25 Adaar 6753              
Volume X

Issue 3

15 March 2004
Where Assyrians Get Their News & Information
Internet Fax 208-723-1240 info@zindamagazine.com

This Week In Zinda

Mar Binyamin Shimmun
A Martyr of the Assyrian Nation & the Church of the East
  Vasily Shumanov
Ashor Giwargis
Assyrians Injured During Kurdish Riots in Syria

Final Declaration of the ADM Conference - Scandinavian Branch
ANC to President Bush: Where are the Assyrian National Rights?

Living Under Kurdish Rule Now?
Give It A Little Time
The Passion of the Christ: A Review
At A Crossroad
Satisfied with the Breadcrumbs?
Zowaa & Non-Zowaa, Please Listen to Our Demands
Publication of Journal Zinda is Timely
A Mini Convention in Dubai
  Binyamin Youseph
J. Haweil
Helen Talia
Dr. Bailis Shamun
Charles Smith
Dr. George Habash
Prof. S. Osipov
Georgia Press: Robert Murray's Symbols of Church & Kindgom

Lawlessness is Our Destiny
Not So Fast Mr. Bremer!
Rediscovering the Language Jesus Spoke

  Prof. Sargis Osipov
Rev. Kenneth Joseph
Steven Getz
Women's Alliance for a Democratic Iraq (WAFDI)    

The Lighthouse

Mar Binyamin Shimmun

Vasily Shumanov

On 3 March Assyrians paid respect to the Late Patriarch Mar Binyamin Shimmun, Patriarch Catholicos of the Assyrian Church of the East. For Assyrians, Mar Binyamin is a martyr and a hero symbolizing the nation in the 20th century. Portraits of him can be seen in many Assyrian homes.

I remember one such picture since my childhood; it was hanging on the wall in the flat of my aunt Zumrud, at Zagorodny prospect of the city of Leningrad in Russia. Good features, moustache and a small beard, eyes… Yes, his eyes! Those unforgettable clever and sad eyes, which reflected the human tragedy of that century to the full scale, they have stuck into my memory for my entire life.

My aunt used to often tell me stories about Mar Binyamin. Today I understand that many of them were made up and not based on any historical events. But is it bad to remember the people who became legends. In a way, it is all we have today.

MarBenyamin A lot of books, articles, memoires were written about Mar Binyamin. I would like to present you a brief essay about the Patriarch, which will bring back in your mind some of the episodes of his life.

Mar Binyamin was born in 1887 in the village of Kudshanis in the family of Isaiah, brother of Patriarchy Mar Ruwil Shimun (1860-1903), and Asyat, daughter of Kambar from Iyl. There were six other children in the family: Isaiah, Zaya, Rolus (was patriarchy in 1918 - 1920), David, Hormizd, Surma.

Traditionally the Assyrian Patriarch possessed the name-title Mar Shimmun, thus ranking himself among the Holy Simons. The first Mar Shimmun was Mar Mari. From XV to IX centuries the throne was under the clan of Mamma of the Hormizd family. From 1889 to 1973 Shahmir family was on the throne. The dignity was inherited from the patriarchy by his brother’s son. The future patriarch’s mother was not allowed to eat meat while she was pregnant; thus she prepared herself and her son for this holy calling. Mar Shimmuns possessed spiritual and temporal powers: they imposed bishops, solved legal cases, marriage issues, confirmed appointments of the tribal leaders (Maliks), headed the army in case of war, etc. In 1976 Mar Dinkha, who did not belong to the clan of Mar Shimmuns, was chosen to be the Patriarch.

On 2 March 1903 Patriarch Mar Ruwil, feeling his death coming, appointed his nephew Binyamin to be an archbishop. On 16 March, Mar Ruwil dies.
On 30 March, the Palm Sunday, in the Mar Shalitha Church the 16 year old Mar Binyamin was consecrated the Patriarch with the help of Mar Eskhaq Khnanisho, the Rustack (Shamidzan) metropolitan, and Mar Estepanus (Gavyar).

Mar Binyamin was in power during the most tragic period of the history of Assyrians – the First World War, when endless massacres and the exodus of the Assyrians from their homeland took place. Defending their national interests, the young Patriarch had to maneuver between Turkey and Russia. Here, we should add that at that time Assyrians were “attacked” by different foreign religious missions (those of Russian Orthodox Church, American Presbyterian, French Catholic, English Episcopal etc.); the missions, rivaling for the souls of Assyrians, tried to tear them apart by means of bribery and threats. Local Muslims, in their turn, were greatly irritated by all the contacts Assyrians had with western missionaries. The last straw for them was the Assyrians taling the side of Russia in the Great War.

Before the break out of the war between Turkey and Russia, the Assyrian-Russian relations grew better. This tendency resulted in converting a segment of the Assyrians into Russian Orthodoxy in 1889.

In October of 1906 R. Termen, Russian vice-consul, received the government order to meet with Mar Binyamin. The main goal of this meeting was to make a pact with Assyrians providing for cooperation in case of war with Turkey.

In 1910 Mar Binyamin established good relations with the Russian Orthodox Church.

In 1913 he resolved to unite with the Orthodox church, but with some provisions prearranged. In spite of the fact that in 1898 a big group of Assyrians (about 15 thousand people, headed by Mar Yona) took up Orthodoxy (with the Patriarch’s approval), the leader himself delayed his decision.

The main conditions the Patriarch laid down concerned preserving by the church of its own rites and her complete independence in managing the flock. The issue of uniting remained unresolved. War prevented the process.

On 3 August 1914 Mar Shimmun was summoned to Van by the Ottoman Vali, Tahsim Pasha. During their conversation Tahsim expressed the request of the government for the Assyrians to stay neutral in the war.

In September 1914 Russians formed a military brigade of Assyrians in Persia (modern Iran). But due to the defeats in the battlefield in December 1914 Russians had to leave Urmia, thus dooming Assyrians to massacres. Moslims reacted at once. Assyrians were victimized and slaughtered. Especially brutal were the Kurds.

In 1975 Mar Binyamin takes a final decision in the issue of supporting Russians by his people. In December 1915 Mar Binyamin met with the Grand Prince Nickolai Nickolayevich in Tiflis (capital of Georgia). They made an agreement providing for the Assyrianss to form three battalions with the help of Russian officers. In turn Turkey arrested Hormizd, the Patriarch’s younger brother, and made him a hostage. Turkish government demanded the Patriarch to put an end to any relations with Russia. Receiving no resignation from the Patriarch, the Turks executed his brother. It was then when Mar Binyamin uttered his famous phrase that grew very popular among Assyrians: “My people are my numerous children. But how can I betray them, even for my brother”.

In 1916 General Chernozubov sent a military exhibition in Hakkyari. The squads within the expedition were led by the Patriarch’s brother David; Ismail, Malik of the Upper Tyari; and Andreus, the Jilu Malik.

In 1917 Mar Binyamin was invited to the Russian embassy in Urmia for negotiations. His host was Consul Vasily Nikitin.

Nikitin assured the Assyrians that after the War they will have a national community land in Russia. At the meeting the Patriarch was accompanied by Agha Putrus.

The talks were never continued. The history shows that the October Revolution in Russia created a meyhem.

It should be noted that though the Patriarch’s authority was still profound he could no longer fully control his people as before. Soon new leaders appeared, they grew popular among the Assyrians during the War. Agha Putrus was the most outstanding of them in that period of time. He often was in disagreement with the Patriarch.

The presence of the armed squads of Assyrians in Urmiya irritated Persians more and more. In addition Assyrians became used to practicing theft in the city. Persians were afraid that Russians might come back and, united with the Assyrians, proclaim their power in the city. Mar Shimmun wholly understood the difficult situation the Assyrians were in after Russians had left Iran. In 1918 he was convincing Agha Putrus not to fight against Persians but to make peace with them in his messages. We can see that Assyrians did not put down their weapons as the Patriarch advised but on the contrary chose to attack.

In February 1918 Mar Benjamin received a letter from the Governor of Khoy where the latter arranged a meeting and discuss a number of questions. Their meeting took place in Dilman. Both parties agreed to maintain peace in the region.

In March, Mar Benjamin received a letter from Ismail Agha Simku, who offered to come together and discuss a peace treaty between the Assyrians and the Kurds. It was decided that the meeting take place in the Kurdish settlement of Kohna Shahr inSalamas (near Dilmane, north of Urmia).

On 3 March, the patriarch accompanied by his brother David and Colonel Kondratyev, arrived at the meeting. The meeting was also attended by: :ieutenant Zaytsev, instructors S. Matveyev and S. Tumasov; Shmuel Khan (son of Sarhang Bedzhan from Mawana); and his brother Isaiah; Daniel Ismail (son of Malik Ismail); Ziga and Nikodim Levkoyev, Slyva Isyaev, Lazar Zervando, Ivan Dzhibayev Yakov Abramov, Dzhadzhi Givargiz (Lower Barvar), Lazarev and others, totalling some 150 people.

Following is the extract from memoires of Daniel Ismail (from Upper Tyari), the head of the Assyrian squad who attended the meeting between the Patriarch and the Kurds:

When Mar Shimmun stepped out of his carriage, Simko himself went out to meet Qaddishute (His Holiness), bowed twice after the custom, took his guest to the house. The meeting took more time than usual, so I sent one of my soldiers (Dzhadzhi) into the house to view the situation. He came back and reported that everything looked normal. To be on the safe side I entered the house myself saying to my attendant to bring several soldiers inside in a little time later. When I entered the house I saw that the meeting room was overcrowded. Mar Binyamin was sitting in the center, on his right – Colonel Kondratyev, David Shimmun, Shmuel Khan and 4 Russian officers, and on his left – Simko and his people. A Persian servant entered the room and started to serve tea. I noticed that the Russians were offered no tea and reproved the servant for this. Everything said that Simko had something on his mind.”

About noon, after the meeting was over, the Patriarch and his people left the house accompanied by Simko. After saying goodbye the entire Assyrian delegation began to saddle up. At this moment gunshots roared from the roofs of nearby houses. Shooters were Kurds. Mar Shimmun was fatally wounded in the head and back. Describing these events in his book, The Sentimental Journey, V. Shklovsky writes: “Lazar wanted to put the Patriarch on the horse, then he saw his head covered with blood, and fell Mar Shimmun flat on his back. Assyrians ran to Umriya, gathered an army. Came in the night. Searched for the corps. Found the Patriarch’s body.”

Some more people were killed together with the Patriarch, including several Russians. Shmuel Khan was one of the first to perish. Simko ran away. While fleeing he left the documents revealing his connections with the governor of Tabriz.

The Patriarch was buried in the Armenian settlement of Khosroabad, in the courtyard of the Armenian church of Saint George. He was 31 years old. Burial rite was conducted by Mar Iliya Beth Abuna of Alkosh.

Simko kept on hiding from Assyrians for some more time, but he was doomed. In his life he managed to harm not only Assyrians and Russians but Persians as well. He was later captured by the Persian policemen and shot.

Many rhymes (durikks) devoted to the murder of Mar Shimmun are written in Assyrian; they are popular among the people. One of such rhymes, a ballad written by Freydun Aturay, was heard and taped by me from Elena Alexandrovna Pochoyeva (born in 1913) in the Armenian village of Dvin on 24 August 1985. Below is the small extract from this song:

Simko Mshilmana (Ye, Simko the Moslem)
Kma-tva libbana (How daring you were!)
Mar Shimmun ktille (Killed Mar Shimmun)
Kahna shitrana (the Handsome priest)

Drile ha qala (Say something)
Daud gabbara (David the Great)
Millatukh pishla (Your nation is left...)
La risha, la mara! (without a leader, without any one in charge)

May the memory of Mar Binyamin Shimmun, Patriarch Catholicos of the Assyrian Church of East, never be forgotten!


Ismail Daniel, Assyrians and Two World Wars, Tehran, 1964 (written in Assyrian)
E. A. Lalayan, Aysors of vilayet of Van, Tiflis, 1914
Mar Shimun Surma, the Assyrian Church Customs and the Murder of Mar Shimun, Surma D'Bait Mar Shimun, MMF, 1983.
Melta, 1998, Volume 4, No2(9), pages 3-5.
N. Seleznev, Assyrian Church of East, Moscow, 2001.
V. Shklovsky, The Sentimental Journey, Moscow, 1923.
Kurush Shlimun, History of Assyrians in the 20th century, Chicago, 1985. (written in Assyrian)

The Patriarch Mar Binyamin Shimmun
A Martyr of the Assyrian Nation & the Church of the East

By Ashor Giwargis

Translated into English by Mary C. (Canada)
Article published in the Arabic newspaper, "An-Nahar" on 14 March 2004.

Since the falling of the Assyrian Empire's capital Nineveh in 612 B.C, The Assyrian nation Is considered today one of the mostly deeply rooted nations who are still suffering of deprivation and marginalization after being through bloody massacres.

Taking a look at the history of the Assyrians we notice the variety of powers, which came to dominate their homeland over the centuries. However, since the collapse of the Assyrian Empire the Assyrians always longed for freedom, for the Assyrians of Babylon revolted over and over again against the Persian kings; the Babylonian leader "Nendintu-Bel" revolted against the king Darius in 522 B.C but his revolt was suppressed, then Assyrians declared their independence and appointed a king by the name of "Bel-Shimanni" followed by king "Shammash-Iriba" during the reign of Cyrus, this revolt was also crushed in 482 B.C, and the Greek historian Herodotus (490-420? B.C) Mentioned how the Assyrians used to mock the Persian occupiers and humiliate the Persian king himself whenever his procession passed by through the Assyrian cities...

With the Coming of Christ The Lord, the Assyrians were the first to embrace Christianity, in Babylon and the kingdom of "Ur-Hay" (today's Urfa - Odessa) which was founded by the Assyrians after the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C. and the state of "Ashur" (was known as Ashuristan) in today's northern Iraq, which enjoyed self-rule within the Sassanite Persian rule, and one of its kings was Sinacherib, the father of the saints Behnam and Sarah. These kingdoms lasted for centuries in the A.D. era. However, since Christianity is a noble faith which calls for evangelization, thus the efforts of the Assyrians turned towards missionary activities which spread at different periods as far as East Asia (China, Japan, Tibet…), and Armenia to the north, the Arabian Peninsula to the south. The Church at the time was known as (The Church of The East), thus it became like an "Empire Church", and its head carried the title "Catholicos of the East".

The Church of The East was founded by the apostles Saint Thomas, Addai (Thaddaeus) and Mari, therefore, its name is " The Holy Apostolic Catholic Church of The East" (“Catholic” means here “Universal”), also known in history as the "Church of Seleucid", "Church of Babylon", "Church of Persia", "Ancient Eastern Syrian Church". Erroneously today it's known amongst the Assyrian public and sometimes in the ecclesiastical literature of the very Church, as the "Assyrian Church", this error goes back to the nature of external relations for this institution over the centuries. The Shimmunite Patriarchs were invested with the authorities of a "Governor" in some matters to an extent that foreign scholars considered The Church of The East as "The Nation Church" of the Assyrian people, just like was the situation of the independent Maronites in the mountains of Lebanon in the Qadisha valley under the authority of their Patriarch and tribal chiefs.

This theory erroneously led the missionaries, researchers and later the British mandate to limit the Assyrian national name to the followers of The Church of The East stemming from the fact that Mar Binyamin Shimmun and Mar Ishai Shimmun were the most prominent leaders of the Assyrian National Movement at its beginning - noting that the other two sects of the Assyrian people (Syrians, Chaldeans) didn't join the war because their followers didn't inhabit areas which were considered as strategic by the allies that's why they were not supported to join the allies in the war. However, they still participated in martyrdom and paid a dire price for being Christians and Assyrians just like their brethren of The Church of The East. The Iraqi authorities followed the steps of the British in regards to the name whereby the Eastern denomination in Iraq is referred to as the "Athuri Church” and that for pure political purposes in order to marginalize and assimilate the Assyrian name within the other communities which are more recent in Assyria. This denominational mistake is considered one of the main reasons in the misunderstanding of the true national name for the Assyrians (Chaldean Church, Church of The East, and Syrian Orthodox and Catholic) as well as for many other Assyrian politicians, and some non-Assyrian researchers.

Who are Shimmunite Patriarchs?

As a result of the interference on the affairs of The Church of The East on the part of rulers who dominated Assyria over the years, and the difficulty in organizing synods to elect patriarchs because of the dangerous areas that Bishops should cross at that time, which compelled the church’s curators in the early fourteenth century, to limit the authority of the Patriarchal degree within one family (from an uncle to his first nephew), thus the Patriarchal See became inherited from 1328-1975, that is for about 650 years, whereby 23 Patriarchs took over The Apostolic See holding the title "Mar Shimmun" and they became to their followers at the level of saints in regards to the extent of suffering that they endured for the sake of their Church and people. The last in the succession of the Shimmunite Patriarchs was the late Mar Ishai Shimmun (1920-1975). He was the nephew of Patriarch Mar Binyamin Shimmun, the subject of this article.

The Church of The East reached its highest magnificence during the Abbasid period; afterwards the Mongolian danger appeared to threaten the entire east when the army of Holako, Gingiz Khan's grandson reached to Assyria in 1258. Holako killed Al-Muaatasim, the Muslim caliph in Baghdad, and because of the oppression which was endured by the followers of this Church, the Patriarchate was moved from Baghdad to Arbil in the days of Patriarch Mar Makikha Shimmun, then to the town of Alqush in Assyria (today's Northern Iraq) following the entrance of Kurds to Arbil with the support of the Mongols after emptying the city of its original inhabitants, that was in the time of Patriarch Mar Timathawos (Timothy) Shimmun (1318-1328).

Six Patriarchs followed on the Apostolic See in Alqush in about 300 years, and they were all buried in the monastery of "Rabban Hurmizd" near Alqush. Later the Patriarchate was moved to several other places because of troubles from the Kurds, Turks and Catholic missionaries. In the time of Patriarch Mar Dinkha Shimmun Bar Mama (1552-1558) a schism began within the Church when the monk Sulaqa Bet Ballo from Aqra (head of the monastery of Rabban Hurmizd) joined Roman Catholicism seeking the protection which could be provided by the "missionaries" and that by bribing the Kurds and Turks with sums of money in order to stop harassing their followers (only their followers). Today the Uniat part of The Church of The East is known as "The Chaldean Church". Those who didn't follow the Uniat church continued to suffer from persecution at the hands of Muslims and missionaries in the plains of Assyria (Northern Iraq) which forced Patriarch Mar Ishouayab Shimmun (1653-1690) to move the Patriarchal See from Alqush to the Assyrian city of Uremia in the north-west of Iran near the Turkish border (The Assyrians were forced to flee this city several times and today there are only few elderly living there).

The Patriarch remained in Uremia for four years after which He moved to Khusrawa (Khusar-Abad) in the plain of Salamas on the Turkish border. There He was followed with persecution on the part of Muslims, after one year He moved to the Assyrian highlands known as the Hakkari mountains (the peaks reach to 13000 feet = 4400 meters) where the Patriarchal See remained for 40 years under the protection of the Assyrian "Diz" tribe, then in the time of Patriarch Mar Yahba Alaha Shimmun (Mar Youalah)-(1558-1580) and because of the rugged terrain in the region of Diz, the Patriarchal See was moved to the region of "Qudshanis" (The Holy Land) and in that region a Church carrying the name of Mar Shallita was built in 1689 thus the Patriarchal See remained there under the protection of the Assyrian tribes until the end of 1915, in WWI.

Patriach Mar Binyamin Shimmun

The Patriarch Mar Binyamin Shimmun was born to the honorable Ishai Shimmun, the brother of Mar Rouel Shimmun. He was ordained on Palm Sunday 30th of March 1903 at the hands of Mar Isaac Khnanishoua Metropolitan of "Shimmisdin" region and Mar Estephanos Bishop of "Gawar" region, during his Patriarchal time, He over saw the affairs of The Church of The East appointing the tribal chiefs and collecting taxes which the Turkish authorities were un able to collect of the independent Assyrian tribes, those who did never recognize the Ottoman Sultan (Tiari, Tkhouma, Jeelu, Diz, and Baz tribes). He also assumed the role of a judge just like His predecessors who used to solve problems amongst the Assyrian tribes and even Kurdish tribes who settled lately in those Assyrian mountains.

The Assyrian Nation entered a critical period in the era of Patriarch Mar Binyamin Shimmun (1903-1918), with the beginning of World War I, the renewed calls to annihilate the Christians began in Turkey in 1914, when the Kurds and Turks began to loot, and burn the Assyrian villages in the plains under the motto “Jihad". They kidnapped girls (Harem's Houses) as their "halal" (legal gain in Islam) for their jihad; during this over 600 Assyrian villages and cities were burnt down and more than 600.000 Assyrians of The Church of The East, Syriac and Chaldean Churches were massacred in the area extending from Urfa (Urhay) and Uremia. All the Churches were destroyed at the hands of the Kurds and Turks under the motto “Jihad".

Thus, and because of the persecutions which the Assyrians endured over hundreds of years before WWI, the Russians found it a suitable opportunity to get the Assyrians to their side [for they were courageous mountain battles fighters] and with the declaration of "Jihad" on the part of the Ottoman Sultanate, the Patriarch had no choice but to join the closest of the allied countries that is Russia. The Patriarch took His decision on the 10th of June 1915, and the Turks arrested His brother, the honorable Hirmiz who was continuing his education in Mussel, in order to oblige the Patriarch to give up the arms of the Assyrian fighters, but Mar Binyamin refused and said His famous phrase: “My brother is but one person, however the children of my nation are many, so how would I forsake the many for one???” Immediately after that, Honorable Hirmiz Mar Shimmun was killed at the hands of "Haidar Beg" the governor of Mussel.

With the beginning of the Assyrian uprising against jihad, Russia took advantage of the Patriarch's nobility and His trust in Russia to allure His people to the outskirts of the city of Uremia turning them into an invincible shield before the Kurds and Turks on the western front of the Caucasia. This is exactly what happened and the Assyrians successfully impeded fourteen Turkish-Kurdish attacks whereby they defeated the 6th and 4th Turkish battalions, both the 5th and 12th infantry corps, in addition to defeating the Baradust and Shikak Kurdish tribes with their large numbers and also the Iranian forces led by Majid Al-Sultany... Military experts of the allies were so much impressed by the courage of this small Nation. The Russian army retreated later on because of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The Patriarch completely understood the situation and remained in close contact with the Russians, while His people were facing the Iranians, Turks and Kurds with whatever arms they had left ... Here, came the English's turn to take advantage of the Assyrian circumstances and their fighting spirit so they intervened before the Patriarch in order to move the Russians out of the scene. A meeting was held in Uremia between the Assyrians and the allies, in February 1918, whereby the meeting was limited to the Russian Consul Nikitin, the American Consul Shed, the French officer Cujol and the English captain Gracy who promised the Assyrian Patriarch in the name of the British Government of an independent State (stretching from the west of Tur-Abdin till the East of Lake Uremia), but in return he asked the Assyrians to abandon the Russians who had already left the war because of the Bolshevik Revolution. Gracy asked the Assyrians to join Britain, which will guarantee them their independent State at the end of the war. The Assyrian leadership had no choice other than joining the English whether they lied or were truthful, but the English were well aware of the fact that the Patriarch sympathized with the Russians His old neighbors so they convinced the Patriarch to meet with the Kurdish leader Agha Ismael (known as Simko), the head of Shikak Kurdish tribes. The English were well aware of the Kurdish-Iranian agreement to assassinate the Patriarch during that meeting. For the Iranian prince Mehdi Shams wanted to get rid of the Patriarch so that he would enter Uremia and take revenge of the Assyrians for their successful revolt against the Muslims in the city a while before that. During this meeting the English objected to Agha Petros' suggestion that Simko should come and meet with the Patriarch as a sign of respect and for his safety, for Simko was known for his cowardness and lack of dignity. The English however, suggested that the Patriarch Himself goes to meet with Simko as a peace initiative. The English would benefit by weakening the position of the Assyrians after assassinating their high commander, thus they would find themselves surrounded by their Muslim enemy while the English would become the only side capable of helping them (only when they – The English - see it possible…).Then the Assyrians of Hakkari and Urmia would be allured to the Plains of Ashur (Iraq) after promising them with freedom, then the English would instigate turmoil between them and the Iraqi government with the purpose of creating problems which would be solved by the English themselves as a preparation to economic and oil projects with the Iraqi government which will be a puppet in the hands of the English.

The Patriarch agreed to meet with Simko and headed on a Saturday, March 3rd 1918 to the stronghold of the Kurdish chief, the city of Koynashahr in Iran. Simko welcomed the Patriarch and embraced His hands, then asked the Patriarch that his companions put their arms aside because they caused frightfulness in the city. Simko's request was answered and the meeting was a friendly one whereby an agreement was made to bring peace between the Assyrians and Kurds and that both sides would ally together to get their rights.

However, as the meeting was adjourned Simko went out to bid the Patriarch farewell, and as he leaned over, Simko took one of his men's rifles and shot the first bullet which was the signal to hundreds of Kurdish fighters who were hiding on roof tops, and bullets down poured on the Patriarch and His companions from all directions, more than 40 were killed and those who survived fiercely fought in the city to remove the martyred Patriarch's body. They were able to sneak in and reach to the bullet shattered corps, the Kurds had mutilated the corps and they put it on a chair as a sign of mockery, while their children took His Patriarchal head cover and began to kick it in the street, then they severed a finger and removed His Patriarchal golden ring. The Assyrian fighters carried the Patriarch on their shoulders to the region of Khusrawa, led by Daniel the son of Malik Ismael (Daniel is the son of the Tiari tribe’s chief and the personal companion to the martyred Patriarch and his brother in law).

While the exhausted Assyrian people awaited the joyful news of a peace between Assyrians and Kurds, on the contrary the disastrous news of the Patriarch assassination, the second person after Christ the Lord (as revered by the Assyrians)… An overwhelming anger took over and a force of thousands of tribal men were assembled under the leadership of malik Ismael (upper Tiari tribe), malik Khoshaba (lower Tiari tribe), malik Oshana (Tkhouma tribe) this force broke into the city of "Koynashahr" on March 18th 1918 and they took control of the city following some bloody and violent battles, whereby 24 Assyrian fighters became martyrs.

However, Simko was able to escape to "Tchara" fortress in the Salamas valley, so the Assyrians followed him and occupied the fortress then he was able to escape in disguise to the city of "Khoi" in the North where he killed more than 3800 un armed Assyrian men, women and children with the help of other Kurdish tribes. The American missioner Carter Packard who instigated the massacre of "Khoi" facilitated Simko’s escape. The Shimmun family suspected that this "missioner" was also involved in the planning of the Patriarch's assassination.

Two years later Simko and the Iranians had a dispute so he fled to Iraq under the protection of his brother in law Sheikh Sayyed Taha the deputy of Rawanduz (in Today’s North Iraq), there he was followed discreetly by the Assyrian leader Yakou malik Ismael (brother of Daniel who was fore mentioned) and his men to the area of Dyana in order to revenge the Patriarch's killing and to know who planned for the assassination. But the English army alerted Simko of Yakou malik Ismael's plan so he fled yet again... At the end Simko was invited by the Iranian Emir to hold a peace treaty following an un known dispute, and his end was the same as that of the martyred Patriarch; Simko was killed at the hands of his host.

On May 29th 1918, Polous (Paul) Mar Shimmun was ordained as Patriarch, He was the brother of Mar Binyamin the Martyr. In His time the British executed their plan to allure the Assyrians of the mountains to the plains of Assyria (today’s Northern Iraq) in order to remove the Turkish army with the help of the Assyrians because they were the only ones able to fight the Turks in the mountains if they were armed properly. This came at a time when the Assyrians were increasingly besieged in Uremia and its surroundings and their ammunition was exhausted. So rather than providing them with arms, the English asked them to move to "Sainqala" in order to meet up with the English who would provide them with ammunition, but when the Assyrian fighters arrived to the city under the command of General Potros Eliya (known as Agha Potros) they didn't find any one so they were obliged to head back to Urmia while the "Salamas" division under the command of General Dawid (David) Mar Shimmun (the martyred Patriarch's brother) was diverting the 6th battalion of the Turkish army and the Kurdish tribes on the "Seera" mountain front in order to prevent them from entering the plains of "Salamas" and the city of Uremia. As the division of Agha Potros arrived panic took over the Assyrians in Uremia because they knew that they were betrayed by the British but even with that they had no other choice but to head towards the Iranian city of Hamadan where the closest British base was, (800 km walking by foot from Urmi). More than 200.000 Assyrians were obliged to walk on foot for more than a month whereby they lost 54.000 defenseless people on the roads during successive attacks by the Kurds, Turks and Iranians and another 11.000 martyrs lost their lives in a caravan that headed north to Georgia, in addition to killer diseases because of the hot weather and drinking polluted water from the swamps where more than 5000 Assyrian children lost their lives in the refugee camps in Hamadan and Karmanshah in Iran, then in Baaquba in Iraq and amongst them the Patriarch Mar Polous Shimmun two years after His ordination. In 1920 the Patriarch Mar Ishai Shimmun the son of General Dawid Mar Shimmun was ordained and He was the last of the Shimmun Patriarchs.

However, presently the Patriarch of "The Assyrian Church of the East" is ordained through elections. Today His Beatitude Mar Dinkha IV holds the Patriarchal See in the United States of America (He is expected to return to His original Patriarchal See of The Church of The East, in Assyria since the Iraqi regime has fallen). His Beatitude firmly implemented the principle of separating between politics and Church affairs in the presence of Assyrian parties and organizations which are supposed to be working towards attaining the rights of the Assyrian people in their historical homeland, with the continuous persecution of the Assyrian people by other peoples who are domineering the Assyria.

The late Patriarch Mar Binyamin Shimmun is considered as the Martyr of The Church of The East and The Assyrian Nation. The Church commemorates His martyrdom on the Sunday preceding The Lent (Easter). As to the secular institutions, they celebrate His memory as the Nation's martyr on the Sunday which precedes the Great Lent before Easter (This year it was on the 15th of February) .On the other hand the Assyrian secular organizations (social, cultural, political) commemorate the martyrdom of Mar Binyamin the Patriarch on the 3rd of March every year, and the Assyrian people are still looking forward to the goal which The Patriarch Mar Binyamin Shimmun, the rest of the Assyrian leaders and hundreds of thousands of women, children and men were martyred for and that is peace and freedom for the Assyrian Nation similar to other nations.

But unfortunately it's very clear from the latest political changes and what is being concluded from the results of the Iraqi politicians' positions, especially through the way the current Iraqi administrative law is being organized, that the Assyrian people will be more marginalized and will face more suffers in the future (that is if there will be any one left in the homeland) unless if they concentrate their efforts to face the plans of the "De-Facto Powers" and that by adopting a new policy of co-operation first within the Assyrian family and then in the Iraqi family.

Good Morning Assyria

Assyrians Injured During Kurdish Riots in Syria

(ZNDA: Qamishly) The northeast Syrian town of Qamishli on Sunday was the scene of gunfire, burning grain silos, and damaged public buildings. A railway station, schools and public offices in the city have also been wrecked or burnt. Since Sunday tens of Kurdish residents have reportedly been killed duirng pro-war with Iraq demonstrations.

The violence in Qameshli ended after Interior Minister Ali Haj Hammoud flew to the area to take control and the authorities threatened those responsible with the "severest punishments".

Police officers and residents armed with licensed hunting rifles patrolled the streets of al-Hassaka, the administrative centre of the region, where public and private buildings had been attacked and damaged. They said their orders were not to use force unless "absolutely necessary".

Parents were keeping children away from school.

In a joint statement Kurdish and human rights groups accused the Syrian state of "neglecting the rights of Kurdish citizens" and urged self-restraint.

The Assyrian Orthodox Church for the Euphrates held a meeting with Kurdish and other tribal leaders to seek an end to the violence and "emphasise the importance of national unity".

It was not clear if the meeting, on Sunday evening, was held with the encouragement of the state officials who have been working to restore order in the city.

The newspaper al-Baath, organ of the ruling Arab Baath Socialist Party, said in an editorial on Sunday the unrest in the northeast was part of a plan "...to harm Syria and contribute to the sum of well-known pressures on Syria."

The Bush administration has threatened to impose sanctions on Damascus to punish it for its foreign policies, including its refusal to close down Lebanese and Palestinian guerrilla groups which attack Israelis.

Sources close to government thinking said Kurdish politicians had tried to turn a soccer match riot into a political issue, a reference to the grievances of some 200,000 Kurds not recognised as citizens.

There are about two million Kurds in Syria's 17 million population, but Syrian officials avoid reference to Kurds as a distinct minority and stress the importance of national unity. Kurds and other minorities have held senior government and army positions. According to a report published on Beth Suryoyo Assyrian Internet forum, two Assyrians were injured during the attacks in Qamishli by some of the separatist Kurds. The Kurdish attackers were stopped by armed Assyrian youth who were defending the Churches and other Assyrian buildings. Local leaders of the Assyrian Democratic Organization and the Assyrian churches have asked the Syrian government for more reinforcement to protect the unarmed citiziens. According to one such report, the Assyrian-owned public transporation company of Ezla Tours was the only company of its kind as target of Kurdish separatist attacks in Qamishly.

Residents inspect a grain silo which was burned down by Syrian Kurd rioters in Qamishli, an ethnically mixed town near the Turkish and Iraqi border, March 15, 2004. Sporadic gunfire echoed through the northeast Syrian town of Kemishli on Sunday, and the burning grain silo and damaged public buildings showed the severity of two days of Kurdish rioting that killed 14 people. Courtesy of Reuter's Khaled al- Hariri

Two Syrian military policemen stand next to a civilian in al-Hassaka city some 800 km (497 miles) northwest of the capital of Damascus near the border with Iraq and Turkey March 15, 2004. The violence near the Turkish and Iraqi border, was triggered by a brawl and stampede at a soccer match in the ethnically mixed town of Qameshli and spread to several towns nearby. Courtesy of Reuter's Khaled al- Hariri.

Basheer al-Saadi, head of the Assyrian Democratic Organisation told Reuters by telephone while touring several towns in the northeast that he saw no signs of renewed violence in the area.

"It seems that Kurdish parties now realise that things cannot continue this way because it is not in their interests or that of their people. We have been talking to them and trying to prevent further escalation," Saadi said.


News Digest

Final Declaration of the ADM Conference - Scandinavian Branch

Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM)
The Scandinavian Section
2 March 2004

Under the banner of "To make the organisation of the Scandinavian Section efficient in accordance with the developments in the Homeland”, the Scandinavian Section of the Assyrian Democratic Movement held its second conference in Jönköping, Sweden, on February 27-29, 2004, with delegates from Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland.

The conference was held while our ChaldoAssyrian and Iraqi people in general are going through a new era after the fall of Saddam Hussein and the end of the dictatorship. We are experiencing a critical period through which the foundation of future Iraq is being formed to create a democratic and independent country that guarantees the rights of all ethnic and religious groups. Thus a new law, which will underlie the constitution, was decided by the Iraqi Governing Council. The leadership of ADM which represents the ChaldoAssyrians in the Governing Council achieved important results on this matter. The law recognises our national rights (administrative, cultural and political), using our language (Syriac) in national schools and authorities and guarantees a fair representation of the ChaldoAssyrians in the interim government. During this reconstruction process, ADM and several Iraqi organisations were a target for terrorist attacks with intent to cause destabilisation and insecurity in the country and ruin the national unity. We condemn these terrorist actions directed on ADM, our people and other Iraqi organisations.

The conference pointed out the significant role of ADM as a consequence of its long struggle and sacrifices and the attendance from our people around the country, which gives ADM a considerable confidence. On the national level ADM enjoys an outstanding reputation and represents the ChaldoAssyrian people in the Governing Council via Mr. Yonadam Yousef Kanna and has greatly contributed to the agreement about the combined name (ChaldoAssyrian) in conjunction with the General Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Congress.

On the Scandinavian level the conference established the necessity of organisational reconstruction in accordance with the development in the homeland and stressed the role of the ChaldoAssyrian women and youth. The period between first and second conference was evaluated to correct the mistakes and invent methods for a better development and to be able to implement the party’s policy in accordance with the recent changes. Furthermore the delegates assured to continue the work that ADM´s martyrs and our people started to achieve our legitimate rights.

Our great reverence to the souls of our martyrs.
Our greetings to party fellows and our people in the homeland and to the Iraqi people at this time of freedom and democracy.

ANC to President Bush: Where are the Assyrian National Rights?

The Assyrian National Congress
Modesto, California

To: President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to you to express our strong opposition to certain articles in the newly signed Transitional Law for Iraq, especially those articles regarding the historical rights and national identity of the Assyrian people. The Assyrian people inside and outside Iraq are joining with their Iraqi compatriots, especially H.E. Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al- Sistani, the Turkman Front, and Sunni Arab political parties, in opposing the un-balanced and un-democratic Transitional Law.
It seems that another genocide has been committed against our Assyrian people, the indigenous people of Iraq, under your rule. This crime was initiated in Iraq by the enemies of the Assyrian people who want to claim their historical lands and wipe out the Assyrian nationality in Iraq. These conspirators employed an agent of their own creation, namely the "Christian Representative" in the Governing Council to further their evil scheme.

Under the watchful eyes of the American Government, the promoter of democracy and human rights in the world, a new fabricated nation has been created in Iraq under the name of "ChaldoAssyrian" to replace the historical, legal and holy name of the "Assyrian Nation." This is an un-forgivable offense committed by the American Government and the un-elected Governing Council against the proud Assyrian people. Not even Saddam Hussein and the Mongols in the past dared to do this to our people. In addition, the Transitional Law denies and obliterates the Assyrian nationality. The document refers to "ChaldoAssyrians" as "JAM-MA-AT", meaning a group or community!

The Transitional Law is completely silent in regard to the "National Rights" of the Assyrian people. This is a far cry from the resolutions adopted by the previous Iraqi Opposition conferences held under American sponsorship in Salah al-Deen (1992), New York (1999) and London (2002) in which the" Assyrian nationality" and "national rights" of the Assyrians were recognized and accepted.

Assyrian People's Parliament

It is a tragedy beyond words what happened in Iraq on March 8, 2004. Therefore, to prevent this ethnocide against the Assyrian people from taking effect, we strongly urge you and CPA to take immediate steps now to amend this wrong and to protect the national and human rights of the Assyrian people in Iraq. Listen to the cry of the Assyrian people in Iraq and their political representative, The Assyrian United Front of Iraq. Don't listen to one person, namely the "Christian Representative" in the IGC. He was not elected or appointed by the Assyrian people. He was recommended to the membership of the IGC by the same circles who are trying now to erase the Assyrian name from the northern region of Iraq in order to claim the Assyrian lands and incorporate them under
their recently found name of "Kurdistan." The Assyrian people in Iraq and allover the world are outraged. We are making our concerns known to Ambassador Bremer in Baghdad and American mass media. We seek a redress of this historical injustice against the Assyrian Nation.

Wishing you good health.

Sargon Dadesho, Ph.D.
President of the Assyrian National Congress
President of the AssyriaSat Satellite Network

Surfs Up!
Letters to the Editor

Living Under Kurdish Rule Now?

Binyamin Youseph

First of all I would like to congratulate you and Zinda crew for your 10th anniversary and for an excellent job that you are doing in publishing the Zinda Magazine. I have read every issue in the last couple years to keep myself and my family up to date about the events concerning our great Assyrian nation.

I read the latest issue and I was very much disturbed with the following article in the Transitional Constitution of Iraq:

Article 53: -- Kurdish Regional Government is henceforth recognized as a sole ruler of Governorates of Dohuk, Arbil, Sulaimania, Kirkuk, Diyala, and, Neneveh.

I am not sure if I have understood it correctly. It seems to me that our beloved land has been annexed to Kurdistan and our people must live under Kurdish rule. Your comment on this article and on my interpretation of this article will be very much appreciated.

Give It A Little Time

J. Haweil

In response to Mr. David Gavary's letter and further comments in the last issue of Zinda Magazine: It is clearly evident from Mr. Gavary's letter that he feels the "Passion of The Christ" film is a good film but that people within the Assyrian community are to excited about the film.

The film is in Aramaic and there is little mention from Mel Gibson on todays Assyrians but please keep in mind that an issue always has a beginning. Mr. Gavary seriously can't expect Mel Gibson to go on television and speak at length about the Assyrian people's plight. Let me offer some advice: "It is not going to happen".

I believe the majority of Assyrians are happy with how the film represents Assyrians and the Aramiac speakers. It is great that this has started a small amount of media recogniton and debate.

In the opinion of an Assyrian teenager I do feel that this small amount of publicity is enough to give Assyrians a chance to plead their case and to get the Assyrian situation and the Assyrian story into the media.

Please be happy with what is happening and please give the recognition and awarness process of the Assyrian people time to develop.

The Passion of the Christ: A Review

Helen Talia

In the weeks prior to the release of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of The Christ,” the word controversial was on everyone’s lips, even those who probably had no real understanding of the word. In an essence, the word became an oxymoron, and people everywhere became a protégé of each other. Then in the final phase, the media pumped so much adrenalin into the public, calling it everything from violent, disruptive, anti-Semitic, to conflict hidden, that some were indeed afraid to go and see it for themselves. But the Passion is strong, and the word of God is a stronghold. Read on…

In an interview with an angry Jewish Rabi, the movie was criticized for being filmed in two dead languages, meaning Latin and Aramaic. The latter one, Aramaic, was the official language that was used in the Middle Eastern region two thousand years ago, and the Jews, having been subjects of the Assyrian Empire, spoke Aramaic. Modern day Assyrian, Arabic and Hebrew are all derivatives of the assumable dead Aramaic language. In fact, in the Assyrian Church (The Holy Catholic and Apostolic Assyrian Church of the East) all sermons are held in the Aramaic language. So, for all those in need of a little lesson in history, when making an inference to Semitic, it is all three languages. Personally, I felt very connected because I understood 80% of the movie, without reading the subtitles.

Mel Gibson’s making of The Passion of The Christ was no coincidence. In all his interviews, he openly discussed being at an all time low point in his life, including the unbearable thoughts of committing suicide. But it is during those times of spiritual struggles that God wants us to go to him. And the grace of God is great as he will not allow us to go under. In this particular case, I believe that God placed Mr. Gibson in a state of desperation in order to breathe a new life into him, and through that the Lord delivered his message. A message that is much needed in an age of immorality.

The movie depicts the last twelve hours of the life of Christ on earth. It is told, in so many words, through his endurance of atrocities and the crucifixion. The movie sets sail in the garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus is praying “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:36-57. From its commencement, the movie will grab you, take you to a whole new spiritual level, and will not let go until the end. My personal favorites were the flashback scenes, especially one of Mary, mother of Jesus. Mary had a flashback of her son as a little boy. Young Jesus fell as he was running, and his mother ran to his rescue calling “here I am.” As she regained herself back to reality, in front of her eyes was her son who had taken another fall, carrying his cross to his own crucifixion. Bewildered, she ran to him, just as she had done when he was a little boy, and, again, with those very same words she called “here I am.” Jesus turned to his mother and said, “You see, mother, this is how I make all things new.” Needless to say, the eminence of Christianity is depicted in the crucifixion scene when Christ calls out to God saying “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” This scene is the ultimate reflection of the humility and forgiveness in the teachings of Christianity.

The Passion of The Christ is not just a film. It is an experience, an awakening, a hope, a gift to all people of all ages for all generations. Go see it! Take your children. This movie is not violent. It is history that can not be changed, and to take anything away from it would be unorthodox. After two thousand years, Jesus Christ remains a super star and his show is sold out. He remains the most influential figure in all of man’s history.

Don’t be ashamed to glorify Jesus Christ.

At A Crossroad

Bailis Yamlikha Shamun
North Carolina

Basma ganoukhoon, awoode d'Zinda. This is another impressive issue of the magazine.

I enjoyed reading Fred Aprim's article. Our nation is at a crossroad. Opportunities such as this one come once in a century. This is no time to dilute our efforts lest we lose this one as we have in the past. It would indeed be tragic should we fail because of our disunity. What we call ourselves now is less important in comparison to what we could accomplish together. There are important issues and challenges to consider, and it would behoove us to make every effort to present a united front. We should learn from the past if we are to secure a brighter future.

Satisfied with the Breadcrumbs?

Charles Smith

I was watching the Ashur TV program as they were interviewing Mr. Younadam Kana. Mr. Kana is the Assyrian and the Christian representative to the Iraqi council responsible for creating the constitution. Mr. Kana exuded pride during his interview, for all of the strides he had made for the Assyrian people in the new Iraqi constitution.

Mr. Kana stated that we were among the minorities of Iraq and now we would be able to teach the syriani language in our areas, just like the Turkmen and the Armenians. Not once did Mr. Kana mention that we are Assyrians or Christians, nor that our demands are different from the rest of the Iraqi people. Are we supposed to be happy with the little crumbs that are being thrown our way?

We have the same rights as Armenians; who have no ties to Iraq.

Further, Assyrians are not to be found anywhere else in the new Iraqi constitution for anything other than their language is Syriai. If we didn’t get what we wanted in the creation of this constitution, Mr. Kana should have walked out of the meetings. I am sure he would be much more respected by his peers for leaving, rather than accept this constitution, which will leave Assyrians in worse shape than under the Saddam Hussein regime.

If what Mr. Kana said is true, it is a set back to the Assyrian cause and an embarrassment to the Assyrian nation. I am angry and frankly pissed off and I want to say Chaboo to all of our leaders, organizations, the church of the east, and the Assyrians for their silence for putting us in this situation. I hope that the blood of our martyrs choke those that are responsible for doing this to the Assyrian nation. I’m an Assyrian born in Iran, if this is all we can accomplish as nation, I will call myself an Iranian and join the Iranian Christian church. I suggest that everyone else do the same thing in whatever country that you are living in.

Zowaa and Non-Zowaa, Please Listen to Our Demands

Dr George Habash
United Kingdom

In early March the shikhtana council in Baghdad signed an interim charter that would form the basis for shaping the Baghdadi establishment and that would formulate its structure. I have learnt about the charter from reading national papers and browsing various Assyrian sources mainly the internet as I feel it is degrading to follow the bindings of a council I personally do not recognize where its members have no history but brought to the forefront by events as paper tigers after the fall of Saddam from grace following the Kuwait fiasco in summer 1990.

The Zowaa representative signed the charter representing his organisation with sympathy from a few other organisations all of whom have not yet penetrated the Assyrian hearts and this is manifested by their diminutive memberships and the failure of these organisations to live up to the expectations of the Assyrian masses.
This is also proved by the activities of the non Assyrian parties Kurdish and otherwise in the towns of our heartland.

News reached me that a Kurdish group is more active in Ankawa than Zowaa and that there is Kurdish presence and militias in our towns in Nineveh where there not a single native Kurd.

I applaud every Assyrian nationalist Zowaaist and non Zowaaist but ‘I will not cease from mental fight’ until my expectations are met and this feeling is the feeling of our Assyrian masses.

Zowaa and non Zowaa must know that they cannot hold the Assyrian flag in one hand and its coffin in the other but must realize that either have to work for the national liberation of the Assyrian masses in equitable and compatible way along with all other components of the Baghdadi state or step aside. Here Provincialism cum Centralism for all and we go for it or Federalism for all and we go for it.

The Zowaa signature in achieving trivial things does not meet the aspiration of our nation while other components of the national rainbow take the lion shares. We have to stand head and shoulder among the others.

Since summer 1990 when the ousted regime started to crumble all ethnic groups of the Baghdadi state started bouncing even groups smaller than the Assyrians and this meant that we all have to achieve recognition and this recognition must not be based on appeasing the big three while side-stepping the Assyrians, Yazidis and Mandeans who are the indigenous people of the land prior to the arrival of the bigger groups.
Zowaa and a few others non Zowaa are leading the Assyrian nation into a cul-de-sac that will have tragic consequences in the future. It will despair our people who are still in the land who will see that there is no future for them governed by primitive Kakas or bedouin Sheikhs. Add to this that our people in Dispersion who are looking for a self-rule status in our land of ancestors to move into will be deterred from taking that direction and their zeal will diminish after 25 years or so when they will become totally assimilated in the host countries. What incentive can the new charter give to our people at home and abroad? What incentive can Zowaa give to expatriate Assyrians to hold a dual tainted nationality of Baghdad and the host country?

It is true that Zowaa have signed the charter but it is truer that the Assyrian nation did not sign and will not sign any surrender or capitulation pact.

Every nation has its charter and there many smaller nations worldwide fighting for their freedom and the Assyrian nation will follow that path and will continue its great struggle until it achieve the national rights in equitable way with the others.

Please Zowaa and non Zowaa these are the Assyrian demands:

(1) The creation of Assyrian province or provinces and the rejection of the Assyrian Administrative Region (AAR)

We have nothing against any co-national and want to live amicably and in neighbourhood but not at our expense.

We reject the Kurdish march into our heartland and we transcribe that into submission to Kurdish intrusion and bullying and therefore demand that the Kurds retreat from our heartland and that is part of Duhok province from north to south and parts of Aqra and Arbil regions. The Mosul town be included in the Assyrian province and extended southward to include all our archaeological and historical sites. This can be done by cantons-style system or other ways may be found.

The proposed map for AAR obtainable from AINA website is a farce because it denudes the Assyrian nation from its essence-Assyrianism by just becoming the Assyrian Jazira or even Turkmania or Yazidia.

The Kurds are going too far by exploiting the absence of the central power and pushing too much and mostly at the expense of the Assyrians and other co-nationals. Further it seems that the Kurds want the control of every Kurdish town and this meant that creeping into our heartland. Some Kurdish towns have to fall under our control while the remote Assyrian presence will naturally fall under their control.
We did not fight Arabism to be fallen under a new occupation by the Kurds and the Kurds must know their recent history of semi triumph and total defeat by the central governments.

(2) Encouraging reverse migration of our people from cosmopolitan towns to the Assyrian heartland

The current situations in the country oblige us to think more than twice about our existence in regions we moved into for economic reasons and survival. The slaughter of our people in Baghdad, Basrah and other cosmopolitan towns and the threat, kidnapping and rape in parts of the country where we existed as small communities proved no longer tenable.

We Assyrian and Christian people tend to aggregate together due to national, religious and cultural ties and therefore for our people to feel more secure and build coherent communities we have to opt for living in one province or more run and administrated by themselves. This requires constructing new Assyrian towns and villages quite apart in our heartland.

If that is achieved then I am sure that our people in Dispersion will start packing to return to their land of their ancestors bringing with them cash, expertise and modern life to build our small nation and live in peace and prosperity.

(3) Renaming our towns and villages to original Assyrian names

So far and despite of one year of post Saddam bizarre we failed to achieve something Assyrianically. Our towns are still named deridingly by Arabised or alien names. For example the names are still Qaraqosh not Bakhdida, Karamlees not Karimlash, Bartilla not Bartley, Talkaif not Telkeppe, Batnaya not Batnaye, Alqoosh not Alqosh and Ainkawa not Ankawa. Above all the region of Al-Hamdaniya still exists which is a large area south and east of Assyrian Nineveh. This is a sample and there many Assyrian towns and villages that must be renamed.

But this may be currently prevented by the new Kurds and previous Arabs to dilute our national claim.

(4) Zowaa and non Zowaa must gain the trust of our people

I personally give Zowaa 50-50 but should Zowaa start to listen to the demands of our people then for sure I will approve Zowaa in its policies but this require that Zowaa change the image it had begotten and learn from the wrong practises of the Baathists by allowing the spirit of dialogue and give and take approach. Currently Zowaa and its sympathizers use the language of intimidation and insult for imposing their version of views.

If you follow the Assyrian forums on the internet and analyses you will encounter the same absurd clichés-ready answers:

(a)We lack the demographic bomb and we are diminutive in number; then they use the language of self-flagellating and self-defeating to downsize and belittle the importance of our nation in order to accept their flimsy version of capitulation.

(b)We live comfy lives in the west and we hide behind our PCs while the real leadership(s) on the ground is facing death every day as though all our people who left were timid. The fact is most of our people left for economic reasons and granted lives but if that is available at home no one would have left and most will return.

(c) That our nation is divided, but surely we are not. All the earth is divided and there is no need to elaborate.

(d)That they are right and the whole nation is wrong and we have to follow them.

Zowaa Democrataya Ashuraya please remain Democrataya and Ashuraya and what I mean is being Democrataya you have to allow different views than yours and listen to them and Ashuraya means that you continue to bear high the banners of Assyrian liberation and not betraying it. I hope you listen.

Publication of Journal Zinda is Timely

Prof. S. Osipov

From the bottom of my heart I congratulate ... the team of Zinda Magazine on the Tenth Anniversary. There is no doubt that Zinda has become the spark which has inflamed the hearts of many Assyrians and has thrown its light upon many positive and negative aspects of our life in the Diaspora and in the historical motherland.

It’s impossible to conceive the Assyrian world without Zinda nowadays. It is the very necessary resource which unites all of us – Assyrians, Syrians, Syriacs, Chaldeans, Arameans – one ethos with many names. I wish you success and happy future.

I’m also grateful to you for the Russian version of Zinda. I believe that it’s an absolutely suitable decision, for the Assyrians of Russia have been separated from their brothers and sisters for almost the whole of the 20th century. And unification of our nation is possible only if all its fragments are pulled together. The history of the Russian Assyrians turned out to be such a diverse one that it’s impossible to give a unique estimation. There was much grief and many tragic events – repressions in the Thirties, the Second World War which took away the lives of a great number of our heroes, deportations to Siberia and Kazakhstan. But there were many beautiful things as wel,l such as friendship and brotherhood in a multinational Russia, the insights of the Great Russian culture, the brilliant educational system which educated many famous scientists, doctors, teachers, and statesmen in our nation. I believe that with the advent of Russian version of Zinda our contacts will considerably increase.

In connection with this I call your attention to very interesting information which reveals one more page in the history of the Assyrians of Russia and is highly instructive for our nation.

[Zinda: Read Prof. Osipov's article in this week's Literatus section.]

A Mini Assyrian Convention in Dubai

The gathering of a small group of Assyrians in Dubai's Irish Club on 5 March. Guests had arrived from as far as the United States, United Kingdom, Australia , Holland , Canada , Spain , Sweden , Syria and Iraq.

Click the flyer for more information.

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Surfer's Corner

Georgia Press: Robert Murray's Symbols of Church and Kingdom: A Study in Early Syriac Tradition.

This is a must read for any scholar, student or general reader interested in the Syriac tradition.

Murray, Robert. Symbols of Church and Kingdom: A Study in Early Syriac Tradition (revised edition)

Brief Description: This book deals with a topic of interdisciplinary importance, at the cultural crossroads of the ancient and medieval worlds of east and west, and of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. It will be of interest to a correspondingly wide range of readers.

In this revised and updated edition of his classic work, Robert Murray offers the fullest and most vivid picture yet available of the development and character of the culture, illustrating both its original close relationship to Judaism and its remoter background in Mesopotamian civilization.

This book deals with a topic of interdisciplinary importance, at the cultural crossroads of the ancient and medieval worlds of east and west, and of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. It will be of interest to a correspondingly wide range of scholars and students. No knowledge of Syriac is assumed.

‘A superb work’ -- Wayne A Meeks, Yale University

'After more than a quarter of a century, Robert Murray's Symbols of Church and Kingdom still remains by far the best introduction to early Syriac Christianity. It has justly become something of a classic.' -- Sebastian Brock, University of Oxford

‘This scrupulous book with an unfailing historical sense is alive to the language of the Late Romans, laying bare with sympathy the way in which Syriac-speaking Christians spoke of the Church…’ The New York Review

Code: 1-59333-114-2
Pre-Publication Price: $59.00
Post Publication Price: $64.00
Format: Paperback
Size (in): 6 x 9
Pages: ca. 420
Publication Year: Forthcoming, summer 2004

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Lawlessness is Our Destiny

Professor Sargis G. Osipov

In December 2003 the “National Saint-Petersburg” magazine published an article by Leonid Shlimmonov titled “The Foreigners” which described misfortunes of the Assyrians residing in the city of Khanlar in the Republic of Azerbaijan. The article described a deportation of June 14, 1949. By chance or by plan the exile was timed on the holiday of Mar Zaya. The Assyrians of Khanlar were exiled to the Tomsk Region in Eastern Siberia. 4663 people were removed from Khanlar in 4 echelons in cattle-boxes.

The Assyrians were exiled without any warning, without any legal verdicts or judicial determinations. A similar deportation took place a year later in November 1950 in Tbilisi, Georgia.

I remember that night very well, when KGB members using the lists of Tbilisi Assyrians prepared beforehand, collected everybody to remove to Kazakhstan in similar inhuman conditions -in cattle-boxes. Our family survived by a miracle only because we spent that night at my mother’s parents’ and not in our own house. My mother’s parents and sisters were exiled, and together with other Assyrians from Tbilisi they were thrown out to bare steppes of Kazakhstan in beastly cold. The Assyrians were exiled as the former loyal subjects of Turkey and Iran. Therefore they were said to be “socially dangerous elements” able to become spies and traitors.

But L. Shlimmonov managed to find out a different angle of this situation. From the references in the Supreme Court of the USSR on vindication which he received in 1992, L. Shlimmonov found out that the Assyrians of Khanlar were banished to a special exile on the basis of an enactment of a Special Committee of KGB from November 12, 1949. It means that the decision was taken 4 months later after the date they had been deported. What did the authorities follow while deporting the Assyrians? One of the records of Tomsk region reveals a “secret” of such lawlessness to some extent:

Petition of Tomsk Regional Committee of the Communist Party to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR about additional settlement of special migrants to northern areas of the Region
February 4, 1950, Tomsk


When a special contingent was settled in our region last year we couldn’t take the people to Pudinskyi, Aleksandrovskyi, Vasyuganskyi, Verkhne-Ketskyi and other northern areas of the region which are in extreme need of man power to develop agriculture, timber industry and other branches of economy. In connection with the necessity of these and other areas settlement we ask you to settle into Tomsk region during the next three years 50 thousand workers including 25 thousand workers in the current year, 8 thousand of which are for timber industry.

Secretary of Tomsk Regional Committee of the Communist Party

Thus the Soviet authorities solved the problem of providing Siberia and the North with cheap man power. It is also evident that the authorities of even such an almighty and great power as the USSR could not treat all nations with such lawlessness. The Assyrians being deprived of civil rights most of all, having neither a state, nor autonomy and no leaders able to protect them will always and everywhere be exposed to such misdeeds. It is high time to think about it; all of us, no matter how safe we are in our present state.

Not So Fast Mr. Bremer! 550 Young Men and Women did not Die to Create an Islamic Government

Rev. Kenneth Joseph Jr.

The war was over! The Americans entered the country victoriously! They immediately began the exhaustive process of purging members of the former regime, disarming the military and getting basis services to the public.

The first order of business - a Constitution. Sensitive to the charge of having `imposed` the constitution the Americans were careful to do the work in secret and put a local face on the work. Some of the best minds in constitutional law were gathered together and the document was finally prepared against the strong opposition of remnants of the former regime but to the delight of the public, finally freed from the twin tyrannies of the former regime and the imposed radical religious philosophy.

The main sticking point? The role of religion in the state. To make sure there would never be a return to the abuse of the previous regime an airtight article on the role of religion in the state was included. It read:

`Freedom of religion is guaranteed to all. No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor excursive any political authority. No person shall be compelled to take part in any religious act, celebration, rite or practice. The State shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity.`

There were many areas up for discussion but it was this article in the Constitution that saved the day. Those attached to the former regime were furious. The Public was delirious! They had finally gotten a `normal` government - no more of the previous regime and the abuses in the name of religion.

Iraq? No, Japan - 47 years ago!

It was article 20 of the Japanese Constitution that formed the basis for the separation of religion from Government that launched Japan from a rogue nation and a religious police state to the world leader that it is today.

Amidst the jubilation at the signing of the `Transitional Administrative Law` in Iraq a very important lesson from Japan 47 years ago has been forgotten. This is the critical importance of separating religion from government.

The relevant article, article 7 in the Iraqi `Transitional Administrative Law` says:

Islam is the official religion of the State and is to be considered a source of legislation. No law that contradicts the universally agreed tenets of Islam, the principles of democracy, or the rights cited in Chapter Two of this Law may be enacted during the transitional period. This Law respects the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people and guarantees the full religious rights of all individuals to freedom of religious belief and practice.

While much is being made of the bill of rights and other positive parts of the law, the most watched part of the constitution was article 4 in the previous Iraqi constitution which translates to article 7 in the transitional law.

Since when did Americans give their lives to create Islamic states?

Hekmat Hakem, a member of the constitutional committee put it like this.

`If there is any mention of religion or ideology or a phrase such as 'Islam is the religion of the state,' it will be the death of democracy in Iraq." Any such mention would disenfranchise half of the Iraqi population -- namely the women. `

He went on to say `The Iraqi people are secular and will never accept any mention of this in the constitution. We do not want to become like Iran. "We just want to become like a normal country. We want a constitution that is secular and gives local autonomy. It is against the teaching of the Koran to allow religion's involvement in government.`

Beyond that is the clear indication of the Iraqi public, like the Japanese public nearly a half century ago that they want a `normal` government - no more ideology, religion in Government.

47 years ago the United States sided with the people against the remnants of the previous regime and stood up for freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

The reaction of Hekmat Hakem, and most Iraqis on the street We thought the Americans wanted democracy to grow in Iraq? Why would they even think of an Islamic constitution?"

And yet that is the reality that has come to Iraq.

When asked `do you want an Islamic government` the vast majority of Iraqis from Shia to Sunni to Assyrian Christian are clear that they do not want it.

Echoing Hekmat Hakem, `Why would the Americans even think of approving an Islamic constitution`.

47 years ago, a generation of the youngest and best American minds came together and worked very hard to create a constitution that would liberate the Japanese people from the tyrants that had ruled them. It took hold and Japan went on to become the world power that it is today.

They had realized a fundamental point that seems to have evaded notice by those that came after them - that `thugs` use `religion` to do what they want to do. They do all they can, as they did 47 years ago in Japan to get some mention of religion, ideology or philosophy in a constitution and in law so they can continue to maintain control under the guise of one or the other.
Ali Hussein, 35 a Shiite Muslim office worker makes it easy to understand.

"We do not want an Islamic government. While we believe in Islam and the Koran too often the religious leaders work more for themselves and not for the people. All you have to do is look at Iran."

Sadek Zamel, 36, and a Shiite puts it this way: "We don't want a religious government. We just want to be normal like the Americans. We want to travel -- we have not been able to travel outside the country for 13 years, we want to be able to take vacations, to be with our families -- to be normal."

Hayder Mousa, 33 is a Sunni Muslim and a producer: "I just want to be able to produce movies and work. I am a Muslim but I don't want religion in the government in any way. We just want to be a normal country. We definitely do not want to become like Iran."

The question remains, why? Why in the world would 550 young men and women lose their lives to create a country that states in its constitution `Islam is the official religion of the State`

Did not the Americans learn the lesson 47 years ago that unless ideology and religion is taken out of the law you cannot have the rule of law, freedom and democracy?

The `Transitional Administrative Law` is still transitional and Iraq is still under American administration. On July 1 Iraq is scheduled to be handed over. While there is still time, the clear desire of the Iraqi people is `we just want to be normal - we do not want religion in government`.

If the current July 1 schedule is maintained and a handover to the `Transitional Administrative Law` goes forward Iraq will immediately go into Civil War and the deaths of 550 young men and women will be betrayed.

[Zinda: Rev. Ken Joseph Jr., is an Assyrian, was born and raised in Japan and directs Assyrianchristians.com.]

Rediscovering the Language Jesus Spoke

Steven Gertz
Courtesy of Christianity Today
12 March 2004

Few movies filmed in foreign languages ever become American blockbusters. Not only has The Passion of The Christ done so, it has rocketed to the top of the charts, grossing over $200 million in its first 12 days—a record rivaling Peter Jackson's Return of the King. Not bad for a movie filmed almost entirely in a language considered long dead.

Or is it? I personally know one Christian in the Chicago area who understands enough Aramaic to listen to the movie without depending solely on the subtitles—and he's not an Ivy League scholar. Originally from Iraq, he describes himself as an "Assyrian" whose mother tongue is Aramaic. According to one official website, 460,000 Assyrians now live in the U.S., 100, 000 of them residing in Chicago alone. And some Assyrian Christians have set up websites offering instruction in Aramaic for those so inclined. It's even possible to read the entire New Testament in Aramaic.

But what exactly is Aramaic, and where did it come from? How has it survived 20 centuries of turmoil and change? And what can we surmise about its future, thanks to The Passion?

Eclipsing Hebrew?

As The Passion's website notes (see "About the Production"), Aramaic was the dominant Semitic language of Jesus' time. Emerging around 1000 B.C. in several Aramean kingdoms (biblical Damascus, for example), Aramaic spread through the conquests of the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian empires to encompass the entire Middle East, stretching from Egypt to Pakistan. In the Holy Land, Aramaic supplanted Hebrew as the language of the people sometime between 721 BC, the year Israel's capital Samaria fell to Assyrian invaders, and 500 BC, following the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon.

The return of Jews to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple did not undermine Aramaic's newfound status in Hebrew culture. Aramaic appears at times in the Old Testament, and recent evidence gathered from the Dead Sea scrolls suggests that the apocryphal book of Tobit was written entirely in Aramaic. The Gospel of Mark quotes Jesus in Aramaic several times; the best known of these may be his words on the cross—"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" or "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Judging from its renderings in Matthew and Luke, some scholars think Jesus composed the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic.

And how did the language fare after Jesus? In 1933, archaeologists discovered Aramaic inscriptions in a Jewish synagogue built around 245 AD in the Roman outpost of Dura Europos, located on the Euphrates River in modern Syria. They have since uncovered Aramaic writing in more than 20 synagogues across the Holy Land. Clearly, Jews continued to speak the language. And they did so in such numbers that Hebrew scholars felt the pressure of Aramaic competition: third-century Rabbi Yohanan insisted Jews should speak only Hebrew, as "the angels do not know Aramaic."

Not Greek or Hebrew but Aramaic
Had it been only the Jews who spoke Aramaic, it might well have passed out of common usage. Aramaic was the language of the Middle East at the time, among Jews and Gentiles alike. Inscriptions in churches across the Holy Land attest to this—scholars have even found early Aramaic copies of the Bible translated from the Greek Septuagint. Following Constantine's conversion, the church in the Holy Land used Greek more than any other language, but some of the sayings of the Desert Fathers have been discovered in Aramaic, including Athanasius's homily on the Life of Anthony.

What really ensured Aramaic's survival, though, was its usage in Edessa, Syria (modern-day Urfa, Turkey), where it had flourished for centuries. According to the historian Eusebius, an ailing king of Edessa wrote a letter to Jesus asking him to exercise his healing powers on the king's behalf. And following Christ's ascension, the apostle Thomas reputedly sent a disciple name Addai to Edessa. While there is little historical evidence to support either of these stories, it is clear that missionaries established a Christian community in Edessa within the first couple centuries A.D. Naturally, the church there assumed Aramaic as its mother tongue.

By the fourth century, Edessa was known throughout Christendom for its school of biblical studies, its showpiece church that resembled Constantinople's glorious Hagia Sophia, and its many monasteries and ascetic communities. In 489, the school moved into Persian territory, or the city of Nisibis. These "Syriac" Christians distanced themselves from their Roman (or Byzantine) brothers over the Nestorian controversy, which gave them favor in the eyes of Persian rulers then fighting Rome. Consequently, Syriac Christians were able to send a large number of missionaries throughout the Persian Empire, some traveling as far away as India and China. While European Christians spoke Latin and Greek, Christians in the East conversed in Aramaic.

So why do we hear so little about Aramaic today? To put it simply, the rise of Islam and the spread of Arabic radically changed the face of the Middle East. By the ninth century, Aramaic had virtually disappeared in the Holy Land. In Syria and Persia, where Aramaic was stronger to begin with, Christians continued to speak the language in monasteries and churches even as Arabic became the "language of the street." But Islamic persecution, especially in the twentieth century, has significantly reduced the number of Christians speaking Aramaic in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. The language has all but disappeared in the land of its birth.

A Dead Language?

Today, the majority of those who use Aramaic as their mother tongue belong to the Syrian Orthodox Church, which claims between 1 and 2 million people worldwide—many in the West. Most of these use Aramaic only in their homes or churches, and second and third generation Syrian Orthodox believers run the risk of losing the language altogether. Even my Iraqi friend admits his ability to speak and understand Aramaic has deteriorated, and he cannot read or write in it. And like many expatriates, he is married to a North American who has no background in Aramaic at all.

But The Passion of The Christ seems to represent something of a modern Aramaic resurgence. A Texas musical ensemble called SAVAE has recently released a CD called Ancient Echoes, which brings Aramaic to life in sacred music. NPR has featured programs on the history of Aramaic and its use at the time of Christ. Even the UK's Guardian seems to be getting into the spirit of things, coming out with a short glossary of useful sayings in Aramaic.

And what does Gibson have to say about his experience with Aramaic? "To bring a cast from all over the world to one place and have them all learn this one language gave them a sense of common ground, of what they share and of connections that transcend language." Thousands of Aramaic-speaking Christians—scattered all over the world—know just what he's talking about.

[Zinda: This article draws on Sebastian P. Brock's 3-volume scholarly book series titled The Hidden Pearl (Trans World Film Italia, 2001). Steven Gertz is editorial coordinator of Christian History.]



Yonadam Kanna Supports Greater Representation for Women in Iraq

(ZNDA: Baghdad) In February 2003, a group of concerned Iraqi women met to establish Women for a Free Iraq (WFFI), rallying support for the liberation of Iraq and the Iraqi women. On April 21-22, 19 members attended a meeting for "Winning the Peace: Women's Role in the Post-Conflict Iraq," that took place in Washington D.C.  The Women's Alliance for a Democratic Iraq (WAFDI) was formed at this meeting and the attendees committed themselves to the empowerment and advancement of women in a free and democratic post-Saddam Iraq.

Left to Right : The Honorable Yonadem Kanna, Susan Dakak, U.S. General Sanchez, and Pakeeza ALexander.

Ms. Pauline Jasim of Chicago, an officer of the Assyrian American National Federation, is the Vice President of WFFI. Recently she arrived in Baghdad to actively engage in the activities of her organization and directly assist in the post-Saddam reconstruction efforts.

During the round-the-clock negotiations prior to the signing of the Interim Constitution, WFFI members lobbied for six days to obtain a 40% representation for women in the future parliamentary elections. At the end of the negotiations they agreed to 25% representation.

The Honorable Yonadam Kanna was instrumental in easing the way for the women to address the Iraqi Governing Council, according to Zinda Magazine sources in Baghdad. At one point, he agreed to relinquich his chair to allow a WFFI member to sit in the meetings. Mr. Kanna also advocated the 40% represenation for women during such meetings.

Signing the Interim Constitution
Pakeeza ALexander sitting at the King Faisal I chair Standing behind her left to right are WAFDI members: Pauline Jasim, Susan Dakak, Bushra Jamil, and Sundus Ali.

[Zinda: Membership in WAFDI is open to all qualified men and women who are sponsored by WAFDI core member and who believe in equal rights and opportunities for all Iraqi women, regardless of color, ethnicity, or religion.]


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