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Miss Assyria France 2006
Photo by Samuel Yalap
||Kurdish Selective Amnesia & the Endless Genocide
||Assyrian Manuscripts and Cultural Genocide
Hormuzd Rassam (1826-1910): The forgotten Archaeologist
||Yonadam Kanna's Convoy Attacked
Assyrian Contractor Killed in Balad, Iraq
Assyrian Woman Shot Dead in Baghdad
Assyrian War Veteran Killed in Mosul
3 Assyrians Appointed to New Kurdish Government
||Mariam S. Shimoun
||AUA's Letters of Congratulation to Iraqi President & PM
Assyrian Genocide Issue Goes International
Threats Force Cancellation of Assyrian Genocide Conference
European Parliament Meets Assyrian Politician
Tigris Dam Project Stirs Hopes, Fears in Turkey
Karl Suleman Pleads Guilty to Fraud
Assyrian Teen Refuses Bail Over Shooting in Australia
Activities of the Assyro-Chaldean Society of France (AACF)
||Nuri Kino is a Good Choice
Overjoyed with Zinda's Choices
Help End the Siege of Our Village in Syria
Click to Learn More :
||"Speaking with One Voice”
Assyrian Genocide, Seyfo 1915: The Missing Chapter...
A Demonstration Against Turkey
Support Assyrian Songs and Poetry
An Update on the Assyrian Superstar Contest
General Release of Assyrian Comedy, "Cousins"
||Assyrians Face Escalating Abuses in "New Iraq"
Hon. Mikakos on Seyfo Genocide
The Latest Events in Northern Iraq
The Mickey Mouse Regime in Baghdad
Sargon Dadesho & Compound Name of Assyro-Chaldean
44 Years A Prelate
Courageous Assyrian Criticizes Status Quo...
The Ghost in the Baghdad Museum
Hon. Jenny Mikakos
Dr George Habash
His Grace Dr. Mar Aprem
||Reflections of an Artist on a Recent Art Exhibit in Chicago
An Editorial by Wilfred Bet-Alkhas
Kurdish Selective Amnesia &
the Endless Genocide of the Assyrians
A Guest Editorial
Last week millions of Assyrians, Armenians and Greeks commemorated the 91st commemoration of the 1915 Seyfo Genocide, an atrocity committed by the Turkish government against its Christian population. Zinda Magazine asked Mr. Nuri Kino, a freelance journalist in Sweden, to honor the memory of the fallen victims of the Turkish and Kurdish massacres between 1915 and 1923 with an editorial for this week's issue. Mr. Kino is the winner of Zinda Magazine's Assyrian Person of the Year 6755 (see last issue). Mr. Nuri's film, "Assyriska: A National Team without a Nation" won this year's best film Golden Palm award at the Beverly Hills Film Festival. To read Mr. Kino's blog and other articles click here.
On Tuesday October 25th, 2005, DN Kultur -- the cultural section of one of Sweden’s leading morning newspapers, Dagens Nyheter -- published another article by Kurdo Baksi, lecturer, columnist, debater and leading proponent of the Kurdish cause in Sweden. He wrote about his journey to his hometown, Batman, in southeast Turkey, returning for the first time in 25 years.
During this trip he also visited one of the world’s oldest cities, Hasankeyf, Hasno Kifo (the fortress on the rock) as it is called in Syriac.
“About 30 km (19 miles) from Batman something that I would like to call a cultural murder was in progress,” Baksi claims. “Hasankeyf, a city thousands of years old that had survived the Greeks, Romans, Persians and Mongolians is now in danger of being wiped out since the Turkish authorities have decided to build a dam at the Tigris River that runs through the city.”
He also writes about Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish author who December 2004 was put on trial. Earlier that year Pamuk stated that a million Armenians lost their lives during the First World War. What Baksi unconsciously or consciously left out is that Hasankeyf is one of the cities in which the genocide of the Christian Assyrians (also known as Syriacs or Chaldeans) began. Because Pamuk spoke about this openly, he could be tried for treason.
A year ago, cinematographer, Håkan Berthas and I followed Zelge, fans of Assyriska (the Swedish professional soccer team which played in the top football league in 2005, and is often viewed as a national team by the Assyrian diaspora) to the very same Hasankeyf. We filmed them, overwhelmed by emotion as they searched for traces of their forefathers. They cautiously discussed with their Assyrian guides why no one wants to acknowledge the genocide.
The city’s Kurdish mayor was happy to see us and exclaimed: “So nice to see that you, young Assyrians, are interested in your history. Indeed it is you who really own and have a right to this city.” One of Assyriska’s supporters replied, “Why don’t you admit the genocide so in that way we can live as good neighbors? Right now this feels like nothing more than that you occupied our land.” The Assyrian youngsters from Turkey, where one doesn’t dare openly discuss the genocide, hid from sight so as not to get into trouble at home.
Several years ago I made another visit to Hasankeyf with, among others, Dagens Nyheter’s reporter Lisbeth Bratberg. Our interpreter and guide was a 12 year-old Kurdish girl, Ayshe. Standing on one of the walls of the fortress on the cliff I pointed out an old and very beautiful house and asked Ayshe who had lived there earlier. She answered “Pigs, the unfaithful, they were not Muslims and very disgusting. But, we killed most of them and we drove away those that were left.”
The house I pointed toward belonged to the father of my grandmother, and the father of the famous poet, Daniel Boyacioglus grandfather. This was our ancestral home. The cliff on which we stood was the very same spot that Nure, the Christian Assyrian woman after whose name I was Baptized, jumped to her death so as to save her son from the Muslim sword. She died, but managed to save her son by throwing him into the river as she fell.
Kurdo Baksi, who has received awards for anti-racism, does not mention that Assyrians once existed in Hasankeyf. His anti-racism appears to be selective! His article of November 15th came out on the very same day that he announced his candidacy for the Swedish parliament. A gesture that cannot be interpreted as anything but populist.
His conclusion: “It’s time that even Sweden criminalizes the denial of the genocide.”
It is not only ironic when someone is guilty of the same crime that they urge others to refrain from– it is criminal!
On November 15th, 2005, the Forum For Living History, a Swedish government ministry, arranged an international seminar, “The Genocide in the Ottoman Empire.” This seminar was devoted to the genocide of Christians in the Turkish Ottoman Empire during the First World War. A genocide where over one and a half million Christians among whom were Assyrians, Armenians, and Anatolian (Pontic) Greeks lost their lives.
On the same day Kurdo Baksi wrote in his article for DN Kultur: “In the western world we have seldom taken a definite position and demanded responsibility from the Turkish nation who are the heirs of the Ottoman Empire.”
Baksi also attended the seminar.
The lobbyist that he is, he buttonholed a group of Swedish politicians during a pause in the seminar, stating: “Remember that everyone is a Kurd from the beginning.” Two of these politicians, Ulla Hoffman and Hans Arvidsson from the Vänsterpartiet (the Leftist Party) became very irritated about this remark.
Baksi’s inference cannot be interpreted in any other way than he considers that the Assyrians are actually Kurds and do not have the right to their own identity.
This is the same attitude of the political leaders who made the decision for the 1914 genocide.
I am tired of Kurdo Baksi representing Turkey, immigrants, the Kurds, the oppressed and now obviously also the Assyrians and humanity in general. Or, if you like, according to Kurdo, the Assyrians do not exist. It has been branded into the politically correct Swedish folk soul that ‘the Kurds deserve pity,’. But can we stop talking about the Kurds for a minute? So as to retain their position of pity-us-poor-buggers-number-one some of them are now oppressing another nation. Some Kurds are consequently guilty of the very same thing they are accusing others for doing to the Kurds.
For us Assyrians this is nothing new.
One of the historical pieces of evidence that was presented by David Gaunt, a researcher from Södertörn University College in Stockholm, was the letter by the Kurdish leader Suti Aga Oramar to the Turkish military commander Haidar Bey. Oramar writes that they were proud of having participated in a major Jihad. The word Jihad means Holy War or the war of the Muslims against the unfaithful – in other words all those who are not Muslim. In other words, Kurds were proud of participating in the genocide of their neighbors, the Assyrians and the Armenians.
Today in southeastern Turkey the few Christian Assyrians who remain are more frightened of Kurdish feudal warlords than they are of the Turkish government. One can off-hand count the seven Kurdish tribes that occupy the Assyrian land, who force cooperation through fear, persecuting those Assyrians who dare oppose them. Some of them belongs to the same tribes that once slaughtered Assyrians and Armenians.
Baksi’s article also contains factual errors:
“And our [Sweden's] football association punished the Assyriska football team who permitted its players to wear black armbands on April 24th this year, the 90th anniversary of the Ankara decree that approved the elimination of the Armenians."
Indeed t he reason that the Turkish media, among others, its largest morning newspaper, Hurriyet, reacted strongly against Sweden was because neither the team nor the players were punished. It made headlines in Turkey where it is, according to the law, impossible to even speak about the genocide.
Assyrian Manuscripts and Cultural Genocide
An Interview with Mr. Elias Malke Assad and Mr. Nineb Lamassu
Ninos Warda and Tony Kasim
This interview was conducted prior to the Seyfo event in London organised by the Firodil Institute which took place at the Assyrian House on the 22nd of April from 4 pm. The interview is with Mr. Nineb Lamassu, student of Assyriology at SOAS University, London, and with Mr. Elias Assad, collector of the Assyrian manuscripts and antiques, some of which were on display at the aforementioned event.
Q. Mr. Assad, the manuscripts you have collected over your lifetime clearly are of high importance to you and your collection is a result of years of hard work and determination. What inspired you to begin collecting them?
Absolutely, these manuscripts are important to me because they symbolise my identity. I identify with every detail that is written on their paper. I look at them in a different light from manuscripts of different cultures. The Syriac language in which they were written gives them added merit.
The core of my collection is from my father’s library. I believe he began acquiring them in the 1920s and amongst them is one he wrote himself in 1913 when he was seventeen years old, in Midyat, a small town in southern Turkey. His modest library started me off and collecting has been both challenging and enjoyable.
Syriac manuscripts are relatively rare and to form a collection requires extreme patience and perseverance. European institutions began amassing Syriac manuscripts in the early 17th century when they realised the importance of the Syriac language for the study of the Bible and the history of the early Christian Church. Also a great number of them were destroyed for a variety of reasons. It is therefore a small miracle that there are still Syriac manuscripts to be found.
I am always on the look out for any that become available and I approach the matter with caution, making sure they have provenance. Invariably, a long time elapses before I purchase a single volume. But as far as I am concerned that does not constitute hard work, rather an adventure, and each time I buy a manuscript I feel like celebrating. This feeling of elation normally lasts until a new manuscript comes to light.
What inspired me to collect is a yearning to have a closer affinity with my cultural background. I am also aware of the scribes’ visions for the future as they laboured at their manuscripts with their dream for this culture to survive.
At the end of the manuscript the scribes always left a colophon, which furnished us with their names, date and the place where they wrote. The only sad note is that in most cases the town or village mentioned has either disappeared, or completely emptied of Assyrians, as in the case of the most prominent amongst them, the blessed city of Urhoy (Urfa-Turkey), the centre of Syriac culture.
Q. What are the general themes running throughout the collection? Are they mostly religious manuscripts, or are there also cultural and nationalistic elements among them?
The majority of Syriac manuscripts are religious. Very few scientific manuscripts escaped destruction because, in the opinion of some clergy in the past, they did not conform to the Christian faith.
I have an interesting copy of the Isagogy (Logic) of Porphyry, which work had a great effect on the thoughts of the early fathers of the church as a means of explaining the scriptures; also a bifolio on vellum from a medical work of the twelfth-century, manuscripts on music (Beth Gaz) dictionaries, grammar and others.
Q. Do you have a favourite manuscript, and if so, why is it your favourite?
My favourite is a manuscript of the 16th-17th century that does not resemble the other manuscripts in the collection. It originates from Kerala, south India and consists of palm leaves bound within birch wood boards. The writing, which is in Eastern Syriac script, is incised with sharp implement rather than the customary pen and inked. The material and technique used show a Buddhist influence.
Although the text is of a religious nature, it is to be viewed also as a document, which relates to the spiritual activity of the Assyrian church in India. The Assyrian missionaries arrived at the coast of South India in the early days of Christianity.
Q. Do you own a manuscript, which major institutions do not have in their collections?
My father’s, obviously!! Besides that I have recently acquired a manuscript (The palm leaves from India), which the British museum would like to have bought because they don’t have such an example in their collection.
It is futile to compare or compete with the British library or any other European institution. The purpose of this exercise, collecting and displaying Syriac manuscripts, is to restore confidence and pride in those who have lost contact with their culture in order to charm them back into the fold, especially in the Diaspora. Hopefully this modest collection will go a little distance towards achieving that goal.
Q. Mr. Lamassu, it is a well-known fact that cultural genocide, i.e. the destruction of a people’s language or culture, is concomitant with the physical destruction of a group which is the victim of genocide. How bad do you believe the scale of destruction of Assyrian books and manuscripts during the genocide was, and what affect did this have on the Assyrian people?
The scale of destruction is immeasurable, and this is not an exaggeration but an undisputable fact!
Thousand of books dating back to the early periods of Christianity were lost during Seyfo. Many were burned. We know of accounts where Assyrian girls were laid and deflowered on these books, the rapist believing, by such action, not only they will satisfy their sexual savagery but desecrate the religion of their victims (with the mentality that everything in Assyrian was religious, which was true to some extent).
We also know that many books were buried or hidden by the people hoping to collect them when the calamity would end and when life returns to normality, but we have lost them now because those people were either massacred or unable to return to their homes.
The destruction of this cultural capital has resulted in major misconceptions on our language, demography, and continuity, misconceptions that stonewall our national aspiration and progress.
Q. Do you believe Assyrians have done enough, if anything, to try and retrieve some such lost manuscripts, and if not, what may be initiated now?
No they have not done anything near enough! But you must also know that it is not that easy. Paper is an eroding material; not all of the buried manuscripts can and/or would have survived. But, we also know that Assyrians, at least in Hakkari, used other less perishable material, like tin (Qutiya-as told by Shamasha Gewargis D’Bet Benyamin D’Asheetha, in his autobiography). We really need a group of archaeologists to investigate this further, and a well financed institute to purchase the manuscripts which appear in international auctions every now and then. These manuscripts are ours; if they were not destroyed they were stolen and sold to European travellers. They belong to our people, and our people must finance their purchase.
Q. How can the resurrection of these manuscripts help with the struggle to get Assyrian Genocide recognition worldwide?
These manuscripts have multi-benefits. One, for example, is re-instilling pride in the hearts of our younger generation, and they could also provide the stimulus for a renaissance in Assyrian art, because they are artistically beautiful. On the other hand their colophons provide essential data. Through these colophons one can render a comprehensive study on the demography of our people just before Seyfo; the colophons often include data which refers to very important events, and this correlation can be the missing puzzle to substantiate our argument further when asking for Seyfo’s recognition.
Q. Many manuscripts collected by Assyrians worldwide are oceans of knowledge and wisdom. What can we do to make these scattered pearls readily available to the public? Would centralisation of copies of these manuscripts be an option?
Yes most definitely but that would require a lot of finance.
Hormuzd Rassam (1826-1910): The forgotten Archaeologist
An interview with Mr. Jake Wilson
Ninos Warda & Tony Kasim
Hormuzd Rassam was an Assyrian Archaeologist born in Mosul, Assyria. He learnt his craft under A.H. Layard and Henry Rawlinson and worked for the British Museum at Nineveh, Nimrud, Balawat and Soppar. Rassam’s greatest achievement came in 1853 when he uncovered the palace built by Ashurbanipal in about 645 BC with a series of lion-hunt reliefs.
Mr. Wilson is an Assyriologist and an Assistant Producer of an independent company called Fulmar Television. Commissioned by the BBC, Fulmar Television are currently making a film about the “Lion-hunt Reliefs at Nineveh”.
Q. Mr. Wilson, briefly tell us how you came in contact with the Assyrian community here in London, UK.
About 5 years ago, when I was at university, a friend of mine, Eleanor Coghill, used to visit Ealing to discuss the Al-Qosh dialect with members of the Assyrian community. When I was making this film, my director suddenly asked me to find actors to perform as 19th century workmen, to recreate the excavation of the lionhunt reliefs at Nineveh. I was in a bit of a panic, because I had no idea where I would find actors who would be appropriate for this. During my research, I had discovered that the workmen were from Mosul and that many of them were Christians (i.e. Assyrians). I suddenly remembered that Eleanor knew about the Assyrian community in London, and contacted her out of the blue to help me discover whether it might be possible to find exactly the right people for our drama, perhaps even descendants of the original workmen! Eleanor put me in touch with Mr. Nineb Lamassu, and the rest is history...
Q. Mr. Wilson, you (as commissioned by the BBC) are currently producing a documentary on Mr. Hormuzd Rassam. Please give us a summary on the documentary and why did you choose to make it?
The documentary is a 30-minute film telling the story of the ancient Assyrian lionhunt reliefs of Ashurbanipal, from their creation in the 7th century BC, through their rediscovery in the 19th century by Hormuzd Rassam, to their legacy today. The film will be part of a series for BBC4, “Masterpieces of the British Museum”, which is focusing on great works of art in the British Museum’s collection.
I actually studied Assyriology at university and have always been a huge fan of Assyrian art, and above all Ashurbanipal’s lionhunt reliefs. But for some reason, they are not as well-known as they deserve to be. I wanted to try and draw attention to them, so I wrote a proposal for a film about them in my spare time. Luckily, it was commissioned by the BBC and I was actually able to help make it.
Q. Hormuzd Rassam is an archaeologist whose work resulted in many important discoveries. However, he is an unknown archaeologist. Why do think that is?
Rassam did make an amazing number of important discoveries for the British Museum, including the lionhunt reliefs, the Balawat Gates, Ashurbanipal’s library (including part of the Epic of Gilgamesh). But he has really been neglected in histories of archaeology in the Near East. Partly, this is due to bad luck – the earlier discoveries of Henry Layard created much more interest in England and people were less excited by Rassam’s finds. Partly, this is also due to Rassam’s own failure to promote himself – he did not manage to publish an account of his discoveries until very late in his life, by which time his contribution had already been forgotten. Finally, rather more unpleasantly, Rassam seems to have suffered from institutional racism. Unlike almost all other excavators at the time, Rassam was actually a native of the area he was working in (his family came from Mosul). Because he was not a European, some of his colleagues at the British Museum were suspicious of him, and even during his lifetime, credit for discoveries that he had made was often taken away from him and given to his colleagues at the museum, including Henry Rawlinson and George Smith.
Hopefully, this neglect will be changed by our film. 2010 is the centenary of Hormuzd Rassam’s death, so this might also be another good opportunity to draw attention to him and reassess his important contribution to archaeology in Mesopotamia.
Q. Hormuzd Rassam's great-grandson, currently living here in the UK, was interviewed by you. In a nutshell, please tell us a little about the interview.
Meeting Hormuzd’s great-grandson, Clive, was an amazing experience. Clive has been fascinated by Hormuzd for decades, and has been able to collect information about him from his own family archives as well as public sources. He could even remember meeting a number of Hormuzd’s children. This meant that he could give us a rare personal insight into Hormuzd’s character - by talking about Hormuzd as a real person, not just a figure from history; Clive was also able to bring someone from the 19th century back to life for us. He also gave us access to unique images of Hormuzd and was extremely helpful throughout the project.
Q. Mr. Wilson, are there any other hidden treasures such as Mr. Rassam that you are likely to uncover?
During our research, I found some items relating to Hormuzd Rassam that were new to the curators at the British Museum and even to Clive Rassam. The most impressive discovery was a stunning photograph of Hormuzd, dressed in ornate Ottoman clothing. This photograph was taken around 1854, exactly the period of his life when he discovered the lionhunt reliefs. I also found out that the lionhunt reliefs have been the inspiration for a fantastic novel, “The Lion of Jachin-Boaz and Boaz-Jachin” by Russell Hoban, and that they are the favourite work of art of the founder of the Big Issue magazine, John Bird. These sorts of unexpected finds are what makes research for documentaries so interesting.
Q. Your documentary will no doubt raise awareness not only of Mr. Rassam and his discoveries, but also of the Assyrian people and their history. One of Firodil Institute’s chief aims is to raise such awareness. Do you have any ideas or hopes of working with Assyrian institutions in the future on similar projects or documentaries?
I really hope that the film will draw attention to Hormuzd Rassam and his important discoveries in Mesopotamia. This interest should help start a reassessment of his career and will hopefully also make people want to find out more about the Assyrians (ancient and modern).
The support we had from the Assyrian community for our film was unbelievable. The drama recreations in our film would have been completely impossible without the generosity and enthusiasm of so many people. Above all, I have to thank Nineb Lamassu, who worked so hard for us to make this happen and all of the “actors” who were so patient in difficult conditions filming in freezing conditions in Northolt: Tony, Danny, Albert, Joseph, Amir, Alan and Michael. I would also like to thank the Assyrian Society of the United Kingdom for letting us film in their club and my university-friend, Eleanor Coghill, who helped me make contact with the Assyrian community. This experience was very special – I hope that it will be possible to watch the finished film with members of the Assyrian community to thank them again for their help and that this relationship will continue into the future.
On behalf of Firodil Institute we would like to thank you for your time in conducting this interview and also Taudi Saggi (Many Thanks!) on behalf of the Assyrian people for your interest in one of Assyria's outstanding figures.
Good Morning Assyria
News From the Homeland
Yonadam Kanna's Convoy Attacked
(ZNDA: Baghdad) On Saturday, May 6, at around 11:00 a.m. Baghdad time, a road side bomb planted on one of the highways, east of Baghdad, exploded as the convoy of Mr. Younadam Kanna, Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) and member of Iraqi Parliament, was passing by.
One security personnel was hurt and two escort cars were damaged.
The ADM convoy was on its way to the ADM headquarters in the center of Baghdad.
Reports indicate that Mr. Kanna was not in present in the convoy. Iraqi officials alter their travel routes to avoid becoming easy targets for such assassination attempts.
Assyrian Contractor Killed in Balad, Iraq
(ZNDA: Baghdad) On April 12, Mr.
James Benyamin, an Assyrian resident of Baghdad, was shot and killed by insurgents while working in Balad, about 20 miles east of Baghdad.
Balad is a small city in the province of Salah-Al-Deen, the birthplace of the former Iraqi dictator, and an area teeming with insurgents and terrorists.
Assyrian Woman Shot Dead in Baghdad
(ZNDA: Baghdad) On 6 April, Mrs.
Wasan Matti, sister of Fr. Wisam Matti of the Mother of God Church in Baghdad, died from gunshot wounds inflicted by an Islamic terrorist group.
She was with her husband and 2-year-old daughter in their car returning home from a doctor's visit when she and her family was attacked.
Wasan was six months pregnant and would have celebrated her 30th birthday on April 18.
Assyrian War Veteran Killed in Mosul
(ZNDA: Mosul) On 26 April Yousif Odisho Giwargis al-Baylati, 40, was shot and killed in the Assyrian quarters of al-Dawwasa in Mosul. Giwargis was an Iraq-Iran War veteran and was injured during that war. No motives were given for the fatal attack on Mr. Baylati at press time.
3 Assyrians Appointed to New Kurdish Government
Courtesy of the Reuters
6 May 2006
(ZNDA: Arbil) The parliament in the Kurdish-dominated region of northern Iraq has approved a single administration, uniting two rival parties after more than a decade.
The parliament in the city of Arbil voted for the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan to run a unified government.
Kurds have enjoyed self rule in three provinces in Iraq's north.
Analysts say Sunni Muslims fear the new move could herald a push for Kurdish independence in the oil-rich north.
But regional president Massoud Barzani said the unification would help the central Iraq government create stability.
Since fighting between the two main faction in the mid-1990s, the Kurdish region has been physically divided.
There have been two separate rival administrations duplicating everything.
Until now, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's PUK had run Sulaimaniya province, while the KDP, under Massoud Barzani, had run Arbil and Dohuk.
The KDP and the PUK have divided up most of the cabinet posts between them, with five of the 32 going to other parties.
Mr Barzani said: "The new government of Kurdistan is not only for the Kurds, but for the other sects and ethnic groups such as the Christians and Turkomen."
The unification move was prompted by both outside and internal pressures.
Kurdish leaders want the oil-rich province of Kirkuk to be added to their region but their historic claim could not be pursued by a divided administration.
Kirkuk lies just south of the autonomous region.
Ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein moved thousands of Arabs to the predominantly Turkoman and Kurdish city and Sunni Arabs are now a majority.
Sunnis fear they will be left with an economic rump if the Kurds and the oil-rich Shia Muslim-dominated south break away.
Assyrian Members of the Kurdish Cabinet
The new cabinet of the Kurdish Regional Government is headed by prime minister Nechirvan Idris Barzani. Three Assyrians will be serving in Mr. Nechirvan Barzani's government. They are Mr. Sarkis Aghajan Mamendu, Minister for Finance; Mr. Nimrod Baito Youkhana, Minister of Tourism & Antiquities; and Mr. George Yousif Mansour; Minister of State.
Mr. Nimrod Baito is the head of the Assyrian Patriotic Party (APP).
Mr. George Mansour is the director of the Ishtar TV, a satellite television program which broadcasts in three languages of Assyrian, Kurdish, and Arabic from Arbil in north Iraq.
In his speech outlining the program of the new cabinet, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani emphasized the importance of maintaining the linguistic heritage of the Christian population in north Iraq: "Kurdish is our mother tongue. At the same time, we respect and support the languages of Turkmen, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Armenians and Arabs. We remain committed to the principles of cultural and language diversity and pluralism, and we provide freedom for all in this area. In addition to Kurdish and Arabic language schools, for more than a decade Turkmani and Syriac language schools have been opened and fully supported by the Kurdistan Regional Government. Recently, with support from the KRG, an Aramaic language school has opened."
ADM Casts No Confidence Vote
The Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM), the largest Christian political party in Iraq and in the north, was not awarded any ministerial position. During the confidence on the recognition of the new cabinet, the two ADM members of the Kurdish Parliament voted in favor of the motion of "no confidence" against Mr. George Mansour and Mr. Nimrod Baito Youkhana.
Assyrian Church Re-instates Brother of New Cabinet Member
Rev. Emmanuel Baito visiting His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV during a recent visit to Chicago after his second re-instatement shortly before his brother's appointment to the Kurdish cabinet.
In an interesting turn of events Zinda Magazine has learned that the Assyrian Church of the East has re-instated Rev. Emmanuel Baito Youkhana, the brother of the newly appointed cabinet minister, Nimrod Baito.
While in Iraq, Rev. Emmanuel Baito Youkhana was suspended by Archbishop Mar Giwargis. After much pleading, he was reinstated. Later, Rev. Emmanuel Baito found his way to Germany. In Germany he was once again suspended, this time by Mar Odisho, Bishop of Europe.
Rev. Emmanuel Baito has been an strong critic of the ADM policies from Europe for many years. Lately, he began siding and defending the Assyrian Church of the East during its dispute with Mar Bawai Soro.
Shortly before the appointment of his brother as the Minister of Tourism in the Kurdish Regional Government, Rev. Baito Youkhana visited Chicago and met with His Holiness Mar Dinkha, Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, and later on Sunday, 23 April conducted the Sermon at the Mar Giwargis Church in Chicago.
Back to the Top
The Assyria Advocate
with Mariam S. Shimoun
When struggling against the iron grip of thugs and criminals, two types of people emerge - those who can be bought, and those who can't. In the famous Chicago Untouchables, Elliot Ness, a federal agent, became famous for bringing down the dangerous and notorious Al Capone. Ness was faced with threats against himself and his family, he was offered money by the famous mob boss, and there were attempts on his life. But in the end, he couldn't be bought - and he took out one of the most dangerous men in the U.S.
Al Capone was a vicious man, but he was a cunning politician - he was the first person in Chicago to open up a "free lunch" soup kitchen during the American Great Depression in the 1930’s. He gained the loyalty of the poor and destitute because he offered them their livelihood. How quickly a hot meal can make people forget they are accepting gifts from a murderer, a thief, and a criminal. Even the head of the Chicago Crime Commission bowed to Capone – he meekly asked for Capone’s help in making sure elections in Chicago went without violence or fraud (as Chicago didn’t have enough “honest cops”). Capone agreed, and the head of Chicago’s Crime Commission was now indebted. And duly humbled.
A group of men in Chicago truly defied what was expected of them. Virtually every single city official had been bought by Capone. Rather than be appeased by a powerful crime syndicate, accept bribes, keep their heads down and let them be – they remained Untouchable.
How difficult it must have been. Overwhelming, really.
Imagine, a nation of Untouchables like these.
There are appropriate times to question motives. There are appropriate times for cooperation, and there are appropriate times for revolt. I don’t know what it is exactly the churches and political leadership are dealing with in Iraq, on the ground every day, but I do know Assyrians have dealt with similar, if not worse, situations before. The Kurds have begun their Kurdification  process of the Assyrians, and, much like the mob, are trying to exert their authority and power over all aspects of the Assyrian nation, including their policy of division between the millets, promoting the split between our religious and political institutions, and attempting to undermine the Assyrian political authority by financing the religious establishments – building grand churches and homes for the Bishops of all denominations while the homes of their parishioners lay in ruin, crumbling from poverty, all around them.
What is happening now between the churches and political entities like the ADM is an expected power struggle, or rather, to use a better word, position struggle, and the KDP is exploiting it. Assyrians, historically, have not had political representation, separate from the churches. The churches have had their place in the political and religious arenas for so long it is difficult to rearrange the spheres of influence. No one surrenders their power or position easily, and the churches are expecting, rightly so, that with political and civic leaders now representing the public, their authority will be questioned and challenged.
And, quite frankly, it will be. The church’s authority over the Assyrian political destiny will certainly be moved to a new entity – political leadership. It is not a question of whether it will happen, but how and when. The church’s influence will be contained to our spiritual and religious identity, where it belongs. This could result either in deep division between Assyrians in terms of their religious affiliation, or, if done right, can ultimately be an informal 2-front alliance (between church and state), where in the future, Assyrians (Chaldeans, Syriacs) will keep the influence of these two entities separate, but be united enough to never again be victims to the old “divide and conquer” routine attempted by Saddam, and now, Barzani.
People are choosing sides as if this is a zero-sum game. But it isn’t. It isn’t the church vs. the politicians. One can have both. One should demand both. Now is the birth of a political identity, separate from the church. And it will happen. It is inevitable. It is necessary to maintain not only the religious identity of the Assyrians, but also to maintain the political and ethnic identity. The churches should have the same faith in us to forge our political destiny that we have had in them for centuries to nurture our spiritual side. Don’t drag the churches into the dirty game of politics, and don’t expect the politicians to tend to our spiritual needs – these are two separate spheres, with two very separate functions. If the religious institutions insist on holding onto a political position, it is the Christian duty of the Assyrian to keep them confined to the spiritual needs of the nation; if the political entities begin preaching religion, it is the Nationalist duty of the same Assyrian to keep them confined to the political and civic needs of the nation.
Is this too idealistic of me? Maybe. But from idealism flows vision, and my vision is an allied political front, especially when dealing with hostile external forces. Right now, it is “Us vs. Ourselves”, when it should be “Us vs. Them”. My vision is for Untouchable religious figures, whom many of us have had so much faith in – that they may have the same faith in us. And why not? Are Assyrians less than Kurds, or Turks, or Armenians, that we have no political knowledge or abilities? Is our nation so weak and fragmented that it is somehow impossible for us to make it clear that we will not bend or break in the face of bullies? There is only so much harm external enemies can inflict; it is only us who are allowing it.
But alas, very few of us are "Untouchable", like Chicago's Elliot Ness. The churches must ensure their survival, after all, they are an earthly institution, run by men, like any other. Some Assyrians, clergy included, are eating fruit from a poisoned tree and are indebted to their Kurdish financiers. But, as always happens, one day, the debt must, and will, be repaid.
- Google “Kurdish Christians”, see the new (and completely fabricated) history of the Kurds in Mesopotamia.
News From Around the World
AUA's Letters of Congratulation to Iraqi President & PM
To Mr. Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq
April 27, 2006
His Excellency Jalal Talabani
President of the Republic of Iraq
Dear Mr. President:
On behalf of all the establishments and organizations of the Assyrian Universal Alliance and
myself, I extend to your Excellency our warmest congratulations and good wishes on the occasion
of your election as President of the Republic of Iraq. We wish you continued success and
happiness, and to our beloved Iraq good fortune and prosperity. The Assyrian Universal Alliance
(AUA) is an international alliance of various sectors of the Assyrian people as represented by
Assyrian national organizations and federations throughout the world. We join your Excellency
and the Iraqi people in this happy occasion. We ask God to assist your Excellency in your mission
in the service of the Iraqi People in all its nationalities and faiths.
While we appreciate your admirable efforts and noble endeavors toward rooting out terrorism,
building a nation of law and order resting its foundation on democracy, multi-ethnic politics and
respect for human rights, we at the AUA were very curious as to why no mention was made about
the Assyrians, the indigenous people of Iraq, in your speech addressed to the House of
Representatives on Saturday, 22 nd April, 2006.
The nationalities of Arab, Kurd and Turkmen were mentioned but not the Assyrian. We were
expecting from your Excellency compliance with the Iraqi Constitution as stipulated therein. The
constitution calls for the rights of all Iraqi National groups: Arab, Kurd, Turkmen, Assyrian and
others to be recognized and identified in accordance with the prescribed law. We trust that your
Excellency will, in the future, recognize the rights of the Assyrians in accordance with their
constitutional entitlements, not just Arab and Kurd, as the ill-famed Iraqi regimes used to do in the
The Assyrian people are looking forward to participating with the rest of the Iraqi nationalities in
building a multi-ethnic democratic Iraq united and free of all forms of marginalisation, prejudice
and banishment. We strongly believe that for democracy to prevail in the country all Iraqi
ethnicities ought to enjoy their legitimate rights, including official recognition of their existence
by their elected officials. In conclusion, and with due respect, we would like to remind your
Excellency that, in a democracy, the rule of the majority mandates the rights and respect of the
minority. May God bless Iraq and all Iraqis.
Emanuel Kamber, Ph.D.
To Mr. Nouri Al-Maliki, Prime Minister of Iraq
April 27, 2006
His Excellency Mr. Nouri Al-Maliki
The Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq.
On behalf of all organisations and committees of the Assyrian Universal Alliance and myself, it
gives me great pleasure to extend to you and the proud and kind Iraqi people my warmest
congratulations on the occasion of your assignment to the position of Prime Minister. We share
with you this happy occasion, as we do believe that this will be the first step in the life of the
Iraqis toward establishing peace, security, freedom, justice, good living and equality among the
Iraqi nationals, with no religious or ethnic discrimination, or marginalisation of any Iraqi entity -
especially the Assyrians, the indigenous people of Mesopotamia. We anticipate that you will take
into consideration the guarantee and enforcement of our legitimate rights alongside the rest of the
We wish that God will direct your steps and consolidate your endeavours toward the
accomplishment of the noble national aims, that will enable our beloved country to regain its
prestige and rightful place among the international community and to join the march of human
civilisation into the shelter of a democratic regime, multiethnic, and predominated by law and the
security of the rights of men and women, and no less than the stated constitutional rights for all
fraternal nationalities of the Iraqi people.
We hope that you will form a government of national unity that will not exclude any element of
the Iraqi people, that will be able to eliminate any trace of political and nationalistic injustice,
prevention of Iraqi bloodshed, and save the country from any type of infighting, and ultimately the
struggle against terrorism, and to strive tirelessly for the safety, stability and prevalence of peace
and progress in Mesopotamia and among its good people.
Receive our abundant esteem and respect.
Emanuel Kamber, Ph.D.
Assyrian Genocide Issue Goes International
By Afram Barryakoub, reporting from Sweden
|Sabri Atman, the prominent Assyrian scholar of the Seyfo Genocide, spoke in Sweden to "increasingly supportive audiences."
(ZNDA: Stockholm) The ongoing crusade for the recognition of the Assyrian genocide of 1915 is harvesting important victories. Sabri Atman, seen by many as an ambassador of Seyfo, toured Sweden last week in an effort aimed at informing and gaining increasing support from Assyrians.
In an interview with Radio Qolo, Mr. Atman outlined an impressive list of planned activities for the worldwide recognition of Seyfo. The list includes seminars in the Swedish and German parliaments and a session in the EU parliament as well.
The Vatican and the Pope will hopefully be reached and informed about Seyfo so that on the coming 24 of April, not only Armenians will be mentioned by the Pope but Assyrians as well.
Increased cooperation with Greece, Armenia and Cyprus is another issue currently under development.
Earlier this month, the UK based Firodil Institute succeeded to advance the issue of Seyfo recognition and a monument in London. Work is also underway to erect a monument in Holland.
In Södertälje, the homebase of the Assyrian national team “Assyriska”, a decision was taken last week by the Swedish socialdemocratic party to approve the erection of a Seyfo monument.
Across the Atlantic Ocean efforts are planned to take place to bring the Assyrian genocide issue on the working desks of Mr. Arnold Schwarznegger and hopefully Mr. George W. Bush.
|Assyrians listening to Sabri Atman's lecture in Norsborg, Sweden.
Despite the fact that funds are sparse and almost not existent many things have been realised, and many strides have been made. According to Mr. Atman: “the Armenians spend a yearly sum of 50 million dollars on their genocide issue; Turkey is thought to spend up to 200 millions a year on its denial policy, in comparison, the Assyrian budget for Seyfo is, at the best, microscopic.”
The creation of a Seyfo Institute has been discussed for years. The creation of such an institute would improve the coordination, funding and impact of all efforts.
The question is still not definitely settled but is expected to materialize in some form in the coming future.
More than 90 years after the genocide, which wiped out two thirds of the Assyrian nation, a revival is taking place which no one had foreseen, not least the Turkish state. Equipped with nothing more than the bare truth, Assyrians are once again crusading, just as they did all the way to China many centuries ago.
Threats Force Cancellation of Assyrian
Genocide Conference in Holland
Courtesy of the Assyrian International News Agency
A conference on the 1915-1918 Turkish genocide of Assyrians, Greeks and Armenians was cancelled because of threats received by the speakers. The conference, scheduled for April 27, was organized by Foundation Assyria Netherlands and the Jewish St. Synagogue in the city of Enschede.
In the last 10 days numerous anonymous threats were received by the conference. Mr. Z. Alsan, a Turkish national, was to speak on why Turkey denied the Genocide. Dr. H. Hirschfeld, from the Centrum for Information en Documentation Israel, was to speak on why the Jewish genocide has been recognized. Prof. Johannes Houwink ten Cate, of the university in Amsterdam, was to speak on the nature and recognition of genocide. Dr. M. Beth Arsan, an Assyrian from Holland, was to speak on why the Assyrians want recognition of the genocide.
Citing the threats, the organizers cancelled the conference after all four speakers withdrew their participation. Mr. Aslan received the most threats. He has spoken on the genocide on previous occasions, but this time the threats were so numerous and intense he was forced to cancel his appearance. Some of the threats came directly from Turkey.
The conference was largely financed by the Provincial Parliament Overijssel, which desired to stimulate the debate between Assyrians and Turks on this issue.
European Parliament Meets Assyrian Politician
on Assyrian Question
Courtesy of the Foundation Assyria Netherlands & the Assyrian International News Agency
|Mr. A. J. Maat, representative of the European Human Rights Commission and Ms. Attiya Gamri, Dutch Provincial Parliamentarian.
An official meeting of European Parliamentarians headed by Mr A.J. Maat, representative of the European Human Rights Commission, and Ms Attiya Gamri (Dutch Provincial Parliamentarian) and other members of the European Parliament took place on 18-19 April 2006 in Europe's capital Brussels, Belgium. The meeting dealt particularly with the situation of the Assyrian (also known as Chaldean and Syriac) people in Iraq. After her visit at the beginning of April, Ms Gamri was able to highlight in detail the obstacles and oppressive circumstances that limit the freedom of the Iraqi Assyrians' ethnic and political rights. This is happening especially in northern Iraq, where there is relative peace. However, the Kurdish political parties -- by means of Kurdish soldiers and militiamen -- are manipulating the political climate very aggressively, especially in regards to the Christian Assyrians who have always been peaceful and have been seeking for political and ethnic rights without the use of violence.
Mr A.J. Maat will present and discuss the fieldwork report made by the Assyrian Delegation who visited the Assyrian regions of northern Iraq this April at the upcoming European Parliament meeting. Mr A.J. Maat asked about the percentage of money that has been donated to for the reconstruction of Iraq by the European Community that's has directly reached the Assyrian minority. Ms Gamri promised to present him the facts on this as soon as possible.
Ms. Gamri during her visit to the European Parliament.
Besides the Iraqi issue also the worrying situation within Syria was on the agenda of this two-day meeting. Of particular interest was the issue of Mr Yacoub Hanna Shamoun, an Assyrian detainee in Syria for more than 20 years without trial (in violation of all international human rights conventions signed by Syria). On this case in the near future an official request by the European Parliament will be sent to the Syrian government. Ms Gamri discussed the situation of the Assyrian people in Syria in general. She gave a brief report on the past decades and the worrying future of the Assyrian presence in Syria. The third main point that was on the agenda of this meeting between the European Parliament and the Assyrian politician is the Turkey File and the European Union. Mr C. Eurling has been requested officially to include the recognition of the Assyrian Genocide next to the Armenian Genocide whenever the debates mention this critical point regarding the Human Rights Situation of Turkey and their eventual succession to the European Union. This request was immediately accepted by the European Parliament members.
Tigris Dam Project Stirs Hopes, Fears in Turkey
Courtesy of Reuters
28 April 2006
By Gareth Jones
Broker / Owner
Certified Commercial Sales Specialist
Glendale, Arizona 85310
Click Photo For More Information
(ZNDA: Hasankeyf) For the people of Hasankeyf, this
sleepy, once-mighty town on the banks of the River Tigris is a historic
treasure: for those who want to build a massive dam here, it is a backwater in
need of development.
"We have to stop the dam, our town will be destroyed," said Hasankeyf's mayor,
Abdulvahap Kusen, a staunch opponent of the Ilisu dam project, which would
swallow up more than 80 villages and hamlets by the time of its planned
completion in 2013.
"Our valley is part of ancient Mesopotamia, where human history began," he
said. "When you visit our caves, you get a sense of how people lived millennia
In the sun-baked valley, the minaret of a 14th century mosque soars above a
cluster of cottages and tombs. Locals say the waters will rise to the mosque's
speakers if the dam -- set to be Turkey's second biggest -- goes ahead.
Only the bleating of goats on the steep hillsides and the Muslim call to prayer
disturb the midday silence. A stork flaps lazily across an azure sky. A falcon
But Hasankeyf's tranquility belies a long history of struggle between rival
empires -- and more recently between sharply differing visions of what Turkey's
priorities should be.
Opponents of the dam project say the valley's unique archaeological heritage
that includes Sumerian, Roman and Ottoman monuments must be preserved, and
townspeople allowed to continue their ancient, unhurried way of life.
In a last desperate effort to halt a project due to start at the end of May,
they have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in the distant French
city of Strasbourg. They are also urging foreign creditors to shun the project.
The dam's supporters stress the need to regenerate the poor, southeastern
region, create jobs, build modern infrastructure and provide much-needed energy
for Turkey's booming economy.
Uncertainty over the dam project -- first mooted in the 1980s, begun,
abandoned, now resumed -- has scared away much-needed investment over the
years, Hasankeyf's mayor said.
"This is a natural open-air museum. We could make lots of money, but nobody
wants to build hotels or restaurants because they don't know what is going to
happen," said Kusen.
Nearly 1,000 km (620 miles) away in the Turkish capital Ankara, things are seen
"This project will save Hasankeyf, not destroy it," said Yunus Bayraktar,
coordinator of the Ilisu dam and hydroelectric power plant project in a
consortium led by his company Nurol, one of Turkey's major construction firms.
Bayraktar says the 1.2 billion euro ($1.45 billion) project will create 80,000
jobs and lure tens of thousands of tourists to an area hit hard by years of
Kurdish rebel conflict.
"It will inject 300 million euros ($373 million) into the Turkish economy every
year (with the energy generated)."
The dam is part of a much bigger, decades-old strategy to harness the Tigris
and Euphrates rivers -- the Southeastern Anatolian Project (GAP) -- that
envisages a total of 22 dams and 19 hydroelectric power plants across the
Eighty percent of Hasankeyf's historic sites, including 4,200 caves, are above
the projected waterline of 64 metres (210 ft) and so will be unaffected by the
dam, Bayraktar said.
Relocating People, Monuments
The monuments that would be submerged -- including mosques, a hamam and the
remains of an ancient bridge spanning the Tigris -- will be transported to a
purpose-built park and open-air museum nearby. The new lake created by the dam
will be opened to water sports. Roads will be built to mprove access.
The project allocates 25 million euros ($31 million) to protect Hasankeyf's
historical heritage -- a key condition of the Turkish government for backing
the scheme, Bayraktar said.
A new town will be built to house those whose homes are lost. Residents who
prefer to leave will receive compensation.
"Around 90 percent of the 3,800 people of Hasankeyf are currently unemployed," Bayraktar said, adding that they would now get work in construction and later
Archaeological work will continue in the Hasankeyf valley until the dam is
completed in seven years' time, Bayraktar said.
Opponents are not convinced by such arguments.
"If they manage to transfer the monuments successfully, they will still have
destroyed the ensemble and its special relationship with the landscape," said
Zeynep Ahunbay, an Istanbul-based architect and veteran campaigner against the
"Hasankeyf is a spectacular site ... It has still not been fully understood or
excavated. The dam would mean a great loss," she said. Ahunbay is a member of
the conservationist group which in March lodged an appeal at the European Court
of Human Rights.
Environmentalists fear the area's biodiversity, especially its rich birdlife,
"(The area) is one of the best-preserved examples of river ecosystems in
Turkey," said Jose Pedro Tavares, the Turkey representative of Britain's Royal
Society for the Protection of Birds. Unfortunately, the environmental impact
assessment study done by the project promoters fell short of international
standards and lacks crucial information and recommendations."
In Hasankeyf, populated mostly by ethnic Kurds and Arabs, some even spoke
darkly of a political conspiracy.
"The state wants to drive us Kurds from the area, to put our lands under water.
They don't like the Kurds," said one man selling trinkets and rugs. He gave his
name only as Ahmet.
"If Hasankeyf had been in western Turkey, this project would never have been
allowed to go ahead," Ahmet said.
Karl Suleman Pleads Guilty to Fraud
Courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald
1 May 2006
(ZNDA: Sydney) Just one year after serving time for fraud, failed Sydney dotcom entrepreneur Karl Suleman is back behind bars.
The former director of Karl Suleman Enterprises (KSE) and the Froggy group of companies was remanded in custody today after pleading guilty to 26 fraud charges in the NSW District Court.
The charges followed an investigation by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) into events between April 2000 and July 2001.
Karl Suleman ... pleaded guilty.
Photo by Tamara Voninski
The court was told today that Suleman, 45, made 15 false statements to obtain public investment in a supermarket trolley collection businesses run by KSE.
He also used 11 false documents to induce one party to invest $1 million.
In documents previously tendered in court, it was revealed Suleman made the false statements to obtain $3.185 million.
Fifteen investors were promised a fortnightly income of up to $25,000 but were left $813,815 out of pocket when Suleman's company collapsed in November 2001, the documents said.
Barrister Peter Zahra, SC, did not apply for bail today after Suleman, who was dressed in a black suit, pleaded guilty to all counts.
Judge Reg Blanch formally refused bail and Suleman was taken into custody, with sentencing submissions expected to be heard on June 22 and 23.
Suleman has already served 12 months in jail for fraudulent behaviour involving KSE and the Froggy group.
Suleman, who once led a flamboyant life, was convicted on four counts of fraud in 2004 that included lying to financiers about his wealth in order to obtain $3 million in loans to purchase two Ferraris and a luxury motor yacht.
The 26 new charges were brought against Suleman in March last year, just two days before his release from jail, when he was placed on strict bail conditions.
KSE was placed in voluntary administration and has since been liquidated.
Froggy's mobile companies and music operation were also put into liquidation in January and February of 2002 respectively.
Assyrian Teen Refuses Bail Over Shooting in Australia
Courtesy of the News Limited
26 April 2006
The victim...Ashur Audisho
(ZNDA: Sydney) An Assyrian teenager charged with the shooting murder of another Assyrian man in the Fairfield's southwest has been refused bail.
Dilan Shaba, 19, chose not to appear before Central Local Court today where he was charged with the April 9 murder of Ashur Audisho, 21, in Fairfield West.
It is alleged Audisho was shot after a confrontation with three men, including Mr Shaba, following an evening spent at an Assyrian club.
Mr Shaba, of Edensor Park, was arrested on Monday night after handing himself in to police.
He has been charged with murder and accessory after the fact to murder.
Mr Shaba did not apply for bail today and it was formally refused by Magistrate Allan Moore.
He was remanded in custody to appear in the same court by audio-visual link on July 25.
Activities of the Assyro-Chaldean Society of France (AACF)
By Antoni Yalap, reporting from France
(ZNDA: Paris) Over 1000 people participated at the first commemoration of the Assyro-Chaldean Genocide of 1915, in Sarcelles, France.
The mayor of this city, on 15 October 2005, inaugurated the first official memorial commemorating the massacre of the hundreds of thousands of Assyro-Chaldean martyrs in the Seyfo Genocide.
More than 1200 people celebrated the Akitu Festival in Paris, a program which included the music of Janan Sawa, Juline Shlemoun, Rony Al Sanati and Farmo Markos.
Miss Assyria France 2006
AACF organized the second annual beauty contest, MISS ASSYRIA FRANCE 2006. This year, nine girls, ages 16 to 20, took part in this contest, accompanied by nine charming boys. The competition took place in a festive and familial evening at Villiers-le-Bel. The evening was animated by the famous Assyro-Chaldean singer, Lazar Malko, from the United States. He was accompanied by the Assyro-Chaldean singers in France, Juline Shlemoun and Nile. Nawfal and his friends played music for the 1000 people present, well into the night. The competition was emceed by Mr. Antoine Yalap and Ms. Jamila Gulan.
All n ine candidates were photographed by Mr. Samuel Yalap, the professional photographer at AACF. They were made up free by Posi'tifs Coiffure and brought to the competition hall on board of a limousine provided freely by the Gabriel Limousines. After enjoying some champagne, the Miss Assyria France beauties stepped out of the limousine and entered the room in the arms of their charming male guides.
Three processions took place: the first the inaugural procession, a second for the presentation of the participants, and a third for the final selection. The public vote helped to determine the five finalists. A jury of 5 professionals directed by a professional model narrowed the list to three. Finally, Ms. Sandrine Ide, 17, was elected Miss Assyria France 2006.
All candidates are presented with boxes of beauty products offered by Linda Yalap, of Laboratoires Vital Beaute, a giant poster of themselves, flowers and many other gifts. The AACF presented each participant a photo album. The winner of this year's Miss Assyria France competition, Ms. Sandrine Ide, also received 1500 Euros (approx $US 1900).
To view the photos from the Seyfo Commemoration click here. To view the photos from the Akitu Festival click here. To view the photos from Miss Assyria France 2006 click here and view the video here.
Your Letters to the Editor
Nuri Kino is a Good Choice
Bailis Yamlikha Shamun
I share your selection of Nuri Kino as the Assyrian Person of the Year 6755, not so much for his obvious tremendous artistic abilities, but for introducing the Assyrians, their history and their aspirations to an audience of such glamour and journalistic exposure.
It is imperative that our case be made known not only to those who hold the reins of power, but also to those who possess the means to spread the news through the powerful system of communication. The accompanying article by Rosie Malek-Yonan, herself an accomplished actress and writer in her own right, was excellent and rather moving.
Incidentally, this is one of the best issues I have read. Chaiboo Elloukhoon, awoode d'ZINDA.
Overjoyed with Zinda's Choices
What an apt choice it was for you to select the famed Assyrian journalist and filmmaker Mr. Nuri Kino as your Assyrian of the Year 6755. Moreover Ms. Rosie Malek-Yonan’s brilliant portrayal of the shocking persecution endured by Assyrians was like nothing I had ever read before. You, as a publication, deserve commendation on these choices. Indeed the year 6755 brought trials and tribulations to our feeble Nation. But nevertheless, I am overjoyed that you have chosen two people who are artists in every sense of the word.
As I viewed Mr. Kino’s acceptance speech for the Golden Palm Award and his bold enthusiasm for a fight so many patriots of our Nation have been fighting, I was left thinking that this person indeed should be the symbol of what all we conscious patriots should be.
On the other side of the spectrum, as I sat reading Ms. Malek-Yonan’s book, with tears running down my face and my heart breaking at the injustice my people have suffered, I was gripped by a sense of patriotism and a sense of intense pride at the notion that perhaps, just perhaps, our cause would be heard. I wanted to stand and shout from the rooftops that Rosie Malek-Yonan’s literary achievement (because that is what it is) should be in every bookstore in the world and in every language. I wanted for people to know the story of my Nation. I wanted my fellow citizens of this ever synergized world to understand the suffering of my people.
And now I can rest assured that we have moved that one inch closer to Assyria. No, we haven’t acquired tracts of land or raised our flag ... but true Nationalism and Patriotism must first start in the hearts of Assyrians. And these two giants of Assyria have helped us as human beings to fill our hearts with Assyrianism.
Assyria is inevitable. Assyrians are invincible. And Assyrianism runs through the veins of us all!
God Bless Mr. Nuri Kino and Ms. Rosie Malek-Yonan. We await their next achievements … we know they are near!
Help End the Siege of Our Village in Syria
Residents of the Village of Tel-Sakra
The village of Tel-Sakra is in the district of the town of Tel-Tammer, which, in turn, is in the jurisdiction of the Governorate of Hassake in Northeast Syria.
Village of Tel-Sakra in the distance remains under siege
The whole story in its full details is that four Assyrian youths from the village of Tel-Sakra were planning on attending a soccer (football) match on the other side of the Khabour River which separates the Assyrian villages in the district of Tel-Tammer. Due to the non-existence of bridges on the river to connect these villages together, the residents of the villages are still using their primitive resources to travel between the two banks of the river.
The four youths had requested from a man, whom they had seen by chance on the other side of the river where he was fishing, to bring them the small boat, which is used by the people. This type of request is a normal thing between the people in the area. However, the man (fisherman) responded rudely to them and this led to an argument from both sides, where the man (fisherman) began cursing the four youths. This resulted in getting three of the four youths to take off their clothes and cross the river swimming and got in a physical fight with the man where they beat him until a nearby farmer came and told them that the man you are beating is a police officer. It was then that the youths fled the scene and the man was taken to the hospital where he was treated for his wounds.
Meanwhile, in the governorate of Hassake, everything was magnified and blown out of proportion. The entire village of Tel-Sakra has become under siege for the past five days where it is being surrounded by the police force, the criminal security force, the political security force and all other types of security forces are surrounding the residents of the village despite knowing that the suspects are not in the village. Their goal is to teach the people (children, women, elderly, and men) of the village a lesson, where they are blaming all the residents for the mistakes of three foolish youths. These forces are cursing all the Assyrian residents of the village and messing up the homes and the churches of the village, and disrespecting the sanctuary of the homes despite knowing that the three youths are not in the village. The police are now taking elderly men from the village as hostages until the three youths turn themselves in.
We, the Assyrian residents of Tel-Sakra, and as honorable citizens believe in the law and that the law should be carried out properly, and that the executive authority must not be a “government of horror” similar to how the Israeli Army is conducting its raid searches for Al-Quds Brigade. We are requesting from the government officials and the members of the Syrian Parliament, as well as the Human Rights Organizations and the liberal Syrians, to remove the siege off our village and to stop the group punishment tactics that have been imposed on the entire village residents. We ask the authorities why they are blaming all the village residents for the mistakes of three foolish youths. We also request, especially of all the people of Tel-Sakra in the homeland or Diaspora, to seek the Human Rights Organizations everywhere to assist us in lifting this siege, and to stop the insults and group punishments that we are enduring.
"Speaking with One Voice”
Joint Commemoration Day of the 1915 Genocide in Munich
Tuma Abraham, MD
Under the Motto “Speaking with one Voice”, Assyrian (Assyrian Democratic Organisation), Pontos Greek (Association of Pontos Greek in Munich) and Armenian (Council of Armenians in Germany) Organisations have issued a joint invitation to commemorate the victims of the Genocide perpetrated during World War I against the Christians population in Asia Minor. The event will take place on Saturday, May 20th, 2006 in the Centre of Munich at the famous Karmelitensaal.
As the main speaker of the event, the organizers invited Mrs. Erika Steinbach, member of the German Parliament and President of the Federation of the Dispelled People as well as Mrs. Gabriele Yonan, a historian and author of a Genocide book on the Assyrians, "The Forgotten Holocaust".
In addition, different politicians, MP from EU, German Federal and State Parliaments, Journalist and Human Rights activists are invited to participate in an open panel discussion right after the main speeches.
It is worth to mention, that last years commemoration event, which took place on April 16, 2005 was organized jointly by the ADO and Pontos Greeks Association, became a great success. The Community Centre of the Greek Orthodox Church was packed, more than 300 attendees, mostly Germans, listened to the interesting speeches, forum discussion and to the selected readings from the records of the Talaat Pascha trial, which has been documented as it took place in Berlin 1921. The invited speakers of the previous event were Mr. Heinz Burghart (Former Chief Editor of the Bavarian State and TV) and Mr. Abdulmesih BarAbraham, a well-known Assyrian activist. The latter spoke about the Seyfo in context of German politics and presented brief reports from survivors of Seyfo. One outcome of last year’s event was probably the trigger for official mentioning of the Assyrians/Syriac people along the other victims (e.g. Armenians) in the Genocide initiative submitted to the Federal Parliament by the German Christian Democratic Party in Early 2005. One of the authors of the resolution, which actually passed unanimously in the German Federal Parliament in June 2005, aimed at the recognition of the atrocities performed against the Armenians, was participant at last year’s panel discussion. The approach was questioned and other panel members and the audience complained about the ignorance against the case of the other Christians which became victims during the massacres.
Assyrian Genocide, Seyfo 1915:
The Missing Chapter of Ottoman History
Wednesday, 10 May 2006 6 p.m.
The Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre
School of Oriental & African Studies
Thornaugh St Russell Square London WC1H 0XG
The genocide of over 750,000 Assyrian Christians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in 1915 has largely been forgotten by the world. The pain of this genocide is still a dark shadow over the Assyrian people. This pain and suffering continues in the collective conscience of the Assyrian Christians as Turkey continues to deny and publicly denounce responsibility for this largely forgotten genocide during the First World War.
The Department for the Study of Religions (SOAS), together with Firodil and Gomidas Institutes; two prominent and leading Assyrian and Armenian institutes dedicated to lobbying for the recognition of the Assyrian and Armenian genocide through academic and scholarly research: have organised a prestigious speaking event and the premier of “Cry Unheard”, a documentary film by Nuri Kino at SOAS.
The leading speakers will include:
Dr. Erica Hunter: BA MA DPHIL PHD Dept for Study of religions SOAS.
Sabri Atman: Assyrian scholar specialising in the Assyrian Genocide, author of I long for Mesopotamia and The Assyrian-Syriacs.
Nuri Kino: Award winning Swedish Journalist, and winner of 2006 Golden Palm Award at the Beverly Hills Film Festival.
Mr. Andrew Michael of Firodil Institute said: “We are organising this event to present academic scholars and students alike with unbiased and factual information regarding the genocide of the Assyrians. The academia world and the intelligentsia have a pivotal role to play; it is their moral obligation to take a stance and advocate Turkey’s recognition of these atrocious crimes committed against the Assyrian and Armenian Christians.”
For more information please contact Nineb Lamassu, on Tel: 07969224642 Email: info@ firodil.co.uk
Media to contact Ninos Warda: 07759046837 & email@example.com
A Demonstration Against Turkey
On Tuesday, 9 May at 11.00 a.m. Turkey's Speaker of the Parliament, Bulent Arinc, visits the Swedish parliament. We on Assyriska Riksförbundet, along with some other organisations, including the Labour Court, are organizing a demonstration on Mynttorget, outside Riksdagdhuset around the time of Arinc's visit to the parliament.
The purpose of this demonstration is to show our dissatisfaction with Turkey in ignoring our human rights and protest against Turkey's seizure of the Assyrian/Syriacs' lands and property.
The committee in charge for organizing this demonstration takes responsibility for the practical questions, but we need the support of as many people as possible to come and show their solidarity. The more we are, the more our protest will will weigh in. Please disseminate this information within your respective associations.
Tid: tisdagen den 9 maj.
Samling: klockan 10.00.
Demonstrationen avslutas: klockan 12.00
Support Assyrian Songs and Poetry
Assyrian Aid Society
Central Valley Chapter
The Assyrian Aid Society Central Valley Chapter is sponsoring the production of a songs and poetry CD by Raabie Hannibal Alkhas and Ms. Helen Vincent, an Assyrian singer living in Germany. To achieve this goal we are pre-selling the CD for $50 to the enthusiasts of Assyrian poetry and art as a way of raising money for this project. If you are interested please submit your check payable to Assyrian Aid Society Central Valley Chapter, 4012 Rancho Mesa CT, Modesto, CA 95356. Part of the proceeds raised from sale of this CD will go toward AAS humanitarian projects in Bet-Nahrin.
We appreciate your continuous support.
With a pledge of $US 250, Zinda Magazine is a proud sponsor of the production of Hannibal Alkhas and Helen Vincent Songs and Poetry CD. Zinda urges its readers to support the Assyrian music and artists by purchasing their CDs, books, and art work. All ads included in the issues of Zinda Magazine are offered free of charge to Assyrian artists and authors. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
An Update on the Assyrian Superstar Contest
For Immediate Release
Ather Daniel Yokany
On April 21st, 2006, the Chicago Tribune, a nationally renowned newspaper, covered the Assyrian Superstar with a full page devoted to this historic project. The Tribune had interviews and photos of 6 finalists and interviewed 2 members of the executive committee. We have successfully completed phase 3 of the Assyrian Superstar project and we would like to thank each and every member of the committee for the commitment and extraordinary work in reaching this milestone. It is with only the combined effort of the entire team that these results were produced.
We acknowledge every website, TV station; radio station and newspaper that helped us promote this mission. We are also committed to let the whole world know that we exist not just in history books or in museums. Assyrians have existed for 6000 years, and will continue to thrive now & forever. We would like to take this opportunity to profoundly thank our sponsors, co-sponsors, voters, audience, the Assyrian National Council, the contestants, Lead Band, the businesses that helped us in selling our tickets, judges and guest singers. Special thanks go to Landmark Education for the leadership education, training and support for this project.
Inside of our commitment to promote Assyrian Culture & Heritage, the Assyrian Superstar is totally dedicated to preserving Assyrian arts including Assyrian language and music along with folk dancing.
The final show of this project is on Saturday May 27th, 2006 at the Rosemont Convention Center. For related information and reservation please call us @ 773–463-9000.
Contact me at email@example.com to find out how you could be part of this landmark project, either as a sponsor, co-sponsor, and media coverage or to join the committee.
General Release of Assyrian Comedy, "Cousins"
For Immediate Release
CHICAGO, IL. April 25, 2006 - Strategic Entertainment is proud to announce the release of the highly anticipated Assyrian Comedy ‘Cousins.’
This Romantic Comedy adds a little spice to the Genre. While Joe and Rita are in the typical cheesy love stage of their new relationship, the dreaded obstacles that come up can only be described as unique.
Her Surgeon Father works on her arranged marriage to a particular little rich boy belonging to a particular family of surgeons. Her father’s only care in the world is to further his own career. His plans are formed without her knowledge.
Joe is caught up in a change of lifestyle when his Uncle and cousin decide to visit him from Iraq. The reason for the visit is to help Joe, a young entrepreneur, with his new business venture. The soft-spoken Cousin and temperamental “Old-School” Uncle can either help the situation or turn it into a second “Desert Storm”.
“Cousins” takes us on a wild ride where two people try to become one by fighting off the influence of a dozen. Everyone has a hand in their life. Will they also be the helping hand that destroys their love?
“Cousins”, starring Jacob Alexzander, Crystal, Abbie Sarkis, Tonee, Zuhair, and introducing Ilbrone. Executive Producer, Billy Haido. Produced by H. Adoni Esho and Ron Rehana. Written and Directed by Martin Khoshaba.
For additional information contact:
To purchase the movie online you can visit our partner at www.assyrianmarket.com
Strategic Entertainment is the company that brought you “Akh Min Khimyani” and “Cost of Happiness”. Campacinema Films and Hal-A-Bat Pictures were the companies that brought you “Poetic Emancipation”.
Assyrians Face Escalating Abuses in "New Iraq"
Inter Press Service News Agency
3 May 2006
The longstanding persecution of ethnic minorities in Iraq is quietly writing the end chapter to Iraqi Assyrian history: if the world doesn't wake up to the plight of this people, they will soon be shoved through the door of extinction, warn patrons and human rights defenders.
The Assyrian Christian population of Iraq, historically traceable to the Mesopotamian cradle of civilisation, has increasingly become the target of both ethnic and religious attacks since the U.S.-led invasion and the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003.
"Today, the situation is the worst we have ever lived in Iraq," Andy Darmoo, head of the "Save the Assyrians" campaign, told a recent news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York.
The non-political human rights campaign, aimed at saving the Assyrian people of Iraq from oblivion and helping them reclaim their rights, was launched in January 2005 by the former British Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey.
Fellow campaigner Glyn Ford, a Labour member of the European Parliament, said that torture, kidnapping, extortion, harassment, church bombings, forced religious conversion, political disenfranchisement and property destruction are some of the deliberate human rights violations that are wreaking havoc in the lives of the hundreds of thousands of remaining Assyrians in Iraq.
The atrocities are rapidly spreading and escalating in the Assyrian-concentrated northern region, and in cities such as Kirkuk, Mosul and Baghdad, said Darmoo.
"The dangers we are facing are even greater now than a few hundred years ago," he continued, recalling the 13th century when Mongolian forces led by the warrior Prince Hulagu, the grandson of Genghis Kahn, swept across ancient Mesopotamia -- now Iraq -- and killed an estimated 800,000 people.
According to various sources, eight to 12 percent of the Iraqi population of 26 million belongs to a Christian denomination, mostly Assyrians, Chaldeans, Armenians and Catholics.
Iraqi's Assyrians speak a classical Syriac, an offshoot of Aramaic -- the language of Jesus Christ -- and most belong to one of the four churches: the Chaldean Uniate, the Syrian Orthodox Church, the Syrian Catholic and the Assyrian Church of the East. They were estimated at around one million before the recent exodus of Assyrians seeking refuge outside Iraq.
With over half of the Assyrian Iraqi community residing in the north, primarily in the Nineveh Plains and its surrounding areas, the illegal confiscation of Assyrian lands in northern Iraq under the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) remains a challenging issue confronting the ethnic-religious minorities, Shamiran Mako, an analyst with the Council for Assyrian Research and Development (CARD), a Canadian-based think-tank, told IPS.
She said that since the "liberation" of Iraq, oppression has become more prevalent.
"Recently, there have been systematic measures taken by the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) officials, under the Kurdish-controlled areas to marginalise and suppress Assyrians through the dictatorial policies of the KRG."
There, the recent vast exodus of Assyrians has been two-fold, Mako continued: it has been due to the rise of insurgency against those residing in the targeted cities; and in the north it has been directly as a result of the discriminatory measures of the KRG, under the auspices of the KDP and the second main Kurdish party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
Though the number of refugees in the world has been declining in recent years, the international system for dealing with human displacement has reached a critical juncture, including the challenge of a tougher climate awaiting refugees fleeing their homeland, according to a recent U.N. report on the worldwide refugee situation.
Statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in October 2005 show that out of the about 700,000 Iraqis who took refuge in Syria between October 2003 and March 2005, 36 percent were Iraqi Christians.
Despite the vast number of Iraqi Assyrian refugees living under terrible conditions, Darmoo was astonished "that there is yet no help whatsoever from any quarter."
"But we are not going to stop this time until we get our human rights," he told IPS.
Save the Assyrians has taken their case to the British and European Parliaments. In a session devoted to human rights at the beginning of April, a resolution was passed on Iraqi Assyrians recognising their plight and calling on the Iraqi authorities, the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, and the international community to take action.
In the months preceding the new federal Iraq, the campaign sought to influence the drafting of the country's new constitution, which was adopted in October 2005, with respect to Assyrians and other minorities. But despite some minor revisions, Darmoo said it did not really change anything.
"The constitution means nothing unless our rights are guaranteed by the U.N. and by the superpowers," he told IPS. "The Iraqi government will not give us our rights -- so international pressure must be enforced," he added.
But Mako, who represented the Assyrians at the 11th session of the U.N. Working Group on Minorities in May-June 2005, said that the world body, which has a limited presence inside Iraq, "has not doing anything tangible".
"The representatives on the ground are not attentive to the plight of Assyrians following the fall of Saddam's regime," she told IPS. "Instead, they focus on the oppression inflicted upon the Shiites and Sunni Arabs, and the Kurds."
However, the U.N. could play a key role by offering Assyrian refugees residing in neighbouring countries the right of return, "as it has for Kurdish settlers arriving from neighbouring Iran and Turkey," reasoned Mako.
Since 2005, the Council for Assyrian Research and Development has sought to record the abuses endured by Assyrians living in the heartland of northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey, western Iran and eastern Syria, and those in the diaspora, by way of its Assyrian Human Rights Documentation Project.
"At the current rates of ethnic cleansing, forced assimilation and migration, the indigenous Assyrian Christians will be fully eradicated from the new 'democratic Iraq' in less than 10 years," warns the first outcome paper, arguing that "the Kurdification, Arabisation, and Islamification of Iraq have left an ancient people at the doors of extinction".
The paper argues for a special territory for Iraq's Assyrian population and calls on the world to help secure the return of all Assyrians refugees to their ancestral homeland in northern Iraq.
"We and all other ethnic and religious parts of Iraqi society are entitled to basic human rights, same as the larger ethnic religious groups in Iraq," Edison A. Ishaya, president of the Assyrian Academic Society, a U.S.-based group with members worldwide, told IPS.
"We plead to the world, and especially to all brothers and sisters from all sectors of Iraqi society, for protection and basic human rights," he said. "All we pray for is to live in peace and continue to be a productive and contributing part of Iraqi society -- as we have always been."
Hon. Mikakos on Seyfo Genocide
The following is the speech made on 4 May 2006 by Greek-Australian Member of Parliament the Hon. Jenny Mikakos in the Parliament of the State of Victoria:
On 19 May the Pontian community in Victoria and around the world will commemorate the 87th anniversary of the Pontian genocide that occurred in present day Turkey.
Between 1916 and 1923, over 353,000 Pontic Greeks living in Asia Minor and in Pontos, which is near the Black Sea, died as a result of the twentieth century’s first, but less known, genocide. Over a million Pontic Greeks were forced into exile. In the preceding years, 1.5 million Armenians and 750,000 Assyrians in various parts of Turkey also perished.
The Pontic people lived in Asia Minor and in Pontos from ancient times. When the Turkish nationalists took power after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, a deliberate policy of creating “Turkey for the Turks” was adopted, essentially to rid Turkey of its Pontian, Armenian and Assyrian Christians.
The process began with Christian businesses being boycotted, bankruptcies and property being confiscated. Eventually intellectuals and community leaders were rounded up and executed, women were raped and enslaved. Most victims died from exhaustion or dehydration on forced marches or working in the so-called Labour Battalions.
These events were recorded by American, German and Austrian diplomats of the time.
Unlike Germany taking responsibility for the Jewish Holocaust, Turkey has never apologised to its victims.
The Turkish Government must begin the reconciliation process by acknowledging these crimes against humanity.
The suffering of the victims of the Pontian genocide cannot and will not be forgotten.
Special thanks to Dean Kalimniou in Australia.
The Latest Events in Northern Iraq
Thoughts and Looking Forward
The Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq (KRG) finally announced its new united government today (Sunday), which unified the Arbil and Sulaimaniya separate governments of Barazani and Talabani. The Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) for the first time since 1992 was excluded from joining the government. In 1992, the ADM and other Assyrian groups participated in the elections in northern Iraq. The ADM won four of the five seats assigned to the Assyrians Christians (ChaldoAssyrians) in northern Iraq (the fifth seat was manipulated by the KDP and Barazani to get its puppets in). Those elections became the status quo until the fall of Saddam and the new Iraqi national elections took place in 2005.
Today, we are witnessing a turning point in northern Iraq future as it is becoming obvious that the Kurds are on their way to establish their own state after many preparations since 1992 as the USA and its allies created the NO-Fly-Zone. The KRG is working towards usurping the last strong Assyrian stand, i.e. Nineveh Plain. This will be accomplished in the next year-planned referendum in northern Iraq. With all the money that the Kurds are pouring in the Assyrian regions and with the support of the churches, the plan seems to be almost guaranteed. Any previous influence or power of the Assyrian political groups in northern Iraq seems to be almost neutralized. The influence of the KRG is reaching the Kurds inside Syria and the final hurdle is the Yezidis of Sinjar and the Turkomans of Tella'far of northwestern Iraq. With similar policy applied on the Assyrians, the support of Yezidis and certain important factions of the Turkomans have been gained.
Few thoughts to consider before we proceed: If the ADM was a Kurdistani party that was working for the Kurds and Kurdish state, as few claim, why was the ADM excluded from participating in the latest very inclusive and crucial northern Iraqi regional government? We ask this question considering that the ADM is still the most popular and supported party by our people (the 2005 elections proved it). Wasn't it not in the best interest of the Kurds to have a popular Assyrian party in government rather than individuals who represent themselves only (Mr. Sargis Aghajan for Finance Ministry and Mr. George Mansour for the Regional Ministry) or the representative of the Assyrian Patriotic Party (APP), Mr. Nimrod Baito Youkhanna for the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquity. Of course, Mr. Nimrod's APP party is not supported by our people, is very small and insignificant, and most importantly failed to gain any votes in any elections.
Doesn't this prove that the ADM was not working for the Kurdish goals, although it cooperated with the Kurdish parties as partners, each working for its own people's interests? Doesn't this prove that now that when it really counts, the Kurdish parties could no longer allow the ADM to get more powerful so it was necessary to marginalize it by bringing those three Kurdish puppets in government?
Now to the more important questions:
- What does the future holds for the Assyrians of the Nineveh Plain with all the money that the KRG is pouring into the region (from the Iraq Reconstruction Funds of course by distributed by the KRG) and considering the economic conditions of Assyrians there?
- If the Iraqi Constitution stresses a federal system as one of its articles, how should Assyrians push this federal system to their benefit?
- If this is not working because of the Kurdish political parties involvement and interferences, is it time to rekindle the Assyrians' ever dream "Assyria Parliament in Exile".
Please weigh these crucial moments and circumstances and express your opinion with your favorite group and demand actions. Let's for once do the right thing and save Assyria before it is too late. Now is the time when the situation is unsettled to get things done. It would be much harder to change things when they settle and become another reality.
The Mickey Mouse Regime in Baghdad
Dr George Habash
The current regime in Baghdad is a Mickey Mouse regime and the government of the “green zone” from the “President” down to the “Minister of Science and Technology” are mere incumbents by salary only. When a day passes with minor bombings the regime continues and when the nation is slaughtered the regime also continues.
The joy of the population and the glow that followed after that momentous day when the giant statue of the Big Brother was upturned in Firdous’ Square has faded. We are back to where we started.
The current government if you dare to call it government is the continuation of the “governing council” formed after April 2003. None of those incorporated in that body had a genuine or semi-genuine nationalistic history apart from the communist member while the rest represented shilly- shally organisations worked either in the northern terrains or outside the borders mainly in the British capital.
The dominants in that body were clumsy and shabby individuals catapulted to the front by foreign intelligence especially the British intelligence; those who have spent decades in Britain with no rank and file or those who were inaugurated politicians in split seconds after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 when the Big Brother was abandoned, his teeth smashed and left nearly emasculated. In my personal opinion any individual who became a politician following 1991 events is a false prophet.
The eclipse of April 2003 and the U-turn from it came with the transition from that body to the first interim government headed by a former defector who lived for decades in the British capital.
The lifetime of that government though short but the retreat from the principles of April 2003 began to take hold. The defector favoured by foreign intelligence, his masters, now heads the government and represented the link between the past regime and the new regime in Baghdad. It was during the lifetime of this government that the defeated regime started to regroup in the homeland and most importantly outside the homeland in the West and especially in Britain.
Ambassadors were appointed during his tenure and each head of the group in the political machine of the new regime appointed his men and the London embassy was earmarked for the defector who appointed his man to bolster the London-Baghdad axis.
The first general elections worked for the defector but could not beat the alliance of bearded southern Muslims. With the latter in the transitional government until the last general elections the defector was dented more and the world of foreign intelligence fell apart.
In our homeland there is death and destruction hour by hour not day by day but the incumbents of the green zone never ask themselves why they are there if they cannot shoulder any type of authority and what is the fault of the entire population that is bleeding hour by hour in the past three years?
The new regime does not and can not flex its muscles and this means that the rulers are not from the people even though they have been elected. In every election worldwide some must win and this is a game but this does not mean that those elected are representative; for example the past regime used to get the full public votes.
A regime that can not rule is not in power and a regime that has no echo outside the borders is a fake regime. In the West and some Arab countries the past regime now is more active than the new regime where the remnants of the past regime with some Arab mercenaries have established offices openly or in disguise with houses, cars and mobile phones spying on nationalists with the approval of the national governments. Here in Britain too many spies of the past regime work together with British intelligence and British police; they behave like a government in waiting. Where is the new regime in Baghdad and what are the functions of the new ambassadors sent worldwide?
All those living in exile are still exiled and never dare to touch the soil of their homeland even after the praised April 2003 takeover while qinyana after qinyana from Britain enter the green zone and leave the green zone. This is the new regime in Baghdad were outsiders come in to give orders and remind those incumbents that they once lived in Britain and that their allegiance is to Britain.
The six-week victory was a “cakewalk” as was reported but thereafter everything failed. The failure is not from terrorists but from the past regime, the new regime and foreign intelligence; all these make the terrorists triumph.
The Big Brother and his bandits are protected by the new regime following recommendations from Britain. While Slobodan Milosevic and Charles Taylor have been apprehended for crimes against humanity the Big Brother with all his crimes against humanity in our homeland stays firm and all this due to the hard work of the British intelligence.
The solution to stop the bloodshed is by selecting independent nationalists from outside the current political machine and the dismissal of all those who held high offices in the past three years then allowing the national army and national police to control the state for a limited time until order is restored.
The Big Brother and his bandits have to be tried quickly and sentenced and it may be logical to try some men of the new regime who held high offices because they are guilty for shedding so much innocent bloods in the past three years.
The dervishes of the new regime seem only polite because of the presence of the foreign masters but these dervishes are not in the mood to give to everyone what they deserve because the former persecuted have become the new persecutors and each speak volume of greater Kurdia and greater Arabia marching and swallowing everything in their way.
The Mickey Mouse regime in Baghdad will not give us our demands on a silver platter neither we have our representation in that comfy auditorium of 275 dervishes to stand up on our behalf and deliver.
Here is the clue we ask the new regime that there is no justice in the current administrative law and ask for expansion of the number of provinces from 18 to 20 or even 25. The land between the Tigris and upper Zab rivers is to be one province and here all towns and villages subtended by these two rivers will be in this province for all its inhabitants which will include all ethnic and religious groups.
People living in the land between the two rivers will be free from the dominance of Arabs and Kurds and in this way there is no separation or segregation but this is our basic rights to administer ourselves.
Our people are not scattered in the country as some falsely claim because we all belong to the north with only one concentration in Baghdad and with limited presence in Kirkuk and Basrah-these people are originally from the north.
The current turn of events in the Middle East and the fall out under the new regime in Baghdad we find no reason to stay in those remote places because our Christian culture does not approve living in a culture that is oppressive ie a culture of veils, beards and un-tied shirts.
Nature of government’s system will be established; in provinces’ system we have a province, in federal system we go for federalism but with being neither Arab nor Kurd.
Finally foreign powers are behind this bloodshed in Baghdad and the most beneficiary from all this slaughter is the British intelligence and by this are aiding the past regime to sneak in via the back door or worse waiting for the total collapse of new regime. Here the only losers are the innocent people like us.
Sargon Dadesho & Compound Name of Assyro-Chaldean
Assyro-Chaldeanne (Assyro-Chaldeans) is the French equivalent title in English of ChaldoAssyrians. I wonder, why is it acceptable for certain Assyrian nationalists to use, promote, and popularize many letters, petitions, documents, etc. that have used the title Assyro-Chaldeans in their communications and claims, but when it comes to using the title by the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) it is then presented as a crime against the Assyrian nation?
If Sargon Dadesho is against the compound title, why did he list documents and letters referring to our people as Assyro-Chaldeans throughout his 1987 book "The Assyrian National Question"? Why has Sargon Dadesho attacked, and is still attacking, everybody who used, and is using, the title ChaldoAssyrians, but he does not mention that he himself, directly or not, popularized the title Assyro-Chaldeans by using it in his own book?
Why would Dadesho include the following documents, letters, petitions, etc., that mention the compound title in his book if he did not approve of it?
- On page 53, Dadesho includes French letters which indicate that "At the request of General Agha Petros, President of the Executive Committee of the Assyro-Chaldean National Council, I certify that Captain Gracey, …". Later on the same page, Dadesho includes a letter by P. Caujole, who uses the Assyro-Chaldean title twice in his letter.
- On pages 72-77, Dadesho includes certain articles from the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres. Article 62 mentions Assyro-Chaldeans.
- On page 78, Dadesho includes the letter of Percy Cox, British High Commissioner in Iraq, to the Director of Repatriation in Mosul dated April 22, 1921. The letter is attached with Agha Petros letter and map that describes the Assyro-Chaldean proposed state.
- On pages 79 and 80, Dadesho includes a brief description of the efforts of Malik Qambar of Jilu to establish a protectorate for our people in northeastern Syria (Jazira) during 1919-1922. However, he fails to mention that it was under the title Assyro-Chaldean and his army under the Assyro-Chaldean Battalion. However, Dadesho manipulates the names and mentions Assyrian Protectorate.
- On page 88, Dadesho includes the military application form used by General Agha Petros of Baz to recruit soldiers. The Application mentions Atour and Chaldea on the top center part of the form.
- On page 91, 92, 93 Dadesho provides a document under the title "Principle Reasons Proving the Claims of the Assyro-Chaldeans to Autonomy in Asia Minor and Showing the Necessity as well as the Advantages of this Autonomy". The document repeatedly mentions and uses the title Assyro-Chaldeans.
- On page 94, Dadesho repeats the letter of Paul Caujole, the head-doctor of the French Ambulance of the Caucasus, which operated in Urmia from September 1917 to April 1918. Caujole refers to our people as Assyro-Chaldeans repeatedly. Why repeat the same letter twice, once on page 53 and then on page 94?
- On page 94, Dadesho includes the letter of the "Assyro-Chaldean Delegation" in Paris regarding the "Losses of the Assyro-Chaldeans in Human Life and Material".
- On page 100, Dadesho includes the petition (letter) of Agha Petros as the "Delegation Assyro-Chaldeenne" to the 1923 Conference of Lausanne. In his petition, Agha Petros mentions "our nation, Assyro Chaldea".
- On page 159, Dadesho includes the flag used by our forces that fought with the French in Africa. The Flag reads "Bataillon Assyro Chaldeen".
- On pages 265-270, Dadesho includes the 1932 letter of Agha Petros to his people where he signed it in Syriac language as being the "Commander of the Assyrian and Chaldean Forces".
One could argue that this is a book and that Dadesho is simply reflecting on history and what had happened. True; however, I would add that Dadesho did not indicate in any way or shape where he included these documents or letters that they were wrong or that those who used them were the enemy of the Assyrian nation, as he has accused certain modern-day Assyrians who have used, promoted, or supported the compound title since 2003.
Most importantly, one could ask, if two people committed the same act, why attack one and not the other? Why is Dadesho attacking Mr. Younadam Kanna and few other Assyrian writers for using, promoting, or supporting the united title ChaldoAssyrians and calling them all those dirty names, but he is not attacking General Agha Petros d' Baz, Malik Qambar of Jilu, the Treaty of Sèvres, etc., for using the same compound title? Does he dare to attack Agha Potros and Malik Qambar? This reflects clearly a policy of double standard, bias, unfairness, and non-objectivity. This indicates that the issue is personal, nothing more nothing less. Many Assyrians consider Agha Petros and Malik Qambar as national heroes; they realized the importance of unity. It was for that reason that they accepted to use the POLITICAL compromise of Assyro-Chaldeans 70 to 80 years ago. It is unfortunate that we did not learn any lessons from the past.
44 Years A Prelate
His Grace Dr. Mar Aprem
Metropolitan of the Assyrian Church of the East in India
Courtesy of the Voice of the East Magazine, March-April 2006
|His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East
Catholicos Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV completed 44 years of service to the Assyrian Church of the East as a prelate on 11 February 2006. It was on Sunday 11 February 1962 Qasha Khnanya became the Bishop in Iran. His consecration was from Catholicos Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimun (died on 6 November 1975). In 1976 October 17 Bishop of Iran, Mar Dinkha became Catholicos Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV. Although His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV is only No.4 as a Patriarch by that name. His family had 17 bishops by the same name Bishop Mar Dinkha until the last one was shot in February 1915 in Iran, during the first World War.
Only two prelates associated with him had longer periods as prelates. His consecrator His Holiness Mar Eshai Shimun had ruled the church as Patriarch for 53 years (from the age of 12 till 65 when he resigned in August 1973. He was shot dead on November 6, 1975). The prelate who ordained him deacon and priest was Mar Yosip Khnanisho Metropolitan who served the church for 5 years as Bishop and 58 years as Metropolitan till he died on July 3, 1977 in Baghdad.
His Holiness is completing 30 years of his Patriarchate on 17 October 2006. Before that on 15 September 2006 he will be completing 71 years of age. He had completed 41 years of age when he was elected in the Holy Synod in England to become the Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East. His Holiness was consecrated in the St. Barnabas Church, Ealing near London, as the Assyrians had not owned any church at that time.
His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV maintained good ecumenical relations with the Catholic, Orthodox and the Protestants. Pope John Paul II, Patriarch of Moscow, Archbishops of Canterbury and others are among the religious dignitaries he had met during his busy schedule. He had met the President of Lebanon, President of Syria, President of Iran, President of Iraq (Saddam Hussein), secular leaders of the USA, India, Australia and many others.
His Holiness sent clergy for education in foreign Universities. So there is a middle level of educated clergy. Choirs, Youth groups were encouraged to be obedient to Christ and the church on earth. Many churches were built, schools were established in India, Australia and California. Many clergy were ordained. Bishops for Australia, California, Canada, North Iraq, Syria, Sweden etc were consecrated. Metropolitan for Iraq Mar Gewargis Sliwa was consecrated in Chicago by His Holiness.
By holding Holy Synods of prelates from all over the globe His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV restored democratic system in the Church administration. During the past 29 years he held 10 Holy Synods in England, Australia, Australia, Baghdad and Chicago. This provides opportunity for prelates to share the concerns of their respective diocese with the Supreme leaders united with a common goal for the progress of our suffering Church.
Honouring graduates in Chicago every year brought many young educated people close to The Church. Many Assyrians feel that they have to be proud of the heritage of their parents. Yes, Church needs young people to be close to God and the faith and tradition of our faith, preserved by our forefathers in adverse circumstances in 1842 (attacks of Bedr Khan Beg), 1914-18 (World War I), 1933 (Semele in North Iraq), 1939-45 (second World War), 1980-88 (Iraq-Iran war), Gulf War in January 1991. etc.
We wish more peaceful days for our Church and its supreme Head.
Courageous Assyrian Criticizes Status Quo By Publishing Independent Christian Newspaper in Iraq
Courtesy of Tages Spiegel
3 May 2006
By Erwin Decker from Mosul
Sein Bild hängt als Steckbrief an den Wänden der Moscheen. Sein Name steht auf der Todesliste der Islamisten. Sie machen regelrecht Jagd auf den stillen kleinen Mann. Er ist kein Politiker, kein Soldat oder überhaupt ein wichtiger Mann im Irak. Ramsi Hormous Jakob ist nur Christ und Journalist. Er macht die einzige unabhängige christliche Zeitung
„Ninavah Al Hurra“, auf Deutsch: „Freies Ninive“. Diese Zeitung liefert den fanatischen Islamisten im Irak 1000 Gründe, um Ramsi Hormous Jakob zu ermorden. Wer von den Christen im Irak ein Exemplar der „Ninavah Al Hurra“ in die Hände bekommt, liest es bis auf die letzte Seite. Die Assyrer wissen, dass das, was Ramsi schreibt, auch der Wahrheit entspricht. Er hängt nicht am Tropf eines dubiosen Geldgebers, der erwartet, dass er sein Sprachrohr ist. Im Irak sind nahezu alle Zeitungen reine Propagandamittel für Parteien, Islamisten oder ganz besonders der USA. Ramsi Hormous Jakob macht mit zwanzig freien Mitarbeitern, die im ganzen Irak verteilt sind und alle kein Honorar bekommen, jeden Monat die zwölfseitige „Ninavah Al Hurra“, eine modern gemachte Zeitung mit Themen, die besonders die christliche Minderheit im Irak interessieren. Und ihnen auch Mut machen soll.
Auf der ersten Seite der März-Ausgabe standen die Attentate und Bombenanschläge gegen Christen im Irak. Gleich darunter ein Artikel über Bildungschancen für Jugendliche. Die Seite drei befasste sich mit der Vogelgrippe und einer professionellen Aufklärung. Auf der nächsten Seite eine Reportage über einen Mann, der im Irak Zivilcourage zeigte. Zwei Seiten sind von Frauen für Frauen gemacht. Die Sportseiten zeigen die ersten Gehversuche von kleinen Fußballclubs im Nordirak. Interviews, Kreuzworträtsel und eine Leserkritik runden die letzte Seite ab. Nirgendwo wird abfällig über Moslems geschrieben. „Bis vor zwei Jahren haben wir friedlich mit ihnen zusammen gelebt. Es ist für mich unverständlich, dass wir plötzlich als verhasste Ungläubige gelten, man nach unserm Leben trachtet und wir vertrieben werden. Wir wollen nicht mit gleicher Münze zurückzahlen. Ich bin nach wie vor sicher, dass die meisten Moslems friedliche Menschen sind", sagt Ramsi Hormous Jakob. Weil er kein eigenes Büro hat, stellt ihm eine assyrische Partei einen kleinen Raum mit museumsreifen Computern zur Verfügung. Mit etwas Glück funktioniert hier auch sein E-Mail-System, und er bekommt die Beiträge seiner Mitarbeiter.
Der 39-jährige Ramsi ist ledig, wohnt zu Hause bei seiner Familie. An Gelegenheiten, eine Frau kennen zu lernen, mangelt es nicht. Im Ort herrscht ein Frauenüberschuss von 75 Prozent. „Ich könnte mit meiner Arbeit aber keine Familie ernähren. Ich könnte mit der Verantwortung nicht leben", sagt Ramsi. „Bitte schreiben Sie nicht, dass ich mutig bin. Es gibt Tage, da habe ich furchtbare Angst. Nur im Irak gilt man als Schwächling, wenn man so etwas zugibt.“
Er hat kein Einkommen, lebt von seiner Großfamilie. Von Auto oder eigenem Computer kann er nur träumen. Er hat zwei Hosen, drei Hemden und zwei Paar Schuhe. Seit einem Monat besitzt er eine Ersatzbrille. Ramsi Hormous Jakob ist Journalist aus Leidenschaft. Bis spät in der Nacht flackert eine Kerze auf seinem Schreibtisch, und er schreibt von Hand weiter. Außer mit einem Graphiker macht Ramsi die Zeitung allein. „Da kein Geld da ist, um Mitarbeiter zu bezahlen, bin ich auf Freiwillige angewiesen. Meist sind es Studenten von der Universität in Mossul.“ 1988 hat er einen Kurzgeschichten-Wettbewerb gewonnen. Während der Saddam-Zeit konnte er nur über Kunst Schreiben. Kritik wäre in dieser Zeit tödlich für den Autor gewesen. Am 1.August 2003, sechs Monate nach dem Krieg, erschien die erste Ausgabe von „Ninavah Al Hurra“. Ninive ist die Hauptstadt des alten assyrischen Reiches 700 Jahre vor Christus.
Ramsi wünscht sich einen Sponsor für seine Zeitung. Er sollte sich aber nicht in die Inhalte einmischen. Am besten wäre Hilfe aus dem Ausland. „Wir haben festgestellt, dass wir mindestens 10 000 Zeitungen jede Woche verkaufen könnten." Der Verkaufspreis ist fünfzehn Cent. Schulen und Jugendgruppen erhalten das Blatt umsonst. Die Druckkosten von 450 Dollar für eine Auflage von 4000 Exemplaren bekommt er meist nicht zusammen. Christliche Geschäftsleute betreiben Sponsering. Anzeigen gibt es im Nachkriegschaos nicht. Das größte Problem ist der Druck. Bis auf eine Druckerei sagten Ramsi alle ab. Es sei zu gefährlich, eine christliche Zeitung herzustellen. Wenn das bei den Islamisten bekannt werde, droht das Abfackeln der Druckerei. Über Mittelsmänner fand Ramsi einen Drucker, der mit einer Christin verheiratet ist. Seine Frau überredete den Drucker. Ab 20 Uhr ist in Mossul Sperrstunde. Dann wird „Ninavah Al Hurra“ gedruckt. „Wenn das erste Exemplar aus der Presse kommt, habe ich immer noch Herzklopfen. Wieder einmal geschafft."
Ramsi muss jedoch vorher unter Lebensgefahr die CD mit den Texten und Fotos von seinem Dorf in Hamdaniya, 20 Kilometer außerhalb von Mossul, zur Druckerei bringen. Er hat den Datenträger versteckt in sein Hemd eingenäht. Wenn ihn einer der Extremisten erkennen würde, wäre dies sein sicherer Tod. In Zigarettenkartons versteckt werden die Zeitungen mit Taxis an die Verteilstellen gebracht. Geldgeber, die bei seiner Zeitung einsteigen wollen, gibt es genug. Ganz besonders die Demokratische Partei Kurdistans ( KDP ) würde sofort einen größeren Geldbetrag investieren. Grundvoraussetzung wäre allerdings, dass Ramsi in jeder Ausgabe die Partei positiv erwähnt, keine Kritik an den Kurden übt und eine Seite in Kurdisch druckt.
Wie die Pressefreiheit bei den Kurden mit Füßen getreten wird, hat der Journalist am eigenen Leib erleben müssen. Als er darüber schrieb, wie die Kurden bei der vorletzten Wahl die Urnen aus dem ganzen Ort verschwinden ließen, wurde er von den gleichen Leuten, die sich an seiner Zeitung beteiligen wollen, tagelang verhaftet und verprügelt. „Ich werde auch nicht vergessen, dass vor kurzer Zeit ein Journalist, der den kurdischen Präsidenten Basani kritisierte, zu 30 Jahren Gefängnis verurteilt wurde.“
His picture like a letter hangs on the walls of the mosques. His name stands on the death list of the Islamists. They regularly search for this relatively small man. He is not a politician, nor soldier or generally an important man in Iraq. Ramzi Hormouz Jakob is only a Christian and a journalist. He publishes the only independent Christian newspaper.
"Ninavah al hurrah", in German means "Free Nineveh". This newspaper gives the fanatical Islamist of Iraq a thousand reasons to murder Ramzi Hormouz Jakob. Those who get a copy of "Ninavah al hurrah" from the Christians of Iraq , read it up to the last page. The Assyrians know what Journalist Ramzi writes is the truth. He is not the mouthpiece for any financier, who controls what he writes. In Iraq, almost all newspapers are pure propaganda media for parties, including the Islamist or very especially the USA. Ramzi Hormouz Jakob publishes his paper with the help of twenty other colleagues and is distributed in the entire Iraq and get no honorarium. Each month the twelve page "Ninavah al hurrah", a newspaper made in a modern manner with subjects that interest especially the Christian minority in the Iraq, bids them to have courage.
On the first page of the March-edition, are reports of attempted bombings and attacks against Christians in Iraq. Under that is an article about the educational opportunities for the young people. The page three reports about the bird flu and a professional advise about what it is and how to prevent it. On the next page is about a man, who showed civil courage in Iraq. Two pages are dedicated to articles about women by women. The Sports page shows the first gathering of a small soccer club in northern Iraq. Interviews, cross word puzzles and reader's criticism round off the last page.
Nowhere in the paper is there anything disapproving of the Moslems. "Until two years ago we lived peacefully together. It is incomprehensible to me that we have suddenly become hateful unbelievers, hunted and banished . We do not want to repay them with the same coin. I am as always certain that most Moslems are peaceful people", say Ramzi Hormouz Jakob. Because he does not have an office of his own, an Assyrian group makes available to him a small room with museum-old computers. Fortunately the eMail system functions well which makes collaboration with colleagues possible.
The 39-year-old Ramzi is single, lives at home with his family. There is no lack of opportunity for him to meet women in a place, where women out number men by 75 percent. "I cannot provide a family with my work. I could not live with the responsibility", say Ramzi. "Please do not write that I am courageous. I have days, when I live with terrible anxiety. Only in Iraq, if one admits this is considered as a weakling."
He has no income, therefore lives with his extended family. Of car or own computer, he can only dream. He has two pairs of pants, three shirts and couple pairs of shoes. For a month now he owns a pair of glasses. Ramzi Hormouz Jakob is journalist with passion. Until late at night under the flickering light of a candle he sits on his desk, and writes by hand. Except for the help from a graphic artist Ramzi publishes the newspaper alone.
In1988 he participated in a short stories-competition. During the Saddam-time, criticism would have been deadly for the author. On the first of August 2003, six months after the war, the first edition of the "Ninavah al hurrah" was published. Nineveh was the capital of the old Assyrian empire 700 years before Christ.
He had to take the CD containing texts and photos to a village near Mosul, to the print shop by hiding it inside his shirt. If one of the extremists had recognized him it would meant his certain death. He hid the printed paper in the cigarettes cartons and took it to the distribution places in taxis.
Ramzi wishes he had a sponsor for his newspaper. However he should not interfere with its contents. Assistance from a foreign country would be best. "We could sell at least 10,000 newspapers each week." The selling price would be fifteen cent, schools and groups of young people will receive it for free. He will not have the pressure of paying 450 dollars per edition for 4000 copies.
He gets some help from the Christian businessmen. There are no advertising in the postwar chaos. The largest problem is pressure. It is too dangerous to publish a Christian newspaper in Iraq. With the help of intermediaries Ramzi found a printer, who was willing to help. "Ninavah al Hurra" was printed. "Until the first copy from the press arrived, I still had heart palpitation." After it was printed he hid the newspapers in large cigarette cardboard boxes and transported them in taxis to the distribution places.
Backers, who want to become partners in publishing his newspaper are willing to pay him plenty. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) would be happy to invest larger sum of money in his enterprise but their condition would be for Ramzi to return the favor by writing positive articles about the Kurdish Party, no criticism of the Kurds should appear in the paper and one page of it should be printed in the Kurdish language.
How the press freedom is stepped on by the Kurds, the journalist has experienced it by his own body. When he reported that urns everywhere were being lifted by the Kurds he was arrested by the same people, who wanted to become his partners in publishing his newspaper, he was beaten day after day. "Also I have not forgotten, that a short time ago a journalist who criticized the Kurdish president Barzani, was convicted to serve 30 years in prison."
The Ghost in the Baghdad Museum
For the New York Times
2 April 2006
For the director of a shuttered museum in a country at war, the imaginary can be a welcome refuge. Condemned to contemplate his own and his country's fate in great halls emptied of visitors, Donny George paces past showcases of ancient vessels and jars and clay tablets, and he dreams.
In his mind's eye, the museum director sees the grand opening: the courtyard filled with 1,000 guests, succulent lamb and sumptuous dates on tables beneath the palms, a Baghdad chamber quartet playing, the spirited talk of civilized people in the land where, several thousand years ago, the emergence of writing first permitted the considered transfer of ideas from one epoch to the next.
Mr. George smiles. It is a relief to dream when explosions greet the dawn.
His genial brown eyes express both hope and the burden of living in Iraq.
Under Saddam Hussein, he learned to live a double life: praising the dictator in public, worrying in private. He was a member of Mr. Hussein's now-disbanded Baath Party. Not to be, he says, would have meant dismissal and the abandonment of archaeological excavations, his great love.
Compromise is woven into the texture of his life.
Now, as the director general of Iraqi museums, his new title, he inhabits a labyrinth. The Interior Ministry has been urging him to reopen the National Museum, saying it will provide him with 1,000 guards if necessary. "But then it's no longer a museum," Mr. George said. "It's a barracks."
Three years have now passed since the chaos accompanying the arrival of American troops in Baghdad set off looting at the museum. Mr. George fled through the back door, he says, when Iraqi militias began firing rocket-propelled grenades into the grounds. The plundering prompted international outrage, finger-pointing and a frenzy of political spin.
Initial reports of 170,000 stolen artifacts were exaggerated, as were wild comparisons to the sack of Constantinople. But the real number, about 15,000, still amounted to a tremendous loss. Reversing the damage has been arduous.
Largely through American assistance, both public and private, the museum has been restored and modernized. Mr. George, an Iraqi Christian who speaks excellent English, has proved adept at garnering this aid, forging good relations with several American officials while nursing an undiminished anger at the way, in his view, the United States "dismantled the whole former system only to leave a void."
Even with thousands of pieces still missing, the museum houses an extraordinary collection by any standard. What is lacking is the peace it needs to admit the public.
"When a museum is reopened, it means that peace has come," Mr. George said.
For now, it is a hollow place, devoid of life, empty of discourse. This echoing museum at the heart of Baghdad — that is to say, at the heart of the American project in Iraq — is an image of hope frustrated.
"Everyone, deep in himself, is grateful to the United States that they helped us get rid of this regime," Mr. George said. "But the uncontrolled situation, that is another thing. Why was it not controlled?"
In Baghdad today, as the concrete blast walls multiply, control seems almost unimaginable. Since 2003, three museum employees — an archaeologist, an accountant and a driver — have been killed.
"It's hard to know what you can do with security the way it is," said John Russell, an expert in Iraqi archaeology at the Massachusetts College of Art who spent several months in Baghdad coordinating cultural reconstruction for the State Department. "The museum will open some day, but for now it's right to keep a low profile. Nobody wants to be responsible for a disaster."
Least of all Mr. George, who at 55 sees himself as standing guard over his country's history. A love of the outdoor life marked him from childhood, when he would fish with his father, hunt with his grandfather and lead expeditions of scouts. He was set to study English literature at Baghdad University but was steered to a French literature class that he said held no interest for him. He went to see the assistant dean, who told him that the only other opening was in archaeology. "I asked if that meant living in tents and excavating sites, and when he said yes, I jumped at the opportunity," Mr. George recalled.
What he found was an intellectual passion that has endured to this day — one that brings perspective. "There are stages such as these, and then there are stages of calm," Mr. George reflected. "Each can last 100 years, but it passes. A famous Sumerian writer described the scene here in 2000 B.C., saying that people are looting and killing and nobody knows who the king is. So you see, nothing is new."
Well, a few things are: Mr. George was sitting in a comfortable office with cell phones, a computer, the Internet. American money and American experts have produced results.
More than $2 million from the State Department, the Packard Humanities Institute of Los Altos, California, and the Iraqi Culture Ministry have gotten the roof repaired, the telephone system transformed, the fences upgraded, guard houses built, the plumbing fixed, the windows washed, locks coordinated, the air-conditioning upgraded, surveillance cameras installed and an electronic security system activated.
After years of gradual decay under Mr. Hussein, the museum has had a face-lift.
"The assistance we have asked for from the State Department we have had, and we are grateful," Mr. George said. Asked whether he thought guilt drove this American largess, he joked, "I would love them to feel that."
But restoration is one thing, recovery another. Of the 15,000 pieces estimated to have been looted, many from museum storerooms, about 5,000 have been recovered. The identification has been complicated by the plundering of Iraqi archaeological sites since 2003, which has flooded the international market with items that are easily confused with museum pieces.
Most of the approximately 10,000 artifacts still missing are smaller items: gems, jewelry, terra cotta figurines and cylinder seals. More than 40 larger unique pieces were stolen, like a 5,200-year-old mask from the Sumerian city of Warka, but most of those have been returned.
Mr. Russell said that the smaller artifacts "are easy enough to sell if you clean off the acquisition numbers." Still, over time, he said, they may be identified and recovered if customs and law enforcement officials step up their efforts.
Mr. George takes a long view. "I am always hopeful," he said. "This building contains the story of mankind; its lesson cannot be despair."
He is still indignant that American troops did not guard the museum from April 10 through 12, 2003, in the initial days after the fall of Baghdad.
"I blame United States forces," he said. "A tank was close to the main gate. One of our people went and begged them to protect the museum but was told there were no orders to do so."
Why the museum was not protected may never be clarified. United States military officers have suggested that Hussein loyalists as well as arms stockpiles were in the museum and that chaos prevented action. The museum is in a highly exposed position. All that is clear is that no order was swiftly issued to stop the looters.
Confusion at the time of the looting was compounded in its aftermath. The woman who first cited the exaggerated figure of 170,000 artifacts was initially identified as the museum's deputy director but later found to be a former employee. The number spread like wildfire.
"A bum rap," was how Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld characterized criticism of the military. Mr. George was accused by some American editorial columnists of exaggerating the losses, though his line from the outset was that quantifying the loss would take time.
The director learned long ago to wait the bad times out. Under Mr. Hussein, he had a sideline as a drummer for a rock band called 99 Percent — "of perfection," he said — that specialized in Deep Purple songs and brought in much-needed extra cash. That's an unwritten chapter of life under a dictatorship. Another is how Mr. George used work at Iraq's thousands of archaeological sites to avoid Baath Party meetings.
Through the ghostly museum, Mr. George led the way, commenting on 500,000-year-old axes and clay tablets with cuneiform script and sacred objects from mosques. Some showcases are filled and some empty; packages of new equipment (including special drawers for clay tablets sent by the German Archaeological Institute) are still wrapped; date palms are being planted in the courtyard. Mr. George says that the museum, which was repeatedly closed and neglected while Mr. Hussein fought his successive wars, will one day emerge stronger.
One site already in perfect order is the Assyrian Hall, which survived the looting and is filled with monumental reliefs representing the summit of Mesopotamian art. A prominent presence is the winged bull, a protective spirit guarding Assyrian palaces and cities.
The bull's body conveys strength; the wings, the magnificence of flight; the head of a man, enlightened wisdom. Created eight centuries before the dawn of the Christian era, 14 centuries before the beginnings of Islam, it was a striking representation of a seemingly invincible power.
Its time, of course, would end. The Babylonians would sweep away the Assyrians as comprehensively as the Americans, 26 centuries later or so, have swept away Mr. Hussein. Even a closed museum can teach that everything passes and nothing is quite what it seems.
So, Mr. George was asked, are the Americans the new Babylonians? "No," he shot back. "The Babylonians were Iraqis."
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Assyrians at Their Best
Reflections of an Artist on a Recent Art Exhibit in Chicago
"The white walls, the absence of windows, the silence within — all create a context for art that is inseparable from the content of the art itself."
|Assyrian Aramaic Calligraphy by Enwiya 'Banipal' Giwargis
The Crystal Mineral by Enwyia 'Banipal' Giwargis
Some time had passed since the Chicago Assyrian community had remembered to grace its history claiming to have given birth to civilization, including art. With the generosity and contributions of many great artists from different backgrounds, predominantly from Iraq, the rich ancient Assyrian art shone in the works of many splendid oil, acrylic, and watercolor paintings, calligraphy, photography and collages.
The main hall of the Assyrian National Council of Illinois, located in Skokie, Illinois, was filled with exuberant energy, displayed work of Chicago's very own Godfather and creator of this event Romeo Mirza, along with Emmanuel Asdou, Younan Shiba, Tony Buro, Suhad Bahrani Turayhi, Nahrain Talia-Khoshaba, Janan Talia, Soulaka Kiorkis, Tony Bradosty, Senan Enad, Jameel Al Abboudi, Enwiya "Banipal" Giwargis, Issa Benyamin, and George Shamoun. And, of course, the weekend-long event would not have been possible without the artistic contributions of famous Chicagoan Assyrian photographers-Producers Edmond and Edison Hasso of E&H Video.
Assyrian artist, Emanuel Asdou
Assyrian artist, Enwiya 'Banipal' Giwargis
Heart 'n Soul artist - Walking along the exhibit, I tried to disseminate each artist's work, background, and inspiration. Known for his exquisite detailed 3-dimensional work, Mr. Romeo Mirza and I spoke briefly about his passion for art. It began at the tender age of 10, he explained, back in his homeland Iraq. Some of his work at that age he has no recollection of, only stories that are told to him by his parents. At around 13, his passion for oil and water color painting began. Next came musical instruments; famous for his elite work, his art has been placed among Iraq's permanent collection for the creation of string instruments - Oud, Violin, and Guitar. Always first in his art class, Mr. Mirza was placed second in command to the school of art department head. Still, his creation and love for art brought about a new dimension, truly exuberant pieces of mastery reflecting the rich Assyrian and Babylonian history in an all wood 3-D pieces. An elite artist, Mr. Mirza has been the sole promoter of his own work, and his only inspiration has been his love for his heritage. Eager to preserve the Assyrian history through art and a plan for the near future, he pledges to teach art, free of charge, to anyone who is interested. The only deterrent at the end of our conversation, seen in the artist's eyes, was the lack of support shown by the low turnout of spectators, a merely 250 attendees in a two-day long event, by comparison to the 100,000 Chicagoan Assyrians.
Assyrian artist, Romeo Mirza
A Picasso amongst Assyrians - The next artist whose work gathered intriguing crowd was Mr. Emmanuel Asdou - his style famous for using deep, rich colors - red, blue, yellow, purple, all of which were colors used in ancient Assyrian art, as explained by the master himself, reflecting the beauty and richness of the Middle East culture and the nice hot weather. Mr. Asdou's theme was mainly centered around famous Assyrian historic events, reflected in his oil on canvas pieces. His love for abstract art has been inspired by world renowned artists Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. Passionate for art and the love for his heritage, Mr. Asdou repeatedly told me that having no land to call 'Ashur,' we must preserve our language in our art, giving much attention to Aramaic letters depicted in much of his paintings.
Nahrain Ounetee – “In geology, there are 10,000 minerals...” began Enwiya 'Banipal' Giwargis, a geologist turned artist whose unique and unusual work reflected both sides of the person, an art that is 'learned' through search and inventions, such as inscription of the twenty-two Assyrian letters in a crystal mineral, certainly reveal the geology graduate from Iraq's University of Mosul. Carefully selected rocks came alive as he held them in his hand, one by one, and called to each to speak its history, each having a unique story to tell about the timeline of modern Assyrianism. Moreover, the calligraphy of the Aramaic language carefully engraved on each stone gave the art an impact that aged both the work and the artist's own life story - a five year army veteran in Iraq and a refugee in Syrian camps in the 1990's. My own personal favorite was the uniqueness of the artist's endearment of the female gender, a woman, reflecting social gender freedom in a culture. But wait, wasn't Bani recently in the Tempo section of the Chicago Tribune? He is also a finalist in the Assyrian Star Search who has achieved great heights at such a young age, and already an inventor of several household products. Sorry... we won't discuss that.
|Standing from left: T Row-Bradosty, E Asdou, R Mirza, Y Shiba, E 'Banipal' Giwargis, T Buro, S Kiorkis; Sitting from left: -J Al Abboudi, S Bahrani-Turayhi, S Enad, N Talia-Khoshaba
A picture can indeed speak a thousand words - Baghdad born, Chicago raised Nahrain Talia-Khoshaba presented her work of Ishtar in black and white canvasses, focusing on the female form in several breathtaking photographs, representing Ishtar, mother-goddess, the great symbol of the earth's fertility. This theme could not have been offered at a better time, April, the month of the marriage of Ishtar and Tammuz in Babylonian mythology, something that the artist herself was inspired to undertake in the year 2004, paying tribute to the birth year of the Babylonian Dynasty which began in 1894 BCE. Nahrain - a name depicting the famous ancient Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq, is a graduate of graphic arts design and photography school, as well as a paralegal, where she recently earned a Bachelor's degree from Chicago's private school, Robert Morris College.
The Chicago Assyrian community proudly salutes its artists who partook important roles and spent countless hours preparing for this exhibit to enrich our cloudy and rainy Chicago weekend - 29th and 30th April. Our hopes are for many equally great events in the near future, with a larger audience. Let's continue to contribute to making Chicago famous for having a soulful Assyrian community.
The following individuals contributed to the publication of this issue:
|Dr. Matay Beth Arsan
|Nahrain E. Kamber
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