Z I N D A M A G A Z I N E
|Tdabaakh 24, 6750 Volume VI Issues 20 & 21 August 24, 2000|
|The Lighthouse||Assyrian Universal Alliance's Participation in the Sub-commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities Working Group on Indigenous Populations|
|Good Morning Bet-Nahrain||1933 Massacre in Simel Still Vivid for Assyrian Woman
KDP Leader Discusses Assyrian Rights in N. Bet-Nahrain
|News Digest||Commemoration of Martyrs' Day in Australia
Muslim-Christian Tensions Rise in Nazareth
Muslims Pray to Mary in Ephesus Shrine
|Surfs Up||"What is the reality of the AANF today?"|
|Surfers Corner||Alumni Reminisce on Jesuits' Role in Iraq
AssyrainMarket.com Now Open for Business
|Literatus||Syria's Water Policy Targets Assyrian Christians|
|Bravo!||Genocide Conference in San Jose|
|Assyrian Surfing Posts||Calligram
Edward Hydo's Art
|Pump Up the Volume||Surgeon & Physician|
|Back to the Future||Ctesias and Pietro della Valle's Travels in Mesopotamia|
|This Week in History||George Smith|
|Calendar of Events||August-September 2000|
links throughout this issue are hyperlinks to other sections on this page
or featured websites.
ASSYRIAN UNIVERSAL ALLIANCE
Participation in the Sub-commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection Of Minorities Working Group on Indigenous Populations
24-28 July 2000
The Assyrian Universal Alliance (“AUA”) has been participating for years in the United Nations meetings. This participation has become more effective since AUA joined the International organisation known as the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO).
Since 1996 AUA Australian Chapter has made many representations at the meetings of the Working Group on Minorities. This year AUA participated for the first time in the Working Group on Indigenous Populations. The Working Group on Indigenous populations was set up in 1982, and is a working group of the Sub-Commission on Prevention and Protection of Minorities. It is composed of five experts of the Sub-Commission, who represent the five regions of the world.
This year more than 1000 participants took part in the session. The indigenous issues are varied yet they all share in the one common struggle, that of removal from their land. The relationship to land and the natural environment is very significant and unique to the indigenous peoples. This relationship is the basis for the survival of indigenous peoples. There is an increasing momentum in the struggle for justice and in addressing the historical issues impacting on Indigenous Peoples.
On August 9-10, 1999, some 300 Indigenous people from different parts of the world gathered at the United Nations headquarters in New York to commemorate the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. The 1999 theme, "Indigenous Peoples and their Relationship to Land" was very timely, for the Indigenous Peoples' movement the basic issue is the gross violation of their right to own and control their territories and resources. Another theme that emerged from the practice of (alternative) indigenous education is the demand of Indigenous Peoples for the right to speak their own language, for "language is the soul of the Indigenous Peoples. It is linked to our cultural environment where the world of meanings is stored". Indigenous Peoples want to ensure that their children are not alienated from their cultural identity. Consequently the struggle to speak the mother tongue becomes at once political. It cannot be divorced from the struggle for self-determination and ancestral land and domain. For if the material bases of culture (ie. land, people and resources) are gone, how else will language and all its artistic expressions flourish?
AUA’s representatives at the meeting of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, which took place between 24-28th July 2000, were Senator John Nimrod (Secretary General of AUA from USA), Miss Suzy David (the International legal adviser to the Secretary General) and Mr. Hermiz Shahen (AUA Secretary - Australian chapter). Suzy David and Hermiz Shahen also attended the preparatory meeting of the Indigenous Populations held on 22 and 23 July 2000 at the premises of the World Council of Churches, Geneva.
The United Nations meeting of the Working Group commenced on 24 July and ended on 28 July 2000. The Agenda items in respect of which the Assyrian Universal Alliance presented interventions were:Miss Suzy David, an experienced and successful lawyer delivered four interventions during the year 2000 session all of which were overwhelmingly well received by the participants. There were a number of representatives from various countries as well as non-government organisations and academics who asked for copies of the submissions presented. Lengthy discussions were entered into with some of these persons and officials in an attempt to commence and implement projects that would serve various Assyrian causes. The week was also very successful in the networking that was achieved with various other indigenous groups and government and non-government officials. In response to this the Iraqi representative denied the allegations against Iraq. Iraq accused the Assyrians and Kurdish of being militia groups fighting each other, and denied that they are the indigenous peoples of Iraq.
It is crucial for the Assyrians to be heard at these meetings. Indeed, it is the intention of the AUA to continue its active involvement at such international forums in the future. Only in this way, can we draw the world's attention to the significant needs of our people.
Assyrian Universal Alliance - Australia
P.O. Box 34
Fairfield, NSW. 1860. Australia
I am attending this working group as a representative of the Assyrian people. They are the indigenous people of the land presently known as Iraq. They are also indigenous to parts of the lands within the countries currently comprising Turkey, Iran and Syria. The largest population of Assyrians is within Iraq, where it is estimated that 2 million of our people reside. A further 1.5 million Assyrian people reside outside Iraq, in about 35 various countries, most of which are far from our homeland.
The reason for such a disproportionate scatter of our people from Iraq is because the Assyrians face grave abuses of their most fundamental human rights. This is not only because they live in a country, recognized for its human rights violations but also because they are the uncontested indigenous people of that land. I do not seek to use this forum for reference to, or quoting chapter and verse of, the specific evidentiary reports dealing with such violations. However I do seek permission to state generally, that our people continue to be the victims of ethnic religious cultural and linguistic persecution and genocide. More significantly, Assyrians, according to United Nations and other reliable international sources are being forcibly expelled from their homes, and thus forced to become refugees in overwhelming large numbers.
Abuses of Assyrians’ human rights in Iraq, the persecution for practicing our religion and culture, the prohibition to speak our ancient language and to maintain our rich history, have led to two fundamental problems for Assyrians that are particularly pertinent to the theme of children and young people.
Firstly, the situation faced by our people inside Iraq has meant that it is increasingly dangerous for parents to teach their children Assyrian, and to raise their children in accordance with our traditions, culture and religion. Assyrian children are not permitted to identify themselves as Assyrians, not even to have an Assyrian name. Secondly such religious, linguistic and cultural persecutions have meant that there is a significant movement of Assyrians out of Iraq.
It is notable that, around one half of the world's Assyrians live outside their indigenous land. This exodus has serious implications for the long- term maintenance of our identity, language, history, religion and culture and may, in my respectful submission, result in the complete alienation of Assyrians from their indigenous land.
The consequences of these two factors on future generations are of grave concern to my people. While there is an obvious need to address the human rights violations within Iraq, I accept that such an outcome is beyond the means of this Working Group. However, I believe that there are some recommendations that this Working Group could make that would substantially assist in ensuring the survival and ongoing cultural and indigenous integrity of the Assyrian people as well as other indigenous peoples fleeing persecution from their homelands.
Firstly, I would like to respectfully suggest that the Working Group endorse a proposal to expressly recognize the unique status of indigenous peoples seeking refuge outside their traditional and indigenous lands.
To this end I recommend that the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, when passed, should be applied retrospectively such as to, interalia, require States to acknowledge and respect the ongoing and territorial rights of refugees and their descendants who are indigenous, in their country of origin.
Without such retrospective application and recognition, the children and grandchildren of those Assyrians who have been forced to leave Iraq could be legally denied the right to access or return to their ancient ancestral lands. Without such recognition the capacity of Assyrian people to participate in any possible future decision making with respect to their lands will be further diminished.
Secondly, I respectfully recommend that there be a specific obligation for those States receiving significant numbers of indigenous refugees to assist in the maintenance of their language, history, religion and culture. The effect of this should be to make the obligations of States towards their refugee indigenous peoples similar to those they hold with respect to their own indigenous peoples.
Thirdly, it has long been accepted that indigenous peoples’ common experience of dispossession often manifests itself in common social needs. I recommend that it be noted that it is as important for States to address the specific social needs of migrant indigenous peoples as it is to address the social needs of indigenous peoples within their land.
I am hopeful that while these recommendations will not directly address the human rights issues confronting Assyrian people in Iraq, they will assist the longevity of our language, culture, history, religion and traditional values, and ensure that our children do not grow up in permanent isolation from their origins. Otherwise this could mean for Assyrians, the ultimate extinction of one of the richest and most ancient civilisations.
Thank you Madam Chair.
Assyrian Universal Alliance
Suzy David B.Ec; LLM.
May I firstly congratulate you on your recent appointment as chairman of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations.
The Assyrians, Mr. Chairman are the descendants of the ancient Assyrian civilization, often referred to as the land of Mesopotamia. Today this is known as Iraq. Iraq, was formed in 1932 and in that process was required to sign the international Declaration of the Kingdom of Iraq. It was agreed that the said Declaration was to prevail over all current or future laws and regulations.
The Iraqi Declaration provides to all Iraqi inhabitants, guaranteed protection of life and liberty (Article 2.1) and the right to freely exercise their religion (Article 2.2). It also entitles Assyrians, to enjoy interalia, the right to maintain, manage and control schools and other educational establishments, with the right to use their own language (Article 5). More significantly the Declaration provides that in towns and districts in which live nationals whose mother tongue is not the official language, the Iraqi government would provide for adequate facilities for ensuring that in primary schools instruction would be given to such children through the medium of their own language (Article 8.1). It also provides that such nationals would be assured an equitable share in the enjoyment and application of public funds under the state, municipal or other budgets for educational, religious or charitable purposes (Article 8.2).
Whilst the Declaration, does not specifically recognize indigenous rights of Assyrians and Kurds of Iraq, it does make positive provisions and order certain guarantees. If adhered to by Iraq, in conjunction with all its other international obligations as a member state, it would perhaps not have been necessary for us to be present at this meeting.
Instead, Mr. Chairman, Assyrians and Kurds have, due to the fact that they are indigenous, suffered massacres, persecutions, forced internal displacements and more recently forced migration out of the homeland. Assyrians have no right to equal citizenship, nor any political or indeed any form of representation, and according to the UN special Rapporteur on Human Rights, at more risk of summary, arbitrary and extra judicial executions. Iraq’s national census does not provide for any recognition of Assyrian existence. They are deprived of social security benefits and either precluded from tertiary education or expelled at will. The Assyrian people’s health has deteriorated and their life expectancy substantially reduced in comparison with other Iraqi nationals.
Attacks on ancient Assyrian ancestral lands and villages have also been ongoing in Iraq for decades. According to the Assyrian Human rights report, in the period 1976 to 1977, more than 200 Assyrian villages in northern Iraq were razed by the Iraqi government. All the inhabitants were forced to resettle in urban areas, in order to prevent the establishment of a concentrated Assyrian presence anywhere in the country. Since then another 252 villages have been confiscated. Under the current system Assyrians have no recourse to any form of legal justice. The occasional resistance to such land confiscation has been met with total retribution and often death, including death of entire families.
Assyrians have thus been robbed of their livelihood and removed from their sacred and ancient lands. These are the sites that bear testament to the ancient Assyrian history and heritage dating back to thousands of years, sites under which are still buried ancient treasures artefacts tablets statues reliefs temples and even ancient cities.
These lands are used by the government for housing and other developments including oil explorations, none of which are used for the benefit of Assyrians, nor by payment of any compensation. The removal of Assyrians from their land has also enabled plunderers and smugglers of Assyrian artefacts to flourish, particularly following the gulf war and the subsequent UN sanctions.
This has the consequence of destroying priceless amounts of historical artefacts. It also means the irreparable damage to proper future scholarly and scientific exploration and thus the suppression and / or manipulation of our history.
Assyrians, Mr. Chairman, do not have the political opportunity to enter into any dialogue directly and internally. So that the grave concerns I have put before you can be addressed, and so that some solution may be found for the complex Assyrian situation I respectfully make the following recommendations:
The Assyrian Universal Alliance
Suzy David B.Ec; LLM.
I am attending this working group as a representative of the Assyrian people. Presently an estimated half of our population lives outside our indigenous land of Iraq. This converts into about 2 million people who still live in Iraq. However due to the grave abuses of their most fundamental human rights and the significant dangers associated with the practice of preserving our language, religion and culture and due further to reports of hundreds of families being forcibly expelled from their homes, Assyrians have become refugees in great numbers.
According the UNHCR in 1998 there were 9, 892 recognized refugees from Iraq and 53, 881 applications for refugee status. There are no statistics regarding how many of these people are Assyrian, however, based on anecdotal evidence I am certain that this is a large proportion.
Religious cultural and linguistic persecution have inevitably led to a significant movement of Assyrians out of Iraq and that those within Iraq are often afraid to identify themselves as Assyrian. This has serious implications for our capacity to ever be able to participate in any decision-making capacity or the management of our traditional lands and to contribute to the preservation of our archaeological sites.
Upon the Draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples being passed, and we share the general consensus of our indigenous brothers and sisters that it would be in its present form, two articles would become very relevant, namely articles 25 and 30.
Article 25 of the Draft Declaration states:
Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen
their distinctive spiritual and material relationship with the lands, territories,
waters and coastal seas and other resources which they have traditionally
owned or otherwise occupied or used, and to uphold their responsibilities
to future generations in this regard.
Article 30 of the Draft Declaration states:
Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands, territories and other resources, including the right to require that States obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands, territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources. Pursuant to agreement with the indigenous peoples concerned, just and fair compensation shall be provided for any such activities and measures taken to mitigate adverse environmental, economic, social, cultural or spiritual impact.
However notwithstanding the provisions of the Draft Declaration, I believe that the standards set therein should nevertheless apply if Assyrian people’s rights as indigenous people as reflected in the Draft Declaration are to be respected. To this end it is necessary for natural resource, energy and mining companies to ensure that they act in our best interests and consult with Assyrian people before entering into agreements with the Iraqi government regarding exploitation of natural resources.
Further, it is necessary for them to take responsibility for appropriate payment of compensation, particularly as rich indigenous Assyrian lands have been and continue to be taken from their Assyrian inhabitants and owners, without any consultation with or, compensation for the Assyrians.
In order to do this it may be necessary for them to consult with Assyrian people outside Iraq, because those inside Iraq would not have the political opportunity of engaging in any such negotiations.
I respectfully submit that it is the responsibility of those states in which the natural resource companies originate to ensure that companies respect the rights of indigenous peoples regardless of the domestic laws of the countries in which the companies are undertaking their activities.
I therefore recommend that the Working Group endorse a proposal to require multinational companies to respect the rights of indigenous peoples in circumstances where those people are not in a position, due to domestic persecution, to ensure that their interests are respected.
Thank you Mr. Chairman
Assyrian Universal Alliance
Thank you for the opportunity to address the Working Group on this agenda item.
At the outset may I state that the Assyrian Universal Alliance endorses the World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.
History has proven that racism can at its extreme become the cause of more serious outcomes and even lead to genocide. One such example is the genocide that occurred in the first quarter of the twentieth century, in which Assyrians, Greeks and Armenians were massacred with the intent of cleansing Turkey of all those three races. During this genocide, the Ottoman Turks wiped out two-thirds of the Assyrian population. Hundreds of Assyrian villages were confiscated and its indigenous Assyrian inhabitants either mercilessly killed or forcefully removed from their indigenous lands in which they had lived for thousands of years. Most of those that did escape were unable to complete their journey to a safe destination and perished along the way. The survivors, to this day, remain traumatised, and decades later continue to tell of the horror stories and of the loved ones they lost before their very eyes. They also lost their connection to their indigenous lands, the traditions they had preserved for thousands of years, their history and identity.
Today there may be but a few thousand Assyrians living in Turkey, albeit in lands, to which they are not indigenous. They do not identify themselves as Assyrians for fear of persecution and discrimination. They have been forced to assimilate, by name, culture and even religion, in order to survive the ongoing racism. Reports of such racism and racial discriminations in Turkey are well within your knowledge, Mr. Chairman and I will not take your time in providing specific details of same.
Incidences such as the Assyrian Genocide must be learnt about. It is through education that we as human beings can appreciate the severity of such acts. It is through education that we can ensure that future generations will not attempt such human atrocities. The seed of racism and xenophobia can only be destroyed if we realise their extremely destructive and dangerous outcomes. Genocidal events must not be denied. Their denial can lead to their repetition.
To this end, Mr. Chairman, I make the following modest recommendations:
Thank you Mr. Chairman.
Assyrian Universal Alliance
Suzy David B.Ec; LLM.
1933 MASSACRE IN SIMEL STILL VIVID FOR ASSYRIAN WOMAN
By Suzanne Hurt for Modesto Bee; August 11, 2000
Kay Nesan is an 82-year-old great-grandma living in a posh north Modesto home.
The stories she tells from the days when her life was new are told only in Assyrian. Even her great-grandchildren don't know what she really went through in August 1933, when she survived a massacre Assyrians remember as Martyr's Week.
Khazama, as she was called, was a happy young wife in a Middle Eastern village. The 15-year-old girl lived with her husband's family, in the Assyrian custom. Her mother-in-law was teaching her how to make cheese and yogurt from sheep's milk and how to knit wool shawls and hats. They lived together in one house -- her mother-in-law, her father-in-law's brother and their sons' families -- in Simel, Iraq.
Simel was a growing village, called "Simeleh" by Assyrians and "Sumayl" by their Muslim Iraqi neighbors. Families farmed the fertile valley land. They drew water from fountains and wells. The village's largest ethnic group was Assyrians -- an ancient people who became Christians long after ruling the land that is now northern Iraq.
The village also was home to Malik Yacoub, or General Jacob -- the leader of Assyrians trying to peacefully establish a separate enclave in northern Iraq. Land had been promised by the British government in return for support from the legendary Assyrian fighters during World War I.
But the British never delivered. At the same time, a special military task force of Assyrian "Levies," which the British Army used to control Muslims after the war, were viewed as oppressors by other Iraqis.
Historians say the British exploited ethnic and religious divisions in Iraq for their own gain, primarily oil fields and railways. In return, Britain recommended Iraq be admitted to the League of Nations in 1932, which gave the government legitimacy.
A year later, Yacoub and several hundred men who feared the Iraqis would murder them fled to Turkey in a bid to seek refuge in France. They were denied.
Then on Aug. 4, the men battled Iraqi troops blocking re-entry into Iraq at the Tigris River. The Assyrians spilled a lot of Iraqi blood that day. News about the fighting spread to remote villages. Assyrians feared the Iraqi troops would seek revenge, so they, in vain, fled smaller villages in search of safety in Simel.
While exact dates and numbers were lost somewhere in the wheat fields of Simel, Iraqi troops killed at least 600 Assyrian villagers over several days. Assyrians say the number was closer to 3,000.
Khazama's family was at home when neighbors shouted from rooftops that Iraqi soldiers were riding into town. Her mother-in-law, Nobar Yacoub -- no relation to the general -- sent her to fetch extra clothes. Khazama was so scared she grabbed a bag of rags. Soldiers were at the back door when the family left.
They ran to the police station, which was surrounded by walls and already sheltering hundreds of Assyrians. Khazama's husband, Nesan David, was stationed in Hanide, Baghdad, as a soldier with the Levies. The only man with them was her husband's brother, until Khazama found her aged father.
Outside, Iraqi troops shot anyone in their way.
Khazama's relatives believed they were safe within the police station's protective walls. Yet the women and girls watched with terror as Iraqi soldiers came and took every male away. Gunshots always followed.
Her mother-in-law quickly devised a plan. Assyrian women often layered several dresses on top of each other. Nobar Yacoub peeled off two dresses for her son and Khazama's father. The women disguised them with the dresses and scarves and sat on the men to hide them. One night, the two men slipped out of the police station and disappeared.
The Iraqi government packed the survivors into trucks bound for a refugee camp in Mosul.
Khazama and her husband's family stayed at the camp a few days before they were allowed to join her husband in Baghdad. Her father and brother-in-law turned up at the refugee camp several days later.
The Simel massacre pushed many Assyrians from their ancient lands in Iraq. Thousands were sent to neighboring Syria, including Khazama's parents and siblings. She and her husband, who was spared because he was in Baghdad, had their first child a year later.
Khazama's parents died before she could visit Syria in 1966. Her husband died three years later after a stroke. She immigrated to the United States in 1976 to live with her oldest son, his wife and their children in Modesto.
Today, Khazama's days bear little resemblance to her life in Simel. She has her own bedroom. A sunken tub waits through an arched doorway to soothe feet that have carried her many years away from her life as a young apprentice who spent her days milking sheep.
She and her children worry the generations that follow will forget what happened in Simel. That is why some Assyrians set Aug. 11 aside to mark the massacre's end. Khazama's family will light a single candle today.
(ZNDA: London) According to BBC Monitoring Service, Kurdistan Democratic Party leader Mas'ud Barzani addressed a public meeting in Arbil on the 54th anniversary of his party's establishment on August 16. The following are excerpts from his speech:
With confidence, strong will and great pleasure with the achievements of the tireless struggle; with great hope and a bright future, members and supporters of our Kurdistan Democratic Party and people of Kurdistan, without any difference, are celebrating the 16th August occasion. The occasion of establishing this militant party which was established by Mustafa Barzani and his comrades...
Based on our democratic views and opinions, and under the two legitimate institutions of Kurdistan [the KDP-led Kurdistan regional government and Kurdistan National Assembly], freedom of expression, pluralism, and religious and national rights are guaranteed and preserved in the areas under the rule of the legitimate institutions. Attempts are continuously made for their development and entrenchment. In its programme, the KDP acknowledged the rights of the Turkoman, Assyrian and Chaldean brothers. It struggled for realizing them. As a result of this, our brothers are enjoying these rights and are exercising them in the best possible way. This achievement proves that the aims and objectives, stipulated by the KDP's programme and documents, which says: Kurdistan is a centre for religious and ethnic brotherhood and tolerance, are being put into practice. This is a source of great pride. I take this opportunity to tell our Turkoman and Assyrian brothers that if, in any other place, they have more rights or a better situation than the one they have in Kurdistan, I would like them to tell us so that we can fill any gaps or remedy any shortcomings.
Source: Kurdistan Satellite TV, Salah al-Din
Announcement submitted by Mr. Shahen Hermiz, Australia
(ZNDA: Sydney) On Sunday, 06 August 2000, Assyrian Church of the East and the Assyrian Australian National Federation held a special commemoration of the Assyrian Martyrs day, in the Edessa Church Hall. After the Mass in St Hurmizd's Cathedral, Mr. Ninous Nisan presented the program.
Allegiance to the Flags of Australia, Assyrian and Church of the East were performed by the Church Choir, followed by a special wreathe laying and candle lighting to the Soul of the Martyrs by His Beatitude Mar Narsai De Baz and His Grace Mar Meelis Zaia. Speeches were delivered by the representative of the Assyrian Organisations: Mr Younatam Afarem , president of the Assyrian Australian National Federation; Mr Hermiz Shahen, Secretary of the Assyrian Universal Alliance; His Grace Mar Meelis Zaia, Bishop of the Assyrian Church of the East Diocese of Australia and New Zealand; His Beatitude Mar Narsai De Baz Metropolitan of Lebanon, Syria and Europe. The event also included poetry reading by Mr. Anwar Atto and the representative of the Assyrian Democratic Organisation, Mr Jack Shimon.
The audiences were captured by the performance of the Choir of the Assyrian Church of the East. Music was composed and conducted by Maestro Shura Mikhalian. The vast majority of the Assyrian organisations were present: Mr Frederick Oraha, the Assyrian Democratic Movement; Mr Dinkha David, the Assyrian Democratic Organisation; Mrs. Lounarda David, the Assyrian Australian Academic Society, Mr Salim Adam of the Assyrian TV Channel 31, and Mr Wilson Younan of the SBS Assyrian Radio program.
(ZNDA: Vatican) According to Vatican's Zenit News Agency, Israeli police were criticized by Islamic groups for attempting to halt the unloading of construction materials in Nazareth Square, at the doorstep of the Basilica of the Annunciation, where they intend to build a mosque in memory of Shebab el Din, a descendant of Saladin.
Despite the opposition of the Vatican and the local Christian community, Muslim fundamentalists were given permission by Israeli authorities to erect the mosque just a few steps from the Christian Basilica.
Salman Abu Ahmed, deputy mayor of Nazareth, and directors of the political department of the Islamic Movement, said that the Muslims of the city are losing patience and hope to begin construction without a permit. Moreover, they accuse the government authorities of delaying the necessary permits and have threaten new riots "because the Israeli government only understands the language of done deeds." For his part, Israeli Minister Matan Vilnai, warned against any unilateral action.
Although it has a Muslim and Christian majority, Nazareth
is in Israeli territory. However, last November, the National Palestinian
Authority, presided over by Yasser Arafat, declared its opposition to the
(ZNDA: Turkey) Last week, many Muslims along with the Christian groups in the ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey celebrated the Feast of the Assumption. Ephesus is believed to be where Mary spent the last years of her life. More than 2,000 people attended Mass there last week, celebrated by Archbishop Luigi Conti, Apostolic Nuncio in Turkey. Among the faithful were pilgrims from the United States, France, and Italy.
A liturgy of the Word was also celebrated, under the direction of diocesan Archbishop Giuseppe Bernardini, during which the first fruits of the harvest were blessed. It is interesting to note that Turkish Muslims, who are a majority in the country, attach great importance to this blessing. Consequently, thousands of them went up to Meryem Ana to pray to the Virgin, for whom they have a special devotion.
The Qu'ran mentions Mary 44 times in delicate poetic terms. The
Ephesus shrine is one of the few where Muslims and Christians pray together
daily. Devotees arrive from all over the world, numbering over one million annually.
“I read the letter that Elisabeth Marie Di Isauria sent recently to Surfs Up. I've known Elisabeth for several years and have found her a very sincere person who has empathy for the displaced and persecuted people of Turkey; especially those living in the southern region near Adana and Antalya. Her roots are in the ancient country of Isauria. I pray that her efforts will result in help for the Assyrians there who cling to their Orthodox heritage.”
Deacon John Badal Piro
B.S., M.S., Pharmacy Intern
To answer these questions we need to take a look at the AANF, its goals and its accomplishments. The AANF was founded in the thirties - after the massacres of the Assyrians in our homeland - to rally the Assyrians of the United States to the cause of safeguarding the national interests of our brothers and sisters in our homeland. The AANF was established to become the voice of the Assyrian people in this country and to promote our language and nurture our cultural heritage in the United States.
Yet after 70 years of operation in this free and prosperous country, what is the reality of the AANF today? The AANF is one of the most unrepresentative, undemocratic, and backward Assyrian organizations in existence. Instead of representing the Assyrian people, the AANF is an affiliation of Assyrian entertainment clubs with a membership of at best 5,000 Assyrians, an insignificant percentage of the over 200,000 Assyrians residing in the United States. Its undemocratic electoral process, whereby each affiliated club is given three votes regardless of the number of its members has fostered an environment of cronyism and corruption, allowing an obscure affiliate with a handful of members to influence the elections as much as its largest affiliate. And it is backward because instead of promoting unity and cultivating our national aspirations, it has been stupefying us with its club mentality, alienating the Assyrian people and dividing us along the lines of members/non-members. The AANF, throughout its long history of existence has never mattered in the lives of our people in this country nor in our homeland. Detached from the Assyrian people, it has failed to tap into the enormous resources of the Assyrians in this country who collectively earn over a billion dollars annually. Instead it relies on organizing an annual rowdy bash - its sole claim to fame - to finance its operations. Hence the AANF is financially extremely weak and has virtually no assets, even unable to afford a single paid full-time officer or a staff member.
Based on the above analysis, I dare say that the Assyrian American National Federation in its current format is a national disgrace. I can feel nothing but contempt for anyone representing such a pathetic organization. Now back to the question of why Carlo Ganjeh is using Zinda - a public forum with the largest Assyrian audience in this country and the rest of the world - to announce his candidacy and platform for the presidency of the AANF. Carlo Ganjeh is an old friend of mine. I’ve known him to be a man of integrity. Carlo is also a capable, ambitious person. Is Carlo’s ambition just to become the president of an undemocratic, corrupt, backward, and irrelevant organization that represents an insignificant number of Assyrians in this country? Or is Carlo’s public announcement an indication of his desire to ultimately become a representative of the Assyrian nation; an elected official who is given the mandate by the Assyrian people to run their national affairs? If the latter is the case, then I would like to know more about Carlo’s plan to restructure the Assyrian American National Federation into a representative Assyrian national organization whose officers, in order to be elected, have to campaign to win the votes of the Assyrian people in this country.”
By Charles A. Radin Boston Globe, 8/5/2000
They are old men now, these Jesuit priests; their legs weak, their hair thin and white. But their eyes still flash with the intense commitment that propelled them to Iraq a half-century ago. They still glow with the sense of purpose that won respect from generations of schoolboys at Baghdad College.
Starting in 1931, New England's branch of the Society of Jesus dispatched a stream of teachers to the Tigris River campus, a high school akin to Boston College High. They taught boys math and science, and, more importantly, how to think.
In a testimony to the bonds they forged, 600 former students - surgeons, engineers, and executives from around the world - have gathered in Framingham this weekend, renewing ties with one another and with their old teachers. The reunion comes 32 years after the Jesuits were forced to flee Iraq, expelled by the Baathist regime that gave rise to Saddam Hussein.
''Want to see a miracle?'' asks the Rev. Tony Paquet, 72, the youngest of four Roman Catholic priests reminiscing at the Jesuit health center in Weston about Baghdad College days. A man of French Canadian ancestry and Dorchester nativity, with a talent for leavening gravitas with humor, he stands up from his wheelchair, steps forward to greet a visitor, and sits down again. ''That's a miracle!''
Then, with tears punctuating their laughter and nostalgia, Paquet and the other priests talk about the joys of teaching in Iraq, the emotional wounds inflicted by the expulsion, and what they consider the immorality of US-backed sanctions that, a decade after they were laid on Iraq for its invasion of Kuwait, are estimated by the United Nations to be killing 5,000 children a month.
''The American press beats up on Saddam Hussein,'' Paquet says, ''but they don't tell you about all the little kids in the streets selling Chiclets by the one.''
Baghdad College grew out of a petition from Iraq's Christian community to Pope Pius XI for a school, according to the Rev. Robert J. Sullivan, 88. ''The Holy Father went to the general [of the Society of Jesus], the general told the New England province `You!' and that was it,'' Sullivan said.
Actually, there was a bit more to it than that. New England became a free-standing Jesuit province in 1926, and was burgeoning with young people entering religious orders, when the opening came in Iraq, according to Brother Jim McDavitt, a reunion organizer and the director of the Jesuit seminary in the South End.
McDavitt became aware of Baghdad College long before he knew much about Iraq or considered entering a religious order. While he was growing up in Worcester, his aunt was active in the Iraqi Club, through which mothers, sisters, and other supporters of the Jesuits organized school fund-raisers.
The priests were gung-ho as well, as was reflected in an introduction by one founder, the Rev. Edward F. Madaras, to a 1936 complilation of articles from the mission newsletter.
The newsletter ''treated the Baghdad venture, not as a lark, to be sure, but as a gay adventure for the King of Kings,'' Madaras wrote. ''The fathers were knights setting out on a jousting match to defend the honor of their Liege Lord, and although they felt they were going to get many a hard knock and be unhorsed more than once, they looked forward to the contest with a glint in their eye, a smile on their lips, and a song in their hearts.''
Their jousting ground was an oasis amid the dusty streets and yellow brick of Baghdad. The school's site was large and removed from the city center, fronting the historic Tigris, which watered the school's gardens and playing fields, and the orchards around them.
''It was very green,'' says Laith Kubba, a longtime opponent of Hussein's who now is senior program officer for the Middle East at the congressionally funded National Endowment for Democracy. ''The moment you entered the school you entered a different world. Everything inside was American.''
If the adventure was a jousting match, the manner of scoring remained obscure.
The school for Christians that was envisioned in the petition to the pope did nurture Christian youths, offering low-cost education to boys whose families otherwise could not have afforded it. But Muslims, Jews, and members of smaller ethnic groups knocked at the doors of Baghdad College and were accepted, and, Paquet says, ''in all my years in Baghdad, I never baptized anyone.''
In the 1960s, ''Baghdad College was overwhelmingly Muslim, which I am,'' says Kanan Makiya, author of a bestseller on Iraq titled ''Republic of Fear'' and director of the Iraq Research and Documentation Project at Harvard University. ''They never proselytized in our faces at all. They did set an example, and one admired them, for their capabilities as teachers and for their personal characteristics.''
When folks back in New England heard that the Jesuits were not making converts to Christianity, Paquet recalls, they often would ask: ''What do you go there for? Why pour yourself down the drain in Iraq?''
The fathers wrestled with that question. The answer, he decided, was that ''we established a visible and admirable presence of Christ in this land that was no more than 5 percent Christian, and provided a shot in the arm to Iraqi Christians, gave them something to look up to.''
When the Baath Party swept into power in 1968, the days of the Jesuit school were numbered.
Waves of anti-American sentiment swept the Mideast after the US-backed Israelis humiliated their Arab neighbors in the 1967 Six-Day War. Iraq's new secular leaders also saw a threat in the nation's Shiite Islamic movement as well as a US-linked establishment, says Dahfir Nona, an alumnus who is now a Detroit-based engineer.
The new rulers ''really wanted to close the Shi'a schools,'' Nona said, ''and they couldn't close Muslim schools without closing the Christian schools, too.''
Whether they are apolitical or fiercely opposed to the regime, all agree the sanctions imposed on Iraq - technically by the United Nations but primarily due to US policy - are ineffective against Hussein and are depriving innocents of basic nutrition and medical care.
''Millions of people are in misery,'' Kubba says. ''They are losing their dignity, and the physical effect on them is horrifying. The reason many of us have opposed Saddam all these years is because he harmed people. Now this policy is also harming people, and I feel an equal moral obligation to oppose it.''
The priests and their former students sent their own mission last December to investigate.
''What the Jesuits really taught
us was how to think,'' says Kubba, ''how we break a problem apart in our
minds, how we seek an answer. It is a formula I use even today.''
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Original works of Assyrian calligraphy by Essa Benyamin
The following is a report compiled by the Assyrian International News Agency, Chicago; August 22
The current three year long drought
to hit Syria and the surrounding region has had an especially disastrous
impact on the Assyrian population in the northeastern PART of the country.
Whereas the primarily agrarian Assyrian community along the Khabur River
previously thrived on fertile irrigated lands, the last three years have
yielded little or no harvest. With escalating hardship to the whole agriculture-based
regional economy, leading many Assyrians to consider abandoning their lands.
Over the past decade, with steadily dwindling rainfall, increasing numbers of illegal wells have been dug in the Ras Al-Ain area by non-Assyrians for crop irrigation. At times, Ras Al-Ain has completely dried up leaving the once mighty Khabur River with nothing more than isolated mud puddles. It is believed that nearly two thousand illegal wells have been dug in the environs of Ras Al-Ain south of the Turkish border and just north of the thirty-five Assyrian villages. Some wells have also been reportedly dug within Turkey north of Ras Al-Ain further tapping into the underground water table that forms the lifeline of the region. The net result is to drastically reduce the downstream flow of the river and on occasion completely halt flow. Little or no water reaches the Assyrian villages and agriculture correspondingly suffers. The availability of fish, an important source of protein in the Khabur diet, has also been seriously impacted. While the Jazirah region suffers through yet another year of drought and government inaction, disturbing recent reports disclosed that Syria announced an agreement to provide neighboring Jordan with water.
Not surprisingly, though, there is sufficient water to reach several Arab villages north of the Assyrian villages as well as the state owned Manajer Farm, which was previously confiscated and nationalized from an Assyrian Christian landowner. Some Arab farmers enjoying close ties to corrupt government officials are allowed to dig wells despite the law, but are in turn charged as much as half of their harvest. While turning a blind eye to wells dug by Arab farmers, the government never the less strictly enforces the ban on wells in the Assyrian villages.
A large concentration of Assyrian Christians (from various Churches with the majority belonging to Syrian Orthodox, Chaldean Catholic, and Church of the East) inhabit the northeastern part of Syria- the Jazirah. The Khabur River lies within this region and is home to a chain of thirty-five Assyrian villages along both banks of the river. The Khabur River begins just south of the Turkish border within northern Syria emerging as a spring from an underground water table at Ras Al-Ain before heading south as a tributary of the Euphrates River within historic Assyria proper.
Just north of Sapeh, a dam diverts
water to a reservoir that serves the main city of northeastern Syria- Hassaka.
The result is that from the government owned Manajer Farm north to Sapeh
and the surrounding Arab villages, there is sufficient water flow for irrigation
and drinking. Also, the Arab villages to the north continue to enjoy ample
water for irrigation on account of the illegal wells. With the dammed and
diverted water stored for use in a reservoir farther to the south, water
again becomes available just south of the Assyrian villages. No access
from the reservoir is granted to the Assyrian villages
This recent Syrian policy leaves the Assyrian villages alone within an arid belt bereft of water while water is redistributed to the north and south either directly from the Khabur River, through government condoned illegal wells, or through the reservoir. The conspicuously abrupt water demarcation lines in the area of the Assyrian villages is a consequence of both the severity of the current drought and, more importantly, a result of primitive and corrupt Syrian governmental environmental policy as well as the government's inherent hostility towards the politically disenfranchised Assyrian community.
In the past, the Syrian government has been unfairly hostile to local Assyrian efforts to improve the dire water situation. On June 24, 1997, the Syrian government arrested four members of the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO), including a former member of parliament, in Hassaka who had initiated a project to bring potable water via tankers to the parched Assyrian Khabur villages (AINA July---, 1997). The four men were eventually released, three of whom only after several months of incarceration and standard Syrian mistreatment. Despite lacking any legitimate legal merit, the trials of the three were never dismissed, but rather continued indefinitely in order to allow the government the pretext to reconvene the trial at their whim any time in the future.
Other than asking farmers to not plant their summer crops, the Syrian government has not initiated any action to solve the ongoing environmental disaster opting instead to condone corrupt and discriminatory water mismanagement targeting the Assyrian community. Several options are available to solve the water shortage, including: interbasin water transfers, joint regional planning, waster water reclamation, catcment and storage, rationing, and increasing awareness and education relative to irrigation and usage efficiency. Yet, Syrian officials are instead taking advantage of the situation to reduce the Assyrian population of the region. In order to quiet growing discontent in the region, sources in Syria have recently suggested that the government has approved a plan calling for new wells to be dug along the Khabur River with the intention to direct their flow entirely into the river in order to reconstitute the river for downstream communities. However, the environmental impact till now has been nothing less than catastrophic with a steadily dropping water table inevitably leading to necessarily deeper and deeper wells such that some wells now need to be 500-800 meters deep in order to produce water. It is believed by some that such a project, if ever implemented, may only temporarily forestall the water crisis in the short term and may perhaps still more drastically lower the existing water table in the long term.
Water scarcity has increasingly become
a source of tension between rival neighboring states in the Middle East. Now
the Syrian government is using water scarcity as an internal political tool
to refashion the demography of the Jazirah by encouraging the exodus of Assyrians
from an historically Assyrian region. Hopes for a more enlightened environmental
as well as internal political policy from the new Syrian President Bashar Assad
will have to be put on hold as the late President's son consolidates his power
base. Assyrians in Syria remain apprehensive about raising the water issue during
a time of power consolidation so as to not endanger the community by appearing
to be in opposition to the government. Rather than face the potential wrath
of a "consolidating" regime, many Assyrians may choose to continue to endure
the worsening hardship or worse still, simply leave their homes.
(ZNDA: San Jose) On August 5th nearly one hundred Assyrians participated at the first Assyrian Genocide Conference organized by an Assyrian organization in the United States. The purpose of the conference was to convene some of the leading experts on Assyrian Genocide of 1915; Assyrian activists and researchers to address the issues related to the execution and aftermath of the Turkish government's crime committed against its Christian population in 1915.
The Conference received much attention from non-Assyrian activists, media and organizations involved in raising awareness on genocides committed in the 20th Century. The invited speakers were Dr. Gabriele Yonan from Germany, Dr. Abdul Massih Saadi from Chicago, Ms. Thea Halo from New York, Dr. Jacob Boas and Mr. Serop Nenejian from Oregan.
The event began at 8:30 in the morning and lasted until late evening. Set against the historic background of Hayes Mansion in San Jose, the conference was attended by local and state-wide Assyrian activists, pastors, and Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance, Mr. John Nimrod. The event was hosted by the Assyrian American Association of San Jose. Ms. Jacklin Bejan, president of the AAA of San Jose welcomed the attendees and Mr. Wilfred Alkhas, publisher of Zinda Magazine, moderated the event.
Dr. Yonan and Dr. Saadi offers profound analysis of the events leading to the 1915 Genocide, and explained political and social factors involved. Dr. Yonan explained the role of the German government in galvanizing the Muslims against the Christian populations and Dr. Saadi emphasized the importance of greater scholarly research necessary to shed more light on the causes and latter effects of this tragedy. It was noted that as a result of this Genocide, over two thirds of the Assyrian population was decimated. Had the Genocide not occurred the Assyrians would have enjoyed a population over ten million in the Middle East alone, noted one speaker.
Dr. Boas was born in a German concentration camp in Poland and is a Holocaust survivor. He is the past director of the Jewish Holocaust Center in Northern California and Oregan. Mr. Nenejian is an Armenian activist who delivered a passionate speech on the evil acts conducted by the government of Turkey then and its current efforts to fund different university history programs across the United States.
Thea Halo's readings from her book were well received and all copies of "Not Even My Name" were sold in less than a few minutes.
The Conference was organized by the Assyrian
American Association of San Jose and sponsored by Zinda Magazine and several
other local businesses. A Proceedings of the Assyrian Genocide Conference
will soon be published by the Assyrian American Association in which each speaker's
full address and articles will be made available to public.
BC (5th Century)
Ctesias, a Cnidian physician, lived at this time at the Persian court when Xenophon was traveling through upper Mesopotamia with the Greek mercenaries. He compiled a number of histories in his History of Assyria and Persia which later came down to us through the intermdiation of Diodorus Siculus.
Archaeologia Mundi- Mesopotamia, Margueron
Pietro della Valle traveled through Mesopotamia for twelve years and brought back to Rome bricks which he had picked up from Ur and Babylon. This was the first time material remains were brought to Europe from Bet-Nahrain for research.
Archaeologia Mundi- Mesopotamia, Margueron
August 19, 1876:
dies, George Smith, Assyriologist at age 36 in Syria. Smith was made
famous with his discovery of the Epic of Gilgamesh tablets in Bet-Nahrain.
THE 2000 ANNUAL BALL & 5th YEAR ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
A night full of variety including some very special musical
INCLUDES: 3 Course meal, coffee,
tea and soft drinks!
HURRY TICKETS SELLING FAST!!!!!
ASSYRIAN AMERICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION
Hilton Hotel & Towers
NINEVEH CHOIR IN CONCERT
Conducted by Maestro Nebu Issabey
For ticket information:
Ninous Bebla (California).....Dr. Mariam Doreen Joseph (Australia).....Sargon Tavour (California)
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