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Volume VII
Issue 36
December 3, 2001
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This Week In Zinda

cover photo
cover photo

  The Ripple Effect of Karl Suleman's Leap-Frogging
Introducing Tinu Yohannan
  Babylon, California
  Earthquake Jolts Hakkari

Assyrian Man Admits to Helping Barbecue Live Dog
Why an Assyrian Yearning For Detroit Landed in Mexico

  Assyrian Pharoah of the Pyramid Scheme
Calling All MSN Chatters!

A Musical Interpretation of The Epic of Gilgamesh

  Negotiating Assyrian Identityi in Iraq, 1919-1933 (Part I)
  Remembering Our Inalienable Rights
  Protest Form to Patriarch Ignatius Zakkai I Iwas
Agatha Christie & Archeology: Mystery in Mesopotamia
  Car & Transportation
  The First Congress & The Nestorian Capital-By-The-Sea
  Surmi Khanom
  Public Lectures in Toronto
New Year's Eve Party in Chicago



Zinda Says


The Karl Suleman saga continues! The one-time owner of a 7-Eleven store and three butcher shops who turned dot com millionair is quite preoccupied these days handling the liquidation of his properties and responding to his creditors' claims in Sydney. Sadly, as he descends to the netherworld of dotcom riches and fanciful investment schemes, so are many other Assyrian families and prominent leaders.

At the $235,000 table arranged for former President Clinton were Suleman's other Assyrian and Jewish associates including Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone, Nati Stolier, Suleman's accountant Suzy David (an Assyrian Universal Alliance officer), and the Bishop of the Assyrian Church of the East, Bishop Mar Meelis Zaia.

It turns out that according to Sydney's Financial Times, Bishop Zaia is a 5 per cent shareholder in Suleman's Froggy Holdings and is known as a warm supporter of Suleman's enterprises and efforts to support the Assyrian community. Ms. David is also a share-holder of unspecified amounts in the Froggy Holdings. Suleman owns 65 per cent of Froggy, while Chabad House of the North Shore Ltd owns 10 per cent, generously donated by Suleman.

Three weeks after the dinner, Stolier and Suleman committed to funding a $154 million Hollywood movie called "Godfathers, Popes and Presidents", in which Clinton was to appear.

What apparently no-one knew at the table on September 8 was that two weeks later, MCI Worldcom would apply for the acquisition of Suleman's Froggy Holdings. For no specific reasons the application was withdrawn three weeks later. Soon after, complaints from unknown origin prompted the Australian Securities and Investments Commission to appoint administrators to two other, unrelated Suleman companies, Karl Suleman Enterprises and Suleman Investments, for raising money without a prospectus. Sounds fishy? It gets better.

The Supreme Court was told last week that Suleman had raised a total of $130.7 million worth of contracts signed over 18 months by 2062 investors. The average investment was $60,000. $45 million of the $120 million had been paid out to investors, but according to court papers these payments were "largely funded from funds raised from later investors''. No one knows where the other $120 million are.

So where did these investors come from?

Again according to the Financial Times Suleman had used a group of sales agents to promote an investment scheme to the tight-knit community of 20,000 Assyrians who live around Sydney's Fairfield, by promising them a 16 per cent return each month on their investment. By September, Suleman had to raise up to $20 million a month to pay the promised return to his investors.

Suleman was offering his Assyrian investors a 190 per cent annual return for their investment, while non-Assyrians were offered only a 120 per cent return. These, unfortunately, include many of our readers in the Sydney-Fairfield area. Everyone including the civic organizations became victims of Karl Suleman's splendidly convincing salesmanship. His "generosity" to Assyrian groups included regular prize donations to the Ninevah Club in Bonnyrigg, and a brand-new Mercedez Benz for the Assyrian bishop. Reliable sources to Zinda Magazine indicate that the Linda George's latest CD was produced at a cost of over $200,000, and yet failed to meet the anticipated Sony Distribution protocols. Ms. George has been a guest of Mr. Suleman in Australia for the past six months.

While it is still too early to make any predictions, it is obvious that the sale of Sulemans's suburbs properties, overseas assets, a Lamborghini and a Ferrari, and a couple of private aircrafts will go only a small way to cover millions of dollars owed to his Assyrian investors. Hundreds of Assyrian families may have lost their life-savings and retirement monies and several Assyrian-Australian civic and religious institutions likewise expect financial woes.

The financial prominence of our "generous" Assyrian entrepreneurs is clearly in our economic interest, but not at the cost of financial anguish of our Assyrian people. What were the hundred of Assyrian investors thinking in signing a contract offering 190% return on their investment? Were our leaders in Australia aware of this scheme or were they also beguiled into accepting the far-fetched promises of "Suleman the Magnificent"? Were other Assyrians, particularly from Russia and Georgia, involved in this scheme? And finally is the Church of the East in any way connected to the Suleman Enterprises or Mar Melis' link is only a private endeavor? The same can be asked of the Assyrian Universal Alliance versus its local chapter in Australia. The saga of Karl Suleman will unquestionably fill many more pages of this magazine until all these inquiries are properly countered.

Last week Froggy.com laid off twenty of its employees and froze all new registrations.



His batting style is Right Hand Bat, but he's not a baseball player. His bowling style is Right Arm Medium Fast, and yes - you guessed it - he's not a bowler either. He's the newest phenomenon in the world of Cricket. And he's an Assyrian from the Kerala province of India (see Zinda Magazine: 5 Nov 2001).

Last week in a game with England, Yohannan was one of three pacemen to make their debut for India in the match along with Iqbal Siddiqui and Sanjay. Tinu is the eighth Indian to get a wicket in his first over on debut. "I started out a bit nervous but to get a wicket in my first over was a dream come true," Yohannan said.

Tinu Yohannan was born on 18 February 1979, in Kochi, India, where thousands of Assyrians live. His father was a former Asian record-holder in the long-jump. Yohannan succeeded in winning gold and silver at the state junior levels. He then trained under the legendary Australian cricket coach, Dennis Lillee, and TA Sekhar for four years, the culmination of whose work was the superb game last week against England. Yohannan is a fast bowler and very agile. Every sport observer expects more impressive successes from this tall, hardworking Cricket player. Look for Tinu in the next world cricket championship games.

Zinda Magazine

The Lighthouse


Here's a quick multiple-choice quiz: Where is Babylon Court located?

a. Iraq
b. Turkey
c. Egypt
d. None of the Above

If you answered (d), then you must be a Zinda Magazine reader from Southern California.

Hollywood has once again turned to ancient Assyro-Babylonian history to create for itself one of the most magnificent entertainment and shopping centers of the world in the heart of the most glamorous place on earth.

Hollywood & Highland [http://www.hollywoodandhighland.com] is home to dozens of chic shops, extraordinary restaurants, night clubs, studio broadcast facilities, a six-screen, 1,600 seat multi-plex cinema, and of course, the $94 million Kodak Theater, where the 74th Annual Academy Awards ceremony will be held in March 2002. The 3,300 seat state-of-the-art theater, with trap doors, secret tunnels and a stage that rises and falls on steel spirals, will be the permanent home for all future Oscar ceremonies.

However, our favorite attraction is at the center of Hollywood & Highland and it's called the Babylon Court. It is architecturally designed to re-create D. W. Griffith's 1916 masterpiece "Intolerance". The set includes 33 foot tall elephant sculptures atop massive 70 foot columns. The elephants are completely restored originals from "Intolerance," which incidentally was the biggest budget Hollywood film ever to that date. Griffith spent about $400 thousand to make "Intolerance" which in today's money is equivalent to about $100 million. After the production ended, the Babylon elephants were displayed on Hollywood Boulevard until they began to deteriorate. The most impressive piece of the architecture is the 150-foot arch at the edge of Babylon Court framing the Hollywood Sign in the distance. As one Zinda reader writes: "I drove by it last week and saw a giant arch with Assyrian Art all over; I got chills!!".

The project occupies two city blocks on Hollywood Boulevard, between Highland Avenue and Orange Drive and has cost over $615 million dollars to build. To put that in perspective, Disneyland's new theme park, California Adventure, cost just twice as much. King Nebuchednezzer would be very proud.
Are you planning to be at the 2002 Academy Awards ceremonies next year? Then you should have your limo drive you to the spectacular 180,000-square-foot Kodak Theatre with its most sophisticated and innovative multimedia technology on March 24th.
Did you say you weren't invited this year? Oh Well… there's always the Babylon Court, which in fact was designed to give visitors the feeling of a life-size, over-the-top movie set. Be sure to take your digital camera with you. This is a photo-opportunity in the scale of the Ishtar Gate.
Perhaps the next Assyrian Convention in Los Angeles world be held at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel against the dazzling view of the Babylon Court. And how about the 25,000 square foot Grand Ballroom. That's plenty of Sheikhany space!

Hollywood & Highland gives a physical presence to the glamour of Hollywood and a great opportunity for visitors from around the world to learn about the most majestic and glamorous city in the ancient world - Babylon. But what does this all mean to the Assyrians? In three words: Perfect Marketing Opportunity.

From history books on Babylon, "Babylonian" food dishes, and the Assyrian music to replicas of the cuneiform tablets and famous artifacts, H&H will be a one-stop shop for promoting Assyrian identity and heritage. If it has something to do with "Babylon", there is a good chance that some retail store or shopper will offer you an attentive ear. The next time you're visiting Mickey in Disneyland take your family to the Babylon Court. After experiencing the "chill factor", find an H & H marketing person and discuss your ideas in detail. After all, who knows more about Babylon than the Babylonians?!

For our magazine's review of D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance" visit:

Here's another quick quiz for our readers who have had the pleasure of visiting the Babylon Court recently or who may have seen the arch: What are the images depicted on the arch framing the Hollywood Sign?



Courtesy of the Xinhua News Agency

(ZNDA: Ankara) An earthquake measuring 4.2 on the Richter scale jolted Turkey's southeastern province of Hakkari last night (Sunday evening). Officials of the Bogazici University Kandilli Observatory Center and Seismology Institute in Istanbul said that the quake took place at 7:05 p.m. (1705 GMT) and was centered on 19 kilometers northeast of Hakkari. There were no immediate reports of casualties in the region. In 1999, two major tremors killed more than 18,000 people in northwestern Turkey.

News Digest


Courtesy of Toronto Sun (Nov 30)

(ZNDA: Toronto) Youkhana Moshi, 21, appeared for his sentencing hearing for his role in beating, then barbecuing a 12-year-old Pomeranian named Peppy in April 2000. Earlier last week, a 17-year-old girl was convicted on two counts of animal cruelty for her role in the crime.

Moshi asked Justice Derek Hogg if he could recant his earlier admission and said he has launched an appeal with Legal Aid because he was denied funding. He is expected to return to court Jan. 24.

According to the Crown synopsis, the pair locked the pet in a room, kicked it repeatedly in the head and bounced it off the wall. Afterwards, the two went outside and lit the propane barbecue.

In addition to the cruelty charges, Moshi also pleaded guilty to failing to attend court and two counts of possession of property obtained by crime. The girl is to be sentenced in January.

The maximum penalty for animal abuse in Canada is six months in jail, a two-year ban on owing animals and a fine of up to $2,000.



Reprinted courtesy of the Wall Street Journal Europe (Nov 30); by Joel Millman

Planting land mines for Iraq in its war with Iran in the 1980s, Sabah Issa cheated death every day. Recalled to military service, he did so again in 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait. And he did a third time after the Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein's security police turned on him, fingering him, he says, as a member of the country's "disloyal" Christian minority. Their evidence: packages of food that cousins in Detroit had sent to Baghdad.

The Issa family fled Baghdad in 1998, led by smugglers across Turkey to Greece, where they spent 30 months living on the money Mr. Issa, a carpenter in Iraq, made as a delivery boy. Borrowing $28,000 (31,500 euros) from relatives in America, he paid smugglers to ferry his family across Europe, then Mexico and, finally, to the U.S. border.

That underground railroad carried his wife and two of his three children to safety in Michigan in January. Mr. Issa and his 16-year-old daughter, Raina, temporarily stayed behind in Greece.

By the morning of Sept. 11, Mr. Issa, 42, and his daughter had made it to Tijuana, Mexico, where they also applied for asylum to enter the U.S. They thought they were just days away from rejoining their family in Detroit. But as of that afternoon, they had joined nearly 100 other Iraqis who were tossed into a Tijuana jail. The next day, Mr. Issa and Raina began a weeklong bus trip ending at a military camp on Mexico's Gulf Coast. Now, he says, "I awake every morningsurrounded by soldiers and barbed wire."

Mr. Issa's predicament, along with those of about 130 other Middle Eastern, African and Albanian refugees detained at a tumbledown Mexican naval base here, is an unintended consequence of the new U.S. war on terrorism. The detainees include 87 Christian Iraqis, known as Chaldeans, who belong to an ethnic group rarely turned down for asylum in the U.S. According to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Iraqis petitioning for asylum (around 600 this year) have an approval rate of 82%, nearly twice the average of other asylum seekers. Petitions made by Chaldeans -- an ancient Catholic community of about one million people -- have been almost rejection-proof, because they were fleeing oppression by one of America's favorite villains.

"Why do they not let our people go?" asks Matti Echo, who left Iraq in 1999 with his wife and five children. He hopes to join a brother in Detroit who runs a liquor store. For now, he and his family rise at 5 a.m. to a Mexican bugler's reveille, only to pass long days confined to the base. As pelicans glide overhead, the 48-year-old Mr. Echo squats near an oil-smeared beach, chain-smoking in the sweltering heat.

In the hours following the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, Mexican police detained several hundred refugees in Tijuana, a latter-day Casablanca serving as a way station for many foreigners hoping to gain entry to the U.S. The Chaldeans were easy to find. For more than a year, a continual flow of refugees has passed through the same $25-a-night rooms at the seedy Las Palmas Hotel. There, they were long known to both cops and robbers, not to mention U.S. immigration investigators, who urged Mexican officials to be on the lookout for suspicious characters of Middle Eastern origin.

"We never go out of the hotel now," says Thamir Hanna, a strapping young man with a wrestler's chest and a crew cut. Five years on the road, Mr. Hanna evaded arrest in September after persuading Mexican authorities that his papers were in order. Police often shake down Chaldeans, he says. And thieves harass them, knowing that illegal aliens don't report crimes.

Like most Chaldeans in Tijuana, Mr. Hanna has relatives in San Diego, which, after Detroit, has the largest Iraqi community in the U.S. His cousins live right across the border, in Chula Vista, where they own a pizzeria. The day he arrived, they delivered a jumbo pie to the Las Palmas. "Once, they brought us a family-size pizza with all the toppings," recalls Rieman Sadik, another Iraqi living in the hotel.

Both men entered Mexico with false papers -- Mr. Hanna as a Polish citizen calling himself Amir Samir and Mr. Sadik masquerading as a Greek named Petros Andreopolis. Their passports were furnished by a smuggler they hired in Greece. Traveling easily from Athens to Paris without any need for visas, they joined a party of 20 Chaldeans posing as Danes, Czechs and Bulgarians on an Air France flight bound for Mexico City. From there they flew to Tijuana, where they immediately applied for asylum in the U.S. Their applications are pending.

Now, since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Chaldeans' underground express has been derailed. A few days ago, about 60 refugees fled the Las Palmas hotel, surrendering to U.S. border guards and insisting on waiting out their asylum applications in a U.S. immigration jail. Meanwhile, at least 30 more Chaldeans have been picked up by Mexican officials across the country, some in Tijuana and others trying to enter Mexico from Guatemala.

All this leaves U.S. officials with a dilemma. Chaldeans in limbo raise the issue of how to accept refugees that the U.S. genuinely believes deserve asylum without condoning the smuggling that brings them to the threshold of freedom. The U.S. budgets nearly $1 million each year to help Mexico detain and deport illegals before they reach the border. Several hundred Chinese, Sri Lankans, Sikhs and Sierra Leoneans are thereby expelled annually, saving U.S. taxpayers millions by not clogging courts with asylum bids.

Officially, Chaldeans can't be deported because the U.S. has no relations with Iraq, representatives of which would have to be contacted to arrange for their return. But their smuggling network is starting to create an image problem. "I'm sure Chaldeans are decent, upright people," says Jeffrey Davidow, U.S. ambassador to Mexico. "Yet there is damage to U.S. laws and to Mexico's laws if it becomes known that all you have to do is get to Mexico and you're safe."

U.S. investigators admit they assisted Mexico with information and other support when the Iraqis were detained in September, noting that several nabbed in the Tijuana raids were Iraqi Muslims who had apparently boarded the Chaldeans' underground railroad. Those Muslim Iraqis now are in a Mexico City jail.

As for the Chaldeans, Mexico's top migration cop says he doesn't know how so many are entering his country, or how they are able to pose as Europeans to get past checkpoints at Mexico City's airport. "They say they enter, but we can't find any evidence their passports are being seen," says Roberto Aguilera. "We haven't found any secret passageways, either."

The explanation, the Chaldeans say, lies with Mr. Aguilera's own employees, who earn just $200 a month and often are eager to work with the smugglers. At the airport, Chaldeans are led through a cargo area where nobody asks to see a passport. On the rare occasions when some are caught, smugglers engage a human-rights lawyer to petition for the release of the Chaldeans on humanitarian grounds.

This shadowy system allowed three members of the Issa family to gain asylum earlier this year. Iman Issa now lives in Sterling Heights, Michigan, where a part-time job cleaning motel rooms pays her $95 a week. Her 11-year-old daughter, Rowaida, and her 14-year-old son, Rani, go to school nearby. Rowaida's fifth-grade teacher is a Chaldean immigrant, as is the owner of the motel where Mrs. Issa works.

Mr. Issa, desperate for news of his loved ones, smiles to learn that his children now speak good English. Other than being denied permission to attend Mass at a church nearby, he has no complaints with his treatment here on the naval base, where he and his daughter have already spent two months. Still, he is anxious. "I thought when we got to America our problems would be over," he says with a rueful smile. "We fled Baghdad to escape the military. Now we can't get out of Mexico."

Surfs Up!


"I sincerely congratulate you and extremely appreciate your fine magazine.

I just finished reading your article about "The munificent Assyrian businessman" Karl Suleman. I honestly was surprised by your support to this person in his illegal activities.

I would highly recommend that you and your subscribers acquaint yourself with the "Pyramid" schemes and the tactics employed to lure innocent people to participate in such evil acts.

There is a specific method for an operator who wants to be successful in the "Pyramid" scheme. As a first step, it is extremely important to create an image whereby people (potential investors) would trust them.

The second step is to create a persona that people would try to emulate so that they become as successful as he is.

The decisive stage is to create a new image out of the current participants the "Pyramid" scheme so that they may influence other people to join in this newly found fountain of wealth.

The "KING" title, the donations to Churches and other charitable organizations, the association with super famous people e.g., Bill Clinton and George Bush, SR, are all part of this scheme.

Ordering participants to buy expensive cars and houses to prove to others that whoever joins in this group is on the way to success is all part of this scheme.

Luring well-known community religious and civic leaders, to endorse them is all part of this scheme.

Do not be deceived by the deeds that he had performed so far. It was all part of this scheme. The damage that this person has done to our people is more than anything that one can imagine and time will prove. I honestly feel very sorry for our people especially those who still support him and think that they will get their investments back. Their action only indicates that they are not familiar at all with the intricacies of such complicated schemes. The money that this person has spent buying expensive airplanes, yachts, cars, jewelry and money to promote his image as a philanthropist beside handing out commissions to his agents are all from the investors' money. Most of these investors have mortgaged everything that they have in order to invest in his scheme.

The Australian newspapers have published all the facts about his outstanding assets. It is apparent that he does not have any valuable assets left to cover even a small portion of his debts. From what other sources can he pay back
his investors?

"Pyramid" schemes simply work as follows. You borrow money from one and pay it back when you borrow from two, which you pay back when you borrow from four and so on and so forth. The real problems start when you saturate the
market and can no longer find more investors. That is the reason why Mr. Karl Suleman expanded his market among the Assyrians in the UK and the USA.

The Australian Assyrians may be partially protected by their government. But by the time the Australian Securities and Investment Commission's case against Mr. Suleman is settled, after the attorneys and court expenses are paid off, there will be very few cents left to be distributed for every dollar invested. We should be even more concerned with the Assyrian investors in the UK and the USA. Who will protect their investments?

All of us Assyrians should coordinate our efforts in exposing such schemes whether they are for the intention of financial or political gains.

My sincere wishes would be that Zinda, Bet Nahrain Radio and Television Stations, and all the other Assyrian media utilizes all of their journalistic resources to expose whoever participates, supports and benefits from these schemes especially those who are in a leadership positions."

Shimshon Antar



"Assyrian MSN List or simply MSN Assyria is a part of the Assyrian Voice Network website. The list was created to enable Assyrian MSN users to keep in touch with one another and be able to add their friends or other peers from around the world easily. The service was launched in mid 2000 and untill now has close to 1000 members from more than 15 countries.

The list can be found @: www.AssyrianVoice.net/msn. The main website where MSN Assyria belongs can be found @ www.AssyrianVoice.net

Check it out today and add yourself to list, to be reached by thousands of Assyrians worldwide and help widen our Assyrian community online and strengthen their communication and unity together.
Thank you kindly and keep up the great work you are doing on your magazine."

AssyrianVoice Webmaster

Surfers Corner


The search for immortality seems to be an obsession for most of us, according to the Mesopotamian hero, Gilgamesh. But the search for a perfect holiday gift this year does not have to be as restless an affair. Consider Tony Garone's CD entitled "The Epic of Gilgamesh, a Musical Interpretation". Finally someone has intelligently and masterfully - musically speaking - narrated Gilgamesh's love for Enkidu, man's search for immortality, the significance of the Tree of Life, the majesty of Uruk, the story of the flood, and many other themes intertwined in one of the world's greatest epics. Tony Garone has succeeded in capturing the essence of the Epic of Gilgamesh in this brilliantly composed work of art. For more information and to order your copy go to [http://www.garone.net/tony/gilgamesh.html]. Here's what Tony has to say:

This project took me almost two years to complete, and it was one of the most fascinating works I've ever undertaken, involving not only my creative energies, but also my research efforts as well. The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the most incredible stories you will ever read (I guarantee it!), and can be interpreted on many levels. It is a story about love, companionship, loss, anger, failure and success, and it is a mirror. When we read this Epic, we see ourselves at the lowest and highest moments in our lives. Enjoy the music, but please read the Epic, you will not regret it.

These lyrics are an interpretation by Me; they are based on the original translations from the Sumerian/ Babylonian/ Akkadian texts by scholars. Below the links to the song lyrics presented here you will find links to the various interpretations.

I did take many liberties in my "interpretation" of this material, in that I "mixed and matched" the Sumerian and Babylonian nomenclatures for their gods depending on how the names fit the lyric pattern. I also took liberties with the emotional portrayal of Gilgamesh himself (were he an actual king or legend), so in this light I strongly recommend you examine additional material should you be so inclined.

I am by no means a scholar or historian on Mesopotamia (this should be obvious upon closer scrutiny), but I am enamored by this period in time. I have done quite a bit of research on this subject, and have been independently studying ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia since I was thirteen.

Zinda Magazine




Part I

In the next few issues, Zinda Magazine will be publishing the paper entitled “Negotiating Assyrian Identity in Iraq, 1919-1933” by Dr. Frederic M. Wehrey of the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University.  This paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Middle East Studies Association of North America, San Francisco on 20 November 2001.  Zinda Magazine wishes to thank Dr. Wehrey for giving us his permission to reprint the paper.  Please note that the views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Air Force, Department of Defense, or the US Government.

In July 1933, the prominent Iraqi nationalist party, al-Hezb al-Watani, published a stern appeal to Prime Minister Rashid Ali addressing the issue of Iraq’s Assyrian Christian minority.  “The best remedy for this disease,” the letter argued, “is to expel the Assyrians promptly to avoid turmoil and disorder.”   Less than a month later, the nascent Iraqi army carried out a massacre of several Assyrian villages in northern Iraq.  This seminal event in Iraqi history, known as the “Assyrian Affair,” sent shock waves throughout the international community, eroded Britain’s influence in Iraq, and galvanized Iraqi public opinion in favor of the nationalists’ agenda.

Most literature on the Assyrian question in Iraq has been highly partisan and has focused almost exclusively on the details of the massacre—specifically, the culpability of the Iraqi government or the intransigence of the Assyrians.  These studies all assume the existence of a rigid, primordial Assyrian identity that precluded the integration of the community into the new Iraqi state.    The Assyrian minority and its patriarchal leadership is often described—using such terms as “aloof” and “unassimilable”—as a relic of the Ottoman millet system that was inherently incompatible with the requirements of the “modern” nation-state of Iraq.  Besides denying the Assyrians the ability to redefine their place in the new political order, such an interpretation also ignores the various political pressures that transformed the community’s identity during a critical period from 1919 to 1933.

This paper argues that Assyrian identity in Iraq, far from being static and one-dimensional, was actively shaped by the competing efforts of three political actors:  the British colonial administration, the Assyrian religious elite, and Iraqi nationalists.  To understand how the Assyrians articulated their communal identity in response to British imperialism and the imposition of the new Iraqi state, it is necessary to analyze how each of the various political groups perceived the community.  To what degree did these actors, including the Assyrian patriarch, attempt to manipulate or reconstruct Assyrian identity to further their own goals? 

I will first examine how British colonial officials, aided by Western missionaries, deliberately cultivated Assyrian notions of autonomy and recruited the Assyrians into an armed auxiliary force, the Levies, which defended British interests in Iraq.  Besides exacerbating inter-ethnic tensions in northern Iraq, the Assyrian Levies were instrumental in defining the community’s political relationship with the emergent Iraqi state.  Responding to British patronage and increased attention from the League of Nations, how did the Assyrian patriarch use the issue of political autonomy and “self-determination” as a way to preserve his traditional authority and undermine rival claimants for power?  Finally, this paper will explore how Iraqi nationalists deliberately misrepresented the issue of Assyrian integration in order to consolidate their power.  In a sense, the Assyrian community became a manufactured enemy whose suppression enabled certain Iraqi officials to deflect internal criticism and advance their agenda of centralization and conscription. 

This framework, by situating the Assyrian community in the context of Iraqi state formation and the pressures of British imperial control, will provide more compelling reasons for the Assyrians’ antipathy towards Iraqi citizenship than sectarian tensions or the inherent incompatibility of a former millet with the demands of the nation-state.  But before we examine the formation of Assyrian identity in mandate Iraq, it is necessary to briefly highlight the evolution of the community prior to World War I—focusing specifically on Western influences.

Background:  Assyrian Identity and the Western Imagination

Known variously as Nestorians, Chaldeans, or Church of the East, the Assyrians are Syriac-speaking Christians whose doctrine originated in teachings of the fifth century patriarch Nestorius amidst great theological controversy. 

Persecuted by the Byzantines, they later fled the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries to settle near present-day Mosul and in the Urmiyah region of Persia.  Until the end of World War I, the largest concentration of Assyrians was found in the mountainous Hakkari region of eastern Turkey.   This area, together with northern Iraq, continues to be viewed by many in the Assyrian diaspora as the community’s historic homeland. 

Yet territorial attachment itself does not explain the evolution of Assyrian identity.  Beginning in the 1830s, European missionary activity, racial theories, and orientalist narratives had a major impact on the community’s self-perception and its relationship with neighboring Muslims and foreign powers.   Anglican and American Protestant missionaries, arriving in Hakkari in the 1830s, viewed the Assyrians as potential collaborators in the proselytizing enterprise.  Writing in 1833, the Anglican missionary Eli Smith hoped that the community would become “a prop upon which to rest the lever that will overturn the whole system of Mohammedan illusion.”  

By accepting the patronage of foreign missionaries, the Assyrian patriarch—known as Mar Shimun—sought to enhance his prestige in relation to the Ottoman porte and neigboring Kurdish aghas.  Remarking on this client-patron relationship, the Kurdish leader Shaykh Ubayd Allah asked a Turkish officer in 1881, “What is this I hear...that the Nestorians are going to hoist the British flag and declare themselves British subjects?”   A perceived imbalance of power and the growing independence of Assyrian tenants from their Kurdish landlords probably served as a catalyst for the massacre of Assyrian villages by Kurds in 1843.  Yet the practice of seeking foreign patronage continued among the Assyrian elite throughout the 19th century and became a major irritant for the Iraqi government during the mandate period.

In addition to the influence of foreign missionaries, the archeological discovery of Nineveh transformed the Assyrian community’s definition of self.  Galvanizing the Western imagination, the excavations of 1842 and 1845 led European travel writers and archaeologists to discern physical similarities between the modern Nestorians and the monumental sculptures unearthed at Nineveh.  The archeologist A.H. Layard argued that the Nestorian Christians “are indeed as much the remains of Nineveh, and Assyria, as the rude heaps and ruined palaces.”  Travel writer J.P. Fletcher believed the local Christians were “the only surviving memorial of Assyria and Babylonia.”

Although at times contrary to ethnographic evidence, this narrative was gradully adopted by the Assyrian community and later used by the Assyrian elite to buttress their claims for an autonomous enclave in northern Iraq.   The word “Assyrian” entered into currency among the Nestorian Christians as a term of self-definition soon after the archaeological discoveries.  Assyrian diaspora communities in the United States and elsewhere began using images of ancient Assyrian reliefs on their letterhead—a trend which continues today among the Assyrian “internet community.”   Foreign missionaries helped propagate this important heritage among the Assyrians and publicized it to an international audience during the interwar period.   Their version of the Assyrian past ultimately shaped the favoritist attitude of British administrators and officers in Iraq towards their Assyrian clients—an attitude which tacitly encouraged Assyrian estrangement from the Iraqi state.

End of Part I



[1] Council of the League of Nations, Official Journal, 14 (December 1933):  1808.

2 For the argument that Britain ‘abandoned’ the Assyrians to the fate of the Iraqi state, see R.S. Stafford, The Tragedy of the Assyrians (London:  George Allen and Unwin, 1935) and Yusuf Malik, The British Betrayal of the Assyrians (Warren Point NJ:  Kimball Press, 1935).  Khaldun S. Husry, “The Assyrian Affair of 1933” (Parts I & II), International Journal of Middle East Studies 5 (April 1974 and June 1974) is an Iraqi apologist’s interpretation that defends the actions of Bakr Sidqi and the army.  Irrespective of their stance, these authors seem to oversimplify the communal roots of Assyrian opposition to assimilation; they ignore the influence of Assyrian elite politics, British policy, and the utility of the Assyrians to Iraqi nationalists.  In addition to these accounts, Hanna Batatu paints the Assyrian community as ‘a foreign and unassimilable people,’ without providing any context or reasons.  Hanna Batatu, The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq:  A Study of Iraq’s Old Landed and Commercial Classes and of its Communists, Ba‘thists, and Free Officers (Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 1978), 869.

3 John Joseph, The Nestorians and their Muslim Neighbors:  A Study of Western Influence on their Relations (Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 1961), 28-34.

4 Ibid., 44.

5 Quoted in David McDowell, A Modern History of the Kurds (London:  I.B. Tauris, 1996), 57.

6 Joseph, 13.

7 Anthony A. D’Amato, The Assyrian Case for Autonomy (Chicago:  Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party, 1982); available from http://www.bet-nahrain.com; accessed 2 December 2000.  Also, Joseph, 13-22.  For an excellent discussion of Assyrian territorial identity, particularly among the diaspora, see Madawai Al-Rasheed, Iraqi Assyrian Christians in London:  The Construction of Ethnicity (Lewiston, UK:  The Edwin Mellen Press, 2000), 111-114.


Assyrian Surfing Posts

Protest Form to Patriarch Ignatius Zakkai I Iwas
[ http://www.auf.nu/events/protest_eng.html ]

Agatha Christie & Archeology: Mystery in Mesopotamia
[ http://www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk ]

Pump Up the Volume


Feminine Little Red Car: Raad-deeta smoqta o'soorta
Transportation MIAB / LA/ NOO/ TA Feminine Transportation Cost: Npaqta d'Miablanoota



(December 10, 1948)

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a stellar roadmap, which addresses fundamental aspects of individual dignity. The 53rd anniversary of its adoption gives cause for its global celebration. What could be more fitting than for Assyrians to share in this observance by becoming more familiar with a document which affirms common human values and which supports fundamental rights?.

The obvious deserves to be restated. All human beings are born with equal and inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms. The United Nations is committed to upholding promoting and protecting the human rights of every individual; its founding Charter reaffirms the faith of the peoples of the world in honouring such rights and in respecting the dignity and worth of each human being.

Through its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations stated in clear, simple and eloquent terms, the rights which belong to everyone of us. Because these are our rights, we each have an interest and a responsibility in familiarizing ourselves with them. In this way, we will be better equipped to help promote and defend them for ourselves, as individuals and as nation, and for our fellow human beings.

Who will dispute that there is no life in fullness without human rights? The thirty articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaim in clear and simple terms the rights which belong equally to every person on this earth. Your rights can be restricted only in limited circumstances, such as to protect other people's rights . No person or state may use any of the articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Right to justify undermining the rights to which we are all entitled.

Some fifty years ago, the world said 'never again' to the atrocities of the Second World War. All human beings have rights that should be respected in all circumstances. In this Universal Declaration, governments (including those of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey where Assyrians homeland exists) promised they would inform their citizens about these rights and seek to protect and promote them. Sadly, few know what this document contains; even fewer have seen a copy. Yet, the Declaration is supposed to be made available worldwide. In a sense, therefore, this is an invitation for you to discover 'the world's best kept secret.'

This document was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations and proclaimed on December 10, 1948. Following this historic act, the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicise the text of the declaration and ' to cause it to be disseminated, displayed , read and expanded principally in schools and other educational institutes , without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories ' .

Governments have not only failed to distribute the Universal Declaration, but as we well know, some have even argued that it is not relevant to their country, culture or political situation. Half of the world's countries still jail people solely because of their beliefs, race, gender or ethnic origin, and a third of the world's governments torture their prisoners.

In 1948, the United Nations called on governments to use every means within their power to distribute the text to their citizens, and to ensure that the Universal Declaration is displayed in schools and colleges everywhere in as many languages as possible. Have you ever seen it in a school?. Or, as Assyrians who are in dire need of such rights, have we ever displayed in our clubs?. Have our intellectuals, political parties and national organisations ever discussed?. Have we ever tried to translate it into Assyrian language and published in our magazines and newspapers?.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the basic international statement of the inalienable and inviolable rights of all members of the human family. It is intended to serve as "the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations" in the effort to secure universal and effective recognition and observance of the rights and freedoms it lists.

The Declaration is accepted almost universally as a gauge by which Governments can measure their progress in the protection of human rights. In United Nations organs, the Declaration has an authority surpassed only by the charter . It is invoked constantly not only in the General Assembly, but also in the Security Council and other organs. It is quoted in international legal instruments, including the Council of Europe's Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950), the Japanese Peace Treaty (1951), the Special Statute for the status of Trieste (1954), the Constitution of the Organisation of African Unity (1963), and the Final Document of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (1975), signed at Helsinki by 35 States. It is invoked in a score of national constitutions. It is inspired and sometimes become part of many countries national legislation, and has been cited with approval in national courts. What follows is the document itself.

We must make the Universal Declaration of Human Rights a document with relevance for today, a document with the power to change our lives, one that hold our governments accountable for the way they treat us. If we are to avoid in the next 50 years the atrocities we have seen in the last 100 years, we must stand up for our rights and make our governments treat us with respect we are entitled to.

As Assyrians, inevitably we must reflect on the quality of our own commitment. While this Declaration spells out our rights, how do we evaluate our efforts in defending them in our homeland, Bet Nahrain (Mesopotamia)? Are we doing what is necessary to preserve our national identity in the Diaspora?

The Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice, which is based on the Human Rights Declaration, issued by UNESCO in 1978 reiterates our right as Assyrian individuals to belong to the Assyrian nation, to be different, to consider ourselves as different, and to be regarded as such. No one on earth, no matter his or her station in life, can deprive us of our right to be Assyrian. Does each of us believe in standing up for what we think is right? Does each of us believe that standing up for our Assyrian identity is our right? If so, then our defense of such rights should be unequivocal. Neither the Universal Declaration nor international law will protect the rights of anyone who simply remains silent and on the sideline. These magnificent documents can help us if first we help ourselves by claiming our rights, by standing up for and raising our voices against human rights abuse.


Marael Shlimon the youngest invitee of the First Assyrian Wedding Party in Dubai (November 1st, 2001)

A special tip of the hat to our beloved Assyrians in the Homeland and the thoughtful manner in which they celebrated the golden jubilee of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 10, 1998). By design, they selected the same date for the official opening of the first intermediary Syriac School, Nisibin (in Nohadra - Dohuk), a landmark event in our modern history, and a vivid affirmation of our inalienable right to teach our own language to our children.
Let us as Assyrians who believe that standing up for their national identity is our right, take the 53rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as an occasion to become more familiar with its contains, to know our legitimated rights, to affirm our inalienable rights. To do so, let us display its thirty articles in our clubs; let us place it in our magazines and internet sites. Let our Intellectuals study it and seek its applications for Assyrian national rights. Let our political parties and national organizations discuss it and carry out rallies and round table talks in order to be equipped with a legal instrument in their struggle for our national rights. Let all of us show to the world's nations that we are caring and concerning about our national rights. Let us affirm and act unanimously, by word and deed, that we are Assyrians and no one on earth can deprive us of our right to be so. Who will then dare regard us as a forgotten nation or mischaracterize us as Arabs or Kurds.

Aprim Shapera
United Kingdom

Back to the Future

(3000 B.C.)

The first political "congress" in man's recorded history meets in Sumer (southern Mesopotamia) to take a stand on the momentous question of war and peace. The "senate" with its conservative elders asked for peace, but its decision was "vetoed" by the king, who brought the matter before the "lower house." This later group declared for war and the king approved.

History Begins in Sumer, Kramer

(A.D. 410)

The city of Gundeshapur (Assyrian Bet-Lapat) in the Khuzistan region of southern Iran becomes the capital of the Nestorian metropolitan of Khuzistan. For nearly five centuries after this time Gundishapur was also the most important medical academy in the east.

The Archaeology of Elam, Potts

This Week In History

December 7, 1975

Surmi Khanom, the late-Patriarch Mar Shimmun Ishaya' illustrious sister, passes on in Turlock, California, at age 93. She was never married and died a month after her brother's assassination in San Jose, California.


Calendar of Events


 Share your local events with Zinda readers.    Email us or send fax to:  408-918-9201


Dance Party




December 4

Join us for a night of poetry and art with Rabi Hannibal Alkhas

Bet-Eil Assyrian Church
5303 Carter Avenue
8:00 PM

December 6

"Rational vs irrational: did Greeks use Babylonian medicine?"
Lecturer:  Mark Geller
British Academy, 10 Carlton House Terrace, SW1. BSAI Lecture
5:00 PM
Contact: Joan Porter MacIver, c/o British Academy
Telephone:  01440 785 244.        bsai@britac.ac.uk

"Max and Agatha at Nimrud"
Lecturer:  Joan Oates 
6.30 PM

BP lecture theatre, British Museum, Gt Russell St WC1. 
Tickets £7.50. BMF event. Contact 020 7323 8566

December 18

A Public Lecture presented by Georgina Herrmann
London Centre for the Ancient Near East
Basement lecture theatre, SOAS, WC1 
6:00 PM

December 25

Sponsored by the Assyrian Aid Society of San Diego, California
Entertainer:  Walter Aziz
St. Peter's Church Hall - El Cajon
For Information call: (619) 337 0484

December 31

Sponsored by the Assyrian American Association of San Diego, California
Entertainer:  Juliana Jendo
St. Peter's Church Hall - El Cajon
For Information call: (619) 337 0484

December 31

Assyrian Athletic Club of Chicago (Winged-Bulls)
Entertainer:  Walter Aziz
Radisson Hotel
For more information call 847-486-1845

December 31

Assyrian American Association of San Jose proudly presents 
An unforgettable New Year's Eve Dinner Dance with Charles Tooma 
Famous Assyrian Singer from Sydney, Australia 

The Marriott Hotel 
46100 Landing Parkway 

Tickets can be purchased at AAA of San Jose starting November 24, 2001: 
Every Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. 
Every Wednesday from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. 

There will be a special priority purchase for AAA of San Jose on Saturday, November 24, 2001 from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. 

Ticket Price: 
From November 24th through December 14th 
   $75 member        $85 non-member 
From December 15th through December 29th 
   $80 member        $90 non-member 

Please inquire about the special Marriott Hotel's room rate and our Baby-sitting services 

January 16
La Societe Canadienne des Etudes Syriaques

"Women in Syriac Christian Tradition"
Lecturer:  Prof. Susan Ashbrook-Harvey, Brown University

University of Toronto
St. George Campus
8:00 PM

[Zinda Magazine is a proud Corporate Sponsor of CSSS.]

 March 6
La Societe Canadienne des Etudes Syriaques

"Resafa-Sergiupolis:  From A Roman Desert Castle to A Christian Metropolis"
Lecturer:  Dr. Stephen Westphalen, Univeristy of Gottingen

University of Toronto
St. George Campus
8:00 PM

[Zinda Magazine is a proud Corporate Sponsor of CSSS.]

March 17, 2002

Revealing Agatha Christie the archaeologist and how her discoveries in the Near East influenced her detective writing. 

The hitherto unknown interests and talents of the great crime writer are told through archaeological finds from the sites on which she worked with her husband Max Mallowan at Ur, Nineveh and Nimrud. Important objects from these sites in the Museum's collections are combined with archives, photographs, and films made by Agatha Christie herself. 

Personal memorabilia and souvenirs of travel in a more leisurely age are only some of the exhibits which range from first editions of those novels inspired by her other life to a sleeping compartment from the Orient Express, from a lethal 1930s hypodermic syringe to a priceless first millennium ivory of a man being mauled to death 

Admissions £7, Concessions £3.50

West Wing Exhibition Gallery Room 28

May 1
La Societe Canadienne des Etudes Syriaques

"Bar-Hebraeus & His Time:  The Syriac Renaissance & the Challenge of a New Reality"
Lecturer:  Prof. Herman G.B. Teule, University of Nijmegen

University of Toronto
St. George Campus
8:00 PM

[Zinda Magazine is a proud Corporate Sponsor of CSSS.]

July 1-4, 2002

"Ethnicity in Ancient Mesopotamia"
Leiden University
Dept of Assyriology & Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten

Registration Form:  http://www.let.leidenuniv.nl/rencontre/mailform.html 
Registration Fee:  Euro 70 by April 1, 2002


Thank You!

Zindamagazine would like to thank:

Moneer Cherie

Arvin Petros

Sargon Tavour


ZINDA Magazine is published weekly.  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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