Z I N D A  M A G A Z I N E
Tammuz 18, 6750                     Volume VI                      Issue 16                       July 18, 2000
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T H I S   W E E K   I N   Z I N D A
The Lighthouse Special Zinda Reports on:
Sydney Genocide Conference
Symposium Syriacum VIII
Good Morning Bet-Nahrain Disagreements at the INC Meeting in London
Turkoman Consultative Council Communiqué
News Digest Khatami Receives Assyrian Delegation
Maronite Patriarch Says Syria Must Withdraw
Surfs Up "Greetings from Israel"
Surfers Corner Census 2000 Demonstration in Fresno
AAASJ Press Statement on Genocide Conf. 2000
The Coming Issue of JAAS
Literatus M E of Ancient Sumer
Pump Up the Volume Event & Period
Back to the Future Aramaic Language and the Terror in the Mountains
This Week in History Surmi Khanom
Calendar of Events July-September 2000

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


Held on 2 July 2000
Sydney, Australia

The Centre for Comparative Genocide Studies held its inaugural biennial conference, "Portraits of Christian Asia Minor", at Macquarie University, on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th September, 1999. This unprecedented conference had Assyrian, Armenian, Greek and even Turkish speakers attend from all parts of the world.

Applying diplomatic pressure on the organisers, the Turkish consulate had managed to convince them to allow one of their speakers to also present his paper at the conference. The conference organisers had agreed to allow the Turkish speaker to present his paper provided he remained purely educational. This still didn't stop an anonymous bomb threat days before last year's conference, warning of a bomb that would be exploded at the University. When the conference began last year it was obvious that the Turkish speaker had fully prepared himself for the day, having members of the 'Grey Wolves', a Turkish Kemmalist group, as supporters in the crowd. The intimidating tactics that they along with Dr. Sonyel applied, however, were no match for a cool headed Dr. Abdul Maasih Saadi who calmly referred to the historical evidence as a frustrated Dr. Sonyel shouted emotional outbursts at Dr. Saadi. At this point a Jewish member of the audience then arose and then told the Turkish sponsored Dr. Sonyel how frustrating it was that the Turkish government had still not made peace with its past. She gave the example of the German government who had acknowledged its past atrocities committed against the Jews, and grown stronger for it.

Thus ended last year's genocide conference setting the stage for this year's conference which would be dedicated solely to the Assyrian people. Titled 'Assyrians After Assyria', the conference would be held by the Macquarie University Centre for Comparative Genocide Studies, in conjunction with Sydney University's Department of Semitic Studies on Sunday 2nd July at Sydney University.

Sydney's Turkish Embassy consular authorities began early and applied diplomatic pressure on Professor Abeid to stop the conference, as well as applying pressure to close down Macquarie University's genocide section altogether. According to the consular officials the conference was "not educationally motivated, but politically motivated".

Failing in their attempts to stop the conference the consular authorities then requested permission to have one of their speakers present a paper on the day, and were promptly refused, by the main sponsors and organisers of the conference. According to one organiser, who wished to remain anonymous, "We along with our sponsors, had paid a large amount of money to organise this event. The last thing we wanted was for a Turkish speaker to stand on the podium and deny what the Turkish government had done to our people during World War 1".

Meanwhile in Melbourne, the Greek groups were busy trying to ease some of the diplomatic pressure. The 6th Annual Australian Hellenic Council Conference was held in Melbourne on the 26th June, 2000. Amongst the many guests that attended the function were Australia's Federal ministers of Education and Foreign Affairs, Kemp and Downer. Many points were raised by the Council, but one of the main points raised by the Council, with both ministers, was the repeated harassment and pressure that was being applied by the Turkish consular authorities, stationed within Australia, on Australia's Universities.

According to Panayiotis Diamadis, a member of the Hellenic Council of New South Wales, "We requested that the foreign ministry inform the diplomatic guests that interference in Australia's Universities was unacceptable". Both ministers left the conference vowing to send the Turkish authorities in Australia and Ankara strong letters of protest requesting that they stop their political interference in Australian Universities.

News of the Melbourne conference eased some of the tension faced by the organisers but two days before the scheduled day of the 'Assyrians After Assyria' genocide conference Macquarie University received yet another anonymous bomb threat warning of a bomb that would be exploded at the University.

With this type of build-up, it was quite understandable that the opening of the conference was quite tense. It was held on Sunday 2nd July, and the 250 strong, mainly Assyrian audience, were on the edge of their seats, on the cold winter morning. The tension was not helped when half-way through the reading of the first speaker's paper (Gabriele Yonan's lecture) the automated lighting system shut-down plunging the entire lecture theatre into darkness, and causing people in the audience to turn around and curiously ask their neighbours "Mudeeyli Braya?". It was promptly reset by a University technician, as Gabriele Yonan, continued her talk unphased.

After all was said and done, the threats, intimidation and pressure had actually served to pack the lecture theatre with many more attendees than would have otherwise been present. With a peaceful and calm setting the conference was conducted quite professionally reinforcing the fact that it was purely "educational", contrary to Turkish claims. The 250 strong audience left the event with a sense of having gained something unique from the speakers who had presented their papers, on the day. Unlike last year, the denialists, such as the Grey Wolves along with their Turkish speaker, did not make an appearance, interfering in the proceedings. Perhaps they had had a premonition of Professor Colin Tatz's introductory speech to the conference in which he stated "As much as we hate denialists; denialists in a perverted sense keep it alive".

David Chibo
Zinda Magazine


Sydney University - Australia
26 June 2000 – 2 July 2000

The Eighth International Congress for Syriac Studies (Symposium Syriacum VIII) saw over 120 eminent scholars from all over the world gather at Sydney University (Australia) between 26 June 2000 and 1 July 2000.  This was followed by a seminar on the Assyrian Genocide entitled “Assyrians After Assyria” that also took place at Sydney University on Sunday 2 July 2000.

The Symposium Syriacum VIII was organised by Professor Rifaat Obied, Head of the Semitic Studies Department at Sydney University.  The Assyrians After Assyria Seminar was organised by the Centre for Comparative Genocide Studies at Macquarie University, in conjunction with Sydney University and The Assyrian Australian Academic Society (TAAAS).  TAAAS was also one of the major sponsors of the Symposium, as well as being the financial steerer and co-organisor of the Seminar.

Academics, professors, students and guests gathered to discuss topics revolving around the Syriac language in antiquity and its survival into the present day. The opening of the Symposium included the Choir from the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East singing hymns written by Mar Ephrem and Mar Narsai, and conducted by Maestro Shura Michalian. This was followed by 4 days of lectures including such topics as ‘Hymns of the Syriac Church’, ‘Early Christian writings and manuscripts in the Aramaic language’ as well as the ‘Relationship of the Syriac Church with the Coptic church’ of Alexandria and the Maronite Church in Lebanon.

Among the more interesting lectures included a report on the project of creating an encyclopedia of Syriac heritage, given by Dr. George A. Kiraz. This project was started in 1993 during Dr. Kiraz’s time in Cambridge. Originally, the encyclopedia was meant to be computer based database, but it was later decided that it would be published into a book. Gathering over 1200 entries in 2 years, the team consists of Kiraz himself, along with Dr. Sebastian Brock, Dr. Coakley, Dr. Witakowski and Robert Kitchen, all scholars of Syriac Studies.

This encyclopedic dictionary which is yet to be edited and published, is aimed at scholars, members of the Syriac tradition and graduate students of Syriac studies. It will include pictures, maps, diagrams and tables. In an effort of what Kiraz referred to as ‘de-latinisation’ of popular terms, the encyclopedia will contain Syriac proper nouns in an effort to preserve history and language. Instead of using “Saint Matthew’s monastery” for example, the term “Deyr d’Mor Matay” will be used. Any differences between the East Syriac and West Syriac will also be accommodated for. Both forms will be used for neutral terms, eg. mimro/ mimra, and the West Syriac will be used for Western entries and East versions for eastern entries. When using names of cities and villages, the Syriac name will be used, as well as the modern day version. The main aim for creating this encyclopedia according to Kiraz is for Syriac knowledge to enter the encyclopedic community and an easy-to-use resource for students and scholars alike.

Other lectures mainly focused on Church history and literature, dating as far back as the 4th centuries. It was interesting to see and hear academics from Germany, Holland, Sweden, Poland, India, England and the USA (to name only a few) proficient in the study of the Syriac language, the language of our ancestors as well as the language spoken by many hundreds of thousands of Assyrians today.

Dr. Gabriele Yonan spoke about Theodor Noldeke’s Unpublished New Aramaic/ Syriac materials. She describes this German scholar's work as a “landmark on new Syriac studies”.  Noldeke in 1868, through using U.S. mission materials from the Urmia and Hakkiari regions in Beth-Nahrain, wrote one of the first versions of Syriac grammar, which Dr. Younan believes, heralded the “real beginning of Syriac studies as a modern language”.

Dr. Edward Odisho, an Assyrian linguist and phonetician from Chicago in the United States spoke about the orthographic impact of gutturalisation on the transliteration of loan-words in Aramaic. He highlighted the problems of transliterating the Syriac language into English, where more often than not many of the sounds produced become lost. For example, the letter “qop”, “ ‘ein”, “teth”, “khet” have no equivalent English translation and this can prove to be problematic when considering the language is distorted when transliterated into other languages. Dr. Odisho suggests that we begin to use international phonetic standards in order to translate languages in order for their pronunciation not to be lost for future generations.

Dr. Robert Hoyland gave a lecture assessing early Syriac writings on the prophet Muhammad. Dr. Erica Hunter spoke about the conversions of Turkic tribes. Dr. Sebastian Brock, whilst unable to attend, had his paper read by Dr. Coakley discussing the important manuscripts of Mushe of Nisibis. Reverend Dr. Anthony Vallavanthara from India’s Church of the East spoke about the Saint Thomas Christians and east Syrian missionary activities in the early and middle ages. Rabbi Tarmida Hathem Saed, from the Mandaen tradition lectured on the Christian and Mandaen perspective on Baptism and Mr. Robert Gabriel from Lebanon spoke (albeit in French) about Syriac Relations with Crusaders in the 12th and 13th centuries.
The treasure of information discussed at the Symposium was interesting enough, however the opportunity to meet and greet with the various scholars proved even more fruitful. It was encouraging to see Assyrians and non-Assyrians present at the Symposium. Every evening there was a function of some sort, whether a dinner, presentation or Church service. There was also an opportunity to see Dr. George Kiraz’s new video documentary on his and Dr. Sebastian Brock’s visit to the old Assyrian churches and monasteries in Turkey as well as the seat of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate in Damascus, Syria.

Dr. Abdul Massih Saadi stated that it was a “great conference”. However he also stated that he would like to see “our own people (i.e. Assyrians) produce such scholars and present these materials for the purpose of revival”. Whilst the topic was the Syriac language and tradition of the church, only a handful of scholars were actually Assyrians-Suryoyo.

This Symposium, being held outside Europe for the first time in 32 years (and to be held next in Lebanon in 4 years’ time), was a fantastic opportunity to gather the world's most eminent scholars on the history of the earliest Christian Church and its language – Aramaic. More than 150 people were present at the conference.

Many were colleagues and have worked on projects together before. Many were meeting each other for the first time and used their personal research to suggest new ways of approach as well as newly found historical evidence to help improve the quality of information. Truly it was a valuable source of information and highlighted the important role the Syriac language and early Christian churches played in the Middle East, India and China.

The Seminar presented on Sunday July 2nd, entitled “Assyrian After Assyria” proved a fantastic event. Over 250 people, mostly Assyrians, packed the lecture theatre, and after 8 hours of lectures and discussion not one person had left. The youth attendance was very high (as was female involvement), the significance of this resides in the fact that many of the younger Assyrian generations do not know about the history of Assyrian people after the fall of the empire, however our youth are developing an interest and a passion to learn more about our own history.   It was also very encouraging to see over 60 scholars (non- Assyrians) amongst the participants.

The Seminar was opened by the Bishop of the Church of the East, His Grace Mar Meelis Zaia, who stated that the reason for the conference was so that “history cannot repeat itself”. He stated that the aims of the Genocide Seminar were “not to pursue vengeance, but to awaken the present generation”. He highlighted the importance of spreading information, and educating the world about what happened to the Assyrian people not to promote violence or racial hatred, but to “discover ways and means for healing and prevention”.  In his words the “truth will unite us and set us free”.

Professor Colin Tatz, the Director of the Centre for Comparative Genocide Studies at Macquarie University, welcomed the crowd. A member of the Jewish tradition himself, he has also been touched by the devastating effects of Genocide on a people, and for this reason has included the study of the Assyrian Genocide on the course syllabus. He stated that contrary to popular belief, “Genocide and its aftermath is alive and well” in the modern world, and this is precisely the reason he helps teaches the course not only at Macquarie University, but also at UTS (University of Technology Sydney) and at University of Western Sydney (UWS).

He reminded us that the state of Israel has made the decision to teach the Armenian Genocide in their high schools, much to the chagrin of the state of Turkey (with whom they have close diplomatic ties). The lack of Turkish presence at the conference (as opposed to last year's conference) was met with mixed reactions from the audience. However Professor Tatz commented that those who deny historical fact do the rest of the world of a service, through reminding others that these events did take place.

In Australia, the Democrat party has put forward a Bill to Parliament to pass laws denouncing the act of Genocide. So far no law in Australia (and I'm sure this is the case in many other countries) states that the act of Genocide is illegal. Through the efforts of the Aboriginal national movement (the indigenous of this country who have also faced attempted extermination of their people), the word Genocide has become part of popular political vocabulary.

The Australian native people (Aboriginal people) suffered physical extermination when faced with white invaders in the year 1788. They were killed by advanced ammunition of the Europeans, as well as by poisoning, rape and new diseases the Europeans brought with them. However, later than that (and up to the mid 1970’s), Aboriginals were denied the right to citizenship (no voting rights), denied the right to practice their spirituality and language, and had their children forcibly removed from their ancestral homeland and put into white Christian mission schools. These acts can also, and only be described as Genocide. These acts that the Assyrian people were also made to endure in their indigenous homeland.

 Mr. Panayiotis Diamadis, also from the Macquarie University Centre for Comparative Genocide Studies, defined what constitutes Genocide and allowed the audience, not through emotion, but through analysing factual data, to determine whether what the Assyrians went through in the years 1890-1933 and even later did indeed constitute Genocide. The United Nations Convention on the Prevention of Genocide (created after the extermination of more than 6 million Jews after World War I) stated that:  “Genocide is a crime whether committed during peace or wartime, with the intent to destroy, whether in part or whole, a national, ethnic or religious group”.

So how does Genocide occur? Firstly an ancient, usually ethnic or religious hatred must exist between peoples. Genocide occurs when the means and opportunity exist to execute the plan (in this case under cover of World War), as well as the superior technology to execute it. The actual killing, physical or cultural occurs soon after it has been made it into a state or party policy. Intent is obviously the hardest thing to prove.

He believes the Crimean war in 1853-1856 played a significant role in stirring Muslim versus Christina hatred, as it was fought with the pretext of the control of the Holy Land in Jerusalem. After the Young Turks coup in 1908, Christians were prevented from owning or purchasing land. In Diamadis’ words, there was a state policy of “Ottomanisation of all Turkish subjects”, even if the subjects were not of Turkish ancestry. He read a few examples of statements made by leaders at the time who spoke of “clearing the land from undesirable weeds”, i.e. the non-Turks or non-Muslims. This hate literature incited many to join the war effort against the Christian people that included not only Assyrians, but Armenians and Greeks as well.

In 1914, the population of Asia Minor was 12 million of which 5 million were Christians. By 1918, over 2 million Christians had been murdered or forcibly converted to Islam. This persecution was continued in 1933 by the Arab governments in Simel where 3,000 Assyrians died in the first month alone.

Diamadis is quick to point out that these events do not remain isolated in history. As recent as 1988 in Anfa in Turkey, 250 Assyrians and Yezidis (Assyrians who never converted to Christianity but remained pagans following the ancient religion) were called to the local police station, arrested and never seen again. Diamadis described the “terrorism” of the Turkish regime as it is witnessed in the destruction of Christian churches, the prohibition of teaching the Syriac language and the forced changing of Assyrian names into Turkish or Arab ones, practices which continue up until this present day.

Dr. Gabriele Yonan, a German scholar who was once married to an Assyrian man and speaks the eastern dialect of the Syriac language, has devoted over 30 years to the study of the history of Christianity and the present situation of the Assyrian people in their homeland. Her lecture revolved around German involvement in the Assyrian Holocaust, and the impact German state policies had on the crushing of the Christian presence due to the Turkish-German alliance in the years of World War I.  She believes it is truly a shame that the west only recognises the Armenian Genocide during these years, forgetting the Greek and Assyrian victims.

The Genocide began in December of 1914, and the peak moments of the murderous acts occurred in January and April of 1915, the year Assyrians refer to as the “Year of the Sword” (Saypa/ Sayfo). Lord Curzon, the British Foreign Secretary at the time, put the Assyrian question to the Parliament and the press during the Paris Peace Conference. However, the case of the Assyrian Genocide was deemed unimportant and thrown into the rubbish heap of history.

In 1989 the Turkish Government stated that it would open the Ottoman archives, however the world is still awaiting this reality. Dr. Yonan is positive that there will be masses of information detailing the massacre of almost two thirds of the Assyrian population.

Her talk however was highlighting the culpability of the German government in this period. The “shared guilt” is one that is never talked about, and the 2 million Christian deaths are blamed solely on the Turkish state. Whilst the German government never played a direct role, it did maintain an attitude of silence, publicly denying the holocaust ever took place. Gabriele Yonan’s paper revealed never before released evidence proving that the Germans of WWI not only incited their allies, the Turks into a Holy War against the Christians but also helped finance and organise the propaganda machine that sparked religious hatred in the Muslim population. As Dr. Yonan pointed out their plans for a Muslim empire led by the Turks, who would be used against the allies, backfired as the Turks concentrated a considerable part of their war effort to the annihilation of the indigenous and Christian populations of Asia Minor.

Dr. Racho Donef’s lecture on “Assyrians in the Turkish Republic” confirmed a lot of the evidence of persecution, oppression and attempted Genocide of not only the Assyrian people themselves, but also their culture.

Dr. Edward Odisho from Chicago in the U.S.A. spoke about linguistic and cultural Genocide. Due to 'Arabisation' and 'Turkification' policies, as well as the mass exodus of Assyrians to Europe and the West, the language is in great danger of becoming extinct. He spoke about broadening the definition of Genocide to include a socio-cultural definition, and the policies that denied Assyrians from practicing their language can also be claimed to be a form of cultural or linguistic Genocide. Language erosion, according to Dr. Odisho’s calculations, occurs in 3 generations where the language is not practiced or is not taught. Many Assyrians have experienced a functional loss of the language, and are unable to communicate about everyday matters. Usually we have just retained the ceremonial language, using it as a way to greet others or sing certain songs.

Assyrians, due to being a minority people, are usually rarely monolingual. Most of us can speak 3 or even 4 languages. Dr. Gabriele Younan firmly stated that the “Genocide is still continuing” and Dr. Odisho’s lecture came as a warning not to self-perpetuate the crimes committed against our people by refusing to practice our ancient language ourselves. He praised the efforts of building Assyrian public schools, and teaching all subject matter in Assyrian. A living example of this is the school built in the North of Iraq, where students are surely going to improve the language for at least the next three generations.

Dr. Fuat Deniz, an Assyrian sociologist from Sweden spoke about the maintenance and transformation of ethnic identity. Many writers believed that humanity would transcend ideas of identity with the coming of modernisation and globalisation. However we have actually seen the opposite occurring in the last 100 years. Many indigenous and minority groups around the world have begun the process of claiming recognition and self-autonomy. Woodrow Wilson’s 14 point plan on self-determination made headlines when delivered at the League of Nations following World War I, however these have hardly been implemented in anywhere around the world.

It has only been in the last century that the modern world has seen the creation of nation states. Even the concept of nationalist movements is a relatively new one, the Ottoman Empire for example, being a conglomerate of many different ethnicities and religions. Nationalist groups sought to homogenise their states, and in many cases this led to the non-recognition, assimilation or annihilation of ethnic or religious minorities. The destruction of an ethnic group can also be referred to as “ethnocide”.

Dr. Deniz believes that we cannot understand ethnicity without understanding the process of nation and state building. Many nations can exist within one state. A nation is one people with a common origin and ethnicity (language, culture and tradition) who are self-determined. An ethnic group does not always comprise a national one. This happens only when the ethnic group aspires to have a state of its own.
As a minority people, we cannot ignore the human cost of nation building. In the building of the new state of Turkey, diversity was seen as a threat to the integrity of the new state, and thus occurred the slaughter and assimilation of millions of Christians – Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians alike.

These persecutions and massacres have resulted in a “stigmatised identity”, the belief and the subconscious fear of further persecution and discrimination. This stigma has resulted in many ethnic groups accepting the fact that they are second hand citizens without the same rights as others. Through the persecution of the Assyrians in the Middle East, Dr. Deniz believes we have developed strategies not to argue or to express our identities due to a lack of self-confidence. However Assyrians not living in the homeland have experienced a change of status from an indigenous community to a migrant community. This has in many cases resulted in an increased consciousness about ethnic belonging and identity.
Because Dr. Deniz believes that the construction of identity is relational, whether to others, to history or to politics, I asked him whether he believed the fear and traumas experienced by Assyrians at the hands of their Muslim neighbours has resulted in a ‘revenge’ or ‘victim’ mentality. Dr. Deniz responded with the answer that we need to open ourselves to new ideas. We must transform and re-invent old schemes and concepts that are no longer relevant in the new countries. I brought this question up due to encountering young generations that have never lived in the Middle East speaking of Muslim hatred and Kurdish rivalry, without having ever experienced it themselves.

Ethnic identity is something that is both maintained and transformed. It can be defined primarily by what others believe you to be, but it is primarily constructed from the self. Life for Assyrians in the Middle East has seen them tenaciously cling onto their identity as oppression and prejudice has been a constant reminder of who they are. It is in the west where we must be careful of assimilation. We are given more freedoms and have equal rights in western countries, however, this may prove fatal to the maintaining of our ethnic identity.

Stavros Stavrides spoke about nation building and the politics of oil between the years 1914-1926.
Our very own Nicholas Al-Jeloo spoke on “Who are the Assyrians” (his paper will be included in the next issue of Purely Academic).

Dr. Abdul Massih Saadi’s talk was entitled “From Survival to Revival: The Aftermath of Genocide”. He spoke of the several names that our people call themselves – Assyrians, Arameans, Chaldeans and Suryoyo. He stated that these groups all share the same language (albeit with differences in dialects), same socio-cultural cohesion, same history and same fate. Aramaic was the franca-lingua for a long time until the Ottoman scythe cut off the people from their ancestral homelands.

He believes that it was their faith in God that helped the Assyrian Christians survive the 2500 years of persecution, famine and war. When Sultan Abdul Hamid in 1894 started the Genocide against the Christian people, the Christians remained defenseless. Dr. Saadi stated that “those that fled (eg in Hakkiari) nor those that stayed escaped Ottoman tyranny”.

Dr. Saadi advocated the creation of a unified Assyrian front. He spoke of the technological revolution and especially the Internet as a source of information and identity retention. “We must play a part in the information boom” he stated “or we might face another Genocide – that of assimilation. No matter how dire our situation may seem, we must prove our competence in the survival of our nation”.

Seminar was closed by Professor Rifaat Obied’s closing address, Dept. of Sematic Studies the university of Sydney.

TAAAS hosted a closing dinner following the Assyrian Genocide Seminar on Sunday evening at the Ninveh Club which was sponsored by the Assyrian Australian Association and Nineveh Club to honor the Assyrian language academics and history scholars who were attending the Symposium Syriacum VIII and the Assyrian After Assyria Seminar.

On Sunday 9 July, TAAAS also held a seminar in Melbourne titled “Assyrians After Assyria II”.  Presenters at this Seminar were Dr. Gabrielle Younan and Dr. Fuat Deniz.  This was followed by a screening of TAAAS’s Genocide video the “untold Holocaust”.  More than 90 Assyrians and non-Assyrians attended this seminar, amongst these were a number of academics from the Melbourne University.

The Symposium Syriacum and the Seminar on the Assyrian Genocide both proved very fruitful for our community in Australia.  The Centre for Comparative Genocide Studies at Macquarie University and also Sydney University were very impressed with the Assyrian contribution and participation.  Also, with the quality of presenters and the administration of the Seminar, to the extent that TAAAS has been invited again to actively participate in next year’s Genocide conference.

The community support and response was immense and for that the organisers are truly grateful.  Our thanks and appreciations to the following organisations for their generosity and sponsorship:

Conferences such as this remain important in the Assyrian struggle for recognition. The importance of academia and the work that TAAAS does in the community is for more information and study to be carried out on our people. Through creating written discourses, Assyrian demands and pleas for equal human rights and self-determination in the homeland can at least be substantiated by evidence and academic proof of systematic persecution and massacres.

I urge all of our readers to research, write and speak out on Assyrian language, culture, literature, history and the modern political situation. Our national struggle is primarily one of RECOGNITION and SELF-DETERMINATION.

Majidi Ann Warda
Chairperson of the Publication Committee
The Assyrian Australian Academic Society




Courtesy of "al-Quds al-Arabi" Newspaper, London

(ZNDA-BBC)  The Central Council of the opposition Iraqi National Congress [INC] held its meeting in London Friday, 7 July, in the presence of Frank Ricciardone, US coordinator for change in Iraq.  The announcements to boycott the meeting continued until just a few hours before its convocation.  On 9-10 July Iraqi opponents belonging to the Iraqi National Congress met in London, but failed to agree on many occasions over the composition of the Provisional Command and the so-called Central Council. There were sharp verbal exchanges at the meeting that was held in a London hotel and many members of the Central Council walked out of the meeting after a bitter dispute to win more seats in the command and the council.  The conferees decided to set up a committee entrusted with contacting the [London-based] opposition Iraqi National Accord movement, which suspended its membership of the National Congress two weeks ago and boycotted the London meeting.  The committee consists of Abd-al-Khaliq Zankanah, Shaykh Muhammad Muhammad Ali and three Iraqi Kurds.

It appears that the discussion of the Iraqi National Accord movement's withdrawal from the National Congress dominated the meeting's agenda. The absence of the National Accord movement from the opposition group might prompt the US administration to reconsider its financial support for the group, he added.   One member called for discontinuing links with the United States on the grounds that it is behind all the afflictions that hit the Iraqi people. Members of the Islamic Trend, who took part in the meeting, called for increasing their share of seats in the Command and the Council to one-third of the seats total. Meanwhile, Jamal al-Wakil, secretary of the so-called Islamic Accord Movement, addressed the meeting, asking that the movement be allocated a seat in the Command body. His request was met with utter rejection by Ahmad al-Chalabi who seemed to dominate the meeting, which prompted some people to call the gathering Al-Chalabi's conference. Observers said that the Islamists, who participated in the meeting, were confined to Shi'is who are unknown inside Iraq because they do not belong to any party.

A leading source had affirmed to 'Al-Quds al-Arabi' that a decision was made for a representative of the Turkman Front to join the Command committee on the condition that an Assyrian chair the Central Council to achieve a balance between the two bodies. Meanwhile, a statement by the INC denies that any promises were made to Aziz Qadir, representative of the Turkmen Front in London, to join the temporary leadership instead of Iyad Allawi, leader of the withdrawing Accord Movement. The statement says that the choice of the leaders falls strictly within the powers of the Central Council.

Observers noted that the absence of Frank (Ricciardone), the US coordinator on change of government in Iraq, from the meeting, reflects the sensitive US stand. The United States, they add, seems to be ready to officially acknowledge the collapse of the organization of the Iraqi opposition, which will make it impossible for the United States to support the opposition under a law on the liberation of Iraq.

The Central Council intends to elect a "new" leadership, which would automatically exclude the Accord Movement representative in its meeting.  In addition to Dr Ahmad al-Jalabi, who is practically in control of the leadership, the new leadership will include

A Central Council member, who preferred to remain anonymous, has said that the current conflicts revolve around the US funds, which are to be disbursed as soon as the congress has formed its bodies. The funds amount to approximately 13 million dollars. The member added that the exclusion of the Accord Movement has opened the way before others to benefit from a big part of the funds.

The following is a list of the Assyrians in the Central Council members:

1. Fawzi al-Hariri.
2. Yunadam Yusuf.
3. Emanuel Qutyr

Mr. Yusuf Tuma, another Assyrian member, is a representative of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in the Central Council.  The total number of members is 65.



Courtesy of British Broadcasting Corporation;  June 20, 2000, Tuesday

(ZNDA:  BBC)   The Turkoman Consultative Council held its seventh periodical session in Arbil from 7th to 9th June 2000. The meeting studied the Iraqi Turkoman Front's regional and international activities. It discussed the subjects included on the session's agenda. New members for the Turkoman Consultative Council were elected and new and important decisions were taken in order to increase the Turkoman Front's activities and work.

The final session adopted the following main aims and decisions: After reviewing the broad lines of the Turkoman Front policy, the session decided to find democratic and peaceful solutions. Necessary measures and strategies were enhanced to overcome the problems and difficulties that face the Turkoman Front. The session reaffirmed that the front will not participate in Iraqi opposition activities unless the basis has been defined by the front.

The meeting also emphasized the need to support the Turkoman Front representation by all possible means and to continuously introduce the Turkoman cause to the world and to defend it within international circles.

The meeting decided to take urgent measures to draw the attention of international organizations and democratic countries to the Turkoman people's sufferings in order to end them as soon as possible. The consultative council appealed to our Palestinian brothers - who the Iraqi regime attempts to settle in the areas of the Turkomans who are displaced from Kirkuk - not to become a tool in the hands of the Baghdad regime and carry out its plans. The meeting demanded the regime to stop practicing national melting and ethnic cleansing policies. The meeting referred to the necessity of finding urgent solutions to the obstacles that face the Turkoman people regarding education in their mother tongue, rent, and housing. It stressed for enhancing an atmosphere of tolerance and harmony between the Turkoman, Kurdish, Arab, and Assyrian peoples, and on consolidating Turkoman relations with the fraternal Kurdish and Assyrian parties.



Courtesy of Iranian News Agency IRNA; Tehran, 4 July 2000

(ZNDA:  BBC)  Iranian President Hojjat ol-Islam Mohammad Khatami on Tuesday, 4 July 2000, said that followers of several religions had throughout the history peacefully coexisted with each other in Iran and stressed their contribution to the development of the Iranian-Islamic civilization.

President Khatami who was meeting the deputies of the religious minorities in the Iranian Parliament or Majlis, recalled that "revelation" was the common element of all divine religions and observed that Islam puts great emphasis on peaceful coexistence with followers of all religions.

The Iranian president said that the status of affairs in Iran and its fate equally affected all its nationals, regardless of their religion, and highlighted the need to prepare appropriate living conditions for the followers of all religions.

Khatami underscored the heavy responsibility of Majlis deputies who represent religious minorities and expressed hope that all Iranian minorities would cooperate to deal with their own affairs. In the meeting, the Assyrian delegates presented Khatami a report of the current status and problems of the Assyrians in Iran.  They also expressed support for the reform programs and the comprehensive development plans of Khatami's administration.



(ZNZT:  Beirut)  In keeping with U.N. Resolution 520, Mor Nasrallah Sfeir, Maronite Patriarch of Lebanon, appealed to his compatriots to unite in opposing Syria's continued military presence in the land of cedars.  "We claim a free, independent, and sovereign Lebanon, the Patriarch said, and denounced the effort to "conceal" the 1982 U.N. decision, which obliged the Syrian army to withdraw from Lebanon.

With little time left before legislative elections, the lists of candidates do not seem to reflect the will of the people but, rather, foreign interests, the Patriarch of Maronite Christians lamented.



God bless you for a job well done.  khayeetoon.

George Gindo

Thank you for noting the forthcoming publication of my book, THE MODERN ASSYRIANS OF THE MIDDLE EAST, now already out. I had meant to bring it to your attention when you invited ZINDA readers to write and comment on what, in their opinion, were the major developments or events in the modern history of our people. I am sure that it is not too late for me to comment on the subject now, especially when the subtitle of my book sums up, as I see it, the major highlights of our history: ENCOUNTERS WITH WESTERN CHRISTIAN MISSIONS, ANTHROPOLOGISTS, AND COLONIAL POWERS.

I write at this particular time also because of the perceptive letter that Ashour Yadegar had in a recent issue of ZINDA on the confusion caused by our varied names. Mr. Yadegar speaks for many of us; I myself was in that state of bewilderment as a young graduate student. At that time, some 50 years ago, Western authors often referred to us as "The so-called Assyrians." Indeed, during my teens, long before I came to the United States in 1946, some of our own people in Baghdad raised serious doubts about our Assyrian ancestry. All this led to a serious study of the subject in the opening chapter of my THE NESTORIANS AND THEIR MUSLIM NEIGHBORS, now revised and expanded.

The issue of our names continues to agitate and confuse the community. "When I hear all these different references about my assyrian background," wrote young Yadegar, "I feel like I am not what all these years I thought I was. This becomes extremely harder when there is no proof attached to these references, so I don't know what to believe." He proposed that your esteemed journal start a weekly forum for all reader's participation to discuss the matter and give it some direction and historical focus. Should you decide to launch such a discussion, I will be glad to participate in it, and to answer all questions directed to me. The questions addressed to me, however, should be raised only by those who have either read the book--its text as well as its citations--or read those parts of it that ZINDA might choose to reproduce on its pages, a few in each issue, inviting the readers to raise their questions.

As you have undoubtedly noticed, a few people--usually those who have not read my book--have been savaging me on Assyrian websites for expressing my opinion in their debates. I am sure that with your involvement, the freedom to discuss some of the most important issues of our history, will not be debased and abused the way they have so far been.

Prof. John Joseph

Greetings from Israel, where the splendid Zinda magazine has quite a few readers.

It may well be interesting to your readers, that in Israel we have about 20,000 Jews who speak various modern Assyrian dialects, according to their place of birth in Bait Nahrain. Recently Mr. Nisan Aviv, born in Urmi, has produced 14 wonderful songs in his native Assyrian dialect, which is quite distinct from the standard Urmi Assyrian. These songs are available on either CD or cassette, and 2 of these songs are accompanied with English translation.

For purchase, please contact Miss Hadassa Yeshurun, h2901@netvision.net.il

pooshun bshena,

Khezi Mutzafi



The Assyrian National Congress (ANC), Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party (BNDP), Bet-Nahrain, Inc. and Assyrian People are planning to hold a peaceful demonstration in front of the court house in Fresno, California on July 24, 2000 after 10:00AM.

This demonstration is to support the ANC law suit AGAINST the Census 2000 category change from "Assyrian" to "Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac". Please plan to show your support to stop the category name change by attending this demonstration, if you are able to attend. The buses are scheduled to leave
Bet-Nahrain organization for Fresno.

For more information listen to BNDP Radio Network (BRN): Click Here.

Ninous Bebla



The press statement of the Assyrian American Association of San Jose
On the occasion of the
Assyrian Genocide and Persecutions Conference 2000

On the occasion of the 85th anniversary of the Assyrian Genocide the Assyrian community of San Jose is organizing the Assyrian Genocide and Persecutions Conference 2000 in San Jose, California.
The Assyrians share the suffering of the Armenian and the Greek Christians who also lost millions of lives in what was to be known as the first Genocide of the Twentieth Century, and a historical precedent to Germany and Hitler’s justification of the “Jewish Holocaust”.    We are deeply disturbed by the lack of concern in the Western media for the injustice committed by the government of Turkey from 1915 to 1923 against its own Christian population and other Islamic countries against their Christian minorities today.  In 1915 the Ottoman Empire (present-day Turkey) began a genocidal war against its own Christian population.  Hundreds of thousands of Christian Assyrians, Armenians, and Greeks were forced to flee their homes and villages while millions were tortured and killed in one of history’s least recognized criminal acts.

The Genocide Conference will be held on August 5, 2000 at the Hayes Mansion & Conference Center in San Jose.  The focus of this conference will be to discuss the historical, political, and social circumstances surrounding the massacres of the Assyrian people during the last century.

Since ending religious persecution in the Middle East merits a high profile in US foreign policy, we encourage the members of the press and the local government officials and the Congressional representatives to begin serious discussion on the condition of the non-Islamic religious minorities in the Middle East, beginning with the 1915 Genocide.   Let us not forget that such religious intolerance is still perpetuated against the Christian of Southern Lebanon, the Copts in Egypt, and the Christians in Southern Sudan.

We also call on the local churches and religious organizations to support the Assyrians for an end to religious persecution, economic injustice and political oppression against the Christians of the Middle East and around the world.

Please join us on this important day as we work to advance the regional, national and international interests of the oldest civilization in the world.

For further information, please feel free to contact Mrs. Jacklin Bejan at (408)218-7129 or by e-mail at jbejan@kemsafe.com.

The Assyrian American Association of San Jose
San Jose, California

To register:  Click Here

Zinda Magazine is a major sponsor of the "Assyrian Genocide and Persecution Conference 2000".



The Journal of the Assyrian Academic Society, Volume 12, No. 2, 2000 is scheduled for publication and distribution by August 31, 2000. The forthcoming issue will have a new look--complete with a cover that brings Assyrian historical images to life.

The Journal of the Assyrian Academic Society (JAAS) is a bi-annual publication that is devoted to an interdisciplinary study of research on Assyrians. Its scope is wide-ranging. To date, JAAS publishes a broad range of issues related to Assyrian history, ethnography, linguistics, poetry, and oral history. Areas of research interest comprise varying fields such as: cultural studies, comparative and cross-disciplinary historical literature, national and religious diversification. The main objective of JAAS is to encourage intellectual diversity of ideas and research questions by expanding the scope of the Journal to facilitate stronger linkages between multi-disciplinary fields of academic research topics.

Future issues of JAAS will include a section in Arabic, making the Journal a leading periodical on Assyrian history, language and culture in three languages--English, Assyrian and Arabic. The JAAS Editorial Board welcomes three new editors and two advisory members to its staff: Raman Michael (Technical Editor); Shamasha Namrood Sheba (Assyrian Language Technical Editor); and Saad Saadi (Arabic Language Editor).

Abdul-Massih Saadi and Robert DeKelaita are JAAS Advisory board members.  Below is a list of articles to appear in JAAS, Volume 12, No. 2, 2000 issue.

English Section: John Ameer, Simmons College "Flight"

Simo Parpola, University of Helsinki "Assyrians After Assyria"

Abdul-Massih Saadi, Lutheran School of Theology "The Scythe of the Ottomans and the Decimation of the Assyrian Nation Walid Phares, Florida Atlantic University "Minority Christians in the Middle East"

Assyrian Section: Zaia Kanon, JAAS Assyrian Language Editor, Assyrian Academic Society "R'wakha ou' R'wasa [The use of two vowels, O' and U' in Assyrian]

Oraham Yalda Oraham, JAAS Assyrian Language Editor, Assyrian Academic Society "Lit Katawa b'shima 'wakhli' ou' la 'barwakhli', ya katawan myaqrae [The misinterpretation of a word for a proper name, 'wakhli' and 'barwakhli'] Khoshaba P'nuel, Independent Researcher "Siqlat breeta" [The Adornment of the Universe] Samir Jonah, Loma Linda University, Department of Oncology "Kha shobea R'qeemayeh ou' maplakhtea gow shula ou' boosayah asyaya" [Computers and their use in Medical Practice and Research] Abraham Nuoro, Independent Researcher (Syria and Lebanon) "Shlamalakh Urmia" [Hello Urmia]

Robin Bet-Shmuel, University of Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq "Zowna dim Zabanta" [The Selling Era]

Gabriel Gawrieh, Friends of the Syriac Language Association (Syria) "Ubah d'ema" [The Mothers Embrace]

Gawrieh's article in Syriac. He translated the poem from Arabic written by: Rashid Salim al-Khuri (Syriac Maronite Poet). The Arabic version is entitled: "huthun" al-Umm"

Nadia E. Joseph




In the intellectual world of the Sumerians no concepts would seem to be more distinctive and fundamental than the associated ideas of  n a m and m e.  The first has the approximate force of our "essence" and "destiny" combined.  The other has no suitable analogue in the world of ideas with which we are familiar, for m e appears to be the activating feature appropriate to each n a m and required for its proper functioning. Every essential element of nature and society has its individual m e.  Cosmic rule and kingship on earth, qualities and emotions noble as well as base, arts and crafts - these and many others become dormant when their special m e is absent.

No rendering of such an intimate cultural term can be more than a rough approximation.  We may choose "norm" or "decree", "dynamic force" or the like.  We may go on to point out that the m e was endowed with esoteric and enduring properties.  Yet, for all our efforts, we find ourselves unable to evoke the meaning inherent in the native term.  It is in the nature of distinctive civilizations that their distinguishing features cannot be lifted intact our of their context.  Neither can their original designations be translated into words stemming from a foreign source and based on alien experiences.

E.A. Spier
"Ancient Mesopotamia"
From the book: "The Idea of History in the Ancient Near East" by R. C. Dentan

 Period (time)


BC (8th Century)

Aramaic language by this time was quickly spreading as a spoken language where Akkadian (ancient Assyrian) had formerly held sway.  It was some centuries later that Aramaic replaced Akkadian as the main spoken language in either Assyria or Babylon.  Akkadian cuneiform continued to be used down to the Seleucid era.

Babylonians, Saggs

AD (June 1896)

Mar Gabriel, Bishop of Urmi, Qasha Dinkha, the archdeacon of the Marran, two priests, three deacons and several others are attacked and killed by Kurds in the mountains near the Turkish border.  In a funeral held for these men of God a message of condolence was read from the Archbishop of Canterbury

The Foreign Doctor, R.E. Speer (1911)


July 21, 1919:   Surmi Khanom, sister of Mar Benyamin Shimmun - Patriarch of the Church of the East- travels to London to appeal for support of the Assyrian people and troops in Bet-Nahrain.


Jul 26-30

The Syrian Orthodox Archdioceses in Canada and United States
Led by His Holliness Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I
Hosted by St. Ignatius Church, Portland
Marriot in Portland

Agenda:  Review of the past 50 years of history of the church in North America to identify and cement the strengths and work on improving

In addition to a spiritual and cultural festival, a cruise on the Columbia River, a bus trip to Cascade Range, etc. are planned. Click Here

Jul 28-31

Speakers include representatives from the Office of the President of Lebanon
Mass celebrated by His Holliness Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I
Performances by a Maronite University musical group
Art Exhibition: Art works from artists of our community throughout the world
Dance party for the youth attending the conference
Book Exhibition
Suryoyo singers and folkloric dances
A visit to Zahle
Banquet in honor of the Patriarch
A special concert performance by George Badro, Suryoyo musician from Canada.

For more information:
Daghelian Bldg. - Bloc A - 2nd Floor - Jdeideh Blv.
P.O. Box: 55414 - Tel: 961-1-884810 / 961-1-884811
Fax: 961-1-884812 - E-mail: sua@lebmail.com

Aug 30 - 
Sep 4

Hilton Hotel & Towers
720 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60605 
1-312-922-4400, Fax: 1-312-922-5240 

Phone:  312-922-4400  or 1-800-HILTONS
To obtain the convention rate refer to the AANF Convention
Location Map:  click here
Directions from Airports: click here
AANF Convention 2000 Information: click here


ZINDA Magazine is published every Tuesday.  Views expressed in ZINDA do not necessarily represent those of the ZINDA 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. ZINDA 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 ZINDA is not restricted, but permission from ZINDA is required.  This service is meant for the exchange of information, analyses and news. To subscribe, send e-mail to: z_info@zindamagazine.com.

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