Vol IV, Issue 17

Tamuz 13, 6748                   July 13, 1998

T H I S   W E E K   I N   Z E N D A

The Lighthouse Anything But Mosaic
Good Morning Bet-Nahrain  Assyrian-Chaldean Bishops Try To Keep the Faithful
Surfs Up "What a shame!"
Surfers Corner Assyrian American National Convention in Connecticut
AAS General Body Meeting 
Motwa of the Greater Bay Area
News Digest International Assyriology Congress at Harvard 
Unidroit Convention Ratified
Calendar of Events Events & Gatherings
Assyrian Surfing Posts North American Universities that Teach Syriac 
Chronology of the Life of Mar Ephraim 
Hammurabi's Page
Pump up the Volume Literate and Illiterate
Back to the Future Shalmaneser's Western Campaign & Mardin in 1917
Literatus Security of Assyrians in Turkey
This Week in History The Battle at Sauj Bulak
Bravo Wilson Yonan




The Unjust Treatment of Assyrians in Turkey

Despite the definition used by political leaders of a "colorful, mosaic Turkey", the disappearance of those colors cannot be hidden any more- and the most blatant example of colors that are about to disappear altogether are the 45,000 Assyrians out of a total of 50,000 who have emigrated from Turkey in the last 20 years.

The number of Assyrians in Turkey today is about 5,000.  This population is limited to the big cities only because every single once-thriving Assyrian village has now become a ghost town.  The Assyrians have been forced to look for a future outside Turkey.  Their burnt villages, unequal education, and other pressures have forced them to seek a country where they can live in a more democratic way.  It will be enough to look at recent history without rose-tinted spectacles to see and judge all these developments in a more objective way.

In Turkey, Assyrian villages are burnt and people tortured.  Given the fact that this reality is not hidden, the German Federal Court, after a resolution passed in 1996, explained that the Assyrians would be taken under consideration as a complete group.  The reason for this decision was that the Turkish government does not pursue the complaints of the Assyrian minority so as not to risk the loyalty to the state of the "Aghas" or local chiefs, the village guards and Hizbullah in the South East.  Another interesting point was that Germany, which believes that Kurds can live securely outside the South East, has concluded that the Assyrians are nowhere safe in Turkey and has given them the right to refuge.

Emigration is not something new for the Assyrians, as they have been doing it for the last 20 years.  Researchers generally agree that the reason for this emigration has not been economic, but people have been forced to emigrate because of pressures in the region (see this week's Literatus)..  The Assyrian population was about 50,000 in the South East Turkey in the 1950's, but this number has now decreased to 2,000, with the majority in Midyat and its surrounding villages.  With the majority of Assyrians in Istanbul, the total population for the whole country is about 5,000.

A representative of the Orthodox churches, journalist and writer Isa Karatas, draws attention to another point: "In Turkey only Armenians and Greeks have the rights of minorities. Even though Assyrians are Christian, they cannot benefit from these rights."  In Turkey, Assyrians may be Christian, but not a minority. Since they do not have minoity rights, they cannot establish their own schools, and as a result cannot provide for the development and learning of their own language.  The language courses organized in the churches have not been able to expand due to various reasons.  Neither does the Turkish government tolerate these language classes and has tried to stop them.  The most blatant example of the situation was experienced in the Deyrulzafran Monastery in Mardin.  In 1979 the education of religion and language was banned.  It was said that the Assyrian children educated in this monastery were joining terrorist organizations.

In the state-sponsored religious classes, religions other than Islam are reviewed in only three pages of the course books, and are also not given within the framework of their own values.  While Assyrian parents introduce their children to the Bible as the book that shows the way to God and the priests as respected people explaining this way, the government books introduce the Bible as something that has either been destroyed or altered and the priests as the ones who changed it to their own advantage.  The Turkish Professor Mehlika Aktot Kasgarli, in the book entitled "Turco-Semites in Mardin and Surrounding Populations" writes this about Assyrians: "These Turkish Christians, who accepted our language and traditions and who do not have the status as a minority, are called Turco-Semites, in consideration of their origin. Turco-Semites are not a different nation from the Turkish nation, and they even have Turkish characteristics."  Kasgarli also calls Kurds "Mountain Turks."

On 2 August 1992, the Assyrian village of Catalcan was attacked.  The Assyrian graveyard and houses were destroyed.  On 21 January 1993, the village of Izbirak in Midyat was attacked and four Assyrians were kidnapped.  Between 1995 and 1996 twenty Assyrian villages have been attacked in similar fashion and evacuated.  The Turkish government has gone one step further and revoked the citizenship of many so-called "Turco-Semites."  Since 1980, 20 Assyrian girls have been kidnapped by people claiming to be the village guards (Turkish village police).  The priest of Ogunduk village, Melke Tok, was kidnapped on 9 January 1994, by people suspected of being Hizbullah supporters.  After being buried alive, he succeeded in escaping.  He said he was put under pressure to convert to Islam.

In the face of such pressures the Assyrians of Turkey have drifted away from the country of their birth to find a new life.  And so another piece of the mosaic is chipped away.

Jan Pascal
Turkish Daily News, 29 August 1996
Published in Info-Turk



(ZNAP: Baghdad)  In black turbans and red sashes, Christian bishops are trying to stem the flight of the faithful from Iraq.  But they face a tough task:  one-third of Iraq's Christians have left since 1990.  "This immigration is stripping us of our best brains and most of the well-off among us," the Rev. Youssef Habbi, an Iraqi Historian, told the Associated Press.

Last month, the Iraqi bishops opened a three-day meeting, joined by a Vatican envoy and Lebanese and Palestinian colleagues, to study the rush of immigration since 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait and triggered the Persian Gulf War.  Many clergymen blamed the U.N. trade sanctions, imposed after the Iraqi invasion for the flight of Christians, mostly young people.  The once-thriving Christian community of Iraq has been reduced from 750,000 to 500,000 in 8 years.  About 80 percent of Iraqi Christians are Chaldean Catholics.  His Beatitude Mar Raphael I Bidawid, Patriarch of the Chaldean-Catholic Church, admits that efforts to check the immigration have failed.

More than 30,000 Iraqi Assyrians are now stranded in neighboring Jordan, waiting for visas to Western countries, which are rarely granted.  Many turn to smugglers in frustration.  Others have illegally entered Sri Lanka, New Zealand, and even Iceland.   To get around $300.00 exit fees and laws banning professionals from leaving, several thousand Assyrians recently sold belongings and fled to northern Bet-Nahrain and on to Greece.  Stories abound of families perishing on northern Bet-Nahrain's snow-capped mountains.


"I am surprised that there was nothing said about the recent state Olympic in San Jose !!!.  I have not seen such a mess in my 30 years of Assyrian sport's activities. What a shame."

Homer Benjamin
San Jose, California 

"According to an associated press article June 9,1998 under the title 'Bishops Try to Keep Iraqi Faithful' Christian bishops are trying to stop the flee of Christians from Iraq.

The article names representatives from the Chaldean Catholic Church, Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholics, Armenian Catholics and Armenian Orthodox Churches as present in the three day meetings in Baghdad.  Furthermore, this article goes on to quote Patriarch Rafaeal Bedaweed, who was given the title in the article as the head of the Iraqi church stating and referring to Christians in Iraq " They are not fleeing because of religious or ethnic oppression. They want us to solve their economic problems".

I only hope that this will not affect thousands of Assyrians that unlike Badweed were oppressed against by the Iraqi government and are struggling to be recognized as political refugees in Jordan, Turkey, Greece, Italy and the rest of the world whom Badaweed just classified as economic refugees."

Dr. Alex Odisho



The 65th Annual Convention of the Assyrian American National Federation,Inc. will be held in Waterbury, Connecticut between September 2 and 7, 1998:

Hosted by:          Eastern Regional Organizations
Location:            Four Points Sheraton Hotel 3580
                         East Main St. Waterbury, Connecticut  06707

Entertainment Schedule

Wednesday, Sept 2 Ashur Night:  Opening Ceremony $ 6.00
10 PM
Assyrian dances, welcoming speeches, etc
Thursday, Sept 3 Ishtar Night $ 12.00
10 PM
Party:  Shabeh Lawando & Ramsen Sheeno
Friday, Sept 4 Shamiran Night $ 17.00
10 PM
Party:  Ogin, Shabeh Lawando, & Ramsin Sheeno
Saturday, Sept 5 Youth Excellence Pageant $ 25.00
12 PM
Luncheon; Johnson Aghajan on saxophone 
Bet-Nahrain Night $25.00
10 PM
Nidhal Hanna, Linda George, and Shabeh Lawando
Sunday, Sept 6 Ashurbanipal Night $50.00 Prime Rib Dinner with Johnson Aghajan on saxophone
After hours admission, $30.00
Ogin, Shabeh Lawando, Nidhal Hanna and Linda George
Monday, Sept 7 Picnic $5.00 Sheraton Hotel grounds

Major Local Attractions include:

Room Rates:

Limousine Services:

Provided by Connecticut Limousine Services   (800) 472-5466.
Transportation can be provided from JFK Airport, New York, Laguadia Airport, New York and Bradley International Airport, Connecticut
Contact Connecticut Limousine Services for running times and rates.

Applications to enter the Youth Excellence Pageant are available from all AANF affiliates
                High School Graduates
                Present College Students
                  1st place,      $1,000.00
                  2nd place,     $  750.00
                  3rd place,      $  500.00
                  4th place,      $  500.00

All contestants need to pass a test before entering the contest.  The test will include questions that must be answered in Assyrian.

For more information contact:
    Zeena Tawfik, Youth Excellence Pageant committee chairman   (860)604-0330  zfhawi@hotmail.com
    Monica George, Youth Excellence Pageant committee member   (860)677-6759 george6759@aol.com



The Assyrian Academic Society will be hosting a General Body Meeting on Sunday, July 19, 1998 at 6:30 p.m..  The meeting will be held in the Assyrian National Council Office, located at 6352 N. Fairfield Avenue.

Many upcoming events and projects will be reviewed and they include, Summer Camp for kids; August 7th Martyrs Day Commemoration; lecture by Mr. Shlimon Bet-Shmuel; Human Rights Seminar; Education and Cultural Convention program; AAS Anniversary and Christmas parties.

Your participation is greatly valued and appreciated.  Please inform others and try to attend. Refreshments will be served.  All are welcome.

Nadia E. Joseph
Assyrian Academic Society 


In order to hear your views and suggestions and obtain the community approval on the following proposal a meeting is scheduled as follows:

Date & Time:        Sunday, July 19th, 1998, 5 PM
Location:              Starlite Hall of the Assyrian Church of the East (Awana)
                           680 Minnesota Avenue, San Jose, California

Proposal 1:  Proposed Constitution for the Assyrian National Council of the Greater Bay Area (Motwa)
Proposal 2:  Proposed Resolution for the Assyrians of the Greater Bay Area Political Action Committee

The agenda for the meeting will be as follows:

1.  Committee presentation of the proposals
2.  Audience views and suggestions
3.  Approval of the proposals and suggestions
4.  Election of the first "Election Committee"
5.  Decide on the first election date

It is our sincere belief that the establishment of the above organizations can have a vital effect and impact on the advancement of our Assyrian community.  Therefore we urge and invite you to review the proposed documents thoroughly and help that we all together create organizations that can benefit our community.

The above meeting is open and will welcome all Assyrians living in the area.  Since we do not have access to all the addresses of the Assyrians living in the area, please help us by ... inviting other Assyrians to participate in the upcoming meeting.

We anxiously look forward to seeing you at the July 19th meeting,

Dr. Dematour Betoushana
The Organizing Committee:  Daniel Benjamin, Homer Benjamin, Nelson Chamaki, Tobia Giwargis, Johnny George, Henry Hormozian, Youra Karamian, Milton Sorishow, William Youkhana, Michael Younan




The 45th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale (International Congress of Assyriology and Near Eastern Archaeology) is officially over.  It began at Harvard University on Sunday 5 July and continued at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut from 9 July and concluded at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art on 11 July.

The conference was attended by over 220 Assyriologists, archaeologists, and historians from around the world.  Some topics of interest included:

At the Business Meeting, attended by almost all participants in the Congress, two Assyrians, Dr. Norman Solhkhah, Ph.D. and his son, Ramon Solhkhah, M.D.,  were singled out and acknowledged for their
donations to help support the RAI, and were described as "members of the present-day Assyrian community in America."  Additionally Dr. Ramon Solkkhah gave a presentation on a proposal for "The International Fundraising to Support Rescue Excavations of Archaeological Sites" - specifically those related to Assyria and Babylonia.  This project will be spearheaded by his father and himself.  ZENDA will publish a complete text of this proposal in a future issue.

The next RAI will be held in Naples, Italy between July 4th and 9th, 1999.

ZENDA thanks Dr. Ramon Solhkhah for sharing his observations at the Congress with our staff.  In our future issues we will share a selection of his notes and remarks with our readers.


(ZNAM: Rome) The Unidroit Convention on the International Return of Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects goes into effect this month and it will provide the means for a nation to recover stolen or illegally exported cultural property, including antiquities.  Unidroit specifically equates illegal excavation
with theft, giving source countries a basis for recovering illegally excavated objects under existing stolen
property law.  Unidroit requires purchasers of stolen items to return them whether or not they acted in good faith. It also requires original owners to compensate good-faith buyers, a concession to civil-law countries, like Switzerland and France, which permit buyers who have acted in good faith to acquire title to stolen objects.  Under Unidroit, to qualify for good-faith compensation, possessors must prove they "exercised due diligence when acquiring" a stolen object.   Unidroit also specifies that claims for the recovery of cultural objects must be brought within three years of when the claimant discovered the location of the object and the identity of its possessor, or within 50 years of the theft or illegal exportation, whichever comes first. An exception provides that objects belonging to a public collection or forming "an integral part of an identified monument or archaeological site" (mosaics affixed to a building, for example) are subject only to the three-year limit, unless the importing nation declares a blanket 75-year limit from the time of theft or illegal exportation when it joins the convention.

So far Romania, Lithuania, Paraguay, China, and Ecuador have ratified the convention, and it will go into effect among those countries this month. Eighteen other nations have signed, and of these, Italy, Switzerland, Finland, Hungary, and Ireland are working toward ratification.  A large consortium of American museums and art dealers filed a brief to the U.S. delegation asking the U.S. not to sign the convention and to withdraw the provision defining illegal excavation as theft. On the latter score the effort failed, but opposition from art museums, dealers, and collectors did help ensure that the U.S. never signed.

To view the full text of the Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects click here.



July 19


Assyrian National Council Office 
6352 North Fairfield 
6:30 PM 
Refreshments will be served. 
All are welcome to attend. 

Aug 16

Tracing the evolution of Mesopotamian empires through 100 cylinder seals dating from the second to the first millennium B.C.  These include seals from Ur, Isin, Larsa, Babylon, and the Syrian plateau. 

"A Seal Upon Thine Heart" 
The Pierpont Morgan Library

Sep 2-7


Sponsored by the Assyrian American National Federation 

Sep 11-24


For more information see ZENDA:  JUNE 8: SURFERS CORNER



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 Pharoahs 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 
-cuneiform tablets 
-beaded jewelry 
-lion statuettes from the temple of Ishtar at Nuzi



Links to Other Assyrian Websites


North American Universities That Teach Syriac (Classical Assyrian)

Chronology of the Life of Mar Ephraim (Aprim)

Hammurabi's Page



 My literate friend:  rakhmee speerah
 bree/raa  or  la/spee/ra
 Illiterate population:  aamma breera


Cycles & Observances of the Eastern Assyrian Liturgical Calendars


Feast of Mar Toma (Thomas) the Apostle
Feast of Mar Toma (Thomas) the Apostle
Mar Khazqiel of Daqoq
Memorial of Mar Kyriakos(CCC) or Mar Cyriac (ACE) and his mother Juliet
Memorial of the 72 Disciples (Talmeedeh)
Memorial of the 12 Apostles (Shleekheh); Noosardel
 Memorial of Mar Yacub (James) of Nisibin
Memorial of Mar Mari, Apostle of the East
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
SKC = Syrian Knanaya Church
SOC = Syrian Orthodox Church


BC (858)

King Shalmaneser began his campaign to the west of Euphrates and captures Tyre and Sidon in Lebanon.  The tributes received from Tyre were brought in boats to the mainland.  The Phoenician navy was then used by the Assyrians in future battles.  According to the Assyrian annals, between 881 and 815 B.C., 193,000 people were brought back to Bet-Nahrain.

Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia, Roaf

AD (1917)


According to the testimony of Father Dangelmonier of the Congregation of St. Francis de Sales in Bavaria, Germany, between 1915 and 1917, eighty thousand Assyrians in Mardin, Turkey alone were slain by the Kurds.  According to the Assyrian bishop in Mardin, there were by now 5,000 widows and orphans in this ancient Assyrian town.

Shall This Nation Die?,  Naayem




"As the Syrian Orthodox Church is not recognized as a religious entity par the Turkish state, there are no official statistics about its members - unlike the Greeks, the Armenians and the Jews.  On their passports, they are identified as 'Hristiyan' and listed not among the two recognized Christian minorities but in the category 'Other Religions', like the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Yezidis.

Not all the Christians having fled from Tur Abdin have managed to go directly to Europe.  Many had to stay in Istanbul until they could get a passport and the necessary financial means to escape further to Europe...The escape of the Syrian Orthodox from Tur Abdin is not motivated by economical reasons.  On the contrary, the economical situation of the Christians in Tur Abdin in stable.  Their agricultural production in the villages and their monopoly on craft industry in bigger towns guaranteed them a reasonable standing.

With regard to security in Istanbul:  The security issue is linked to the individual's economical situation.  According to the district in which they live, the security is or is not guaranteed.  The Syrian Orthodox from Tur Abdin only live in poor districts, where police protection is least available... Those who have not gotten close relatives cannot survive here... In these poor districts, religious intolerance is more serious than in Anatolia. They are not safe from persecutions of the Kurds either, who were the main reason for their fleeing.  For a long time, influential landowners have built up a small empire here (travel agencies, hotels, carpet wholesale businesses).  Their middlemen often manage to track their former Christian farmers and neighbours and extort money from them in exchange of their protection.  A complaint lodged by a Christian with the local police, which is badly paid, would not be more efficient than it was in Tur Abdin.  The Kurds give bribes and almost always win against the Syrian Orthodox... As it is mentioned under the heading 'Dini' (religious) that they are Christians, the authorities treat them as second-class citizens."

"Kann Istanbul fur syrisch-orthodoxe Christen aus dem Tur Abdin eine inlandische Fluchtalternative sein?", Gabriele Yonan


80th Anniversary

July 15, 1918:  The Battle at Sauj Bulak -  Assyrians of Urmia were under attack from two sides, in the north and south-west.  The Assyrian general, Agha Petros d' Baz, decided to attack the Kurds in Sauj Bulak to the south-west and keep a strong front to defend Urmia to the north.  After his victory in Sauj Bulak, he planned to meet with the British allies at Sain Kala (100 miles south of Urmia) and replenish his supplies of ammunition.  On July 15, Agha Petros defeated his Moslem enemies in Sauj Bulak and drove them back to the Rawanduz river.  He then moved to Sain Kala, only to reach there seven days after the appointed time where he found no trace of the British army.  They had already retired.  The northern front of his army wavered and upon the next attack of the Turkish army gave in.  And so began the flight of the Assyrians from Urmia to Hamadan, while being attacked from all sides by Turks, Kurds, and Persians alike.  More than 70,000 Assyrians started out on this dreadful retreat and less than 50,000 reached Hamadan.   

The Tragedy of the Assyrians, Stafford




For the past five years the warm and familiar voice of Wilson Younan has filled the homes of over 14,000 Assyrian-Australian radio listeners in Sydney.   Every Friday, between 8 and 9 PM Mr. Younan brings the latest news and information to his captive audience, plays a variety of musical scores, and interviews guests from around the world.  His radio broadcast is a free service of the Special Broadcast Service (SBS), Australia's national multicultural and multilingual radio network. It broadcasts across the continent in 68 languages, including Assyrian- more than any other broadcaster in the world.  SBS operates under a budget of $90 dollars (Australian) and allows every ethnic group in Australia to take advantage of its free public access.

Wilson Younan was born in 1952 in the city of Habania, Iraq.  His schooling began in the Raban Hermiz Monastery in Alqosh and then completed his studies in Baghdad's Academy of Fine Arts in 1979.  He was only employed by the Iraqi television studios for one year when he immigrated to Australia.  Mr. Younan holds a Masters Degree in Journalism from University of Willongong in New South Wales.  Mr. Younan's radio program can be heard on Sydney's 97.7 FM every Friday evening at 8:00 PM.



 University of Pacific


This Week's Contributors:                                                                  in alphabetical order
Monica George Farmington, Connecticut Surfers Corner
Patty Gerstenblith Archeology Magazine New Digest
Dr. Alex Odisho Canada Good Morning Bet-Nahrain
Dr. Ramon Solhkhah Harvard University News Digest
Thank You For Referring ZENDA to a Friend:
Lena Mushell San Jose, California


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