|The Nochiya Connection||Wilfred Bet-Alkhas|
|The Kurdish State: Reality or Utopia||Aprim Shapera|
|Assyrian Killed in Kirkuk Car Bombing
Slain Assyrian Oil Engineer Buried in Kirkuk
IED-Iraq Releases Names of 15 December Candidates
"Those Who Voted Against Constitution Are Terrorists"
|H. E. Mor Julius Yeshu Çiçek Passed Away in Germany
New spiritual Leader Named for India’s Malankara Church
AUA Executive Board Meets in Chicago
Assyrians Killed & Wounded at Babylon Cafe in Fairfield
Assyrian Coalition in Stanislaus to Request More Election Polls
Joseph Kassab Featured in 2005 America's Table
|Happy Assyrian Press Day
Waiting For the Other Holiness
|Producer Steve B. Isaac Back in Studio|
|A Kurdish Vision of Iraq
An American's View of Iraq's Assyrians
Church of Malankara Has A New Shepherd
Chor-Episcopos K. Thottupuram
|The 156th Assyrian Press Day Anniversary||Zahrira Online / Alfred Alkhas|
The Nochiya Connection
Last week the Iraqi Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani, the current president of the Kurdish Regional Government played down his earlier rhetoric of his government and his people’s aspirations for the independent state of Kurdistan (see Literatus). However, his demeanor during our meetings and the details of the discussions with other Kurdish officials alluded to a different eventuality. One that will, not surprisingly, reshape the future of the Assyrian politics and our future for the many decades to come.
During Mr. Barzani’s last day in Washington, Mr. Michael Youash of the Iraqi Sustainable Democracy Project and myself met with several Kurdish officials including Mr. Massoud Barzani and the KRG prime minister, Mr. Nechirvan Barzani. The return of the Assyrian refugees from Jordan and Syria to north Iraq and the fair distribution of funds to the Assyrian, Chaldean, and Syriac communities in the north were the main topics of our discussions. The Kurdish delegation promised a swift response as soon as they return to Arbil. Yet it was our conversations with the non-officials that revealed a more interesting depiction of what to expect in the months to come. To understand the complex factors involved in the future politics of Iraq, it is necessary to appreciate the underlying factors, put in motion three decades ago, leading to last week's meeting between His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV and Mr. Massoud Barzani.
In 1946 the Iranian Kurds set up a very short-lived Soviet-backed autonomous region in western Iraq which they called the Mahabad Republic. The Shah of Iran crushed the Kurdish forces and a new political party called the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) was founded by an Iraqi Kurd named Mustafa Barzani, the father of Massoud Barzani. The goal of this political party has always been to establish an independent Kurdistan.
Mustafa Barzani in 1961 headed a massive revolt against the government of the Iraqi president Abdul Karim Qassem. As before, the Kurdish revolt was once again crushed. Ten years later a peace agreement was signed between the Kurds and the government in Baghdad, granting the former some partial autonomy. This too was as short lived as the Mahabad Republic.
Then an unexpected political maneuver began straining the relations between Iran and Iraq in 1974. The Shah of Iran began sending provisions to the Kurdish forces in north Iraq in an effort to destabilize the government in Baghdad. The transporters of the military and humanitarian provisions were none other than the Assyrians, who in turn were promised a well-equipped army and an independent region in their ancestral home. And so began the 30-year triangular partnership between Iran, the Iraqi Kurds, and the Assyrians from Iran and Iraq.
Not every Assyrian leader cognizant of this plan was in agreement with the political planners in Tehran. One such dissatisfied notable was the late Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimmun. The Assyrian Universal Alliance, established in 1968, with close ties to Tehran, London, and Washington was at this time at the peak of its political significance, making shuttle trips between Asia and America, and meeting with the heads of the states. Mar Shimmun's opposition to this plan was in conflict with the Shah's plans in the region and AUA's greater control in north Iraq.
Suddenly in March of 1975, Iran and Iraq agreed to meet and negotiate their supposed disputes over borders and water and navigation rights. In truth, the Shah was under pressure from Washington to end his imperialist desires to own the majority share of the oil wealth in the region.
The Algiers Accord was signed on 13 June 1975. The Shah of Iran then withdraw his support for the Kurdish rebellion, causing it to collapse shortly after. Disputes among the Kurdish leaders following the chaos created in north Iraq resulted in the departure of Jalal Talabani from the KDP, and the formation of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. The Assyrian fighters in north Iraq were also abandoned; these included the university students who had been actively engaged in the transport of food and ammunition from Iran to north Iraq. Among these was a young engineer who would later become the Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, formed in 1979 – the year the Shah of Iran was forced to leave Iran and Saddam Hussein came to power in Iraq.
With the departure of the Shah of Iran – perhaps one of the most disastrous events in the history of the Assyrian struggle for recognition and autonomy in the last century, the Assyrian Universal Alliance had to look elsewhere to continue its partnership with the Kurdish forces in Iraq and exercise other options in case of a catastrophic retaliation against the Assyrians in Iraq by the government in Baghdad.
Several clandestine meetings were held between the AUA representatives and the Lebanese government officials, including the late-president Bashir Gemayel. A new interest in the “Syriac roots” of the Maronite national identity was being advanced by the Maronite politicians in Lebanon and the Assyrians from Iran and Iraq were being consulted on possible emigration of the Assyrians from these two countries to Lebanon. The Lebanese Phalangists needed more manpower to fight the Moslem insurgents and the Syrian-backed forces, and the Assyrians previously fighting in the north along with the Kurdish pishmerges could be easily retrained to battle a different foe. With the assassination of Bashir Gemayel in 1982 the Lebanese Solution was thankfully abandoned. The solution now had to be reached from within the Assyrian sources.
On 6 November 1975 Patriarch of the Church of the East, Mar Eshai Shimmun was gunned down by an Assyrian, David Malik Ismail, in San Jose, California. The assailant was released from prison a few years later. During her testimony in 1976, the wife of the Patriarch made the following remarks: “About a month before the Patriarch was killed, someone from the Assyrian Universal Alliance in Chicago visited him, trying to get him to return to Iraq to live, and to support the political alliance. The Patriarch again declared that he didn't want the Church involved in politics, and that each member should be faithful to the country in which he lived. It seemed that the Assyrian Universal Alliance wanted the Patriarch out of office.”
The election of Mar Dinkha IV to the patriarchy of the Assyrian Church of the East was a calculated move on the part of the AUA, the most influential Assyrian political organization of its time. The AUA used its diplomatic muscle to help elect “the Bishop from Tehran” - who spoke Farsi fluently - as the next Patriarch of the Church of the East. Mar Dinkha, unlike his predecessor, has since 1976 upheld an unspoken promise not to be directly involved in the politics of his nation and leave the acts of the possible to the political machines in Iraq and the U.S. (click here). His consecration in London also provided another important advantage toward the continuity of the AUA-Barzani partnership. The Patriarch’s tribal background soon became the bridge between the helpless AUA in Iran and the defeated KDP forces in Iraq.
His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV was born in the village of Darbandoki and baptized in the church of Mar Youkhana in Harir. Both Harir and Darbandoki were among the five villages founded by the Nochiya (no-chee-ya) Assyrians in 1928 after they departed the Gaylani Camp in Baghdad, following the mass exodus of the Assyrians to the Baquba Camp in 1918. Nochiya, which in Kurdish means “between the mountains”, is a small area in southeast Turkey’s Hakkari region.
The Patriarch is a Nochiya Assyrian, as are many other clergy in his patriarchal circle, and several Assyrian politicians in Iraq working with Massoud Barzani’s KDP. The following is a short list of the influential Nochiya men in the Mar Dinkha’s circle compiled by Zinda Magazine:
Last week, Mr. Praidoun Darmo, Deputy Secretary General of the AUA and Dr. Odisho Khoshaba, another Nochiya Assyrian, and Rev. Giwargis Toma, also a Nochiya, accompanied Mar Dinkha IV to his closed door meetings with Mr. Massoud Barzani in Washington. As reported in the last Zinda editorial, much of the discussions is believed to have been around the subject of the construction of a patriarchal compound and tens of parishes in north Iraq – under the auspices of the KRG and the blessings of Mr. Sargis Aghajan Mamando. The nearly bankrupt Assyrian Church of the East expects a huge revitalization of its core presence in Iraq and the diaspora, as more funding is received from the Kurdish Regional Government, mediated by the Nochiya Assyrian officials in the KRG and the Church of the East in the U.S.
As the war between Iran and Iraq between 1980 and 1988 was consuming the region and while the internal feud among the AUA members was further dividing this organization a new Assyrian political party was slowly emerging in north Iraq from the ashes of the Kurdistan-AUA-Shah of Iran partnership. The Assyrian Democratic Movement did not materialize into a beefy contender until the Gulf War in August 1990. Its charismatic leader, Yonadam Kanna (then known as Yacu Yosip) was quickly acknowledged as the leader of the Assyrian struggle in the homeland. He too is fluent in the Farsi language and quickly recognizable in the corridors of the Iranian political arena.
Last week during my discussions with Massoud Barzani and his nephew, Nechirvan, speaking in Farsi language it became very clear that the common denominator in the progress of the Kurdish autonomy and Assyrian Church of the East wealth-building, plus the AUA empowerment was not Baghdad, rather the capitol of a country so despised by the Bush administration, namely Tehran, where the Barzanies, founders of the AUA, Yonadam Kanna, and Mar Dinkha IV at one point within the last three decades prepared for their future tour de force.
Two years after the liberation of Kuwait, a Kurdish parliament was setup in north Iraq and the Assyrian Democratic Movement was allotted five seats. While the AUA leadership maintained direct contact with the Kurdish officials, it opposed the direct participation of the ADM in the Kurdish parliament. Yonadam Kanna, AUA officials believed, was too hard-headed, inflexible and uncompromising. In short Mr. Kanna was not going to cooperate with his former AUA superiors in maintaining ties with the KDP. The ADM was gradually nourishing a new hope in north Iraq and the abroad.
In the late 1990's inspired by the Christological Agreement signed between the Church of the East and the Roman Catholic Church and the Chaldean Catholic Church, Mr. Kanna was about to undertake the biggest political gamble of his life, one that no other political party leader before him after General Agha Petros had dared to carry out. He was putting all his bets on one single political card which had already bankrupted others before him; one that could potentially eclipse the "Nochiya Connection" and assure his organization, teeming with another Assyrian tribe namely the Tiyari and the Iranian-born Assyrians. In the meantime the Kurdish officials and their Nochiya Connection waited patiently for their rivals' political suicide. The spectacle that followed was nothing new to the history of the habitual corruption called the Middle Eastern politics.
-continued in the next editorial
The Kurdish State: Reality or Utopia
Today’s Kurds, with a population of 20 to 25 million, are sometimes described as the largest ethnic group without its own country. Although “Kurdistan”, i.e., the country of Kurds, spans a broad swath which includes parts of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan and even Syria, the fact remains that it has never been delineated by specific borders, nor has any official or political map ever designated a specific Kurdish country. Therefore, what is called “Kurdistan” is in fact a collection of many areas variously located among several neighboring Islamic states. Let’s also remember that in history, there never was a specific political, geographical, and independent country known as “Kurdistan”. (L. Chabry and A. Chabry, Politique et minorities au Proche-Orient, translated from French to Arabic by Dr. Thokan Karkot, Cairo, 1991, P341) .
The term “Kurdistan” appears to have been used for the first time in 1157, in the late period of Abbasid Caliphate, by the Turkmen Sultan (Sandjar) who was in a protracted state of war with the Shah of Persia; the Sultan created a Kurdish province as a buffer zone. The Ottomans did much the same, when they created a number of Kurdish principalities to be used in their war against the Persian Empire. (Kurdistan – Political and Economic Potential, Edited by Maria T. O’Shea, SOAS, London, 1992, P.2).
There are many reasons why the Kurds have never had a nation-state of their own, and why they have never enjoyed national unity. The same impediments have also deprived a host of other peoples from achieving nationhood, particularly in the wake of World War I. However, Kurds may be distinguished from these other peoples in two special ways.
First: Kurds and Islam
Nearly all historians are agreed that the Kurds were unknown as a national people sharing specific characteristics, until the time Islam reached their areas. In year 20 Hijri (Islamic Calendar) - 641 A.D -- during the reign of the second Orthodox Muslim Caliph Omar Bin Al Khattab, all Bet Nahrain lands; Arbilm, Mosulm, Nusaybin and northern areas, were conquered by Muslim army. During the Caliphate of his successor, Osman Ibn Affan (644- 656) all the rest of that region up to the Caucasus mountains was conquered by the Moslem armies. The Kurds quickly submitted to them and accepted Islam. (Hassan Arfa, The Kurds, London University Press, 1966, P7). Due to geographical considerations, the Muslim Arab conquerors did not establish their own settlements in the Aryan lands, but instead they allowed the conquered peoples, which included the Kurds, to retain their land, tradition and culture after adopting Islam. It is during this period that the Kurdish name first appears, and it becomes known to other nations as a collection of tribes. In particular, the name of Kurds becomes especially known once they join up with the Muslim armies and get involved in the conquests of the latter. At the outset, the Kurds were known as “Mountain Tribesmen” and historians agree that Arab Muslims were the first to call Kurds, once they had adopted Islam. (Zuber Sulatan, Al Qadhiya Al Kurdiyah, Syria, 1995, P 27).
It was in the nature of Kurdish tribalism to engage in raids, expansionism and general aggression. These attributes coincided with the expansion of the Islamic Empire. Virtually all Kurds undoubtedly converted from Zoroastrianism and fire-worshiping to Islam. In time, Kurds became known as among the most faithful to their new religion. They were courageous warriors and sacrificed Mujahideen for the sake of spreading Islam to the other nations. Salahadin Al Ayoobi (1138 – 1193) the well-known great Muslim hero is an example of militant bravery in the service of Islam. Though he was the head of a mighty Islamic state, he never sought to establish any special privilege or rights to his Kurdish people. He had become an Arab ruler rather than assert his Kurdishness. (O’Shea, P2).
There are many historical examples to prove that the Kurds were steadfast in their religion, and never deviated from Islamic principles. Their history shows that there was neither any major apostasy nor any theological aberration among the Kurds where Islam was concerned. Even the doctrines, schools, or confessions generated among them were within the general principles of Islam, and never in contradiction with its spirituality. Therefore, during their long submission to Islamic states they were never involved in a major rebellion or revolt against their Islamic rule with the intention of establishing their own nation-state, or to claim discrete national rights or special privileges, or to seek higher status in the Caliph Dewan (Council), unlike the Persians, Turks, Charkas and Mamaleek. Although the Kurds were ethnically and culturally different from their rulers, they were first class citizens and a part of the nation of Islam (Ummat El Islam). As long as their rulers were Muslims and represented themselves as Caliph or Emir Al Mo’ameneen (The Prince of the Faithful), their unequivocal submission was to them regardless to their ethnic or race or language. Therefore, the loyalty of Kurds was not to a Kurdish nation, but to the tribe and the religious order, eventually to Ummat El Islam. This is a very simple historical prove that the term of “Christian Kurds” which is recently promoted by the Kurdish politicians and nationalists to contains Assyrian Christians is totally nonsense.
Second – Kurdish Social Structure
The mountainous wilderness characteristic of Kurdish lands, insular and secluded by nature, added to the complexity of communication within disparate “Kurdistan” segments as well as with the outside world, have combined to create a very distinct social system with tribalism as the keystone of social infrastructure in Kurdish society. In the days of the Ottoman Empire, a few sizeable tribes were supported and developed to semi-independent fiefdoms. The feudal Sheikhs of these fiefdoms were beholden not to rise against the Sultan and most importantly not to modify their borders. The fear of emergence of a centralized Kurdish state was obviously uppermost in the mind of those who ruled the Kurds even then (O’Shea, P2). Consequently, the Kurds did not form a nation or a united group with a specific national entity. They were (as remains the case to this day) bereft of a real and comprehensive national language with historic sources, alphabet and grammar. On the contrary, they were a set of tribes with local dialogs lacking for national solidarity but with strong loyalty to their Sheik.
It can be argued that such a tribal system was a common social phenomenon among other neighboring groups and nations, the Assyrians for one. However, in the case of the Kurds, each of the basic social units (i.e., tribes) demonstrated a strong will to be self-dependent, even severely independent of any of the other tribes.. They did not have a national leader or symbol, comparable to the role played by the Patriarch in the case of the Assyrians. The loyalty and submission of members of each unit was to their Sheik; in turn, the Sheik’s loyalty was to the Sultan or Caliph. In contrast, the members of all Assyrian tribes were to their national and religious leader, the Patriarch, through the conduit of their Malik or Rayis. In other words, at an official level, there were many Kurdish Sheiks representing many tribes while there was only one Patriarch representing one Assyrian nation. This is the reason why central governments, in particular during Ottoman era, easily exploited Kurds, and incited tribes to turn on one another, using a “divide and rule” policy to suppression or foreclose rebellion by any tribe or Sheik. The Ottomans were always quick to characterize any incipient Kurdish rebellion as the attempt of one Sheik or tribe to control and conquer the other tribes, in effect sowing paranoia and enmity towards the insurgent Sheik. Ottoman rulers also cleverly exploited the excessive belief of Kurds in Islam and this was used as a tool in controlling and suppression them. A rebellious Sheik was typically pictured as an infidel who was resisting the religious and legitimate authority of Emir Al Mu’ameneen.
The view of a Sheik to the Kurds is also quite different. While the Kurds, just like the Arabs, consider the sheik the secular chieftain of a tribe, for the Kurds this Sheikh is also a religious or holy man who devotes his life in the service of Allah and Islam, and it is not material whether this individual’s genealogy has religious roots or whether he simply acquired his title by experience. This explains why many Kurdish Sheiks or Mullahs or “Sadah”, claim to be descendants of the Prophet Mohammad or of a well-known Orthodox Caliph or Imam, even when their ethnicity is palpably different. Even Kurdish national leaders are either sons or grandsons of an Islamic sect founder, e.g., Mullah Mustafa Al Barazani the late leader of the modern Kurdish national movement; or they are in some way related to a religious post as Holy Judge (Qazi [Qadhi] in Arabic), as was the case with Mohammad, the founder of the Kurdish Mahabad Republic in Iranian Azerbaijan in 1947, who was Qazi of Mahabad and afterward he became President of the Republic It is somewhat ironic that both a revolutionary leader and the founder of a republic bore religious titles, one a Mullah, the other a Qazi.
It is to be noted that even during the rule of the Ottomans, some Kurdish entities were established and were politically independent from the central government; however, in every case they collapsed in short order. The reasons were that either the founder Sheik had expired or he was defeated by coalition forces including Kurdish tribes along with the central government. In nearly all of these cases, the collapse was due to the interplay of the above two reasons. One Sheik’s lunge toward independence was seen as a threat by fellow Sheiks; it was viewed by the other sheiks as a threat to their own tribal power; and it was also propagated by the central government as resistance to Sharia and the legitimate authority of the Sultan – the Muslim Caliph.
In Kurdish lore, there are many stories about discord, disunity and sedition. One interesting tale entails a meeting of the Prophet Mohammad with a Kurdish prince, and his curse of the Kurds. The story is included by the famous 16th century Kurdish historian Sharaf Al Din Khan Al Badlisi in his book titled “Sharafnameh” (1596), which is considered the first book on Kurdish history. According to this account, Aghoor Khan, the king of Turkistan sent a delegation to Prophet Mohammad headed by Bhaghdor, a Kurdish prince who was a man of repugnant appearance, bulky body, and rude, harsh and unruly character. The moment the Prophet met him, he asked with visible disgust and revulsion about his descent. On being told that the man was from a Kurdish sect, the Prophet prayed to God with the following entreaty: “Oh Mighty God, do not accord this sect any harmony or unity”. (Zuber Sultan, P 28). While the authenticity of this anecdote is easily discounted since Islam had not reached Turkistan during the life of the Prophet, nevertheless one is reminded by it of the fratricidal discord among Kurds and their inclination to be seditious mentioned by a famous Kurdish writer during the Middle Ages, these traits appear well-established in centuries past.. One should note also that there is a famous Kurdish adage, “Karkasha Basha”, which translates to “Anarchy is Fine”. No doubt this postulate accurately epitomizes the character of the Kurds.
The late 18th and early 19th century saw the dawn of nationalistic stirrings from Europe to the Middle East, including the idea of self-determination and other principles for forming nation-states. This, along with other political developments, would play a significant role in the crumbling of the Ottoman Empire. It was thus a fortuitous time for the Kurds to unshackle themselves from Ottoman tyranny and to establish their own nation-state, yet they did not do so. One could point to many attributes which made such a goal realistic --from their mountain combat experience and to their demographic density in given areas, to say nothing of the attitude of the international community, which sought to divide the Ottoman Empire and to form modern nation-states.. However, the Pan-Islamic message which was used by Ottomans was more powerful and important to Kurds that any other thing.
The two factors we have discussed here once again determined Kurdish fate during an era best known for nationalism. Nationalism may have awakened many of the subordinated people, but the Kurds generally continued to remain faithful to their tyrannical masters; there appeared to be no motivation for unity and formation of a nation-state. On the contrary, while the Ottomans described the new idea of nationalism as a Christian ploy to destroy the Islamic state, more than ever Kurds became supportive of the collapsing Ottoman Empire, taking up arms to defend it on a significant scale, which only contributed to the human misery engendered by World War I.
In 1885, the Ottoman authority organized a military force drawn from Kurdish tribes, and it was known as the “Hamidian Cavalry Forces” According to Abdul Hamid, the tyrant Ottoman Sultan. This unit would be a powerful instrument which would not only oppress Christian communities (such as Assyrians and Armenians), but it would also stamp out the revolt of any Kurdish tribes, while firming up Ottoman control in the “Kurdistan” mountains.
In 1908, the Turkish nationalists (the Young Turks Party) seized power. Sultan Abdul Hamid was removed and a modern constitution was adopted, but there was no significant change in the status of the Kurds. The name of the “Hamidian Cavalry Forces” was changed to “Striking Forces”, but in all other respects this unit continued in the service of its new masters, in the persecution and conquest of non-Turk nations, and in the stamping out of any uppity Kurdish tribe. This fighting force was invaluable to the Turkish nationalist dream of establishing the “Toranni Empire”. Although these forces were disbanded a year after the onset of World War I, the Kurds continued to serve their persecutors by joining the regular Turkish army on a large scale. They also served the Turks by urging Kurdish tribes to support the Turks in their war, characterizing the conflict as a “Jihad” against the infidel superpowers and their “Christian agents” and they were the Turkish Hand in the well-known Armenian and Assyrian massacres. Once again, the Kurds forfeited a golden opportunity to establish their own nation-state; they gained nothing when they served as mere fodder for the Turks’ war.
When the Ottoman Empire was defeated, the modern Turkish state was established and nationalist consciousness among a group of Kurdish intellectuals emerged. Ironically, however, the Kurds continued offering their “generous” military services and sacrificing for the Turks. The well-known Kurdish historian Mohammad Amen Zaki, who was Minister of Finance in Iraq during the Assyrian massacre of Simel in August 1933, stated in his encyclopedic book, The History of Kurds and Kurdistan (printed in Cairo 1936) that: “As long as the name Ottoman was seen as a comprehensive designation for all populations and races of the Empire, this benumbed our brain. But when this term vanished and it was replaced by Turk or Torrani, I started getting a strong feeling, as other members of non-Turk nations of the Ottoman Empire, of my own nationality distinct from the Turks’, and this eventually resulted in building up an extreme nationalist consciousness toward my nationality” (quoted from Introduction of the book). Such feeling was spreading among many Kurdish intellectuals and tribal Sheikhs who started clamoring for self-determination. To pursue this quest for an independent Kurdish state, the Kurds sent delegations to the Versailles Congress (1919-1920).
However, even as such dramatic changes were taking place among a segment of the Kurdish intelligentsia, the Kurds in general continued their old practice of supporting the Turks, participating actively in strengthening the new nationalist Turkish movement, and establishing the new State of Turkey. They played a major role in stamping out Assyrian and Armenian national movements, and they contributed significantly to enforcement of borders and to the stability of the new Republic of Turkey, now under the leadership of the Turkish nationalist Kemal Ataturk. Ataturk had succeeded in attenuating the humiliating Treaty of Sèvres (1920) which would be superseded by the Treaty of Lausanne (1923). This latter extirpated the proposed Armenian and Kurdish states and rehabilitated the reputation of Turkey which had been at an all-time low in the aftermath of WWI. For all their valuable services to the Turks, what the Kurds received as their reward was more persecution and a continued deprivation of their rights. They were not only denied any national claim, but officially and practically they were forbidden from the use of their languages. Moreover, they were not recognized as Kurds but as “Mountain Turks”. Words such as Kurd and Kurdistan disappeared from the official vocabulary.
In 1925, Ataturk launched his campaign for modernization. This included the abolition of the “Islamic Caliphate” system, using Latin alphabet instead of Arabic (the language of the Koran), replacing Ottoman laws and customs with ones adopting along the European models, and also declaring separation of religion from the state. In short, he declared that Turkey would henceforth be a secular state. The Kurdish rejection was very strong against Ataturk’s modernization scheme, and this opposition was not based on nationalism, but on religion. The most powerful figure, Sheikh Sa’aed Berani, Chieftain of the Nakshabandiya School, led a massive revolt claiming that the modernization procedures were in severe contradiction with the basic principles of Islam. The Sheikh portrayed his movement as an Islamic revolution against infidels. He called for restoration of the Caliphate System and application of Sharia’a laws. While Sheikh Sa’aed’s revolution was considered a very serious threat to the new Turkish state, the movement was eventually crushed by the Ataturk forces supported by many of the Kurdish tribes.
Over a period of years following WWI, the political borders of Iran and Turkey were reshaped and confirmed, bilateral and international treaties were signed, and new states (including Iraq) were formed. As for the Kurds, they were fragmented among the various new countries, in the same fashion as the Assyrians and Armenians.. The above-mentioned two factors, religion and tribal social structure, interacted with the new territorial factor. Thereafter, the Kurdish national movement evolved in accordance with the circumstances of each country. In Iran and Turkey, Kurdish nationalism was substantially extinguished, while in Iraq it continued with its traditional characteristics, i.e., religious in its nature and tribal in its leadership.
From the time the British artificially created Iraq in 1920 out of the former Ottoman Wilayets of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra, the Kurds have been in an almost constant state of revolt (Michael Gunter, The Kurds of Iraq – Tragedy and Hope, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1992, P1). Although Gunter gives some reasons (such as the illegitimacy of Iraq as a state) for the continued revolt, religion and the nature of Kurdish tribalism should not be neglected. For the first time in their history, Kurds were subjected to a non-Muslim nation, the British. After forming Iraqi governments and installing Faisel Hussain on the Iraqi throne, for the fist time after many centuries, the Kurds were subjected to a non-Aryan ruler and they became citizens of an Arab state. Consequently, in Iraq the Kurdish movement advanced differently and more actively than in the surrounding states.
In 1922, the most powerful Sheik Mahmoud Zebari, known as Al Hafeed, the Chieftain of the biggest tribe “Zibar” and an eminent Sheik of the Naqshabandi Sufi sect, succeeded in his revolt against the British and established a Kurdish state in Suleimania, which lasted no more than seven months. In 1925, the league of Nation sent a delegation to the area to investigate the question of Wilayat Mosul in view of the claims made by Iraq and Turkey. Fatah Bey, the brother-in-law of Sheikh Mahmoud Zebari, held Iraqi nationality, but he was a member of the Turkish delegation. He, as well as the majority of Kurds, supported the Turkish claim to Mosul. In other words, nothing had changed for the Kurds, and they continued to support the tyrannical nation which had oppressed it, notwithstanding dramatic political changes in the region.
By early 1940s, the severe tribal conflict between the Zibar and Barzan tribes had surfaced at the political level. Although there was affinity among the leaders of both tribes, it was Barzan who would prevail. His victory was due to his association with the powerful Naqshabandi Sufi sect, who successfully continued leading the modern Kurdish national movement. The bloody conflict of the mid-1990s between Barzani (KDP) and Talabani (KPU) cannot be separated from the chronic tribal conflict of two regions; Surani and Bahdinani.
Clearly, both the degree of religiosity and the idea of tribalism have gradually diminished in the make-up of today’s Kurdish national movement. At the same time, the principle of territoriality has risen to the fore as a main factory in determining a Kurdish state. In other words, to the extent there is political stability within each of the countries containing parts of “Kurdistan” (Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria), the Kurdish dream of a nation-state ebbs in importance. Because of the severe sensitivity for national security by these various states, the aspiration of Kurds for a “Great Kurdistan” has been all but abandoned. On the other hand, the continued political instability of Iraq in contrast to Iraq’s neighbors has played a major role in invigorating the Kurdish national movement toward achieving the milestone of a Kurdish state. The extraordinary instability of current Iraq has created a golden and historical opportunity for Kurds to achieve their national dream. In today’s Iraq, Kurds appear willing to shed much of their Islamism and of their tribalism and, for the first time in history, they can be seen to march together as one, as a real nation.
One might ask whether the Kurds have made this dramatic shift because they have learned from past experiences and because they intend to remain steadfast in achieving the long-waited dream of a Kurdish state? Or is this just another bubble of hot air blown by the key players of the international and regional powers currently surrounding Iraq? What about the extreme opposition of Turkey and Iran to the creation of a Kurdish state along their borders? Is the opposition of these two countries softened in a way by the fact that the Islamic regime in Iran, and the Islamic Party in Turkey, will be sympathetic toward a tiny landlocked Islamic state? Are the Kurds really so strong with their Peshmerga? Or is this more a case of the Arabs being weak and divided, having no militia and left without any national army? Are Kurds really secularist and supportive of an Iraqi secular state, or they are just a tool for the USA in its war against Islamic terrorists, a pawn of political pressure and balancing to face Shia’a in their own effort to install a theocratic Iraqi state allied to Iran? Iraq is currently at such an imprecise stage that it is practically impossible to predict its future or to answer any of the above questions. No doubt things will become clearer with passage of time. One thing is clear, which is that the Kurds are the primary beneficiary of instability in the current Iraq. This has led me to more seriously consider their popular saying ”Karkash Basha”. Of course, the question remains how long this Karkash will stay Basha? The answer depends closely on the future of stability in Iraq.
Assyrian Killed in Kirkuk Car Bombing
(ZNDA: Kirkuk) On Wednesday, 2 November at 5:00 p.m., a car bomb exploded near the Church of Mar Giwargis in the Assyrian quarters of Almas district in Kirkuk. According to Iraqi police the blast killed one person and wounded nine. The 18-year-old who was killed in the bombing was named Sarmad Fadi Kamil, an Assyrian from Kirkuk. His father was injured in the explosion.
The bomb was reportedly aimed at the U.S. consular vehicle. The passing US convoy that is believed to have been the target of the attack escaped unscathed.
Kirkuk is the disputed oil-city in the north, home to Kurdish, Arab, Turkomen, and Assyrian residents.
Slain Assyrian Oil Engineer Buried in Kirkuk
(ZNDA: Kirkuk) The body of the slain Assyrian oil company engineer, Michael Seron, was transported to the cemetery for burial in the city of Kirkuk on 30 October.
Seron, who was the assistant manager of Iraq's North Oil company, was shot down by unknown gunmen on Saturday evening, police sources said.
Kirkuk, a city of almost 1 million, is home to a combustible mix of multiple ethnicities, a contentious past and enormous potential wealth. Kirkuk's precise demographic makeup is a source of dispute, but Kurds are believed to represent 35 to 40 percent of the population. The remainder is composed primarily of Arabs, ethnic Turkmens and a small percentage of Assyrians.
The Kurds, saying they have a historical claim, hope to anchor Kirkuk to Kurdistan, their semiautonomous region. Kirkuk holds strategic as well as symbolic value: The ocean of oil beneath its surface could be used to drive the economy of an independent Kurdistan, the ultimate goal for many Kurds.
IED-Iraq Releases Names of 15 December Candidates
(ZNDA: Baghdad) With six weeks to go before the parliamentary elections that Washington hopes will set Iraq on the path to stability, the final list of the political contestants for the December 15th was submitted by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq. Some 480 groups and individuals have registered. The following is the list of the "Christian slates" compiled by Zinda Magazine:
Those Who Voted Against Constitution Are Terrorists, Says Iraqi President
Courtesy of the Assyrian International News Agency
(AINA) Iraqi President Jalal Talabani described those who voted for the Iraq draft constitution as "partisans of democracy, freedom, and human rights" and those who voted no as "partisans of terrorism, al-Qaida organization, and Arab chauvinism."
The remarks of Talabani came during his meeting with comrades from his party in Sulaimaniya. Through this meeting, he emphasized that "the affirmation of the constitution transformed our Kurdish nation to a new stage in its history. This new stage removed the Kurdish fears from any return to further fighting in the mountains against central governments." He reminded the gathering that "today he takes new responsibility and that is to preserve the gains that were achieved, which of course were not little. The Kurdish existence accomplished through Kurdistan region is a political existence that is developing and progressing day after day." He pointed that "there is nothing left but to raise a banner under the name of the Kurdish state at the forefront of this region because all political, economical, security, and military aspects in the region are independent and that no one could interfere in the affairs of this region."
Talabani stated "in the past decades we were not permitted to meet any American employee or diplomat because we were Kurds. Today, you see me meet with the American president and you see brother Masoud Barzani meet him as well as the president of Kurdistan region. All these matters increase the Kurdish nations' esteem and position in international circles. It is these things that push a person like the Secretary General of the Arab League to say that from now on he will officially communicate with Kurdistan regional government and Kurdish parliament."
Regarding the problem of Kirkuk, Talabani pointed that "a wise and practical policy must be pursued in Kirkuk. We must give a share of our gains to our Turkoman and ChaldoAssyrian brothers so that we incarnate the true peaceful coexistence and conformity between us and city principals because we need to strengthen our relations with all Iraqi fabrics, especially the Arabs who constitute a great nation with wide culture. When we say that we in Iraq are not part of the Arab nation, this is not to belittle from the character of this rooted nation, but it is because God created us as Kurds." Talabani added "therefore the Kurds in Kirkuk must try their best possible efforts to strengthen the pillars of Arab-Kurdish brotherhood and enforce it with the other peoples in the city and make them understand that cooperation and mutual work with us will guarantee their freedom and future in a bigger and better way."
Translated from Arabic by AINA.
H. E. Mor Julius Yeshu Çiçek Passed Away in Germany
(ZNDA: Germany) His Eminence Mor Julius Yeshu Çiçek, the Metropolitan of the Central Europe and the Benelux Countries of the Syrian Orthodox Church, passed on to eternity on 29 October on his way to Switzerland from Holland in Düsseldorf, Germany. Mor Çiçek was 63. He was expected at the remembrance service for Metropolitan Mor Philoxenos Hanna Dolabani in Switzerland. His sudden death sent shockwaves through all Assyrian communities in Europe and the dioceses of the Syrian Orthodox Church around the world.
Because of his passion for expanding the realms of his Church in Europe by building many new parishes and monasteries, and the volumes of books on the Syrian Orthodox Church liturgy that H. E. Mor Çiçek had either authored or republished and distributed throughout the world, he was affectionately known as the "Mor Jacob Burd‘ono of the 20th century."
Mor Çiçek was born in 1942 in Upper Kafro in the Tur Abdin region (southeast Turkey) to Qashisho Barsawmo and Bath-Qyomo Sayde. At the age of nine H.E. went to the seminary of Deyr-ul-Za'faran, where he studied Syriac, Turkish, Arabic and Theology. He was ordained a deacon in 1958, and became a secretary to the late Metropolitan Mor Philoxenos Hanna Dolabani. Later he joined the Monastery of Mor Cyriacus in the region Bsheriye (Bitlis) to administer pastoral service and engaged in a mission to seek Syriac and Armenian Christians, who survived the genocide of 1915 in the hands of the Turks.
In 1960 he was made a novice monk in the monastery of Mor Gabriel and embraced an ascetic life. He taught in the theological seminary at Mor Gabriel and copied many books with his astonishingly beautiful handwriting.
When Fr. Shabo Guenes, the abbot of the monastery retired in 1962, Fr. Yeshue Çiçek was chosen as the abbot of the monastery. In 1969, Mor Iwannis Ephrem Bilgic, the Bishop of Tur-Abdin, ordained him a priest. Between 1973 and 1974, Yeshu Çiçek lived in Damascus, in the Seminary of Mor Ephrem at Atshane in Lebanon and in the Holy land. Then he came to Germany, where learned the German language and ministered to the fellowship in the diaspora. At the request of the Metropolitan of America, Mor Athanasius Yeshue Samuel, Dayroyo (Monk) Yeshu Çiçek was in the United States from 1975 until 1977, learning English and ministering to the Syriac Orthodox faithful here. In 1977, he returned to Europe and settled in Holland in Hengelo.
In the same year the Holy Synod selected him as the Patriarchal Vicar for the new diocese of Central Europe. He constructed a hall for a new Syriac Orthodox church of St. John the Evangelist, which was consecrated by the late Patriarch Mor Ignatius Yaqub III. In 1978, Dayroyo Yeshu began publishing Qolo Suryoyo (The Syriac Voice), the news magazine of the Syriac Orthodox diocese of Central Europe.
In 1979, the Patriarch Yaqub III consecrated Dayroyo Yeshu Çiçek in Hengelo as the Archbishop of the Syrian Orthodox Diocese of Central Europe, as Mor Yulius. In 1984, Mor Yulius acquired the Monastery or Dayro d'Mor Ephrem at Losser in Holland, which became the seat of the archbishop. Under the able guidance of His Eminence, the Central Europe diocese has been flourishing ever since.
With the assistance of Professor Sebastian Brock at Oxford University, His Eminence Mor Çiçek helped produce a three volume book and video on the history of the Aramaic liturgy and Syrian Orthodox Church history, titled "The Hidden Pearl".
The last years of His Eminence's life were overshadowed by controversial projects in which large sums of money were mishandled and lost to unknown hands. where a lot of money was involved and lost to unknown hands. The money scandal which was attributed mainly to Bishop Augin (Eugene) Kaplan of the Diocese of Eastern USA eventually dragged Mor Çiçek into near complete bankruptcy. The monastery and land properties including a graveyard in Holland are still under the threat of liquidation by the banks in Europe.
Mor Çiçek was also a controversial figure in the politics of the Assyrian nation. He began his spiritual life as a proud Assyrian monk, wrote poems on his Assyrian heritage and republished the first book written by Professor Ibrahim Gabriel Sowmy in Brazil titled "The Assyrian Culture" (Mardutho d Suryoye). He later became a strong anti-Assyrian activist, denouncing the "Assyrian" identity of the Syrian Orthodox Church. However lately, he attended the Assyrian Genocide demonstrations in Europe (click here) and invited Assyrian dignitaries to his monastery
The funeral of H.E. Mor Çiçek will take place on 5 November at 12 p.m. in the cloister of Mor Ephrem of the Syrians in Glane/Losser (Holland). The service will be conducted by His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka Iwas and in the presence of many Assyrian bishops, dignitaries, and the public.Zinda Magazine offers its condolences to all Assyrians and in particular the members of the Syriac Orthodox Church. The biographical information noted above was provided courtesy of the Syrian Orthodox Resources, Mr. Gabriel Rabo of the Suryoyo Online & Dr. Zech C. Scheariah in Switzerland.
New spiritual Leader Named for India’s Malankara Church
Courtesy of The New India Express, the Associated Press
(ZNDA: Kottayam) Ending days of speculation, Catholicos Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews II, supremo of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and Malankara Metropolitan, decided to step down from the top ecclesiastical post last Sunday.
The Catholicos, who is in his nineties and the world’s oldest serving bishop in any of the Christian denominations decided to relinquish the post at the end of long deliberations during the past few days.
He sent his resignation letter in the afternoon, after celebrating a Holy Mass in the Devalokam Aramana chapel here, to Rev Thomas Mar Athanasios, secretary of the Bishop’s synod.
An urgent meeting of the church synod was convened on Sunday night at Parumala, Mavelikkara.
Almost all bishops in the Church were camping there to take part in the auspicious annual feast of St Gregorios.
The meeting accepted the resignation and discussed arrangements to facilitate a smooth succession by elevating Catholiocs-designate Thomas Mar Thimotheos, 85, as the new supremo.
Charismatic Church Head
Catholicos Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews II, who was elected to the top post by the Malankara Association meeting held in 1991, is a charismatic personality having wide acceptance in the society.
He is also credited with steering the 20 lakh-members’ strong Orthodox church when the church feud was at its height. His nearly one-and-a-half decade tenure as Catholicos also witnessed the church gaining immense political leverage.
The Enthronement of the New Leader
The enthronement service was led by the Church Synod comprising all the Metropolitans amidst the holy Eucharist celebrated by Thomas Mar Makarios. Senior Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Osthatheos was the chief celebrant of the enthronement service.
Thomas Mar Athanaseus, Geevarghese Mar Ivaneos, Kuriakose Mar Cleemis, Mathews Mar Epiphaneus, Peelipose Mar Eusebeus, Paulose Mar Pachomeos, Paulose Mar Militheos, Mathews Mar Savarios, Zacharia Mar Theophelus, Youhanon Mar Chrisostomos, Augen Mar Dioneseus, Gabriel Mar Gregorios, Gevarghese Mar Koorilos and Youhanon Mar Milithos were the co-celebrants.
Hundreds of faithful thronged Parumala on the banks of river Pampa to witness the occasion.
The holy Eucharist began at 7 a.m. and the enthronement service around 9 a.m. The new Catholicos, seated in a chair, was lifted thrice by the Metropolitans amidst loud chants of `Oxion', a Greek word that meaning `that he is worthy'. Then, the new Catholicos read out the Holy Bible.
Outgoing Catholicos Moran Mor Baselius Mar Thoma Mathews-II blessed his successor and handed over the Pastoral Staff to him, later, marking the culmination of the main part of the enthronement ceremony.
It is for the first time in the history of the Malankara Orthodox Church an outgoing Catholicos himself attending the enthronement of his successor. The newly enthroned Catholicose blessed the gathering and he was felicitated at a meeting held at the church hall later.
The new Catholicos made his reply speech on the occasion.
The Malankara Church
The Malankara community trace their origins to families evangelized by St. Thomas (Mar Thoma) nearly 2,000 years ago, “An era has ended as Father Mathews was a very popular Catholicos,” Parakadavil told The Associated Press by phone from church headquarters in the city of Kottayam, about 400 miles southwest of Bangalore.
The Malankara church has 2.5 million members, most of them in the southern state of Kerala, on whose shores St. Thomas arrived around A.D. 50, according to Christian tradition. The Malankara church is a successor of India’s oldest church, the St. Thomas Christians. While many factions broke away to embrace Catholicism or Protestantism during Portuguese and British colonial rules, Malankara remained independent. The Church also has dioceses in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Special thanks to Mr. Thomas Paul in India for the coverage of this news for Zinda Magazine.
AUA Executive Board Meets in Chicago
(ZNDA: Chicago) The Executive Board of the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) met in Chicago, USA on October 29-30, 2005. It discussed the recent activities of the AUA and reviewed the reports of the Americas, Asian, Australian, and European chapters.
The Board also discussed the Assyrian situation in a post-referendum Iraq and upcoming elections.
Furthermore, the AUA studied the importance of its eventual presence in Iraq and neighbouring countries to promote the Assyrian cause and heighten its relation with the governmental agencies and our political and national organisations.
The AUA release was provided by Ms. Mary Younan, the Executive Secretary of the Assyrian Universal Alliance.
Assyrians Killed & Wounded at Fairfield's Babylon Cafe
Courtesy of the Fairfield Digital
(ZNDA: Fairfield) For more than a decade many of the men of Fairfield, Australia's Assyrian community have gathered in the Babylon Cafe to play backgammon, cards, talk business or gossip over sweet tea and coffee, a meal or smoke tobacco in hookahs.
The kabob cafe, inside the tiny Civic Arcade off busy Ware Street, had been a place to relax. But over the past year the atmosphere has been peppered by arguments and scuffles between individuals or groups of men - sometimes brandishing guns - fearful local businessmen, who asked not to be named, told the Herald yesterday.
On Monday night it culminated in the killing of Raymond Khananyah, 29, whom police believe was a bystander, and the wounding of three other men.
"We ran away from Iraq so he wouldn't get killed in the war … He didn't deserve to die that young," his sister, Lydia Boza.
Ramon's father Simon believes his only son was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"He hadn't been to that cafe in months. He just decided to go out on Monday night and now he is dead," Mr Khananyah told The Daily Telegraph yesterday.
"We can't believe this has happened. He was a good boy. He had no enemies. I took him from Iraq so he wouldn't get hurt but he was hurt here in Australia and we have lost him."
Two of the wounded men, both 48, whose names were not made public, were in the cafe when they were critically wounded. One was the brother of the restaurant owner. A fourth man, aged 19, escaped with a bullet graze to the arm.
The cafe owner, known only as Amir, said yesterday the man who pulled a gun on Monday afternoon had threatened to return.
"He said 'I'll will see you tonight'," Amir said.
Amir said he reported the matter to police and was planning to close the shop early but was assured a police car would cruise the area that night, so he decided to stay open.
Amir said the customer who was involved in the scuffle on Monday afternoon was not present at the cafe that night.
"They just started shooting. They were shooting everywhere at all these innocent people sitting there," he said.
Police are looking into Ramon's background for clues to the murder but have yet to determine a motive for the shooting or the identity of the intended victim.
Amir's 48-year-old brother was shot in the chest as he sat playing cards inside the cafe.
His 48-year-old friend was also shot and both men remained in a critical condition in Liverpool Hospital last night.
A 19-year-old who was shot in the arm has been released from hospital and was questioned by police yesterday.
At 9.40 pm three gunmen in balaclavas and armed with semi-automatic pistols alighted from a black Honda Civic in Ware Street and fired up to 17 shots into the cafe, sending 20 men diving to the floor. Mr Khananyah, who worked at his mother's nearby tobacconist shop, was standing outside when he was fatally wounded.
The attack has exposed a string of gun-play incidents in the arcade since Saturday, some of which were not reported to police - including one, according to a businessman who did not want to be named, at 10 am last Saturday near the arcade entrance.
Superintendent Mark Henney, the head of Task Force Gain, the police Middle Eastern crime squad, said that at 2.30 pm last Saturday a man had jumped out of a white Suzuki Vitara and fired three shots from a revolver that struck the wall of the cafe. Police learnt of the incident only when called to the restaurant on Monday just after midday, when another man had entered the cafe with a pistol and confronted three seated men.
"When police arrived at the midday incident the gunman and the other men had left," said Superintendent Henney, who has formed Strike Force Mallison to investigate all the incidents leading to the fatal shooting.
"That entire area of Fairfield has a fairly large Assyrian community. They run a number of businesses and, while the Assyrian community have been living in Australia for many years and have been conducting their businesses within those areas in a peaceful manner, we have had incidents where a few within that community have turned to violence in order to underpin their criminal activities," Superintendent Henney said. "We will be, of course, looking at those angles as to whether there is some other criminal activity related to this."
A shopkeeper, who asked not to be named, said Mr. Khananyah was a friendly, peaceful man who had never hurt anyone and was simply walking past when the gunmen opened fire.
Ramsey Hanani, who runs a mobile phone store, said he knew Mr Khananyah and his parents, who arrived in Australia 15 years ago.
"It is very sad," he said. "He was a nice person."
Police are investigating the possibility the shooting is related to drug dealing.
Assyrian Coalition in Stanislaus to Request Election Polls
(ZNDA: Modesto) A "Coalition" of the Assyrian organizations and individuals has been formed in California's Central Valley that includes Modesto and Turlock "to advocate and promote unity" and will encourage participation during the December 15th Iraqi parliamentary elections under a single platform.
The body will demand from the authorities in Iraq to allow an election (polling) center in Turlock or Modesto to facilitate and encourage all Iraqis to come and participate in the upcoming elections.
This group is organizing a rally at the Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock on Sunday, 6 November at 6:00 P.M. The representatives of this coalition at press time include the following:
Joseph Kassab Featured in 2005 America's Table
(ZNDA: Detroit) America's Table is the American Jewish Committee's "Thanksgiving Booklet" celebrates the diversity of American society. The booklet succinctly sets forth the American story and helps all, regardless of ethnicity or faith, to express gratitude for being part of the American journey. To help tell the story, it profiles nine men and women whose backgrounds, struggles and triumphs link them as Americans.
America’s Table® was created five years ago after the American Jewish Committee recognized a need for spirituality and togetherness following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
This year, Mr. Joseph Kassab, a Chaldean from Michigan and the president of the Chaldean National Congress is among the 9 individuals profiled.
Joseph Kassab fled Iraq in his early 20s. Born in the remote northern Nineveh province, where
Despite these difficulties, Kassab studied to become a microbiologist. He obtained a forged passport and left for Italy, where he gained approval to enter the United States, and settled in Detroit. Kassab then embarked on dual career paths—as a research scientist and as a human rights advocate, organizing delegations to counsel Iraqi refugees waiting, often for many years, in “transit countries” for admittance to the United States, Canada, or Australia.
After Saddam Hussein’s regime fell, Kassab returned to his homeland for the first time, to present officials with a program for educating the Iraqi people about democracy. Today, he is president of the Chaldean National Congress in Michigan, advocating for Iraq’s indigenous Christians.
The New York Times Knowledge Network Program will distribute 50,000 copies of America’s Table® to schoolchildren in New York City, Long Island and Westchester. Teachers participating in the program are receiving lesson plans designed by the Knowledge Network Program in consultation with the AJC that will deepen appreciation for diversity.
America’s Table® is published by the American Jewish Committee in cooperation with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Council of La Raza, the National Urban League, the National Conference for Community and Justice, the Cuban American National Council, the Islamic Supreme Council of America, the Japanese American Citizens League, the New America Alliance, the Organization of Chinese Americans and the Korean-American Jewish-American Council.
Happy Assyrian Press Day
I would like to extend my deepest wishes for you all in the 156th Assyrian Press Anniversary on the 1st of November. In this occasion I also commend you for your hard work and devotion for the nation.
God bless you all and keep up the good work of Zinda.
In November 1849 the first Assyrian periodical and in fact the first periodical of its kind in Persia was published in Urmia, Iran. Each year, on the anniversary of the publication of Zahrireh d'Bahra or The Rays of Light Assyrians celebrate the contributions of the Assyrian press and media to the general welfare of this nation. No where is this important day more earnestly celebrated than in Iran and Iraq, where despite much financial and technical difficulty more hardcopy periodicals are published than any other nation outside of the Middle East.
Waiting For the Other Holiness
Emmanuel Y. Michael
I would like to refer to the comment made by Eric Sap of Texas regarding the unity of the Church. He mentioned that His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV extended peace efforts to the old calendar patriarch His Holiness Mar Addai II, but did not receive any reply or assistance in uniting the church.
I would like to mention that I have tried my best to unite the Church since the split occurred in 1965. I am pleased to mention that when I was in Kuwait I wrote a letter addressed to both Patriarchs and gave copies to all bishops and archbishops of both calendars in which I requested from both patriarchs
In one of my telephone calls with His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, I asked what is happening with the unity of the Church. His reply was that His Holiness is waiting a reply from His Holiness Mar Addai II. It happened that His Holiness Mar Addai II was in Sydney at the time and I mentioned that when I spoke with His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV about the unity of the church, he mentioned that he is waiting a reply from Your Holiness. Mar Addai replied to me saying "We are waiting a reply from Mar Dinkha, because we wrote to them requesting to let us know what happened between them and the Roman Catholic, and still we have not yet received any reply.
I believe that both parties are trying their best to resolve the question of unity which I hope will be in the near future.
Producer Steve B. Isaac Back in Studio
Solidwave Records Promotions
After endless hours of producing, engineering and mixing Chameleon's Hip-Hop album "Struggle To Survive" and Lazar Malko's world music album "ASHTAR", producer/engineer and founder of Solidwave Records, Steve B. Isaac, is back in studio producing new reggae artist "ZEN".
Zen is featured in Lazar Malko's album "ASHTAR" (track #6). The track was produced by Steve B. Isaac and has received positive feedback from radio stations, music editors and fans from all over the world.
Producer Steve Isaac has signed Zen under his label (Solidwave Records), expected to generate "a lot of heat in his new album," according to Mr. Isaac. "Zen is a diverse artist, he has a distinctive and energetic voice. Zen has a potential of being a star and we will do whatever it takes to achieve his dream and take him to the next level," says Mr. Isaac.
Zen has opened for major reggae acts such as Ziggy Marley's son and other top reggae artists as well. Zen is considered one of the hottest reggae artist in Chicago. His album is slated for release in summer of 2006.
To download Lazar Malko's "La deeleh" mp3 featuring Zen click here.
A Kurdish Vision of Iraq
An American's View of Iraq's Assyrians
I am a volunteer American serving my nation in Iraq. While here, I have had the opportunity to visit most regions of this country, and I have many months service training and serving with Iraqi forces. During my time, I have met many Chaldo-Assyrian people and consider them amongst my dearest friends.
As far as offering an assessment of the Assyrian situation in Iraq, I really am not qualified to state with any authority knowledge of the current political climate or what the future may hold for the Assyrian people. What I can say, though, is that I have visited 60 countries in my life, and the Assyrian people here are some the kindest and generous people I have ever met.
Although I don't know the names of the towns, some of my fondest memories of Iraq occurred when my men and I had the opportunity to pass through some Christian villages last year on the Nineveh plain. My respect and admiration for the people in these villages, who have kept their heritage alive in this most difficult land, has no limit.
I could offer many anecdotes. For example, last year when I arrived, the first Iraqi with whom I spoke was an Assyrian in Baghdad. He gave me a card he had in his pocket and told me to keep it always for good luck, and as thanks for our country's effort in Iraq. On the front of the card was a picture of the Virgin Mary and on the reverse, the Lord's Prayer. He said he had carried since the day his mother died.
Before I came to Iraq, I had read much about the Assyrian people. While here, I have asked many questions about the culture, food, wedding customs, community life, language, politics, etc. I have feared sometimes that my Assyrian friends have wearied of me.
I learned to speak Kurdish well and can speak passable Arabic, so I was able to speak directly with many Assyrians without a translator. I have lived as an Iraqi, too, many days hardly seeing an American or speaking English only on a radio. Especially in North Iraq, of course, I had an excellent opportunity to learn much about the Assyrian culture.
Of interest to Assyrians in my experience, especially in the rural Christian villages in North Iraq and amongst the tiny populations of Assyrians in southern Iraq, many of them, while aware of the Assyrian Diaspora throughout the world, do not directly know anyone in the West. A few have distant cousins whom they once knew, or somehow kept in contact with someone during the long, isolated years of the Ba'athist dictatorship, but I believe this is an exception, presently. Many have little contact or great knowledge about Assyrians elsewhere on the globe.
Things are changing rapidly, though. Even the most remote places are now getting electricity, telephones, and satellite television dishes can now be seen in most villages near the bigger towns. The liberation of Iraq has also allowed all the people of Iraq to be more vocal, and hence in greater political and international contact with those of mutual interest.
Iraqis love to talk and I have had endless discussions with them. Religion is a big topic in this religious country. Unlike in the United States, for example, within the first few minutes of many conversations I have here, often someone will ask me about my religion. I state that I am Catholic. Because of the Christians here, most Muslims are familiar with the Catholic faith.
Sometimes the subject of Iraqi Christians will arise. The conversation generally is positive. Never have I heard a disparaging word from any Arab or Kurdish person about Iraqi Christians, and have I been around Iraqis 24 hours a day for months, in and out of combat, serving with them side by side. In fact, in my experience, most Arabs or Kurds speak of their Christian brothers with fondness, usually relating a story of previous employment working with Christians or perhaps speak about Christian neighbors.
The only other common thread that sometimes pops up in their conversation is that they don't know for sure how the tiny minority of Christians here will fare again the rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism, a concern for all minorities in the Middle East, and well known by all of every faith who hope for a better future in this part of the world. I remember my Kurdish friend once saying, "Those Assyrians are too gentle, too peaceful," meaning how can they stand against such a force as radical Islam, and when in such small numbers?
I think this is a question of great importance. There are good people in Iraq working on this question, though, people of every faith and political persuasion. I think they will succeed in building a bright future for Iraq, and one bright for the Assyrian people, too. I have great confidence, and believe in the Iraqi people.
I will continue to help the Assyrian people in my own small way, in the best way that I can. Whenever the subject of Iraq is broached in the following fashion, "...Sunni, Shia, Kurd...," I try always to gently remind the speaker about the fourth group that should be included. The speaker, of course, always replies, "Oh yeah, I forgot about those guys."
James Pow is an American doing volunteer work in Iraq.
The Church of Malankara has a New Shepherd
Chor-Episcopos Kuriakos Thottupuram, Ph.D., D. D
His Holiness started his service to the Church as a monk when he was a teenager. He was called to the monastic life by the late Metropolitan Mar Dionysius of Niranam. He went through a rigorous monastic life that tuned up his body through hard work and his mind through intense discipline and his spirit through spiritual exercise. This writer believes Mor Baselios Didimos I is an exemplification of eastern monastic life. Our tradition of selecting bishops from the monastic ranks has a long history. Unfortunately due to discontinued monastic communities, we could not always select our bishops from thorough-bred ascetics.
Mor Didimos is an exemption to our recently fabricated monasticism as a preparation to receive the episcopate. He has been deeply rooted in his monastic practices and exercises long before he became a priest and a bishop. This writer has observed his monastic career as a priest and bishop. He has witnessed many late nights during which our new Shepherd kept vigil in the chapel of Mount Tabor Monastery. Yes, indeed the church of Malankara is blessed to be shepherded by a monk of prayer.
Mor Didimos is not just a monk, who is enamored of some primitive practices of monasticism. He is endowed with erudition which he derived from his long career as a student of theology, mathematics and English literature. Prior to his consecration to the episcopate he had been a professional educator holding various positions in the academia. He was a mathematics instructor for many years, and was a high school headmaster for more than a decade. After receiving his post graduate degree in English literature he held his lecturership in English literature when St. Stephen’s college of Pathanapuram came into existence. His Holiness is also rightly credited with his musical skills; his divine liturgies are musically mellifluous to the ears of the participants.
The new Shepherd has many challenges in front of him.
The most important challenge he has to face is the spiritual crisis that debilitates the mission of the Church. The spiritual aridity being experienced within all the ranks of the Church from top to bottom should be of primary concern for our new Shepherd. We hope he will mobilize all his energies and efforts to rejuvenate this old Church with new spiritual vitality and vigor.
The second challenge that concerns the Church is our relationship with the Patriarch of Antioch and his supporters in Malankara. We urge our new Shepherd to initiate negotiations leading to the autocephaly and autonomy of the Church of Malankara and to cordial relationship with the Patriarchate of Antioch, within the perimeters of the legal ramifications stipulated by the Supreme Court of India. We hope he will take adequate steps to deal with this crisis and close this chapter in the history of our church.
The 156th Assyrian Press Day Anniversary
A report from Zahrira Online
The Assyrians celebrate the Assyrian Press Day on the first day of every November. This date marks the publication of the first issue of the Assyrian newspaper ‘Zahrireh d’Bahra or the Rays of Light’ that was published in the Urmia region, in northwestern Iran in 1849.
The publication of this newspaper 156 years ago had several implications as noted by several Assyrian writers and journalists living in Iraq or abroad joined together to celebrate this year's Assyrian Press Day in Iraq.
Mr. Yaqoub Taqoub, the editor in chief of ‘Bahra’ newspaper, first published in 1982, the central official newspaper of the Assyrian Democratic Movement says that ‘Zahrireh d’Bahra’ was published even before the ‘Zawra’a’ newspaper published in 1886, recognized as the first Iraqi official newspaper whose issuance marks the Iraqi Press Day. He added, “We recall this event while we are most proud of having the ChaldoAssyrian Syriani press leading other newspaper of other ethnicities in the region.”
Mr. Yaquob considers the ‘daring step’ taken by a group of intellectuals at that time as an important step to open the doors wide for other ChaldoAssyrian Syriani publications in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and other countries in North America and Europe. Among these newspapers was the “The Assyrian Association ” published by Farid Nuzha in Argentina in 1942. He also added that we are now following the steps of those pioneers.
Mr. Ashor Giwargis, a writer and scholar from Lebanon, indicated that this event also was the spark to initiate other publications in the region such as ‘The Assyrian Guide’ published by martyr Ashor Yousif. This newspaper had great influence on the community, distributing awareness in society and criticizing the national Assyrian behavior. Mr. Giwargis also criticized today’s Assyrian journalism being below expectations in its content, intellectual and political capacity! He also added that the Assyrians today have only their political media with their narrow-minded approach to analyzing current events. Even with the presence of new technologies and expertise Mr. Giwargis believes that they only follow their party politics and remain untruthful even when these policies are wrong. He also related the problem of ‘press misleading’ the public to the submissive political approach of the Assyrian parties and called to exterminate the submissive thinking from our parties and adopt new approaches for changing the reality rather than accepting it.
On the other hand, Mr. Shlimon Orahim, the editor in chief of the ‘Ufoq' or Horizon, a quarterly magazine published by the Church of the East in Iraq, stated that this event emphasizes the special importance that our ancestors have given to art and literature at times when no advanced technology was available. He considered this achievement a clear sign on our heritage, our great civilization and our appreciation to the role of literature and art of every nation and people.
The editor in chief of ‘Mizelta' or The March published by the ChladoAssyrian Students and the Youth Union since 1992, indicated that the first issue of the “Zahrira d’Bhara’ 156 years ago in our mother language, Syriac, is a clear indication on the national awareness among the sons of the Assyrian nation and also to the great interest that our ancestors gave to the press being the civilized image of any nation and reflecting its cultural attributes.
To learn more about the history of "Zahrireh'd Bahra" click here.
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