There will be no Zinda Says section this week.
THE DAY I MET LINA
Over a year ago, I had seen Lina’s face on a few of the Assyrian websites I frequented. There had always been a distant concern there for her. Distant was what Lina was and I was glad it was that way. The distance, however, decreased. Lina arrived in Chicago in November of 2001. I finally got the nerve to email Lina’s uncle to ask if the family needed any help with fundraising. I was told that there was a party being held for her here in Chicago. I offered to publicize for the party by putting flyers around the city for them. After practically memorizing Lina’s story by having to look at so many copies of the flyers, I didn’t see it in me to continue anymore. A party being thrown for a child halfway into her teenage years; a child who’s little body was involuntarily playing the decaying host for a terrible disease. From the vibrant picture on the flyer, one couldn’t tell that a deadly cancer was floating around in Lina’s blood. Out of sight, out of mind, I say. And that’s how it became for the next six months. I didn’t want to have the thought of a cancer stricken kid floating around in my head all the time, so I chose to keep my distance from the whole thing.
Jeff, a friend of mine from Michigan, sent me an email in June about Lina’s condition at that time. Lina was rushed to the hospital because she had run out of healthy blood.
Two months later, I went to see Lina at the hospital. She is such a sweet kid. She is indeed a child. I actually stopped by the hospital to ask for info about her because I was under the impression that Lina was in a restricted room. I went to the front desk to ask for information about her and the lady at the front desk told me that I could go to her room and find out by myself. This really caught me off guard. I was not expecting myself to go and see her. I mean I knew I would eventually. I thought about how she would look when I went to see her, picturing a frail weak thing, bald and curling in the fetal position in her bed. This is not an image I want to see. Selfish, I know. I didn't know what to do when the lady gave me Lina's room number. It is really hard to visit sick people, especially cancer patients. I remember the hospital my dad was in, I remember the sterile room, the long hallways, his doomed neighbors in the other rooms, the cold and somber atmosphere that feels like an anchor in your chest.
Now imagine this feeling mixed with the feeling of dropping by the house of a complete stranger. Scary. Anyhow, I pulled myself together and took the elevator to the 8th floor. Lina was in a restricted room. However, I could still visit her.
I was told by the nurse that I had to wash my hands thoroughly before seeing her. There was a sign on her door that said that no one with a cold or any kind of illness was allowed to enter the room. She's unable to receive fruits or flowers. I was also supposed to wear a mask to cover my mouth just to really be on the safe side. So then I walked into her room to find Lina, her mother, and her brother Daniel (he is her bone marrow match) there.
Lina looked so small asleep under the sterile white sheet. She was the small, frail girl that I imagined. She had a bandana type headcovering on. I could see through the pink bandana that she barely had any hair. Her mother, brother and I said our greetings. They thought that I worked in the hospital and just came by to check on Lina. They were surprised to find out that I was just an Assyrian student visiting Lina just to see how she was and how I can directly help them. Then they told me to take the mask off, it wasn't really necessary. It was a bit hard communicating with them because they came to Chicago without any knowledge of Assyrian and English. They only spoke Arabic and Turkish.
Lina's mom's family is originally from Turkey, but they moved to Syria and into the Armenian Orthodox Church, so she's part Armenian in someway (that’s what she identified herself partly as). They are still learning Assyrian but they are currently proficient enough to hold a conversation in Assyrian. There were some problems in the beginning though.
Lina's mother was on the phone with one of her relatives who speaks English so she handed me the phone to talk. I spoke with the relative and she informed me that Lina DOES NOT KNOW THAT SHE HAS CANCER. She thinks that she has some kind of infection. The “C” word was not to be said. What a shocking statement. Their choice to not tell her is a positive and a negative one. Her family has her best interest at heart. They do not want a 16-year-old girl to dwell on death and dying. Fear would completely diminish the brightness that I saw in her eyes when she was awake. Then again, they are depraving her of the truth. Death is a part of life. We can't deny that.
The lady also told me that her condition right now is very severe. Previously, the doctors did some kind of bone marrow biopsy to see if her condition was stabilized. The results from that were negative. They were going to give her another biopsy the following Wednesday to see if anything had changed. Lina has a 10% chance of survival.
Daniel and his mother are very sweet people. They offered me cake every two minutes. Then they whipped out the smuggled Coke. Just by looking at Linas’ mother’s face, you could tell that this woman has been spending every hour at the hospital at Lina's bedside. Daniel has too. He had no trouble declaring his aversion to hospitals. It's really quite understandable. I remember when my family was in the exact same place: caring for a man whose brain was being stolen away by another form of cancer. My mother’s pale face greeted every visitor. My aunt’s bloodshot eyes would never leave my father’s face.
Anyhow, I don't remember what I said to Daniel, but he responded by saying "basima." to me. Then Lina stuck her head up and said with a giggle, "basimTA." It was so sweet how she corrected him. It turns out that her Assyrian is much better than her mother's and her brother's. She seems very close to being fluent. And it also turns out that my initial image of the emaciated, frail girl was not accurate. Lina is a bright bubbly girl with the most beautiful red cheeks I've ever seen. And a gorgeous smile too. She and I joked around a bit and poked fun at her mother and brother for a bit. Then one of her nurses came into the room with a Hallmark paper bag in her hand and gave it to Lina. Lina opened the bag and pulled out a fluffy orange cat. Her face lit up even brighter than it was before. She thanked the nurse and hugged and kissed the stuffed animal over and over again. Throughout the couple hours that I was there, Lina would hold the cat up and kiss its face. She then had her mom show me her continuously growing stuffed animal collection. Lina is a complete innocent. She's also such a smart girl. Like I said, her Assyrian is superior to her mother's and brother's.
The nurse came into her room with this giant machine to take Lina's blood pressure with. Her brother and Lina told the nurse that she should not use that machine to take Lina's blood pressure and to use something else. I asked why. Her brother told me that the pressure the machine puts on Lina's arm is too great. It stops the blood flow in her arm and causes it to turn red. So the nurse uses a gentler one.
I told Lina's mom that if they needed anything, to call me. She said just to come by and visit, and to bring my mom too. They need someone to talk to, all three of them do. Lina just lit up every time the phone rang. She's really a very sweet girl. Her smile was ear to ear.
I just wanted to share that with you.
[ Lina Nissan received her brother’s bone marrow on Wednesday, 9 October and is now on a 7-weekl chemotherapy treatment. Lina’s brother, Daniel, is doing well too.
For further information on Lina’s condition contact Mr. Yakdan Nissan at 416-261-0459. You may also send a donation to:
Lina Nissan c/o Yakdan Nissan
Please make the Checks payable to: Lina Nissan ]
ASSYRIAN AID SOCIETY PRESS RELEASE ON LINA NISSAN
Assyrian Aid Society of
Lina Nissan, a 16-year-old Assyrian girl and leukemia victim from Syria, has finally received the life-saving bone marrow transplant she has been seeking since oming ot the United States earlier this year (see http://www.linanissan.cjb.net for details).
After first learning of her plight last year, the Assyrian Aid Society of America (AAS-A) made inquiries to hospitals in California and Texas to secure pro bono or at-cost treatment. The City of Hope, a charitable foundation specializing in bone marrow research, was also contacted. Unfortunately, these appeals were unsuccessful, as were those of her family in Chicago and Canada.
Several weeks ago we learned that the Univesity of Chicago was offering to perform the $250,000 operation for the $100,000 already raised by the Nissan family trhough charity events in Chicago and from international donations. Theunvierty, howver, required a guarantee that the additional post-operative costs of $3000.00 per month would be paid. AAS-A immediately determined to raise #30,000 so that the surgery could proceed.
We first contacted Elaine Taylor of the Taylor Family Foundation (http://www.ttff.org), who offered $5000.00 to stat a challenge grant to be matched by other donors.
Grace Family Vineyards (St. Helena, California), which has dedicated their family foundation to assisting children facing lie-threatening medical conditions, accepted the challenge with a pledge of $5000.00.
Vigrinia and John Madden (forme Oakland Raiders coach, now an ABC football analyst and KCBS Radio sports commentator) also accepted the challenge with another $5000.00.
At a September grape harvest gathering of Grace Family supporters, Elaine Taylor joined us in presenting our case to raise the final $15,000. By the end of the day $7,500 had been collected, and within 48 hours two more checks were received to meet our goal.
The operation was able to proceed on Wednesday, October 18 in Chicago, where Ms. Nissan is now recovering.
The Assyrian Aid Society of America is deeply grateful for this extraordinary display of support from both the Assyrian and the non-Assyrian communities.
We wish Lina Neesan a speedy recovery,
Narsai M. David
ATTACKERS DESTORY ELECTRICITY GENERATOR IN AN ASSYIAN VILLAGE
(ZNDA: Chicago) According to an 22 October report by the AUA-Newswatch, two unknown individuals - presumed to be Kurdish - have destroyed the electrical generator of an Assyrian village in North Iraq.
The Vice President of the Assyrian American National Federation, Mr. Aladin Khamis, explains in a letter to the AUA-Newswatch that on 15 October, shortly after midnight, the village of Heezaneh in North Iraq's Nahla region was "terrorized by two unknown Kurds who viciously threw two destructive hand grenades". As a result the elecrical generator for this village was completely destroyed, leavig the residents without power for an indefinite time.
Earlier this year, the Assyrian American National Federation donated funds to furnish power for the Nahla region of North Iraq.
Mr. Yonan Hozaya, a high-ranking official of the Assyrian Democratic Movement is also the Kurdistan Regional Government's Minister of Industry and Energy which oversees the power production and requirements in North Iraq.
FIRST ASSYRIAN SATELLITE TELEVISION CHANNEL GOES LIVE
(ZNDA: Modesto) The first Assyrian satellite television program went live on Saturday, 19 October. AssyriaSat is a service of the Bet-Nahrian, Inc headquartered in Ceres, California (Modesto-Turlock).
With the introduction of AssyriaSat, the AssyriaVision television programs broadcast from the Bet-Nahrain studios in Ceres, California can be viewed across the globe. Until now, these programs could only be viewed on KBSV-Channel 23 of the local cable program in Central Valley and via the Internet.
AssyriaVision television station broadcast 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. It provides news, public affairs, entertainment, and cultural programs in Assyrian. The most popular weekly shows include the political talk shows and documentaries, and entertainment programs which are also provided in Arabic, Turkish and Farsi.
Under the direction of Mr. Sargon Dadesho, presently the radio, television, and satellite programming of the Bet-Nahrain, Inc. serve the interests of the Assyrian National Congress and do not convey the news and information of the other Assyrian groups with differing political tendencies.
For more information contact AssyriaSat at:
North, Central, South America & Canada
Telestar 5 Ku-band
Atlantic Bird 3 (Digital AssyriaSAT-U.S.A)
(ZNDA: Jerusalem) Earlier this week a French archaeologist announced the discovery of a limestone burial box that he believes may have contained the bones of James, Jesus' brother.
The announcement was made in the nonsectarian Biblical Archaeology Review. The inscription on the box is in Aramaic and reads: "Ya'akov bar Yosef akhui diYeshua," or "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus," and dates to about 62 A.D., the year early historians believe James was martyred.
Several times the New Testament mentions that Jesus had a brother
named James, who became leader of the nascent Christian community
in Jerusalem after the crucifixion. This James was the first of the
apostles to whom the resurrected Jesus is supposed to have appeared.
And the first-century Jewish historian Josephus recorded that James
was executed by stoning around A.D. 63.
"The inclusion of the brother's name suggests that this figure Jesus had an importance," said the Rev. Daniel Herrington, a New Testament scholar at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology. James the apostle might have wanted to proclaim one last time his kinship with Jesus.
Herrington has worked in the past with Andre Lemaire, an expert in early inscriptions who saw the box last summer after a chance meeting with someone who had bought it about 15 years ago.
One of the difficulties, Herrington said, is that because it was purchased on the Jerusalem antiquities market, its exact origin may never be known.
Another problem is that Jesus, James and Joseph were all common names
around the time Lemaire believes the box was inscribed. Although James
(Jacob or Ya'akov), Joseph (Yosef) and Jesus (Yeshua) were common
names of that time and place, several scholars noted, it would have
The word "brother" also was sometimes used to refer to a cousin or some other relative, said the Rev. Thomas Reese, editor of the Catholic magazine America.
The possibility that the box did in fact carry the bones of Jesus' brother raises another ancient debate: whether Christ's mother was a virgin. Protestants traditionally believe Mary gave birth to Jesus as a virgin and then had James, whereas the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches teach Mary's "perpetual virginity."
If the inscription is authentic and indeed refers to Jesus of Nazareth, it would be the earliest known documentation of Jesus outside the Bible. Before this, Biblical Archaeology Review reported, the earliest mention of Jesus was in a piece of papyrus containing a fragment of the Gospel by John, written in Greek in about A. D. 125. Most of the existing early texts for the New Testament date from 300 or more years after the time of Jesus. The first Gospel, by Mark, is thought to have been composed around the year 70.
Only a few other ancient artifacts mention New Testament figures. In 1990 the ossuary of Caiaphas, the high priest who turned Jesus over to the Romans, was uncovered. Even earlier, archaeologists discovered an inscription on a monument that bears the name of Pontius Pilate.
An investigation by the Geological Survey of Israel found no evidence of modern pigments, scratches by modern cutting tools or other signs of tampering.
Dr. Andre Lemaire, a researcher at the Sorbonne in Paris and a respected specialist on inscriptions of the biblical period, calculated the statistical probability of the three names' occurring in such a combination as extremely slim. Probably over two generations in first-century Jerusalem, no more than 20 people could have been called "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus," and few of them might have been buried in inscribed ossuaries. Other calculations yield an even lower probability.
Dr. Meyers of Duke says, it was possible that the nascent Christian community in Jerusalem might still be following certain traditional Jewish practices because "they were just beginning to articulate the differences between Christianity and Judiasm."
ASSYRIANS IN ARIZONA BREAK SILENCE ON IRAQ
Courtesy of East Valley Tribune (10 October); article by Bill Bertolino
Nobody wants Saddam Hussein’s regime toppled more than Gilbert, Arizona resident Fred Rustam and his fellow countrymen who emigrated from Iraq to Arizona to escape religious persecution.
"The destruction of Iraq started way back, when Saddam started killing his own people, when he sent millions of kids to war for no real reason, when he destroyed neighborhood after neighborhood — that is real destruction," said Rustam, a 46-year-old engineer who came to the United States in 1980.
Rustam is one of an estimated 8,000 Assyrian-Americans living in Arizona. Until now, they have lived mostly quiet lives. But as President Bush unveils his agenda to oust Saddam, the local Assyrian community stands vocally behind him, drumming up support in the Valley to topple the dictator.
Indigenous to a region of northern Iraq, the Assyrians, a Christian minority, have been persecuted for decades under Saddam’s regime on the basis of their religious beliefs and ethnic identity.
They number about 2 million people, and their calendar year is 6752, yet they aren’t recognized as a people in Iraq. Their nuns have been beheaded, priests killed, villages wiped off the map, women raped and 1,500-year-old churches destroyed, according to the Assyrian Aid Society of America, a group that catalogs the human rights atrocities.
They are a prideful, yet powerless people living under a constant cloud of fear.
The ones who have come to the East Valley and other parts of Arizona are proud Americans, thankful for a democratic society and personal freedoms. They are shopkeepers, social workers, engineers and real estate agents.
Yet underneath this veil of normalcy, the Assyrian-Americans in Arizona — and the estimated 300,000 throughout the United States — are supporting Bush’s efforts to oust Saddam, collecting money for their relief organizations and trying to raise awareness that their people are in constant danger.
They are launching letter-writing campaigns to Congress and holding fund-raisers to restore damaged churches and schools in Iraq. They also are active in the Assyrian Democratic Movement, a political organization here and in Iraq that supports the removal of Saddam and a free society thereafter.
The prospect of a U.S. invasion is an emotional tug-of-war for many Assyrian-Americans who have relatives in Iraq, but one that is deemed crucial.
"They are so numb. To them, many say, ‘If it’s going to take me dying for my country to change it for my children, I am willing to do that.’ They have just had enough," said Chandler resident Nahrain Lazar, who works with the Assyrian Aid Society. "They say, ‘We’re alive, but we are not living.’ They are looking toward the future, and they are willing to take that step."
While there is seemingly strong backing for Saddam in Iraq — last week’s election portrayed 100 percent voter support for the dictator, who was the only candidate on the ballot — the Assyrians here say it is hollow support. It is based on fear, they say.
"If the Iraqi people know for sure that America’s goal is to get rid of Saddam, they will give up their weapons; there will be no fight," said Sam Darmo, spokesman for the Assyrian Democratic Movement in Arizona. "The people will greet our soldiers with flowers."
Since Saddam took power in 1979, many Assyrians have fled the capital city of Baghdad to a northern region of the country protected by the United Nations, Darmo said. But about half of the Assyrian population still lives in Baghdad and faces the greatest threat from the dictator.
The awareness of the Assyrian plight has gained more recognition in the past year than it has in recent history, Darmo said. For instance, President Bush spoke of the oppression of the Assyrians, and other ethnic minority groups, in a public address to the nation Oct. 7.
The secretary general of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, Younadam Kanna, also met with State Department representatives in September to press the point for Assyrian participation in Iraqi-opposition meetings, according to the Assyrian International News Agency.
But with that recognition comes a daily reminder of the tyranny they face.
"It is very unfortunate that the Assyrians were forgotten for so long," Darmo said. "We are appealing to the world, especially the American public, to hear our case."
Ewan Gewargis, who hosts the Phoenix-based Assyrian Star program on KTKP (1280 AM), said he wants his relatives in Iraq to experience the same liberties, such as freedom of speech and press, that he found long ago in America.
"Iraqi people have been dreaming and dreaming because they are
powerless . . . to see a savior to save them from the cancer that
is Saddam Hussein," said Gewargis, 61, who came to the United
States in 1975.
HELP AN ASSYRIAN MAN SUFFERING FROM GANGRENE
Dear fellow Assyrians,
An Assyrian gentleman in our homeland suffers from gangrene in his leg and requires immediate medical attention. The cost of his medical treatment (hospitalization and operation in either Urmi or Tehran) is $5,000. We are happy to announce that the Assyrian Foundation of America has generously provided a challenge grant of $2,500 to the AASA towards the cost of this medical treatment. We appeal to our brothers and sisters in the Assyrian community to match this generous grant to raise the remaining balance.
Please make your check payable to the "Assyrian Aid Society of America" and put "Medical Emergency Fund" on your check.
Mail your donation to:
MELBOURNE PRESENTATION ON ASSYRIANS OF NORTH IRAQ
Melbourne's Assyrian community is invited to an important community meeting discussing the current projects being conducted by the Assyrian Aid Society-Australia in Iraq.
After 6 months in the Middle East Dr. Sennacherib Daniel and David Chibo have returned to Melbourne and will display pictures of the Assyrian people, their villages and the Assyrian schools teaching Syriac in Northern Iraq.
Secondary Syriac immersion schools displayed include Arba'ello/Ur, Urhai and Nissibin.
Pictures from Arbil, Ainkawa, Nohadra(Dohuk), Nahla, Gonda Kosa, Dure, etc. will be displayed on the day.
3 PM – 7 PM
Assyrian Aid Society-Australia
FUNDRAISER FOR CONGRESSMAN SHAKOWSKY
Assyrian Committee for Civic Responsibility is hosting a fundraiser event in honor of
Congresswoman, Jan Shakowsky (D-IL)
Sunday, October 27, 2002
Time: 5:00 p.m.
Nadia Joseph at (773) 865-4997, Raymond Oshana at (773) 447-0358, or Joseph Tamraz at (773) 383-9600
Assyrian Committee for Civic
[To learn more about Congresswoman Shakowsky’s efforts in Washington visit: http://www.house.gov/schakowsky/]
ASSYRIAN NATIONAL FOUNDATION PARTY IN CHICAGO
The Assyrian National Foundation (ANF) will hold its 23rd Anniversary
Party on Saturday, November 9, 2002 at 7:00 p.m. The party will be held
in the White Eagle Banquet Hall, 6845 N. Milwaukee, Niles, IL 60714.
ASSYRIANS AND THE NEW IRAQI POLICY AND CONSTITUTION
I ought to apologize for intruding my personal sentiments upon a subject of much difficulty and importance. But since it is a subject that many of us care greatly about, including myself, being an Assyrian American who was born, and lived over half of his life, in Iraq, my voice was to be heard as well. It goes beyond saying that constitutions are constructed around the people and the interest of the country as a whole. A constitution must be examined through highly qualified, unbiased, and truly nationalist individuals and then ratified by the authority of the people. If future Iraq is to be of a truly democratic nature and its government seriously a people’s government, the executive, legislative and judicial structures should reflect the colorful fabric of the society at large through the selection or election of qualified people from the vast population.
One would ask to what do we attribute Iraq’s present pathetic condition? There is no other factor but the selfishness, brutality, and impropriety of the Ba’ath government, and those governments before it; governments that were founded on mistaken principles; incapable of combining the various interests of the people; governments that instead of uniting and supporting its people, used one segment of society against another. Governments that instead of looking to invest the country’s revenues and wealth back in to the people, they plundered it and used it to construct a giant and sophisticated system of Secret Police and Security Service not to protect the country, rather to terrorize its own people. Governments that concentrated on building a economy that was geared towards war and an arsenal that fought their neighboring sovereign states through bloody, lengthy, and un-necessary wars. When Iraqi army toppled the Monarchy in 1958 and brought down the Iraqi Government system with its democratic system of House of Representatives and Senate, even when not perfect, the country as a republic lived for half a century under one dictatorship after another who came to power through one bloody military coup after another. Was this the republic the Iraqis were looking for when they massacred the royal family in cold blood?
There are several steps that new Iraq could consider to accomplish a better and healthier society. It is of utmost importance that the mentality and thought of the people be changed, and this must start at a young age in schools, not like the blind pan-Arab brainwash policy followed by the Ba’ath regime but rather the policy of true enlightenment. The entire history curriculum in Iraqi schools, for example, must be changed in a way to reflect the true aspects of all the ethnic and religious groups of Iraq. Why is it that the Iraqi official history curriculum completely ignores the influence of the members of the Assyrian Churches in Mesopotamia on the Science and Medicine, and Greek, Syriac, and Arabic translation during the Abbasid period for example? Why call all those scholars and translators ethnically as Arabs when they were not? Why brand the massacre of Assyrians at Simmel in 1933 by the Iraqi Army as a tribal (Tiyari) revolt? Or why are the Kurds manipulating and corrupting the history of north Iraq, which was always Assyria. To refer to the entire region of northern Iraq as Kurdistan is a hoax since Kurdistan has been in later geography known as the region of the Zagros Mountains. We are not suggesting an infringement on the Kurds rights in north of Iraq, but this should not be on the expense of the Assyrians, who are the indigenous people of the region historically known as Assyria (Athour).
It is imperative that all Iraqi people be recognized under the Iraqi new constitution, hence wherever applicable it should be stated that Iraq comprise of many ethnic groups including, Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Turkomans, and Armenians and other religious groups such as Yezidis, Mandeans (Subbiyeen), and Bahaiis. The Assyrians deplore the methods of the Iraqi government and Kurds factions of breaking the Assyrian people into ‘Assyrians and Chaldeans’, the two are one people, known historically as Assyrians (Suraye). The term Chaldean is a religious denomination of the Assyrian nation. The divide and rule policies of the Iraqi and Kurdish authorities must end immediately and the interferences in Assyrian religious affairs must stop completely. The Arabs and the Kurds must leave the Assyrians to solve any misunderstandings within their various churches on their own. Additionally, the use of the term “Those who utter the Syriac language” (al-natiqeen bi al-Lugha al-Suryaniya) must come to an end once and for all. Those who speak the Syriac language are an ethnic people known as Assyrians, and they must be called by that appropriate name; they are not “others”.
A new Iraq must end all policies of Arabization and Kurdification of the Assyrians. While the Kurds and the Shi’aa have faced unfair Iraqi government policies, the Assyrians have faced double tragedies, from both the Iraqi central government and the Kurds. It is urgent therefore that all displaced Assyrians in the last 30 years must be allowed to return to their original homes, and the Assyrian villages be returned to their original owners. In addition every Assyrian who have been forced to leave Iraq in the last 80 years should be given the right to return back to Iraq and be granted suitable means of living, including housing and working opportunities, and when the above is agreed upon by the appropriate parties to be not feasible, appropriate retributions must be assessed. The rulings and recommendations of the Sub-Committee of the League of Nations must be implemented in this regard. Additionally, all unresolved deed matters must be resolved. And those who no longer possess the deeds of trust to their lands or homes, whether they were lost or were taken away from them through whatever reasons, must be compensated fairly or their properties be returned to them or to their surviving relatives.
The pervious Iraqi governments have treated many reasonable recommendations of the League of Nations as ink on paper. If such recommendations were justly addressed and resolved at the time, much of the tragedies would have been avoided. Article 13 of the 1922 Treaty of Alliance between Iraq and Great Britain, for example, obligated Iraq to prevent the spread and fight all types of diseases in northern Iraq. Article 13 is important since the Assyrians later were resettled by the Iraqi government in a region infested with deceases that many Assyrians died without a serious action on behalf of the Iraqi government to rectify the situation. This is just one example. Furthermore, many Kurds have since the early 20th century entered Iraq from Turkey and Iran and settled in northern Iraq. The Assyrians of northern Iraq have ever since suffered greatly through the criminal actions of local Kurdish warlords forcing Assyrians to evacuate their farms, homes, and villages and then confiscating those vacated properties. This must be resolved. Furthermore, programs to rebuild all churches and villages that has been destroyed by the Iraqi army during the Anfal operations and earlier must be set in place and compensations must be assessed to all those who have experienced any lose.
Lets keep in mind that article 3 of the 1922 Treaty of Alliance between Iraq and Great Britain guaranteed the protection of minorities and that all Iraqi people were to be treated equal regardless to ethnic origin, religion, or language background. The Treaty gave all religious sects rights to teach their own congregations through their own language. Although it is in the best interest of all Iraqis that the Arabic language be the official language of Iraq, it is only fair that Kurdish be as well an official language in the provinces where Kurds make a majority. Syriac and Turkoman languages should be given the undisputed and appropriate recognition. A special and adequate budget must be approved for the Assyrians, Turkomans, Armenians, Yezidis, Mandeans, and Bahaiis to cover the opening of any desired schools to teach their mother languages or cultures.
The Iraqi census today does the Assyrian Christians great injustice; therefore special accommodations must be applied to the Assyrians and all figures of population must be predated the establishment of the Kingdom of Iraq in 1921. Interestingly, the British Civil Administration after the occupation of Iraq in 1918 and afterwards by Mandated Iraq authorities showed that the population of the non-Moslems in Iraq, mainly present in north of Iraq and comprising mainly of Christians (Nestorians, Chaldeans, Jacobites), Yezidis, and Jews, was 400,000 while the Kurds’ population was 800,000. If fair is to be the rule that future Iraq will follow, let’s ask then all the Kurds and their heirs who moved from Turkey and Iran into Iraq after the establishment of Iraq to go back to their original homes in those two countries. Most of the Kurds from 1921 have increased in numbers on the expense of the Assyrians. Furthermore, all Assyrians who were deported in the 1970s and 1980s because one of the parents or grandparents were of Iranian background, must be allowed to return to Iraq if they or their heirs desire or they must be compensated adequately for all they have lost and suffered.
There is no one, I believe, who doubts that there is something particularly alarming, inadequate, and unfair in the latest declaration from the Kurdish KDP and PUK factions. To recommend that Iraq be divided in to two regions Arabic and Kurdish, corresponding to two ethnic groups, Arabs and Kurds, is another peculiar thought for addressing Iraqi multi-ethnic society. If the Kurds want to divide Iraq across ethnic lines, why not then divide Iraq into four regions, Arabic, Kurdish, Assyrian, and Turkoman regions? It seems that nothing have changed from the old constitutions written decades ago when hatred and bigotry drove those early people in government. The Iraqi constitution and all the amendments that were added to it, failed to present the Iraqi society as a multi-ethnic society. It is unfortunate that the Kurdish KDP and PUK, who came out from their meetings in Arbil and Salah Al-Din in September 23, 2002, with the new proposed constitutions, have failed to be fair to the ethnic Assyrians, Turkomans, and Armenians, and to the religious Yezidis group, living in north of Iraq. It is only obvious too that whatever the Assyrians have accomplished in the past 11 years in north of Iraq was only because the Americans and Europeans are in north of Iraq, securing the no-fly zone. The Kurds depend greatly on the Americans and Europeans, to a greater extend on the prior, and they, i.e. Kurds, cannot jeopardize their position by showing that they directly are not respecting the rights of the Assyrians and Turkomans, for example, although some issues are still unresolved, such as the Municipal Elections where Assyrians make a decent percentage of the population or a majority and the unresolved crimes against Assyrians that continue to occure, and perhaps the Turkomans’ non-participation in the regional parliament, and the latter might have good reasons for not doing so. But while the Turkomans have a strong ally represented in Turkey behind them, the Assyrians have no one to rely on really. Therefore, the Kurds have been encouraged to indirectly meddle in Assyrian affairs by exploiting the Catholic Assyrians (known mistakenly as Chaldeans) and use them in every possible way to undermine the Assyrian national movement. The Kurds have used other elements in Assyrian society to their advantage, creating smaller puppet organizations to help them indirectly to control the Assyrian movement.
The Assyrians of Iraq were granted specific rights under the Treaty of Serves. It was very unfortunate to the Assyrians that between 1920 when the Treaty of Serves was signed and 1923, the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne, a dramatic change in Turkish policy took place. While the Ottoman Turks were doing the negotiations in Serves, it was the Pan-Turkish “The Young Turks” who did the negotiating in Lausanne, and the Assyrians stood to lose greatly. Still, Serves was very clear in its conclusions. Article 62 demanded the complete guarantees for the protection of the Assyrians in north of Iraq. Articles 141, 145, 147, and 149 of the Treaty of Sevres are very clear in regards to ethnic minorities, not only of the Kurds, but also of all the other ethnic and religious minorities, including logically the Assyrians and the Yezidis.
The ending of the British mandate over Iraq and the admittance of Iraq into the League of Nation in 1932 was furthermore pre-conditioned with the protection of the rights of all minorities within the Iraqi people, Kurds and Assyrians alike. Iraqi government or Kurds authorities must and should not ignore or adjust such conditions. The Permanent Mandate Commission had addressed the Assyrians’ homogeneous settlement in north of Iraq in many correspondences, including its report to the League Council. The Assyrian settlement issue of the 1920s must be re-opened and addressed again but fairly and appropriately this time around. The League of Nations Mandate Committee agreed on the Iraqi admission to the League with reservations dealing mainly with the rights of the minorities. The Iraqi government presented its report regarding the minorities to the League, which guaranteed the rights of all Iraqi citizens regardless to their place of birth, race, religion, language or nationality. The report guaranteed that all Iraqis were to be treated equal in the eyes of the law and that there were no restrictions applied against using any language whether in casual conversations, in commerce, religion or the press. In addition the report included that all Iraqis, regardless to their national, ethnic, religious or linguistic affiliation, were to be treated equal and were to be free to establish their own civil, religious and cultural institutions and schools. All Iraqis were to be free in using their own language and practice their own religious beliefs. And in the cities or villages where minorities make a fair population, the government was to ensure financial assistance to help building cultural, religious and other institutions. None of this happened in reality, on the contrary, policies of Arabization intensified in the last (40) years or so.
The new Iraq has some important decisions to make. What is the system of government that fits Iraq best? I guess there is much discussion around the world to answer that question. It is in the best interest of Iraq and its people if the military stayed away from Iraqi politics, we must build a strong Iraqi military indeed but not to run the Iraqi political affairs and attack its own people and occupy its neighbors rather to simply defend Iraq and the Iraqi people. It is clear that the power of oil has created many tyrant rulers in Iraq lately and this trend will continue in the future if the oil industry was not de-politicized and decisions concerning oil business were not solely made on commercial consideration basis. It seems to me that all Iraqis will stand to benefit a lot if politics was kept out of the oil business. The revenues from the Iraqi oil sales could ensure good life to all Iraqi citizens; unlike what has been happening in the past as military rulers plundered the oil revenues for personal wealth and used it in a destructive manner.
Again, Iraq has some serious decisions to make, but I have no doubt that Iraq, the Cradle of Civilization, will overcome these present adversities and when given the chance, its people will chose to live in a society that respects the human values, a society that looks forwards to peace, progress, and prosperity. This will be a challenge since the Ba’ath regime has for some 30 years corrupted the minds of one whole generation at least; still, with patience and diligent work this human tragedy will be overcome.
From the ashes of that misrule and abuse an alternative model structure may be found to reflect the national composition and inspirations of its inhabitants flawed following the horse-tradings of 1919-1923.
Treaties such as Sevres (1920) and Lausanne (1923) have to be overlooked and the natural rights of the indigenous people have to be fully recognised and guaranteed.
The vultures of 1918 have lost their grip and are in dire retreat and thank Goodness the corridor of power has shifted to a single nation run by BETHA KHWARA where our hope should be fixed.
Our Assyrian representatives have been talking and will be talking more on our behalf with the representatives of other ethnic groups to forge a model structure for the state of Baghdad once the SHULTANA is gone. This trust must be reciprocated and those who speak for us have to listen to our people's concerns and reactions; our nation will judge and is waiting for the outcome. We the underdogs of Sevres and Lausanne have to negotiate with Kurds and Arabs from a position of strength because we have had enough of decimation, misery and slavery.
We are not begging or asking for favours and we are not demanding something impossible, for the only impossible thing for us is to continue permanently and totally to be governed by oppressive Kurds or repressive Arabs or both.
In the same way we refuse the despotic Arab rule, equally we refuse the kurdish rule. Our representation in the future's talks need not nanoeuvre for our case is long overdue and we say it openly that we reject the status quo, or its continuation or in its sprayed form.
The Assyrian delegation at the negotiating table has to remember it is not speaking for itself but on behalf of nation, third of whom is martyred, another third exiled, and the other third grappling under Islamic tyranny.
History, our people and our future's generations will appraise you for both successes or failures.
Our leaders you have our trust and wait for your results.
THE KDP DRAFT CONSTITUTION AND THE IRAQI PEOPLE
The top item on the list of the Iraqi people’s agenda is the integrity of the land, and to prove that is through the material resulted from the thinking process and outcome. In this world and by the high technical and thinking advancement, any political word that touches the life of people, written and processed shall be carefully examined before it goes to the public.
To declare the unity of the Iraq, land and people, shall go through special test on the material presented, such material that draws and plans the future of Iraq. Otherwise such material short of the above will reflect and surface the hidden side of the goal, and that helps to raise serious questions, in a level that make it very hard to get straight and convincing answer.
The constitution presented by KDP flows in the unwanted and unrealistic direction, which falls within the parameter of this topic of discussion. The leadership of KDP, as Iraqi people, failed to assume fairness and violated the legal body of the Iraqi people. They, the KDP authorities, were biased to the Kurds; they gave themselves more than the other nations of the Iraqi people, more than “others”! While it was expected to balance the justice for all Iraqi people, through the draft constitution by KDP, it sent signals of either their demands will be accomplished or there will be consequences, that was picked up by active and working brain.
The Iraqi Assyrian people are not “others”; they are Assyrians with ancient and very long history, and in Iraq. Parallel to that, the Assyrian people look for the integrity of the Iraqi country and people, with justice for Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Turkumans, Yesidies and Armenians (lets abbreviate that as “AKATYA”; those, the Assyrians, are the “other minorities” as specified by the proposed KDP constitution.
The Iraqi people would like to see qualified leaders in the future democratic Iraq, not certain percentage imposed to the Iraqi people, this is not democracy. In the democratic process, the trail towards bright future cuts through by brave, honest, smart, educated with experience Iraqis, those brave Iraqis could be either “A, K, A, T, Y, A”.
It has been proved that Assyrians, not others, with their small number in the United States of America have the ability to affect on certain issues, but will never jump over the interest of Iraq, land and people. It shall be assured, that with all the blood shed by the Assyrians on the land of the ancestors, despite that, still boils and screams for the Iraqi land and people as one mass, and lets the world in general and the Iraqi people in particular understand, that Assyrian people are not minority in the land of ancestors, as capable and well being humans and Iraqis, and loving with caring for all Iraqis.
I do propose for KDP and or any unfair constitution writers to stop for a moment and think for the benefit of Iraq, and modify it to match the general needs of the Iraqi people as “A, K, A, T, A” before it hit a solid wall of the fairness and humanity.
UNDER SADDAM'S FEET
As the boat docks, sunbaked sailors and stevedores unload goods and tribute, everything from African ivory to Anatolian metals to Afghan lapis lazuli. Traders, donkeys, pilgrims, horses, artisans, priests, and diplomats pass through the dozen gates above. This is bustling Assur, a town of perhaps 30,000, one of the most dazzling sights in Mesopotamia and in the entire ancient world.
Assur was the birthplace and spiritual center of Assyria, the mother of all empires. At its zenith in the seventh century B.C., Assyria's rule stretched from the southern borders of Egypt to the Persian Gulf and north to the Turkish highlands. Although largely forgotten, Assyrians assembled the first truly multicultural empire, built the first great library, and designed some of the first planned cities. They were the first to divide the circle into 360 degrees and gave the world technologies ranging from aqueducts to paved roads. The Assyrians also laid the foundation for the more famous Persian, Greek, Roman, and Parthian empires.
Today Assur is nothing more than a desolate mound. Countless seasons of rain and desert wind have eaten away at the mud-brick ziggurat, and 19th-century Ottoman barracks cover the once-holy promontory. Nonetheless, this is a troubling site. Although there is great promise of archaeological treasure beneath the rubble here, the area faces even greater obliteration. The Iraqi government is planning to complete a massive dam downstream on the Tigris. Within four years, the ancient metropolis—the oldest and most revered site among a chain of Assyrian cities—will become a muddy stump of an island in a vast lake. And Assur's hinterland—the cities and towns and villages that are buried nearby—will be sunk, their wealth of artifacts left to dissolve. All of which has German archaeologist Peter Miglus in a state of despair. He and his team have waited years, through the Gulf War and its aftermath, to resume digging at Assur. Now he looks sadly across the Tigris valley and says: "This is the core of Assyria, and we have far more questions than answers about life here."
Were a dam to threaten a well-known ancient site like Pompeii, the international outcry would be compelling. But Iraq's status as an international pariah, not to mention Assur's obscurity, has so far doomed efforts to seek the empire's roots. The desperation among Assyrian scholars over the impending loss is made only more acute by the recent spectacular discovery of tombs in the newer Assyrian capital of Nimrud. That find—which includes the skeletons of the consorts to the most powerful Assyrian kings as well as caches of finely worked gold and precious stones—rivals even the 1920s discovery of King Tut's tomb and the royal graves of Ur. The Nimrud tombs, along with new texts, translations, and computer simulations of Assyrian palaces, provide a look at what might soon be lost in Assur.
Assyrians appeared relatively late on the Mesopotamian stage—around 2000 B.C.—by which time the great city-states of Sumer and Babylonia had already emerged. By the 13th century B.C., they had firmly established themselves as a regional power. With the help of a growing professional military equipped with swift horses, chariots, and iron swords and lances, Assyria secured and expanded its trade routes. Paved roads—a novelty—provided easy transport year-round for traders and soldiers alike.
By 800 B.C., the lands under Assyrian control came to embrace a far larger territory than any previous empire. Assyria's great cities—Assur, Nimrud (then known as Calah), Khorsabad, Nineveh—were unrivaled in size and magnificence. Aqueducts watered gardens for palaces covering grounds the size of a football field. Massive walls—stretching seven miles long at Nineveh—protected tens of thousands. But in 614 B.C., a coalition of Babylonians from the south and Medes from the Iranian plateau to the east swept through, laying waste to Assur and damaging Nimrud. Two years later, the combined armies destroyed Nimrud and laid siege to Nineveh; after the battle, Nineveh was burned.
Still, some ancient treasure remained. In 1988 Iraqi archaeologist Muzahem Hussein noticed that bricks on the floor of a palace room at Nimrud looked out of place. While putting them back into position, he discovered that they were sitting on top of a vault. When he looked for an entrance, he found a vertical shaft and a stairway that led into a tomb. After two weeks of hauling out dust, he caught a glimpse of gold jewelry. "I couldn't believe my eyes," he recalled. Muzahem, a lean and quiet man who grew up in nearby Mosul, didn't then realize he had made one of the most spectacular discoveries in archaeological history.
By the time the Gulf War began, in 1991, Muzahem had uncovered three additional tombs, each with its own collection of skeletons, gold jewelry, and personal items—the richest find from the ancient world since the heady days of the 1920s, when Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon opened Tutankhamen's tomb in Egypt while Leonard Woolley excavated the royal graves in the southern Mesopotamian city of Ur.
"In terms of sheer spectacle, there has been nothing like this in Mesopotamian archaeology" since Woolley's finds, says Joan Oates, a British researcher who worked at the site in the 1950s along with Agatha Christie, who was married to the excavation's director. The finds include a finely wrought gold crown topped by delicately winged female figures, chains of tiny gold pomegranates, dozens of earrings of gold and semiprecious stones, even gold rosettes that decorated the dresses of the deceased.
The war, however, interrupted further study, and for the past decade Iraq's political position has made excavation nearly impossible. Then last year, the government gave permission for foreign scholars to excavate. But any archaeologist working here must contend with much more than the blistering heat and biting flies. Armed looters roam the desert, and local archaeologists—those who didn't die in the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s and who didn't flee in the aftermath of the Gulf War—routinely carry rifles while at dig sites. And while most Iraqis treat scholars with great respect, some Western practices, such as photography, are looked upon with suspicion. This is a land where, in the words of one foreign archaeologist, "anyone with a camera is either a spy or stupid."
The importance of the sites in Iraq became public only this spring when Muzahem and other Iraqi archaeologists presented the contents of four tombs at a London conference. The first tomb held a still-sealed sarcophagus, with the remains of a woman of about 50 years old and a collection of exquisite jewelry of gold and semiprecious stones. The second, found less than 300 feet away, proved more sensational. Two queens—consorts to kings rather than rulers in their own right—were laid to rest here, one on top of the other in the same sarcophagus, wrapped in embroidered linen and covered with gold jewelry including a crown, a mesh diadem, 79 earrings, 30 rings, 14 armlets, 4 anklets, 15 vessels, and many chains.
The second tomb included a curse, threatening the person who opened the grave of Queen Yaba—wife of powerful Tiglath-pileser III (744-727 B.C.)—with eternal thirst and restlessness. The curse specifically warns against disturbing the tomb or placing another corpse in it. Strangely, despite this curse, the second corpse was added after Yaba's death. Forensic specialists determined that both women were 30 to 35 years old; the cause of death is not clear. But the evidence indicates that Yaba was buried first. At some later date—20 to 50 years after the first interment—the second corpse was placed on top of the first.
On the upper body was a gold bowl with the inscription "Atalia, queen of Sargon, king of Assyria," who ruled from 721 to 705 B.C. Another bowl mentions "Banitu, queen of Shalmaneser V," who ruled from 726 to 722 B.C. Because the second corpse was placed in the sarcophagus last, researchers assume the remains are those of Atalia. But what of Banitu? An alabaster jar in the tomb contains organic material that some archaeologists suspect may be Banitu's remains.
Oxford scholar Stephanie Dalley proposes an explanation for the two corpses and three names. She suggests that Banitu and Yaba are the same woman—yaba being a Western Semitic word meaning "beautiful," while Banitu is a name in Akkadian, the language from which Assyrian is derived. Moreover, Atalia may be a Western Semitic name, indicating that both women may have been foreigners married to the Assyrian king. The theory remains controversial with scholars.
Atalia's presence poses an additional riddle: The body was apparently dried or smoked at temperatures of 300 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit for several hours. This could have been a burial practice or an effort to preserve a body for a long trip. Whatever its function, it provides the first evidence of mummification in ancient Mesopotamia.
A third tomb, uncovered in 1989, is even more mysterious. The main room had been robbed in antiquity, but an inscription named it as the resting place of Mullissu-mukannisat Ninua, queen of Ashurnasirpal II and mother of Shalmaneser III. The grave robbers missed the antechamber, packed with three bronze coffins containing human remains and jewelry. One contained bones of six people, including a young adult, three children, a baby, and a fetus. A second coffin contained a young woman—most likely a queen, given the magnificent gold crown she wore—as well as a child. A third coffin held five adults, including a man 55 to 65 years old in unusually good physical condition at the time of his death. A golden vessel with the name of Samsu-ilu, an illustrious field marshal who served under at least three kings, was found in the third coffin. Some, if not all, of the bones in the coffin appear to have been buried elsewhere and then reinterred together later. Why and when remains a mystery. Multiple burials are not common in Assyria.
Fearing looters would get wind of the finds, Iraqi archaeologists had to excavate so quickly that fragile clues such as textiles and pollen were lost. But German forensic specialists, working with what is left of the human remains, have turned up some hints about the health of royal Assyrians.
The five adults with dental remains had healthy teeth, probably reflecting the better nutrition and softer foods available at the top of the Assyrian social structure. Only one, Atalia, suffered from cavities. Yaba and Atalia, however, also suffered from dental abscesses at some point in their short lives. In addition, all the adults suffered from chronic sinus infections.
Five out of eight skeletons showed signs of health problems ranging from high fevers and infections to poor nutrition. And out of seven skeletons that could be studied for changes in the skull, six—including Yaba and Atalia—showed telltale areas of thickened skull, indicating they had survived a bout with meningitis. "The Assyrian queens have just begun to speak to us," says Michael Müller-Karpe, a German archaeologist. "And we are looking forward to more answers—especially to those which can be expected from DNA analyses." That will include finding out if they were daughters of distant kings or native royal Assyrians. Or if Atalia is the daughter of Yaba.
For millennia, the assyrians have been remembered through the legends of their enemies. The biblical prophet Isaiah railed against "the king of Assyria's boastful heart, and his arrogant insolence." The prophet Nahum speaks of the "unrelenting cruelty" of Assyrian leaders. And the second Book of Kings warns that "the kings of Assyria have exterminated all the nations, they have thrown their gods on the fire." According to John Malcolm Russell, an art historian and archaeologist at the Massachusetts College of Art, "it's like a history of the United States written by the Ayatollah Khomeini."
Yet what British and French explorers found nearly two millennia later seemed to confirm that image. Stone friezes from Nimrud and Nineveh depict war chariots trundling over the bodies of enemy soldiers, women and children deported from their homes, and an Assyrian king and his queen relaxing over wine and fruit in a verdant garden while an enemy leader's head swings from a tree nearby. The repetitive carvings of muscled, bearded, and warmongering princes that appear on the friezes have remained the best-known emblem of Assyrian society.
Russell, however, views the images as carefully positioned propaganda. While working at Nimrud and Nineveh in the 1980s, he noted that images of plunder, brutality, and war are reserved largely for the reception and throne rooms, where foreign diplomats and leaders met the Assyrian king. "The reliefs are at their shrillest in the public rooms," he says.
In rooms reserved for the king and his retinue, the walls are covered with less intimidating figures. These emblems, says Russell, may be designed to ward off evil spirits. In the king's own bedchambers, there are no images at all, merely cuneiform inscriptions asserting the ruler's sovereignty. Russell speculates that the writing may have served as a protective talisman for a vulnerable Assyrian leader. A few rulers, like Sennacherib, were known to have died at the hands of relatives in palace coups.
"I don't think the Assyrians were any more bloodthirsty
than their contemporaries," says Nicholas Postgate, a professor
of Assyriology at Cambridge University. "Mind you, I would
rather not have been on the other side."
The excitement among Assyrian scholars about the reopening of
Iraq to archaeological excavation is tempered by concern about
the damage to Assur should the dam be completed. Iraqi officials
have discussed building a giant wall to surround the site or taking
steps to prevent the waters from rising above a certain height,
but Peter Miglus is skeptical.
That solution also ignores dozens of other sites in the valley never examined by archaeologists. The best that can be hoped for, says Miglus, is a quick Iraqi call for international help or that senior Iraqi officials—perhaps Saddam Hussein himself—will halt or delay the effort. The Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Humam Abdul Khaliq A. Ghafour, backs the creation of an Assyrian research center in Mosul to draw international scholars and encourage a new generation of Iraqi researchers. Drowning Assur could prove internationally embarrassing. "We will do our best to hinder, or at least delay, the inauguration of this [dam] project," he said recently in his Baghdad office. "We don't want the slightest damage to Assur."
The dam, however, is under the control of the powerful Irrigation Ministry, and work is well under way. Foreign help is unlikely, given the growing fears that the United States will wage war against Saddam. All Miglus can do is wait and organize another season of digging before the waters rise.
Zindamagazine would like to thank:
Dr. George Kiraz
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