7 Yaar 6755
Volume XI

Issue 23

27 April 2005


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Rosie Malek-Yonan

Assyrian Film Director, Actor, Musician, Figure Skating Champion, & Now Author of a Remarkable Novel on the Assyrian Genocide

This Week in Zinda

Zinda Says
  There We Were Again... Moussa Esa
The Lighthouse
  Rosie Malek-Yonan: A Biography Zinda Magazine
Good Morning Assyria
  Syria Releases 16 Assyrians
ADO Statement on the Release of 16 Assyrians
Assyrian Maybe Among Iraq's Cabinet Members
Chaldean Church Synod in Baghdad
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News Digest
  Seyfo Commemoration and Demonstration in Brussels
Surfs Up!

Praises for Zinda's Special Seyfo Issue
The Great Karmic Balancing
Denial Continues with Governor Schwarzenegger
Talabani Not in Our Corner
Whereby Our Flag is Missing
What’s in a Name…Larsa?


Signing Session for Dr. Murray's Book
Nisibin Scholarship Fund Application Now Available

  History Lost in Dust of War-torn Iraq Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly
  General Georges Sada Tamara Dietrich

Zinda Says
An Editorial by Wilfred Bet-Alkhas

The ever-popular Assyrian-Swedish football (soccer) team, Assyriska, last week drew 0-0 playing against a strong contendor, Halmstad, before a full house of more than 6,000 spectators in its first game of the 2005 season.  In the audience were Mr. Ibrahim Baylan, the Assyrian Minister of School Affairs in Sweden and Mr. Bosse Ringholm, Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden.  The match took place on the 90th anniversary of the Assyrian Genocide. Assyriska players wore a black band on their arms and the spectators stood for a minute of silence.  The Turkish organizations in Europe immediately protested Assyriska's action in taking advantage of a sporting event for political purposes.  We at Zinda commend every team player for their courage!

Zinda is pleased to present a special editorial today by a journalistic colleague and my dear friend, Mr. Moussa Esa of the Hujada Magazine published in Sweden.  Esa eloquently describes the exhiliration felt on that historic day. 

If you have not caught the Assyriska fever by now (hard to believe), here's where to get started:  Assyriska's official website [click here] and the fan club, Zelga [click here].

From the soccer fields of Europe to the red-stained hills of Tur-Abdin one voice is heard and will always remind the government in Ankara:  We will never forget 1915!

Go Assyriska!

Wilfred Bet-Alkhas

There We Were Again…

A Guest Editorial

Moussa Esa
Hujada Magazine

In Råsunda. The people without nation played yet again in the national arena, filled with expectation. Barely a year and a half ago we stood there and hoped that the team of our hearts would have wind in their sails. That day was the final in the Swedish cup and the opponents were Elfsborg. This evening is the historic opening night of the premier division versus Hammarby IF, the first obstacle between us and the first historic point in the premier division.

As the match begun the players in Assyriska showed way to much respect for their more experienced opponents. Not one ball went to the right direction and after 30 minutes they we were down two goals. Yet again the opponent showed how fast and effective it was to shut up our silent audience and extinguish all expectations.

The proposed party never took place and many of us hoped that we wouldn’t let them score again more than scoring ourselves. José Morais must have done wonders in half time, because Assyriska came out with a new attitude. Already after seven minutes did Dani Hamzo reduce to 1-2 and once again aroused the hope. The audience started to dance and sing and I looked up to the sky and a tear of happiness fell. Unfortunately we couldn’t get further than so this evening.

A loss on the opening night. For the more experienced fans the loss was no big surprise. We remember that we’ve done worse on opening nights against poorer opponents. The younger, more disappointed fans, who saw the loss as the worlds fall we can consol with the following:  It is natural to be nervous on a historic opening night.

We had two players on unaccustomed positions on the left flank, Stefan Batan as left defender and Ivan Isakovic as left midfielder.

We were robbed of an obvious penalty, when the ball hit one of Hammarbys players on the hand in the penalty area.

We played with 10 players that lasted 23 minutes, after Kabba Samura received a red card.

At least one of Samuras två yellow cards was wrongly handed.

That’s why Assyriska on the whole received a good mark. As usual the profit of this evening, except Dani Hamzos historic goal, was Zlege Fans well planned tifo. There were drums, flags, fireworks and confetti in a wonderful colour mix. That’s were Hammarby got nothing compared to us. We won that battle!

Ms. Linda George performing H’donho shemsho before 6000 spectators.  Photos courtesy of Assyria.se.

A sign that we can be optimistic before continuation is that the interest to the next match (away against IFK Göteborg) increased. Many new sign ups to Zelges train to Gothenburg were done directly after the final whistle.

While the other teams in the premier division compete for the first place in the premier division, Assyriska fights for a whole people’s recognition. The national team of the Assyrians carries a whole people’s expectation on their shoulders.

In the shadow of the First World War the Assyrian ethnic group were, together with other Christian ethnic groups – like Armenians and Greeks – massacred in the first genocide in modern history. Despite independent documents, in European archives, from that time that confirm the guilt of the Turks, the Turkish government denies that genocide has taken place. Many families were butchered to the last man. Few surviving hade the luck to escape, leave the country and save their lives.

It is the survivor’s children and grandchildren, who today will follow “the national teams’” far more than the Swedish Championship gold in their minds. This day of honour, Assyriska invited Linda George, one of the most eminent Assyrian artists, to initiate the opening night with the song “H’donho shemsho (the Sun is Shining)”, a text by the Assyrian nationalist Naum Faiq. To hear Linda's voice was like a call from the martyrs, who fell as victims of the Genocide – the year of the Sword – in Turkey, ninety years ago. On the grandstand were many tear-filled eyes. It was like a message to the perpetrates: “We will never forget, we live on and we are successful.”

Just think that is not usual that the Swedish national anthem is played before a regular premier division game. Assyriska had worked hard to get exemption before this historic game. It was forbidden for us to sing in our own language in Turkey – they, on the other hand, made us sing the Turkish national anthem. In democratic Sweden we choose, with pride, to sing “Du gamla, du fria (Swedish national anthem)”. Lots of praise to Robil Haidari who gave us the idea.

Back to the Top

The Lighthouse
Feature Article

Rosie Malek-Yonan

A Zinda Magazine Special Biography

The Early Years That Shaped The Future

By the time she began speaking as a child, she could converse in four languages fluently: Assyrian, Farsi, Armenian and English. She was always quiet and shy. Rosie discovered her passion for the arts as early as age three when she knew she wanted to be an actor and writer. The “actor” gave the shy little girl in her a voice to express herself. Her mother, Lida, introduced her to classical music. With grace and beauty and with a voice like an angel, her mother’s singing always filled their house. Those are Rosie’s fondest childhood memories. Exposed to classical music so early in life, it was a natural progression that she would go on to study classical music. To further encourage her at the age of four, her mother also began studying piano alongside Rosie with the world-renowned concert pianist Tanya Ashot, winner of the Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. By the time she had reached her teens, Rosie won many piano competitions and received numerous commendations, ultimately leading to an invitation to a command performance by Queen Farah Pahlavi, the wife of the late Shah of Iran. Soon Rosie began composing classical music and continued her musical studies at the Tehran Conservatory of Music. Often as birthday gifts to her parents, she would compose classical pieces for them.

Despite her accomplishments in classical music, Rosie never abandoned her love of acting and writing. As a youngster, she would write different episodes of American televisions shows. Everyday at school she would cast her classmates in various parts and direct them. Of course, she always reserved the lead roles for herself!

When she was about seven or eight, while visiting relatives for the summer in America, a young American woman she met, gave Rosie a stack of English books she had outgrown. They included the “Wizard of Oz” and “Alice in Wonderland”.

Through these books, Rosie discovered the wonderment of storytelling. Like Alice in Wonderland, she entered through the looking glass into another world and uncovered the magic of imagination at work. Rosie unwrapped the splendor of the written words and spent an entire summer reading her most prized possessions until she would fall asleep among the stacks that were nearly as tall as herself.

Ready to depart from America at the end of summer, Rosie’s father informed her that she had to leave the books behind, as the suitcases were already full and heavy. She would not hear of it. She bundled her books together and carried the stack all the way back to Tehran where she kept them under lock and key in a glass case and read her cherished books over and over. One day she hopes she can thank the woman who gave her those books many years ago. Unfortunately, she does not know her name. Perhaps their paths will cross again; Rosie will surely recognize her kind spirit. She would like to thank her for offering the key to an enchanted world. It has been a remarkable journey that still continues to this day.

Upon receiving her LC degree in English from the University of Cambridge, Rosie moved to America where she discovered the abundance of possibilities. Overwhelmed by the wealth of choices to study without censorship or discrimination, she at once dove in the deep end and immersed herself in the arts. Concurrently, she attended San Francisco Conservatory of Music, San Francisco State University (SFSU) and the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. Earning a BA and BM in Music from SFSU, she then went on to graduate school. While, studying for her MA in music, Rosie and her sister, Monica, broke ground with an astounding achievement.

Figure Skating and the 1980 Olympics

When Rosie first moved to America, she discovered the sport of figure skating in college and introduced her sister, Monica, to it as well. Excelling at a rapid pace, their passion and commitment to the sport caught the attention of Queen Farah Pahlavi, who invited them to represent Iran as the first female athletes in the sport. Armed with determination and grit, Monica and Rosie earned spots on the 1980 Olympic Team representing Iran, the first ever in the history of that country. But they were especially proud to be the first Assyrians to compete in the event of Olympic figure skating.

Preparing for competition, Rosie’s coach advised her to find appropriate music for the short program. She told him that she would write the music. He argued that there wasn’t enough time. But she insisted and promised him that she would have it in time. And she did. She furiously began orchestrating a piece she had written for piano. Within a month, the piece was completed and polished. But she wanted to hear the piece fully orchestrated. All that she needed was a fifty-two-piece orchestra! On a Friday afternoon her conductor at SFSU asked her to have all the parts ready for a read-through on Monday morning by the symphony orchestra. On her return home, she calculated all the parts that had to be physically recopied by hand. It was a daunting task to say the least.

For the next two and a half days, she feverishly copied out music. She even recruited her parents and sister as copyists. And as the sun rose on Monday, they were finally done. Rosie and her sister, Monica, arrived at the rehearsal hall shortly before nine in the morning. After distributing the parts to the orchestra, she laid the conductor’s copy on his podium and stepped back to join her sister where they waited for the orchestra to begin the read-through rehearsal. The sisters hadn’t slept in three nights but the excitement of hearing Rosie’s piece for the first time quickly won over the fatigue. Leaning against the wall, she closed her eyes as the conductor raised his baton and uttered two words to the orchestra, “Softly. Sensitively.” Anticipating the first note, she held her breath. The moment suspended as the orchestra played the first note. Monica nudged her with her elbow and whispered, “You did this?” For three days, she had been helping Rosie with squiggly lines, notes and straight lines measured at the same distance marking each bar of music.

It was overwhelming to hear these same notes on the page come to life.

But the joy of hearing her orchestral piece would soon be marred by hearing the news of the departure of the Royal Family from Iran. The news was like an unexpected current of cold air that encircled Rosie’s family when by 1979 the political climate in Iran witnessed divergence as the Royal Family left the country. Their aspirations of ever skating in the Olympics at once became an illusive dream far out of reach. The new Iranian Islamic government was now taxing to impose restrictions upon the sisters. Their adamant demands were ludicrous and unreasonable.

Here was a government ordering the participants to display the art of figure skating by wearing long gowns in the country’s new uniform for women, wearing headscarves, becoming Moslem, and refraining from using music at the competition. The Olympics are an international competition with their own governing rules. Each event within the Olympics has its own principal regulations and convention. In addition to the technical and athletic aspect of the sport, music, style and appearance play a large factor in scoring. As young as Rosie and Monica were, their decision was obvious. They were Christian Assyrians first, then competitors. Their dreams were not for sale.

Rosie and Monica went to the ice rink to tell their coach of their decision. Arriving at the large but unassuming structure, they found it dark and empty. A note on the door read, “Rink Closed for Business.” Rosie and her sister entered the now eerie quiet building. Peering through the glass from the lobby, they expected to see the glistening surface of the ice that was always so inviting; challenging them to jumps and spins. Instead, they saw the skeleton of what once was. The ice had been melted down. The pristine shiny surface was gone. The zambonie deserted to one side, never again to polish the ice. Sold. Their dreams were gone. All things pointed to a clear path. They had to abandon the course they were on and begin a new chapter in their young lives. Finding solace in the fact that they had been strong enough to make the Olympic Team in the first place, defying conformity, they had the courage to walk away from the games shortly prior to the 1980 Winter Olympics. They realized that the world still held endless promises of things to come.

A Career in the Dramatic Arts

A child prodigy, her sister, Monica, was only thirteen when she attended university. Having also earned an LC degree in English from Cambridge University prior to coming to America, she went on to Loyola Law School and became an attorney.
Rosie, on the other hand, went on to compose scores of classical orchestral pieces and continued to study the dramatic arts. By the early 1980’s, she won an invitation to study drama at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA). While a student at AADA, she made her first television debut on the series Dynasty, followed by her first national commercial for AT&T where she uttered a few phrases in Assyrian. Shortly thereafter, she began appearing on stage in Los Angeles area theatres and began writing plays that were produced and performed on stage in Los Angeles.

For nearly twenty-five years, Rosie Malek-Yonan has appeared in numerous notable TV shows, films and plays, acting in a wide range of roles opposite many of Hollywood’s leading actors. She has had recurring roles on Chicago Hope, Beverly Hills 90210 and JAG, where she also worked as a technical advisor, dialect and language coach, translator and interpreter. She has starred and guest starred in notable films including Up Close and Personal with Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer, Separate Rooms, Walking Among Angels, Olives for Breakfast, For Goodness Sake II, Anniversary, CSI: Miami, Lethal Charm, Potomac Fever, Her Wicked Ways, and television shows like The Practice, St. Michael’s Crossing, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, NYPD Blue, Profiler, Diagnosis: Murder, Seinfeld, Melrose Place, Babylon 5, The Visitor, Murder, She Wrote, Cop Rock, Dynasty, Three Sisters, Divorce Court, Benson, The Facts of Life, and Arrest and Trial.

Rosie Malek-Yonan has also guest starred and had recurring roles on television soaps including Days of Our Lives, Capitol, General Hospital, Generations, Santa Barbara, and The Young and the Restless.

Her face has appeared frequently in print ads and she has been seen in numerous national television commercials including AT&T, J.C. Penny, Hardees Restaurant, Utah Rapid Transit with Andy Dick, Compaq Computers, Kaiser Permanente, Porsche Eye Wear, Four Seasons Hotel, CBS News, Coast Federal Bank, El Pollo Loco, and many others.

Throughout her years of acting she has starred in dozens of stage plays and has also directed, written and produced many of them.

For her appearance in The Light in the Mill, the Sierra Madre News wrote: “…Rosie Malek-Yonan…wide eyed wonder…”while the Pasadena Star News wrote: “Rosie Malek-Yonan prove(s) particularly likeable…”

Rosie directed and co-produced Service Please Hold! (from the collection 8x10), for which Bruce Feld, critic of Drama-Logue, writes: “Malek-Yonan had done an excellent job directing…top of the line…what might come off as a sketch in other hands becomes a poignant episode of universal import thanks to this cast and the exceptional direction.”

The comedy Her Master’s Voice, which she co-wrote with her sister, Monica Malek-Yonan, has a lead character, an Assyrian named Shooshan.

Rosie directed Molier’s The Imaginary Invalid (co-produced with her sister) and A Gentleman of Quality (co-written and co-produced with Monica). These two productions resulted in local, national and international media coverage and rave reviews.

Rosie also directed Correct Address and Soft Dude (from the collection The Ties That Bind). In his review Bruce Feld of Drama-Logue wrote: “Very well directed by Rosie Malek-Yonan…This material is very tricky, but Malek-Yonan handles it with requisite sensitivity without in any way watering down the heavy conflict at the root of their dilemma…sparks ignite…” while Martin Hernandez of L.A. WEEKLY wrote: “The Ties That Bind. Each one a gem, superbly…directed. Moving performances… Director Rosie Malek-Yonan…honed the works to perfection, even down to the choice of songs for transitions and intermission.”

Though she has appeared in many different theatres in the Hollywood and Los Angeles area, her most favorite stage on which to appear has been the famed and historical Pasadena Playhouse, where she appeared in Detective Story, William Saroyan’s The Time of Your Life and Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke.

Rosie has taught piano, acting and figure skating for many years. Though now retired from skating, she continues to teach piano and acting.

The Malek-Yonan Legacy

A descendant of one of the oldest and most prominent Assyrian families, Rosie traces back her Assyrian roots nearly eleven centuries. There are big shoes to fill in order to carry the Malek legacy as one can imagine. Historically, the Malek-Yonan Family has been known to use its title and influence to further the interests and welfare of the Assyrian people. Notables like Dr. Jesse Malek-Yonan, who was affectionately known to all as Dr. Jesse, left Urmia for America to study medicine. After earning his medical degree, he returned to Urmia where he knew he was needed most among his Assyrian people. After the Assyrian massacres of 1914-1918, Dr. Jesse represented the Assyrians of Iran at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.

Rosie Malek-Yonan in a scene from the TV series, Chicago Hope.

Then there was the much beloved Rev. Isaac Malek-Yonan, who left for America as a young man to continue his studies in divinity but upon graduation also returned to Urmia where he recognized that his services were much appreciated. During his years in Urmia, Rev. Isaac traveled the Middle East extensively, collecting anything and everything “Assyrian” to be placed in the Urmia Museum. Sadly, most of the items were looted and destroyed during the Assyrian massacres. Rev. Isaac was the author of The Beloved Physician of Teheran (Cokesbury Press, Nashville, TN, 1934) and Persian Women (Nashville, Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1898.) Rev. Isaac’s wartime diaries are an indispensable source of information and inspiration, giving an insight to the daily struggles of the Assyrian refugees during the Assyrian Massacres of 1914-1918. Rosie is proud to have been entrusted with the collection.

A Renaissance man, entrepreneur, art collector, inventor and a true Assyrian Milton Malek-Yonan, known simply as Malek, received his doctorate in divinity in Edinburgh, Scotland. Urmia-born, Malek grew up in America but never abandoned his Assyrian roots. Instead, he actively sought out non-Assyrians to educate and enlighten them about his Assyrian heritage. Milton Malek-Yonan invented the widely used process called “rice conversion” or “malekizing” rice. It was a revolution in the treatment of rice. During the war, General Douglas MacArthur himself ordered that all the rice shipped to the Pacific should be “malekized.” When the patent ran out, Milton’s invention simply became known as products like “Uncle Ben’s Rice”, though in countries such as Brazil and India the name Malekized Rice lives on. Milton Malek-Yonan died on April 29, 2004 in his late nineties and is survived by his wife Inga Malek-Yonan, a prominent professor of German studies who has authored and published numerous books and articles for major newspapers and magazines in both English and German.

Terrence Malick, a Rhodes Scholar and Oscar winning writer, director and producer of such films as Badlands, Days of Heaven, and Red Thin Line, and the upcoming feature The New World.

David Aghabeg Malek-Yonan was a graduate of the Class of 1900 at Davidson College in South Carolina. On July 12, 1900, he attended a Presbyterian Church picnic before returning to Urmi. While swimming in the Catawba River near Davidson, he and a friend who were both medical students died heroically trying to rescue a drowning student. A five-foot high white marble obelisk marks the site where Aghabeg David Malek-Yonan is buried at Davidson. A scholarship was created for members of the Malek-Yonan family to attend Davidson in honor of Aghabeg David Malek-Yonan. His tragic death was written about in a book entitled Campus Heroes.

Rosie’s father, George Malek-Yonan, a leading international attorney was personally responsible for procuring a seat for Assyrians as a recognized Christian minority in the Iranian Parliament, thus giving Assyrians an active political voice. This was truly a remarkable achievement for Assyrians in Iran. George Malek-Yonan, was also an accomplished athlete holding the title of "Champion of Champions" in track and field, pentathlon, as well as soccer. He was also the President of the Iranian Sports Organization for many years.

Rosie’s mother, Lida Malek-Yonan, was equally influential in demanding recognition for Assyrians through years of charitable work. With a degree in Psychology and fluent in seven languages, Assyrian, French, Russian, English, Turkish, Armenian and Farsi, she launched and presided over the Assyrian Women Organization, which was the only officially recognized charter member of the Iranian Women Association governed by Queen Farah Pahlavi.

The Yonan Codex

The Yonan Codex is a parchment manuscript of the Assyrian New Testament that belonged to the Malek-Yonan Family for centuries. On April 5, 1955, the Yonan Codex was exhibited in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress. In earlier newspaper reports, President Eisenhower was depicted examining the Yonan Codex at the White House. November 28, 1955, marked the start of the Yonan Codex Tour aboard the “Spirit of Galilee” which began with a ceremony at the Capitol Plaza in Washington where Vice President Richard Nixon announced, “This book of the Holy Scriptures will be taken to every city and hamlet in America in order that the American people may participate in the ownership of this ancient manuscript.”

The Yonan Codex

The Crimson Field, an Upcoming Project

Rosie and her sister, Monica, were raised with a very strong Assyrian nationalistic identity. The idealisms of their parents and other Malek-Yonan’s have always been prevalent in their lives. When their mother, Lida, passed away some two and a half years ago, she left behind a most valuable gift. Stories of the past. Stories of the Assyrian people’s struggle. Stories that were not to be lost. As she journeyed toward her final destination in life, Lida left her daughters a book of stories and remembrances that were in turn passed on to her from her parents and grandparents, in hopes that Lida would preserve the legacy of those chronicles. After her mother’s passing, Rosie, too, embarked on a journey that brought her to the completion of her historical novel, The Crimson Field.

During the course of writing the book, she knew that The Crimson Field was not just the story of her family. It was the story of every Assyrian. Her novel is based on a true story that brings to light the tragedy of the Assyrian people when 750,000 were callously massacred during the period of 1914-1918. April 2005 commemorates the 90th anniversary of this Assyrian tragedy. They ask that the world remember their fallen. Though they may not have a country, Assyrians are a small but persistent people. History has proven that. “We are God’s people. We are God’s will for our race to go on despite the adversities and challenges we have and will continue to face”, comments Rosie to Zinda Magazine. She continues: “ Unity of mind and heart will give us the strength to reach the unreachable stars. Division will only weaken us.”

Rosie looks back to all the survivors of the Assyrian Massacres of 1914-1918 who made it possible for her race to live on. Their names and faces must not be forgotten. “We carry their names and wear their faces. We are their children. Their memories will not be erased. Their sacrifices will not be minimized. The 750,000 Assyrians who were brutally murdered paved the way for future generations like me,” says Rosie, her voice trembles a little. “For my part, not only do I have the responsibility to carry on my family’s legacy, I also have the responsibility to carry on my Assyrian birthright.”

Rosie Malek-Yonan, having to her credit an astonishing chain of artistic accomplishments behind and in front of the camera, on stage, on ice rinks, and playing piano lives by example and not by words alone. Working in the entertainment industry has given her a forum that enables her to reach thousands. Every project that is within her control always carries an “Assyrian” element.

“My goal has never been to reach Assyrians because we already know who we are. My target has been those who don’t know we Assyrians still exist,” Rosie says.

What she hopes to accomplish for her people is recognition and acknowledgement through her art and through her current and future projects. Many kudos to Rosie Malek-Yonan! She explored all possibilities offered to her in life and with strong convictions chose positive actions that are life-affirming for us all. Rosie, may you continue to be successful and a source of inspiration for all of us!

For updates and to find out about her upcoming projects, please visit Rosie's official website (click here).

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Good Morning Assyria
News From the Homeland

Syria Releases 16 Assyrians

Courtesy of the Associated Press
28 April 2005

(ZNDA: Damascus)  Syria has released 16 Assyrians detained for taking part in an unauthorized demonstration last year, the Democratic Assyrian Organisation said yesterday (see following ADO Statement).

It said the 16 were arrested last October for participating in a the demonstration held by hundreds of Assyrians in Hasaka province, some 700 kilometres northeast of Damascus, demanding that the government arrest an Arab who killed two members of the Assyrian community earlier.

The organisation welcomed the release of the 16 but called in a statement for the release of all political detainees.

Since succeeding his late father Hafez Assad in 2000, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad has released hundreds of political prisoners, but also cracked down on pro-reform and pro-democracy activists, showing there are limits to dissent.

On March 30, Assad issued an amnesty for 312 Kurdish prisoners detained for taking part in anti-government riots last year.

Syria’s Assyrian population is estimated at more than 500,000 people. About 200,000 live in Hasaka and Qamishli in northeastern Syria. While they enjoy freedom of worship, some Assyrians seek minority status to promote their language, Syriac, which only Assyrian churches now teach.

ADO Statement on the Occasion of the Release of Assyrians from Al-Hassaka Prison

Assyrian Democratic Organization
Political Bureau

26 April 2005

On the 26th of April 2005, the Military Criminal Court in Aleppo released from jail our young brothers,16 in number, who were detained in Aleppo's Al-Muslemia prison against the backdrop of Al-Hassaka's incident on the 31st of October 2004 on charges of taking part in the peaceful public demonstration organized by hundreds of our ChaldoAssyrian Syriac people , protesting against the brutal killing of two of our youths on the hands of some wrongdoer from Faouzi Al-Radi family, and further, the negligence and procrastination on he part of the local authorities in Al-Hassaka in seriously and quickly dealing with the complications of the crime.

No doubt, the release of the Assyrian detainees, and before them, the Kurdish men, who were arrested against the backdrop of Qamishly's events, constitutes a positive step, although inadequate and belated one, in terms of reducing the tension and frustration in the Syrian society in general. For this reason, we see that this step should be complemented by completely closing this file and putting an end to the provocative threats which some members of the perpetrators family are still practicing against families of the victims with an aim of intimidating and coercing them into waiving their rights in their lawsuit filed against the criminals.

As a matter of fact, this release was a culmination of joint efforts by various sections of our people, political, ecclesiastical, cultural and social, in the homeland and Diaspora, in the forefront comes, Assyrian Democratic Organization , "the follow-up committee ", as well as the efforts exerted by Human Right Committees and Civil Societies in Syria, which included this issue alongside the issues of the Syrian detainees, in their periodic and annual statements and reports about the status of the human rights in Syria .

While, in the Assyrian Democratic organization, we highly appreciate all these efforts, we call for further intensifying and speeding up them, with an aim of releasing from jail all the political detainees and prisoners of conscience as well as closing forever the file of political detention, and launching the process of political reforms in the country, a step, that will lay the foundation for the establishment of a democratic, diverse society based on justice, equality and human rights.

Assyrian Maybe Among Iraq's Cabinet Members

(ZNDA: Baghdad)  Iraqi lawmakers expect to get a chance this week to break a major political impasse and vote on a Cabinet proposed by Prime Minister-designate Ibrahim Jaafari.

Jaafari told a news conference today that he had submitted his proposed Cabinet to President Jalal Talabani, who must approve the names before the transitional National Assembly votes on them.

Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Ibrahim al-Jaafari gestures during a news briefing at his headquarters in Baghdad while announcing that he submitted to the presidential council a proposal for a broad-based Cabinet. Al-Jaafari did not release any of the names on the list, but said it included representatives of all the country's major groups, including Christians. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) (Khalid Mohammed - AP)

Jaafari told reporters that there will be 32 ministers and as many as four deputy premiers in the Cabinet.

Jaafari said the "character of the government" will reflect the country's diversity and that at least seven Cabinet positions will go to women.

The ministers will consist of 17 Shiite Arabs, eight Kurds, six Sunni Arabs and one Christian.  Unconfirmed reports to Zinda Magazine indicate that the post of Ministry of Science and Education is earmarked for an Assyrian woman..

Fouad Massoum, a senior member of Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, confirmed most of the breakdown, but was not aware a Christian would get a post.

Zinda Magazine was told in Baghdad that the Kurdish block aggressively tried to block the appointment of a Christian to the first post-January 30 Elections government cabinet.  Yet, PM Jafaari insisted on including a Christian to his cabinet.

He said the step will help erase the sins of the past, bringing stability and hope to Iraqis.

"We want to return the smiles to the faces of the children," he said.

Politicians have had difficulty finding common ground in the three months since 8 million Iraqis risked their lives to go to the polls.

In jockeying for power, lawmakers have been trying to satisfy the needs of their supporters and other groups that want to be represented in key government positions.

The Shiite Muslim-led United Iraqi Alliance came out on top in the January elections, while the Kurdish bloc placed second and Allawi's Iraqi List party was third. President Talabani is a Kurd, and al-Jaafari is a Shiite.

Chaldean Church Synod in Baghdad

(ZNDA: Baghdad)  A Synod of the Chaldean Catholic Church took place in Baghdad between April 19 and 22 at the Monastery of Daughters of Mary for the Chaldean Nuns . The photo was taken by Fr. Douglas al-Bazi.  Sources close to Zinda Magazine report that His Beatitude Mar Emmanuel Delly is planned to visit North America in May 2005, his first trip to the U.S. after his election as the Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church.  Chaldean bishops attending the Holy Synod arrived from North America, Europe, and Lebanon, Syria, Iran, and Iraq.  Among them Sarhad Jammo, representing the U.S., also attended the congress of the Chaldean National Congress in Baghdad.

Chaldean bishops surround His Beatitude Mar Emmanuel Delly, patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, in a photo taken by Fr. Douglas al-Bazi at the Monastery of Daughters of Mary.  His Beatitude (middle) has been a forceful voice for the rights of Christians in Iraq.  Sitting at the far right is the contraversial bishop Sarhad Jammo who presides over the affairs of the Western diocese in the U.S.
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News Digest
News From Around the World

Seyfo Commemoration and Demonstration in Brussels

A report compiled by the Seyfo Centre in Europe.

‘Awake, son of Assyria,
Awake and see the world how enlightened.
The chance is fleeing from us
And time is running out
Awake son of Assyria, Awake!
In vengeance you will take refuge.
Rise up and band together to strengthen.
And if one does not awake we have lost our chance
Without a purpose, misfortune will befall our land’.

Demonstrators carrying symbolic caskets of the victims of the 1915 Genocide.

Naum Faiq wrote ‘Awake, son of Assyria’ in America, in the aftermath years of Seyfo, the Genocide committed by the Ottoman Turkish government. He had survived the massacres in Omid (today’s Diyarbakir) in 1895, and in 1912 fearing the worse to come, he realized that it is better to flee to a save haven. He joined his friends who were already in the United States. His call for awakening has been heard by many Assyrian generations along the years. Today the Assyrians (also known as Chaldean and Syriac) dare to ask for justice in the society they live in.

On Saturday 23rd April 2005, Assyrians from around the globe gathered to commemorate the memory of their ancestors who were killed during the Genocide of 1915 in Turkey. More than two thousand people marched in the demonstration through Brussels to the Ambriorix Square in front of the European Parliament in Brussels. The demonstrators are the grandchildren of the survivors of Seyfo. To this day, they feel that justice has not prevailed in the case of the Genocide that took away the lives of their ancestors. Young and old who belonged to the different denominations of our people felt the pain of their forefathers during their commemoration of the victims of the Genocide. Archbishop Julius Jesuh Cicek who is the Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan of Middle Europe, together with the Chorbishop Abdo and the Father Sabri from Belgium, they proceeded the commemoration with a prayer for the lives and memory of the victims.


A prayer for the souls of the unjustly departed.

Ablahhad Stayfo from Belgium hosted the program for the day. Archbishop Julius Jesuh Cicek gave the first speech to the crowd and began it by mentioning that the Holy Synod of the Syriac Orthodox Church had decided in 1998 that from now on and each year, the Church must commemorate our people’s Martyrs of 1915. “Ninety years after 1915, we have gathered here to commemorate our people that became Martyrs for Jesus Christ,” he said, “They had to die because they were Christians.” As soon as the Archbishop uttered these words, his tears came down. The tears of a leader that felt sorry for the lost souls. He then continued with a broken voice, ‘these souls were not guilty but thrown into the rivers, the wells and killed with swords.’

Malham Ishak said in his speech that although only his grandfather in his family had survived the Genocide, and despite the fact that all the Assyrian villages in mount Judi had been wiped out by the Turkish authorities, he would like to see a Turkey that wants to develop a democracy in the future. And if Turkey is not prepared to do that, including admitting the Genocide it had committed, then our wish is that the European Union does not allow Turkey as a future member of the EU. “If Turkey does not want us and accept our requests, then we do not want Turkey either,” he said, “After all, does the European Union want to accept a member state that denies its past and the requests of its citizens?”

Sabri Atman expressed in his speech that on the 23rd of April in 1923, the Young Turks celebrated the foundation of the Republic of Turkey. For them it symbolizes a day of happiness that befalls a day before the start of the Genocide against the Christians. Naturally, one could not observe a nation celebrating the start of the Genocide annually and at the same time eager to become a future member of the European Union. Mr. Atman spoke part of his speech in Turkish. He said, “The Turkish media are here, and since they do not understand our language, and are not interested in learning it, I will have to talk their language to make them understand my story.” He did this courageously knowing that he will be condemned by the Turkish government. Following these comments, black balloons were released into the air. They looked like the black grapes in our parents’ vineyards, cut from their vines and lost in search of their soul. They flew high and remained dark, while the crowd shouted with one voice: “We will not forget Seyfo, Martyrs do not die!” All of us hope that next year we would see balloons that will not express the sadness in our people’s hearts any more. We want to see balloons which our future children will like; colors that humanity likes. Mr. Atman ended his speech with the story of an Assyrian mother whose family members were all killed and she was sent with her four year-old daughter on the death march. This march into exile ended sad for her also. Her last surviving family member, her daughter, was taken from her and kidnapped by Ahmed Pasha to become his future wife. The Assyrian mother was not able to see her girl after that. Sabri Atman ended his speech by saying, “The question of the Seyfo is the question of all our people; we all suffered and therefore it is not the question of a few individuals only. This year, an Archbishop is here with us. Next year I want our Patriarchs and many more of our priests to join the commemoration of the Genocide victims.”

August Thiry from Belgium read a short story from the Armenian William Saroyan’s book Seventy Thousand Assyrians, which he wrote in 1923. It is the story of the Assyrian Badal who ends up in Los Angeles and works as a barber after having escaped the Genocide. The author Saroyan, who assumes that this Assyrian individual Badal is an Armenian, finds out later that he is not, but rather he is an Assyrian and they both share a similar story. Both their people were decimated in Turkey to a point that today in Turkey, Armenians and Assyrians have sunk in numbers to a near non-existence. The sad tone in which the Assyrian barber tells his story to the Armenian author is striking: “Once my people were a great people and had a great civilization in Mesopotamia, and today I am just a barber in Los Angeles.”

The young singer Ninorta Coban from Germany sang two songs in which she expressed love and unity. The first song was Gabriel Ass‘ad’s “Moth Beth Nahrin, lo to‘eno ‘edamo l-mawto” (Mesopotamia my motherland, I will not forget you until death). The Archbishop and the people were impressed by the performance of the eleven year-old Ninorta.
Willy Fautre, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers gave a speech in three languages. One of the ideas he mentioned was that the names of the Assyrian victims need to be inscribed on a black wall in the city of Brussels where the European Union is based.

Elias Hanna from America represented the Assyrian American National Federation and expressed their support to the stand of our people in Europe regarding the Seyfo in Turkey.

George Farag (also known by his artists name Holo Malke) poet, actor and director of plays and films, read his poem On the Night of 1st April I saw a Dream. In his dream he saw the atrocities committed against the Assyrians in the Ottoman Empire. He ended his poem questioning why the Mesopotamian heroes had not come to save his people.

Today, seventeen organizations and churches of our people from all over the world gathered to commemorate the victims of the genocide. It received great attention from different media, such as two Belgian TV channels, Ashur TV and Beth Nahrin TV, as well as others. Beautiful and colorful souls shared with each other, the sorrows of the last ninety years they brought with them to the Diaspora. The media recorded and publicized their requests that Turkey should recognize the Genocide it committed in WW I and give our people in Turkey their full and inalienable rights. The Assyrian eyewitnesses that survived this Genocide could not be with their grandchildren on this day in Brussels. They stayed home to spare their energy and to keep the memories alive, until justice is done to their case and to humanity.

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Surfs Up!
Your Letters to the Editor

Praises for Zinda's Special Seyfo Issue

Never Forget!

Albert Davidoo

Thank you for the email. I am so moved by your article. God bless you and all Assyrians throughout the world.

Robert Baba

A fantastic job on presenting again the Genocide of 1915.

Shlimon Haddad

We will allways remember.  God bless you all.   One day Assyrians will get their rights.  We all pray for our nation.  God Bless Assyrian Nation.

S. Sargon Elia

I congratulate you and your staff in remembering and bringing to our attention the Assyrian Genocide of 1915 when one quarter of our nation was put to the sword. It is about time that we stand up and speak out against this horrible act by the Ottoman Turks and their Kurdish and Arab allies.

Wishing you continued success, perseverance, strength, all earthly and heavenly blessings.

Helen Badawi

But who among us is without victims inflected upon us by the sword (Sepah) of Islam through the ages. I sometimes wonder if our religion ( turn your left cheek) was an obstacle to out nationality. Those nomads advancing from the south (Aljazeera Alarabeh) could have been deterred and conquered if they were faced with the same ideology of murder and revenge. All what I hope is that someday Turkey will recognize the Assyrian Holocaost and compensate for losses of our population and lands. I dream, too, that one day I will be able to visit the area where my grandfather was killed with his nephews, Malik Giwargis of Tkhoma and Youkhanna while fighting the enemy for survival.

Doris Jones

Tony Alahverdi
Just Click My Picture
600 E. Main St. #300
Turlock, CA 95380



I read with great interest this week's magazine. In particular, Wilfred Bet Alkhas's article "Returning to Nineveh" was very moving. Also impressive was Ivan Kakovitch - especially the idea of the Government of Assyria and the designated members going to the various countries. There was lots more to digest at a later time.

One comment I feel I must make on the Proclamation of the Gov. of California re; "Day of Remembrance of Armenian Genocide"........is he another who doesn't know about Assyrians? I hope that Zinda would certainly contact Gov. Schwarzeneger (sp) about the Assyrian and Armenian Genocide if you haven't already. How about an article in next week's magazine detailing that we Assyrians are just as important as Armenians...and there are thousands in California who probably voted for him and should be upset....I am....

Congratulations on some great articles, especially the history of the Assyrian nation - those of us born in the US aren't as versed in our history, so anything you print is very beneficial for us.

Roberto Lopes

Please do not refer to the Hellenic Genocide using the incorrect and misleading expressions "Greek Pontic communities" and "Pontic Greeks".

The Turks exterminated the Greeks. That's all. There's no point in restricting their extermination to Pontos. The Turks exterminated all the Greeks they managed to reach.

Justice will eventually prevail, if we do our best (click here).

Stavros Stavridis

Thanks for remembering the Pontic Greeks, but we must not forget the destruction of Smyrna in Sept 1922 by the Kemalists. Many thousands of Greeks left Smyrna never to return to their ancestral homelands. Those who remained after September 30, 1922 where sent off into the Anatolian interior to work in the labor battalions. We all know what that meant if you were Greek, Armenian and Assyrian. It meant death.

Raman Michael

When transliterating words from different Assyrian dialects into English, I always try to make them resemble one another as close as possible. For example, for your current issue, your email to me read "Seyfo" and "Se-pah". When "Seyfo" and "Seypa" would have been more accurate and would provide yet another example of the closeness of our dialects. The 2 words are afterall spelled exactly the same in the 2 dialects. are they not? This may seem small, but I think it will help us if all of us kept this in mind.

The Great Karmic Balancing


"Silent Auction"
Assyrian Folkloric Music Concert

June 4, 2005
7:00 PM

Los Gatos Christian Church
16845 Hicks Road
Los Gatos, CA 95032

Donation: $20 Contact Helda Khangaldy (408) 421-2492

United States

I grew up Assyrian, was forced to speak Assyrian, and lived under the tyranny of a family obsessed with being Assyrian. I also grew up American, was forced to learn English, and lived under doctrines of tolerance and acceptance. And I also grew up gay, was forced to be silent, and lived with the knowledge that most of your readers detest who I am. When I read your recent issue on the Genocide of 1915, it became clear to me that Assyrians, as a nation, are merely facing the intolerance and invalidation they themselves project into the world. It is a great karmic balancing and it will not end until we as a nation wake up to our own prejudice, bigotry, homophobia, and culture of hate. I am not proud to be Assyrian today because much of the validation we as a nation experience comes to us through the institutionalized hatred and intolerance our culture fosters towards “others”. One’s identity is never authentic when it must invalidate others to survive. I believe that to honor those who lost their lives in 1915, we must change – for the intolerance that murdered them is the same intolerance Assyria carries in its heart.

Denial Continues with Governor Schwarzenegger

Mary Challita

As if it was not enough that for the past 90 years the whole world has been in denial of the hundreds of thousands of Assyrians who were slaughtered side by side their Armenian neighbors in the Assyrian villages of the Hakkari mountains in what's today Turkey,here comes governor Schwarzenneger to join the caravan of denial as if the blood of the Assyrians and the Pontic Greeks which was spilled became only water under a bridge or the bridge where the interests of some may be passed on.

“They died in silence for humanity had closed its ears to their cry” (Gibran Khalil Gibran).

Talabani Not in Our Corner

Filham Y. Isaac

In my opinion, when you reflect the current Kurdish unrealistic demands against a pluralistic Iraq, it becomes obvious that the hidden Kurdish agenda is to threaten separation and seek independence unless their demands are met. Everything is pointing that way and as such my vote is that Mr. Jalal Al-Talabani is not in the Assyrian corner and the Assyrian rights. The Kurds have had over 12 years to demonstrate that.

Whereby Our Flag is Missing

Sargon B Yalda

On the South East corner of Dempster Street and McCormick Boulevard in the Village of Skokie, there stands a flag memorial representing the origin of the nationalities that reside in Skokie. Visibly absent from this collection is the Assyrian flag, despite the 300 plus Assyrian families that currently live in Skokie. When I asked one of my friends who is an Assyrian National Council of Illinois member, why isn’t our flag among those flags? I was told “ANCI tried several times, but we were told that since there is no country called Assyria we cannot have a flag”.

I though how hypocritical is this? The simple reply to this should have been “OK, then put up the Iraqi, Syrian, Iranian and Lebanese flags, representing the countries that all the Skokie Assyrians came from. As simple as this solution sounds, it was not presented to the Board of Trustees in the Village of Skokie for some reason.

We obviously have an impediment in this situation. May be a few members on the Village board don’t like to see an Assyrian flag up there, but I know all of us do. So I suggest that we play by their rules.

First by finding out what the criteria for including a flag in the group is. Second by collecting signatures depicting Nationality as Assyrian, and country of origin, and lastly by giving the village of Skokie an ultimatum:

  1. Put up the Assyrian flag, or.
  2. Put up the flags of the nations that Skokie Assyrians came from, or
  3. See you in court.

If we allow our rights to be trampled upon by a few imbeciles in the blessed country, then we truly have no right to exist as Assyrians. Together with some concerned friends we are ready to start a campaign of collecting signatures from Skokie Assyrians, and support ANCI in bringing this quandary to a close.

What’s in a Name…Larsa?

Helen Talia

While driving in Skokie, Illinois, I stumbled across a familiar name, Larsa. The name belonged to an Assyrian restaurant located at 3724 West Dempster Street. Happily, I pulled up to the parking lot and entered the restaurant. From the moment I set foot inside, I sensed familiarity, a feeling of belonging, like it was home. Together, my family and I relaxed to the sounds of beautiful Assyrian melodies as we sat to take in the view and read the food menu.

Laham Ajeen, yum, yum..

On premise fresh oven baked bread was brought to the table. A touch of dill zests up the taste of lentil, tlawkheh, soup, which sets up the stage for the extended menu. My personal favorite cat fish and kibeh. The yogurt based drink daweh came in very handy on an already hot and humid Chicago afternoon. Although personally never have been to Arbil, those inclined with the taste of its yogurt would agree that daweh at Larsa’s taste authentic.

Larsa Restaurant, named after none but the important and ancient city-state of Sumer, is more than just a name. Soup lovers can indulge in the 7th heaven taste of home made tlawkheh soup, while music lovers can relax to Assyrian sounds, all the while being greeted by friendly staff. The touch of self-serving samovar Chai really says that at Larsa’s you’re at home.

Zinda:  When in Chicagoland check out Larsa's - (847) 679-3663.  Photos by Erik. M.

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Surfer's Corner
Community Events


Signing Session for Dr. Murray's Book

Dr. George Kiraz
Gorgies Press

Gorgias Press is holding a signing reception for Robert Murray’s Symbols of Church and Kingdom: A Study in Early Syriac Tradition on May 7, 2005 in Piscataway, NJ, 12:00 noon.

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

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

Dr. Robert P. R. Murray SJ was Lecturer at Heythrop College, University of London, until his retirement.

If you would like to attend, please RSVP to Christine at your earliest convenience.

If you are unable to attend and would like to reserve a signed copy, please place your order with Christine and indicate that the copy is to be signed.

Information about the book can be found here.

Nisibin Scholarship Fund Application Now Available

Scholarship Committee of AAA of SJ
Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 41311
San Jose, CA 95160

Attention Assyrian College & University Students!
The AAA of San Jose Proudly Presents
The Second Annual Nisibin Scholarships!
Win a $2500, $1500 or $1000 Scholarship!

Applications are available at the AAA of San Jose website (Click Here).

Deadline to Apply July 15, 2005 (open to Assyrian students studying in California AND Assyrian California residents studying elsewhere)

Click here for the application package.

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Editor's Pick

History Lost in Dust of War-torn Iraq

Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly
Independent archeologist/journalist

Les Blough
Axis of Logic

It is two years since looters ravaged one of the world's most important museums, in central Baghdad.

Saddam Hussein's power had collapsed and the newly arrived US-led coalition forces were unable to prevent a crime against history.

Professional smugglers connected to the international antiquities mafia managed to break some of the sealed doors of the Baghdad Museum storage rooms.

Basitki Statue: The bronze statue of Basitki, dating back to the Akkadian kingdom of 2300 BC, was stolen in April 2003. It was recovered by Iraqi police and US soldiers in July 2003.

They looted priceless artefacts such as the museum's entire collection of cylindrical seals and large numbers of Assyrian ivory carvings.

More than 15,000 objects were taken. Many were smuggled out of Iraq and offered for sale.

To date, 3,000 have been recovered in Baghdad, some returned by ordinary citizens, others by the police. In addition, more than 1,600 objects have been seized in neighbouring countries, some 300 in Italy and more than 600 in the United States.

Most of the stolen items are unaccounted for, but some private collectors in the Middle East and Europe have admitted possessing objects bearing the initials IM (Iraq Museum inventory number).

Ancient sites levelled

An ever-growing number of websites also offer Mesopotamian artefacts - anywhere up to 7,000 years old - for sale.

Doubtless, there are more fake objects advertised on the web than authentic ones, but the mere existence of this market has fuelled the looting of archaeological sites in southern Iraq.

The picture there is appalling. More than 150 Sumerian cities dating back to the fourth millennium BC - such as Umma, Umm al-Akkareb, Larsa and Tello - lie destroyed, turned into crater-filled landscapes of shredded pottery and broken bricks.

Salamanasar II:  A statue of the Assyrian king, Salmanasar II, thought to have been looted during the ransack of the museum. It was returned to the museum in May 2003, broken into pieces.

If properly excavated, these cities - covering an estimated 20 sq km - could help us learn about the development of the human race.

But the looters have destroyed the monuments of their own ancestors, erasing their own history in a tireless search for a cylinder seal, a sculpture or a cuneiform tablet that they can sell to a dealer for a few dollars.

It is tough, poorly paid work carried out by jobless Iraqis with no way of earning a better income.

"A cylinder seal or a cuneiform tablet brings in under $50 on the site for the looter," explains the archaeologist responsible for the district of Nasiriya, Abdul Amir Hamadani.

"It's a disaster that we are all witnessing and observing, but which we can do little to prevent. With the help of 200 newly recruited police officers we are trying to stop the looting by patrolling the sites as often as possible.

"But we are now all alone. Italian carabinieri troops were the only coalition forces that actively worked on this issue for a few months. They used to patrol the region by land and from the sky. They have stopped all their operations and are now simply helping train policemen and

Heavy boots

Coalition forces have themselves damaged archaeological sites by using them as military bases.

The withdrawal of coalition troops from Babylon has revealed irreversible damage to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

An alarming report by the keeper of the British Museum's Near East department, Dr John Curtis, describes how areas in the middle of the archaeological site were levelled to create a landing area for helicopters and parking lots for heavy vehicles.

History in Pieces:  But many items were stolen or destroyed by looters. Here, broken pottery lies in the dust at Larsa, a major Sumerian capital in today's Nasiriya, in southern Iraq.

"They caused substantial damage to the Ishtar Gate, one of the most famous monuments from antiquity," he wrote.

"US military vehicles crushed 2,600-year-old brick pavements, archaeological fragments were scattered across the site, more then 12 trenches were driven into ancient deposits and military earth-moving projects contaminated the site for future generations of scientists.

"Add to all that the damage caused to nine of the moulded brick figures of dragons in the Ishtar Gate by people trying to remove the bricks from the wall."

There will be no end to the destruction of Iraq's heritage, unless the country's leaders take a political decision to consider archaeology a priority.

For this, the ring of dealers in Baghdad has to be seized, looting in the south has to be effectively confronted and coalition forces have to be prevented from setting up base on archaeological sites.

The longer Iraq finds itself in a state of war, the more the cradle of civilization is threatened.

It may not even last long enough for our grandchildren to learn from.

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Assyrians at Their Best

Standing up to Saddam and His Son Took Courage

Courtesy of the Daily Press
26 April 2005
By Tamara Dietrich

(ZNDA: Baghdad)  When Air Force Col. David Eberly was shot down over Iraq in January 1991, he found himself in the clutches of a madman.

Qusai Hussein - in every worst way his father's son - demanded that Eberly and the other captured coalition pilots be classified as criminals of war and killed outright.

Only one man stood in his way.

Iraqi Gen. Georges [Gewargiz] Sada took his life in his hands and for weeks lobbied with a lunatic to save the pilots.

"To his personal credit, he saved my life and the lives of the other Americans and the Brits and the Kuwaiti," says Eberly, the highest-ranking POW of Desert Storm, now retired and living in Williamsburg.

Sada ended up thrown in prison and "suffered greatly for his actions," Eberly says.

Sada dismisses any talk of personal suffering. An earnest and devout Christian who wears a hefty cross of nails around his neck, Sada arrived in town last week to attend the 10th annual Vision Weekend conference sponsored by Newport News-based Military Ministries, which reaches out to military men and women around the world.

Asked how he found the guts to contradict the murderous Husseins, Sada takes no credit.

"It was not the courage from me," he told me, "but it was given to me by Jesus Christ."

Born in 1940 to a "church family," Sada is a member of the indigenous Assyrians, who predate Arabs and Kurds. He grew up near a British air base and learned to love flying.

Being a minority Christian in a Muslim country has its obstacles, but not enough to keep Sada from joining the military, training as a pilot and rising to the rank of air vice marshal.

When he wouldn't join Saddam's Baath Party in 1986, he was forced to retire. Four years later, when Saddam invaded Kuwait, the first man he called back to service was Sada. For Sada, it was a deal with the devil.

"If he loves you, it's bad. If he hates you, it's bad," Sada says. The Iraqi despot was "more than crazy. He was a very dangerous man. Only God knows what he will do."

Saddam asked Sada the quickest way to end the war. The quickest way, Sada answered, would be to turn the Iraqi troops around and bring them home.

Saddam was not amused. "If you say that again," he told Sada, "your head will be separate from your body."

When Iraq began shooting down coalition pilots, Saddam put Sada in charge of them. One by one, they were blindfolded and brought to him for interrogation, intelligence agents sitting in.

"I did my best to keep the life of the pilots to best of my ability," Sada says. "I used my rank. I don't let them (mistreat them) in front of me, and Jesus knows I would be very angry about it."

That didn't stop horrendous abuse by others when Sada wasn't around, some of which Eberly recounts in his POW memoir, "Faith Beyond Belief." He and other former POWs later sued Iraq over their mistreatment and won a landmark judgment of nearly $1 billion. That judgment was overturned at the urging of the Bush administration and the former POWs appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. On Monday, again at the urging of the Bush administration, their appeal was denied.

Only recently did Sada and Eberly meet to compare notes on when their paths actually crossed. Eberly believes Sada was the humane captor who stood out amidst the brutality.

"At the time we first met, we were enemies. He was clearly the enemy," Eberly told me. "He was the other side of the blindfold, like anyone else who had put a gun to my head or spit on me or any other level of mistreatment.

"And yet in his mind, he personally viewed us differently. He viewed us as pilots who had protection under the Geneva Convention. He is a big man in the sense that he recognized what Iraq had signed up to, and it nearly cost him his life in trying to uphold that signature."

On Jan. 24, Qusai first ordered the POWs executed. When Sada balked, Qusai accused him of disobeying the orders of the president.

Sada tried to reason with Qusai, reminding him that even the prophet Muhammad once said that if prisoners of war learned 10 verses of the Koran, they could be set free. This only angered Qusai, who threatened to put the POWs in areas being bombed by American forces. Sada urged him not to use them as human shields. He kept turning to the Geneva Convention, which made Qusai angrier still.

"This was the end," Sada thought. "And I knew something was going to happen to me."

He was right. Qusai pitched him into a cell in the same prison as the POWs, and Sada wondered if his head would be separated from his body at last. But even locked up, Sada still had his contacts check on the POW pilots, making sure they were still alive.

After 12 days, Sada finally found a way to reach Qusai: He made the war personal.

"If you kill the pilots," Sada told him, "you will have new war between America and your family. They'll come and kill your father, your brother...." He ticked off Hussein family members.

"After that," Sada says, "he was changed. He thought twice."

Finally, Sada was released from prison. A few weeks later, the war ended and Eberly and the other POWs were released. Battered physically and mentally, they returned home in early March.

Then last fall, Eberly got a call from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's office saying there was an Iraqi general working with the State Department who recalled Eberly from his POW stint and the impressive way he'd conducted himself.

"He was very calm, very confident, very brave and very clever," Sada says of Eberly now, smiling over the "clever" part.

The two men spoke over the phone, then met Feb. 28 for the first time since those interrogation sessions, sharing war stories in Fredericksburg.

"It was a very rewarding experience," Eberly says. "He's a terrific individual."

Today, Sada is spokesman and adviser to the Iraqi prime minister, helping to shepherd his country toward democracy. He shrugs off recent accounts of more violence in Iraq and claims the insurgency is losing power. He's proud of the January elections, when Iraqis chose 275 representatives for their new National Assembly, 60 of them "ladies."

His former boss, interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, just dodged another car bomb. I ask if Sada is concerned for his own safety, and he shrugs that off, too.

"There is always a battle between the evil and the goodness," Sada says. "And we will accept that battle, whatever will be the result. Iraq is going to be a guiding candle in the dark Middle East.

"The good Iraqis and the faithful Iraqis will never forget what the American nation has done for us in liberating our country from evil dictatorship. I bow before the American mothers and fathers for their sacrifices - they lost their beloved ones, sons and daughters, in battle of freedom of Iraq.

"Freedom is a very dear thing," says the general who risked his freedom and more for two dozen strangers. "You don't get it easy."

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Thank You
The following individuals contributed to the publication of this issue:

Salim D. Abraham (Syria)
Fred Aprim (California)
Benjamin Aziz (California)
Yolanda Bebla (California)
Banibal Chamoun (Netherlands)

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