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Assyrian man in Baghdad, Iraq.
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Assyrian man in Baghdad, Iraq.

Assyrians by country
Last column: % Assyrians of the population

Lebanon 5,000 0.2%
Iran 10,000 <0.1%
6,000,000 21.0%
Syria 75,000 0.4%
Turkey 5,000 <0.1%
Total *) 6,100,000 1.3%
Other countries: 400,000

*) Calculated for the total population of North Africa and the Middle East, approx. 460,000,000.

Assyrian women in traditional clothing.
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Assyrian women in traditional clothing.

Assyrian man in Baghdad, Iraq.
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Assyrians demonstrating.

People with origins in Iraq, and an identity connected to the ancient Assyrian Empire. While the Assyrian claim on this ancestry is largely correct, many other Iraqis also share the same origin.
Divisions and designations in Contents are attempted to be as correct as possible. Still the information provided here is only approximate, due to grave inconsistencies between sources.
The Assyrians distinguish themselves by speaking Neo-Aramaic languages, like Assyrian Neo-Aramaic (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey) and Chaldean Neo-Aramaic (Iraq). The Syriac language is now extinct, but remains the liturgical language. Furthermore, Assyrians adhere to Christianity. Other Iraqis speak Arabic, or are Kurds, and adhere largely to Islam.
The exactness of the term 'Assyrian' and the connection between the ancient empire and the present people is disputed, and discussed among scholars.
Another term often used is "Syriac", which is of course related, and which also is used to designate non-Arab non-Muslims in the Middle East, especially by Maronite Christians originating in Lebanon, who do not want to be labelled Arabs. "Chaldeans" has been used for the Catholic Iraqis, and a fourth term, "Arameans", is sometimes used for peoples further west, in Lebanon, Syria or Turkey.
The two main churches of the Assyrians are the Nestorian and the Chaldean, both belonging to the same community until the middle of the 16th century; the Nestorian. In the 16th century some Nestorian groups joined the Roman Catholic Church through the Eastern Rite, and formed the Chaldean Catholic Church. Presently the Nestorian church is officially named Assyrian Church of the East.
While Assyrians usually is linked only to Christianity, there are Muslims sometimes defined as Assyrians, too. These include the Kurdish Barzani clan (see here), the Tay tribal confederation and the Shammar tribal confederation. Also, the people of the Mandean religion are sometimes classified as Assyrians as well.

612 BCE: Fall of the Assyrian Empire.
1st century CE: Assyria is given as name to one of the easternmost provinces of the Roman Empire.
1551: Split in the Nestorian church, where one branch rejoins with the Roman Catholic Church, and became called Chaldean, or Chaldean Catholic, or East Syriac (referring to Nestor would not have been acceptable for the Catholic Church). The congregations not joining with the Catholic Church became known as Assyrian Christians or Nestorians.
1847: Massacre within the Ottoman Empire, in which 30,000 Assyrians perish.
1915-18: The Assyrian genocide, killing perhaps hundreds of thousands.
2005: Iraqi authorities declare that they will use the term Chaldo-Assyrian during future census.

By Tore Kjeilen