17 Adaar, 6755
Volume XII

Issue 3

8 March 2006

Tel  202-349-1429 | Fax 1-415-358-4778 | zcrew@zindamagazine.com
1700 Pennsylvania Avenue. NW Suite 400  Washington, DC  20006  U.S.A.

Mikhail Davydov
Elected President of the Russian
Academy of Medical Sciences

The Lighthouse
  A Solidarity Campaign with Yacoub Hanna Shamoun
Remembering Allan: A Tribute to Jill Carroll's Interpreter
Howard LaFranchi
  Bomb Blast in Southeast Turkey Injures Assyrian
Assyrians in Mosul Receive Threats, Asked to Leave
Car Bomb Kills An Assyrian in Baghdad
Meeting of Common Council for the Christian Denominations
  Annual Meeting of the Solidarity Group Tur Abdin
ChaldoAssyrians Protest in Melbourne
Firodil Meeting with Churches for Fair Trade
Assyrian Elected President of Rus. Acad. of Med. Science
"Last Assyrians" Shown on Hungarian TV
Zinda Magazine is published every Wednesday & Saturday. To register for your free Zinda notifications enter your email address in the field above and click 'Sign Up'.
  What an Expose!
The Everlasting Continuity & Unity of a Stronger Nation
To the People of Ashur

Click to Learn More

  Ben Elias to Run for Union City Council
AUA Annual Gala VIP Dinner in Sydney
Mar Bawai Support Fund
  In Iraq Assyrian Christians Keep the Faith
Somikka: The Assyrians’ Holy Halloween
J. Grant Swank Jr.
Mikhael K. Pius
  Nisha Besara Afram Barryakoub

The Lighthouse
Feature Article


A Solidarity Campaign with Yacoub Hanna Shamoun

A Detainee in Syria for More than 20 Years

Assyrian Democratic Organization
Damascus, Syria

No one knows the number of the Syrian detainees forgotten in the dark dungeons of the Syrian prisons. No one even knows about all types of torture they undergo throughout long years of detention without any trial, nor does anyone hear about them or their issues, not even their closest family members, particularly amongst the circles of the common people who do not deal with politics or common cause because of the fear of the regime.   It is for this that the news of the Assyrian youth Hanna Shamoun, detained for more than 20 years in Al-Saydnaia prison, without his issue being raised or his name written down among the lists of the Syrian committees for human rights, came not as a surprise .

The tragedy of Yacoub Hanna began in 1985 after his return with his family to the homeland from Lebanon where they had gone for work in 1972 . Their return came after the amnesty issued by president Hafez Al-Assad at the beginning of 1985 involving those who had failed to serve military service in Syria. According to this amnesty both Yacoub, born in 1963 and his brother Fawaz, born in 1966, surrendered themselves to the Conscription Department in Qamishly with the aim of joining the military service and performing their national duty. But the amnesty was a bitter disappointment to them . On 7 January 1985 late at night, a patrol from the State Security Force took both brothers (Yacoub and Fawaz ) from their family home to their headquarters in Qamishly where they underwent for nearly torture and beating for an entire month. Then for many years, no one heard anything of them until in 1996 when Fawaz was released from prison without any trial, whereas the fate of Yacoub remained unknown.  In 2001 a Security Department informed his family that he was in Saydnaya Prison where he had been detained for more than 20 years without trial in violation to all international conventions of human rights signed by Syria.

The case of Yacoub with its legal and juristic dimensions refutes all the allegations of the Syrian authorities about openness, transparency, fairness of trials, independence of judicial system and improvement of human right in Syria.

In view of the human tragedy of the Syrian citizen Yacoub Hanna Shamoun, the Assyrian Democratic Organization in Syria appeals to all human right organizations, societies and committees in Syria, Arab countries and the world at large to demand the Syrian authorities to disclose the circumstances behind the detention of Yacoub Hanna and to refer him to an authorized civilian court of law for an open trial, and further to give him the right to retain a lawyer to represent and defend him against charges- if any- punishable by the Syrian law, or to set him free immediately with the due compensation for the moral, physical and material damage done, to both his brother and himself, during this long period of arbitrary detention

We, signatories to this statement: human rights organizations, societies and committees, whether individuals, groups or national figures in Syria and the world, announce our solidarity with this campaign, and demand the Syrian authorities to release Yacoub Hanna, as well as, all political detainees and prisoners of conscience and to put an end to the arbitrary illegal detention and to torture in the Syrian prisons.

Zinda Magazine is a signatory to the above statement.  To sign the petition for the release of Mr. Shamoun, in English or Arabic, click here.

Remembering Allan: A Tribute to Jill Carroll's Interpreter

Courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor
By Howard LaFranchi

FAMILY MEAL: Allan Enwiyah embraced his parents in Baghdad in an undated photo. Allan began work as an interpreter after closing his music store because of death threats. HOWARD LAFRANCHI

(ZNDA: Washington)  He had kept a famous music store open in Baghdad until last summer, when conditions made purveying Western CDs too dangerous.

Still needing to support his young and growing family, Allan Enwiya turned full time to interpreting for American reporters, a job that he had dabbled in since 2004. And it was while doing that job with journalist Jill Carroll on a Saturday morning in January that Allan became a victim of an abduction on a Baghdad street, where he was shot and killed.

Allan was one of 82 journalists and media assistants who have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of the war, according to the international organization Reporters Without Borders. Of that number, 25 were media assistants killed, like Allan, while doing their job.

Often their stories, even their names, are not told. But Allan's story is representative of why Iraqis are willing to take such risks by working with foreigners.

For some it's the chance to break into journalism, to be a part of telling their country's history. But for the majority - and Allan was one of these - it is a means for turning a prized talent, facility with English, into a job and a way to support a family in a difficult economy.

With Allan's death, another small chip of the cosmopolitan and partially Westernized mosaic that was prewar Baghdad was lost. As one Baghdadi blogger who had known the famous "DJ Allan" wrote shortly after the news of the abduction spread, for "those Westernized Iraqis who craved foreign music, [Allan] had very few rivals... He had just about everything from Abba to Marilyn Manson."

FATHER AND SON: Allan shows off his toddler, Martin. He also had a daughter, Mary Ann, who is 5 years old.  HOWARD LAFRANCHI

Yet as much as he loved music and as comfortable as he felt with Americans and other Westerners, what motivated the young Iraqi Christian with a degree in electrical engineering was his family: his parents, to whom he was an only son, but especially to his wife, a 5-year-old daughter, Mary Ann, and a toddler son, Martin. "For them," he sometimes said, "I'll do what it takes."

Omar Fekeiki, an Iraqi who had known Allan since the late 1990s, was a college student when he first walked into Allan's music shop. "Allan needed to provide for his family, and what he was good at was the English language," he says.

Now a special correspondent in Baghdad for The Washington Post, Mr. Fekeiki says, "For some of us, it's the chance to be a journalist that brings us in, but Allan wasn't like that. Like the doctors and pharmacists and engineers you see doing this job," he adds, "he used his skill to have a job and make a living."

A correspondent's perspective

I worked with Allan while on a stint in Iraq in December, just before the national elections. During those weeks, I came to know an easygoing young man who took his job seriously, but who liked to gossip, always good-naturedly, about Iraqi politicians or international stars. He dressed nattily - crisp jeans and a sport shirt or T-shirt that looked more Western than Iraqi. And while he was interested enough in the politics of what then was an Iraq deep in campaign mode, he saved his passion for his young family.

I had known other interpreters during my stints in Iraq who seemed to use the job to escape their families and those duties, but clearly for Allan, the job - as interesting as it was to him - was a means to an end. He was not a daredevil, not even really a newshound. Which somehow makes his death all the more tragic.

Covering Saddam Hussein's trial

"His family was his top priority, and his kids were his life," says Carolyne Hanna, a cousin now living in Chicago who played with a young Allan until her family left Iraq in 1982. "Sure, he did it for the money, but it was also something he liked that he was good at."

The Allan I knew less well was the young man who had run the music shop, Allan Melody, in Baghdad's once-chic A'arasat neighborhood. That Allan had turned to family in the States to send him the latest music so he could be up to date. "He'd send me a list, and I'd send him 20 CDs at a time," says Ms. Hanna.

PORTRAIT: Allan Enwiyah with his wife, Fairuz, children Martin and Mary Ann, and his parents. HOWARD LAFRANCHI

Allan shuttered the shop after receiving death threats and having an unexploded hand grenade tossed through the front window. But he kept the dream of being a music producer.

He could also laugh at himself. Allan was the first to recognize that he had not been formally trained as a interpreter, and that as a result he was prone to find himself over his head in some interviews. Fully at ease in man-on-the-street interviews (at least the ones that were in fact off the street and behind shop doors, away from peering eyes), Allan was less in command in formal interviews with officials using precise language, and he knew it.

He chuckled heartily for hours after a highly intellectual official in one ministry, endowed with enough English to know he was not happy with Allan's translation of his references to 19th-century philosophers, stopped the interview. "He's saying you need a new interpreter," Allan stage-whispered to me, grinning as the official fumed in the background. "What do you want to do?"

But on another occasion he picked up on the tension between an outspoken official and a ministry minder who in veiled terms warned the official not to dwell on certain issues - in this case sectarian tensions in schools - with the American reporter. Allan let their discussion go on without seeming to take note of it or translate it, but later in the car he filled me in on the heated words and, to his thinking, their significance.

Allan also wanted to learn on the job, so he could be a better interpreter. When he found out he was going to fill the Monitor's slot in a pool of interpreters for the Saddam Hussein trial, he was worried. "Really, I'm terrified," he told me.

Part of it was a concern that he would be recognized by the wrong people. That fear was allayed when he learned that he would not be seen or have his face broadcast on TV. But he also worried that he would stumble over legal terms he just didn't know. So we spent hours over a couple of days before his translating stint, watching the trial and making a list of key words: defendant, plaintiff, prosecution, witness, evidence, and so on.

The evening of his day in court, Allan called me, euphoric. "It was frightening and exciting at the same time, it was amazing," he said, breathless. "Do you know what it's like for an Iraqi to be in the room with the man who controlled our lives for so many years? It was crazy."

Allan seemed happiest, and proudest, the day he took me to have lunch at his house, where he lived with his own family, his parents, a sister, and a cousin. His mother, originally from Basra, prepared masgouf, a large river fish, with a fabulous Basran sauce of olives and spices.

After lunch, we sipped sweet tea and Raymond Enwiya, Allan's father, told me of his own good years and decline as a Baghdad businessman. Allan juggled Martin on a knee while keeping Mary Ann busy with his other arm. He made a video, speaking as he filmed to provide the audio for the kids' antics.

Today Mr. Enwiya, his wife and daughter, and Allan's wife and children, have left the country. They await word on their request for visas to go to the United States. Their lives have changed drastically, but they watch the videos Allan made, even the ones he isn't in, just to hear his voice.

"I won't let his children forget him," Allan's father says.

Back in Baghdad, others won't forget Allan so quickly either, especially those who cherished the music shop. Like the blogger, who, remembering how much Allan loved Pink Floyd, closed a cybertribute with these Pink Floyd lyrics:

How to help
Donations may be sent to:
The Allan Enwiya Fund
c/o The Christian Science Monitor
One Norway Street
Boston, MA 02115

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. Goodbye

A Close Conversation with Ramona Amiri

Made Possible by Lamassu Productions in association with Ashur TV
11 March on Ashur TV
1:00 p.m. (California Time)

Good Morning Assyria
News From the Homeland


Bomb Blast in Southeast Turkey Injures Assyrian

Courtesy of the Turkish Press
8 March 2006

(ZNDA: Ankara)  A bomb placed in a non-commissioned officer's car exploded in south-eastern city of Idil, injuring an Assyrian business owner.

The time-bomb exploded at around 7:15 in the morning in front of a residential complex.

Mr. Robert Tutus, an Assyrian, who was close to the scene of the explosion, sustained injury to his head. Tutus is the owner of the multi-story residential complex.

Tutus is under treatment at Idil State Hospital. One person has been apprehended in connection with the bomb's explosion.

Turkish s security forces have begun an extensive investigation into the explosion.

Assyrians in Mosul Receive Threats, Asked to Leave

(ZNDA: Mosul)  Threats against Assyrians continue in Mosul. Tens of Assyrian families have left the Dargazliyya quarters in reaction to threats on their lives.

This week more threats were noted by Assyrians in the al-Wahda quarters, near al-Sabireen mosque.

Mr. Sheba Keena, a teacher in the Vocational High School, received a letter threatening to kill him if he did not move out of the quarter in which he had lived since 1984. His neighbor was threatened earlier and his home was set on fire. Other Assyrian engineers have quit their good jobs and left their homes due to such threats, among them a general manager for the Department of Water and Sewage for the Mosul Governorate, and a general manager for the Yarmook Water Project.

On 24 February Mr. Ni'mat Mattai Jiddo was killed by attackers in Mosul. Details are not yet available. Ni'mat is survived by his wife and two children.

On 6 March 6, in a phone conversation with Mr. Giwargis Samuel in Mosul, Mr. Samuel stated that fundamentalists are sending threat letters to Assyrians and Christians in the city and ordering them to leave Mosul or face death.

A day later, Sinan Abd al-Jabbar, an Assyrian who was kidnapped the previous Saturday (March 4), was murdered. His body was found thrown in the hay in the al-Tahrir quarters in Mosul.  His family failed to pay the $50,000 ransom that was demanded for his release.  Sinan was married and is survived by a five-month old baby.

The same day, Kamil Sulaiman Hurmis, an Assyrian factory owner in the Dawwasa quarters of Mosul, was threatened to pay a large sum of money.  Mr. Hurmiz has closed his business and left his home and the town.

The local police and the military have not offered any substantial assistance to confront the security issues faced by Christians in Mosul and Baghdad.

Car Bomb Kills An Assyrian in Baghdad

(ZNDA: Baghdad)  On Monday, 27 February a car bomb exploded in the al-Ameen quarters of Baghdad at around 7:00 p.m. and killed an Assyrian, Mahir Toma Oshana, just minutes after he left his home.

Mr. Oshana was born in 1967. He is survived by his wife, three children and a sister, Linda Toma, in Norway.

Meeting of Common Council for the Christian
Denominations in Iraq Held in Baghdad

(ZNDA: Baghdad)  According to a report on ankawa.com meetings to establish a Common Council for the Christian Denominations in Iraq continues. On Saturday, 4 March another meeting took place at the Ancient Church of the East patriarchate office in Baghdad. The meeting was attended by:

  1. Mar Addai II, Patriarch of the Ancient Church of the East
  2. Mar Emmaunel Delly, Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church
  3. Bishop Avak Asadorian, Head of the Armenian Orthodox Church in Iraq
  4. Bishop Sorious Hawa, Head of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Baghdad and Basra
  5. Bishop Matti Shaba Mattoka, Head of the Syriac Catholic Church in Baghdad
  6. Bishop John Sulaiman, Head of the Latin Rite in Iraq
  7. Bishop Shlomin Warduni, Patriaechal Vicar of the Chaldean Catholic Church
  8. Bishop Andrius Aboona, Patriaechal Vicar for the Chaldean Catholic Church
  9. Bishop Jacque Isaac, Dean of the Babil College for Theology and Philosophy
  10. Monsignor Antwan Atamian, Head of the Armenian Catholics in Iraq
  11. Fr. Younan Alfred, Representative of Bishop Konstantine Papa Estifano, Head of the Run Orthodox in Iraq
  12. Fr. Akram Mhanni Ibrahim of the Evangelical Church in Iraq
  13. Fr. Astawri Haritorian of the Evangelical Church in Iraq

Mar Emmanuel opened the meeting with a prayer and then explained about the draft of the bylaws for the Committee Council for the Christian Denominations in Iraq. The copy of the draft bylaws was distributed earlier to the participants in addition to other documentation regarding legal issues connected to the church and state.

The Assyrian Church of the East was not represented at this meeting.

News Digest
News From Around the World


Annual Meeting of the Solidarity Group Tur Abdin
Focuses on Assyrians in Iraq

Report by Thomas Abraham, MD

(ZNDA: Munich)  Between 3 and 4 March the annual meeting of the Solidarity Group Tur Abdin (SG-TA) took place in Munich, Germany and was focused on the future of Assyrians in especially in Northern Iraq.

The Solidarity Group Tur Abdin was established in 1993 and has acted as a major driver of support for the Christian regions over the years, especially during the difficult period of the conflict between PKK and Turkish forces. Among other accomplishments the group has established funds for the Syriac language teachers in various villages and has supported needy families. It provides agricultural and infrastructure equipment and facilities for the local Assyrian communities, supports the reconstruction of churches and villages and establishes the foundation for the re-settlement to the area. Many of these initiatives are now driven or continued by villagers living in Europe.

Among the participants of the meeting were representatives from the Evangelical Church in Germany, from the Society for Threatened People, the International Society for Human Rights, Assyrian organizations in Europe and from the Christian Aid Program, Nohadra-Iraq (CAPNI)
and the Assyrian Aid Society (AAS).

In his introduction as Council Group member of the SG-TA Rev. H. Oberkampf (1) reflected the mission of the SG-TA and gave reasoning for the extension of the focus towards Northern Iraq. A slide show gave an impressive tour through various Assyrian villages, capturing Rev. Oberkampfs’ personal encounters during his last visit to Northern Iraq in July 2003 with groups, officials and individuals, and presenting various projects supported by the Evangelical Churches including the reconstruction of villages, support for Assyrian students, rebuilding destroyed Churches, etc
(click here).

In the initial assessment of the current situation given by Rev. E. Youkhana from CAPNI, he distinguished between the predominantly Arab influenced southern part of the country and the areas in the north, under the control of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). Since the south is dominated by the conflict between Shiites and Sunnites and the extreme Islamic fundamentalism forces, Christians are either forced to move to the north or into foreign exile.  He described the north as more stable and safe with regards to the political and economical developments.

Rev. Youkhana spoke about “… a good political situation in Northern Iraq …”.  A fter eleven years of semi-autonomy he claimed that the main reason for the current weak position of the Assyrian community resulting in the disastrous results of the recent elections is based in their political, demographic and denominational fragmentation. Yet he named the current Iraqi constitution as the best in Middle East for the Assyrians and blamed the Assyrian exile community for causing their political assortment as different interests from inner and outside organizations and parties contradict with each other and oppose the dialogue with the KRG for an autonomic area in the Nineveh Plains.

Mr. A. Sternberg, the secretary of Mr. Dilshad Barzani, the KRG representative in Germany, reported about his recent visit to North Iraq, which was aimed to inspect the status of ongoing projects of the KRG for the Assyrian settlement areas. A report will be issued to the President of the KRG, Masoud Barzani.

His summary recorded a positive status with some deficits and he considers the development concerning the efforts for sustaining the position of the minorities in North Iraq on a good path. He gave figures of approx. 7,000 Assyrians as employees of the KRG administration while nearly 1,000 more are on payroll with an academic status. Sternberg elaborated on the solution of problems like the ongoing occupation of villages and threats against Assyrians by fundamentalist Kurds and mentioned the setup of a so-called Assyrian Defense Force, which after some training will secure the areas in the Nineveh Plain. He further conveyed the KRGs leadership readiness for negotiations about an administrative area for the Christians in the Nineveh plains.

To summarize the discussions Rev. H. Oberkampf touched upon other aspects of the current situation of the ChaldoAssyrian community in Iraq, namely the recent terrors against their churches and the political achievements since the latest war, reflected in representation in state institutions. With regards to terror that is forcing emigration of these communities, he drew parallels to Tur Abdin, formulating the hope for a change in the situation.

Mr. A. BarAbraham (2) began his lecture by elaborating on the terror attacks against the ChaldoAssyrians in Iraq, giving various viewpoints, e.g. from the community leadership in Iraq, international media and Vatican while lamenting on the almost indifferent standpoint of Europe towards the Christians in Iraq. He elaborated on the situation of the ChaldoAssyrians in Northern Iraq and challenged the positive viewpoints given by Rev. Youkhana and Mr. Sternberg. He pointed to the past and recent critical aspects in the relationship of Assyrians and Kurds (election frauds and voting hindrances in the Nineveh Plains) that cannot be ignored in any upcoming negotiations. The recent systematically carried-out attacks against Christian churches and individuals that took place also within KRG areas and the cruel historical facts prevent the community from hasty confidence into a positive future and the belief in a “Save Heaven” in North Iraq, he noted. He also pointed out the objections and 14 disputable paragraphs of the draft constitution of the KRG, which among other things don’t grant equal rights to “ethnic minorities”. He expressed skepticism regarding the sudden emphasis of the KRG for supporting the Assyrians in North Iraq.  He noted that this should not distract from the Assyrians’ demand for an administrative area and fair participation in a federalist Iraq.

Rev. Prieto-Peral from the Evangelical Church emphasized the importance of such a symbolic gesture by the Kurdish majority and the KRG towards the minorities in Northern Iraq and especially the Assyrian community.

Towards the end of the meeting short reports were presented about ongoing projects in Northern Iraq.

SG-TA Council board member, J. Abraham from the Society for threatened People, gave an overview about the numerous activities of the organization for the Assyrians in Iraq since the beginning of the 1970s. The most recent project is the opening of a branch office in Arbil planned for 2006.

Rev. Prieto-Peral introduced the initiative “Wings of Hope” which has established a center in Baghdad engaging mainly the war-traumatized children of all ethnic groups.  He explained that the initiative can draw from experience gained in former Yugoslavia. Last year a group of youth was hosted in Germany, reflecting the multi-ethnicity of Iraq.

CAPNI member Rev. E. Youkhana reported about multi-ethnic social and cultural projects with the aim to bring the various parts of the Iraqi population together, e.g. the Cultural Social Centre in the town of Telkaif.

Ms. Adrin Takhsh reported in brief about a re-settlement program funded by Germany for people from the Middle East who are returning to their countries from Europe – including Assyrians willing to return to their homeland.

In the final Q&A session the participants agreed on the responsibility of the KRG to act on their liberal and democratic principles against the fundamentalist forces among the Kurds along with an offer of fundamental development plans for the Assyrian community rather than singular projects to proof their acceptance of an administrative area for the ethnic minorities and the readiness to negotiate all crucial conditions. More importantly this would include the necessity for a long-term plan, not only for North Iraq but the whole country as stated.


  1. Together with Rev. H. Oberkampf the initiators and founders of the Solidarity Group Tur Abdin were Dr. H. Holleweger (Friends of Tur Abdin) and the Assyrian Organizations in Germany ADO and ZAVD. Current Council Group Members are Rev. H. Oberkampf, Rev. Prieto-Peral, J. Abraham and Dr. S. Talay.
  2. As a representative of Assyrian Organizations in the initial and founding meetings, Mr. BarAbraham was one of the founders of the SG-TA back in early 1990s.

ChaldoAssyrians Protest in Melbourne

A report by David Chibo in Australia

Shiba Moshi with his two girls protest for human rights.

(ZNDA: Melbourne)  In response to the wave of recent church bombings in Iraq the ChaldoAssyrian community of Australia coordinated two protests in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne.

In co-ordination with their fellow activists in Sydney Melbourne’s ChaldoAssyrian community followed Sydney’s protest, conducted the Saturday previously with a protest of their own on Saturday 25th February, 2006.

Members of all of Melbourne’s ChaldoAssyrian churches, groups and activists had assembled for the peaceful protest at Melbourne’s Treasury Gardens. At 10:30am they raised their banners lined up and walked towards Victoria’s State Parliament House in a long procession.

Led by chanter Baylet Odicho the protesters voiced their concern for their peoples’ welfare in Iraq, “United We Stand, Human Rights We Demand!”

Holding aloft banners written in Syriac and English along with Assyrian flags the protestors slowly snaked their way towards their destination. Baylet Odicho kept them focused with a new chant, “Born free, with dignity, human rights is our plea!”

After arriving on the footsteps of Victoria’s Parliament House the protesters lined up and listened to James Gevargizian thank the protesters for attending before publicly reading out the letter of protest to the members of the Australian Parliament.

ChaldoAssyrian protestors march on Victoria’s Parliament House.

“We believe that the current situation with the Middle Eastern Region and the United Nation’s declaration of Human Rights proclaimed in 1948, particularly resolution 217, supposedly adopted and implemented by all member countries, significantly falls short in Iraq and our people require urgent attention and protection.”

The letter was handed over to Federal Member of Parliament Maria Vamvakinou who accepted the letter on the Federal government’s behalf and promised that copies would be distributed to all members of the Australian Parliament.

Maria Vamvakinou blamed the current Federal government for the human rights situation in Iraq as well as the anti-Islamic racism sweeping Australia.
“The concerns that the treasurer [Peter Costello] recently raised apply not only to Muslim Australians but to all Australians.” She demanded that all Australians should, “Reject the wedge and dog whistle politics as well as the political point scoring currently being employed by Costello.”

Australian Federal Member of Parliament, Maria Vamvakinou accepts the letter of protest on behalf of the government.

She thanked the ChaldoAssyrian community for employing their democratic rights in Australia and urged them to, “Continue to voice your concerns and protest in order to bring peace and democracy to Iraq.”

With the aim of handing over a letter to a Member of Parliament fulfilled James Gevargizian took the microphone again and thanked the clapping crowd, which had by then grown to approximately 150, for their support on the day, as the protestors slowly began to disperse.

Before the protest had a chance to end Hanna Haddad grabbed the microphone and decided to begin one final Syriac chant for his people, “Omtho! Omtho! Omtho! Zidqueh! Zidqueh! Zidqueh!”

Firodil Meeting with Churches for Fair Trade

Firodil Institute
London, UK
27th February 2006
Contact Person: Andrew Michael

It was with great pleasure that members of the Firodil Institute were invited to meet and present a short background of the Assyrians to the Churches for Fair Trade group.

The night began with a pleasant dialogue between the attendees, and everyone had a chance to get to know one another better.

The Christian Fair Trade group are based here in the UK and function to provide better conditions for Christians around the world, some of its members are currently in Iraq carrying out their work.

The group introduced itself to the Firodil members via its secretary Mr Hugh Caldin, who gave a short speech on the background of the CFT and then introduced Mr Nineb Lamassu, of the Firodil Institute, to open the meeting.

Mr Lamassu started of by saying the Lords prayer in Aramaic, to the delight of the congregation. This was probably the first time anyone in that room had heard this remarkable language being spoken. It was apparent that as Christians everyone felt comfort and joy knowing that they were hearing the language that Jesus spoke.

Mr Lamassu continued by giving the audience a brief introduction of the History of the Assyrians, and how Christianity was interwoven with this unique nation. The spectators learnt how the Assyrian nation adopted Christianity as early as the 71 A.D. The talk continued and attendees were informed of the harrowing and traumatic life of the Assyrians under the Arabs and then Ottoman leaders. This led to introducing the government of the Young Turks, who systematically and barbarically, with the support of the Kurds, initiated the killings, torture, rape, and ultimately Genocide of approximately 750,000 Assyrians. This amounted to two thirds of the total population at that time.

Mr Lamassu concluded: “it is pivotal that groups like the CFT work alongside the Firodil Institute to ensure that a step is being taken in the right direction”.

It was imperative that the Genocide of 1915-1918 which killed millions of Assyrian, Armenian and Greeks, was not forgotten and put to the back of our minds, just because it happened 92 years ago. The memories are still with all Assyrians today, and we cannot put a line though this emotional and distressing part of our history, until we have a recognition and apology from the Turkish government. It was understood from all spectators that one of Turkey’s fundamental criteria for entering the European Union, should be the recognition of its past crimes against humanity.

Hugh Caldin giving an overview on the Christian Fair Trade.

At this point, Mr Lamassu introduced Mr Ninos Warda, author of the newly released book, “Seyfo; The Assyrian Genocide in International Law”.

Mr Warda explained the background to his book. The book looks at ‘Seyfo’ from a legal point of view, and he shows in his research, how the Genocide committed by the Young Turks, constitutes all aspects of a Genocide. It concludes that the actions taken by the Turkish government to annihilate the land from its indigenous people of the area, like the Assyrians, Armenians and the Greeks: is genocide according to UN genocide conventions.

The attendees were then shown a video created by Ms Lina Yacubova, titled “A Forgotten Page of a Nation”. The film showed the atrocities that took place in 1915, including interviews with leading academics and politicians.

The evening then drew to a close, and it was stated that future events like these needed to take place, in order for the world to discover the Genocide of the Assyrians in 1915, and to gain support in obtaining a recognition and apology from Turkey. It is hoped that the Firodil Institute and other Assyrian organisations will work with groups like Churches for Fair Trade, in order to achieve this aim.

The Firodil Institute is an independent academic organization based in London. For more information contact info@firodil.co.uk.

An Assyrian Elected as President of the
Russian Academy of Medical Sciences

Reported by Professor Sergei Osipov in Moscow
Translated from Russian by Nina Georgizova

(ZNDA: Moscow)  On 28 February 2006 the elections for the President of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences (RAMS) took place in Moscow, Russia. The new appointed President is an Assyrian, an academician Dr. Mikhail Davydov.   Dr. Davydov is a prominent cancer surgeon and a leader in the Russian Medical Sciences.

Mikhail Davydov was born on 11 October 1947 in the city of Konotop in Ukraine's Sumskiy region. His parents, Ivan Davydov and Asmar Davydova, were the children of the Assyrian refugees from the region of Gyavar in Iran.

After finishing high school and serving in the Soviet Army, Dr. Davydov attended the Moscow Medical Institute and graduated in 1975. Since then his work and scientific career have greatly contributed to the Cancer Research Center, the largest in Russia and in Europe.

In 2000 he became the head of this Center which includes four scientific research institutes, dozens of departments and laboratories. Nine academicians, 87 professors, 218 doctors, 800 research officers and more than 3000 medical employees work under his supervision.

Dr. Davydov’s students, who work not only in Russia but all over the world, call their mentor the “Paganini of Surgery”. “Mikhail Davydov’s intelligence and compassion are on the tips of his fingers. He is a born surgeon!” says another prominent surgeon Dr. O. Lutsevich.

Despite being extremely busy, Mikhail Davydov still operates extensively and conducts over 400 complex unique surgeries every year.

"Last Assyrians" Shown on Hungarian TV

(ZNDA: Paris)  According to information received from France, the film documentary "The Last Assyrians" directed by Robert Alaux was shown on Channel 'Spektrum TV' in Hungary, several times in the last month.

The film is the result of 6 years of research, travels and shootings in Iraq (before and after March 2003), South East Turkey, Syria, USA, and Europe. Patriarchs, Archbishops or priests, as well as famous Scholars tell us this long and tragic history.

Click here for a review of the film.

Click here to order your copy.

Surfs Up!
Your Letters to the Editor

What an Expose!

Adorina Brakhya

In recent times he had been caught on numerous occasions spouting lies depicted on a recent video (click here).

But now finally in last week's issue title 'Sargon Dadesho and the Diploma Mill,' Sargon Dadesho has literally been caught with his pants down.

In his attempts to denigrate Mar Bawai Somo's legitimate doctorate he has finally been caught doing the very thing he was attempting our beloved Bishop.

And not only has Zinda proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is not a Doctor but in the process you have also proven that he is a liar. The only deserving title in front of his name from hereon in should be The Liar. From hereforth let's call him 'Lr. Sargon Dadesho'.

What's even funnier is the brazen way he's placed his resume on his website for the whole world to see, as though he's applying for a job and we the Assyrian people are the ones interviewing him.

Well after reviewing his resume and finding it to be forged we have only one sentence left for him: "You're Fired!"

The Everlasting Continuity and the Unity
of a Stronger Assyrian nation

Ilber Eshaya

Our true belief in the democratic ideology lies within the unity of our Assyrian People. Unfortunate and of utter dismay, this in fact has taken a dramatic turnaround to the repercussion and under establishment of an unruly system which has destroyed the essence of a liberal and a free speech systemic civilized society.

If the opinions of our beloved Assyrian nation are not equally treated, then what exactly is the mission of our endeavor?  What deems to rationalize Freedom of Speech, freedom of self expression? A civilized world must be based on the core of ethics and morals, must be met with high honor and respect. Every entity has a unique and rational ideology within his/her own personal mentality.

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I wish that the world will one day join hands and celebrate together the advancement of mankind, rather than senseless attacks on each other, be it Assyrian or any ethnicity, race or personality. We as Assyrians have always dwelled in the footsteps of our forefathers, we have nurtured that language, raised a nation without a country, and have always kept our heritage,culture and History alive, and will continue to advance no matter what obstacles lie in our path. The Assyrian nation has survived through brutal genocide from the fall of the last capital of Assyria, Nineveh, until modern times. This Nation has prevailed through all obstacles, challenges and atrocities committed against our Heritage, attacks on our lands, burning and destruction of our churches, as well as brutal Genocides committed against our people.

The Assyrians have always maintained their ethical and moral obligation to society, adapted to all countries and have always built and contributed to the economic and social ladder of all lands in which they have lived. The Assyrian Nation has always nurtured the core of civilization from the Dynasty of Sumer to the last Assyrian legacy we have left behind. Today spread all over the world, this nation still strives, still empowers, still survives to be a nation of Great advancement to the human continuity of all proportions:  "Blessed be Assyria, the work of my hands." (Isaiah)

If we as a nation not unite together, then the sole essence of the ashes left behind by our forefathers will never be set free. Remember, they passed so we can live another day. The Assyrian nation must continue the struggle for our people, and always respect and treat each other as our forefathers have treated their contribution to civilization. May we always respect each other, no matter what obstacle lies ahead, at least for the sake of our Martyrs.

My dear beloved Assyrian nation, let us always embrace our ancestors, forefathers, which have civilized this world from its foundation, bequeathed to mankind thousands of years of advancement in the history of the world which will never be forgotten. Truly unity among our people will never fail, the blood will never change, the Martyrs never forgotten and the future always nurtured. This we take to the afterlife, as Assyrians now, and Assyrians forever.

Knowledge is Power, yet the saga continues.  Long live Assyria... hal abad.

To the People of Ashur

Assyria National Assembly
Political Bureau

To the people who has challenged difficulties to assert its existence.

To the people, who was able to pass through the horrible effects of massacres and moved through time in the struggle for its national rights on its national homeland Ashur (Assyria).

To the Assyrian who refuses the occupation of his/her land and strongly denounces the forced migration, persisting to face the occupier who is desperately trying to obliterate all that is Assyrian be it land or people.

The Right of Self-Determination

All the peoples have the right of self determination as per international standards and due to this right they are able to freely determine their political position and practice their development economically, socially and culturally.(The self determination article in the United Nations charter).Pointing to "all the peoples" instead of "all the countries" this article has confirmed the legal right of the peoples to bequeath their culture to the future generations in order to enrich the general human heritage.

The people who has lost almost a third of its population as a result of upholding and being sincere to the promises made prior and following WWI, has certainly the right to be recognized and be independent, since the principle of self determination should be recognized as a sacred and firmly rooted right for the human race.

We as Assyrians have the right of self determination which has been recognized through the confirmed rights of the persecuted and occupied peoples within all the different treaties of the United Nations (formerly the League of Nations) whereby many peoples were able to become completely independent through the implementation of this article of the United Nations charter.

Our Assyrian people have the right to determine their own political future, choosing a suitable system and to have the authority over their wealth and the resources on their land Ashur (Assyria). This is a legitimate right for our people, it's not possible for any other entity to dictate any conditions on our people in this matter. Our people have the right to build their own entity.

Ashur, the Land

Ashur (Assyria) the motherland extends from the Tigris to the Khaboor Rivers till it reaches the Euphrates. It has been inhabited since ages unknown, estimated by archaeologists to be over a million years ago.

Ashur, the People

The Assyrian nation is composed of those who feel their Assyrian belonging regardless of their beliefs or religious affiliations.

Iraq the land of the first Godly inspiration and the cradle of heavenly messages is the homeland of the Assyrians. That is why we notice that the Assyrian people have embraced and lived these messages, converting from one heavenly message to the other as per the circumstances of time and place. This made the Assyrian people spread within more than one religion and in many countries. Hence it is important to preserve the national unity of the Assyrian people as well as the political discourse with all its religious and denominational affiliations.

Ashur, the Rights

There should be an un disputed assertion on the part of all international organizations that the land of Ashur (Assyria) is the national homeland of the Assyrians, the right of return for every Assyrian in the world, that the Assyrian people have the right of self determination as an indigenous people and that they are the sole legitimate lawful owners to all the wealth in the land of Ashur (Assyria) as well as being the sole inheritors of the Assyrian Civilization and its monumental relics.

Church of the East Websites & Court Information

Many readers in the past few weeks have asked about the Assyrian Church of the East documents regarding the notorious court case followed closely in California.  Rather than publishing these press releases and supporting documents, Zinda Magazine agrees to present the web links to the internet sites created by the supporters of the plaintiff and the defendant.   Zinda Magazine will continually update this list as more relevant sites and information is made available.

Surfer's Corner
Community Events


Ben Elias to Run for Union City Council


Ben Ellias announces his run in the 2006 elections for the Union City, California City Council.

For Immediate Release
February 27, 2006

Union City, California

Ben Elias has announced that he will seek a seat on the Union City Council in the November 7, 2006 election.

“I have a passion for Union City and I want to use my experience in local government to help lead our great city into the future. In discussing with residents the many issues facing Union City related to growth, public safety and leadership, it is clear to me that now is the time to run.”

Elias served as a council member and Vice Mayor for over a decade and was the youngest Council member ever elected to the Union City Council.

Elias said he is running this year because” Union City is in need of a council member that will be a strong voice for its residents —a council member who is genuinely concerned with their quality of life and community. I will be that type of leader by working for more city resources to improve our library services, parks, roads and with our law enforcement agencies for safer streets. Most importantly, I will work on regional issues to benefit all Tri-City residents in California.”

For more information, contact Ben Elias @ 510-366-6888
P.O.Box 443 Union City, California 94587

AUA Annual Gala VIP Dinner in Sydney

Hermiz Shahen
Secretary of the Assyrian Universal Alliance
Australia Chapter

The Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) - Australian Chapter held its Annual Gala VIP Dinner on Saturday, 4th March 2006, at Edessa Reception Hall, St Hurmizd's Cathedral in Sydney. Nearly 700 Assyrians attended this high profile annual event.

The guest of honour and speaker for this year was His Grace Mar Melis Zaia, Bishop of the Assyrian Church of the East - Diocese of Australia and New Zealand. Furthermore, among our guests were Mr. Shlimon Haddad, secretary of European chapter of AUA, and Mr. Younatan Affarim, president of the Assyrian Australian National Federation (AANF). There were also representatives from various Assyrian organisations, churches, academic groups, and media from Sydney and Melbourne.
During this function, the AUA acknowledged and honoured His Grace Mar Melis Zaia for his achievement, dedication, and significant contribution towards the Assyrian community and welfare in Australia.

His Grace Bishop Mar Melis Zaia (center) was the guest of honor and main speaker at this year's AUA Gala in Sydney.

At the commencement of the program, over forty Assyrian men and women, dressed in the Assyrian traditional attire, and raising the Assyrian national flag surrounding their official guests with a sense dignity and respect, impressively welcomed His Grace Bishop Mar Melis Zaia and all guests, and escorted them to their respective tables.

It was immediately followed by the Australian and Assyrian national anthems and a warm welcome by the master of ceremony, Mr. David M. David who is chairman of the AUA and the vice-president of the AANF. Mr. David introduced the speakers for the night, which included Mr. Younatan Afarin, president of the Assyrian Australian National Federation. Mr. David Ismail David, president of the AANF, Dr. Narden Yagouby, president of the Assyrian National Centre and principle material engineer with the BHP - Monash Maintenance Technology Institute, and Mr. Shmouel Eramya from the Assyrian Church of the East in Melbourne.

An official welcome speech and address by Mr. Hermiz Shahen, secretary of Australian Chapter of AUA. Mr. Shahen talked about the fate of the Assyrian people that is in danger. He called upon everyone, particularly, our nationalistic, political, religious and social institutions, and organizations to bring our people closer together to sow the seed of Assyrian nationalism among them.

His Grace Bishop Melis Zia speaking at the AUA Gala in Sydney.

He stressed that We should stand against all individuals who are trying to sow the seed of dissension, causing division amongst the Assyrians worldwide, in the name of unity, particularly among the Assyrian population in Iraq to keep them busy with infighting, distancing themselves from seeking their national rights. Mr Shahen talked about the insecurity and instability for the Assyrians in Iraq, saying that the indigenous Assyrians Christians have little chance of survival in Iraq under a constitution that denies the Assyrian national rights and declares Islam as the official religion of the state and the Shar’a as a source for its law, and that the only reasonable answer to ongoing Islamic attacks against the Christian population in general, is that the government of Iraq accord an autonomous status to the Assyrians of Iraq. This will be absolutely necessary to the security and survival of the Assyrians of Iraq. The establishment of such an Assyrian region would allow greater local Assyrian controls within the context of an integrated, sovereign Iraqi state. Such Assyrian area would allow for political, educational, linguistic, religious, and cultural expression.

The main speaker of the night was his Grace Bishop Mar Meelis Zaya. His Grace delivered an inspiring and enlightening speech. "His Grace emphasised the significance of our Assyrian Church and Nation here in Australia, as the pride of our Nation worldwide. His Grace urged the Assyrian community to remain focused on the plans and strategies that have been set for the spreading of the life-giving Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. His Grace emphasised “Our Church and Nation will continue to work tirelessly, together, to teach and preserve our Christian faith, Assyrian language, History and teaching them to our children through our schools, colleges and university."

In between speeches, the guests were entertained by listening to numerous nationalistic Assyrian songs performed by the Choir of the Assyrian Church of the East, directed and conducted by Maestro Rabbi Alexander (Shoora) Michailian. A number of poems were also read by; Deacon Tooma Adam; Mr Nimrud Yousip and Miss Edora David, who read, very eloquently, a poem titled ”A Race that Once Ruled the World”.. Worthy of a mention, Mr. and Mrs. Yacob Hawil, head of the Assyrian Radio program 3-ZZZ, were among our guests from Melbourne.

Certificates and letter of appreciations were awarded by Mr. Hermiz Shahen to several prominent Assyrians for their dedication and contribution to the Assyrian community and welfare in Australia and abroad, included were:

  • Mr. Frederick P. Isaac, AUA senior advisor, for his participation and support for the principles of the Assyrian Universal Alliance and advice that enabled the AUA to provide services to our Assyrian community in Australia, for his extensive knowledge and research in the field of ancient and modern Assyrian history, and for writing numerous articles and publishing a book about the plight of the Assyrians,
  • Reverend Father Genard Lazar, in recognition of his outstanding and faithful devotion, remarkable and abundant knowledge and the valued services that he rendered over the past years to the Assyrian Church of the East through sincere and fruitful efforts that Rev. Lazar exerted side-by-side, with church youth groups and other clerics at St- Paul’s and St-Peter’s church.  His efforts through Gospel teachings were fruitful, as they have contributed a great deal in crystallising the bright and correct image of the Assyrian youth by allowing them to meet in an atmosphere of openness and tolerance to listen to the words of truth, and
  • His Grace Bishop Mar Melis Zaia, special presentation was prepared which included a certificate of appreciation for fulfilling many of the Assyrian national objectives, wishes, and desires in Australia.

In a short period, his Grace worked hard to organise the parish committees, building the Diocese of Australia, St-Hurmizd Cathedral, the magnificent Edessa Reception Hall and the new churches of Melbourne and New Zealand. His Grace’s anticipation in most of our community affairs and needs resulted in the biggest achievement of establishing St-Hurmizd Assyrian Primary School, Sunday 20th August 2000, to be the first Assyrian Private Primary School outside our Assyrian homeland.
He went further in his vision to establish again the first Assyrian high school and college, Mar Narsai Assyrian College, comprising a complete high-school facility. This has been a dream come true, which not many believed that it would be possible to accomplish.

The Assyrian Universal Alliance – Australia Chapter and on behalf of all its members and affiliates in Australia would like to thank all organisations which attended the AUA Gala particularly those organisations which supported this activity including all affiliates of the Assyrian Australian National Federation, the tremendous support from the Assyrian Barware Association, and the Assyrian Australian Academic Society.

In the meantime, we would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank the upstanding members of our society. Those who were presented with tokens of appreciation and have in their chosen fields contributed to the preservation of the Assyrian culture, heritage, language, and Christian faith. We congratulate them on this important accomplishment and encourage them to continue on this successful path that they have set for themselves.

We also would like to congratulate all members of the AUA - Australian chapter for their hard work in the past years and for their continuous struggle for the advancement of our Assyrian national cause and for the betterment of our society in this blessed country Australia.

Mar Bawai Support Fund

Mar Bawai Support Fund Committee

There are thousands of Assyrians world wide who believe in the message of H. G. Mar Bawai and his call for reforms within the Assyrian Church of the East and the unity of our divided nation. The requested reforms call for applying the synodical canons justly to all and make the church services understandable by using our own spoken Assyrian language. Mar Bawai also calls for uniting our divided church and support for those who are working for the unity of our nation.

Sadly, the church hierarchy did not respond positively to Mar Bawai’s call; instead, they first suspended him as a bishop and then filed an injunction to bar him from entering the churches in his own diocese. He was forced to defend his stand through the legal system of the United States. As we all know, this process will cost a great deal of money.

Thus, the Advisory Council for His Grace decided to establish a support fund to cover the legal and other incidental expenses. The objective of this fund is to raise $100,000 by the end of the First Quarter of 2006 and $250,000 by the end of the year. Contributions to this fund are not tax deductible but are strictly a symbol of the faith of the supporters in the message of His Grace.

All of those who wish to participate in this noble task of reforming the Assyrian Church of the East and uniting our people may send their donations to the following address:

Mar Bawai Support Fund
1714 Franklin St. #100-185
Oakland, CA 94612-3409

Make your check payable to Mar Bawai Support Fund and it will be acknowledged immediately by the Support Council.

God bless you and we all pray that He will unite our church and preserve our nation.

Mar Bawai Advisory Council

Support Payment:___($1,000)____($500)____($250)____($100)____(Other)

Editor's Pick


In Iraq Assyrian Christians Keep the Faith

J. Grant Swank Jr.
American Daily
5 March 2006

Six synchronized car bombs exploded. They flew into the Christian presence—Assyrian Christians at worship. Muslims set loose the fire to kill the Jesus followers.

One worshiper was slain by the attacks. A Muslim couple living near the church was slain. Nine worshipers were seriously wounded

This is nothing new to these believers.

“To many inside Iraq, there remains an insidious and systematic pattern of attacks designed to, as one resident complained, terrorize, demoralize, and drive out Assyrian Christians.

Winter 2005 Issue of the Assyrian Star

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“For those envisioning a future stable and progressive Iraq, the true litmus test for democracy and pluralism remains the fate of the Assyrians, the indigenous Christian community of Iraq,” reports Assyrian International News Agency (AINA).

Do these Christians retaliate? In no way but by Christ’s love and prayers for their enemies. They know the power of Christ’s compassion against those who do not understand His divine grace and mercy. Therefore, they take pity on the Muslims who are caught in a satanic web of blindness to the eternal truths.

The Islamics want to bring such fear into the Assyrian Christians that more and more believers will exit Iraq completely. Some within the congregation wondered if the fresh anger against Christians was due to the Danish cartoons of Mohammed. Whatever the motive, the bombs go off. People die and are wounded. The living continue to intercede on behalf of their foes and the safety of believers in Christ.

“A group of enraged Muslim students at the University of Mosul attacked Assyrian Christian students. Apparently, several ‘fatwas’ or religious edicts were issued by Islamic militias associated with Islamic religious schools or madrasses against Christians in Iraq.

“During the attacks, Muslim students chanted anti Christian slogans declaring their victims ‘sinners, infidels, and agents of the West.’ According to reports, the attackers also urged the ‘expulsion of the Crusaders and sinners from schools and public institutions.’”

Hate and instilling fear are two favorite instruments used by Muslims in their aim for Islam world rule. “If they only knew the love of Christ, they would put down their swords,” one believer explained.

However, Muslims worldwide are caught up presently in a global rage that wants every non-Muslim extinguished. There is much hope for the world if believers live out the same compassion as the Assyrian Christians. We can learn from them the stability of one abiding in the Holy Spirit’s wisdom.

The Assyrian Christians have endured over many centuries. They have remained faithful to the Word of God. They have prayed when all seemed hopeless; yet their faith is that God is more powerful than Satan. Therefore, they continue to keep the faith strong, teaching it to the next generation.

Mosques are destroyed in Iraq because Muslims attack Muslims and not only non-Muslims; they attack and slay their own. If that is done for supposedly the cause of Allah, it is not a crime but a religious act that rewards the soul.

However, not only are mosques destroyed by Muslims, Christian churches are destroyed by Muslims. However, it is not often that the secular media gives play to the demolition of Christian sanctuaries. More times than not the attention is given to a mosque.

Christians ask Why?

Nevertheless, there are those who have decided to pray for the Allah-worshiping enemies while at the same leaving the country for a safer environs for their families. Therefore, thousands have packed up their belongings and moved elsewhere.

“One activist noted that ‘it must be an embarrassment for the supposedly free and democratic government of Iraq as well as the US Administration that tens of thousands of Christians have chosen safe harbor in Syria of all places.’

“Irrespective of the terrorists' motivation, the net result is a very real threat to the future existence of Christianity in Iraq with accompanying profound reverberations for the region as a whole. Reacting to the deteriorating situation for Christians in Iraq, the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission labeled Assyrian Christians ‘endangered,’ stating: ‘As people, groups, and whole communities start to identify by religious affiliation rather than their common Iraqi nationality, the Christian minority find themselves increasingly despised, marginalized and exposed.

“They are endangered, without equality before the (Islamic) law, having no clan networks and retaliation ideology, and lacking security in a lawless Islamic society.”

Yet though under constant fire, they continue their faith in Christ as Savior and Ultimate Master.

Grant Swank Jr holds a Masters in Divinity and has done graduate work at Harvard Divinity School.  Married for 44 years with 3 adult children. Author of 5 books and thousands of articles in various Protestant and Catholic magazines, journals, web sites, and newspapers. Writer of weekly religion column for Portland Press Herald newspaper in Portland, Maine.

Somikka: The Assyrians’ Holy Halloween

Mikhael K. Pius

Our Assyrian nation today has many holidays, feasts, and festivals that are observed every year. A few, such as Christmas, Easter, and New Year’s Eve, which are universal of course, have been celebrated by our people for a long time. Some others, such as Father’s, Mother’s, Valentine, and Thanksgiving Days were adopted in recent decades by our people living in Western countries.

But we have several others that are traditionally Assyrian: Shareh (feasts) of different patron saints, Ba’oota d’Ninvayeh (Ninevite Rogation), Kaalu D’Sulaaqa (Ascension Day), Nusardil or Nusardy (water festival in commemoration of baptism), Kha B’Neesan (Assyrian New Year), and Somikka (“Halloween”). All these have been practiced by our people living in the countries of the East for a long time. The first five mentioned are gradually taking root in some of our communities in America, but Somikka is yet to make its debut and hold its own.

One of our main obligations now as émigrés is to preserve and promote our customs and traditions and to implant them into our children before they gradually dissolve and finally disappear in the boiling pots of foreign cultures.

Somikka fell this year on Sunday evening, February 26, the night before the seven-week Soma Goura (the great fast) or lent began the next day, Monday, and ends on Easter Sunday, April 16, 2006. Somikka has a similarity to Halloween, but its meaning is entirely different. Somikka is a religious event, and its purpose is to motivate and discipline our small children to fast during Lent, the 50-day fast preceding Easter. Halloween is connected with wicked dead souls. It is weird and scary, and sometimes bad things take place during Halloween night. And some of our children are taking part in the irreligious practice with their non-Assyrian friends. We have to try to wean them away from it!

I don’t know if there are any written records of the tradition of Somikka. Anyhow, I am not aware of any. But it is said by our older generations that Somikka was intended to scare children into the discipline of observing Soma Goura, when people would abstain from eating eggs, meat and any dairy or animal products for the seven weeks preceding Easter.

The evening before the fast began, or on Somikka night, small groups of young men, dressed in strange clothes and wearing weird masks, would go around from house to house to scare the children into fasting. The parents would give each group a small donation (food items in the olden times and money in later generations) and tell their children that this was to ward or bribe Somikka off them. They would also warn them that if they broke their fast during Lent, Somikka would come and punish them. To the permissive Western mind, this might seem a little abusive, or even cruel. But in the East discipline was the hallmark of raising children to grow up into God-fearing and upright adults.

This tradition, modified in the course of the centuries no doubt and given a religious meaning, may have come to us from our ancestors in Nineveh and Babylon, because it is said that they used to train and discipline their children by scaring methods. Our ancestors, a hardy people, had a strong will power and the fear of God.

When Prophet Jonah told the people of Nineveh that God had sent him to warn them that unless they repented from their wicked ways, he would destroy them and Nineveh. The whole city, including the king, wore sack cloth and knelt upon ashes. They abstained from food and water for three days and nights

and prayed to appease the wrath of the Lord. They even denied food and drink to their domestic animals and birds. That’s why when the Ninevite Rogation comes around we say “Ba’outa d’Ninvayeh semila soupreh w’ktayeh.” (The Ninevite Rogation is fasted even by birds and chickens.) God heard their prayers and spared them and their city. Assyrians observe this three-day fast every year.

The Somikka observance in our Middle Eastern communities earlier in 20th Century had a somewhat spookily entertaining aspect to it. As a little boy in the 1930s, I remember when some Somikka groups, in strange clothes and masks, would make the round of the neighborhood homes. They would carry wooden swords and shields and put on a brief one-act action play, with a fasting theme. Other groups would have a troupe of a masked and “dressed up” person carrying a hand drum and two other persons bending down one behind the other under a covering and masquerading as a mare, complete with a horse’s “head” and ”tail” and four legs. The drummer would pound his drum and sing a funny song. The “mare” would trot and prance around for a couple of minutes and then collapse on the floor. The drummer would then ask the family for money “to buy my mare some hay because she is weakened by the fast.”

It is said Assyrian villagers in Urmia had another custom relating to Soma Goura. The head of every family would stick seven (colored?) feathers into a large onion, the feathers representing the seven weeks of fasting. He would then tie the feathered onion with a string and hang it from the ceiling of their living room, where it would spin every time there was a draft when the door was opened. This attracted attention and served to remind the children of the fast. Every Sunday night he would remove, ceremoniously, one feather to indicate that one week of fasting was over, until all the feathers were gone by Easter night, the last day of fasting, before celebrating the Lord’s Resurrection.

Actually, Somikka is reminiscent of Halloween in this country when small groups of boys and girls, dressed in ghoulish and spooky clothes and masks, circulate in the neighborhood, ringing doorbells and collecting donations of candy with their exclamation: “Trick or treat?” But the meaning of the two similar events is entirely different. While Somikka is connected with a religious observance, Halloween is associated with wicked dead souls. Halloween, meaning holy person, precedes All Saints Day falling on November 1, a religious festival in honor of all saints. But today’s Halloween is anything but religious or in honor of the saints!

Assyrians at Their Best


Nisha Besara

A report by Afram Barryakoub in Sweden

Nisha Besara writes for Aftonbladet, one of Europe's largest daily newspapers.

(ZNDA: Stockholm)  Assyrians have now a new reason to read the daily newspaper ”Aftonbladet” published in Stockholm, Sweden, which is Scandinavia's largest newspaper with more than 2.5 million readers every day. The reason is the 27 year old Assyrian woman - Nisha Besara.

Ms. Besara will be working as a political columnist and commentator on Swedish society and politics at large.  In a sense Nisha is the most powerful Assyrian woman in Europe today.

She is a young and talented woman, becoming more and more visible in the Swedish public arena.

"This is the job of my dream and I had never thought I would get here so fast," she says with a big smile.

Before taking the job as a political columnist Nisha worked as a political advisor for the Swedish Minister of Integration. She has been an active member of the ruling Social Democratic Party for many years. Consequently many expect her to occupy a leading office in Swedish politics in the coming years.

Being Assyrian she has always been engaged in the political and cultural life of her people in Sweden. She wrote articles for the Assyrian magazine, Hujådå, for a long time . Nisha Besara has received many congratulations from Assyrians upon taking the job as a political columnist.

"I know many Assyrians expect me to become a kind of spokesperson for the Assyrians in Sweden and I hope I will be able to fulfill that," comments Mr. Besara.

Support ACANA by Visiting www.cafepress.com/acana & www.acana.us/store


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

Alan Aldawood California
Fred Aprim California
Dr. Matay Beth Arsan Holland
Ramin Daniels California
Sabrina David California
Sargon David Canada
Mazin Enwiya Chicago
Youkie Khaninia Arizona
Nineb Lamassu United Kingdom
Edward Mikhail California
Martin Mirza Chicago
Bachir Saadi Syria

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ZINDA means "Spark of Fire" in modern Syriac (Assyrian); Zinda's Red Swoosh is a rendering of the seventh letter in the Assyrian alphabet, letter ZEN, and the first letter in the word "Zinda". For more information about the Assyrian culture and heritage write to Zinda Magazine.

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