Volume V                Issue 17
Khzeeran 21, 6749                                                                         June 21, 1999

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T H I S  W E E K I N  Z E N D A

The Lighthouse Why Do We Call Ourselves Assyrian?
Good Morning Bet-Nahrain Body of An Assyrian Woman Found in Dohuk
Prehistoric Village Found in Bet-Nahrain
News Digest Assyrian Refugees in Spain Seek Asylum
Surfs Up "We seem to have an identity crisis and for no reason."
Surfers Corner Politician Brings Assyrian Message to Valley
Message in the Bottle Daniel Kass-Saliba
Assyrian Surfing Posts Assyrian Association of Spain
Join Assyrian Levies Community on the Internet
Pump up the Volume Round & Square
Back to the Future Merodach-Baladan's ambitions & Claudius Rich's Travels
Literatus An Earthquake at Dur-Sharruken
This Week in History Ottomans Capture Salamas
Bravo Ashour Assyrian Youth Center in Armenia
Calendar of Events AANYA Lecture Series

All blue links throughout this issue are hyperlinks to other sections on this page or featured websites.

We dedicate this issue to the memory of Nathan Leidreiter (1973-1999), a web designer at our San Jose-California office.  Nathan passed on to immortality last week, a few days after undergoing a major corrective surgery.

Afraid! of whom am I afraid?
Not Death - for who is He?
The Porter of my Father's Lodge
As much abasheth me!
Because I could not stop for Death
He kindly stopped for me
The carriage held but just Ourselves
And Immortality.
Who has not found the Heaven - below
Will fail of it above
For Angels rent the House next ours,
Wherever we remove

(Emily Dickinson)

Nathan- we miss you, buddy!  It's just not the same without you.



An Assyrian-Armenian Family from the Village of Verin Dvin, Armenia

At the beginning of 1998, Zenda carried an article written by Dr. Aryan Ishaya, under the title "Are Contemporary Assyrians Really Assyrians?" That article was recently reproduced on one of the Assyrian websites under the title "Playing a political game in the guise of science." Dr. Ishaya tells us that "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.

I find that statement ill informed and highly irresponsible. Let us see if the facts are as simple or as convincing as Dr. Ishaya claims : The vast majority of our people, who started to call themselves 'Aturaye' (Assyrians)--instead of the traditional name they used--Suraye or Suryaye--were members of the Church of the East ("Nestorians"). Until the First World War these Aramaic-speaking Christians had for centuries lived in the Kurdish regions of Hakkari in Turkey, and in Urmiyah. in the Persian province of Azerbayjan. They were not, as Dr. Ishaya claims, "inhabitants of ancient Assyria." The vast majority of the Christians who did live in the province of Mosul, geographical Assyria, preferred to call themselves either Chaldeans or Suryoyo. To this day these two groups--Chaldeans and Syrian Orthodox ("Jacobites")--refuse to be called 'Aturaye.'

As a result of World War I, the Hakkari and Urmiyah communities, had become refugees and were under the protection of the British, in the British mandate of Iraq. Like the Kossovars of our day, these refugees wanted to go back to their pre-war villages. Through the centuries, they had developed an intense devotion to their old homegrounds. A deputation of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions found the Christians of Persia with an intense longing to return to their ancestral homes.This longing for their native land in Persia was well expressed by the representatives of the community itself in a petition addressed to the deputation of the Presbyterian Board: "The greatest part of our men and women," wrote these representatives, "are real lovers of their tongue and nation, and are ready to put down their lives in its behalf...we believe that the existence of this ancient nation and tongue depends on the opening of our beloved native place, which we hope will be the nucleus to gather all our people around it in the future..." Realizing that their last hope to achieve their goal lay in the efforts of the Persian government to open Urmiyah for them, the representatives asked the Board to exert its influence "to secure the opening of our land, and the altars of our [nationality]."

The "Nestorians" of Hakkari likewise wanted to return to their ancestral villages in Turkey proper, but on the condition that their security be guaranteed by the British. The wishes of this group were addressed early in 1919 by the Patriarch himself. In his letter to the Acting Civil Commissioner of Iraq, Mar Shamun requested that all his people be placed "permanently under the British protection in their own country. He asked that the districts of Urmiyah, Sulduz, and Salmas on the western side of Lake Urmiyah be placed in this protectorate, if possible.

The Assyrian nationalism then just beginning, was not without its super patriots even in those days. Like a host of other minorities after World War I, Aturaye too had their self-appointed representatives, most of them from the United States, who were ready to put some very ambitious and politically provocative claims before the Peace Conference in Paris. Arnold J. Toynbee rightly referred to the nationalism of such small minorities as "a will-o'-the-wisp enticing them to destruction. A delegation made up of the president and other members of the "Assyrian National Associations of America" had an elaborate draft of "claims of the Assyrians" which was placed before the Conference in Paris.

By "Assyrian" the delegation meant not only the Nestorians, Chaldeans, and Jacobites, but also the Maronites as well as some "Islamic Assyrians" such as certain Kurdish tribes and the Yazidis of Jabal Sinjar. The territorial claims of these nationalists included the northern part of Mesopotamia and altogether comprised "an area which stretches from below the lower-Zaba, up to and including, the province of Dearbeker (Diyarbakr) ... and also from Euphrates in the west to the mountains of Armenia in the east. Added to this, the Assyrians naturally desired an access to the sea." The delegation asked that the area claimed, "even though including some Kurds within its bounds," be created into "an Assyrian state, under the protectorate of some mandatory power..."

The delegation in Paris was briefly joined by the future patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church (Jacobite), Ignatius Afram I Barsoum, then bishop of Syria. He was soon disillusioned by what he saw and heard. At one of the sessions of the peace conference he found himself defending Arab rights instead of championing the cause of Assyrianism. As we have seen, even the claims of the Nestorian patriarch were not too ambitious and certainly were not directed toward the resurrection of ancient "Nineveh." He spoke only of his flock but requested the British government to recognize the position of the patriarch as the head of the millet: "Owing to the primitive state of our people," he explained, "we beg that the whole patriarchal form of government over their various tribes be continued under the British superintendence and advice. This simple government is what the people are accustomed to, and it has been found to work best in the past." When the Iraqi state was established, the patriarch insisted on some of the above-mentioned prerogatives, and the rest is history.

Instead of taking the position that the above complex and inter-related facts should be studied, Dr. Ishaya would ban any such research. She tells us that "the question of whether the contemporary Assyrians are Assyrians, should never be asked." Why? Because scholars and some of their readers "do not seem to realize that to question the legitimacy of the name of today's Assyrians is not a "scientific act" but a political one. What Dr. Ishaya herself does not seem to realize is that it was the half-baked research of our pop historians that led to the exaggerated political claims noted above. She proclaims that scholars in this field have two choices: either put their profession "in the service of the people " or "use it to promote the interest of the ruling powers." No matter which one of these two choices scholars make, "they can be sure that they can no longer fool the people."

It is not surprising that our nationalists reproduced Dr. Ishaya's article; it supposedly is written "in the service of the people"? The ZENDA article was given a new title, using Dr. Ishaya's own words: "Playing a political game in the guise of science." This is a shameful way of blackmailing scholars. Ironically, Dr. Ishaya and her readers are fooling nobody but their own people.

Professor John Joseph

Prof. John Joseph is the Lewis Audenreid Professor of History and Archaeology at Franklin & Marshall College.  Prof. Joseph is the author of "The Nestorians and Their Muslim Neighbors: A Study of Western Influence on Their Relations", published by Princeton University Press in 1961.



(ZNAI: Chicago)  Based on a report prepared by the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) the body of an Assyrian woman was found earlier this month in North Iraq.  A shepherd near the Dohuk Dam found the partially decomposed body of the 21-year-old victim, Ms. Helena Aloun Sawa, buried in a shallow grave.  Ms Sawa had been missing for four weeks.  She is said to have been employed as a housekeeper in the service of an KDP official.  According to the AINA report Ms. Sawa's father, a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), was killed in 1991 while fighting for Massoud Barzani's group in northern Iraq.  No official investigation of the suspicious disappearance and the alleged murder of Ms. Helena Sawa had begun at press time.  In the past few days the offices of the Kurdistan Regional Government outside of North Iraq have been contacted by Assyrian political and religious leaders demanding an immediate action from the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the KRG.

For the full AINA report:  Click Here
Photo courtesy of AINA.


(ZNAF: Damascus) A Franco-Syrian archaeological team has discovered a neolithic village dating back 11,000 years on a site in northeastern Syria soon to be flooded by a dam, archaeologists announced on Monday. "Several villages have been found, one on top of the other. They contain not only dwellings, but, for the first time, large buildings for communal use. These buildings were communal granaries and meeting places for social and perhaps religious purposes, according to Danielle Stordeur, head of the French team. The houses are in an excellent state of preservation. The oldest are round, and the more recent ones rectangular, Stordeur said, explaining that the oldest known houses in the world date back to 12,000 BC and were round. The team also found what appeared to be meaningful pictograms carved on small stones. Plant remains and animal bones will provide information about the inhabitants' diet and the locally available resources. "We are on a rescue dig. The village will disappear under the waters of the Tishrin dam," currently under construction, said Stordeur.

Report courtesy of Agence France-Presse



(ZNDA: Spain)  According to the translated version of an article published in the Southern Spanish-newspaper "Sur Daily", several Assyrians were recently denied political asylum in Spain.  Among the rejected group is Ada Sarkisova, whose Armenian husband and her daughter were murdered by the Moslems in Azarbaijan.  Ada, her 19-year-old son, and two other Assyrian families were expelled from the Moslem-majority country of Azarbaijan- a former Soviet republic.  Ada's son, whose identity was not revealed, is a volunteer in a non-gevernmental organization.  Of the 600 asylum seekers, the Spanish government granted permission-to-stay to only 30 persons who were in the custody of the Centre for the Refugees in Malaga-Spain.

Ada and other Assyrian families have been financially supported by an Evangelical church group in Malaga.  "We didn't know which road to make for. We traveled by the lorry most of the time, until we got to the border, where we were brought to a small hamlet near Barcelona. We made our way to Madrid, where we were transferred to this Centre in Malaga".

Article translated by the Assyrian Association of Spain
For the complete article in Spanish: Click Here


"As a member of a community whose history I have recorded with great sympathy, I would have been delighted to be the first scholar to firmly established our link with the ancient Assyrians. Alas, a lifetime of work on the subject has only confirmed what I wrote as a young man of 32. I do not know of one serious scholar who has studied our history and language, who would disagree with my premises. Indeed, most of my premises are based on the specialization and research of others. What is more, most of our own Aramaic-speaking brethren, both Chaldeans and the Suryaan, would side with me on the issue of linkage--or I with them. I have learned a great deal from from the Syriac scholars of our sister churches.

I seriously believe that the single most important problem facing our Assyrian community and the reasons for our disunity stem from the fact that nobody takes us seriously on the question of our identity--not our friends, not our enemies. Actually, they all seem to know our history better than we do, be they Kurds or Arabs, the Syrian Orthodox or the Chaldeans , the Iraqi Opposition parties or the scholars at Oxford, Harvard, Yale or Chicago, or the U.S. Census Bureau in Washington D.C., let alone the Department of State there. I do not doubt for one moment that the reason for not allowing us to attend the Washington talks is our Assyrianism, our digital nationalism and its fantastic claims. I am always afraid that our super patriots will one day bring us even greater tragedies.

We seem to have an identity crisis and for no reason. We have an illustrious history as Christians, as speakers of the Aramaic language for centuries, as descendants of a number of great nations of the distant past. United with our other Christian brethren, the Suroyo and the Chaldeans, we--who also called ourselves Suraye in my boyhood days,--can fight for our basic human rights and we will be respected for it. As I concluded the first chapter of my book , our lineal origin, "like that of most Middle Eastern nationalities, is hidden in the mists of history. [The Nestorians] are a mixture of races and it is possible they have Assyrian blood in their veins, especially certain sections of the community, just as other sections have Persian, Kurdish, [Jewish, Arab] and Aramean blood. Indeed, the majority of their forefathers' descendants are today Moslem Arabs, Kurds , and Persian."

Prof. John Joseph



The following is a reprint of an article by Modesto Bee staff writer, Monnica Linggi, which appeared on Tuesday, 15 June.

One of the most important things Assyrians can do is support the fight to be recognized and to be given rights as a distinct ethnic group in Iraq.

That was the message Yonadam Kanna brought last week during a visit to the Central Valley. "We are the native people of Iraq, but up to this moment we are unrespected guests in our own home," Kanna said.

Kanna's two-week trip around the United States consisted of stays in Chicago, Michigan, Arizona and Washington, D.C., as well as in Stanislaus County. His purpose: Help Assyrians here keep up with events at home, encourage the preservation of their culture and language in the United States, and rally support for the Assyrian Democratic Movement in Iraq.

Kanna is the first Assyrian Cabinet member to serve in the government of the Iraqi-Kurdistan northern safe haven region of Iraq. He is minister of public works and heads the Assyrian Democratic Movement, which seeks to end Saddam Hussein's rule.

There are 1.25 million Assyrians in Iraq, and about 300,000 in the United States, Kanna said. Unlike most Iraqis, Assyrians traditionally are Christian.

Under Hussein's rule, Assyrians have struggled for equality and recognition. According to the Assyrian Democratic Movement Web site, Iraq forced Assyrians to register as Arabs or Kurds in the country's 1977 census. Many have fled political persecution in Iraq. Half the Assyrian nation is in Europe, Canada, Australia and the United States.

Kanna is one of the founders of the Assyrian liberation movement to make Iraq democratic. He urged valley Assyrians to organize themselves and keep up to date on Assyrian progress in the Middle East.

"When they're organized they can do more for Americans and for their homeland," Kanna said during a rally last week at the Assyrian-American Civic Club in Turlock.

Kanna asked the almost 300 Assyrians at the event to support the movement financially and morally.

"This is the first prime minister in the 2,500 years after our empire has fallen. This was requested by a lot of people; they want to know what's going on," said Albert Salmani who attended the rally with his wife, Ninevah, and 22-month old son, Romel.

For 19 year-old Modesto Junior College student Natale Jacobs, Kanna's visit brought the Assyrian reality in Iraq closer to the valley. Jacob's parents emigrated from Iraq to California in 1979, before she was born.

"He brought knowledge to us about what's going on," she said. "It's more realistic because it's coming from him."

Modesto's Shimon Khamo said Kanna's visit helped raise awareness of Assyrian causes.

"We're not asking for a separate statehood, just to be human beings equal to the Iraqi people," Khamo said. "The birds have their own nests. Now this nation that was the cradle of civilization has no nest; we're dispersed."

Staff writer Monica Linggi can be reached at 209-578-2338.

Earlier this month, Mr. Yacub Yosip (Yonadam Kanna) of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa) and Dr. Muzaffer Arslan, leader of the Turkeman groups in northern Iraq, met with the officials at the U.S. State Department in Washington D.C.  Mr. Yosip also met with Governor Gray Davis of California and other local officials in his recent visit to the United States.  U.S. State Department officials in a communiqué to the Assyrian Universal Alliance have indicated a renewed interest in the welfare of non-Kurdish and Arab population of northern Iraq.  Both Assyrian and Turkeman leaders expect an equal representation of their respectful constituencies during the upcoming general elections in the North.

Daniel Kass-Saliba

 Cool, dark, and daring... Enter Daniel's AssyriaPage, a quaint cyberspace of small informative web sites deliciously linked to stimulate your interest in the glorious past of an equally daring nation.

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Assyrian Forum
Assyria Web Chat
Nineveh Cafe
Suryoyo Online Forum

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Assyrian Association of Spain
Join Assyrian Levies Community on the Internet


 glee/la  (g as in great)


BC (710)

After incapacitating the Urartian power in the north king Sargon II turns to Babylon in the south.  His campaigns lasted three years during which time he gained control of southern Bet-Nahrain (Mesopotamia).  The ruler of Babylon, Merodach-Baladan was forcibly driven further south into the marshlands of Sumer where he began amassing an army against the Ninevite ruler in the north.  Merodach-Baladan's ambitious plans were thwarted once again when Sargon's son, Sennacherib re-claimed Babylon.

The Might That Was Assyria, Saggs

AD (1820)

Claudius James Rich (1787-1820), an English traveler and writer, dies of cholera in Shiraz, Iran.  Rich was a gifted linguist who greatly contributed to the study of the societies in Iraq, northern Bet-Nahrain in particular.  His travels form the subject of his book entitled Narrative of a Residence in Koordistan.

The Rise of Civilization, Oates



The following is a letter to Sargon II (722-704 BC) from Kisir-Ashur, governor of Dur-Sharruken:

To the king, my lord: your servant Kisir-Ashur.

Good health to the kin, my lord!

Upon my coming from Milqia to Dur-Sharruken, I was told that there had been an earthquake in Dur-Sharruken o the 9th of Adar.  Perhaps the king, my lord, now says: "What damage is there within the city wall?"

There is none.  The temples, the ziggurat, the palace, the city wall and the buildings of the city are all well; the king, my lord, can be glad.

The king, my lord, will hear many things tomorrow and the day after, and say: "Why is it that you heard but did not write?"  That is why I am now writing to the king, my lord.

Nineveh 612 BC, Helsinki University Press


June 21, 1918:  The Ottoman army captures Salamas in northwestern Iran and loot the Assyrian villages.  The Assyrian villagers escape to Russia in the north and the villages surrounding Urmia in the south.



The Assyrian Youth Center "ASHOUR" was established in 1997 and was officially registered on the 27th of February 1998 by the Ministry of Justice in Armenia.

This organization aims to revive the Assyrian language, literature, religion, traditions and culture in Armenia; develp athletic activities for the Assyrian youth in Armenia and establish contacts with the Assyrian and International organizations abroad.   With the support of the Armenian government "ASHOUR" Center intends to

Some of the notable accomplishments of the "ASHOUR" Center at the Ministry of Education include:

"Ashour" Center plans to do the following in the coming months increase its educational activities in the coming months and organize a dance and music group.

The unidentified Assyrian girl pictured above was among the many participants of a religious festivity organized by the Assyrian-Armenian community of the village of Verin Dvin on June 14th.  The photograph was made available to ZENDA courtesy of Mr. Onnik Krikorian, a photojournalist from London currently living in Armenia, and Ms. Irina Sagradova-Gasparian, a regular contributor to ZENDA Magazine.


June 27

Speaker:  Robert Oushalem, Esq
Topics:   Purposes of Estate Planning
             Functions of a Living Trust
             A Living Trust Versus a Will
             Estate Taxes

Free Admission and refreshments will be served.
7:30 p.m. at BETA,  20000 Almaden Road
For more information call (408) 927-8100
This lecture may be in English.

Join us for an informative lecture on the  last Sunday of each month!

Sept 1-6

Sponsored by the Assyrian-American National Federation
For schedule of events and entertainment CLICK HERE
Hotel Reservations:  Los Angeles Airport Hilton & Towers:  Map
5711 Century Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90045
(310) 410-4000 or 1(800) HILTONS

Jan 28,

Divine Liturgy in the Eastern Assyrian Rite (Chaldean and Malabarese)
Basilica of St Cecilia in Trastevere


 Alabama, U.S.

This Week's Contributors:
in alphabetical order

 Rachelle Badal
Calendar of Events
 Albert Gabrial
Assyrian Surfing Posts
Carlo Ganjeh
Marian Younan
Surfers Corner

Thank You For Referring A Friend to ZENDA:

 Dr. Arian Ishaya


ZENDA Magazine is published every Monday. Views expressed in ZENDA do not necessarily represent those of the ZENDA editors, or any of our associated staff.  This publication reserves the right, at its sole discretion, not to publish comments or articles previously printed in or submitted to other journals. ZENDA   reserves the right to publish and republish your submission in any form or medium. All letters and messages  require the name(s) of sender and/or author. All messages published in the SURFS UP! section must be in 500 words or less and bear the name of the author(s). Distribution of material featured in ZENDA is not restricted, but permission from ZENDA is required.  This service is meant for the exchange of information, analyses and news. To subscribe, send e-mail to: zenda@ix.netcom.com.

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The Directory of ZENDA News Sources
ZNAA (Assyrian Academic Society-Chicago)
ZNAD (Assyrian Democratic Organization)
ZNAF (Agence France-Presse)
ZNAH (Al-Ahram Newspaper, London)
ZNAL (Al-Hayat, London)
ZNAI  (Assyrian International News Agency)
ZNAK (American Kurdish
ZNAM (Archeology Magazine)
ZNAP (Associated Press International)
ZNBN (Bet-Nahrain Inc/ KBSV-TV "AssyriaVision")
ZNCN (ClariNews)
ZNCS (Conservative News Service)
ZNIF (Iraq Foundation)
ZNDA (Zenda: zenda@ix.netcom.com)
ZNDN (Detroit News)
ZNIN (Iraqi National Congress)
ZNLT (Los Angeles Times)
ZNMN (San Jose Mercury News)
ZNMS (Mar Shimun Magazine-Canada)
ZNMV (Minerva- The Int. Rev. of Art & Archaeology)
ZNMW (Mideast Newswire)
ZNNQ (Nabu Quarterly)
ZNNV (Nineveh Magazine)
ZNNY:  New York Times
ZNPR:  Palestinian Review
ZNQA (Qala Atouraya- Moscow)
ZNRF (Radio Free Iraq)
ZNRU (Reuters)
ZNSH (Shotapouta Newsletter)
ZNSJ (San Jose Mercury News)
ZNSM (Shufimafi Lebanese News)
ZNSO (Syrian Orthodox News "SOCNews")
ZNTD (Turkish Daily News)
ZNTM (Time Magazine)
ZNUP (United Press International)
ZNUS (US News & World Report)
ZNCW:  Catholic World News