REV. KEN JOSEPH'S PRESENTATION IN SAN JOSE: THE ASSYRIAN SITUATION IN IRAQ
Rev. Ken Joseph Jr. has traveled to Iraq twice, before and after the War. On his second trip to Baghdad after the war, he brought with him tons of supplies for Assyrians, including drinking water, food, and medicine. He returned few days ago to the United States. We talked on the phone, and then we met for a while before his presentation.
I had seen him days before leaving San Jose for Iraq prior to the start of the war. Meeting him this time around was as if I was looking at a different person; he was not the joyful Ken I had met few months earlier. Obviously, the situation of Assyrians in Iraq had affected him, which was reflected throughout his presentation. In one certain moment he was so emotional that he could barely speak and that left tears in everybody's eyes. The presentation he gave in San Jose on June 11, 2003 was very depressing and discouraging for me. The picture he gave about the Assyrian affairs is completely different from what we hear through the Assyrian political organizations present in Iraq.
Rev. Joseph stressed in his presentation the importance of appropriate and qualified Assyrian representation in their negotiations with the Americans, who are going to decide the fate of Iraq. The Assyrians of Iraq, says Rev. Joseph, are not qualified to carry on sophisticated dialogue in English and are not in position to make any demands because they are afraid from the Kurds and the Shi'aa. Whatever demands the Assyrian representatives are making, are coming from a point of weakness and not from strength. The Assyrians, he says, seem to suffer from a Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Decades of oppression have left the Assyrians of Iraq afraid; they lack self-confidence; and are hesitant from presenting their rightful demands. They need qualified Assyrians from the Diaspora on the ground in Iraq to give those in Iraq moral support and to negotiate with the Americans aggressively.
The Assyrians of Iraq, continues Rev. Joseph, lack the basic communication skills in the language of those making the decisions, i.e. English. They are so happy when they get an opportunity to meet with the Americans but when they do, they seem to be content with having the meeting itself rather than addressing their demands. Furthermore, they seem sometimes confused about what the outcome of the meeting was all about! Rev. Joseph explains that in one specific meeting for example, in which he was present, he personally understood one thing while the Assyrians thought that the Americans had promised them something else!
Furthermore, Joseph stresses that the Assyrians must not rely on verbal promises and must be careful with the language the Americans are using. It is vital that any promises be documented and official, because at the end of the day, verbal promises could be forgotten all together or they simply would not stand. Most importantly, the Iraqi constitution is going to be written soon and Assyrians need urgently to look for qualified individuals, lawyers for example, or experts in how constitutions are constructed and phrased because how the constitution is worded could make a lot of difference.
One of the things that caught Rev. Joseph’s eyes throughout his visits was the absence of the Assyrian flag especially when everybody else raises their ethnic flags. He asserts that he visited so many towns and villages and he did not see one Assyrian flag. Before the war, he was told that Saddam will turn on them if they did that. What was the excuse for not raising the Assyrian flag after the liberation of Iraq, Joseph wonders. Many Assyrians had told him that nobody cares for, supports, or backs them up and they believe that the Americans will betray them just like the British did in the past. The general population feels that the Americans are there today and will leave few months from now and if they demand too much, ask for protection, or raise the flag, for example, the Moslems will turn against them later. Rev. Joseph then explained that Assyrians must ask for at least autonomy and self-rule; it is the only way to guarantee their protection because they cannot survive as a weak minority among a hostile majority.
One alarming point raised by Rev. Joseph was the fact that Islamic fundamentalists are not only controlling the south, but also enforcing their control over Baghdad. Fundamental Islamic groups, says Joseph, are laying their hands over many Iraqi service institutions, such as hospitals. These groups had infiltrated the hospitals and had began to install their connections in the administrative personnel depts. and started to pay the employees who have not been paid for months, thus gain their support. Joseph brought our attention to the letters that are being sent to Assyrian families ordering them to abide by the rules of Islam, such as wearing the veil, or face harsh consequences like rape and murder among other things. He had a sample of one such hand-written letter with him.
On June 13, BBC on-line News published an article in which UN officials confirmed the intimidation practices of Islamic extremists and the specific demands of radical clerics that women and girls, even Christians, must wear the veil. One UN Iraqi staff member had received a hand-written letter saying that she would be killed unless she started covering her hair, the BBC reported.
The June 13th issue of The Christian Science Monitor (CSM) touched on the issue of the treatment of women in the new Iraq. The CSM stated that women are being told to wear the "hijab," an Islamic head scarf, and the "'abaya," the big and billowing head-to-toe black cloth that is placed over a long black cloak—which itself is worn over a woman's under-clothing—with a separate, tightly fastened head scarf, similar to the chador worn in Iran. This is happening everywhere, including the universities. One wonders if the new Iraq is going to be ruled by the Islamic Shi'aa cleric and the fate of the Assyrian Christians in such society.
Rev Joseph was distressed by the fact that the Assyrians of Iraq have almost completely forgotten how to believe and pray. He adds that the Assyrians have been, for all practical purposes, culturally Islamized. He continues to state that they have forgotten their savior Jesus Christ; and have forgotten the promise of God that Assyrian will rise again. Whenever meeting with Assyrians, he reminded them with the Isaiah 19:23-25: "In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance."
One final note, Rev. Joseph tried hard to avoid talking about the name issue even when he was asked about it. Repeatedly, he excused the audience for not being able to answer questions or discuss issues in connection with this matter. However, he was so pressed that he finally stated that he really did not want to get into that specific issue but he explained: “I have met some hundred individual members of the Chaldean Catholic Church and asked every single one of them whether they were Assyrians. The only answer he received each time was a clear ‘No’." Rev. Joseph left it at that.
I was very disturbed throughout the three-hour long presentation and the following question and answer session. We are getting two different pictures here and one does not know whom and what to believe. Is the future of Iraq as rosy as our political groups are portraying it or is Iraq on the brinks of being another Iran or perhaps Lebanon?
[Z-info: For more information on Rev. Ken Joseph and his activities, visit ww.assyrianchristians.com]
THE CHARTER DECLARATION OF THE CHALDO-ASSYRIAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE
[Z-info: The following is an unauthorized translation of the first press release of the Chaldo-Assyrian National Committee from Arabic.]
Today, our blessed Churches have come together represented by all denominations, united, responding to the call of their congregations. This gathering was under the leadership and presence of Mar Addai II, Patriarch of the Ancient Church of the East; Mar Shlimon Warduni, Assistant Patriarch of the Chaldean Church; Mar Gewargis Sliwa, Bishop of the Church of the East; Mar Soryous Hawa, Bishop of the Syrian Orthodox Church; Mar Mattai Shaba Matoka, Bishop of the Syrian Catholic Church; Mar Jack Isaac, Dean of Babylon College for Philosophy and Theology; and Mar Avak Assadorian, Bishop of the Armenian Orthodox Church and other clergies.
The very inclusive meeting took place on May 13, 2003 at the Hall of the St. Mary’s Church in Baghdad. The guests discussed issues concerning our people in a new Iraq. They stressed the importance of the formation of a committee that includes all our Churches and authorized a follow up to these issues and adopted a single collective national name for our single nation.
For this purpose and to facilitate this process, because of the current situation - since our country of Iraq is at the brink of many changes, including the drafting of the new constitution and laws that must affirm our national existence and full rights side by side with other Iraqi ethnic groups - the meetings continued and on the 19th of May 2003 the following people were elected to form the Committee:
From the Chaldean Catholic Church
From the Church of the East
From the Ancient Church of the East
From the Syrian Orthodox Church
From the Syrian Catholic Church
The Committee from the first day of its inception began to visit the members of the Churches and their Bishops, and the headquarters of the organizations. In the spirit of a united group they conducted many meetings. They adopted in the Syriac language, the title of “Chaldo-Assyrian” for our nation. The name of the Committee became the Chaldo-Assyrian National Committee and they issued the following declaration:
“Our Chaldo-Assyrian nation has roots that go back into the Akkadian roots in the deepest of human history. They are the descendants of the ancient Iraqi civilization (Sumerian and Akkadian), the builders of the first human civilization, whose roots were established in the 24th century B.C. by Sargon of Akkad, the founder of the first empire known in history. This political existence of the Akkadians continued with two names, first the Assyrians who established their kingdom at the end of the Third millennium B.C. and influenced the ancient Near East. The second were Babylonians whose political influence continued from the beginning of the second millennium B.C. and the last Babylonian ruling dynasty was the Chaldean dynasty that ruled between 626 and 539 B.C.
Our Assyrian and Babylonian forefathers participated greatly in the continuation and development of the first Iraqi civilization. They codified laws, organized daily matters, built civilized societies with freedom, prosperity and justice. They have left behind the archeological remains and their writings in all aspects of life including literature, medicine, law and other sciences.
The Aramaic language and its Syriac successor since the 8th or 9th century B.C. existed along with its sister language the Akkadian (Assyrian-Babylonian), because the Aramaic language was simpler for writing due to the use of the alphabet instead the cuneiform. This language became the official language of their kingdom and literature and culture since the Achamenid dynasty in entire Iraq and the neighboring countries.
With the advent of Christianity in Mesopotamia in the A.D. First century our Chaldo-Assyrian forefathers took this new religion and spread it in the entire East. In Syriac language, they wrote all the liturgical expressions of the Eastern church and all its denominations. From the Mediterranean shores to China, this complete supremacy of the Syriac language in entire Iraq continued until the first half of the A.D. 7th century. The Syriac language played its vital role in entire Iraq along with its sister language the Arabic. It remained a dynamic language until the A.D. 13th century when the Arabian Kingdom fell in the hand of the invading Mongols.
Our forefathers, the Suryans (which is the name given to Chaldo-Assyrians), participated greatly in building the Arab civilization, by participating in the initial movement in the literary work, publications, and unique achievements in all aspects of sciences. They made great efforts in translating various scientific works into Syriac language and also Arabic.
But the presence of Chaldo-Assyrians diminished greatly, due to foreign invasion of Iraq, especially in the hands of Hulako and Timaur Lane and those who followed them. But our people survived despite all harsh conditions and extermination attempts. Our Syriac language survived with its literature, heritage despite its disuse. Since the establishment of the Iraqi national government in the 1920’s our people revived slowly.
Today and after the start of the new era in our country all our dear Iraqi people are looking forward to building of a country and to live prosperously. Our nation, with all its attributes and our Chaldo-Assyrian people with all that they possess of the heritage, through hard and long struggle with their infinite gifts, continue this role side by side our national forces. Through their political and cultural organizations, they seek:
We promised the Iraqi people that we would do our best for the
unity of Iraq, its freedom, prosperity and its progress.
KURDISH PARTIES MERGE, MAY INCLUDE ZOWAA LEADERSHIP
(ZNDA: Dohuk) Iraq's two main Kurdish political parties agreed last week to merge their local administrations in order to exert greater influence in Iraq's national politics. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), run separate elected governments in the Kurdish region in northern Iraq that has been independent from Baghdad since 1991.
Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani, set up a six-member committee to map out a plan for unification. The group was charged with completing a proposal by the end of June.
Mr. Talabani will take with him a proposal for expanding the seven-member council that advises the American administration. The additional members are Mr. Yonadem Kanna, Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa) and Mr. Adnan Pachichi, a former Iraqi diplomat who has been vocal in his support of Kurdish interests.
Mr. Kanna’s influence is growing quickly as the five Syiac-speaking
Churches in Iraq agreed with his group to use the compound name
of Chaldo-Assyrian for the official designation of the Syriac-speaking
people of Iraq. Last week, the ADM officials in North America announced
the opening of a new Zowaa branch office in the British-controlled
city of Basra.
ZOWAA GUARD INJURED DURING CLASHES WITH EX-OFFICERS IN MOSUL
(ZNDA: Mosul) On Thursday 12 June, ex-military personnel from Saddam Hussein's Baath party demonstrated against the United States in Mosul to protest loss of jobs and income.
During the angry clashes, U.S. forces killed four Iraqis. Following the clashes, a group of former Iraqi military personnel headed to the offices of the Iraqi National Accord (I.N.A), an ex-Iraqi opposition group previously based in England.
The demonstrators, armed with knives and other weapons, attacked the personnel inside the building. I.N.A staff managed to escape to the Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa) headquarters in Dawasa, Mosul. ADM (Zowaa) guards successfully dispersed the crowd by firing warning shots from their AK-47 guns in the air.
On the following day, the ex-Offiders returned to attack the ADM
(Zowaa) building, this time armed with automatic weapons. One ADM
guard was injured by a bullet which struck his head. He is now in
a stable condition and and treated in an intensive care unit.
KDP RELEASES 8 ABDUCTED HBA MEMBERS
(ZNDA: Mosul) According to an official Statement of the Political Bureau of the Patriotic Union of Mesopotamia (Khuyada d`Bethnahrain Athraya - HBA) in Mosul, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) released eight abducted members of this organization in early June.
Yasar Kücükaslan, Jack Yakob Shen, Gebro Gurbuz, Fikri Hobel, Basar Isho, Salih Pedaui, Ivan Franciss Yoran and Efrem Semir were abducted from Bartila in Mosul on 15 April and remained in captivity in Salahaddin for nearly seven weeks.
The report from the Tebe-News in Europe notes that the Patriotic
Union of Bethnahrin plans to expand its operation in Mosul, Kirkuk
and Baghdad, and begin work in the KDP-controlled Behdinan region.
BARZANI CALLS KIRKUK A KURDISTANI CITY
(ZNDA: Kirkuk) Nechirvan Barzani along with a number of other Kurdish ministers toured the city of Kirkuk today and visited the newly elected mayor of the city to congratulate him, his deputy and the city council members.
In a speech at the opening of the Shafaq cultural center in Kirkuk which will promote Kurdish language and culture, the Kurdish prime minister referred to the decades of Arabization and forced deportation of Kirkuki Kurds, Turkomens, Assyrians and Chaldeans by the previous regime. He stressed that Kirkuk is a Kurdistani city but that it should be a city for the peaceful co-existence of Kurds, Arabs, Turkomens, Assyrians and Chaldeans.
Modern Kirkuk was an important point of contact for the ancient Mesopotamian merchants in the first millenium B.C. Its original name was Arrapha. In a royal letter of assignment, King Sargon II (721-705 BC) notes his mediation between his two governors of the cities of Arrapha and Kalah on the issue of sharing a territory.
Later Arrapha was renamed "Kirkha d'Bet Slookh" as it maintained its importance in trade and a Christian center.
Courtesy of the Zenit News Agency (17 June)
(ZNDA: Mosul) Salesian priests in the Middle East are anxious to
be back among the children of Mosul after the war.
The Salesians are an international organization founded by St. John Bosco, the third largest Catholic religious order in the world. The camps encourage local parishes to initiate a process of socialization among the participating children. The camps organize a number of activities, including recreation, sports and formation.
U.S. LAWMAKER URGES PRESIDENT BUSH TO SUPPORT OFFICIAL RECOGNITION OF ASSYRIANS IN IRAQI GOVERNMENT
For Immediate Release
WASHINGTON - Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, introduced a resolution this week expressing concern for the status of Assyrians in post-war Iraq in an effort to draw attention to the plight of the two million Assyrians who were oppressed and not officially recognized under the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Cardoza, along with the resolution's broad list of bipartisan original
co-sponsors, also sent a letter today to President Bush, encouraging
official recognition of the Assyrian community in the new Iraq government.
The bill introduced Thursday by Cardoza calls for Assyrians to be entitled to freedom of religion, with the right to celebrate their culture, and supports consultation with Assyrian leaders in discussions regarding the future government of Iraq.
Specifically, the bill urges President Bush to instruct the Secretary of State and Ambassador to the United Nations to work to ensure that the rights and concerns of Assyrians are upheld in ongoing debates over the new government in Iraq.
"I heartily commend Congressman Cardoza for his commitment, compassion and concerted efforts to support the Iraqi-Assyrian minority in their rightful quest for inclusion in the 'new Iraq,'" said Lazar Piro, President of the Assyrian National Council of Stanislaus County.
The 18th Congressional District contains one of the largest Assyrian populations in the United States. The Assyrians are a distinct, indigenous people of Mesopotamia. Under Saddam Hussein, Assyrians were referred to simply as "Christian Arabs." They opposed the Hussein regime, and as a result, many Assyrian leaders were assassinated.
------Letter Begins Here--------
President George W. Bush
Dear Mr. President:
As debate over the future of post-war Iraq begins, we strongly encourage
official recognition of the Assyrian community in the new Iraqi government.
To accomplish this goal, we encourage you to include representatives
of the Iraqi Assyrian community -- one of the most significant minority
groups in Iraq -- to participate in meetings regarding the structure
and composition of the new government.
For many years, the Iraqi regime oppressed the Assyrian people in their attempts to obtain greater freedom and recognition. In Iraq, they were restricted from cultural, linguistic, and religious expression. Despite their oppression, the Assyrians were essential partners in the Iraqi opposition movement, but paid dearly in the assassination of many political leaders.
As the new government begins to take shape, we believe it is essential that the Assyrian people have a voice in the future of Iraq. We appreciate your attention to this matter and we look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
Members of Congress:
Dennis A. Cardoza
LAWMAKERS URGE BUSH TO NOT OVERLOOK ASSYRIANS
Courtesy of the Modesto Bee (16 June); by Michael Doyle
(ZNDA: Modesto) San Joaquin Valley lawmakers are urging the Bush
administration to include Assyrians in the new Iraqi leadership.
"We believe it is critically important for the future government of Iraq to recognize the Assyrian people, who made great sacrifices to oppose the regime of Saddam Hussein," the letter to President Bush stated.
Cardoza's district contains one of the largest Assyrian populations in the United States, with an estimated 10,000 living in Turlock alone.
Mariposa Republican George Radanovich, whose congressional district shares Stanislaus County with Cardoza, also signed the letter and joined in introducing a related House resolution.
The nonbinding House resolution voices "concern for the status" of Iraq's Assyrian population and urges that Assyrian rights be upheld under any new government.
"We're concerned with the Islamic fundamentalist parties in Iraq," said Sargon Dadesho, a Ceres resident and founder of the Assyrian National Congress. "There have been some speeches by the mullahs asking the Christians of Iraq to submit to Islamic law."
Dadesho said the new Iraqi constitution should recognize the nation's Assyrian population. The Iraqi constitution under deposed dictator Saddam Hussein referred to Assyrians as "Christian Arabs."
The Iraqi constitution remains a work in progress. The former U.S. diplomat overseeing the rebuilding, L. Paul Bremer III, discarded plans for convening a national conference to establish Iraq's new political leadership.
Instead, Bremer said he would select 25 to 30 Iraqis to serve on an interim advisory board.
Thursday, Bremer told reporters he expected to name the advisers "within the next four or five weeks." Bremer added that a larger convention of "several hundred" should convene in late July to draft a constitution.
The new House resolution states Assyrians should be "consulted and included in discussions" about the government. An eight-member international task force to which Dadesho belongs, and which he said represents the five leading Assyrian political parties, has asked the State Department to be incorporated into planning efforts.
The resolution is the first of its kind to be introduced on Assyrians' behalf since 1997, when a House measure expressing concern for the plight of Assyrians attracted two supporters and did not advance out of committee.
The Assyrian measure also reflects how Congress caters to concentrated ethnic populations with commemorative and advisory resolutions.
WARKA VASE RETURNED TO BAGHDAD MUSEUM
Courtesy of the Associated Press (13 June)
(ZNDA: Baghdad) The sacred Sumerian Vase of Warka, one of the most valuable artifacts of the Iraqi National Museum collection, feared lost forever, was returned on 12 June in the trunk of a car.
The 5,000-year-old white limestone vase, the world's oldest carved-stone ritual vessel, was handed over with other looted items, U.S.-led coalition forces said in a statement.
Three men gave the pieces to security staff at the central Baghdad museum, a gesture that could reassure archaeologists worried about Iraq's ancient treasures.
"This is one of the most important pieces from the Baghdad museum, and I am delighted it has been returned. It is reason for people all around the world to celebrate," said Pietro Cordone, senior adviser on culture for the Coalition Provisional Authority, the formal name of the occupation forces.
Cordone, a former Italian diplomat, was at the museum when the men arrived unexpectedly and thanked them personally. The authority did not identify them.
The vase, still pictured on the Interpol Web site of missing artworks, is a major Mesopotamian artifact widely studied in art history and archaeology. It depicts Sumerians offering gifts to the goddess Innin as well as scenes of daily life in the ancient city of Uruk. It was carved about the time the city's Sumerians were inventing writing.
A team of German archaeologists discovered the vase in 1940 near the city of Samawa in southern Iraq.
The coalition's statement said the vase was returned "safely" but did not give details on its condition.
Some looted items have been recovered under a no-questions-asked amnesty program, while others were found in raids or in secret government vaults.
The Vase of Warka is one of 47 main exhibition items that coalition officials said last week was still missing. They did not identify the other 46.
"We will continue to do everything we can to secure the safe return of other missing objects," said Cordone.
Last week, coalition authorities announced the recovery of the treasures of Nimrud, missing since the fall of Baghdad and found in good condition in the country's Central Bank, in a secret vault submerged in sewage water.
The treasures -- gold earrings, finger and toe rings, necklaces, plates, bowls and flasks, many of them elaborately engraved and set with semiprecious stones or enamel -- date back to about 900 BC.
Once the home of rare Islamic texts and priceless, millennia-old collections from the Assyrian, Sumerian and Babylonian civilizations, the Iraqi National Museum was plundered in the lawlessness and chaos that followed the fall of Baghdad on April 9.
The looting and destruction triggered an international uproar, with many curators and archaeologists from around the world blaming the United States for failing to protect the institution. Some compared it to the 13th-century sacking of Baghdad by the Mongol hordes.
U.S. military commanders have rejected the charges, saying the museum
was not on the list of sites their troops were ordered to secure upon
entering the city.
BAGHDAD MUSEUM STAFF REVOLT; DONNY GEORGE ASKED TO RESIGN
Courtesy of the Guardian (17 June); by Rory McCarthy
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Iraq's national museum, home to many priceless artifacts which were thought to have been looted after the fall of Baghdad, has been plunged into a new crisis because of a revolt by staff.
More than 130 of the 185 staff of Iraq's state board of antiquities office in Baghdad, which runs the museum, have signed a petition demanding the resignation of its directors.
Staff said they believed that some of the thefts from the museum were an inside job. They also accused Dony George, the board's head of research, of arming them and ordering them to fight US forces.
Mr George admitted to the Guardian that he armed staff but denied instructing them to shoot US troops. He said none of the directors had a hand in the looting.
The row came after weeks of confusion about the artifacts apparently stolen from the museum under the gaze of US troops. At first Mr George and other directors accused the US military of failing to protect the building. But in the past two weeks many of the most precious pieces, including the golden treasures of Nimrud and the Sumerian vase of Warka have been returned.
One employee said: "We want elections for new directors and we want an investigation into what happened at the museum."
US military investigators have discovered that the keys from a director's safe went missing and have never been found. Several employees said they found secure doors leading into the building unlocked but not broken after the first days of looting. A wall which concealed a secret entrance to underground store rooms, which only a handful of senior officials knew about, had been knocked down.
Staff also described how Mr George gathered employees in the museum for a meeting in the early days of the war at which he ordered them to fight US troops or face the sack. One employee who was present at the meeting said: "He [Mr George] said: 'If the Americans come you have to fight.' They never mentioned thieves once."
Missiles destroyed a building opposite the museum during the war. Staff said Mr George ordered them to fire at US aircraft or parachutists.
Mr George, who has worked for the board for 26 years and is known internationally, admitted he had been at the meeting and that guns were distributed but said he told staff only to guard the museum against looters.
"They were given strict orders they were here to protect the museum from any kind of looting that might happen," he said. "They would never fight or shoot against any kind of tank or helicopter because it would be suicide."
He said he had been a member of the Ba'ath party, but not a senior one. Refusal to join, he said, would have meant "troubles in my position here [at the museum] and at home".
A spokesperson for the US-led coalition provisional authority (CPA), which is running Iraq, said Mr George's Ba'ath party membership had been investigated and he had been cleared. "All other allegations are just hearsay," the spokesperson said. Elections have been organised by the CPA in the ministry of culture, which oversees the museum, to choose new directors. But staff from the antiquities board are unlikely to take part. "It is not the way it works," the spokesperson said.
[Z-info: Mr. Donny George
was recently elected to the Chaldo-Assyrian National Committee to
represent the interests of the Church of the East – see this
week’s Good Morning Bet-Nahrain.]
ASSYRIAN COUNCIL OFFICERS FOR STANISLAUS COUNTY ELECTED
Courtesy of the Turlock Journal (17 June); by Jesika
(ZNDA: Turlock) The Assyrian National Council of Stanislaus held an installation dinner last week where five new officers were elected.
The new officers are: President Lazar Piro, Vice-president Bernadett Khannania, Secretary George Samuel, Treasurer Sam Rasho and Financial Secretary Christina Tamraz.
The new officers will serve two-year terms.
Ballots were cast at seven voting locations. Three were in Modesto and four in Turlock. The election system was set up to allow all Assyrians living in the Stanislaus County could vote.
Political and educational leaders went to the Assyrian American Civic Club for the June 6 dinner. Among them were Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian, Sharon Silva from the Turlock Chamber of Commerce, Stanislaus County sheriff’s Lt. Mark Puthuff representing and representatives from CSU Stanislaus.
The swearing-in ceremony was followed by a speech given by the new president. Piro’s spoke about the many different goals he hopes to achieve while in office.
Piro began his remarks by recalling significant contributions by Assyrians.
“More than 20,000 Assyrians live and work in Stanislaus County,” he said. “Many operate businesses and farms in the region like their ancestors, local Assyrians excel in education science, politics, social services, and industry. They are building a better world for Assyrians and Americans.”
“Our consistent message to the world is that from ancient times to this day the Assyrians from ancient Mesopotamia who had developed a strong sense of divinity were the first people to embrace Christianity over 2,000 years ago.”
Piro later changed the tone of his speech and spoke about the three visions the new officers hoped to achieve.
The first vision, Piro said, was “a vision of progress for educating our youth by teaching our Assyrian language and culture.”
The second was vision of progress for the care of our elderly, he said, “by developing integrated services to give them meaningful lives.”
The third vision is of progress for “safe harboring of our immigrants by providing help with adjusting to a new culture and assistance traveling through the complex maze of legality and loneliness when entering this land,” Piro said.
“The Assyrian National Council is your knowledgeable, committed voice, we are prepared to speak out with governmental leaders on all levels - local state and national,” he said.
“We form a united front with highly qualified members who will
address the critical and often complex issues of implementing our
ASSYRIAN SINGER, EVELYN DAOUD, PASSED AWAY IN SYRIA
(ZNDA: Qamishly) According to a report from Syria, Evelyn Daoud, a well-known singer and educator, passed away last week in Qamishly, Syria. Better known as “The Assyrian Fairouz”, in reference to the internationally acclaimed Lebanese singer, Ms. Davoud began her singing career at an early age. However, she did not pursue music as a profession. For nearly five decades, Ms. Daoud instructed generations of Assyrians as a teacher and school principal in Qamishly, Syria.
Zinda Magazine offers its condolences to our readers and the thousands
of Malfonitho Evelyn Daoud’s students who carry on her dedication
to the Assyrian cause and love for learning around the world.]
MARONITES IN BRAZIL
(ZNDA: Beirut) According to a report from the Maronite Church’s Synod which ends this week at the Fatqa Monastery in Kesrouan, there are 9 million Lebanese in Brazil alone, two-thirds of whom are Maronites.
According to a Maronite bishop at the meeting eight dioceses perform services in Syriac in Brazil. The bishop also noted that at one time within a 14 minister Cabinet in Brazil, there had been five ministers of Lebanese origin, including three Maronites.
He said that 15 percent of Brazil’s parliament are of Lebanese origin and there are four bishops, as well as some 150 priests and many members of municipal council, all of Lebanese origin.
Several speakers said that distinguishing between a Maronite identity
and a Lebanese identity should not obliterate the fact that most of
the Maronites across the world were of Lebanese descent.
ORIENTAL INSTITUTE’S STATEMENT OF CONCERN
The following is the “Statement by the Oriental Institute's Iraq Museum Working Group concerning the Looting and Destruction of Iraq's Museums, Libraries, and Archaeological Sites”:
We, the undersigned, condemn the looting of Iraq's archaeological museums, the destruction of its libraries, and the damage done to its archeological and historical monuments and sites during and after the invasion of Iraq in March and April of this year. These losses are devastating not only to Iraq's sense of its own history and identity, but also to human heritage as a whole.
In the face of this unprecedented destruction, we demand immediate action from the authorities currently in control of Iraq to protect Iraq's archaeological and cultural heritage and to fully implement all requirements set out by the "Hague Convention on the protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict".
Assessments of the scope of the damage to archaeological and historical sites, museums, and libraries in Iraq have to be organized by internationally recognized cultural institutions such as UNESCO. Such efforts should accept assistance from any scholar who is willing to participate, regardless of his nationality. Cooperative international response to these conditions is imperative in view of the magnitude of the task and to reassure the world community that these actions are impartial and free of political manipulation by any party. Cooperation and exchange of information between participating scholars must not be impeded by agencies of any government.
We express our willingness to cooperate with international efforts to recover looted Iraqi antiquities, manuscripts, books and other cultural properties, and to assist our Iraqi colleagues. Many of us have appropriate experience and knowledge, are eager to contribute, and are especially eager to reaffirm the bonds of international scholarship. We offer our assistance and participation to legitimate international efforts to assess and repair the damage to Iraqi cultural property.
Iraq Museum Working Group:
Charles E. Jones (Research Archivist, Oriental Institute)
The following faculty and staff members of the Oriental Institute and the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC) of the University of Chicago have co-signed this statement:
Dr. Abbas Alizadeh (Oriental Institute)
VIDEO STREAMING OF THE SYRIAC SYMPOSIUM
FROM AN ALIEN TO A SUBJECT: ASSYRIAN NATURALISATION IN AUSTRALIA
The scanned images listed in this brief article are from the National Archives of Australia, Melbourne office collection. These documents are from the B741/3 series that contain some 11956 items.
This series was under the control of the Commonwealth Investigation Branch (CIB)who investigated matters such as application for naturalisation for resident aliens, tracing the whereabouts of aliens/or foreigners, arrivals and departures of aliens and the registration of alien immigrants.
The focus of this piece will be on two Assyrians – George Saleeba and Rosie Soma – both of whom arrived in Melbourne in the colony of Victoria in 1892 and 1894. Prior to 1901 Australia consisted of 6 self-governing colonies each responsible for their own internal affairs and who ceded some of their powers to the newly established Federal Government. As an “ independent” nation, the Australian Federal Government was responsible for internal affairs covering immigration, defence, and the issuing of currency whereas foreign and strategic policy was the responsibility of Great Britain.
George Saleeba and Rosie Soma applied to become naturalised British subjects and the Investigation Branch was required to conduct background checks on the applicants to ensure their suitability as British subjects. Documents 1 and 5 show Precis of Form 40 (Statutory Declaration) which required the candidates application to be certified by three persons who knew them. This form also listed current and previous addresses in Australia, occupation, date of birth and parent’s nationality and marital status of the applicant.
Once this information was collected from Form40, the Investigation Branch then prepared a “Report on Application for Naturalisation ” which permitted them to complete their background checks on the applicant in question. In the general remarks section of the “Report on Application for Naturalisation ” document, the investigating officer would recommend to the Department of Home and Territories that the applicant was either suitable or unsuitable in becoming a British Subject. (Documents 2 and 6).
In George Saleeba’s “Report on Application for Naturalisation ” form, question 16 states that “ [he] has become almost entirely Australian in outlook and sentiment. He married an Australian lady and his family all born here ” and general remarks section “ This applicant is a business man of long standing in Melbourne and is well known in Flinders Lane (see Document 2)
Rosie Soma’s “Report on Application for Naturalisation ” form indicates that she was “ a very respectable lady.” She wanted to apply “ for an old age pension.” Such positive statements would have greatly enhanced Saleeba’s and Soma’s application for naturalisation. (Document 6).
Both were granted British naturalisation on October 9, 1925 and February 18, 1927 respectively. (Documents 7 and 8)
During the First World War all aliens residing in Australia were required to register under the War Precautions Regulations of 1916. This document was known as “ Form A The War Precautions (Aliens Registration) regulation 1916. Form of Application for Registration” which required aliens to register with Australian authorities. Failure to register was regarded as a breach of the regulations meaning that the alien could be fined and imprisoned. It should be noted that Saleeba’s wife, though English by birth, was required to register under wartime regulations because she was married an alien. (Documents 3 and 4)
In Rosie Soma’s file, Form A was not included but her Report on Application for Naturalisation shows that she registered as an alien possibly in 1916. It is more than likely that her Form A might be located in some other file in the National Archives of Australia. (See Document 6, Question.9)
Another wartime document not included in Saleeba’s and Soma’s file was “ War Precautions (Alien registration) regulation 1916 Form E notice of change of Abode” document. This meant whenever an alien changed their address, they were required to report to the nearest police station by completing a new Form E. Furthermore if an alien wished to visit a friend or relative outside of Melbourne, they required the permission of the local police.
Such measures allowed Australian authorities to keep aliens under close surveillance who were domiciled in Australia during the 1914-1918 war. Again failure to notify the police was regarded as a breach of the wartime regulations meaning that the alien could be fined and imprisoned. The war precaution regulations were discontinued in 1922.
In conclusion, this article has outlined the procedures that Assyrians were required to undertake in order to become naturalised British subjects. The documents also show that the term Syrian and Assyrian are used interchangeably.
(Source National Archives of Australia, Melbourne Office Documents 1-4, B741/3 V/1507; Documents 5-6, B741/3 V/3193)
Stavros T. Stavridis
[Z-info: The author, pictured here with his wife, Rebecca, will be visiting the United States in August to promote his latest research findings on Assyrians and their early experiences abroad. A complete schedule of appearances will be published in Zinda Magazine in July. If you wish to invite Dr. Stavridis to your school or community for an exhilirating discussion of Assyrians, please contact Zinda Magazine at email@example.com.]
What is the true extent of the losses to the Iraq Museum -170,000 objects or only 33? The arguments have raged these past two weeks as accusations of corruption, incompetence and cover-ups have flown around. Most notably, Dan Cruickshank's BBC film Raiders of the Lost Art insinuated that the staff had grossly misled the military and the press over the extent of the losses, been involved with the looting themselves, allowed the museum to be used as a military position, and had perhaps even harboured Saddam Hussein. The truth is less colourful.
Two months ago, I compared the demolition of Iraq's cultural heritage with the Mongol sacking of Baghdad in 1258, and the 5th-century destruction of the library of Alexandria. On reflection, that wasn't a bad assessment of the present state of Iraq's cultural infrastructure. Millions of books have been burned, thousands of manuscripts and archaeological artefacts stolen or destroyed, ancient cities ransacked, universities trashed.
At the beginning of this year, the staff, led by Dr Dony George and Dr Nawala al-Mutawalli, began to pack up the museum in a well-established routine first devised during the Iran-Iraq war. Defensive bunkers were dug in the grounds. Early in April, Dr John Curtis, head of the Ancient Near East department at the British Museum, described a recent visit to Baghdad during which the museum staff were sandbagging objects too big to be moved, packing away smaller exhibits, and debating "the possibility of using bank vaults and bunkers if the worst came".
The worst did come. On April 11 the news arrived that the museum had been looted. We later discovered that there had been a two-day gun battle, at the start of which the remaining museum staff fled for their lives. Fedayeen broke into a storeroom and set up a machine gun at a window.
While senior Iraqi officials were begging for help in Baghdad, the US Civil Affairs Brigade in Kuwait was also trying from April 12 to get the museum protected. They already knew that its most valuable holdings were in vaults of the recently bombed Central Bank. The museum was secured on April 16, but it took until April 21 for Civil Affairs to arrive.
Captain William Sumner wrote to me that day: "It seems that most of the museum's artefacts had been moved to other locations, but the ones that were looted were 'staged' at an area so that they would be easier to access. It was a very professional action. The spare looting you saw on the news were the excess people who came in to pick over what was left." In other words, there was no cover-up: the military were informed immediately that the evacuation procedures had been effective. Suspicions remained that a single staff member may have assisted the core looters. But, Sumner says: "It might have been one of the grounds people, or anybody. I suspect that we will never know."
Within a week the museum was secure enough for George to travel to London. At a press conference he circulated a list of some 25 smashed and stolen objects which the curators had been unable to move from the public galleries before the war. They included the now famous Warka vase, which had been cemented in place. Last week it was returned in pieces. Other losses came from the corridor where objects were waiting to be moved off-site. George was understandably reluctant to reveal the location of the off-site storage to the Civil Affairs Brigade as security was still non-existent.
Inventories of the badly vandalised storerooms finally began after the catalogues were pieced together from the debris of the ransacked offices. Dr John Russell, an expert in looted Iraqi antiqui ties, made a room-by-room report for Unesco late in May. He noted that most of the objects that had been returned since the looting "were forgeries and reproductions". Other losses, he reported, included some 2,000 finds from last season's excavations at sites in central Iraq. His summary tallied well with George's. "Some 30 major pieces from exhibition galleries. Unknown thousands of excavated objects from storage. Major works from galleries smashed or damaged." The unknown thousands are beginning to be quantified. Expert assessors in Vienna last week estimated the losses from the museum storerooms at between 6,000 and 10,000.
Outside the Iraq Museum, the picture is equally grim. At Baghdad University, classrooms, laboratories and offices have been vandalised, and equipment and furniture stolen or destroyed. Student libraries have been emptied. Nabil al-Tikriti of the Univer sity of Chicago reported in May that the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs lost 600-700 manuscripts in a malicious fire and more than 1,000 were stolen. The House of Wisdom and the Iraqi Academy of Sciences were also looted. The National Library was burned to the ground and most of its 12 million books are assumed to have been incinerated.
In the galleries of Mosul Museum, cuneiform tablets were stolen and smashed. The ancient cities of Nineveh, Nimrud, and Hatra lost major sculpture to looting. The situation is far worse in the south. Some 15-20 large archaeological sites, mostly ancient Sumerian cities, were comprehensively pillaged by armed gangs.
It will take years of large-scale international assistance and delicate diplomacy to return the Iraq Museum to functionality. The process is deeply charged with the politics of occupation and post-Ba'athist reaction. The Civil Affairs officers are discover ing that senior staff are not necessarily enamoured of the American way, while junior staff are testing their newfound freedom to complain about their bosses. One insider commented: "George might make them work instead of read papers. And that is what all the fuss is about."
The British School of Archaeology in Iraq and the British Museum now have staff working in the Iraq Museum, while other organisations worldwide are fundraising. George, Mutawalli and his colleagues have achieved the extraordinary in preserving as much as they have. We now need to help them salvage as much as possible from the wreckage and re-establish the country's cultural infrastructure so that Iraqis can plan their future knowing their past is secure.
Dr. Eleanor Robson
[Z-info: Dr. Robson is a council member of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq and a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. The article above was written for the Guardian’s June 18 issue.]
APRIM SHAPERA IN BAGHDAD: A ZINDA MAGAZINE INTERVIEW
[Z-info: Our magazine’s regular contributor and politial commentator, Mr. Aprim Shapera, left for Baghdad on Tuesday, 10 June 10. The following is Mr. Shapera’s notes on his travel experiences during the 8-day tour of the country in an interview conducted last week with Zinda Magazine in Dubai.]
Z: What was the significance of your lecture in Baghdad?
The well-known Assyrian personality, Mr. Khoshab Sulaka, introduced me to the audience. The lecture started at 5:00 in the afternoon and lasted for 40 minutes, delivered briefly in order to give more time to the floor. The lecture and discussion lasted for 3 hours.
Z: What did you talk about?
The lecture concentrated on the current events in Iraq attesting to the fact that the issue of the Assyrian right in Iraq is purely an Iraqi Assyrian issue and the Diaspora Assyrian role must come into play as a supportive element only, and not determinedly, which was extremely accepted by the attendants.
Z: What were some of the questions asked from the floor?
Other issues were raised were on the unifying name of our nation in which almost all Assyrians of Iraq agree to be the method to secure our national right in Iraq. Immigration or repatriation was another hot issue discussed in the event.
Z: Were you in Baghdad when the meeting of the 5 Churches
These members were authorised by the heads of their five churches to confirm a unifying nation name and that we are one nation whatever the name may be.
Z: Were you able to visit the headquarters of the Assyrian
Z: What is the most important lesson you brought back
with you after visiting the Assyrians in Baghdad?
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