In Defense of Our Church, Our Identity, and Our Future
For over the past year, the Assyrian Church of the East and His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV have been the subject of continuous verbal attacks in publications such as this one, Assyrian forums, organizations, and even other churches. Another such attack was initiated by Mr. Youel Baaba in the October 6 edition of Zinda Magazine (click here). For this reason, I feel compelled to offer a rebuttal to the allegations made by Mr. Baaba and others. This is not a rebuttal strictly for the sake of defense, but primarily to get the facts straight, correct misunderstandings, and allow people to reach their own conclusions based upon valid information.
Mr. Baaba’s article essentially has two arguments: 1) H.H. Mar Dinkha is “selling out” our Assyrian national identity for the benefit of the Church, and 2) our Christianity is completely decoupled from our Assyrian identity, and therefore the Patriarch should cease speaking on behalf of Assyrians. The first is completely untrue and indeed libelous. The second is not for Mr. Baaba to decide.
In his article, Mr. Baaba has made, just as others have on repeated occasions, incredibly malicious accusations against the Patriarch. Unfortunately for Mr. Baaba, none of them are true. The first claim is that the “Assyrian Church of the East will be known as the Kurdistan Church of the East, and Assyrians will be known as Kurdish Christians.” This statement is beyond preposterous; it has no basis in fact whatsoever. I invite Mr. Baaba to share with us any statement made by the Church or by Mar Dinkha accepting such conditions. To the contrary, Mar Dinkha has consistently held up our Assyrian identity even while others have viewed it as a political obstacle. The second claim is that the Patriarch has “forgotten” the atrocities committed against our ancestors or even against our slain Patriarch, Mar Benyamin Shimun. Once again, this is entirely and utterly false. During the Patriarch’s recent trip and after discussions with President Masoud Barzani, the President publicly announced that all textbooks in the KRG governorate would be recalled and the name of Simko, including any positive language surrounding that man, would be removed. The Patriarch has not forgotten the past, but he has shown a willingness to move forward in goodwill. A third claim made by Mr. Baaba is that Mar Dinkha has traded schools and infrastructure for churches. In the same issue of Zinda we read, and as was reported by Kurdistan Satellite TV, “Barzani welcomed the suggestion by the Patriarch of Assyrian Church of the East” and agreed to open a school in Arbil. On what do Mr. Baaba’s accusations stand? Yes, KRG money is being used to build churches, along with other projects. Are we so proud as to not accept this? What is stopping our political leaders from demanding more?
The last accusation made by Mr. Baaba, and one of the most frequent made by others, is that H.H. Mar Dinkha has “suddenly become political” and “assumed the leadership of his nation” by visiting and having relations with people of authority where his parishioners live. This is by far the most preposterous allegation. Mar Dinkha in no way claims a monopoly over the representation of Assyrians in Iraq, or elsewhere for that matter. At the same time, no political party has the right of sole authority over the fate of our people. Do not blame the failures and ineffectiveness of your political leaders on the goodwill efforts of the Patriarch. And do not use slander or deceit to accomplish this end.
The second argument made by Mr. Baaba is the most crucial, and it is one I believe each Assyrian needs to come to terms with on his or her own. Mr. Baaba contends that “he would rather live and die as an Assyrian rather than a Christian” and that the Patriarch is strictly a “religious” leader and not a “temporal” one. To put it more bluntly, some have stated, as a good friend of mine has said to me, “I don’t associate the Church with my nationality.” I respect Mr. Baaba’s and others’ beliefs about their Assyrian identity. I and many other Assyrians, however, disagree. Christianity and the Church of the East has been an integral part of our history and identity for over 2,000 years. Its teachings instill in me values I find fundamental to who I am as an Assyrian. The Church is our oldest surviving institution and has at many times throughout history been the sole protector of our nationality, language, and way of life. It is no less real, valuable or magnificent to me than the chariots, winged bulls, or gates of Ishtar. So when Mr. Baaba asks me to label this as an extraneous part of my Assyrian identity, as something that has only caused us harm, I consider the suggestion offensive. However, I invite each and every Assyrian to come to terms with this on his or her own. Do not allow Mr. Baaba, Zinda Magazine, or anyone else to define what makes you a “true” Assyrian.
Fundamentally, behind all the rhetoric, slander and allegations, I see more mundane and less righteous motivations at play. At this critical time in the history of our nation, certain individuals and parties, instead of working with and taking heed of some of the most patriotic supporters, have chosen to shun and undermine them. Instead of advancing a coherent and positive agenda, they have chosen a policy of internal division while deserting our Assyrians in Iraq. Instead of accepting responsibility for their failures and damage to our nation, they have chosen to scapegoat the Assyrian Church of the East. These people saw the Church as an inconvenient, and sadly, worthless constraint on their attempt to seize sole and uncontested political power. I invite people to think over the recent history, look over the facts, and decide for themselves who has failed us and who is worthy of trust. Our people have endured too much and the integrity of our nation is too important to allow our future to be determined by deceitful charges and self-interested individuals.
In 20 Years, There will be No More Christians in Iraq
Three members of his family had already been murdered before Shamon Isaac decided to leave Baghdad. First, his son-in-law Raid Khalil was shot dead in January 2005 as he fled gunmen who had tried to pull him and his father into a minibus. Like many Christians, Khalil had received a death threat signed by the Islamic Army in Iraq. He left behind a widow and a baby girl, who is now nearly two.
Finally Isaac and his family had no choice. When in January this year cars started to circle the family home in al-Dora with men shooting in the air, they escaped to another Baghdad neighbourhood, al-Jediya. But major demonstrations were taking place throughout the Muslim world in response to the Danish cartoons and on January 29 bombs ripped through seven churches in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk, killing 16. Then one day a man walked into the small shop that the family had just opened next to their new home, bought some cigarettes and walked out, but not before he had left a letter on the counter. On opening it, they found it contained a single word: "Blood."
The mechanisms of terror in the new Iraq have uprooted families from every community, including Sunni and Shia, Arab and Kurd. But although Christians made up less than four per cent of the population - fewer than one million people - they formed the largest groups of new refugees arriving in Jordan's capital Amman in the first quarter of 2006, according to an unpublished report by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). In Syria, which has a longer border with Iraq, 44% of Iraqi asylum-seekers were recorded as Christian since UNHCR began registrations in December 2003, with new registrations hitting a high early this year. Fleeing killings, kidnappings and death threats, they come from Baghdad, from Basra in the zone of British control and, disproportionately, from Mosul in the north. The Catholic bishop of Baghdad, Andreos Abouna, was quoted recently as saying that half of all Iraqi Christians have fled the country since the 2003 US-led invasion.
Yet their exodus has gone largely unreported, despite the fact that both George Bush and Tony Blair have spoken about how their own Christian beliefs have informed their policies in Iraq. In one of his first speeches after 9/11, the US president described the fight against terrorism as a "crusade", a characterisation that he wisely dropped but which is habitually repeated by critics of US foreign policy, including al-Qaida and other insurgent groups in Iraq. Many Christians have been accused of association with the multinational force, or of supporting the west. Now Iraqi Christian leaders are bitter that the west has done so little to protect them.
When Isaac fled Baghdad with 11 of his family it was, naturally enough, to the ancient home of Iraqi Christianity that they came - to the plains of Nineveh. I met them there three weeks later, huddled in a room in Bartallah, outside Mosul, part of the great fertile flatland on the banks of the Tigris where nearly every village has its church, and each church now has an armed guard. The plains are among the longest continually habited places on earth. It was to save Nineveh that the Biblical God delivered up Jonah from the belly of the whale, and the Assyrian Christians here still speak Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, the language Jesus Christ spoke with his apostles.
But Nineveh's unique place in Christian heritage counts for little today beside its strategic value in the geo-ethnic endgame of the Iraqi conflict. Situated between Iraqi Kurdistan and the insurgent strongholds west of Mosul, the Nineveh plains are central to the security of both, and to the territorial ambitions of Kurds and Sunni Arabs alike. Travelling in Iraq as part of a human rights mission coordinated by the charity Minority Rights Group International, in association with the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (Unami), I was told that no aid workers had been able to operate here since May 2004, when four Americans from a Baptist charity were killed in an ambush on the Mosul-Erbil road.
In Mosul city, both the Ba'athists and the Islamist groups had deep bases of support that enabled them to control whole neighbourhoods and, periodically, the city's police. "They stopped a Christian woman from Mosul university, took her away and cut off her head," the manager of a women's welfare organisation told me, her face flushed with the imagining of it. "They said that if anyone comes to college without hijab, they will be killed."
"The poor security situation covers all communities in the city," explained Dr Yousef Lalo, the assistant governor of Mosul. "But as a minority, the Christians are particularly vulnerable. They are also often more affluent than other communities, so people try to extract money from them." A former psychology lecturer, Lalo's habitual companions are no longer students but the bodyguards that testify to his status as the only remaining Christian in the city's senior administration.
"Many churches were bombed in 2004 and 2005 but the multinational force and the Iraqi national army did not find out who was responsible; they didn't even do a proper investigation. It got worse and few people turned up even for Christmas and Easter celebrations. Now the Christians protect their own churches."
Lalo couldn't provide a number for how many Christians had left Mosul, but said that "thousands" had emigrated to Jordan, Syria and Turkey. "Half the Christians in Mosul have left since 2003 and the rest are planning to leave if they can. Many of my family have emigrated to Australia and Sweden and become refugees."
But this softly spoken professor was staying to fight. "This is my land, and the land of my father and grandfathers, and I will not leave. I have also forbidden my three sons to emigrate."
That morning, Lalo had his first meeting with the multinational force commander for Mosul and eastern Nineveh, Colonel Michael Shields. Although "meeting" is perhaps not quite the right word for an encounter that began when four US soldiers in full battle dress came through the front door unannounced, the commander demanding: "Who's the leader? Where's the leader?" But once the Americans had put down their weapons and body armour, the exchange that followed was polite enough. I knew Lalo was bitter that the US had supported the appointment of a Muslim mayor in a predominantly Christian area and Shields told me he was working hard to improve contacts with local officials. He explained: "Nineveh province is an ethnically challenging area. If the governor shows favouritism, that creates problems." Lalo ventured bluntly that Shields' predecessor had been "bad for the Christians". "That," the colonel said, "is water under the bridge."
The Christians' last hope in Iraq may just lie, according to Lalo, with Sarkis Aghajan, minister of finance in the Kurdistan regional government and, until last May, Kurdish deputy prime minister. It is he who has been channelling money to Nineveh to pay for armed guards.
In his palatial residence in Ankawa, a Christian neighbourhood in Iraqi Kurdistan, he talked about his community as he sat between a picture of the crucifixion and the statue of an eagle. "As Christians," he said in Syriac, "we regard Nineveh as our region. Throughout history our people have been obliged to leave and live elsewhere." This included those who had fled Saddam Hussein's campaign to "Arabise" Kurdish and Christian areas in the north, when land was redistributed by force to Arab settlers. But now, he explained, about 3,500 families had come from Mosul and Baghdad to settle in the Nineveh plains.
"More than 30 Christian villages have been restored. But people will not return unless they feel their national rights are protected. Before, people were kidnapped on a daily basis. We increased the number of armed guards and now there are thousands. We are not threatening any other party, but the Kurds look out for the Kurds, the Arabs for the Arabs, so we have to protect ourselves too."
But Aghajan's ambitions go further. He is convinced that the only way to secure protection in the longer term is for an autonomous region, a safe haven, to be established covering Nineveh's Christians, as well as smaller minority communities there such as the Yezidis and the Shabak. "This special region would help us to maintain Christian history in that place. In that way, there would be no way for Kurds or Arabs to intervene. This would encourage the Christians living outside to come back, and it would be an example in the Middle East."
Aghajan is also sure that such an autonomous region should be part of an enlarged Kurdistan, prompting some politicians from Nineveh to accuse him of serving a Kurdish agenda. One, who fears the prospect of Kurdish control as much as a return by the Ba'athists, described him as "prime minister Barzani's loyal Christian". But Aghajan insists that the Nineveh plains would "get a fairer share" from the Kurdistan administration than from the central government. He praised Barzani's leadership. But he also knows that many Christians are already voting with their feet for the relative safety of Kurdistan.
Then he described how his people had been betrayed. "It was easy for the Americans and the British to have supported us when the churches were bombed - it was a historic opportunity - but they did nothing. If they had supported us financially, for example, we could have protected all the Christian families in Mosul."
Asked if he thought the Americans might be afraid to be seen to support the Christians, because that might be perceived as partisan or anti-Muslim, he waved his arm impatiently. "They didn't have to do it publicly - they could have done it through the Kurdistan Regional Government or through individuals. Now the Christians in Mosul are being made to change their religion. They are forced to pay money for jihad. If you hear the stories of those people, you will understand the tragedy. I am not talking about one of two families, or even a thousand, but about a nation.
"If our friends don't help us now, their friendship will be worth nothing in future. If it continues as it has, Baghdad and Mosul will be emptied of Christians."
As he spoke, I recalled Bush's words, over three years ago, from the decks of the USS Abraham Lincoln, announcing "the end of major combat operations" in Iraq. The president is fond of using biblical quotations in his speeches and he ended this one with a stirring message from the prophet Isaiah: "To the captives, 'Come out!' and to those in darkness, 'Be free!'"
In May, Iraq's first full-term government since the fall of Saddam Hussein was approved in Baghdad. Wijdan Mikha'il, a town planner and member of the secular Iraqi National List, was appointed as the new minister of human rights - a hard job, she remarked to me ruefully, in a country where "the people hardly have any rights". Mikha'il is also a Christian, the only one in the government. When she got the job, she moved her family, including her three young boys, from their spacious Baghdad house to live in a hotel behind the concrete blast walls of the Green Zone. Over supper there one evening she talked to me about the sectarianism that has poisoned Iraqi society.
"I have always seen myself as an Iraqi first, and then a Christian. Before, we all lived together, we never thought that someone was a Sunni and the other was a Shia, or a Christian, but now it is different." She has held discussions with the Iraqi Council of Minorities, a new umbrella group that is pushing for amendments to the constitution to improve human rights protection. When I asked Mikha'il about how many Christians were leaving, she said: "The process started before the war but it has accelerated. In the schools the children now say that a Christian is a kaffir, that he is different from the Muslims. And that means he can be treated differently. In 20 years there will be no more Christians in Iraq."
As she talked, two men and two women, dressed mainly in black, walked into the hotel restaurant and sat down in a corner. The minister lowered her voice: "They are Saddam's witnesses." The trial of Saddam Hussein was in session that week, stumbling from one adjournment to the next, and Mikha'il listed some of the atrocities for which the former dictator should still be tried, including the genocidal Anfal campaign against the Kurds, in which many Christians were also killed.
So was it worse before, or now, from the point of view of the Christian community? She replied immediately: "It's worse now. Not just for my community - for all Iraqis. Of course, what is happening now, Saddam partly created. We have gone in one year to a situation we would have reached after 15 years if Saddam was still in power: the lack of security, the breakdown of society . . ." Suddenly she laughed, for the first time that evening. "So maybe it is better to get there in one year, so we can start the process of improvement."
Would she herself still be here in 20 years' time? This time she hesitated. "I don't think so. I love Iraq. I had so many opportunities to leave, but I always stayed. But I don't want my children to live here"
Assyrian Priest is Kidnapped and Beheaded in North Iraq
(ZNDA: Mosul) The headless corpse of Father Amer Polous Iskandar of the Syriac Orthodox Church was found in the outskirts of Mosul, Iraq police and hospital sources said last week.
Father Polous Iskandar was kidnapped in north Iraq on 9 October and two days later beheaded by an Islamic militant group in Iraq.
According to locals the captors had demanded a ransom in the amount of $250,000. The captors also demanded that posters be displayed on the parish walls condemning the recent remarks made by the Pope Benedict XVI about Islam.
A funeral was held for Fr. Iskandar in Mosul, attended by over 500. "He was a good man and we all shed tears for him ... He was a man of peace," said Eman Saaur, a 45-year-old schoolteacher who said she attended Iskandar's church regularly.
Abducted and Raped, Young Christian Girls Driven to Suicide
Courtesy of AsiaNews
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Young Christian women and girls have been abducted and released after ransom money was paid only to commit suicide because of the shock, violence and shame they experienced. This is happening in Baghdad where kidnapping has become a growth industry. Criminal gangs are lining their pockets as the number of victims grows and the line-ups at border posts grow even longer with people trying to flee the country.
Christians from any denominations, clergy or laity alike, are one of the preferred targets in the capital.
Sources in some communities of nuns in Baghdad have relayed other stories they witnessed. Last Sunday two young Christian women were abducted but under different circumstances: one at home as her helpless family could do nothing but watch; the other, at an open market where four armed men spirited her away in a car leaving behind a distraught mother.
Often incidents do not end with the prisoner’s release. In one case in Baghdad, the victim committed suicide after the ransom was paid and she went home because of the torture and sexual violence she suffered.
In another case, a young woman talked to her family by phone (the kidnappers allowed her to speak to her family to reassure them that she was alive) and told them: “I’m dead” (referring to being gang raped). She eventually committed suicide whilst still in the hands of her tormenters.
Unofficial estimates put the number of young women and girls abducted in the last two weeks at 12.
Kurdish Militia Attack Ashur TV in North Iraq
Courtesy of the Assyrian International News Agency
(ZNDA: Hamdaniya) A group from the Kurdish militia belonging to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) attacked the Nineveh headquarters of the Assyrian Democratic Movement's TV station, Ashur TV.
The KDP militia forced the TV station staff, including two female news anchors, out of the building and forcibly confined them in their vehicle outside of the Baghdede (Hamdaniya) TV station. The Ashur TV station staff driver was severely beaten by the KDP militia and was hospitalized.
This is the latest in a string of attacks by the KDP militia on the independently run Ashur TV in the predominantly Assyrian Christian area of the Nineveh Plains.
Head of Syriac Orthodox Church Decorates Sarkis Aghajan
(ZNDA: Arbil) His Holiness Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas , patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, on 6 October decorated Mr Sarkis Aghajan, the Minister for Finance and the Economy in the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) by making him a Commander under the Order of St. Ignatius Theophroros.
Saint Ignatius of Antioch (martyred between AD 98 - AD 117) was the third Patriarch of Antioch. Ignatius is generally considered to be one of the Apostolic Fathers (the earliest authoritative group of the Church Fathers) and a saint by both the Roman Catholics, who celebrate his feast day on October 17, and the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, who celebrate his feast day on December 20.
Mar Gregorios Saliba Shamoon, the Patriarch of Mosul and Mar Swirius Isaq Saka, the Deputy Patriarch for high studies on Assyrians, decorated Mr Aghajan at the award ceremony.
In a letter to Mr Aghajan, the supreme head of the Syriac Orthodox Church wrote: “As with St Paul, we thank God for giving you faith and charging you with the great task of serving the Church and the sons of our noble and civilised Assyrian-Chaldean people. You have dedicated yourself to achieving your purpose.”
The Patriarch also wrote, “Everyone, from the East to the West, praises your limitless kindness and generosity in serving Christianity, which is the source of spiritual joy and delight. You generously receive those who need help and provide them with every possible assistance. As Saint Paul said: ‘the one who gives with joy is blessed by God’. You are an example of humanitarian and biblical qualities and we call upon others to follow your path.”
ANA Statement on Assyria under Kurdish Occupation
Assyria National Assembly
October 4th, 6756 Assyrian/ 2006 A.D.
As a result of the current critical conditions which are passing over our country Iraq as well as our Assyrian nation and as a result of the abnormal deterioration taking place within our political institutions because of the fluctuation in thought and the reckless irresponsible policies on the part of some of our political parties and movements, in the midst of this situation, parties, movements, organizations and some figures have manipulated and are manipulating the fate of Assyria (Ashur) and Assyrianism either by relinquishing our national identity or manipulating our venerate Assyrian name with its deep roots in our beloved North of Iraq, which is geographically, historically and culturally the land of Ashur (Assyria) in order to dispossess the Assyrians of its ownership allowing the outsiders to misrepresent and distort its historical and geographical realities, renaming it with a foreign name which has no relevance to the land and its history.
What concerns us as Assyrians in the homeland and Diaspora, politicians and independents is the outcome of the covert and public discussions which are aimed at dividing the Assyrian homeland and re-assigning new ownership of each part of it to the competing or rather conflicting factions. Factions that have gained power when they were persecuted in the near past just like the Assyrians! In the midst of this situation, these factions and specially the Kurds have completely forgotten the Assyrians, the owners of most of this land which the Kurds have usurped, ignoring the presence of the Assyrians in the motherland Assyria, North of Iraq, by occupying and naming the land with their racist Kurdish name which encompasses the sources of the Tigris to the Euphrates Khabor.
The Assyrian who is still discussing his national name because there’s an intent to keep him unstable nationally, the Assyrian who is still discussing and presenting arguments regarding the nature and name of the Assyrian language because there’s an intent to let him relinquish his belief in the Assyrian cultural existence, and the Assyrian who is still accepting for himself, his people and his homeland sectarian and denominational names which are far from the scientific historical truth, because he is not allowed to repudiate the opinion of his patron. How can such a person be depended upon to solve the great Assyrian dilemmas beginning with the dilemma of the national, cultural, linguistic, patriotic, geographical and religious existence and then to move to the issues of civil, citizenship, administrative, denominational and sectarian rights?
This is our situation today in the Iraqi political equation. O Assyrians, all your physical, material, and psychological sacrifices as well as the suffering, exile, humiliation, displacement and dispersion resulted in a handful of individuals ascending to seats in temporary governments and parliaments – short lived – and under the patronage and guardianship of others.
To every Assyrian who is zealous for his Assyrianism and homeland.
Taking into consideration the historical and geographical facts of the North of Iraq known as the land of Ashur (Assyria), we in the Assyria National Assembly being a political assembly linking the Assyrian national and political Cause with its land Ashur, we declare to and inform the people of Ashur (Assyria), Iraq, the neighboring regional countries and the international public opinion that the North of Iraq, the land of Ashur (Assyria) is under Kurdish occupation, renamed with their ethnic name which they have imposed on the inhabitants of our beloved North of Iraq employing chauvinistic, racist methods taking advantage and strength from those who are powerful in a devastated country using illegal constitutional articles which are drawing a new map for Iraq. Hence as per these facts we shall identify the North of Iraq as the occupied land of Ashur (Assyria).
Long live a united Iraq from Zakho to al-Fao.
Anesthesiologist Develops Device to Keep Airway Open
Courtesy of the Pantagraph Publishing Co. and Lee Enterprises
(ZNDA: Chicago) Anesthesiologists are masters of airway, said Dr. Ben Taimoorazy of Anesthesiology Consultants.
Keeping the respiratory passageway open so patients breathe well during surgery is vital work for the pain management specialists.
Taimoorazy has invented a way to keep the airway open without putting devices in patients' mouths or noses. Instead, the airway remains open by adjusting and holding the position of the patient's head.
The Bloomington-Normal anesthesiologist has used his Napas Airway Management Device for nearly a year on patients in deep sedation for surgeries that last less than an hour and for claustrophobic patients who need to be sedated before going in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines.
Of 60 patients at BroMenn Regional Medical Center and at The UroHealth Institute, both in Normal, the only side effect was in one patient who had some jaw discomfort afterward, Taimoorazy said.
"Universally, it has worked well," he said.
In June, he received a U.S. patent for the device, capping a process that began seven years ago. Next month, he reports to the institutional review board of the BroMenn medical staff on results of using the Napas Airway device for one year. He hopes the board will allow him to continue to use the device.
"The whole goal in coming up with this device was to better serve the patient," Taimoorazy said after demonstrating the device on a manikin in the BroMenn clinical education area. Taimoorazy already is thinking about other potential uses for the device, including for patients with sleep apnea, for patients in the recovery room after surgery, and for patients being transported in ambulances.
"I think it's really, really promising," he said.
When patients are deeply sedated, their tongues become relaxed and fall back, obstructing their airway so they can't breathe, Taimoorazy said.
For procedures that last several hours, a breathing tube is placed down the patient's neck. But breathing tubes aren't used in shorter procedures.
For procedures that last an hour or less, an oral or nasal airway is used. But these devices carry complications.
The oral airway device can knock out a patient's loose tooth or cap or could cause tongue numbness that lasts for months, Taimoorazy said. The nasal airway device could cause nose bleed, could break off cartilage that itself could obstruct the airway, and can lead to a sensation of a stuffy nose that lasts for several days, he said.
Even with these devices, sometimes there is airway obstruction.
Anesthesiologists respond with a jaw thrust. With a jaw thrust, they use their fingers to lift the mandible (lower jaw) so the tongue is lifted off the airway.
"We put the patient into the 'sniffing' position," he said. The sniffing position extends the neck and opens the airway of the patient.
The problem is the anesthesiologist has to maintain that position throughout the procedure.
"It ties up my hands for an hour," he said. If the anesthesiologist lets go to do something else -- such as to respond to a patient's drop in heart rate or blood pressure -- the airway could become obstructed again.
By 1999, after several years as an anesthesiologist, Taimoorazy thought, "We should have something to give us a jaw thrust.
"I was standing there during one procedure and holding the jaw and I thought, 'There should be another way.'"
Taimoorazy went to Hobby Lobby and Menards, both in Normal, and bought supplies, then began to measure and build.
The prototype he came up with was a wooden platform with a hump that goes under a patient's head. Two adjustable posts come up from the platform to the mandible to hold the jaw in place. What results is a jaw thrust performed by the device to keep the patient in the sniffing position and to keep their airway open.
That would leave the anesthesiologist to attend to other responsibilities.
Taimoorazy used his wife, Ramica, and his daughters, Tiffany, now 10, and Nicole, now 9, as test subjects. When he realized the prototype could work, he hired a patent attorney, who did a search, determined a similar device didn't exist, and began the process of applying for the patent. The patent process took several years because Taimoorazy had to respond to questions from the patent office.
Meanwhile, he found a man who builds prototypes. Taimoorazy shared his wooden prototype and his specifications and the man built a plastic version of Taimoorazy's invention last year.
Taimoorazy -- whose anesthesiology group provides services at BroMenn and at UroHealth Institute but not at OSF St. Joseph Medical Center -- got approval in November from BroMenn's institutional review board to use his invention for a one-year study period. Because the device is new, Taimoorazy must ask each patient whether it's OK to use.
Only one patient declined. It was an older patient who didn't want to try something new, he said.
Of the 60 who have used it, only one experienced jaw discomfort. But Taimoorazy said that sometimes happens in patients who get a manual jaw thrust from an anesthesiologist.
Taimoorazy has used his invention on a variety of patients, including ones getting an MRI and patients in a urological procedure or foot procedure. He could use it on more patients.
"Sometimes, there isn't enough time to explain the device to a patient, so I can't use it," he said. "In those procedures, I wish I had it."
In patients sedated before going into an MRI machine, the device has been useful. When a patient is in the machine, Taimoorazy can't reach the patient's head to do a jaw thrust if their airway becomes obstructed, so the patient has to be pulled from the machine and the MRI procedure has to be started again.
Dr. Bennett Scaglia of Urologic Surgery Associates has seen Taimoorazy use the device during Scaglia's procedures at BroMenn and at UroHealth Institute.
Scaglia said Taimoorazy's reason for inventing the device is sound.
"A lot of times, they (anesthesiologists) are keeping their eyes on the patients' vitals and drawing up and administering meds at the same time they are keeping the airway open," Scaglia said.
Taimoorazy has used his invention on 15 to 20 of Scaglia's patients.
"The patients respond well to it," Scaglia said.
Common side effects of the oral and nasal airways -- nose bleeds, coughing and sore throat -- don't happen in patients who use Taimoorazy's invention, Scaglia said.
"I've been pretty impressed," he said. "It seems he's got a great idea that will catch on."
A highlight for Taimoorazy was in June, when he received the patent, which includes a gold seal with a red, white and blue ribbon.
"The patent gives you a real boost. I thought 'Wow, is this really mine?'"
The initial elation was replaced by a feeling of pride, said Taimoorazy, who emigrated from Iran in 1988.
"Being an immigrant, it gives you a real sense of accomplishing something that is good."
Taimoorazy's next project is to modify the Napas Airway Management Device so it may be used by patients who need help keeping their airway open because of sleep apnea, in ambulances, in emergency rooms and in recovery rooms after surgery.
Meanwhile, he has selected a company to market the device. Manufacturing won't begin until after market demand is determined. Taimoorazy will retain control as a physician-consultant.
"I want to make sure the integrity of the device is maintained."
Tales of Taimoorazy
After emigrating from Iran in 1988, Taimoorazy worked in Germany for a year and a half, then completed his anesthesiology residency at Illinois Masonic Medical Center. He was staff anesthesiologist at OSF St. Joseph Medical Center, Bloomington, for three years before starting Anesthesiology Consultants in 1998.
He was elected Physician of the Year by employees of BroMenn Regional Medical Center, Normal, earlier this year.
The name of his invention, Napas, means "the breath" in Assyrian. Taimoorazy is from Iran but was in the Assyrian minority that traces its roots to the ancient Assyrian Empire.
Taimoorazy's grandfather was a prominent physician who practiced medicine in Russia and in Iran.
Taimoorazy carries his invention in a floral box that originally held flowers for his father's funeral. Taimoorazy dedicated his invention to his father before he died last year.
Special thanks to Ms. Juliana Taimoorazy.
Only Armenia & Georgia
[In response to Peter BetBasoo's article, Islam and Assyria: an Impossible Coexistence, in last week's issue] there are only two nations which, as territories, have suffered under Muslim domination, and currently are Christian (or at least non-Muslim) countries. They are Armenia and Georgia.
Christianity First, Then Assyrianism
The guest editorial written by Mr. Youel Baaba is nothing but a complete mis-reporting of truth and nothing but a clear propaganda of anti-church forces.
I really can not imagine how could a well educated and known Assyrian person, such as Mr. Baaba, be so willing to say things that are not true at all. If anyone has watched any 3 or 4 minutes of any of Patriarch's visits to any city or village in Northern Iraq for the last few weeks, it was very clear and there is no way anyone can miss his insistence on the “Assyrian” name as a nation, and the Assyrian Church of the East as part of the original Church of the eastern group of Churches. I don’t understand how can Mr. Baaba say that the Patriarch “did not dare” to refer to his Assyrian identity! The truth is that he mentioned that more times that ever, and more than anyone else has ever.
His message was very clear… Christianity, Assyrianism, love, unity. What else does you Mr. Baaba want?
If anyone loves his Church leader, would he really ask him to go to Baghdad in these days ?? How can Mr. Baaba ask His Holiness to go to the most dangerous place on earth today? Is that how much Mr. Baaba loves His Holiness?
Mr. Baaba asks His Holiness not to forget the past? How can we live with others peacefully if we keep remembering the past? Will Mr. Baaba be okay if the Kurds keep remembering how many of their forces have been killed by Assyrians? Or does he want them to forget and move on? Whatever he asks them to do, he first must do himself. And that’s exactly what the Bible says, and that’s exactly what His holiness is doing.
The truth is, no matter what the Patriarch does, or says, he will never be satisfied and Mr. Baaba will complain about it, because it does not go with his agenda. And I think Zinda should stop publishing such ill-motivated articles, that do nothing but spread hatred.
I have never been more proud of His Holiness than I am today.
As far as living and dying as Assyrian… It looks like Mr. Babaa’s got it all wrong.. He says “I would rather live and die as an Assyrian rather than a Christian”! Christianity gives you eternal life, and you will only be saved if you believe in the name of the Lord. Assyrianism is our identity on earth and should be preserved for future generations… If you are truly an Assyrian, and you truly love your Church.. then you must be a true Christian First… Then you must be a true Assyrian. You must have both. You must live as both and die as both.
God bless our Assyrian Nation, God bless every person that’s working for preserving this name.
A Response to Mr. Baaba's Guest Opinion in Zinda
The pen is more powerful than the sword; it certainly is. But, seemingly at times many of our brothers and sisters flaunt a certain bravado and aim to show a prowess that we as Assyrians cannot afford to fake. The pen is used unwisely and misleads people to make emotional and improper decision. Mr. Baaba writes about what we should do, and the fact that he “would rather die an Assyrian instead of a Christian.” Well, dying is what is happening to too many of our fellow Assyrians and Christians, and until he and I or anyone living in the comfort of their homes in the West can buy a ticket and pick up a rifle and join an Assyrian army in Iraq; we should abstain from making such bold statements. You will be called on it. My friend, in the end St. Peter will ask us if we followed the Assyrians or Christ. If we die and say Assyrians, then our place in paradise will be forfeit. Mr. Baaba might want to reconsider his position.
Mr. Baaba clearly shows that he feels His Holiness has sold out the Assyrians; what interests me the most is that he has no reference. He has no such proof to make such an unfounded statement. I would say that the truth is contrary to his beliefs. He is criticizing one of the very few people who has spread the Assyrian name throughout the Earth. His Holiness has always said publicly that we are Christians who should never lose our identity as Assyrians. It was he who founded the Mootwa in Illinois, which is a political party not related to the Church to focus on the well being of the Assyrians. It was he who said to them go out and work for our people regardless of your religious denomination. It was he who said start in Illinois and then move to every city that has Assyrians and then create an American Mootwa leading the charge to protect Assyrians. Alas, this dream has not come to fruition, but that is not a result of His Holiness, rather a result of the weakness of those that are led to water but do not drink.
Mr. Baaba refers to the Christological Declaration signed in 1994 but, he incorrectly states that His Holiness recognized Mary as “Mother of God”. This cannot be any more false. The Holy Apostolic Assyrian Church of the East’s Holy Synod agreed that we respect the Roman Catholic reference which they use, but our Church believes that the Virgin Mary is the Mother of Christ. Yes, the reference of Mother of God or Christ is the single most significant reason for the break up of the Christian Church, but in the end this should not keep the body separated. Many times His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV has said that the Church is a body and the body cannot survive without all its limbs. To sign an agreement that allows Christian brothers to respect each others' choices, yet keeping the light of Christ alive in our hearts, is not a sin. Frankly, it is prudent and good natured. Finally, the Holy Synod of the Assyrian Church of the East did not move to phase II of the Christological agreement, because it stated that we must accept the supremacy of the Pope. It seems obvious to me that one of many factors for not moving forward is the fact that we would be a step closer to recognizing Mary as the Mother of God as such; the agreement failed. I’m confused about why Mr. Baaba would comment on this topic as he apparently would rather die an Assyrian than a Christian.
It is reassuring to see that Mr. Baaba knows some facts; yes, Simko did assassinate His Holiness Mar Shimun Benyamin, yes, the Kurds were significant players in the atrocities handed down to our forefathers, and yes our brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers were massacred, robbed, raped, and decimated. What bothers me is that he insults the very spirit of these martyrs and uses them to attack His Holiness as if he or anyone in our nation doesn’t know about these atrocities. He seems to forget the fact that these people, our forefathers, died first because they were Christian, and second because they were Assyrian, but he would rather die an Assyrian than a Christian.
I see, Mr. Baaba would rather we take a stand again, lose focus on peaceful coexistence by saying “they are on our land”. It would seem to me that America cannot solve the Assyrian question, any more than they could solve Iraq’s Pandora’s Box, of the Tutsi massacre in Rwanda, or the genocide of the people of Darfur. So, if America won’t help us, who does Mr. Baaba propose should? He would rather we take a foolish stand and then give the Islamic fanatics an excuse to set their sights on our People. By the way, he and I wouldn’t be part of “our people” because we are sitting in the comfort of our homes where the rule of law is respected and treasured. I say to Mr. Baaba: you are wrong and His Holiness is trying to keep our people alive, and prosperous, but His Holiness will never sell his heritage or the Assyrian name. On the other hand, many of the political organizations that say they are speaking for us, will sell our Assyrian name in a New York minute. But I digress.
Mr. Baaba says that “Today, all people are entitled to these rights and we should be willing to pay the price for them.” Okay, I see it; he is paying the price for it by logging into his PC and speaking his mind. May I ask Mr. Baaba, what price is too much to pay? Should 25% of our brothers die in Iraq, 50%, 75%; what number best suits Mr. Baaba? Rather than complimenting His Holiness for taking the risk to travel to Iraq, rather than respecting him for standing in front of cameras and saying to our brothers “This is your land, work it”, rather than offering practical solutions, Mr. Baaba casts stones. Seems bravery has missed the target with Mr. Baaba.
In the end I say to Mr. Baaba: His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Patriarch and Sheppard of the Holy Apostolic Assyrian Church of the East is a blessed man. He was nurtured in the womb to be a holy man. He has dedicated his life to his church and people. He has endured sleepless nights, personal attacks and insults, all in the name of our Church and the Assyrian name, and people like Mr. Baaba contribute nothing. If he and anyone who claims to be more Christian, more Assyrian, more anything then His Holiness or the people that love him dearly can just wake up and get some perspective, we might start accomplishing more.
To all of you critics and stone throwers; let’s try this: try to actually make a difference without attacking His Holiness, our Holy Synod, and our Church. Actually do something, teach something worthy of listening to, make a difference, try converting non-Christians to the Path of Christ, open a radio program that talks about the good you are doing, do something other than attack and insult. Stop spreading propaganda. I can’t, not for the life of me understand why people like you waste everyone’s time. While people are out there working for a better Church for a better Assyria; you criticize.
In Praise of Mr. Baaba's Daring Article
Voltaire E Warda
I like to congratulate Mr. Baaba's daring and challenging article about H.H. Mar Dinkha's trip to Iraq. Mr. Baaba spelled out what a large number of members of our Church of the East have on their minds, but are afraid to say it or are not in a position to say. We hope and pray to God that our dear Patriarch will have compassion towards the poor, suffering and displaced Assyrians in Iraq (Baghdad and other areas and NOT only North of Iraq), by visiting them and comforting them.
How Soon We Forget
Sargon Levi Gabriel
How soon we forget the atrocities of Kurds committed against our noble Assyrian people in Northern Iraq (Assyria) which most of you call Kurdistan. Wake up dear patriotic Assyrians and notice the contradictions of self-proclaimed spokesmen for our noble Assyrian nation that have mastered a deft form of double talk. They are saying what they do not mean and do not mean a thing they say. It is true that dishonesty has always been a part of the human experience, but doublespeak is a self-destroying and deterioration of honesty.
How soon we forget blaming ADM for calling our nation Chaldo and Ashur and when Sargis Aghajan is claming today the national rights for our nation calling it by the compound name, “Chaldeans, Syrians and Assyrians.” Every Assyrian is praising him on TV and radio stations. The Pope of Rome, the ones who divided our nation in 1500, weakened us and created all this division and turmoil of today has now knighted Aghajan.
I am not a follower of Younadam Kanna, but a true believer in Assyrianism. I have said it many times if Younadam Kanna was found guilty, then we would have judged him once we got our full rights in Iraq. What we have done? We created scores of political parties with very few followers. That is why we gained no recognition. The only one recognized are the ones who sold their souls for KDP.
The tragedy of the Assyrians during the Simayle Massacres of August 1933 was planned and implemented by Bakir Sidqi, a Kurd who armed the Kurdish tribes and instigated. Assyrians were shot on sight, villages were looted, our noble women raped by the same Kurds that we are calling today our brothers.
How soon we forget what happened in Baghdede in January 13, 2005 the attacks by KDP of Masoud Barzani. Read Zinda Magazine's January 18, 2005 issue. One can read hundreds of atrocities committed by the same Kurds during the last five years, and approved by the nephew of Masoud, Nechervan Barzani who built his villa on Assyrian lands confiscated in Nuhadra (Dohuk).
Many patriot Assyrians raised their objection when thousands of Assyrians were prevented by Masoud Barzani’s thugs from voting in Mosul. I even wrote a letter of objection to our Minister of Foreign Affairs in its time.
Why Masoud Barzani, Sargis Aghajan and Fawzi Hariri lured His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV Patriarch of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East in the snare to believe that Kurds are building our villages and churches that were already destroyed by them and our Assyrian men assassinated in cold blood and our noble daughters raped by them, that Kurds and Assyrians are brothers?
According to the Kurdish governor of Nineveh by the name of Goran in Belfast Telegraph of September 27, 2006 issue, good friends of KDP, that 70,000 Kurds have fled Mosul. The deciding vote by the end of 2007 will decide which region will join the Kurdish Regional Government and Masoud Barzani needs all the support of all Christians in the Plains of Nineveh and in Kirkuk to vote for KRG. What happens after the 2007 vote to the Assyrians only God knows? We might be forced to call ourselves Christian Kurds.
His Holiness is traveling from city to city and from village to village in Northern Iraq (Assyria) convincing our noble people that Kurds are doing their very best in building our churches and villages. Thousands of Assyrians cheered deliriously. Men, women and children showered flowers on His Holiness from the rooftops. Mar Dinkha is indirectly by his actions convincing the Assyrian Christians in Northern Iraq (Assyria) to vote for KRG. By voting for KRG we are automatically giving our name and our Assyria to the warlord, Masoud Barzani, and his clan.
His Holiness did not dare to mention our Assyrian name while in Arbil. Our Assyrian name was even erased from the Church of the East. It was His Holiness that added that noble Assyrian name to our Church. He called us Christians, but not Assyrian Christians the name that all Assyrian nationalists are proud of.
There are hundred of thousands of Assyrians who belong to different denominations and not just to the Church of the East. Who appointed Mar Dinkha to speak on their behalf and to surrender our history, nationality and our claims to our ancestral homeland the beautiful Assyria the first country mentioned in the Holy Book to Kurds? Did he consult our elite Assyrians? Or he listened to his own clan who have sold their soul to KDP and decided to go.
I am bewildered that Dr. Sargon Dadesho who proclaims that he and Mar Dinkha are the guardians of the Assyrian national identity, with all the skills he has in predicting the outcome of events before they happen did not see why His Holiness was invited to Northern Iraq (Assyria) by the Kurds. Concentrate Doctor! You will be able to envision the final finale.
God Bless our noble Assyrian Nation.
2nd Annual “Meet and Greet” for ACSSU of Canada Students
With the start of a new academic year and with our students going back to the classrooms, the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union (ACSSU) of Canada hosted its second annual “Meet and Greet” dinner to bring students from different schools and programs together. All Assyrian students attending Canadian secondary or post-secondary institutions were invited to the dinner, which was held at Semiramis Banquet Hall (Assyrian Society of Canada, Mississauga, Ontario) on October 6, 2006.
ACSSU of Canada takes pride in starting this tradition last year after realizing how important it is for Assyrian students from various institutions to meet and socialize with each other to share their experience and provide advice and guidance to those looking for it. Such gatherings serve as a means of academic inspiration for High School students to follow role models working hard to achieve academic success in our community. ACSSU never ceases to believe in the strengthening power of education on our nation.
Students from McMaster University, University of Toronto, York University, Ryerson University, and other colleges and High Schools were in attendance. The evening started with a general body meeting in which the new ACSSU executive committee was elected. Alda Benjamen, elected for a second consecutive term as ACSSU of Canada president, along with Ashorina Shamoun, ACSSU of Canada’s new Vice President, welcomed attendees and encouraged members to be active in strengthening ACSSU’s growing network by building more branches covering more schools than the present ones.
After enjoying the delicious dinner, attendees participated in a “Student Hunt” game where they sought out and learned some interesting facts about other attendees and proverbially ‘broke the ice’ between everyone. The winner of the game was presented with Fred Aprim’s latest book, Assyrians: From Bedr Khan to Saddam Hussein.
It was wonderful for students to meet and socialize with other students they would have never gotten a chance to meet under normal circumstances. High school students were able to ask about university/college life and post-secondary students were able to network with others in their program and/or school. The event was an overwhelming success and it was clear academic and social relationships were created and strengthened by the end of the night.
ACSSU of Canada wishes a great and successful academic year to all of our students. We especially pray that our fellow students in our homeland have a safe and successful academic year as well. Happy 2006-2007 and good luck in your studies!
For more information about us or to contact us please click here.
“Don’t Forget the Little Guy: Assyrians of Tomorrow”
After reading the article “Neo-Assyrianism & the End of the Confounded Identity” by Wilfred Bet-Alkhas (click here), I am pleased to provide you with my own personal opinions and thoughts on it.
Before I continue, I would like to say a few things about myself to clarify where my views are coming from. I graduated from the University of Toronto four months ago with an Honours Degree of Applied Sciences in Civil Engineering. I was born in Iraq but fled with my parents when I was three years old. I’ve lived in Canada for 18 years now.
Growing up, the only differences I was aware of between Chaldeans and Assyrians was literally the different dialects of speech. As I grew older I began to understand the significance of calling oneself Chaldean and understood the use of these two terms was merely symptomatic of religious division and not ethnic, since both in fact share the same language, traditions, and so on. The same goes for the Syriac Orthodox/Christian followers.
I was briefly part of the Assyrian Canadian Student Union (ACSU) in 2000 as a general member of at least 100 but did not play an active role in the group. I did however know a large number of the members, none of which were part of the Chaldean or Syriac churches. Not that they were excluded from joining, but there never really was a physical or even social connection between these groups of students. It was understandable because people, especially students, are most comfortable with people they are familiar with, (i.e. ones they see on a regular basis at social or community events). Be it through upbringing or environment, an invisible wall has unintentionally been built between these three sets of students, all of which are part of the same community.
Now that I am older and have been exposed to people of all ages within my community in Canada, I have realized how unique my generation is. We are simply more open-minded to other people and their beliefs. I believe this is because we are raised with certain Western ideals, such as multiculturalism and tolerance, not like our parents or grandparents who were born and raised in the Islamic dominated Middle East. We have yet to sink into the typical; “you’re either with us or against us”, mentality of our fellow Assyrians throughout the Diaspora. Our minds are still mostly untainted by political or religious bias, either because we are too young to understand the complete picture or we do not feel social responsibility to care because there are no external elements pressuring us to participate (i.e. violence, racism, etc.). Although there is of course influence and input from parents and elders, the entire cultural scene as it stands today in a ‘democratic’ Iraq is for the most part a big question mark to our Assyrian youth in the Diaspora. It is only acknowledged through ancient artefacts found in museums around the world, but stops short of creating a sense of urgency to save it or to investigate into its present state.
These uncorrupted minds create an incredibly unique situation of opportunity for the Assyrian nation as a whole because it gets (or will be getting) a surge of new ideas, new principles, and new approaches to old problems. Going back to my point on a person’s comfort level in relation to their familiarities, there is now a chance for Assyrian youth to redefine their level of comfort, which includes members of all three churches our nation is apart of.
It begins by introducing familiar terms such as those used by their parents throughout their life; basically their initial ‘idea’ of identity in relation to their nation, (i.e. Assyrian, Chaldean, or Syriac). Once the initial contact is made and individuals realize the true meaning of these labels and realize they are in fact the same people with the same language, traditions, and ancestors, the rest falls into place. The seed of unity is planted in the disguise of a student group or a youth committee. The advantage is that these youth do not bring the grudges and stubborn ideas of their parents to the communal round table, just pure unadulterated cooperation. Cooperation based on understanding and encouraged by Western ideals of tolerance and multiculturalism. They are exposed to social issues and a sense of responsibility is created. How do we know this works? Best example is in Iraq itself. The youth recognized the sense of urgency brought on by constant physical and psychological attacks on their identity and have seized the opportunity to work together regardless of these religious labels. The ChaldoAssyrian Student Union is the foremost youth group in Iraq and membership numbers, which encompass those from all church denominations, dwarf all of the Diaspora combined.
Regardless of all these issues I want to make it clear that I am an Assyrian. I was born Assyrian, will teach my children and grandchildren Assyrian, and die an Assyrian. I love my nation too much to let it wither away with my parents and grandparents, although it seems that way with the condition they will be passing it down in. I am one of the fortunate ones, acknowledging my social responsibility now, not when it is too late. Not when we are only known as ‘Christian Arabs’ or even worse, ‘Christian Kurds’. Others in my generation, however, will not realize the jewel that is Assyria until its too late, when there is absolutely no hope left and we are merely a name in a history book. I am fighting to keep this from happening by investing now so that I will reap the benefits in the future. If I can attract Assyrians who happen to identify themselves as Chaldeans or Syriacs because they have been raised to do so, but spark the belief of being one people under one nation, then I have done my part to make Assyria survive for a little longer. I will have influenced and, more importantly, educated an entire generation that will refuse to waste its precious time on this name issue or other issues based on technicalities and details when they can be fighting on the ground to reclaim our lost dignity as a people.
The fact of the matter is it will be myself along with these youth that will be taking over these political parties, church committees, and government positions in a few years time. Like it or not, the torch will be passed on to us and the future of our nation will be placed on our shoulders. Instead of extending the debates on the same issues we will attempt to overcome and not let the same obstacles that halted our parents and grandparents stop us from achieving unity.
The preceding was purely my personal opinion and does not reflect that of any organization I may belong to.
The Assyrian Woman at the Forefront of Community Activism
On Sunday, October 8th @ Northwestern University – Evanston, Illinois, the brave women (wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, even grandmothers) of the Chicago Assyrian community, supported by their husbands and children took the initiative of participating in this year’s City of Hope – Breast Cancer Walk 2006 under one united name ‘ASSYRIANS WALK FOR HOPE.’
This was a first for the Assyrian community to come together in a breast cancer walk, in support of new research and development in medical technology, and becoming familiar with laws that represent women in Congress, and legislations that affect women's health - insurance, surgeries, and treatments.
Cancer is no longer a statistic, but a fact, and its numbers are staggering. This year alone, over 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, out of which 11,000 will be under the age of 40. Think it’s too soon? There are reported cases of some patients who have had full mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation by the time they are in their teens.
The Assyrian women are not immune to cancer. It leaves them no choice but to become proactive in early detection, knowledgeable in their choices of treatments, and outspoken about their own battle with breast cancer. The women of this year’s ‘Assyrians Walk for Hope’ breast cancer walk took a stand by joining thousands of others in the walk to fight breast cancer. They made a difference!
Assyrian Word Processor: Babylon
Nineveh Software Corporation is now conducting Public Beta Test 1 of Babylon, a multilingual word processor with high level support for Assyrian. If you are interested in becoming a beta tester, visit NSC's website (click here).
Babylon Beta 1 supports English and Assyrian. NSC is looking for Assyrians who know the language to test the Assyrian component of Babylon. For those who do not know Assyrian, they may test the English components.
Assyrian Volleyball Tournament in Europe
Assyrian Youth Federation Middle-Europe
Through this announcement we would like to invite all Assyrians ( Suryoye, Chaldoye, Suraye) in Germany and middle Europe to our annual Volleyball Tournament which will take place on 21 October 2006.
Several teams from Europe will battle for the first prize. Each team has both Assyrian women and men players.
In the past years the participation and attendance of the Assyrian youth from countries like east-Switzerland , Austria, Holland, and Germany has grown enormously. We are proud to see the Eastern Assyrian (Madenkhaye)'s participation growing more and more. Hundreds of Syrian Orthodox, Chaldeans, Church of the East and Syrian Catholics are united at this cultural event provided for you by the Assyrian Youth Federation of Middle Europe.
This years program will incorporate the following events:
The winners of the tournaments will be honored at the Evening Party.
As last year we hope to entertain our youth and audience with Assyrian entertainment besides the sportive performance of our young athletes.
Special thanks to Dr. Matay Arsan in Holland.
5th Annual Narsai's Taste of the Mediterranean Fundraising Gala Set for Friday 1 December
Michael E Bradley
The fifth annual Narsai's Taste of the Mediterranean fundraising dinner and auction will take place on Friday 1 December at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco.
Following a champagne and hors d’oeuvre reception, five celebrity chefs chosen by internationally
A highlight of the evening will be a live auction featuring an array of individual and package items
Individuals ticket prices start at $300. Sponsor pricing starts at $5000 for a table of ten. A portion of
All proceeds from the evening go to humanitarian projects in Northern Iraq.
The first four Narsai’s Taste of the Mediterranean dinners and auctions raised well over a half-million dollars for refugee relief, village reconstruction, education, and health projects in the Assyrians' ancestral homeland of Northern Iraq.
Further information is available on the official Narsai's Taste of the Mediterranean website at
The Assyrian Aid Society of America is a charitable organization recognized by the State of California and the government of the United States of America, dedicated to assisting needy Christian Assyrians in Northern Iraq and around the world. Over the past 15 years AAS-A has raised over $4 million to, with its sister organization, the Assyrian Aid Society – Iraq, to build schools, staff and supply medical clinics, facilitate life-saving surgeries, rebuild homes, irrigate farmlands, bring electricity to villages, and implement a host of other vital programs and services.
Celebrity Chefs Named for Narsai's Taste of the Mediterranean 2006
Michael E Bradley
Narsai David and the Assyrian Aid Society of America have chosen the celebrity chefs to participate in the fifth annual Narsai's Taste of the Mediterranean on Friday 1 December 2006 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco.
Creating the elegant five-course dinner for over 400 guests will be:
• Jan Birmbaum: Former Executive Chef at Campton Place in San Francisco, now chef-Partner
The first four Narsai’s Taste of the Mediterranean dinners and auctions raised well over a half-million dollars for refugee relief, village reconstruction, education, and health projects in the Assyrians' ancestral homeland of Northern Iraq. This year’s gala promises to be equally spectacular!
The Assyrian Aid Society of America is a charitable organization recognized by the State of California and the government of the United States of America, dedicated to assisting needy Christian Assyrians in Northern Iraq and around the world. Over the past 15 years AAS-A has raised over $4 million to, with its sister organization, the Assyrian Aid Society – Iraq, to build schools, staff and supply medical clinics, facilitate life-saving surgeries, rebuild homes, irrigate farmlands, bring electricity to villages, and implement a host of other vital programs and services.
The Traditional Assyrian Costumes
Samir Johna, MD, FACS
On October 4th, 2006, I was taken by surprise when I found myself alone in my Assyrian traditional costume (fig 1) among others at Woodbury University, department of fashion design, Burbank, California. Jean Kardously and Ninos Aho gave me the impression that there was an international festival for traditional costumes. It turned about to be a lecture delivered by Dale Gluckman, the former Curator of Costumes and Textiles at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, entitled,” Exotic Inspirations”. For centuries European and American fashion designers incorporated elements from traditional cultures in the creation of exciting new garments. The lecture was great! I enjoyed it tremendously. What a great speaker she was! However, I was put on the spot when I was asked to come up to the podium and tell the story of my costume! Here is what I had to say. Please excuse my inefficiencies or deficiencies since I was not prepared for it.
Thank you, Dale, for this enlightening and intriguing presentation. It has been a pleasant detour from my daily routine of surgery! I would like to thank you all for giving me this “unexpected” opportunity to talk about my Assyrian costume. But before that, it is only appropriate to answer a relevant question,” who are the Assyrians?”
For those of you who do not know, Assyrians are the indigenous people of Mesopotamia. Our history goes back to 6756 years ago. Having ruled the entire Middle East for many centuries, we excelled not only in wars but also in peace. Many of our discoveries and inventions are still alive today, speaking for one of the greatest civilizations ever known.
But ever since we lost our empire in 612 B.C., history has not been kind to us. During the first and the second centuries after Christ, Assyrians lived in small principalities in Northern Mesopotamia. One of them was Esrhoene, with Edessa being the capital. During his reign, Abgar Ukama sent a letter to Jesus asking him to come to Edessa and cure him, the king, of a fatal disease. According to Eusebius in his Historia Ecclesiastica, Jesus promised to send one of his disciples to cure the king and to convert him and those about him to life eternal once he was done with the work he was sent to accomplish. Disciple Thomas Judas sent Addai, one of the seventy apostles, who cured the king and converted the Assyrians in 32 A.D., making us the first nation in history to accept Christianity.
Through out the centuries Christianity became the cross that we had to endure, atrocity after another and genocide after another. Perhaps the worse was the forgotten holocaust that befell all Christians of the Middle East under the Ottoman Empire in 1915-1920. Over one million Armenian, 750,000 Assyrians, along with Greeks and other Christians, were slaughtered for no reason other than being Christians
Today there are only 4 millions of us scattered in over 33 countries around the world, being recognized by the United Nations as a nation without country. We have been stripped of our country and our contributions to history and humanity but will never be stripped of our identity and our will to survive. The fact that I am standing among you in my costume attests to this notion.
The costume I am wearing this evening belongs to a fraction of Assyrians, the Assyrian mountaineers also known as Tyaraye who lived in the mountains of Hakkari, Turkey. The Tyaraye costume, by virtue of its uniqueness as compared to the costumes of other neighboring nations, had turned by default into a national Assyrian Costume. The Costume is generally made from wool since cotton could not be planted in such rugged terrains.
The head cap is made from tightly compressed wool. It is usually decorated with ostrich and peacock feathers, a reflection, to the best of my knowledge, of a successful hunt. Over the years, it assumed a decorative role (fig 2). The upper torso is covered with three or 4 layers, the deepest being a white shirt with long sleeves, to which bilateral folded wedge-shaped white cloth are attached at right angles. The attachments are usually displayed during folklore dancing. The thin collar and the attachments are decorated with colorful embroidery (fig 3).
Next layer is an inner vest with similar embroidery (fig 4). The outer vest has long sleeves and is decorated with colorful embroidery, mostly along the sleeves and the shoulders. Strikingly, you can see numerous embroidered crosses as a symbol of our Christian identity (fig 5). During snow season, additional thick wool vest can be worn. The pants is very baggy, almost one size fits all, made of the same fabric as the outer vest (fig 6). The junction between the pants and the vest is covered by two belts, one relatively wide made of thick fabric, kept in place by a much narrower leather belt (fig 7). A long white crochet, decorated with colorful tassels is the outermost piece (fig 8). Under my belt and over the central chest I carry a dagger as a personal defense weapon (fig 7). The socks, tobacco sac, the money sac, and the shoes are all hand made from wool as well (fig 9). Of course, the description of this costume is never complete without the description of its female counterpart, which I hope we will get the opportunity to talk about sometime in the near future.
Thank you again for this opportunity which I was not prepared for. Please feel free to examine the additional set that I have displayed here. I will be happy to answer any question you may have.
The Assyrian Church of the East in India
Recently a business trip brought me to New Delhi, India. Towards the end of my week there, meetings scheduled for the afternoon ended early, and I found myself with some unexpected free time. Knowing a bit about the history of the Assyrian Church of the East, I was aware of the large community we have in Kerala ( South India). Prior to the trip, I looked to see what presence, if any, existed in New Delhi. All I could find was an address for the “Parish of Delhi.” So I arranged for a car and showed the driver the address.
Eventually we pulled into a subdivision in the western part of the city, which was quite poor by Western standards but perhaps lower-middle class by the standards of India.
We drove slowly through the narrow, dilapidated streets and asked the people outside to point us to the church. After circling the neighborhood several times, my driver and I exited the car and approached a building. We then came upon a plaque in front of a 3 rd floor apartment, which read “Fr. Mohan Konikkara.”
Both of us being a bit confused, we knocked on the door. Eventually a middle-aged Indian woman answered. She and my driver spoke in Hindi a bit. I was able to communicate to her in English that I had come here looking for a church and that I belonged to the same church as the Father. I then realized that this two-room apartment was the parish. On the wall was a simple cross above a makeshift altar. On the adjacent wall hung a calendar which, besides for some Hindi writing, had the following written in Assyrian letters: “Eeta d’Madinkha” (or Church of the East).
Later, after the Father had returned, we spoke about each other’s family and history. Father Konikkara told me of how was raised in Kerala and was ordained by Mar Aprem in 1976. It was there that he studied the scriptures and learned the ancient Syriac language. He explained that Mar Aprem had asked him (while still quite young and with a young family and wife) to move to New Delhi to organize the community there. The congregation is currently comprised of 31 families. As funds are limited, the parish is without a physical church. Father Konikkara himself keeps a full-time job with a government ministry. Every 3 to 4 months, the families meet in a space borrowed from another church, while other times they may meet in the deacons residence. For all other Sundays, Father Konikkara welcomes families into his home. Though the task of raising funds for a church is daunting, the Father and his wife describe the current situation as “temporary.” I wished the Father and his wife fortune in achieving their aim, and we promised to keep in contact with each other in the future.
For those who would like to learn more about the Assyrian Church of the East’s rich history in India, as well as Assyrian history for the past 2,000 years, I would highly recommend Christoph Baumer’s recent book, The Church of the East: An Illustrated History of Assyrian Christianity.” The book is a rare combination of excellent scholarly work and beautiful imagery.
Samaritans or the Shamerim (Assyrian Shamrayeh) are both a religious and an ethnic group. According to tradition, ethnically the Samaritans are the descendants of Assyrians & Jews who inter-married and who were not deported when the Assyrians conquered Israel in the 8th century B.C.
Religiously, they are the adherents to Samaritanism, a religion based on the Torah. Samaritans claim that their worship (as opposed to mainstream Judaism) is the true religion of the ancient Israelites, predating the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Perhaps not surprisingly, Jews dispute that.
The name Samaritans appears only once in the Old Testament, in II Kings 17:29 where it is used for those colonist newcomers, planted by the Assyrians, who persisted in their pagan ways.
Historically, Samaritans are said to have come from intermarriages of certain Israelites with the colonists from Babylon and other parts of Mesopotamia and Syria. These colonists had been placed by the King Sargon II and King Esarhaddon, after the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been conquered and the stronghold at Samaria fell to the Assyrians. It resulted in thousands of Israelites being deported away, never to be heard from again, and colonists being chosen by the Assyrians and placed in Samaria along with a governor.
In 2005 there were about 700 Samaritans, living mostly in Kiryat Luza on the holy Mount Gerizim near the city of Nablus in the West Bank, and in the city of Holon in Israel. In the photo above, Samaritans pray during the pilgrimage for the holy day of the Tabernacles, or Sukkot, atop of Mount Gerizim in the West Bank.
The Samaritans speak either Modern Hebrew or Palestinian Arabic as their mother language. For liturgical purposes, Samaritan Hebrew and Samaritan Aramaic are used.
Dr. Ray Takeyh
Ray Takeyh is a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council of Foreign Relations. He is the author of the newly published book: Hidden Iran, Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic (October 2006) which examines the complexities of Iranian politics and its relationship with its regional counterparts and with the U.S.
Dr. Takeyh is Assyrian and works in Washington DC. His father is from the village of Takeyh-Ardishai in Urmia, Iran.
Dr. Takeyh's area of concentration is Iran, the political reform in the Middle East; North Africa; and the political Islam
He is the Contributing Editor of the National Interest and was a Professor of National Security Studies at the National War College; Professor and Director of Studies for the Near East and South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University.
Dr. Takeyh was a Fellow in International Security Studies at Yale University; a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; a fellow at the Center for Middle East Studies at University of California, Berkeley.
Dr. Takeyh fluently speaks Farsi (Persian) and has working knowledge of Arabic.
His honors include the John M. Olin Fellowship; Sir Raymond Carr Award; Arnold Bryce and the Read Award in Modern History from Oxford University.
Council on Foreign Relations' Review of Hidden Iran:
For more than a quarter of a century, few countries have been as resistant to American influence or understanding as Iran. The United States and Iran have long eyed each other with suspicion, all too eager to jump to conclusions and slam the door. With the new hard-line Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, making incendiary pronouncements and pressing for nuclear development, the consequences of not understanding Iran have never been higher.
In Hidden Iran, Ray Takeyh has written a groundbreaking book that reveals how the underappreciated domestic political rivalries within Iran serve to explain the country’s behavior on the world stage. A leading expert on Iran’s politics and history, Takeyh shows why this country has so often confounded American expectations and inspired a long series of misguided U.S. policies that continue to this day. And yet there is a hidden Iran beyond what we see on the news or hear about from American politicians, one in which political factions jockey for power and influence, politicians fall out of favor only to reemerge a few years later, and the hardliners, the pragmatists, and the reformers tend to counterbalance one another in the government.
Takeyh introduces us to the leading players on all sides and shows how the game of political chess is played in Iran. Much of the saber rattling that so alarms outsiders, he shows, serves primarily to shore up wavering domestic support; in fact, the current nuclear standoff features an inside-outside dynamic similar to the hostage crisis of 1979-81, which Ayatollah Khomeini used to divide his political opponents and secure his own power.
Takeyh explains the Iranian view of the world, which transcends political affiliation, and the prominent role the country seeks to play in the Persian Gulf region, in the wider Muslim world, and in relation to its neighbors in Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. He also offers keen insight into Iran’s tumultuous bilateral relations with Iraq, Israel, and the United States, showing how the U.S. invasion of Iraq has actually put Iran in its strongest strategic position since the first days of the revolution.
Hidden Iran points the way toward a new way of managing America ’s relationship with Iran, making a persuasive case that the countries’ differing world views need not lead inexorably to conflict.
The internationally acclaimed Assyrian-Turkish artist, Eser Afacan was born in Mardin, Turkey in 1953. He was born to an Assyrian father, also an artist, and a Greek Orthodox mother.
Eser began drawing at a very young age. He studied in Manchester, England before he came to Norway in 1978, to study math and physics at the University of Bergen. While a student, he met well known Norwegian artist Odd Nerdrum and in 1984, Eser became a student of Odd Nerdrum. He has lived in England and Norway for the past 32 years. His two children were born in Norway.
In 1986, Eser held his first exhibition, and since that year, he has exhibited in many countries. He and his family moved to Canada in 2003, and have made their home in Kingston. He is a master in drawing and painting who takes his work very seriously, both as an artist and as a teacher. Eser himself requested that this page be more personal than just a conventional biography.
The following is an attempt by his friend Espen Harward to describe the artist"
"It is not easy to describe Eser within a single page of words. I began work with Eser as a consultant for some of his technical systems. During my work with Eser I became interested in his art and his philosophy on life. What had started as work had become a passion, and the relationship formed by our regular discussions led me towards feeling more like a friend. Eser is a master of skills in many fields. He has been studying mathematics and physics, and has an impressive knowledge of the human brain. He is also very interested and constantly curious about all technical things, and he can learn everything about a machine or a computer just after reading the manual once. I am sure that if someone showed Eser how to fly an airplane, after only one lesson he could fly it perfectly without further instructions. As an artist, when talking about his work, he said: 'I do not paint and draw to be remembered. I give myself to serve the country where I live'. I think he is using his profession to develop himself and his mind. Thus I believe that his art is indeed a tool for greater goals. For the same reason I know Eser had and still has a problem with art-critics in newspapers. These people will not leave him in peace with his work. On the other hand I am sure that one day, he will show the world that art critics are doing more harm than good within the art world. Just to illustrate the unique journey of Eser Afacan, he once applied to the Norwegian government to stay in prison for two years. So he could be left in peace to continue his work. He also wanted to change someone with a criminal background, to show people how progress in the inner soul can be made through art and how it can improve that person's life. I know that a lot of people have tried to do such a thing with religion as a tool. With Eser there would be no religion at all, only art and self-development. 'Prison should not be a penalty, but a place to give people back what is missing.' Yet again, Eser is ready to give himself to art, and to make a new start in Canada . This way he can devote more time to develop new exiting techniques, and to plan new exhibitions for the future. Hopefully he can also dedicate more time to his wife and two beautiful children."
To view Afacan's impressive paintings and drawings click here.
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