Volume IV, Issue 34
Kanoon I 28, 6748 December 28, 1998
|The Lighthouse||Iran Today... A First Look|
|Good Morning Bet-Nahrain||Zowaa Press Release
ADO & ZAVD Press Release
|News Digest||Christmas Celebrations in Baghdad|
|Surfs Up||"You clearly contradict yourselves."|
|Surfers Corner||Plight of an Assyrian-Iraqi Family
Peace, But Little Comfort or Joy
Christians Pray For an End to Iraq's Woes
|Calendar of Events||Entertainment & Cultural Events|
|Assyrian Surfing Posts||Ishtar's Quarterly Magazine|
|Pump up the Volume||Conversation & Talking|
|Back to the Future||Bit Yakin's Nabopolassar & Hulagu's Assyrian General|
|Literatus||The Destruction of the Sodomites|
|This Week in History||Mar Aprim Zaia|
|Bravo||Chaldean Federation of America|
All blue links throughout this issue are hyperlinks to other sections on this page or featured websites.
I R A N T O D A Y
A FIRST LOOK
Recently, a group of Assyrians visited Iran. The 23rd Congress of the Assyrian Universal Alliance was convening in Tehran, which smoothed the issuance of tourist visas to Assyrian applicants, whether affiliated with AUA or not.
Early one morning, small numbers of us landed at Heathrow Airport in London, arriving mostly from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Detroit. We each proceeded from Terminal 3 to Terminal 2, to check in at the counter of Iran Air. The flight to Tehran was not scheduled to leave until later that afternoon, and therefore we lingered for several hours in the confines of a shopping arcade typical of so many airports.
Finally we checked in our luggage, and we proceeded to the Iran Air departure gate. There in the waiting area, one brusquely encountered a different scene, namely, every single female passenger wore a head cover and ankle-length apparel, and the color black dominated all clothing. The 20 or 25 of us (just a tiny number among the predominantly non-Assyrian boarding passengers) gathered in a corner where we were reminded that, on arrival at Tehran airport, and when greeting those awaiting us there, it would be best to forego any physical contact with members of the opposite sex. One Los Angeles Assyrian had already draped herself in black, head to toe, in deference to Iranian protocol, but she seemed somewhat stupefied by this advisory. "I have not seen my nephew and his family for 25 years. Do you mean that I can't hug and kiss him in public?"
The flight to Tehran took approximately 5 hours, and we arrived at 1 am. Suffice it to say that the film entertainment offered on the plane did not bear any resemblance to anything which might be seen on the usual airline. As for the food on board, those accustomed to flying United Airlines would not be disappointed.
We breezed through Passport Control, and waited a good while at Customs Control, where we chatted with a handful of young Assyrian men who had come from the Tehran Assyrian Association (Motwa) to welcome us. Before our eyes, the luggage of other incoming passengers was being thoroughly searched. Not so for us. Once all in our group and their luggage had been assembled, the Tehran Assyrians escorted by one or two Persian officials simply walked us around the search area. And very suddenly, we found ourselves outside, facing a throng of hundreds of Assyrians waiting to greet us in the early morning hour. Many of course were relatives and friends, and everywhere there were hugs and kisses, previous caution notwithstanding. November weather was mild on arrival and throughout.
Two weeks later, when we departed Iran, our group was once again escorted by Motwa persons. Several in our group were surprised by Iran Air's assessments for overweight luggage. But this can often happen with overseas carriers, and it should serve as warning to future travelers who plan to return with lots of goodies. But as far as the passport and customs authorities were concerned, once again we seemed to benefit from deferential treatment.
Two decades after the revolution Iran shows signs of change, although certainly this is not an unambiguous process. On the anniversary date commemorating seizure of the U.S. Embassy and the taking of American hostages, I was visiting a girls' elementary school. As it happened, this was also the anniversary of the storming of the U.S. Embassy, a day which has traditionally been commemorated with widespread burning of the Stars and Stripes and the public venting of insults at the Great Satan, America. On this day, there were in fact heated arguments in public squares about town over this subject. But perhaps as an omen of things to come, there was to be no flag-burning this year. And at the school I visited, the past practice of burning the American flag was now mentioned half-facetiously.
This is not the place to revisit the deplorable conduct of the West which led to the 1979 upheaval, nor the Orwellian excesses which followed. But the election of Mohammad Khatami in May 1997 does seem to have turned a new page. According to official figures, over 80% of voters cast a ballot in that election. Most of the leading clerics endorsed his opponent, yet Khatami received nearly 70% of the vote cast. Among other outcomes, this result also promised a sharp political cleavage.
In foreign relations, most of us saw Khatami's CNN interview in January, when he invited Americans to a "thoughtful dialogue" with Iranians. But what is probably more intriguing is the way he is seeking a return to reason and temperance in domestic affairs. It is not so easy to turn the corner on the last two decades. According to news accounts, several activists have recently been killed in Iran. To date, the perpetrators remain unidentified. The targets were outspoken editorialists or leaders of small reform parties, and probably they had been emboldened to speak their views by the new President's moderate tone. For their part, it is widely assumed that the assassins were registering their opposition to the rhetoric of moderation. Khatami is determined to find and punish the killers, and to rein in the so-called hard-liners. In Tehran's Byzantine division of public authority, Khatami and his group do not control the security services. It will be interesting to observe his progress in the face of this fact.
The new President is seen to symbolize a more enlightened and just society, a society which in the current Iranian context is considered "progressive" (easing censorship of films and books; the sprouting of new newspapers and magazines; and the birth of a number of new cultural associations and political groups). But this should not mask the great cultural divide which remains between Iran's society and our own. For example, just before our arrival in Iran, the Parliament had concluded a long and heated debate over a proposal which would have made it illegal for a physician to treat a patient of the opposite sex. Apparently, the measure was defeated only after it was forcefully argued that Iran does not have enough female physicians to treat the female population.
In a recent interview published in the Los Angeles Times, a Persian female immigrant declared her continued love for Iran, but described today's strict laws controlling women to be "a cruel and capricious torment". Another female émigré living in Iran-geles pointed out: "If you're a Persian woman back home, you'd marry the devil himself if he got you out of Iran What do Persian women here have to go back to? Men would survive back there, women would not." Sentiments such as these were voiced on several occasions by some of the women in our own traveling party.
But what I found interesting was the muted attitude of many of the women who still live there. There was a rare exception here and there, but for the most part Assyrian females in Iran have accepted the social reality in a way which goes beyond mere resignation. It should be remembered that many teenagers there have never known a time when the public mores were anything other than those of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is true that because of the ubiquitous (though not legal) satellite dishes, most of the youngsters are aware of Western life styles, but this is hardly an adequate window to the outside world.
As for women who are old enough to remember 'the old days' of tolerance, they have coped psychologically by coming to terms unequivocally with the daunting order which dawned on them 20 years ago. They instinctively wear one form of dress in the privacy of their home, and most matter-of-factedly another form before stepping out their door. Presumably, once they come to a Western country, it takes them some time to lose this and similar habits.
From the Assyrian point of view, the Iranian revolution and its 20-year rule has led to drastic consequences. I refer in particular to the emigration of our people to the West. Isn't it ironic that, while there are now palpable signs of a 'better tomorrow' in Iran, we are down to less than 10,000 Assyrians in the entire country. Moreover, conversations with various members of our community leads to the conclusion that, provided the chance, most of them would join their brethren in the diaspora. This is both distressing and understandable, each for obvious reasons.
Santa Barbara, California
Francis Sarguis is the English Language Editor of the Journal of the Assyrian Academic Studies. The first of Mr. Sarguis' series of essays on Iran appeared in our November 23rd issue (Click Here).
GOOD MORNING BET-NAHRAIN
AN ADM (ZOWAA) PRESS RELEASE
Assyrian Democratic Movement
In light of the current military strike by the United States and Britain, the Assyrian Democratic Movement calls the world's attention to the true victims of the Iraqi regime: The Iraqi people.
As we watch the pictures of bombs exploding in our homeland, our thoughts are with our suffering Iraqi people. We pray that they will be spared from attack, and that the regime's instruments of dictatorship are the principal targets.
The Assyrian Democratic Movement has been in opposition to Saddam Husseins regime since its inception in 1979. In the wake of the Gulf War, we have sent a consistent message to the international community, including the United States government: THE POLICY OF SANCTIONS AND CONTAINMENT OF IRAQ IS A LOSING PROPOSITION BECAUSE IT PUNISHES THE IRAQI PEOPLE, NOT THEIR DICTATOR.
We advocate a change from the current policy of sanctions and containment to a policy of active support for the broad Iraqi opposition parties to bring about the downfall of Saddam Hussein. That is the only road towards a democratic, free Iraq living in peace and security with its neighbors.
The Assyrian Democratic Movement is encouraged that world leaders and world public opinion have come to the conclusions that have motivated our own movement since 1979. The only long-term policy that will have any measure of success is to enable the Iraqi people to get rid of this brutal regime, and to finally bring about an environment of democracy and peace.
We hope that the present campaign is the beginning of an escalating process to limit the regime's ability to impose its dictatorship, while at the same time supporting the broad opposition to liberate the country. Limited attacks that are not followed by a consistent strategy to bring down the regime will only prolong the suffering of the real victims of Saddam's regime: The innocent people of Iraq.
Contact: Lincoln Malik, Ph.D.
Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) Representative in US and Canada
AN APPEAL FROM TURKEY'S MINORITY GROUPS
Central Organisation of the Assyrian Associations in the Federal
Republic of Germany (ZAVD)
Assyrian Democratic Organisation (ADO) - Section Europe
Central Council of Armenians in Germany (ZAD)
Association of Greek Communities in the Federal Republic of Germany (OEK)
Kimkar Union of Associations from Kurdistan
Kurdish Community in Germany
Associations of Cypriots in Germany
December 14, 1998
IN CONSIDERATION of the fact that the most recent crisis between
Italy and Turkey has clearly and realistically been recognised
by the European Parliament in its true quality and dimension as
falling into the All European responsibility, and considering the fact that the point at issue itself has already been deemed by the Vatican as an issue of the recognition of ethnical minorities and their
unalienable human rights as well as of their expectations for national sovereignty which problem urgently ought to be brought to a peaceful solution
We, as representatives of peoples with members living as minorities in Turkey, take notice also of the following recent developments in that matter:
- the threat of "eternal hostility" launched against Italy by
- the 'warnings', threats and blackmailing voiced against European governments by the NATO member Turkey;
- the Turkish inciting of the population of Turkish origin living in Europe which resulted in two Kurdish houses and one Assyrian café having been burnt down in Belgium and the social peace in European
countries having been and still being massively threatened;
- the fanatising of the Turkish population in Turkey to the effect that Italy warned her citizens about visiting Turkey because she couldn't guarantee their safety anymore;
- the instrumentalisation of trade and economy for the political purposes of the Turkish state in form of an illegal boycott against Italy;
- the unscrupulous abuse of the freedom of press by Turkey for the purposes of a systematic agitation among her population and its incitement so that there are well-founded fears for the lives and the
safety of all those persons in Turkey who do not join up to the state propaganda, i.e. Turkish opposition members, but, above all, all members of ethnical and religious minorities: Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Kurds etc. ..... ;
Those most recent events lead us as representatives being concerned and affected by those dangerous developments to direct the following appeal to the national and international organisations and institutions as well as to the governments of the world and especially to those of Europe:
We herewith invoke against the state of Turkey the democratic sense of right, justice and law as well as the respect for human rights together with the resolute will and principled determination to defend them as being expressed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and as being materialized in the institution of the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court for the punishment and prevention of genocide the establishment of which has been decided on in Rome in July 1998.
AGAINST THE BACKGROUND of the following exemplary selection of
crimes perpetrated by the
state of Turkey and/or her legal predecessor, the Ottoman Empire, respectively:
- the genocide still being denied by Turkey as committed against 1.5 million Armenians, 300,000 Pontos-Greeks, more than 700,000 Christian Assyrians (two thirds of the people) in the years 1915-1923 and following, forced Islamisation and Turkification, abductions, kidnapping of women and children, and against the background of the genocide which is currently being carried out against the Kurds;
On November 26, 1979 the New York Times wrote:
According to the most recent statistics, the Christian population in Turkey has diminished from 4,500,000 at the beginning of this century to just about 150,000. Of those, the Greeks are no more than 7,000. Yet, in 1923 they were as many as 1.2 million.
- the still ongoing actual forced Turkification, oppression,
torture, murder, expulsion and annihilation of ethnic and religious
minorities leading to periodical massacres;
- the shut down of the Greek-Orthodox seminar in Chalki and the recently ordained dissolution of its supervisory committee marking the last step towards the elimination of that institution;
- the massive interference and impediment of this year's elections of the spiritual leader of the Armenians living in Turkey;
- the absolute ban on teaching the mother tongue of Assyrian Christians in Turkey and the recent ban on educating and training clerical staff in the monasteries of Tur Abdin, South Eastern Turkey;
- the de facto hostage-taking of Christian and other minorities committed by the Turkish state due to which the complete and unbiased disclosure of Turkish crimes in public as well as any intervention to
aid and relief the victims and due to which especially the public preferment of charges against Turkey before an international court on the grounds of state terrorism has been blocked so far;
- the oppression of the freedom of press and expression and the persecution, torture and murdering of thousands of intellectuals, journalists, writers and scientists who were not willing to submit to
the state course;
- the murderous embargo which Turkey still upholds against Armenia;
- the deadly "village guards" system in South Eastern Turkey which has been set up in the course of the Turkish annihilation policy
against the Kurds, but the barbarian terror and murders of which also the neutral and non-siding minority of Christian Assyrians has fallen and is still falling prey to;
- the continued internationally unlawful and illegal occupation of Northern Cyprus constituting a violation of the UN security council resolutions condemning that annexation;
- the continued extinction especially of Christian cultural heritage in Turkey and in those regions which are either occupied or periodically raided and attacked by Turkey;
- the brutal Turkish incursions and invasions into Northern Iraq taking place at regular intervals which bring devastation, death and sufferings to the people of the various nations there and constitute a
clear infringement upon the principle of the inviolability of the territorial and political sovereignty of states as established in international law;
- the military threats against Syria leading to the brink of war which proves once again that Turkey is the major factor of instability in this sensitive world region;
- the blackmailing of Near Eastern states over the water supply from Euphrates and Tigris.
WE HEREWITH URGE EMPHATICALLY:
- the immediate and unconditional stop of all arms deliveries
- that all protagonists of world politics immediately set out to revise, reconsider and recalculate their policy towards Turkey which ought to be designed on the basis of a clearly defined and effective
concept in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
- the full awareness and complete fulfilment of the All European responsibility for immediately making substantial, creative and efficient contributions to problem solving;
- the relentless scrutiny of the actual ALLOVER SITUATION OF ALL ETHNICAL AND RELIGIOUS MINORITIES, i.e. of peoples that have been declared and marginalized as minorities and that have been or still continue to be forcibly Turkified;
- concrete, drastic and far-reaching corrective measures to tangibly improve the conditions of our peoples in Turkey and to end their plight;
- to abandon the exclusive and overriding priority of the mere power-political and administrative concept of citizenship/nationality or of forced affiliation to a so called 'unitary state' such as Turkey over and at the cost of any oppressed and suppressed ethnic and cultural identity;
This corrected stand is to be taken not only towards Turkey but also towards the countries of diaspora where ethnical minorities from Turkey live: e.g., there is definitely nothing such as 2 million 'Turks' in the Federal Republic of Germany but among them there is a considerable proportion of this population with a different ethnic or national identity of their own (Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Greeks, Laz etc. Their unalienable identities which they have been deprived of still continue to be denied to them by Turkification in the form of forcibly implanting a 'Turkish identity' by means of compulsory Turkish names on them;
- the world-wide official and public recognition of the ethnical
and cultural identity and the respective rights of ALL MINORITIES
living in or coming from Turkey;
- the urgently needed implementing, complying with and guaranteeing of human rights as well as of the self-determination for ALL ETHNICAL AND RELIGIOUS MINORITIES in Turkey (Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds etc. ...);
- the top priority elaboration of concepts and strategies for peaceful solutions to exclude and prevent state and group terror, state and group egoisms as well as state and group chauvinism;
- the establishment of an international truth commission as an indispensable basis for the above;
- the installation of qualified special commissions and permanent special conferences elaborating on problem solution and
- the prioritarian involvement of the International Criminal Court the establishment of which has been decided on in Rome in July 98;
- the examination of the propaganda of the Turkish press and other media especially outside Turkey with an eye to the violation of principles and basic values of democracy and human rights as well as
the scrutiny of the aggressive Turkish influencing of university chairs and media in countries others than Turkey;
- the relentless scrutiny of the indoctrination, manipulation, fanatisation and instrumentalisation of Turks living outside Turkey for the power-political purposes of the Turkish state and appropriate
counter-measures to defend the freedom of personal opinion forming and expression and to preserve and secure social peace and stability in countries with a Turkish population,
- the active development of creative economic concepts and strategies to avoid and prevent Turkish blackmailing in the field of trade and economy,
- the non-admission of Turkey to the EU unless the above cited conditions are completely fulfilled in a lasting and controllable way.
We regard this as a historical opportunity for Europe as well
as for the people in Turkey and beyond that in the entire Near
East for the sake of a comprehensive just and peaceful solution
to the region being
indispensable for global security and stability.
We herewith assure you of our readiness to actively co-operate
to the best of our abilities and with all resources at our disposal
to make substantial contributions to problem solving in the spirit
rights, justice and peace as it was recently urged by the Federal Republic of Germany and Italy.
Considering the urgent character of the problem we are looking forward to your highly appreciated earliest possible reply.
Contact: Project Group
Armenian Centre in Dortmund & Assyrian Democratic Organisation (ADO - Section Europe)
Phone + Fax: (049)-231-430 107
CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS IN BAGHDAD
(ZNAF: Baghdad) Thousands of Baghdad's Christians turned out last Thursday night to celebrate midnight mass in some 50 churches, only five days after the capital was rocked by deadly US and British missile attacks. In the eastern and mostly Christian area of Al-Karrada, the four days of violent bombings seemed far away as the faithful poured in to pour out their souls on this the eve of Christmas. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) some 230 seriously wounded patients were being treated in Iraqi hospitals.
On the side of one of the main roads, an illuminated Church of the Virgin Mary drew in well-dressed people. Men in fresh-pressed suits accompanied women wearing golden crosses around their necks. Behind them their children, shoes brightly polished and the young girls' hair plaited and tied back. Inside the church the air was heavy with the strong scent of perfume and a hubbub of murmurs rose and fell in anxious expectation.
"Tonight it's mainly the middle classes here. The poorer people will come to mass tomorrow morning -- the taxi fare is cheaper," a member of the congregation confided. "What will we do tomorrow? Drink. A lot," a smiling Tewfik said, who, rather aptly, said he sold whiskey for a living. "The family will get together, we'll be about 30. There'll be turkey, and we'll go on a trip, maybe Habbaniyeh," to the west of Baghdad, previously one of the Middle East's popular tourist destinations.
To one side stood Amar, a 34-year-old from the northern city of Mosul, and his wife Sarab, who clutched her 14-day-old infant to her. Mosul, near the site of ancient Nineveh, was bombed by the U.S. forces in the region, earlier this week. This week Iraq began defying the no-fly zones imposed by the Western Allies following the 1991 Gulf War. "As a Christian I'm sad to see what is happening in my country. These lies, tricks, thieving and bribes. It's become something normal since we were plunged into poverty and confusion," said another member of the congregation.
This year Christmas takes place during the Moslem holy month of Ramadan, where believers fast from sunrise to sunset. But that has not stopped the city's Moslem majority from joining in the fun. "I'm a Moslem, but I like the atmosphere," said Mohammad as he pressed his two young children into the arms of a Santa Claus entertaining the children on the street.
"We go to mass in the morning, buy some new clothes for the kids
and then we go home to eat our 'bacha'," a meal cooked from a
sheep's head, legs and intestines, said Sameer, who was
accompanying his wife and three young children to church. Most will restrict themselves to a few sweets and visits to other families, said Father Douglas Al-Basi, a priest in a neighbouring church. "We have about 700 families here, most of them very poor. We give out sweets and we have a Father Christmas for the children, something we took from the West. But we've added our own touches -we have a Mother Christmas as well," he said. According to Iraq's Health Ministry almost 9,000 people, mostly children below the age of five, died during November because of international sanctions which block vital imports.
There are 750,000 Christians in this sanctions-hit state of some
22 million people, most of them from Iraq's Chaldean denomination.
In Iraq, there is generally freedom of religious expression. But
in private, some Christians say they are sometimes treated like second-class citizens. There are however exceptions to this rule, including Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz. Back in the church the mass has started in Assyrian...
"In Iraq we are a miracle people. Even with everything we suffer, the bombs and the blockade, when Christmas comes we are all happy. There is pain inside but we are happy," Father Douglas said.
"Dear Zenda Editors: Merry Christmas and happy New Year to all
of you. I do really enjoy reading Zenda weekly. Today I read
the Bahrain Tribune, www.bahraintribune.com, in their December
23, 1998 issue an article about Tareq Aziz. To my amazement, I noticed for the first time in an Arab publication a reference to Tareq Aziz as an Assyrian Christian from Mosul I wanted to share that with you. The internet newspaper is very widely publicizes in the world."
PLIGHT OF AN IRAQI ASSYRIAN FAMILY
For four years since they fled Iraq to Jordan, we have been trying
to find safe haven for my parents and two sisters. They cannot
stay in Jordan. They cannot go back to Iraq. They cannot apply
refugee status as they are denied entry into the countries that have U.S. Overseas INS offices. They have not been able to receive haven from other countries.
Our friends witnessing our struggle for the past four years ask in puzzlement "why can't this be solved?" My husband answers "It's 1939, the Nazis are coming and the borders are closed to Jews!" Sixty years later, Saddam is here, and all borders are closed to Iraqis.
We Assyrians have been persecuted for centuries. The Iraqi government's policy of Arabization has bought the goal of their persecution to light. They are wiping out our culture. They're wiping out the Assyrians.
I fled Iraq to Greece in 1990 and received refugee status through the U.S. Overseas INS office in Athens. My brother fled Iraq to Austria in 1992 and received refugee status through the U.S. Overseas INS office in Vienna. There are only 10 U.S. Overseas INS offices in the world where one can apply for refugee status. Although Mexico has three of the ten offices, the Middle East and Africa have none.
Thank God Jordan allows Iraqis entry. However, Jordan is far from a safe haven. Jordan charges Iraqis a per diem head tax to "remain" in their country. Jordan restricts the movement of Iraqis and does not allow them to work. It occasionally deports Iraqis back to Iraq as a reminder to all that they are unwanted guests. It is made clear that Iraqis are not welcome in Jordan- just tolerated.
We Assyrians have been in Diaspora since the Assyrian Holocaust. As a family, we have been praying to reunite. This unfortunately is not possible and my family cannot be reunited.
After one year as a refugee and temporary resident, five years as a permanent resident, and one year of waiting, I am finally a U.S. citizen. I have applied for my parents as Alien Relatives and in six to eight months my parents will hopefully have U.S. visas. For my sisters, however, it would take twelve to fifteen years to get a U.S. visa. They cannot stay in Jordan that long.
My family has had their interview with the U.N. Commission on Refugees postponed three times. We are loosing hope in U.N. assistance.
We are trying to get my sisters refugee status in any country.
For Canada it takes five individuals, a church, or other organization
to sponsor a refugee. The Lutherans helped my brother and me
refugee status. Where are the Assyrian Churches and Assyrian organizations? Shouldn't we be helping our people in need? Can anyone help my sisters get refugee status in Canada, Australia, Sweden, New
Any and all assistance would be appreciated. Please contact me at email@example.com.
Nadia Shaol Rosskothen
We urge our readers with similar requests to contact Congresswoman
Anna Eshoo at (202) 225-8104. Click Here
Congresswoman Eshoo is an Assyrian serving her fourth term in the U.S. Congress representing California's 14th Congressional District and assists Assyrians with similar immigration problems.
PEACE, BUT LITTLE COMFORT OR JOY
With the permission of The Guardian, United Kingdom
December 21, 1998
Despite a ceasefire, David Sharrock finds little evidence of seasonal cheer among members of the city's shrinking Christian community
It will be a peaceful Christmas after all in Baghdad. At least
that the Syrian Catholic congregation of the Cathedral of Our
Lady of Deliverance were praying for yesterday as they gathered
for Sunday Mass.
Munzer Kazanchi, a Christian Arab, had been listening intently to the BBC World Service all night. Although the news was good, his family had still chosen to stay home this morning instead
of accompanying him to church.
Of Baghdad's estimated 250,000 Syrian Catholics, some 200 were gathered in their modern cathedral for the last Sunday before Christmas Day. It should have been a joyful morning but the mass was dedicated to Mr. Kazanchi's cousin, Fuad Nakasha, who died three days earlier of heart attack.
After a sombre service, the congregation of smartly dressed elderly
men and women, with a few children spilled out of the cathedral
and chatted briefly with one another in front of a grotto dedicated
to the Virgin Mary. Mr. Kazanchi and other relatives were in
no doubt that it was the overnight bombing raids that had caused
Fuad's heart to fail. 'He was in perfect health, a civil engineer
with a wife and
children to support.' said Mr. Kazanchi. Another cousin of the dead man, 28 year-old Ra'ad Nakasha said 'He was only 60 and was a good and active man but the bombs really upset him. He just woke up one morning, had breakfast and then suddenly we lost him'.
The profile of Baghdad's small Christian community fitted Ra'ad like a glove; highly educated, relatively wealthy and emigrating. He said he hoped to join his brother soon in New Zealand, but when asked why he wanted to leave, he abruptly made his apologies and left. A middle-aged woman, after being assured that her name would not be printed, took me to one side and admitted that the Christian community was shrinking fast. 'Those who can get out are doing so. I want my children to go too, but I will stay. I am too old to begin again' she said. 'But I have a question also for you. Can you tell me what these bombs have achieved? 'Has anything changed between now and before last week? Only our suffering has increased, nothing else'. Mr. Kazanchi said the air strikes had cast a shadow over their Christmas celebrations. His wife would cook a turkey stuffed with rice and lamb and he would buy gifts for his daughter and son.
But their friends from Jordan, who had arrived to spend Christmas
season with them a week earlier, had returned home when the bombs
began to fall so they felt very sad and alone. The priest, Monsignor
Rafael Kuteimy, turned to speak 'These are very sad days...........'
CHRISTIANS PRAY FOR AN END TO IRAQ'S WOES
With the permission of Toronto Star
Olivia Ward at the European Bureau
December 26, 1998
"If we cry, it is no solution," Father Nadeer Dakko tells his congregation, as he stands in front of a statue of a grieving Virgin Mary. "If we make war, it is no solution. We can only make peace within ourselves." The soft-voiced priest's heartfelt prayer is aimed not just at his own church but at all Iraqis, as a time of much torment and little peace.
Christmas comes one week after the American-led bombing raids
against Iraq's suspected deadly weapons sites, and few in this
country believe they are the last. But the 500,000-strong Iraqi
Christian community have flocked to their parishes to pray, celebrate,
and forget for a few hours their desperate plight in a country
in economic ruins. Although they are a small minority of Iraq's
mainly Muslim 22 million people, their influence is evident in
the festive decorations and twinkling Christmas trees displayed
throughout Baghdad. "People have such strong faith,'' says Dakko,
"because the church is
really the centre of their lives.''
It isn't just a religious platitude. The aptly named Mother of
Sorrows church, in the impoverished, seething Rashid St. market
district of Baghdad, is a nerve centre for social support, entertainment
and solace. In the eight years since the Persian Gulf War, the
Iraqi dinar slipped from three times the value of the U.S. dollar
to nearly two thousand times less. The shock waves battered Iraqis
at all economic levels. But especially Dakko's parishioners, many
of them refugees from the country's war-torn
Kurdish region. In the sparsely decorated church, with its spindly Christmas tree, women cloaked in black preserve the dress code of their old villages, where they kept sheep and lived comfortably on the land.
But the Kurdish separatist struggle, which began in the 1960s
and led to a brutal climax of chemical attacks by Saddam Hussein
in the 1980s -as well as the Iran-Iraq war - made life impossible
for them and they fled to Baghdad. Then warfare caught up with
them again. United Nations
sanctions brought economic collapse. "Even if they have jobs, they are hardly able to live,'' says Dakko.
"They can only afford rented rooms, which they share. Sometimes they have no money for rent. Many people are sick, and they can't pay for medicine and doctors.''
Dakko's church does what it can to help, giving the priests a second full-time job of humanitarian aid, supported by Iraqi Christians who have fled the country. The church gives weekly picnics for children and dances for needy teenagers, pays rent for the destitute, and runs workshops that provide jobs and keep people from despair. It buys medicine and pays doctors to visit the sick. The huge range of services the church of 5,000 members has taken on demonstrates how badly the fabric of Iraqi society has shredded. Most of Dakko's parishioners are trapped by their poverty. But those Christians who can have emigrated by the thousands, and the trend has been accelerated by the international crisis of the past few months. "There are many branches of the church in Iraq, and it's very rich faith,'' says Vatican delegate Carlo Maria Vigano, who crossed 800 kilometres of desert to celebrate mass in Baghdad's Latin church.
Apart from the traditional Catholic church there is the large
Iraq-based Chaldean church and branches of the Armenian and Greek
Orthodox and Syrian Catholic churches. On Christmas Eve in the
elegant gold-trimmed Syrian church, the contrast with Dakko's
parish is striking as well-groomed families pack
the aisles and hallways. The relative affluence of the church-goers makes it appear that there
is little discrimination against Christians in this country that is famous for cruel repression. The worries facing the members are more economic than political, and as they pray for tranquillity in the coming
year they know the answers are not in their hands.
"Life has been very different since the sanctions,'' says Sana,
a mother of two. "Things have become more difficult every year.''
The strain shows on many faces as Archbishop Matti Shaba Matoka
his sermon, calling for peace and tolerance. "We may be Christians but we're Iraqis,'' insists Mariam, an economist who came with her two daughters. ``A lot of people have left because they have no faith. We
believe our country, and the Christian community, will stay strong.''
Her words bring nods from her neighbours. None of them knows what the next year, or the next Christmas will hold. ``O Lord make haste to help us,'' Matti intones as the service come to an end, and the smell of incense blankets the air. ``O Lord make haste to save the people.''
There is silence. And a long amen.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
NEW YEAR'S EVE PARTY
Assyrian Aid Society / Santa Clara Chapter
NEW YEAR'S EVE PARTY
1999 New Year's Eve Dinner Dance Party
NUZI & THE HURRIANS: FRAGMENTS OF A FORGOTTEN PAST
Hurrian settlements in Bet-Nahrain during mid-2nd millennium B.C. Hurrians settled between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers during the mid-second millennium B.C. The Pharaohs of Egypt sought marriage alliances with them and the Hittites feared them. More than 100 objects excavated by Harvard between 1927 & 1931
Harvard University's Semitic Museum
MEETINGS & CLASSES
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ASSYRIAN SURFING POSTS
Links to Other Assyrian Websites
Ishtar Quarterly Magazine
An Interview with Barsom Melke (Assyrian Federation of Sweden)
Mesopotamian Winged Protector Figures
Spencer Marks Sterling Assyrian Bowl
Assyrian Websites as Homework in History 101
PUMP UP THE VOLUME
Cycles & Observances of the Eastern Assyrian Liturgical Calendars
Mor Zokhe (Nicolas)
Annunciation of Mary
AAC = Ancient Assyrian Church of the East
ACE = Assyrian Church of the East
CCC = Chaldean Catholic Church
MCC= Maronite Catholic Church
MOC = Malankara Orthodox Church
SCC = Syrian Catholic Church of Antioch
SKC = Syrian Knanaya Church
SOC = Syrian Orthodox Church
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Nabopolassar, a Chaldean ruler (from the Bit Yakin tribe) penetrates into Assyrian territory east of the Tigris and pushes the Assyrians back as far as the river Zab. He captures a large number of prisoners, horses, and chariots. Two months later he was defeated by the Assyrians at the city of Ashur and was put under siege in Tikrit.
The Ancient Near East, Kuhrt
The general who commanded the Mongolian Hulagu Khan's invasion of Aleppo and Damascus was an Assyrian by name of Khitboga. Under his advice, Hulagu returned the city of Jerusalem to the Christians.
The Assyrians & Their Neighbors, Wigram
"THE DESTRUCTION OF THE SODOMITES BY THE ASSYRIAN WALL"
At this time, when the Assyrians had the dominion over Asia, the
people of Sodom were in a flourishing condition, both as to riches
and the number of their youth. There were five kings that managed
the affairs of this county: Ballas, Barsas, Senabar, and Sumobor,
with the king of Bela; and each king led on his own troops: and
the Assyrians made war upon them; and, dividing their army into
four parts, fought against them. Now every part of the army had
its own commander; and when the battle was joined, the Assyrians
were conquerors, and imposed a tribute on the kings of the Sodomites,
who submitted to this
slavery twelve years; and so long they continued to pay their tribute: but on the thirteenth year they rebelled, and then the army of the Assyrians came upon them, under their commanders Amraphel, Arioch, Chodorlaomer, and Tidal. These kings had laid waste all Syria, and overthrown the offspring of the giants. And when they were come over against Sodom, they pitched their camp at the vale called the Slime Pits, for at that time there were pits in that place; but now, upon the destruction of the city of
Sodom, that vale became the Lake Asphaltites, as it is called. However, concerning this lake we shall speak more presently. Now when the Sodomites joined battle with the Assyrians, and the fight was very obstinate, many of them were killed, and the rest were carried captive; among which captives was Lot, who had come to assist the Sodomites.
THIS WEEK IN HISTORY
December 30, 1951: Mar Aprim Zaia Dashtoo is appointed as the Chaldean Metropolitan of Urmi and Salamas.
CHALDEAN FEDERATION OF AMERICA
The Chaldean Federation of America is an umbrella association of Chaldean Organizations in the United States and is the only representative of the Chaldean people.
The Chaldean Federation of America was established in 1980 to fulfill the following objectives:
The following are member organizations of the Chaldean Federation of America:
For more information contact the Federation at (248) 557-2362.
WELCOME TO ZENDA
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|Firas Jatou||Canada||Surfers Corner
Assyrian Surfing Posts
|Andreas Schmidt||Germany||Good Morning Bet-Nahrain|
|Marian Younan||California||Good Morning Bet-Nahrain|
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|Ashur Simon Malek||Canada|
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