THINKING OUT-OF-THE-BOX: CREATION OF A LITTLE BET-NAHRAIN
With the end of the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein the Iraqi people can now decide on a new path of political existence. The most conceivable form of government is that of a federal system in which control of the government is divided among central, regional, and local authorities. This is similar to the line of authority that exists between the U.S. Federal Government, the State of Florida, and the city of Miami. The eligible voters in a federal system decide who would represent them at each level of government. This system can either be framed within a constitutional monarchy or a republic represented by a president as its highest head of state.
So far this all looks tolerable, until we begin to mull over the concept of tyranny of the majority in any democratic system. If the government officials are to be elected only by the votes cast by the people, then the constituency within any democracy with less voting power will never be able to elect a representative. If Assyrians (Nestorians, Chaldeans, and Syriacs) make up only 5 to 9 percent of the total population, then the maximum number of votes given in any election at the federal or regional level will be no more than 5 to 9 percent – unless Assyrian leadership forms a coalition with other ethnicities or religious groups. Simply said, Assyrians will have no authority unless they beg for support from the Kurdish or Turkomen groups. Is it any wonder why the current leadership in Iraq has been curiously quiet in Baghdad and North Iraq? Let’s not forget that even if the number of Christians in Iraq may be as many as 10 percent, due to the policies of displacement and terror during Saddam’s regime much of the Assyrian population remains nominal in larger cities. With lack of voting power in local and national arenas Assyrians have no guarantee of equal representation.
An alternative to this is a constitutional guarantee of representation for an ethnic or religious group in Iraq at all levels of the government. This was in fact the case with the 1956 constitution of Iraq. This may be a practical solution for the underrepresented groups, but it reinforces the opposite conjecture: the tyranny of the minority. In Lebanon for example, a guaranteed seat of power for the Christians has weakened the government and leaves no incentive for cooperation. Eventually it will incite hatred and violence.
Let’s complicate this matter even further. A federal system of government in a genuine democracy does not take into effect any religious bias. In fact, the separation of Church (in this case Mosque) and State is the most fundamental element of a true democracy in America and other robust democratic states. Can such a system be implemented in a nation with a majority of its people as Shiites who most likely prefer a religious state with ties to Iran than a secular republic? Case in point: the recent assassination of the Shiite cleric, al-Khoii in southern Iraq – who opted for a secular government and was quickly eliminated.
There is however a third, and less thrashed out solution: A federal system that harbors the tyranny of the majority in which the survival of its minorities is guaranteed through the formation of very small enclaves of semi-independent regions. This is similar to the creation of the Indian Reservations in the United States. No matter how minimal the number of the American-Indian voters in the United States may be, they are guaranteed full jurisdiction rights over their own schools, libraries, public events, and religious affairs. The administration of such Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac enclave or “Little Bet-Nahrain” can be subsidized via revenue-sharing arrangements with the federal government. Would this be the first step toward self-determination? Hardly! Dependency on the petroleum revenue coming from the central government will ensure the enclave’s inability to seek independence in the future. An enclave for Assyrians within the Kurdish-controlled North Iraq would present the Assyrians with an opportunity to run their own affairs without the fear of tyranny imposed by Moslem, non-secular, non-Assyrian groups in Iraq.
As the author of this week’s feature article Rev. Ken Joseph explains, this is indeed the time to brainstorm all possible solutions for our nation. Rev. Joseph also states that the Assyrian leadership in Iraq may not be capable of juggling such out-of-the-box ideas due to internal pressures from the Opposition Groups.
Zinda Magazine urges the immediate formation of a team of Assyrian experts from several countries to arrive in Baghdad within the next few days and begin consulting with the Assyrian Democratic Movement and other Assyrian groups and churches on drafting the future political, social, and economic infrastructure of the Assyrian-Iraqi society. At such meetings, the Chaldean and Syriac groups must also be fully represented. The team of experts must at the minimum consist of the following qualified Iraqi-born Assyrians: Ms. Evelyn Anoya, Mr. Fred Aprim, Mr. Youel Baba, Dr. Sargon Dadesho, Mr. Firas Jatou, Dr. George Habbash, Prof. Emanuel Kamber, Mr. John Kanno, Dr. Lincoln Malik, Mr. Saad Maroof, Dr. Katrin Michael, Mr. Wilson Mulhim, Prof. Edward Odisho, Mr. Hurmiz Shahin, Mr. Aprim Shapira, & Mr. Sam Yono.
It is essential to understand one point from the outset: in today’s Iraq anything is possible and no idea is too far-fetched – including the creation of an enclave as Little Bet-Nahrain. A democratic Iraq may be democratic for the ethnic and religious groups that possess voting power, but may not be so free and liberal for the smaller Christian population.
LIMITED AUTONOMY IN IRAQ IS A POSSIBILITY
I. The Nightmare
I will never forget the feeling of crossing across the border into Iraq. One piece of good news was a discussion I had with the Iraqi officials at the border who told me there were in fact 2.5 million Assyrians in Iraq. I was speechless.
Staying with my family and meeting with various Assyrians and others as far as I know I was the only one in Iraq without a government minder. Although I went initially against the war, I was shocked to find the terrible situation and how desperately people wanted the war to go forward and Saddam to be taken away.
The broken spirit of the Assyrians who had to put pictures of Saddam in their Churches broke my heart. We did two things - as I looked out over the Church and saw how all were sitting with their backs bent in hopelessness I leaned over to the man next to me and said "Assyrians don’t sit like that, do they?" He laughed and reluctantly sat up straight. As I looked across the church little by little people began to take the cue and sit up straight. It took a few tries but they all got the message.
Next, we talked about the dream of one day raising the Assyrian flag. We came up with a greeting where we would shake hands and then put our two hands together as if raising a flag. This would be the new greeting - a handshake and then the raising of the flag until the day we could.
I very reluctantly left Iraq, only after meeting with our tribal leader and asking him what I should do. "You can be most useful to our people if you go at this time and let the world know our situation." Very reluctantly, I stayed until the very end leaving the same day as the United Nations. In Amman we prepared a team and supplies to take into Iraq as soon as the war was over.
I will never forget the moment as we re-entered Baghdad with 20 tons - 11,000 bottles of water, medicine, food and a team of seven with the Assyrian Flag flying proudly in the wind in a Free Iraq!
We are currently in the process of delivering the water through the Assyrian Church of the East, providing Satellite Telephone Service so far to over 1,400 people for one-minute calls to their family and delivering letters from outside.
What shocked me though was the situation of the Assyrians. I joyously went back to those who had talked together before the war about how we would raise the flag and found them dejected and broken.
We prepared signs that read "Protect the Rights of the Assyrian Christians" to hold up in front of the Palestine Hotel as all the other groups were doing. The regular people were so excited - "now is our chance" they would say but the leaders said "No, we cannot do that! We must not cause trouble. We cannot say things like that".
I was in shock - here after all these years, protected by the Americans was our chance and while the common people were ready the leaders were paralyzed with fear - the fear of victory. After so many generations of saying it would never happen, it was hopeless, the dream was gone now, when it had come they were psychologically unable to believe that victory was now here.
III. The Dream
Then I remembered a lesson I had learned a long time ago - the greatest enemy is not the enemy outside but the enemy within - ourselves. The greatest enemy of the Assyrians is not the outside enemies but ourselves.
We prayed, we worked, we gave all for this moment - it is now here and we are paralyzed. The Assyrians living outside Iraq should be ashamed for not returning to help! The greatest need of the Assyrians at this moment is for educated, trained Assyrians to come back to help in putting together the legal framework and rules and regulations that will guarantee freedom.
The Assyrians living in Iraq are excited, ready to go but the leadership is paralyzed by fear - the fear of the unexpected victory!
What can we do? In daily meetings with the American representatives, I can say clearly that the Americans are committed to seeing the Assyrians set up a system where they will be guaranteed their freedom and rights of self determination. At the same time the officials told us very clearly "We cannot do it for you. You must do it for yourselves. You must tell us what you need, how you need it and we will do all in our power to help, but you must take the leadership."
It was an unprecedented challenge!
IV. The Plan
Having been born and raised in Japan I have experienced the one situation that is most akin to what has happened in Iraq. Japan was a situation much like pre-war Iraq. A Dictator with his picture everywhere and a state religion. The Christians were a tiny minority - less than 1/2 of 1%.
But things changed - the Americans in the same way they are progressing in Iraq now patiently took the previous system apart, put together a new constitution, a new set of laws and now 58 years later the country is free, the Christians still a tiny minority enjoy complete rights, have 10 members in the Parliament. The most recent Finance Minister for instance and the Speaker of the House are Christian and we all enjoy complete freedom and equality in daily life.
There is a Chinese proverb that says of the desert "If the river has once flowed it will flow again" - if it worked in Japan it can and will work in Iraq.
We need a simple, clear-cut set of goals and a team of educated, able Assyrians both within and outside of Iraq who can come back and help. We need it immediately.
I am putting this plan for the Assyrian Community worldwide to read, offer suggestions, changes and then come to Iraq immediately to help negotiate our freedom. If we fail God will hold us in judgment for failing to move when He answered our prayers.
There is a very special scripture from II Chronicles 7:4 "If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and hear my voice and turn from their wicked ways then I will hear their prayers and will heal their land". This is our promise.
V. Limited Autonomy
It is clear for a number of reasons that if the Assyrians are to survive and if those Assyrians living outside of Assyria are to return, there must be a clear cut program to provide assurance of safety and freedom for this to happen.
In carefully looking at the situation for many years, speaking to literally hundreds of Assyrians, US and other officials and looking at our history the answer is in a clear cut, simple program - Limited Autonomy. The Assyrians must be strong, remembering that our trust is not in government officials but in God and the 1 billion worldwide Christian community to defend our rights.
The essence of Limited Autonomy is based on the concept practiced in the United States that granted Native Americans or American Indians the rights to their ancestral lands. It helped them to return and provided them a future. It is this system that we believe can engender the basis for a similar situation in Iraq.
This plan needs to be carefully analyzed by experts within the community, changed, adjusted but must form the core of any further negotiations if we are to survive as a people.
It also must be based on the simple fact that no Islamic country anywhere in the world grants non-Muslims equal rights. The simple fact that we as Christians need to face is that Islam in the way it is practiced currently through the Islamic world does not allow equal rights for Christians and these rights must be put into a constitution and into law as special rights or they will never last:
1. Land - A specified piece of land called Assyria must be designated in mutually agreed upon land between the Tigris and Euphrates in the Assyrian Triangle. As in the various Native American areas, within the Assyrian land all races, faiths and groups of people may reside. The Assyrians, however, as the indigenous people of Iraq, will have special rights when living within their own lands. All lands, villages and property shall be returned to all Assyrians and others from whom they were confiscated upon presentation of documents to prove such claims.
2. Culture - Within Assyria there shall be Assyrian Schools which along with the regular criteria for Iraqi Schools shall be set up to provide a complete education in the Assyrian Language as there previously were in Iraq. There shall be Assyrian language Television, Radio, Newspapers and Magazines within the area. There shall be no discrimination towards any other group but as the native peoples of the areas Assyrians shall enjoy free education, resettlement assistance, job priority, tax benefits and other inducements to keep the community and to encourage as many overseas Assyrians as possible to return. This same form of limited autonomy shall be accorded to all minority groups within Iraq within their original lands.
3. Local Administration - Within Assyria proper Assyrians shall have special rights of administration in all areas not designated to the central government mainly concerning their culture, religious rights, civil affairs including birth, death and all other areas.
4. National Administration - Assyrians shall be constitutionally recognized as the original and native people of Iraq and they shall be guaranteed a seat on every government administration organization along with other minority people group.
5. Secular Constitution - The Iraqi Constitution shall be modeled after the Japanese constitution which rooted out all religious influence within government by including strict prohibition of any relationship in any manner between government and religion. The state shall be prohibited from providing money or any benefit to any religious or special group.
6. Citizenship - Free Iraq shall withdraw the ban on dual citizenship. All who can show direct ties to Iraq through family and birth records shall be given Iraqi citizenship, while being able to keep their other citizenship. This will facilitate the return of most Iraqis living overseas.
The Assyrian Community must immediately look over the following documents and add their ideas, changes, additions but come up with a final and concrete request to present to the U.S. Authorities immediately.
Each point must be carefully and strongly put forward and if in any way any rights or freedoms the community feels is critical to its survival is not approved by the authority then the worldwide 1 billion Christian community must be mobilized to support the rights of the minority Assyrian Christians within Iraq.
Now is the time! Tomorrow will be too late! Further, there is a desperate need for educated, talented Assyrians to come to Iraq NOW! We have only days before the situation begins to harden. The Americans are helpful and open and able to help.
One may enter Iraq without a visa through Jordan. Now is the time for all Assyrians living overseas to stop talking about how they pray for their people and help in a concrete way. The Assyrians left in Iraq are faced with an impossible struggle - they possess neither the expertise nor the emotional strength after 30 years of oppression to be able to do it themselves.
I call upon all Assyrians living overseas to immediately make their way to Baghdad within the next week. Stop talking. Stop hoping. Come. On the ground, together, in Baghdad we can put together the conditions that will protect our people, give confidence to the many overseas that they can come home and create a future and a hope that one day God in His time will give us our land!
Rev. Ken Joseph Jr.
RET. GEN. JAY GARNER MEETS ZOWAA’S YONADAM KANNA
(ZNDA: Arbil) On 23 April in Arbil, Ret. General Jay Garner
met with Mr. Yonadam Kanna, Secretary General of the Assyrian
Democratic Movement, and Mr. Narsai Warda and Mr. Younan Hozaya,
members of the Central Committee of the ADM. The meeting was
attended by many American officials including Jonathan Cohen,
the Political Consultant of the American Embassy in Ankara.
R.G. Garner and Mr. Yousip discussed the general administrative
issues and matters concerning the Assyrian affairs.
ADM CHIEF VISITS NINEVEH, KIRKUK
(ZNDA: Nineveh) Mr. Yonadam Kanna, Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, visited Nineveh and met with the following individuals last week:
Mar Toma Gewargis, Bishop of Nineveh and Aqra of the Ancient
Church of the East
Mr. Secretary wished them all a Happy Feast of Resurrection “Easter” and reviewed the latest developments. Mr. Kanna also presented each person with a plan to help the public with basic necessities.
The Assyrian Aid Society has provided the Medical Center in Telkaif with some medicine, especially used for chronic illnesses.
On 22, Mr. Romel Moshe, President of the Assyrian Aid Society, participated in a meeting in the Presidential Palace in Baghdad with the Technical officers of the American Forces. The meeting addressed the cooperation between the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and the United Nations, to participate in the rebuilding of the Iraqi infrastructure
On 24 April, Mr. Kanna, accompanied by Mr. Ninos Beito visited the city of Kirkuk. In this visit, they stopped at the Mar Giwargis Church in Almas and met with Bishop Andraous Sanna, Bishop of Kirkuk of the Chaldean Catholic Church. The meeting addressed the issue of the representation in this city. Mr. Kanna also addressed the importance of the unity among the people.
In Mosul and Kirkuk, several public meetings and rallies by the Assyrian Student Associations and the ADM officials “were organized to elaborate on the rights of the Chaldean, Assyrian, and Syriac people”, according to ADM news reports.
The ADM leadership has also met with Colonel Mayville, the Military Commander of Kirkuk and the Assyrian representatives in the City Council. They also met with the Assyrians in the Assyrian quarters of Arrapha, Almas, and Camp al-Madyooneen.
Mr. Yousof Shikwana, Assistant Director of the USA and Canada branch of the ADM, and Salam Yaldako, a media person, arrived in northern Iraq last week and visited their home-town of Alqosh.
Sources to Zinda Magazine indicate that the next major Opposition
Groups meeting will be held in Nineveh.
ASSYRIAN WORKER KILLED BY PESHMERGAS IN KIRKUK
(ZNDA: Kirkuk) According to unconfirmed reports from Kirkuk, an Assyrian-Chaldean man was killed during a Kurdish raid on the city against its non-Kurdish population in which many Arabs were also killed or injured.
Mr. Hazim Petrus Damman, 54, was a chemical engineer and worked
for the Kirkuk Oil Company. On 10 April 10, while driving home
from work, several Kurdish Peshmergas ambush his car and begin
shooting at him. Mr. Damman’s car was stopped and his
body dragged out. The attackers then drive away in his car.
Mr. Damman was declared dead when the ambulance arrives at the
scene. Mr. Damman leaves behind a wife, and no children.
AMMO BABA APPOINTED IRAQ’S OLYMPIC PRESIDENT
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Mr. Ammanuel “Ammo” Baba David, the legendary Assyrian-Iraqi soccer player and soccer coach of the national team was recently appointed as the chairman of Iraq’s Olympics Committee. Mr. Baba, 69, was born in Baghdad. The May 1956 game between The Assyrian Sports Club of Baghdad and Iran’s Taj Club, held in Baghdad, in which Ammo Baba scored 4 of the 5 goals against the Iranian team brought Mr. Baba and his Assyrian teammates instant recognition among the Middle Eastern soccer fans.
Mr. Baba has coached a dozen teams in Iraq since 1972 and until
now was the technical director at the Iraqi Police Club and
the supervisor of the Iraqi Soccer School of the Iraqi Football
MOSUL LOCAL GOVERNMENT TO BE ELECTED ON 5 MAY
Courtesy of Reuters ( 29 April); by Kieran Murray
(ZNDA: Mosul) Rival religious and ethnic groups this week said they had reached a breakthrough deal backed by the U.S. Army to set up a new government in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
Although critics fear corrupt officials who served under Saddam Hussein and new leaders with little or no popular support will squeeze their way into power, senior U.S. officers are upbeat about their ability to put in place a clean and representative government by next week.
Major General David Petraeus, who has led negotiations in the divided city, said over 200 delegates from rival groups in and around Mosul would elect 23 members of a city council on May 5 and the councilors would then immediately pick a mayor from a list of independent candidates.
There were widespread fears the city would collapse into factional fighting after the fall of Saddam, but Petraeus said the rival groups were working together and seemed committed to putting together a government that represented all.
"They were united in opposition against Saddam. And now that Saddam is no longer here, they still have a sense of common purpose to make the most of this opportunity," said Petraeus, commander of the Army's 101st Airborne Division.
Petraeus has held almost daily meetings with representatives of the city's groups and they have designed an elaborate voting system to pick the 23 elected representatives, who will be joined by the heads of six government departments and two retired military officers to make up a council of 31.
Only the 23 elected members will vote for the mayor. Political leaders, even among the majority Arabs, insist they are not looking to dominate the local government.
"The mayor will be independent. We are all working together in this and it is working. We have had success and every day it is getting better," said Major General Mahdi al-Afandi of the Arab-dominated Iraqi National Congress who recently returned to Iraq after spending six years living in Germany.
"We need to show everyone we are working together. The people need to feel safe and have a secure city," said Mashaan al-Juburi, a controversial figure who declared himself Mosul's governor earlier this month but has since been persuaded to drop his claim to the city.
But many local residents remain convinced that the U.S. Army removed Saddam's Baath Party loyalists only to bring some of them back in and give power to a new generation of corrupt politicians prepared to follow American orders.
"They are all thieves. All these men who are talking to the Americans are corrupt. The Americans do not understand but they are all thieves," said Abed Jabori, a local teacher.
Petraeus conceded genuine democratic elections would take "months,
if not years" to organize, and all sides say the U.S. military
will still play a central role, especially in security issues,
once the new city government is put in place.
GILGAMESH TOMB BELIEVED FOUND
Now, a German-led expedition has discovered what is thought to be the entire city of Uruk - including, where the Euphrates once flowed, the last resting place of its famous King.
"I don't want to say definitely it was the grave of King Gilgamesh, but it looks very similar to that described in the epic," Jorg Fassbinder, of the Bavarian department of Historical Monuments in Munich.
In the book - actually a set of inscribed clay tablets - Gilgamesh was described as having been buried under the Euphrates, in a tomb apparently constructed when the waters of the ancient river parted following his death.
"We found just outside the city an area in the middle of the former Euphrates river¿ the remains of such a building which could be interpreted as a burial," Mr Fassbinder said.
Who can compare with him in kingliness? Who can say, like Gilgamesh, I am king?
He said the amazing discovery of the ancient city under the Iraqi desert had been made possible by modern technology.
"By differences in magnetization in the soil, you can look into the ground," Mr Fassbinder added.
"The difference between mudbricks and sediments in the Euphrates river gives a very detailed structure."
This creates a magnetogram, which is then digitally mapped, effectively giving a town plan of Uruk.
"The most surprising thing was that we found structures already described by Gilgamesh," Mr Fassbinder stated.
"We covered more than 100 hectares. We have found garden structures and field structures as described in the epic, and we found Babylonian houses."
But he said the most astonishing find was an incredibly sophisticated system of canals.
"Very clearly, we can see in the canals some structures showing that flooding destroyed some houses, which means it was a highly developed system.
"[It was] like Venice in the desert."
THE AMSTERDAM DECLERATION
(ZNDA: Amsterdam) On Sunday, a declaration of the Amsterdam Conference was adopted unanimously by the attendees of the first All-Assyrian political conference in the post-Saddam era. The following is the full text of this declaration:
This declaration by delegates working for national unity in regard to our people in Iraq was adopted unanimously at a conference held in Driebergen, The Netherlands on April 2003. In attendance at the conference called and hosted by the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA), were observer activists, government dignitaries involved in the Assyrian Question, and the undersigned political parties, organizations, and federations. The Assyrian Nation is comprised of Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs … The declaration points adopted are:
1. That we support the integrity of an undivided Iraq.
Adopted unanimously on April 27, 2003
[Z-info: For photos and
more information on this conference visit: http://www.furkono.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=72&mode=nested
IRAQIS, ASSYRIANS MEET WITH PRESIDENT BUSH IN MICHIGAN
(ZNDA: Detroit) Seventeen Iraqi-Americans from different ethnic and religious groups met with President Bush on 28 April at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn, Michigan. Among these were Prof. Emanuel Kamber and Mrs. Jenny Golani- both from Michigan.
Amid screams of support, President George W. Bush addressed Iraqi-Americans and the nation, saying "The days of repression from any source are over. Iraq will be democratic."
Dearborn has the largest Arab-American community in the nation (over 200,000) and is home to the first Islamic mosque in the U.S.
In a brief message, Prof. Emanuel Kamber stated: "Sir, I am
an Assyrian, Assyrian is also known as Chaldean and Syriac."
He then went on to say: “Mr. President I would like to thank
you for your commitments, your leadership and magnificent work in
liberating the people of Iraq from the evil regime of Saddam and opening
a new chapter in the history of modern Iraq. Since the liberation
of Iraq started few weeks ago, much attention has been devoted to
the demands and expectations of the Iraq's Shia, Kurds, and Turkomen.
But little has been said about Iraq's Christians. The majority are
the Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriacs. They have to be taken into consideration
and we have to consult with them about a vision of post-Saddam Iraq.
Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac people of Iraq would hope and support the
establishment of a unified, democratic, secular, pluralistic and parliamentarian
government in Iraq that will guarantee human rights and equality for
all citizens, irrespective of their ethnic background and religion:
an Iraq that's multiethnic and based on the rule of law: an Iraq that
enjoys full sovereignty and territorial integrity. Thank you again
for this opportunity”.
In her two-minute speech, Mrs. Jenny Golani of the Assyrian American
National Federation stated: “"Mr. President, it is an honor
and a privilege to be here with you. As a young girl who witnessed
Saddam's agents in my home three times right here in Michigan handing
over blank checks to my father if he would only pledge his allegiance
to Saddam and his Baath Party, I am proud that because he denounced
Saddam back then, I am able to celebrate freedom today.
Ms. Golani then went on to say: “A secular democratic and constitutionally
protected right environment will induce our people to be extremely
productive as they have been all over the world in free lands. It
is important that if there are going to be regions distributed to
ethnic groups then our people should be recognized as such and treated
equally in the distribution. Our museums should be restored and resurrected
since they belong in part to our ancestral artifacts and world history.
This is the history that we teach our children and it belongs to them….The
security of our Assyrian people is very important. We must do all
we can to protect them. Self-determination must be granted. We should
be treated equally and recognized in the new constitution, not as
a token but as a right. The contracts that are to be granted for the
rebuilding of Iraq should be going to minority groups and we should
be part of that group.
Hanny Choulagh, a Chaldean electrical engineer for the city of Detroit
and the president of his union, said he would have liked for Bush
to have included Chaldeans in his discussions. But Choulagh said this
was outweighed by his joy at Saddam Hussein's deposition.
CHALDEAN GROUPS PREPARE TO DELIVER FOOD, MESSAGE TO IRAQ
Courtesy of the Associated Press (29 April)
(ZNDA: Detroit) With the demise of Saddam Hussein's government, Christian churches across Michigan are gearing up to send help to Iraq.
Most of the religious groups emphasize their goal is to help the Iraqis, not convert them. But missionaries are often part of the aid package.
"A hungry man needs bread first," said Deacon Farrukh Khan, Michigan area director of the People of the Book Lutheran Outreach. People of the Book is the Koranic term for Christians and Jews.
"We aren't going there with hidden motives," Khan told The Detroit News for a Tuesday story. "It's not based on helping them so they can become Christians, but to help them because they are humans. We don't want them to feel that their new freedom has no food in it."
The local churches plans straddle denominations, and follow smaller-scale Christian relief for Afghanistan after the U.S. defeat of Islamic Taliban rulers there.
Locally, the Lutheran World Relief program will send at least three missionaries to Iraq. And Archdiocese of Detroit Catholic churches have raised $3,000 for food and medical supplies as part of Catholic Relief Services, said Carol Hofer, coordinator for international and social action for the archdiocese.
The five Chaldean Catholic Churches of America in Southfield, Detroit, West Bloomfield, Oak Park and Troy began collecting money to help Iraqis on Easter Sunday. They plan to collect money each Sunday from now on to raise $50,000 for food, medicine and other supplies, said Saad Marouf, chairman of the Chaldean Federation of America in Southfield, which is coordinating fund-raising.
Chaldeans are Iraqi Catholics and are considered Iraq's third largest ethnic group behind Arabs and Kurds.
"We are still attached to Iraq," Marouf said. "We are obligated to help in this time of crisis. War is devastation and catastrophe, and many Chaldeans don't have excess food and they are going through emotional and physical trauma."
Conditions were dire in Iraq even before the war. It is estimated that 60 percent of people in Iraq depended on donated food, said Myles Fish, president and chief executive officer of International Aid, a non-denominational Christian relief society based in Spring Lake, near Grand Rapids.
Medical supplies are desperately needed. A large number of Iraqis suffer from chronic diseases such as polio, measles, tuberculosis, meningitis and malnutrition. And only two of Baghdad's 19 hospitals have enough equipment to operate, according to International Aid.
The organization has carefully monitored the situation for months.
Last week, the agency shipped a 40-foot semi-truck filled with food and over-the-counter medical supplies to Iraq. The group also sent a portable medical clinic and laboratory unit to Jordan, with plans to send it to Iraq as soon as medical staff can be deployed there.
"We believe that every Iraqi has infinite worth and the world
is not against the Iraqi people, but the regime there," said
Fish, whose organization sent two missionaries to Iraq in March. "We
are trying to communicate that there is more to America than bombs."
ASSYRIAN PRIEST WARNS ABOUT DANGER OF AN ISLAMIC STATE
Courtesy of Zenit News Agency (29 Agency)
(ZNDA: Baghdad) The international media described the recent Shiite pilgrimage to Karbala "as a symbol of victory." But many Iraqi Christians see it differently. They are increasingly concerned about the future of religious freedom in the country.
"The journalists reporting the events did not fully understand the situation and what a demonstration of this sort actually meant," said Father Nizar Semaan, an Assyrian priest of the Diocese of Nineveh.
"We see these events with apprehension, not because we are against freedom of belief and religion which we want as the foundation for the new Iraq, but because we are familiar with the mentality and culture of Shiite Muslims and we know that what they want is a theocratic Iraq founded on Islamic law," Father Semaan explained.
"There is a danger that we Christians may have to choose between remaining in Iraq as second-class citizens deprived of our rights, or leaving this land of our fathers," he added.
"We were sorry to see that while the Shiite gatherings were broadcast far and wide, no media attention was given to Christians in Iraq who at the time were celebrating Easter," the priest said.
"While we were praying for peace and true freedom and democracy, our Shiite Muslim brothers were chanting slogans for an Islamic state and a new war," he noted.
The priest added: "I hope the rest of the world will see the
danger and continue to help Iraq become a truly secular and democratic
country where all groups are respected."
FOREVER A PRISONER OF UDAY
Courtesy of Time Magazine ( 26 April); by Aparisim Ghosh. Photo by Spencer Platt
(ZNDA: Baghdad) The walls of Lahib Nouman's home don't just talk, they howl. They scream in terror, shout with rage, moan in pain and sob with frustration. All the emotions overloading this tiny woman's brutalized mind she projects onto the walls of her living room. She scrawls on them with maroon lipstick, ocher spray paint and gray lumps of charcoal, in Arabic and a sprinkling of French. It's the only way she knows to exorcise her mental demons, to preserve what remains of her sanity. "There's so much inside here," she says, slapping violently against the side of her head. "I have to take some of it out and put it down somewhere, or I will burst."
The effort seems to have taken over Nouman's life to the exclusion of everything else. Her small home in Baghdad's working-class al-Ghadeer district is filthy; the rooms are damp and smell of rotting garbage. Her pets, a mangy brown pup and two molting cats, have shed clumps of fur on her bed, an old foam mattress on the living-room floor. There are pieces of stale bread everywhere.
But the squalor doesn't seem to bother Nouman. She has lived in much worse places—a succession of prison cells, torture chambers and mental-hospital wards. Her living room may be fetid, but it is home, and she's free. "Nobody bothers me here. Nobody does bad things to me," she says. "I can say and do and write whatever I want."
Even by Iraqi standards, Nouman, 48, has enjoyed little freedom, at least not since 1985, when she ran afoul of Uday, Saddam Hussein's barbaric eldest son. A criminal lawyer, Nouman had the temerity to defend a man Uday wanted punished for insulting his girlfriend, and Nouman paid for it with nearly two decades' worth of torment. In prison, she endured rape, beatings and unspeakable torture. In the hospital, she was subjected to countless sessions of shock therapy and powerful sedatives. Along the way, her mind became unhinged, her memories scrambled and her face frozen in a mask of permanent terror. "They have turned me into a witch," she says, ruefully pulling at her stringy hair, which she has dyed the color of tea. "They have made me horrible."
Until three weeks ago, Nouman was incarcerated at al-Rashad, Baghdad's main mental hospital. When U.S. forces began taking the city, the staff ran away, enabling inmates to escape. Nouman made straight for her house in al-Ghadeer, and has been holed up there ever since, scrawling furiously on the walls. "This is my work now," she says. "This is what I have to do."
Already she's running out of space. She set out to write the story of her life, but the narrative is lost in a maze of digressions. There are religious motifs—a number of crooked crucifixes (she was raised a Chaldean Catholic) and exhortations to Mary and Allah. There are homages to her favorite mutt, Sandi. There are political slogans calling for solidarity among Iraq, the Arab nations and France, where she was educated. And then there are some doggerel verses that don't always make sense but are apparently designed for self-motivation: In the grave, there are no cowards. I will never give up.
This isn't how Lahib Nouman's life was supposed to turn out. Her father was a wealthy dealer in engineering tools. The Noumans lived in the then tiny district of Saadun and sent their 13 children to the city's best schools, where they learned Arabic, French and English. Lahib's genteel upbringing is clear. She uses demure terms even to describe the depraved treatment she has endured. Her torturers "made pee-pee and ca-ca" on her, she says in English, and they "made love" to her against her will.
Although the Noumans were Assyrians, an ethnic minority suppressed by Saddam's regime, they were careful to toe the official Baath Party line. Lahib joined the party in 1973 and become an enthusiastic apparatchik. She remembers participating in political debates at Baghdad University, arguing forcefully for Baathist principles like secularism and socialism. She remained loyal even after her father blamed the collapse of his business on the government, which took away his exclusive distribution deals with British and American toolmakers.
After completing a law degree, Nouman took a job as a criminal investigator at the Justice Ministry. Later she pursued a doctorate at the Sorbonne. Her studies were cut short in 1985, when she broke a hip in a traffic accident. Back in Baghdad, she began to take on criminal cases, mostly pro bono. That's how she came upon Naadi, a young Egyptian bellhop who had crossed Uday Hussein. Naadi was being held at a police station and being tortured even as Nouman waited to see him. "They were touching his fingers with a live wire, and I could hear his screams in the waiting area," she recalls. "When they finally let me see him, his first words were, 'Please help me to kill myself.'"
Naadi's trouble began when he barred one of Uday's girlfriends from entering the Babylon Hotel, where he worked, because she was drunk. Soon after, he was accused of stealing videotapes out of Uday's house. Nouman persuaded Naadi to let her represent him. The charges were so obviously false that the court threw them out without much argument. But the clock had begun to run down on Nouman's liberty. "My friends told me I had cut my own neck," she says. "But I thought Uday wouldn't dare to touch a lawyer, a respected member of society."
How wrong she was. Barely a month after the Naadi verdict, in a casual conversation with law colleagues, Nouman said the fateful words, "There's no justice in this country." Someone informed the police, and within hours she was arrested for contempt of court. Taken to al-Zafaraniya police station, she was, she says, brutally beaten for several days in a row, raped and had a hot candle forced into her rectum. "I kept telling the police, 'You can't do this to me. I'm a lawyer,'" she says, smiling sadly at her own naiveté. "They said, 'Once you become an enemy of Uday, you are nothing.'"
After a week of near constant torture, Nouman recounts, she was taken to al-Rashad hospital on the outskirts of the city. There she had the first of countless sessions of shock treatment. When she was released a month later, Nouman recalls, she felt "like a nightmare was over." It was just beginning. She had been out only a few months when the police picked her up again, this time for allegedly saying (she denies it) "I hate Saddam." She was taken, she says, to the Khadamiya Prison for women, for a six-month spell with long stretches in solitary confinement. She was tortured and beaten by other prisoners.
"The wardens told the other women that since I was an enemy of Uday, they had permission to do whatever they wanted to me," Nouman says. "The women wanted to please the wardens, so they were constantly slamming me against the walls." Again she was sent back to al-Rashad.
Nouman's life settled into a pattern. She would be arrested, thrown into prison for a few months of torture, then forced to spend a month in the mental hospital. She would be released for a few months, and then the cycle would begin again. Looking back, she has difficulty remembering the chronology and duration of her incarcerations. "There were too many," she says, "and after all those years of taking drugs at the hospital of madness, my memory is mixed up." But if the repeated punishment was meant to silence Nouman, it had the opposite effect. "When I realized that they could arrest me whether or not I did anything wrong, I thought, Why not speak my mind?" She recounts how she tore up Saddam posters in the street, chanted anti-Uday slogans and, on one occasion, refused to take a 100-dinar note in change from a shopkeeper, declaring, "I don't want another picture of Saddam Hussein."
Her most famous act of defiance came in 1988, after Uday personally murdered Kamel Hanna Jajjo, Saddam's majordomo, for acting as a go-between for Saddam and one of his mistresses. Word of the scandal spread through Baghdad—even to Nouman, in prison. At her next court hearing, she stood up and delivered an impromptu speech. Uday had killed a man, she said, and he should be brought to trial and imprisoned. "I said what every Iraqi was thinking," she says. "I just had nothing to lose. What could they do to me that they were not already doing?"
In Baghdad's working-class districts, Nouman gained a certain amount of fame as the crazy woman lawyer who dared to stand up to Uday. Even some of the staff at the mental hospital came to admire her tenacity. "She never stopped speaking against Uday, not even when she was getting shock treatment," says Jabar Rubbaiyeh Lefteh, an ambulance driver at the mental hospital. "She was braver than any man I know."
like all of Iraq’s prisons, the Fudeiliya facility on the northeastern edge of Baghdad now stands empty and wide open. After the Americans entered Baghdad, looters quickly stripped it of furniture and electrical fittings. Returning, along with a journalist and photographer, to the prison where she spent most of 1991, Nouman quickly draws a crowd of curious onlookers from the neighboring houses. She confronts them angrily: "When I was tortured here and screamed for help, did you not hear me?" The crowd remains mute.
She turns away scornfully and strides to the women's wing of the prison, where a number of large cells open onto a courtyard. A net of barbed wire hangs over the yard. The cells, now empty, are deceptively light and airy. "When they were full, I could only sit like this," says Nouman, crouching against a wall and pulling her knees against her chest. Set off from the main courtyard is a row of isolation cells. She spent several weeks in one, and hesitates before entering it now. It is relatively big for an isolation cell, 15 ft. by 10 ft., with one small barred window close to the ceiling and no toilet. ("I had to make pee-pee and ca-ca in the same room," she says.)
Nouman points to an officer's room, now deserted, where she says she was tortured, "every day, sharp at 10 a.m." The officer, she relates, made her sit on an empty beer bottle until it had penetrated her rectally and filled up with blood. The officer also "made love" to her, she says, shuddering at the recollection. He was a big bear of a man and smelled of cooked meat. "I thanked God when they took me from here to the hospital of madness," she says.
While her parents were alive, Nouman, who never married, had family to return to whenever she was released from the hospital. But after her father died in 1988 and her mother passed away in 1991, her siblings refused to have anything to do with her. Over the years, most of them emigrated, without leaving forwarding addresses. Only three of her sisters remain in Baghdad, and she says they won't allow her into their homes. "What her brothers and sisters did was worse than what Uday did to her," says Mushtaq Zanbaqa, parish priest of the Chaldean Catholic church Nouman frequents. "Maybe they were afraid that Uday would punish them, but to turn your back on your own sister is a terrible, terrible thing." The three sisters declined to talk to TIME. Neighbors said none of the three ever married because Nouman's reputation frightened away potential suitors. Unless the sisters have a change of heart, Nouman may wind up in the mental hospital again. With the Saddam regime gone, she would probably be treated more gently, but the thought of returning fills her with dread. Although she was happy to walk a journalist through the prisons she has lived in, she refused to visit al-Rashad. "That is Satan's place," she says. Besides, she says, she can't go anywhere until she has written the story of her life on her walls. "I have to finish this, to get everything out of my head," she says. "Then I will be at peace."
She has one other ambition. In all the years she suffered his vengeance,
Nouman never met Uday. Before the war, she says, she didn't want to.
Now she would love to confront her tormentor. "I want to see
him, and I want him to see me," she says, thumping her chest.
"I want to tell him, 'Look, I am still here, still saying what
I want to say. You tried to stop me and couldn't. What can you do
IRAQ CHAOS MARS HOLIDAY FOR YONKERS CHURCH
Courtesy of the Yonkers Journal News ( 14 April); by Ernie Garcia
(ZNDA: Yonkers) Having lived through seven years of Lebanon's civil war in the 1970s and '80s, Yonkers resident Jeannette Shomonnedzad finds reports of lawlessness, looting and revenge killing in Iraq painfully familiar.
"Whatever is going on there, I witnessed it in my own country," said Shomonnedzad, whose Assyrian ancestors fled anti-Christian pogroms in northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey almost a century ago. "I'm worried about our own people because they are in the land of the Kurds. The Kurds were the ones who did this."
Like many Christians around the world, Shomonnedzad and the rest of the congregation at Mar Mari Assyrian Church on Buena Vista Avenue celebrated Palm Sunday yesterday, but it was a holy day rendered mournful by a weekend death in the parish.
Children were joyful and excited by elaborately decorated Easter breads topped with chocolate crosses prepared by the ladies' auxiliary of the parish. Yet the events unfolding in Iraq, where there is a significant Christian Assyrian minority, dimmed adults' holiday spirit.
Mar Mari's pastor, the Rev. Demitry Eskandar, said no phone calls could be placed to Iraq, so neither he nor other Iraqi immigrant parishioners could determine their relatives' fate.
News of the looting of the National Museum of Iraq last week also
The destruction or theft of the museum's collection is a blow to Assyrians, an ethnic group scattered throughout the world because of persecution.
Assyrians were massacred and driven out of Turkey and Iraq after World War I, when their Muslim neighbors suspected them of siding with the former Ottoman Empire's Christian adversaries. With Iraq virtually defeated by the United States and Great Britain, Muslims' fingers of accusation could once again point to Assyrians.
New Rochelle resident Joe Akalski, 29, a deacon at Mar Mari, said he hoped the United States would prevent any sectarian conflict.
"If the new government is a true democracy and secular ... I would hope there wouldn't be reprisals on anyone," said Akalski, as he and the congregation enjoyed a meatless Lenten meal.
Mar Mari is a parish of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, a denomination descending from St. Thomas the Apostle.
Assyrians are a Semitic people who trace their ancestry to Mesopotamia and speak modern Aramaic, an ancient version of which was used in the Talmud and spoken by Jesus Christ.
Assyrians began arriving in Yonkers in the mid-20th century, mostly from Iran and Iraq. Mar Mari, which has about 200 families from the tri-state area as members, was founded in 1952, and construction on the current building began in 1966.
The 2000 census documented 82,355 people of Assyrian ancestry in the United States, with 179 in Yonkers and 429 in Westchester County.
In contrast, the Assyrian International News Agency estimates 3.2 million Assyrians worldwide, with 1.5 million in Iraq and 400,000 in the United States. The organization said the discrepancy between the census figures and its numbers might result from Assyrians being counted as Iraqis or other Middle Easterners.
After yesterday's Mass, Yonkers resident Ivan Mirza accepted condolences for the death of his brother, Boris, who suffered a heart attack. Mirza, 71, supported President Bush's decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein, but lamented the ensuing chaos as a bad omen for Iraqi unity.
"I can see looting government buildings," said Mirza, who
arrived in Yonkers from Iran in 1964, "but looting museums, universities
and hospitals? It shows that they are not a nation proud of its possessions."
ASSYRIAN LENDS SUPPORT TO BUSH, FINDS HERSELF ON DEPORTATION LIST
Courtesy of the Washington Post (23 April); by Peter Carlson
(ZNDA: Washington) On March 14, when President Bush was seeking international support for an invasion of Iraq, he summoned Iraqi exile Katrin Michael to a meeting in the Oval Office, where she recounted her horrific story of being gassed by Saddam Hussein's troops in 1987.
That day, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and State Department spokesman Richard Boucher both used the meeting as an opportunity to issue statements attacking Hussein for his use of chemical weapons. And Michael told her story on National Public Radio and ABC-TV.
A week later -- on March 21, the day after the war began -- Michael received a letter from the Immigration and Naturalization Service demanding that she report to a deportation officer.
"I was scared, I got crazy," says Michael, 53, who works as a translator for the Iraq Foundation in Washington. "I asked the deportation officer, 'You're going to deport me in this war situation?' And he said, 'No, you should be detained.' I said, 'I met President Bush last week and now I'll be in jail in America?' "
This morning, Michael is scheduled to meet with her deportation officer. "I'm going to take a picture of me with President Bush and show it to him," she says.
The White House declines to discuss Michael or the deportation action against her. A White House press officer referred inquiries to the National Security Council, which referred inquiries to the State Department, which referred inquiries to the Department of Homeland Security, where Greg Gagne, spokesman for the Executive Office of Immigration Review, uttered this on-the-record comment:
"We don't discuss these things."
Michael's deportation problem is just the latest crisis in a life
filled with turmoil and horror. She was born in 1950 in northern Iraq,
a member of the Assyrian Christian minority in that predominantly
In the early '70s she studied geology at Mosul University, where she acquired a reputation as an outspoken feminist.
"She was very active and very vocal," recalls Audisho Khoshaba, a Chicago doctor who met Michael when they were both students at Mosul. "She was harassed by the Baath regime. They tried to intimidate her."
In 1976, Michael won a scholarship to study geology and petroleum engineering in Azerbaijan, then part of the Soviet Union. By the time she returned to Iraq with a PhD in geology in 1982, Hussein had seized power, her father had died after another brutal stint in prison, and two of her brothers had joined the Peshmerga, the Kurdish guerrillas fighting Hussein's army. She, too, joined the Peshmerga, she says, organizing support among women in Kurdistan.
Sitting in her small Arlington apartment, she pulls out a photo album filled with snapshots from her guerrilla days. In one picture, she stands on a rocky mountainside, holding a rifle. In another, she's smiling broadly, cuddling a friend's son, a little boy named Sim-Sim, who was, she says, later injured in a gas attack by the Iraqi army.
She turns the page to a photo of guerrillas and points to a smiling young woman. "This is me," she says. She points to another guerrilla. "This is a friend of mine. He was killed."
She flips to another page, this one a photo of people sitting in a stone house. "This is me," she says. "This is my friend. Her brother was killed in a fight. We were having a ceremony for him, a funeral."
When she closes the album, her eyes are glossed with tears. "Through all my travels, I lost everything else, but I kept these photos," she says. "I feel this is my wealth."
All through the 1980s, while Iraq was at war with Iran, the Peshmerga guerrillas fought Hussein's army in the rugged mountains of Kurdistan. On June 5, 1987, the Iraqi army, which had already used poison gas against Iranian troops, dropped bombs containing mustard and cyanide gas on Kurdish guerrillas in the Zewa valley. Michael was there.
"Every day they were bombing us," she says. "This was not something strange. This was for us a usual day. But it was the first time they used chemical weapons."
She takes out a piece of paper and draws a rough map -- squiggly lines for two rows of mountains, a couple of straight lines for the stream that ran through the valley in between.
"Here is the stream and here are the Peshmerga sites and here are the civilian villages," she says. "It was a valley, so the poison gas didn't blow away. It stayed in the valley."
The bombs fell about 7:30 that night. At first, the guerrillas didn't know the bombs contained poison gas. There was an odd smell -- like rotten garlic, she says -- but they figured it was sulfur from the explosions. Then one guerrilla, her friend Rebar Ajeel, said he felt ill.
"He said, 'I took a lot of the sulfur,' and he vomited everything from his stomach and I took him some water and we put him on a blanket."
She stops, takes a deep breath, continues. "We didn't know it was chemical weapons. We just give him some water."
It was a summer night and the guerrillas slept outdoors on a terrace, she says, but she decided to sleep inside. She doesn't know why she did, but she figures now that it might have saved her life.
At 2 in the morning, she was awakened by someone screaming, "Get
up!" She stumbled outside to find hundreds of people -- guerrillas
and civilians -- gathered around a bonfire. By then, they realized
But it didn't work. All around her people were vomiting, their stomachs twisting in pain, their eyes swollen shut, their skin covered with a rash. Her own eyes swelled, too, until she could barely see.
"You feel like they're infected," she says. "They are swollen and red and it really hurts."
They fled into the mountains, where they hoped the air would be cleaner. Stumbling, sick and nearly blind, the guerrillas and villagers climbed, with those who could still see leading those who'd gone blind. Her friend Rebar Ajeel, the first person to feel the symptoms, was carried on a mule.
By the time they reached the top, Michael was blind. For three days she couldn't see, she says, then her vision returned. She was lucky. Some people stayed blind for a month. Two people died -- one of them Ajeel. "The poor man was 28 years old," she says.
That attack was merely an early, crude experiment. Over the next year, the Iraqi army learned to make its gas attacks more lethal. On March 16, 1988, Iraqi troops gassed the Kurdish town of Halabja, killing 5,000 civilians and injuring 10,000, according to State Department figures.
The attacks sent thousands of Kurds fleeing to Turkey. Michael, then 38, joined the exodus and ended up in a Turkish refugee camp. It was a terrible place, she says, so she sneaked into Syria, where she was briefly jailed for entering the country illegally. After being released, she arranged for a job teaching geology in Algeria, here, she says, she was harassed by Muslim fundamentalists who frowned on Christian women teaching college. In 1991, she fled to Bulgaria, then later to Russia, then Romania, then Greece, where she found work as a translator for three years.
In December 1997, at 47, she came to the United States, hoping to find a translator and a publisher for her memoirs, which she'd written in Arabic while in Greece. Living with cousins in Southern California, she applied for asylum in 1998, but her application was denied. She filed an appeal.
While her appeal was pending, she moved to Washington in 2000 and found a job at the Iraq Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to bringing democracy to Iraq. She works translating Iraqi government documents captured by Kurdish rebels in 1991.
Last year, as America debated the prospect of war in Iraq, Michael
wrote an op-ed essay that was printed in several newspapers. "As
an Iraqi woman who wages peace and has fought in war, I am compelled
to support a
In March, Michael and several other Iraqi refugees met with national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Cheney. Then, on the eve of the 15th anniversary of the Halabja attack, they were summoned to meet Bush.
That night she called her brother Basil, who lives in Toronto with her mother. "When I walked into the Oval Office," she remembers telling him, "it was like a dream."
The rude awakening came a week later, when she received the letter demanding that she report to a "deportation officer." Stunned, she called the officer and learned that her asylum appeal had been rejected by the Board of Immigration Appeals in December.
She contacted Riva Khoshaba, a Washington lawyer who is the daughter of her old Mosul University friend Audisho Khoshaba.
"She was pretty scared," says Riva Khoshaba, who agreed to take her case without charge. "This is a pretty scary thing for someone who has been a refugee for 20 years."
Khoshaba hopes to reopen Michael's case, and she has enlisted the aid of veteran Chicago immigration attorney Robert De Kelaita.
"This woman should not be deported or detained," De Kelaita
says. "This could be very embarrassing for the Bush administration.
It could spark an interesting debate in the Arab world over how Iraqis
are treated in
Michael admits that she's a little scared about the prospect of deportation. She'd like to return to Iraq eventually, she says, but she worries about her safety there now.
"Where should I go?" she asks. "Should I travel to
Iraq? I give you a question: Where should I go?"
Courtesy of the Poker Magazine (28 April)
(ZNDA: Turlock) The Assyrian American Civic Club plans to resume its bingo games Sunday, more than a year and a half after police shut them down and a month before the Assyrian State Convention of California– to be held in Turlock this year.
The club has obtained nonprofit status -- the lack of it prompted the closure -- and will have to follow tightened rules the City Council adopted in November for all bingo operators. "We really want to keep our name clean and go on a clear path," said Peggie Jacob Hernandez, secretary of the club's educational foundation, set up to provide the games.
Meanwhile, the Stanislaus County district attorney's office continues to look into possible misdeeds in past bingo operations at the club. The nature of the case has not been disclosed since it was opened in October 2000, and Deputy District Attorney Brad Nix declined Thursday to comment on it.
The bingo games have been a popular activity at the club, at 2618 N. Golden State Blvd. Hernandez said as many as 500 people of various ethnic backgrounds have turned out, playing for prizes the state caps at $250 for all operations.
Over about 20 years, the club has given several hundred thousand dollars from bingo to causes such as Emanuel Medical Center and scholarships for Turlock High School students, Hernandez said. Now the proceeds will go through a foundation with nonprofit status, which shields the money from state and federal taxes.
"Its sole purpose is to promote education and culture and to help the community at large, like we've always done anyway," Hernandez said. The May 4 reopening will feature a free chicken dinner. The doors will open at 4 p.m., and bingo will go from 6:30 to 10 p.m.
The club will offer bingo from 6:30 to 10 p.m. every Sunday and Tuesday. The new police permit allows Thursday evening games, but they are not planned for now, Hernandez said. The games previously were on all three days. Players will pay $10 for three sets of cards, each with six bingo grids. Extra sets will sell for $2 each.
Police suspended the previous permit in August 2001 and issued the new one in February. In the meantime, the council adopted citywide rules that require monthly financial reports, annual audits and maintenance of separate bank accounts for bingo revenue. Also, armed guards hired for the games cannot be affiliated with the operators.
Hernandez said leaders of the club expect a lot of scrutiny from
police to ensure it adheres to the permit conditions. "We're
hoping for the best, and we're urging our customers to all come,"
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM
Ford Community and Performing Arts Center
I talked to Tarik Daoud, a Catholic from Basra who now lives in Bloomfield Hills. When the dictator regime fell, here's what Tariq said, he said: I am more hopeful today than I've been since 1958. We need to take the little children in Iraq and hold their hands and really teach them what freedom is all about. He says: the new generation could really make democracy work.
He's right to be optimistic. From the beginning of this conflict we have seen brave Iraqi citizens taking part in their own liberation. Iraqis have warned our troops about land mines and enemy hideouts and military arsenals.
Whether you're Sunni or Shia or Kurd or Chaldean or Assyrian or Turkoman or Christian or Jew or Muslim -- -- no matter what your faith, freedom is God's gift to every person in every nation. As freedom takes hold in Iraq, the Iraqi people will choose their own leaders and their own government. America has no intention of imposing our form of government or our culture. Yet, we will ensure that all Iraqis have a voice in the new government and all citizens have their rights protected.
Day by day, hour by hour, life in Iraq is getting better for the citizens. Yet, much work remains to be done. I have directed Jay Garner and his team to help Iraq achieve specific long-term goals. And they're doing a superb job. Congress recently allocated $2.5 -- nearly $2.5 billion for Iraq's relief and reconstruction. With that money, we are renewing Iraq with the help of experts from inside our government, from private industry, from the international community and, most importantly, from within Iraq.
We are dispatching teams across Iraq to assess the critical needs of the Iraqi people. We're clearing land mines. We're working with Iraqis to recover artifacts, to find the hoodlums who ravished the National Museum of Antiquities in Baghdad. Like many of you here, we deplore the actions of the citizens who ravished that museum. And we will work with the Iraqi citizens to find out who they were and to bring them to justice.
We're working toward an Iraq where, for the first time ever, electrical power is reliable and widely available. One of our goals is to make sure everybody in Iraq has electricity. Already, 17 major power plants in Iraq are functioning. Our engineers are meeting with Iraqi engineers. We're visiting power plants throughout the country, and determining which ones need repair, which ones need to be modernized, and which ones are obsolete, power plant by power plant. More Iraqis are getting the electricity they need.
We're working to make Iraq's drinking water clean and dependable. American and Iraqi water sanitation engineers are inspecting treatment plants across the country to make sure they have enough purification chemicals and power to produce safe water.
We're working to give every Iraqi access to immunizations and emergency treatment, and to give sick children and pregnant women the health care they need. Iraqi doctors and nurses and other medical personnel are now going back to work. Throughout the country, medical specialists from many countries are identifying the needs of Iraqis hospitals, for everything from equipment and repairs to water, to medicines.
We're working to improve Iraqi schools by funding a back to school campaign that will help train and recruit Iraqi teachers, provide supplies and equipment, and bring children across Iraq back into clean and safe schools.
And as we do that, we will make sure that the schools are no longer used as military arsenals and bunkers, and that teachers promote reading, rather than regime propaganda. And because Iraq is now free, economic sanctions are pointless. It is time for the United Nations to lift the sanctions so the Iraqis could use some resources to build their own prosperity.
Like so many generations of immigrants, Iraqi Americans have embraced and enriched this great country, without ever forgetting the land of your birth. Liberation for Iraq has been a long time coming, but you never lost faith. You knew the great sorrow of Iraq. You also knew the great promise of Iraq, and you shared the hope of the Iraqi people.
You and I both know that Iraq can realize those hopes. Iraq can be an example of peace and prosperity and freedom to the entire Middle East. It'll be a hard journey, but at every step of the way, Iraq will have a steady friend in the American people.
May God continue to bless the United States of America, and long live a free Iraq.
O IRAQIS: UNTIL WHEN THIS SILENCE AGAINST THE FOOLISHNESS OF BARAZANI-TALABANI
For years, we have been alerting the readers about the Kurds. The Barazani, Talabani, and their followers, have used their media to promote their cessation and chauvinistic plans. These plans have materialized through actions that have been undertaken in such a manner that is contrary to Iraqi nationalism and human conscious.
Let us list few of the Kurdish latest actions:
The Iraqi Zionism
The Barazani media sources and intelligence that gained its experience from their training in Israel, have succeeded to infiltrate the Iraqi Diaspora Political-Cultural medium. Using the millions of dollars they have raised and profits from their shares in oil, they have directed many politicians and intellectual Iraqis into submision. These activities, whether in the open or private, included salaries they paid to certain political organizations in the so-called parliament - the Barazani parliament. Such beneficiaries included the Iraqi Communist Party and certain Assyrian and Turkomen organizations. One can imagine the importance of these salaries if we realized that the Iraqi Communist Party publicly declares with pride that its main source of income is such salaries that made it a tractable tail for the Barazani policies.
As far as the intellectuals, the Barazani has followed the Ba'athis well-known policies. This is accomplished by purchasing their allegiance and organizing festivals in the no-fly zone of north of Iraq and inviting the Iraqi intellectuals abroad to attend and celebrate them and present them with monetary and symbolic gifts including hard cash for purchasing homes in the region. The Iraqis of London specifically know how the Barazani financed many heads of the organizations especially those in the Opposition groups. They are aware of how the same is followed with well-known Iraqi newspapers like "al-Zaman" and "al-Mu'tamar." These institutions have turned to the non-official spoken-sources for the Kurdish racialist expansion plans and Barazani-styled federalism.
The outcome of this Kurdish cancerous infiltration in the abroad Iraqi political, cultural, and journalistic essence, is this absolute silence in the Iraqi medium about all that is committed by the Barazanis from stupidity, shameless and impudent haughtiness. Indeed, a collaborated and despised silence among the Iraqis is reaching degrees of fanaticism. There is a split personality, sort of a sickness, in the Iraqis behavior towards the Kurdish issue. Whether behind closed doors, orally, and in their phone conversations, majority of Iraqis complain and are fed-up from such behavior, but in public, official meetings, and in their writings, Iraqis seldom dare to express it. The Iraqi politician and intellectual naturally has been used to express his feelings publicly about all the Iraqi factions and matters, including those issues holy to them, except the Kurdish issue. The latter has become like a horrifying wearisome reverent and forbidden matter. This is exactly similar to the situation of the western writers and politicians when it comes to the issue of the Jews. We see them criticize the most reverent with the exception of issues concerning the Jews, no matter what, even if it was about the fingernail of a Jewish weapon merchant because they are afraid to be accused of racial hatred and anti-Semitic! Didn't we tell you that the Barazanis have succeeded to implement their masters', i.e. the Israeli Mosad, policies?
The Barazanis have taken advantage of many Diaspora Iraqi weak points, especially those relating to economical hardship and the absence of a democratic country that represents and protect them. In addition, they have taken advantage of a soft and crumbly feeling of the national belonging, and due to competitions between the various ethnic, religious, and sectarian groups and the absence of faith in honored national values that have been agreed upon by all Iraqis. It is because of our political and cultural malformed and distorted upbringing, which we analyzed in previous articles, the Iraqi considers that everything that relates to Iraq, whether as state, its history, or national belonging is open to negotiation, and to public bidding. Even when relating to the borders of Iraq, the Kurds were able to propagate their malignant proverb "a smaller Iraq, is a better Iraq." These above reasons have given Hamid al-Bayati, an official with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is backed by Iran, to state naively: "We do not believe that the Kurds will occupy Kirkuk and Mosul because the Turks object that!" Imagine an Iraqi political leader speaking about Iraqi regions, which is part of his country, as if it is a foreign problem between the Kurds and the Turks. What is worse and more offensive is that the Iraqi intellectuals and politicians accept non-nationalistic and non-conscious stands like these as if they are very natural issues.
Let us Break the Silence Before it is too Late
For all these reasons together, we will not be surprised if there was absence of any reactions towards the Kurdish racial and dangerous plans for the future of Iraq.
Yes, the Kurdish insolence and childish naivety have reached a point where they are preparing to expand on their Kurdistan to include Baghdad too. They are the cancer indeed and if overlooked, it will spread in the Iraqi body without mercy. Knowing that the Iraqi Zionism's undeclared goal is the Iraqi division into two camps, Shi'ai and Sunni, in order to convince them both easier to proclaim sort of an ethnic and sectarian Federalism. This will clear the way for the Kurds to accomplish their dream to control the entire northern Iraq up to Baghdad's borders. This is not a guess rather an official fact, written in their constitution that was ratified by their parliament last year.
O Iraqis, stop this submissiveness towards the Zionists of Iraq … shake off your national conscious … speak out, write articles, issue declarations, and disclose the facts about this dangerous Barazani and Talabani infiltration. We must protect our brothers within Iraq from falling in the same mistake those in the Diaspora fell in.
O noble Iraqi Kurds, resist and disclose these uncalculated and risky plans, which involved you in losing wars and adventures. These wars were not for your benefit rather to the benefit of a few reckless adventurers and merchants of politics, who have turned themselves into donkeys driven by competed regional and international forces.
Let us unite under one voice so that our country will not face what the torn Kurdish regions themselves have faced with the two struggling mercenary principalities, the Sorani Talaban and Bahdinani Barazan …
Be aware and be alert before the ox is fallen on our head and our country is fallen victim to this Kurdish cancer after the disappearance of the Arab Ba'athist cancer. Be aware before Iraq is torn to pieces scattered here and there, which is the first and biggest dream of Israel.
[Z-info: Mr. Salim Matar is the author of "al-dhat al-Jareeha" ‘The Wounded Self’. The above article is an unauthorized translation of the original from Arabic.]
THE FIRST CHALDEAN CHURCH SERVICE IN TEALS, FRANCE
Courtesy of the Parisian (26 April) & Association des Assyro-Chaldéens France; by Emeline Cazi
(ZNDA: Paris) The bells of the Chaldean church of Teals, cast in Orlêans, were blessed at 5 pm on 26 April by Cardinal Lustiger. The archbishop of Paris is also the Common of the Eastern Catholics of France, often known as the Assyro-Chaldeans. These parishioners are native of Turkey and Iraq, numbering more than 16,000, who have settled in France. The most important community lives around Teals with a little less than 10,000 persons. It is there that the Chaldeans decided to build a church which has become their first place of assembly in France. The blessing ceremony marked the end of the construction project which began in July 2001. Situated along the railroad, on the verge of Saint-Brice, the medieval looking church of Saint-Thomas-Apôtre will soon welcome over 600 believers.
Four carved towers, wide visible yellow crosses on each, walls made by brick. Father Sabri of the new Chaldean Church describes the symbolic architecture of the church: the carved towers were modeled after famous Gate of Ishtar of Babylon, and the crosses are of oriental tradition. The material, the brick, used in Mesopotamia, also recalls the past of the families living in Teals.
The community worked together for the past fifteen years to make
the project a success. Through donations, the parishioners participated
actively in the realization of the project. Total cost of the
construction to date: approximately 4 million euro (US $4,000,000).
It was necessary to revise the initial plans, for financial but
also practical reasons. The first license to build the church
was revoked because it was void of any plans for sufficient parking.
The license to build was finally granted in 1999.
ANNA EWAN NATOURTA
I AM the Guard...
Like the Eagle, which flies into the storm--
I AM the courageous example for my people, my children... constant
I AM the Guard of Assyria's name...
Babylon's wisdom flows through my veins;
I AM the Flame of Freedom. and I pass on the Torch.
I AM the Codes of Hammurabi--foundation for justice;
I AM the Gods and Goddesses who inspired cities, nations,
From my womb came the wheel, the city, water canals, astronomy,
Discovery of Bronze was my baptism into industry; Agriculture,
I AM the language of Jesus buried in a heart,
I carried the Christian message into the far corners of the East---
I AM an honorable household protecting my family,
My name is forgotten, often feared...
They nationalize my schools to erase my language,
They ravage my villages, destroy my churches, imprison my people,
Kill my culture in an Arabic world;
Still I remain...
For over 6,000 years I have known persecution by
They took the names of my Kings.
Alexander, the Great, obliterated my nation's bounds; followed
I AM called a "geographic expression", a nation in exile.
I AM the British occupation from 1918. my people's spirit and
I AM the crying child of Semele in 1933; the senseless massacre
I AM the stones hurled at the women;
I AM the rivers filled with the blood of my sons...
I AM the mother breastfeeding her young in the chilly mountain;
I AM the Patriarchs silenced to hide truth;
I AM General Agha Petros, riding for freedom;
I AM the Levy of World Wars I and II, fighting as "The littlest
I AM the Proclamation of the League of Nations,
Denied, ignored. defenseless...homeless.
I was exiled, scattered over other lands--Syria, Russia, Germany,
My people pursued;
In the face of defeat, I forge a history of boldly venturing
I remain the Freedom Fighter throughout the world and
>From a distance I sustain my brothers and sisters;
I AM the voices, the tears, the possessions pursued,
I AM the sword, the Blue Beret, the Bible carried by my people
I AM "Shamiram", the highest name, out of which all names come;
I AM the dance that preserves the battle cry, the warrior's steps,
I AM the throaty joy of harp, flute, drum;
I AM the plaintive song of violin; the voice resonating the Mother
I AM the consecrated bread in temples across continents; crushed
I AM the humble, committed leaders who rouse the flame of my
I AM the revolution in Truth that science nurtures,
I AM the "Handiwork of God" of Isaiah 19; the Tree of Life;
I AM the land of Ashur, the Motherland;
I AM Bet-Nahrain.
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