There will be no Zinda Says section this week.
HOW IRAQ WAS BORN
The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 tried to pick up the pieces after the First World War, disposing of many parts of the world with a varying effectiveness vividly described by Margaret MacMillan in her new book, Paris 1919. The Conference was the closest thing there has ever been to a world government.
Well before the war ended, European politicians already were negotiating how to divvy up the Middle East. In 1916, the British and French concluded what was known as the Sykes-Picot agreement, which assigned spheres of influence in the region. Rather than worrying too much about the desires and welfare of the inhabitants, the British were busy jiggering the agreement so that the French would serve as a buffer against encroachment by Russia.
Under the agreement, France was to rule greater Lebanon and to have exclusive influence over the rest of Syria. The British were to get Mesopotamia's two southern provinces, Basra and Baghdad, along with part of Palestine. The rest of the region was supposed to form a confederation of Arab states that was divided into French and British spheres of influence.
The British, during this exercise, posed as champions of the Jews and of Arab nationalism. In 1916, in the person of Col. T.E. Lawrence, famous as Lawrence of Arabia, they helped direct the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire.
Then in 1918, the Ottoman Turks did lose their empire, and the Allies were faced with a reality they had not seriously considered. Macmillan shows how several modern countries were born from their improvisations. Before the Peace Conference, for example, there had never been such a state as Iraq.
One day during the Peace Conference, the historian Arnold Toynbee, who was then an advisor to the British delegation, had to deliver some papers to the prime minister. "Lloyd George, to my delight, had forgotten my presence and had begun to think aloud," he wrote. " 'Mesopotamia ... yes ... oil ... irrigation ... we must have Mesopotamia; Palestine ... yes ... the Holy Land ... Zionism ... we must have Palestine; Syria ... h'm ... what is there in Syria? Let the French have that.' "
Thus the lineaments of the peace settlement in the Middle East were exposed: Britain seizing its chance; the need to throw something to the French; a homeland for the Jews; oil; and the calm assumption that the peacemakers could dispose of the former Ottoman territories to suit themselves. For the Arab Middle East, the peace settlements were the old 19th-century imperialism again. Britain and France got away with it -- temporarily -- because the United States did not choose to involve itself and because Arab nationalism was not yet strong enough to challenge them.
Mesopotamia -- the term the British used loosely to refer to the old Ottoman provinces of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra -- had scarcely been mentioned at the conference except as a possible League of Nations mandate to be held, everyone assumed, by Britain. British troops were in occupation, British administrators from India were running it and British ships were sailing up and down the Tigris. No power was likely to challenge the British claim: Russia and Persia were too weak, the United States uninterested. France -- until a stormy session in May of the leaders of the big four powers (Britain, France, Italy and the United States) -- had apparently given up any claim. Georges Clemenceau, the French Prime Minister, spoke in anger but he may have also begun to realize just what he had given up so blithely: oil.
Coal had been the great fuel of the Industrial Revolution, but by 1919 it was becoming clear that oil was the fuel of the future. Tanks, aircraft, trucks and navies all needed oil. British petroleum imports alone quadrupled between 1900 and 1919 and most of the increase, worryingly, came from outside the British Empire: from the United States, Mexico, Russia and Persia. Control of oil fields, refineries and pipelines was clearly going to be important in the future, as it had been in the Great War, when "the Allied cause," according to Lord Curzon, who was running the Foreign Office in London, "floated to victory upon a wave of oil."
No one knew for certain whether Mesopotamia had oil in any quantity, but when black sludge seeped out of the ground and lay in pools around Baghdad, or gas fires flared off swamps in Mosul, it was easy to guess. By 1919, the British navy was arguing, without awaiting further evidence, that the Mesopotamian oil fields were the largest in the world. It seemed foolish to hand over control of any part to the French.
Clemenceau, who had once said, "When I want some oil, I'll find it at my grocer's," had by now grasped the importance of the new fuel. He had given up formal control over Mosul but he insisted to Lloyd George that France should have its share of whatever was in the ground. Walter Long, the British minister of fuel, and Henri Berenger, his French counterpart, a man who believed that oil was the "blood of victory," were put to work. They produced an agreement under which France would have a quarter-share of the Turkish Petroleum Company and in return would allow two pipelines to be built across Syria from Mosul to the sea.
Both sides agreed that they did not want the Americans muscling in. Unfortunately, what was a reasonable compromise got caught up in the confrontation over Syria.
"There was a first-class dogfight," a British general noted in his diary, "during which the Tiger [Clemenceau] said Walter Long had promised the French half the Mesopotamian oil! Lloyd George asked me if I had ever heard of this. Of course, never. Whereupon Lloyd George wrote at once to Tiger and said that arrangement was cancelled."
The Foreign Office did not find this out until some months later, which shows the confusion in British policy-making at this period. It was only in December, 1919, after Britain and France had finally settled their dispute over Syria, that the oil issue was put to rest, on very much the same terms that Long and Berenger had agreed.
As part of the deal, the French government also agreed permanently to abandon France's claim to Mosul.
The British policy toward Mesopotamia had developed by fits and starts. The initial British campaign there in 1914 had been defensive, designed only to protect the Persian Gulf from the Turks. Once they had secured their bridgehead, they had been drawn north toward Baghdad.
A young political officer, Arnold Wilson, wrote to his parents: "The only sound thing is to go on as far as possible and not try to look too far ahead." Four years later the British had gone very far indeed, up to the Kurdish areas on the borders of Turkey, and Wilson was now head of the British administration.
Arnold Wilson was handsome, courageous, stubborn and stoical. He loathed dancing, gossip and idleness. He quoted Scripture freely; his finger never hesitated on the trigger. He had, in short, the qualities of a great proconsul of empire at a time when proconsuls were becoming obsolete.
When the war started, Wilson was in the north of Turkey, near Mount Ararat, completing an immense project to map the boundary between Persia and Ottoman Turkey. He and a colleague made their way back to Britain via Russia and Archangel. As he was about to join his regiment in France, he was ordered back to the Middle East to join the Mesopotamian campaign as assistant to Sir Percy Cox, the chief political officer. When, at the end of the war, Cox was called away to deal with Persian matters, Wilson was his obvious replacement. From April, 1918, to October, 1920, he governed Mesopotamia.
Wilson, like most of the other British there, assumed that Britain was acquiring a valuable new property.
He urged the government in London to make Mosul part of its war aims and, just after the Turkish armistice, he made sure that British forces moved in. Mosul was, he argued, important for the defence of Baghdad and Basra. With the collapse of the Ottomans and the Russian Revolution, it had also gained wider strategic importance. The British were backing anti-communist forces in Russia as well as the little independent republics that had sprung up in the Caucasus.
One way of doing this, and of preventing the spread of Bolshevism farther south, was to open up communications between Persia and the Caucasus, and that meant through Mosul.
It seems never to have occurred to Wilson that Basra, Baghdad and Mosul did not make much sense as a single unit. In 1919 there was no Iraqi people; history, religion, geography pulled the people apart, not together. Basra looked south, toward India and the Gulf; Baghdad had strong links with Persia; and Mosul had closer ties with Turkey and Syria.
Putting together the three Ottoman provinces and expecting to create a nation was, in European terms, like hoping to have Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Serbs make one country. As in the Balkans, the clash of empires and civilizations had left deep fissures.
The population was about half Shia Muslim and a quarter Sunni, with other minorities from Jews to Christians, but another division ran across the religious one: While half the inhabitants were Arab, the rest were Kurds (mainly in Mosul), Persians or Assyrians. The cities were relatively advanced and cosmopolitan; in the countryside, hereditary tribal and religious leaders still dominated.
There was no Iraqi nationalism, only Arab. Before the war, young officers serving in the Ottoman armies had pushed for greater autonomy for the Arab areas. When the war ended, several of these, including Nuri Said, a future prime minister of Iraq, had gathered around Feisal, the leader of the Arab revolt and son of the Sharif of Mecca. Their interest was in a greater Arabia, not in separate states.
Arnold Wilson did not foresee the problems of throwing such a diverse population into a single state. He was a paternalist who thought the British would remain for generations, and he urged his government to move quickly:
"Our best course is to declare Mesopotamia to be a British Protectorate under which all classes will be given forthwith the maximum degree of liberty and self-rule compatible with good and safe government."
His superiors in London ruled that out. They preferred indirect rule, something the British had used in the Indian princely states and Egypt. It had the advantage of being cheaper than direct control -- an important consideration, especially in 1919 after an expensive war. And indirect rule did at least bow in the direction of Arab self-determination and liberal opinion. "What we want," said a senior official at the India Office, "is some administration with Arab institutions which we can safely leave while pulling the strings ourselves; something that won't cost very much, which Labour can swallow consistent with its principles, but under which our economic and political interests will be secure."
This was easier said than done. There was a new spirit stirring in the Arab world and farther afield. In India, nationalists were rallying behind Gandhi; in Egypt, the Wafd party was growing day by day. Arab nationalism was still weak in Iraq, but it was already a potent force in Syria and Egypt. Arnold Wilson's oriental secretary and trusted advisor realized this, even if he did not.
Gertrude Bell was the only woman to play a key role in the peace settlements in her own right. Thin, intense, chain-smoking, with a voice that pierced the air, she was accustomed to being out of the ordinary. Although she came from a rich, well-connected family, she had broken with the usual pattern of her class -- marriage, children and society -- by going to Oxford and becoming the first woman to receive a first-class degree in history.
She climbed the Matterhorn and pioneered new routes in the Alps. She was a noted archaeologist and historian. She was also arrogant, difficult and very influential. In November, 1919, when the British commander-in-chief in Baghdad held a reception for 80 notables, they left their seats to crowd around her.
With only her servants and guides for company, Gertrude Bell had travelled all over the Middle East before the war, from Beirut to Damascus and from Baghdad to Mosul. She loved the desert: "Silence and solitude fall round you like an impenetrable veil; there is no reality but the long hours of riding, shivering in the morning and drowsy in the afternoon, the bustle of getting into camp, the talk around Muhammad's fire after dinner, profounder sleep than civilization contrives, and then the road again."
By 1914, she was widely recognized as one of Britain's leading authorities on the Middle East. In 1915, she became the first woman to work for British military intelligence and the only woman officially part of the British expedition to Mesopotamia.
She herself did not believe in rights for women. Nor did she like most of her own sex. "It is such a pity," she said loudly in front of a young English bride, "that promising young Englishmen go and marry such fools of women." Her best friends were men: T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), St. John Philby (father of the notorious Kim), Feisal and, for a time, Arnold Wilson. She loved passionately but never married.
She threw herself into her work in Mesopotamia. "We shall, I trust," she wrote to her father, "make it a centre of Arab civilization and prosperity." The Arabs, she assumed at first, would play little part in their own government. "The stronger the hold we are able to keep here the better the inhabitants will be pleased."
She got on well with Arnold Wilson in those early days. Wilson admired her "unwearying diligence" in dealing with paperwork. She was, he told his family, "extraordinarily vigorous and helpful in many ways." Together they waited for word from their superiors about what would happen to Mesopotamia. It did not come. "I presumed," said Wilson, "that if their oracles were dumb it was because their doubts were even greater than ours."
As they waited, Bell began to change her mind about the sort of government Mesopotamia needed. Arabs would have to play a larger role than she had at first thought.
In January, 1919, Arnold Wilson sent Bell off to Cairo, London and Paris to try to find out what was happening. In February, he followed her to Paris, where she was putting the case for a country in Mesopotamia. As she wrote rather grandly to her family, "I'm lunching tomorrow with Mr. Balfour [the Foreign Secretary] who, I fancy, really doesn't care. Ultimately I hope to catch Mr. Lloyd George by the coat tails, and if I can manage to do so I believe I can enlist his sympathies. Meanwhile we've sent for Colonel Wilson from Baghdad." She was convinced, rightly as it turned out, that the fate of Mesopotamia was linked to settlement of the dispute over Syria: "We can't consider one without the other, and in the case of Syria it's the French attitude that counts."
The talking and the lobbying accomplished little. As Edwin Montagu, secretary of state for India, wrote plaintively to Balfour: "We have now collected in Paris Miss Bell and Colonel Wilson. They are responsible to me. They come to me and say, 'We are here. What do you want of us?' I can give them no information of what is going on."
While the peacemakers prevaricated, in Mesopotamia unrest was spreading: among Kurds and Persians, who were restless under Arab domination; among the Shia, who resented Sunni influence; among tribal leaders challenged by British power; among high-ranking officers and bureaucrats who had lost their status with the collapse of the Ottomans; and among the increasing numbers of Arab nationalists. Bell worried from the sidelines.
In April she wrote to a friend, "O my dear they are making such a horrible muddle of the Near East, I confidently anticipate that it will be much worse than it was before the war -- except Mesopotamia which we may manage to hold up out of the general chaos. It's like a nightmare in which you foresee all the horrible things which are going to happen and can't stretch out your hand to prevent them."
At the San Remo Conference in April, 1920, the British and French, their differences temporarily forgotten, awarded themselves mandates, the British for Palestine and Mesopotamia, the French for Syria.
The Middle East was divided on lines that did not deviate all that much from the Sykes-Picot agreement.
For the Arabs, 1920 remains the year of disaster: Palestine gone, then Syria, Lebanon and finally Mesopotamia. In the summer of 1920, rebellions broke out over about a third of Mesopotamia, up and down the Euphrates valley and in the Kurdish areas of Mosul. Bell had long since come around to the view that Mesopotamia must have self-government and had warned of this. Arnold Wilson, with whom she was no longer on speaking terms, blamed it all on outside agitators and the influence of his U.S. namesake's Fourteen Points.
Railway lines were cut and towns besieged; British officers were murdered. The British reacted harshly, sending punitive expeditions across the land to burn villages and exact fines. In a new but very effective tactic, their aircraft machine-gunned and bombed from the air. By the end of the year, order had been restored and Wilson had been replaced by his old mentor, the more diplomatic Cox.
The events in Mesopotamia shook the British government badly.
"We are at our wits' end," said Winston Churchill, "to find a single soldier." Critics asked whether Mesopotamia was worth the cost. Curzon, Churchill and Lloyd George all wanted to keep it if they could. The practical solution, which Bell and Cox had been urging, was to find a pliable Arab ruler.
Conveniently, they had Feisal -- the French having driven him out of Syria -- to whom, after all, they did owe something. At a conference in Cairo in March 1921, Churchill, as colonial secretary, agreed to make Feisal king. As a second prize, his older brother Abdullah, "a sensualist, idle, and very lazy," would get the little state of Transjordan. Feisal was duly invited to visit Mesopotamia, where the stage management of Cox and Bell produced a stream of supplicants asking him to stay as their king. St. John Philby, who favoured a republic and said so loudly, was sent packing. An election produced a vote of 96% in favour of Feisal. Bell designed his flag, his coronation and his kingship. "I shall have to set about getting proper ceremonial for Feisal's court," she sighed.
On Aug. 23, 1921, in the cool of the early morning, Feisal was crowned king of what was henceforth known as "the well-rooted country": Iraq. "It was an amazing thing to see all Iraq, from North to South, gathered together," reported Bell. "It is the first time it has happened in history."
In time, Feisal proved less amenable than the British had hoped. In 1932, Iraq joined the League of Nations as an independent state.
In 1958, King Faisal II, grandson of the first King Faisal, was killed in a military coup. Military regimes have been the norm in Iraq since then. Saddam's Baath party achieved power in a coup in 1968, and he became head of state in 1979.
Saddam now operates, as the British did, through a series of networks, historian David Fieldhouse of England's Jesus College said. His are based on his Sunni relations in northern Baghdad and in Mosul province.
Based on the article “Paris
peace talks: How Iraq was created”
1899 Germans build Konya to Baghdad railway
[Important Dates courtesy
of BTOpenWorld & Zinda Magazine.]
PARTIES IN NORTH IRAQ DISCUSS DRAFT CONSTITUTIONS
The Assyrian parties taking part in this meeting, according to the Kurdish press, were the Assyrian Democratic Movement, Assyrian National Party, Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party, Chaldean Democratic Union, and the National Movement of Bet-Nahrain.
TREASURES OF BABYLON ARE MOVED AS BOMBERS STRIKE
Courtesy of the Independent - London (30 September); Article by Kim Sengupta
(ZNDA: Mosul) They are packing away the fabulous treasures of Assyria, Sumer and Babylon at the archaeological sites and the museum at Mosul in preparation for the war to come, a lesson learnt from the damage inflicted in raids by American and British bombers in the Gulf War, and the looting which followed in its immediate anarchic aftermath.
As Manhal Jabar, the director of antiquities, talks of his worries that still far too much will be left exposed, a droning air-raid siren begins to sound – American and British planes are once again in the sky enforcing the northern "no-fly zone".
The city and its hinterland has been repeatedly targeted by the allies. Last month they destroyed the radar at the airport. Now, the fate of the priceless antiquities at Mosul is causing deep international worry. Mr Jabar was in London last March discussing the problem with British specialists, including Professor David Oates of Cambridge and John Curtis of the British Museum.
Two ancient sites were damaged by American bombs in 1991 while a leaning minaret built in 640 narrowly escaped destruction in 1994.
"It is obviously something that is causing unease. If there is war, and they are saying this war is going to be even worse than 1991, then we must accept there will be losses to this heritage," said Mr Jabar. " But this is not a loss just to Iraq, but to the whole world. The first written word came from here, so many ideas about art and music originated here. It will be a terrible tragedy."
The plan is to move the antiquities to underground vaults, the locations of which are being kept secret, not least to prevent the kind of systematic theft which took place in 1991, when the regime lost control of parts of the country.
Stolen items from museums and sites ended up on the black market in Europe and North America.
Among the wealth of archaeology surrounding Mosul is Nimrud, which became the second capital of Assyria in 1283 BC.
There are British links with the discoveries. Austen Henry Layard's unearthing of the Assyrian Palaces at Nimrud was revealed in The Illustrated London News of 1840. Agatha Christie spent time in Mosul in the early 1950s while her husband, the renowned archaeologist Max Mallowan, took part in the excavation at Nimrud. Her stay provided the inspiration for two of her books, Murder in Mesopotamia, and They Came to Baghdad.
Also near by are the sites at Nineveh, the cultural centre of the Sumerian and Babylonian empires and the capital of Sennacherib. There, Iraqi and European teams have uncovered a series of ancient treasures including palaces. There is also Hatra, an outpost of the Parthian empire, which has yielded valuable artefacts. Work in these, and other sites, has now been suspended because it is considered too risky.
Some of the treasures from the various sites were taken away to the West, especially the United Kingdom. Most of them, including a remarkable number of heads of statues, ended up at the British Museum.
Saba al-Omari, an Iraqi curator, said: "We have asked for a lot of things back, but they have refused, saying it is too dangerous. They threaten to bomb us, and then they say they cannot return our heritage because it is simply too dangerous. An interesting proposition, don't you think? This is a place of different religions and cultures. The people should not have to live under such a threat of war to themselves and their history."
Among those living in the region are the Yezidis – Kurds who draw their religious beliefs from a mixture of Zoroastrianism, Islam, Christianity and paganism.Their esoteric taboos include wearing blue and eating lettuce. The Yezidi shrine at Ain Sifni, north east of Mosul is one of the places of heritage considered to be at risk.
Mosul is also a centre of Christianity in Iraq, although the numbers of Syrian Catholics have dwindled with emigration and Christians now constitute 20,000 out of the population of 1.5 million.
At the oldest church, St Thomas's, built on the site of the house occupied by the apostle during his visit to the city, Father Pius talks about the seemingly unstoppable momentum towards war.
Another church, St Joseph's and a church school were destroyed during the Gulf War.
"It is crazy, and all the European people I meet say it is a crazy thing to do, but the Americans seem determined," he said. "There must be a way to resolve this through talking. We have already seen death and destruction in Mosul, it is a terrible waste of human life. There is a culture here which is pre-Christian, but it belongs to humanity. I hope it stays safe."
The churches in Mosul will be holding inter-denominational vigils for peace. "That is all we can do, the rest is up to God", said Father Pius, spreading his palms in supplication.
RELEASES REPORT ON THE INTERNALLY DISPLACED PEOPLE OF IRAQ
A new 55-page study, The Internally Displaced People of Iraq, published
by the Brookings Institution-SAIS Project on Internal Displacement,
points out that these forcibly displaced persons represent "the
political fault lines of the country." According to the authors,
John Fawcett and Victor Tanner, addressing the problems of these internally
displaced people will have to be a priority for any government of
Iraq that aspires to stable and democratic rule. The report is available
on the Brookings website: www.brookings.edu.
Although the original homes of most of those displaced in the North are within the confines of the Kurdistan Regional Government, they cannot return to their homes because of the Iraqi army's widespread destruction of their villages, the planting of landmines, or continued hostility between Kurdish factions. According to the study, an eventual solution for this group will lie in de-mining, rebuilding the countryside, and the effective resettlement of the displaced in cities.
Even more challenging will be finding solutions for those expelled from Kirkuk, both an oil-rich area and Iraq's breadbasket. Prior to the government's campaign to "Arabize" the area, Kurds and Turkmen comprised the majority, and Assyrians lived there, too. Among the study's suggestions are a population census, creation of an official body to put together property records, a compensation fund for those arbitrarily dismissed from oil field positions, and an organized return program.
Other recommendations in the study focus on the Shiites forcibly displaced in the Center/South and the Marsh Arabs of the lower Tigris and Euphrates rivers, most of whose habitat has been deliberately destroyed by Iraqi government campaigns. Recommendations include return and resettlement programs, environmental surveys, and a compensation scheme.
Overall, the study urges the United Nations to devote greater attention to the most vulnerable parts of the Iraqi population, the internally displaced. Although the Oil-for-Food Program generates $6 billion a year, the study finds that UN agencies have insufficiently targeted the displaced. More than 400,000 displaced persons in the North are reported to live in "collective centers," many in an advanced state of decay with insufficient infrastructure. A further 57,000 live in barracks, including more than 6,000 still in tents. More than 50,000 in the North are without access to health centers. In the Center/South, displaced persons have difficulties registering for food rations.
The study calls for more targeted use of Oil-for-Food funds to help the displaced, special visits by UN officials to assess the conditions of the displaced, the publication of data on the displaced, and the designation of a UN focal point for displaced persons in Iraq. It calls upon UN officials to be more "outspoken" in demanding access to and protection of the displaced, especially in the Center/South as well as prevention of new expulsions. It says, "The international community and its institutional embodiment, the United Nations, have an obligation to meet the needs of the internally displaced Iraqis, and to seek to stem further displacement."
The study is part of a series of publications and activities by the Brookings-SAIS Project on Internal Displacement designed to focus attention on internally displaced persons in areas largely closed off from the view of the international community. The two authors are experts in humanitarian issues. John Fawcett has worked for more than twenty years in the private sector for groups engaged with humanitarian assistance and human rights, including the International Rescue Committee and the International Crisis Group. Victor Tanner is also an experienced aid worker and teaches Humanitarianism, Aid, and Politics at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
[Copies of "The Internally Displaced People of Iraq" study can be found via this direct web-link: https://www.brookings.edu/fp/ projects/IDP/articles/iraqreport.htm. Hard copies of the report are also available by calling 202-797-6105.]
CHALDEANS DESERT IRAQ FOR PROMISE OF METRO DETROIT
(ZNDA: Tel Kaif) About 100 people, mostly old women with black lace head scarves and a few old men wearing black-and-white head wraps, gather for Saturday morning Mass at the Sacred Heart Chaldean Rite Catholic Church.
The church's red domes are such a dominant feature of this dusty
northern Iraqi town that most residents don't even know its formal
name. They just call it Eata, the word for church in their ancient
language of Aramaic.
But in reality the Chaldean community in Tel Kaif is dying. This church could easily hold a thousand people -- and not so long ago, it did. Some in this service aren't Chaldeans, just nearby Christians who come to the church because it's close.
Of the remaining Chaldean congregants, almost every man and woman is trying to leave Tel Kaif for a very specific haven: Metro Detroit.
Chat with any Chaldean and you will hear something similar to the words of Khalid Ali Backal, 42, a short, well-dressed man with a trim mustache. "I'm waiting for my papers," he said. "I want to move to Detroit to be with my family."
Tel Kaif is a dot on the map even by Iraqi standards. But through the twists and turns of history, it has spawned a flourishing community of grocers, liquor store owners, business people and professionals 6,000 miles away in southeast Michigan. Most of Metro Detroit's Chaldeans -- estimated to be at least 20,000 strong -- were either born in Tel Kaif or are the children or grandchildren of someone who was. After the first handful of Chaldeans came here for auto-industry jobs in the early 1900s, the Chaldean community in Metro Detroit has grown into the largest in the world.
Today, Metro Detroit has four Chaldean churches. Chaldean communities also have developed in California and Arizona.
Detroit's gain has been Tel Kaif's loss. In the 1950s, the village of about 10,000 was entirely Chaldean. By 1970, the Chaldeans here had dropped to about 7,500.
The church's head priest, Lucien Jamil, estimates today that he has about 2,000 parishioners. Most of the town now are other Christians or Muslims.
With the threat of another war between Iraq and the United States and economic hardship pressing those remaining in the small town, he expects his parish to dwindle even further.
"Many people don't want to go from here; they cry that they have to go," he said. "But you almost have to leave these days because your family probably already is in Detroit."
Guns and borders
Tel Kaif, called Tel Keppe by Chaldeans, which means "Hill of Stones" in Aramaic, looks much the same as 40 years ago, said Tom Simaan, a Detroit grocery owner who comes to Iraq periodically as head of the American-Iraqi Friendship Federation. Simaan was born in Tel Kaif and left with his family in 1963.
A few more of the roads are paved, a little more trash is noticeable in the streets, but most of the old buildings haven't changed, except for his own home, which was knocked down years ago because of structural problems. Cows and sheep still rummage in the market refuse for food, and the air still is scented with the mingled aroma of turned earth, fresh fruit, rotting vegetables and burning wood.
Everyone, as they have for decades, still talks about a mythical place called Detroit.
But unlike previous times, when those who talked of leaving were young, today middle-age and older Chaldeans talk of getting out.
With strained relations between the United States and Iraq making immigration much more complicated, the talk is more urgent.
War also is on everyone's mind. For generations, only occasional Bedouin families inhabited the neighboring hills. Since the Persian Gulf War gave the Kurds semi-autonomy, the Christian areas of northern Iraq have become a militarized zone. The town of Tel Kaif has Iraqi soldiers dug into the south, north and east of it.
Tel Kaif is in the northern no-fly zone, imposed on Saddam by the United States and its allies after the Gulf War, that bans Iraqi aircraft. Every day, British and American warplanes patrol the skies and have dropped bombs on targets around Tel Kaif and other northern towns.
Nabil Bashbagwd, 51, the childhood neighbor of Simaan who never used to think of leaving, now has his papers to go to Detroit. He doesn't know what Detroit will be like, and he doesn't ask his family there many questions.
"We just hear they are safe and working hard. That's enough," he said.
His sister, Firyal, worries that the U.S.-Iraq tensions are holding up her immigration papers. "We just want to go to be with our families," she said.
Jamil, who visited relatives in Detroit in 1997, is no fan of Metro Detroit or the United States. He said Chaldeans in Tel Kaif have heard stories of how it snows six months a year, a far cry from the scorching temperatures of Iraq. They repeat the rumor that 150 Chaldeans have been killed in store robberies in Detroit in recent decades. They hear stories of Chaldean teen-agers bringing boyfriends or girlfriends into their parents' homes.
"This to us is something of a crime," he said, laughing and shaking his head.
But the scary stories aren't stopping the last Chaldeans here from trying to immigrate.
Samir Bashi, 57, has just been notified that his immigration papers await him at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan. Because of the hostilities, the United States has no embassy in Iraq.
He is making preparations to go soon.
Bashi doesn't know what to expect in Detroit. And he doesn't care.
"I'll be happy there I know because all my relatives and friends are there," he said. "You can be safe in Detroit if you just mind your own business."
This rural hamlet about 240 miles north of Baghdad has been home to the Chaldean Rite of the Catholic Church for so long that the priests don't even know exactly how this small but resilient branch of Roman Catholicism started.
A monk, St. Matthew, brought Christianity to northern Iraq in the 400s. Numerous sects of Orthodox, Catholic and eastern Christianity have survived for centuries in the mountains and valleys despite being ruled by various Muslim governments for 1,300 years.
Today, Christians make up about 3 percent of Iraq's total population. Tel Kaif arose as a center for a special Aramaic branch of Roman Catholicism at least by the 1800s, probably after French Catholic missionaries visited the area from Lebanon.
Despite difficulty farming the low arid hills surrounding the town and harassment by the ruling Ottoman Turks, the Chaldean population grew and the town thrived as a small market center for Christians, Kurds and nearby Bedouins. But by 1910, economic troubles and government harassment made some leave for the United States.
"The Turks always treated them like second-class citizens," Jamil said. "That's why they left."
A small group of Chaldeans came to Detroit after hearing about auto-industry work and following Lebanese Christians who had already arrived. From that beginning, a trickle of Tel Kaif residents began immigrating to Detroit. Whenever the Iraqi political situation became unstable or drought set in, a few more would leave for Detroit.
But despite the migration, Tel Kaif flourished. In 1931, the current church was built. By the 1950s, the community had reached its peak of 10,000.
This Tel Kaif is the one that older Chaldeans in Detroit recall fondly as some of the best times in their lives. Weddings at the church became village festivals, with the newlyweds being led by horse to every house for drinks and gifts. The church was packed for two Masses every day.
Hundreds of children attended Sunday school, and children who came even a few minutes late to any of the masses or the classes could expect a crack from the priest's switch. Thousands in the town made annual pilgrimages to nearby Christian holy sites such as the monastery of St. George in Mosul or the monastery of St. Matthew, Iraq's holiest Christian site, up in the mountains.
From Farms To Liquor Stores
Though children at the time remember life in Tel Kaif fondly, their parents sometimes found making a living a struggle. During poor harvests, the land could not easily support all Tel Kaif's residents. Sometimes the town was harassed by Kurdish toughs riding into town and extorting money from the wealthier Chaldeans.
So beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as immigration restrictions eased in the United States, large numbers of Chaldeans began moving to Detroit. Others moved south to Iraqi cities such as Baghdad and Mosul.
In Detroit and Iraq, they started running small liquor stores and restaurants. In Iraq, Muslims cannot sell and are not supposed to consume alcohol.
Chaldeans quickly developed the drive and business skill to become major players in both urban business environments. They took on businesses few others wanted. Through a combination of tenacity and long hours, many succeeded.
In Detroit, Chaldean markets filled the void left by major grocery chains that left the city during the 1967 riots. In Baghdad, Chaldean and Christian shops filled a void left by Iraqi Jews who had fled to Israel.
Those who got ahead in Metro Detroit looked back to Tel Kaif and brought family and friends. They sent money to the remaining villagers. They also sent immigration papers.
More people left, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, but for those who remained life was not bad. Saddam Hussein, since seizing full control in 1979, was lenient with many Christians, including Chaldeans. This leniency served his political ends.
The Christians in the north proved a counterbalance to Kurdish guerrillas in the mountains. Also, Christians brought into his circle, such as Deputy Minister Tariq Aziz, proved extremely loyal because any attempt to seize power by the tiny minority in Muslim-dominated Iraq would be suicide.
Before 1991, Saddam's Iraq was a stable place for Christians and Chaldeans. Chaldean businessmen in Detroit traveled frequently back to their home country, providing cash to relatives still here and investing in various ventures. Business people brought so many gifts of clothing and other items from southeast Michigan to Tel Kaif that townspeople jokingly called it Little Detroit.
Some Chaldeans had no problem with Saddam's regime, while others, both in Metro Detroit and in Iraq, grew to hate it.
Then came 1991 and Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Today, few Chaldean-Americans are able to visit Tel Kaif -- the U.S. State Department prohibits most travel to Iraq except for journalists and those on humanitarian projects.
Travel the other way is difficult, too. But Iraq's Chaldeans are still leaving for Michigan when they can.
Many fear instability and Kurdish aggression should Saddam's regime collapse. If the Iraqi army in the north retreated, Kurdish forces could take Tel Kaif within half an hour.
The Rev. Asa'd Hannona, 32, the second priest at the Tel Kaif church, knows many Chaldeans want to leave, but he believes the small community here will survive. He teaches about 13 children here every day to read and write in Aramaic.
"The church will be here. It's not going anywhere," he said. "There always will be some Chaldeans in Tel Kaif."
Simaan, who keeps in close contact with Chaldeans here and visits the village every few years, doesn't think so.
"In 15 or 20 years," he shrugged, "they will all be gone."
A Detroit News Special
more photos visit: http://pc100.detnews.com/newsgallery/frame.hbs?project=Telkaif_Iraq.
JOHN KANNO DISCUSSES SADDAM AND WAR WITH IRAQ
Courtesy of San Francisco Chronicle (24 October); interviewed by Jonathan Curiel
(ZNDA: San Francisco) John Kanno is an electrical manager in Modesto, whose parents were born and raised in Iraq. An active member of the Assyrian National Congress, Kanno has attended meetings in Washington, D.C., with prominent Iraqi opposition groups such as the Iraqi National Congress and the Kurdish Democratic Party, which have been identified by the Bush administration as key players in the Iraqi opposition to Saddam Hussein, and as part of the planning for a post-war Iraq. Kanno helps run an Assyrian TV station and radio station in the Modesto area, KBSV-TV and KBES-FM, and a Web site that promotes Assyrian culture, www.betnahrain.org. Assyrians are Christians whose have lived in the area around Iraq for thousands of years.
What's been missing from the debate has been the voices of the Iraqi people who have experienced Hussein's brutality. We got a glimpse of it this week with those pictures of wives and mothers pleading for news of their missing loved ones in Baghdad and all over the country.
Last weekend in San Diego, I spoke with a number of Iraqis who have come to the United States over the past few years. One woman saw her husband and brother-in-law hanged in Iraq. One woman's kid said, "Please don't ever take us back to Iraq." You've seen what's been happening with the sniper attacks in the Washington area. That's one person doing it. The people in Iraq have lived with the equivalent of thousands of snipers on the streets of Baghdad. They are continuously faced with torture and rape from people on Hussein's payroll.
We, as human beings, should not stand for this -- never mind the question of whether he has nuclear capabilities. The brutality of his regime alone warrants some kind of action.
There are places in Iraq that still only have four hours of electricity a day. But now, you've got one of Hussein's sons, on the day of (last week's) referendum, rolling up to a polling place in a brand new Rolls Royce and telling people, "The sanctions are really hurting you," and yet he can afford a new Rolls Royce? Where is the justice?
I still have second cousins who live in Iraq. My parents and their family grew up in Mosul, Baghdad and small tribal villages in the very north of Iraq, near the border with Turkey. After Hussein is gone, I'll volunteer my services to help rebuild the electrical system of Iraq, which is my specialty.
We believe in a free democracy. It's not like we're war-mongers. It's not like we want military action, but sometimes military action is the only course of justice. Do we wait until he gases more of his own people, as he did the Kurds in northern Iraq? We've seen the videos of mothers clutching their children and dying in gas attacks. How much more does this man have to do before we take action? It's not right. It's not fair that he's been allowed to get away with this. Let's send U.N. weapons inspectors in, and if Iraq doesn't comply, then you bomb. If they start complying, then the bombing would stop.
To those who say the United States should not take any military action in Iraq, I say, "That's what was said about Adolph Hitler." We left the Taliban alone for years, and we left Osama bin Laden alone, and look what happened on Sept. 11. Iraq is a country that has much more money (because of oil) than bin Laden could ever dream of having. Do we wait until Husssein has nuclear capability, until he comes around with a suitcase and drops it off in an American city?
It's important that Americans support President Bush and not protest at a time like this. Can you imagine if Saddam Hussein is watching CNN and he's seeing these protesters? He's got to be having a field day and saying, "Look. Even the Americans cannot agree on coming to bomb me."
I'm 200 percent behind the president.
CZECHS MAY HAVE DISCOVERED SUMERIANS MYSTERY PRESS
Courtesy of CTK Daily News (24 October)
(ZNDA: Prague) Czech scientists have probably discovered the mystery of material which the Sumerians used for the construction of their stepped temple towers, zikkurats, more than five thousand years ago, the daily Pravo writes today.
The team of Tomas Hanzlicek from the Academy of Sciences Institute for structure and mechanics of minerals has managed to produce a material which remarkably resembles the samples from the Sumerian buildings.
The material, which they called Geolit 100, could replace expensive and energetically demanding production of construction materials one day, the team think.
"It is a strategically very important material. It does not have to be baked but is produced from waste of ceramics production," team member Michaela Steinerova told the daily. In addition, "it has a number of brilliant qualities," she added.
According to researchers, Sumerians used raw clay bricks which they dried in the sun. However, the technology of unburnt bricks disappeared together with the Sumerian civilisation almost two thousand years before Christ.
Only in the recent decades laboratories all over the world started trying to find the lost recipe for dried bricks which would last five thousand years.
"Several labs are dealing with this but as far as we know none of them besides us has published its discoveries so far," members of the Czech team said.
"The unique material resists a temperature of at least 800 degrees centigrade. It copies the mould exactly. We suppose it has durability of up to 3,000 years. It can be used in, for example, health care. It is porous so it can be easily linked to a bone," student Martin Mikes said.
SAN FRANCISCO: ASSYRIAN FOUNDATION ANNIVERSARY PARTY
Annual Dinner & Dance Party
Come Celebrate the 38th Anniversary of the Foundation with a Night of Culture, Customs, and Camaraderie!
WHY THE ASSYRIAN NATION?
How did the British Isles succeed in identifying the three historically separate peoples of Scotland, England, and Wales under one political British identity, asked Michael Gunter in his book “The Kurdish Predicament in Iraq: A Political Analysis”? When the notion of “Britishness” was constructed by the elite and articulated during the 18th century, it succeeded to trickle down to the common people of society. The rise in ethnically based nationalism spread quickly among the subjects of the Hapsburg emperors, Romanoff tsars, and Ottoman sultans. Hapsburg Emperor Joseph II was desperately trying, at the time when Poland was being partitioned, to keep a solidarity similar to that portrayed by the people of the Revolutionary France, while Abdul Hamid tried to articulate his own formula to hold his empire together through the principles of Islamic religion and the institution of the sultanate, but with no success in either case. Abdul Hamid will always be looked at as the sultan who initiated the programs that pitted Moslem Turks and Kurds against Christian Assyrian, Armenian and Greeks, programs that led to the Christians Genocide of WWI in what became known as Turkey.
The Assyrians had in reality constituted what was defined in medieval Europe as a “nation”. At the time, the term “nation” connoted certain factors as a common country, a common language, a common tradition, or some combination of these three elements. The three Assyrian sects, members of the Church of the East, Chaldean Catholic Church, and Syrian Orthodox Church, although stateless, had shared: (1) a common Syriac language for at least 2000 years, and (2) a common tradition for yet much longer period, and (3) a common geographical region for at least 4000 years, if not longer, although the region was not controlled by Assyrian power for the last 2500 years.
If we look back at the European experience, we will realize that the foundation upon which the then new phenomenon of nationalism was build upon was somehow different from Western to Eastern Europe. The absence of one or more of those factors did not hold certain people from constituting what became ultimately a nation.
In Western Europe, for example, the people had begun to feel conscious about their nationality within a certain set frame of already existing states. Arnold Toynbee wrote in his book “The World After the Peace Conference”, 1926: “Belgian and Swiss nations had been formed out of populations speaking two and three languages respectively, no single one of which preponderated in the new community…” In reality, history has proven that states create nations. Ernest Gellner in “Thought and Change” for example wrote: “Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness: it invents nations where they do not exist”—or as Benedict Anderson in “Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism” puts it, it “imagines” them.
To illustrate how the state can be used to create the nation,
Massimo d’ Azeglio, an Italian nationalist leader during the
Risorgimento, reputedly explained: “We have made Italy, now
we have to make Italians.” Eugene Weber in “Peasants
into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870-1914”
documented how most rural village inhabitants of France did not
think of themselves as members of the French nation up to the eve
of WWI. As much as 25% of the population could not even speak French,
while half the people considered it a foreign language. Weber added,
“…the French nationhood has not penetrated into the
psyches of the French rural masses more than a hundred years after
scholars had pronounced it to be in full bloom…” That
is not so unusual if we understand the French society. Quoting a
19th century French observer, Weber wrote: “Every valley is
still a little world that differs from the neighboring world as
Mercury does from Uranus. Every village is a clan, a sort of state
with its own patriotism.”
Compared to the French one can see that there is nothing different about the Assyrians who identify themselves through their religious, tribal, or locale titles, with one difference; the French has a country while the Assyrians don’t. It is not unusual to hear Assyrians referring to themselves as Moslawi, Bazi, Talkefi, Barwari, Kaldani, Kharpotli, Alqoshi, Sennaii, Urmian, Nestori, Mardinli and so on. It makes no difference to me whether France is on the map and Assyria is not, because Assyria is still in a thought, a thought that awaits nothing but implementation. Walker Connor in “Ethnonationalism: The Quest for Understanding” stated that the U.S. Immigration data gives many examples on the behavior of referring to ones self according to his/her religious, tribal, or locality. The data indicates for example that: “Croats described themselves as Dalmatian, Istrian, Slavonian, and the like, but not as Croat, while Poles identified themselves as Gorali, Kashubi, Silesian, and so on, but not as Polish”. Why then the Census Bureau penalized and marginalized the Assyrian title by its silly and unfounded Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac category, when it did not do the same and called the Polish for example as Gorali/Kashubi/Silesian or the Croats as Dalmatian/Istrian/Slavonian?
What is delaying the Assyrian national thought from reaching its final destination of maturity where the term “nation” is not contested anymore by those marginalizing the Assyrian national dream is the attempts by few individuals unfortunately holding certain positions in society. It is unjustifiable to claim Chaldean as an ethnic uniqueness, as few within the Chaldean Catholic Church are advocating, simply because of silly arguments like the diversity in dialect … not language but dialect! This is deploring. Gunter explained for example that, quote: “The Kurds use Kurmanji, Sorani, Dimili, Gurani, among other dialects but they never identify themselves by other terms but Kurds. Modern Greek has two versions, a demotic or popular literary style and a reformed classical style. Also the Norwegian, bokmal or riksmal (book or national language) and nynorsk or landsmal (new Norwegian or country language).” Unquote. So why are the Chaldeans who used the Syriac language officially in their liturgy until some decades ago, claiming unique ethnicity? Did the Arabization policy of Iraqi government make them a different ethnic group?
Assyrians need to start a revolution within … and with the world paved in front of them they need to educate themselves how to transform from tribal, religious, and locale communities into living this concept of a nation, especially when they have the factors that could constitute so already. Assyrians must not give in to trivial arguments from some ultra-fanatic pan-Arab, pan-Kurdish or pan-Turkish claimed historians who continue to undermine the Assyrian national movement and name as a 19th century phenomenon. We know that this national consciousness in almost entire Europe began in the 19th century and for a matter of fact in many parts of Europe it fully developed after WWI. So why is it some sort of a natural phenomenon for the Europeans and many others throughout the world to understand this national consciousness, but when Assyrians begin to develop it they get questioned that Assyrianism was a 19th century invention? Of course it was a 19th century national awakening; it was so for the world as it was for the Assyrians. Michael Howard in “The Lessons of History” tells us that with the possible exception of Norway, it is difficult to think of any nation-state “that came into existence before the middle of the 20th century, which was not created, and had its boundaries defined, by wars, by internal violence, or by a combination of the two … The concept of the ‘nation’ became inseparably associated with the wars it had fought.” The present-day Turkey was only established in 1923 and in addition there were no Turks in present day Turkey until the 11th century. Why was it OK for Mustafa Kamal to claim Turkish nationalism in 1923 but not OK for Yousuf Malek (a member of the Chaldean Catholic Church) to fight for the Assyrian Nation in the almost exact same period? Bruce Masters in “Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Arab World: The Roots of Sectarianism” wrote: “Anatolia had been a solidly Christian territory before the battle of Manzikert / Malazgirt in 1071.” Meanwhile, modern-day Iraq only came to existence in 1921 and there was nothing about present-day region of Iraq that defined it as Arab Moslem until the 7th century. The northern region of Iraq, i.e. Mosul, was always considered Assyrian Christian in character until perhaps the invasion of Tamerlane in 1401. So, if the Turks and Iraqi Arabs were proud of their Ottoman and Arab Empires, we need to remind them that it was the Assyrians who established the Cradle of Civilizations when others were nomads roaring Central Asia and the Arabian Desert.
The highly educated Diaspora Assyrians must begin to act like pan-Assyrians. We must begin to think “Assyrians first”. Nothing in a Turk, a Kurd, or an Arab gives him superiority over an Assyrian, and none is more human that the other in the eyes of God and the United Nations’ declarations, supposedly the highest authority on earth. And if few European countries have decided at the conclusion of World War I to hand over the Turks and Arabs the gifts of Byzantine and Assyria, it was only unfortunate. Let me assure the readers here that nothing within the scope of the above should mean any belittling of the Arab, Kurds, or Turkish people, but their governments or officials have to sooner or later take responsibility for the atrocities and persecutions they have committed against the Assyrian Christian people. The Arabs, Turks, and Kurds have to respect the Assyrians’ legitimate rights as a unique ethnic people, who are protected by the charters of the United Nations with rights for self-determination. They must stop interfering in Assyrians’ internal affairs and must seize exploiting Assyrians’ religious sects and allow the Assyrians to reside free in their ancestral lands.
For Further Reading:
*Michael Gunter, “The Kurdish Predicament
in Iraq: A Political Analysis”
ASHUR, THE LAST REFLECTION BEFORE THE FLOOD
Ashur the ancient religious capital city of the Assyrian People (known today by a mound of Qalat Sherqat), the city was founded around 2500 BCE, by settlers from Sumeria, it stood as the capital city of the Assyrian Empire for more than 1, 300 years.
Ashur, was the beloved city of all the Assyrian rulers who took particular care of it, adding new structures or expanding and renovating it.
The city was first discovered in 1821 by the British traveler Claudius Rich, but excavations began in 1847 by the British Archeologist Austen Layard. The German Archeologist Walter Andrae conducted the last major excavation at the site.
Walter Andrae was able to ascertain the layout of the ancient city and its most important structures. He also unearthed a large amount of small finds like Jewelry, inscribed bricks, monumental stone inscriptions, foundation offerings, and a number of clay tablets which gave a written record of the ancient city and its kings.
His excavations revealed the temple of goddess Ishtar located in
the central part of the city. But the city’s most important
shrine is devoted to the god Ashur, a Ziggurat first constructed
to Enlil, the most important deity in
By orders from Saddam Hussein the Arab ruler of Iraq, the work
has begun on building a Dam named “El Makhoul” which
will flood the remains of the city and will create the greatest
archeological disaster of the new century.
John Malcolm Russell, an art historian at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston and author of "The Final Sack of Nineveh" said, “Here in the fertile land of the Mesopotamian valley, some of the world's earliest cities evolved. These early cultures developed writing, astronomy and even fermentation of beer, and gave rise to the Babylonian and Assyrian empires, it's a disaster, it's hard to know where to start”.
Ahmed Chalabi, the INC leader, said Saddam was using the Makhoul dam project for culture blackmail “These antiquities are a legacy not just for the Iraqi people but for the whole of humanity”.
According to archeologists more then 100 other ancient Assyrian
sites will also be lost and much of these sites have barely been
excavated Almost 34 temples and three places are unexplored and
Archeologist believe great works
Dr. Stephanie Dalley, a senior researcher at the Oriental Instituted at the Oxford University said, “from the point view of the Iraq’s heritage, which is also the world’s heritage, it is a disaster, most things are built of mud bricks, which dissolves in water, and the tablets are unbaked clay, covering them with water destroys the lot”.
As this article comes to an end, I pause for a moment to think of how much we Assyrians have lost and sadly we are still losing, even our mud bricks and pots buried for centuries are not save.
Nineveh remains unguarded, the main gate remains broken with no lock thieves and scavengers jump the twisted fence in the darkness with shovels they dig and take what ever they please. Statues lay broken in pieces, carved monuments exposed to the elements, an Assyrian winged bull which stood guarding the entrance to Sennacherib’s palace for thousands of years now has a graffiti in Arabic written all over it, saying “Mohammed was here”.
Finally I wonder, will bush unwontedly save our ancient capital city by toppling Saddam? Will the curse of Ashur fall upon Saddam and his dictator’s regime?
After barley surviving a god made flood will Ashur city survive this time a madman one or is it facing what the Marshland of the Sumerians went through at the hands of Saddam…a total annihilation.
HELLO, THIS IS THE ASSYRIAN VOICE COMING TO YOU FROM MOSCOW!
The Assyrian radio station of Russia "Qala Atouraya" began its function under the aegis of the League of Assyrians of Russia "LAROS" in Moscow on January 20, 1993.
It was a great pleasure for our people when the first transmission of "Qala Atouraya" was broadcast. It inspired the Assyrian people on a new spiritual life and has since installed hope for the future. It has also made a large contribution to the development of the national culture. It ensured that Assyrians could hear true literary dialogue in the Assyrian language; and provided an opportunity to hear about the compatriots, to get acquainted with bright pages of the history of our people and the cultural traditions of the Assyrian nation. For many the radio became a unique source of information, the beam of hope on the revival of the Assyrian language and culture.
We found people who not only the perfect connoisseurs of the Assyrian history, language, writing, carriers of cultural traditions, but also capable of generously offering their knowledge to others.
At the beginning of the life of our "Qala Atouraya" radio program we broadcast weekly on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 19.00 until 19.30, Moscow time.
For several years we broadcast once a week on Saturdays from 19.00 on Moscow time on average waves 612 kHz or 490 meters in Moscow and Moscow area and 1089 kHz or 275 meters – South of Russia, Krasnodar Territory and the Middle East. Sometime the transmissions went as far as America and to Europe – including Sweden, Germany.
Previously we broadcast in five languages - Assyrian, Russian, English, Arabic and Farsi. Nowadays all broadcastings is done in the Assyrian language.
The charter organizers of our Assyrian radio station were Rabbie Marona Arsanis, Khammu Slivtsov (Slivu), Vilgelm Iosifov.
For the past 10 years the sole sponsor of of Assyrian radio station in Moscow has been Mr. Igor Ballo. He is one of the patriots which has taken all financial burden upon himself, not as a duty of service but by the summons of soul, simply because he loves his people.
In the first days of existence of the Assyrian Radio in Moscow the main editor of "Qala Atouraya" was Rabbie Marona Arsanis. His brother Georgey Arsanis - professor, teacher, interpreter, poet - conducted the section devoted to the Assyrian language.
The broadcasters were myself and Khammu Slivtsov (Slivu) who presented the Arabic section. After Marona Arsanis’ death, the chief editor of the Assyrian radio became Roland Bidjamov who is fluent in several languages.
The staff was replenished constantly with the new announcers including Mr. Edward Ishu, Ms. Stella Rezgo, Mr. Rodger Danielo, Ms. Madlena Hubiarova, Ms. Natalie Qivo, and Ms. Mariam Safarova.
Now the Assyrian radio is directed by Professor Sargis Osipov, Mr. Edward Badalov and myself.
The purpose of "Qala Atouraya" is to rally and to bring together the Assyrians, to review their past and present, to become acquainted with our history and literature. And the most important reason for our existence is to keep our language and to install hope for our future.
Zindamagazine would like to thank:
Dr. George Habash
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