A Conference on Human Rights was scheduled for the first day of the gathering, and the lead-off speaker was Sheikh Mohammed Mohammed Ali, of the Iraqi National Congress (INC). Unfortunately, I arrived too late to makes notes of his comments and, strange as it seems, I have been unable to find anyone else who could share their notes from that meeting. During the Question-Answer period which followed, someone rhetorically asked the speaker how INC could possibly be concerned about human rights when there is no Assyrian representation on the INC executive committee. Just how sagacious was this thought?
The viability of the INC as an Iraqi opposition group has been open to question from the time of its creation, and thats putting it mildly. Earlier this year, a State Department official revealed the private assessment of Secretary of State Powell that this is a feckless group of people whose dreams far exceed their capabilities. And hes not at all enthusiastic about relying on them. [New York Times, Feb. 14, 2001]
The Chairman of the INC is Ahmad Chalabi, who is frequently shuttling between London, New York and Washington. For the most part, the INC champions consist of certain hardliners in the U.S. Administration (led by Rumsfeld and Cheney), and by ardent advocates from the Jewish lobby. Steven Solarz, derisively known as the Congressman from Ankara, and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a Jewish think-tank, consider it crucial for the U.S. to maintain opposition to Baghdad. A report from WINEP released earlier this year urges the U.S. to provide the opposition with ample financial and political support, as well as specific equipment items such as communication gear and, starting with the Kurdish opposition in the north, weapons as appropriate. A letter addressed to President Clinton, signed by both Rumsfeld and perennial Baghdad-basher Paul Wolfowitz back on February 18, 1998, maintained that Iraq today is ripe for a broad-based insurrection. We must exploit this opportunity. The letter suggested the positioning of U.S. ground force equipment in the region so that, as a last resort, we have the capacity to protect and assist the anti-Saddam forces in the northern and southern parts of Iraq.
A brief digression may be in order. Unless anyone had not noticed, President G.W. Bushs Cabinet looks like America, but without the Jews. Those words were in fact the headline of a Jerusalem Post editorial back in January. The Israeli paper complained that in sharp contrast to the unprecedented number of American Jews holding cabinet-level posts in the outgoing administration of President Clinton at this time it appears that none of President-elect Bushs cabinet appointments are Jewish.
Perhaps it was just a coincidence (and not a matter of affirmative action) that the appointment of Wolfowitz as the US Deputy Secretary of Defense would soon follow. Described as a seasoned zealot [Kurdish Life, Winter 2001], Wolfowitz has been a Jewish fixture in senior national security posts under Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush Senior, and now Bush Junior. Following his appointment, the Jerusalem Post [Feb. 5, 2001] contentedly described him as a strong advocate of arming the Iraqi opposition to topple Saddam Hussein.
But the biggest credibility challenge for the INC leadership is that it has never persuaded its Kurdish or Shiite Muslim colleagues to cooperate with a central command and to carry out a coordinated plan. Barring an unlikely change, the reluctance of these two groups (with guerilla forces) is an insurmountable burden.
The INC may have good intentions, but it does not enjoy much credibility.
In pie-in-the-sky fashion, the INC hoped to use Iran as a base for
infiltrating southern Iraq and operating inside Kurdistan [London
Sunday Times, October 1, 2000]. But a Los Angeles Times article [March
129, 2001] titled Hapless Hussein Opposition Has U.S. Looking Elsewhere
may be far more accurate in describing the disillusionment of its major
sponsor. The article points out that despite millions of dollars
in U.S. aid, the leading Iraqi opposition group has proved so hapless
in making use of the money, accounting for it, finding recruits for Pentagon
training and preventing its own fragmentation that the State Department
is searching for alternatives. It appears in fact that the INC has
run into lowered expectations from the Bush administration. There will
be far fewer dollars flowing in its direction and, according to the State
Department, a very modest agenda of distributing food and medicine
in government-controlled areas, and sending dozens of infiltrators
to collect information and recruit supporters.
Going back to the question posed at the Conference by a well-meaning Assyrian, some may consider it far-fetched or presumptuous. The INC cannot get full-fledged commitment from the Shiites or the Kurds, and it is slowly sinking in irrelevance, yet the questioner may have felt that Assyrians should have the opportunity of stepping forward and taking another hit as the smallest ally? One could also ask why Assyrians would claim a place at the INCs Executive Committee table, when larger minorities have happily remained on the sideline - consider the self-described Chaldeans and the Turkomans, just to name a couple?
The notion of Assyrians in the INC may strike some as a means of enhancing our self-importance. Others may be more wary, mindful of Woody Allens injunction: I wouldnt want to join a club who would accept me as a member.
ASSYRIAN REPRESENTATIVE SPEAKS BEFORE IRANS MAJLIS IN ASSYRIAN
(ZNDA: Tehran) Last week Mr. Yonathan Bet-Kolia, the Assyrian representative in Irans Parliament or Majlis, offered a speech before his Parliamentary colleagues in the Assyrian language. This was the first time in the history of Irans Majlis since 1905 that a represented religious minority group was allowed to conduct a speech in its native language.
Mr. Bet-Kolia began his talk with a reading from Psalms 111. He then congratulated President Khatami on winning his second election, when over 92 percent of Assyrians eligible to vote went to the polls last month. Mr. Bet-Kolia briefly enumerated the educational and scientific achievements of Assyrians throughout the ancient times and the during Islamic period.
Mr. Bet-Kolia listed the following in emphasizing the significant religious and academic accomplishments of his constituents in Iran:
Mr. Bet-Kolia then directed the attention of the members of Majlis to the inequalities faced by Assyrians as victims of religious and ethnic discrimination at school and workplace. He expressed his regret in witnessing discrimination against Non-Moslems, including Assyrians, when applying for jobs in public and government sectors particularly in the educational areas.
Mr. Bet-Kolia also reminded his colleagues in the Majlis about the small budget passed earlier this year for the promotion of the cultural activities of the religious minorities in Iran. He then thanked them for taking into account the importance of such a budget resolution.
Permission to build new Christian centers and churches in Iran was the next item on Mr. Bet-Kolias wish-list. Currently, no new buildings for the purpose of religious worship are permitted in Iran.
Lastly, Mr. Bet-Kolia requested that his constituents in Iran be permitted
to publish books and periodicals in the Assyrian language, reminding the
members of Majlis that it was the Assyrians who published and distributed
the first newspaper in Iran, entitled Rays of Light in mid-19th
IRAQI ARCHEOLOGISTS UNCOVER ASSYRIAN TEMPLE & WINGED BULLS
Courtesy of Agence France-Presse (July 7)
(ZNDA: Badgdad) Iraq said last Friday that a team of archeologists have uncovered the remains of an Assyrian temple and statues of winged bulls dating back to the 8th century B.C.
Jaber Khalil Ibrahim, head of Iraq's archeology department, told the
official INA news agency that the find was made in Nimrod, 35 kilometres
(22 miles) southeast of the northern city of Mosul.
Iraq, and especially northern Beth-Nahrain, contains more than 10,000 archeological sites, most of which have still not yet been uncovered, according to official statistics.
Before the embargo imposed on Iraq in August 1990 for invading Kuwait, Iraq played host to numerous foreign archeological expeditions each year.
ASSYRIAN MAN STABS EX-FIANCE IN CHICAGO AREA
of Chicago Tribune (July 13)
Odisho fled in the car but was arrested by a Kane County sheriff's deputy who had stopped him for a speeding violation. Kane County police said Odisho was wearing a shirt with what appeared to be dried blood on it when he was arrested.
The victim, a South Elgin woman, was treated at St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates. Cunningham said she needed more than 75 stitches to her hand and will require surgery to repair nerve damage suffered as she tried to defend herself.
According to court records, Odisho was charged with attacking the same woman last year. That charge and an order of protection stemming from the case were later dropped.
Odisho's attorney, Stephen Connolly, said his client is mentally ill and is not a threat when he takes his medication, which includes lithium and Ritalin. Connolly said Odisho's family would have him committed if he is released.
Odisho faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted. Judge Karen Thompson Tobin set bail at $150,000, with the requirement that Odisho be placed in a mental health facility if he makes bail.
TURKS AND ARMENIANS FORM A RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
Courtesy of Reuters (July 10); based on an article by Stephanie Nebehay
(ZNDA: Geneva) A group of prominent Turks and Armenians are establishing a reconciliation commission to promote dialogue between their peoples divided since the Genocide of the Christians in Anatolia during World War One.
"It is the first time there has been an attempt at structured dialogue between civil society in Turkey and Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora," Ilter Turkmen, a former Turkish diplomat and senior U.N. official, told the news conference. "...It is a turning point in the relations between two peoples."
A statement issued after three-day talks in Geneva said the 10-member commission hoped to foster better ties between Turkey and Armenia, which have no diplomatic relations.
"The (Turkish-Armenian) Reconciliation Commission hopes, through its efforts, to build on the increasing readiness for reconciliation among Turkish and Armenian civil societies including members of Diaspora communities," it added.
Armenians accuse Turks of genocide by the systematic slaughter of 1.5 million of their ethnic kin as the Ottoman Empire collapsed in 1918.
Turkey denies the charges, saying both Turks and Armenians died in inter-ethnic violence as the Empire fought a Russian invasion of its eastern provinces, which had a high concentration of ethnic Armenians.
The issue remains a source of international tension. Ankara reacted angrily when first a House of Representatives sub-committee and then the French parliament recently recognized that genocide had occurred.
The talks, which follow recent secret meetings in Vienna, Austria, come as Turkey tries to advance its European Union candidacy.
"The Reconciliation Commission appreciates that there are serious differences between Armenians and Turks, as well as obstacles to normal relations between Armenia and Turkey," the two-page statement read.
The Commission aims to support projects in business, tourism and culture and would also make recommendations to the members' respective governments, according to the statement.
Gunduz Aktan, a former Turkish ambassador who writes for the Radikal newspaper, said: "When it comes to qualifying events 85 years ago in the Ottoman Empire, Turks around the table will not accept them as genocide.
"We certainly consider them terrible tragic events, but they do not fall within the definition of genocide accepted under international humanitarian law."
Alexander Arzoumanian, a former Armenian foreign minister who chairs the Armenian National Movement based in the capital Yerevan, said: "In Armenia, most of the population and Diaspora community consider it as genocide.
"This is one of the issues we are going to address through our work," he added. "We just made an important historic step, but we have a long way to go."
Van Krikorian, of the Armenian Assembly of America, said: "The Armenian genocide is very fundamental to who we are."
MICROSOFT RELEASES WINDOWS XP WITH NATIVE SYRIAC SUPPORT
Microsoft Inc. made available today its latest operating system Windows XP Professional Release Candidate 1 (RC1). This is the first operating system to have native Syriac support. Users can simply click on the language control (located on the task toolbar), choose Syriac, and type away using numerous applications, including Office XP (for word processing, desktop publishing, databases, spreadsheets, presentations, web design), Internet Explorer (for web browsing), Outlook Express (for writing emails), as well as many of the Microsoft accessories (Notepad, Paint, etc.). Any application that uses Uniscribe's functionality for text input and output will automatically have Syriac support, paving the way for developers to write Syriac applications. Windows XP Professional RC1 is available now from the Microsoft Web Site [www.microsoft.com]. Click on Syriac on the task toolbar and type Syriac in many applications.
Name your folders and file in Syriac! Native Syriac support means that the language is implemented at the operating system level. This allows the user, for instance, to name files and folders in Syriac (see image on right). The operating system also knows about Syriac dates and time. For example, when the user inserts an automatic date in Word XP, it will write the name of the day and the month in Syriac.
Having a hard time locating keys? The On-Screen Keyboard helps you find any letter, vowel or diacritic mark; you can also type using this tool. Because of the lack of a 'standard' Syriac keyboard layout, the user has the option of using two different keyboards, one modeled after the Arabic keyboard and the other is phonetic. The image below shows the On-Screen Keyboard used in conjunction with Notepad.
The On-Screen Keyboard helps you find Syriac keys.
Windows XP ships with one Syriac font, Estrangelo Edessa, which Windows uses as a default font. Designed for Beth Mardutho's Meltho Fonts, Estrangelo Edessa was provided to Microsoft to be included in the Windows XP distributions. The Meltho fonts package includes over 20 other fonts, available free of charge from Beth Mardutho [www.bethmardutho.org]. These fonts can be used now in Windows 2000/XP-RC1 and Office XP.
Beth Mardutho worked with Microsoft for the past four years to make this happen. Central to the success of this story is Paul Nelson of Microsoft's Complex Scripts Group. Nelson was the communication link between Beth Mardutho and Microsoft and developed much of the Syriac features inside Windows. Back in 1998, Beth Mardutho took part in a meeting with the Unicode Consortium and the International Standard Organization (ISO) when a proposal to add Syriac to the coding standard Unicode was presented. Subsequently, due to the generous contributions of Beth Mardutho's benefactors and the hard work the Meltho team, the Meltho fonts became available to the public free of charge in 2000.
Send E-Mails in Syriac!
Call For Support - Beth Mardutho is an academic institute whose goal is to globalize the Syriac language. The Institute is currently working on creating the largest digital eLibrary of Syriac books and journals on the Internet, among other projects. These projects are made possible by our generous benefactors. Become a part of bringing the Syriac language into the Third Millennium by supporting Beth Mardutho through membership. Members are entitled to a number of privileges outlined on the Institute's web site. Go to www.bethmardutho.org and click on Gifts Online. Become a member today!
Beth Mardutho: The Syriac Institute New Jersey
Viktor Borisovich Shklovsky was born in St. Petersburg in 1893. After a year at the University of Petersburg, he left in the summer of 1914 to fight with the Tsarist army in World War I. After the February 1917 revolution he worked for the Provisional Government as a commissar on the Galician front and later in Irans Urmia region.
To escape arrest for his anti-Bolshevik activities, Shklovsky fled to Finland in the spring of 1922, then to Berlin, where he published his book, A Sentimental Journey, in 1923. He was granted an amnesty in the fall of 1923 and returned home to settle in Moscow.
Shklovsky is considered one of the most brilliant Russian writers of the 20th century. However, it is his personal witness to the turbulent years of Assyrian experience between 1917 and 1922 that makes him an important figure.
A Sentimental Journey is an important historical document - a personal memoir of a man who became founder of Russian formalist criticism and avant-garde writing.
Zinda Magazine has carefully selected every passage pertaining to Shkolvskys Assyrian experiences and will present them in a series of articles in the next few weeks. The majority of the book elaborates on Victor Shklovskys other experiences, not related to Assyrians.
We expect that Shklovskys opinion of Assyrians, whom he calls Aissors, may cause some anxiety for our readers. At best we expect that his writings on Mar Benyamin, Agha Petros, Turko-Assyrian battles, and the Great Exodus will produce responses in form of letters to the Editor and messages on our Ziggurat forum.
Our crew thanks Mr. Daniel Wolk of Univesity of Chicago for introducing this pivotal literary document to Zinda Magazine. We hope that our readers will enjoy reading Viktor Shklovskys memoir as much as we have in preparing it for your reading enjoyment.
At the War Ministry, I had previously met a commissar who was leaving for Persia; he was a Menshevik named Task, a former chairman of the Kiev Soviet. I will write a lot about him. They let me go to Persia, although they did try to keep me. But frustration had driven me to the brink, as the moon draws a somnambulist to the roof. I got on a train and set out for Persia. Then it was very simple: five days to Tiflis without changing trains and from Tifiis to Tabriz two days, also without changing. I set out. In the vicinity of Mineralnye Vody, the Chechens were already wrecking trains. No matter, we got through.
Near Baku, I saw the Caspian Sea, a cold green not like any other sea.
And camels, walking with their easy gait.
And so on.. . . He was about eighteen. He was by no means an educated man and he grieved the only way he knew how. And thats all.
And speaking of castration. I had been going to the hospital in Petersburg (they were taking X rays to figure out why my wound hadnt been fatal) and I saw an officer there. He too had been castrated by a wound. His fiancée had been coming to see him. She knew nothing. He hadnt been able to tell her when she came the first time and after that it kept getting harder and harder. And no one else would say anything. The wounded man asked the doctor to tell her and the doctor asked a nurse and the nurse wouldnt tell her.
And it wasnt so much the matter of telling her. The accident was simply too absurdly awful.
I arrived in Tiflis. A nice town, a poor mans Moscow. There was shooting in the streets; wildly enthusiastic Georgian troops were shooting into the air; they couldnt not shoot. The national character. I spent one night with the Georgian Futurists. Nice kids, more homesick for Moscow than Chekhovs sisters.
The town was calm, not destroyed-true, they were eating bread of corn-but the streetcars were still running and the people become savages yet.
I set off for Tabriz. The train climbed higher and higher. Trees with dark-gold leaves clung to the mountains. The stream was either following us or running toward us. The train kept climbing higher, writhing from the effort.
In Aleksandropol we hitched on to another train and were off to Dzhulfa. We arrived-a solitary station. The turbid Araxes River along the foot of a mountain. On the other bank, small houses made of clay, with flat roofs; to me they seemed like houses with no roofs at all. It was night.
Im writing on July 22, 1919. When I arrived from Moscow on nineteenth of this month and brought some bread (ten pounds) a close friend, this man began to weep-he wasnt used to bread. Thats how it was-the houses had lost their roofs, the people somewhat lost their heads, but they had long since grown to this state of affairs.
Our car was once again uncoupled. Then a new train was made all together about four or five cars with two locomotives, one in front and one in back.
We crossed a bridge, were perfunctorily inspected by customs Persian customs officials, who were afraid of us, and the train itself, straining every fiber, began again to scramble up the heights.
Now on all sides was no longer the reddish-gold forest, but instead only red mountains and red ledges set off by snow, the snow on the peaks very close to us. The train, straining every fiber, times almost came to a complete stop-it seemed that we would back down at any moment.
Only the desert. And deserted warehouses. Goods lying about. Rolls of barbed wire. Several granaries. A dozen cars standing on the tracks. But the port was dead. This is the main port of Lake Urmia, a place supposedly with a tremendous future. You couldnt see the opposite shore. But to the left was an island called Shahi: the shahs used to hunt there.
I stayed all night there in the plywood cottage of the Regional Union. I left in the morning. The same sea and below the same piles blanched by the salt. An uncanny silence. The warehouses were being guarded by Turkish prisoners. They were more relia-ble. There were two ways of getting across the lake: either in a barge towed by a launch or simply in the launch, if it were an urgent matter. All together, there were about half a dozen steam-boats on the lake; one of them, the Admiral, was rather large- about the same size as the steamboats that go between Kronstadt and Petersburg-but with an internal-combustion engine. The steamboats had been brought from the Caspian Sea and assembled here.
I set out for Urmia in a small launch. It was about thirty-five or forty miles.
Flamingos were flying over the lake, turning pink as they flew up. The undersides of their wings are pink. The boat chugged along and cut the still, smooth waves.
A fleet had been dragged to this salt lake, which had always been deserted-deserted during the reign of the Chaldeans, during the reign of the Assyrians, always marginal; now a fleet, piles driven in, birds frightened away and all for the sake of war.
The corps supply officer traveling with me related how hard it was to feed our army. Up to the lake, its not so bad-the railroad, then reloading on barges. The barges really help out; in some of them, you can carry as much as five hundred tons right up to the landing piers. There are five of them on the lake; then reloading on horse or ox transport, then in the mountains reloading on camels, mules or donkeys-and so on, every foot of the way.
And so practically every camel, horse, donkey and bull in the Caucasus and Turkestan had been driven into Persia. But we didnt succeed in getting them back out.
There were about sixty thousand of us in northern Persia- about five thousand at the front, with the rest in units to handle transport and protect the routes; the route from the front to Sharafkhaneh, 240 miles, had to be protected and, as a result, the army was starving.
The launch pulled up to the pier. The cliffs were no longer red, but
gray. It was deserted: only one small clay house in sight. This was Gelenzhik.
Children were wandering around almost naked, in rags reduced to tattered threads.
I didnt want to wait for a car; I requested horses, picked out some men, and we began to clatter over the rocks to Urmia.
The road broke away from the salt marsh and went across fields enclosed with clay walls. Lombardy poplars stuck out in the fields like factory smokestacks, their branches seeming to swaddle the trunk.
We rode for quite a while along an unbroken clay steppe, past shabby cemeteries with markers made of pieces of rock stood on end. Then we turned into a brick gate and rode into the city of Urmia. Red mountains were visible beyond the city wall; the sky was far above; snow sparkled on the mountains. We came to a gray wall, went through a door and followed a narrow corridor into a small courtyard. Huge grapevines with gnarled trunks, strong and thick, climbed up the walls, making a green net over the entire courtyard. At the end of the courtyard stood a one-story house with enormous windows covered with calico. I went through the dark vestibule into a room.
White walls. The ceiling was made of beams placed a foot apart. Thin boards had been placed between the beams, and woven mats were attached to these boards.
The room was flooded with diffused light passing through the calico.
Here I met Task and one other old acquaintance, a certain L., who was panicked: he had come to the East and had expected an East as gayly colored as a peacocks tail; instead he saw an East of clay and straw, and war in all its nakedness. Nowhere was the inner lining of clay and straw, and war in all its nakedness. Nowhere was the inner lining of war, its predatory essence, so clear as in the crevices of Persia. There was no enemy. There were Turks off somewhere, but they were separated from us by impenetrable passes, where a camel would flounder in snow up to his nostrils. Only with inconceivable effort could the Turks get through to us, as in fact they had done in 1914.
But thats beside the point. The point was Persia, which had already been occupied by Russian troops for ten years.
We had gone to a foreign country, occupied it, added to its gloom and violence our violence, laughed at its laws, hampered its trade, refused to let it open any factories and supported the shah.22 And for this purpose, we kept troops-kept them there even after the revolution. It was imperialism-whats more, Russian imperial-ism, which is to say, stupid imperialism. We had built a railroad to Persia, set up a fleet on Lake Urmia, built a colossal number of roads in the valleys, laid roads through passes where since the time of Adam there had been nothing but donkey trails, where the Kurds had been able to pass through the most impossible spots only by building bonfires and afterwards practically gouging out the heated rock with their fingernails.
A lot of money was spent in Persia. And it was all useless, like teaching a pig to waltz. We squeezed and choked, but found the corpse inedible.
The February revolution had not improved the situation in Persia. To begin with, we were entangled in all kinds of treaties with England: Persia was one part of the intended prey. Moreover, the revolution, while in general warding off the threat of Persias being absorbed by us, had replaced one slow-witted, but organized, tyrannical government with several petty offshoots of the Russian tyrannical will. The subjects of the tyrannical government were themselves tyrants. If there had been a flood in Persia and it had fallen my lot to be Noah-to build an ark and to save the pure and honest, passively honest and actively honest people, I would not have had to build a big tub.
L. and I went to take a look at the town. The whole town was paved. The story of this pavement is as follows:
A certain general had ordered the Persians to pave the streets. Any property owner who refused was nailed by the ear to the door of his own house.
So naturally the town was paved. Facing the streets were the same clay
walls, about the height of two men. There were low doors in the walls-no
gates at all. Several mosques with low minarets and cupolas made of tiles.
On one of the minarets, a stork bad built her nest. This sacred bird is
never disturbed. Water runs swiftly through all the streets in irrigation
ditches. At the cross-roads are graveyards-dusty, shabby and small. The
We watched them cooking over coals heated up with a wicker fan, baking lavash, a thin, cardboard-like bread which they make by spreading dough on the inside walls of the oven; then we went home.
That same night, L. left for St. Pete. Task left for the front. I was left alone. Our troops were the only force in Persia and I was supposed to be in charge.
And now its July 30, 1919, and Im writing while on guard with a rifle between my legs. It doesnt get in my way. I think Im just as powerless now as I was then, but now I dont have any responsibility. Now Ill tell what kind of country it was that I found myself in.
Azerbaijan and part of Kurdistan were the areas occupied by our troops. A mixed population. Persians, Armenians, Tatars, Kurds, Nestorian Aissors and Jews made up the population. None of these tribes had gotten along together since time immemorial. When the Russians came, this changed: it got still worse.
The day after my arrival, I went to get acquainted with the army committee. It made a very painful impression on me. Abso-lutely ignorant men who had no idea what to do. The chairman had first been Comrade Stepanians, an Armenian; he had been a poor chairman and made a hopeless muddle of the committees affairs.
Then they had elected Geobbekian, afterwards a friend of the chairman of the regional soviet. This one was worse. With him you never knew what would happen from one minute to the next; in one and the same speech, he could back the Kadets and the Bolsheviks.
He had an amusing way of stopping a speaker in the middle of his talk and saying, Ill explain it to you, comrade, and then hed talk a blue streak for an hour. So he was the only one who ever talked. But we had to do something about the Constituent Assem-bly. Elections had to be held in an incredibly scattered army of small detachments. The soldier chosen chairman of the elections committee, a Tolstoyan, unexpectedly turned out to be a capable man.
But the rest of the committee-may they forgive me for the bad memory-busied themselves organizing amateur theatricals.
I suppose this was understandable. Life was so boring-no newspapers, no women, just the reticence of the Persian popula-tion. Well, as a result, a sort of summer-stock theater had been formed with an incredibly summer-stock repertory.
The troupe performed in a large clay barn, dark and poorly equipped-more poorly than the convicts theater in Dostoevskys The House of the Dead. It was a vaudeville repertory. The soldiers flocked in. Its organizers were planning to take their show out on the road.
But in this quiet city with its clay walls and perpetually closed doors, things were not going well.
The nights rumbled with gunshots. The soldiers liked to shoot into the air. They got drunk; wine was obtained from the Aissors and the Jews and perhaps even from the Moslems.
In the frontier town of Ushnuiyeh, there was a pogrom; every-thing was smashed and pillaged. Task went out there to investi-gate; he managed to find one company that had accidentally not taken part in the pogrom and, with its help, recovered the spoils; as punishment, the regiment was left on duty at this post.
There was no fighting anywhere.
We were getting ready for the elections. The army committees were re-elected. The army was getting weaker and deteriorating.
Persia suffered as usual.
The power of the shah is insignificant in Persia. He does distrib-ute all the land and all the land in the country is his land, but these are only words. Actually the khans agree to recognize themselves as his vassals.
I wont attempt to explain this strange system, which has long since outlived its usefulness but still persists. Apparently the khans lease out the villages. Or else a strong, armed man living in the village systematically plunders it and gives a share to the khans.
The peasants are serfs in the sense that they are in the hands of a master as long as they live on his land. Its up to them to get water from the high mountains by digging irrigation ditches, so they stand up to their knees in the swiftly flowing water and roast in the sun. Theres a lot of emigration: people go to Baku, to Turkestan, wherever they can-anywhere they can eat.
In the cities live the merchants, rich and, in a manner of speaking,
educated; their children are taught in the French mission schools. They
too have their own villages. The emergence of a bourgeoisie did not do
away with serfdom.
The Persians had a constitution, which they said was more liberal than Switzerlands. The governor of Urmia was a revolu-tionary-that is, a participant in the Persian revolution. He too had his own villages and serfs. True, there were Persian Cossacks in Persia, units serving the shah that were recruited from among the Persians and commanded by our instructors.
The Persian Cossacks-to be more accurate, the men who used them for their own purposes-were almost universally hated by the populace. They, however, took orders not from the governor, but from the Russian government.
Now it seemed that they took orders from no one.
During our withdrawal they tried to attack us.
Of course, no one obeyed the governor. He requested from us ten Kuban Cossacks who would obey him. The Kurdish khans didnt obey him since they were stronger: each of them had several dozen horsemen and one of them, Sinko, had a large detachment. This was one of the mistakes of Russian diplomacy. Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, in that epoch when he was building himself a palace in the Lenkoran Valley and plotting to create a Cossack army in Armenia, decided to win one of the Kurdish chieftains over to the Russian side. The choice fell on Sinko, khan of a tribe living in the vicinity of the Kuchin Pass, which connected the district of Khoi-Dilman with the district of Urmia. Sinko was given rifles and even machine guns, which made him a constant threat to us. He helped massacre Christians and ultimately laughed at us, saying, My hundred and forty horsemen are driving out your regiment.
The Armenians didnt obey, either, though they were loyal, but loyal because they were the aristocracy in Persia. They had a strong organization called Dashnaktsution. It may be that in the Caucasus the Dashnaktsution was a Socialist party like our SRs, but in Persia it was a powerful society for self-defense.
The Aissors, Nestorian Christians, were also a kind of independ-ent state. They considered themselves direct descendants of the ancient Assyrians and spoke the Aramaic language. One branch of them had originally settled in the environs of Urmia. At one time they had occupied the whole region. The Kurds had gradually exterminated them. Now their number had been replenished by the mountain Ashurite Aissors, a savage people who had lived from time immemorial in the very center of Kurdistan-around Dzhela-merok, in the Van Province of Turkey. The Jacobites, a tribe related to them, lived in the vicinity of Mosul.
Each family lived in the mountains under the leadership of a malik, or chieftain; each village was governed by a priest; all the maliks were under the command of the Patriarch of the East and India, Mar Shimun, a black-eyed, ruddy, gray-haired Aissor. The patriarchs order is hereditary and passes from uncle to nephew. Legend traces the origin of the patriarchs from Simon, the brother of the Lord.
The Nestorians had a glorious past. When the orthodox believ-ers drove them out of Syria in the seventh century, they crossed the mountains and came to Persia, where they were joyfully welcomed as enemies of Byzantium. Here they stimulated literary activity and spread their influence to Siberia, India and especially to Tur-kestan. They were even in China, where to this day there are several completely assimilated Nestorian families.
Tamerlane drove them to the mountains of Kurdistan; thats where they were living now like savages. Theyre black-haired, semitic-looking and ruddy-complexioned.
Nestorian missionaries used to get as far as India; whole Chris-tian colonies appeared there. They passed through Siberia in the north; in the east they got as far as Japan. The writing which they invented was the basis of the Mongolian alphabet and apparently of the Korean. Perhaps they were the nation of Prester John, whose help the Crusaders had been expecting. Now they were a small tribe, driven into these mountains, which are indicated sim-ply with blank spots even on the most detailed German maps. The Turks whittled away the tribe, but it continued to hold its ground. Their main village was Oramar. But Oramar had been occupied by the Kurds since 1914. The Russian troops used the Aissors as a special militia; when they withdrew in 1914 and left the Aissors behind, their fate was terrible. Doctor Shedd, head of the Ameri-can mission, told me that more than forty thousand of them were massacred, stacked on pyres and burned. Those who survived took sanctuary in the American mission. But the Persians added iron filings to their bread and they died in droves. In 1916 a reconnais-sance detachment of Russian Cossacks and the special Aissor mili-tia of Aga Petros Elov decided to recapture Oramar, located in the heart of enemy territory more than 150 miles away. The road was difficult. The mules couldnt carry in any of the mountain ord-nance. The Aissors carried it in on their shoulders. The cavalry made out as best they could; the Aissors kept to the peaks of the mountains, because the idea of mountain warfare is to occupy the commanding heights. I recommend a comparison with the descrip-tion of the way the Carduchi waged war (Xenophon, Book 4).
Oramar was flanked, captured and sacked. The horses were fed with grapes, the donkeys with millet. Mar Shimun and the bishops-they were wearing turbans wrapped around their red fezzes- had attacked with bayonets and cut down the prisoners. Our Urmian consul, Nikitin, had gone on the expedition and, by the way, he told me that in an area once occupied by the Aissors, but now by the Kurds, he had found a small stone temple with no windows or decorations. It was called the Temple of Mary Mem. The Kurds hadnt destroyed this temple. Moreover, they had even spared the Christian relatives of the temple priests. This was explained by the fact that, according to legend, under this temple had been imprisoned a Great Serpent, which would come out if the temple were destroyed. Once in the lifetime of every guardian of the temple, the Serpent would show itself, but the present guardian of the temple hadnt seen it yet.
Issue of Nakosha Magazine
UP & AWAY WITH WALTER AZIZ
In the past year, Walter Aziz has been working diligently on an album that in his opinion, "can open the world's eyes to our music." Titled "Away" Mr. Walter's latest project marks the birth of a new music genre: "Assyrian Pop".
Powered by a new sound, a new label, and a new vision, Walter extends the boundaries of Assyrian dance music to a new rhythmic dimension. "I've never put so much work into an album as I have with this one," Walter explains. "This is my biggest project ever."
With 11 tracks on the album, no mood is left untapped. The album thrives on upbeat dance music. In "Away", traditional meets modern; East meets West. With such creative energy infused in "Lorque", "Eaman Nashqali" (When She Kisses Me) and Kouleh D'Leleh (All Night), Assyrian Pop is born.
Collaborating with other artists was yet another important aspect of this project. Young Latin sensation, Jacqui Lynn, and Assyrian star Sargon Gabriel, along with the many other International musicians and producers set "Away" apart as a global undertaking.
Walter Aziz and EastJam Records, with the help of many Assyrian organizations,
are kicking off the "Away Tour: 2001" to celebrate the album's
long-awaited debut. The tour will kick off in San Jose, at the Assyrian
Church of the East Hall (Awana) on Friday, July 20. Walter's fans can
catch the second tour stop in Turlock on July 27 at the
Zinda Magazine will post Walter's future tour dates as they become available.
And here's the best part: Everyone admitted to the "Away Tour" parties will receive the new CD for free.
Be a part of the launch of AWAY.
For more information, visit www.walteraziz.com
( 2000 B.C.)
The name of the country of Assyria derives from the city of Assur or Ashur, about 100 kilometers south of Nineveh, near todays Mosul. The city of Ashur was destroyed in 614 B.C., two years before the destruction of Nineveh. Assyrians later referred to it simply as the country (matum).
The Ancient Near East, Kuhrt
During a Church of the Easts Synod in Seleucia the attending bishops agree to accept the Nicene Creed and appint only one bishop to each see. Each bishop was then to be ordained by at least three other bishops and the Church would celebrate Epiphany, Lent, Good Friday, and Easter as its official holidays. Yet the most important agreement reached was that the bishop of the twin cities of Seleucia-Ctesiphon was to become the head of all other bishops and given the title Catholicus. Mar Iskhaq (Isaac) then became the first Catholicus of the Church of the East. This paved the way for the commencement of the Patriarchy in the Assyrian church. Shah Yazdegerd I, Shah of Persia, soon approved the new organization of the Church of the East.
JULY 17, 1964
Professor Sargis Osipov, Assyrian linguist, dies in Tehran, Iran at age 78. He was the author of a book on Assyrian language which was not published during his lifetime.
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WALTER AZIZ AWAY TOUR PARTY
Assyrian Church of the East Hall (Awana)
A festival celebrating the descent of the god Tammuz to the Underworld and the end of spring in Bet-Nahrain. It is customary to sprinkle water on friends and family members, wishing for Tammuz' safe return to his beloved Ishtar.
WALTER AZIZ AWAY TOUR PARTY
Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock
A day to commemorate the Assyrian martyrs throughout history.
August 28 - Sept 3
ASSYRIAN AMERICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION
A PERFORMANCE OF SUMERIAN STORIES
The Zi-Pang Trio
November 8 thru
March 17, 2002
AGATHA CHRISTI & THE ORIENT
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
MIDDLE EAST STUDIES ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE
Middle East Studies Association of North America Panel
Hyatt Regency Hotel, San Francisco
Dr. Arian Ishaya - Urmia to Baquba: From the Cradle
of Water to Wilderness
THE NIMROD CONFERENCE
Sponsored by the British School of Archaeology in Iraq
Cost To Be Determined
Contact Dept of Ancient Near East 020 7323 8315
Coincides with Ancient Near East week at the British Museum:
FIRST UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO's CSSS SYMPOSIUM
Sponsored by Canadian Society for Syriac Studies (CSSS)
Zindamagazine would like to thank:
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