13 Tdabakh 6754
3 August 2004
Z I N D A M A G A Z I N E
Meet The Ziggurat!
I can't believe the news today
I was eating breakfast with my wife and mother on Sunday when my mobile phone began ringing in a peculiar tune around nine-thirty. My heart began racing; I felt something had happened. Something awful in a place much too far from the comfort of my mother's home in San Jose.
"Wilfred, is that you? It's me, Ken. They bombed us, Wilfred. Are you listening? They bombed our churches." It was Rev. Ken Joseph from Baghdad. I lost my concentration for about two seconds. What was he talking about?
"Ken, who bombed our churches? What churches? What are you talking about"
Ken screamed back: "Wilfred, many got killed and injured. They bombed 4 churches here and in Mosul."
Five minutes later we were speaking about our immediate plans in Baghdad and Washington. I was quickly jotting down notes on a napkin. Write to this person, call this official, email that minister, so on. There was the sound of commotion coming from the other end. Father Ken stopped me and asked me to pray with him. I was too numb to think about the dead and the injured yet. I only wanted to know how long.
He had predicted this back in April when we met during Yonadam Kanna's visit to the U.S. It finally happened.
Broken bottles under children's feet
In one of the hundreds of articles written on the heinous act of terrorism committed on Sunday against our churches in Iraq, I read something quite stunning about a Chaldean Catholic priest. It said that with a tear rolling down his cheek, Father Faris Toma stood amid the wreckage outside his Baghdad church and prayed for the bombers who killed 10 members of his congregation. He prayed "We cannot understand why or how they could do something like this. All we can do is ask God to give them forgiveness and grant us peace."
The same song we have been serenading for the last 2,000 years in Mesopotamia, during and after every massacre committed against us from the time of King Shapur II of Persia until this past Sunday evening in Baghdad and Mosul.
The reports this morning said that up to 11 people have died and some 60 people injured. The reports lie. Dozens have died and many many more are injured. One source to Zinda Magazine explained on Sunday that as many as 20 people have died in just one of the 6 churched attacked.
Our backs are once again against the wall of ignorance, empathy and indifference.
And the battle's just begun
Pity on us who stood still when the two sisters were massacred. Pity on us who did nothing when our children were kidnapped every day, our sisters slaughtered on their way to work, and our mothers forced to dress as Moslems.
Who will protect us now?
As American soldiers picked through the blackened remains of 19 vehicles in the compound of the Chaldean Church of St Peter and St Paul in Baghdad's Doura district, an elderly man, supported by a young priest, was weeping quietly. His son was among those killed by the blast.
Wipe the tears from your eyes
What names did we read in the newspapers and in the Assyrian media since the bombings of the churches? Did the Assyrian patriarch in Chicago make a statement on the destruction of His Holiness' churches in Baghdad? Did the Federation in the U.S. send a team of advocates for the rights of the Christians to Washington D.C. yesterday? Did you write your local government representatives and newspapers and explained the injustice committed everyday against the Assyrians of Iraq?
And it's true we are immune
What would it take you and I to stand up against such injustice today? To stop singing the same song and ask others to pay attention to us? How many more churches have to be destroyed? Six churches in Iraq is proportional to 600 mosques built by the Saudi Wahabists in Bet-Nahrain. What is our threshold in the west? 20 dead? 200? 2000? Will we strike our blows for the freedom of the Assyrian people in Bet-Nahrain if 20,000 Assyrians were massacred in one night?
The terrorists kill Christian worshippers and Muslim workers alike. They need a civil war. But the Assyrians of Iraq will not allow this to happen. The victims of the Sunday's massacre at the Sayidat al-Najat (Our Lady of Salvation) Church in Karrada (Baghdad), the Sayidat al-Zohour (Our Lady of the Flowers) Armenian Church in Karrada (Baghdad), St. Peter & St. Paul Chaldean Church in Doura, al-Meekanik quarters (Baghdad), St. Paul Church in Mosul, St. Elia - Ni'aayriyya o' Gayyara Chaldean Catholic Church in New Baghdad, and St. Mary's Church in east Baghdad shall not be a conduit for the Islamic extremism that threatens the lives of our people and every peace and freedom-loving Iraqi in our homeland. Assyrians live in constant fear, but they will not give up. Neither does Father Ken Joseph, the Zowaa fighters, nor should you reading this editorial.
Put pressure on your elected officials to support our struggle and demand full protection for the Assyrians of Iraq, because Assyrians are fleeing Iraq. This is what the extremists want - an end to the continuous existence of Christians in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. Everyday the insurgents destroy the Christian shops, stores, bars, movie theatres, and now hair salons and video stores. Assyrians in Baghdad do not find employment as easily as their Moslem counterparts do. If they work for the Coalition Forces they risk being the target of daily bombings.
It is not too late to ask for 10 percent of the 18 billion dollars or more earmarked for Iraq. Christians in Iraq comprise as many as 10 percent of the entire population.
It is not too late to request help in resettling the Assyrians in their villages and towns and apply for reconstruction aid for over 300 villages in North Iraq.
It is not too late to demand administrative autonomy in and around the areas with greater concentration of Assyrian population, the districts around Mosul (Nineveh Plain) and elsewhere in North Iraq.
Finally, it is not too late to demand a safe haven for our people within their ancestral homeland.
The real battle yet begun
"I am honored to be a Christian, and to keep a low profile would be to deny my faith," said Tania, a 21-year-old woman, outside an Assyrian church on Sunday night. "I'll be at church as usual next Sunday."
On this coming 7th of August let us take the first step toward freedom and justice for the Assyrians of Iraq. We survived the bloodthirsty Persian rulers, the hideous crimes of the Mongolian conquerors, the betrayals of the British and the French, the massacres of the Turks and the Kurds, and lastly Saddam's dictatorship. This too shall pass us if we come together and demand justice for the sake of the many killed in the Bloody Sunday of August 1st, 2004.
[Zinda: The lyrics in bold are portions of the song "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" performed by the Irish band, U2.]
The ChaldoAssyrian Cause in Iraq: Implications for Maronites
John C. Michael, MD
[Zinda: The following paper was presented at the National Apostolate of Maronites Convention held in Orlando, Florida on July 16, 2004.]
The ChaldoAssyrians (also known as Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Syriacs) are the indigenous people of Mesopotamia and have a history spanning over 6700 years. Today's ChaldoAssyrians are the descendants of the ancient multiethnic Assyrian empire and one of the earliest civilizations emerging in Mesopotamia. Although the Assyrian empire ended in 612 B.C., history is replete with recorded details of the continuous persistence of the ChaldoAssyrian people till the present time. Assyrian civilization at one time incorporated the entire Near East most notably the area of the Fertile Crescent.
The heartland of Assyria lays in present day northern Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey, and northwestern Iran. The remains of the ancient capital of Assyria, Nineveh, lie next to Mosul in northern Iraq. Until earlier this century prior to the ChaldoAssyrian Holocaust of 1915, the major ChaldoAssyrian communities still inhabited the areas of Tur Abdin and Hakkari in southeastern Turkey, Jazira in northeastern Syria, Urmi in northwestern Iran, and Mosul in northern Iraq as they had for thousands of years.
The world's 4.5 million ChaldoAssyrians are currently dispersed with members of the Diaspora comprising nearly one-third of the population. Most of the ChaldoAssyrians in the Diaspora live in North America, Europe and Australia with nearly 400,000 residing in the United States of America and 200,000 in Europe. The remaining ChaldoAssyrians reside primarily in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon and to a lesser extent in Iran, and Turkey.
ChaldoAssyrians constitute the third largest ethnic group in Iraq. They represent the historically indigenous people of the region. Estimates of the total ChaldoAssyrian population in Iraq range between 1.5-2 million people. Most ChaldoAssyrians currently in Iraq reside in and around the Baghdad area with 750,000- 1,000,000 ChaldoAssyrians within central Iraq. An additional 300,000-400,000 ChaldoAssyrian reside within the area in and around Mosul (ancient Nineveh). Approximately 100,000 ChaldoAssyrians reside in the former northern UN Safe Haven. Another community of ChaldoAssyrians numbering in the range of 25,000 resides in Karkuk while the remainder of the population is scattered in smaller concentrations in the remainder of the country. Due to disproportionate emigration, ChaldoAssyrians from Iraq constitute the largest group of Iraqis in the U.S. with estimates ranging between 80-90%.
ChaldoAssyrians are not Arabs but rather have maintained a continuous and separate ethnic identity, language, culture, and religion that predate the Arabization of the Near East. Until today, the ChaldoAssyrians speak a distinct language (called Syriac or Aramaic by some scholars), the language spoken by Jesus Christ. As a Semitic language, the ChaldoAssyrian language is related to Hebrew and Arabic but predates both. The Syriac or Aramaic language of the ChaldoAssyrians remains the oldest continuously written and spoken language of the entire Middle East.
The ChaldoAssyrians were among the first people to accept Christianity in the first century A.D. through the Apostle St. Thomas. Despite the subsequent Islamic conquest of the region in the seventh century A.D., the various ChaldoAssyrian Churches flourished and their adherents at one time numbered in the tens of millions. ChaldoAssyrian missionary zeal was unmatched and led to the first Christian missions to China, Japan, and the Philippines. The Church of the East stele in Xian, China bears testament to a thriving Church of the East as early as in the seventh century A.D.
Early on, ChaldoAssyrian Christians developed into two ancient branches, the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Church of the East. Over time, divisions within Eastern Christianity led to the establishment of various Syriac Churches including the Chaldean Church, the Assyrian Church of the East, the Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic Churches, the Syriac Maronite Church, and the Melkite Churches. Persistent persecution under Islamic occupation led to the migration of still greater numbers of Assyrian Christians into the Christian autonomous areas of Mount Lebanon as well. With the arrival of Western Protestant missionaries into Mesopotamia, especially since the nineteenth century, several smaller congregations of Assyrian Protestants arose as well. Over the course of several centuries, some ChaldoAssyrians came to identify themselves by these varying but closely related names.
Despite some differing self-identifications, ChaldoAssyrians still overwhelmingly consider themselves one people irrespective of whether they refer to themselves as Assyrians, Chaldeans, or Syriacs. In the 2000 U.S. Census, mainstream organizations from the different communities including the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA), the Assyrian American National Federation (AANF), the Chaldean Federation of America (CFA), and the Syriac Universal Alliance (SUA) endorsed the Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriac category that tabulated all respondents as one people independent of their preferred term of self-identification. Letters from the Bishops of the Chaldean, Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholic, and Syriac Maronite Churches encouraged their parishioners to support the unified category in order that all segments of the community are tabulated together.
A direct consequence of ChaldoAssyrian adherence to the Christian faith and their missionary enterprise has been persecution, massacres, and ethnic cleansing by various waves of non-Christian neighbors which ultimately led to a decimation of the ChaldoAssyrian Christian population. Quite tragically, Great Britain invited the ChaldoAssyrians as an ally in World War One. The autonomous ChaldoAssyrians were drawn into the conflict following successive massacres against the civilian population by forces of the Ottoman Empire consisting of Turks and Kurds. Although many geopolitical and economic factors were involved in provoking the attacks against the ChaldoAssyrians, a jihad or "holy war" was declared and served as the rallying cry and vehicle for marauding Turks, Kurds, and Persians. Although the Muslim holy war against the Armenians is perhaps better known, over three-fourths, or 750,000 ChaldoAssyrian Christians died by outright murder, starvation, disease and the all too familiar consequences of genocide between 1914-1923 during the ChaldoAssyrian Holocaust along with a significant number of Pontic Greeks.
The conflict and subsequent ChaldoAssyrian Holocaust led to the decimation and dispersal of the ChaldoAssyrians. Those ChaldoAssyrians who survived the Holocaust were driven out of their ancestral homeland in Turkish Mesopotamia primarily toward the area of Mosul Vilayet in Iraq, Jazira in Syria, and the Urmi plains of Iran where large ChaldoAssyrian populations already lived. The massacres of 1915 followed the ChaldoAssyrians to these areas as well, prompting an exodus of many more ChaldoAssyrians to other countries and continents.
The ChaldoAssyrian Holocaust of 1915 is the turning point in the modern history of the ChaldoAssyrian Christians precisely because it is the single event that led to the dispersal of the surviving community into small, weak, and destitute pockets. Most ChaldoAssyrians in the Diaspora today can trace their emigration from the Middle East to the ChaldoAssyrian Holocaust of 1915. Many who fled from their original homes into other Middle Eastern countries subsequently, just one generation later, once more emigrated to the West. Thus, many ChaldoAssyrian families in the West today have experienced transfer to a new country for three successive generations-beginning, for instance, from Turkey to Iraq and then to the United States.
On account of the ChaldoAssyrians siding with the victorious Allies during World War One, Great Britain had promised the ChaldoAssyrians autonomy, independence, and a homeland. The ChaldoAssyrian question was addressed during postwar deliberations at the League of Nations. However, with the termination of the British Mandate in Iraq, the unresolved status of the ChaldoAssyrians was relinquished to the Iraqi government with certain minority guarantees specifically concerning freedom of religious, cultural, and linguistic expression.
Many of the ChaldoAssyrians surviving the Holocaust had been gathered in refugee camps in Iraq pending final resettlement in an autonomous ChaldoAssyrian homeland. In 1933, however, the Iraqi government declared an ultimatum giving the ChaldoAssyrians one of two choices: either to be resettled in small populations dispersed amongst larger Muslim populations that had recently been violently antagonistic or to leave Iraq entirely. Some ChaldoAssyrians chose to leave to neighboring Syria and so notified the Iraqi government of their intention. In response, the Iraqi government dispatched the Iraqi army to attack the ChaldoAssyrians fleeing into Syria. In their subsequent defeat, the retreating Iraqi army massacred over 3,000 ChaldoAssyrian civilians in Simele and other surrounding towns in northern Iraq in August of 1933. Upon his return to Baghdad, the commanding officer ordering the massacre was hailed as a conquering hero. Thus, the first official military campaign of the Iraqi army served as the newly independent government's final solution to the ChaldoAssyrian question. The demoralized ChaldoAssyrian refugee population in Iraq was thereby resettled in dispersed villages while the other surviving isolated communities languished in the areas of Tur Abdin, Turkey; Jazira, Syria; and Urmi, Iran. The lessons of World War I remain fresh in the ChaldoAssyrian psyche. On the one hand, deep apprehension about the peaceful intentions of our neighbors is coupled with profound suspicion about the reliability and commitment of Western powers.
The Baathist government of Iraq was not any more sympathetic to ChaldoAssyrians. Under Saddam Hussein, over 200 ChaldoAssyrian villages were razed in northern Iraq in order to resettle ChaldoAssyrians into urban areas such as Baghdad in a bid to better assimilate and "Arabize" the population. ChaldoAssyrians were denied recognition as an ethnic minority and instead categorized as Christian Arabs. The Iraqi state routinely interfered in Church matters. Eventually, one Assyrian Patriarch (of the Assyrian Church of the East) left Iraq under intense pressure and settled near Chicago, thereby moving the Holy See outside of Mesopotamia for the first time in nearly 2000 years. Under the Baathist regime, Koranic instruction was also introduced into school curricula. In 1984, dozens of ChaldoAssyrian activists were imprisoned and three leaders of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) were hanged in an attempt to squelch a burgeoning ChaldoAssyrian awareness.
Following the first Gulf War, the ChaldoAssyrian experience in the Kurdish occupied Northern provinces or UN administered "Safe Haven," was not significantly better. In the Northern provinces, Kurdish tribal and feudal groups occupied ChaldoAssyrian areas and expropriated over 50 villages in whole or in part. Overly proactive ChaldoAssyrian leaders were assassinated as in the example of Francis Shabo, a ChaldoAssyrian Member of Parliament in the Kurdish Parliament of northern Iraq from the ADM who had been assigned the task of adjudicating land disputes between ChaldoAssyrians and Kurds. According to Amnesty International, Mr. Shabo was killed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) headed by Mazsoud Barzani. Similar to their Baathists neighbors, the Kurds denied ChaldoAssyrians their ethnicity and referred to them as Christian Kurds.
Within the northern area, however, the ChaldoAssyrians were able to establish political parties, who, as long as they did not threaten Kurdish occupation of the Northern provinces, were able to operate schools, and, to a limited extent, administer some reconstruction and humanitarian aid projects. Also, during that time, the ADM was able to transform from an underground clandestine political organization into a legitimate political party free of direct Iraqi government threat although the threat from the KDP remained. Through the assistance of other affiliated political organizations in the US known as the Assyrian Coalition, as well as through the direct lobbying efforts of the Assyrian American League (AAL); the ADM gained legitimacy in Washington DC as the official representative of the ChaldoAssyrian people in Iraq. In the lead up to the second Gulf War, the ADM was included in opposition meetings consisting of the eight major opposition groups and was included by the US government in the Iraqi Liberation Act. Mr. Yonadam Kanna, the Secretary General of the ADM, was included as the sole ChaldoAssyrian member of the 25 member Iraqi Governing Council.
In a historic first, the ADM along with the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO) on October 22-24, 2003 cosponsored a conference referred to as the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian General Conference in Baghdad to declare the political aspirations of the ChaldoAssyrian people of Iraq. Among the diverse list of attendees was Dr. Imad Chamoun as the representative to Maronite Patriarch Sfeir. The conference affirmed that the various names of Chaldean, Syriac, and Assyrian refer to one people. "Due to the pressing need imposed by the critical situation that our people and cause are going through, the Conference highlights the importance of concurrence on one unified national appellation." The Conference attendees "agreed on appellation of 'ChaldoAssyrian' to designate our people and the appellation of 'Syriac' to designate our language and culture to be incorporated into the Constitution."
Furthermore, on a political level, the Baghdad Conference "stressed the need to designate an administrative region for our people in the Nineveh Plain with participation of other ethnic and religious groups, where a special law will be established for self-administration and the assurance of administrative, political, cultural rights in towns and villages throughout Iraq where our people reside." Referring to past policies of resettlement and destruction of villages, the Conference also stressed the redress of such policies that "altered the demographic structure of several regions that belonged to our people. 1957 Census and earlier should be used as benchmarks." The conference also demanded the right of return for Iraqi ChaldoAssyrians.
From October to March, ChaldoAssyrians mobilized to meet the challenge of incorporating their political platform into the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) -- the presumed precursor of the future Iraqi Constitution. The final version of the TAL left ChaldoAssyrians both hopeful and apprehensive. On the one hand, the TAL was an historic first in the modern history of Iraq since ChaldoAssyrians were recognized as an ethnic minority as an integral part of the Iraqi mosaic including among others Arabs, Kurds, and Turkman. Notably, they were recognized as one people with the combined name declared by the Baghdad Conference. Also, in line with the Baghdad platform, the TAL stated in Article 53, paragraph D "This law shall guarantee the administrative, cultural, and political rights of the Turcomans, ChaldoAssyrians, and all other citizens." The TAL also established the legitimacy of the Iraqi Property Claims Commission which may potentially allow the resettlement of ChaldoAssyrians as well as other displaced people to their original homes and villages.
The TAL, however, left some cause for concern as well. First, the reference to ChaldoAssyrian rights was vague and did not specify a territory -- namely, the Nineveh Plain. Secondly, the TAL acknowledged the KRG's effective control and occupation of the three northern provinces of Arbil, Dohuk, and Sulmaniyah including additional areas in Nineveh, Kirkuk, and Diyala provinces. Dohuk, Nineveh, Kirkuk, and Arbil provinces include many ChaldoAssyrian towns and villages with Nineveh and Dohuk including the bulk of the Assyrian heartland. Especially, troubling in the context of rising Islamic fundamentalism was the TAL's recognition of Islam as "the official religion of the State and is to be considered a source of legislation." Moreover, "No law that contradicts the universally agreed tenets of Islam, the principles of democracy, or the rights cited in Chapter two of the 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."
With the handover of sovereignty in June, the US sponsored UN resolution 1546 recognizing the legitimacy of the interim Iraqi government did not include the TAL. However, it is believed that much of the TAL will remain an important starting point for the upcoming constitution following general elections.
In summary, ChaldoAssyrians would like to see a democratic and secular Iraq with proper recognition of Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs as a unified indigenous people of Iraq. ChaldoAssyrians aspire to have the same political rights as other constituent groups at a minimum, such that autonomy granted to some groups should be afforded ChaldoAssyrians within the Nineveh Plain as well. There must be a proper accounting of ChaldoAssyrians both within and without Iraq coupled with a genuine right of return. There must be equitable allocation of the nation's resources and reconstruction aid to allow necessary infrastructure aid to allow infrastructure development and rehabilitation of destroyed villages.
Moving forward, the remaining challenges include formulating an Iraqi constitution that preserves the gains of the TAL -- namely recognition of ChaldoAssyrians as a people -- while specifying the rights and geography of the ChaldoAssyrian self-administered area. Serious problems that remain include rising Islamic fundamentalism, growing Kurdish hegemony, concern over increasing emigration, fair and equitable appropriation of reconstruction and development aid to ChaldoAssyrian areas, internal sectarian and name-based tensions, and, American/Western resistance to helping ChaldoAssyrian Christians out of concern over an Islamist backlash.
Now, why is the ChaldoAssyrian cause important to Lebanese Christians in general and Maronites in particular? Change is coming to the entire Middle East and the first stage of that change has begun in Iraq. Successes and failures of minorities i.e. ChaldoAssyrians in Iraq will have profound reverberations throughout our communities in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon and Syria. The federal model of democracy with emphasis on a self-administered area is the only model that can help ensure the cultural survival of the various communities of Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs in the Middle East. In Iraq, the emphasis on the Nineveh Plains where our villages and towns still remain must be internationally sanctioned by law in order to allow the language, religion, culture, and geography to survive intact.
Maronites and Lebanese Christians as a whole face similar challenges that ChaldoAssyrians are now experiencing. We all are concerned with Islamic fundamentalism, demographic and political hegemony (albeit from different groups), the need for fair and equitable economic development and reconstruction, internal sectarian tensions (even within Christians groups), and a growing realization that the "Christian" West has been reluctant to advocate on our behalf out of fear of alienating the regional Muslim majority. Finally, we all face the prospects of increasing emigration from our homelands and a potentially overwhelming challenge to register and count all of our people in the diaspora.
We share a common history, culture, religion, Syriac language, and, at one time, a contiguous geography. But most importantly, we share an intimately tied future fate. When we ignore the dire situation of one of our communities in the region, we diminish from our own interest and magnitude as a people. We must now begin to present ourselves to the world as a people with a regional, international problem rather than as isolated groups with internal domestic problems.
Though many of us believe we are indeed one people, we must not delude ourselves that this has been universally adopted by all of our people. However, from a simply strategic and tactical perspective, we cannot allow the beatings and disappearances of Lebanese students, as one example, to be viewed by the world community as an internal Lebanese affair anymore than we can allow the loss of another ChaldoAssyrian village in northern Iraq to be so seen. We need to evolve to a level of cooperation where any such instance in one area draws criticism from all of our groups.
A practical approach to allow us to develop such communication and a common understanding involves increasing contacts between our leaders and people at such conventions and meetings as these. Organizing joint conventions and symposia will help to "connect the dots" of our various scattered and isolated communities and increase cross pollinization of ideas and strategies. Such approaches will send the signal to our neighbors as well as the world community that we are linked as a regional issue, not simply an internal domestic nuisance. Sponsoring research, position papers, research centers, and think tanks through the collaborative efforts of our organizations at the academic level will also have a synergistic effect. Organizing joint delegations of our leaders to our governments and representatives in the diaspora as well as to international organizations on the political level will undoubtedly augment our standing.
On behalf of the Assyrian Academic Society, we look forward to further collaboration with like-minded organizations from across the spectrum of our people.
[Zinda: To read similarly interesting articles visit the AINA website here.]
A report of the Assyrian International News Agency
Earlier reports of Assyrian inclusion in the upcoming census had buoyed Assyrian hopes that the upcoming Iraqi census would be the first true accounting of Assyrians in the modern history of Iraq. In a major blow to Assyrian aspirations for full and comprehensive participation in the new government of Iraq, however, reports have surfaced that the upcoming Iraqi census will exclude Iraqi expatriates. The new census is tentatively planned to be carried out in one day by an army of school teachers on October 12. Presumably, due to logistical difficulties, the nearly 4 million estimated Iraqi expatriates scattered throughout the world will be deliberately excluded.
Iraqi Christians Fleeing to Syria
Courtesy of the Associated Press
(ZNDA: Damascus) In small but steady numbers, Iraqi Christians are moving to Syria to escape the threats and violence of Islamic extremists, say Iraqi Christian exiles.
"The religious and ethnic pressure on us is tremendous," said Shamasha Muayad Shamoun Georges, 45, a deacon of the Chaldean Solaqa Church in Baghdad, who fled to Syria two weeks ago with his wife and five children.
Georges said the pressure comes from "Muslim extremists," not from the interim Iraqi government, which has a Christian as minister of immigration and refugees.
During Sunday evening mass, suspected Islamic militants set off a series of explosions at five churches in Baghdad and the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, killing at least seven people and wounding dozens. It was the first major assault on Iraq's Christian minority since the Iraqi war began last year.
Christians number about 750,000 people among Iraq's total population of about 25 million. They include the Chaldean-Assyrians, the majority sect, Armenians _ one of whose churches was bombed on Sunday, Syrian Catholics and Syrian Orthodox.
Islamic militants have told Christian owners of liquor stores to close down their businesses, and they have threatened Christians who run beauty salons and shops selling fashionable clothes.
Georges said he does not expect such pressure to end soon.
Another Iraqi Christian in Syria, Jacqueline Isho, said that when Christians complain to the authorities in Iraq, they are "always ignored."
"Some police sympathize with, or support, those Islamists and gangs," Isho said.
Scores of Iraqi Christian families move to Syria and Jordan every day, according to Emanuel Khoshaba, a representative of the Iraqi Assyrian Democratic Movement in Syria.
Khoshaba said there are now 10,000 Iraqi Christians in Syria, and 90 percent of them arrived after the Iraqi war began in March last year. Such figures could not be confirmed with government officials as Syrian and Jordanian immigration forms do not ask a person's religion.
"I have run away because gangs kept on threatening me," said Adeeb Goga Matti, 48, who belongs to a wealthy Chaldean-Assyrian family in Baghdad.
He said his 10-year-old nephew, Patrous Yakou, was kidnapped at the end of 2003 and released only after his family paid a ransom of US$15,000.
After the kidnapping, Matti stopped sending his four children to school.
"Chaldean-Assyrians are the easiest targets for gangsters because they don't belong to a tribal system like other Iraqis," Matti stressed. Muslim Iraqis tend to belong to clans who rally round and protect their members.
Matti is in Damascus applying for a visa to Australia. Iraqi Christians in Syria are also applying to emigrate to Canada, the United States and other Western countries.
Albert Sargon, 24, and his wife, Suhat, 26, left Iraq last month.
"I ran away from threatening messages sent by Islamists because I was working as a cook for Americans," Sargon said.
He and his wife do not plan to return.
Iraqi Christians are Fleeing, Eyeing Australia
Courtesy of The Age (Australia)
(ZNDA: Sydney) Iraqi Assyrian Christians have been fleeing across Iraq's borders and applying for Australian visas fearing a rise in Islamic sentiment threatens their safety.
Their fears have been exacerbated by co-ordinated explosions outside five churches in Baghdad and Mosul at the weekend, which killed 11 people and wounded more than 50.
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone confirmed there had been a "moderate increase" in applications by Iraqi Christians in the past month.
Assyrian community leader Edwina Dinkha said many Assyrian Christians were contacting their relatives in Australia to sponsor them for visas.
She said she believed about half the nearly one million Assyrian Christians in Iraq had fled to neighbouring Syria and Jordan since the war began.
"What happened at the weekend shocked everyone," she said. "I received many, many calls from my relatives in Iraq, and in Syria and Jordan, feeling not safe because of what happened."
A spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Department said the Government deplored the continuing terrorist attacks in Iraq, including the explosions outside churches, and supported efforts by the Iraqi Government and coalition partners to restore security.
Christians Leaving Iraq
Courtesy of Mother Jones
The religious leaders of Iraq's small Christian community have long-downplayed the fact that many Iraqi-Christians are leaving Iraq. But Sunday's coordinated attacks in Baghdad and Mosul on five churches -- which, unlike mosques, have not previously been targeted -- will no doubt strengthen the resolve of Iraqi-Christians thinking of leaving Iraq and convince others of the necessity of doing so.
Iraq's Christians -- Chaldean Catholics; Assyrians; Roman and Syriac Catholics; Greek, Syriac and Armenian Orthodox; Anglicans and others -- make up 3 percent of the population, and are concentrated in the cities. Of course, the lack of security has been a problem for all Iraqis, whatever their religion, but the country's Christians feel particularly vulnerable to attack. For one, many within the insurgency view the American-led coalition as a Christian crusade and Iraq's Christian community as its supporters and collaborators. Shops selling alcohol, many of them owned by Christians, have been attacked, their merchandise destroyed, and their owners beaten and even murdered. As the BBC reported last month, the Iraqi police blamed the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army for the attacks: "His men are no longer fighting American and interim Iraqi government troops, and some suspect they are now channeling their energies into a moral battle instead."
Iraq's national security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie held Egyptian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi responsible for Sunday's attacks on the churches, which occurred during mass, killing 11 people and injuring 47: "Zarqawi and his extremists are basically trying to drive a wedge between Muslims and Christians in Iraq. It's clear they want to drive Christians out of the country." But as the Christian Science Monitor reported last month:
"Not all Christians are killed by Islamic militants. Issaq [director of international relations for the Assyrian Democratic Movement] has compiled a list of 102 Christians killed since April 9, 2003. Some were killed for selling alcohol; others for working with Americans as translators or laundresses. (About 10 percent were killed by coalition troops, casualties of postwar violence.) Many were kidnapped and killed for money, a fate that befalls Muslims, too. But sometimes it's hard to separate kidnappings from religious murders. Among Iraqis, there's a widespread belief that Christians are wealthy. This stereotype, too, can kill."
Iraq's Christians had their churches destroyed and themselves forcibly relocated under Saddam Hussein, but they didn't experience the sort of persecution that the majority Shia, not to say the Kurds, have been subjected to. Considered less politically threatening by the Baath Party than Islamic minorities and the Shia majority, Christians were granted a greater degree of religious freedom in return for their political obedience. Relations between Muslims and Christians have generally been placid.
Today, Iraqi Christians are upset about what they say is inadequate representation in the current government (a claim echoed by every group) and they fear the creation of an Islamist state. Some Christian leaders say that a separate Christian province is necessary to protect the country's minority. Aside from the obvious failure of coalition troops to provide security, the United States is blamed by some Christians for promoting Islamic rule in Iraq, where Christians date their presence to the first century. As one Assyrian-Iraqi told UPI in early June:
"The American-funded TV station, Al Iraqia, broadcasts Muslim programs four times every day and for two hours each Friday but nothing for the other religions. The recent inauguration of the new government was opened by a Muslim mullah reciting a long passage and a prayer from the Koran, but none of our priests were invited. Why do they do this? Why do the Americans promote Muslims? They need to promote equality and democracy and freedom, not Muslim dictatorship."
Among the Iraqi-Christians who have emigrated, some have settled in neighboring countries like Syria, while others have received asylum in Australia, North America, and Europe. Australia's Iraqi-born population, which includes the various Christian dominations as well as Kurds and Jews, has grown dramatically since Gulf War. In 1991, there were 5,186 Iraqi-born persons in Australia, but in 2001, the last year for which census figures are available there were 24,819. Among Iraqi-Armenians, who make up one of the smaller Christian communities, some have emigrated to the Republic of Armenia.
The number of Christians seeking to emigrate is unknown, but the estimated 800,000 that live in Iraq today represent a marked decline from the 1987 census that registered 1.4 million Iraqi-Christians. Shmael Benjamin a member of the political bureau of the Assyrian Democratic Movement told Reuters: "We're the Red Indians of Iraq. We were the majority, today we're the minority, our percentage is reducing day by day in this country." Perhaps, as Slate puts it, "with Iraq's Shiites and Kurds having earlier been targeted by bombings, it was probably only a matter of time before the country's Christians would get their turn." But given the previous attacks on Christians, the continuing lack of security for everyone, and fears of a future Islamist state, Iraqi's Christians are more likely to draw the conclusion that it is time to pack their bags.
Turkey's Christian Revival has a Message for Iraq's Own Communities
Courtesy of the Guardian
(ZNDA: London) This week's attacks on churches in Iraq are a reminder of a small community that has lived for years with the term "beleaguered", but has the potential to re-establish a more tolerant way of life in the Middle East.
But in fact they are among the oldest religious communities in the world.
Protected for most of their long history by Islam's tradition of tolerance, they are honoured for their own great gift to mutual understanding:
Syriac, a version of Jesus's native language, Aramaic. This was the vital bridge in the transmission of Greek, Roman and Jewish thought into Arabic, from which Aristotle, Plato and company eventually returned in the Renaissance to Europe.
Its greatest stronghold is just outside Iraq, in Turkey's Tur Abdin, the "Mountains of the Servants of God", where an intriguing shift is taking place.
Pilgrims, students, and tourists of all faiths and none, are returning to nearby monasteries, which were 700 years old when the first stones were laid at Fountains or Rievaulx. Four-and-a-half centuries after the English abbeys were dissolved by Henry VIII, the cloisters still ring with Syriac chants.
Yet it is only 20 years since the pocket-sized congregations lived in terror, with bombs going off outside their walls. Almost everyone with the money to do so had fled to the west.
Like their co-religionists in Iraq today, the Christians were caught up in a civil insurgency that saw fundamentalist hatreds let loose.
As in Iraq, the quarrel was not of their making. The issue was Kurdish separatism and the Turkish army's iron-fisted response.
Anyone "different" was potentially a target for both sides; and old resentments resurfaced that Christians were better-educated and had a rich diaspora in the United States.
It was the thinnest of times; but the churches not only survived but are now enjoying a revival that could in due course help their Iraqi counterparts.
With armed Kurdish insurgency defeated, the Turkish government two years ago began to move towards greater regionalism.
Its need to reach first base for membership of the European Union has been a key factor. Most encouragingly of all, the region's Muslim communities are lending a hand.
The process is best seen in Sanliurfa, an important Islamic shrine. Abraham - Ibrahim to Muslims - is said to have lived here and his cave attracts permanent devout queues.
But the city is also crucial in Christian history. As pre-Byzantine Edessa it was the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as the official religion, more than 500 years before St Augustine landed in Kent.
Jesus legendarily corresponded with its king, as the local council goes out of its way to acknowledge.
Sanliurfa is now promoting what it calls "belief tourism", inviting Muslims, Jews and Christians to come together and share the ancient sites.
The process is an eastern version of Spain's work in Toledo and Cordoba to create "three faith" centres where divisive myths can be dismantled and real divisions understood.
And what lessons there are to be learned: how Christians, Jews and Muslims lived as neighbours for centuries under the Caliphate and the extraordinarily cosmopolitan Ottoman empire.
How Saladdin's strongest allies against the tolerance-wrecking Crusaders were the Eastern Orthodox Christians and the Egyptian Copts.
This may seem far off and fanciful to the now embattled Christians of Iraq. But it is a stone's throw from their border; it honours the noblest traditions of Islam; and it has deeper and longer-term potential for countering al-Qaida than guns.
Assyrians in Europe Respond to Church Bombings in Baghdad
A Dark Sunday in the History of the Christian Churches of Iraq
Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO) / Diaspora Branches
On Sunday August 1, 2004, Iraq witnessed a series of deadly terrorist bombings, through the use of cars loaded with explosives, which targeted 6 Churches, five of which are Assyrian (Syriac and Chaldean) Churches and one Armenian Church. These attacks attempt to destroy the security and stability of the new Iraq.
So far, there are 18 casualties and scores of wounded, the majority of whom are children, women and elderly ChaldoAssyrians who were attending the Sunday Mass in their Churches. Prior to these terrorist attacks there was a period of many threats which were followed by a series of assassinations, kidnappings and attacks on Christians.
The future of ChaldoAssyrians in Iraq, whose population is more than 1.2 million, is in acute danger. Today, as in the past, they are once again the victims of the struggles of the major political powers in the Middle East. The American invasion of Iraq did not bring democracy and freedom only, but it has also brought the destruction, murder, never-ending worries, and instability to all Iraqi citizens and especially the ChaldoAssyrians.
We appeal to the international community to condemn and help put an end to such terrorist attacks targeting Christians and especially ChaldoAssyrians, and to take the needed measures to ensure the security and protection of their lives, places of worship and properties.
We are also calling on the Iraqi government and all the democratic and national powers in Iraq, as well as the neighboring countries, coalition forces and the United Nations to use their full resources to help cease such barbaric actions against the innocent and passive Christians and their Churches. These terrorist attacks aim to dismantle the Iraqi national unity and harm the close ties between the national, ethnic and religious groups comprising the Iraqi society.
We condemn such terrorist, barbaric and inhumane attacks, and we offer our deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the innocent casualties. We also offer sympathies to the wounded and wish them a fast recovery. Our hopes are that the roots of these terrorist groups are completely destroyed. These terrorist groups lack human compassion and have violated the teachings of all heavenly religions and human rights.
We value the stands and the attempts of the noble groups, presented in the vision of leaders of the political parties and religious leaders who had immediately condemned the terrorist attacks which kill the innocent civilians and create ethnic and religious tensions in the Iraqi society.
Assyrians of Russia Condemn the Terrorist Attacks on Churches in Iraq
(ZNDA: Moscow) On 2 August, the Russian Branch of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa) and the Assyrian Association of Moscow (Khayadta) condemned the terrorist attacks on the Christian churches of Baghdad and Mosul. In a statement released on Monday, the terrorist attack was said to be directed at the indigenous Christian population of Iraq : Assyrians and Syriac-Chaldeans "who are being displaced by the religious extremists out of the country."
The situation of the Assyro-Chaldean communities of Iraq is getting worse every day. There is a great number of Christians leaving the country due to increase in violence and anti-Christian acts.
The majority of Iraqi Assyro-Chaldeans are the indigenous people of Mesopotamia and for thousands of years have been living in their original land. Chaos and anarchy in Iraq have become beneficial grounds for all sorts of extremists who are trying to force Assyro-Chaldeans and the representatives of other Christian communities out of that country. Terrorists consider them as allies of the occupying forces in the country just because they are Christian. Many Christians are leaving the country which is also making the situation in Iraq and in the Middle East more complex.
We believe that the persecution of the Christians will turn into another brutal genocide against this ancient people that have inhabited the cradle of civilization. The world community cannot allow it to happen. It is absolutely necessary to prevent another humanitarian catastrophe in the Middle East.
The Assyrians of Russia are planning to render financial support to all Christian communities of Iraq that have been victims of the terrorist act and appeal to the world community to provide security for the Christian citizens of Iraq.
Rev Joseph Calls For Autonomy Based on Article 53
Courtesy of the Assist News Service
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Rev. Ken Joseph Jr. of www.AssyrianChristians.com says: "For whatever their disagreements over the war, I do not think any American agreed to fight a war to create the Islamic Republic of Iraq and to cause the Christians to have to leave their historic country. We must provide this minimum protection accorded to the community under the law."
His statement follows a long predicted series of attacks on five Christian Churches – two in the Karada section of Baghdad, one in the Dora Section, one in the New Baghdad Area and the other in Mosul – on Sunday evening just as worshipers were leaving.
The attacks killed 11 people and wounded more than 50 in the first big assault on Iraq's Christian minority since the 15-month-old insurgency began.
"We have warned and warned that this was going to happen" screamed one Assyrian Christian who asked that his name be protected. "We have begged for help, from the International community; we have begged for protection but nobody would listen. Maybe finally they will realize that what we have been saying is true," he continued.
"The bombings follow a long string of bombings of Assyrian Christian-owned businesses, homes – a particularly gruesome killing involved two children aged 6 and 16 gunned down in cold blood in their home," said Joseph.
"Further difficulty happened days ago when the Assyrian Christians were completely shut out of election preparations for their two most populous areas in northern Iraq.
"Entitled to a minimum of four seats out of 28 for the upcoming National Congress to prepare for Iraq elections, the Assyrian Christians received no seats."
Another individual at the scene, who also asked not to be named, related what happened immediately after the bombing.
"American troops immediately circled the area and visibly angry soldiers nearly lost control as they watched and attempted to do all they could to help the worshipers as they struggled out of the church" he said.
"They were screaming. They were so angry at the people who would bomb a church as people were leaving the service. Frankly, I can't repeat some of what they were saying, but it was very clear they were deeply affected by this brutal act."
Another individual involved in the efforts, who to asked that his name not be used for fear of reprisal, put it more succinctly.
"Maybe this will finally alert the public to what the situation is. We call specifically on the U.S. Congress to attach a rider to the appropriations bill for Iraq. The Assyrian community is demanding protection and needs specifically four things – resettlement to their original villages, repair of the villages destroyed by Saddam Hussein, autonomy in Assyria as provided by Article 53 of the Iraqi Constitution and voting rights."
"The only way we can remain in Iraq is if we can have a protected area in our original homeland. Without this we must tell our people to leave. With all due respect, we do not believe the American people fought a war and liberated Iraq to have it become a radical Muslim state.
"It is we – the Assyrian Christians who love the Americans and will be eternally grateful for what they have done. This is the true feeling of the majority of the Iraqis. Now is the time for the Americans to help their friends and insist that the Assyrian Christians have an autonomous area in their homeland so they can live in peace."
Experts predict a continuation of the violence against the Assyrian Christians until either they leave the country en masse or the Assyrian Regional Government is set up as provided for in the Iraqi Constitution next to the similar Kurdish Regional Government, seen by many as the only long-term solution for the estimated 2.5 million Assyrian Christians in Iraq.
Predicting much of what is happening, EU Parliament Member Albert Jaan Maat had weeks earlier issued a report to the European Union saying, "Is the commission aware that the Assyrian Christians are systematically excluded from the distribution of aid by local leaders?"
Maat went on to speak of clear-cut religious discrimination, saying, "International aid is mainly distributed through regional, and therefore Muslim, leaders and seldom or never reaches the Assyrian Christians." according to Assyrianchristians.com, a website devoted to the Assyrian community worldwide.
Reflecting the widespread lack of assistance to the minority community including the Assyrian Christians, Yazidis and other non-Muslim communities, some view the whole situation as another example of ethnic cleansing in a more subtle way.
"This is our last cry for help" said a local Assyrian Christian. "If the world will not listen to us now then they do not care. Where are the Christians of the world when we need their voices and help? Why should we have to leave our own homeland where we were the first people to accept Christianity and where we have practiced our faith and lived in peace for 2,000 years?"
"The bombings are expected to increase as more and more responsibility is handed over to the interim Iraqi government and the move toward elections proceeds," stated Ken Joseph Jr.
"We are calling on American Christians to appeal to their congressman to have a 'rider' attached to the $18.4 billion appropriations bill for Iraq that demands that according to Article 53 of the Iraqi Constitution the Assyrian Christians be provided with autonomy over their homeland as the only way for them to survive in this terrible situation, and all aid and assistance to be provided without discrimination."
Iranian Christians may Now Worship at Hamedan`s St Gregory`s Church
Courtesy of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Official News Agency
(ZNDA: Tehran) With the renovation of the St Gregory Church complex in Hamedan coming to an end, Iranian Christians have been given the go-signal to again conduct their religious worship in this historical church.
The city of Hamedan is located 336 kilometers west of Tehran. Its foundation is attributed to a Median king, dating back to 700 BC. In Ecbatana, the ancient name for Hamedan, the royal palace contained 7 castles encircling each other. The palace was called Hagmetaneh. The Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanian kings had palaces in the city. For fifty years Hamedan was the capital of the Persians. In 612 B.C. the Median king and the Babylonian insurgents attacked the capital of Nineveh and brought an end to the ancient Assyrian empire.
The English-language daily `Kayhan International` quoted the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization (CHO) as saying the church complex, which covers an area of over 3,000 square meters, consists of two cathedrals--a 75-year-old Greek Orthodox church and a Protestant one dating 160 years back.
All the buildings and their facilities are located near the
historical city of Ecbatana. They had undergone renovation in
accordance with a national preservation plan for this ancient city,
at one time the capital of the Medes Dynasty.
"Right now, 90 percent of the renovation work on the Protestant church has been finished while 80 percent of that in the Orthodox church is done." According to historical documents, some 300 Christians migrated to Hamedan, west of Iran, during the Safavid Dynasty (1501-1722).
It is believed they were the ones who originally designed and built this complex.
In response to Dr. George Habash’s “Kha b’Tammuz”
I would like to set the record straight. First off, Ms. Esho is ethnically Assyrian (hence her name, Pascal Esho Warda), but she lived in France for quite a while, where she earned her PhD. I have yet to see a statement linking Ms. Esho and the Kurdish ethnicity.
In a Spanish chronicle entitled, “La Crónica de Hoy”, an article was published called, “Iraqi minister supports possible capital punishment against Hussein”. In this article it states that Ms. Esho is “The only Christian minister of the new Iraqi government considering it possible that the ex-Iraqi dictator is condemned with capital punishment (click here) ”
Based on the ratio of Assyrians to the rest of the citizens of Iraq, we can only have a small portion of the interim government. According to the CIA World Factbook, Christians (ChaldoAssyrians, Armenians, and others) make-up only 3% of the population versus the whopping 97% Muslim population (click here). Now, we have a real representative that will deal with Assyrian issues, rather than cause more of them to arise.
Dr. Habash quoted, “Within this regime we ended up with a minor portfolio (assuming the position is Assyrian) in a government of 36 persons in the time of the so-called democracy or near democracy. In the previous regimes we held better portfolios in a government of 15 persons only.” During Tariq Aziz’s era (with Saddam’s regime), Saddam slaughtered ADM members by the masses like they were cows in a slaughterhouse, instigated ethnic cleansing, destroyed villages, ravaged churches, and stripped Assyrian identities by gathering Assyrian-Iraqis whose parents were Assyrian-Iranians, in spite of the fact that they served in the Iraqi military, and dumped them on the border of Iran. And now Dr. Habash is trying to say that this former “representative” really represented the ChaldoAssyrians of Iraq by watching Saddam commit such chaotic acts?
Where was Dr. Habash when ADM resisted Saddam’s oppression? Where was he when the ADM resisted ethnic cleansing? Does he remember the bombing of 1988 when Assyrian churches and villages were being demolished by Saddam under his Kurdish cleansing motive?
ADM is the only Assyrian political organization that really fought for the Assyrian cause. Although they were a small group, their work was and still is unparalleled.
The Assyrian case had been deceased for over 50 years and if it were not for the ADM our case would have turned over in the grave. How could a fellow Assyrian deny ADM, while still clutching their identity?
Support may come from all dusty corners of the world, criticism calls for change and change must be prompted from the country itself. We cannot sit and drink our $300 bottle of champagne in our luxury homes with six garages holding 3 Jaguars, a McLaren, and two Ferraris, while criticizing Assyrians who are working hard for our nation. Step aside Ebert & Roeper; we’ve got ourselves a new critic in town. We can criticize till the end of time, but it takes a true patriot to take a stand and fight for our nation.
I say good morning to Dr. Habash about Saddam being a “double agent”. This was quickly revealed when the Baath regime eliminated Bill #80, which was created by Abdul Kareem Qasim to take over 99% of the undiscovered oil fields from the British. In addition, when Qasim declared Kuwait as a part of Iraq, the British Army created a blockade in the gulf in order to quarantine Qasim if he were to invade Kuwait. Then, in 1968, the Baath regime under Ahmad Hassan Al-Bekar declared that Kuwait was a separate country. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the link between the Baath Regime and the British.
The lack of establishment of a power base by ADM? ADM and what army? If a power base is created then a civil war would break out! If ADM establishes a power base, the Kurds will build one, the Sunnis will build one, and the Shiites will build one. It will be a royal rumble with every man for himself. A civil war will break out and result in more Assyrian casualties. Is that what Dr. Habash’s wants? More Assyrians killed in Iraq? Remember the American Civil War? The Confederates built a power base and the Union did the same as well. And guess what? Their ideas clashed and a civil war was created resulting in millions of American deaths.
Did Dr. Habash forget that instead of a power base, the ADM built schools taught in the Assyrian language and converted all the books from K-12 to the Assyrian language? Did Dr. Habash forget that the ADM has 4-5 representatives in major city governments, like Basra, Mosul, Kirkuk, Arbel, Dohuk and Baghdad? For the first time our name has shown up in the Iraqi constitution recognizing our existence in the Iraqi state.
My father was a second lieutenant in the Iraqi Army in 1965-1967. He continually tells me the war stories and the Iraqi history during the times he lived there. He was in the six-day war in Jordan, and in Northern Iraq fighting the Kurdish militia. His statements totally contradict Dr. Habash’s annotations and his experiences.
Positions are not as important as rights, there I said it. During Qasim’s era, we had no representatives, but we had rights—MUCH MORE rights than we did under that fiend named Saddam. We “had” a representative named Tariq Aziz, but what did he do? He permitted Saddam to massacre the Assyrians and rape them of their youth, freedom, and their identity.
More credibility for Saddam? They found him in a freakin’ spider hole! What credibility? All the “credibility” he once had was hidden in his hole just like he was.
“ADM must allow our people to represent themselves and stop monopolising their cause as events have proven that they can not deliver and their continued presence on the stage continues to irritate the nation.” Dr. Habash, I don’t know if you know this, but Iraq is currently undergoing this certain process called democratization. Thus, the people don’t need ADM’s permission to choose their representatives. ADM is not forcing themselves upon the people, the people are free to choose who they want to represent the nation and thus far, they have chosen the ADM. I must say, please Dr. Habash, stop dancing around the subject and creating loops in your annotations.
At What Cost Mr. Kanna?
Mr. Younadam Kanna's views, which he shared on Fox News, on the coordinated attacks of churches in Baghdad and Mosul, are horrifying! I am bewildered and shocked that the representative of Chaldo-Assyrians told the American media that the bombings of churches was neither a religious nor ethnic statement, but one of pure politics. Furthermore, he added that these violent acts against Christians were no different than prior attacks against Kurds, Shia, etc.
I understand that Mr. Kanna is walking a political and diplomatic tight-rope in Iraq. His ability to survive the violent nature of Iraqi politics is admirable, but at what cost? What do we, the Chaldo-Assyrians gain, when our most recognized representative protects himself instead of our interests?
[Zinda: Mr. Yonadam Kanna told the BBC Arabic Service on Monday that western missionaries had exacerbated sectarian tensions in Iraq, as they tried to tempt people to convert with economic incentives. Muslims have complained that missionary organizations have been distributing Christian literature to Muslim households.]
[Zinda Stands Corrected! In our last issue two Assyrian farmers carrying a large sum of money were said to have been killed in Syria. According to Mr. George Stifo of the BethSuryoyo Assyrian, both victims were working for the local bank and were on an official assignment to take the money to the headquarters. The money was not theirs and for unspecified reason was left with the bodies of the two Assyrian victims.]
United Assyrian Youth of Canada & Assyrian Canadian Lobbying Committee commemorate the Assyrian Genocides of 1914 - 1918 and 1933 Semele Massacre
Our Guest Speakers:
Where: Humber College - North Campus
When: Saturday, August 7th 2004 @ 5pm
For more information, please contact us at: email@example.com
San Jose Assyrians to Commemorate Martyrs Day
In collaboration with the
on August 6th at the "Arc at Willow Glen" (Hall of the Church of the East) on 680 Minnesota Avenue
Doors open at 7:30
Un documentaire inédit sur les Assyro-Chaldéens
Pendant six ans, il a suivi ces familles disséminées à travers le monde. Son documentaire, « les Derniers Assyriens » est diffusé ce soir et demain après-midi sur KTO TV. D'autres dates sont programmées jusqu'au début du mois d'août. Un travail d'une grande qualité qui commence à faire parler de lui. Déjà projeté en France, à Bruxelles, le documentaire sera présenté à Beyrouth à l'automne. Un grand distributeur a fait également part de son intérêt. Robert Alaux fait du documentaire depuis une dizaine d'années. Il a laissé le dessin animé et les images de synthèse pour se pencher de près sur la question des identités qui le titillait depuis quelque temps. On parle souvent des Assyro-Chaldéens comme une minorité chrétienne originaire du sud de la Turquie et du nord de l'Irak. Mais leur parcours est plus complexe que cela. Robert Alaux explique avec une grande limpidité toutes ces nuances et cette histoire faite de schismes religieux, de divergences entre églises, jusqu'à ce désir actuel de ne former qu'un peuple autour d'une identité commune. Ce film de 52 minutes donne toutes les clés pour cerner cette communauté qui s'est forgée une identité dans la diaspora. Pour cela, Robert Alaux transporte le spectateur de Damas aux régions montagneuses du sud-est de la Turquie et du nord de l'Irak, l'envoie aux Etats-Unis, fait des haltes à Sarcelles, dans l'oasis de Palmyre où l'on retrouve des traces écrites de cette langue qu'ils sont désormais les seuls à parler, l'araméen.
Un voyage à travers des siècles d'histoire C'est aussi un voyage dans le temps. Depuis l'Antiquité, on traverse les siècles d'histoire pour parvenir aux épisodes chaotiques du XX e siècle. Ce génocide dont ils ont été victimes au même titre que les Arméniens mais dont personne ne parle. Les exactions subies en Turquie, la soumission d'un peuple sous le régime de Saddam Hussein. Depuis l'arrivée des Américains, ils nourrissent de réels espoirs, même si l'avenir est teinté d'inquiétude. A Sarcelles, ces familles qui, il y a encore trente ans, élevaient des chèvres dans des montagnes reculées de Turquie regardent tout cela avec un grand intérêt tout en poursuivant leur travail ici pour bâtir leurs repères.
« les Derniers Assyriens » de Robert Alaux : ce soir sur KTO TV à 20 h 50, demain à 14 h 20, le 25 juillet à 9 h 55, le 28 juillet à 7 h 35, le 5 août à 23 h 30. Pour tout renseignement : firstname.lastname@example.org.
" The Last Assyrians " film by Robert Alaux KTO TV on 5 August 11:30 am (Paris Time).
Rev. Ken Joseph Jr.
In a long predicted series of attacks, four Assyrian Christian Churches - three in Baghdad and one in Mosul were bombed on Sunday afternoon just as worshipers were leaving.
"We have warned and warned that this was going to happen" screamed Assyrian Christian Amir Warda who asked that his name be protected.
"We have begged for help, from the International Community, we have begged for protection but nobody would listen. Maybe finally they will realize that what we have been saying is true." he continued.
The Al Najat Church, the Al Mansour Church and two more Churches were targeted, and with the timing and number of worshipers present serious death and injuries are being predicted.
The four bombings follow a long string of bombings of Assyrian Christian owned businesses, homes - a particularly gruesome killing involved two Children aged 6 and 16 gunned down in cold blood in their home.
Further difficulty happened days ago when the Assyrian Christians were completely shut out of election preparations for their two most populous areas in Northern Iraq.
Entitled to a minimum of four seats out of 28 for the upcoming National Congress to prepare for Iraq Elections, the Assyrian Christians received no seats.
Another individual at the scene who asked not to be named related what happened immediately after the bombing. "American troops immediately circled the area and visibly angry soldiers nearly lost control as they watched and attempted to do all they could to help the worshipers as they struggled out of the Church" he said.
"They were screaming they were so angry at the people who would bomb a Church as people were leaving the service. Frankly, I can't repeat some of what they were saying but it was very clear they were deeply affected by this brutal act."
Another individual involved in the efforts, who to asked that his name not be used for fear of reprisal put it more succinctly."Maybe this will finally alert the public to what the situation is. We call specifically on the US Congress to attach a rider to the appropriations bill for Iraq. The Assyrian Community is demanding protection and needs specifically four things - resettlement to their original villages, repair of the villages destroyed by Saddam Hussein, autonomy in Assyria as provided by Article 53 of the Iraqi Constitution and voting rights."
"The only way we can remain in Iraq is if we can have a protected area in our original homeland. Without this we must tell our people to leave. With all due respect we do not believe the American people fought a war and liberated Iraq to have it become a radical moslem state. It is we - the Assyrian Christians who love the Americans and will be eternally grateful for what they have done. This the true feeling of the majority of the Iraqis. Now is the time for the Americans to help their friends and insist that the Assyrian Christians have an autonomous area in their homeland so they can live in peace."
Experts predict a continuation of the violence against the Assyrian Christians until either they leave the country en masse or the Assyrian Regional Government is set up as provided for in their Iraqi Constitution next to the similar Kurdish Regional Government, seen by many as the only long term solution for the estimated 2.5 million Assyrian Christians in Iraq.
Predicting much of what is happening, EU Parliament Member Albert Jaan Maat had weeks earlier issued a report to the European Union saying "Is the Commission aware that the Assyrian Christians are systematically excluded from the distribution of aid by local leaders?"
Maat went on to speak of clear cut religious discrimination saying further "International aid is mainly distributed through regional and therefore moslem leaders and seldom or never reaches the Assyrian Christians." according to Assyrianchristians.com a website devoted to the Assyrian community worldwide.
Reflecting the widespread lack assistance to the minority community including the Assyrian Christians, Yazidis and other non-moslem communities some view the whole situation as another example of ethnic cleansing in a more subtle way.
"This is our last cry for help" says Warda "If the world will not listen to us now then they do not care. Where are the Christians of the world when we need their voices and help? Why should we have to leave our own homeland where we were the first people to accept Christianity and where we have practiced our faith and lived in peace for 2,000 years?"
The bombings are expected to increase as more and more reasonability is handed over to the interim Iraqi Government and the move toward elections proceeds.
A Very Scary Day!
The Time Has Come!
Courtesy of Reel Chicago
"Think 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' as a drama, but without the stereotypes," Esho said. "We want to do for the Assyrian community what that movie did for the Greek community."
Esho is shooting the mixed English- and Assyrian- language film on 24P DV throughout August. Writer Yalda Esha stars as an isolated young poet who begins to connect with the world through a homeless poet played by Spiro Zafiropoulos.
Galvanized by the success of Assyrian-American producer Beni Tadd Atoori, who produced the 2002 Sony Pictures Classics release "13 Conversations About One Thing" and is writer/producer of the forthcoming epic "Gilgamesh," Rehana and Esho are committed to giving their culture a previously unrealized presence on American screens.
"We're looking at two different markets," Rehana said, "marketing to the Assyrian community first, and in the long term going into the broader American market and hopefully worldwide."
Through their R. Rehana Productions, the partners raised the under-$100,000 budget from private investors in the local, 100,000-strong Assyrian community. "A lot of people took an interest in us and wanted to see something that would be part of the community as well as part of the industry," Rehana said.
They're considering two possible scripts for their followup project, the Assyrian-language "The Day I Decided to Go to Babylon and Get Married," and the English-language "Fork."
Both partners are Columbia College alumni. Esho, an Iraqi native who moved to Chicago as a child, wrote a script for hire for a major studio. The film was shot and shelved, he said, and he can't discuss the details.
[Zinda: Rehana and Esho can be contacted at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, respectively.]
The following individuals contributed in the preparation of this week's issue:
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