|Memory: The Soul of History||Thea Halo|
|The Nightmare of Evanescence||Francis Sarguis|
|Talabani Elected New Iraqi President
Turkey Allows a First New Year for a Tiny Minority
Assyrian Elected as Deputy Governor of Dohuk
Chaldo-Assyrians Offer Prayers For the Pope
|Swedish Assyrian Arrested in Egypt on Behalf of Turkey
John Kanno, Confirms Run for Congress
Assyrian New Year Celebrations in Fairfield, Australia
NWS Court Rules Against Two KSE Investors
Walsh College to Study Michigan Chaldean Americans
What Does Mar Sarhad Jammo Want to Do?
AAS-Santa Clara Valley Chapter
Seyfo Demonstrations in Brussels
|Book Review: Assyrians, The Continuous Saga
A Letter to Dr. Ibriham al-Jafary
The Christians' & other Religions Endowment Bureau of Iraq
Halliburton Destroys Babylon
Turkish Nationalism in Town's Growing Homogeneity
|Prof. Grace Yohannan
Prof. Abbas Ali
Katrina vanden Heuvel
|Ancient Epics Intrigue Modern Imaginations|
A Guest Editorial
What is memory? Why do people remember for eighty years and more, things that seem no more than everyday occurrences, rather unremarkable in themselves, like my mother remembering her mother crossing herself and then bending to touch the ground with the tripod her first three fingers made, then repeating the crossing and touching of the ground three times. She was no more than nine when she last saw her mother and other villagers make this Christian gesture typical of the Pontic Greeks. She remembers a young couple in her village who were in love, who tricked the girl’s obstinate parents into consenting to their marriage by running away and hiding overnight. Though a charming story, it’s difficult to imagine what such an incident could have added to her life that she would remember it and their subsequent wedding with such clarity. Difficult that is until one puts all these memories together and finds a mosaic rich in historical reference, and a gold mine of tradition that might have faded into oblivion if not for these everyday historians, such as my mother. It’s easier to understand why and how she would remember the long death march to exile; the dying one by one of her family and villagers in that Spring of 1920, although so many of those survivors chose to forget… or at least chose to bury those memories deep inside and refused to resurrect them.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once said:
When I wrote Not Even My Name I decided to include anything and everything my mother remembered of her life. I decided early on that if she remembered something for eighty years, no matter how insignificant it might seem at the moment, it must have profound significance in the totality of her life. The result I’m told is a record of how the Pontic Greeks lived tucked away in the Pontic Mountains along the Black Sea in the early part of the Twentieth Century… how the Assyrians in rural areas of the south of Turkey lived, and Armenians town dwellers in Diyarbekir. And of course it is a record of the long death march to exile. She was just nine years old when Turkish soldiers came to her village to shout Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk’s) decree. "You are to leave this place. You are to take only what you can carry. Be ready to leave in three days time."
Why are these "inconspicuous" historians so important? Because they were there. Because they were on the ground witnessing, hearing, smelling, and experiencing what academicians can only piece together from second- and third-hand information.
In today’s atmosphere, history is too often written by those with a political agenda in a winner take all approach to history. As if picking up where the perpetrators of the Genocide that killed more than three million Armenians, Assyrians, and Pontic and Asia Minor Greeks, the media and historians in service of the Turkish government continue to Dehumanize, Demonize, and Destroy, by putting the "right spin" on the story. Michael Parenti, author of To Kill a Nation, asserts, "Their job is not to inform but disinform, not to advance democratic discourse but to dilute and mute it."
As a personal example of this "right spin" to "disinform and dilute" I offer a New York Times story published about my mother and me after the release of Not Even My Name. Reporting on an event held in the Pontic Greek community of Astoria N.Y., the morning edition headline read:
In the body of the story, an even more odious revision was made which appeared in both the morning and afternoon editions, a change I was assured was not in the original copy. The article stated:
"The Pontic Greeks had lived in Turkey for three millennia. During the Greco-Turkish war from 1919 to 1923, the Turks singled out the Pontic community, along with the Armenians and Assyrians, when invading Greek forces tried to seize the coastline."
Such wording attempts to blame the Greeks for Turkey's slaughter of its indigenous Christian populations, as if the Armenians, Pontic Greeks and Assyrians were singled out when Greek forces allegedly "tried to seize the coastline" of Turkey. This blatant revision of history relies on the ignorance of the general public, that Greece had not invaded the coastline, but rather had landed troops as a result of an allied peace treaty with Turkey... that, except for my mother's villages and some other mountain villages, the killing, not just the dying, of the Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks, took place in 1915 –16, four years before Greece landed troops in Asia Minor. In fact, it began in 1914 before the beginning of the First World War, when the Young Turk government, using the three Ds of Genocide, labeled the indigenous Greek population as "infidels," to Dehumanize them. Then, as George Horton, the US Consul General at Smyrna reported, to Demonize the Greeks, they spliced together images to make it appear as if Greeks were cutting open the stomachs of Turkish women and ripping out their unborn babies. As a precursor to the sophisticated media outlets used today, and the methods used by the Nazi’s against the Jews and other "undesirables," these posters were placed in schools and mosques to incite and enrage the Turkish public to perform the third D of Genocide; to Destroy the Greek populations along the coasts in preparation for war. Greek businesses were boycotted to drive them out and Turks went on a rampage against the Greek inhabitants, akin to Krystallnacht twenty years later in Nazi Germany.
Although the N.Y. Times accurately reported what was taking place at the time of the Genocide and expulsions, today the N.Y. Times demonstrates an appalling amnesia of its own historical record. Even the US government has consistently refused to recognize the Genocide of the Armenians. Equally disturbing, until Not Even My Name was published, the Genocide of the Pontic Greeks and Assyrians was never even addressed outside the Pontian and Assyrian communities... sorry to say, not even in most Armenian communities. Such avoidance of these historical facts, serves Turkey in achieving its final D of Genocide, Denial. Denial is what keeps the Genocide current, for it continues to wound both the survivors and their descendants, and it insures the Genocide will be complete.
Memory then is the window through which we view history from those who have lived it. Perhaps we can say that memory is the soul of history, for the survivors of these historic events can also give us an insight into what they felt and dreamed and hoped for, and how they pieced together their shattered lives. Without their memory we might be completely at the mercy of the fabricators of our own history.
As we approach the solemn anniversary of the Genocide of the Armenians, it is wise to remember Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s warning: "...the use we make of these insights is ... entirely up to us." Peter Balakian says: "memory is a moral act." Perhaps we, the children and grandchildren of these historic Christians of Asia Minor: Armenians, Pontic Greeks and Assyrians, are entrusted to record their memories as a moral act to keep them forever alive in our hearts and minds.
A recent Los Angeles Times article about Kirkuk (click here) explains how the Kurds have basically taken control of this city politically. This is a 29-paragraph article, and the only mention you will find of any Assyrian or Christian is in the third paragraph which, you will agree, is a rather incidental and marginal reference. In that brief reference, the Assyrian lady who is quoted seems to plead for the City Council proceedings to be conducted in Arabic rather than Kurdish (such is the state of our cause). The bulk of the article speaks of the Kurds vis-a-vis the Turkmen, and the Kurds vis-a-vis the transplanted Shia Arabs.
Along the way, the article notes that through their maneuvering, the Kurds were able to swell their voting turnout. The final tally for the Kirkuk council seats was:
Since these three figures add up to 94%, I assume that Christians, Yezidis, and perhaps others make up the remaining 6%. However, this lesser percentage obviously considered of no significance to the American reporter who wrote the story for the Los Angeles Times.
When I refer to Kurdish "maneuvering", this sounds unnecessarily shady. The fact is that tens of thousands of Kurds were relocated from this region to other parts of Iraq under Saddam's Arabization campaign. Many of our own people, though in lesser number, suffered the same injustice, something I wrote about in The Nation magazine (May 31, 1975). These tens of thousands of Kurds have now returned to Kirkuk and are knocking at the door of their forcibly-taken domiciles. Therefore, even though these people were not registered according to Hoyle, they were in fact present physically. Their participation in the Kirkuk vote was specifically approved in advance by the Iraq Electoral Commission, and whether it is to our liking or not, there is little doubt they are part of the future permanent population of Kirkuk.
Another interesting point is the following: Why does the Los Angeles Times reporter decide that the Christians of Kirkuk are numerically too insignificant to be part of the news coverage? The lack of coverage about our people is commonplace, and it is common to most all reporters, not just a designated few. Surely we cannot attribute this news “blackout” to some personal animus or “anti-Assyrian hidden agenda”. In the past, various members of our community have made efforts to contact some of the TV networks and some of the major print media, to seek greater and fairer coverage of our story. We have never met with open resistance to our pleas, but we have run into something much worse. I am referring to the judgment of the news providers that our story simply does not rise to the level of need for their audience. Clearly, as strictly a business decision, the media long ago decided that stories such as Kirkuk must focus on something other than a small minority of people which is getting ignored or shortchanged. The media importance of the Kirkuk story is what the three major wrestlers (Kurds, Turkmen, and Shia Arabs) are going to end up doing to (or with) one another.
The explanation for the neglect of "our" story in the press and media is obvious and easy to see -- but apparently virtually all of our diaspora voices desperately look the other way and ignore the reality. From the US-based “Assyrian news communiqués” one would assume that there is something bigger going on in places like Kirkuk. But none of our news providers care to give us a reasonable estimate of the number of our people who might be affected. What, one might ask, is the Christian population of Kirkuk? It would be difficult to answer this exactly, but there is a long-established way of settling on "ball park figures." How many Christian churches currently still function in the Kirkuk area? What is the number of families which currently still attends each of these churches? We know from past head counts that while this is not a 100% scientific approach, it is the most reliable way to get a population number --- because it is safe to say that the number of atheists among Chaldeans, Nestorians and Jacobites is virtually non-existent.
In much of the electronic correspondence I receive about Iraq, there is the continuing theme that we Assyrians have been cheated, shortchanged, and poorly served by Yonadam Kanna, who has come out in opposition to the creation of an Assyrian Bundistan in "the Nineveh Plains" of north Iraq. The only comment I have read actually attributed to Y. Kanna is that he is opposed to an Assyrian "ghetto," or "ghettoization." But more significantly, as far as I know, the idea of a bundistan of our own has never been a serious proposal from any Kurdish, Shia, Sunni, or Turkmen leader. So this appears to be more what we sometimes call "a pink elephant." In other words, the bundistan idea is something which is supported by some self-serving Assyrians (from the diaspora), and even though there is zero indication that such a proposal would ever be acceptable politically by any of the significant Iraqi players, it is cathartic to lay blame on Mr. Kanna for depriving us of a imaginary project.
We ought to reflect on how much of our current shortcomings can possibly and fairly be placed on the shoulders of Y. Kanna. Let us not forget that until the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Mr. Kanna was the head of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, whose reach was basically limited to Iraqi Kurdistan. He had zero sway in Baghdad, or in Basra, or in Mosul, or in Kirkuk, etc. In the course of a dozen years of political co-existence with the Iraqi Kurds, Kanna and ADM learned to practice politics based on the principle of "the art of the possible." Kanna and ADM could have chosen a different course, by being persistent antagonists to the Kurdish rules of Iraqi Kurdistan. It is difficult to imagine what would have been gained by being cantankerous. By pursuing a more conciliatory course, the Assyrians of north Iraq were provided lavish overrepresentation (5 seats out of 105) in the new Kurdish Parliament, even though a true measure of their actual population in that area would have justified only one seat, and two at the most. Or have we forgotten that an intense Assyrian canvassing campaign in the 1982 elections produced some 15,000 votes, compared to the one million Kurdish votes cast in the same election?
During those years, neither Mr. Kanna nor the ADM had any sway or leadership role in any part of Iraq -- except from Zakho to Dohuk to Ankawa. It is difficult therefore to see why he and his organization should now be blamed for the exodus of Christians from Kirkuk, or the depletion of our population in other corners of Iraq, or the inability of the Christian community (or, more specifically, the Assyrian community) to secure for themselves a bundistan in a part of Iraq which was never in the arena of ADM's activities.
If one must indulge in Monday morning quarterbacking --- and in the sport of finger pointing --- , there are plenty of critical junctures where our community proved that it was not up to the task, and most of these lapses occurred in the diaspora, not in the homeland. Let us list a few of these:
1. For as long as I can remember, the focus of diaspora organizations and diaspora leaders was to become more effective in helping the departure of the Christians from that region. Who among us does not have relatives who have joined us in the West, and usually through our personal assistance?
2. Over the years there has been precious little financial support for our homeland community or to build up its infrastructure. This was not due solely to the lack of an Assyrian philantropic tradition, but frankly it seems to have been due mostly to apathy and disinterest in supporting a "national cause." In more recent times, the much-maligned ADM, through its overseas Aid Society, has established a program of methodical fund-raising which is unprecedented in the Assyrian community. Unfortunately, I believe that this is too little too late.
3. Assyrians in the West were in the best position to voice the cause of their brethren in the Middle East. However, the pretenders to this speaking mantle seemed bogged down in struggles for political survival, and petty backstabbing. One of the greatest failings in the diaspora was the failure to create a lean political machine -- one entirely separate from the amusing but pointless annual conventions. It should have been the highest priority for our community to hire a lobbyist (even if a part-time one) as far back as the 1930's, following the Semel disaster. And this need has remained constant and critical. It has also constantly been ignored.
4. Assyrian "leaders" of the diaspora have persisted in the sin of exaggeration, creating for their small audiences expectations which are wholly unrealistic. Even now, our diaspora leaders are attributing the very modest vote turnout on January 30 to imperfections in the process, both in Iraq and in the diaspora. At one point, we must open our eyes and recognize the reality of our limitations and of our potential. The next election at the end of 2005 will be even more important than the January 30 event. Unlike January 30, the Sunnis are expected to more fully participate in the voting. This will therefore measurably increase the national vote turnout, which in turn will diminish the previous percentage attributed to the different voting blocs. Kurds, and certainly the Assyrians, run the real risk of having even lower percentages of the total vote than on the previous go. If this should come about, it will be interesting to see what our "leaders" will choose as their new fallback rationalization.
5. Finally, I would say that our rich culture heritage has both been a blessing and a serious infirmity. We are proud of our ancestors, and of our early Christian traditions. But we seem to confuse this rich tapestry with the way politics happens. There is no free ticket offered to any people merely because "we were the first inhabitants", or because "we have been decimated in the past, and therefore we are entitled." Nor is there any free ticket offered based on selective Biblical quotations, however uplifting these might be to an audience of like-thinking Assyrians.
[Zinda: LA Times article which appeared in the 27 March 2005 issue was written by Edmund Sanders, an LAT staff writer. Mr. Francis Sarguis, the English Language Editor of the Journal of the Assyrian Academic Studies, has previously written several articles for Zinda Magazine. Visit Zinda Archives. See also Profl Abbas Ali's letter in this week's Literatus.]
Courtesy of Reuters
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's newly elected president will be sworn into office on Thursday and then expected to name a new prime minister as lawmakers.
Former Kurdish guerrilla leader Jalal Talabani, 71, is to be formally made president at a ceremony in Baghdad's tightly protected Green Zone, becoming the first non-Arab president of an Arab state in a landmark move for the Kurdish minority.
His vice-presidents, Shi'ite politician Adel Abdul Mahdi and Sunni tribesman Ghazi Yawar, are also to be sworn in, forming the presidential council, the next step in the process of drawing up a government nearly 10 weeks after elections.
After the inauguration, Talabani is expected to announce that Islamist Shi'ite leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who opposed Saddam Hussein for decades in exile, would be Iraq's first democratically elected prime minister in 50 years.
Jaafari, a softly spoken doctor who spent years in Iran and London, would then have up to two weeks to name a cabinet, although the announcement was expected sooner than that.
While only 17 of the 275 members of parliament are Sunni Arabs -- a reflection of the fact most Sunnis either boycotted or decided not to vote on Jan. 30 -- Sunnis are being given several top posts in the government.
Talabani's election led to spontaneous celebrations across Kurdish regions of northeastern Iraq on Wednesday, with thousands crowding streets, dancing and waving Kurdish flags.
Hailed by a standing ovation in parliament, Talabani pledged to work together with all ethnic and religious factions to rebuild the country after decades of conflict and dictatorship.
President Bush, who has told Americans their troops will come home as Iraq establishes a new government, said in a statement: "The Iraqi people have shown their commitment to democracy and we, in turn, are committed to Iraq."
The cabinet is expected to be named in the coming days, but there is still intense squabbling over one of the top posts, the oil ministry, which is crucial to Iraq's economy and rebuilding. The ministry is coveted by both Shi'ites and Kurds.
Figures show the insurgency appears to have softened since the election, with attacks against U.S.-led forces down by more than 20 percent. At the same time, more than 250 Iraqi security force members were killed last month.
Turkey Allows a First New Year for a Tiny Minority
Courtesy of the New York Times
(ZNDA: Midyat) A windswept hilltop here in southeastern Anatolia has become the site for a reunion that once would have been unthinkable, as thousands of Assyrians from across the region have converged to openly celebrate their New Year in Turkey for the first time.
Like many other expressions of minority ethnic identity, the Assyrian New Year, or Akito, had been seen by Turkey as a threat. But this year, the government, with an eye toward helping its bid to join the European Union, has officially allowed the celebration by the Assyrians, members of a Christian ethnic group that traces its roots back to ancient Mesopotamia.
Yusuf Begtas, one of the celebration's organizers, said that because most of Turkey's tiny Assyrian population - about 6,000 people in all - lives in a heavily Kurdish region that has seen frequent clashes between the Turkish government and Kurdish militias, strong assertions of Assyrian ethnicity have long been politically impossible. But Turkey's political culture has been changing rapidly.
"Turkey is showing itself to the E.U.," Mr. Begtas said. "When we asked the authorities for permission to celebrate this year, we knew it wouldn't be possible for them to deny us now. Turkey has to show the E.U. that it is making democratic changes."
The festivities here on Friday were the culmination of a celebration that started on March 21, the first day of the Assyrian New Year. Behind Mr. Begtas, on a raised stage near the wall of the Mar Aphrem monastery, a balding baritone sang in Syriac, the Assyrians' language, a Semitic tongue similar to Aramaic.
He was followed by a group of girls wearing mauve satin folk costumes, dancing in lines with their arms linked. They were cheered on by an audience of about 5,000, including large groups of visiting ethnic Assyrians from Europe, Syria and Iraq.
Iraq, where Akito is celebrated openly, has the world's largest population of Assyrians, about a million. Most of Turkey's Assyrians were killed or driven away during the Armenian massacres early in the last century, and the bullet scars on some of Midyat's almost medieval-looking sandstone buildings still bear witness to those times.
In recent years, Assyrians have suffered quieter forms of persecution and discrimination. Since the 1980's, under those pressures, thousands of Assyrians have emigrated abroad. Kurds, with whom Assyrians have long had a tense relationship, are now a majority in Midyat, which until just a generation ago was 75 percent Assyrian.
Haluk Akinci, the regional governor of Nusaybin, a district next to Midyat, suggested that the Turkish government might see allowing the New Year celebration as a partial atonement for past persecutions.
"In the past, freedoms for minorities were not as great as they are now," he said, though he noted that in years past, private Assyrian New Year celebrations had generally been ignored by the authorities. "The Turkish government now repents that they let so many of these people leave the country."
After years of intense political and population pressure, the Turkish Assyrians say, public celebrations like Akito have huge emotional significance, and the participation of Assyrians from abroad has become particularly meaningful.
Terros Lazar Owrah, 60, an Assyrian shopkeeper from Dohor, in northern Iraq, said he had driven 14 hours for the opportunity to attend the celebration. "So many of us are leaving the region," he said. "It's very important for Assyrians from everywhere to get together in one place."
Thanks in large part to greater political freedoms granted recently in Iraq and Turkey, the Assyrians say, a sense of pan-regional Assyrian identity seems to be gathering strength. And though Turkey does not have any legal Assyrian political parties, there are those who would like to turn this rapidly developing sense of solidarity into a political voice, even into a discussion of nationhood.
Representatives from several overseas Assyrian political parties were present at the celebration.
Emanuel Khoshaba, an Iraqi Assyrian who represents the Assyrian Democratic Movement in Damascus, pointed out that Midyat lies between the Tigris and the Euphrates, the Mesopotamia that the Assyrians believe to be their rightful homeland.
"Protecting our national days is as important to us as preserving the soil of our nation," Mr. Khoshaba said. "Whether they live in Iraq or Syria or Turkey, our goal is to bring Assyrians together as a nation."
That is unlikely to happen. With countries in the region increasingly wary of the flowering of Kurdish nationalism in northern Iraq, smaller nationalist movements seem to have even less of a chance of finding political support in the region.
Still, the relaxation of Turkish antagonism toward the New Year's celebration was a significant enough start for many who attended.
"It's about coming together in spite of our rulers," said Fahmi Soumi, an Assyrian businessman who had traveled from Damascus to attend the Akito festivities. "When we unite like this, there is no Turkey, no Syria and no Iran. We are one people."
[Zinda: Special thanks to Ms. Katherine Zoepf who accompanied our special correspondent in Syria, Mr. Salim D. Abraham, to travel to Turkey and prepare this article. Ms. Katherine Zoepf's articles describe the social and political aspects of the Assyrian Struggle in the Middle East with honesty and compassion. To acknowledge Ms. Zoepf's journalistic support of the Assyrian Cause, email here. Photos are courtesy of the Milliyat Newspaper in Turkey.]
Assyrian Elected as Deputy Governor of Dohuk
(ZNDA: Dohuk) The governorate elections of the city of Dohuk in north Iraq took place last week, in the presence of Muhammad Amin al-Shorfani and Byar Douski, members of the Independent High Commission of Dohuk.
The 41 winners met to elect the new Governor of Dohuk, a Deputy Governor and the Head of the Governorate Council from among themselves. The results were as such:
All three officials are members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led by Mr. Massoud Barazani.
The 41 Dohuk Governorate seats were distributed as such:
Chaldo-Assyrians Offer Prayers For the Pope
(ZNDA: Mosul) The outpouring of concern for the death of Pope John Paul II came from everywhere, including the Chaldo-Assyrians of Iraq. The Holy Father, the spiritual leader of the Catholics around the world, died on Saturday at 84. He led the Roman Catholic Church for 26 years.
In the small northern Iraq town of Tel Keif, a crumbling village of mud-brick homes bearing crosses above entryways, Chaldean Catholics offered prayers for the pope as US Army soldiers patrolled the narrow streets outside.
"We feel very bad about the pope, but this is the choice of God," said Adel Changu, a 55-year old Chaldean shopkeeper. "The pope represents love for everyone. He is a link between God and people."
Rome is bracing for the funeral of Pope John Paul II on Friday, an event that has already led to the arrival of 1 million mourners and triggered a huge security operation to protect the public and heads of state such as U.S. President George W. Bush and Syria's Bashar al-Assad.
Rome will be declared a ``no-fly'' zone between 10 a.m. Thursday and midnight Friday, the civil aviation agency said.
"All Christians, even the Muslims, will hope for another pope to re-establish peace in this world," said Rabban al-Qas, the Chaldean bishop of Amadiya.
In remote parts of northern Iraq, many people had not heard the news of the pope's death until they arrived for dawn mass on Sunday.
"This news touches me greatly," said one worshipper, 26- year-old Wamibh Yuhana, adding that one lesson Iraqis could learn from the Pope was that he had forgiven the man who tried to assassinate him.
"It's difficult to forgive. We are trying to practise the principles of Christ," Yuhana said. "So we forgive even the ones who target us, the ones who want to kill us."
Chaldeans, who use the ancient Aramaic language to conduct mass, make up the largest of Iraq's Christian sects, and say they have around 400,000 followers in Iraq. The total Christian community in Iraq is estimated at around 750,000.
Christians have been targeted many times by Iraq's insurgents. Several times, suicide bombers have attacked Christian churches, sometimes in coordinated waves of bombings. Earlier this year, an Iraqi Christian leader was kidnapped, and representatives of the Vatican helped negotiate his release.
Father Louis Kakos, who led the dawn mass in Ankawa, said the next pope would have a role to play in Middle East peace.
"The next pope will have a special role in bringing peace to countries like Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq, who have a number of Christians but where the situation is unstable," he said.The Pope's desire for Christian unity was generally thwarted, yet in November 1994 his pontificate did see the "Common Christological Agreement" signed between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East - which for 1,500 years had been regarded as in the grip of Nestorian heresy.
Swedish Assyrian Arrested in Egypt on Behalf of Turkey
Courtesy of the Assyrian International News Agency
(ZNDA: Stockholm) Ozcan Kaldoyo, an Assyrian from Turkey who emigrated to Sweden, was arrested in Egypt, apparently on behalf of the Turkish government. Mr. Kaldoyo, a critic of Turkey's treatment of its Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs), was arrested on February 27th at 12:30 at Cairo International Airport. While under arrest Mr. Kaldoyo reports that he suffered psychological torture, and was told that he was arrested for "security reasons." He was released and deported to Finland on the same day at 18:50, but only after the Swedish Foreign Office intervened on his behalf.
Turkey has a security agreement with Egypt.
Mr. Kaldoyo is an accountant and translator in Stockholm and is the founder of the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Association, an organization dedicated to informing the Swedish and EU Parliaments about the plight of the Assyrians in the Middle East, especially Turkey. Mr. Kaldoyo has recently focused attention on Turkey's illegal seizure and selling of Assyrian lands in the Assyrian village of Bote, Turkey.
Republican Runner, John Kanno, Confirms Run for Congress
Courtesy of the Modesto Bee
(ZNDA: Modesto) John Kanno, a Republican from Modesto who helped plan the rebuilding of post-war Iraq and once defended Democratic Rep. Gary Condit on cable television talk shows, confirmed Tuesday that he is running for Congress in 2006.
Kanno is relying on his ethnic roots in the Assyrian community to help him oust Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, who replaced Condit in the wake of the Chandra Levy scandal.
"He's basically out of touch with the district," said Kanno, 45, about Cardoza. "This is generally a conservative area."
Kanno disagrees with Cardoza on gay marriage, partial-birth abortion, lawsuit limits and tax cuts.
"I'm more to the right — not radical right, but I'm not in the middle," Kanno said.
In 2001, as Condit weathered scrutiny over the disappearance of Levy, Kanno often defended the congressman on cable talk shows, such as CNN and MSNBC. Kanno said it didn't matter that Condit was a Democrat.
"Gary Condit was very supportive of the Assyrian community," Kanno said. "Assyrian people are very loyal."
Cardoza beat Condit in the Democratic primary in 2002, then went on to win the general election. He was re-elected in November to a second term by a wide margin.
Cardoza, who has not officially announced his re-election bid, is focused on his job right now, not on the next election, an aide said.
"He's a very moderate to conservative Democrat" who is well-known and supported by his constituents, said Cardoza spokesman Bret Ladine. "That was made very clear in November when he won 68 percent of the vote."
Kanno hopes his connections to the tightknit Christian Assyrian community, with a large Stanislaus County presence, will pay off. He said he is seeking campaign donations from Assyrian communities in Chicago and Detroit.
Born in Great Britain to parents who fled their native Iraq in the 1950s, Kanno settled in Modesto in 1981. He said he became a U.S. citizen shortly after.
He hosted a public affairs show on KBSV Channel 23, the local Assyrian TV station, and has been a vocal proponent of overthrowing Saddam Hussein.
His expertise in engineering — he oversees the electrical system at Corn Products, a Stockton food plant — got him tapped by the State Department with other Iraqi expatriates in 2003 to plan for the rebuilding of Iraq.
He drew blueprints for a new electricity grid in Iraq, and that experience, which included meetings in Washington, D.C., fueled his interest in running for office.
"Congress was the place that I could make the biggest difference," he said.
The 18th Congressional District includes most of Stanislaus and Merced counties and parts of San Joaquin, Madera and Fresno counties.
Jim DeMartini, chairman of the Stanislaus County GOP, expects Kanno to run a strong campaign, but acknowledges the difficulty in pulling off a victory.
"It's hard for a Republican to win the way the district is gerrymandered," DeMartini said.
But, he adds, "I think the guy is pretty bright and will probably work pretty hard. He's got as good of a chance as any."
Assyrian New Year Celebrations in Fairfield, Australia
Courtesy of the Fairfield Advance
(ZNDA: Sydney) After a landmark 12 months in which thousands of Assyrians in Fairfield voted at Iraq’s historic democratic elections, more than 7000 thousand people celebrated Assyrian New Year at Fairfield Showgrounds on Sunday.
They joined millions around the world celebrating the day, which marks the first written history of Assyrian ancestry, believed to have occurred 6755 years ago.
“The people have much respect for (organisers) the Assyrian Australian National Federation. The day was fantastic.”
Premier Bob Carr was guest speaker at the event, but one of the biggest cheers was reserved for Prospect Federal Labor MP Chris Bowen, who is championing the plight of Assyrians in Federal Parliament
Report compiled in Australia for Zinda Magazine by Louren Sargiss Nejady.
(ZNDA: Sydney) On Wednesday 30 March the Supreme Court of New South Wales (Australia) delivered judgment in the matter of Rima Ibrahim & Sargon Badal vs. Philip Pham, trading as Pham & Associates, and Suzy David, Fred David and others, trading as Dominic David Stamfords [“DDS”].
The claimants, Ms Ibrahim and Mr Badal, borrowed money on two occasions to invest with Karl Suleman Enterprizes (KSE). On the second occasion, the claimants retained DDS to advise them in relation to the mortgage documents. The claimants subsequently lost money as a result of the collapse of KSE.
The claimants alleged that the conduct of DDS was negligent, in breach of fiduciary duty and contravened the Fair Trading Act. In particular, the claimants alleged that DDS made positive recommendations about investing with KSE, and failed to disclose to the claimants, material information about the investment.
The claimants, represented by Mr. Henrick Isaac of Barclay Benson Lawyers, argued at the trial, which took 4 weeks, that that they would be successful against DDS even if the evidence of DDS was accepted by the judge in its entirety.
However Justice Levine of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, in his judgment delivered on 30 March 2005, found against the claimants on all grounds. In summary the judge, regarding the case against DDS, stated that:
The claimants were ordered by the Court to pay the costs of Pham & Associates and DDS. These costs are expected to be very substantial.
Walsh College to Study Michigan Chaldean Americans
Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press
(ZNDA: Detroit) They're the second-largest Middle Eastern population in Michigan. But unlike many other ethnic groups, Chaldeans as a community have not had an in-depth analysis.
So a college is embarking on a major study and survey this year of Chaldeans -- Iraqi Christians -- in Michigan.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm announced the study on 1 April in West Bloomfield at the annual banquet of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, which commissioned the project. Professors at Walsh College will conduct the survey and plan to finish analyzing it by the end of the year.
The study will help educate both Chaldeans and non-Chaldeans about the size of the population, its economic power and what makes the community unique. If successful, the effort will expand next year to examine the health, politics and culture of Chaldeans in Michigan.
"People will finally understand the uniqueness of this community," said Martin Manna, head of the Chaldean chamber, which came up with the idea for the Chaldean Demographic and Economic Profile Survey.
According to the 2000 U.S. census, about 34,500 Michiganders are Chaldean, Syriac or Assyrian -- the three Iraqi Christian groups that speak, or have ancestors who spoke, Aramaic, the language used by Jesus.
But community leaders say the census figure underestimates the actual number of Iraqi Christians in Michigan, and they say the Walsh College study might back that up. After Lebanese, Chaldeans are the second largest group within the Arab and Middle Eastern communities of Michigan.
Chaldean leaders hope the study will offer objective data that will reveal how economically influential the Chaldean community is. That could result in more government contracts and investing for Chaldeans, many of whom are small-business owners.
Last year, the University of Michigan released the results of its Detroit Arab-American Study, which included some Chaldeans. But Chaldeans say a separate study that looks specifically at them is needed, because of their size and singular identity. The study will also survey Assyrians and Syriacs, two smaller Iraqi Christian populations.
"The Arab-American community is so large," said Wendy Acho, who sits on the board of directors of the Chaldean chamber and on the executive board of the Dearborn-based American-Arab Chamber of Commerce. "You have so many groups within, each with something independent from each other."
Like many Chaldeans in metro Detroit, her parents moved to the United States from Tel Keif, Iraq. They ran a party store. According to Manna, the majority of party stores in southeast Michigan are run by Chaldeans; in Detroit, it's about 90 percent.
But new generations of Chaldeans are expanding into other types of businesses. Eddie Denha, who moved from Tel Keif to Michigan with his family at age 12, opened his first Dollar Castle general store in Ferndale in 1992. The West Bloomfield resident now has 19 of them in Michigan.
As twice per week, I waited impatiently the edition of Wednesday of Zinda Magazine. I was shocked and surprised by the title of Zinda! I do not understand what this bishop, Mar Sarhad Jammo, wants to do. Let us not be easily deceived: it is not an error nor a misunderstanding. It is not the first time that Mar Sarhad Jammo tries to divide our people in several components. His conference of Chicago is only an additional drift.
A bishop does not have any goal other than only to give a message of peace and of union within the strict religious framework. In France, we hear too much the name of Mar Sarhad Jammo, his declarations on all the subjects, unfortunately humiliating for our people. Because of the efforts provided by people like Mar Sarhad Jammo, we could not constitute a sharp force in Iraq. Our minimal representation, quasi-absent, in the Iraqi National Assembly is dependent on these false declarations.
The remarks of Mar Sarhad Jammo made me laugh more than anything! Either we control a subject and thus we can speak about it, or we are unaware of it, and in this case, we do not affirm nonsense! I did not know that Mar Sarhad Jammo was a linguist.
A few weeks ago Mar Ramzi Garmou, the Chaldean bishop from Teheran, visited our community in Paris. We understood all that he said very well, whereas we are from the Hakkari Mountains! A year ago, Rev. Benyamin Yadegar, a Chaldean priest born in Iran and now serving our people in the Republic of Georgia, also visited us! We understood him very well too! There are admittedly different speeches with foreign words inserted in our language. But the base is the same. In being Turkish-speaking, I understand the essence of what an Azeri or a Turcoman or a Kazakh says! Since the root is the same.
If Mar Sarhad Jammo had spoken about the difference between the Occidental Aramaic (suryoyo) and the Oriental one (soureth), I would have more easily understood his declaration. But even in this case, if we know the necessary basics of our language, we do not have difficulty to understand each other.
Mar Jammo's efforts are useless! If there are a few hundred that think that we do not form one people, there are hundreds of thousands of us who believe and defend the opposite!
We are one people, whether Mar Sarhad Jammo wants it or not!
Return to Caesar what belongs to Caesar! Let historians decide if we are one or different people.
The Plains of Nineveh
Bishop Jammo implies (Zinda Magazine's March 30th issue) that the people in Nineveh Plain who call themselves Chaldeans are from Babylon, Iraq. Let us see how they came to be Chaldeans. This is what Lady Surma writes in her diaries. She was there when Bishop Jammo was not born.
The Church of the East in Malabar, South India, requested from Patriarch Mar Benyamin Shimon to send them a Metropolitan as they had only one Bishop left. Mar Benyamin ordained Mar Timatheus as Metropolitan and send him to India. Mar Emmanuel, the Patriarch of Chaldeans complained to the Turkish government and requested that no passport be issued to Mar Timatheus to go to India. His intention was that the Church of the East remain without a Bishop and thereby could convert the congregation there to papist.
Bishop, Get Off Your Soap Box!
I can’t understand why a man of the cloth whose sole purpose is to unite our people, yet he is working on pillars of division. My whole family is formerly from Uremia, Iran. We migrated to Iraq. We were baptized in the Chaldean Church. We do not have any trouble understand Assyrians from Northern, South, or Central Iraq, Syria, Iran or even Russia. So, if the Bishop is correct it is safe to say that people from Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas are not Americans, because Americans from north have trouble understanding them.
I don’t know where this Bishop’s source of information is from, but it appears with Bishop Sarhad Jammo ignorance is a bliss. He is so indulged in his own little adventure of nation building while time is running out on our people. He should fear that one day he will be preaching to his parishioners in a mosque, because with the current status we are all going to be converted to Islam.
I suggest that the Bishop get off his soup box and get back to doing his real job. That is working on spreading the words of our Lord Jesus Christ and not the work of the devil.
Is He the Right Man For the Job?
With all the respect to His Grace bishop Sarhad Jammo, this man's manifestation to divide this Assyrian nation is well planned. It's clear that he has hatred against the Assyrian people, as one nation all over the world. One cannot say if Bishop Jammo is ignorant about his people or if he is the right man for his job?
Same Language, Different Dialects
I was born in Orumieh (Urmia) and I can assure Mr. Jammo that when one of my Chaldean brothers or sisters speaks Assyrian, I do understand him.
Dialects are different, but not the language. Just watch the weekly Chaldean program on AssyriaSat and you will be amazed how similar we speak (unless when Arabic is spoken).
This is the real story: We Assyrians (Chaldean , Syriac, Assyrian) have been using the word "Holy" rather loosely. Was Jesus Christ holy? YES (no explanation needed) Was Mar Benyamin Shimoon holy? Yes, I am positive that he was (after all he chose his nation over his own brother, and died for the cause of his people). Was Prophet Mohammad holy? Maybe he was, I leave it up to the reader's judgment.
Is Sarhad Jammo holy? NO - I am positive that a degree from Vatican and the title “holy” don't make a person holy; rather the positive actions, and he lacks them all.
Let's be real! Most Chaldean brothers and sisters are educated and know better than to believe or even listen to this person.
Like Manna From Our Lord
By hearing the good news about the establishment of the first Assyrian Christian school in Los Angeles, I was motivated to present my mind about the importance of such schools with a curriculum including our faith, language, and literature in the scattered Assyrian nation around the world.
As a former student of the Assyrian Eastern School, which was funded and established by his Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, about 40 years ago in Tehran, Iran, I should say that such schools with faithful, literary, and historic teachings have fed the tree of our nation and kept it alive.
By reading the history of the schools funded in Assyrian nation, from time of Urhay and Nassibin schools until those that were established in the recent centuries, we understand that the root of the Assyrian tree has been kept alive per Lord’s word, and also has developed some branches although small and weak, but alive so that it has been presenting this nation’s identity. This is why we agree that funding more schools like the Assyrian Eastern School in Tehran will strengthen the branches of Assyrian tree and develop them around the world.
Dear parents, Assyrian Christian school of Los Angeles is like Manna from our Lord and should be supported, because its fruitful outcomes will be seen in our children whom will be its students in the future. Today, if you are busy with your life, concerned about your sons and daughters, and cannot preserve them as much as possible, it is admired that attending this school, which resembles the spiritual mother who raises them in faith and identity, will save them.
My fellow Assyrian contributors in supporting and sponsoring the needy, I want to urge you to contribute your donations for your children whom need salvation with their Christian faith and Assyrian identity. By this contribution, you will deposit your savings in the heaven where thieves cannot reach it.
A Bit of Catholic History from Our Nation's Past
Linda Pecho of Illinois in the "Surfs Up" section of the last edition of Zinda, posed the question: "Why anyone who is from the "Ancient" Church Of The East would join with The Catholics?"
After some investigation I was able to locate the exact explanation that a Vatican (Papal) research organization gives for this:
"As early as the 13th century, Catholic missionaries – primarily Dominicans and Franciscans – had been active among the faithful of the Assyrian Church of the East. This resulted in a series of individual conversions of bishops and brief unions, but no permanent community was formed.
"In the mid-15th century a tradition of hereditary patriarchal succession (passing from uncle to nephew) took effect in the Assyrian church. As a result, one family dominated the church, and untrained minors were being elected to the patriarchal throne.
"When such a patriarch was elected in 1552, a group of Assyrian bishops refused to accept him and decided to seek union with Rome. They elected the reluctant abbot of a monastery, Yuhannan Sulaka, as their own patriarch and sent him to Rome to arrange a union with the Catholic Church. In early 1553 Pope Julius III proclaimed him Patriarch Simon VIII “of the Chaldeans” and ordained him a bishop in St. Peter’s Basilica on April 9, 1553.
"The new Patriarch returned to his homeland in late 1553 and began to initiate a series of reforms. But opposition, led by the rival Assyrian Patriarch, was strong. Simon was soon captured by the pasha of Amadya, tortured and executed in January 1555. Eventually Sulaka’s group returned to the Assyrian Church of the East, but for over 200 years, there was much turmoil and changing of sides as the pro- and anti-Catholic parties struggled with one another. The situation finally stabilized only on July 5, 1830, when Pope Pius VIII confirmed Metropolitan John Hormizdas as head of all Chaldean Catholics, with the title of Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, with his see in Mosul."
The above information was taken from CNEWA, a papal agency for humanitarian and pastoral support.
Deadline to Donate to Human Race Walkathon
AAS-Santa Clara Valley Chapter
Dear Assyrian Aid Society Supporter, please note that the deadline for donation to this year’s “Human Race Walkathon” is this Friday April 8th. Please make your check payable to “the Human Race” and send it to the address below.
All contributions are tax deductible and will be matched by National Semiconductor. The proceeds of this event will benefit Assyrians in the heart of Bet-Nahrain, in the Nineveh province. For more information, please contact Jermaine Soleymani at (408) 460-4957, or Nora Joseph at (408) 595-8516.
Thank you for your support.
Seyfo Demonstrations in Brussels
This year 90 years will have passed since the time when Assyrian, Armenian and Pontus Greeks were massacred in a horrible way in the Ottoman Empire. Over two million innocents fell victim to these crimes. The genocide was authorized by “Ittihad Ve Terakki” (The Society for Union and Progress), the governing regime of the Ottoman Empire and the founders of today’s Turkish Republic. The “Young Turks” as they came to be known perpetrated the Genocide to implement their Pan-Nationalist ideology of Turkification and to annihilate the indigenous Assyrian and other Christians; thus creating a homogenous Turkish-Islamic country.
Now in 2005, Turkey the successor of the Ottoman Empire, wants to start negotiations with the European Union to become part of this community in the future. But there is a problem and that is the European Union respects democratic principles and Turkey does not. Turkey has for 90 long years denied this devastating massacre, during which the Christian’s (Assyrian, Armenian and Greek) Genocide of 1915 took place and over 750,000 Assyrians were slaughtered.
The definition of the genocide as-fixed in article 2 of the U.N. Convention of 1948 applies clearly to the murder of the Christians in 1915. It concerns a) the killing of a sub-population, b) causing serious physical and mental injury to a sub-population, and c) intervention in the living conditions of a sub-population.
Descendants of the victims of the Genocide demand that Turkey officially recognizes the Genocide as a part of their history condemn it and issue an apology.
The European Union, the international community, the democratic countries should know about what happened to the Christians (Assyrian, Armenian and Pontus-Greeks) in 1915 and the European Union should not allow Turkey to enter the community without first recognizing the Genocide of 1915.
Demonstration on Saturday 23 of April, 2005 at 13:30 – 16:30
Black balloons will be released and a mock hanging will take place in memory of those who lost their lives.
Join us at the European Parliament in Brussels
Come See Us at the UCB Festival of Cultures
On April 16th 2005, the annual Edith Coliver Festival of Cultures will be taking place at the International House of UC Berkeley (on the corner of Piedmont Ave and Bancroft Way).
We, the Assyrian Student Alliance at UC Berkeley, have participated in the festival for the past 3 years. We have constructed large information displays about ancient and modern Assyrian history, and have cooked traditional Assyrian foods to give out to passers-by. This year, our group has decided to give a dance performance and to take part in the cultural fashion show. I hope some of you can come to the festival and show your support.
The festival hours are from 11am to 6pm.
Book Review: Assyrians, The Continuous Saga by Frederick A. Aprim
Grace Yohannan, Ed.S.,
Shlama, My Fellow Assyrians!
Don’t waste your money on the video The Last Assyrians. Instead, purchase a copy of Fred Aprim’s Assyrians: The Continuous Saga; even the title is uplifting and promises a second volume to come.
The book comes with a warning, however; it is not for the fainthearted. Aprim painstakingly traces not only our historical background but also the etymology of the word Assyrian in the first two chapters worthy of any linguistic scholar. Drawing upon his multilingual background, Aprim was able to consult not only English language sources but also modern Assyrian and Arabic to produce the quintessential, definitive claim for our identity, our language, and our homeland. The periodicals and bibliographic entries are extensive and complement the numerous endnotes that provide irrefutable documentation of who we continue to be.
Aprim traces our identity before Christianity, our embracement of Christ, the influence of St. Ephrem (Mar Aprim), our struggles with our Muslim neighbors and governments, and our betrayal by the British and the Kurds, as if anyone who lost relatives in the genocide could ever forget. To an Assyrian, Aprim reaffirms all I hold dear and calls for unity among the various religious factions to which Assyrians belong; to someone who is unfamiliar with our race, he provides a factual, indisputable history of our people.
As the reader works through Assyrians: The Continuous Saga, he is rewarded with renewed pride in his heritage, of the Assyrian claim to Mesopotamia, to a commitment to let the world know we are not dead, we are not the “last” of our race; we are alive and well and fighting! Assyrians: The Continuous Saga is worthy of our time to read and absorb its message.
As Fred promised in his inscription of my copy of Assyrians: The Continuous Saga: “Because Assyria shall rise.”
A Letter to Dr. Ibrahim al-Jafary on Population Transfer from Kirkuk
It is with a great sadness that I read the news report today stating that you, along with the United Iraqi Alliance, will transfer 80,000 Iraqis from their homes in Kirkuk to other areas in Iraq. As you well know, this is an ethnic cleansing and constitutes a threat to democracy and freedom in the new Iraq. In open and civilized societies matters related to the future of the country and the welfare of its people must be debated openly and be transparent. Indeed, ethnic cleansing is against international law, morality, and human dignity.
It is understandable that you are under pressure to form a government and that you have an intense desire to be the next prime minister. It is also understandable that you have to heed to the instruction of the occupying power. Nevertheless, before agreeing on a strategic issue which is of concern to all Iraqis, you have to survey the wishes of the Iraqi people through a general referendum and full participation of all Iraqis.
As you well know, during 1963-1988, the guerilla war and the armed militias in the north had forced about 300,000 to 400,000 Chaldeans and Assyrians to leave their homes and settle primarily in Baghdad - especially in the Bataween and Baghdad Al-Jadeda neighborhoods. Also, Armenians and Efeli Kurds resettled in Baghdad and other towns in the central and south parts of the country. What are you going to do to them?
Historical precedents and the experiences of other countries indicate that there are three options that deal with the movement of people within their own countries:
You have a moral responsibility to defend the integrity of Iraq and not to tolerate fascism and extremism. The fascist ideology during Saddam era led Iraq to tragedies and disasters. The new form of fascism is a threat to the existence of Iraq and to the freedom of liberty of its people.
The Christians' and other Religions Endowment Bureau of Iraq
The following information was extracted from an interview by ankawa.com with Mr. Abdulla Hirmiz Jajo al-Nofalli, President of the Christians' and other Religions Endowment Bureau of Iraq.
The Iraqi Ministry of Endowment, Arabic "Wazarat al-Awqaf" (a ministry entrusted with government supervision of religious sectarian estates, Sunni and Shi'aa for example) was created in late 1970s. Soon after, the Iraqi Government planned to fully control the Christian estates by enlisting all clergymen under its payroll. The Christians strongly rejected the government offer as they realized what the real government intentions were. However, small division in the ministry remained to oversee the affairs of the Christians in Iraq.
Waqf and Awqaf is that property that is endowed by its owner to a group of people, a sect, etc. of his/her choice in order to use it as a praying place and so forth. With time, groups or sects accumulated many properties and lands that were called "waqf." Officially, the head of a particular sect has the legal ownership of such properties. After the appointment of any head of church, he receives a judgment or order from the appropriate courts naming him as the legal owner of his sect's properties, which means that he alone is invested with full powers and unrestricted rights of disposal of such properties. Next, the highest executive body in Iraq will issue a decree in that regard. However, there is a clause where any sale of endowed "waqf" property must be for the benefit of the sect involved, such as the sect is going to acquire a better property. Therefore, by law, the various churches "waqf" in Iraq belong to the corresponding Christians sects.
With the fall of the Ba'ath regime and the efforts to establish the new government, the Iraqi Governing Council did not reach an agreement about who the Minister of Endowment should be. Therefore, in August 2003, the ministry was abolished all together and three bureaus were introduced instead as such:
1. The Shi'aa Endowment Bureau
In September 2003, Mr. Abdulla Hirmiz Jajo al-Nofalli was appointed as the president of the Non-Muslims Endowment Bureau. In February 2004, Mr. Yoarish Haido Dinkha from the Assyrian Church of the East was appointed as vice-president. Soon after, another decree appointed members from the various denominations as bureau consultants. They included:
1. Kamil Fawzi Danno, representing the Syrian Orthodox Church
This new committee began its meetings, issued the structure and By-laws of the new bureau, and received a budget from the Ministry of Finance. Later, the bureau members presented a request to change the name of the bureau and that was granted. Today, the bureau is called "The Christians and other Religions Endowment Bureau" instead of "The Non-Muslims Endowment Bureau."
The Christians and other Religions Endowment Bureau is responsible for the affairs of 14 Christian and 3 non-Christian sects representing four religions. The Christian sects are:
1. The Chaldean sect
The other three sects are:
Each one of these sect has its own independent office that oversees the affairs of its members. Of course, there are other sects in Iraq like the Baha'iis, Kakaiis, and Shabak that are yet to be recognized by the government.
The Christians and other Religions Endowment Bureau office is today furnished very well. The bureau is provided with top of the line computers and a separate Internet connection. The bureau is planning to publish a magazine soon, a web page, and address ways and means to protect and preserve Christian historical places such as the Church of Beth Kokhe. The Christians participate in the religious activities of the Yezidis and Mandeans.
In 2004, an amount of 170,000,000 Iraqi Dinars was distributed on these sects to secure their places of worship. The bureau is physically in the process of training and employing guards at churches and monasteries. The bureau supported the publications issued by the various sects in addition to supporting Babylon College for Theology and Philosophy.
Halliburton Destroys Babylon
Katrina vanden Heuvel
The sterile term "collateral damage" justifiably brings to mind the human tragedy of war. But the devastating and wanton damage inflicted on the ancient city of Babylon by U.S.-led military forces gives another meaning to the term. In this case, we are witnessing violence against one of the world's greatest cultural treasures. Babylon's destruction, according to The Guardian, "must rank as one of the most reckless acts of cultural vandalism in recent memory." When Camp Babylon was established by U.S.-led international forces in April 2003, leading archeologists and international experts on ancient civilizations warned of potential peril and damage. It was "tantamount to establishing a military camp around the Great Pyramid in Egypt or around Stonehenge in Britain," according to a damning report issued in January by the British Museum.
The report, drafted by Dr. John Curtis – one of the world's leading archeologists – documents that the military base, built and overseen by Kellog, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, jeopardized what is often referred to as the "mother of all archeological sites." Helicopter landing places and parking lots for heavy vehicles caused substantial damage to the Ishtar Gate, one of the most famous monuments from antiquity. U.S. military vehicles crushed 2,600 year old brick pavement, archeological fragments were scattered across the site, trenches were driven into ancient deposits and military earth-moving projects contaminated the site for future generations of scientists. As several eminent archeologists have pointed out, while the looting of the Iraqi Museum in the first days of the war was horrifying, the destruction of ancient sites has even more dire consequences for those trying to piece together the history of civilization. Making matters worse, the base has created a tempting target for insurgent attacks in recent months. As Yaseen Madhloom al-Rubai reports in the valuable Iraq Crisis Report (No. 117), "It was one of the seven wonders of the world, but ancient Babylon attracts more insurgents than tourists these days."
"Turning Babylon into a military site was a fatal mistake," the Iraqi culture minister told Iraq Crisis Report. "It has witnessed much destruction and many terrorist attacks since it was occupied by Coalition Forces. We cannot determine the scale of destruction now. As a first step, we have completely closed the sites, before calling in international experts to evaluate the damage done to the [ancient] city and the compensation the ministry should ask Coalition forces to pay. We will run a campaign to save the city."
That campaign is finding allies among a growing network of archeologists outraged by the unnecessary destruction of an irreplaceable site. John Curtis, author of the British Museum's report, has called for an international investigation by archeologists chosen by the Iraqis to survey and record all the damage done.
The overall situation in Iraq is overwhelmingly a human tragedy but that does not exempt the U.S. authorities, who set up Camp Babylon, from the consequences of what The Guardian called an act of "cultural barbarism" – carried out in their name by a subsidiary of Halliburton. There must be a full investigation of the damage caused, and Halliburton should be made to offer whatever compensation is possible for the wanton destruction of the world's cultural treasure.
Turkish Nationalism Reflected in Southern Town's Growing Homogeneity
Courtesy of the Washington Post
(ZNDA: Midyat) On the day the genies show up, seemingly everyone in this historic town in southeastern Turkey heads for the door.
"On Black Wednesdays, you have to go to picnics and stay outdoors," said Summeyye Saltik, 15, on the playground of the local primary school where attendance dipped, as it always does, on the second Wednesday in March. "If you're indoors, genies will visit your house."
"Because the houses used to belong to them and they come to claim them," added a classmate, Bushra Gokce.
"They can be anybody," explained a third girl, Serap Ceylan. "They can be Muslims or anybody who lived here before."
That makes the possibilities almost endless in Midyat, which over the centuries has been inhabited or visited by people of a vast assortment of faiths, including the Yazidis, the obscure sect that introduced the town to the springtime escapes of Black Wednesday.
But while the Yazidi wariness of house-haunting genies has spread to many other groups in the area, the number of Yazidis has dwindled considerably. Of about 5,600 Yazidis who lived in the area in the 1980s, only 15 are left.
Midyat, a town that predates Christianity and Islam, once reflected the deep diversity of a region where faiths overlapped and conquering armies advanced and retreated. Scholars say its very name may be a mix of Farsi, Arabic and Assyrian that translates as "mirror."
But what this town of 57,000 reflects these days is a growing sameness. The Armenian Christians who built many of the old city's medieval stone buildings disappeared in the early 20th-century conflict that Armenians and many historians have called genocide. The Assyrian Christians who long accounted for the majority in Midyat have been reduced to just 100 families.
As for the Yazidis: "They were not causing any problems, but it was still better that they left," said Nazete Koksal, an ethnic Kurd seated on a sofa under the arched stone roof of a house her husband, an Arab, bought from a Yazidi family.
"They're dirty," Koksal said. "Their religion is dirty. They pray to the devil. We pray to God."
Still, she expressed some nostalgia for the days before so many groups fled her city. "Before they left, we used to be friends," she said.
In some ways, present-day Midyat reflects the founding principles of modern Turkey. Rising from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, an Islamic sultanate that tolerated religious minorities as second-class citizens, the Turkish republic was founded on a fierce assertion of national identity. The concept of Turkishness rooted the new nation-state firmly in the hills of the Anatolian peninsula once known as Asia Minor. But it also denied the notion of any other identity existing there.
More than 80 years after the republic was formed, anti-minority feelings can run close to the surface. Last year, an ultranationalist literally tore to pieces a human rights report on minorities before television cameras. In eastern Turkey this month, unemployed youths were hired to portray Armenians in a civic skit depicting a conflict with Turks that was more even-handed than history suggests; municipal workers reportedly had refused to take part.
Here in the southeast, official policy meant people who spoke Kurdish and called themselves Kurds were, officially, "Mountain Turks." Their eventual insistence on maintaining their ethnic Kurdish identity helped spark a separatist war that killed 30,000 people, most of them Kurdish civilians, during the 1990s.
The conflict took a toll on other minorities as well.
"We tried to be out of it," said Isa Dogdu, an Assyrian standing in the doorway of a church that dates from the 7th century. As a religious minority, however, the Assyrians felt pressure both from the Kurdish guerrillas and from Turkish Hezbollah, radical Islamic guerrillas whom the government secretly armed as a proxy force. When government officials showed up at the church, said Dogdu, a religious instructor, they asked why young people in its annex were not being taught in Turkish. Assyrians, who in the 1st century formed the world's first Christian community, still learn a version of Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke.
Persecution, Dogdu said, "was not done very openly, but sometimes it was deliberate. For instance, there were some murders of prominent persons. If you murder a prominent person, other people have fear."
Today, about 500 Assyrians live in Midyat. Sunday services rotate among the four churches that remain in the medieval splendor of the old city. In recent months, small groups of Assyrians have begun returning from abroad to build homes, mostly in isolated villages. But Dogdu's weary smile suggested the downward trend would not be easily reversed.
"When you have a majority population and it goes down to less than 1 percent, what do you think?" he said.
The exodus of the Yazidis was more stark. By official count, Turkey had 22,632 members of the sect in 1985. Fifteen years later, their numbers had dropped to 423. In the area around Midyat, the exodus was even more dramatic.
"In the last 20 years, everybody moved," said Mostafa Demir, 22, whose family left Midyat in 1990. "Nobody was really telling them to leave, but the relations were not that warm."
Centuries ago, Muslims slaughtered Yazidis by the thousands as devil worshipers. Yazidis, whose faith draws on several sources, including Zoroastrianism, believe the fallen angel who became Satan later repented, returning to grace after extinguishing the fires of Hell. Yazidis envision him as a peacock, a main symbol of their religion.
In modern Midyat, Demir said, their persecution was more apt to appear as mockery. Demir recalled merchants at the town market drawing a circle in the dirt around Yazidi customers. Yazidis, whose theology does not allow them to break a circle, would stand there indefinitely.
But things grew worse when the Kurdish rebellion erupted. Many Yazidis, who claim to speak the purest Kurdish, identified with the rebels. That made them targets of Turkish troops and Hezbollah, who "pushed the Yazidis out of here to get their lands," said Fars Bakir, an elderly Yazidi who lives in a mud-daubed house in a hamlet called Cilesiz, or "Without Suffering," in a lush valley bordering Syria.
As a condition for joining the European Union, Turkey recently passed new legal protections for minorities. But Bakir, who fled to Germany for several years, said he and his wife came home primarily because of homesickness, not faith in new laws.
Turkey differs with the European Union on the definition of minority, insisting on its definition of nationhood grounded in Turkishness. Baskin Oran, a University of Ankara political scientist active in minority human rights, discounted the new laws as "a revolution from above. It's more or less easy to change laws. But it is much more difficult to change the mentality of the people."
Ancient Epics Intrigue Modern Imaginations
Courtesy of ARA Content
The movie Troy, starring Brad Pitt and based on the epic poem “The Iliad” by Homer, scored big at the box office. Now another classic story is due to hit the big screen in July. Gilgamesh is the tale of a tyrannical Babylonian king and his adventures with his friend Enkidu.
“At first glance, Gilgamesh may seem to be an unlikely choice for a Hollywood picture, but the story has all the elements of a great movie: universal themes, interesting characters and high adventure,” says Dr. Lou Bolchazy, classics professor and president of Bolchazy Carducci, a publisher of classic texts and related books. The epic was the first of its kind to employ a literary form that deals with universal themes such as mortality, friendship, sorrow, nature versus civilization, and hubris, which are found throughout the history of literature.
Written more than 4,000 years ago, Gilgamesh includes many parallels to Biblical stories. When Enkidu suddenly sickens and dies, Gilgamesh becomes obsessed by a fear of death. He travels in search of a plant said to give eternal life and finds it, only to have it stolen by a serpent. The hero then decides he will heed the advice from Siduri, a wise barmaid, to abandon his quest for immortality and enjoy the temporal pleasures allotted to mortals.
“Through thousands of years, Gilgamesh has endured as the oldest and most revolutionary work of literature known to mankind. This first-ever epic follows the warrior-king from his divine rise to power to his victories and struggles with the Gods; risking life and love on his tumultuous quest to find the answers to happiness and immortality,” in the words of Stonelock Pictures, the studio producing the movie.
Gilgamesh is the first of its kind in many respects, Bolchazy points out. “Not only is it the first account of a superhero, but it pre-dates the Bible by about 2,000 years with its mention of a great flood to rid earth of humankind, and it prefigures Homer’s Odysseus as the first man considering the pros and cons of immortality,” he explains. Gilgamesh is also the first account of the themes found in the Adam and Eve story, the serpent responsible for the loss of immortality, and a paradise regained, pre-dating the Christian concept of heaven.
While seeing Gilgamesh come to life on the big screen will be exciting, Bolchazy notes that the epic poem should also be savored in its original, written form. For those who want to revisit this classic, he recommends “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” translated in a verse rendition by poet Danny P. Jackson (the Great Books Foundation will be using this Bolchazy-Carducci edition in its adult series). “The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic” by Jeffery H. Tigay, which traces the development of the composition of the epic over nearly two millennia and through the several languages in which it has been transmitted, is a good background text. “Gilgamesh: A Reader,” edited by John Maier, provides a bibliography with over 1,500 publications and 25 interpretive essays on the epic that stands at the dawn of literature which provide insights for those studying it.
For more background on the Gilgamesh epic, visit www.gilgamesh-online.com; you can find more information on the upcoming movie version at www.stonelockpictures.com. To order one of the Gilgamesh books mentioned here, visit www.Bolchazy.com.
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