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Assyrian Children of Iraq Say Hello
(Photo courtesy of Director Robert Alaux and Photographer Emile Loreaux)
||Arise! Assyrian Brethren, Arise!
||Assyrian Rights in a New Iraq
||U.S. Troops Accidentally Shoot & Kill Assyrian in Kirkuk
Assyrian Killed in Dora District on First Day of New Year
The Killing of the Assyrian Interpreter, Allan Enwiyah
Christians Trying to Find a Place in War-torn Iraq
Christian Believers in Iran Face Constant Surveillance
Family Appeals for Pope's Help to Get Sick Tariq Aziz Freed
||Death of Samuel Elma Leaves Assyrian Community in Shock
GHB Press Release from 2nd Congress
Humanitarian Organizations in Germany Focus on Assyrians
Assyrians in Modesto Make Sure Iraq Pays Attention
U.S. Bishop Urges "Responsible Transition" in Iraq
World's Largest Chaldean Church Opens in Michigan
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of Dividing of Iraq?
Stop Bickering About the Name Issue
Plight of the Assyrian Refugees & Human Rights
Homa D’Qasha Daniel Al-Qushnaya in British Museum
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||One-Day Christian Seminar in San Jose for Assyrian Men
ADO: an Apolitical Petty Bourgeois Organisation or...?
The Boomerang Effect in Iraq: If Kurdistan, Why Not Assyria?
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Thank You for the Music...
Andre Najib Anton
||Poly Sci Course on Assyrians Offered at UC, Berkeley
An Editorial by Wilfred Bet-Alkhas
Arise! Assyrian Brethren, Arise!
The time has come for us to look forward to greater days and nobler accomplishments. How long shall we remain divided? How long shall we remain uneducated, and consequently in a helpless condition? Let us not forget the glory and the achievements of our ancestors Let us rather be inspired by he meditations on our retrospect. Let us always keep before our eyes their wonderful advances in literature an in art. Perhaps it would be well for us to take pilgrimages to the museums of America or European nations, and there in the relics of the pas, learn of the most wonderful accomplishments of our forefathers. I believe if we make ourselves thoroughly acquainted with the rudiments of our bygone civilization kit will inspire and encourage us to undertake the task and leave similar memoirs for the generations to come.
It is absolutely imperative that we should begin with the most essential need of our people and this will mean the sacrifice of money on our part for the recovery of our losses, language, and the educating of our people, wherever they have formed themselves into colonies.
Arise! Assyrian Brethren, Arise... before it is too late, to protect and defend the honor and the glory of our nation which once led the world in civilization. We should no longer hesitate. Duty calls, and we must bravely respond!
There are two roads only open to us; the one is apathy and extinction; and the other activity and national existence! Which one of these two shall we choose? If you have a drop of real Assyrian blood in your veins you will not hesitate to make the necessary sacrifice for the rehabilitation of the lost lands of Beth Nahreen.
Let us also get out of the narrow circles to which we have been confined. Let us have broader views and look to the remotest boundaries of our people as a nation. We know we cannot achieve the expected at once, but let us remember that there can be no achievement without effort.
Let us now be one and not divided. One stick alone can be broken; three together resist even the brute power. When we become a united people and each one doing his part or her part, it is then that we can look forward to the rising of the Assyrian nation.
Ask of ourselves just one question: "What am I really doing to bring into existence the nationality of my people so that it will be recognized and respected by the modern nations of the earth?"
Let our slogan be UNITY! EDUCATION! PROSPERITY!
Mr. John Baba wrote this essay for "The New Assyria" magazine in June 15th, 1917 as the Assyrian nation in the Middle East was undergoing the darkest chapter of its existence since the Mongol invasions. His message of transformation, perfectly fit for the first editorial of the year 2006, resonates with the Assyrian nation today as we begin to ponder the wounds inflicted by today's religious and tribal divisions a century later.
Assyrian Rights in a New Iraq
In the world, a minority always reminds the majority that: "You are not alone, are not the only one and not the best one". Not always just, not always nice and seldom very polite. The minority also reminds the majority that its illusion of justice and equal resources do not prevail all the time! This has been the case for the Assyrian nation in Iraq, since Iraq was established by the Britons and League of Nations in 1920s till the fall of the Saddamic regime.
Reviewing the political development of the last two yeas in Iraq, we Assyrians have been neglected and ignored. Because in the power game which is still going on, only Kurds, Shittes and Sunnis are involved; the Assyrians are never mentioned.
We have not been heard in the national context. Although we are the indigenous people of Iraq, co-equal with other groups, our case has not been addressed correctly. Thus, it seems that the mistake of League of Nations in 1920s - when it created Iraq without caring about its indigenous Assyrians - is being repeated before our eyes!
Still the questions are:
Will our rights be protected in Iraq of 2006?
Will our statues of Ashur and altars of Mary and Jesus or our Gilgamesh epic and Aramaic liturgy be of any help?
Will the guardian angels of Ishtar convince Kofi Annan about giving "back" what is ours?
Does the solution of our case lie in the hands of other international organisations such as League of Arabs, Islamic countries, European Union etc?
As we know, since the establishment of Iraq in 1920s, one group, the Sunnis, has had the total power. Other minorities, such as Assyrians (being Christians), Kurds and Shiites (being Muslims) have suffered and have their rights totally ignored. In other words, the ruling Sunnis have been known as the OPPRESSORS and the Assyrian, Kurds and Shiites as the OPPRESSED.
Homeland by Adam Odisho, oil on canvas, 1996
The fall of the Saddamic regime has given the Kurds and Shiites (the oppressed) a golden opportunity to correct the past, and this time make sure that their rights - almost to the extent of an autonomous state for each - are constitutionally protected. The Sunnis, former oppressors, now impoverished and oppressed, do all they can to equally share the power.
What is going to happen to the rights of the Assyrians (FORMERLY oppressed, CURRENTLY oppressed)? Why are our rights not deemed to be equal and essential as the rights of the Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites? Is religion the cause? Is it because we are another ethnicity such as Kurds?
Don’t we have all the necessary features of a nation: language, culture, religion, traditions and history? All but a country, although we are in our ancestral home and land! The land of great civilisations and
prophets – in the preamble of current Iraqi constitution – still HAS its civilisations living among it.
In order to have a country based on democracy and human rights and to meet the Charter of United Nations, the Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites (our dear and respected countrymen) should accept the rights of the Assyrian nation, so that we also have the right to establish an autonomous region in our ancestral home! To live in it, in the framework of a sovereign Iraq, so that we can keep and practice our educational, cultural, religious, political, administrative and social rights and to share them with our fellow countrymen.
If there is a good will, there is a way. This means that the rights of the Assyrian nation can ONLY be addressed, formulated, documented and constitutionally recognised with the support of Iraq’s own citizens, our countrymen the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis etc.
By doing so, we gain the world wide respect in having successfully established a democratic and free Iraq, with equal rights to all the citizens of the country.
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR THIS DEVELOPMENT.
Mr. Daniel Crisby is a founder of the Assyrian Universal Alliance, a current member of its Executive Board, and its past Secretary General. His activism and political involvement began in Iran as a member and then president of the "Shooshata", a member of the executive board of Assyrian Motwa of Tehran and a member of the executive board of the Youth Cultural Society of Tehran (Seita Sipreta). Mr. Crisby holds a B.A. in English Literature from University of Tehran. Before moving with his family to Stockholm, Sweden, he was the Head of Administration for the Design and Construction of Internal Refineries in Iran, employed by the Iranian National Oil Company (Sherkat e-Nafte Melee ye-Iran). Mr. Crisby was the first and the last Iranian Assyrian who served in the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Office after the Islamic Revolution and during the provisional government in the capacity of the commercial attache in the Scandinavian countries. In Sweden since 1984 Mr. Crisby has instructed students in the Assyrian and Persian (Farsi) languages in Stockholm and has helped many newly arrived students in other subjects also. A number of his students have found their way to universities, an achievement of which he is quite proud.
Good Morning Assyria
News From the Homeland
U.S. Troops Accidentally Shoot & Kill Assyrian in Kirkuk
(ZNDA: Kirkuk) In Kirkuk, persistent fuel shortages in the oil city sparked rioting in which one person was killed and four wounded, prompting the authorities to impose an overnight curfew.
On 1 January during one such demonstration in the quarters of Raheem Awa in Kirkuk, Mr. Youkhana Yaqo Youkhana, 69, from the Assyrian village of Deri, was accidentally killed by American troops who were shooting to clear up a demonstration protesting the high prices of fuel. Youkhana was heading home from his work when he was caught in the middle of the demonstration.
Mr. Youkhana Yaqo in traditional Assyrian customs
Assyrian Killed in Dora District on First Day of New Year
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Mr. Ayad Loqa Lazar, 43, born in Kirkuk, and a member of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, was attacked and murdered on 1 January at 7:00 a.m. by terrorists while on duty in Baghdad's Dora district. Ayad is survived by his wife and two children.
Ayad Loqa Lazar
The Killing of the Assyrian Interpreter, Allan Enwiyah
Courtesy of the Washington Post
"In Ambush Lasting Seconds, U.S. Reporter in Iraq Becomes Hostage"
10 January 2006
By Ellen Knickmeyer
(ZNDA: Baghdad) The call came from reporter Jill Carroll's cell phone, from a young, wary-sounding Iraqi man who said he had just picked up the phone from a sprawled body on a Baghdad street. "The person this phone belongs to was just killed," the caller said.
The caller was wrong. The body was that of interpreter Allan Enwiyah, 32, who had just become one of thousands of Iraqis to be killed in nearly three years of war in Iraq.
The phone belonged to Carroll, a 28-year-old freelance reporter with hennaed hair who minutes before had become the first female American journalist to be kidnapped in Iraq.
Allan Enwiyah is shown in Iraq with his son in this undated photo. Enwiyah, working as an interpreter for Jill Carroll, a freelance journalist currently on assignment for The Christian Science Monitor, was killed by unknown gunmen in Baghdad Saturday morning, Jan. 7, 2006,. (AP Photo/Christian Science Monitor, Howard LaFranchi.)
Carried off in the Red Toyota Cressida of her driver, who escaped unharmed, she became the latest of more than 400 foreigners and more than 30 journalists to be abducted in Iraq's pitiless violence. Thousands of Iraqis have been abducted in the same period. Numerous Westerners remain in captivity, including four members of the activist group Christian Peacemaker Teams who were taken late last year.
"All together, it didn't take 10 seconds," Carroll's driver said Monday night, two days after she was kidnapped in a west Baghdad neighborhood seen as heavily sympathetic to insurgents.
"I always talked to her, told her Iraq is a place where reporters don't feel comfortable now," the driver said. "She always said, 'No, if there is a place I feel comfortable in, it's Iraq.' "
Carroll, a native of Michigan, was on assignment for the Christian Science Monitor, a Boston-based daily newspaper that has long carried extensive overseas coverage. Carroll had come to the Middle East in October 2002 and reported for Jordanian, Italian and American news organizations, including for The Washington Post in Baghdad for a few weeks in early 2003.
Carroll's kidnapping occurred in the same part of Baghdad as that of Margaret Hassan, an aid official believed killed by her abductors in 2004. Numerous foreign men have been killed by their kidnappers since 2003; of the several Western women who have been kidnapped, Hassan is the only one believed to have died at the hands of her captors. Iraqi officials say as many as 30 Iraqis a day are reported kidnapped in Baghdad. The abductions are part of the rising lawlessness accompanying the country's political unrest. Some Iraqi hostages are freed for ransom gathered by friends and families; others are dumped out on roads, dead.
In a statement, the Monitor called Carroll an "established journalist" experienced in the Middle East. "In recent months, the Monitor has tapped into her professionalism, energy, and fair reporting on the Iraqi scene," the newspaper said. "It was her drive to gather direct and accurate views from political leaders that took her into western Baghdad's Adil neighborhood on Saturday morning.
"The Monitor joins Jill's colleagues -- Iraqi and foreign -- in the Baghdad press in calling for her immediate and safe release," the statement said.
Monitor Editor Richard Bergenheim said in the statement: "Jill's ability to help others understand the issues facing all groups in Iraq has been invaluable. We are urgently seeking information about Ms. Carroll and are pursuing every avenue to secure her release."
Unlike most Western reporters in Baghdad, Carroll spoke Arabic well enough to easily talk to ordinary Iraqi people and interview Iraqi officials. She had picked up the language while working as a business reporter in Jordan and, in the days before her abduction, had renewed a plea to her Iraqi interpreter and driver to speak only Arabic to her as they traveled so she could improve her fluency, colleagues said.
In a scholarship application filled out shortly before Saturday's kidnapping, Carroll outlined proposals for reporting projects in Iraq. In them, she showed a keen understanding of the country.
She wanted to spend six months of the fellowship making her Arabic better still, she wrote in the application. "In this poorly understood region, where so much is at stake, important stories are lost everyday because the foreign press corps doesn't speak Arabic," Carroll wrote. "Journalism is a public service and readers are best-served if I and the people I am writing about speak the same language."
A Westerner in jeans, T-shirts and sweaters while at her place in Baghdad, Carroll slipped out into the city and much of Iraq wearing the black, enveloping abaya and head scarf of Iraqi women. Even with her red-frame glasses, she could walk unnoticed down a Baghdad street.
With violence roiling Iraq, a sizable number of foreign reporters largely restrict themselves to armored cars shuttling between hotels and the American-controlled Green Zone. They cover American officials and the isolated authorities of the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.
Carroll went out in unarmored vehicles, without bodyguards or follow-up security cars.
On Saturday, her abductors were able to stop her car without firing a shot, her driver said.
The Washington Post is withholding his identity, as well as that of the person who received the cell phone call, for security reasons.
Carroll had gone to the office of Adnan Dulaimi, a white-haired Sunni Arab politician. Carroll believed she had a 10 a.m. appointment, colleagues said. She arrived early. Workers in the office kept her waiting 10 to 15 minutes, then told her Dulaimi was busy, the driver said.
Dulaimi denied after the kidnapping that there had been an appointment. At 10 a.m., he was at a scheduled news conference elsewhere with a secular Shiite politician, former interim prime minister Ayad Allawi.
Coming out of nowhere Saturday, clean-cut, well-dressed men with pistols swarmed Carroll's car as she left the failed interview. The ambush happened within a few hundred feet of Dulaimi's office, the driver said; he hadn't gone far enough to shift the car beyond third gear.
One attacker planted himself in the car's path, screaming at the driver to stop. The driver said he initially thought the men were guards clearing the route for a convoy going to or from the office of Dulaimi, like hundreds of armed convoys bullying their way through Baghdad daily. The driver stopped.
The men pulled the driver from the car. Cursing, one man fired a shot toward the driver where he had fallen to his hands and knees on the pavement. The rest piled into the car, with Carroll and Enwiyah still inside. The gunmen were shouting too loudly, the driver said, for him to hear anything Carroll or Enwiyah said.
Enwiyah's body was found in the same neighborhood. The Monitor said he had been shot twice in the head.
The first calls on the cell phone came within half an hour. The man on the other end said he had picked up the phone from Enwiyah's body, dumped in the Adil neighborhood. He called three or four more times, urging that someone be sent to pick up Enwiyah's body. It lay in the street for hours.
Enwiyah, a husband with young children, had that day shown a colleague a music CD by a band he once belonged to, the colleague recalled. All the other band members had since escaped to England, he told his colleague.
"I told him, 'This is your destiny,' " the colleague said. "He said, 'Yes, the most important thing is we're safe.' "
Other colleagues recalled Carroll saying something similar. "My fate is in Iraq," she told an Iraqi friend.
No public demands or assertions or responsibility have emerged in the kidnapping.
In the Adil neighborhood on Monday, graffiti made clear the sentiment toward Americans. "Get out," the words painted in English on a concrete wall declared. "We hate you."
A convoy of men in civilian BMWs and Opels made their way through traffic in the neighborhood. The men, wearing civilian clothes, openly held their Glock pistols and AK-47 assault rifles in view of other drivers. A wedding car draped in wreaths drove past, trailed by a van of clapping, singing women celebrating the union.
The quiet street where the kidnapping took place was partially blocked to traffic by broken concrete barriers. A dozen or so neatly dressed, clean-cut men in leather jackets milled together outside Dulaimi's office, the only signs of life on the street until the wedding convoy turned in to it.
Christians Trying to Find a Place in War-torn Iraq
Courtesy of the Star (South Africa)
28 December 2005
By Cyrille Cartier
A little boy with a Santa Claus hood sat bewildered in a truck in his uncle's arms. It was Christmas Eve and loud Christmas music played as the truck roared through the streets of Hamdaniya, a predominantly Christian village about 20km from Mosul.
For Rody Raad this was a Christmas unlike any other. It was the first without his father. Several weeks before, Raad Ayoub (28) was killed by insurgents in neighbouring Mosul. The 2-year-old's uncle was part of the Santa Claus Family, a volunteer group of eight men who were getting ready to distribute presents worth $5 000 (R31 500) to the town's children.
Christians have had a hard time in the new Iraq. As a small minority - about 2% of Iraq's 26-million - they are sometimes lost in the discussions of Iraqi sectarian divides. They often categorise themselves religiously as either Assyrians or Chaldeans, Eastern Orthodox or Catholic, though the passing of time has faded some of the original divides.
Since 2003, however, the differences between them and the Arab Muslim majority have grown. Ironically, said one man in Hamdaniya, before the US invasion, there was peaceful cohabitation between Christians and Muslims. Now many Muslims have left his town, and Christians are wary of wandering beyond their area.
Karam Hasou, leader of the Santa Claus Family, is one of the few who dare to go beyond the "safe zone", as he calls it. He goes to Mosul to attend university, a trip that used to take 15 minutes before the war. Now with all the checkpoints it takes hours - it he can get there at all.
He takes a bus and tries to come back before nightfall, but even during the day, the same bus has been caught in the crossfire between Iraqi army or police and the insurgents. He has come close to death when roadside bombs have exploded, a common weapon used against coalition and Iraqi forces.
In Mosul, a city that thrived with different communities of Arabs and Kurds, Christians and Muslims, the fabric that held them together is being torn apart by the violence. Christians and Kurds are not only being targeted, like some Arabs and Muslims, for collaborating with foreigners: they are also targeted as minorities.
Since 2003, thousands of families have left the Mosul area in search of a safer life. Many have left the country, and according to some estimates, those living outside the country make up two-thirds of the entire Iraqi Christian population. Others with less means have headed to the Iraqi Kurdistan region.
Ankawa, a Christian enclave near Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, is a popular refuge.
"We're against Christians leaving Iraq and we encourage them to unite in Kurdistan," said Nenif Matran Hariri, an Assyrian Christian who came back to Iraq in 2003, having lived most of his life in England.
"If any more leave, there won't be any left." Hariri is working as an adviser on Christian affairs with the Kurdistan regional government and is trying to get Christian families from Baghdad and Mosul to relocate here.
"There's no future for Christians outside of Kurdistan," Hariri believes. "I don't think they can live with Arabs anymore."
Sherzad Kanoon Hanna, a Chaldean living in Ankawa, said: "We regard ourselves as part of the Kurdish people. We get more rights than under other dictatorial successive regimes in Iraq."
But not all Iraqi Christians are united in their view. Some support a united Iraq instead of the popular Kurdish aspiration to independence. While some say the Christians' best option is to support the Kurds, others, like Chaldo Soroot, of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM), think Christians must make their own way.
ADM, a political party that started in 1979, joined the Kurdish list in the January elections but established their own in this month's elections.
"We are the original people," Soroot said. "We are a small group but we must have our voice in the new political map." On Christmas Eve, the young men of the Santa Claus Family, most of them in their 20s, donned the red-and-white suits over their long-sleeved shirts with their logo on it: an outline of the map of Iraq with a comic Santa face next to the Iraqi flag. "Merry Christmas" was written in English. Other messages were in Arabic but the name of their group was written in Assyrian, a language written and spoken here only among Christians.
The group has existed for the past seven years. With the help of parties like ADM and donations from abroad, Santa's coffers have grown and six more places have been added to the Christmas Eve tour.
"There should not only be bombs for the children," Hasou said. "When I find a smile on a child's face, it's a lot of happiness for me and my group." - Independent Foreign Service
Sponsored by Zinda Magazine
Christian Believers in Iran Face Constant Surveillance
by the Islamic Republic
Courtesy of the Guardian Unlimited
27 December 2005
At first sight, the house of worship bears all the Persian architectural hallmarks of a classically Iranian mosque. But the religious symbol accompanying the sky-blue dome is a cross, not a minaret, and the holy book sacred to the faithful inside is the Bible rather than the Qur'an.
This is the Church of St Simon the Zealot, an Anglican church built in the late 1930s by an English missionary, Rev Norman Sharp, who went to Iran to spread the Christian faith.
Hidden behind a high wall in a narrow back street, it is now a haven to the tiny beleaguered Christian community in Shiraz, about 500 miles south of Iran's capital, Tehran.
Every Sunday, its 30-member congregation gathers in lamb-shaped pews - designed to symbolise Jesus' flock - to sing traditional hymns such as The Lord Is My Shepherd and hear sermons from a Farsi translation of the New Testament by the church's lay pastor, Stephen Kambiz Jaeintan.
Two days ago, this hardened society of believers met for a special Christmas Day dinner, having prepared and brought their own food. To inject an extra dose of festive cheer otherwise lacking in Iran's staunchly Islamic setting, a fully-dressed Santa Claus handed out presents.
In staging this hearty celebration of the birth of Christ, the congregation was risking the wrath of Iran's Islamic authorities, whose intelligence services keep a watchful eye on the church on such occasions. The entire flock has converted to Christianity from Islam, apostasy in a country whose population is 99% Muslim. Under Islamic law, such conversions are potentially punishable by death.
"We have big problems with the government," said Mr Jaeintan, 33, a once-devout Muslim who converted 14 years ago. "The authorities monitor the church to see who goes into the services. The entry of non-Christians is strictly forbidden.
"We are suffering repression for worshipping a God and the problems are getting worse. I am not allowed to travel abroad to study to be ordained as a priest. The most important thing for the authorities is that Iran remains an Islamic republic, with the Islamic part being more important than the republic.
"I was called into an interrogation with the intelligence service. They told me that the period when people were killed for being Christian is past but that I might find myself with two kilos of heroin in my possession. The punishment for that is life in prison or death. They told me they won't make a hero out of me."
Iran's constitution grants protection to Armenian, Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, as well as to Jews and Zoroastrians. After the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran's religious leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa ordering that Christians and Jews be treated with respect as "people of the book".
However, the edict does not sanction the conversion of Muslims to another faith, which is seen as a threat to the Shia Islamic foundations of the state.
At the very least, such conversions can damage work and educational opportunities. Workers in Iran's large public sector are screened for adherence to Islam while university applicants have to state their religion before being admitted. As a result, many converts feel compelled to hide their changed religious convictions.
"I work for the government in a job where you are required to carry out Islamic prayers every day. It's torture for me," said Nathaniel, 42, whose former Islamic beliefs were shaken after reading the Sermon on the Mount in the Book of Matthew. "I feel increased pressure every day. There is an ever present threat, but I feel when God is with me, who is against me?"
Despite being legally prohibited from actively seeking new members or publicising his services, Mr Jaeintan says the number asking to join his flock is increasing. Many are formerly observant Muslims like Nathaniel who have begun to question Islam; others are secular Iranians claiming to have experienced a spiritual awakening. Some, whom Mr Jaeintan says he rejects, want to become Christians as a means of seeking political asylum.
The repression of Christians in Iran predates the seventh-century arrival of Islam. Christians were brutally purged by the ardently Zoroastrian Sassanian dynasty during the third and fourth centuries. The Shiraz church is named after Simon the Zealot, a Christian patriarch put to death in 339AD by order of the country's rulers.
The US State Department has published reports on religious freedom lamenting the closure of many Iranian churches and noting the murders of several evangelical Christians in the 1990s. There were once several Anglican churches throughout Iran, most of them designed by the Rev Sharp. Today, the Church of St Simon the Zealot is one of Iran's few remaining centres of active Anglican worship.
Weeks after the revolution, the church's then pastor, Parviz Sayaphsina Arastu, was beheaded in the churchyard by religious extremists who accused him of carrying out baptisms.
More recent baptisms have been conducted in secret by pastors visiting from Britain and elsewhere. Mr Jaeintan is unqualified to baptise converts because he is not an ordained priest.
His lay status has also denied the church other basic Christian services such as Easter mass. Holy communion has been staged just once in the past year, with the help of a visiting Anglican priest.
Mr Jaeintan, however, remains defiant in his religious beliefs. "I'm proud of being a Muslim-born Christian living in Iran," he said. "My God has given me birth here, so it means I have a mission in Iran."
To visit the official website of the Assyrian Evangelical Church of Tehran, Iran - Allap u Tav - click here.
Family Appeals for Pope's Help to Get Sick Tariq Aziz Freed
Courtesy of the Associated Press
14 January 2005
|Pope John Paul II shakes hands with Iraqi Tariq Aziz in the Pope`s private library in February 2003.
(ZNDA: Mosul) The family of former Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz has asked Pope Benedict XVI to intervene with US authorities so the detainee can be released to receive medical care abroad.
Mr Aziz's son, Ziad Aziz, said lawyers had sent a letter addressed to the pope to the Vatican's embassy in Baghdad. Mr Aziz, a Chaldean Catholic, met with the late Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in February 2003, on the eve of the Iraq war, in a bid to head off the conflict. Mr Aziz was arrested after the overthrow of Saddam's regime in 2003 but has not been formally charged.
The Vatican declined to comment.
Lawyer Badie Arif Ezzat (L), said
Aziz was weeks from death.
According to Al-Jazeera News, Tariq Aziz may have less than a month to live after suffering a cerebral embolism, his lawyer has said.
Badie Arif Ezzat told the Al-Hayat Arab newspaper on Thursday that Tariq Aziz, one of the most recognizable figures from Saddam Hussein’s deposed regime, is "in agony and I do not expect him to live more than an month" following the cerebral embolism and heart problems.
Ezzat said Aziz was now being held by U.S. forces in a room "reserved for dogs" that measures just two meters long and a meter wide which he is only allowed to leave for brief periods.
News From Around the World
Death of Samuel Elma Leaves Assyrian Community in Shock
Abraham Beth Arsan
With the sudden passing away of Samuel Elma, 48, of Badebe, Tur Abdin , the Assyrian community loses yet another leader. Recently Bishop Cicek died of a heart attack. Now there comes a notice from Istanbul, where the colourful Elma died in the same way as the Bishop, in a hotel room from a heart attack.
|Assyrian political activist Samuel Elma passed away earlier this month at the age of 48.
In 1977 Samuel Elma came as a refugee to the Netherlands, where he almost continuously lived in Enschede, Holland. On his arrival in the Netherlands he instantly started to study social sciences. By doing so he became the first Assyrian who obtained a degree in social sciences. In the '80 he inspired many Assyrian youth to follow suit.
Except from being a social worker, he was one of the first full blooded political activists in the Assyrian community, and later a businessman in the then very conservative Assyrian community, which was very indifferent towards politics. It was he who led the occupation of the Saint Jan Basilica in Den Bosch in 1978. Together with his people he pressured the Dutch government to provide asylum to the large group of the Syrian Orthodox refugees.
During the occupation of the Saint Jan, Elma did everything to encourage his people. His famous slogan was: "We once had one of the greatest Empire realms in the world as our fatherland, now we have this small place to call our motherland." He compared the ancient Assyrian Empire realm to the outline of the Saint Jan. The occupation of the Saint Jan was a success because all of the occupiers where given asylum in the Netherlands.
After the occupation of the Saint Jan Elma returned to Enschede and there he and some of his comrades took the first political steps within his community. He funded the Mesopotamian Information Centre Foundation in 1984, and in an interview to the Twentsche Courant he stated that he wasn't a Christian Turk, but that Mesopotamia was his motherland.
In 1987 he was one of the people who established the Assyrian Mesopotamian Society in Enschede, he was the chairman for 2 years. The present chairman of the society, Aziz Abdo said: "We are deeply shocked by the passing of our former chairman. Until his death he was a member and a haven of peace within our Society. He was a most appreciated advisor to our society.
His death is a great loss, in the first place for his family. The news of his death came as a cold shower to our society. We will be eternally grateful for everything he did for our society, and other institutions within our community who fight for the rights of our people."
Besides being a political activist Elma was a businessman for years. His former companion Iskander Mirza speaks of a great loss: "He was a great man who did not hurt anyone."
The Assyrian member of Holland's provincial Parliament of Overijssel Attiya Gamri, praises the unbound optimism of Elma: "Thanks to Elma I became a politician myself; it was he who gave me the first political periodical of the Dutch political party PvdA in 1988. He was member of PvdA. He was a great inspiration to our youth to go to school, and to be active within society. I'm really sad because he died so young. He had so many plans left for his life."
Elma was buried last Saturday, 12.00 o'clock in the monastery in the Dutch village of Glane. The Assyrian community comprised of over 2000 family members, friends and guests from Twente and Germany were present at his burial. Elma is survived by his wife and 6 children.
Ara Sarafian | Lina Yacubova | Sabri Atman | Recep Marasli
GHB Press Release from 2nd Congress
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The MUB Board
3 January 2006
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The Bethnahrin Freedom Party (GHB) held its second congress from the 28th to 29th of December 2005 in the Swedish city of Södertälje. More than 160 delegates took part in this congress. According to the global changes and new political challenges, the general assembly of GHB decided to build a new national-political assembly under the name “Bethnahrin National Council (MUB)”. This new institution consists of different political parties, social organizations and institutions of the Assyrian-Aramean-Chaldean-Syriac people.
The Bethnahrin National Council (MUB) follows the political heritage of GHB and is aiming to coordinate and to develop the national and social movement of this people.
Other aims of the MUB are:
• Struggling for the national unity of this people.
• Demanding and defending the geographical, cultural, historical and social rights of this people.
• Working for the global acknowledgement of the national identity of this people.
• Constructing Middle East in terms of economy, democracy and peace.
• The fulfillment of economical projects in order to restrict the emigration from the ancestral homeland.
• The fulfillment of re-migration projects for this people.
• To increase the principles of democracy among this people.
• To strengthen the equality of privileges between man and women.
• To solve the problems of the young.
• To develop the social-economical level of this people according to the circumstances of the regions in which they are.
• To develop the justice among this people.
• To strengthen the mass media of this people.
• To solve the ecological problems in the ancestral homeland of this people and to create relevant solutions.
• To work for the peaceful co-existence of the peoples.
• To solve the different questions of this people by means of international courts.
The basic principals of the MUB are:
• Taking the Human Right Charta of the United Nations as a guide.
• Working in a modern and democratic way.
• Defending friendship and peace among the peoples.
• Supporting the integration of this people with the civil world.
• MUB is linked to the historical and cultural values of this people.
• Handling the names and confessions of this people equally.
Courtesy of the Qenneshrin Newspaper
Humanitarian Organizations in Germany Focus
on Assyrian Minority Rights
Zinda report prepared by Dr. Tuma Abraham in Germany
The quarterly magazine of the Pan European Union reported in its recent issue the event organized by the 14th European Days and the Centre International de Formation Européene (CIFE) in Andechs, Germany. The event took place under the slogan of "Diversity as a Problem, Displacement as a solution". The event has been organized in cooperation with . Both organizations demand legal guaranties for the minority rights and their establishment in an European legal framework.
The Pan European Union has existed since 1922 as a politically independent organization working for a united Europe based on the Christian-humanitarian values and the maintenance of the ethnical and cultural diversity in Europe.
Among the invited panelists were well known personalities as Bernd Posselt (a member of the European Parliament), Dr. Ortfried Kotzian (Historian and Director of the House of East) and Bishop Walter Mixa (Catholic Bishop of Augsburg) along with Janet Abraham (Executive Board Member of the Society for Threatened People) and Anastasia Dick (Chairlady of the Pontos Greek Association).
Ms. Janet Abraham gave an overview about the historical and current situation of the Assyrians in their home countries. She further emphasized the importance of the negotiations for a possible accession of Turkey into the European Union for the Christian communities remaining in Tur Abdin.
In the same issue a review of the minorities in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey appeared by Prof. Rudolf Grulich. He outlines the history of the Assyrians during the beginning of the 19th Century and describes the Genocide against the Assyrians. He also briefly explains the raising of the cross-denominational Assyrian national movement in the same time.
Worthwhile to mention is an article appearing in the magazine of the Swiss Section of the Society for Threatened People (Vielfalt #57 Nov 2005), co-authored by Ms. Janet Abraham. After a short summary of the political developments in Tur Abdin, Turkey, the article describes the current projects for re-building villages and initiatives for the repatriation and also points to the problems Assyrians face today.
Assyrians in Modesto Make Sure Iraq Pays Attention
Courtesy of the Modesto Bee
27 December 2005
By Christina Salerno
Photos by Naomi Brookner
(ZNDA: Modesto) For many Assyrians, the recent Iraqi election was more than simply choosing a new government. It was an opportunity to have a voice in their homeland, a place, they say, where their voices have been drowned out for too long.
Assyrians with Iraqi roots living in Stanislaus County and throughout the United States turned out en masse to vote in the Iraqi election from Dec. 13 to 15.
Their support helped a slate of Assyrians receive the most ballots in the United States — 6,857 votes, or 26percent — narrowly defeating a Shiite Muslim coalition.
Batta Younan, organizer for the Assyrian Democratic Movement, included the party's logo in an Iraqi stone carving at her Modesto home. She says one seat in parliament is better than nothing.
But despite the popularity of the slate in the United States, it did not fare as well in Iraq, and the group might receive only one seat in the 275-member parliament.
For people who never have had much representation in the Iraqi government, one seat is better than nothing, said Modesto resident Batta Younan.
Younan fled Iraq in 1980. She is an activist who worked to support the Assyrian Democratic Movement slate, or ADM. The party also is known as Zowaa, which means "movement."
Assyrians are a Christian minority in Iraq and make up less than 3 percent of Iraq's population of about 26 million.
Thirty thousand to 45,000 Assyrians are thought to be living in Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties, making the region home to one of the largest such populations in the United States.
Younan, an ardent supporter of President Bush and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, said she believes democracy is taking place in Iraq for the first time.
"If, someday, democracy comes to Iraq, this is going to be the party to bring it," she said.
Fred Aprim, another party activist, said he fears the Shiite majority will impose Islamic law in Iraq.
"We must have at least one vote in parliament, because whatever comes out of parliament will be shown on national TV," he said. "Our voice will not be lost completely because there will be someone there who will always be heard."
A former Modestan, Aprim lives in Hayward. He fled Iraq in 1980, and recalled his father and teenage brother being imprisoned and beaten under Saddam Hussein's rule.
"Most of the people came here after 1970 and really understand what is at risk," he said. "We never knew what voting was until we came here."
U.S. citizens who were born in Iraq and hold citizenship there were allowed to vote in the Iraqi election. Iraqis born in the United States who could prove their fathers are Iraqi also were allowed to vote.
Other parties supported
The ADM party doesn't have the support of all Assyrians. There are political factions within the Assyrian community, and support is split among several parties.
Sargon Dadesho is president of the Bet-Nahrain Assyrian Cultural Center in Ceres and founder of the Assyrian National Congress.
He organized a caravan of about 150 people to go to the polling station in Pleasanton during the election. Their votes did not go to the ADM party, he said.
"The ADM has given up on its original objective to get back our national rights in Iraq," Dadesho said. "They are not asking for our national rights anymore, they are only asking for educational and administrative rights in Iraq."
Younan distributed promotional materials such as these in support of the Assyrian Democratic Movement. Despite its popularity in the United States, the party didn't do well in Iraq's parliamentary vote.
The Assyrian empire, which fell in 612 B.C., covered parts of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon. Assyrians remain a minority in the predominately Islamic Middle East.
Many Assyrians suffered under Saddam's regime, watching as their villages were razed and family members were imprisoned. Others say they weren't persecuted, but were treated like second-class citizens because they were Christian.
Tens of thousands of Assyrians have fled Iraq over the past 20 years, relocating to the United States, Australia and Europe.
Many Assyrians say they feel they have been ignored by the media, while the Kurdish plight has received widespread attention.
"Everybody is looking at the Kurds, but the Assyrians are never mentioned," Aprim said. "We want people to understand why we are here and why this happened to us."
The ADM party was started on April 12, 1979, in Baghdad, Younan said. In 1984, three of its founders were hanged by Sad-dam, according to Younan.
The slayings created sympathy for the party, she said, and drew attention to Assyrian suffering.
The party was driven underground. Leaflets and pamphlets were distributed secretly by party supporters.
The party's goals are to unite Assyrians and help preserve their culture, she said. In the past 20 years, the ADM party has grown and gained significant support in the Assyrian community, Younan said.
U.S. Bishop Urges "Responsible Transition" in Iraq
Courtesy of the Zenit
12 January 2006
(ZNDA: Washington D.C.) A key bishop in the U.S. episcopal conference is calling for a national civil dialogue that will lead to a responsible transition in war-torn Iraq.
Bishop Thomas Wenski, the chairman of the U.S. episcopate's Committee on International Policy, said such a dialogue could help the nation chart a course of action that meets both the "moral and human dimensions of the situation in Iraq."
"Our nation cannot afford a shrill and shallow debate that distorts reality and reduces the options to 'cut and run' versus 'stay the course,'" said Bishop Wenski of Orlando, Florida.
"Instead we need a forthright discussion that begins with an honest assessment of the situation in Iraq and acknowledges both the mistakes that have been made and the signs of hope that have appeared," he added.
"Most importantly, an honest assessment of our moral responsibilities toward Iraq should commit our nation to a policy of responsible transition," the prelate said. "Our nation's military forces should remain in Iraq only as long as it takes for a responsible transition, leaving sooner rather than later."
Bishop Wenski's statement, "Toward a Responsible Transition in Iraq," was made public today.
At a crossroads
"The central moral question is not just the timing of U.S. withdrawal, but rather the nature and extent of U.S. and international engagement that allows for a responsible transition to security and stability for the Iraqi people," said Bishop Wenski, 55.
"Our nation is at a crossroads in Iraq," he continued. "We must avoid two directions that distort reality and limit appropriate responses. We must resist a pessimism that might move our nation to abandon the moral responsibilities it accepted in using force and might tempt us to withdraw prematurely from Iraq without regard for moral and human consequences.
"We must reject an optimism that fails to acknowledge clearly past mistakes, failed intelligence, and inadequate planning related to Iraq, and minimizes the serious challenges and human costs that lie ahead."
Bishop Wenski noted that "our bishops' conference repeatedly expressed grave moral concerns about the military intervention in Iraq and the unpredictable and uncontrollable negative consequences of an invasion and occupation. …
"At the same time, our nation cannot just look back. The intervention in Iraq has brought with it a new set of moral responsibilities to help Iraqis secure and rebuild their country."
A responsible transition in Iraq means establishing a series of basic benchmarks, including: "achieving adequate levels of security; establishing the rule of law; promoting economic reconstruction to help create reasonable levels of employment and economic opportunity; and supporting the development of political structures to advance stability, political participation, and respect for religious freedom and basic human rights," Bishop Wenski said.
Four key challenges to a responsible transition cited by Bishop Wenski include: terrorism, and the United States' response to it; violation of the human rights of persons in the custody of U.S. and Iraqi forces; threats to religious liberty and religious minorities in Iraq; the plight of refugees; and meeting other responsibilities of the United States.
"Our conference unequivocally condemns all terrorist attacks, especially those that target civilians," Bishop Wenski said. "When tactical military responses are required, we must never forget that the wider struggle with terrorism, together with our basic moral commitments and legal obligations, demands respect for human rights."
"In light of deeply disturbing and continuing reports of persistent violations of the human rights of persons in the custody of U.S. military and … the reconstituted Iraqi forces, our bishops' conference once again urges immediate steps be taken to end these violations, to prevent future occurrences, and to discover how they came about," the bishop said.
Bishop Wenski said religious liberty is a "foundational freedom that is critical to a just and lasting peace in Iraq. Full religious freedom for all persons and all religious bodies in Iraq would contribute to stability and help avoid sectarian conflict," he said.
"Without guarantees of religious freedom, the ability of minority religious bodies to bridge sectarian divisions, which they have often done in the past, and to contribute to the rebirth of a democratic and prosperous Iraq could be undermined. … A truly democratic Iraq must continue to accommodate its religious, especially Christian, minorities."
Concerning refugees, Bishop Wenski said that "The war and ongoing instability in Iraq have resulted in a significant flow of refugees from Iraq, especially among Christians and other religious minorities who suffer attacks and discrimination."
He noted that Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad has pleaded with Western governments to protect Iraqi refugees.
"Our conference urges the United States and the international community to provide greater support and attention to the plight of Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers," Bishop Wenski said. "We continue to believe that U.S. policy toward Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers is too restrictive."
Other U.S. responsibilities
"The very costly conflict in Iraq demands a major commitment of human and financial resources, but Iraq cannot become an excuse for ignoring other pressing needs at home and abroad, especially our moral responsibilities toward the poor in our own nation and in developing countries," Bishop Wenski stated. "Our conference reiterates the need to protect the poor at home and abroad in setting our national priorities."
World's Largest Chaldean Church Opens in Michigan
Courtesy of the Source
11 January 2006
After four years of construction and a cost of over $8 million, St. George’s Catholic Chaldean Church held its first Mass at its new Shelby Township facility in Macomb County, Michigan on Friday, Dec. 23. St. George’s is the first Chaldean church in Macomb County and the largest in the world.
The church, which is located on Dequindre north of West Utica Road, is a branch of St. Joseph’s Chaldean Church in Troy. Growth in attendance and a large Chaldean population in Macomb County made it necessary for the church to begin looking for an additional location in 2001. Shelby Township was chosen because of its large Chaldean community and its strategic location in northern Macomb County.
“We don’t have room in the church in Troy,” said Nick Najjar, the church’s spokesman. “And we have a big (Chaldean) community in Shelby Township. This church will serve the needs of our members north of 18 Mile.”
The church seats 1,350 people under a 40-foot ceiling. The balcony alone can hold 225 people and there is a separate room for parents with young children that seats 125. The church is handicap-accessible with heated entryways on each side of the sanctuary. The church is brightly lit with skylights and a state-of-the art sound system was installed to ensure that every member can clearly hear the sermons.
“We installed the best sound system in the world,” Najjar said. “”We didn’t spare any dollars on this.”
On the days prior to the church’s first mass, congregants were still busy assembling pews, vacuuming the carpet and finishing decorations to ensure that everything would be ready for Christmas services. Najjar said more than 200 people showed up to put the finishing touches on the church.
“Everybody worked on Thursday. We were here from 10 a.m. until 4 a.m.,” Najjar said. “We had over 200 people cleaning and scrubbing and getting everything ready.”
One task that had to be completed Thursday night was the assembly of the massive cross that stands at the front of the sanctuary. The cross was shipped in from the Philippines and made of wood that is over 100 years old, Najjar said. It stands 28 feet high and weighs 250 pounds.
“We were here from 8 p.m. until 4 a.m. with about 30 people putting the cross together,” Najjar said.
Despite the last-minute finishing touches, the church opened on time for its Christmas Masses, which were attended by officials from Shelby Township and Sterling Heights. Najjar said the church was filled to capacity even then.
“We had three Masses on Christmas Eve and three Masses on Christmas Day,” he said. “They were all filled. We had to pull out extra chairs to seat everyone.”
The church will be staffed by three priests from St. Joseph’s in Troy who will rotate duties between the two congregations. Najjar said the new building will not only attract new members from northern Macomb County, but it will also allow congregants from the Troy building a place to worship comfortably. He said the members have been amazed at the new building.
“Everyone was saying wow’ for two reasons. One, the church itself and two, it gave them room,” Najjar said. “They can come and sit with no problem.”
Construction on the church’s rectory and parking lot still needs to be finished, which Najjar said will hopefully be done by the spring. The church will hold three Masses each Sunday. He said the church could not have opened on time were it not for the help of local government.
“We’d like to thank every neighbor and all of the officials of Shelby Township for their support,” he said. “They were perfect.”
Your Letters to the Editor
What is the ChaldoAssyrian Plan in Case
of the Dividing of Iraq?
Last week, Kurdish leaders held a conference in Sulaimania under the title of “Resolutions of Kurdish Independence Conference in Kurdistan.”
As everyday passes, it is becoming more visible that Iraq is on the brink of dividing. The shia and sunnis will not stop killing each other, and with the killing of almost 200 people on a single day (January 4th,) it doesn’t look like its getting any better either. Civil war is near, if not already hear.
As the economy of Iraqi-Kurdistan continues to grow, it doesn’t look like anything can stop the Kurds from declaring independence in the near future (we are only talking about Iraq’s land, not its neighbors.)
Sooner or later, as the days go by and the killing continues, the international world is going to finally give up and start considering the splitting of Iraq. When this happens, what is the plan for our people? One has to ask himself; do our people’s leaders have a plan for us in case of a breakup? In late 2004, as the more churches were getting attacked and the death toll of ChaldoAssyrians rose to almost 100 in 2004 alone, ADM and ChaldoAssyrian leaders demanded a save haven area for our people in the north. They had the idea, but not the plan. The reason it didn’t fell through is because on the ground, no work was being done to achieve this goal. Our leaders were not pushing our people from Basra and Baghdad to Nineveh.
Our people's plan should be very clear; From now until the day Iraq breaks up,we should try to convince as many ChaldoAssyrians of Baghdad, Basra, Aqra, and Eastern Dohuk providence to sell them property and move to Nineveh. Instead of trying to help ChaldoAssyrians lives in remote areas such as Dehi, Badarash, Harmash, Avzrog, Bebadeyy, we should be abonding these araes and have the people moving to Baghdeda, Tel Keppe, Karamles, Bartella, Alqosh, Baqofah, Batnaya. Currently we make a majority in 2 districts: http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y169/nor84/district.jpg
If we concentrate in these two districts, then when its time for Iraq to divide, we will have a strong case for our own independence. But we will only achieve this when our leaders wake up and realize we are behind in the game, and the Kurds are ahead.
Stop Bickering About the Name Issue!
The Turks along with the Kurds massacred over two and a half million people, purely as Christian infidels. The Armenians being the majority, felt the biggest brunt of all, they lost around one and a half million people.
Another three hundred thousand Greek Christian infidels were massacred.
These autrocities were followed by the massacare of the indigenous people of Mesopotamia Sooraye-Syrianaye, Sooraye-Chaldaye, and Sooraye-Nestornaye.
Each one of us Sooraye fought separately without any cooperation or coordination. The results were catastrophic; we lost almost three quarters of a million people. Despite of all this, we ended up having “THE FORGOTTEN GENOSIDE” which the modern world prefers not to remember.
Here I would like to quote the famous words of Khali Esho d’Beth Kamber from the village of “Eiel” who was standing in front of the blessed Mar Younan church during the WWI, listening to the sad news that was being brought to him by the different media of those days, namely, that our women were being raped and then killed, our young children were bayoneted, and our Asheeratte and Rayatte fighters were being slaughtered by the thousands.
The poor old man could not absorb it any more. He must have been badly hurt and humiliated, and hopeless beyond doubt, that he couldn’t take it any more, so he took a deep breath: "Toomkhale O Merreh, shod Paikhee Pateriarcha O Msheekha." Why did Khali Esho d’Beth Kamber make such a comment? Because, these Armenians, Greeks and Sooraye were being massacred simply because they were "Christian Infidels". Actually any individual with a cross around his neck would have been a good target.
In my youthful years in Kirkuk, I remember a very clear incident that took place in the Sapporo District. I was eight years old with my brother who was fifteen. We went to buy some fresh bread (Taptape) for our family. All of a sudden in a side alley we were attacked by some Turkish boys about my brother's age. My brother was badly beaten while hanging on to
his bread, unfortunately they were too many so we lost our bread too. My
brother innocently ran to an old man who happened to be in the vicinity asking for help, the old “S.O.B.” turned to the Turkish boys and said "Challen Ozene Armanede" which means in English "hit him he is an Armenian."
Later on when I started reading about our sad modern history I came to realize that what this old “S.O.B.” meant was "hit him he is a Christian infidel." In my time in Kirkuk, the Soraye were the majority of the Christians. The Turkmanis knew that fact very well, because they used to call us "Asouri" but the old man was from the old school of the Turkish Empire. His understanding was that every Christian was an Armenian infidel.
About twenty years ago, an old Sooreyta from Tur Abdin in Turkey left her village with her entire family to immigrate to France. When they arrived in Istanbul, she saw a stranger with a cross around his neck; she asked him "bahbee, Soorayewet?" To her amazement, the man said "No, I am Armenian." She asked him, how come then you are wearing a cross? The old lady thought that Sooraye were the only Christians left in the world.
By now, I think any one that reads our respected Zinda Magazine knows very well that I am a staunch supporter of ADM known also as ZOWAA.
And, I happen to have the greatest respect for leaders such as Mr. Yonadam Kanna, who is working very hard to UNITE our scattered people with their three denominational names into one Nation, namely, that of the ChaldoAssyrianSuryany. Kanna is a man of action, vision, and wisdom. He is a courageous man not only in words but in deeds, carrying his work load where the action is. On behalf of our ChaldoAssyrianSuryany Nation that participated in the voting process all over the globe, and voted for different slates, 80% of these votes went to ZOWAA. Bravo Mr. Yonadam Kanna, we salute you and we carry your name in our hearts.
By the way, ZOWAA is not an exclusive “Tiaree Social Club”. It happens to be the leadership for our Nation and I happen to be an ILLITERATE Marboshnaya who believes in the Message of ZOWAA, three names for one Nation that of the "ChaldoAssyrianSuryany."
What a beautiful NAME, because of its realism. What a just name, because nobody is left out. If some of you happen to have a problem because it is too long of a name, then you can always shorten it to C.A.S. just as the United States of America is often abbreviated to “U.S.A.” Let
us stop bickering about the name issue, for God’s sake. WE (the PEOPLE) are more important than any name. Let us concentrate in getting our rights in
our own homeland like the “Dishta d’Nineve” for starters. What is wrong
with you guys? Our Nation IS our Nation no matter with what legitimate term it is being called. Do you want a homeland or not? Or, are we so obsessed with a name issue that simple logic is beginning to escape us? Are we so much engulfed in PRIDE that we can no longer see what is happening to us?
Remember, false pride is very destructive, in fact it can be deadly.
We shouldn't worry about those individuals whose only knowledge about our sweet Bet Nahrain is from songs, such as the one sang by David Esha Kelaita.
"Atree Khelia Bet Nahrain." Poor David and Sami Yaqoo. They were later rewarded by the Ba’ath Party with a good beating and imprisonment.
Those of us who clinch to the name issue are pessimistic individuals who are living with their dreams in ancient times. They are very far from the reality of the actual situation that is today taking place in Iraq. To be honest, most of them haven't even been into Iraq. We should not blame their negative stance. Why? Because their inexperienced candidates lost very badly in both Iraqi elections of 2004 and 2005, that is why they are so bitter today. Their only hobby left is attacking Zowaa and Yonadam Kanna, Not a single one of them has to come yet with a positive, constructive alternative.
I do hope and pray that despite this difference, we will join hands with one another during the next four years to bring in our collective knowledge and resources for the sake and benefit of our One Nation, so that we can contain the real challenges that are confronting our Nation in IRAQ.
Plight of the Assyrian Refugees & Human Rights
For the past thirty years, thousands of ChaldoAssyrianSyriac people who had survived multi purpose tragedies aimed at eradication of their roots, left their legitimate lands and villages in the north of Iraq, and sought shelter in the neighboring countries like, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. Today, like all other persecuted people they are eagerly looking forward for the opportunity to return home, as soon as possible. Certainly, these innocent people have become victims of the political situation in the country.
The ChaldoAssyrianSyriac people have participated before and during the liberation of Iraq, serving faithfully the United States, Britain and its Coalition Forces: Arab, Kurd and Turkman. Consequently, we, as a nation, must share legitimate equal rights and benefits provided under the new constitution as a prelude to any peaceful settlement in the country. We are the indigenous people who lived for hundreds of years in the land of Beth Nahrein, known as Iraq of today. We are the remnant of the Cradle of Civilization. We love and respect our homeland, and harbor goodwill and success to all its inhabitants.
We urge the conscious of the world leaders not to forget that this small but brave nation ChaldoAssyrianSyriac had contributed profound services and shown great willingness, in the past, to participate in any given trust to safeguard the interest of ww I and II Allies. The sacrifices had resulted in the loss of great many lives and brought bitter ramification as a result. Today, the fear of loosing another opportunity to gain our long due legitimate human rights has become a nightmare due to the constant change in the conflict of interest and escalation of radicalism impact on the political process in the country.
Considering the global unrest as a result of the continued terrorist uprising, we sincerely anticipate that the big powers involved with restoration of peace and democracy in Iraq, would find no difficulty in reviewing their past decision not to sponsor the inclusion of the ChaldoAssyrianSyriac national identity among the Arabs,Kurds and Turkmans in the newly established constitution of Iraq. We believe in a strong and united Iraq,we can be a truthful and meaningful partner in the future of Iraq as we have done hundreds of years ago carrying civilization as far as China, when the rest of the world was living in dark ages. We are the children of that blessed race, the Cradle of Civilization.
In closing, we wish peace in the world, stability, progress and prosperity in our beloved homeland Beth
Homa D’Qasha Daniel Al-Qushnaya in British Museum
Among the finest Syriac manuscripts in the British Museum are those written by the hands of Homa D’Qasha Daniel Al-Qushnaya. Written for the Priest Yousep Hormizd, a native of Hordaphne in Amedia for the church of Blessed Virgin Mary.
Among those manuscripts is (MS. Add. 25875), written in Nestorian Hand (Eastern Syriac) around the year A.D. 1709, which contains twelve complete works. The marginal notes which Homa the scriber has added to his copy, shows that he was a capable and understanding editor of Syriac texts.
One work contained in these Syriac manuscripts are entitled ‘Cave of Treasures’ or “Me’arath Gazze”, however it should be noted that the original author called his work by the name of ‘The Book of the order of the succession of Generations’. This work’s author or is attributed to Saint Mar Aprem Suryaya (Aphraates) who was born at Nisibis around the year A. D
306 and died in 373. He was Bishop of the monastery of Mar Mattai on the eastern shores of the Tigris in Mosul, which is still to be seen today and is called ‘Sheikh Matta’. He is considered to be one of the most important Syriac authors whose work has survived and was surnamed the ‘Persian Sage’.
Also among the these Syriac Manuscripts in the British Museum are a book written and hand-bound by the same scriber and is entitled’ De’Bhurith’ or ‘Book of the Bee’ which was composed by the Nestorian Bishop Shlemon Basraya (Perath Maishan - today’s Al-Basrah city in south Iraq), composed around A.D. 1222.
These are books which contain example-links between ancient Assyrians and their modern descendents, from the Migration into Shinar (Sumer) until the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. For example a Manuscript mentions the “big migration”, the migration of my people he says into Shinar (Sumer), and says; “They all sat down there, and from Adam until the present time they were all of one speech and one language”.
These Syriac religious Chronicles shows how the Assyrians themselves after converting to Christianity had used the collective knowledge and written work of their forefathers the Assyrio-Babylonians, which was written in cuneiform and transforming it into a Christian work. All this with out breaking the link-chain from Marduk and the Creation Epics to Adam and the modern Assyrians and their Eastern Churches. I believe it is our duty today to maintain our great church and this historic link and not to betray it and betray our forefathers and hand it to other doctrines?
Comparing some of the known Greek works to such Syriac Manuscripts, we can also confirm and see how heavenly the Greeks have copied from Assyrians. It is also known today that many Assyrio-Babylonians natives wrote in Greek and translated such works from Syriac and cuneiform into the Greek language, such scholars as Kidena, Naburianos, Sudinos and Seleukos, who were also Mathematicians and Astronomers. It is sad to see today how the West have gave more credit to the Greeks and Arabs than they did to the natives and original writers of such important history-changing writings.
One-Day Christian Seminar in San Jose for Assyrian Men
Bet-Eil Assyrian Church Presents "A One-Day Seminar for Assyrian Men" on the theme of "Joshua 24:15 ( …But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Date: Saturday, February 4, 2006
Time: 10:30 A.M. – 4:30 P.M.
Donation: $5.00 (lunch and refreshments included)
Address: Cornerstone Vineyard Church
1718 Andover Lane
San Jose, CA 95124
To obtain more information and tickets, please contact:
Franklin Gharatash (408) 266-5650
Nino Tamras (408) 927-6016
Robert Pavel (408) 268-2066
Michael Davejan (408) 316-8789
ADO: An Apolitical Petty Bourgeois Organisation
or a Mature Political Leadership?
Assyrian Democratic Organisation is the first Assyrian organisation established as a political response to the tragic events of the World Wars and the subsequent policies of Turkification and Arabization.
ADO’s birth was of great momentum. It gave hope to a war torn people, to a nation that lost everything by placing its aspirations on the allies’ poker table. During a period of political negations beyond Assyrian comprehension and from the wretched phase of hopelessness, ADO flourished as a clandestine movement representing the aspirations of a denominationally divided nation.
Since its inception ADO believed and advocated the salvation of our people outside any denominational terms and under the nation’s true and historical name: Assyrian. No doubt ADO has made a great contribution for the Assyrian nation; I am sure you will not find two to dispute this fact. But the question posed here is: is ADO a matured political organisation capable of politically leading the masses or has it cocooned in a rotten state of conservatism due to its petty bourgeois tendencies?
To respond to this question, one has to address the current political stance of ADO. This can only be done through ADO’s official literature. This article will concentrate on ADO’s stance on the political changes in Iraq, and how they are affecting the Assyrian people. It will also address the internal factions within ADO’s political bureau and how they are translated in political reality.
ADO together with ADM formed the entente cordiale of the famous Baghdad Conference. Together they agreed on a compound name for the Assyrian nation. ADO espoused and became one of the few proponents of the compound name, thus betraying their organisation’s principles. Some construed this action as a political solution peculiar to the plight of the Assyrians of Iraq, and justified ADO’s advocacy.
In the first Iraqi elections ADO called for total participation of the Assyrians, and propagated the slate led by ADM. After Mr. Kanna failed to ratify the compound name in the Iraqi constitution, for whatever reasons, and I am sure they are many, ADO issued a press release blaming Mr. Kanna for not walking out in protest. According to their official press release  they believed that Mr. Kanna should have protested rather than signed a constitution that denied the historical unity of our people by placing the “and” between the ChaldoAssyrians. According to this release, they would have been satisfied with the ChaldoAssyrian term without any “and”.
For the recent December elections ADO issued another press release indirectly contradicting their release for last year’s election. This is an extract from the last paragraph of their release : “We, in the Assyrian Democratic Organization, call upon our people in Iraq and in the Diaspora who are eligible to vote to cast their ballots for the candidates who have proven their labor and struggle in the national field. Please cast your ballots for those qualified candidates who can truly represent the aspirations of our people.” If one is to juxtapose the two releases one can understand the latter any way one may wish. This was an opaque stance lacking any transparency. The question is, was ADO lobbying for ADM – in light of their earlier criticism of Mr. Kanna - or was it telling the masses otherwise. The golden answer is: neither of the two. In fact, ADO had no idea who to support. ADO has strayed from its founding principles and it is politically confused and unable to lead the masses. A true political leadership leads the masses and not ask the masses to decide what slate represents their aspirations. That is why the people need political parties; that is why political parties need leadership; that is why a leadership needs to be politically matured, and that is why it should not include any petty bourgeois elements whose interests differ from that of the people.
ADO is a Chameleon that has succeeded to disguise itself for far too long, but in an official letter to His Holiness Moran Mor. Zakka Iwaz; Patriarch of our Universal Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch; ADO has displayed its true colour . ADO is now calling the Patriarch to take a stance and rectify the injustice which has been committed against our people thus by placing the “and” between the ChaldoAssyrian in the current Iraqi constitution.
The communiqué makes the following statements :
1) In the beginning it criticises the “and” which is separating our name in the constitution.
2) Then it is blaming the prelates of our other churches which prevented the addition of “Seryani” along with Ashuriyoon wa Kildan which they see as a great injustice. Because according to their wording: Syriani is one of the “NATIONAL” components that make up this nation. Note the “NATIONAL” and not denominational terminology!
3) Towards the end of it all, it is hinting about how our name should go down in the constitution as one holistic historical name.
Now let us analyse each of the statements. Their first statement means they accept the compound name and the ratification of the “ChaldoAssyrian” term would have sufficed. In their second statement, ADO is betraying itself and everything that it represented for so many years. Moreover, it is deceiving all its gallant members who are steadfast in their Assyrian belonging. By this statement it is not only proving to the people of what it has been accused of by ADP (Assyrian Democratic Party) for so many years, it is also ridiculing the suffering of all its noble members that experienced discrimination – very much like apartheid – from the church and clergy for believing in their Assyriansim. Their third statement, however, is nothing but a redundant statement. It is there just as a backup, something to fall back on when faced with such criticism.
It is worth clarifying here that this is not some spontaneous change of policy of the ADO. This is ADO’s current political line, and it has been for quite sometime. In a published research -the journal was published in 1991- written by the general secretary of ADO (Mr. Bashir Saadi) titled; “The Syrians and the Name Controversy”  , we read the following assertion: “There are some Syrian Nestorians that claim to be Assyrians”. This parallels the Baathist policy of Arabization!
Many Assyrian sympathisers of ADO believe it has been penetrated by the Syrian Intelligence Services and that this has caused the ADO to abandon its principles. Many believe that this will continue as long as the political bureau remains in Syria.
I am afraid lately this is the true face of ADO. I personally believe that a change in its current leadership is necessary to save it from cocooning in a state of conservatism and that the new leadership needs to be based outside Syria to escape Syrian pressure. These steps, if taken, may prove to the people that ADO is more than an organisation only capable of cultural activities, and that it is a matured political organisation ready and capable to lead the masses in any challenge. This is more important than ever, considering the wave of change that is sweeping the region.
Those that follow the Assyrian political events perceived a firm stance from Mr. Slaiman Yousif Yousif, a member of ADO’s political bureau . He was like a voice in the wilderness representing the true principles of ADO and calling for a change. Many of us saw Mr. Yousif’s articles; the press release issued by Mr. Bashir Saadi in the name of ADO against Mr. Yousif, the support Mr. Yousif received from many youth organisations of ADO ; especially Mr. Yousif’s article, “The Winds of Change Storms ADO”  , as an inevitable wave of change.
But much to everyone’s surprise Mr. Yousif issued a rather unexpected communiqué withdrawing everything that he stated in his earlier articles and apologising for any direct accusations . This apologetic communiqué and Mr. Yousif’s change of stance can only result from one of the two:
1) Mr. Yousif’s articles and criticism were based on hierarchical struggle, and his stance had nothing to do with the nation’s interests and rights. As soon as he received some recognition and maybe some benefits from re-shuffling within the political bureau, he diverted from his rebellious position proving to be just another apologist.
2) Mr. Yousif had accused Mr. Saadi and the ADO’s leadership as stooges of the Syrian Intelligence Services . It is very understandable that Mr. Yousif received direct intimidation from the intelligence services for speaking out against the tyrannical regime and its Assyrian stooges from within ADO’s political bureau. It is possible that he received such threats and that he would capitulate to them.
In conclusion it is sad to see ADO in such a sad state and I am sure many will agree with me that ADO can continue to be a prominent player in Assyrian politics. Conservatism and petty bourgeois tendencies can not continue to dictate ADO’s policies. ADO has a strong base and followers among Assyrians of all denominations. There must be capable and sincere individuals among ADO’s members that can bring about the needed changes and re-direct ADO to its initial and founding principles . These members need a leader to lead them through this struggle, and Mr. Yousif can exploit this opportunity and demonstrate to us that he is neither a position-seeking apologist, nor a capitulating coward entertaining himself with revolutionary hysteria every now and then. If Abd al-Haleem Khaddam did it, Mr. Yousif, you can do it too. In fact do it now before it is too late.
- I will not address the question of Syriac Orthodix prelates’ claims on our people being Arabs. Because The article which Moran Mor. Zakka Iwaz published in around the elections was nothing but a re-print of one and the same article which was published in 2000. In the Patriarchal Journal Vol. 38 Jan-Feb-Mar No. 191-192-193. Thus this article was not our Syriac Orthodox’s new stance after the failure of the ChaldoAssyrian name, due to some of our other church prelates separatist declarations.
- See: "Journal of Socialist Studies" (Majallat Al-Dirasat Al-Ishtirakiyya), Al-Syrian Wa Ishkaliyat Al-Tasmiya; March 1991; Syria.
Read the following to learn of Mr. Yousif’s stance:
- Read this article written by an old time ADO activist (now outside of Mr. Saadi’s circle of trust), Mr. Aziz Thomas: http://www.ankawa.com/forum/index.php/topic,22762.0.html. This article is a testimony that many ADO members do not agree with ADO’s current policies.
The Boomerang Effect in Iraq: If Kurdistan, Why Not Assyria?
Arguably ‘Kurdistan’ already enjoying de facto independence; and the powerful Kurdish statelet in Iraq provides, under Massoud Barzani’s rule, an example for other long-neglected minorities in the region of Northern Mesopotamia. Could the example of the increasingly independent Kurds in Iraq presage further rounds of ethnic discord and state fragmentation in the wider area?
For one, we could see an increase in demands from the Assyrians, a nation which has the necessary arguments on their side in order to make a land claim from the yet-to-be established Kurdistan.
The Assyrians might present historical evidence of large-scale massacres carried out against them by Kurdish chieftains during the late 19th and early 20th centuries- massacres often blamed on Turkey, especially by another Christian minority with a more powerful diaspora, the Armenians.
If all the efforts now being made in Northern Mesopotamia are for bestowing the Kurds with their long-desired independent state, why so far have those who are passionately struggling for an independent Kurdistan failed to voice the same independence or autonomy arguments for other ethno-religious groups in the region? And in any case, could the latter follow the Kurdish example and demand greater autonomy?
Historical residents of Mesopotamia, the Assyrians would make a capable nation, especially considering their sizeable and wealthy diaspora. They might follow the example of the Armenian diaspora, which has constantly blamed the Turkish state for what happened in eastern and southeastern Anatolia in the early 20th century. They have done so because the Turkish state, then the Ottoman Empire, was the most relevant official entity against which those accusations and claims could be levied.
Yet if it becomes independent, a Kurdish state would adopt all the rights and responsibilities of a sovereign state, and as such could be targeted as well by the very same diasporas, since it would have to account for the accusations in the court of public opinion and, perhaps, under international law. The Assyrian communities either inside Turkey or abroad have not yet voiced their claim for territorial self-determination or autonomy. However, they might be encouraged to do so by certain pressure groups in the West who are deeply interested in reviving and promoting the ancient Christian heritage in the traditional Kurdish territories. That said, an independent Kurdish state might presage further fragmentation in Mesopotamia, and perhaps the region.
Who are the Assyrians?
Those who believe Islam to be an “eastern” religion and Christianity a “western” one should think twice. The latter religion, after all, was born in the Middle East and branched out to Egypt, Mesopotamia and Asia Minor- all areas largely populated by Muslims now. For modern historians, the Assyrians of Mesopotamia are widely accepted to be ‘a Christian element of a most ancient and illustrious tradition’ and ‘the spiritual descendants of the pioneer missionaries of the East.’
Lastly, as the Assyrians themselves put it, they are ‘the most God-fearing and peace-loving people [Christians] on earth.’
Historian Salahi Sonyel suggests that there are various theories about the origin of the Assyrian Christians: “Some Assyrians claim that the word ‘Suryani, or Syrian’ is derived from the name of the Persian King Keyhusrev (559-529 B.C.), from Kyris, or Syrus and Sirus in Assyrian. Others claims that the word ‘Suryani’ is derived from the City of Tyre (Sur in Assyrian), on the southern coast of Lebanon from where the disciples of Christ mainly came. This word was later changed into ‘Surin,’ and those who believed these disciples were called ‘Sirin’ (Suryani – ‘Assyrian’).”
The theories about the origin of the Assyrians vary also from one Assyrian scholar to another. Assyrian researcher Yakup Bilge believes that the origin of the Assyrians goes back to the ancient Assyrians, whereas another researcher, Hanna Dolaponu, believes that the Assyrians are a mixture of Arameans, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Phoenicians, and Indians, that they are all called Assyrians.
On the other hand, Turkish historiographer Mithat Sertoglu proposes a radically different account regarding the origins of the Assyrians. He argues that “the original homeland of the Assyrians is in Central Asia, as they are a Turanian people. From Central Asia they moved to, and settled in, Jezire (Cezire), or Mesopotamia.”
Another Turkish researcher, Mehlika Kasgarli believes that the Assyrians were known in history as Sirris, and that the word ‘Sirri, or Siri” has been misrepresented as ‘Syrian.’ Kasgarli suggests that “the name ‘Sirri’ was given to people who spoke Aramaic, which was akin to Hebrew; hence ethnically the Aramians are a branch of the Hebrews.”
Just as with the disparate theories regarding the Assyrians’ origin, the terminology used for their sub-denominations varies as well. Sonyel suggests the Assyrians consist of three main religious sects: first, Nestorians (Nesturi), or East Syrians, who call themselves Assyrians; second, Chaldeans (Keldani), or East Syrian Uniates; and third, Jacobites (Yakubi), or West Syrians who are Orthodox.
On the other hand, Sebastien de Curtois identifies four different denominations within the Assyrian tradition: first, the Syriac Orthodox Church; second, the Syriac Catholic Church; third, The Assyrian or Nestorian Church; and lastly, the Chaldean Church. Curtois lists also several other names in use for each of these sub-denominations. The Syrian Orthodox Church is also called respectively, the Jacobite Church, the Church of Antioch and of All the East, and the Western Syriac Church.
Similarly, the Syriac Catholic Church is called the Syrian Church and the Uniate Church. The Nestorian Church is called the Church of Mesopotamia, the Orthodox Assyrian Church, the Syrian Church of the East, and the Ancient Apostolic Church of the East. Lastly, the Chaldean Church is also called the Catholic Chaldean Church.
These distinctions in terminology and beliefs among the Assyrians have probably become clearer to the members of the Assyrian community as their leaders and Church aligned themselves with different missionary groups from the West in the late 19th and the early 20th centuries.
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Missionaries in Kurdistan: British Reports of Assyrians in the mid-19th Century
The ethno-religious diversity of the Northern Mesopotamia was officially discovered by the expedition to the region that was jointly organized by the Royal Geographical Society and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in 1840.
In their edited volume Kurds & Christians, F. N. Heazell and Margoliouth chronicle Western penetration into the Kurdistan region, back to the Euphrates Expedition held in 1837 which set the stage for the joint-expedition by the Royal Geographical Society and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge soon after. This expedition triggered the interest of the Western missionary groups and the Church towards the ancient Assyrian Christians, who had resided in the region for millennia.
Some of the most important resources on the early missionary work in Kurdistan are the writings of Athelstan Riley. Upon a request by Archbishop Benson of Canterbury, Riley, M.A. of Pembroke College-Oxford, took a journey in the autumn of 1884 to Northwestern Persia and Kurdistan, with a view to ascertaining the present condition of the Assyrian and Nestorian Christians, as well as the state of the Mission sent there in 1881 by the late Archbishop Tait and the Archbishop of York. The narratives of Athelstan Riley provide sufficient information to allow us to compile a brief chronology of the early missionary activities in the newly discovered Kurdistan:
1837: The Euphrates Expedition reports the existence of the Assyrian or Chaldean Christians.
1840: Upon learning about the ancient Eastern Christian peoples, the Royal Geographical Society and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge hold a united expedition to the Assyrian country. With this expedition, W. F. Ainsworth becomes the first to enter into the Kurdish mountains.
1842: Soon after Ainsworth, Rev. George Percy Badger is dispatched by the Archbishop of Canterbury (Dr. Howley) and the Bishop of London (Dr. Blomfield) to Kurdistan in order to assist Mar Shimun, the patriarch of the Assyrian Christians, in the education and improvement of his people. Badger is also ordered to open communications with Mar Elia, the head of the Papal Chaldeans, who was believed to be inclined to enter into amicable relations with the English Church. During the mission of Dr. Badger, the great Kurdish insurrection led by Bedr Khan Beg takes place.
Riley claims that “thousands of Christians were put to the sword; and Mar Shimun himself, flying from the infidels [Muslims], obtained a shelter under Dr. Badger’s roof at Mosul.” Accordingly, he comments that “the fact of the presence of an English priest as a counselor and protector during the greatest calamity that has befallen their nation in modern times may perhaps explain the devotion the Assyrians have ever since exhibited towards England and England’s Church.”
1868: Upon a petition signed by three Bishops, five Maliks, or chiefs, thirty-two priests, and eleven deacons and sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London, the Rev. E. L. Cutts is commissioned to undertake a journey to Kurdistan in 1876 to obtain more definite information about the Assyrians and how they can be helped. Dr. Cutts publishes Christians under the Crescent in Asia.
1881: Upon receiving Dr. Cutts’ reports, Rev. Rudolph Wahl of the American Church, an Australian by birth, is sent to Kurdistan by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Tait.
1884: Archbishop Benson sends Mr. Athelstan Riley, M.A. of Pembroke College-Oxford to undertake a journey in the autumn of 1884 to Northwestern Persia and Kurdistan, desiring to ascertain the present condition of the Assyrian or Nestorian Christians, and the state of the Mission sent there in 1881 by the late Archbishop Tait and the Archbishop of York.
A History of Conflict between the Kurds and the Assyrians
The current Turkish state is often asked to take the blame for the actions of its Ottoman predecessors against the Assyrian and Armenian populations of eastern Anatolia. Yet many of the atrocities and massacres for which the Ottomans have been blamed were actually carried out by Kurdish chieftains, who for centuries had enjoyed autonomy over the eastern territories of modern-day Turkey.
Regardless of who actually carried out these atrocities, Armenians today blame the Turkish state, perhaps not unreasonably, since it is the only official state entity in the region which can be petitioned at the moment. And Turkey does include within its borders territory that the Armenians believe to be historically theirs. But a further question exists as to whether the same allegations would be directed by the Armenians (not to mention by the Assyrians) against a future Kurdish state, and accordingly, whether certain concessions would be demanded of the latter.
In support of the argument that the mid-19th century was a period of hostility between the Kurdish Muslims and the Assyrian Christians, Riley provided sensational testimony, such as this gruesome description of the murder of the Nestorian Bishop in Urmi, Mar Gauriel, and his twelve companions by the henchmen of a Kurdish sheikh:
“…the Bishop was found to have had his head cut open by a sword gash, his stomach ripped up, his head nearly severed from his body, and to have been stripped of all his clothes… One can give no reason for the murder, except the hatred of the Kurds towards all Christians.”
Sebastien de Courtois, on the other hand, provides a more balanced view of the reasons behind the Kurdish hostility towards the Assyrians. Courtois suggests that the feudalism that survived until the late 19th century as the only form of political organization had also been “the source of bloody conflicts, first among the Kurds, then with Christian neighbors the Armenians, ‘Nestorians’ and ‘Jacobites,’ and finally with the Ottomans.”
The Kurdish leaders, he notes, were only partly subject to Ottoman authority before 1850, and even afterward enjoyed broad autonomy. Along the same lines, Salahi Sonyel notes that trouble erupted between the Kurds and the Nestorians in 1843, when the Tiari Nestorians ceased paying their annual tribute to the Emir of Hakkiari:
“…the latter asked Kurdish leader Bedirhan Bey’s support to punish them [the Tiari Nestorians]. Apparently the Kurds were only too eager to vent their anger on the Tiari Nestorians; hence, a large body of tribal troops was sent against them. An ugly fight ensued, and the Kurds were accused of having killed nearly 10,000 men, and carried away many women and children as slaves.”
Unlike Athelstan Riley and Sebastien de Courtois, who consider the conflict to stem from the inherent Kurdish animosity against Christianity, or ‘all the Christians’ as Riley puts it, Sonyel argues that the conflicts were actually inflamed by a widening socio-economic gap between the Kurdish and the Christian communities that occurred as a direct result of the external support provided to the latter by the missionaries’ activities- a strange and unfortunate side effect of foreign intervention of the most benevolent sort.
The modern history of the Northern Mesopotamia has been marked by ethno-religious conflicts. The reasons for these conflicts have been affixed to religious differences between the Kurds and the non-Muslim communities (according to the Western missionaries argued), or due to deliberate incitement of the Kurds against the non-Muslim communities by the Russian, French, or British officers (as Sonyel argues).
Foreign Interference: A Possible Peril for the Future
In light of this unhappy recent history, it is neither necessary nor beneficial for any external power to take or aspires to take advantage of the fluid situation to “reshuffle” the Northern Mesopotamian region, and one hopes they can resist the temptation to do so. Considering the region’s current “great powers,” it could be Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey or even the US who would try to reap the benefits of increased fractiousness and instability in the Northern Mesopotamia region. And the New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh claimed in 2004 that Israel was covertly involved in Kurdistan.
But intervention of various kinds could also come from Russia, Britain or France, just as a century ago, or the European Union. But they should all be wary of whether the benefits of, for example, an independent and “democratic” Kurdish state would outweigh the risks of further fragmentation.
Just as they did over 150 years ago, external powers are taking an interest in the Assyrians of Mesopotamia. To coincide with recent Christmas celebrations in this cradle of Christianity, the European Commission restated its concerns for Assyrian human rights in Iraq. At the same time, regional powers like Iran are delighted that the new, US-approved Iraqi constitution has officially made Iraq into an Islamic state- something that has already had unfortunate repercussions for Assyrians and other Christians in Iraq.
As could be expected, the Assyrian diaspora is also active. Its main umbrella group, the Assyrian Universal Alliance stated on December 2 that
“…our people must put our prosperity and survival ahead of everything else. If we do not, history will never forgive us. It is the existence of a nation that is at stake, and we must rise to the occasion, put our trivial differences aside and work together for the Assyrian people in particular and the Iraqi people in general.”
And, is if to remind that the past is never finished, another pro-Assyrian lobby group, Save the Assyrians, refers explicitly to the 19th century British missionary expeditions in stating its belief that “…the United Kingdom has a special responsibility to ensure justice and peace for the Assyrians; a special responsibility derived from a special relationship forged between the British and Assyrians in the last century.”
Although memories are long, the external powers change over time. Yet what tends to remain unchanged about foreign interference is the misery it so often has brought to the people of Northern Mesopotamia, be they Kurdish, Assyrian, Armenian, Turkmen, Arabs or Yezidi.
* * * * *
 See http://jesus-is-the-way.com/Kurdistan.html
 Chamber’s Encyclopedia, vol.1, London (1973), p. 719; cited in Salahi R. Sonyel “The Assyrians of Turkey: Victims of Major Power Policy,” Ankara: Turkish Historical Society Publications (2001), Serial: VII – No.168, p. 1
 David Parsum Perley, “Whither Christian Missions?” Assyrian National Federation (1946), p. 2; cited in Salahi R. Sonyel, “The Assyrians of Turkey: Victims of Major Power Policy”
 A. J. Oraham, “Assyrian English Dictionary,” Chicago (1943), preface, p.5; cited in Salahi R. Sonyel, “The Assyrians of Turkey: Victims of Major Power Policy”
 Salahi R. Sonyel, “The Assyrians of Turkey: Victims of Major Power Policy,” p. 3
 Ibid. p. 3
 Ibid. p. 3
 Ibid. p. 3
 Ibid. p. 2
 Sebastien de Coutois, The Forgotten Genocide: Eastern Christians, The Last Arameans, Gorgias Press (2004), trans. Vincent Aurora, p. xix-xxi
 The Rev. F. N. Heazell and Mrs. Margoliouth, Kurds & Christians, Gorgias Press (2004), p. 5
 Ibid. pp. 5-10
 Ibid. p. 6
 Ibid. pp. 114-115
 Ibid. pp. 114-115
 Sebastien de Coutois, The Forgotten Genocide: Eastern Christians, The Last Arameans, p. 53
 Salahi R. Sonyel, “The Assyrians of Turkey: Victims of Major Power Policy,” p. 29
Mehmet Kalyoncu is a graduate student at Georgetown University's Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies.
The Schematic Blue Print of the Assyrian Safe Haven
The basic Assyrian rights have been 99% supported constitutionally by ballots and require the UN Security Council's removal of the obstacles on the ground
1- The Very Basic Rights of the Assyrians
A) Assyrian wish to stay alive and to exist. Their unimaginable and unparalleled genocidal tragedy of the last 2600 years must be stopped.
B) The form of living under their own cultural tools of survival has been evolving for the millennia. To mention one, in the Assyrian culture while biologically women and men are recognised to have different characteristics, women are valued a couple of notches higher than men. One is not allowed to choose one's life partner for marriage from some fifty family relations, either blood or by law, where they have their own mind gratifying potential and can function under their own characteristics and standards: transparency , reliability, faithfulness and responsibility.
C) Their viability to be restored in order to resume their constructive role
D) As parents are the most trusted body for guardians of their offspring, Assyrian do want to have full authority for guardians of their own offspring, that is their archaeological heritage, the by-product of their two empires, one a "Political Empire " of BC and " Cultural and Spiritual Empire " of AD.
E) There are so many phrases in the constitution stressing the human rights, equality for all, cultural rights and self governance, which emphatically supports the Assyrian basic rights. And these are supported by 78% of ballots cast in favor . The 21% of rejection is by Sunnis whose interests are ignored. And their rejection is not for the phrases supporting Assyrians' basic rights. Thus in adding their votes there is 99% support in constitution for the Assyrians' basic rights. While legally the Assyrians' basic rights are supported by 99% of ballot , their realization is nullified because of the facts on the ground .
2 Animosity of Few and the Transitional Obstacles on the Ground
A) Major Causes Behind this Animosity:
- As in the past where Assyrians were used as cash cow to be bilked in periodical pillages, to make Assyrian high expertise and constructive characteristics to be used for building nation from scratch and to develop an official language from scratch
- To expropriate their identity for building for themselves a fabricated identity
- To expropriate their heritage as well its revenue
- Fearing the Assyrian safe haven as a blockage to their expansionist dream
B) Translation of the Opposition Force on the Ground :
- Physically, following the past centuries experience, cleansing out Assyrians systematically from their habitats and expropriation their properties, over 50,000 driven to exile just in the democratization process.
- Politically, trying hard to cripple the political emancipation struggle , resorting to divisional tact of making puppets , factious organsations , sectarian bodies, and obstructing the representation in three categories of authority. By their overflowing financial resources , making subversive plots abroad.
- Crippling financially, usurping assyrian share from donations made by international community .
And the all above, sugar coated by BAKHSHESH in donating a property here and there or favouritism, followed by ear piercing propaganda abroad.
C) Reflection of the Opposition Force in Drafting the Constitution
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In drafting the constitution, the uncompromising bloc has overcome the pragmatic members. While it is a revolutionary step towards democracy, it is tainted by inconsistency, strongly damaging its prestige.
To the very annoyance of the Assyrian, and the astonishment of the civilized world, the very basic rights demonstrating the Assyrian identity (as the most Contributor and most Persecuted Nation, and as a result to be recognized as a Distinctive and Indigenous Christian Nation) , and provisions to be made for guaranteeing specifically and exactly the Assyrian rights on the ground as per constitution, are cynically disregarded.
The animosity for writing off the Assyrian identity has gone to the extent that the very fundamental matters affecting Iraq as a whole have been denied, damaging the economy and prestige of the entire Iraq.
The Assyrian heritage especially of the two empires of the Political Sole Super Power of BC, (AP SE) and the Cultural and Spiritual Empire of AD, ( AC SE ), economically, scientifically and prestigiously the greatest treasury and the envy of the world has been dismissed, no provisions are made for its protection and utilization.
Economically tourism brings higher revenues than oil. Prestigiously, this point was not missed by Mr. Saddam Hussein (yet derailed by couple of insiders in some other aspects ) to give an Assyrian-Proud-Identity for Iraq's status.
The Assyrian heritage in any respect, especially its immense script to be unearthed and examined in the next four centuries to fill the big gap between the pure and human science, is academically known as a God-send blessing.
While the civilized-world's universities for over centuries have been mobilizing themselves increasingly by the Assyrian language and now further examining the Syriac resources, and where the Syriac language is the foundation of Arabic and it is a prerequisite and a must to be learned for cross examination and further enrichment of the immense script in Arabic, no provisions have been made for its preservation and learning. Not only that it has not been made an official language, but even it has not been made compulsory as second language in educational system. Maybe the intention of evil wishers was striping Iraq from its prestige and to bring foreigners into Iraq to read and examine the scripts.
D) Transitional Obstacles
It is more than an illusion to change overnight, the standards and the tool of survival, which have been evolving during millennia by the ones diametrically opposite of the Western world. To drop the evolved character of relying on the guardian, rather than relying on oneself, to think and behave civil rather than resort to primeval barbaric violence. The happenings to the present mirror the facts :
- Ballots cast in proportion of the sectarian and ethnic groups, as instructed by warlord/guardian and swollen by rigging as desired .
- The poor freedom right of democracy turned to freedom of warlords to execute freely their barbaric violence and uncompromising attitude.
When it comes to observation of the Assyrian rights, the situation is much worse. Just twenty Assyrian devoted youngsters are gunned to death when sticking election posters, a shocking barbaric attack, a spot of annihilating crippling blows dealt on them during the transition.
How a people who for centuries have used Assyrians as a cash cow to bilk them in periodical looting and as a source of sadism gratification by horrific tortures, could now imagine the Assyrians have the same rights per constitution? This is illustrated even when their officials, unconsciously talking their back mind.
Mr Zibari stated in Japan that the Assyrians could have three provinces as per constitution if they can, a big if, if Kurdish warlords will allow. Mr Barzani invites the Assyrians as refugees to Kurdistan, implying that they should forget about their safe haven and become free from our grip. The invitation, the same, when Simitko the Kurdish warlord invited His Grace Mar Shimun Benyiamin, the Assyrian spiritual and political leader for humanistic collaboration talks , but the host slaughtered the guest and one hundred sixty Assyrian elites, including ten Assyrian tribal leaders accompanying him, turning the sumptuous feast into a blood bath of his guests. Presently, Simitko is depicted as a Kurdish idol, as an inspiration of how to treat one's guests.
3- Other Indispensable Facts of Political, Scientific, Evolutionary Aspects Urging the Realization of Assyrians' Basic Rights on the Ground
- Internationally, the initial opposition to the Iraqi war, which was influential in the emergence of the insurgency, will eagerly participate in realization of the task, thus removing the rift in international relation.
- Regionally, the neighboring countries and the Arab world will be relieved from the threat of Kurdish Warlords' extremism.
- Locally, the defiance of the non-Kurdish inhabitants to their expansionist threats will dampen. The same, the pragmatic Kurdish leaders will breath easily, who consider the expansionist dreams of warlords as a serious threat to the Kurdish realistic interests.
The World Civilization Scientific Core as well as the UNESCO are anxiously seeking assurance and guarantee that the World's greatest treasury, the heritage of the two Assyrian empires of BC and AD are protected.
The Assyrians, who are highly trusted and respected by majority of the inhabitants because of their transparency, integrity, responsibility, industriousness and constructive characteristics, will function as a catalyst and guarantor for creating and protecting a democratic and prosperous Iraq.
4 -International and Local Legal Aspects
- Assyrians' basic demands are 99% ( 78+21 ) supported by the Constitution.
- Assyrians' basic demands are 100% supported emphatically by the internationally established human rights plus the indigenous rights. There are internationally established legal cases by which the interest of the Jews' money deposits from early 20th century are recovered, let alone when the very existence of the Assyrian is threatened by 2600 years being under " World Evil Body " terrorism and perpetual genocide.
- Long due from WWI, where the promise for Assyrian was broken, 750000 lives slaughtered , the survivors uprooted from their homes, driven to the bottom of misery, stranded wandering around the world and partly trapped at the mercy of the wolves. And in contrast, their Muslim neighbours were elevated from primeval to the present affluent standard and political power wielding status.
- While Safe Havens have been secured for Muslim ethnicities in Europe and Iraq by the world community, why being Christian should be a liability and a taboo for Assyrians? And moreover, where the others for whom the safe havens have been secured, either they are later occupants of or new comers to the Assyrian homeland, they have each many other huge places supporting them in any aspect, and got increasingly and extremely fitted by the exploitation of the Assyrians. The Assyrians have none left, but their only homeland.
Action on the ground, the basic schematic blue print implemented through UN Peace Council Resolution
- The Indigenous Christian Assyrian Triangle, the nucleus of their homeland for 7000 years, to be militarily cordoned, its security internationally guaranteed, until its viability is restored to resume its role towards acquiring a prosperous Iraq, all with their diverse culture and religious beliefs, where Iraq is and compatriots are deserved to be.
- Compensation to be made as follows:
a- For the tragedy and damages inflicted by World Civilization Body in WWI.
b- For damages inflicted by their neighbours.
c- the Assyrians to waive part of their right to their habitats usurped outside of the Assyrian Triangle, in exchange for the immediate withdrawal of non-Assyrian occupiers from the Triangle.
d- The Indigenous Christian Assyrian to be recognized internationally the Most Contributor Nation for the world Civilization, and the Most Persecuted Nation of the World.
e- the Assyrians to have full authority for the protection and exploitation of their heritage, especially of the " Assyrian Political Sole Superpower Empire " (AP S SE) of BC , and the "Assyrian Cultural and Spiritual Empire" (AC SE) of AD .
f- Help establish the following three academic centers and institution :
1- The World International Assyriology Center in Association with the Assyriology departments of the world's universities .
2- The World International AC SE-logy Center in association with Syriac/Aramaic departments of the world's universities .
3- Financial Institution , in association with World Bank . Preferably, in locations where the Assyrian established the First World's Universities in the Fourth Century AD , or the World's First Libraries in the 2nd and 1st Millennia BC.
- The humble 0bserver of 2600 Assyrian years under Terrorist Attacks of
the '' World Evil Body ''
- The Assyrian Safe Haven, the Assyrian Highly Respected Zinda Magazine, June 18, 2005.
- The debates of GB House of Lords, one of the World's Greatest Political Institutions, the Protector of "World Civilization Body" , Zinda Magazine, July 9, 2005
- The Economist Magazine , the Bible of politicians and CEO's , July 22nd , 2005 .
- The Litmus, Are We Ready to Claim Our Political ... , Zinda Magazine, Oct. 27, 2oo3.
- ACLC's Urgent Appeal for Worldwide Support, Zinda Magazine , Jan. 12, 2004.
- UK Parliament Members Discuss ... , Zinda Magazine , Dec. 24, 2004.
|New Year's Eve Party in Arizona on December 31, 2005 was a great success. With more than 850 in attendance, the Assyrian Chaldean community welcomed the year 2006 in a festive atmosphere. Arizona's own singers, Emmanuel Bet Younan and Robin Hawel performances were very well received by the attendees. The Arizona chapter netted more than $12000 in profit, all of which was directed to the Assyrian Aid Society of Iraq.
Film Review: "Cousins"
Andre Najib Anton
“The tragedy is that those who claim knowledge in a certain field, do not know how much they exactly know, and those who admit that they do not know much, do not exactly know how much they do not know.” – Dr. Edward Y. Odisho
Theatre audiences enjoy seeing different productions of the same play. This is because each production of a play has a different “production concept,” a different interpretation of the script, which is developed in pre-production by the production team, and usually, more specifically, by the director. Movies are no different. When a movie is both written and directed by the same person, as it was the case with Martin Koshaba’s Cousins: Sometimes a Curse, Sometimes a Blessing, the production will lack two necessary components that make the production successful:
1) An objective viewpoint of the script that a director can offer a screenwriter for revision purposes.
2) An interpretation of the script unique from what the screenwriter would have imagined.
Because it was written and directed by the same person, Cousins didn’t have the same imposing impact as it could have had on the impressive showing of over 800 audience members at Shenandoah Country Club in West Bloomfield, Michigan.
Let us begin with the script. The plot has almost nothing to do with the title: COUSINS! Rather, the conflict arises when Rita (Crystal Denha) is forced by her father Dr. Gewargis (Zuhair Karmo) to marry Edward (Lucas Toma), the head surgeon’s son, for his personal ambitions. Instead, Rita opposes her father’s wishes and dates a charming young college student named Joe (Jacob Alexander) and they live happily ever after. The plot is a tireless one, basically a duality between money or love and, predictably, it’s love that triumphs. Wouldn’t you agree that there are many women in Rita’s position that would have chosen financial security over love? Now that would be a movie worth seeing since there are endless possibilities for an exciting plot just by tweaking Rita’s values while still keeping the same happy ending.
Cousins had such a wide-scale difference between the performance skills of the lead actors and those of the supporting actors to the point where the supporting characters overpowered the action. The audience’s focus quickly drew from the love relationship between Rita and Joe to wondering what the cousins were going to do next. Mr. Koshaba must be sure to cast the roles consistently: if you have poor lead actors, then choose mediocre supporting actors; if you have strong lead actors, then having strong supporting actors matters not.
Both lead actors had a substantial problem with indication, which is common among novice actors. “Indicating means that you are trying to show the emotions of the character, rather than playing the intentions of the character,” writes Robert Cohen in Acting One. Take the scene where Joe asks Rita out on a date, for example. Alexander decided his character, Joe, should be nervous in the scene and he played “being nervous.” He was simply indicating the feeling to the audience, not experiencing it for himself. If, conversely, he played “I want the most beautiful woman in the world to go out on a date with me,” and Rita says, “Is there something I can help you with?” he would be nervous, and he wouldn’t have to indicate it. Moreover, Alexander might find himself smiling at that moment, smiling to charm her rather than “looking nervous.”
Denha’s character lacked depth. It didn’t seem like she understood who Rita was and, as a result, much of her lines were readings. When Rita tried to portray her interest in Joe to her mother, the scene was phony. Had she played “I want to convince my mother that Joe is a nice guy,” then the script would have spoken for itself.
Abee Sargis had an exceptional performance as Ninos, one of the cousins. “The guy stole the show,” said Fadi Pataq, a sophomore at the Center for Creative Studies, “He was genuine and engaging. The scene in the park when he started singing with the homeless guy was so funny!” Indeed that scene was a rare treat in a movie that relied solely on cheap humor. “I applaud the effort of those involved but if the goal of this movie was to introduce the world to a rich and interesting culture, it failed. Miserably.” said Stephanie Najor, who is a copywriter at Donor, “In exchange for an easy laugh, the film insensitively depicts other cultures. Who exactly was this film made for if not for other cultures? And how does one expect people to welcome a culture that has such a blind view of the world?” Other notable performances include Zuhair Karmo, Kamelia Matti, Zayya Maradkel, Tony Yalda, Ilbrone Petrossi, and Lucas Toma.
The purpose of this review wasn’t to make a movie that took so much hard work to accomplish seem worthless—because it’s NOT. Martin Koshaba had an idea and he committed to it. He also brought Assyrians from various religious affiliations (who spoke different dialects of our Syriac language) together and they worked well in creating something unprecedented by our culture. Mr. Koshaba must be commended and criticized in hope that each production he or someone else does, there will be a succession of improvements.
Mr. Anton, was the winner of last year's Assyrian Youth Pageant Contest at the Assyrian American National Convention held in Boston, MA. Andre is a Senior at Wayne State University, majoring in Theatre and Pre-law . He is from Baghdeda, Iraq and a member of the Assyrian Social Club of Michigan.
Film Review: The Last Assyrians (Les Derniers Assyriens)
“The Last Assyrians” (Les Derniers Assyriens) is an amazing documentary about the history of the Aramaic-speaking Christians from ancient Mesopotamia until their present-day existence in the Middle East.
For six years Director Robert Alaux researched and wrote this historic documentary. It is the first film that tells the complete history of the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac people. History overlooks how they suffered from massacres, hunger and starvation during the1915 genocide; and the international community has not protected these people in their homeland after decades of mass exodus. Despite their pain and suffering this indigenous Christian community, including the Diaspora seek justice, peace, prosperity, security, and solidarity in the Middle East.
Through archival footage, maps animations and interviews with religious leaders, academic scholars and famous singers, the director brings the history of this Christian population in the Middle East and in the Chaldo-Assyrian-Syriac Diaspora alive. Some of the people interviewed are: Patriarch of Babylon for the Chaldeans since 2003, Emmanuel III Delly; Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East Mar Dinkha IV; Mar Raphael I Bid Awid, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch (from 1989 until 2003); Dr. Sebastian Brock, Oxford University; Linda George, famous singer; Juliana Jendo, famous singer; and Dr. Joseph Yacoub, Lyon University.
In 53 minutes the film explains how various Mesopotamian ethnic groups came together through culture, language, land, and religion only to be taken over by other ethnic groups through the centuries.
More than 3,000 years ago during the time of Ur, the Sumerians had invented mathematics, writing and the wheel. The two reigning cities were Babylon on the Euphrates River and Nineveh on the Tigris River. At the time Aramaeans were like Arab Bedouins that roamed the land, but they established their kingdoms eventually and cultivated the lands. They had cultural contact with Phoenicians (present-day Lebanon). Although the Akkadian language (Assyrian cuneiform characters) was in use, more people spoke and wrote Aramaic over time because the language consisted of only 22 letters.
In 612 B.C. the Chaldeans crushed the Assyrian Empire, seized Jerusalem and expelled the Jews to Babylon. The Aramaic language spread to Palestine. Christianity began in Palestine and spread through the oral and written traditions of the Aramaic language – the language Jesus spoke. In Persia the official language was Aramaic. Even though the Nestorians split from the Roman Christian Church and began the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Syriac Church became independent also all of these people spoke the Aramaic language.
In 630 A.D. Muslim Arabs invaded the Middle East and the indigenous Christian community welcomed them. There were churches across Arabia so Christians and Muslims lived together in peace for decades. In Damascus, the Christians created Muslims monuments and shared their church. In 705 A.D. the church became the Umayyad Mosque. Over time the Arabic language and Islam became dominant so when people spoke Aramaic they identified themselves as Christians.
In the seventh century Nestorian monks spread Christianity to India, Mongolia and China to approximately 60 million people after three centuries. Ancient Aramaic scripts were found in these regions by Jesuit missionaries centuries later. In 1258 A.D. the Mongols invaded Baghdad and massacred the Muslims. Initially the Mongol invaders showed obedience to the Patriarch of Baghdad. But later the Mongols chose Islam and slaughtered Christians. The descendents of the Aramaic-speaking people survived only in mountainous areas.
For the most part the people were left undisturbed throughout the Ottoman Empire. They created more monasteries, safeguarded ancient Syriac scripts and lived simple, rustic lives close to nature. Eventually the Pope wanted to bring these people back into Rome’s fold. People who accepted his authority were called Chaldeans of the Chaldean Catholic Church. Even though Chaldeans, Nestorians and Syriacs differed on religious details they spoke Aramaic and they shared their Christianity and ethnic identity.
During the 19th century ethnic groups began to identify strongly with the concept of nationalism, so Arabs, Chaldo-Assyrians, Kurds, Turks and Persians became more separated communities. During WW I the Turks massacred over one million Armenians, and hundreds of thousands of Chaldo-Assyrians and Syriacs. This tragic moment in history is more hurtful to these communities because past and current governments dispute what happened and do not want to acknowledge that an ethnic and a religious genocide took place. This pain and suffering carries from generation to generation in the collective memory of the people.
When Saddam came to power he required submission from all Chaldo-Assyrians. He considered them Christian Arabs. In 1979 the Assyrian Democratic Movement was created. In 1991 the Assyrian Aid Society raised money for the reconstruction of Christian villages destroyed by Saddam who was fighting the Kurds, and to build Syriac-speaking schools. With the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003 Islamic extremists threatened the Christians in Iraq who have been seeking refuge in neighboring Arab countries and abroad by the thousands. With regards to the current population, estimates range from 300,000 to 1,000,000.
“They threaten our women and our children in the streets,” one religious clergyman said.
Now they worry about the stability of the country and their future in it.
“We will stay ‘till the end and the Lord will help us, circumstances or war or other difficulties will not dissuade us,” Emmanuel Delly said.
When I asked the director why he did not explore the reality on the ground with regards to the violence and the kidnappings he said: “Even if they suffer a lot, something very important happened in the North of Iraq: for the first time they did not say 'we are poor victims and we try to resist,’ but we are proud and we want to affirm our culture (Syriac schools, big meetings and festivals...).”
Anyone who sees this film will come away with a good understanding of the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac peoples, along with their past and present struggles from a humanistic view. The film is an excellent, educational opportunity that maintains viewer interest through scenes of their daily life, the natural landscape of Iraq, Turkey, Syria and the archaeological and religious sites of the Middle East. It shows the Diaspora in the USA and Europe also.
When asked why he made a film about the Aramaean Christians, Robert Alaux said: “I respect them a lot and I admire them for their courage.”
Journalist Sonia Nettnin writes about social, political, economic, and cultural issues. Her focus is the Middle East.
Thank You for the Music...
Courtesy of the Riverbend Blog at riverbendblog.blogspot.com
The kidnapping of the female US freelancer Jill Carroll in Baghdad occured in the western Baghdad's Adil neighborhood on January 7, 2006. The body of her Assyrian interpreter, Allan Enwiya, 32, was later found in the same neighborhood. Enwiya was able to tell soldiers that Carroll had been kidnapped before he died from his wounds.
When I first heard about the abduction of Christian Science Monitor journalist Jill Carroll a week ago, I remember feeling regret. It was the same heavy feeling I get every time I hear of another journalist killed or abducted. The same heavy feeling that settles upon most Iraqis, I imagine, when they hear of acquaintances suffering under the current situation.
I read the news as a subtitle on tv. We haven't had an internet connection for several days so I couldn't really read about the details. All I knew was that a journalist had been abducted and that her Iraqi interpreter had been killed. He was shot in cold blood in Al Adil district earlier this month, when they took Jill Carroll... Theysay he didn't die immediately. It is said he lived long enough to talk to police and then he died.
I found out very recently that the interpreter killed was a good friend- Alan, of Alan's Melody, and I've spent the last two days crying.
Everyone knew him as simply 'Alan', or "Elin" as it is pronounced in Iraqi Arabic. Prior to the war, he owned a music shop in the best area in Baghdad, A'arasat. He sold some Arabic music and instrumental music, but he had his regular customers - those westernized Iraqis who craved foreign music. For those of us who listened to rock, adult alternative, jazz, etc. he had very few rivals.
He sold bootleg CDs, tapes and DVDs. His shop wasn't just a music shop- it was a haven. Some of my happiest moments were while I was walking out of that shop carrying CDs and tapes, full of anticipation for the escape the music provided. He had just about everything from Abba to Marilyn Manson. He could provide anything. All you had to do was go to him with the words,"Alan- I heard a great song on the radio... you have to find it!" Andhe'd sit there, patiently, asking who sang it? You don't know? Ok- was it a man or a woman? Fine. Do you remember any of the words? Chances were that he'd already heard it and even knew some of the lyrics.
During the sanctions, Iraq was virtually cut off from the outside world.We had maybe four or five local tv stations and it was only during the later years that the internet became more popular. Alan was one of those links with the outside world. Walking into Alan's shop was like walking into a sort of transitional other world. Whenever you walked into the store, great music would be blaring from his speakers and he and Mohammed, the guy who worked in his shop, would be arguing over who was better, Joe Satriani or Steve Vai.
He would have the latest Billboard hits posted on a sheet of paper near the door and he'd have compiled a few of his own favorites on a 'collection' CD. He also went out of his way to get recordings of the latest award shows- Grammys, AMAs, Oscars, etc. You could visit him twice and know that by the third time, he'd have memorized your favorites and found music you might be interested in.
He was an electrical engineer- but his passion was music. His dream was to be a music producer. He was always full of scorn for the usual boy bands - N'Sync, Backstreet Boys, etc. - but he was always trying to promote an Iraqi boy band he claimed he'd discovered,"Unknown to No One". "They're great- wallah they have potential." He'd say. E. would answer, "Alan, they're terrible." And Alan, with his usual Iraqi pride would lecture about how they were great, simply because they were Iraqi.
He was a Christian from Basrah and he had a lovely wife who adored him- F. We would tease him about how once he was married and had a family, he'd lose interest in music. It didn't happen. Conversations with Alan continued to revolve around Pink Floyd, Jimmy Hendrix, but they began to include F. his wife, M. his daughter and his little boy. My heart aches for his family- his wife and children...
You could walk into the shop and find no one behind the counter- everyone was in the other room, playing one version or another of FIFA soccer on the Play Station. He collected those old records, or 'vinyls'. The older they were, the better. While he promoted new musical technology, he always said that nothing could beat the soundof a vintage vinyl.
We went to Alan not just to buy music. It always turned into a social visit. He'd make you sit down, listen to his latest favorite CD and drink something. Then he'd tell you the latest gossip- he knew it all. He knew where all the parties were, who the best DJs were and who was getting married or divorced. He knew the local gossip and the international gossip, but it was never malicious with Alan. It was always the funny sort.
The most important thing about Alan was that he never let you down. Never. Whatever it was that you wanted, he'd try his hardest to get it. If you became his friend, that didn't just include music- he was ready to lend a helping hand to those in need, whether it was just to give advice, or listen after a complicated, difficult week.
After the war, the area he had his shop in deteriorated. There were car bombs and shootings and the Badir people took over some of the houses there. People went to A'arasat less and less because it was too dangerous. His shop was closed up more than it was open. He shut it up permanently after getting death threats and a hand grenade through his shop window. His car was carjacked at some point and he was shot at so he started driving around in his fathers beaten-up old Toyota Cressida with a picture of Sistani on his back window, "To ward off the fanatics..." He winked and grinned.
E. and I would stop by his shop sometimes after the war, before he shut it down. We went in once and found that there was no electricity,and no generator. The shop was dimly lit with some sort of fuel lampand Alan was sitting behind the counter, sorting through CDs. He was ecstatic to see us. There was no way we could listen to music so he and E. sang through some of their favorite songs, stumbling upon the lyrics and making things up along the way. Then we started listening to various ring tones and swapping the latest jokes of the day. Before we knew it, two hours had slipped by and the world outside was forgotten, an occasional explosion bringing us back to reality.
It hit me then that it wasn't the music that made Alan's shop a haven- somewhere to forget problems and worries- it was Alan himself.
He loved Pink Floyd:
Did you see the frightened ones?
Did you hear the falling bombs?
Did you ever wonder why we
Had to run for shelter when the
Promise of a brave, new world
Unfurled beneath the clear blue sky?
Did you see the frightened ones?
Did you hear the falling bombs?
The flames are all long gone, but the pain lingers on.
Goodbye, blue sky
Goodbye, blue sky.
(Goodbye Blue Sky - Pink Floyd)
Assyrians at Their Best
Poly Sci Course on Assyrians Offered at UC, Berkeley
Course: "Assyrians: The Forgotten Ones"
De-Cal Spring 2006
Wednesdays, 6:00 – 8:00pm
170 Barrows, UC Berkeley, California
Hala Samow firstname.lastname@example.org
Ramsen Goriel email@example.com
The Middle East stands out as being one of the more ethnically and religiously heterogeneous regions in the world. The overwhelming majority in the region are religiously Muslim and ethnically Arab, Persian, or Turkish. The Assyrian minority is unique because they are not categorized under these ethnic and religious classifications. Assyrians are one of the smallest and least visible groups in this region. The Assyrians are a Semitic, Assyrian-speaking (Aramaic), and predominantly a Christian group whose history in the region spans over 5000 years. When evaluating and researching the various peoples of the Middle East, the Assyrian people have been largely overlooked because of their small population – they range between one and three million all around the world. They are one of the indigenous peoples of present-day Iraq, northwestern Iran, northeastern Syria, and southeastern Turkey. The Assyrian people have survived the defeat of the ancient Assyrian Empire and acts of oppression and genocide at the hands of ruling empires and invaders. Despite the divisive, hostile, policies of the Ottoman Empire and Arab dictatorships, Assyrians have been able to keep their culture and Neo-Assyrian dialect in tact, abstaining from the influences of the coming of Islam and the subsequent Arabization and Kurdification of the region.
This course will be a historical, political, and religious study of the Assyrians in the Middle East. The course will be divided into three parts: 1) Assyrians up until the coming of Christianity 2) the Assyrian experience of the past two millennia such as the coming of Islam, the process of sovereignty and assimilation, and the Mongolian and Ottoman invasions 3) the Assyrian experience in the modern Middle East: the genocide of 1915, The British mandate after WW I, the Baathist revolution, the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the Iran-Iraq war, and the two Persian Gulf Wars of 1991 and 2003.
We will expose the political dominance the ancient Assyrians practiced through its empire, military, and governance. We will examine how the roles of politics and power strengthened the Assyrian empire while tremendously weakening Assyrian sovereignty from the empire’s fall up through the present day.
What will students know or be expected to do as a result of this course?
The objectives of the Assyrian De-Cal are for students to form awareness about who the Assyrians are, to recognize their contribution to modern civilization, and to examine the ramifications of politics all throughout history up until the present day. By the end of the course, students are expected to have a general understanding of Assyrian history, politics, language, and culture. Students will become knowledgeable about the tribulations the Assyrians have endured from the 13th century to the 21st century (i.e. different genocides, revolutions, and wars). Students will also be able to distinguish the differences between Assyrians and other ethnicities in the Middle East in addition to recognizing why it is important to do so.
Class Format: Classes will consist of powerpoint lectures, class discussions, guest
speakers, films, documentaries, and interactive fun!
1. Attend class sessions: only one excused absence.
2nd absence requires a documented emergency.
3rd absence = research paper (3 pages) OR receive a NP grade.
2. Complete assigned readings before class and participate in group/class discussions. Readings will be passed out in class.
3. Write two papers, approximately 2-4 pages each. Topics will be handed out.
Grading for this course is arranged on a “Pass/No Pass” basis. (Pass is a C or better)
●1st paper 30%
●2nd paper 30%
This symbol will be placed on the days when readings will be passed out—for the following week—so be prepared to discuss the articles in class.
01.25 Introduction: go over syllabus. Who is an Assyrian? Study the
map of Middle East and the Assyrian flag (explain its significance).
Ancient History: 2340 BC – 139 BC
02.01 The history of the Assyrian empire.
02.08 Introduction to Assyrian literature. Screening: “Endangered Mesopotamia:
Witnessing the Loss of History” (2.7.05).
Modern History: 300 AD – 1979
02.15 Guest speaker: Assyrian History: prior to 20th Century—the coming
of Islam and the Mongolian and Ottoman Empires.
02.22 Guest speaker: the roles of politics and religion in modern history.
03.01 1914-1918: Genocide documentary: The Untold Holocaust. Paper topics will be
03.08 1918-1979: British Mandate in Iraq up until the Baath Party rule; Assyrians of Iran during Pahlavi dynasty and the Islamic Republic. 1st Paper Due
03.15 Guest speaker: conflicts in Iraq—Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Iran- Iraq War,
Gulf Wars of 1991 and 2003, and postwar Iraq.
Politics and Culture: 1979 - Present
03.22 Guest speaker: the future of Iraq and its implications on Assyrians.
03.29 ***SPRING RECESS***
04.05 How the Iraqi constitution undermines the Assyrians.
04.12 Where are the Assyrians today, and how has the diaspora affected Assyrians
politically? Essay topics will be handed out.
04.19 Assyrian traditions and culture.
04.26 Course evaluation and potluck. Final Paper Due
The following individuals contributed to the publication of this issue:
|Dr. Matay Beth Arsan
|Susan K. Patto
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