Vol III, Issue 46

Shvatd 9, 6747                   February 9, 1998

T H I S   W E E K   I N   Z E N D A

The Lighthouse The First Love Song
Good Morning 
Turkish Troops Enter Iraq 
Turkey Accuses U.S. of Creating the New Kurdistan 
Iraq vs. U.S. - An Outline of Events in the Past Week
Surfs Up "Mr. Elloff was anything but heroic."
Surfers Corner Assyrian Academic Society Joins MESA
News Digest Assyrian Employee Retaliates Against Discrimination
Assyrian Surfing Posts Walter Aziz
Pump up the Volume Deed & Duty
Back to the Future Gutians Enter Bet-Nahrain; Assyrian Patriarch vs the Greeks
Literatus William Daniel's "Inspirtion"
This Week in History Lamsu Exhibition in London
Bravo Ramin Odisho





While working in the Istanbul Museum of the Ancient Orient as Fulbright Research Professor- it was toward the end of 1951 when I came across a tablet numbered 2461.  For weeks I had been studying, more or less cursorily, drawerful after drawerful of still uncopied and unpublished Sumerian literary tablets, in order to identity each piece and , if possible, assign it to the composition to which it belonged.  All this was spadework preparatory to the selection, for copying, of those pieces which were most significant- since it was clear that there would be no time that year to copy all of them.. The little tablet numbered 2461 was lying in one of the drawer, surrounded by a number of other pieces.

When I first laid eyes on it, its most attractive feature was its sate of preservation.  I soon realized that I was reading a poem, divided into a number of stanzas, which celebrated beauty and love, a joyous bride and a king named Shu-Sin (who ruled over the land of Sumer close to four thousand years ago.)  As I read it again and yet again, there was no mistaking its content.  What I held in my hand was one of the oldest love songs written down by the hand of man.

It soon became clear that this was not a secular poem, not a song of love between just "a man and a maid."  It involved a king and his selected bride, and was no doubt intended to be recited in the course of the most hallowed of ancient rites, the rite of the "sacred marriage." Once a year, according to Sumerian belief, it was the sacred duty of the ruler to marry a priestess and votary of Inanna, the goddess of love and procreation, in order to ensure fertility to the soil and fecundity to the womb.  The time-honored ceremony was celebrated on New Year's day and was preceded by feasts and banquets accompanied by music, song, and dance.  The poem inscribed on the little Istanbul clay tablet was in  all probability recited by the chosen bride of King Shu-Sin in the course of one of these New Year celebrations.  Here's a translation:

Samuel Noah Kramer
"History Begins at Sumer"




(ZNAF: Ankara)  A Turkish television station reported yesterday that some 5,000 Turkish troops have entered Iraq from the provinces of Sirnak and Cukurca in Hakkari in northern Bet-Nahain to set up a buffer zone in case Iraqi Kurdish refugees flood the border amid a possible conflict between Iraq and the US.  There was no immediate confirmation of the report from Ankara or Diyarbakir.  Journalists have been barred from traveling to this area since late Saturday.  The zone, stretching about 10 miles, would be designed to stop Assyrian and Kurdish refugees streaming into Turkey, as happened at the end of the Gulf war in April 1991.


(ANAF:  Ankara)  Turkey's Deputy Premier, Bulent Ecevit, commented yesterday that the US showdown with Iraq is designed to control world petrol prices and set up a Kurdish state in northern Iraq.  "The United States wants to divide Iraq to create a Kurdistan satellite state under its control," he said, adding that Washington has had such an objective since the 1991 Gulf war.  "My impression is that the United States has the goal of creating a Kurdistan, divide Iraq and in such a way control the price of petrol," he said.  An estimated eight to 12 million Kurds live in Turkey, principally in the south-east. A further three million live in Iran, four million in northern Iraq under UN protection, and one million in Syria. There are also small Kurdish populations in the former Soviet Union. Turkey's main separatist Kurdish group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), hopes eventually to make a Kurdistan state
incorporating Kurds from Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq.  There are over half a million Assyrians in northern Iraq, southeast Turkey, and the Khabur region in Syria.  As many as one million Assyro-Chaldeans live in Iraq, mainly in the area under the protection of the Iraqi government.





"Congratulations on creating a wonderful resource for Assyrian people world-wide...!"

Christine Yalda

"Zenda's encomium to Agha Petros de Baz on the 66th anniversary of his death in France is yet another dramatic example of our lack of a written history.  Zenda states that "no Assyrian in the 20th Century has been revered and eulogized as has Agha Petros,", yet I challenge anyone to name a single scholarly study of this historical figure.
Zenda's devotion to the memory of this person echoes the sentiment of a majority of Assyrians. But there is also a vocal minority who represents another school of thought. According to this view, Mr. Elloff (his actual
name) was anything but heroic. If you are like me, for a long time you have accepted at face value all the kudos your parents heaped on this man. At some point, curiosity got the better part of me, and I looked in vain for
something other than hearsay about this icon. If you conduct a search, you will find precious little has been written about him. Precious little, that is, of an objective nature.

My own view is that unbiased research would show Agha Petros to possess a variety of traits, some good and some not so honorable. To my knowledge, no responsible study has ever found a historical figure to be perfect, whether
it is Churchill, Napoleon, Theodore or Franklin Roosevelt, Albert Schweitzer, or Mother Teresa. I believe it would better serve us to stop idealizing our "heroes", and to accept the balance which human nature dictates. This could be a first step towards the reality check long overdue for Assyrians, not only in reference to their heroes, but generally in reference to their modern history.

There will always be paeans to our memorable personalities; this is a legitimate way to validate our identity. But the need for truth, as supported by verifiable facts, should not be sacrificed at the altar of hero worship. The legacy of Agha Petros can only be judged by his actions, as recounted by responsible historians, and not by the one-dimensional accounts we have come to see.

One continues to hope that his life and his deeds will one day attract the interest of scholars who do not have a personal agenda. Agha Petros is survived by one son and four daughters. The son continues to live in the family property near Toulouse. It is said that Agha Petros' personal library would yield valuable information to flesh out his life and his deeds. His son is the keeper of these written materials but, for reasons unclear to me, he has consistently refused their access to interested researchers.   With or without the cooperation of the Elloff family, a researched biography of this figure would make a valuable doctoral dissertation, and it would enrich our history."

Francis Sarguis
Santa Barbara, California




The Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA), a prestigious and scholarly organization, has accepted the Assyrian Academic Society (AAS) as an affiliated organization.

In her letter to the AAS, dated 12 December 1997, Ms. Anne H. Betteridge, the Executive Director said, "I am delighted to inform you that, at its fall board meeting, the Middle East Studies Association's Board of Directors unanimously approved the Assyrian Academic Society's application for status as an affiliated organization of MESA."

Ms. Betteridge went on to say that, "As an officially recognized affiliated organization, AAS is allowed to sponsor up to three panels at MESA's annual meeting." The AAS is committed to being active at MESA's next annual meeting and is in the final stages of planning.

MESA's 32nd annual meeting will be held at the Chicago Hilton & Towers on December 3-6, 1998.

Raman Mikhail
Public Programs Committee
Assyrian Academic Society




(ZNDA- The Chicago Tribune)  An Assyrian man who tipped government officials to asbestos contamination in a Hostess snack food plant in Schiller Park, Illinois, says he was the victim of retaliation by plant managers.  Ninos Anael, 25, of Chicago, said that he was ordered by management at the plant last month to remove what he believed was asbestos from a boiler room without being given proper protective clothing and gear.  Asbestos, a mineral used in fireproofing, has been found to cause cancer, and is particularly harmful to the lung.  State authorities who tested conditions in the Schiller Park plant said they found a high level of asbestos in the air.  In December, Anael had filed a discrimination complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission contending he was subject to ridicule stemming from his Assyrian heritage. In the complaint, Anael alleged that supervisors at the plant called him names such as "camel jockey."

When Anael removed the insulation from the boiler room as ordered he kept some and had it analyzed by an independent Chicago laboratory that later informed him it was asbestos.  He called state and federal authorities to inform them of the situation, and that led to the recall of Hostess Twinkies, Dolly Madison cakes and other snack foods produced at the plant.   A plan to clean up the plant was approved and Anael, employed at the snack plant as a mechanic, was ordered to leave his regular work and go to a boiler room to help with the cleanup.

Since the incident, which resulted in recall of several million food items baked in the plant, one of the largest recalls in state history, Anael said that his health has suffered and that he will undergo medical tests later this week. He also said that he has received death threats from people at the plant.  "Hostess is trying to blame me for this occurrence unfairly," said Anael. "I am scared."


(ZNDA:  Turlock)  On 7 January 1998, members of the Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock elected a new Executive Committee, headed by Ramin Odisho [See BRAVO] and his vice-president, Bluebird Abbasi.  The new officers are:


President                                Ramin Odisho
Vice President                       Bluebird Abbasi
Recording Secretary             Simon Mirza
Correspondence Secretary    Teresa Lazar
Treasurer                              William Julian
Financial Secretary               John Odisho
Assyrian Secretary               Sargon Michael


Sam Andrews
Matthew Bedroya
James Benjamin
Emmanuel Isaac
Nick Kandy
Sargon Tomeh


Youav Yonan                         Bingo Director
Peggy Hernandez                  Ladies Auxiliary
To Be Announced                 Youth Group



Assyrian Entertainer:  Walter Aziz



Good deeds:  aavoodoowateh tdaawa 
Our national duty:  waleetan oomtaneta



BC (2520)

Soon after the death of Naram-Sin, a people called Gutians who lived on the east bank of the Tigris river, began to invade Bet-Nahrain.  By 2457 BC Bet-Nahrain was completely in the hands of the Gutians who ruled over the land once conquered by Naram-Sin's grandfather, Sargon of Akkad.  Gutians remained in Mesopotamia for 125 years until they were finally thrown out by the Sumerians who themselves were conquered by Sargon of Akkad some three centuries earlier.

Babylonian Life & History, Budge

AD (930)

At this time many Greeks lived in the city of Baghdad.  They asked Elias, Patriarch of Antioch, to appoint a Metropolitan for them in Baghdad.  Soon a certain person named John was sent to Baghdad.  The Assyrian Patriarch, Abraham III, called John to judgment before the Arab vizier and asked, "We are friends of the Arabs, and pray for victory for them.  Why then is this foreigner, an enemy of the Arabs, made equal to us?" to which the vizier replies, "You Christians all hate us equally, and only love us in appearance."  Later, the Assyrian Patriarch was able to convince the Arabs in professing it to be unlawful for a Greek Catholicus or Metropolitan to remain in Baghdad or fix his see there.

The Eclipse of Christianity in Asia, Browne







February 12, 1952:  A Lamassu, the human-headed  winged-bull statue, discovered by Sir Austin Layard and the Assyrian archeologist, Hormozd Rassam, is exhibited for the first time in London, England.




Ramin Odisho

Last month, Ramin Odisho of Turlock, California, 28, became the youngest elected president of the 50-year-old Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock (AACCOT), the most prosperous Assyrian organization in the United States.  On January 7, 320 members voiced their approval of his 2-year term against his challenger, John Isaac, an elder member of the club, who received less than one-third of the votes cast.    Odisho is currently the president of the Assyrian United Organizations of California, a position he must relinquish to remain president of the AACCOT (an AUOC affiliate), and the Western Regional Director of the Assyrian American National Federation.

Odisho, in an interview with a ZENDA reporter in Turlock, said that he has a great deal of respect for the AACCOT's commitment in providing financial assistance to Assyrians and non-Assyrians alike.   Every year tens of thousands of dollars go to the needy Assyrians through the efforts of the Assyrian Welfare Committee of Stanislaus County and the Assyrian Aid Society of America.  The AACCOT has the largest membership of any Assyrian organization in the State of California and handles a multi-million dollar annual budget .  As a representative of the vibrant Assyrian population in the Central Valley, the AACCOT allocates a small budget to assist the City's Fire Department, Turlock High School, Emanuel Hospital, and the Turlock Police.

When asked about his goals and objectives in the near future, Odisho replied that "greater communication among the state's Assyrian organizations and political parties and a more direct role for the youth in the affairs of these organizations hold top priorities on my agenda for the next two years."  He scolded the organizations, including his own in the past seven years, for their reluctance to involve the youth in activities other than sports and entertainment.  During his presidency, Ramin Odisho promises to organize a new and energetic youth group in Turlock, reminiscent of that formed in the 80's where he was first introduced to the spirit of Assyrian nationalism and organizational leadership.

In the past few weeks residents of Turlock have also been audience to lively discussions between Odisho and his once-mentor, now- rival, Cyrus Amirfar.  Odisho spoke to ZENDA about the "egotistical troublemakers" who in the past two years have shown disrespect to the members and Board officers of his organization, in some cases forcing them to leave.   Odisho commented that he "would not tolerate any divisions and back-stabbings any more and with the use of the organization's bylaws will  enforce the law to mitigate any wrongdoings during [his] term."  Odisho pointed out that "the club is now accepting new members.  Our doors were at one point closed to our Assyrian community.  We want to inform our people that once again our doors are open for anyone interested to join our organization, ruled based on discipline and run by law-abiding members."  Mr. Amirfar, an active member of the AACCOT and a former president of this organization, supported Mr. Isaac against Odisho.  He is believed to have ambitious plans for the presidency of the Assyrian American Natinonal Federation.  The elections will be held during this year's National Convention in August.  The AACCOT is one of over 30 Assyrian organizations affiliated with the AANF.

In a recent social function organized by the Assyrian Aid Society of America and held at Modesto's Double Tree Hotel Ramin Odisho surprised the over 700 guests by stating that "he hopes in the future all AAS festivities and functions will be held instead at the Assyrian Center in Turlock."  In the past the AACCOT, the largest financial supporter of the Assyrian Universal Alliance, was reluctant to offer any direct support for the local activities of the Assyrian Aid Society of America.  Odisho, supported by two current officers of the AUA, Simon Mirza and Sam Andrews, may help unify the efforts of the AAS and his organization and increase the public support for the AAS in the Central Valley- a political move likely to upset the leadership of the Bet-Nahrain organization in Modesto-Ceres, bringing together the supporters of Zowaa (Assyrian Democratic Movement) and the AUA closer than ever.  With the new developments in Iraq it remains to be seen if this "local alliance" may in fact be a portent of a greater political coalition between the two political groups.   

Ramin Odisho ended his interview with a message of thanks to his supporters "who believe in me and pushed me to come and assume the position of the president of our club.  If in the 50 years of the Civic Club a young person could be elected presidnet, I am certain that other organizations could act likewise and permit greater participation for our Assyrian youth."  Ramin Odisoh is single and was born in Iran.


                                                        National Semiconductor


This Week's Contributors:
Robert Dooman Glenview, Illinois News Digest
Tomy Doomany Sunnyvale, California Bravo & News Digest

Thank You For Referring ZENDA to a Friend:
Arbel Soleymani San Jose, California

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