Xena Yûnan: I will not leave this land until I die

83-year-old Xena Yûnan is an Assyrian woman living in the town of Tell Tamer. Stating that they have lived fraternally with the Kurdish people in the town, she said, “I will not leave this land until I die.”


Hasakah- Assyrian and Kurdish people, who have an ancient history and culture in Mesopotamia, have been subjected to genocidal policies of the sovereign powers, particularly Turkish state, throughout history. Assyrians were killed, forced to leave their land, where they lived for thousands of years by jihadist and Salafist groups and in recent years by ISIS. In the last five years, they have faced many massacres. About 1.5 million Assyrians, who still live in Iraq and Syria, are also affected by massacres. 83-year-old Assyrian woman Xena Yûnan lives in the Tell Tamer town of Hasakah with her sick son. She told us her life story.

“I have been the head of household since my childhood”

She began to talk about her childhood as follows: “We are originally from Iraq but I was born in the village of Tell Şamîran. I got married later in Tell Tamer; I have a daughter and four sons. One of my sons is sick and now we live together. I did not like school when I was a child; whenever I was sent to school, I skipped school. Since my father died when I was a child and I do not have any brother, I shouldered the burden of the household. I grew cotton and wheat and drove the tractor. In the past, there were no agricultural tools and we used scythes to harvest the wheat. In the evening, I used to water our field. I started being engaged in agriculture when I was 12 years old. I have loved to work since my childhood. I had seven cows so that my neighbors could sell yogurt and milk.”

“We have lived fraternally for more than 50 years”

Speaking about the relationship between the Kurds and Assyrians in the town, she said, “After I got married and moved to Tell Tamer, I met the Kurds and began to live with them. Now, I have many Kurdish neighbors and we spend time together. We always support each other. We visit each other on special occasions. We have lived fraternally for more than 50 years.”

“The history of Assyrians is full of massacres”

Stating that they faced many pressures in history and their journey started from Turkey, Xena Yûnan said, “Assyrians faced many pressures in history. Our journey started from Turkey. Assyrians were forced to leave Turkey. Our people were forcibly displaced from Turkey to first Iraq and then Syria. In 2015, ISIS attacked our village and abducted many people, including the members of our family. Then, they were released. The members of ISIS looted and damaged all villages and blew up our churches. We do not know how ISIS emerged and why they cause trouble to us. The Assyrians first faced pressure in Turkey and then in Iraq. Then, they were forcibly displaced to Syria due to pressures they faced. The Assyrians in Syria also face pressure in Syria. The history of Assyrians is full of massacres.”

“Our source of living, the Khabur River has dried up”

Stating that she remembers many things very well despite her age, Xena Yûnan told us what she remembers. “I planted trees, grew crops and drove the tractor. Thanks to my experiences, I have many memories. There were many different trees on the banks of the Khabur River, the water was flowing and everything was green. Now, the river has dried up. In the past, we suffered from floods. Now, we miss those days. We used to swim in the river after having dinner. Besides swimming, I also caught fish; I was a hardworking fisher. We used to carry water to our house, carrying buckets of water on our backs. Our source of living, the Khabur River has dried up.”

“I will not leave this land until I die”

Drawing attention to the difficulties of moving from one place to another, Xena Yûnan said, “I will not leave this land until I die. I will stay here even if I will be killed here. I cannot be happy in another country, where I do not know its language and culture. The people here are in solidarity with each other. I live here, I will live here and I will die here.”