SORRY, BUT YOU MISSED THE BEST CONVENTION EVER!
Imagine a perfect Assyrian American National Convention. No raucous crowds, no serious fights, no long ticket lines, endless dance floors, unlimited seats at the parties and a perfect weather for the Monday picnic. Oh yes and political meetings, educational seminars, and daily events for children and aficionados of Assyrian arts.
Now imagine yourself at a slightly less-than-perfect, but very close to the figment of your chimeric imagination. If you look closer, you'll find yourself surrounded by tens of security guards, smiling convention hostesses, and a brave new convention chairwoman standing amidst several Macintosh laptops entering your registration requests. If you attended last week's convention in San Jose, California then you were not imagining it. You were in the house!
As Zinda Magazine predicted a few days before, the Assyrian American National Convention was the largest organized, profitable, and eventful Assyrian convention in the history of the Assyrian American National Federation. Perhaps as many as six thousand Assyrians gathered at the Double Tree Hotel in San Jose to participate between August 30 and September 2.
In all, the 2001 convention was a resounding success, thanks to the leadership of Chairperson Jacklin Bejan, the computer technology used in processing information, and an army of volunteers! Here's a blow-by-blow report of the events for those who were unable to attend.
The Registration Process implemented for the first time here expedited the handling of ticket purchasing, events information, and minimized unlawful activities. Everyone in the lobby and the hotel rooms was pre-identified and accounted for. For those who had not pre-registered the process on Thursday night was slow and hectic. Those of us who had visited the Convention website and pre-registered weeks in advance, it was over before we knew it. Well, okay, not quite, but the only reason we had to stand in line when we arrived at about 10:30 PM Thursday were those of you who did not register back in July.
The Welcome Packet was a work of art. Everything we needed to know about the convention was pre-bagged and we even had maps, San Jose's points of interests, our tickets and a complete list of events in one place. So classy!
We were all carrying a badge with our names. It was very convenient to meet people from previous conventions whose names we had forgotten. "Ah, how are you Dr. so and so" - if only they could include the names of the spouse and the children too.
At the Genocide Conference, Mr. Wilfred Alkhas of Zinda Magazine moderated a half-day event during which several scholars and political activists expressed their research and views on the Assyrian-Armenian Genocide of 1915. Dr. Racho Donef from Australia commented that "the Turks have treated the Genocide asa taboo and have discouraged discussions on it. It would not be impossible to find people in Istanbul who may have never heard of the Genocide."
Dr. Richard Hovanessian of the Univeristy of California in Los Angeles argued that the government of Turkey's efforts in denying the Genocide of its Christian populations in 1915 have passed through several stages since 1918. He said that "the denial has progressed into the phases of rationalization and relativization in order to make it sem more reasonable and to raise doubts about the intent to destroy an entire people." Lastly, Dr. Gabiele Yonan from Berlin reviewed the important events before and after the 1915 Genocide. We were then treated to a delicious luncheon where we informally continued our discussions of the 1915 Genocide with one another.
On Friday, after the Genocide Conference our crew was either busy preparing for the next day's Internet Conference or pretending to be the official convention Life-Guards at the hotel spa and pool area. So we missed the "Legends" concert with Evin Aghassi and the violinist, Soren. Maybe some of you out there who attended this event can tell us more next week. Undoubtedly Evin and Soren easily lived up to their legendary names that night.
All events, whether educational, political, or entertaining were quickly filled. Often people were standing in the back of the rooms and hallways. Because of the fire marshals code the evening parties could only accommodate a certain number of guests. The Sunday Banquet tickets, for example, were completely sold out by Friday.
Two speakers discussed two major Internet projects at the Internet Conference on Saturday morning. Mr. Paul Younan presented his website, Peshitta.org, remotely via video-streaming technology from his office in Chicago and Dr. Geore Kiraz explained his Syriac Digital Library project. A group of Assyrian webmasters then responsded to several questions from the audience. These were Dr. George Kiraz , Albert Gabrial (nineveh.com), Firas Jatou and Peter Betbasoo (AINA.org), George Stifo (bethsuryoyo.com), Paul Younan (peshitta.org), and Sargon Tavour (thinkassyrian.com). Mr. Tavour then announced the creation of the Assyrian Internet Group and invited others to join this group in the future. At the end of the program, Mr. Wilfred Alkhas pledged a $2,500.00 contribution on behalf of Zinda Magazine toward the Syriac Digital Library. This amount was then matched by Dr. Bijan Davidson for a total of $5000.00.
At the Youth Excellence Pageant each candidate gave a moving introductory speech and then demonstrated an artistic talent. The winner of this year's contest was Mr. Anobel Odisho of San Jose, California. A student at University of California in Berkeley, Mr. Odisho demonstrated the website he has created for the Dept of Near Eastern Studies which allows students and faculty at UCB to search and view over 600 images of Near Eastern artifacts. The second prize ($1000.00) went to Mr. Ramen Benjamin, and Ms. Ilbert Bakunians took the third prize ($750.00). The first prize was worth $1500.00.
Here's a suggestion for the organizers of the Youth Excellence Pageant: we're there to hear the contestants not the organizers! The speeches given by the organizers and the panelist were longer than the contestants. Only when we succeeded in cutting short the speeches at the Sunday Banquet
There were as many as four hundred people at the Sunday afternoon Political Round Table. We heard Congressman Mike Honda and Mr. Peter J. Abajian educating us on the ways of becoming more politically active in Washington. Mr. Yonadam Kanna, General Secretary of the Assyrian Democratic Movement presented the "News From Homeland" portion of the event. A film produced by Zinda Magazine entitled "Assyrians in North Iraq After the Gulf War" gave a brief overview of who Assyrians are and why they demand greater recognition in the West.
So what happened to the cocktail reception for the serious politician in us on Sunday at 5:00?
Two other unforgettable events were the Children's Talent Show and the Assyrian Folklore & Contemporary Fashion Show. Who can ever forget those stunning costumes from Bet-Nahrain, specially hand-sewn for this year's National Convention. We could not agree more with the proud mothers at the Talent Show and the adoring audience at the Fashion Show on Saturday. These two events were worth every bit of time and money spent.
In between the seminars and coffee breaks we did pop in for a few minutes each day to see the Art Exhibition on the first Floor. Here we had ample opportunity to talk to likes of Hannibal Alkhas and Essa Benyamin about their work and artistic vision. One could easily spend hours in that exhibition hall.
"If you sell it, they will buy!" would have been an appropriate theme for this year's bazaar. Even the Oriental rug dealer was sold out by Sunday evening. Instead of hiding them in a small room at the basement of the hotel, the merchants were strategically positioned between the lobby and the dance halls. It was impossible not to pass by the Assyrianmusic.com table or the Bet-Eil display table and not want to give up on an extra glass of Margarita.
Yes, the drinks were expensive, but didn't stop any of the attendees from consuming massive amounts. As one bartender said: "I don't know where you guys come from, but I know you drink a lot and tip well." A guest from Chicago commented: "We invented alcohol, others just made it drinkable."
Assyrian poetry lovers rejoiced on Saturday when Ninos Aho, Hannibal Alkhas, and Yosip Bet-Yosip assembled in an informal gathering for a 90 minutes of non-stop Assyrian poetry recital in both Eastern and Western Assyrian languages. It was music to our ears.
The picnic on Monday could be almost perfect had there been some music. The weather on the other hand was perfect. For some reason there were no bands and no music other then a few drummers beating on their dawulas as fast as their gonads pumping testosterone. Who could blame them!
The six-dollar admission fee for this event for which there was no entertainment was not a fair deal. On the other hand the guests seemed to be enjoying themselves regardless of any musical distraction. There were surely plenty of other distractions with which we could easily amuse ourselves.
There were no serious fights or incidents which required off-convention police activities or reports. There were no arrests, only one 'order to vacate' against a guest. On the sixth floor of the hotel a fire distinguisher was released and a young man with bloodied shirt was seen on Saturday evening. Any suspected troublemakers were swiftly handled by a dozen or more security personnel.
During the Political Round Table, Mr. Fred Parhad addressed a question to John Nimrod of the Assyrian Universal Alliance about the fate of his "homeless" Shamuramut Statue. The moderator of the program, Mr. Carlo Ganjeh, asked him to stop questioning Mr. Nimrod since Mr. Parhad's question "was not related to any political agenda being discussed that day," shouted Mr. Ganjeh. But the persistent Parhad continued. Mr. Ganjeh called Mr.Parahd out of order and asked that "Federation" guards and hotel security personnel to escort him out of the meeting hall.
Over the last few hours of the Monday picnic we walked up to people and asked them their opinion about the Convention. Here are a few answers:
And we thought the 10th Floor was the most boisterous level of the floor at this convention!
So here's Zinda Magazine's Top 10 most unforgettable events at this year's 68th Annual Assyrian American National Convention in San Jose, California:
Unofficial reports indicate that this year's profits from the convention may have been more than double the most profitable convention in the past. Leave it to the boys and girls of Silicon Valley to give us a "corporate treatment".
Thanks to all the volunteer staff from the Assyrian American Association of San Jose, Her Majesty Jacklin Bejan, the speakers, presenters, artists, Double Tree Hotel, and the City of San Jose for a fantastic convention.
See you all at next year's Big Event in Detroit, Michigan!
THE ASSYRIAN NATIONAL DAY
The Assyrian heartland, the plain of Nineveh, is an expanse of lands from greater Bakhdeda in the south up to Alqosh in the north and from Mosul to Bashiqa and Toro D Alfof region to the east. Thus our heartland comprises a large area covering the eastern bank of the Idiqlat river (Tigris) up to the eastern highlands.
This is the Assyrian heartland and our future hub centre and here the mighty Assyrian 'kingdom' shall be established free. This is the land walked upon by our ancestors and here king Sennacherib reigned and Jonah preached God's command.
On Toro D Alfof (Tora D Mar Mattay) is the venue of Dera D Mar Mattay (Dero D Mor Mattay). In it you see the remains of the stone fence built by king Sennacherib.
I am acquainted with my area well but have toured once at least to Alqosh but I will concentrate on our southern part.
In the spring the nature blooms and you see the beauty of the land ornamented with varied grain crops and wild plants and here you see heaven on earth that lasts from late February until mid April. Just before Autumn and when the heat of summer starts to ease and Assyrian schools begin their term our people come to celebrate the Feast of the Cross or Etha D Sleewa on 14 September. The three day celebration starts on the eve of the feast and lasts for another two days.
On the eve of the feast and after the Ramsha prayer in the Church, people start arriving again at the Church courtyard directly after the sunset. The priest(s) and deacons (qashe and shamashe) gather around a massive stack of dried hay and dried wild plants, possibly the size of a full room, and behind them a multitude of Assyrian Christian believers. After saying the formal paryer the bonfire is started with the highest ranking priest kindlling the hay and then igniting the whole stack from all sides. The people elate at this massive bonfire as they feel the burning heat and is to trigger three nights of bonfires, fireworks, firecrackers and popper festival.
In the evening every house contributes with smaller bonfire, fireworks, firecrackers and poppers. You see the sky lit and people especially the young moving around from one place to nother until bedtime.
Over the roofs you see each Assyrian town illuminating with fires- Baritley (Bartilla), Baghdeda, Karamlash (Karamlis) and up to Bashiqa and as far as to Dera D mar Mattay on the slope of Toro D Alfof. This picture and scene is copied everywhere in the heart of Assyria from Telkeppe and other towns up to Alqosh in the north. Even in Metropolis centres like Baghdad, our Assyrian Christian people celebrate the feast with fireworks and firecrackers.
This celebration is not merely religious but is done with a suppressed or undeclared spirit. It is done in a nationalistic spirit and that is the Assyrian Christian nationalism. Something completely different when celebrating the birth of Christ (Christmas) in the winter or the Resurrection (Easter) in the spring.
This is what I have seen since I was a boy and until late 60s, or early 70s but this was not to continue and our pride of celebrating our national and Christian day on our soil was to be banned.
The story begins on a hot day of 17 Tammuz (July) 1968 when a Law student in his 30 (the student of an Assyrian academic from plain of Nineveh) walks from Alwaziriya college with keycode of the Alchadiriya Palace's gate in his briefcase provided by foreign intelligence. He enters the palace on that day. After 13 days and on 30 Tammuz he declares himself king of all kings, sphinx of all sphinxes and despot of all despots.
After consolidating himself snugly in power, the celebrations of the day of the Cross were banned, but allowed only a symbolic Church ritual within the church's perimeters.
This was the first step the regime started in denuding us from our Assyrian Christian national day celebrations. More hidden agendas of Arabisation, Islamisation and demographic changes of our Assyrian heartland were to come.
This despot must have read the history of the greatest despots of the world halfway but not to the end.
The Assyrian national movement is here to stay and it is in its zenith and the liberation of the Assyrian soil is to be realised and our people will live free on their own soil.
Here I make a personal appeal to all our political movements and organisations to adopt 14 September of each year as our Assyrian national day and to declare it as the main national day followed by the already designated days, the new year's day and the Martyrs' day.
ARMENIAN MAN KILLED IN NORTH IRAQ
(ZNDA: Dohuk) The Armenian man stabbed to death on August 24 in Dohuk, North Iraq, has been identified as Raad Marcus. Zinda sources indicate that the victim's in-laws and a Kurdish family were involved in a heated dispute and Mr. Raad was stabbed while trying to stop the fighting.
Mr. Marcus was married to a Chaldean-Assyrian woman. He was stabbed by one of the two Kurdish brothers who allegedly were aided by their father during the dispute. The Kurdish father and one of his two sons were arrested, but the other son remains at large.
One observer in Dohuk comments: "Raad's death is something that cannot be ignored; the killers did not have any fear of the legal repercussions for the murder of a Christian man." An Assyrian woman comments from Dohuk: "Why should anyone care? Fransu Shabu's murderer is free to move around anyway." Mr. Francis Yousef Shabo was killed on 1 June, 1993. In the Kurdish Parliament Mr. Shabo was a member of the Economic and Financial Affairs Committee, and the Committee for Planning, Development, and Census. His assassin was later freed.
Some Assyrian observers in the West view this care-free and undaunted attitude towards Christians in the North an indication of the frailty of the local government's response to violence against Christians, Assyrians in particular.
In a recent press release, the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Mr. Massoud Barazani explains: "The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)endeavour to apply the rule of law to all citizens of Iraqi Kurdistan regardless of their ethnic origins or religion." In other place it comments that the statements made by certain Assyrian media groups in the West regarding the treatment of Christians (in this case Mr. Youkhana Yalda Khaie) are "untrue, baseless and malicious. These and other similar statements alleging Muslim-Christian enmity is an attempt to cause communal discord."
At press time, the Assyrian political groups had not commented on this recent act of violence in North Iraq.
KDP STATEMENT ON THE ARREST OF YOUKHANA KHAEI
KURDISTAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY (KDP)
A STATEMENT ON THE ARREST OF A MEMBER OF THE
27 August 2001
Misleading and malicious statements pertaining to the arrest of Youkhana Yalda Khaie, a member of the Assyro-Chaldean community in Iraqi Kurdistan, have recently appeared in certain media outlets.
On 8 April 2001, Youkhana Yalda Khaie, along with two other persons were arrested under Iraqi criminal law, article 168, for aiding and abetting PKK terrorists including supplying military related equipment.
Mr. Khaie is regularly visited in detention by his relatives and representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Mr. Khaie's collaboration with the PKK is well established. He is formally charged with aiding and abetting an illegal terrorist organization. His detention has been extended according to the law. On 23 July 2001, the Public Prosecutor referred his case to the Dohuk Criminal Court. His trial date is set for 2 September 2001.
Interested persons may attend the trial. An independent inquiry by Amnesty International and other accredited human rights organizations is welcomed to assess and verify the circumstances under which Mr. Khaie is charged and being tried, and the treatment he has been receiving while in detention.
Statements in the media by some exile Assyrians claiming that Mr. Khaie was arrested to take over his land or to prevent him from raising funds to built a church, and that he is being victimized for being a Christian are untrue, baseless and malicious. These and other similar statements alleging Muslim-Christian enmity is an attempt to cause communal discord.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) endeavour to apply the rule of law to all citizens of Iraqi Kurdistan regardless of their ethnic origins or religion.
The KDP and the KRG reaffirm their commitment to the promotion of friendship and mutual respect among all communities in Iraqi Kurdistan. During the past decade, substantial progress has been made in supporting the development of a society where national, cultural and civil rights, pluralism, and religious freedom are promoted and protected by the law throughout the region.
TARIQ AZIZ RESIGNS AS DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF IRAQ
(ZNDA: Baghdad) According to Zinda Magazine sources in Iraq, Tariq Aziz has resigned his post as the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, in reaction to the arrest of his son, Ziad.
Ziad Aziz was first sentenced to 22 years for financial corruption and abuse of power, but this week his sentence may have been reduced to 6 years, according to Zinda Magazine sources.
Ziad was reported to the Iraqi authorities by his former mistress, disclosing his illegal business dealings.
Tariq Aziz, 65, is highest ranking Chaldean Christian in the Baathist government of Iraq and Saddam Hussein's spokesman in the International meetings and conferences.
Zinda Magazine sources say that Ziad Aziz, a married man and a close friend of Saddam's sons, abused his father's political ties and arrange business deals with certain French companies through his connections in Amman, Jordan.
At press time it was not confirmed if Saddam Hussein has accepted Tariq Aziz' resignation.
In its coverage of this story on August 28, the Agence France-Presse called Aziz "An Assyrian Christian" and said that he wields "little real power and has remained outside the closed circle of Saddam's Sunni Moslem cronies".
TURKOMAN FRONT VISITS APP AND BNDP
(ZNDA: Dohuk) According to Zinda Magazine sources in Bet-Nahrain, the representatives of the Turkoman Front visited the offices of the Assyrian Patriotic Party and the Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party in Dohuk on August 18.
SEARCH FOR THE GREAT FLOOD
(ZNDA: Sofia) A joint U.S.-Bulgarian scientific expedition is combing the Black Sea for traces of a lost civilization, a mission that could shed more light on the site of the biblical Great Flood.
Under the supervision of American underwater explorer and Titanic discoverer
Robert Ballard, the team of 19 scientists left the port city of Varna,
about 300 miles east of Sofia, last month. Their ship, the Akademik,
will use sonar to search the mouths of the Provadiyska and Kamchia rivers.
According to Mesopotamian texts, the Epic of Gilgamesh, the gods became angry at men for "making too much noise" and send the waters. A certain Utna-Pishtim, the Mesopotamian Noah, then builds a large ship and saves humanity.
Some scientists theorize a society predating those of Egypt and Mesopotamia was submerged by the Black Sea at the time of a massive flood 7,600 years ago. The flood transformed a stillwater lake into the saltwater sea. According to a theory to which Ballard and colleagues subscribe, when glaciers melted at the end of the last ice age, water flowing from the Mediterranean surged over the Bosporus at a speed 200 times that of Niagara Falls.
Although he didn't join the current expedition, Ballard is in communication with the crew. Ballard has said if the expedition is successful, he'll return in 2003, when he would continue the search with Hercules, a robot being developed for underwater archaeological excavations.
The expedition is sponsored by the National Geographic Society, which is planning a book and television programs on Ballard's Black Sea research.
The unique oxygen-free deep water of the Black Sea allows sunken ships to be preserved without the normal worm damage that affects wooden vessels. Unlike other oceans, its deep water does not circulate and the lack of oxygen prevents the development of microorganisms that destroy shipwrecks.
"In 1972, a Neolithic necropolis containing the oldest tomb discovered in Europe to this day was discovered near Varna," Dimitrov said.
The necropolis on display at an archaeological museum in Varna dates to 4600 to 4200 B.C. It contains 294 tombs and about 3,000 gold objects, 200 copper objects, various tools made of flint and stone, and numerous religious and funeral objects.
During a Bulgarian-Russian expedition in 1985, Dimitrov found an ancient stone plate 40 miles offshore. He later called it Noah's Plate.
"My impression was that it had not fallen from a sunken ship, but had been used there by people," Dimitrov said.
ASSYRIANS REBUILD LOST COUNTRY WITH INTERNET
Reprinted from a Mercury News Article (Sept 2); story by Jessie Mangaliman
(ZNDA: San Jose) Persecuted and displaced from their ancestral home in the Middle East, Assyrians are finding a virtual homeland in cyberspace, a work started in Silicon Valley and continuing to gain acceptance.
That was the conclusion from a panel of experts at the 68th Annual Assyrian American National Convention in San Jose, a gathering that is expected to draw about 4,000 people from across the United States and abroad. The convention began Friday and concludes Monday with a picnic at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds.
"The Internet is key to our future activism," said Jacklin Bejan, convention chairwoman.
Assyrians are descendants of an ancient and once-mighty civilization in the Middle East, whose culture and language, Syriac, date back more than 6,700 years. Christian minorities in an Islamic region, they were persecuted for generations in Iran and Iraq. Assyria as a country no longer exists.
In August 1933, Iraqi troops massacred the residents of Semile, an Assyrian town in northern Iraq. This was the year that the Assyrian American National Federation was formed, in part to spread awareness about the plight of Assyrians.
Today, Assyrians say they continue to be persecuted in Iraq. Large numbers of Assyrians fled their homeland when war broke between Iran and Iraq in the 1970s and '80s, and also during the Gulf War in 1992.
"When you consider that the Assyrian Diaspora is spread in 40 countries, the Internet connects us, makes us a community," said Wilfred Alkhas, moderator of a panel discussion Saturday on the Internet. Alkhas is also publisher of Zinda, an online magazine about Assyria, at www.zindamagazine.com.
Bejan, the convention chairwoman, remarked on the irony of a displaced people finding a virtual home in high technology.
"The Internet is where we will make our presence and get recognition of our genocide," Bejan said. She said the Internet is going to be instrumental in helping preserve the Assyrian culture and language.
In the United States, there are an estimated 350,000 Assyrians, many of them concentrated in Detroit, Chicago, and in the Turlock-Modesto area. There are a few thousand in San Jose, convention officials said.
"Since we don't have a country to call home, this gathering is how we come together as a people now," said Atourina Rosh, 21, of Fremont. A student at San Jose State University, Rosh was attending the Assyrian convention for the first time. "It's a really happy, fun weekend."
DR. SARGON DADESHO ON ANC VISION OF A PARLIAMENT
(ZNDA: San Jose) On August 26 at San Jose's Church of the East Hall, a few members of the Assyrian National Congress presented to an audience of 50 Silicon Valley residents their group's past accomplishments and vision.
Mar Bawai Soro, a bishop of the Church of the East, sitting at the head table, also gave a brief speech in which he encouraged the ANC to move forward with its activities. He said: "Our first prayers always go for the services provided by our nationalists We pray for the ANC which we believe is a progressive, hardworking political group."
Other introductory speakers included Mr. James Barcham and Mr. Daniel Benjamin. The program was being broadcast live via the Internet.
The main speaker was Dr. Sargon Dadesho. He first read the ANC's July 7th communiqué in Assyrian and told his audience that the goal of ANC is to form a common leadership for the Assyrian nation by forming a parliament. He then described the Parliament as a "permanent organization formed to execute specific political objectives."
Dr. Dadesho explained that the name "Assyrian National Congress" was first used in 1918 by a group of Assyrian nationalists in Urmia. To continue their effort, the name was chosen in 1983 at the first ANC assembly in Modesto Junior College.
Dr. Dadesho also commented on ANC's struggle to obtain a consultative status at the United Nation. In the past five years, this recognition has been denied through the efforts of the Arab or Moslem members of the 18-member U.N. Economic and Social Council, said Dr. Dadesho. He promised to continue appealing against the findings of the Moslem members of the UNESC.
ANC is also going to be involved with the World Conference on Racism's Indigenous People Forum later this year, said Dr. Dadesho.
Dr. Dadesho then turned to closer issues on hand. He commented that the ANC was a founder of the Iraqi National Congress and has to date spent nearly $250,000 in North Iraq through its Assyrian Relief Fund. ARF has already built a pharmacy, a radio station, and is working on constructing a television station in North Iraq.
The 7th ANC Assembly which took place in Sweden, between June 29 - July 1 (See Zinda's August 6th Issue) was a turning point in the politics of ANC and its relations with the Kurdish groups in North Iraq, according to Dr. Dadesho. At this meeting representatives of the Kurdish group, Kurdistan Democratic Party, were also present. Dr. Dadesho explained that the ANC is the only Assyrian political organization that has demanded an independent Assyrian territory, specifically the Assyrian Triangle in North Iraq. He further noted that the plans for this independent Assyrian territory have been discussed with the Kurdish officials and the name of Mr. Fawzi Toma has been brought up as its governor.
The next item of interest on Dr. Dadesho's agenda was a review of the events preceding the now infamous 1999 INC Meeting in New York. Dr. Dadesho said that the U.S. State Department had asked the ANC to outline a proposal of the demands of the Assyrian people and its political parties and then called for a conference in Washington D.C. The State Dept had budgeted $30,000 for this conference of the 40 to 50 Assyrian political representatives. Dr. Dadesho said that "the purpose of this meeting was to elevate the status of the Assyrians among other minority groups in the North." According to Dr. Dadesho, the ANC contacted the Assyrian Democratic Movement and the Assyrian Universal Alliance and both groups opposed State Department's initial recognition of the ANC. Each group flew separately to Washington and even spoke against the ANC asking the State Dept to rule against its earlier decision to recognize the Assyrian National Congress as the collective representation of the Assyrian people, said Dr. Dadesho.
Furthermore, in London, some individuals who claimed to represent the Patriarch of the Church of the East, asked that the Patriarch be recognized as the representative of the people, said Dr. Dadesho. He then turned to Mar Bawai Soro and said: "I have spoken with His Holiness since then and he has denied these allegations."
Dr. Dadesho then began lambasting the other political groups and their leaders, beginning with John Nimrod, Secretary General of the AUA. Dadesho said that "INC does not even recognize the AUA and considers it a civic organization (shootasa shotapaya). Dadesho said that "John Nimrod and Zowaa supported the Census Bureau's decision to adopt the new Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac category and John Nimrod even commented in one public meeting 'What is the difference between Assyrian and Chaldean anyway?'" Dadesho called John Nimrod and ADM (Zowaa) "our nation's internal foes as is the government of Baghdad our external adversary."
Dr. Dadesho indicated that the ANC has already met three times with the officials of the AUA, including Mr. Sam Andrews, and the AUA has not shown any sign of shifting.
In reference to the ADM, Dr. Dadesho commented that "Zowaa wishes to become the only Assyrian representation in North Iraq and this simply cannot be."
In summing up the efforts of the other political groups opposed to the ANC, Dr. Dadesho said that "Their feet are in the air and no one can guess when they will be grounded."
As for the current make-up of the ANC, Dr. Dadesho explained that there are 20 or more organizations affiliated with the ANC under the umbrella of the "Barqyamoota" or Confederation. There are also 4 political parties affiliated with the ANC.
At the end of his talk, Dr. Dadesho explained that to increase the annual budget of the ANC a proposal to form an Assyrian Millionaires Club who will be asked to donate up to $25,000 annually to the Assyrian National Fund. The ANC has targeted 15 Assyrian individuals so far.
At the end of the Public Forum, Mar Bawai Soro suggested using the analogy of the Microsoft Corporation's inclusion of the Syriac font in its Windows 2000 fonts catalog, that the U.S. government be approached to mediate among the different Assyrian political factions and help in the formation of a collective parliament. His Excellency commented that the assistance of the U.S. would strengthen the chances that the different Assyrian political parties may come to some agreement.
Mar Bawai Soro was then asked to join the ANC and help with the aforementioned agenda. His Excellency replied that the Church must first witness further progress on the ANC agenda and then the entire Church hierarchy must be consulted before making such a decision. He also explained that he personally believes in the separation of the Church and State.
The next ANC meeting is to be held in Paris, France and hosted by the Assyro-Chaldean Association of France.
INVESTIGATION OF AACC OF TURLOCK CONTINUES
Courtesy of Modesto Bee; investigation story by Patrick Giblin
(ZNDA: Turlock) Authorities carried out searches last Thursday in Turlock and Modesto in connection with a 10-month-old investigation into alleged financial improprieties at the Assyrian American Civic Club.
The probe already has led to a shutdown of the Turlock club's three-times-a-week bingo operation.
AACC of Turlock is the largest Assyrian organization and affiliate of the Assyrian American National Federation. Mr. Ramin Odisho is expected to attend this week's Assyrian National Convention in San Jose, California.
Police Chief Lonald Lott suspended the club's bingo license Aug. 8, declaring that the state Department of Justice had concluded that the club did not hold nonprofit status as required by state and city law.
The Justice Department told the city about the club's status after reviewing computer data and other records seized from the club and the club president's home in November.
Thursday brought new searches at the club, on North Golden State Boulevard, and at President Ramin Odisho's home in Turlock. Warrants were also served at Farmers & Merchants Bank, 3001 McHenry Ave., Modesto, and at the home of Theresa Lazar in Modesto.
Lazar is a member of the club but does not now serve as an officer. She is not related to Turlock City Councilman John Lazar. She did not return messages left at her home Thursday.
Ramin Odisho said he did not want to make any comment about Thursday's searches until he talked with his attorney. "I am very upset right now," Odisho said. "This has gone too far."
Odisho is the first president in the club's history to serve two terms in that office. He was re-elected earlier this year after the club's charter was amended to allow officers to serve consecutive terms.
On the occasion of his first election, a Zinda Magazine editorial applauded Ramin Odisho for being the youngest Assyrian to be elected as a president of an affiliate of the Assyrian American National Federation.
Investigators hope to conclude the case by the end of September.
The Stanislaus County district attorney's office asked for the search warrants, said Rosemary Howser, spokeswoman for the Turlock Police Department. Officers with the Police Department, the district attorney's office and the Stanislaus County High-Tech Crimes Task Force participated in the searches, Howser said.
"They started at 9 a.m. and the warrants were all served pretty much simultaneously," she said.
The Police Department launched the investigation in October, with officers saying they had received several complaints about the club's financial operations.
Police have declined to reveal details of the complaints. There have been no arrests.
QASHA BADAL PIRO OF TURLOCK DIES AT 75
Courtesy of Modesto Bee (Sept 2)
(ZNDA: Turlock) Rev. Badal Shimun Piro, 75, who served the Mar Addai Parish of the Assyrian Church of the East for 31 years, died last Friday at Doctors Medical Center, Modesto.
Father Piro was born 22 February 1926, in Nohadra (Dohuk), Iraq. In 1934 he moved to Syria.
He was ordained a deacon in the Church of the East in 1944, and two years later he moved to Beirut, Lebanon, where he reunited with the rest of his family from Iraq.
He worked as a contractor for the government from 1946 to 1970, and continued to serve the church. Starting in 1959, he taught the Assyrian language and history, as well as theology for the church.
In 1968, he became a priest, ordained by His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Patriarch of the Church of the East.
Rev. Piro moved to Turlock in 1970, and began serving the Mar Addai Parish -- which numbers about 500 -- and the Assyrian community at large.
He was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1976. "In America there is freedom like no other country in the world," he told The Modesto Bee on the occasion of his naturalization.
Monsignor Piro is survived by his wife, Bea Piro of Turlock; children, Shamiran Piro, Helene Piro, Simone Piro and John Piro, all of Turlock, Esther Evanof of Australia, Janna O'Shana of Hilmar and Lucy Younan of Illinois; brother, Lazar Piro of Turlock; sister, Jasmine Piro of Australia; and nine grandchildren.
Rev. Piro is to be buried at Turlock Memorial Park. Remembrances may be made to the Mar Addai Parish, Assyrian Church of the East, 820 E. Canal Drive, Turlock 95380.
EL CAJON POLICE MEETS WITH CHALDEAN, KURDISH YOUTH
Courtesy of San Jose Mercury News (Sept 2); based on story by Lori Aratani and Sean Webby
(ZNDA: El Cajon) The hunt for Nikolay Soltys, the 27-year-old Ukrainian immigrant who allegedly killed six members of his family, illustrated an important challenge law enforcement officials face as California and the rest of U.S. population continues to grow more diverse: How can they cultivate ties with new immigrant communities isolated by language and cultural barriers, and who often harbor a silent mistrust of law enforcement?
Police in California have a long history -- until recently, not especially distinguished -- of dealing with crime and public safety in ethnic enclaves. Over the past generation or two, they've become more enlightened about dealing with established Chinese-American, Japanese-American and Mexican-American communities. But at the same time, new communities of refugees from the Middle East and elsewhere have sprung up. Two such groups are the Chaldean-Assyrians and the Kurds in Southern California.
Police recognize the need to serve these communities, but in the face of rapidly shifting demographics, they admit it's hard keeping up, especially if the new arrivals come from places where political and religious repression give them a distrust of anyone with a gun and badge.
While police departments say they are making an effort to reach out, human rights groups often say they hear reports that many police departments continue a long and ugly tradition of abuse against immigrants. Samantha Liapes, director of Bay Area Police Watch, said that many departments falsely profile young immigrant men as gang members.
Police maintain one way to avoid such false characterizations are by strengthening ties with minorities communities.
The Southern California community of El Cajon, near San Diego, has been nationally recognized for its efforts to reach out to the Kurdish and Chaldean communities. Stymied in their efforts to investigate reports of increased gang violence among Kurds, the department has set up a series of meetings with Kurdish and Chaldean teens and community leaders.
Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, El Cajon Police Captain Dan Moody said, ''We are trying to beat it now.''
MAN IN MODESTO ARRESTED FOR SOCIAL SECURITY FRAUD
SSI recipients must have less than $2,000 in assets, according to the Social Security Administration. They must be blind, older than 65 years, or disabled and not able to work.
With one Social Security number, Wardah claimed disability from a heart condition. He collected government money for nine years, according to a federal affidavit.
Using another Social Security number and four aliases, Wardah owned four cars and had cash gambling winnings lying around his four-bedroom house in Modesto, an investigator said.
Wardah lived with his disabled wife in Modesto, but stayed nightly with a woman at a residence in Riverbank, according to the affidavit prepared by Special Agent Wilbert Craig of the Social Security Administration.
Though Wardah did suffer a heart condition, he still managed to start an illegal business while siphoning SSI money.
To earn cash, Wardah helped others apply for SSI.
According to the Modesto Bee newspaper, Wardah fled religious persecution in Iraq in the mid-1980s. He interpreted and completed paperwork for other Assyrians at the Modesto Social Security Office starting in 1997, investigators and office workers said.
For every person who received SSI, Wardah took $2,500, according to the affidavit. The Social Security Administration does not know how many people Wardah aided. But over the years, he became a regular at the Modesto office. Those who received Wardah's help in applying for welfare funds may now be investigated.
"Those people aren't necessarily ineligible," an investigator said. "But it might make some of their claims questionable."
In 1998, 11,058 people called or wrote the office about suspected frauds, said Johnson. In 2000, the office received 46,840 tips.
The Wardah investigation began after someone called the administration's national fraud hot line in April.
SYRIAC INSTITUTE IN INDONESIA SPONSORS PUPPET PERFORMANCE
Courtesy of Jakarta Post (Sept 6); based on story by Wayan Juniartha
(ZNDA: Jakarta) On August 31 the Institute for Syriac Christian Studies
(ISCS) sponsored a Sutasoma shadow puppet performance at the Natya Mandala
auditorium. The performance was staged to encourage Indonesians to follow
Sutasoma's steps in facing challenges.
The youngsters -- who usually clapped noisily when Pandawa's Bhima tore Kurawa Dursasana's body into pieces before drinking his blood -- would probably fall asleep watching the pacifist Sutasoma in action.
"The performance has not been staged to stimulate the viewers' emotion. Instead, we wanted to stimulate their awareness and consciousness about several important issues -- such as religious tolerance, the nation's unity and above all, a compassionate love toward every living being --through the performance," said Shafa E. Hermawati of ISCS.
Kekawin Sutasoma was written during the golden age of the Majapahit empire, when its vassals stretched as far and wide as the present Indonesia, by a respected poet Mpu Tantular. In his works, Tantular repeatedly preached the beauty of peaceful coexistence between the two major religions of his time: Buddhism and Siwaism.
Tantular stated that those religions were actually a different "rivers", which had the same source and the same goal. The national slogan "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika" (unity through diversity) on the Republic of Indonesia's Garuda Pancasila coat of arms was taken from a lyric in Tantular's Sutasoma.
ASSYRIAN FOUNDATION OF AMERICA'S DINNER & DANCE PARTY
This is to announce that we are having our Annual Dinner and Dance Party at 7:30 PM on Saturday, November 24th at His Lordship Restaurant on 199 Seavall Drive in Berkeley, California.
Music will be provided by the Assyrian singer, Edmond and His Band. (Ninef).
Tickets are $45.00 per person.
For reservations please contact me at 925-672-4534.
To learn more about AFA's activities visit their website at www.assyrianfoundation.org.
The following is an excerpt from Professor Majid Khadduri's article "Nuri Al-Sa'id's Disenchantment With Britain In His Last Years" which appeared in the Middle East Journal's Volume 54, No 1 (Winter 2000). Prof. Khadduri Majid was formerly the Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and is Professor Emeritus of that Institution as well as a Member Emeritus of the Board of Governors of the Middle East Institute.
King Faysal I was enthroned in 1921 with the help of the British forces in Mesopotamia. It is said that King Faysal was a able but unpopular ruler, whereas his son was popular but unable. Ghazi died in a car accident in 1939 and left his throne to his 4-year-old son, Faysal II.
Husri was the director of education in Iraq during the 1920s. He became Iraq's principal intellectual exponent of Arab nationalism.
GHAZI & THE MASSACRE OF ASSYRIANS
"I love my family and I love Ghazi," said Faysal in his first conversation with Husrj, "but above all I love my country. If Ghazi is deficient in intelligence, that is, if he is stupid (ghabi)," said Faysal, "I would not hesitate to call Parliament and declare that the country would no longer be under obligation to have my son as a Crown Prince; [Parliament] would then be free to decide whatever it wishes on the matter." Husri, in reply, said that although he had met Ghazi, he had not had the opportunity to know him well enough to make any judgement. He suggested, for this reason, to have a conversation with him before he could report on his condition. Husri met subsequently with Ghazi and had several conversations with him. In his oral report, Husri told the King he was not sure that Ghazi lacked native intelligence, but he probably was not receiving adequate education to develop his mental capacity. If Ghazi were entrusted to competent teachers, Husri said, he might be able to make up for his lag in mental development.
King Faysal, said Husri, was relieved. For should Ghazi, an incapacitated Crown Prince, become ruler, Faysal would have felt he had subordinated the national interest in favor of personal interest. To give Ghazi the education received by young men of his generation, he enrolled him in the Iraqi Military College, where discipline was empha-sized.
The impact of this ideological indoctrination on Ghaz.i was revealed in 1933. King Faysal embarked on a state visit to England in June 1933 and afterward went to Switzerland for medical treatment. Crown Prince Ghazi acted as his father's deputy during his absence. While Faysal was still in London, news reached the King about the tension that had developed between the Government and the Assyrian community in Northern Iraq, leading to a clash with the Army. He tried to intervene from London and advised his Ministers to deal more gently with the Assyrians for the sake of the country's reputation abroad, as Iraq had promised the year before to respect minority rights as a condition of membership in the League of Nations. Ghazi sided with the Cabinet against the Assyrians on ideological grounds. Since the clash with the Iraqi Army led to the massacre of innocent Assyrians, the Government presented the matter as a peril to national unity, which aroused the indignation of the people. King Faysal, after his visit to Switzerland, returned to Baghdad on 2 August, but found the situation completely beyond his control. Demonstrations were taking place almost daily demanding the destruction of the Assyrian community. In one demonstration outside the Royal Court, Ghazi with some members of the Government were loudly cheered by the crowds. But there was no reference to King Faysal. Ghazi's siding with the Government contributed in no small measure to his popularity both at home and in the Arab world.
Not only did Ghazi side with the Cabinet that disregarded his father's advice about the Assynian crisis, but he also sided with a Prime Minister, Rashid 'Au al-Gaylani, and Ministers of the Ikha al-Watani (National Brotherhood) Party.
King Faysal died on 8 September 1933, a week after he had left Baghdad for Switzerland. Crown Prince Ghazi, in accordance with the Constitution, was proclaimed King on the same day and was confirmed by Parliament. While the people regretted the sudden death of King Faysal and deeply felt the loss of a great national leader, the new generation, indoctrinated with Pan-Arab ideas, was highly enthusiastic about the accession of Ghazi to the throne: A number of delegations from Arab countries that arrived to take part in the funeral procession of King Faysal met with King Ghazi to offer their homage to him. They were highly impressed, it was reported, with his offer to support them in their struggle to achieve independence.
THE SENCHARIB BALLEY ASSYRIAN BOOK FUND
Thanks to his sense of filial piety, Assyrian patriotism, and a strong wish to give perpetual voice to the generations of his family who lived as Assyrians and suffered as a result, Raymond P. Balley has stepped forward to start an endowment to honor his father. He is the last of his father's children to remain alive. Both he and his sister, Shamiram Bird, have been active within the Assyrian community from the days when Ray ran messages between his father and Naoum Faik to when he served as a president of the AANF. Ray initiated this fund with a generous start-up amount. We are hopeful that many Assyrians will join this son and grandchildren of Sencharib Balley in contributing to this new endowment. We need to complete this fund within a few months.
The Sencharib Balley Assyrian Book Fund is established as a permanent endowment fund only the income of which is to be used in perpetuity by the Middle Eastern Division of Harvard College Library for the acquisition and preservation of Assyrian cultural materials in all formats. Preference shall be given to the acquisition and preservation of materials related to poetry and music. Beyond this the income from the fund may be used for the acquisition and preservation of Assyrian cultural materials in general.
Sencharib Balley (1878-1972) came to the United States from Diyarbeker (Amid) where his family had lived for generations. He lost his extended family during the 1895 and 1915 massacres of Assyrians in the Ottoman empire. Arriving in New York in 1912, he became a leading intellectual among the Assyrians living in Diaspora. His strong language skills allowed him to maintain a broad correspondence and serve as link among many Assyrian communities worldwide. He was an especially active supporter of Farid Nuzha (Buenos Aires, Argentina) and his writings may be found in his publication Asiria (1934-1958). His works may also be found in Beth Nahreen, the mid-Atlantic publication produced by Naoum Faik, another intellectual from Amid.
The rest of the Assyrian community is invited to honor another refugee intellectual who contributed much to the culture of the Assyrian community. Tax deductible donations may be sent to add to the principle of this fund as follows:
After the death of Alexander the Great, his generals divide his kingdom in three spheres of power: Egypt, Syria, and Persia. The influence of Greek language on the Aramaic-speaking communities in the Middle East continues until the resurgence of Iranian nationalist movements during the Parthian and Sassanian military conquests.
When President Theodore Roosevelt visited Worcester, Massachusetts, he spent time with Senator George Frisbie Hoar at his Oak Avenue mansion, behind Memorial Hospital. It was during this visit that Sen. Hoar convinced the President to allow two little Assyrian girls to be reunited with their parents in Worcester, despite a negative ruling by immigration authorities.
Worcester Sunday Telegram, September 2, 2001
September 15, 1916
The first issue of the magazine "New Assyria" is published in Jersey City, New Jersey under the direction of Charles Dartley.
Share your local events with Zinda readers. Email us or send fax to: 408-918-9201
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
WALTER AZIZ "AWAY" TOUR PARTY
Presented by the Assyrian Social
A PERFORMANCE OF SUMERIAN STORIES
The Zi-Pang Trio
MELAMMU: THE ASSYRIAN AND BABYLONIAN INTELLECTUAL HERITAGE
Sponsored by the University of Bologne
4TH ANNUAL FOOD FESTIVAL
Assyrian Cultural Center is inviting all Assyrians and non-Assyrian to attend the Food Festival 2001 to enjoy good food, Assyrian music, dance, Art Gallery and more.
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
LECTURE: DR. GABRIEL YONAN at SWEDISH PARLIAMENT
Dr. Yonan will be addressing the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm on the important events in the last 100 years of Assyrian history.
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)
AFA ANNUAL DINNER & DANCE PARTY
His Lordship Restaurant
Entertainment: Edmond and His Band. (Ninef)
For reservations contact Flora Kingsbury at 925-672-4534.
AMERICAN ANTHROPOLIGICAL ASSOCIATION ANNUAL MEETING
Daniel Wolk, Univeristy of Chicago
For more info re AAA Meeting in Washington visit: http://www.aaanet.org/mtgs/mtgs.htm
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
Zindamagazine would like to thank:
Dr. George Habbash
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