|What Next for AUA?||Wilfred Bet-Alkhas|
|Iraqi Journalist Gets Face Time with Prime Minister of Iraq||Ashtar Analeed Marcus|
|Christians in Iraq Facing Threats from All Sides
Christians Are Harassed in Turkey
Syriac-Speaking Groups in Iraq Meet, Discuss Name Issue
|Scholars and Religious Leaders in Sweden Demand Rights|
|So Many to Read About and Love in Zinda
A Different Kind of Pride & Prejudice
|2005 Assyrian Youth Excellence Contest|
Iraqi Dam will Destroy Ancient Assyrian Capital
|Michael Shabaz Wins Wimbledon Title|
What Next For AUA?
1968 is the most important year in the history of Assyrian political movement and national identity. In April of that year a group of Assyrian men, mostly in their early 30s, converged from several countries to meet in southwestern France. The French city of Pau, with its spectacular scenery situated between the Pyrénées mountains and the Atlantic coast, was chosen as the site of the first gathering of the group which called itself the Assyrian Universal Alliance. A few hours to the north and some 40 years later, this week a group of Assyrians are gathered in the city of London to contemplate upon the appeal and the future of the AUA. All vital signs point to a disheartening prospect; all except one – the confidence of the men who began the greatest political revolution in the modern history of Assyrians.
This week the regional Secretaries and the Board of Advisors will elect the next Secretary General, a coveted position currently held by former U.S. State Senator John Nimrod.
Perhaps most of us as a whole care very little about who is elected as the next Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance. After all, it is not actively engaged within the borders of the post-Saddam Iraq. Considering the urgency of the formation of a new international body representing the Assyrian nation, this matter takes on a different complexion. The AUA is the only Assyrian political body with worldwide outreach which can guide more resources and persons toward a common global representation. All others exert their influence locally.
Two issues take precedence on the agenda of the Assyrian Universal Alliance: Iraq and the formation of an Assyrian parliament – a goal for which those men gathered 40 years earlier in Pau. Therefore, the next Secretary General must have a proven record of successes in adeptly playing the Iraqi cards and be respected by most other political parties in his pursuit of even a bigger representative political body.
To fulfill both tasks put forth before the next AUA leader, Zinda Magazine endorses Dr. Emanuel Kamber, a speaker of the Arabic language and holder of an impressive record of involvement with the opposition to Saddam Hussein as the next Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance. Dr. Emanuel Kamber was a fixture at almost every anti-Saddam Hussein meeting in the U.S. and Europe in the last decade and prior to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. He effectively worked for his people’s participation in the demise of the Baath regime in Iraq.
The choice of Dr. Kamber should not come as a surprise. The other members considered as the leading contenders are Mr. Simon Mirza (U.S.), Mr. Carlo Ganjeh (U.S.), Mr. Yonatan Bet-Kolia (Iran), and Mr. Hermiz Shahin (Australia), neither of whom has emerged as a strong candidate to face the harsh realities of the Iraqi politics. However, as skilled political maneuverers marching into London with a considerable bloc of delegates behind them, both Ganjeh and Bet-Kolia could be in a strong position to affect the elections.
Dr. Emanuel Kamber has been active in many Assyrian and Iraqi organizations. In Baghdad, Iraq, he was a member of the Executive Committee of the Assyrian Cultural Club and a member of the Assyrian Student (Collegian) Committee. In London, England, he was Vice Chairman of the Assyrian Society of Great Britain; Editor-in-Chief of the “The Assyrian” magazine, and a committee member of the Assyrian Church of the East.
In America, Dr. Kamber has held several positions within the Assyrian Universal Alliance including the Secretary of the Americas Chapter and Chairman of the Political Arm of the AUA. He has written several articles about the history, culture, and the national cause of the Assyrian people in Iraq. Dr. Kamber was also the Deputy-Chairman of the Central Council of the Iraqi National Council and member of the Future of Iraq Project, a United States State Department program. Dr. Kamber lectures at various universities in America and Europe. He has published over 70 widely-referenced papers in scientific journals and has presented more than 90 papers at national and international conferences on atomic physics.
Dr. Kamber is married to Bella Gewargis; they have two children, Nahrain and Naram. Dr. Kamber obtained his B.Sc. degree in Physics from Al-Mustansiriyah University in Baghdad, and his Ph.D. in Physics from University of London, England. Currently he is a Professor of Physics at the Department of Physics at Western Michigan University.
Today Assyrians are in a race for cultural, political, and religious survival in their homeland. Their basic freedoms are at stake and none of their political leaders are providing them a solid list of programs which can move them ahead in this race. In fact no one is making decisions which can determine the fate of this noble and ancient people.
The AUA requires a strong political leader that will not settle for second best in Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon. It needs a strong leadership that can put forth a worldwide strategy that will place us on the map of the free and independent nations of the world. Our grandchildren must not fear the tyranny of the Sword as we did and seek refuge in the west.
What the Assyrian Universal Alliance needs today is a visionary who understands the complexity of the Iraqi political situation and is trusted by his colleagues with similar abilities in other Middle East countries. Zinda Magazine believes that Dr. Emanuel Kamber is the right man for this job, in the right place and at the right time.
Iraqi Journalist Gets Face Time with Prime Minister of Iraq
Story by Ashtar Analeed Marcus
My press pass into the White House, where Iraqi Prime Minister Dr. Ibrahim al-Jaafari was meeting President Bush, felt like the golden ticket into the Wonka Chocolate Factory.
At the post-meeting news conference, White House staff invited the Arabic media to sit on one side of the East Room and the American media to sit on the other. I walked back and forth in indecision before sitting on the Arabic side although there were American journalists whose Arabic trumps mine. (I should get used to this, Arabic is trendy and Iraq is the new black.)
The prime minister entered with Bush, and they each made a short address. Al-Jaafari expressed his displeasure with American journalists, saying they are often perceived as on the side of the insurgency. Despite his criticism, his demeanor remained calm and his expression unchanged.
I sat in the second row, within eye contact of two powerful world leaders. That close, they looked like ordinary men. They didn’t have supernatural powers, which I secretly expected.
Bush began taking questions from the American journalists he knew by name. Their questions were bland, self-important and redundant, which prompted similar responses. Al-Jaafari took questions from the Arab media. I had been reciting my introduction in Arabic all morning should I have the miraculous opportunity to address The Man.
Are there any Iraqis in the House? I doubted there were any besides me. I finally worked up the courage to raise my hand, ignoring the live television feeds behind me, but no luck.
However, I knew I might have another chance. That evening, I went to see al-Jaafari speak at the National Press Club. I arrived an hour early, the first one there, walked through metal detectors and past numerous Secret Service officers with their phone-cord earpieces protruding from their collars. “Johnson is on the avenue,” said a 7-foot sentry. Wow, they really do talk that way.
As a show of gratitude – and a back-up translator, I invited my fluent-in-Arabic mother to attend. She happened to be working in Washington temporarily as a translator and was admitted on her credentials. Together, we watched the prime minister make an eloquent speech.
This time he permitted questions from anyone who had them. I got in line for the microphone, purposefully restraining my imagination from indulging in worst-case scenarios.
“Ismi Ashtar. Asli Iraqi.” “My name is Ashtar. My roots are Iraqi.” I repeated this to myself as I waited, the last person in line at the microphone.
This was a very redundant statement to an Iraqi. Ashtar is an Iraqi name. Often written Ishtar, it means the Assyrian goddess of love for which the Gates of Ishtar were made to enter the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, in the heart of Iraq. Assyrians were the ancient rulers of what is now Iraq and remain part of the country’s rich archeological history. Frustrated by its lackluster English pronunciation in Roman letters, I began going by my middle name and resurrect my given name only for those who can pronounce it as it was meant to be pronounced.
“Ismi Ashtar. Asli Iraqi,” I said slowly, knees shaking, into the microphone. A first generation Iraqi-American Christian, a child of generations of persecution, was addressing the first elected leader of her mother country. His stern countenance changed at the mention of my name. Clearly, he recognized my origins at that moment. I would venture to say he felt a little more at home.
He interrupted me, something he had not done for any other Arabic-speaking reporter, with “Ahlan wa sahlan.” "Welcome."
How strange. A leader of Iraq was welcoming me in my own land to which he was a visitor. How peculiar. And how wonderful.
He took his time answering my three-part question. He smiled, which I hadn’t seen him do all day, and waved to me in the front row before exiting.
Back in the lobby, I was determined to say a word of thanks to him, feeling familial toward him and wanting to make him feel at home. I bravely approached the nearest guard, cautious of his Studio 54 ego. Would you please just ask a representative if the Iraqi reporter could simply have a word with the prime minister? The Iraqi is all he needed to identify me.
“OK, but I’m not making any promises.”
I waited patiently while he mumbled into his earpiece.
“Did he just say, ‘That’s fine’?” he shouted to the security on the balcony above. “Sounded like he just said, ‘That’s fine’!” the man in black shouted back down.
Al-Jaafari finished his interview with Wolf Blitzer in the next room and emerged surrounded by his entourage. My mother and I approached him, shook his hand and took pictures as he spoke casually with us for some time. I stood frozen in shock, muttering “thank-yous” and “yeses." He noted my Iraqi name and said he was proud. Me: a woman who identifies more with the Midwest than the Middle East.
On Chicago’s Chaldo-Assyrian radio that evening I described how I met Iraq’s first democratically elected leader, who my family and I helped elect all the way from Chicago through the absentee voting program. After all, would we have been Americans if we had not been forced to flee? And though we are proudly American and love our country dearly, that love does not extinguish our deep-rooted love for our homeland.
It’s a fact I can’t change. Ismi Ashtar. Asli Iraqi.
Zinda: Ashtar Analeed Marcus is a reporter with the Medill News Service in Washington, D.C. Her piece for Zinda Magazine about her encounter with Prime Minister Jaafari will appear in our next issue.
Christians in Iraq Facing Threats from All Sides
Courtesy of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
As Iraqis work to draft a permanent constitution that may deem Islam a source of legislation for the country, the Christian community faces the prospect of a life where they may worship freely, but will have little representation or benefits from government.
The protest by Christians from a number of Iraqi towns and villages in northern Iraq who were not afforded the vote in January's elections has been well documented. Ballot boxes never arrived at polling stations in several towns, and an investigation carried out by the Independent Election Commission deemed that it would not allow the vote to take place at a later date. The National Assembly election resulted in six Christians gaining seats in the 275 member parliament; Christians argued they were entitled to twice as many seats.
Many of Iraq's Christians see their plight in ever-disheartening terms, and view their fate as part of a history in which their community has suffered at the hands of more dominant groups in Iraq.
A 26 June report in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) daily "Kurdistani Nuwe" contends that many families have sought shelter from the attacks in the PUK-controlled areas of eastern Kurdistan. Other families -- as many as 40,000 people according to some reports -- have migrated to foreign countries, most notably Syria.
Those families who relocated to PUK areas are considered internally displaced people, and PUK head and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has ordered the Kurdistan local government to provide these families with plots of land, homes, and employment, according to the report.
Assyrians living in the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)-controlled area of western Kurdistan also experience good relations with their Kurdish neighbors. However, some Assyrians claim there is tension between them and the KDP. The tension appears directly related to aspirations by some Assyrians for an autonomous self-administered area comprising their towns and villages in northern Iraq. Residents of these villages and towns have claimed that the KDP has not allowed for the implementation of Article 53 of the Transitional Administrative Law issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority last year that states: "This law shall guarantee the administrative, cultural, and political rights of the Turkomans, Chaldo-Assyrians, and all other citizens."
The villages in question further claim that the KDP government has not distributed revenues to their towns, and they want their fair share. U.S.-based Freedom House's Nina Shea has supported the claim, saying Kurdish administrators have withheld U.S. reconstruction funds from Chaldo-Assyrian areas and confiscated Christian farms and villages, iht.com reported on 14 March.
Christians south of the Kurdistan region face greater difficulties. More than 20 churches have been bombed since the fall of the Hussein regime. Purported Islamist militants have kidnapped, killed, and in some cases beheaded Christians.
Insurgent propaganda in Iraq has always portrayed U.S.-led multinational forces in Iraq as "Christian Crusaders" who have made Iraq the first stop in their quest to conquer the Arab world and destroy Islam. The comparison has left Christians in Iraq more vulnerable to insurgent attacks. However, it appears until now to have had little impact on Iraqis' views of indigenous Christians.
There is a growing fear among Christians in Iraq, however, that proselytizing evangelical Christians who entered the country after the war may inflict the most harm on the Christian communities.
Moreover, proselytizing has never been accepted among Muslims in Iraq and religious communities have long practiced a policy of not trying to convert other religions to their fold. Indigenous leaders fear the practice may strain Muslim-Christian relations.
"The way the preachers arrived here...with soldiers...was not a good thing," the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Baghdad, Jean Sleiman told washingtonpost.com on 23 June. "I think they had the intention that they could convert Muslims, though Christians didn't do it here for 2,000 years," he continued, adding: "In the end, they are seducing Christians from other churches." Sleiman posited that new churches were creating a "new division" among Iraq's Christians because they impacted the cultural tradition of Christians there.
The Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) addressed the issue of Kurdish Muslims who have converted to Christianity in recent months through the efforts of evangelicals in a 29 June report. Converts told IWPR that the Muslim community tends to ostracize converts. "I consider that those who turn to Christianity pose a threat to society," said Muhammad Ahmad Gaznayi, Kurdish religious affairs minister. The Kurdistan Islamic League has called the practice an "unhealthy phenomenon" and a "strange and terrible act," IWPR reported.
Christians Are Harassed in Turkey
Courtesy of the Economist
(ZNDA: Midyat) On the edge of a village near Midyat is a stone building whose fate may test Turkey's commitment to the European Union. Thirty Kurdish families in Bardakci use it as a mosque. But members of Turkey's Syrian Orthodox Christian minority (or Syriacs) insist it is St Mary's church, which served their community for 200 years until civil strife and economic hardship forced them out. They want it back.
Some 3,000 Syriacs in the south-east say their land and houses have
been seized, not just by Kurds, but also by the state. In Kayseri, an
American couple were recently sent death threats by e-mail because
they are "Christian." A Protestant pastor in Izmit province received a
menacing letter and found a red swastika painted on his door. In
Tarsus, a New Zealand missionary was beaten up and then told to leave by the mayor.
Syriac-Speaking Groups in Iraq Meet, Discuss Name Issue
Courtesy of Ankawa.com
(ZNDA: Baghdad) On July 2, the first Iraqi Minorities Conference took place in Gilgamesh Hall at Babil (Babylon) Hotel. The Iraqi Minority Council initiated the conference with the support of the Iraqi Supreme Commission for Civil Society Institutions. On the periphery of this conference, representatives from the Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Suryani met to reach a name to represent all the Syriac-speaking Christians of Iraq that is acceptable by all parties involved. The meeting was directed by the request of Mr. Hussein 'Adhab, Member of Iraqi National Assembly and member of the Constitutional Committee in the Assembly, representing Dr. Hammam Hammodi, Member of Iraqi national Assembly and Head of the Constitutional Committee in the Assembly. The Constitutional Committee needs this agreed upon title in order to use it in the Iraqi Constitution that will be presented to Iraqis for voting and approval.
The attendees, including Nuri Potrus 'Attoo, Member of Iraqi National Assembly and Member of the Constitutional Committee, Ms. Jacklin Zomaya, Member of Iraqi National Assembly and member of Human Rights Committee, and representatives from Mosul and Baghdad for the Syriac-speaking Christians considered the letter of religious leaders dated June 24, 2004, which demanded equality and recognition for all segments of Iraqi groups. The attendees agreed to take the issue to their respected groups, institutions, religious, civic, and political leaders, and with those interested in the national, cultural, and historical of our people to meet in a general expanded conference to address the issue before it is too late.
It was agreed that the meeting of the various Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Suryani groups would be held on 10:00 O'clock, Saturday July 9, 2005 at the headquarters of Ashurbanipal Cultural Society.
Scholars and Religious Leaders in Sweden Demand Rights
Courtesy of Ankawa.com
(ZNDA: Stockholm) On July 4, a group of scholars, religious figures, and intellectuals from Sweden sent a letter to the Iraqi Constitutional Committee refusing emphatically any attempts to divide the Syriac-speaking people of Iraq into several ethnic groups based on their sects or other differences.
A copy of the letter was sent to all religious heads and political organizations. The letter clarified that Chaldeans, Assyrians, and Suryani (Syriacs) are one ethnic group with no difference or distinction but their religious affiliations.
The letter demanded full national and ethnic rights and refused any lesser rights than those granted to other groups whether small or large.
The letter was signed by the followings:
So Many to Read About and Love in Zinda
Mikhael K. Pius
While thanking you for publishing the two articles on the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of disbandment of Assyrian Levies and the surrender of R.A.F. Station of Habbaniya to the Iraqi Government, I refer to your introduction of the mentioned articles and point out that Benyamin Yalda, our Administration Manager, shares with me in putting out the HUSCA Magazine. I compile the periodical and he arranges its printing and distribution and manages its accounts. Zacharia O. Zacharia is our third Board Member and Basil Pius is our Consulting Editor. We all look forward to having HUSCA online, through your patriotic grace.
I’d also like to wish you greater success and to congratulate you, though somewhat belatedly, on moving your office to Washington DC where you will be better placed to have access and communication with influential sources in connection with your brain child of love for your people.
ZINDA is truly a spring of hope for Assyrians! It serves to quench our thirst for true information and to inspire hope for our cultural revival and survival. The information it contains for and about our people is overwhelming; so many articles—and twice a week too. It brings to light not only interesting matters of importance that concerns us all, but also documents our history and opens the doors to the readers into the lives of so many outstanding countrymen and their achievements that otherwise would be hidden to us: Scientific giants like Professor Eugene Givargizov; dedicated ordinary Assyrians like Danny Dinkha who wants to save Iraq in his own little way; the courage and compassion of General Giwargiz Sada who risked his life to save the lives of unknown American pilots; the fantastic, multi-talented Rosie Malek-Yonan and the fruits of her amazing family tree—an Assyrian woman who has made good in (of all places) Hollywood; the inspiring Assyriska soccer team of Sweden and the zealous Seyfo Assyrian activists who are trying to arouse the conscience of the world to the atrocious massacres of hundreds of thousands of our forebears by the Ottoman Turks; the accomplishments and dedication of Yonadam Kanna and Zowaa in general, assisted by the financial support of our people in the Homeland and abroad, to our strapped people in our Homeland and to our political cause; the tit-bits of news and the readers’ feelings and expressions, not to mention the great editorials you yourself write and the articles contributed by William Warda, Alfred Alkhas, Fred Aprim and other top writers.
I was both disappointed and irritated to read the disparaging comments by a Jean-Paul Sliva about our national hero, Agha Patros, whom he derisively addresses as Patros Illia. I’m sure Mr. Sliva has a chip on his shoulder. Perhaps one of his elders had a bone of contention with the General and this is his offspring’s way of settling the score with the ghost of the giant who is not present to defend himself.
His picture in your May 14 issue shows us what a handsome and charismatic man Agha Patros was. He was the most courageous, active and devoted leader we had during the Great War. He led the nation in victorious campaigns against our enemies and stood up to the British for our national rights. No wonder the British did not like him and demeaned his character! He apparently sensed their scheme to exploit our people. But he was also foiled by his own people, by leaders who for personal reasons towed the British line and sold their General and their nation down the river to the British for 30 pieces of silver.
Another article that ruffled my feathers was the “peace and unity” feeler by Mr. Wilson Benjamin. If Mr. Wilson Benjamin and those he supports really want unity among our people they should prove this by constructive work not words. I believe leaders are either born, or made and chosen, not self-appointed or imposed!
In conclusion, I also offer my congratulations to Ashur TV for going on satellite. Until recent times Assyrian international air waves were monopolized by the whims and fancies of one source that could not be challenged properly by weekly taped TV programs. Now the propaganda machine that is brain-washing a few of our people is no longer completely in charge of the situation and sufficient means of competition is gradually growing to put things in their true perspective!
A Different Kind of Pride & Prejudice
In some ways, it is quite refreshing to read Ms. Yonan's words of optimism. Her article in the June 25th, 2005 issue of Zinda titled “Pride and Prejudice” reminded me of the innocent world of free spirited children who see their surrounding through the eyes of absolute idealism. Unfortunately, our world is not as children would like it to be, rather one of what adults have made it to be. Therefore, one needs to view the world through mature experiences in order for one to survive.
There are certain truths in what she has stated. That is, to the believers, Lord Jesus Christ loves us all equally. However, Fred Aprim’s June 18th article titled: “The Hallucination of the so-Called Moslem Assyrians”, does not repudiate the love of God to his children. Rather, Mr. Aprim’s claim, as I understood it, is one of Moslem man’s shortcomings and not of Christ‘s. Ms. Yonan has mentioned examples of Moslems’ kindness to Assyrians. There is no doubt that groups of people should not be painted with a wide brush. Yet, for every one of your stories of Assyrians’ appreciation of a Moslem’s generosity, there are thousands of stories of pain and suffering in the hands of Moslems. With no trepidation of being labeled prejudice, I would like to respectfully remind you of a history replete with Islam’s atrocities against our Assyrian people. I, like many other Assyrians, can look into my own family’s past and account for murders, rapes, and injustices committed against us in the
Islam’s aggression against other nations such as Greece, Spain, India to mention a few, and recently against our beloved country, the Great United States of America, is well documented in the annals of history. In her article, Ms. Yonan has equated Christianity to Islam. I humbly admit that unlike her, I have not devoted the last twenty years of my life studying the world religions. Despite claiming of no scholarly knowledge of the religions, I am aware of some simple facts about Islam. These facts put Islam in a separate category from Christianity. Unlike Jesus, Mohammed did not convert people by turning the other cheek rather he used the might of his sword. Unlike Jesus, he lusted for a nine year old little girl and took her for a wife as an addition to his numerous wives in his harem. Unlike Jesus, he married his own daughter-in-law because he had seen her bare face and had fallen in love with her causing his step son to divorce her. It is to no surprise that to this day, these philosophies have been allowed to be practiced legally by followers of Mohammed throughout the Middle East. It is therefore why Mr. Aprim is so ambivalent about believing that Christians and Moslems can peacefully coexist, no matter by what name they call their ethnicity. The proof is the immense animosity between Sunnis and Shiias, even though, both groups share the same religion and nationality. Why then they cannot peacefully coexist on the same land? I think we should all deduce the answer to this why.
I must respectfully disagree with Ms. Yonan's other premise calling all the people on earth as Assyrians because they all originated from Assyria. If we use the same logic, then we should all be little Adams and Eves with no regard to evolutions brought about by centuries if not millenniums that have passed by. By the same token, to take this issue to the extreme, all plants, animals, and humans are made up of an aggregate of living molecules. Hence, we should all be categorized as a plain and uniform unit of matter. The truth is that even masses of lands change through time; sometimes in matter of seconds such as the impact of the recent tsunami on the map of the continent of Asia. Even if we assume that man originated from Assyria, how can we imprison our thoughts in a vacuum dismissing the factor of time and call billions of the earth population, Assyrians? I take issue with the term Assyrian being used as a generic name for mankind. I would like to think that we are a unique
Finally, Ms. Yonan has attempted to answer four out of five of Mr. Aprim’s questions regarding issues of Assyrians in relation with Iraq and Moslems. However, her idealism is at work again as she attempts to answer these questions by using big IF’s such as: “IF Assyria… was a secular government…comprised of all Assyrians” or “Imagine IF Assyria…was a secular government and the Iraqi parliament was not formed on the basis of how many religious seats were allotted to the Shiia, the Sunni, the Christians.” She also presumes a perfect world in Iraq where everyone lives in harmony and respect for one another. A presumption that has proven false to those non-Moslems who have lived in the Middle East for generations. For all those who have been persecuted in Saudi Arabia for wearing a cross or owning a Bible, for all those in Iran who have been detained, tortured, and/or executed for daring to convert to Christianity, and for all those in Pakistan who have been burned alive in their churches because they wanted to worship Christ, and all others who have been massacred for being Christian in Middle East eager to coexist with their peaceful Moslem brothers and sisters, those big IF’s have been nothing but a farce and a far reaching dream.
In conclusion, I sense that Ms. Yonan is a well intentioned Assyrian searching for resolutions through peaceful means. I confess that I am different from her in that regard. I firmly believe that a well justified prejudice, in all facets of life, is a prerequisite to survival. Consequently, one should take pride in that kind of prejudice that leads one to a guarantee of an enhanced life.
In response to a commentary titled "Islamic Women Rise Up" (click here) published in the Christian Science Monitor newspaper, on 29 June, Dr. Eden Naby - an Assyrian research scholar and activist at Harvard University writes the following: "As right as Hughes is in his analysis of the changing attitudes of Muslim women toward their second-class position, he ignores, as do most feminists and experts on the Middle East, the doubly deplorable condition of non-Muslim women living in Muslim-dominant societies. Assyrian women - Christians who have resisted conversion to Islam for 14 centuries in such countries as Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria - are subjected not only to laws that discriminate against women, but also to laws that discriminate against non-Muslims."
Dr. Naby's comment was printed in CSM on 6 July. Zinda Magazine urges its readers to take an active role in responding to media comments on topics of importance to Assyrians - locally and around the world.
2005 Assyrian Youth Excellence Contest
It is my great pleasure to inform you that we will be hosting the 72nd Assyrian American National Convention to be held in Boston, Massachusetts, during the Labor Day weekend, September 1, 2005 to September 5, 2005.
As part of the convention program the National Convention Committee is organizing the “Eleventh Annual Assyrian Youth Excellence Contest”, a program that promotes and rewards education, talent, knowledge of the Assyrian language and history, and good character among our young Assyrians. The contest is also intended to instill the sense of Assyrianism in the hearts and minds of our youth.
This program will be carried in two stages:
1. A judging panel composed of representatives of the states where the contestants come from, will select and nominate a maximum of three young men and women as the finalists.
2. In a special contest during the National Convention, the judging panel will select “Young Assyrian of the Year” and two runner-ups and will present them with awards and prizes as follows:
The “Young Assyrian of the Year” will be invited as our guest of honor and acknowledged at the convention banquet held on Sunday evening.
Please visit our website (click here) for the criteria required to participate in the contest, the application form, and other necessary documents. If you are eligible to participate, we invite you to complete the Application Package and mail it to us by August 1, 2005. This contest is open to all young Assyrians. You may also make copies of this package and provide it to those that we have not been able to reach.
If you have questions or need additional information, please contact me at the above email address.
Click here to register.
Zinda Magazine, as a proud sponsor of the Assyrian Youth Excellence Pageant, will present a free ticket to this year's Fourth Annual Narsai's Taste of the Mediterranean at San Francisco's Ritz Carlton Hotel to the Winner, First Runner-Up and Second Runner-up and invite them to join Zinda Magazine's Students Table at this event. This year's patron tickets are valued at $300 per person. For more information about Narsai's Taste of Mediterranean, one of San Francisco Bay Area's most lavish fundraiser dinner to benefit the Assyrians of Iraq, click here. Best wishes to this year's Assyrian Youth Excellence Contest participants.
Iraqi Dam will Destroy Ancient Assyrian Capital
Courtesy of the Art Newspaper
(ZNDA: London) The Iraqi government is building a dam which will destroy the ancient city of Assur, the former capital which gave its name to Assyria. Although it has received no publicity outside Iraq, the dam across the Tigris is likely to result in one of the greatest archaeological losses of modern times. John Curtis, the British Museum’s keeper of Ancient Near East, returned from a visit to Baghdad last month, and he told The Art Newspaper that the project “will destroy most of the remains of Assur”. He points out that the city, occupied by the Assyrians for some 2,000 years, is “arguably the most important archaeological site in the Near East.”
Dr Curtis warns that the archaeological losses are likely to be even greater than those caused by the Aswan High Dam in 1970, when temples along the Nile were flooded. On that occasion, Unesco launched a huge international rescue operation, but in the current political situation that would be impossible in Iraq. The rapid timetable for the Iraqi dam and the unexcavated nature of the remains at Assur would also make rescue work a major challenge.
Iraq is embarking on the dam because its hostile neighbour Turkey is taking more water from the source of the Tigris. At times there is so little water in the river downstream that it is apparently possible to walk across it at Mosul, the main city of northern Iraq. The new dam will store water, providing supplies for agriculture and the towns during the dry season.
The Makhul dam is being built 80 miles south of Mosul, spanning the Tigris valley between the Jebel Makhul and Jebel Hamrin mountains. This will create a lake which will run back for more than 20 miles and flood most of Assur.
The ancient city lies on a promontory, with its eastern edge on the flood plain of the Tigris and its northern edge in the valley of the river’s old course. The new lake would rise well above the lower levels of the ancient city and the water table would cause severe damage higher up. In addition to Assur, at least 100 other Assyrian sites would be lost or damaged by the new lake. These include Kar Tukulti-Ninurta, the important city built in the 13th century BC just to the north of Assur.
Assur (or Ashur) became the capital of Assyria by 2000 BC and it remained the religious centre of the empire until its capture by the Babylonians in 614 BC. It represented the centre of an empire which at its height stretched from present-day Egypt to Iran.
German archaeologists began to excavate Assur in 1903 and many of the most important finds are in Berlin’s Vorderasiatisches Museum. But despite a century of extensive excavations, large areas of the city remain virtually uninvestigated. Only a third of the 34 temples which were recorded shortly before the Babylonian invasion have been found. Still buried must be the greatest works of art from the royal workshops of the 13th century BC, residences of merchants from the 18th century BC and temples built before the 21st century BC.
The commercial and residential areas of Assur were on the lower levels, and these will be completely flooded by the Makhul Dam. Although the upper level of the city is 100 feet above the present river, the new lake will mean a substantial rise in the water table, and this will destroy most of the archaeological remains. Cuneiform tablets, for instance, will simply turn to mud.
In order to minimize damage to Assur, two solutions have been proposed by Iraqi archaeologists. The first would be the construction of a coffer-dam or dyke around the entire site of Assur. This would have to be several miles long and would be very expensive, possibly several times more than the main Makhul Dam. With the present shortage of government funds because of the economic problems resulting from international sanctions it is difficult to see Saddam Hussein being willing to divert resources for a coffer-dam.
The second proposal is that the Makhul Dam should not be as high as originally planned, resulting in a smaller storage lake. However, this would negate many of the benefits of the water storage project, probably making it uneconomic. It would also still flood low-lying remains at Assur, and the rise in the water table would cause further damage.
Last month senior Iraqi government antiquities official Muayad Damerji said that he personally believes that the solution is to “build a concrete wall around Assur.” He admits it would be “very expensive”, but points out that “we need water and we need Assur.”
Dr Damerji says that although the Ministry of Irrigation is considering a coffer-dam, detailed information on the levels of the archaeological strata has not yet been requested from the antiquities department. There is clearly great concern over whether funds will be available for this protective scheme.
It is difficult to discover what is happening on the ground, but work has apparently begun on the foundations of the main dam. Completion is expected to take around five years, and the project is being undertaken entirely by Iraqi contractors. Although some archaeological excavations are currently under way by German and Iraqi specialists, this is normal work and not a rescue dig. Within the time available, it would be very difficult to mount any large-scale excavation program.
However, archaeologists have now decided to do what they can to mobilize international support to save Assur. At an academic conference on Nimrud, held at the British Museum in March, a resolution was approved which warned of the damaging consequences of the Makhul Dam : “The conference urges all concerned parties, both within Iraq and internationally, to explore every possible means of preserving the site of Assur which is of unique importance in the history of Iraq in particular and world civilization in general.”
Michael Shabaz Wins Wimbledon Title
Meet Michael Shabaz, the new Assyrian tennis champion at Wimbledon, unquestionably one of the most revered sports events of the year. Following his hero, Andre Aghassi - another Assyrian tennis champion, we can rest assured that a fresh generation of Assyrian tennis prodigies will grace Wimbledon's hallowed grounds to assert their claims.
Shabaz was born on 20 August 1987 and began playing tennis at age 7. "I saw Andre play and I loved tennis from there on. I went on the court and hit an amazing two handed backhand."
Andre Aghassi was born to an Assyrian father, himself an olympic champion who like Michael's father taught his son the art of playing champions tennis.
Michael is the son of Vladimir Shabaz and Scarlet Varda. His sister, Nicole, is also a tennis prodigy. She has taken a leave of absence from tennis since her knee injury and is completing her university studies. Vladimir has coached both his son and daughter on through their championships.
Last weekend at Wimbledon the British favorite, Andrew Kennaugh and Samuel Groth of Australia stormed to a 3-0 lead in the opening set of the Boys' Doubles final against the American pair, Jesse Levine and Michael Shabaz. But there was not to be a British winner for the first time since 1995.
Levine and Shabaz weathered the storm and produced some superior and more consistent tennis to outwit their opponents in straight sets 6-4, 6-1.
Groth fought back from 15-40 down in the opening service game. Volleys by both players, capped by an ace from Groth, put the Anglo-Austrian pair 1-0 ahead. Shabaz struggled with his serve in the beginning and a Groth forehand along the line broke the Americans. In the third game it was the Briton's turn to demonstrate his serving at its best. He served the third game to love, finishing with an ace. Kennaugh had earlier this month won the junior title at Queen's, but was ousted in the first round of the boys' singles.
In the next game Kennaugh turned from hero to villain, his four unforced errors giving the game to the Americans. In the next game Groth managed to hold serve, after a long deuce, to go 4-1 up. But Levine and Shabaz started finding gaps to hit winners.
This was no doubt aided by the fact that their opponents had played a grueling three-set semi-final earlier in the day, with the final set ending 15-13. The American pair, on the other hand, had a good day's rest before the match.
Kennaugh's serve was broken at 4-2. Groth, serving at 4-4, was broken to love as he double faulted twice and Shabaz took the set with a rare ace.
In the second set, Kennaugh and Groth tired and their game was littered with unforced errors.
Levine/Shabaz played the better tennis, including the whole repertoire of lobs, drop shots and shots to either corner.
At 3-1 down, Groth/Kennaugh forced a break point but a wild forehand by Kennaugh, followed by a winning Levine volley, confirmed that there was no fightback on the cards.
The junior doubles Grand Slam title was the first for Levine and Shabaz. Their previous best was a place in the semi-final of this year's Australian Open.
Michael also played in the single competitions but was defeated. This was his first year of participation at Wimbledon.
Michael plans to join the Professional Tennis Players' Circuit when he becomes nineteen years old. Experts predict a bright future for him at this game. The Shabaz family lives in Virginia.
Michael's photos courtesy of JuniorTennis.com. For Michael's stats click here. Wimbledon play by play report written by Jukka Viskari.
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