TO WALK AMONG THE RUINS
This summer I got the chance to tour part of Italy with Ashour, my middle son, and his high school choir that sang in the different basilicas there. I went along as one of the chaperones. While in Rome and in Naples we were able to do some site seeing that was absolutely breathtaking! Now, even though I had read and seen pictures of Pompeii and of the Roman Empire, until I was there in the original setting, I could never have imagined how truly magnificent it was. While among the Roman ruins I became consciously aware that I was standing not only in the very same city Julius Caesar stood, but also it was highly possible that I was standing in the very same spot that he stood! Ahh, this was as close as to total connection as one could get! I got a glimpse into what the Italians feel when they experience the history that surrounds them.
We Assyrians, at least most of us, have not seen our history. We have not walked among the many ruins of the Assyrian Empire. We have not been able to stand in the very spot that Queen Shamiram or King Assurbanipal stood and feel this sense of connection with our own. Most of us have only read our history and seen pictures of artifacts and if we were lucky, we have also seen some of the art in museums. I, for example, have seen some pieces of Assyrian history in the British museum. I have seen Lamassu, the Assyrian winged-bull, but had I the chance to see him at the gateway to the temple in Nimrud, where he originally stood, it would have connected me back to that time; for my eyes would look upon the very same scene that many of our ancestors had seen.
Now I understand why so many of Jewish parents send their children to Israel. So, I guess we should question what it is that we can do for our children. When we give them mere words and pictures, then all they will have are the bits and pieces without anything being whole or complete! Is this not leaving them with their pride and sense of Assyrianism broken into bits and pieces? Perhaps, the Iraqis now own these ancient artifacts, but the truth is that no matter how long they hold on to them; they will never be part of Iraqi history.
So, where is our history? Right now for the most of us it seems that it is in the books and the museums. I believe that if we had the chance to walk among the ruins and to view them in their original settings that this would place Assyrian history in our hearts and in our minds. This would enable us to move forward with an even greater spirit and pride, which can only come from the heart. Would it not be wonderful if some day we were to establish funds to be able to have our children tour the homeland? Our future rests with them. Does it not?
My presentation at the A.U.A.’s Human Rights Conference first touched on the deliberations which led to the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This is a fascinating story which begins at the very birth of the United Nations, and culminates in the vote of the General Assembly in December 1948. An excellent recounting of this experience is found in a recent book by Mary Ann Glendon: A World Made New, Random (2001).
There are a number of key characters in this story, one of whom was Eleanor Roosevelt. A charter member of the International Human Rights Commission, she contributed more by her presence and reputation than by her ideas. Unlike the other principals, she was not a scholarly person. The main cast of players also included a Chinese diplomat/philosopher (Chang), a French Jewish ‘legal genius’ (Cassin), and a Lebanese diplomat/philosopher (Malik). These three in particular engaged in extended, fractious, and profound debates (all of them are now deceased).
Among this group, the critical role played by Charles Habib Malik, a Lebanese by nationality and a Greek Orthodox by confession will be of special interest to Assyrians. Malik never failed to impress with his intellect as well as with his passion, and his remarkable résumé still leaves one in awe. I would argue that it was his ideas and not Roosevelt’s that left the greatest imprint on the final document.
The UDHR was forged in an era when colonial empires were about to be dismantled. To a great extent this affected the text from beginning to end. Therefore, while the right of political determination was obviously on the mind of the drafters, the right of minorities was ignored. Ignored, that is, through no fault of Malik’s. He fought hard but in vain to include an article on minorities which would have given people belonging to well-defined linguistic, ethnic, or religious minority groups the right to establish their own educational, cultural, and religious institutions and to use their own language in the courts. In her book, Professor Glendon notes that such a "right of minorities" already represented official policy in multicultural countries such as Lebanon, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Interestingly enough, it was the U.S. that was the biggest obstacle to its inclusion. The proposed "article on minorities" was contrary to the American idea of the "melting pot", as well as to the assimilationist approach in France.
Explaining why the U.S. opposed even a mild compromise, Eleanor Roosevelt said that when a state accepts immigrants, it is "to make them part of the nation." Unless all citizens could speak the same language, she said, some of them might not understand their duties as citizens in the countries where they are a minority. In other words, Eleanor Roosevelt failed to distinguish between minorities created by immigration and those which are blocs of indigenous people, such as the Assyrians in a country like Iraq.
It came as an afterthought that in today’s U.S. there are two schools of thought about this. On the one hand, the argument has been made that while multiculturalism preaches tolerance, it sends other contrary messages. It teaches children that the most important thing about themselves is their membership in a group, and that the most important thing about others is that they are not part of this group. The counter argument is that multiculturalism is supposed to teach us to ask many questions, including the reasons why we hate, and the meaning of such words as "culture," and "race." Today, American society is dotted with many examples of multi-culturalism. Consider for example that the current U.S. post office brochure includes text in 8 languages; that an "ebonics" dialect is actively promoted as the language of basic instruction in the Oakland, California school district; that electoral ballots are often bi-lingual, and sometimes multi-lingual; and that in a good part of the country it is politically correct to support bi-lingualism (English-Spanish) in schools and in the daily work of various public agencies.
More than half a century has passed since the adoption of the UDHR. One cannot claim that standing alone it serves today’s needs, but its importance lies in the fact that it was an essential building base, opening the way to the enactment of many treaties. Likewise, the UDHR invigorated many non-governmental organizations (NGO), inspiring them to adopt their own form of a ‘magna carta.’ One NGO example is the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organizations (UNPO), whose 19-point manifesto asserts that "… human rights cannot be fully realized without the recognition of the right to cultural, national, linguistic, and ethnic identity, of individuals and peoples." NGO declarations have no legal effect, but many nation-states give them serious consideration.
At some point early in its existence, UNPO included a few members which would go on to attain independence (such as the three Baltic States). But I doubt if most of its remaining members can seriously harbor any hope of full-fledged sovereignty. More likely, they would like to attain a measure of cultural autonomy and respect.
The concept of what constitutes a "human right" has continually been expanded and refined. Predictably, the more modern definition will assign greater importance on women’s rights, non-discrimination based on sexual preference, and protection against forcible abortion. It is only a matter of time before the right to breathe sanitary air will also receive its proper due.
How do human rights impact Assyrians? The first task is to determine the geographical focus of the concern. To advocate for the human rights of Assyrians who have already emigrated to Western countries would appear to be a misuse of limited resources. In these new adopted lands, Assyrians are on the same footing as other immigrant groups, more or less on a level playing field with the general population they have joined. For better or for worse, they are on a fast-track recipe in the melting pot. Therefore, the effort to advance or protect Assyrian human rights has to focus on those countries of the Middle East which continue to be home to substantial numbers of them. It is there that their civil and social rights are commonly at risk, and it is also the habitat reflective of the historical roots of modern Assyrians.
The second task is to better describe the target group. If the recent "slash/slash" Census brouhaha in the U.S. is an indicator, it may not be so simple to arrive at a crisp definition. Church of East adherents, Chaldeans, and Syrian Orthodox seemed to have insuperable differences about agreeing to a combined census count. A unified front, even if ‘slashed’, would have enhanced their numbers and presumably their political capital. Based on the sparks generated from all sides by the idea of a joint Census, it can be assumed that likewise there would be serious problems categorizing the various elements as a single group for purposes of human rights advocacy.
In connection with the issue raised by the latter, it is the right of every person to be identified as he or she chooses. The right of someone to identify himself as "Chaldean," "Assyro-Chaldean," "Syriac," or "Orthodox," has to be considered as inviolate as the right of others to identify themselves as "Assyrian." Such a self-designation exercises a fundamental personal freedom which must be respected. At the conclusion of the three talks, an interesting question was posed which should be noted here: "If we accept anybody’s self-definition, what happens to the Assyrian name?" One of the other panelists answered this question. I believe I had given my own answer to that question in my general remarks. Groups who choose a name other than "Assyrian" contrary to our wishes do so based on their own heartfelt convictions. While each of the various communities insists on its own name, there is much evidence pointing to our commonality. Without question, the multiplicity of names by which "we" are known diminishes the potential we might enjoy with the benefit of a "united" name. But there is also no question that the "Assyrians" among us would be unalterably opposed to adoption of the name "Chaldean" or "Syriac" for the sake of ‘unity’ -- just as much as these latter groups are unwilling to yield to our first choice of name.
The right to self-appellation is not to be confused to the situation where an unwanted identification is imposed on a person against his/her wish (e.g., "Christian Kurd," "Christian Arab," or "Mountain Turk"). For example, when a person identifies himself as a "Chaldean," we do not interpret this to mean that he denies another’s right to call himself "Assyrian." On the other hand, when a Turk or a Kurd refers to one of us as a "Christian Kurd," it is often done deliberately to take away our own choice of identity.
The third task requires a determination of the roles to be played by the Diaspora and by the Assyrian homeland. Those in the diaspora are freer to speak and have greater fund-raising potential. Those at home are on the front line. Their opinion and input regarding the status of their human rights must be accorded the greatest deference.
The function of identifying, documenting and cataloguing abuses of Assyrian human rights is very important. But at the present time, this task does not appear to be performed in any meaningful way. There are only sparse anecdotal records. Many of the other minorities who have claimed oppression have generally documented their experience with considerable detail, lending much weight to their brief.
There remains also the question of how Assyrian human rights is defined. Clearly, these must include freedom from invidious oppression, freedom to exercise one’s religion, freedom to celebrate and promote one’s cultural values. But what about freedom of speech and of assembly, when such rights are curtailed for the population at large? And what about the demand for political autonomy? In her talk, Ms Suzy David alluded to a theoretical argument which might forge this latter as a human right.
I remarked that most of our attention seems to address the condition of human rights in north Iraq. Yet the abuse of human rights is most blatant in Turkey, and in Iraq proper. North Iraq has emerged as some kind of metaphor for Assyrian identity, even though it has only a small Assyrian population. Furthermore, conditions in north Iraq are far more tolerable than in Turkey or in Iraq. The obsession with the situation in the north necessarily diminishes the great concerns we should have about the treatment of our people in these other jurisdictions.
I noted that there exists an irresistible emigration flow of our people out of the Middle East, whether it is from Iraq, from North Iraq, or from Turkey. This is a cultural hemorrhage. The zest for "patriotism" – if it exists at all -- quickly takes a backseat to the quest for survival and the chance to live a normal life in the West. Ethnic identity was an inescapable fact of life for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, but this is always trumped by the chance to move on to greener pastures. Since all of us in the West (or our parents) have done that very thing, it is difficult to condemn it in others.
There is also an assumption that, if only they could enjoy their human rights, Assyrians in the homeland would unite into a patriotic Assyrian entity. There is no evidence to support this. The Iraqi economy teeters on life support, unemployment is rampant, and except for a chain of luxurious Presidential palaces, the infrastructure of the country has been obliterated. The preponderance of the Christians of Iraq – by whatever name they are known – are eager to emigrate to the West in quest of a stable and secure existence. The same hunger for new horizons prevails among the Christian people in ‘North Iraq.’ While the food shortages there are not as severe as in the rest of the country, the land in the north unfortunately lacks any mineral resources (the same problem as Armenia). Even in the best of times, the prospects for economic robustness in the "north" is dim.
Since the Marbella meeting, we have learned of the departure of Dr. Ashour Moradkhan for north Iraq. This represents a remarkable act of selflessness. Here is an admirable man making an important personal statement without bombast, abandoning the comfort and security of his California home in order to serve the people he loves. In a radio interview (reported in Zinda, August 6, 2001), Mr. Yonadam Yosip of the Assyrian Democratic Movement asked his listeners "not to trust everything that is printed in the Assyrian media," and invited anyone to North Iraq to "witness the truth first hand…no matter whether you are a Zowaa supporter or not." Mr. Yosip also asked that the disagreements between two political parties, namely the ADM and KDP, not be interpreted as hostility between the Assyrian and the Kurdish people in North Iraq.
Dr. Moradkhan’s decision to live and work among his people in north Iraq stands in stark contrast to the pronunciamentos regularly posted on the net, suggesting the rest of us to "do as I preach, not as I do." Most Christians in Iraq – north or south -- are geographically prevented from escaping their nightmare because of legal obstacles imposed by the U.S. and other countries. But there is nothing to prevent patriots manqué from following Dr. Moradkhan’s example, and from accepting Mr. Yosip’s invitation to "witness the truth first hand". Their arrival in the Middle East would aid the morale of our people there, and no doubt would contribute to greater respect for Assyrian human rights.
A TRIP TO BET-NAHRAIN
The following article is the Message from the President published in the Summer 2001 issue of "The Tree of Life" newsletter. The Tree of Life is the official organ of the Assyrian Aid Society of America. Mr. Narsai David is the president of the AAS and in this article reflects upon his observations during his recent visit to North Iraq.
We traveled to Northern Iraq in May in I order to see first hand the conditions in the Assyrian villages. Ashur Yoseph, Vice President of AAS, and Dr. Ashur Moradkhan, a retired dentist from San Jose, traveled with me. This was an exploratory trip and each of us paid his own way.
First the good news: food and shelter are no longer a problem. But now the heavy work has really begun. Building the infrastructure and developing a sense of community is critically important. We had a tedious and tiring yet joyful week traveling among the Assyrian villages.
It is hard to describe the sense of pride at hearing 81 primary school youngsters singing patriotic Assyrian songs. They brought tears to our eyes. And how about an eighth grade Chemistry class discussing formulas like "Treyana de Oxy, Carbon" (carbon dioxide). Chemistry, Physics, Geography, Mathematics; all the classes in Assyrian.
We have texts through the ninth grade and will start our first tenth grade class this fall. One of our highest priorities is to find an Assyrian educator with a Master's or PhD degree to teach in Assyrian at the University level. Once we can educate enough teachers, we can use the Assyrian curriculum in all of the schools.
We visited the children's daycare center in the Ankawa region of Erbil. It was generously funded by Lincoln and Jacklin Bejan of San Jose, California. The center is truly remarkable! Children are taught basic Assyrian grammar between the ages of two and five, so that they are ready to start the first grade substantially ahead of their peers. Indeed, we should change the name from daycare center to preschool. It serves a critical need in allowing the mothers freedom to take jobs and do other chores. The Bejans have just confirmed that in July they will give $20,000 to build a similar center in Dohuk.*
Dr. Ashur Moradkhan is a retired dentist who is staying in the North to share his knowledge and skills. He has already applied to the government to create a dental laboratory in which he will train students in the dental field. We are grateful for his commitment and pray for his success in the hope that this will lead to other professionals dedicating some of their time. This could quite easily become a sort of Peace Corps of Assyrians helping Assyrians.
We spoke to many young adults whose families had already emigrated to major Middle East cities or even to the United States. Their reason for staying in Bet Nahrain was simply a life long commitment to preserving the ancient home of our people. Their dedication is remarkable! They deserve our unquestioned support and help.
If a teacher's monthly salary is $20, think how far your contribution can go towards making a difference. We are preserving the God given right for this dedicated group of Assyrians to thrive in our ancestral homeland.
See this week's BRAVO for a biography of Mr. David.
TURLOCK'S CIVIC CLUB BINGO PERMIT SUSPENDED
Courtesy of Modesto Bee (Aug 9); based on stories by Patrick Giblin
(ZNDA: Turlock) The City of Turlock's Police Department suspended the Assyrian-American Civic Club's bingo permit last Wednesday, asserting that the club does not have nonprofit status as required by law.
Police Chief Lonald Lott took the action at about 3:30 p.m., said Rosemary Howser, spokeswoman for the Police Department.
Detectives told Sam Andrews, the club's director of bingo, about the permit suspension during an interview at the Police Department, she said.
The club's public bingo games had been scheduled for three times a week: Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday nights.
The city's bingo ordinance and state law specify that bingo game operators must hold nonprofit status. A nonprofit organization elsewhere in the region brings in more than $2 million annually, holding two or more bingo games a week. Under the city's bingo ordinance, the police chief regulates bingo permits. The City Council can overturn permit suspensions and revocations.
The AACC of Turlock, with a membership of about 1,200, bills itself as the largest Assyrian club in the United States. The club building at 2618 N. Golden State Blvd., besides playing host to club activities, is the site of a number of community events, including wedding receptions.
Last Oct. 31, detectives served search warrants at the club and seized several computers and club documents. They also searched club President Ramin Odisho's home and took club records and club property found there. Police said they were responding to several complaints from club members who claimed that illegal activities were going on inside the club.
Detectives reviewed the documents and computer records, then sent the data to the California Department of Justice, for review by the office's division of gambling control.
The Department of Justice submitted a report to the Police Department two weeks ago.
The state report is still being reviewed, Howser said. But one conclusion, she said, was that the club did not have nonprofit status and therefore could not run bingo games.
"We are still conducting a criminal investigation and expect it to conclude in 30 to 60 days," Howser said. "If we substantiate any violations of the law, we will arrest those who are responsible."
Under the law, members of the club have five days to contact Lott and detail how they are going to correct the problem with the club's nonprofit status.
"We are willing to work with them," Howser said. "It is of utmost importance that (the Police Department) acknowledges the Assyrian civic club of Turlock for its outstanding contributions to the community. (The club) should be recognized as a service-oriented club with a long history in Turlock."
The president of the Assyrian-American Civic Club said Thursday that a mistake involving government paperwork is likely to blame for the club losing its bingo permit this week.
Meanwhile, a sign is up on the club building's door, notifying the public that the games -- normally held Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday nights -- are canceled until further notice.
"I have no idea exactly what's wrong with our status and will not know until we meet with the chief of police in the next week. If needed, we may also ask for a hearing in front of the City Council," Odisho said.
Odisho said the club has been audited in the past, and that accountants have concluded that the club was a nonprofit organization. He said he believes that any problems with the nonprofit status probably were caused by a procedural error or a mistake in the paperwork that must be filed annually with the state and federal governments.
"If there is a mistake, hopefully it's something that can be fixed," he said. If not, that could open the club to more problems, he said, including having to pay taxes on money earned by the club. The club's thrice-weekly games typically attract 250 to 400 players nightly, Odisho said.
Last week, the parking lot of the AACC of Turlock was used by a small band of pro-Congressman Gary Condit (Democrat-Califonrnia) demonstrators to let the world know they want the embattled congressman to keep his job. On Saturday, Ramin Odisho appeared on his organization's weekly television program to defend the AACC's Executive Board's decision to let Condit-supporters to use the premises for their peaceful demonstration. Condit has maintained his public silence about Chandra Levy, with whom he has admitted to having had an affair. The 24-year-old Washington intern has been missing since early May.
Courtesy of Chicago Daily Herald (July 28)
(ZNDA: Chicago) In July Nixon Odisho, 26, a resident of Hanover Park-Illinois, was charged with attempted murder after he allegedly stabbed his former fiancé 17 times with a steak knife (see Zinda Magazine - July 16). Two weeks ago Mr. Odisho tried to make a call to his fiancé from his jail. This caused a judge to increase his bond from $150,000 to $2 million. "It's apparent," said Cook County Judge Karen Thompson Tobin. "He did try and contact the victim in this case, even if he didn't get through."
Prosecutors requested the bond increase, saying the victim's co- worker recently received a collect call made from the Cook County jail by someone who identified himself as "Nix." Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Judith Gilson Weldon, who argued for the higher bond, said the co-worker knew Odisho's voice from previous conversations and was positive it was him.
Odisho, however, yelled out to the judge during his hearing Friday: "Your honor, I did not make that call." Now, Odisho needs 10 percent of the bond, or $200,000, to be released from custody. However, even if he comes up with that amount, the first place he'll go, Tobin said, is to a mental health hospital. Before setting the higher bond, Tobin said she questioned Odisho's mental fitness and his ability to stand trial, so she ordered Odisho to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Odisho, however, argued with his attorney, Stephen M. Connolly, and with Tobin, as she tried to explain why she was ordering the evaluation. He refused to sign a document that would allow the court- appointed psychiatrists to view his medical history. Tobin told Odisho she wouldn't force him to sign the document, but "it will help you more if you do sign it."
Repeatedly, Odisho - wearing orange slippers and a beige jail jumpsuit - turned to look at his family, who sat in the courtroom's back row and quietly urged him to sign it. Odisho eventually signed the document, but after Tobin raised his bond, he told his lawyer to tear it up.
Besides the attempted murder charge, Odisho is charged with aggravated battery and aggravated vehicular hijacking, all of which stem from the same incident. Prosecutors announced that a Cook County grand jury upheld the their charges, allowing the case to proceed to trial if Odisho is found mentally fit.
CULTURAL FESTIVAL 2001
Date: September 8
Music, Drama, Cinevision, & Public Speeches.
Donation: DM 20
Illuminating World Cultures and The British School of Archaeology in Baghdad
A three-day International Conference at the British Museum
Over 30 leading scholars from Iraq, the United States, Poland, Italy and Germany join colleagues in Britain for a wide-ranging survey of this important Assyrian capital city.
First Day: The Excavations at Nimrud, from Layard to the present
Cost £45 for three days, or £15 per day
Price includes tea and coffee, and a reception after which there will be FREE ENTRY to the exhibition AGATHA CHRISTIE AND ARCHAEOLOGY, MYSTERY IN MESOPOTAMIA
For booking details and other information, contact:-
The British Museum
On the day of their arrival, they numbered 203,000 people.
The English said to them, "Stop here at our border, make camp, rest and wash for three days."
They stopped in the middle of a Persian village.
The day passed without event.
The following night, the Turks attacked and Persians began to shoot at the camp from their roofs.
The English detachment which had been sent to meet the Ais-sors saw for the first time how shots came from the right and from the left and from the rear and how the women and children cried out.
In the turmoil, the English soldiers jumped on their horses bareback and tried to gallop away.
But Colonel Kondratiev ordered the Aissors to set up their machine guns
and to open fire on any who ran away.
They were told, "If you came to help, then help us or we will kill you, because for four weeks we have followed a route known by all to be impassable. No caravan ever passed between Urmia and Hamadan, yet we have made this trip with women. Therefore if you refuse to help us, we will kill you with this machine gun, since we have eaten snow for twelve days."
The English got off their horses and joined the Aissors.
There was a battle.
The Persians were driven from the village. The Turks were captured and herded into a valley and the Aissors shot into this valley with machine guns; they shot into this valley with rifles.
Not one Turk emerged.
But the Turkish general was taken captive.
The Aissors asked him, "Why did you order your men to pick up our
children and dash them to the ground?
"Now we will shoot you."
The English said, "You can't kill a prisoner.
The Aissors answered, "He is our prisoner.
The general said nothing.
They killed him, but they did not cut off his ears and they did not cut off his head, because among the Aissors were men who had served with the Russians and because Lazar was a Bolshevik.
All the Aissors now broke camp, moved forward and crossed into English territory.
Here they learned that a detachment of Aissors from America was about to join them.
There are many Aissors in America; they even have two news-papers there.
'When these Aissors heard about the battles from Oramar to Urmia, they had laid down their shoeshine brushes and closed their shops, left their businesses, used their gold to buy rifles from the Americans and returned to fight for their country.
If Aissors had been living along the Volga and starving, they would have
left and gone all the way to India.
They waited for the detachment from America.
They decided to go with them to live among the English in Nineveh, in the land of ancient Assyria-near Mosul.
It is said that in that land live serpents which can leap and I plunge through the body of a man.
The English came to his place [Lazar] and arrested him as a Bolshevik. Before the withdrawal of the Russians from Persia, he had sat on the army committee as a Bolshevik.
Also arrested were several Russian officers and soldiers. They sat in prison and wondered why they had eaten snow and gone to the English for help.
Lazar had been wearing a fine jacket with the wide-wider than usual-epaulettes of a sergeant major in the cavalry.
The English took him for a general.
They assigned him a separate room.
He wrote a note requesting spoons and dishes for all the prison-He was
given, in addition, twelve tomans.
On the fifth day, a Russian officer with the English army came to take a look at this general, looked at him and said, "You're no general-you're just a sergeant major!"
Lazar replied, "Why should I not be a general if my captors call me one?"
At first, he was put in solitary confinement, then sent to Enzeli; in Enzeli he was released and ordered to go to Russia.
He went to Baku.
In Baku, however, were the Whites. They were recruiting a national militia and they ordered everyone to fight against the Bolsheviks.
They recruited an Aissor detachment, but the Aissors laid their rifles on the ground. They wouldn't fight.
Then they were sent to Lenkoran Island.
Lenkoran Island is in the sea across from Baku.
The island itself is sandy, but the sea around is salty.
Before that, captured Turks had been held there.
Lazar had a wife.
I don't know whether I said that he was a naturalized Russian, even though his house in Urmia stood next to the French mission.
A fine house, with a long passageway leading between gray walls, an inner courtyard covered with grapevines and fretted stained-glass windows facing the courtyard. With a peacock on the roof.
Peacocks have beautiful tails.
And the nights in Persia are beautiful.
And flamingos fly over Lake Urmia.
Lazar was a naturalized Russian. When the war began, he had chosen to serve in the artillery.
He was sent to Poland. When interpreters were being sought in all the armies, he was sent from Poland to the Caucasian front.
Lazar didn't see his family for four years.
He had left his wife pregnant.
He had no idea where his family was. He thought they were with a relative in Erevan. His home in Urmia had been abandoned and he was a prisoner on Lenkoran Island.
The sea around was salty.
Then the Bolsheviks arrived by sea from the Volga. Torpedo boats arrived from St. Pete bearing none other than Fyodor Raskolnikov, student of S. A. Vengerov. With him was Larisa Reisner. Our life is well stirred. Also along was the poet Kolbasev, who now lives in the House of Arts. They took Lazar off the island.
He went to Erevan.
He went to see his relative and asked, "Where is my wife?"
His relative answered, "I quarreled with your wife and do not know where she is. I think that she left the city."
Lazar decided to go to America.
He went to the marketplace to buy some sausage for the road. Sausage was inexpensive there.
A little boy was standing in the marketplace. A nice boy and there was a family resemblance. Lazar asked the boy, "Whose son are you?" He replied, "Semyon's."
"Then you are not mine." But Lazar's brother was named Semyon. "And who is your mother?" "Elena."
Lazar's wife was named Elena. "Where is she?"
"She is there in the line to buy meat." "Show me!"
The boy led the way and showed him. Lazar stood there.
It was not she.
the woman began to cry, "Lazar, look, it is I!" And she ran away.
Lazar stood in the middle of the marketplace and understood nothing.
Elena ran home.
Semyon was sleeping.
She grabbed him by the ear. "Get up, Semyon. Guess what good thing has happened? Lazar has come!"
Semyon gathered all the money that was in the house and gave it to Elena.
It came to 200,000 rubles.
Both of them ran to get Lazar.
But the third brother didn't run.
He had a carriage.
While Lazar was fighting the war, he had earned enough to buy a carriage.
Lazar stood there and understood nothing.
Then he saw running toward him Semyon, his wife and the boy.
And the boy was his son, only he had grown up with Semyon's children and was accustomed to think of himself as Semyon's son.
Because four years is a long time and Urmia, Poland and Baghdad are far away.
Running toward Lazar were his brother and his wife and behind them, driving his carriage, came the third brother, wearing a student's cap.
The title of Mar Shimun was: "Patriarch of the East and India."
And the fact is that since at least the seventh century, the Aissors have been scattered over the entire world.
They were in Japan, in India on the Malabar coast and in Turkestan on the Chinese border.
Their alphabet served as the basis for all the Mongolian alpha-bets and for the Korean.
There are Aissor tombs in Tobolsk.
The Aissors have not lived in vain upon the earth.
Now they wander the entire world shining shoes.
There was nothing for Lazar to do in Erevan, so he moved his family to Armavir. There he fell in with a group of Aissors and traveled with them first to Moscow and then to Petersburg.
There are Aissors living in Petersburg.
There is Lazar, there is the translator for Mar Shimun, there is Hosha Alexander; there is even an Aissor in Petersburg from the family of Mar Shimun, only he doesn't shine shoes: he sits on his bed and reads books.
Lazar stands on the corner of Nevsky Prospekt.
It is cold in Petersburg.
The wind blows down Nevsky Prospekt.
And it blows down the other streets of the city.
The wind blows from the East, the wind blows from the West, and on its circuits the wind returns.
Here's the manuscript of Lazar Zervandov himself. All I did was rearrange the punctuation and correct the cases a little. Conse-quently, it's come out sounding like me.
After the departure of the Russians from Persia, the Aissor detachment was reorganized. At the head of this detachment were Russian and Aissor instructors under the command of Colonel Kondratiev.
The detachment was organized on January 29, 1918.
A meeting was held in the presence of the patriarch, Mar Shimun, and the Persian governor, Etrattumai.
At the meeting, the Persians proposed that the Aissors surren-der their weapons.
The Aissors refused.
On February 4, in the Urmian bazaar, sixteen mountain Aissors were killed and stripped.
This was followed by an attack on the post office. Lieutenant Ivanov was killed.
On February 8, 1918, all the Persians in Urmia rose up and surrounded the headquarters of Aga Petros. The battle lasted all night. Toward morning, Petros sent a dispatch to Mar Shimun.
Mar Shimun replied, "Do not fight the Persians."
At twelve o'clock noon, the Persians surrounded the corps head-quarters where the commanding officer, Colonel Kuzmin, was.
Colonel Kuzmin sent a dispatch to Mar Shimun and asked for help in order to save the Russian instructors inside the building.
The Persians were pressing forward and shouting, "Ja Ali, Ja Au." At that moment, Colonel Sokolov, commander of the artillery brigade, ordered four cannons stationed on Mount Charbat, which was a mile from Urmia, and two before the Degalin Gate.
They opened fire on the mob of Persians.
But, in spite of that, the Persians broke through the fence surrounding the headquarters building.
Comrade Lazar Zervandov and several of the Aissors ran to that place, took machine guns and hand grenades, and began to shoot at the Persians and Kurds.
The cannons continued to fire.
The Persians began running through the streets, but no matter where they ran, a platoon of Aissors was there. The Persians were killed to the last man. All night long there was looting in the city of Urmia. Doors were broken down and all the Persian rugs and property were dragged out. Patriarch Mar Shimun kept sending Aga Petros and Colonel Kuzmin dispatches saying that they should not fight, that it was better to surrender, because they were all on Persian territory and had come not to fight the Persians, but to escape the mountain Kurds.
There was a battle.
On February 12, at ten in the morning, the remaining Persians and Kurds frantically rushed to the American mission, where Doctor Shedd lived. He is the American consul.
The American consul and the Russian consul, Nikitin, and several Aissor priests began to make the rounds of the city and to pacify the Aissors.
At twelve o'clock noon, Lieutenant Vasiliev (an Aissor) and Second Lieutenant Stepanians (an Armenian) defeated the Persian Cossacks, who were commanded by Colonel Stolder.
He was taken captive.
The Aissors treated him not as a prisoner, but as a Russian officer. They sent him to the harbor at Gjulimkhan. En route, some Armenians intercepted the party and killed Stolder, his wife and his son.
On February 16, Patriarch Mar Shimun left Urmia for Dilman. Some instructors escorted him.
They reached Dilman on February 18. The distance from Urmia to Dilman is fifty miles.
The Dilman Persians already knew that the Urmian Persians and Kurds had been completely routed. The patriarch was sum-moned to a conference with Sinko in the town of Kenisher.
It had seemingly been decided that Sinko would conclude a peace with the Aissors.
This conference was attended by Mar Shimun, his brother Aga David and 250 Aissor delegates under the command of Colonel Kondratiev. During the conference, the Kurds occupied all the roofs and vantage points.
Aga David came out and said, "There is no use to talk to this dog!" He took two Aissors and left, but the rest all waited for Mar Shimun.
The patriarch came out twenty minutes later and Colonel Kon-dratiev gave the command: "To horse!"
They barely had time to mount. Suddenly from the roofs came a sound-a volley of shots like a bell.
There was confusion among the Aissors: some on their horses, some under their horses and some on the ground.
They frantically tried to flee.
Lieutenant Zaitsev was killed where he stood, as were the instructors Sagul Matveev and Skobin Tumazov.
The rest ran through the streets.
But the patriarch himself was running through the mud and blood flowed down his back.
He was surrounded by Ziga Levkoev, Nikodim Levkoev, Slivo Isaev, Lazar Zervandov, Ivan Dzhibaev, Yakov Abramov and Prince Lazarev. But they had no time to pick up the patriarch. A second bullet struck him in the forehead and he fell on the grass.
And the Kurds fired volley after volley at the running Aissors. At the edge of town, all that remained (and they without horses) were: Ziga Levkoev, wounded in the left leg; Lazar Zervandov, wounded in the head and the left arm; and Slivo Isaev, wounded in the left side. Our poor comrades had escaped beaten and wounded, but Patriarch Mar Shimun remained lying in the mud.
This happened at five o'clock in the afternoon.
The Kurds and Persians were all trying to find the body of the patriarch.
Because Sinko had received an official notice from the governor of Tabriz that if he sent the head of Mar Shimun, he would be granted twenty times its weight in gold.
The wounded reached the nearest Aissor village of Kostrobat and announced that everyone had perished-the patriarch and all the Aissors with him. No one believed them.
A few minutes later, Colonel Kondratiev arrived wounded and said that all had perished.
An army was gathered and sent to do battle against Sinko. At nine o'clock in the evening, the town of Kenisher was surrounded on all sides.
At midnight, the men hurled themselves into the attack and found the body of Mar Shimun.
But Sinko and his saber made their getaway to Chin Kaleh. Twenty days later, advance detachments of Turks made their appearance in the Salinas region-three battalions.
The Aissors went into battle and completely routed the Turks.
March 25, 1918, the Turks made another attack. The battle lasted six days. The Aissors surrounded the Turks and captured two hundred and fifty soldiers and their two officers.
After this, Aga Petros went to Urmia with his detachment and announced to Colonel Kondratiev that he had assembled four thou-sand Aissors.
To be continued
& Assyrian Typefaces
The culinary tour from drive-in hamburger house in Turlock, California to the most successful food show in radio history is a tale well told by Narsai David. Born to Assyrian immigrants, Narsai's story began in Chicago where he joined his family in transporting bushels of summer tomatoes and peaches home for canning. The family later moved to the central California farming community of Turlock where Narsai was called into culinary service early.
Narsai Michael David was born on June 26,1936 in South Bend, Indiana to Michael Khanno David of Marbisho, Turkey and Shulamith Sayad from the village of Ada in Urmia, Iran. Both parents had fled the Middle East as refugees from the First World War. They met and were married in Chicago. They moved to Turlock, California where Narsai completed high school in 1953. His father died when Narsai was fifteen, leaving two other sons, both younger.
"There were no daughters," recalls Narsai. "In an old country family, surely had there been a daughter, she would have been in the kitchen helping Mom. Since there wasn't, the boys were not only welcomed, but actually encouraged in the kitchen." Memories of his mother's home cooking pervade his own culinary practices and the counsel he now provides San Francisco Bay Area viewing and listening audiences. Narsai's style is one of fundamental basics. The easier he can make a recipe, the more likely it will be successful and useful for the cooks in his audience.
Mr. David has also been actively involved with the Assyrian Church. Ordained a 'Qaruya" (reader) at the age of 13, he became a "Hoop-id-yuk-na" (sub-Deacon) at 15 and finally at 18 he was ordained a Shamasha (Deacon). He helped build the "Holy Apostolic and Catholic Church of the East and of the Assyrians" in San Francisco. Before the Assyrian community could afford a priest he received a special dispensation from Mar Shimun allowing him to preach.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, Narsai first worked with Henry Rubin and Ed Brown at Berkeley's Potluck Restaurant and then launched a gastronome's delight, Narsai's Restaurant, in the small East Bay community of Kensington. From 1970 until 1986, Narsai's Restaurant, Market and Catering businesses were a culinary mecca for traveling gourmets. The hospitable redwood dining room (fashioned from a giant redwood tank) was the backdrop for some of the most attentive service and finest food ever served forth. The wine list at Narsai's was described as "one of the ten finest in the world" by the New York Times. Centerpiece for the restaurant's fame was its Monday Night Dinner Series at which Narsai offered a fixed menu from whatever cuisine happened to capture his attention and appeal to his senses at the moment.
From 1978 to 1985, Narsai's Market (next door to the restaurant) presented a remarkable line of specialty foods. Narsai's bakery was the first in Northern California to offer the French spined baguette called Epine as one of its regulars. Narsai's many different specialty breads, including his famed croissants, were repeatedly selected as one of the finest anywhere. The Chocolate Decadence Torte®, Mudslide Cookies®, Avalanche Cookies®, and Snowstorm Cookies® were among the many creations first introduced at Narsai's Market.
Narsai's years as one of the Bay Area's leading restaurateurs were overlaid with highly publicized caterings representing some of the grandest, large scale outdoor dining experiences anyone has ever known. Rock impresario Bill Graham called on Narsai regularly to cater his concerts as did the Napa Valley Wine Auction and San Francisco Symphony. In 1986, it became apparent that Narsai's eclectic appetite for the full smorgasbord of food and wine adventures would run counter to his commitment to full time personal attention to his restaurant and catering businesses. He closed the landmark dining room, taking with him one of the country's most extraordinary wine cellars, a line of specialty food products bearing his name, and a recipe collection that would eventually be published by Simon and Schuster in Monday Night At Narsai's.
From 1977 to 1984, Narsai hosted the nationally syndicated PBS television series, "Over Easy." From 1984 to 1995, he wrote a column for the San Francisco Chronicle Food Section titled "California Cuisine." From 1987 to 1996, Narsai was Resident Chef at "Mornings on 2" for KTVU in Oakland.
Today, as Food and Wine Editor at San Francisco's KCBS radio station, Narsai broadcasts his secrets of gourmet cooking 36 times each week. Narsai is co-host of "Cook Off America," a television series highlighting regional cuisine from around the country. As "Macy's Culinary Expert," he hosts cooking demonstrations every Saturday morning at the flagship store on Union Square in San Francisco, and holds bi-monthly demonstrations at the Valley Fair store in San Jose. Narsai oversees the management and new-product development for his line of Specialty Food Products, and makes celebrity chef appearances at festivals throughout the world.
In keeping with his desire to give back to the community, Narsai is actively involved in many projects. His services include: President of the Board, Assyrian Aid Society of America; President of the Board, Berkeley Community Fund; Founding Member, The Hunger Awareness Project in San Francisco; Host, Alameda County Meals on Wheels Annual Dinner; Honorary Chair, VNA Hospice Annual Wine Tasting fund-raiser in Berkeley; and hosts the Annual Narsai Toast to the Arts, benefiting the Berkeley Repertory Theatre.
Wherever he goes, Narsai's objective remains the same: to share the simple pleasures of cooking, food and wine through education.
Narsai David’s biography courtesy of Narsai's Specialty Foods, Inc & Assyrian Star Magazine, March-April 1985. Mr. David’s photo courtesy of edessa.com.
Utuhegal was the king of the southern Bet-Nahrain city of Uruk when he ended the rule of the Gutian people. He appointed his son, Ur-Nammu (2112-2095 B.C) as the governor of the city of Ur. After the death of his father, Ur-Nammu founded the Third Dynasty of Ur and called himself King of Sumer and Akkad.
Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia, Roaf
Bet-Nahrain Party was founded in 1970 as a semi-secret organization. The Bet-Nahrian Organization, an educational and cultural institution came into being in 1974. The Bet-Nahrain Party came into open with a new name, the Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party in 1976.
The Assyrian National Question at the United Nations. Dadesho
AUGUST 16, 1973
Mar Ishai Shimun, the late Patriarch of the Church of the East marries Emama an Assyrian woman from Ontario, Canada.
Share your local events with Zinda readers. Email us or send fax to: 408-918-9201
FILM: "CRADLE OF CIVILIZATION"
University of Chicago's Oriental Institute
SARGON GABRIEL PARTY
Presented by the Assyrian Eagles
Basketball & Soccer Teams of Bay Area
For Tickets & Infor contact:
August 28 - Sept 3
ASSYRIAN AMERICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION
Sponsored by the Assyrian American Association of Houston
The Assyrian American Association of Houston is currently embarking on a project to build the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East by the name of St. Mary's (Aramaic translation: Omra D'Matmaryam). At this time, we are in process of purchasing 1.6-acre piece of land in west Houston in order to build the church.
Entertainment: Tamras Tamraz
General Addmission: Adults: $50.00/Children: $30.00
Sargon Youhannazad at (713) 972-1637
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:
Ninous Bebla Bila
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