"Three Assyrian Martyrs" by Adam Odisho- Sweden (1996)

Volume V                Issue 22
Tdabaakh 2, 6749                                                                               August 2, 1999

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T H I S  W E E K I N  Z E N D A

The Lighthouse The Massacre
Good Morning Bet-Nahrain PROB Attacks Barzani to Avenge Helen Sawa
News Digest The Free Youth of BethNahrin in Paris
Iraqi Farmer Discovers Ancient Assyrian Slab
Literatus Tamasgerd



**** 1 ****

Ever since the Assyrians entered Iraq in 1918, they on no occasion expressed a desire to remain in that country. Their only desire was that they should be returned to their original homes in Turkey or that arrangements be made that they emigrate from Iraq. If neither of these were possible, they desired to remain in Iraq under such conditions as would preserve their existence as a people, as they have been living before the war.  The Assyrian refugees were divided into two main bodies, the Persian subjects, who were the plainsmen of Urumiyah, and the Turkish subjects, the mountaineers of Hakkiari.

At a time when Assyrian levies were being raised by the British military and civil authorities on the strict understanding that this move was intended for reoccupation of their homes in Turkey, these levies were used against:

(a) The Kurds
(b) The Turks and
(c) The Arabs who all aimed at undermining British authority in Iraq

The Assyrians were used as a punitive force against the Kurds through whose territory they had to pass before reaching their homes, and against the Turks under whose zone of influence the “promised homes” were situated.

In 1919, the repatriation of the Assyrians to their original homes was begun. British officers were attached to the main Assyrian force, but partly due to defective organization partly to bad weather, the scheme did not succeed.  In 1920, the two Assyrian tribes of Tiyari and Tkhuma returned to Hakkiari in their own initiative and actually occupied the territory over which the Turks had not yet established their authority.

These men were used by the British against the Turks, a fact which aroused Turkish animosity against the Assyrians. As approximately 70% of the Assyrians Young men were in the levies, and as the Turks were able by the year 1923 to mass large forces, the Assyrians in Hakkiari were stampeded out for they were no longer able to hold their own against the overwhelming Turkish  regular forces fully equipped with all arms. The Assyrians were therefore compelled to retire to Iraq and their only and final chance of living peacefully in their ancestral homes was lost forever.

Sir Percy Cox was instructed by the British Government in 1924 to claim...the Hakkiari  mountains with the ostensible idea of settling the Assyrians. The claim was flatly refused by the Turks as they well knew that the idea lying behind the demand was:

(a) To create a buffer State between Iraq and Turkey
(b) To keep the Turks remote from Mosul as far as possible.

The British Government and certain British politicians blame the League of Nations for having allowed the Turks to retain Hakkiari. Well-informed people know that it was not so. If the Assyrians had been left alone, they could have somehow come to terms with the Turks whom the Assyrians understood and who understood them... Assyrian levies were stationed to keep parts of Kurdistan...and to keep in check the activities of the famous Kurdish leader, Shaikh Mahmud Barzanji. Amadiyah and Billeh were garrisoned by Assyrian levies. The latter garrison was to keep in order the Kurdish leader Shaikh Ahmad of Barzan who disregarded the authority of Iraq and administered an area of his own independently until 1932, when he was subdued by British airplanes.

In certain districts, malaria and other diseases played havoc with the Assyrians... The diseases were due to swampy areas and no prophylactic measures were taken to improve the situation. Malaria in those parts is not due to rice cultivation as the British government maintains. There are many districts inhabited by Assyrians where the effect of malaria or other diseases is not felt, although the settlers grew rice. In the districts of Nahla and Khalil Khan, for instance, where in the latter place no rice is grown, the death roll at times reached 95%, especially among children British officers and Americans have testified to this.

Such was the health of the Assyrians and their conditions generally when Major D.B. Thomson reached Iraq in June 1933 to settle the Assyrians in accordance with a resolution of the League of Nations. Iraq was now independent and Thomson had no executive powers. The first signs of his activities tended to show that he was there to execute what Baghdad dictated to him. The Iraqi demagogues, the press and parliament objected to the settlement of the Assyrians. An intensive but pervasive propaganda was set on foot. This had actually commenced some six months earlier and on Thomson’s arrival the situation was tense. The future of the Assyrians was now in the hands of the same people against whom they fought side by side with the English in 1920 to maintain the latter’s authority in the early days of the occupation. The Iraq Government, as was anticipated, employed methods to cause dissension among the Assyrians, taking on its side certain individuals with whom Thomas instructed to carry out Iraq’s policy.

Recognized Assyrian leaders were ignored and replaced by unpopular individuals. Coercive measures were taken against others under various pretest and life was made desperate. Thomson’s plan which he placed before the Assyrians covered the Dashtazi area, noted for malaria.... politically detrimental to the interests of the Assyrians. The Proposed area could have hardly accommodated 150 families. This is all the mandatory power could do for Assyrians. She persisted in using them for 15 years and finally she told them: “This is all that I can repay you. You must agree to be absorbed on the body politic of Iraq (which in practice meant that they should still remain homeless), must forget your language, traditions and customs and remain disunited people for definite purposes.” “even in your personal affairs, the Iraq government must dominate.”

Thomson’s two previous meetings and his personal tours of Assyrian settlements showed the impracticability of his scheme, unless modified, but unfortunately he persisted in it until on the 10th and 11th of July 1933 two Iraq Government's ultimatum, were held in the office of Mutasarrif, Mosul, Khalil Azim.

During the meeting of July 10th, the Arab acting Mutasarrif explained the Iraq Governments policy and finally said :“ It is in the interest of Assyrians who decide to reside in Iraq to obtain nationality certificates, for the Iraq Government cannot allot lands to those who do not consider themselves Iraqis; such people cannot expect to attain private or government positions without it.”

Ninety per cent of the Iraqi populations [had] no nationality papers and few government officials possess[ed] them. Moreover, the Assyrian people in Iraq were Iraqi nationals by virtue of those provisions of the Treaty of Lausanne which are reproduced in the Iraqi Nationality Law/

When the Assyrians made their own arrangements to find a new home diplomatic pressure and force of arms stopped them. The Iraqi officials told the Assyrians that the government would bear their transport expenses up to the frontier.

On the night of 14-15 July, 1933 a large group of Assyrians headed by representative leaders of all Assyrian tribes left Iraq peacefully and reached Syrian frontier.

On July 23rd, they informed the Minister of Interior at Baghdad in writing  that they had left Iraq as a result of the meeting held at Mosul on the 10th and 11th of July and requested him not to molest their families and other Assyrians wishing to join them. It must be remembered that the Assyrians before reaching the Syrian border had to march over 100 miles and their spirit can be judged by the fact that no a single incident took place.
Instead of honoring its pledges, the Iraq government mobilized two thirds of its army, practically all its police force, recruiting some 1,500 irregular police in Mosul, and begun harassing the Assyrians.  The Anglo-French discussions in Paris and the Franco-Iraqi negotiations on the frontier took place with a view to :

(a) Disarm the Assyrians
(b) Return them to Iraq

Had the French authorities complied with the request, the total massacre of cold blood of those who took shelter under the French flag was certainly as the subsequent events will show.
The situation of those Iraqi became alarming. They were prevented in spite of what they were given to understand at the Mosul meeting from joining their compatriots  and this forcible prevention did not pass without incidents.

Before the actual fight of August 4th, preparations were being made with the full knowledge of the Iraqi cabinet to massacre all Assyrians reaming in Iraq. Hikmat Sulaiman, Minister of Interior, Cabin Najib, changed their headquarters from Baghdad to Mosul, an unprecedented move in all former Kurdish armed revolutions.

In Parliament and in Senate, inflammatory speeches against the Assyrians were made in the nature of a holy war. In the mosques, meetings headed by members of Parliament were held. Deputies volunteered to take up arms, to proceed to Mosul and to fight the Assyrians. All Arab classes were called by government organs, such as newspapers and others, to join in the Holy War. Non-compliance meant treachery.

Bakr Sidqy was the Arab area commandant, Mosul. He and the local officials, no doubt in league with Baghdad, had planned the massacre for the month of may 1933.

On May 7th, an Arab officer living next door to the Patriarchate complained that stones were thrown into his house. The Patriarchal house was accused and the accusation was extended to other Assyrians. The police took the matter up and stated, as a result of their investigations, that they failed to know the source of the stones.

By the 15th of May, the whole quarter was vacated by the Arab officers living there, including Bakr Sidqy, and other officials. The army occupied all the strategic points around the town of Mosul. On the 13th, the Patriarch meets the Mutasarrif to discuss the situation with him. He stated that he himself did not know what the military arrangements were for and recommended that the Patriarch should meet Bakr Sidqy. The Mutasarrif telephoned to Bakr Sidqy who replied that he was unable to see the Patriarch that day, but would do so the following day. That day never came. On the 16th, the Assyrians in Mosul were asked to surrender their arms.

As Assyrian levies were also accused, the Air Vice-Marshal came from Baghdad an after holding a Commission of Inquiry and finding the falsehood of the accusation, the case was closed and thus the plot was averted. The accused Assyrians after being sent for trial were acquitted.

In order to be able to carry on the plot successfully later, almost all the Assyrians in the police force were transferred from Mosul to the south of Iraq.

After the battle of the 4/5th August, as already narrated, the Assyrians combatants returned to Syria where they now remain under French protection. The Assyrian act should never fail to express its gratitude for this act of humanity and justice that France has taken. The Iraq army returned to Mosul and right threw its way began a systematic massacre, which commenced on August 7th when Qaimaqam Zakho Ahmad al Dibuni tortured to death forty-six Assyrians while the Iraq army executed any Assyrian it met on its way back. While this was going on, pamphlets signed by the Iraq government were dropped by the British and Iraqi airplanes asking the Assyrians to surrender their arms and that no harm would come to them. The fact that those leaflets were dropped by the British airplanes as well gave the Assyrians an implicit assurance of their safety without which they would have hesitated in responding under the prevailing circumstances.

The wholesale massacre was officially inaugurated on the 11th of August. The massacre zone is 15/30 miles from Mosul, which is linked up with telephone, telegraph and by other means of communication. The minister of Interior, Hikmat Sulaiman, pretended that he only heard of the massacre on the 14th when orders to stop it were given as its object had already been fulfilled. Arabs and certain Kurds were armed by the government and offered one pound for every Assyrian head. They were also told that all means employed against the Assyrians were lawful and government would take no action against them. Civil officials from Mosul joined in the massacre which was arranged as follows:

Under pretext of giving police protection to the Assyrians the inhabitants of eleven villages in the vicinity of Semel (the larger Assyrian village whose police post was beforehand reinforced) were summoned to the latter place for shelter from the tribesmen government had armed. Men, women, and children hurried to the place of protection. After assuring them of the “good intentions” of the government, they were disarmed by the police authorities under instructions of Makki Sharbatti Qaimaqam of Dohuk. The inoffensive population was indiscriminately massacred; men, women and children alike, with rifle revolver and machine gun fire. In one room alone 81 men from the Baz tribe, who had taken shelter with the named Goriyyil, were barbarously massacred. Priests were tortured and their bodies mutilated. Those who showed their Iraqi nationality papers were the first to be shot. Girls were raped and women violated and made to march naked before the Arab army commander. Holy books were used as fuel for burning girls. Children were run over by military cars. Pregnant women were bayoneted. Children were flung in the air and pierced on to the points of bayonets. Those who survived in the other villages were now exposed day and night to constant raids and acts of violence forced conversion to Islam of men and women was the next process. Refusal was meet with death.

Sixty five out of ninety five Assyrian villages and settlements were either sacked, destroyed or burn to the ground. Even the settlements which existed from the year 1921 and who had no connection in any way with the trouble were wrecked and all property looted by Iraqi army and tribesmen. Assyrian villages in regions such as Kurai Gawana, Barwari Jairi and Sapna valley in Amadiyah Qadha shared also the same fate after surrendering their arms in the same way, as did the others.

In Duhuk, the town crier under orders of the Arab Qaimaqam informed the public that anyone harboring an Assyrian will be severally dealt with. Under the orders of this Qaimaqam alone, five hundred Assyrians who had handed in their arms following the official pamphlets dropped from air were killed round Dohuk.

Over 100 Assyrians were removed in lorries from their villages and Dohuk town and were killed by machine guns on the frontier area to show that they had fallen during the official engagement.

In other parts of Iraq, the assyrians in the British employment such as railways were dismissed as this was the desire of the Arabs, and this in the employ of the Petroleum Company were attacked by Arabs with several casualties.

No relief was afforded by the British authorities. The only thing the royal air force, whose aerodromes the assyrians were and are still guarding, did was to take photographs from air of scenes of horror, and after permission from the Iraq government, Royal Air Force removed to Baghdad the remaining immediate families of the levies, some 189 persons. All foreigners in the district affected were withdrawn about ten days before the massacre. To give the reader a better knowledge of the atrocities, the following quotations must be recorded. On November 28th, in the House of Lords, His grace the Archbishop of Canterbury said:

“... I have already indicated to Your Lordships that it cannot fairly be described as a rebellion. It was a possibly misguided attempt on the part of these Assyrians to do what they understood from the Government they were at liberty to do, to go and find a new home if they could. And I ought to add- I ought to have done it at an earlier stage- that if they were asked to stay they could not but remember that at that very item there were outbreaks of the fiercest and most fanatical language in the Iraqi press and also in the Iraqi parliament which received no sort of check. It is to be wondered at that they received no sort of check. Is it to be wondered at that they said plainly: “we are not wanted in Iraq, and if we can get the French to take us in Syria, let us go”. In regard to the massacre he said: “ I have seen accounts of those who were present. I have head that it was more shocking than anything it was seen during the war was. And I have read a letter from an independent and trustworthy person in Iraq, by no means friendly to the Assyrians, who said that such an exhibition of savage fanaticism had probably seldom been seen. There is no question that it was done by the Iraq army. I do not know haw far any orders had been issued by the commander, Sidqy Beg. It is enough to so that full credit for this was taken by the whole army. It was shortly afterwards received by acclamation in the streets of Baghdad, and Sidqy Beg was promoted to Pasha.”

Before the massacre the feeling in Iraq was anti British. But afterwards the turn of Arab opinion can be judged by the following statement.  Mr. Ernest Main, who was sent to Iraq as the Daily Mail representative, and flew by the same airplane as did Sir Francis Humphrys who, was recalled from his fishing expedition in Norway, speaking at the Royal Central Asian Society said:  “Among  the Arabs feeling appeared to swing round in favor of Britain. When I left Baghdad they were beginning to appreciate that they must depend on British support at Geneva, and the general feeling was much more definitely pro-British than when I arrived a month earlier.”

The Assyrians massacred during August 1933 were 3,000.

**** 2 ****

The historical importance of what happened in Iraq that summer lies not in the events themselves but in how they were interpreted by the population. All accounts are unanimous in describing the overwhelming popular enthusiasm for the army’s actions. In the city of Mosul, triumphal arches were set up, “ decorated with melons stained with blood and with daggers struck into them. This delicate representation of the heads of the slain Assyrians was in keeping with the prevailing sentiment.” K. Husri, then a young boy, was an eyewitness to the army’s reception in Baghdad:

On August 26 practically the entire city turned out to welcome the army units returning after completion of their operations against the Assyrians. Thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children filled the streets the squares, and rooftops of the city, bringing everything to a stand still for hours. The immense crowds cheered deliriously and the troops marched through the capitol. Men and women and children showered flowers, and rose water on them from the rooftops. The writer will remember that on that day that he and his sister were allow to pick all the roses and flowers of their garden . . . scattering their contents on the heads of the marching from the balcony of the doctors clinic overlooking rushed streets. Planes of the Iraqi airforce flew over the city, raining colored leaflets that carried the following words written by a welcoming committee: “Welcome, Protectors of the Fatherland! . . . Stand up to your enemies the Tools and Creatures of Imperialism!” The army and crown Prince Ghazi, whose openly displayed approval of the campaign against the Assyrians had made him the darling of the masses were cheered to the heavens. But few cheers were lifted for King Faisal . . . The same thing happened five days later when Baghdad turned out again to greet Ghazi, Bakr Sidqy, and Rashid Ali, on their return to the capitol from a ceremonial parade of the army of Mosul. When King Faisal left Baghdad on September 2nd there were hardly more then fifty people to see him off in the airport; two days earlier there had been a crowd of 50,000 men in the same airport greeting Ghazi on his return from Mosul. The writer met Bakr Sidqy for the first time a few days after his return from Mosul. When he patted me on the shoulder and asked me what I wanted to be when I finished school, I said: "an army officer".

1:  The Assyrian Tragedy, Annemasse, February 1934
2:  Republic of Fear, Samir al-Khalil, 1990



(ZNZT: Vatican)  According to reports from Germany and Holland, the Patriotic Revolutionary Organization of BethNahrin (PROB) in northern Iraq has carried two military attacks last month to avenge the death of the Assyrian woman, Helen A. Sawa.  According to one PROB spokesperson, "Each attack on our Assyrian-Suryoyo people will be paid back. That is the motto of our Patriotic Revolutionary Organization of BethNahrin (PROB)."  The first attack was carried out on July 17 by the APRIL 24 unit of the PROB near the city of Kasre against a small KDP encampment.  According to the same report 39 of Massoud Barzani's KDP Pishmarge (freedom fighters) were killed and 20 were injured.  Three days later a second attack was carried out by the APRIL 24 unit in which several of Barzani's fighters were killed when an army truck driving on a bridge between Kasre and Haci Umran was blown up by the PROB.  ZENDA was unable to confirm these reports at press time.



(ZNAP:  Jerusalem)  Last month, the Free Youth of BethNahrin, a youth-arm of the Patriotic Revolutionary Organization of BethNahrin (PROB), organized an educational trip to Paris. The aim was to bring the youth living in Diaspora together. The plan was successful as nearly 320 Assyrian-Aramean-Chaldaen youth from every part of Europe took part in this event.

On Friday evening the buses left Germany, France, Belgium, Sweden, Holland, Switzerland and Austria arriving on Saturday morning at the Place de La Concorde.  The participants first walked through the Jardins des Tuileries until they reached the Louvre.  Unfortunately the employees of the museum were on strike and the program was altered to include a tour of the Eiffel Tower.

On Saturday evening the group was invited to the club house of the Assyrian-Suryoye Association of "Assur-Chaldo" of France.  The group was warmly received and entertained by George Issa and the musical and lyrical talents of Assyrian-Suryoye friends, Kathrin and Michael.  One participant commented that: "Although the hall was very small the atmosphere was wonderful, because as a proud Assyrian-Aramean-Chaldaen it’s an incredible feeling to see 320 of our young people from the whole Europe united here in one place. What seemed to be almost impossible in the past here in Diaspora, could become something normal in our home-land: just to be together with many other young people of our nation."

At the end of the party, some group members were assigned to the families in and around Paris and the rest spent the night at the club-house which itself used to be a hotel. After the Sunday breakfast the group went back to the Louvre Museum.  The group entertained itself, while waiting in line on the Place du Carrousel near the glassy Pyramid in front of the Musée du Louvre, by singing and dancing Assyrian-Suryoyo folklores.  "It was a great feeling to look at these 4000-6000 years-old colossal objects. The fact that many other Europeans, Americans, Japanese... paid much money for seeing our works of art made us very proud!", commented one member.   The winged-bulls with the bearded human heads particularly had a strong effect on the group members.  King Hammurabi's Code of Law is also exhibited in the Louvre.  The busses left Paris on Sunday.

Thanks the Assyrian-Suryoye Association of "Assur-Chaldo" in France, the Free Youth of BethNahrin and the Patriotic Revolutionary Organization of BethNahrin over 300 youth were brought together to enjoy an unforgettable weekend in Paris where they overcame isolation and other obstacles confronted in the Diaspora. Many new friendships were made.  It was very important to see that the Assyrian-Aramean-Chaldean youth displayed such strong feelings of patriotism and is willing to challenge assimilation.

The report was prepared by Sami Sagur for ZENDA Magazine in Germany.


(ZNAP: Baghdad) - A slab engraved with cuneiform inscriptions, found by an Iraqi farmer, is shedding new light on the life and deeds of Sennacherib, one of Assyria's greatest monarchs.

Iraq Museum researchers in Baghdad showed off the find last Thursday: a tombstone-sized slab, or stele, engraved with a portrait of the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, reviled in the Bible for sacking Judea and besieging Jerusalem. He is shown with a conical gold crown, long earrings and beautifully woven long beard.

His hand raised in salute, the cuneiform inscriptions quote Sennacherib advising his subjects in the Assyrian capital, Nineveh, to leave some space between their outer walls and the street.

"The stele depicting the king in full regalia is the third of its kind to be found so far,'' said Nawal al-Mutwali, a language expert at the Iraq Museum. The other two are in museums abroad.

Engraved in wedge-shaped cuneiform on the 3-foot-high stele, are the opening lines: "I am the beloved of the great gods. I am the great Sennacherib, king of the four corners of the world.''  Al-Mutwali said it was the first time an ancient Iraqi monarch has been known to give himself such attributes.

"The stele tells much more than what we already know about a monarch historians are unanimous in describing as both brutal and cowardly", al-Mutwali said.  The slab gives us "new information about the king, gives us dimensions of Nineveh streets and tells where similar artifacts are to be found,'' she said.

For almost three centuries, until its demise in 612 B.C., Assyria was the ancient world's most formidable power, occupying most of today's Middle East. Sennacherib ruled Assyria from 705 B.C. to 681 B.C.
Located 250 miles north of Baghdad, Nineveh now falls within the sprawling Iraqi city of Mosul.

A farmer driving his tractor in a field came upon the stele last week, said Manhal Jaber, head of Nineveh antiquities.  Jaber immediately fenced off the field and the slab was taken to the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad for al-Mutwali to examine.  The 26-line inscription mentions that Sennacherib erected one such stele every half-yard along Nineveh's royal street. Archaeologists now plan to dig in search of the remaining slabs.



In the year 448, during the reign of Yezdegerd II, there occurred a horrific massacre of Assyrians by the Sassanians (Persians). 153,000 Assyrians were killed, and one Persian. This poem is about the true story of that Persian, Tamasgerd the executioner.

I stand upon red stained soil
I drift back sixteen hundred years
I see them
I hear their screams of joy
I see the fire god with his ax
Stop! Tamasgerd!
But he cannot hear me
They come from the plains of Nineveh
Not to seek vengeance
Not to wage war
But to delight in the celebration
They come by the thousands
And the fire god consumes
One hundred fifty three thousand
By the third day
And still they find their way
And the fire god consumes
A mother holds up her infant
Tamasgerd lowers his ax
But to the ground
And he screams
You were not captured
Why do you come?
Why do you offer me your infant?
Do you wish to know? She sings
Then kneel down beside me
And accept the father, the son, and the holy spirit
Is your faith as strong as mine?
Can a fire bring you salvation?
Strike me now, Tamasgerd
I do not fear, for truer than my faith there cannot be
I see pain on his face
I see tears in his eyes
Forgive me my lord, he cries
Only a true god can inspire such faith
Only you must the true god be
I believe, he screams
I believe
The fire god lowers his ax on Tamasgerd's head
The mother screams in joy
You have been baptized in your own blood
You are saved
Still the fire god consumes
I drift back sixteen hundred years
In a province named Tamasgerd
I stand upon red stained soil
Peter Pnuel BetBasoo
June 28, 1993 (6743)

This Week's Contributors:
in alphabetical order

 Matay Arsan
Good Morning Bet-Nahrain
Albert Gabrial
News Digest
 Sami Sagur
News Digest 

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