Vol III, Issue 42

II Kanoon 12, 6747                   January 12, 1998

T H I S   W E E K   I N   Z E N D A

The Lighthouse Are Contemporary Assyrians Really Assyrian?
Good Morning 
Assyrian Killed in Border Clashes Between Mojahedin & Iranian Guards
Surfs Up "Pisshy Myaw Myaw"
Surfers Corner A Message From the Assyrian Aid Society of America 
The New & Improved Assyria Online
News Digest Italy Welcomes Refugees with Open Arms
Assyrian Surfing Posts What's New In the Assyrian World Wide Web? 
Assyrian Weekly TV
Pump up the Volume Minority & Predominant
Back to the Future First Meeting of Assyrians & Persians and the "Nineveh Porch"
Literatus Because We Are Assyrian
This Week in History First Modern Assyrian School
Bravo Dr. Simon Francis Shamoun





 The contemporary Assyrians were first introduced to the West through the writings of missionaries or diplomats who were stationed in the regions where the Assyrians lived.  The main task of the missionaries was to provide the Assyrians with spiritual "guidance".  But many of them only provided spiritual domination, which resulted in the alienation of the Assyrians from their national church and the traditions of heir forefathers.

The early missionaries refused to put any value in the Assyrian beliefs and traditions.  They looked down upon Assyrian rituals, their Shahra festivities, their observance of the Saints days, and so on.  To them all these were nothing but "dead forms", "superstitions" , and "satanic."  They insisted that the Assyrians must refrain from fasting, burning incense, kissing the cross and celebrating the Saints days.  They advised the clergy to add lengthy sermons to the church service after the Western model.

Their criticism of the Assyrian forms of worship reveal their own arrogance, puritanical rigidity, and intolerance for things which were not western.  Missionary Stoddard proudly demonstrated how they tormented the Assyrians: "We strip off all their righteousness, tear away all their hope, arraign them as condemned criminals at the bar of an offended God."

Of course the effect of such pressure could only be to blame the Assyrians- particularly the youth- and alienate them from the ways ot their forefathers- to lose respect for themselves as a people particularly in a place like the Middle East, where religion was an important element of nationhood.

The 20th Century social scientists replaced the missionaries or the diplomats of the previous century as the "experts" on the Assyrians.  But although the experts have changed, the Orientalist bias is still there, and reappears in a new guise.  Examine recent manuscripts and publications on the Assyrians.  You will notice that it has become almost fashionable for most dissertations, books, or articles to start with the question: "Are contemporary Assyrians really Assyrian?"

The question is then followed by a painstaking paring of the racial and cultural traits of the Assyrians of today with the remnants of the past archaeological relics to establish whether historical continuity between the two exists or not!  What these scholars and some of their readers do not seem to realize is that to question the legitimacy of the name of today's Assyrians is not a "scientific" act; it is a political one, because this is the type of question that the colonial powers raise to deny the territorial and cultural rights of several dominated peoples...Their very name is denied so as to deny their peoplehood...the Assyrians are merely "Syriac-speaking christians" form the point of view of the Iraqi Arab government.

In view of these facts it is evident that scholars, by posing the very question of identity, are providing the ruling powers with a weapon to use against their minorities.  What other purpose can an utterly unscientific question serve?  Why is the question unscientific?  Because there has been a tremendous amount of cultural and racial admixture among human societies through the centuries.  Cultural and racial continuity is impossible to be established for any national group.

Moreover, during the 20th Century old nations have been dismantled and new ones created without any regard to cultural and historical realities- as a glance on the map of Europe readily shows.  In Europe after World War I people who shared the same language and culture were torn apart to constitute different "nations" and people with diverse linguistic and racial characteristics were forcefully sandwiched together to form one nation.  And since the arrangement suited the superpowers, no questions are asked about the legitimacy of these nations on cultural or historical ground and yet the Assyrians are on the millstone for those very reasons!

The Assyrians call themselves Assyrian for a very simple and convincing reason:  they are age old inhabitants of ancient Assyria.  That is their homeland.  They have churches there that date as far back as 3rd and 4th Centuries A.D.  That is sufficient and says it all.  There is no need to engage in the inconclusive argument of racial and cultural purity.  Palestinians say they are Palestinian because their forefathers inhabited Palestine, and the French say that France is their homeland because they have lived there for many centuries.  One claim is as valid as the other.  What makes the French claim more respectable and that of the Palestinians questionable, is not science, it is politics- pure and simple.

Therefore the question of whether the contemporary Assyrians are Assyrians, should never be asked.  When a scholar makes that a topic of research, he is playing a political game in the guise of science.  There is no excuse for the academics to remain naive any longer.  The scholars have no choice but to decide what they want to do with their profession:  put it in the service of the people of use it to promote the interest of the ruling powers.  Whatever choice they make, they can be sure that they can no longer fool the people.

Dr. Aryan Ishaya
Excerpted For ZENDA from an article entitled "Intellectual Domination & the Assyrians"




(ZNDA: San Jose)  Last week ZENDA was informed that Philip Yousefieh, an Assyrian from Tehran, Iran, was killed during clashes between the Mojahedins and the Iranian army in Iran's southwestern provinces of Khuzistan, Ilam and Kermanshah. between October 31 and November 3, 1997.  The Mojahedin Command Headquarters inside Iran reported that more than 100 Revolutionary Guards and eight Mojahed were killed.  Philip was killed on November 3.

Philip Yousefieh, was born in 1965 into an Assyrian family from the village of Ardishai in Urmie, Iran. In 1985 he graduated from Shooshan High School in Tehran where he assumed a leadership role in the Assyrian students affairs.  His friends in the U.S. told ZENDA about his deep passion and appreciation for the Assyrian language and literature. After graduating from high school, Philip was recruited in the Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Disenchanted with the fundamentalist policies of the Islamic regime in Iran, in 1989 he joined the Liberation Army of Iran (Mojahedin).

In an interview with ZENDA, Philip's Assyrian friends in the U.S. who wished to remain anonymous, eulogized Philip as "a true Iranian citizen and a symbol of resistance as well as an inspiration to Assyrians who knew him throughout the world."  ZENDA was told that "Philip could have easily fled his native land and join the Assyrian Diaspora. However, he recoiled at the very thought of dispersing the Assyrian nation throughout the world. He believed that the scattering of Assyrians serves the goals of those who seek to uproot and erase the Assyrian existence from their ancestral homeland. Philip knew why his nation was forced to leave the homeland in which Assyrians had lived for thousands of years. He believed that Assyrians as a nation must stay in the homeland and defend their rights. He always believed that Assyrians would not be free from oppression unless his native country of Iran itself became free."  Philip's friends explained that he "was a true Assyrian warrior, having descended from a family of warriors reminiscent of the mighty ancient Assyrian warriors. During the past one hundred years, his family and his home village of Ardishai suffered three generations of martyrs. Philip’s great-grandfather, Iskhaq Babilla, tirelessly and bare-handedly fought against the ottoman invaders during the Assyrian Holocaust in World War I in order to defend his homeland and the Assyrian people of Urmie. He became a martyr along with seventy-five other Assyrians while defending his village against the brutal invaders in 1918. In 1945, Philip’s grandfather, Khoona Khoshaba, joined the Democratic Republican Army of Azerbaijan to defend the city of Tabriz against the feudal and corrupt regime in Tehran. He and fifteen other Assyrian compatriots were captured and subsequently executed."  In remembering Philip one friend made the following remarks on the martyrdom of other Assyrians in Iran:  "Phillip will be remembered as will Dr. Sargon Bet-Ushana, the representative of Assyrians in the Iranian Parliament who always struggled to defend minority human rights in Iran and was consequently imprisoned while extremely ill. Philip will be remembered as will Freidoon Ashuri, the son of the great Assyrian writer and poet Rabi Babajan Ashuri. Freidoon Ashuri steadfastly defended the democratic institutions of Iranian universities in Tehran until he was finally shot in the head by the Revolutionary Guard in front of the Tehran University. Philip will be remembered as will Edward Ebrahimi, the young Assyrian poet and activist of Hamadan who on account of his unfailing commitment to his Christian beliefs was hanged by the Islamic regime for resisting conversion to Islam."

Philip Yousefieh was eulogized in a recent "Christmas" message sent by the leader of the Mojahedins, Maryam Rajavi.  The Marxist-Islamic Mojahedin group (The National Council of Resistance) is the most active armed Iranian dissident group whose operations are supported by the government of Saddam Hussein.


"I congratulate you for publishing 'zenda' worldwide, you are doing a great job.  I wish you and your staff a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year."

Janette Yacoub
London, England


Lorine Merza
San Jose, California

"...You are doing great and keep up the good work. We are all proud of you."

Ninous Beitashour
San Francisco, California

"The year 1997 is behind us. As we look back, it behooves us to consider the implications of our actions.  As a concerned Assyrian, I would like to be the first one in 1998 to speak out against some of our Assyrian organizations and churches for their shameful actions during the last month of 1997.  As a nation our goal is to maintain our heritage and bring unity among all Assyrian communities.  Unfortunately, those who brought Persian singers to their 1998 “Christian” New Year's Eve parties betrayed this vision. I believe that only  individuals who take greater pride in their “Persian” backgrounds would so carefully orchestrated such an action.  How dare they attribute to themselves the title of an “Assyrian” organization?  Don't we have enough Assyrian singers who can entertain us at our New Year parties?  What are our social organizations thinking? The problem is very serious and its roots run deep.  Moreover these “local patriots” sugarcoat their poisonous deeds with the lure of greater profits and  “a few short hours of good time.”  No one can deny the beauty and the unique quality of the rich Persian music.  I myself enjoy listening to it as much time as I can afford.  Listening to this music is one thing and spending thousands of dollars promoting it through our so-called “nationalistic” and "religious" organizations, namely the Assyrian American Association of San Jose, the Chaldean Catholic Church and Association of Southern California, is another.

Did we leave Middle East and immigrate to the Western countries because of the climate?  Of course not.  We left our homeland and families behind because of religious as well as political discriminations.  We left because the “Baathist” and “Shiites” did not have any high regards for our human rights.  We all know that more Assyrians have suffered persecution under the Persians and Kurds than under the Arabs.  The Semel Massacre in 1993, the massacres in Urmie, and the recent persecution of the Assyrians in Iran and northern Iraq are just a few examples to remind our so-called “Assyrian Organizations” to think before they act.  How can you give permission to yourself  (as an Assyrian organization) to invite a Persian singer to perform for our people on the day we celebrate the Christian New Year?  By doing this you are betraying our nation and the blood of every Assyrian martyr whose precious life was dedicated in honor of Assyrianism and Christianity.  Shame on you for such a disgraceful action!  All in the name of greater monetary profits and family entertainment?

We should all be ashamed for supporting such organizations.  It is no wonder that our youth spend more money on the music of “Black Cats”, “Shahram K”, and “Morteza” than the new stars of our Assyrian music.  Please do not expect your children to speak Assyrian and be involved in our cultural and religious activities when you as elders and the representative of a community bring these Iranian pseudo-artists to our events.  It is time to think hard and fast for time is our worst enemy.  A zealous Assyrian should teach one's young the importance of being Assyrian and the significance of continuity of their heritage.  A zealous Christian-Assyrian family must raise their children to be proud of their religious and cultural heritage.  When was the last time an Iraqi or Iranian organization outside of the Middle East paid respect to our singers and invited them to their religious or nationalistic events?  Then why should we ignore our own artists and collaborate with the music promoters of our historical enemies.  Unfortunately, when it comes to business our organizations quickly forget their principles and their purpose for existence.  They should drop the sacred name of “Assyrian” in the beginning of their titles.  To me they are nothing but as the great Assyrian vocalist, Ashur Bet-Sargis calls, a “mirror of deception”.  They preach about their honesty and patriotism to our people and then stab us in the back by their intolerable and disgraceful actions.

Let's begin 1998 with a collective resolution that we will not re-elect these betrayers of our past glory and cultural heritage who seek only personal gain.  God bless our Christian-Assyrian martyrs, the men and women who are spending every day of their lives resisting our total extinction, and every zealous Assyrian who will stand like a rock before the unbearable actions of our double-crossing leaders.

Tomy Doomany
San Jose, California 

"To our friends in the Assyrian American Association of San Jose and readers of ZENDA:  I thought this will be a good time to write so that we start the new year on the right track.  Since I am an AAA of San Jose contributor there may be a very small chance that I will be heard.  Let's begin with the New Year's Eve party.  Why can't we have Assyrian music once a year; am I out of the mainstream nowadays or am I asking for too much? Did we not learn something from last year's party with Mr. Edmond who happens to be a bore?  Or since it was sold out you thought it must have been a blockbuster.  I have never told you this, but I am an optimist who believes we learn from our past mistakes?   Let's celebrate our New Year's party with musicians that are Assyrians? Not musicians that play Rock and Roll version of "Shish O Hasht" and "Baba Karam."

I think scholars like Maestro Nebu Issabey will have a very difficult  time to get involved and be willing to listen to a song written by the Cultural Institution Of The Black Cats, songs such as "Pisshy Myaw Myaw",  Eat your heart out Maestro Nebu- where are we going with these kinds of cultural icons?  I give a lot of credit for the Civic Club Of Turlock even though some of us make jokes about it.  At least they have a positive cash flow and they are actually making money and expanding.  Maybe we should ask the Civic Club Of Turlock to enlighten some of us.

Since we missed each other at the Assyrian New Year's Eve party in San Jose I hope you enjoyed "Pisshy Myaw Myaw" and I wish you all a very good and prosperous new year."

Albert  Issaco
Sutter Creek, California




Dear Fellow Assyrians:

We are very proud of what we have achieved in the few years of the existence of the Assyrian Aid Society.  But the need is greater than ever.  Since Saddam Hussein's attack in the north, the U.S. government has pulled out and canceled all village rebuilding projects.  We need to dedicate ourselves to raising the amount of money necessary to continue this work.

We are occasionally asked why we are not helping Assyrians in need in other parts of the world.  Nothing would please us more than to be able to aid all Assyrian everywhere. There are not only Assyrians in need in other parts of the world, but even here in the United States.  The truth is that the need in Northern Iraq is far greater.  How can anyone forget the terrifying images of Assyrian families sleeping under trees on snow covered ground?  We still have villages in desperate conditions without sanitary water systems, electricity or access to medical help.  New arrivals this last summer were living in tents.  To my personal knowledge there is no other area in which Assyrians are literally without homes.  Until we have been able to make a meaningful change in that condition, Bet Nahrain will remain our primary focus.  Northern Iraq is after all the ancestral home of Assyrian.

At our recent annual meeting, we elected some new members to our board.  They are Mr. Peter L. Bityou and Mr. Enwia Garmoos of the Chicago chapter who are replacing Mr. Oraham Yacoub and Mr. Yousip Canon.  Also, Mr. Sargon Khairon and Mr. Alan Mansour of the Detroit chapter are replacing Mr. Antranik Akrawi and Mr. Robert Audisho.

The enthusiasm that they brought to the meeting embraced all of us and helped to focus our plans for the future.  We are now actively searching for an administrator to manage an office and to coordinate fundraising activities on a national scale.

Also at the meeting we heard a report on the fact that more and more children in Northern Iraq are now being taught all classes in the Assyrian language.  This is a first in modern times.

Please know that your contributions are being used to further the most serious and meaningful humanitarian work being done for Assyrians today.  We look forward to receiving your contribution.  It is of course, fully tax deductible as allowed by law.

Narsai M. David
Assyrian Aid Society of America

Send your contribution to:  AAS    41 Sutter Street  Suite 1534    San Francisco, California   94104   U.S.


I would also like to take this opportunity to invite you to visit the recently improved web page, ASSYRIA ONLINE.  I have placed much effort to make this site as useful and informative as possible.

Recently added is the search feature which allows the user to search the contents of this site.  In addition, there is an interactive Forum which allows you to communicate with Assyrians and non Assyrians without resorting to e-mail. Give it a try!

Assyria Online is available at:  http://aina.org/aol

If you have any suggestions for Assyria online, please let me know.

Firas Jatou
Chicago, Illinois




(ZNCN:  Rome)  Last week, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said the Turkish and Iraqi refugees, particularly Kurdish
refugees fleeing Turkey, would be welcomed "with open arms.''  Italy has declared itself  "wide open'' to "people living with persecution" and will grant political asylum to the approximately 2,000 refugees that have arrived since the beginning of the new year. Turkey and seven European Union (EU) members agreed to a program of tighter controls on Kurds departing from Turkey. In October 1997, Italy joined Germany, Austria, France, the Benelux countries, Portugal, and Spain as a signatory to the "Schengen Accord", which allows for passport-free border crossings between participants. So once on Italian soil, travelers face no further immigration restrictions as they head to other ``Schengen'' countries.  On Saturday, Turkey's Interior Minister Murat Basegioglu said his country's police had arrested 3,000 would-be illegal immigrants bound for Western Europe. The liberal German weekly Die Zeit praises Italy in the latest issue for having the courage to acknowledge legitimate grievances of the refugees from northern Bet-Nahrain and to grant them political asylum. The paper further calls for financial help to Italy for increased border policing.








English       Modern Assyrian

                                                   Minority               khsee/roo/ta     [F]

                                                Predominant              soo/ga/ya      [M]

                           F = Feminine    M = Masculine    P = Plural


BC (844)

For the first time Assyrians meet groups of Persians in the valleys of the central Zagros (western Iran).

Assyrian Rulers of the First millennium BC, A.K. Grayson

AD (1848)

Lady Charlotte Guest re-builds the "Nineveh Porch" at Canford Manor in Dorset, England, an English private school's tuck shop, to house Henry Layard's findings in Bet-Nahrain (Mesopotamia).  By 1959 all artifacts had been transferred to the British Museum in London.

From Nineveh to New York, J.M. Russell



“I believe that you have also not forgotten your nationalistic responsibility. As Assyrian youths, it is our responsibility to work hard to preserve our Assyrian culture and heritage. We must not accept any oppression and atrocity from any person or government. Our nation truly needs us. However we cannot isolate ourselves because we are Assyrian. Yes our nation needs us. Therefore we must be aware of our responsibilities. We must open our eyes and see what is going on around us. For how long should we accept oppression and bitterness in our lives? Our nation scattered all over the world. We must not stay indifferent to the ongoing oppression against our people…”

Philip Yousefieh

Mr. Yousefieh wrote the above comments in his last correspondence from the Mojahedin encampment at the Iraqi-Iranian border to a friend in the United States (see this week's GOOD MORNING BET-NAHRAIN)..


January 18, 1836:  The first modern Assyrian school in Urmie, Iran.  With only eight students attending this school was also the first modern school in Iran.




Congratulations to our reader, Dr. Simon Francis Shamoun from British Columbia, Canada on his election as a member of the New York Academy of Sciences.  This prestigious organization admits scientists who have significantly contributed to the applied and life sciences.  Dr. Shamoun joined the Canadian Forest Service- Pacific Forestry Research Centre as a Research
Scientist in 1989, while an Associate Professor with the Universities of Victoria, British Columbia, and Simon Fraser University. His research interest lies in the development of microbial control agents for forest pests.  Dr. Shamoun also supervises the graduate works of five Masters and 2 PhD candidates.  In a message to ZENDA Dr. Shamoun explained that "within the last 8 years, I managed to produce environmentally-acceptable microbial control product which will replace chemical pesticides in our forest ecosystems"  Dr. Shamoun has dedicated his achivement to "my beloved Assyrian people and our great nation. Also, I would like to dedicate this accomplishement to my late Mother Asly Shimun and my late Father Francis Shimun, who were my true mentors and who sacrificed their lives for me to get an education and serve my Nation. Thank you Mom & Dad. Your Son is doing Well."

If you hold a Bachelors degree in Biological Sciences, Plant Sciences, Forestry, Agriculture or related sciences and are interested in pursing  higher education (M.S. or PhD) in a Canadian university and pursue higher degree contact Dr. Shamoun at SSHAMOUN@PFC.FORESTRY.CA



                                                        York Univeristy, Canada                          
                                            Chicago, Illinois
                                            Ontario, Canada
                                                       San Jose, California
                                            Santa Clara, California
                                            Yorba Linda, California


This Week's Reporters:

                            Albert Gabrial          Turlock, California                    Good Morning Bet-Nahrain
                            Firas Jatou                Chicago, Illinois                        Surfers Corner
                            Tony Khoshaba        Chicago, Illinois                         News Digest

Thank You For Referring ZENDA to a Friend:

                           Firas Jatou                Chicago, Illinois
                           Sam Kosa                  San Diego, California

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