legitimate rights and to struggle under the banner of [a] free democratic Iraq." The site's declarations include calls for official recognition of the rights of Assyrians and "unity of our people under their several religious identities": Chaldean church, Syriac church, and Assyrian church (various Christian denominations in the Assyrian demographic). [4]The group supports the idea of a federal Iraq, and maintains good relations with other Assyrian and Kurdish groups present in northern Iraq, as well as with Shi'a leaders in southern Iraq. The movement is also represented in the Kurdistan parliament. Party members and Assyrians in general have been the focus of some Islamic insurgent attacks in the time since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

The party also operates Ashur TV and Ashur Radio and issues Bahra newspaper.

The party is based in the former headquarters of the Fedayeen Saddam in Zayouna, Baghdad.

Post War incidents and events[edit]

The party has faced many setbacks since the beginning of the Iraq invasion.

  • On November 17, 1994, one of ADM's militia soldiers, Zia Zia, was killed while guarding a headquarters of the party in a remote Assyrian village in northern Iraq.[5]
  • On October 20, 2003, a rocket-propelled grenade attack occurred on the ADM office in Kirkuk, injuring one ADM official.
  • On November 18, 2003, Sargon Nano, the ADM representative in Basra, was killed by masked gunmen.
  • On February 11, 2004, The Associated Press reported gunmen firing from a car attacking an office of the ADM in the northern city of Mosul, injuring one ADM member guard.
  • On March 26, 2004, gunmen killed ADM official Romeo Esha David in the city of Kirkuk.
  • On November 29, 2005, gunmen opened fire on four party members as they were hanging Iraqi election posters in northern city of Mosul (in the al-Shuhadaa district,) killing two ADM members.
  • On December 2, 2005, ADM election candidate Sarmas Behnam Ibrahim was gunned down in Kirkuk.
  • On January 1, 2006, 44-year-old ADM official Ayad Loqa Lazar was killed in the Baghdad district of Dora.
  • On May 6, 2006, an unsuccessful assassination attempt was made on the party's leader, Yonadam Kanna, as his convoy came under an improvised explosive device attack in Baghdad.


The organizational structure of the party is as follows:

  • Secretary-General
  • Deputy Secretary-General
  • Political Bureau
  • Central Committee

The party is organized into several branches both in Iraq and in the diaspora. Some of these branches include:

See also[edit]


External links[edit]