Pillars of Assyrian Politics
A Guest Editorial
How much do we actually know about what happens to Assyrians in Iraq today? And I mean with factual certainty. And on whom do we rely on for our information?
We, here in the Diaspora, depend on a pathetically small set of sources to form our opinions and pledge our support. Is it accurate to use headlines that report violence against Assyrians (unknown if politically organized or not) as evidence of “marginalization” of certain political parties? On what basis do we accuse Assyrians who have open dialogue with other groups of treason? I doubt many of us know what the true dynamics are.
We should never, ever forget the crimes that were committed against our ancestors and by whom. These are part of our identity, and the world must bear witness. And we cannot ignore crimes that continue today. If some of these are politically organized, our political representative should speak out on the floor of the Iraqi and KRG parliaments (Ask yourself why this has not been done). However, we cannot refuse to work with or negotiate with the ancestors of those who did wrong in the past. We simply do not have that luxury.
We cannot afford to become the Palestinians of Iraq; have the “moral” stand, pride and intransigence of the Palestinians’ achieved anything but squalor, hopelessness and generations of wasted potential? I wish our homeland was not dominated by Arabs, Kurds, Turks and Persians, but this is the reality our Assyrians live in. Those of us whose emotions will not allow them to “bury the hatchet” and make the most of current opportunities need to step aside and allow those who are able to do so.
I have read many estimates in this magazine and elsewhere of how the current situation between Turkey and the KRG will play out. Unfortunately, many Assyrians seem to salivate at the prospect of Turkey’s annihilation of “Kurdistan.” They have allowed their hatred for Kurds overtake their love for Assyrians. If the above scenario were to take place, we cannot be sure what the resolution will be. We can, however, be fairly certain that our cause would be extinguished. Assyrians fortunate enough to escape the destruction would flee, and almost certainly for good.
I agree with previous assertions that certain “lines” exist that must not be crossed, negotiated, or compromised. And I am all for unity among our political groups. But these key areas of priority need to be clearly defined, and all groups need to openly, through words and actions, signal their stance. From my perspective, the key, incontestable aspects of Assyrian politics that must be defended and promoted under all circumstances are:
These should be the pillars of Assyrian politics at this moment in history. Political parties may differ on other issues, and other areas are open for negotiation with our neighbors. But any group that upholds these pillars should be defended by all Assyrian groups, under all circumstances. Any political party that does not actively accept these tenets and work towards their realization I consider in opposition to our nation and should be treated as such. No effort at unity should be attempted to encompass such groups.
Where have our political parties been on the Nineveh Plains? Do you even know where ADM stands on this central issue? I would say ambivalent would be the kindest term (and probably far too much so). How often do we see an official statement or press release from party headquarters even mentioning the topic? And in my view, indifference is even more damaging than outright opposition, because it has prevented those willing to take up the flag and advance this cause from being heard. Every day that passes without the words “Nineveh Plains” in the press is an opportunity inexcusably wasted.
As for our Assyrian identity, we know all too well the disaster that was the compound name. I am willing to suspend better judgment and believe that the major proponents of the name had the best of intentions. But this failure, and the campaigns of undermining and attacking those who criticized the party line, has done us much damage. There must be accountability. Our nation is far too vulnerable to trust these leaders with our political future ever again. Change must occur and it must be complete.
Demand of the political parties you support explanations of where they stand on these issues. And force them to offer proof in the form of both consistent speech and a track record of action. Support those who pass the test, and never allow these parties to be undermined by any voice, external or internal. Any attempt to do so should be met with a single, united line of condemnation. Never forget that political parties are tools used to achieve clearly established goals. They are not ends in their own right. Support those parties that have the prospect, and the intention, of success.
In the Interest of the Assyrian Cause
Frederick P. Isaac
The overall picture of certain Assyrian political parties is very disappointing. Their performance is grim. Three years on, since the demise of the brutish Ba’ath regime, in Iraq, the Assyrian leaders have failed to unshackle themselves from their adversaries. They are still struggling to free themselves from (1) Arab domination, (2) Kurdish dictates, and (3) influence of the Vatican on their Assyrian Catholic brethren for restoration of their genuine national identity to Assyrian. All because they failed to meet the hopes and expectations of their Assyrian people. They failed to unify their ranks, and work under one united leadership, to meet their agenda. The above three adversaries are keen on demeaning the historic significance of the Assyrian Nation, relegating its surviving people to an insignificant remnant group. They allege that the Assyrians are diminishing towards total extinction. They have cast them away on the heap of the minority residues, as fringe dwellers. They call them by their religious name, denying them the right to their Assyrian national identity and to their native land.
The Assyrians where expecting their leaders to free them from their adversaries, towards full autonomy. They are still far off the mark.
The Assyrian political parties were supposed to join hands, close ranks and work shoulder to shoulder, together, by forming a coalition front, - one name, one flag, and one agenda. Their ultimate aim was to unite and work to meet aspirations of the whole segments of the Assyrian people, regardless of phratry.
Instead, each party worked alone and went on its own. They acted independently, contradicting each other’s agenda. Their performance was very embarrassingly disappointing. They failed to meet the aspirations of the people they supposedly represent. They worked in isolation of each other, promoting their party’s name over and above the interest of the sacred name of Assyria and her suffering people. Their shortsightedness led to their failure, causing the Assyrian populace to lose complete faith in such fragmented and selfish leadership. Unless they relent and reconsider working jointly, in one accord, as Assyrians for the Assyrian people and Assyrian Nation, they will remain losers, unworthy of the role entrusted to them by their people. The root cause for their refusal to work together seems to be the tribal tradition of old feuds and vengeance. Many say that they are civilized, advocate democracy and believe in modernity. They have yet to prove it, by cherishing the name of Assyria and speaking in one voice.
It is still not too late. The Assyrians (with all their segments) need to unite. The Assyrians need to have their own separate electoral slate, all of their own, detaching their names from non-Assyrian electoral slates, forming one separate slate independent of all others. They need to know where they stand in regard to their loyalty to their electorate and country. And as to whether they are recognized as full citizens of the Republic of Iraq or disenfranchised subjects. In this case, they need to choose as to whether they wish to remain as second-class nationals of ambiguity, living on fringe benefits, or take a venturesome course of action worthy of their self-esteem.
It is hoped that the Assyrians on the ground (in the north) will not oppose such a move by considering it as in conflict of their interest. Since the Assyrians are ignorant of their future, in the formation of the forthcoming state of Iraq, they have the legal right to stir up the issue and present it to the world body of nations in the hope of reaching an acceptable outcome, or at least find out the truth.
The clergy of the (Chaldean) Catholic brethren have already stormed the high head of the EU states, the United States and the Vatican, deliberating on their future. The Iraqi Christian officials, on the other hand, seem to be doing it in dribs and drabs, behind the Assyrian back, yet hardly successfully – keeping the Assyrians in the dark.
Not all the parties are necessarily sincere in promoting the Assyrian name in their agenda. There are some, who are reluctant to relate their racial identity or antecedent to Assyria and its history. There are certain groups that do not cherish the true aspiration of the overall majority of the Assyrian people. They would rather continue as they are, blend in and fuse with the whole surrounding majority, than risk facing an unpredictable outcome for an ominous future. Perhaps their suppressed lot and dire situation obliges them to override venturing into the field of taking the challenge to revealing their warm feelings and close identity with their Assyrian brethren. The so-called Chaldeans seem to have abjured by suppressing their subconscious mind, unable to free themselves from bondage. They are hiding behind an identity that does not relate to them. They have picked geographical locations and historical names and labeled them on themselves. They are unwarrantable. They are so remote and distant in time and place that they do not relate to their Assyrian originality. It is sad that they live in bewilderment. They are living in a make-believe world of deceit, not of conviction but for survival. Until they come to term, each with one’ self, and lift and clear the pressure, from their repressed conscience, time will continue ticking, jabbing their conscience until judgment day.
Some parties and groups prefer to choose and cherish some specious names that, though familiar, have long past their usefulness. They are either ancient or derivatives of the name of Assyria proper but have since served their purpose and are no longer useful. In order to reach out to people, who cling to such archaic terms, the Assyrian parties need to unite, form one political body, under a well-organized leadership, to speak in one voice to reflect the true meaning of the Assyrian name, in order to aspire its entire nation towards statehood. Such representation would help resolve the name issue in their efforts towards attaining their goal more effectively. This would help the person involved in the name issue to make a clear-cut decision as to whether to stick to the adopted derivative, or accept Assyria as the name of his nation and national identity. Many such derivatives have reached the point of becoming fictitious and their non-existent nations a myth. They hang on to such antiquated derivates, not because of choice, but because of the long-tern adaptation to them and the necessity to survive.
Recently, the Kurds have been seriously lobbying in the corridors of the UN to gain recognition as being the indigenous people of Iraq. They, the Kurds, claim that they have historically inhabited Assyria earlier than the Assyrians! Wow, what a fallacy! In later years, with the emergence of the religion of Islam, the Kurds accepting the Islamic faith helped the invading conquerors of the Middle East to annihilate the Assyrians bringing them on the brink of extinction – self-confessed Kurd! Perhaps the Kurds imply that the Assyrians were massacred at the hands of their enemies (in participation with the Kurd) in the early years of Anno Domini for embracing Christianity, and later became extinct. Witty Kurd. With such wit, no one can beat the Kurd – not even the Irish. (With due respect to the Irish people. I respect, admire and love the Irish people for their courage, resilience, and love of their country, and of course for their witty and humorous jokes.)
Going back into history, in the aftermath of WW I, and after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the State of Turkey was established in its place. It emerged as The State of Modern Turkey, partly at the expense of the Armenians and the Assyrians and the Greeks. The Assyrians were evicted from their original dwellings and lost their land. Their territory was annexed to Turkey and included in the newly modified borders of Modern Turkey. The Assyrians lost all their Hakkari territory, partly to Turkey, and partly to the newly created states of Iraq and Syria. The Assyrians were prevented from returning to their homes. In the process, they were all prevented from doing so, including 400 thousand Armenians. Not considered as refugees, they were abandoned and left stranded. Many headed to big cities and towns like Aleppo, Damascus, Tripoli, Beirut, Mosul, Erbil, Kirkuk, Baghdad, and surrounding villages. Assyria’s usurped land was added to Turkey’s landmass, under the newly re-established government as the State of the Republic of Modern Turkey. Turkey’s plan was to seize Assyria’s land and annex it to its landmass. In return Turkey would withdraw from Vilayet Mosul for the rehabilitation of the Assyrians as a compensation for the loss of their territories of Hakkari and Urmia.
Thus, following expulsion of the Assyrians from their native land, Modern Turkey acceded to the British proposal over Vilayet Mosul. It excluded it from Modern Turkey. It withdrew from Mosul and handed the Vilayet over to the British Mandatory Power. Turkey extricated itself from the Assyrian problem. Concerning the Assyrian unresolved question, Turkey described it as irrelevant and no longer related to it, since its handing over of Vilayet Mosul to the British through the defunct League of Nations. The finger points at the mandates of the Anglo-French Power at the time.
Assyria until its dismemberment was ruled by the Ottoman Empire. In Post WW I, Turkey and Persia absorbed N and NE of Assyria. Since August 1914, the majority of the Assyrians that had been expelled from their homeland live in neighbouring countries or abroad. Turkmen and Kurds have since overwhelmed their number, in north of Assyria (Iraq). Since Post WW I, the Kurds have been drifting from the surrounding countries, deliberately seizing Assyrian land, and populating their villages. The Kurds have been feasting on the misery of the Assyrian displaced people, with the full knowledge and blessings of the warring parties of the two World Wars.
Though doubtful, yet if democracy could be tailored, in Iraq, as is the case now with the Arab Sunnite, Arab Shiite and the Kurds, the current Iraqi Government could surely include the Assyrians in the political equation and allocate an adequate province for them in the northern part of the country. It is against human decency to abandon the Assyrians and treat them as throwaway, driving them away to live on the outskirts of the cities as fringe dwellers. Several Assyrian families, who have escaped to the north, live in the open, under trees and in cemetery yards, with little food and shelter and less so, other amenities.
In order to help democratise the country, the Iraqi Government is called upon (1) to restore the national identity of the Assyrian, (2) to recognise the Assyrians as the indigenous people of Iraq, (3) and to return them to Iraq to re-own their land in the north. The Assyrians, being part of the majority of the people of Iraq, are entitled to their province of an administrative region, in line with the Arabs and Kurds. Nineveh Province, being the historical land of their forefathers, it is appropriate to delineate it to the Assyrians, considering them as part of the existing peoples of the Middle East. Their history is deeply rooted in the Middle Eastern region, particularly in northern Iraq.
Inclusion of the Assyrians in the political equation would bring to success and satisfaction the establishment of Iraq on sound democratic principles. Assyrians cannot remain living in limbo. Assyrians are not asking for more than their rightful share. Being of Assyrian nationality and indigenous to the Middle East, it is astonishing that these very two points have until now been ignored, trivialized and wavered. The Iraqi Government has to decide as to whether the Assyrians are IN or OUT, and make a final decision as to their future political status in the Federal State of Iraq. They are no less deserving than the Kurds.
The desire of the Assyrians to live as true Iraqis, equal to the rest of the citizens of the country, seems to be a far-fetched wish. There will be no peace in the Middle East. Islam’s plan is to suck in Lebanon into the Arab League as a Moslem state. Moreover, unless Israel accepts the one-man-one-vote principle, the Palestinians will ultimately reject any other solution to statehood and end up in a catastrophe. It would be either all or nothing. The Assyrians, on the other hand, are asking for only a share of their rightful entitlement. They have fared worse than the Christian Arab and the Israelites. At least, the Christian Arabs and Jews are officially recognized as such and identified by their national identity; the Assyrians are not. They are called Nestorian, Christian, Iraqi, Chaldeanassyrian, and ChaldeanAssryianSyriani. To continue to be insulting and rub it in, Kurd has recently been added to the list of name calls.
Yet, neither of the two above states (Lebanon and Israel) is considered as fully independent. Not because they are not legitimate, both are legitimate, but because security and peace are absent. Though Israel is stable and its economy marginally surviving, its surrounding enemies would love to ravage it to utter destruction. While Lebanon is being toyed with, flung from side to side, like a sea lion playing with a ball, flinging it up high then resting it on its nose or into the pool, with no prospect of ever freeing itself from its rival that is growing in strength by the day.
Lebanon is the victim of the wild beast of Hezbullah, Syria and Iran: the tail, the body and the head. The recent incident between Lebanon and Israel was just the wagging of the tail. The body has not yet moved, feeding itself, by stacking more deadly weaponry and the head, (Aql-Al-Muddabbir) the schemer has not yet sneered to show its fangs and spit its venom. It is a matter of time. The whole of the native inhabitants of the Middle East will eventually have to show reverence or genuflect to the god of their state to survive.
In the case of Israel, the only way for Israel to ensure its survival is to apportion the parliamentary seats of their Knesset. To guarantee itself an overwhelming majority, Israel would be obliged to allocate two thirds of the seats to the JEWISH nationals. It would thus secure sixty six percent plus (66.3%) of the seats – an overwhelming majority to enable it to control its government and guarantee its survival. The remaining one third (33.3%) may be apportioned among the remaining factions such as Arab Christians, Druze, Arab Moslems, etc. This lobbying on the part of the Palestinians is now being enhanced. Islam will never allow the emergence of a non-Moslem state in the Middle East or in any other part of the Abode of Peace of the Umma Nation. The one-man-one-vote system would be dead in its tracks. Whether the Palestinians will accept this apportionment is yet to be seen.
Religious groups, conflict of interest and clash of cultures are savaging Lebanon. Establishment of its national assembly is based on apportionment of seats on ethnic and religious basis. Increase in the census of a certain faction, causes tremor, tipping the balance in its favour, prompting its interest over and above the interest of the people at large. It is the root cause of instability of its so-called democratic system. This scenario has been going on since its establishment in 1946. To stabilize the country, elections should be run on secular basis, civil law, and true and meaningful democracy. Those who promote religion to gain office, target the gullible. Gullibility in the parliament leads to a rise in internal conflicts and recurrence of violence. This leads to chaos, coercion, and resistance, ending in armed confrontation, upheaval, destruction, and loss of life and ruin of the country and its economy - known as the vicious cycle of Lebanon.
In addition to their massacre, and continued persecution during the past century, at the hands of their neighbouring countries and roving Kurds, over 400 thousand Armenians and Assyrians were driven out of their homes. They were forced to walk the long journey of the death march to the end. Following declaration of the November 1918 Truce, the Ottomans abandoned the death march of elimination. Long columns of hundreds of thousands of civilian “evacuees” of men, women and children were suddenly halted. They terminated their march and just dumped them at the point where they had stopped in their tracks, at whatever point they had reached, in the middle of the desert, on the outskirt of cities, towns and villages, in rugged mountains and along riverbanks and the roadside. They were left to their miserable fate without aid, food or shelter. Starving and exhausted, the irregulars preyed on them. Their children were kidnapped and their elderly killed for trying to hide and shield their children.
The Turks stopped all the expelled Armenians and Assyrians (now termed “evacuees”) from returning to their original dwellings. They threatened them with death if they attempted to return to their homes. The ejected Armenians and Assyrians were all abandoned and left to a miserable fate. They remained stranded, left to fend for themselves. None of the stranded Armenians and Assyrians was allowed to return to his native home. Plans had already been drawn up by the two-warring-party signatories of the Truce to fragment and assimilate the stranded Armenians and Assyrians with the Arab Islamic majority in the newly created Islamic states. The present Armenians of Aleppo and Assyrians of Khabur are testimony to that.
In the aftermath of WWI, all the Balkan states that had been under the yoke of the Turkic rule eventually regained their independence one way or another. The four non-Moslem Middle Eastern colonized states were not. They were dismembered and annexed to the neighbouring Islamic countries of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. The traditional rights of the Assyrians and Israelis were completely ignored. Their ancestral homeland was not restored to them. They were not liberated in the true sense of the word. They remained shackled under the “Millet” Rule of Islam. None of the Western victorious countries gave a hoot, about the dire state of Biblical Israel and the state of Assyria and their surviving peoples.
It would be appropriate and legitimate for the Federal State of Iraq to agree to designate, in the North, a demarcated Assyrian Region, in line with that of the Arab and Kurdish Governorate Regions, within the Federal State of Iraq. Assyrians are indigenous to the Middle East, in particular to the northern part of Iraq. They are, by right, entitled to have part of their homeland restored to them. They are dissimilar from the Arab and Kurd in racial identity, language, religion and culture. Yet, though a minority the Assyrians are part of the majority of the Iraqi populace. To survive and thrive, Assyria needs to have its own exclusive Assyrian delimitated region. They have the criteria that entitle them to return to their homes as Assyrian Iraqi. They are not asking for more than their rightful share of entitlement.
Seizing other people’s land by force contravenes international conventions. The key issue here is Moslem seizure and usurpation of other people’s land. When or by whom, yesteryear or centuries ago, by Arabs or Persians, Turks, or Kurds, is irrelevant. The surviving Israelis and Assyrians are the traditional and rightful owners of their land. They have the legitimate right to retrieve it, with the assistance and support of the international community and world body of the United Nations. No one, be it a person or nation, rich or poor, sleazy politician or naïve non-professional, should be above the law. Assyrians are not demanding ‘a pound of flesh’. They are not seeking vengeance. The Assyrians are asking for part of their traditional land to be returned to them.
Like the Palestinians, racially, the Kurds do not relate to the Middle East. They are Arian in race. The Assyrians, Jews and Arabs are Semitic. Their roots are deeply seated in the Middle East. The historical homelands of Assyria, Israel and Arabia had exited there for millennia. Not so, with the Kurds. How long would the world keep on denying it, and why deny it? The difference between the two peoples is that, the Kurds allege that the Assyrians are infinitesimal, phasing out, and on the brink of extinction. The Palestinians, having been arabised, deny their Aegean origin and call the whole of the Biblical Land of Israel “Palestine”, thus denying their Aegean roots. The majority of the Assyrians have been expelled from their homeland. While the whole Palestinians have been assimilated with the Arab invading forces. They have since lost their original identity, melted into the Arab-Islamic pot. The name “Palestine” is a political term more than a physical reality. How long will this world continue eluding itself and live on deception?
A case in point, if the four neighbouring countries, namely, Iran, Turkey, Syria and Iraq, plus the future prospect of a so-called “Kurdistan” is added, they would in the end, arrogate nearly seventy percent (70%) of Assyria. What more do these greedy states want? Or is the West determined to vanquish Assyria and its surviving people altogether, just to endear itself to Islam. Does this mean that Islam has really instilled fear in the heart of the Western world, leaving it gutless? How and why does so-called Kurds, a people of ARIAN ORIGIN become acceptable and included in the political equation of a SEMITIC equation, while one of the most ancient, deep-rooted people of the Semitic race, namely, Assyrian, be excluded from its historical and rightful place of the equation? Is the world heading towards dividing itself, each according to its whim, ending in destroying itself to oblivion? Whoever claims to be virtuous is wicked. And the world is filled with wickedness. Otherwise, mankind would not have invented a multitude of different religions and dumb gods to expiate his sins.
The Assyrians and Israelis are part of this world family. They did not just mushroom haphazardly from underneath the earth, or drop from the skies. They want the hub and heartland of their homeland returned to them. As the indigenous people of Mesopotamia and native inhabitants of northern present-day Iraq, the Assyrians have every right to reclaim, if not all, at least part of their ancestral land up north. The Assyrians and the Israelis have the right to their historical land, to return and live in their traditional homeland, free and under their sovereign rule.
The Assyrians are not prepared to sacrifice the remaining portion of their ancestral land to the Kurds. The Assyrians need to be specific in their demands, one of which should be urging the Kurds, through the world body nations, to return, hundreds of Assyrian villages and land parcels which they have seized since the early sixties, and hundreds more in earlier years, since Post WW I, to their Assyrian rightful owners. The displaced Assyrians, now living in diaspora, must be guaranteed their return to their original dwellings.
Well, if it is (HALAL) lawful, after a period of over five centuries, for the so-called Albanians, to return to Kossovo, Serbia, and claim it as home for themselves, why is not the same law being applied to help the return of the Assyrians to their homes? The Assyrians of Hakkari-Van, Turkey and Urmia, Iran were evicted from their native land in the past century. They ended up in the Province of Nineveh (Mosul). Some were rehabilitated in isolation of their kinfolk in Iraq and Syria. Others were dispersed into the Moslem majority and the rest were left stranded. They were scattered all over the Middle East and left to fend for themselves with a view to their gradual assimilation with the Islamic majority to phase out their identity to extinction. The two warring parties deliberately did so to deny the Assyrians the right to return to their original dwellings. The warring nations concluded peace treaties at the expense of the Middle East non-Moslem nations, using them, at times, as bargaining chips and at other times, as a scapegoat.
The Assyrians, being racially different from the Persian, Arab, Turk and the roving Kurd, need to be recognized as the native inhabitants of former Mesopotamia. Historically, the hub of Assyria was the Province of Nineveh. Their country covered the whole region of the Middle East. In its zenith, its demography extended from Urmia (Iran) E, all the way through to Hakkari (Turkey) W, down to the borders of present-day State of Syria SW, and to the Persian Gulf SE.
In the latter years of Rome’s waning power and influence, and fading glory, and shrinkage, the Euphrates River became the dividing borderline that separated Assyria between the two warring nations of Persia and Rome. East of the Euphrates became a Satrapy and fell under the Persian political sphere of influence. Up to the West of the Euphrates became a Roman Vassal.
Until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, Assyria had been functioning as semi-autonomous, under the traditional system of tribal rule. During the Armistice of 11 November 1918, the two warring parties of WW I ended their armed conflict, by signing an armistice truce, to the mutual benefit of the belligerents, less the Oriental colonized states. They ignored the basic human and traditional rights of the four colonized non-Moslem nations that had been living under the archaic millet rule of the Islamic Shari’a Law. They preyed on them. Like ravening wolves, they all ganged up and turned on the four non-Moslem colonized nations, tore them apart and cut them to pieces like ‘mieces’ and wiped their nations off the map. Those that survived the carnage were isolated from the world scene and treated as throwaway. The slaughterers’ hands are still socked in the warm blood of millions of innocent Armenians, Jews, Assyrians, and Arab Christian men women and children. It was, indeed, crime of the century, kept under wrap, which the belligerents refuse until today to admit of having ever occurred. Imagine them now being active members of the UN and having the power to cast their vote – Democracy? I have yet to see that.
To safeguard and defend its borders, during the outbreak of WW I, the Ottoman Empire decided to mass over 60 to 120 thousand Turkish troops alongside its eastern front with Iran. Turkey, at the behest of the German intelligence, incited the Moslem Kurds to attack the Assyrians and drive them off, away from their Assyrian native land, of the district of Hakkari. Turkey sought the assistance of the marauding Kurds to eliminate the Assyrians by declaring on them the traditional Islamic Jihad. After expelling them, Turkey annexed the usurped Assyrian territory to its newly created eastern border of Modern Turkey. Turkey has since extricated itself from the Assyrian question, denying any wrong doing against them. Since their internal displacement, in the Middle East, in Post WW I, the Assyrians have been leading a miserable life, uncertain of their future. Ninety years on and the Assyrians are seeking a solution to their unresolved problem. It is hoped that the western countries, would not fall again into the same trap and rely on the Kurds or cunning diplomacy of certain greedy countries for control of the Middle East. The Kurds and a number of Western countries are infamous for their deception and illicit dealings. The Kurds are now raising their heads high for being partners in their crimes against humanity, under the pretext of liberation movements.
The Kurd’s policy in Assyria, present-day Northern Iraq, is to ensure that the reins of Power of the Moslem Kurds remain wholly in their hands, similar to what is currently happening in the Serbian Province of Kossovo. The Kurds are intent on reining-in the Assyrians at all cost. Their ultimate objective is to marginalize them from public office and rob them of their land to curb their influence and discourage them from striking deeper roots to remain on their soil and land as true citizens of their Assyrian homeland. One of their main aims is to annul the name ASSYRIA and replace it with the factious so-called name “Kurdistan.”
The Kurds, by insisting, that Assyria be termed “Kurdistan”, is an indication that the Islamic Dar Al-Silm States of the Abode of Peace would cede the whole of Northern Iraq to the Kurds. The so-called Kurdistan would emerge as an Islamic State, rather than allow a non-Moslem native Assyrian rehabilitate in his traditional homeland. The Kurds being traditionally Moslem would be accepted as part of the Abode of Peace. Islamic religion is one of the criteria that guarantee preference of the Moslem Kurd to the Assyrian Christian. By Kurdifying Assyria, “Kurdistan” becomes an Islamic State part of the Abode of Peace.
The Kurds, who do not have an historical link to Assyria, are entrenched in usurping Assyria proper. They arrogate it under the fictitious name "Kurdistan". Kurdistan Mountains have, since time immemorial, acted as the outpost landmark, separating Assyria Proper from the Kurdistan Mountains. The marked mountain range - a crescent-like chain of mountains, extending from Toros, Turkey southwest, through south Asia northward, to Zagros southeast Iran also acted as a buffer zone. This is an historical fact. It is a travesty that the international community does not admonish such rebellious and reckless claim on the part of the Kurds. Unless, of course, Dar Al-Silm states have willingly included the Kurds in their agenda as part of their strategy to become and Islamic State and be added to the Abode of Peace – a loss to democracy; a gain to neo-colonial expansionism.
The whole of present-day northern Iraq is admittedly part of Assyria’s historical and geographical landscape and expanse. While the Biblical land of Israel encompassed an expanse, over four times its present size. People of the dismembered nations of Israel and Assyria are not extinct, as many are led to believe. Assyrians, Jews, Copts and the Christian Arabs make scores of millions. Although the Arabs and Kurds have reduced their number in the north due to constant harassment and abuse, the Assyrians do exist. They are alive and kicking.
The West claims to be aiming at breaking new barriers, to pioneer and reach for the stars. If so, let them first clean their act, here on earth, put their house in order, then aim at the universe to reach out for other planets. First let them love their neighbour as themselves then go on goodwill missions, to spread amity beyond their world, if they are so keen and well intended on doing.
Assyrian Shepherd Killed By KDP Member in North Iraq
(ZNDA: Mosul) According to a report from Dohuk in north Iraq, Mr. Akhiqar Gewargis Odisho, from the village of Gonda Kosa was killed last week by a Kurdish man, named Sheerdel Tahir Khalid. The alleged killer is a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and lives in the village of Ekmala.
For nearly two decades, the residents of the Assyrian village of Gonda Kosa (click here) have been complaining about the trespasses of the Kurdish men from the nearby Ekmala village. Gonda Kosa is blessed with lush pastors and water, and Kurdish farmers and livestock owners have freely moved in and out of the Assyrian lands, causing occasional fights - similar to the one which ended in the death of Mr. Odisho.
The complaints from the Assyrian villagers continue to fall on deaf ears, even after the deliberate destruction of two water pumps in Gonda Kosa by the Ekmala villagers.
Recently, before the murder of Mr. Odisho, the Gonda Kosa residents had discovered the Ekmala villagers had mixed strong pesticides in the soil of the Gonda Kosa farms which has resulted in the destruction of acres of vegetation - including melons. The local authorities, including the Deputy Governor of Dohuk - an Assyrian - were informed, yet no investigation was conducted into this matter.
Some believe that Mr. Abdul Rahman, the Director of Agriculture in the city of Mangish, was informed of this event and the sabotage of the water pumps.
Around 7:30 pm on August 8th, Mr. Sheerdel Tahir Khalid and two friends ambushed the victim, while many village men were in Dohuk asking for help from the office of the Deputy Governor, and shot Mr. Odisho in the chest using a Kalashnikov rifle. The incident was reported by another Assyrian, tending to his sheep nearby, who ran off to ask for help. The villagers rushed to the aid of Mr. Odisho and discovered the murderers' car. The attackers had ran away to another village.
As he was being taken to the main hospital in Dohuk, Mr. Odisho was repeatedly calling the name of his murderers. He died at 3 a.m. due to injuries sustained in his heart and lungs.
The local police soon arrive in the Gonda Kosa village and confiscate the alleged killers' car.
At press time the whereabouts of the alleged murderers is unknown.
Assyrian Liquor Store Owner is Kidnapped & Killed
(ZNDA: Baghdad) On 1 August, Mr. Bassam Shimun Hakim, 33, was kidnapped in front of his large liquor shop in Baghdad. The kidnappers demanded a ransom for his safe release. They were paid $30,000 in cash, in addition to a BMW worth $10,000 that was parked at the business address where Mr. Hakim was kidnapped.
Mr. Hakim's dead body was discovered by the Baghdad police on 6 August.
Mr. Hakim was from the town of Alqosh, and is survived by his wife and two children.
Assyrians Forced to Leave Two Villages in North Iraq
Courtesy of Nirgalgate.com
(ZNDA: Dohuk) In a very dangerous precedent, the Kurdish inhabitants in the villages of Sawar and Spendar forbade the Assyrian inhabitants of the Mizeh village (in the Lower Barwari area) from returning to their homes and threatened to kill them.
One of the Mizeh inhabitants who refused to mention his name said:" Some 25 families wanted to go back to their village when their circumstances allowed them to, as they had submitted applications to the re-building committee headed by Mr. Sarkis Aghajan. The committee gave its approval for the re-building of 25 homes, and before even the start of the project, it was given to a Kurdish contractor because the inhabitants wanted to avoid any problems on the part of the Sawar and Spendar villagers.
As the plans began, a group of men threatened to kill the workers and the contractor if they did not leave the site, so they left and notified Mr. Fransu Jadidi who heads the Construction Committee in Dohuk (Nohadra), who told them: "Leave this issue alone. We don't want any problems".
The citizen of Mizeh added:" What's our fault? We want to return to our village; it's the authorities' responsibility to help us. Why do they neglect us? Aren't we citizens as well? Didn't we sacrifice like every one else in order to have our rights on our lands or we're asked to sacrifice only?"
Another resident of Mizeh stated that the trespassing Kurdish villagers of Sawar and Spendar gave the inhabitants of Mizeh two options: "Either we buy our own village and lands from the Kurds for three billion Iraqi dinars, telling us that the village is no longer ours, or we sell our village and lands to the Kurds for two billion Iraqi dinars." "
The resident continued: "Where is the rationality to buy our own lands and village for three billions or sell them to the Kurds for two billions? Is there more oppression than this? We are calling upon humanity's conscience to give us back what's rightfully ours on the lands which we were born on, and we call upon the Kurdish authorities controlling the North of Iraq to intervene, it's enough with them only watching all that afflicts us as if we are not citizens".
Assyrians Experience Slow Cultural Revival in
Courtesy of the Eurasianet.com
(ZNDA: Istanbul) Filled with honey-colored stone homes with exquisite relief carvings, Midyat, located in southeast Turkey, is one of the country’s most beautiful ancient towns. It is also one of its most haunted.
Once almost exclusively populated by Assyrian Christians – an ancient sect that traces its roots back to the earliest days of Christianity and that still uses Aramaic, the language spoken during the time of Jesus, for its liturgy – the town is now almost completely devoid of its original inhabitants.
Caught up in the violence that resulted from the separatist war that was fought in the area in the 1980’s and 90’s between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkish security forces, Assyrians from Midyat and several other towns and villages in the area fled to Europe, particularly Germany and Sweden, leaving their ancestral homeland behind.
Some 30-40,000 Assyrians lived in the area around Midyat, known as the Tur Abdin Plateau, 40 years ago. Nobody is sure what the population is today, although in Midyat only 100 Christian families remain.
Still, there are signs of Assyrian life throughout the region. In Midyat, where the community no longer has a priest and must rotate its Sunday services throughout the town’s churches in order to keep them alive, the Mor Barsaumo church holds regular afternoon classes for local Assyrian children, who learn how to read in Aramaic. On a recent afternoon, about 20 kids of varying ages were in the 1,500-year-old church’s courtyard horsing around during breaks from their lessons.
Down the road from the church, behind a high wall, a local Assyrian contractor named Hanna Goze is busy putting the finishing touches on the renovation of a massive stone house, owned by a Christian who now lives in Switzerland. The house is to be used as a summer vacation home, according to Goze.
In fact, Goze said he’s been quite busy doing similar kinds of renovation work, not only for individual Assyrians looking to return for short spells, but also for local churches and monasteries. A few years ago he helped restore a monastery at the edge of Midyat, which had been shut for years, but that now has a monk and two nuns living there.
"How do we survive? Well, by the grace of God," says Timotheos Samuel Aktas, the metropolitan (or archbishop) of the Tur Abdin area, who lives in another monastery near Midyat. The monastery the metropolitan lives in, Mor Gabriel, had been shut for decades before reopening in 1952.
"Life is better than before," Aktas said, comparing today to the 1980’s and 90’s. "But life in the area is like a ship at sea," he continued, making a waving motion with his hands. "We don’t know what will happen."
Aktas, a somewhat taciturn man, first came to the monastery in 1961 as a monk. He has served as metropolitan since 1985, and says he’s not sure how the Assyrians returning from Europe for short-term stays will impact the local community. "They want to keep two watermelons in one hand," he said. "It’s hard."
Still, compared to only a few years ago, there is a sense of slow renewal in several of the traditionally Assyrian villages in the area around Midyat. In the village of Kalit, a collection of old stone houses surrounded by green vineyards, Diaspora funds sent from Germany and Sweden has helped restore the historic church, which dates back to the 4th century.
Felixinos Saliba Ozmen, the metropolitan of Mardin, a town near Midyat that also once had a large Assyrian population, said he believes that a creeping return to the region by Assyrians is underway. "We would like to keep this hope alive. It has something to do with homesickness, homeland sickness," Ozmen said during a visit to the Kalit church with a group of former villagers who now live in Sweden.
"It’s very important that we live here," he added. "We have been here for 4,000 years in Mesopotamia, since before Christianity, and it’s very important for our culture, for our church, that we continue to live here."
Yigal Schleifer is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul.
Pope Awards Sarkis Aghajan For Services to Assyrian community and Catholic Church
Courtesy of Ankawa.com
(ZNDA: Arbil) Pope Benedict XVI has honored Sarkis Aghajan by naming him a Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great. Mr Aghajan was awarded the title, one of the highest and most widely recognized pontifical orders, for his contributions to the Assyrian community and his work for the Catholic church in Iraq.
Pope Benedict XVI bestowed Mr. Aghajan with the distinction through His Beatitude Mar Emmanuel Delly, patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, and Thomas Haleem, Vatican’s Ambassador to Iraq.
Mar Delly praised Mr Aghajan by commenting that "your name is engraved in all our hearts, and especially in the hearts of the Christian community. Future generations will remember your name and your generosity. Your work will be remembered and recognized in our books, in our places of worship and our associations.”
Pope Benedict XVI said in his message: “… we are aware that the Church has flourished in Iraq. As a sign of our gratitude and appreciation for his work and generosity, we bestow Mr Sarkis Aghajan with the honor of Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great and we grant him all the privileges and powers that come with the title.”
On the condition of the Chaldeans in Iraq Mr. Joseph Kassab, head of the Chaldean Federation of America, comments to the Catholic News Service on 26 August: "There's a little light at the end of the tunnel." See this week's NEWS DIGEST.
Iraqi Christians on Edge After Priest's Kidnapping
Courtesy of Zenit News Agency
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Last week's kidnapping at gunpoint of a Chaldean priest in Baghdad has sent shock waves throughout the Christian community in Iraq.
On August. 15, the car in which Father Saad Sirop Hanna, 34, was traveling was stopped by three masked gunmen, when he was returning home from celebrating Mass in St. Jacob's Church, in the Baghdad district of Al Dora.
With the passing of time, concern grows for his safety, said the charity Aid to the Church in Need.
Last Sunday, Benedict XVI expressed his closeness to suffering Iraqi victims and appealed to the kidnappers for the release of the Chaldean priest.
Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly of Babylon of the Chaldeans held a meeting last week with the prime minister of Iraq to try to find ways for Father Sirop's release.
For his part, Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, in northeastern Iraq, implored on television for the priest's release. Subsequently, during an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, he commented on the distress that the incident has caused in the Christian community.
"Christians are living in a panic and they are terrified of more attacks on their priests and their churches," the archbishop said.
"When a priest is kidnapped, the Christian community takes it very seriously because he is such an important religious symbol," he explained.
According to Archbishop Sako, the kidnappers have demanded a ransom of about $1 million. A few days ago they telephoned Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly, informing him that they were holding the priest.
Meanwhile, friends and colleagues of Father Sirop have praised his determination to minister to his people as widely as possible during the current crisis.
Aid to the Church in Need had agreed to sponsor him to study for a doctorate in philosophy in Rome, starting this autumn.
Aid to the Church in Need noted that the kidnapping comes amid a sudden deterioration of life for Christians in Iraq -- a number of lay Christians have been killed in recent weeks. Two weeks ago, another Baghdad Chaldean priest, Father Raad Washan, was kidnapped though he was released 48 hours later.
Archbishop Sako mentioned that the lives of other priests have been threatened.
Last Sunday, Mass attendance in Baghdad was very low when a 48-hour curfew was introduced after fears of an increase in violence associated with a Shiite pilgrimage.
The archbishop described Baghdad as "a jail" from which people are desperate to escape.
Donny George Leaves Job, Iraq
(ZNDA: Damascus) Dr. Donny George, an Assyrian, is well known internationally for his efforts to recover Iraq's looted antiquities. He is the Director of the Baghdad Museum and recently visited Europe and North America, including several Assyrian communities.
According to a publication called the Art Newspaper, Dr. George is reported to be in Syria with his family.Dr. George is also said to have told the paper the Iraqi state board of antiquities and heritage, which he presided over, had come under the increasing influence of supporters of radical Shia cleric Moqtada al Sadr, and he had been trying to counter a growing Islamist and anti-Western agenda.
He claimed that people had been put into the antiquities department who were interested only in Islamic sites and not in Iraq's rich earlier heritage.
But these and other reported grievances are being vigorously contested by Iraq's minister of state for antiquities, Liwa Sumaysim, a member of Moqtada al Sada's party.
"These are lies," he said.
The minister insisted that he was interested in all of the archaeology and antiquities of Iraq, not only its Islamic heritage.
And he rejected Dr George's reported claim that the 1400-strong special antiquities protection force was running out of funding, risking further looting at Iraq's thousands of archaeological sites.
The minister said Dr George had left Iraq without telling him, and despite their differences, he said he would be welcome back.
However, according to Basra News and Ankawa.com, Dr. Donny George had rather resigned his position as the Deputy Head of the Iraqi Antiquity and head of Baghdad Museum and then fled to an undisclosed address in Damascus, Syria with his family.
On Saturday Iraq's Culture Ministry confirmed the receipt of Dr. George's resignation in early August.
According to a report by Ellen Knickmeyer at Washington Post on 26 August, before he quit as head of Iraq's antiquities board, Donny George made a final desperate attempt this summer to safeguard the relics of 5,000 years of history: He ordered the doors of the National Museum plugged with concrete against the near-unbridled looting of ancient artifacts.
The Culture Ministry ordered the museum closed and has not announced plans to reopen it. Surrounded by weeds, it now sits behind metal gates, piled sandbags and concertina wire. Wary guards holding pistols and Kalashnikov assault rifles came to a front gate Saturday and confirmed that the museum's front entrance had been sealed.
Culture Ministry officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they said they were not authorized to comment, confirmed that Haider Farhan, a member of a Shiite religious party, has become the acting head of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage since George's departure. George told the Art Newspaper that Farhan had no relevant experience for the job. A Culture Ministry official questioned that judgment, saying Harhan was a young official in the department with a master's degree in Islamic manuscripts.
Jordan's Royal Court Chief Meets Patriarch Mar Ignatius
(ZNDA: Amman) On 28 August, representing His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan, Royal Court Chief Salem Turk met Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Amman, Jordan.
During the meeting Mr. Turk expressed King Abdullah appreciation for the Patriarch's visit to Jordan and his efforts to promote tolerance, understanding and cooperation amongst nations.
Patriarch Ignatius paid tribute to King Abdullah's policy and efforts to realize peace and stability in the Middle East. He also commended the key role of the Hashemites over the years to safeguard and defend the holy places.
On Saturday Patriarch Ignatius, currently on a visit to Jordan, laid the foundation stone of the first Syriac Orthodox Church in Jordan.
U.S. Army Engineers Taste History, Humility
Courtesy of the Washington Post
(ZNDA: Baghdad) By mid-afternoon, it had already been a long, hot day for the Army engineers. They had toured a nearly complete water treatment plant and a half-built prison, but they had one more stop to make -- a place where the workmen had finished the job long before anyone had heard of George W. Bush or Saddam Hussein.
Or Alexander the Great.
Breathing a little easier as their convoy of armored sport-utility vehicles pulled through the gate of Tallil air base at 3:15 p.m., the engineers headed not for the comfort of their air-conditioned bunks but for an enormous mound of mud and brick tucked inside the base.
A few minutes later, they stood at the foot of the 4,100-year-old ziggurat, or temple tower, of Ur. They were no longer two dozen or so tired, sweaty soldiers toiling to rebuild a war-torn country. They were construction wonks returning to their oldest, deepest roots. Their sidearms and holsters could just as easily have been tool belts, their body armor, comfy denim or well-worn flannel.
As he clambered up the mud-brick stairs leading to the ziggurat's flat top -- which the ancient Sumerians considered the dwelling place of their moon god, Nanna -- Lt. Gen. Carl A. Strock recalled his first visit to Ur.
It was 1991, and Strock's Engineer Brigade of the 24th Infantry Division was taking apart Tallil air base, while American air power was doing the same to Iraqi troops retreating from Kuwait. Strock, who is now the Army's chief of engineers, found time to visit the ziggurat and toyed with the idea of pocketing one of its bricks as a souvenir.
He decided against it.
Like Strock 15 years before, the Army engineers scrambling around the ziggurat on this breezy-but-blistering July afternoon seemed content to take in the sights without taking them home.
For all the intimations of empire attached to the U.S. presence in Iraq, these troops exhibited none of the rapaciousness associated with armies encountering antiquities, such as Napoleon's in the conquest of Egypt more than 200 years before. The engineers were just having fun, a subdued, compassionately conservative kind of fun.
"Okay, who knows the history?" Once posed, the question drew an assortment of answers, all different.
No matter -- there was more to see, so the soldiers trooped back down the long stairway and through the surrounding sprawl of ancient ruins largely unearthed by Sir Leonard Woolley in the 1920s and '30s.
"I found some asphalt," exclaimed Col. Gary E. Johnson, who commands the Corps of Engineers in southern Iraq.
It certainly looked like asphalt, and it was probably pretty old. The ancients bound their bricks with an asphalt-like substance made of bitumen.
"Great," someone shouted back. "Boil it down and use it to resurface the roads."
As the engineers wended their way around, across and over the maze of foundations, partial walls and narrow archways, Johnson grew reflective.
"Just when you think you're real smart," said Johnson, who holds a master's degree in structural engineering from the University of Maryland, "you see something like this and you realize they had real intelligent people a long time ago."
As he spoke, Johnson was standing on one side of a rectangular pit that one member of the group identified as the Sumerians' royal tombs. Triangular arches at either end of the bottom of the pit marked the entrances to chambers where kings and queens were once buried. The arches also supported the ledges on which the soldiers stood gazing into the dark pit.
How much longer the arches would hold up appeared debatable.
Johnson looked across the pit to see the man who will become his boss in October, Brig. Gen. Michael Walsh. The general was standing at the apex of an arch that had seen better days. When Johnson warned the general that his perch might not last many more millennia, Walsh responded that the ledge supporting Johnson and a reporter was severely bowed.
Time to move on.
It was about 4 p.m. when the engineers reached the end of the trail. Before them stood the roofless structure revered as the home of the prophet Abraham.
The Bible refers to "Ur of the Chaldees" as the place where Abraham lived before heading off to the land of Canaan, though many historians say there isn't much evidence that this is the same Ur.
Until the 1990s, Abraham's house was nothing but a foundation. But when Pope John Paul II expressed interest in visiting someday, Hussein ordered up the walls, arches and steps that now grace the site.
As their day ended, the engineers moved respectfully, from room to room. Johnson again marveled at the genius and skill that made Ur the pride of Sumer.
"And," he drawled through a broad grin, "they didn't use a calculator."
Assyrians in a New Middle East and the Myth of “Kurdistan”
Well, if Israel and the U.S. have done anything in this world, it is to set precedents: Preemption is valid foreign policy, and entering foreign land to take care of your terrorist problems is acceptable.
The Kurds in Iraq, busying themselves playing “democracy” – what they are boldly calling “South Kurdistan” – are encouraging foreign investment, paying Israeli contractors to train and arm their peshmergas, marginalizing, killing and kidnapping Assyrians, and annoying to no end their Arab, Turkish, and Persian neighbors.
The most bizarre part is that Israel and America seem to think, or had thought in the past, that “ Kurdistan” a good idea. While everyone else in the region is dumbfounded at this unlikely ally, the U.S. says “hmm...yes, Kurds!!! That’s our ticket!” and Israel is simply abiding by its “ANYONE but Arabs – or Christians” general foreign policy.
And there is an arrogance in the Western world regarding “nation building”, and what a “better” middle east (for whom, is the main question) would look like. Something like this:
A map not likely to happen, but it is gaining popularity in the Western academic and policy circles – as if the solution to a western-carved bungle in the Middle East is ANOTHER western-carved up bungle in the Middle East. It is interesting – and funny – to hear western political analysts try to deal with “Islamism” the way they were dealing with Communists twenty years ago: “Grow the middle class, promote democratic values, and just watch the Islamic world secularize”. While I don’t have the answer to ending Islamism – this approach certainly is not it. Changing loyalty from Karl Marx to Adam Smith is one thing; changing allegiance from Allah to Adam Smith is another thing completely.
It seems that it is strategically better for Israel and the U.S. to have the Christians of the Middle East disappear, whether Lebanese, Assyrian, or other. Israel has easier claim to “moral authority” to attack “fanatic Muslims” that surround them, and the U.S. needs an “Islamic threat” in the Middle East in order to contain is power over the region, and keep the American public’s support in what they do over there. If they truly believed in the democratic values they espouse, they would be promoting plurality and protecting minorities – like Assyrians and Lebanese Maronites, against arabization and kurdification, instead of promote new and improved soon-to-be Islamic terrorist havens like “ Kurdistan”.
There is no doubt that Islamists represent a threat to the Western world, considering it is one of Islam’s goals to convert the world to Islam (something yet misunderstood by Westerners and denied by Islamist apologists and academics). Assyrians – and indeed any non-Muslim group that lives in Muslim lands – understand this concept better than most, as they have only barely survived Islam and its conquests for the last 1300 years. But it seems like creating more Islamic states, and empowering new ones to emerge, like “Kurdistan”, is exactly the opposite of what should be happening in the Middle East.
There is no way Kurds have ever in their history suffered close to what Assyrians have endured. Assyrians have felt the wrath of every Muslim group that surrounds them, including Kurds; they have been abandoned by Western allies, and they have grown so tired of persecution, massacre, and genocide, that there are Assyrians who, amongst other religious and political reasons, would rather be called “Chaldean” or “Syriac” – something Kurds and Arabs welcome, as long as “Assyrian” is never uttered. After all, with the recognition of “Assyrian” comes the inherent logical conclusion – the recognition of indigeneity and land rights. And since Kurds occupy Assyrian villages, the last word they want to hear is “Assyrian”. They are counting on the Western media’s consistent misnomer – “Iraqi Christian”, so we can ultimately be defined as “Kurdistani Christian” and be absorbed into the Kurdish nation.
The only sin Assyrians have committed in modern history is having small population numbers in Iraq. And that’s only because the Turks, Kurds, and Arabs took their turn committing massacres against innocent Assyrians. While the world tries to decide whether or not Iraq should stay one country or be divided, the question of whether Assyrians should get their own land remains unanswered, un-discussed, ignored, and peripheral.
When constructing Israel, the Jews claimed their 5,000 year struggle for a homeland, having been subjected to severe human rights abuses and guarding jealously their right to self-determination. They claimed that they fit nowhere in the world, and could only survive under their own rule.
Assyrians are in the exact same position, except unlike the Jews, do not have the comfort of knowing that an ally like the U.S. will ensure their survival. Israel is one of the most protected countries in the world, even as it faces imminent threat from their Arab neighbors. Assyrians, while older than Jews and with ties to their land dating almost 7,000 years, have no such luck or assurance of their survival.
While the occupied Kurdish north of Iraq has been trying fruitlessly to convince the world they are ready for autonomy, the Assyrians are struggling to survive and maintain their identity under Kurdish “rule”, the Sunni and Shia fight each other, insurgents are attacking American and coalition troops everywhere and the Iraq central government are trying to maintain Iraq’s border integrity and govern from Baghdad.
Academics and writers like Peter Galbraith, Russel Howe and Gareth Stansfield constantly and consistently write about the importance of partitioning Iraq. In the name of peace, these academics claim, divide up Iraq and let the different groups live separate of each other.
My question to these writers is always the same – under whose authority should the country be divided? The same authority that was used to draw Iraq’s convenient border in the first place? If Iraq wants to partition, it is up to Iraq, and those who live in Iraq. Britain and the U.S. have done enough damage in the region to have its academics start spewing “map redrawing” policies all over again. The U.S. simply doesn’t know enough about the region, its history, and its politics to make such drastic changes. They have shown their infantile knowledge by allowing the Kurds to garner as much power as they have in the new Iraq.
The Kurds, contrary to people like Mr. Galbraith’s analyses, will not stop at Iraq. That is blatant through the evolving rhetoric coming out of “Kurdistan” now – what used to be “Iraqi Kurdistan” is now being called “South Kurdistan”, implying that Iraq will only be the Southern part of a greater “Kurdistan”, including Southeastern Turkey, or “Northern Kurdistan”. Talk about counting your chickens before they’ve hatched.
A Kurdish state makes no buffer in any way between an Islamist Iraq and a secular Turkey. First, the KDP will not have power, at least democratically, for very long. The Kurdish Islamist party is well known to be popular, even more so than the KDP. Second, the KDP is much less popular and powerful in Turkey than the PKK, an established terrorist organization according to the Turkish – and American – government. Third, the KRG is showing its propensity toward Ba’athist like policies toward their ethnic and religious minorities, like the Assyrians, and whose villages are being lost to the Kurds even now.
When I wrote in a previous article, “To Hell With Unity”, I explained a simple concept: alliance does not mean full acceptance or even friendship. Assyrians have made mistakes in “alliances”, approaching it like beggars rather than choosers. The nature of relationships has been too one-sided. This has been the wrong approach. It is easy to live in the past and focus on our eternal enemies, it is shrewder to realize mistakes, evolve, and work within the geopolitics of the Middle East to get what we want.
It’s true, Assyrians have little to bargain with. We have no real military might. We are not rich (unless the Churches need money for legal battles – suddenly our pockets are full of disposable cash). Our internal dissension, promoted by our KDP-funded churches, is weakening us internally and externally. We have virtually nothing on our side.
And yet, in the 3 short years since the removal of Saddam, we have managed to gain the attention of U.S., U. K., Australian, and European politicians, media, academics, and policymakers. It has gotten to the point where the KDP is watching publications like AINA and Zinda, wondering what these “annoying Assyrians in the Diaspora” will say about them next. Frankly, if there is one thing we are slowly learning from the Jews, is that organizing against and complaining about mistreatment and marginalization is more powerful than we think. We just need to organize better and complain more. We are Assyrians. We deserve better than what we are getting.
So, what is “The Myth of Kurdistan”? It is that it will be a stable, democratic country with Kurds being all inclusive of minorities (like they’re doing now…right?) The biggest laugh is the Vatican and their Chaldean puppets fighting for the attention of Sarkis Aghajan , who they jealously want to pry away from the Assyrian Church of the East. It’s like two schoolgirls battling over the football star – you guys remember what happened to the football star from high school, right? He became completely useless when high school was over, knocked up his high school girlfriend and developed a severe drinking problem.
The Myth of Kurdistan will unravel with Turkey and the PKK and frankly, themselves – Kurds have no interest in staying in Iraq, why should they? They want Turkish land, bought and fought for with Iraqi oil money (Ohhh..THAT’S why they want Kirkuk so badly…). Half their population lives in Turkey. Why should they recognize the name Assyrian? That would mean they concede that they are on our land. If you were the KDP, how would you handle the “Assyrian problem”? Maybe the same way the Turks have been dealing with their “Kurdish problem”? How silly of those of us who think otherwise.
1. I guess we have to start telling the Vatican to stay out of our internal political issues? Shame on you Vatican. As if you haven’t caused enough problems within the Assyrian nation.
Head of U.S. Chaldean Group Presses Govt, U.N. on Iraq's Chaldean Exiles
Catholic News Service
(ZNDA: Arlington) Mr. Joseph Kassab, head of the Chaldean Federation of America, met 25 August for the sixth time this year with officials from the State Department to press the case to allow Chaldeans -- Iraqi Christians -- fleeing their homeland to emigrate to the United States.
"We've got their attention," Kassab told Catholic News Service during an interview in his hotel room in Arlington, a Washington suburb, prior to meeting No. 6.
After the sixth meeting, he told CNS by telephone, "There's going to be a little help. ... There's a little light at the end of the tunnel."
Kassab, whose brother is Chaldean Archbishop Djibrail Kassab of Basra, Iraq, is still waiting for effective action.
He estimated that less than half of the 1.1 million-1.2 million Chaldeans who were in Iraq before the U.S. war began in 2003 remain in Iraq today. Kassab said most of them -- 92 percent -- have fled to Greece, Syria, Turkey and Jordan.
Kassab distributed a 44-page report, "Operation R4 -- Wave 1: A Survey Study of Iraqi-Christian Refugees Worldwide," during his State Department meeting. The previous day he gave the report to representatives of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. The "R4" in the report's title, Kassab said, stands for research, rescue, relief and resettlement.
Kassab said the U.N. response was, "If you have the data and you want to organize it, we'll certainly look into it."
Kassab's report documents more than 1,200 cases of Chaldean Christians leaving Iraq, and those interviewed were allowed to give multiple reasons for their departure. In interviews with 368 Chaldean refugees now in Greece, Syria, Turkey and Jordan, the organization found that 85 percent of the cases involved people leaving because of religious persecution. About 6 percent of the cases involved Chaldean women having been sexually assaulted or raped, and 15 percent of the cases included the vulnerability of women and girls in their family as a reason for leaving Iraq. About 23 percent of the cases involved abduction of a relative by members of the Iraqi insurgency, militia or Islamic gangs.
Chaldeans have been targeted for violence because "the Iraqi Christians are a peaceful people," Kassab said. "They are not divided into tribes. They don't have a militia to protect them like the Shiites or the Sunnis or the Kurds."
Kassab likened the situation facing Iraq's Chaldeans to that of Jews in Iraq in the 1950s.
"The Jews were kicked out and their properties seized," he said. Chaldeans who have not left Iraq already "are too poor to get out," he added, noting that when Chaldeans ready to leave put up their houses for sale, they get deliberately low offers.
Of all the Chaldean refugees interviewed for the report, "we didn't hear even one of them saying, 'I want to go back.' They left in tears. They left in pain. They left without any desire to go back to their ancestral homeland," he said.
Kassab said there are about 250,000 Chaldean-Americans, concentrated largely in the Detroit and Chicago metropolitan areas in the Midwest and in California and Nevada in the West. He added that most Chaldeans leaving Iraq would ordinarily qualify for emigration to the United States, as they can identify a close relative willing to take them in who is a U.S. citizen.
However, a federal regulation that was passed as part of the Patriot Act forbids the entry of immigrants determined to have provided material support to the enemy. Paying ransom to kidnappers has been interpreted as providing material aid, Kassab said. Even the Iraqi citizen who helped locate U.S. Army Pvt. Jessica Lynch and aided in her rescue has been denied entry because he had to pose as being sympathetic to the Iraqis, Kassab said.
Kassab told the story of a Chaldean woman he identified only as Miriam, whose house was occupied for a week by insurgents. They forced Miriam and her daughters, ages 16 and 15, to cook for them and give them directions. On the last day of their stay, the six insurgents raped Miriam and her daughters and told them they would be killed if they ever said anything. After the ordeal, Miriam and her daughters fled to another country -- the name of which Miriam did not want disclosed for fear of the insurgents' revenge.
The family was denied U.S. entry because the cooking and directions under duress were construed by U.S. officials as providing material support.
"We need the law, but we don't think it should be applied this way," Kassab said. "The United States government has not budged, not even one millimeter."
John Lazar Announces Race for Turlock Mayor
(ZNDA: Turlock) Longtime Turlock City Council Member, John Lazar, has announced his intent to run for Mayor of Turlock, California. Lazar currently serving, as Vice Mayor was first elected in 1992.
The son of the late John M. Lazar and Julia Lazar, he was born in Turlock in 1959. His grandparents, Mishial and Supya Lazar immigrated to San Francisco in 1921. Smouel and Shushan Sargis, maternal grandparents, immigrated to New York via France in 1932.
Lazar, a member of the Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock, has been active in the club – involved in its youth organization, dance troupe, and newspaper in the 1970’s and 1980s. He also served as a reporter for the Assyrian Star magazine.
A graduate of California State University, Stanislaus in 1981, Lazar has served as legislative staff to federal and state officials. He currently is employed as a broker with Coldwell Banker Endsley and Associates.
Lazar also serves on the Stanislaus County Local Agency Formation Commission. He was a member of the Stanislaus County Council of Governments (1999-2000) and the State Mandates Commission in Sacramento (2000-2005).
He and his wife, Nellie, have three children.
Questions or contributions may be sent to John Lazar for Turlock Mayor, P.O. Box 1633, Turlock, CA 95381.
Campaign contact: Maryn Pitt (664-9073)
Zinda Magazine endorses Mr. John Lazar for the Mayor of Turlock and urges its readers in Turlock and elsewhere to support Mr. Lazar's campaign by their votes and financial contribution.
ADO Statement of the Occasion of the Martyrs Day
Assyrian Democratic Organization
August 7, 2006
Our Chaldo-Assyrian-Syriac people have gone through very difficult times throughout their long, bitter and turbulent history. Thousands have sacrificed their blood for the sake of their national identify, existence, culture and principles. With the beginning of the 20th century they were subjected to barbaric and ferocious campaigns, most vicious of which was the genocide premeditated and organized by the Turkish "Al-Ittihad wal-Taraki" government with close collaboration with its allies from some countries of then civilized world, mainly against the Chaldo-Assyrians-Syriacs, Armenians, and the Christian population of the Ottoman empire. This genocide, which was called "Al-Seyfo" and the atrocities that followed cost our people about half a million martyrs, they fell in Hakkari, A'med, Raha, Mardin, Azelh, Tor Abedin and other places, victims of hatred, chauvinism, and gruesome terrorism .
Then in 1933, one year following Iraq's independence from Britain, while the wounds of our people were still healing, we suffered yet another blow in the peaceful Assyrian town of Simel in Iraq. Five thousand, children, women and elderly were cold-bloodedly slaughtered in the hands of the regular Iraqi army led by commander of the Northern region, Colonel Bakir Sadqi, in one of the ugliest crimes of state terrorism in modern history. These victims were nothing but civilian refugees that had taken refuge in this town fleeing for their life from battles waging between the Iraqi regular army on one hand, and our people's freedom fighters on the other struggling for their legitimate rights in the new Iraq then, similar to the other partners in the country.
As a matter of fact, this terrible crime has opened up new chapters for policies of massacres and sectarian ethnic cleansing for the Iraqi upcoming successive regimes. In 1969 this regime perpetrated another massacre in the Assyrian town of "Souriya" in the north, three hundred civilians were massacred. This was followed by other massacres, mass graves and atrocities. Regrettable, the violence and the terrorism still have the upper hand in Iraq, even after the downfall of the dictatorship.
Throughout the last century, our people have suffered great oppression and tyranny on the hands of some of their partners as well as some regional governments . This has led to great demographic changes in the historic places of their existence due to the policies of killings, displacement and discrimination, and has resulted in great decline in the number of the Christians and consequently, deprived the region of its spiritual and human richness and diversity, one of its oldest and most important cultural component and the leading source of its development.
The sacrifices of our martyrs were not made for death; they sacrificed themselves for life. Most of them were innocent civilians, intellectuals, religious men like His Holiness Mar Benyamin Shimun, Ashour Yousef, Dr. Freidoun Atouraya, Bashar Helmy Bouraji, Bishop Mar Touma Aodo and others who have become symbols of martyrdom and dedication. They did not die for the sake of a sect or personal gains, but for the sake of their people's existence and dignity. The best lesson they have left for the coming generations is, working tirelessly for the fulfillment of the goals they have died for. There is no way of accomplishing these aims, but through national unity that they have called for, the unity of our people with all its denominations, away from narrow temporary interests for this or that party or this or that sect.
While we are commemorating the Martyrs' Day, horrible massacres and atrocities are perpetrated against the Palestinian and Lebanese people by the Israeli war machine. As we strongly contemn and denounce these massacres, we call upon the international community to stop the aggressive Israeli war on Lebanon and to implement the relevant resolutions of international legitimacy concerning exchange of prisoners, return of refugees to their villages and towns, and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from all Lebanese territories including the occupied Shab'a Farms. Furthermore, the Lebanese political forces should unite in one common position and vision for the sake of independent, free and sovereign Lebanon that would provide stability, security and prosperity for its people and would further extent its authority over all its lands.
The countries of the region are fed up with wars and repressive regimes, the people have paid a high price and have become exposed to state and individual terrorism and the result is massacres, as in Kana, Gaza and Iraq. Added to this, the prevalence of poverty, backwardness and frustration has prepared the ground for forces of darkness to promulgate their culture of death instead of that of life. It's about time the people of the region dedicated their time and energy for construction and development, and this can not be accomplished without finding fair solutions by the international community to the conflicts raging the region, and on top of these comes the Arab-Israeli conflict. This can only be done through establishing just and permanent peace in the area according to the resolutions of the international legitimacy and that means the return of rights and lands to their owners. In addition, first, efforts must be made to eliminate all sources of tension and animosity amongst the people by way of acknowledging the national rights of the minorities, second, to help set up democratic systems capable of launching networks of cooperation and understanding among all the people in the area.
Only by doing this will we be able to leave behind us the culture of hostility and hatred and devote our time for building of man and homelands.
Glory and immortality to the memory of our martyrs and honor to the martyrs of freedom everywhere.
ADO Statement on the Occasion of its 49th Anniversary
Bachir Isaac Saadi
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Representatives of various political and national Syrian patriotic parties and forces,
Assyrian Democratic Organization today is celebrating its 49th anniversary. Forty nine years ago and in this city, Qamishly, the new Nisibin, was born the first political national organization in the history of our Assyrian-Chaldo-Syriac people.
The establishment of the Organization came in response to a national necessity, and a reaction to the deep despair and agony the massacre of "Semel" and before it the massacres of the World War I caused our people in their hometowns in south-east Turkey. The Organization was founded on a national ideology, the pillars of which were firmly consolidated by nationalists and patriotic pioneers like Ashour Yousef, Na'oum Fayek, Freydon Athoraya, Mar Benyamen Shimun, Agha Putros, Toucan Odo, Yousef Malek, Sanharib Bali, Yoweil Warda, Farid Nazha and others. Generations after generations were inspired by their national ideology and call for liberation, union, breaking down the barriers of sectarianism and denominations, and their demand for our people's national rights, similar to our other partners in the country.
The Organization has confirmed since its inception the concurrence of the national and patriotic struggle, and that the national rights can only be gained in a system that fulfills justice and equality and respect for human rights. From here, came the Organization's call for a democratic, secular system based on the principles of citizenship and declaration of human rights, with all what it involves, such as international declarations, treaties and agreements, guarantees of national rights for all minorities, under the wing of one unified Syrian national identity that would contain and acknowledge the cultural, ethnic and religious diversity in our society and country.
In addition, the Organization has always believed and still believes in the peaceful means of democratic, civilized and gradual struggle to attain its goals, rejecting all forms of fanaticism, violence and policy of burning stages
Ladies and Gentlemen,
During the course of 49 years, the Organization has suffered a lot in the hands of successive totalitarian regimes for promulgating its ideology. Its leaders and activists have been subjected to detentions, searches and exile. Yet, in spite of all these difficulties and risks it was able to promulgate its ideology throughout all the places where our people lived, whether in the homeland or in the diaspora. Besides, it participated in the political activities in Syria and confronted all challenges realistically and moderately depending on the justice of its cause and on its people's support and backing, which was clearly demonstrated during the frequent detentions of its activists and leaders or regional and parliamentary elections . All this came to confirm the Organization's role and political presence as a true representative of our people's national ambitions.
Today, the Organization is one of the political national forces in the country through its membership in the "Damascus Declaration for Political Change ", standing side by side with other national forces, with their various national political affiliations, for the sake of transforming Syria to a democratic system that would embody the aspirations of the Syrian people and guarantee the political and cultural rights for all components of the Syrian society, Arabs, Assyrian(Syriacs), Kurds, Armenians or others, within the unified framework of the country and society and under the banner of a common, national Syrian identity.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Now that we are celebrating this anniversary, the region around us is witnessing great tensions and crisis in Lebanon, Iraq, and Palestine, due to the policies of interference, outside aggression and the continuity of the Israeli occupation. Iraq, led by international terrorism, is now on the verge of a civil war which is threatening to split up and partition the county. Palestine and Lebanon are now under a barbaric attack by the Israeli army which is killing civilians and destroying the infrastructure and threatening to wage a regional war on international power's account. On this occasion, as we strongly condemn the barbaric Israeli aggression and all the terrorist acts in Iraq, we think that the true position that should be taken is not mere words of condemnation. This opportunity should provide us with a moment of reflection to think about what we have to do in order to fortify our country and people against the oncoming threats and dangers. We firmly believe that the only stance that is required in this situation is a common unified action aiming at reinforcing our internal front and national unity and protecting our land and country, and this can not be achieved by sentiments or empty slogans, but by genuinely treating the state of political frustration felt by the Syrian people due to restriction on general freedoms, continuing emergency law, worsening economic conditions, and resorting to security solutions vis-a vis peaceful opposition movement . All these means are further adding more frustration and tension to an already complicated situation in the country.
Hence, we think that this genuine and courageous stance makes incumbent upon the regime first, to introduce radical changes and speed up the democratic process in Syria according to a comprehensive political reform plan with the involvement of all the national forces – Front and Opposition- in the country, with an aim of consolidating social peace and gradual peaceful transformation to a democratic system that would respond to the needs of the Syrian society with all its ethnic and religious components and eventually stave the country off the dangers coming up.
To start up , there is no way but to unleash the general freedoms, repeal the emergency law as well as all the other exceptional laws and courts, set free the political detainees, to close forever the file of political detention , reinstate the employees dismissed and finally, draft new democratic laws for elections and political parties that would take into consideration the real political and national demographic status of the people and would put an end to political monopoly. These all are prerequisites for fulfilling comprehensive reforms in the country.
Regarding our community in Syria in general, and in the al-Jazire region in particular, we think, the national responsibility makes incumbent upon us all to take a serious responsible stance as national social forces, and exert greater efforts to narrow the differences and leave behind us the divisions in our society as well as remove all signs of tension and friction whatever their ethnic or political origins might be. This can only be accomplished through integration, dialogue and joining hands so that an good example of co-existence and brotherhood would be set in the region. In fact, our gathering today, and other similar gatherings, is an expression of national cohesion and solidarity that should be further strengthened and reinforced.
Ladies and Gentlemen
In Iraq, that is today on the verge of partition and civil war, due to great chaos caused by the occupation forces and the Iraqi government on one hand, and the terrorist gangs on the other, our people is particularly are subjected to systematic killings and attacks on its places of worship. This has led thousands of them to flee for their lives in desperate conditions to the neighboring countries. These attacks and transgressions on their lands and villages are still continuing. Furthermore, the Iraqi constitution has unfairly torn apart their national identity and has denied them a separate administrative regions in their historic hometowns.
We hold the Iraqi government as well as the occupation forces responsible for the protection of our people and guaranteeing their rights similar to the other ethnicities in Iraq. This, as a matter of fact, makes incumbent on the political and ecclesiastical forces of our people to go beyond their current divisions and partition and unite their efforts and voice in this very important stage of our history.
As for our people in Turkey, who have suffered a lot and were the victim of a genocide that claimed the life of half a million of them and the displacement of the remaining survivors during WWI, they are still suffering from repression and injustice. Our Organization has always held the successive Turkish governments responsible for this heinous crimes and called them to acknowledge the genocide and its binding international obligations, compensations, reclaiming of lands and properties, right of return as well as constitutionally recognizing the rights of our people, it further, calls for the countries of EU to set Turkey's acknowledgment of the genocide as a precondition for her full membership in the EU.
Finally, on the occasion of this anniversary, we call upon all our people in the diaspora and the homeland to be more involved in the national issues and to spare no efforts in reinforcing the Organization's patriotic role and national existence in the homeland. We hope to meet again next year to celebrate our Organization's Golden Jubilee, but this time in more spacious places and under better legal and political conditions. We hope further, to be more unified for the sake of a free democratic Syria, a home for all its people.
AUA-Australia Meeting with in Canberra
For Immediate Release
Monday 21 August 2006
The future of Iraq is at risk because of its grim outlook. The human rights situation is worsening and repression of the civil and political rights continue deteriorating by the day. Indiscriminate bombing of civilian settlements and arbitrary killings is causing grievous concern to the Assyrians and other Christians.
The Assyrian nation can no longer continue on the present course of silence. The threat posed by terrorism is real and cannot be ignored. Our people have become the primary target by the insurgency. It is evident that the Assyrian nation in Iraq is suffering, and our people have been left without protection. Other unforeseen threats are imminent.
Assyrians in Diaspora must be prepared to face the problematic and challenging situation that is yet to come. The ethno-religious persecution of Christians in Iraq has reached extreme forms of human degradation.
Our plight is attracting little attention in the outside world. Governments of the willing, as well as, the Vatican have turned away from the current problem.
The final solution to the Christian presence in the Middle East is rapidly approaching its final stage. Within a generation or two, the Christians would be forced to follow the Jews in fleeing the bitter oppression of the Islamic fascist socio-political order of the Middle East. Christianity, its birthplace in the Middle East, will dwindle to a mere naught.
Recently, however, American organizations have taken up the cause of the persecuted Christians around the world, primarily in the Muslim countries. The Senate has conducted hearings on this topic (click here). Therefore, it is our obligation to lobby harder, concentrate on the sufferings of our nation and find a permanent solution for hundreds of thousands of our Assyrian refugees that are left stranded in the neighbouring Muslim countries.
The Assyrian Universal Alliance - Australian Chapter continues in its efforts and appeals, through the Assyrian Parliamentary Friendship Group, to seeking the assistance of the Australian Government. As a result, a number of intensive meetings has recently taken place with certain governmental departments in this regard.
We are proud to announce that a very important meeting took place, on this subject, on Thursday, 17 August 2006, between a delegation from the AUA - Australia chapter and The Human Rights sub-committee Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade. Senator Marise Payne chaired the meeting. During the meeting a comprehensive report was presented to the committee, supported by several documents, which explained the tragic and dangerous situation our people are facing in Iraq.
AUA presented an immediate plan of action to the committee, requesting to take the discussion further with the Australian authorities. The meeting was successful. Members of our delegation where officially congratulated for their professionalism in presenting the Assyrian issue. The issue was supported with many comprehensive documents relating to the subject matter.
The Human Rights committee will meet soon to make its recommendations on the issue.
We would like to acknowledge and thank the Assyrian Parliamentary Friendship Group for their great efforts and support of the AUA delegation, particularly Mr. Paul Azzo for his successful lobbying of the Assyrian case in the Federal Parliament.
The following is a press release from Mr. Chris Bowen M.P.'s office regarding the meeting noted above:
Assyrian Delegation Comes to Canberra to Lobby Parliamentarians on Iraq
21 August 2006
Office of Chris Bowen M.P.
Prospect Labor MP Chris Bowen has welcomed a delegation from the Assyrian Universal Alliance last week as it went before the Human Rights Sub-Committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade.
The Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Genocide Awareness Day
By Alhan Oraha, reporting from Canada
(ZNDA: Toronto) August 7 is no ordinary day in our lives. It is a very important and emotional day. It is a day filled with sadness, pride, and hope. Sadness for having lost hundreds of thousands of innocents in the genocides, pride for having rivers of blood shed to protect and preserve our religious and ethnic identity, and hope in our generation to act to stop history from repeating itself. It is a day where we should all forget our differences and hold hands to honour our martyrs as one nation.
1. The Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union of Canada.
The ceremony took place at the Assyrian Society of Canada in Mississauga. Many letters of invitations were sent to numerous Canadian political figures and media outlets. Several displays containing stories tracing the journeys of families who had survived the genocides were prepared. One of the stories was from Mardine and the other from Urmia. These accounts were written by the survivors themselves. One of these stories was provided by a survivor belonging to the Syriac Orthodox Church.
The ceremony was opened by a short prayer by Father Yousep Sermez (priest of the Assyrian Church of the East). Unfortunately, Father Stephanos Issa (from the Syriac Orthodox Church) was unable to attend this year due to some unforeseen reasons. The prayer was followed by a minute of silence to honour our martyrs. Children (our next generation) were asked to light candles of hope symbolizing the power they have in transcending us from our state of darkness to a bright one.
This year’s ceremony consisted mainly of two segments. The first segment dealt with the past genocides in our history as follows:
The second segment emphasized the ethnic cleansing which was further divided into religious discrimination presented by Renya Benyamen and the Kurdification policy in northern Iraq presented by Alda Benyamen. They both stressed that since the toppling of the previous regime, more than 250,000 Assyrians fled to Syria. They concluded by emphasizing that a true sophisticated genocide is underway: a genocide that can ultimately eradicate a whole Nation, an endogenous Nation that has contributed so significantly to every aspect of our civilized world.
Johnson Aghajan filled the silence of the night with the beautiful tunes of his saxophone and Jwanqa Sogol. The audience was also touched by the voice of Rabina Shmoel singing “shlama elakh qawra shtiqta”.
One of the highlights of our ceremony was the power point presentation given by Professor Amir Harrak about martyr Addai Scher. Not only was Addai Scher a Chaldean bishop of Seert (a city 15 kilometer away from Mardine), he was also a scholar, historian, multilinguist who mastered 14 languages, publisher, and an owner of an exceptional library. The Turks killed this exceptional figure in 1915. The Chaldean Cathedral in Seert was turned into a mosque and the Dominican House that was a home of 60 Dominican fathers was turned into a military hospital. Professor Harrak also added that the Turks purposely aimed at targeting such important figures in our history because their goal was not merely to eliminate Christians from Eastern Turkey, but to eliminate their intellectual heritage from there as well. Dr. Harrak also emphasized that we ought to commemorate the genocides in our history for two reasons: to honour their victims and to learn from their own lives as well as deaths. Dr. Harrak also brought our attention to one of Scher’s books called ChaldoAthor. A century ago, Scher used a title in this book that is being debated by our people today. Dr. Harrak concluded his presentation by a passage from the Khodra (dokhrana d’sahdeh) he translated himself:
“Where the martyrs were killed and their limbs cut to pieces, there the Holy Spirit descended, turning destruction to tranquility.
Let us worship before your graves the Power that is hidden in your bones.
As we witnessed your massacres on earth, we will behold your crowns in heaven”
We also were delighted by the speech given by Professor Edward Youkhana Odisho who specializes in linguistics at the Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. He emphasized that martyrdom is a scale to measure the depth of belief of any movement in its principles. He concluded his speech by saying that we should all aim to achieve tlithayoth omtanayeta (nationalistic trinity) which is the unity of the Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Syriacs.
The night was concluded by the patriotic song Rosh Jwanqa by Ramis Bet Shmoel, Talal Gresh, and Rabina Shmoel accompanied by the keyboard player Hani. The singers were accompanied by children marching with Assyrian flags.
 In reference to the Holy Spirit.
Thieves, Vandals Target Syriac Catholic Church in Montreal
Courtesy of the Montreal Gazette
(ZNDA: Montreal) Panels from all but four of 19 stained-glass windows in an abandoned church on Viger Square, in Montreal, Canada, have been stolen or broken in recent weeks - and no one seems to know who's in charge of security at the site.
Squatters have repeatedly broken into the former Syriac Catholic Cathedral of St. Sauveur, and the investors in Paris who own the building say they have been frustrated in their attempts to secure the site and protect the windows, said to be worth a total of $250,000.
There are gaping holes where 52 coloured glass panels have been removed from their frames.
One of the most valuable windows by Guido Nincheri, sometimes referred to as Montreal's Michelangelo, depicts the Assumption of Mary; it has been vandalized beyond repair.
The building, at St. Denis St. and Viger Ave., has been empty since it was sold to European developers six years ago.
The Quebec government recently announced it will expropriate the site to build the mega-hospital for the Centre Hospitalier de l'Universite de Montreal.
"The building has been under siege by the homeless every year for the last six years," Michael Sniatowsky, a spokesperson for the owners, said in an email from Europe.
"The recent damage is the work of organized thieves, not squatters or the homeless.
"Some windows appear to be stolen, as thieves came with tools and were apparently diligent in their work.
"I have repeatedly asked CHUM to help secure the premises, as they own and operate the neighbouring property and they do have a large security contingent adjacent to the property."
CHUM communications adviser Nathalie Forgue said responsibility for the building's security remains with the owners until the building is sold.
"CHUM doesn't own it yet, so there is not much we can do," she said. "We are still evaluating what our assets will be."
It is understood the CHUM had planned to return some of the windows to the Syriac community, which plans to build a new cathedral in the city's north end.
Others were destined for the Musee des maitres et artisans du Quebec in St. Laurent.
The church was originally called Holy Trinity when it was built in 1865 for an Anglican congregation from the imperial garrison in Montreal. It was endowed by William Molson's wife.
After the First World War, it was sold to the Syriac Catholic congregation, an Eastern Rite sect that is in communion with Rome, but whose headquarters are in Beirut. There are an estimated 5,000 Syriac Catholics in the Montreal area.
Rene Angelil, husband of singer Celine Dion, was baptized in the church.
When developers bought the structure in 2000, there was talk of turning it into a live jazz supper club and spa. There were also rumours it would become a recording studio, a sushi bar and a rave palace.
Despite its pedigree, the building, with its 52-metre spire, has never been declared a historic property. Its windows had been covered with plywood - which thieves apparently removed.
Most of the chancel's stained-glass windows, produced by the J.C. Spence glassworks of Montreal, are intact. They are dedicated to the memory of Rev. Mark Willoughby, an Anglican priest who died of typhus in 1847 tending to Irish immigrants.
The two Nincheri windows - one of the Ascension of Jesus, the other of the Assumption - were added in 1923 after fire gutted the interior of the church.
Both windows are something of a mystery: they are signed by the artist and dated 1913, but Nincheri, who excelled in sacred art, didn't arrive in Montreal from his native Italy until the following year.
Most of the windows in the building are by the celebrated Canadian stained-glass artist John Patrick O'Shea, and at least one is by the Hobbs Manufacturing Co., also of Montreal.
Ashour Asho Knocks out Challenger in Chicago
Based on a report by Karl E. H. Seigfried
It was all about the knockouts on 21 July at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom as five local fighters took on out-of-town competition. A giant discoball hung motionless above the ring set up on the wooden dance floor as waitresses worked the aisles and served up seven-dollar Dixie cups of Miller Lite (“Seven dollars each?”). As usual at promoter Dominic Pesoli’s shows, the crowd was completely behind the local fighters, booing the guests as they were introduced and giving standing ovations to the local boxers. Chicagoan Rudy Cisneros, one of the sixteen fighters on the new ESPN version of “The Contender,” was briefly introduced in the ring to an appreciative crowd..
Chicago’s Ashour Asho got a deafening welcome for his professional debut in a junior welterweight matchup with Indiana’s Jermaine Sanders (1-0 before tonight). The two started trading jabs right at the opening bell, but Sanders was quickly backed up into the ropes and then knocked down on one knee before taking a standing eight-count. Asho immediately went right back at him, knocking the Hoosier head-first through the ropes. After another count, Asho ran at Sanders from across the ring, and the visitor winged and missed huge roundhouse lefts and rights before being clocked and knocked down on his rear end. Referee Pete Podgorski waved it off for a KO at 1:29 of the first round.
Mongolians Trace Contacts With Christianity to 13th Century
Courtesy of the Indian Catholic
(ZNDA: Ulaanbaatar) Why didn't Chinggis Khaan (Genghis Khan) and the Mongol Empire of the 13th-14th centuries totally convert to Christianity?
This was one of the questions that dozens of international scholars discussed at the second International Symposium of Mongolian Studies, held Aug. 10-12 at the Antoine Mostaert Center, run by the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM).
CICM Father Gaby Tshimanga Bamana organized the symposium, which attracted historians, linguists and sociologists from Mongolia, the northern Chinese province of Inner Mongolia, Europe, Korea, Russia and the United States.
The 21 lectures presented took listeners through history, from the Nestorian Christians of the first millennium to the Christian presence in the Mongol court in the 14th-15th centuries, to the early 20th century Catholic and Protestant missioners and present-day Christian communities in Mongolia.
Archbishop Emil Paul Tscherrig, Korea-based apostolic nuncio to Mongolia, who attended all lectures and discussions, told UCA News the symposium was a significant step toward helping the Church become more integrated in Mongolian society. He pointed out that it presented valuable information about Christianity in Mongolian history that helps to dispel the notion that Christianity today is totally foreign.
The most heated debates were around the questions of why it was so difficult for Mongols to convert to other religions in the 13th century, and whether the Christian presence in Mongolia today will disappear after a while.
Scholars said Mongols heard about Christianity back in the 7th century from their contacts with the Nestorians. After the year 1000, Nestorian Christianity spread north from China as far as Kharakhorum, which was to become the Mongol capital.
Some scholars contended that 13th-century Mongols felt they did not need any outside religion, be it Christianity or Islam. Their faith system, called Tengriism -- a belief in the "eternal sky," as Russian scholar Alexander Yurchenko put it -- was a religion of power. By then the Mongols had subdued all tribes and nations around them and saw Christians, Muslims and others as weaker than themselves.
However, some Mongol tribes such as the Kereit, Naiman and Onggut were Nestorian Christians. When Genghis Khan subdued them and incorporated them into the Mongol nation, they remained Christian, and their influence was felt even in the Mongol royal family.
Many of the Mongol rulers' wives and children were Christians, including the mother of Khubilai Khaan (Kublai Khan, 1215-1294), but this "religion of the defeated" generally did not appeal to the victors, some scholars argued.
Nevertheless, there were ongoing relations between the Mongol Empire and the Catholic Church, manifested in exchanges of various diplomatic missions, starting with John of Plano Carpini, a Franciscan monk who was dispatched in 1245 by Pope Innocent IV. In 1291, Pope Nicholas IV sent another Franciscan, John of Montecorvino, to Beijing, where he later served as archbishop.
Jesuits began contact with ethnic Mongolians in the 17th and 18th centuries in Inner Mongolia. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, CICM missioners were active there. In 1948 the CICM missioners were expelled from Inner Mongolia by the communists. They left behind 250,000 Catholics, but only 2,000 were ethnic Mongols.
The old dream of a mission in Ulaanbaatar was realized in 1992, after Mongolian diplomats went to the Vatican a year earlier to explore the establishment of diplomatic relations. The diplomats invited missioners to Mongolia, a unique step in mission history. Since then the Mongolian Catholic Mission has grown steadily. Now there are three parishes and five sub-stations, with 345 baptized Mongolians.
Commenting on the discussions, Father Tshimanga told UCA News everybody welcomed archeological evidence of Nestorian Christians in Mongolia, because "it is natural that Christians today want to legitimize Christianity through scholarly work as well." He added, "We also heard a lot about effects and side effects of evangelization, its social implications, how it affects families and communities, another important issue that pastors and missionaries have to be aware of."
According to the Congolese priest, "It took one year of correspondence to bring together such an excellent group of experts."
Immaculate Heart Sister Nellie Zarraga told UCA News the scholars of various Christian denominations -- Catholic, Mormon, Orthodox, Protestant -- and of other religions "focused on the things that unify and not on differences."
"Everybody was given a say and everybody was listened to," she said. "This way we can find the right words to translate the name of God into Mongolian, find the right symbolism to talk to the hearts of the Mongols, and set out on the right path to put a Mongolian face on Christianity."
The first symposium, jointly organized in 2004 by the CICM and the International Association of Mongolian Studies, expounded on the works of the CICM fathers in Inner Mongolia.
Commemoration of the Martyrs' Day in Sydney
By Hermiz Shahin, reporting from Sydney, Australia
(ZNDA: Sydney) On Sunday 7 August 2006, the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) commemorated the Assyrian Martyrs Day at the Edessa Hall of the Assyrian Church of the East, Greenfield. Sydney. The ceremony was held in conjunction with the Assyrian Australian National Federation (AANF) and the Assyrian Church of the East, in memory of the Assyrian Martyrs and the genocide committed against the Assyrian Nation.
The commemoration began with special Church Mass that was conducted by His Beatitude Mar Narsai De Baz, Metropolitan of Lebanon, Syria and Europe. The ceremony started by laying a wreath at the monument of the Assyrian Martyrs in the Church park by His Grace Mar Narsai De Baz and His Grace Mar Meelis Zaia, with the presence of Rev. Father Ashur La’azer, and representatives of a host of Assyrian Organisations and prominent people. An estimate of 800 people attended the ceremony in observance of the solemn day.
The ceremony began with a welcoming speech by Master of Ceremonies, Mr. David David, Vice-President of the Assyrian Australian National Federation and the Chairman of AUA branch of Sydney. The program began with expressing allegiance to the Church of the East, and to the Flags of Australia and Assyria. Both the Australian and Assyrian national anthems were played by the Church’s Choir, and conduced by Maestro Alexander (Shoora) Michailian.
The ceremony was followed by speeches from representative of the Assyrian Organisations: Younatam Afarem, President of the Assyrian Australian National Federation; Hermiz Shahen, Secretary of the Assyrian Universal Alliance in Australia; His Grace Mar Meelis Zaia, Bishop of the Assyrian Church of the East Diocese of Australia and New Zealand. His Beatitude Mar Narsai De Baz gave very moving and somber speech.
The event also included poetry reading by Nimrud Yousip and Ashor Isaac, representing Assyrian youth. Born in Simmile, Ashor Isaac read a remarkable and moving poem called The Son of Simmile that inspired the whole audience.
At the close of the ceremony the audience were moved as they watched a Drama titled The Mother of a Martyr, as tears were rolling down the Mother’s cheeks on hearing news of her 18-year-old son’s martyrdom. The Play was performed by students of the Diqlat Assyrian School and produced by Raabi Yosepose Sargis. Players of the drama received a standing ovation for their excellent performance.
Hujådå Magazine Enters Cyberspace
By Afram Barryakoub, reporting from Sweden
(ZNDA: Stockholm) With a new team of young writers, a new organization and commitment, the Assyrian Association of Sweden has launched Hujådå magazine (Hoo-ya-da) on the internet as a daily updated newspaper. The net version of Hujådå contains only texts in Swedish for the moment, but new languages, such as Assyrian, English and Arabic will be added in the future.
Mr. Mousa Esa, Editor in chief, hopes to attract several thousand readers to hujada.com which according to him will be kept as pleasant, informative and updated as possible. The aim is to offer the Assyrians of Sweden an accessible and informative newspaper as well as give Swedes access to Assyrian news.
The newly recruited writers are young and share an interest both in writing and in Assyrian issues. Since the first meeting of the editorial staff, more young Assyrians have joined the team of writers. Several of these are also interested in working in journalism and the media in the future. Mousa Esa has been keen on only recruiting young writers in order to give hujada.com an attractive shape and content.
The Assyrian magazine Hujådå (unity in Assyrian) was first published by the Assyrian intellectual, Naum Faiq, to educate and enlighten the Assyrians about their origin and national rights.
When Assyrians emigrated to Sweden and established the Assyrian Association of Sweden they sought to establish a magazine for Assyrians. It then became clear to the Association to name its new magazine after the magazine of Naum Faiq as a tribute to his legacy.
Hujådå has been published in Sweden with eleven issues per year since 1978. In the early years the magazine played an important role in Sweden and abroad.
Among other it helped introduce Assyrians to the Swedish public. But as the years passed the number of subscribers decreased. The magazine has been unable to attract new readers.
This unpleasant development propelled the Assyrian Association of Sweden to launch hujada.com. Hujådå magazine will continue to be published in paper as well, but the paper version will be transformed into a pure magazine format with an emphasis on feature articles and with less issues per year.
Hujådå continues to lead Assyrian magazines and news agencies in its vision and breadth of coverage. Zinda Magazine congratulates Mr. Mousa Esa and the staff of Hujådå magazine and hujada.com on this giant journalistic achievement.
Victims of the World’s Rogue Superpower
I write in response to Mr. Yavin Katz' letter published in the August 7 issue of Zinda magazine. I would first like to start by refuting some of the points raised in his letter asking Assyrians not to condemn the actions of the Israeli government.
According to the Christian Science Monitor Hizbullah’s attacks stem from Israel’s illegal incursions into Lebanon, not Hizbullah’s.
The reason for the attack is also clear"
It was Israel that began to indiscriminately bomb Lebanon. Collective punishment through the targeting of innocent civilians by its very nature is Terrorism. This illegal Terrorism against Lebanon should not only be condemned by Assyrians but by the entire civilised world. Israel has for some time been committing numerous acts of Terrorism, human rights abuses and violations of international law, thanks to the acquiescence of its corporate hijacked US ally.
The sad fact of the matter is that both the Israelis and the Arabs are victims of the world’s rogue superpower. The US uses Israel as a military base in order to control the world's strategic oil reserves in the Middle East and subsequently maintain its global and economic hegemony.
But it's not too late. Israel should finally realise that it cannot treat its neighbours and the Palestinian people it has displaced and driven from their homes with utter disregard. No people can be subjected to the constant humiliation as shown to the Palestinians by the Israelis over decades without some backlash. Israel must also finally withdraw to its 1967 borders and return Palestine to its rightful inhabitants. Israel must also be called upon to finally comply with numerous UN resolutions and pay for the destruction they have caused to Lebanon's infrastructure and civilian property.
But this will only happen when Israelis wake up and join their fellow Semitic brothers in the Middle East and the Diaspora in boycotting and protesting against the US companies responsible. These same US companies have hijacked the US government and influence its foreign policy decisions that keep the region destabilised and stuck in this manufactured "War on Terror." These companies include war contractors such as Boeing, General Electric, Raytheon and McDonald Douglas who have profited from the deaths of our people, in both Lebanon, Iraq and Israel, are the main beneficiaries of these wars. It’s about time we started protesting with our dollar. I urge everyone to start boycotting these companies for example by not flying with any airlines that use Boeing aeroplanes and not buying electrical appliances manufactured by General Electric. Let’s be more discerning with our dollars than Israel has been with its bombs.
Assyrian Martyrs Day, August 7th 2006
Council for Assyrian Research and Development
For few remaining Assyrians around the world, today marks the 73rd year following the massacres of thousands of unarmed men, women and children by the Iraqi Regime and Kurdish soldiers in the Simele Region of Northern Iraq (Southern Assyria). This event, Iraq’s genocidal act against its own populace, was the first military “exercise” by the newly formed Army.
Between August 4-11, 1933, the Assyrians, primarily in the district of Simele endured a series of attacks culminating in the mass murder of as many as 6000 innocent Assyrian civilians at the iniquitous commands of Ghazi, the son of an absent King Faisal I (1921-33) at the urging of eager voices in England.
On August 8, 1933 General Bekir Sidqi, a Kurd, led Iraq's new army, along with Kurdish irregulars, to the region of Simele. Promising no hostility, the malevolent general coerced the Assyrians into the open. Believing themselves to be citizens of Iraq, and having done nothing to provoke a military action, the villagers were repaid for their innocence with violent deaths at the hands of Kurdish and Arab military forces.
It was Iraq's solution to the Assyrian "problem." General Sidqi was declared a hero, and was greeted with glee in the streets of Baghdad upon his "victorious" return. In fact, until the present day no Iraqi was held responsible for the massacre and the current “democratic” Iraqi constitution neglects this pivotal event, even going so far as to not mention Assyrians as an integral part of Iraq at all.
Assyrians commemorate the Simele Massacre on August 7th every year. It is a day of reflection, remembrance, and prayer. Since the coming of Islam there have been 33 genocides against Assyrians at an average of once every fifty years, with the largest one occurring in WWI at the hands of Ottoman backed Kurds which claimed 2/3rds of the entire Assyrian population.
On this occasion of the anniversary of the Assyrian massacres in Simele it is imperative that the world recognize the plight of the Assyrian people and recognize the importance of the Assyrian people and culture in the present where they continue to be eradicated at an alarming rate. We stand steadfast with other indigenous peoples, our brothers and sisters whose struggles continue to the present day.
We are Assyrians from Assyria…
Our people are suffocating with the stench of desperation and betrayal, the smell of misery and disease, the smell of bitter loss, and painful suffering.
Let’s remove from our midst all the thoughts of weakness and incapacity…
The first thing that we can conclude of this phrase is the difference between the secondary matters and the substantial principles.
We are a nation hanging between life and death and its destiny depends on the plan and the direction which we will draw for ourselves.
Are we a lively nation? This question requires a frank answer so as to find out the most effective method to end the grief.
The question is simple, and very clear, but it’s a serious one and its importance is in the insight of those who would look into the human values, ways of thinking and the philosophical goals.
We are a history, we are a culture, we are a language and we have our national identity and our land where we were born, its name is Assyria (Ashur) the land of Ashur was ruled by 117 Kings; this land which is known as the Cradle of Civilizations, its sons wrote a great history… We are Assyrians from Assyria … Assyria the land ... Assyria the country.
Every Assyrian who wants to see his/her nation free, prevalent and dignified must carve this principle deep into their hearts. The connection between the nation and the homeland, the land of Assyria is the only principle… Out of this principle, the Assyrian national Cause is totally independent of any other matter.
The Assyrian National Cause is Heading Nowhere
Dr George Habash
Starting from one Mickey-Mouse administration to another the Assyrian impact in Baghdad withered consistently and in the present make up of the Green Zone establishment is non-existence. The Assyrians do not have a single representative in the plethoric executive body; they do not have an administrative province of their own; they have only a single seat in the 275-member Majlis dominated by Muslim zealots which is chaired by an anti-Christian and anti-Jewish Islamic demagogue. So what went wrong?
From media outlets you notice that some Christians have been injected into the current administration but as the head of the ‘Christian Democratic Party’ in Baghdad rightly put it that none of these figures is representative of our people.
To understand the current glum reality you have to go to the first embryo conceived after the fall of the dictatorship where the representative of ADM held a seat in a body of 25 members most of them have no experience in politics at all apart from reciting Allah Akbar chants.
The ADM, the largest Assyrian political movement in the land, though its share of the total Assyrian population is very limited, got the credit and walked in the air. But that euphoria did not last long as the current incumbents of the ‘four-square miles’ Green Zone administration opted for no Assyrian representation, a ploy by the larger parties to sideline the smaller parties. That transient ADM panache proved more heat than light.
Mr kanna the head of ADM and one of those 25 dervishes is a capable man. He is well conversant in English, presumably well in Arabic too and travels too much. He does not hesitate to talk, give interviews, chair discussions but behind all this façade he is a failed politician.
The ADM, movement and leadership, have achieved nothing in the past three years to please the Assyrian masses. Their brag of achievements was achieved prior to the fall of the dictatorship.
The recent June-July 2006 ADM conference offers nothing to the Assyrian masses apart from vague statements. ADM does not shake the ground as the largest Assyrian movement in the land, because it believes that invoking the regional Kurds or the central Baghdad is not in our interest and the crumbs of bread left over by them sufficed the Assyrians. By adopting such stand Mr Kanna does not realise that such inaction will cost dearly on the Assyrian national cause.
It has taken nearly a century for this opportunity to come; while the Kurds and the south move for separatism; the centre to reclaim its lost position, ADM and Mr Kanna capitulate waiting only for the hand out.
In his recent trip to Canada as part of Green Zone advocates Mr Kanna showed his treachery stand by mentioning that he is opting for an administrative region which will include two districts and one borough. He means here the district of Bakhdeda and the district of Telkepe but I am not sure about the borough which Mr Kanna is talking about. This approach pleases the Kurds and the Arabs who think that this administrative region will be attached either to the Kurds or to the Arabs which is a great departure from the Assyrian national ambitions.
The Assyrian heartland is a land between the Tigris and upper Zab rivers, but what Mr Kanna is referring to is the plain of Nineveh. Plain of Nineveh excludes the Assyrian areas in the Dohuk province. The Nineveh plain is dominated by the Chaldean and Syriac Churches, but to complete the picture the villages of the Church of the East must be included which are mostly based in the highlands. Here we have to include the beautiful Assyrian summer and ski resorts now under the Kurdish turban.
The ADM’s failure does not rest here only but it has clashed with different churches, it conflagrated the Assyrian-Kurdish relationship and here prioritising their interest rather than the interest of the Assyrian nation.
We have to build a relationship with the Kurds based on friendship and neighbourhood only because we will always be next door neighbours and we have two options either to fight forever or to live in peace forever. We take the examples of the Turkey-Greece approach and Israel-Palestine approach which are resorting to entente and dialogue rather than conflict.
Another failure of ADM is the alignment with the Shabaks against the Kurds in order to highlight our grievances but in reality it should be the other way round the Shabaks aligning with us to promote their interests.
ADM also failed to undo the demographic changes in our heartland when Assyrian lands were distributed to settlers from distant parts of the country in the intension of altering the ethnic structure of the Assyrian towns.
The ADM being the largest Assyrian movement in the land (though of little popularity) dwarfs other movements in our homeland. No doubt that there are other but smaller genuine Assyrian movements whom ADM can find a common ground to form a solid Assyrian front to lead the Assyrian people into gaining their national rights without fear. ADM can not do it alone and can not remain aloof despising the smaller parties especially those of true Assyrian substance i.e. those true Assyrian nationalists with genuine Assyrian agendas, excluding the Assyrian ghosts those with Kurdish or Arabic agendas.
Rosie Malik-Yonan said it at the hearing ‘we the Assyrians are a nation without boundaries’ but the time is in our grasp to change that statement that we the Assyrians have a nation with demarcated boundaries.
ADM, Mr Kanna and other organisations will be judged by our people for any strategic failure or blunder. The country is tearing apart and we have to secure our foothold in our heartland to continue in the land, absorb the displaced people from the centre and south and facilitate the return of the thousands who are in neighbouring countries.
History will show no mercy and the coming generations will not forgive us for the failures of 1918 and 1933 to be repeated in our new century.
In the name of “Assyrian Rights” some well known political parties have conducted many emergency Conferences, in diaspora, throughout this year. Such meetings involved long traveling trips, and lucrative hotel expenses. Unfortunately, none seem to have provided any suitable remedy to find a common ground to work together, nor added any improvement to our already deteriorated political relation. It is sad, the word “Peace and reconciliation, has become merely a mockery “Stage Act” and personal business, today.
The war imposed political situation in Iraq, had offered sustainable clear choice to the AssyrianChaldeanSyrian people to determine what is the proper, legitimate and practical approach to follow in order to guarantee our future co-existence as a permanent recognized National Status in the country. Most unfortunately, our selfish continued ignorance to take advantage of this opportunity had created a massive highway for the enemy to continue destruction of what is left today of our National struggle.
Despite the foreseeable consequences, attempts to consolidate our political efforts have drifted apart extensively, making it impossible for any rescue magical operation. Statements coming from different small political groups, who’s members are seemingly enjoying comparative luxury of living opportunities provided by the Northern Region, continue to indicate clear opposition towards the only recognized “National Struggle” The Assyrian Democratic Movement – Zowaa. Consequently, the Kurds are making good use of this lacking mind that creates cohesion among our people - by offering protective political recognition to any individual who praises and embrace the Kurdish concept of providing and building homes for our people in the north. This lucrative mean of assisting helpless and homeless Assyrian victims have encouraged some well known Assyrian Politicians to travel to the North: conduct backdoor personal meetings with Kurdish Administration sources, and even accepting work to promote the Kurdish desire for Federalism in the region. This is all happening under the pretext of building bridges between the Assyrian Political Entities and the people of Iraq.
The Assyrian National Identity is nearing total extinction, we need strong and reliable leaders to understand the dangers of political conspiracy to eradicate our God given rights as indigenous people in Iraq. We need self-conscious leaders who care and apprehend the needs and suffering of our people. We need leaders who believe in sacrificing their life for this Nation. We need political leaders who can accept the reality on the ground, in Iraq, let go of their EGOISM, and join the brave forces of the undeniable sincere and strong might of our National Struggle – The Assyrian Democratic Movement – ZOWAA.
Our Political Party leaders must understand that, pretending dumb when the Nation’s interest is at stake, is a tragic serious intolerable treason. History will testify when Authors with respectable status, both foreign and native Assyrians, will document the events emerging as a result. We must pray and utterly work together today in order to save swallowing the nails of our stupid arrogance, forever.
Vote For the Progress of the AANF
During my summer off from my graduate studies, I recently returned to the United States to hear some wonderful and welcome news. It has been brought to my attention that Janey Golani, Firas Jatou, Yoel Isho, and Shireen Jasim are vying for the new executive board of the Assyrian American National Federation (AANF).
It is great to see this breath of fresh air of such educated and dedicated individuals running for the new board. Having known these individuals for years, I am familiar with their high level of activism and honesty. I am sure they have the means to transform the AANF from a mere “convention organizing committee” to a well-respected, active cultural organization that it ought to be.
During my summer break I had the opportunity to travel to California where I attended one of their campaign meeting/presentations. Since many people who are members of various affiliate organizations have either been ill-informed or misinformed, I felt obligated to illuminate some wonderful plans and ideas and clear up any discrepancies.
The following are various questions which were brought to the attention of the candidates and their respective answers.
Are any political or religious organizations supporting your campaign?
Janey Golani/Firas Jatou: Absolutely not. One of the reasons we decided to run is because we have no connection, formal of otherwise, to any political or religious body. We strongly believe that the AANF should be a refuge for all our Assyrian American communities that have been plagued with polarization caused by religious and political internal strife. There is NO PLACE IN THE AANF for DENOMINATIONAL BIASES. We stand behind this 100%.
How do you feel about the popular debate over the correct designation of our people?
Janey Golani/Firas Jatou: We acknowledge and respect all designations that our Assyrian people use and have used in various regions and at various times throughout history. If we are elected we promise to uphold a policy of non-discrimination. As we have in the past, we promise to continue working with all our people regardless of their preference to use either Chaldean, ChaldoAssyrian, Aramean, AssyrianChaldeanSyriac, Syriac, Syrian, etc. etc. At the same time we are concerned that this topic is only serving to preoccupy us instead of focusing on more relevant and tangible goals in this critical period of our people’s history.
There is a concern that if you win you will not support Assyrians in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq. Is there any truth to this?
Janey Golani/Firas Jatou: Nothing could be further from the truth. We plan to substantially increase our support of our people in the Middle East and especially in Iraq where our people are currently experiencing the greatest hardships since the Simele Massacre of 1933. After all this is one of the reasons the AANF was founded. We have new programs that will set a new bar in efforts to help our people, especially in the Nineveh Plains. We will not use the ‘current and simple approach’ of depleting the AANF budget which was accumulated through various administrations. At the same time we shall not neglect needy Assyrians in other Middle Eastern countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, and Iran. But, any monies or aid sent will be PROJECT BASED and have full accountability. All work and funds must be accounted for and will be available for review by any affiliate member.
What will your new administration accomplish that was not done by the current executive board?
Janey Golani/Firas Jatou: We believe our presentation went through our plan in more detail. Our goal is multifaceted and will include bringing integrity, transparency, and professionalism to the AANF. We have exciting programs which will focus on a variety of age groups, especially the youth and second generation Assyrian-Americans who feel disconnected to the Federation.
I hope this gives a more ample understanding of what Janey Golani and her slate stand for. I urge you to speak to friends who have a say in the upcoming AANF election on Sunday September 3rd in Illinois in order to vote for the progress of the AANF by voting for this slate.
Assyrians in Chicago Celebrate Martyr's Day with Zeal
Sahda (Martyr) Youbert Benyamin Shlimon was born in 1954 in Habbaniya, Iraq. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Baghdad Technical College. Sahda Shlimon was one of the founding members of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM), who had leadership abilities and held key positions within ZOWAA (ADM). His political efforts as a nationalist began in 1971 in Baghdad. Those same patriotic ideas became organized and gave birth to the Assyrian Democratic Movement on April 12, 1979, at which point, Youbert quickly rose to the top, earning respect among his peers for his dedication and highly respected standards. He was arrested by the Baathist regime in 1984 at the hands of a traitor, while delivering Bahra newspaper to his assailant. His assassination, without a justifiable trial, came on February 3, 1985, after being subjected to physical, as well as psychological tortures, but to no avail, not nearly enough to break his solemn to his nation, and his fellow comrades, members of the ADM.
The highest rank in the Assyrian Democratic Movement can only be achieved through the honor of martyrdom, equating to zakhouta (victory). Members of ZOWAA are soundly established in their preparation for martyrdom, at any moment.
Sahda Youbert Benyamin Shlimon is highly respected by Assyrians worldwide. He is regarded with the utmost honor for his martyrdom, in an exchange for paving the way for our political movement to progress, earning Assyrians many legal and human rights, as well as a seat within the Iraqi parliament for the first time in Iraq’s history. Sadly, he left behind a wife, May, and two sons, Banipal and Ramen.
It has been 21 years since the assassination of her husband, the late Youbert Benyamin Shlimon, but during her speech, not a single eye was dry, at the August 7th memoriam in Chicago, honoring the Assyrian Martyr. In her speech, May Youbert Shlimon brought everyone to one common denominator, “never stop fighting, ‘til the fighting is done.” During the time of her husband’s execution, May was pregnant with their second son, Ramen. She added, “I am not a widow; do not say that Youbert is dead. For he lives on amongst us; his contributions are great, giving to the Assyrian Holocaust.” “His martyrdom has disciplined me to remain focused, and raise both of our sons within the same ideology.” Following in his father’s footsteps, Ramen Youbert Shlimon is an active member of the Chaldo-Assyrian-Syriac Student Movement – Canada Chapter.
A 200 plus Assyrians gathered in a candle vigil, while many gave speeches, and others shared their poetic talents. Among the guests, the Chicago Assyrian community honored Raabi Ishaq Ishaq from Baghdad, Iraq, who graced the evening with his presence. Mr. Ishaq is a member of the Central Committee and Head of the Public Relations at the Assyrian Democratic Movement in Baghdad.
The Assyrian Martyr’s Day is an annual pilgrimage for Chicagoan-Assyrians. Each year, they revere the Assyrian Martyrs Monument during a memorial service at Montrose Cemetery, followed by a dokhrana (feast) at Mar Odisho Church on the city’s North Side.
New Book by Fred Aprim:
"Assyrians: From Bedr Khan to Saddam Hussein-Driving into Extinction the Last Aramaic Speakers."
Frederick A. Aprim was born Frederick Aprim Minasheh in the city of Kirkuk (the ancient Assyrian city of Arrapha), northern Iraq. He is a graduate of Mosul University with a B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering. He left Iraq in September 1980 and became a U.S. citizen in 1986. Fred's family, like many Assyrian families, experienced its own share of oppression and persecution.
While in Iraq, both his father and teenage brother were imprisoned unfairly and tortured. In 2003, Fred published a booklet titled "Indigenous People in Distress." In December 2004, his second book "Assyrians: The Continuous Saga" followed.
This book, his third, is about the massacres, oppression, and persecution the Assyrians faced in the Middle East in the last 150 years. Fred describes himself as an Assyrian activist. His many articles and thoughts are posted on www.aina.org, www.atour.com, www.bethsuryoyo.com, www.nineveh.com, www.zindamagazine.com, and other Assyrian web sites.
The book is in 406 pages and it includes about 100 photos and photocopies of old newspapers clips.
Throughout the Christian Era, the Assyrians have faced an immense tragedy through persecution, oppression, and massacres. The Assyrian tragedy in Mesopotamia continued intermittently during the Sassanid Persians (A.D. 226 - 637), Seljuk Turks invasion of the eleventh century, Mongols invasion in 1258, Tamerlane's destruction that began in 1394, the Saffavid Persians in early sixteenth century and during the rule of the Ottoman Turks since the middle of the sixteenth century. Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Turks and Kurds committed numerous massacres against the Assyrian Christians in their secluded mountains of northern Mesopotamia and in Tur Abdin region in modern southeastern Turkey. As the Ottoman Empire entered WWI, it declared jihad (holy war) against its Christian subjects.
Backed by Kurds, the Turkish army invaded northwestern Persia (Iran) and committed further atrocities against the Assyrian refugees who fled the Ottoman territories and against Assyrians of Persia as well. The jihad transformed into an ethnic genocide against the Assyrians that was perpetrated by the Turkish state and Kurdish warlords. This genocide continues to this very day due to the policies of the Kurds in northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey, and northeastern Syria. The Assyrians lost two-thirds of their population and most of their homelands in northern Mesopotamia during WWI alone. Since the creation of the modern Middle Eastern states after the partition of the Ottoman Empire post WWI, the Assyrians have faced and continue to face a systematic Arabization, Turkification, and Kurdification policies by Pan-Arab governments, Pan-Turkish governments, and by Kurdish political parties. Hundreds of thousands of Assyrians have fled their homelands seeking shelter in Europe, United States, and Australia. Furthermore, the rise of fundamentalism in the Middle East is posing another serious threat to the survival of the remaining Assyrians and to other Christian communities in the Middle East.
For order information, other books and a complete list of articles and poems by Fred Aprim, please visit author's new website at: www.fredaprim.com .
Innana Magazine: Empowering the Assyrian Woman Within
Dedicated to the preservation and progression of the Assyrian woman, INNANA is a monthly publication comprising of written and shared views to help nurture the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health of the female in our community, local and abroad. Our aim is to unearth a common alliance to reflect on peace, develop culturally, and broaden our views. We welcome all material.
INNANA Magazine - first of its kind, named after the Sumerian Mother-Goddess INNANA
INNANA Magazine - published by women, about women, for women
An Independent Assyrian Women’s Network – addressing modern issues in the life of the Assyrian woman, through shared stories, viewpoints, poetry, rhymes and reasons.
New Issue of Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies
The issue is available electronically on the Institute's home page, and will be available in-print in the future. (Volume 5, 2002 is now available in printed form.)
The issue contains the following:
Rhetorical Practice in the Chreia Elaboration of Mara Bar Serapion.
Catherine Chin, The Catholic University of America
Classical Syriac Manuscripts at Yale University: A Checklist.
Leo Depudyt, Brown University
Caught in a Compromising Position: The Biblical Exegesis and Characterization of Biblical Protagonists in the Syriac Dialogue Hymns.
Kristi Upson-Saia, Duke University
Publications and Book Reviews
Jerome A. Lund, The Old Syriac Gospel of the Distinct Evangelists: A Key-Word-in-Context Concordance.
Ignatius Aphram I Barsoum (translated and edited by Matti Moosa). The Scattered Pearls: A History of Syriac Literature and Sciences.
Dorushe Graduate Student Conference for Syriac Studies at CUA, February 3-5, 2006.
Encountering the Suryoye of Turkey.
Call for Papers for Syriac Book of Steps (Liber Graduum) Volume.
Publishers interested in advertising in future issues of Hugoye may contact the General Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Breast Cancer Walk in Chicago
The women of the Chicago Assyrian community are taking the initiative of participating in this year’s upcoming City of Hope – Breast Cancer Walk.
Please show your support by registering as part of our team ‘ASSYRIANS WALK FOR HOPE’ – Chicago Chapter, at the website address below. Donations will go directly to City of Hope – Breast Cancer Walk 2006.
STATS - This year, over 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, out of which 11,000 are under the age of 40. This can be any one of us at any given second.
NAME - For many reasons, but mostly (1) Assyria - Cradle of Civilization, (2) Helping women in the Assyrian community to become proactive and outspoken about their own battle with breast cancer, (3) Chicago Assyrian community - take a stand, join the walk, make a difference.
For more information, or if you need assistance, contact team member:
MAKE BREAST SELF-EXAM A MONTHLY PRACTICE
Food Festival & Picnic in Arizona
Once the cradle of civilization,
Assyria! They screamed it so loudly,
Centuries her people have suffered great loss,
Assyria! Assyria! Your heart still glows!
And ‘till that day comes, to death I’ll still strive,
Mr. Aziz is 15 years of age and is the youngest son of Assyrian singer, Walter Aziz. Recently, for an English assignment, he was asked to write a Shakespearean sonnet about anything he desired. It had to be written under specific Shakespearean constraints: 4 sets of 4 sentences, each sentence having 10 syllables, and the entire sonnet ending off with a two sentence set. Mr. Aziz decides to write his sonnet about our favorite topic - Assyria. He comments to Zinda Magazine: "This is just a short poem reminding our people that we are one, all united under one flag, and one homeland. I figured it would be a nice stray away from the bad that our people are endearing, and could bring some hope, life, and pride in the dream that is Assyria."
Christians Flee Iraq
Courtesy of the Conservative Voice
Soon it will be ‘over and out’ for multinational forces in Iraq. It’s turned out to be a place where democracy is not welcomed. I have a hunch that perchance even Saddam Hussein could be set free. How? By applying the Muslim adored Sharia ‘legal and justice’ system.
Hussein has already informed the court that he as leader of his country was merely applying his Islamic leadership code when massacring certain subcultures. That very well could be accurate when using Sharia as the standard.
Sharia is insane "legality" for it is derived from the killing and maiming passages of the Koran. In that book is stipulated slaying all non-Muslims. From that, branch out to "honor killing" as well as burying an accused adulteress up to the breasts so her head can be stoned into pulp.
But back to the sane individuals who once inhabited Iraq, particularly Christians. They have already read the writing on the wall. It has said to make Exit before it is time for Muslim carnage against them.
According to Catholic News Service’s Simon Caldwell: "Half of all Christians have fled Iraq." That is from a Baghdad bishop who has witnessed first-hand the warning signals from the very beginning.
As Iraqi leaders tell multinational forces overseen by US commanders that Iraqis can govern their own security, it is obvious that the "gap" between the Iraqi Prime Minister and US President in their recent Washington dialogue has iced over relations.
Therefore, it does not take much foresight to predict that it won’t be long until Operation Iraqi Freedom exploits will fly back in the faces of all well-intentioned peace-keeping individuals who prayed for a democracy in Iraq. It just can’t happen. A free base cannot be overlaid upon a killing cult as Islam.
"Chaldean Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Andreos Abouna of Baghdad said that before the invasion there were about 1.2 million Christians in the predominantly Shiite Muslim state. Since then the overall number has dropped to about 600,000, he said.
"’What we are hearing now is the alarm bell for Christianity in Iraq,’ the bishop said. ‘When so many are leaving from a small community like ours, you know that it is dangerous -- dangerous for the future of the church in Iraq.’"
That means that the Christian Good Samaritan witness will be snuffed out. The charitable efforts of Christians will be gone. The preaching of a Savior who laid down His life for the repentant will no longer be offered. The hope of heaven is gone. The example of the Love Chapter is no more.
Even now in a Muslim country, when a Muslim becomes a Christian, he is under a death sentence. Many have to flee to a non-Muslim nation in order to survive. In India it was just passed by the lawmakers that a convert to Christ must receive government permission first. This is lunacy to those who live in freedom of religion. But to Muslims it is mandatory for Allah is the only deity.
"The bishop said 75 percent of Christians from Baghdad had fled the capital to escape the almost daily outbreaks of sectarian violence. Since the beginning of the war, the number of Chaldean Catholics, who make up the country's most numerous Christian denomination, had dropped below half a million from 800,000, he said.
"Bishop Abouna said he thought it was unlikely that many of those who had emigrated would return.
"Bishop Abouna spoke Aug. 1 from Iraq with Aid to the Church in Need UK, a Catholic charity that supports the Chaldean Catholic community in Iraq. Since he became the auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, Bishop Abouna has regularly updated the charity on the community's situation.
"About 97 percent of the country's total 27 million Iraqis are Shiite and Sunni Muslims; Christians make up the majority of the remaining 3 percent. The Chaldean Catholics speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. He added that many Christians remaining in Iraq were either too poor, old or sick to leave. Priests and religious were also experiencing continuing difficulties in trying to minister to them, he said."
There actually can be no realistic hope for Iraq. Right now the US military has informed Washington that the country is on the precipice of civil war. Many Muslims there are chanting in the Baghdad streets for Hezbollah, calling for "Death to Israel."
That means "Death to America" as well. Those calling for Jews being extinguished carry the same hatred against the United States.
From communication that I receive from service personnel who have given their best for freedom in Iraq, it is quite disheartening to come upon today’s news. They worked, sweat, served and yielded themselves totally to the freedom mission. "Support our Troops" encouraged them from back home.
But that is fading quickly. To ultra-realists, it has already faded. They know full well that it is "over and out" for not only Christians in Iraq but also any civil individual who would seek a free base for daily living.
It is indeed a heartbreaker to understand the Iraqi situation. What is also frightening is that Iraq could easily blend with the dreaded demon, Iran. Those two as twins after the Operation Iraqi Freedom is such a hellish conclusion that it is practically unbelievable.
But believable it is.
Samuel Shimon: Destination Hollywood
Courtesy of al-Ahram
Peddler, traveler, militant, refugee, literary authority? Above all, perhaps, this personable Iraqi is a movie buff, a kind of frustrated filmmaker. It would be hard to follow the chronological life course of so non-linear a man. Suffice to say that 10 years since settling in London -- where his name has become synonymous with both Banipal, the English language's best known journal of Arabic literature, and kikah.com, the vastly popular "website for Arab and international cultures" -- Shimon's hard-won sense of fulfillment belies dreams unrealised. As Washington's bid to "free" Iraq witnesses unprecedented death tolls, it seems rather more right than wrong to seek an Iraqi who, far from any involvement in politics, has had no direct contact with the country since Saddam Hussein rose to power.
Two years after Samuel Shimon was born in Habbaniyah, near Falluja along the course of the Euphrates, a military take-over put an end to the Iraqi monarchy. By the time he left the country at the age of 24 -- incidentally, it happened within months of Saddam Hussein becoming president -- Shimon had absorbed enough of his father's nostalgic attachment to Iraq's former colonisers to call himself a royalist; so basic and ingenuous was his political awareness. This would of course prove disastrous in his six-year Arab sojourn, a time during which he was repeatedly interrogated, tortured and deported, often because his name suggested he might be Jewish. He is in fact Assyrian, belonging to one of Iraq's most ancient and peaceful sects -- but one that has, like the Maronites of Lebanon, been rightly or wrongly associated with colonial power. In early life, none of President Abdul-Karim Qassem's Baathist rhetoric about Arab unity would have made much sense to Shimon. As well as Arabic, indeed, he grew up speaking a form of Aramaic. But like most Arabs of his generation, he had no sectarian awareness at all. "Christian, yes," he says, "but I've never called myself that nor set foot in a church." He recalls how, as a poor man's son, when he came out top of his class, his bearded Muslim neighbour congratulated him using the Assyrian pronunciation of his name, the one his mother preserved till the end of her life: "You put our heads up, Shmouil." The implication is that, under the British, the Iraqis' inborn tolerance reigned.
Yet it was not on Britain but America that Shimon set his sights, for reasons that were crucial to the purpose of his journey. "People at the time, poor people, dreamed of immigrating, but only to huge continent-size countries: America, Canada, Australia. If you told them you were going to France they laughed at you. You know," he looks down again, fumbling with a cigarette, "I think I am the only Iraqi who left Iraq for the sake of a dream," his voice all proud conviction. "I challenge you to find another who left for the same reason."
By the time he reached his 20s, Shimon had a perfectly valid ambition and the imagination to see himself realising it, but nothing remotely as practical as a plan -- or money. Hence its description as a dream. At first it doesn't sound all that far- fetched, in fact. Only on closer scrutiny do you realise how insane it must have been in context. Still, you can only admire a mind that conceived and nurtured it and the courage it must have taken to single-handedly pit it against reality:
Thanks to Kiryakos, a friend of the family who was a walking encyclopedia of Hollywood, Shimon had been besotted with American cinema since his early teens. His dream was to go straight to California to make a film called Al-Hanin ila Al-Zaman Al-Ingelizi (Nostalgia for English Times). He would cast Robert De Niro in the role of his father, a deaf and dumb, arak -drinking baker who, since working for the occupation forces in Habbaniyah, "the largest British military base in the Middle East", has been in love with the queen. He would make it expensively, in grand style, as Hollywood films should be made. And it would hit the box office like a tornado, bringing him the fame and fortune he had deserved all along...
Reality proves far more complicated, sadly: after a series of catastrophes in the Arab world, Shimon settles down as a Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) employee in the West Beirut neighbourhood of Fakhani, obtaining a doctored Lebanese-Palestinian passport and the false name of Robert. He barely survives an Israeli air raid in which François, the young French PLO volunteer he has befriended, loses his life. Later, much later, while staying in a Paris hotel overlooking the Pere Lachaise cemetery -- the resting place of Proust and Callas -- Shimon is told by a ghost taxi driver that François too is buried here; he finds out what his real name is and takes to tending his grave with water, flowers and endless monologues. In Tunis, where he follows the Palestinians after 1982, Shimon realises a passionate love affair for the first time and impulsively has himself circumcised -- not to convert to Islam, as he tries to tell the barber who does the honours, but to "scale off that remnant of imperialism".
As Robert, Shimon traveled widely, notably to Egypt -- a place that had fascinated him since childhood. This happened when a battalion of Egyptian maghawir (Iraqi dialect for "foreigners") arrived in Habbaniyah to help the regime liberate Palestine. The maghawir virtually overtook the town, invading the hearts and occasionally the bodies of the women with their exotic dialect and urban demeanour. And along with them came Egyptian cinema, which was sufficiently like Hollywood to engage Shimon. Here as elsewhere Shimon is true to the tone and tenor of his childhood: his fond memories of the time he later spent in Egypt reflect the excitement the maghawir and their moving pictures inspired. "It was in 1982 or 1983," he recalls meeting the late filmmaker Salah Abu Seif, one of his many idols, for an interview in Cairo. "I love that photo."
More recently, when his name stood in the way of obtaining a visa at the Egyptian Embassy in London -- once again he was mistaken for a Jew, apparently deemed a worse threat to national security than Ehud Olmert -- Shimon pleaded with the woman attendant for a long time before insulting her mother in exasperation. As one of "the lovers of Felfela", he does not feel he needs official approval of his name to go to Egypt. And even now his response to the spread of fanaticism and the narrowing margins of cosmopolitanism in Cairo prompts no stronger a response than, "they are poor people with good hearts. There is nothing that I find offensive about them. They are always good to me."
By 1985, however, Shimon had departed the Arab world altogether. He was a legal refugee in France -- the first among his group to willingly leave the compound and make his way to Paris on a false promise of free accommodation; there were to be many such promises. In more than 10 years, in fact, Shimon became an authority on bohemian and Arab Paris, befriending Syrians and Tunisians, street artists and taxi drivers, poets and revolutionaries. "I was homeless for 10 years, you understand," he lets out, as if revealing that he had been a smoker or an alcoholic. We are exiting the pub in Hammersmith as he does so, walking towards the tube station, and he puts his hands to his shoulders as if to weigh out his remaining strength. "It was tiring."
But like Tunis and Beirut before it, Paris reached a stalemate just as abruptly. By 1996, indeed, Shimon was already well at home in London, the husband of Banipal editor-to-be Margret Obank, and a widely trusted figure in contemporary Arabic literature. His web site, Kikah, would become a kind of pan- Arab project in its own right, but one devoid of political overtones. Was there a sense of achievement in finally having a roof over his head, enough to eat and drink and a productive routine?
"I didn't have any kind of literary background," he insists, dodging the question. Certainly something about his tone implies that, in giving up his absolute freedom from the straightjacket of job and home life, he stood to lose something as well. But whether or not he will admit it, Shimon had always been a writer. Much of the work he did for the Palestinians, for example, involved journalism and documentation. He was a radio host, a stringer, a typist for the Paris-based Syrian poet Adonis, who valued his judgment as "free from the linguistic hegemony of the Quran". Still, "I was mad about cinema and an excellent footballer; these are technical things, so I can say 'excellent' without the testimony of others. Anyway, that dilemma was summarily resolved in favour of cinema."
But since filmmaking was to stay in the realm of possibility, an ongoing and unfulfilled dream that probably lives on to this day, Shimon seems to have been content to live a film instead of making one, different as that film turned out to be from Al-Hanin, after all: "In the end how can I complain of a life that's been 100-per cent Hollywood?"
Judging by his autobiographical "novel" An Iraqi in Paris, at least, Shimon has led an improbably dramatic life. The book was published first in English translation ( Banipal, 2005) and, later in the same year, with the German-based Iraqi house Al-Jamal, in the original Arabic (as Iraqi fi Barees ). In the latter edition it is appended with the only text Shimon had managed to produce by the end of his French stay, Al-Baai' Al-Mutajawil wal-Cinema. A haunting account of childhood with powerful portraits of both his father and Habbaniyah, it seems to contain much of the substance of Al-Hanin. "All of Iraq was in Habbaniyah," he recalls: "the Sunnis, Shia, Sabians and those kind-hearted devil-worshippers, the Yazidis. They were closest to my heart." He takes the time to recall, nostalgically, how his mother, saddened by the fact that he was not a church-goer, would tell him that he, too, would one day be like the Yazidis: "I think she was right." At this point we have reached the house of Shimon's friend Salam, in Ealing; with typical Iraqi gusto, Salam interrupts to explain that Yazidis are not devil worshippers per se. Rather, one of the angels they worship shares a name with Satan; they reject the notion of damnation. But Shimon, who says little in response, is evidently all too willing to accept the misconception: real devil worshippers, not people mistaken for them, were closest to his heart.
Shimon is an easy-going, easily distracted Guinness connoisseur. He has strong, sometimes eccentric views and a hearty enthusiasm for company. Like most Iraqis, he is intense, brusque almost, with a generosity other contemporary Arabs could hardly conceive of. But unlike Iraqis, he is extremely low-key, he knows the difference between irreverence and disrespect. And he is modest, very modest, bracketing his jaw-dropping experiences as "the life of an ordinary, a very ordinary person".
But he is not without gripes; any mention of Lebanese leftists, for example, will introduce an upsurge of spleen into an otherwise genial conversation. And illusions of grandeur annoy him. "You interviewed that many Arab writers," he wonders. "How many were convinced they were great?" A squat, dark, ageless man in jeans with irregular teeth and a baseball cap on his head -- "I'm wearing blue and a blue cap," he told me on the phone while I sat on the bus to Hammersmith, concerned that we might not recognise each other -- Shimon turns out to be a talented storyteller as well. Perhaps he would have made a successful actor. "When people ask me why I've published two books in the same volume, I tell them that I live in London," he comments, completely deadpan. "As you know, to bolster sales in the supermarkets here, they give you two for the price of one."
Here as in Al-Baai', Shimon keeps a wakeful eye on the economic conditions of day-to-day life. With startling precision, he describes the early morning ritual of collecting salt (to be packaged and sold), evenings spent indoors making summer drinks and winter sandwiches, which he would be let out of class early to sell out of a cart in the playground when he went to school. The scene shifts drastically on the bus to Damascus, his first destination after Baghdad. Politics rings louder than economics.
But unlike the nitty-gritty of financial exchange, power play never came naturally to Shimon. At the first stop on the way to Hollywood, therefore, enter Kafka. Light years away from the glamour of the silver screen, the wannabe film-maker is subjected to an endless rigmarole of barbarity. At one point, he has to recite the names of all the Hollywood stars he knows at gunpoint -- to prove to a militiaman that he left Iraq for no purpose other than to make cinema. To the Phalangists, he is a Syrian spy; to the Syrians, an Israeli in disguise; in Jordan, protest as he may that he is actually a royalist, he is at the centre of a plot to overthrow the monarchy.
Ironically, in a way, Shimon's experience is potent testimony to Arab and pan-Arab failure -- an implicit aspect of hankering after "English times". But An Iraqi in Paris is more than a long-in-the-coming vindication. "The story of a whole generation of Arabs," wrote Amir Taheri, describing the book, "whose life was destroyed by the stupid ideologies that controlled Arab politics." Others would stress the cinematic force behind Shimon's writing, confirming the author's confession to having led such a life made in California. " An Iraqi in Paris (the title reminds us, of course, of a Hollywood film) is, perhaps unconsciously, the author's long-dreamed of but unaccomplished film," wrote Fadhil Al-Azzawi, "some kind of compensation or attempt to arrive at his dreamland, even by other means of transportation."
Reviewing the book in Al-Ahram Weekly, Hannah Ziadeh, for his part, pulls a totally unexpected string: "[My] disbelief was shattered when in one of the laconic anecdotes in this book Shimon writes about a young French volunteer... My disbelief was shattered because I knew this same François, and I remember asking after him... as if it was only yesterday, only to be told " istashhad ": he is now a martyr." Ziadeh never heard again of the young volunteer until he read this book.
"When I saw that review," Shimon confesses, "I cried. He says that, without illusions, life would turn into hell." In fact it is Shimon who says this in his book; Ziadeh merely quotes him. "And then he goes on to talk about this young Frenchman we both knew, a person he'd been looking for for years, many years -- until he finally found him in my book." This sense of long awaited, and inevitably unexpected recognition crops up again and again in Shimon's conversation.
Having replaced his pint of Guinness with a glass of wine, he recounts one of the book's most moving episodes: A friend has directed him to an abandoned house in which he can squat, just outside Paris. The house's earlier "owner", with the help of a small gang, were to drive Shimon out -- eventually to the most recent stop on his way to Hollywood: London. But for a few weeks, in the company of an elderly "grandma" and her cat, Shimon enjoys the gift of basic amenities. Among these was a tub full of hot water. Lowering himself inside it, he says, he was transported back to Habbaniyah, where his mother used to bathe him in the exact same way. "It felt identical," he kept repeating. "It gave me a very strong emotion." Wisel, perhaps, he refrains from any attempt to describe the emotion in question. After all, he had had no contact with his parents after leaving Iraq -- so much so that he found out about his father's death three whole years after the fact. Another of the Assyrian's paradoxes, this: the absolute conviction with which he embarked on his journey to the New World. As if he was aware that Hollywood, like Ithaka, would be but a pretext for the incredible wealth of first-hand knowledge he was destined to acquire, he promised himself never to turn back. Whatever happened, he would march onwards -- which meant, in effect, marching on a Habbaniyah of the mind. In this sense, too, it seems accurate to say that he left Iraq "for the sake of a dream".
An Iraqi in Paris opens with Shimon meeting his mother near her sister's residence in America -- a stone's throw away from Hollywood, as it happens. It is 2004, and mother tells son that she beat him to Hollywood, for which he had left her and his country more than 25 years before; they had not seen each other. First, she cries. Then, commenting on her son's incongruously large nose, she bursts into laughter. And Shimon, fielding with a similar jibe at the holes in her socks, joins in. Hollywood may be in sight, but he knows he has not arrived.
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