Z I N D A  M A G A Z I N E
Kanoon II  30, 6750                     Volume VI                      Issue 37             January 30, 2001
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T H I S   W E E K   I N   Z I N D A
The Lighthouse The U.S. vs Iraq Waging War By Other Means
Good Morning Bet-Nahrain Interview:  Syrian-Catholic Archbishop of Baghdad     
News Digest Pope John Paul Names Patriarch Daoud a Cardinal
Pope John Paul Asks for Greater Freedom in Iran
Surfs Up! "We are proud of you"
Surfers Corner Australia's Foreign Affairs & Trade Replies To AUA
Reflections on Assyria Assyrian Muslims vs Assyrian Christians
Literatus Why Does Melik Kaylan Hate Those Pesky Armenians?
Assyrian Surfing Posts Mar Gewargis Church of the East in Modesto
Yonan Club       
Pump Up the Volume Words of Kinship            
Back to the Future Gungunum of Larsa & St. Nina of Georgia            
This Week in History General Agha Petros d'Baz     
Calendar of Events February 2001

All blue links throughout this issue are hyperlinks to other sections on this page or featured websites.


THE U.S. verses IRAQ

According to the Iraqi Health Ministry, there has been a fourfold increase in the incidence of leukemia in that country since1990. We are talking here about helpless children, not Revolutionary Guards.Declarations from Iraqi agencies are justifiably viewed with some suspicion,and some of their posturing is quite laughable. But in this case, it is no laughing matter. There is support from an impartial source, namely the Baghdad office of the World Health Organization (WHO).

This horrific development is but one of many ironies which grow out of the ham-handed Western policy of isolating Iraq. While the draconian embargohas led to the death of thousands of innocent civilians, it has not slowedthe continued enrichment of Saddam Hussein and his  privileged acolytes. In yet another irony, while the existing Iraqi regime continues taking giant strides to break out of its isolation with broad international support, the U.S. is handing over a few million dollars to the Iraqi National Congress, in its "efforts" to topple the existing Baghdad regime. The internal divisions within the I.N.C. prevents it from mounting any successful action against the Baghdad regime even in the best of times. Now, while a growing number of nations thumb their nose at the embargo (increased air traffic, expanded commercial contracts), the $12 million which the U.S. is finally releasing for I.N.C. use will likely end up wasted or lining up the pockets of a few anti-Saddam elites. In principle, it is U.S. policy to intervene in overseas crises only if there is consensus among other nations. However, for the past 5 decades, the inordinate influence of the Jewish lobby in Washington has consistently trumped that principle when Israeli interests are at stake. With a new administration taking the reins in Washington, the question is whether the United States will accept that Saddam Hussein is an issue for that region, and it is for that region to sort out its own problems. Clinton's policy-making entourage was virtually 100% Jewish and predictably it tilted to Israel. While G.W. Bush's entourage appears less Jewish in its make-up, it is too early to know whether it will be able to develop an even-handed approach in that part of the world.

As for the dreaded leukemia, today in the West this is a disease that is treated with success. But the leukemia ward in Saddam Central Hospital for Children is known as "the ward of death." This is a place where the mortality rate is 100%, for leukemia and for other cancers. The embargo may be aimed at Saddam, but it is preventing the Children's Hospital from getting the chemotherapy drugs it needs. The same embargo has also prevented the installation of a specialist facility for carrying out bone marrow transplant operations, which is a medical procedure readily available to leukemia patients anywhere abroad. In the past, even when there has been the means to acquire medical equipment, the American government has interfered and suspended the transaction, on the ground that "it could have a dual use." This means that it could also be employed for military purposes, which is an argument that has been effectively advanced to prevent even the importation of tires required for garbage trucks!

Among the consequences of the Western embargo, many Iraqi medical specialists (and certainly the best among them) have left the country, either to escape hardship, or to pursue opportunities in a more favorable environment. Scientific journals are unavailable. There is no equipment, either new or for replacement. Even though the population has grown by 6 million in the last ten years,not a single new hospital has been built during this period.

Western (and especially U.S.) complicity in this tragedy goes further. There is a broad assumption that the increase in leukemia has been caused by residues from munitions tipped with depleted uranium which was fired with abandonby American and British forces in the 1991 Gulf war. It is not surprisingtherefore that most leukemia cases are turning up in southern Iraq (Basra,Nasiriya, Kerbala, Najaf). Although the West would be loathe to ever admitsuch linkage, another irony may be in store for us. Increased cases of illnessamong British forces and American veterans of the 1991 conflict (the so-calledGulf War Syndrome), along with the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, may leadto findings in our own country to support the dreadful connection. This hasthe potential of a legacy of shame comparable to the maimed and deformedwho are still born in Japan two generations after we dropped A-bombs on Nagasakiand Hiroshima.

Washington and London argue the point that all of this is Saddam Hussein's fault, because he started the conflict, and for the past ten years he has refused to disarm. It is difficult to argue that contention. But on the other side (and this is voiced by international observers, not simply by Baghdad), it is noted that the West not only devastated the Iraqi infrastructure with its bombardments, but in the ensuing decade of sanctions the West has made it politically and financially impossible for the medical/hospital system to restore its capacity.

  Most diaspora Assyrians have a vital concern for the fate of the Iraqi population.Hundreds of thousands of our people are experiencing the same daily hardships,and facing the same life and death events visited upon the country. The well-beingof millions of innocent civilians surely deserves a higher priority thanthe fate of a dictator, no matter how ruthless or deserving of punishmenthe may be. It is time to admit that the embargo -- well-intentioned whenfirst imposed -- has long since proven its inadequacy as a weapon of internationalpolicy. In fact, the present rationalization recalls the memorable catch phrase born of the Vietnam War that "we had to destroy the village in orderto save it."

An American organization (Voices in the Wilderness) recently visited Iraq. The delegation delivered some badly needed medical supplies (approximately $150,000 in value). This is a wonderful gesture, but just a drop in the bucket. The need is massive, and Assyrians should be stirred by it. If for no other reason than to relieve one's conscience, each concerned Assyrian should at least object to this policy in writing to his/her representative in Congress.

Francis Sarguis, J.D.
Santa Barbara, California

Mr. Sarguis the Book Review Editor for the Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies.
Select Zinda articles by Mr. Sarguis: In Patient Search of Assyrian Education, Urmia, Iran Diary Iran Today



The following is the text of the interview conducted earlier this month by the Vatican News Agency in Baghdad with Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka, the Assyrian-Catholic Archbishop of Baghdad. Most Iraqi Christians are membersof the Assyrian-Chaldean and Church of the East Churches, but there also are Assyrian Catholics and Armenian Orthodox.  Deputy Prime Minister TariqAziz, a Chaldean, is one of several prominent Christians in the government, army, and security forces.  Archbishop Matoka is the president of the Church's Higher Catechetical Commission, which embraces all the country's Catholic denominations, assessed the situation in Iraq from his See in the eastern neighborhood of Al-Karrada, where vestiges of the bombings are in evidence.

Archbishop Matoka:
  It was a terrible day.  People were asleep in Baghdad, when U.S. hunter-bombers began to drop their death cargo mercilessly. I can still hear the children's cries, traumatized by the explosions, in the dark.  In the 10 years since the end of the Gulf War, an embargo has reduced this once prosperous nation to poverty and left it isolated.

Q: Excellency, does this mean that the people did not expect such action following the ultimatum imposed on Iraq?

Archbishop Matoka : What was not expected was the level of cruelty and barbarism. Let’s not forget that the bombings continued without interruption for 42 days, reducing not only the military but also the civil structures to ashes. To behave thisway with people is really inhuman.

Q: So, they are still suffering the consequences of that war?

Archbishop Matoka : Absolutely. Today the European states are alarmed over the effects of the use of impoverished uranium in Bosnia's war. However, the first tests, as is beginning to be admitted everywhere, have been carried out at our expense -- dozens of tons, as they themselves have admitted.  If the effects of these cruel arms on those who have dropped them are creating a real psychosis in the West, imagine what the situation is of those who were the object of them.

Q: The Syrian-Catholics in Iraq number 50,000, just about one-tenth of the country’s Christians. What are the main problems caused by the embargo?

Archbishop Matoka: The problems are those of all Christians. In the first place, the embargo leads many of the faithful, especially youth, to do everything possible to emigrate from the country-- a veritable hemorrhage, for a small community like ours, which we are unable to stop. Moreover, the economic situation of many families is unbearable. Ten years ago the dinar, our currency, was worth $3. Now, we need 2,000 dinars to get $1.

Q: What is the Church doing?

Archbishop Matoka: The Church gives help to needy families through Caritas and local charitable associations on one hand, and through the donations of Iraqis and foreigners on the other. The aid consists primarily of grants for surgical operations, distribution of medicines, and medical treatments.

Q: You hoped the embargo would end during the Jubilee.

Archbishop Matoka: I continue to hope that, in the end, the initiatives of men of good will will be successful. World public opinion increasingly realizes the dimensions of the tragedy caused by theembargo, which has ended by being a flagrant injustice against an entire people.

Q: It seems something is moving, however.

Archbishop Matoka: Yes, but very slowly. Iraq, known as the cradle of civilization, is today far behind the rest of the world and no longer has access to modern technology. You must also have experienced this personally, because it takes three days to be able to telephone Baghdad.  It would seem that we have been vetoed from living in the new millennium, in the era of progress and technology. For this reason also, we believe that only with an end to the embargo will our country and our Church be able to look to the future with confidence.



Courtesy of Vatican News Agency - Zenit

Last week, John Paul II named 37 new members to the College of Cardinals, among them Patriarch Ignace Moussa I Daoud.  Patriarch Daoud is theSyriac Patriarch of Antioch, a position he has held since 1998.    The new cardinals will be created at a consistory Feb. 21, the eighth of John Paul II's pontificate.  With the new nominations, John Paul II has now appointed all but 10 of the cardinals eligible to vote in a secret conclave to elect a pope, the Associated Press said.  He also exceeded the limit of 120 voting-age cardinals fixed by Paul VI. In an eventual conclave, 128 cardinals will elect a new Pontiff.  His Beatitude Mar Ignace Moussa I Daoud is also the prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.  His Beatitude lives in Syria.  Patriarch Stephanos II Ghattas, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts, was also created a cardinal on this day.

The College of Cardinals was established in its present form in 1150.  The red hats worn by the Cardinals signify that they must be prepared to shed their blood for the faith and the Church. The Pope freely decides on the creation of cardinals.  The College of Cardinals will elect the new Pope (or the Bishop of Rome) in the event of Pope John Paul's passing away.  Cardinals are addresses as "eminences".

The Christian Churches in Syria, where the constitution guarantees freedom of worship, have between 1 million and 1.5 million members, or 10% to 15% of the population. Damascus is the See of the Syrian-Orthodox, Melkite and Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate, but all Oriental Churches are present in the country except the Copts.  Pope John Paul plans to visit Syria thisyear, Damascus in particular where according to the New Testament the conversion of Paul of Tarsus took place.


(ZNDA:  Vatican)  On 22 January, John Paul II received Mostafa Borujerdi, Iran's ambassador to Vatican and asked that Christians in Iran be given freedom to practice their faith.  Iran and the Vatican enjoy stable diplomatic relations.  Iran, a country of 60 million inhabitants, has a small minority of 210,000 non-Muslims. According to the constitution, of the total of 290 seats in Parliament, five belong to the religious minorities, including three for Christians- two for Armenians and one for Assyrians.
  The Pope asked  that the Catholic faithful of Iran -- present in that region of the world since the first centuries of Christianity -- will enjoy the freedom to profess their faith and to continue to be a part of the rich cultural life of the nation.

"Report 2000 on Religious Liberty," published by Aid to the Churchin Need, states that apostasy from Islam is punishable by death in the country, both for the one inducing it, as well as the one rejecting Islam.   The same report reveals that Christians are leaving the country "because they can no longer open restaurants, small kiosks, be hairdressers or dentists. The life of a non-Muslim is worth much less in case of an accident, the monetary sanction for running someone over is more than 100 times less."

"Although the Christian community is but a tiny minority in the overall population, it sees itself as truly Iranian," the Pope concluded, "and after centuries of living alongside its Muslim brothers and sisters, it is in a unique position to contribute to ever greater mutual understanding and respect between Christian believers and the followers of Islam everywhere."

The following is the full text of the Pope';s address to Mostafa Borujerdi, the new Iranian ambassador to the Vatican, given last Monday:

Your Excellency, I am very pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Holy See. The kind greetings which you bring from His Excellency President Seyed Mohammad Khatami evoke the memory of our cordial meetingwithin these very walls just three years ago: in the spirit of the friendshipand respect which marked the President's visit to the Vatican I askyou to convey to him my own good wishes and assure him of my prayers bothfor his person and for the nation.

Your Excellency has remarked upon the importance of a true dialogue between cultures if the efforts of men and women of good will throughoutthe world are to succeed in bringing about a lasting era of peace and fraternity for all peoples and nations. In fact, it was at the suggestion of President Khatami that the General Assembly of the United Nations declared this year of 2001 as the "International Year of Dialogue among Civilizations." Thus, this eminent international body representing the family of nations has called attention to the urgent need for people to acknowledge that dialogue is the necessary path to reconciliation, harmony and cooperation between different cultures and religious traditions. This is the approach that will ensurethat all can look to the future with serenity and hope.

Our world is made up of an amazing complexity and diversity of human cultures. Each of these cultures is distinct by virtue of its particular historical development and the resulting characteristics which make it an original and organic whole. Culture, in fact, is a form of man's self-expression as he travels through history; it is, in synthesis, "the cultivation of natural goods and values" (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 53). It is largely through culture that people acquire a sense of national identity and develop a love of their country: these are values to be fostered, not with narrow-mindedness, but with respect and compassion for the whole human family. As I had occasion to remark in my Message for the 2001 World Day of Peace, efforts must bemade "to avoid those pathological manifestations which occur when the senseof belonging turns into self-exaltation, the rejection of diversity, andforms of nationalism, racism and xenophobia" (No. 6).

Hence, appreciation for the values present in one's own culture must properly be accompanied by the recognition that every culture,as a typically human and historically conditioned reality, necessarily haslimitations. Such an understanding helps to prevent pride in one's own culture from becoming isolation or from turning into prejudice and persecution against other cultures. The attentive study of other cultures will revealthat beneath seemingly divergent traits there are significant internal elementsheld in common. Cultural diversity can then be understood within the broadercontext of the unity of the entire human race. Thus, it becomes less likely for cultural differences to be a source of misunderstanding between peoplesand the cause of conflicts and wars; it becomes easier to attenuate the sometimes exaggerated claims of one culture against another. In the dialogue of cultures, people of good will come to see that there are values which are common toall cultures because they are rooted in the very nature of the human person.These are values which express humanity's most authentic and distinctive features: the value of solidarity and peace; the value of education; the value of forgiveness and reconciliation; the value of life itself.

I am pleased to note that the Holy See and Iranian authorities have worked together to provide opportunities for such dialogue, not only as promoters of various meetings but also as active participants in them. I am thinking in particular of the Colloquium sponsored jointly by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Secretariat for Interreligious Dialogue of the Organization for Islamic Culture and Communication, which took place in Rome last year on the theme of religious pluralism in Christianity and Islam. A further Colloquium, once again jointly sponsored by the Organization of Islamic Culture and Communication and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, is scheduled to take place in Tehran later this year on the theme of the religious identity and education of young people.

Moreover, I wish to express appreciation for the regular bilateral Conferences which the Iranian authorities sponsor with other Christian Churches and Communities, the most recent one being held last year in Tehran on the theme "Islam and Orthodox Christianity". Such dialogue will surely help Governments and legislators in safeguarding the civil and social rights of individuals and peoples, especially the fundamental right to religious freedom. It is this right which is a point of reference of all other rights and in someway becomes a measure of them, because it involves the most intimate realmof our personal identity and dignity as human beings. Accordingly, even incases where the State grants a special juridical position to a particularreligion, there is a duty to ensure that the right to freedom of conscienceis legally recognized and effectively respected for all citizens and forforeigners residing in the country (cf. Message for the 1998 World Day ofPeace, 1). Should problems arise, the effective way of preserving harmony is through dialogue. The leaders of nations have a special duty to be clear-sighted, honest and courageous in recognizing that all people have the same God-given rights and inalienable dignity, and in working with dedication for the common good of all.

In this regard, the Holy See counts on the support of the Iranian authorities in ensuring that the Catholic faithful of Iran - present in that region of the world since the first centuries of Christianity - will enjoy the freedom to profess their faith and to continue to be a part of the rich cultural life of the nation. Although the Christian community is but a tiny minority in the overall population, it sees itself as truly Iranian; andafter centuries of living alongside its Muslim brothers and sisters it is in a unique position to contribute to ever greater mutual understanding and respect between Christian believers and the followers of Islam everywhere.

Mr. Ambassador, I have touched here upon some of the common ideals and aspirations which are the basis of the growing relationship of respect and cooperation between the Holy See and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iam confident that your tenure as your Government's representative will serve to strengthen the bonds which already unite us. Assuring you of every help and assistance as you seek to fulfill your lofty responsibilities, I pray that Your Excellency, and the Iranian Government and People whom you represent, will enjoy the abundant blessings of Almighty God.


"... I take this opportunity to thank all of you (and your readers) about the brotherhood and lovely solidarity which you have shown with our priest Fr.Yusuf Akbulut of Amid (Diyarbakir). We are proud of you. Thank you so much.It was so kind of you. Solidarity is vital among the brothers.

I hope that you had had a good Christmas. On behalf of SyrianOrthodox Archdiocese of Turabdin and Mor Gabriel Monastery I wish you a happy New Year.RISH SHATA BRIKHTA. And all of us we pray that the Lord make the New Yearto be blessed and prosperous one for you (the staff of Zinda) and for ourpeople all over the world. Please pray for us as we pray for you.

Our Archbishop His Eminence Mor Timotheos Samuel Aktas sends you his Fatherly blessings and prayers.

Pushun Bashlama, am Huba u ikara raba.

Yusuf Begtas d'Beth Yavsef
Kelayto d'hasyutho d'Suryoye d'Turabdin

"Thank you ZINDA STAFF for giving us a great Assyrian news source for thelast 7 years. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY.....Looking forward to the new home pageand interactive web site.  Keep up the great work - it's highly appreciated."

Maha Hermes
Oakland, California



The following is a reply letter from Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in regards to Father Yusuf's arrest and trial. This is a follow upfor what we published in Zinda Magazine's Volume VI, Issue 32 (December 11,2000): 
Thank you

Hermiz Shahen
Assyrian Universal Alliance-Australia



10 January 2001

Hermiz Shahen
Assyrian Universal Alliance
PO Box 34
Fairfield NSW 1860

Dear Mr. Shahen

Thank you for your letter dated 11 December 2000 concerning the arrest in Turkey of Reverend ( or Father) Yusuf Akbulut on October 2000.  I have been asked to reply on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Alexander Downer.

I was concerned to hear about the case of father Akbulut and have sought further details from the Australian Embassy in Ankara.The Embassy has advised that Father Akbulut was charged underArticle 312 of the Turkish Penal Code for "inciting ethnic andreligious hatred." I am advised that this article of the TurkishPenal Code is commonly used to prosecute persons who make statementssuch as those allegedly made by Father Akbulut.

I am advised that Father Akbulut's trial is continuing and that observers from a number of diplomatic missions in Ankara havebeen attending in order to signal to the Turkish authorities theinterest of the broader international community in the conductof this trial. I have asked the Embassy in Ankara to continueto follow the case and to advise me of its outcome.

I can assure you that the Australian Government is fully committed to the universal observance of internationally-accepted standards of human rights.

Thank you for bringing your views to the attention of the Government.

Yours sincerely

Sue Tanner
Assistant Secretary, Europe Branch

Last week Zinda Magazine was informed that the "Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac Union" (ACSU) members in Europe were assured by the Dutch Embassy in Diyarbakir, Turkey that government representatives will be present at the February 22nd trial of Father Yusuf Abkulut.  The government in Holland has so far taken the matter of Father Abkulut's trial under serious consideration.  The ACSU has also actively kept contact with Holland's Jubilee Campanje (The Jubilee Campaign), a human rights organization.  Several evangelical churches in Holland are members of this organization and will also support the letter campaign effort initiated in November 2000 to aide in the release of Father Abkulut.  The ACSU was established as a result of the hungerstrikes organized by the Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac demonstrators in March of 2000.  Among the important projects undertaken by the ACSU are the human rightsissues concerning the Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac communities in the MiddleEast and the recognition of their 1915-23 Genocide.  The Genocide issuewill be on the March 2001 agenda of the Parliament in Sweden, thanks to theefforts of such active organizations as ACSU.

Fred Parhad's


My sojourn among the wilds of Assyrian forums has ended.  I report to you on the state of affairs I witnessed. While people talk of unity, of coming together, their efforts seem more directed at proving that each group, whether religious or "regional"; is the truer one. There is a strong drive to identify anything Muslim as evil. Turks, Kurds, Persians etc. are all "Arabs" and all to be mistrusted. There is a heavy dose of intellectual posturing, mostly achieved by “dueling” quotes from a variety of sources. "Simplicity" is good and any complexities are "bad". Simply put, Christian Assyrians are the only true Assyrians and they have been robbed, through no fault of their own, of what was and is rightfully theirs, that is; their own country where today Iraq sits.  They also demand the world's attention to their plight and requests for justice as they define the word. While the Jews, Armenians and Greeks have either their own countries or a rich andvaried culture which has been a player in the world, the Christian Assyrians,having given nothing to deserve the recognition they crave ..except "martyrs", seek to ride in on the coattails of those who've done the hard work.

Needless to say I appeared on the scene like an 800 pound gorilla at a sandbox filled with "mommy's little darlings". I found most of these Lions Of Assyria hiding behind cutesy names and lofty titles like "Hired Help Of Assyria"..."Christian" or "Assyrian". Some of them seemed to pop up in various disguises depending, I suppose,on which pose they were to strike that day. Children playing "office" is a good metaphor for most of what passed by. Here and there one could see flashes of wit and good sense, but they were drowned in a sea of banalities and word tricks.

I saw people hiding... just basically hiding, and in the end I concluded that they knew best and hope they will stay just where they are.

I've decided, for myself, that there can be no peace for Christian Assyrians in the Mid East until we take a lesson from the Westand remove religion as a factor in our lives, in our public lives. In these jealousies and hatreds we feel not, only towards the Muslim but within the proliferating and bewildering sects within Christianity, lie the seeds ofwhat will destroy us every time, no matter how it consoles us for that destruction.Our petty religious squabbles have been played upon by the West, to thisvery day, because it knew we could be counted upon to become so entangledin the coils of its endless hostilities to the extent that we wouldn't know we were being robbed blind. Our sole concern has been to settle thenever ending debate about whose religion is the right and true one, whilethe West takes all religions .... the best from all cultures... and usesthem to build, with the material resources it steals for a song from us alongwith the manpower it either lures or destroys where it remains, to buildits empire over our befuddled, priest and mullah ridden heads. The priestsand mullahs and petty tyrants are a party to this rape because their viewsare so narrow and self-centered, like our own "leaders", that they prefer to have their moment of power and glory at the expense of the very people they profess to lead and guide and love. Hand in hand these two forces crush us, our children and our hopes between them. And they've taught us to thank them for it.

One rationale goes something like this...I stuck a screwdriver in that "Arabs" eye, but thank god it was a British screwdriver because now the British are offering me a box load full of screwdrivers for free. We'll stick as many Arabs in the eye as we can and maybe we'll blind them all and get a country. The box of screwdrivers has NEVER had enough in it, it never will, and eventually the Arabs who can "see" exact their revenge. Then we cry to the world about the treachery of theArab and thank England for standing by us in our hour of need. We've used Christianity as a screwdriver in the eye as well. While Assyrians alwayspoint out that they did nothing to anyone, they neglect to consider that, to the "Arab", our co-religionists in the West who are more directly responsible, have looked to us for sympathy and active support, and we've given it often enough in the past. We're doing it again now by helping to pay for bombs and supporting the Sanctions in Iraq.

I came away with some fresh ideas, for me at least. I believe there are Assyrians all over the Near-East. But the Assyrian Christians only consider themselves to be true Assyrian. The rest are "Arabs". Arabs come from Arabia. The Muslims of the United States, Mongolia, Indonesia,England don't practice Arab culture, they practice Islam, which derived its impetus from Arabia. To call all Muslims Arabs because their religion originated there would be akin to calling all Christians anywhere in theworld "Israeli", because their religion originated in what istoday Israel.

We were driven out of the Near-East because we identified ourselves too readily with the Christian West. We weren't chased away because we were Assyrians, for many, many Muslim Assyrians remained.  All Assyrians seem to have converted some time during the past. The first bunch, or maybe all of them, followed the carpenter from Nazareth. Years later some split off and went after the camel driver from Mecca.  All of them are Assyrian in heritage though both follow different religions.

Today the Christian Assyrians struggle to maintain their identity in the Christian West. They've achieved their long sought for goal of being able to practice their religion freely...one can practice any religion or none "freely" here. But they have no culture, no institutions outside the church and in time they will all be Americanized, which can be no worse than to be "Arabized", for in both cases something irretrievable is lost.

It turns out that the Assyrian Muslims will inherit Assyria. It is they who defend the land now against, once again, we and our co-religionists. It is they who administer and care for the antiquities, who have the orchestras and dance troupes. They live in the land of Ashur and their religion does not strip them of the claim to be the descendants of Ashurbanipal and Nebuchadnazzer any more than ours does. If to us a Muslim cannot be an Assyrian, then to them, who own the land now...a Christian cannot be an Assyrian.

I care for neither religion. I want to work at preserving theland and the people of Ashur whatever religion they've adopted. I've decided to give the Shumirum Monument to the people of Iraq...ALL OF THEM.  I would mention that she was a queen of Assyria, of course. But I would either leave the word "Christian" off, or add the word "Muslim".

I hope we can place it in the north, but I would settle for Baghdad.  Our only hope for that region is to mature to the point that the West can no longer pit us against each other, then point to us as savages who can't be expected to govern themselves and wouldn't know what to do withall that oil wealth anyway. If your enemies are sub-human it's easier to kill them and steal from them.. it doesn't really "count" then.

The best way is to downplay religion and emphasize culture and shared ancestry.  Our loyalties must begin to be with those we share a common heritage with and not those whose religions we share.

What if the British had chosen the name "Assyria" instead of Iraq for that region, and everything remained the same. Wouldit bother you then that you were helping bomb and starve Assyrians? Whatwould it feel like to see headlines reading "12 ASSYRIANS KILLED INMISSILE ATTACK"....OR "UN CLAIMS ASSYRIAN CHILDREN DYING OF HUNGERAND DISEASE". Would it wake you up, would you think to yourselves thatthey really weren't Assyrian at all because they were Muslim? It'sjust a name the Brits picked, what if they'd have picked Assyria instead?What would America consider those who move to other countries and then attack her? Would you move to Assyria, work for Assyria, love and pine for Assyria if it were Muslim, or would it be the enemy state you're told it isnow. Are Assyrian Christians really Assyrian, or are they Christians firstand foremost who want their lands back and insist on being able to practicetheir religion in those lands?

Imagine that Iraq/Assyria were Christian with a Muslim population as small as the Christian one now there. Imagine Muslims from this smallcommunity migrating to Egypt and calling on Iraq to protect their rightsback in the homeland. Imagine these people actively aiding the Egyptian governmentin a War against Iraq's Christian government aided by several otherMuslim countries in the region EACH with a Christian minority in it. Howdo you think the Christian government and people of Iraq would feel then about their own Muslim minority community within? How do you think the other Muslim countries would feel about THEIR Christian minorities? What if these expatriate Muslims supported a Sanctions program that starved and led tothe death of several Christian children in Iraq? How do you think the Christian government and people of Iraq would feel towards their Muslim minority community?Would they love them, protect them, cherish them and respect their rights?

When the West demands respect and tolerance for all religions, especially theirs yet persists in calling all Muslims "Arabs", so that the paradigm becomes Christian vs. Arabs when it should be, if anything, Christians vs. Muslims, we can see the hypocrisy clearly. But since we and they, with our help, persist in saying "Arab" when we all know they mean Muslim, it doesn't appear obvious to be a case of one religion, Christianity, demanding freedom for itself while it blasts, robs and kills those of another religion, Islam. These dodges and tricks are costing usdearly.

This "nation" of ours as we style it has come to mean a group of Christians who label as anti-Christ, traitor, enemy, "beast of the Apocalypse" etc., anyone who dares to ask these questions or think at all. Our "nation" is made up of people proud of their ignorance, a nation of truck and taxi drivers, petty shopkeepers and the few priests they keep in abject poverty to fan the flames of their narrow-minded bigotry. And they have their counter-parts on the other side. In this country, at least, this "nation" has managed to drive out its educated class, the professionals who deal at higher levels in this open society and cannot tolerate the close-minded foolishness which passes for nationalism and patriotism. A handful of people try to work with and for this "nation" but they are frustrated at almost every step for this "nation" does not wish to join the outside world for it knows full well what a poor figure it would make there. We have also many bemused members who come to stare and gape, as if for entertainment, and of course to perhaps get a wife or "score" at least.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, under a constant, unrelenting attack for the last eleven years, our people, who turned to a different religion than we Christians, are bravely trying to withstand the onslaught and preserve what there is left of Bet Nahrain. The leaders they have are a boon to the West which has no intention of toppling them and sold them the firepower they needed and stroked them into falling into this trap in the first place. Not until it's time to rebuild, when, "Western style" democracy can have its way, will these "leaders" be done away with. Then will come apologies and loans.

If our interest and care and concern is all for the ChristianAssyrians of our homelands then we've helped drive them deeper intothe ground than ever before, gild it as we'd like with Band-Aids. Ifwe cared for our ancestral homelands then we've likewise helped to ruin them beyond anything they'd suffered since the Mongol invasionof the 13th Century. Then just what is our interest here, for whatever wesay it is, our actions have only led to the destruction of the land and the people, Muslim AND Christian.


Mar Gewargis Church of the East - Modesto, California

Club Yonan



Rarely in the annals of recent journalism has such an intellectually dishonest and historically bogus article appeared as Melik Kaylans thinly veiled invective against Armenians, "Whose Genocide?" ("Takis Top Drawer," 12/27). Kaylan announces his loathsome views in a rebuttal of sorts to Charles Glass article on the Armenian genocide that ran two weeks earlier in the pages of "Top Drawer." Kaylan first admits the reality of the Armenian massacres, which he describes as so gruesome that he has trouble reading about them, yet he then spends the better of 1000 words telling readers why commemoration of the Armenian genocide is unimportant and historically biased.

Perhaps the most remarkable part of Kaylans denialist gestalt is that he seems to want to portray himself as part of a misunderstood, oppressed group, one that is unjustly attacked and perpetually misunderstood: the Turks. Yes, the Turks. If one listens to Kaylan, the Turks are a defenseless civilization unable to bear the unjustified attacks they must endure from everyone: Orientalizing Europeans, Armenians, Arabs, even usually "courageous" journalists such as Glass.

Kaylans main strategy, as a denier, is to turn the oppressor into the oppressed, no mean feat in the case of Turkey - a country with a huge military presence that in 1974 invaded Cyprus and regularly threatens its neighbors Greece, Syria and Armenia. No mean feat either for a country that shares the worlds worst human rights record with China, and whose prisons just several weeks ago saw some of the worst police violence in recent history.

Beginning in 1915 Turkey committed not one but three genocides. >From 1915 to 1923, the Turkish government effectively planned and systematically annihilated 90 percent of its Christian population: 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered and forced on death marches, along with three-fourths of the worlds Assyrian community, as well as the Pontic Greek community that lived around the Black Sea for several thousand years. All told, 2.5 to 3 million people were slaughtered in an orgy of killing the likes of which the modern world would not see again until the Nazi extermination camps. Entire villages were burned to the ground, Armenian women abducted and raped; priests flogged and flayed to death, the men horseshoed and bayoneted by the thousands.With no gas chambers, hundreds of thousands of Armenians were herded intochurches and caves that were set on fire, or drowned on barges in the Black Sea. On April 24, 1915, the date on which the Armenian genocideis now commemorated annually, the Armenian intellectual elite of Constantinople was rounded up, sent to Anatolia and executed. The heart-rending details are documented in any library the world over.

Yet, as with most Turks brought up in or influenced by a repressive neo-fascist military regime and subjected to historical revisionism, the suffering of the Armenians makes little difference to Kaylan. As he states it, the Kurds actually killed the Armenians, not the Turks. This is technically true inmany cases: the Turkish government, to absolve itself of direct responsibility, goaded local Kurds to carry out the actual killing of Armenians. Kaylan also implies that Kurds should not complain about the continued policy of cultural and physical genocide that has been unleashed against them by the modern-day Turkish "democracy," because they, too, participated in genocide in the past.

Kaylan further neglects to tell his readers that Turkeys campaign of genocide has continued unabated to this day. Slogans in post-WWI Turkey such as "Citizen, speak Turkish!" and references in all media to Kurds as "Mountain Turks" have all been attempts to forge an ethnically pure identity in Turkey, and more specifically in Anatolia, a land that according to the Turkish military/government must be Muslim and monoethnically Turkish.

(Speaking of the Kurds, it is an historical fantasy of Kaylans that their rebellion is Russian-"sponsored." While Russia - like any good antagonist - may indeed aid Kurdish separatists, just as Turks aid Chinese separatists of Turkic origin as far off as the Northern Chinese provinces, the Kurdish uprisings are as homegrown as the ones in Quebec, Corsica or the Basque region. Kaylan rationalizes the Kurdish uprisings like his brethren in the Turkish government do, when they accuse everyone from Syria to Armenia, Russia and Iran of creating the PKK and the Kurdish "problem" - anyone but Turkey itself, a country that has killed more than 30,000 Kurds with military equipment largely bought from the United States, and which has prohibited the teaching and broadcasting of the Kurdish language, even in Diyarbakir and Southern Kurdistan.)

As for today's few remaining Armenians and Assyrians in Turkey, the message that the Turkish government continues to send is clear: shutup or we will repeat what happened in 1915. If Mr. Kaylan needs any convincing of this, he need only look at the recent pressure put on Istanbuls small remaining Armenian community after Armenian genocide resolutions were passed in Franceand Italy, or at the unfortunate fate of Assyrian priest Yusuf Akbulut, who stood trial last month in Turkey for simply mentioning the Armenian genocide in public.

Or he may want to screen the recent film Salkim Hanims Necklace, which depicts the Varlik Vergisi (wealth taxes) imposed on Armenians, Greeks and Jews in Turkey as early as the 1930s, which subjected non-Muslims to exorbitant rates. These laws effectively drove many Armenian, Greek and Jewish businessmen into poverty or emigration; and, when they were unable to pay such onerousdebts, they were sent to work camps in Anatolia, where they toiled in stonequarries. In the process, a whole class of ethnic Turks exploited the fate of these minorities and became many of today's wealthy Turkish families, whom you can read about in the Forbes 400.

And although Turks like to portray their relations with Jews as being all but perfect since Turkeys recent alliance with Israel, they seem to have selective amnesia when it comes to the massacre and expulsion of 50,000 Jews in the Rumeli region earlier this century, or the constant outflow of Jews from Turkey until the past decade, when relations between the two communities eased somewhat. To this day, the remaining Armenian community, reduced to70,000, is not free to renovate its own properties or to buy new real estate without special approvals from the Turkish government - approvals that often, mysteriously, never arrive. As for history, Kaylan first creates a new historical category, the "Christian supremacist...Armenians, Georgians, Russians" whoswept down into Anatolia, displacing Turks. Even if Kaylan has been educated in Turkey, he must know that by the 10th century, it was in fact the Turks, or more exactly Turkic and Mongolian/Tatar tribes, who swept through Anatolia, quite literally on horseback, raping and pillaging everything in sight. From Tamerlane and Genghis Khan to the Seljuks and others, one wave after another conquered, raped and killed Armenians, Russians and a host of native peoples. In the 12th century the Armenians fled to the Mediterranean, where they founded the wealthy Kingdom of Cilicia, eventually succumbing to Turkish dominion there as well.

Kaylans acceptance of the Turkish propaganda that Armenians have unconditionally supported Russia at Turkeys expense is laughable. In fact, the Armenians were known in the Ottoman Empire as the "sadik milleti," or "faithful community." If Kaylan knew anything about Armenian history, he would know that Armenians have suffered tremendously at the hands of Russian and Soviet domination as well. As for the Russians themselves, for centuries they fought defensive wars against the Mongols and Tatars, who among other things ransacked and burned Moscow to the ground several times, once in 1237 (Batu Khan) and later in 1382 (Khan Togtamitch). Later on, it is true that Russia fought an expansionist war with Turkey, Britain and others, known as the GreatGame, for control over the Caspian Sea. These may not have been innocent pastimes,but they were par for the course in an age of conquest.  The Armenian genocide, Melik Kaylan to the contrary, was not. Kaylan misuses historical facts on yet another level when he confuses the terms "Turkish "and "Muslim" and asks,"Where are the monuments to the Turks and Muslims murdered?" Is he speakingof Muslims in Indonesia or Egypt? Or how about the thousands of Arabs slaughteredby the Ottoman Turks over several centuries of Turkish domination? Are thosethe Muslims he refers to?

Had Kaylan visited his homeland lately, he would know that the Turks have in fact erected several obscene monuments to their own imagined dead. In Van, an historically Armenian city defended until the very end in 1915, the Turkish government has built a museum commemorating the "Turkish Genocide" that goes so far as to desecrate history by showing skulls of dead Armenians and claiming that they are in fact ethnic Turks killed by Armenians. Farther north, near the Armenian border, in the city of Igdir, the Turkish government has erected a tall monument to the supposed 80,000 Turks killed, once again, in a fictive Turkish genocide that even Turkish scholars find risible.

As for those Turks who actually did die during WWI, one would like to remind Kaylan that they perished during a war waged by Turkey, which allied itself with the Germans, against the rest of Europe. That is quite a different story from the state-sponsored Armenian genocide, whose victims were innocent civilians, many of whom had actually fought for the Ottoman Empire during several wars against their supposed "allies," the Russians and Europeans.

Kaylan seems to revel in historical reversals, making the victim into the oppressor and vice versa. Since for most of history, with a few exceptions,the Armenians were a subject people (to Persians, Arabs, then Turks), he is hard-pressed to find overt examples of organized Armenian terror- not because,to be fair, Armenians are less inclined to violence than anyone else, butsimply because, like the Jews, theirs has been a history of oppression and survival. So, with no other alternative, Kaylan picks on the recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabagh, portraying the native Armenians as the aggressors.

Since most Americans don't know the difference between a Czech and a Slovak, and less so between an Armenian and an Azeri, Kaylan is perhaps hoping to play on public ignorance. In point of fact, Nagorno-Karabagh -partitioned to Azerbaijan after WWI by none other than Josef Stalin - voted for independence from Azerbaijan in 1991, after the wish to be reattached to Armenia had been ignored for decades by the Soviet leadership. The other region thus partitioned by Stalin, a sliver of land called Nakhichevan, located in between Armenia and Turkey - so that it has no physical borders with Azerbaijan itself - was,over the span of 75 years, ethnically cleansed of its entire Armenian population.Armenian monuments in Nachichevan were so mistreated that UNESCO intervened two years back to protect Armenian graveyards, which were still being desecrated and destroyed on a regular basis.

Back in Turkey's proclaimed "Turkic cousin" Azerbaijan, the government responded to Nagorno-Karabaghs independence movement with pogroms of the Armenians in Sumgait and Baku. World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov, an ethnic Armenian,was airlifted out of Baku in a helicopter to escape rioting described by observersas similar to that unleashed against Jews during Czarist Russia.  Azerbaijan then proceeded to attack Nagorno-Karabagh militarily, causing the refugee issues that now plague both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Until then, no violence against Azeris by Armenians was ever recorded. The Armenians- who representedmore than 75 percent of the population in Nagorno-Karabagh- fought back andwon. Turkey, instead of staying neutral out of diplomatic tact, or perhaps because of its own past debt to Armenians, instead imposed a blockade on the fledgling Republic of Armenia. One last fantasy of Kaylans: the happy OttomanArmenian. Kaylan implies that Armenians had nothing to complain about underthe Ottomans since, as an industrious and annoyingly persistent race, they were all prospering and building "the lushest Ottoman sultans palaces." Kaylan seems as resentful of Armenian wealth as Germans were of Jewish wealth beforeWWII. It is an historical fact that Armenians were better educated and successful than Turks during the Ottoman Empire.  The reasons for this are numerous and have to do mainly with Armenian culture and literacy, their position as a minority, and the Ottoman system of rule.  The sultans, for example, excluded Muslims from serving as Janissaries, the elite, Christian corps of young boys and war captives who were trained at court in various professions.

Yes, the most brilliant architects, bankers, doctors and writers in Constantinople and other urban areas were Armenians. But the vast majority of Armenians, still living in rural Anatolia, remained poor. They were subjected to overtaxation and countless pogroms by Kurdish overlords, encouraged by Ottoman governors. Starting in 1894 Abdul Hamid, dubbed "The Bloody Sultan," massacred more than 200,000 Armenians. In 1909, in the heavily Armenian city of Adana, 30,000 more were massacred with the acquiescence of local governors. Throughout much of the 18th and 19th centuries, disease was rampant in Anatolian villages and life expectancy poor. Throughout the Empire, Armenians were being quickly assimilated. By 1915 most could no longer speak Armenian, and Armenian schools and newspapers were subjected to constant raids and closings.  In many areas, terror reigned. Are these the happy Armenians, I wonder, that Melik Kaylan imagines?

Most official Turkish deniers are more subtle. They blame the "events"of 1915 on the Young Turks and absolve themselves of responsibility." What does that have to do with us?" they ask indignantly. "We are not theTurks of 1915." Go ask a Kurd whose village the Turkish military just blewup, or an Armenian currently suffering under the Turkish blockade.

Kaylan professes to being tired of hearing about the Armenian genocide, although it is one of the lesser-known episodes of 20th-century history. One wonders what Kaylan would do if he were German and had to watch the profusion of films on the Nazis and the Holocaust. Surely that injustice would drive him insane.

The modern Turkish Republic was founded by Kemal Ataturk in 1923on the ashes of the genocide - that is to say, the obliteration of the nativeAnatolian Armenian population that had lived there for more than 3000 years, long before the first Turk galloped through and pitched the first yurt onArmenian territory. The modern Turkish Republic has been referred to as "genesisin genocide," a heavy burden to bear for Turkey, and crucial to its understandingof itself and its modern culture. The day that Turkey, like Germany, faces its past honestly, apologizes, compensates and builds memorials to the Armenian dead, will be the day that Turks no longer carry the self-imposed burden of being viewed as cruel or backward. But the more denialist or exculpatory articles people like Kaylan write, the more uncivilized his treasured Turkish culture will appear to the world.

Christopher Atamian
The New York Press
January 17, 2001


                     The modern Assyrian (Syriac) is one of the richest and most colorful languages spoken today.  The words pertaining to kinship are good examples ofthe linguistic affluence of this language.  Below are but a few interesting and often difficult-to-remember examples.

Husband's Brother
Husband's Brother's Wife
Wife's Brother
Wife's Brother's Wife
Wife's Sister's Husband
yaay/sa (singular),  yaay/se (plural)


BC (1932)

Gungunum becomes the first king of Larsa Dynasty in sourthern Bet-Nahrain.  He soon helps create a new hegemony in that region, a position held by the city of Isin for 50 years.  The city of Ur also declares its alliance to Gungunum.  Having achieved control over Ur, Gungunum begins to enjoyed greater financial profits from the Persian Gulf trade in the region.

Die 'zweite Zwischenzeit' Babyloniens, Edzard                    

AD (313)

Georgia adopts Christianity as its state religion as a result ofthe teachings of Saint Nina, an Assyrian native of Cappadocia.  St.Nina was the daughter of Zabilion, a military leader in Cappadocia and adevout Christian; and Shushan, a sister of Iunebal, the Bishopof Jerusalem. 

"St. Nina, An Assyrian Woman from Cappadocia", Nineveh Magazine(Q4-2000), Inviyanova


February 2, 1932:  dies, General Agha Petros d'Baz, commander-in-chief of the Assyrian forces during the First World War, in France.


Feb 10


Presented by the Assyrian American Athletic Club of Modesto
Entertainers:  Albert Mansour & Ghassan Band; DJ by Johnny Boy Nissan

St. Mary's Hall
810 North 9th St at Carver
Tickets:  $12.00 (adults)  $ 5.00 (under 12)
For More Info: 
  Samir Zoudo.............209-551-0933
  Martin David.............209-577-6700
  Edward Shumoun.....209-574-0997
  Wilson Jacobe...........209-526-3014

Feb 15

"Frescoes & Syriac Inscriptions in MedievalChurches in Lebanon"
by Dr. Erica Dodd, Victoria University
8:00 PM
Auditorium, Earth Sciences Centre, Room 1050
5 Bancroft Avenue
University of Toronto, St. George Campus

Mar 29

"Syriac Heritage at the Northern Silk Road: TheArchaological& Epigraphic Evidence of Christianity in Kirghizia"     
by Dr. Vassilios Klein, Bonn University
8:00 PM
Auditorium, Earth Sciences Centre, Room 1050
5 Bancroft Avenue
University of Toronto, St. George Campus

Jul 2-6      


International Congress of Assyriology and Near Eastern Archaeology
"Sex and Gender in the Ancient Near East"
University of Helsinki

Registration Form:  clickhere

 Thank You!
        Jacklin Bejan (California), Attiya Gamri (Holland)


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