So who are the Assyrians? Alternatively known as Syriac, Nestorian, or Chaldean Christians, they trace their roots back more than 6,500 years to ancient Mesopotamia, predating the Abrahamic religions. For 1,800 years the Assyrian empire dominated the region, establishing one of most advanced civilizations in the ancient world. (An example of this is the city of Arbel, one of the earliest permanent agricultural settlements.)Cross file under Syriac Watch and Modern Aramaic Watch.
The Assyrian empire collapsed in 612 B.C. during the rise of the Persians. Then, 600 years later, they became among the earliest converts to Christianity. They still speak an endangered form of Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ, and consider themselves the last indigenous people of Syria and Iraq.
Following the birth of Christianity, Assyrian missionaries spread across Asia, from the Mediterranean to the Pacific, and built a new empire that lasted until Arab Muslims swept through the Middle East in 630.
Also in the Monitor, Husna Haq reports on a recent ISIS depredation: ISIS burns Mosul library: Why terrorists target books. UNESCO has called the destruction of libraries and books in Mosul 'one of the most devastating acts of destruction of library collections in human history.' The older (apparently Arabic and Syriac) manuscripts from the Dominican friary in Mosul were spirited out before ISIS fully took over the city.
More on the recent horrors visited on Mosul and elsewhere in the Middle East is here and links.
UPDATE: ISIS continues to destroy antiquities in Mosul: ISIS thugs take a hammer to civilisation: Priceless 3,000-year-old artworks smashed to pieces in minutes as militants destroy Mosul museum (Julian Robinson, The Daily Mail). And, as Joseph Lauer reminds on his e-mail list, they also continue relentlessly to kill people.