ASSYRIANS AT THE IRAQI OPPOSITION MEETINGS
There was no seat at the table for the Assyrians last August, when
Iraqi opposition groups met to discuss how to govern their homeland
should Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein be toppled. The Assyrians, like
the better-known Kurds, are an oppressed ethnic minority in Iraq with
a significant diaspora in the United States, but unlike the Kurds,
the Assyrians had no name recognition in Washington-until the Assyrian
American League turned to lobbyist Michael Flanagan, a former Republican
congressman from Illinois.
Hyde, in turn, wrote to Secretary of State Colin Powell, urging him to include leaders of the Assyrian and other minority communities in future meetings.
It worked. Representatives from the Assyrian community have been included in the opposition meetings ever since.
As President George W. Bush presses the case for a U.S. invasion of oil-rich Iraq and United Nations weapons inspectors resume their investigations, the endgame for ousting Hussein and his governing Arab Bath Socialist Party is fast approaching. And scores of opposition groups are arguing for a prominent role in any new government.
"It is the people holding the guns in Baghdad when the regime changes who will determine what the next regime will look like," says Michael Amitay, executive director of the Washington Kurdish Institute, a nonprofit humanitarian assistance organization.
Most likely, the United States will hold a few of those guns, hence political groups of all sorts have been lining up at the State Department, Congress, the Pentagon-wherever someone will listen-to make their cases for prominence and support.
"They're playing for all the marbles now," Flanagan says.
The majority of Iraqi opposition groups don't have much contact with the U.S. government, but those that do are working hard to be among the anointed-those the United States will support as leaders in a post-Hussein Iraq. The Assyrians aren't the only ones to hire D.C. pros to improve their standing in the pool of potential power players.
The Iraqi National Congress, a group whose de facto head is charismatic Shiite businessman Ahmed Chalabi, has former Central Intelligence Director James Woolsey on its payroll. And the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iraq has local lobby shop O'Connor & Hannan. Many groups, dissidents, and exiles rely on their own contacts to work the U.S. political angles.
Representatives of the Assyrian community had participated in larger Iraqi opposition conferences, but the August meeting was different. It was the first U.S.-sponsored meeting of opposition groups the U.S. government believes will play a major role in a post-Hussein Iraq.
The Big Six, as the select group was called before the addition of the Assyrians, included the Constitutional Monarchy Movement, led by a cousin of the last Iraqi king of the Hashemite dynasty; the Iraqi National Accord, with a core of former Iraqi officers and Arab Bath Socialist Party officials; the Kurdistan Democratic Party; the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan; the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite group based in Iran with an underground fighting force in southern Iraq; and the London-based Iraqi National Congress.
The Big Six, even with the Assyrians, is in no way representative of the Iraqi opposition as a whole, however.
"The Iraqi opposition is a broad-based social force," says Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal think tank in Washington. "The U.S. government works with a tiny sector of that force, those it has identified as supporting a war. Many others who oppose the regime are also opposed to war and opposed to sanctions. They know the Iraqi people are going to suffer in a war."
Indeed, many Iraqis in the United States and in Iraq identify themselves as independent of any political or opposition party. According to Iraqi expatriates and other Iraq-watchers, widespread distrust of the United States exists among these independents.
Nevertheless, many independent opposition groups have been trying to cozy up to the United States as talk of a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has intensified.
"There's recognition among Iraqis that if the U.S. plays the role of toppling the government, having influence in Washington will play a role in determining the outcome and the position of yourself or your party in a new government. But it doesn't work well in terms of one's credibility inside Iraq," says Erik Gustafson, a Gulf War veteran and executive director of the D.C.-based Education for Peace in Iraq Center.
"There is the paradox the groups deal with," he says. "You don't want to place yourself too close to Washington, but because the U.S. is going to play such a major role, you want to have some influence in Washington."
The State Department has been trying to facilitate dialogue between the various groups and has organized the Future of Iraq Project, a series of meetings bringing together U.S. government representatives and Iraqi opposition leaders to discuss transitional justice, agriculture, democratic principles, and other issues under a new Iraqi government.
Iraqi opposition organizations invited to participate in the working groups include the Iraq Turkoman Front, a Turkish-government-sponsored group working on behalf of the Turkoman ethnic minority in Iraq; the Iraqi National Movement; and the Alliance of Iraqi Tribes.
After surviving more than two decades of Hussein's dictatorship, the Iraqi opposition can still be a jumble of rivalrous factions jockeying for position. If Hussein's regime were to fall today, there would be no coherent plan to replace him. Still, one of the few opinions shared among these groups is that the sooner Hussein is out of power, the better.
But some participants have voiced concerns about what they perceive as pressure to support a U.S. war in Iraq. Many leaders resent the seeming omnipresence of U.S. officials in Iraqi opposition discussions.
To a certain extent, "we think the meddling of American diplomacy is causing division in the Iraqi opposition," says Nabil Roumayah, a prominent member of the Iraqi Democratic Union, a Michigan-based opposition group that claims supporters from all segments of Iraqi society.
"We see the U.S. supporting this today and that tomorrow, one group now and another group later. They don't have a clear policy and that has created a bad situation for the Iraqi opposition. Sometimes, we wish we were left alone to work out our differences ourselves."
The State Department did not respond to requests for comment.
The opposition groups tend to fall into two broad categories: those with a presence of some sort within Iraq and those composed primarily of exiles with few associates on the ground in Iraq, but strong ties to the U.S. military.
The Iraqi National Congress, which has a long history in Iraq but is now rather small relative to other opposition organizations, is one of the latter. It's also one of the best-connected, with former CIA director Woolsey pressing its case. The Iraqi National Congress is reported by many Iraq watchers to have found favor with Vice President Dick Cheney and the Pentagon, if not the State Department.
Woolsey was in Prague at a NATO conference last week and could not be reached. But the Iraqi National Congress, as a policy matter, shares the administration's view that an armed invasion of Iraq is the right approach. This year Congress allocated $25 million for the group, $17 million of which is for use within Iraq.
The Kurdish and Shiite groups, says the Education for Peace in Iraq Center's Gustafson, seem to have the support of the State Department as dependable players in a post-Hussein Iraq.
O'Connor & Hannon principal Thomas Corcoran, who represents the Kurdistan Democratic Party, did not return calls.
Representatives of other opposition groups claim the Iraqi National Congress tried to pack a conference scheduled for Nov. 22 in Brussels with its supporters. The U.S.-backed conference, at which at least 300 delegates were expected, was where plans for a post-Hussein regime were to take shape, Flanagan says. That meeting was postponed until mid-December, in London.
"The meeting will not be successful," Roumayah says. "It will be postponed for good unless it represents the whole spectrum of the Iraqi opposition."
The Bush administration has begun requesting contributions of military personnel and support from U.S. allies in the event of a war with Iraq.
The vast majority of Iraqis, the Institute for Policy Studies' Bennis says, "are going to spend the war not fighting for or against the U.S. or Iraq, but hiding from the bombs."
ninos aho & yosip bet-yosip
The calling of the New Assyrian is the second jointly published collection of poems by Ninos Aho and Yosip Bet Yosip; the first ensemble was produced and published in the early 1970s under the title Atoraya Khata – the Modern Assyrian. The new collection introduces a composition of new poems – with a few renditions of their classics - on two CDs, one by each artist. While Ninos Aho presents his lyrics in both east and west vernacular Assyrian dialects (Swadaya and Turoyo) well polished by classic Syriac, Yosip Bet Yosip reads in East Assyrian only (1).
The listener, at first, is overwhelmed by the comprehensiveness of the collection consisting of one powerful poem after another. Indeed, the compilation of such magnitude on modern media (2) marks a great accomplishment that can be classified as a milestone in contemporary Assyrian poetry.
If one can set aside some time for careful listening and reflection, which is a pre-requisite to appreciate this marvelous collection, it becomes evident that the lyrics can only come from someone who was involved from the early days in organizations who shaped our nation’s Umtanayuta. Ninos was a second generation Mtakasta (Assyrian Democratic Organization) activist while Yosip was a member of the Youth Organization acting as founder of Huyada (Assyrian Universal Alliance).
Their message marks a continuation in the footsteps of well-known great teachers and fathers of Assyrian nationalism and to a certain extent revolutionaries like Freydon Aturaya, Adday Alkhas,Yuhanon Qashisho, and William Daniel.
Ninos Aho was born on April 24, 1945 (Nisan of the Assyrian Year 6695) in the small village of Girkeh-Shamo in the Syrian-part of Mesopotamia.
From his early youth, Ninos was interested and moved by the teachings of the Assyrian national leaders like Naum Faiq and Farid Nuzha. He believed in national activism with high ethics and dedication. He diligently worked and continues to work towards the revival of Assyrian culture, heritage and unity. He has written numerous articles, and poems published in Assyrian magazines. Ninos’ mastery of the eastern Assyrian dialect is no surprise at all if one knows that in 1972 he had the privilege to have the late and great poet Rabbie William Daniel as his teacher.
Ninos is powerfully eloquent in his poems. His lyrics are the basis for dozens of romantic and national songs compiled and published in 2000 (3) as an Anthology.
The statement “continuing to deliver his nationalistic ideology through his poems” in his biography, makes me fully convinced that he has his guidance from the late Malfono Naum Faiq’s nationalism about whom David Perley wrote in a biographical study (4):“…he [Faiq] transformed the inmost truth of his nation into verse”.
Yosip Bet-Yosip was born on April 15, 1942 (Nisan of the Assyrian Year 6692) in the village of Zumalan, a village in the region of Urmia., Persian-part of Mesopotamia. In his early youth Yosip was eagerly interested in Assyrian culture and heritage and listened curiously to traditional songs, poetry, and story-telling conducted by the local elders. He joined Shushata Umtanaya (National Progress), a well-known Assyrian youth organization and became more involved in Assyrian organizations. He was involved in the establishment of the first ever Assyrian library project in Iran.
In 1968 Yosip witnessed the founding of the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA). Along with Maestro Nebu Isaabey’s music his lyrics were selected as the first Assyrian National Anthem (Romrama). He has written numerous poems, articles, and coral lyrics and is an active member of the Assyrian Choir in San Jose/CA. His most recent activity was – among others - the presentation of “The Garden of Gods – My Homeland Bet-Nahrain” at the World Congress of Poets held in Iasi, Romania during October 2002.
Both poets, one being from the West the other one from the East not only span a cosmos of nationalistic Mesopotamian heritage, they share a deep friendship for decades. Knowing both of them (5), I’m convinced that their friendship serves as one key source for their inspiration as well.
Images & Concepts
Personally, the great discovery of this collection is that both poets masterfully tackle themes of nation, ancient history and its modern interpretations by applying strong images and concepts. They associate the glorios past of pre-Christian authorities (e.g. by referencing such ancient Assyrian deities and figures as Ashur, Tammuz, Ishtar, Gilgamesh along with metropolis like Nineveh, Akkad) with modern themes of nationalism and unity without missing the elements of the Christian Era.
Ninos' images for instance pull you into each poem and deep into history and back to modern places of Assyrian presence. While listening, it is difficult resisting a seductive meta-level of feelings.
Yosip applies strong and powerful messages as well. Even though he is embedding his messages into contextual information, certain historical knowledge is expected to follow. He presents his messages in a chronological fashion, consequently forcing the listener to be fixed into a thoughtful state, yet delightful.
Ninos’ poems are a potent force in the ongoing reinforcement of the homogenous yet multi-denominational Assyrian nationalist identity. Furthermore, poetic interpretations of history as a narrative of the past synthesized into the present of Assyrians projected on their historic homeland Beth-Nahrin as presented by Yosip have the same reinforcing effect.
Ninos recites and articulates strongly. Yosip sounds like a distant messenger, though both carrying heart-touching messages. The series of poems pulls the careful listener into a journey riding over a rainbow that spans thousands of years, while its colors symbolize the different cultural, religious and national facets along the timeline of Assyrian history.
As an example, I would like to touch few of the poems that stand out the most for me, acknowledging that this is a subjective and random choice only. The poem Yuhanon Qashisho for instance is more than a wonderful obituary to the former teacher and editor of Hujada magazine. Despite the teariness Ninos triggers about a great lost, he masters to sow hope through a powerful link in placing him as a consort and pupil to the great figures like Naum Faiq, Yuhanon Dolabani, Ashur Yusuf and Freydon Aturaya. He calls them to be prepared to welcome him accordingly.
In different poems Ninos recalls memories of the early years in the national movement in Chicago, touches events and encounters, formulates a poetic reply to Professor Oppenheim. He dedicates a beautiful poem to the reunion of friends in Qamishly not missing to give homage to Girke Shamo, his birthplace. The latter has been wonderfully vocalized by Ninib Lahdo, born in Girke Shamo as well.
Alpa Shinne meqim Mshiha is a lamentation about lost of homeland. Most striking for me is its beautiful style – through refrains of key concepts in each verse, the messages are hammered into the listeners’ conscious.
Among my favorite selection in case of Yosip is Sluta d’Aturaya d’Idyum (The Prayer of Today’s Assyrian). It is a powerful mythical and religious poem. For me it is a bridge to the strong traditions of ancient Assyrian religiosity, though with one new significant aspect: The “New Assyrian” does not accept the pre-Christian Era as so-called pagan period anymore. On the contrary, it is the source and rationale for his 2000 years of dedication to Christian beliefs, rooted in Assyria.
Similarly outstanding to me is Wardi w Kitwe (Flowers and Thorns). Here the poet is comparing History as documented in the Bible in contrast to that portrayed in the Mesopotamian tablets. He icomplains about cutting ties with the ancestors and adopting different traditions, namely replacing Utnapishtum with Noah, Hammurabi with Moses, Gilgamesh with Samson and so on.
I believe that this subject in general deserves more attention by Assyrians, because Jewish people mastered the creation of the God Yahweh to have an equivalent to God of Gods, Ashur; while succeeded in adapting major religious concepts of Assyria and made them survive until today. Also Greek and Roman people adopted Christianity without denying their pre-Christian traditions and history. Why should Assyrians of today be less proud of the history and religious traditions of their ancient forefathers?
The Garden of Gods is a political poem on Mesopotamia, which served as cradle of civilization; yet under heavy attack today. It is a poisoned land, its inhabitants driven out of the country, its river dried, and the land not able to provide even a cradle for its own children.
In addition Yosip presents few more political poems. In one, he talks to the flowers of Mesopotamia representing the Assyrian Martyrs and listens to their critical messages about the state of the Nation. They go so far offering even to die again to save the Nation from its problematic situation.
The collection is cohesive and sounds like a story, yet highlighting very different facets. It is a story of a nation filled with the hopes and sorrows of life along its history – reflecting on its passion and aspirations; it is a philosophical approach for a scattered nation. For me the poets manage to create a sense of urgency, their messages are courageous and bold. They do not match the hesitant and common approach of nationalistic reality in struggling to overcome the nation’s fragmentation in order to unite. As a result, the poems provide a source of guidance to those who seek new orientation.
Overall, I regard the lyrics as a homage to the Assyrian nation, its history, its identity, and its strong desire for unity. If there is anyone who can bridge the existing gap of the Assyrian national movement through passing over the heritage of its great teachers like Yuhanon Qashisho and William Daniel to the younger generation whose young inquisitive minds starve for such presentations, then it must be Ninos and Yosip.
I highly recommend the collection “The Call of the Modern Assyrian”. It is a beautiful collection of poems. Needless to say, I expect more of the poets work in the near future. Also, I think that both poets have yet another national duty to accomplish: the re-creation of the same eastern verses in Turoyo. Without this their messages will not reach the hearts of all Assyrians.
For the first time, Yosip Bet-Yosip presented his poems (Bo’uta Othurayto
and Sluto dOthuroyo dYawmono) in the west Assyrian at the Mesopotamia
Association in the City of Augsburg in Germany on October 2002. The
readings were enriched by few beautiful ballads.
(2) Produced by the Assyrian-American Association of San Jose, California. Background music by various peoples and studios, and a beautiful design by Homer Younan
(3) For more biographical information, see also the Leaflet provided in the cover of the CD
(4) Anthology of Poems by Ninos Aho, published by the Assyrian Voice Production 2000. The 18 poems in west and east dialect are vocalized by Ninib Lahdo, Aziz Saliba, Kamil Hanna and Wadi Al-Safi. The CD is available from Nahro Beth-Kinne, 122 Rue des 2 Eglises, 1210 Brussels, Belgium
(5) Naoum Palak, the "Sainted Apostle of Nationalism" extracted from and comments on "A Brief Study in the Palak Nationalism", by Dr. David Barsoum Perley LL.B. – Review by Sanharib Shukri, Australia, 2002
(6) I’ve known Ninos since 1986 when we meet during a Kha b’Nisan celebration in Hackensack, New Jersey. I was on a research stay in Princeton and guest of the late Orthodox Bishop Samuel for the day; Ninos gave the welcome speech to the evening in Turoyo. I made the acquaintance of Yosip at the Assyrian-American Association in San Jose, California in 1994.
[Z-Info: Abdulmesih BarAbrahem was born in Midyat, Tur Abdin in the Turkish part of Mesopotamia and emigrated with his parents to Germany in the mid-1960s, where he completed his entire second-grade education and received his M.Sc. from the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg in the field of Computer Science. In 1972, he initiated and organized the first ever Assyrian gathering in West Germany. This marked the beginning of organized public Assyrian activities in Europe. Since then he has published numerous articles on Assyrian topics. From 1993 to 1999 he lived in California. He is currently President of the Kuratorium of the Yoken Bar Yoken Foundation.]
ZOWAA RESERVED ON BARZANI & TALABANI PROPOSALS
Courtesy of al-Sharqa al-Wasat (11 November)
(ZNDA: London) The Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa) expressed its disappointment in the Kurdish proposals for a Federal Iraq by the two major Kurdish parties in Northern Iraq. It stated that the Proposals for a Federal Iraq and a semi-autonomous Kurdish region “does not reach the aspirations of our [Assyrian] people and is similar to what we have lived with in the past where our issues have been ignored.”
Zowaa’s Central Committee, one of the three major political powers along with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) explains further in a recent statement to major Arabic-speaking newspapers: “The Proposals consider Arabs and Kurds as the ‘main nationalities’ in Iraq and all others nationalities are considered as ‘ethnic nationalities’ (corrected later in the Kurdish Parliament as ‘national groups’). Considering the Assyrian and Turkomen as ‘ethnic nationalities’ points to the shortfall of the Proposals, because national rights ought not to be measured by the size of their populations – in particular when referring to the only indigenous people of Iraq, namely the Assyrians.”
The Proposals according to the Assyrian Democratic Movement do not specify the rights of the Assyrians and the process of implementing these rights in a post-Saddam Iraq.
Another issue of grave concern for the Assyrian Democratic Movement has been the deliberate use of the term “Assyrians and Chaldeans” in the Proposals of the Kurdish parties to indicate the existence of two separate Christian nationalities. ADM writes that “the Proposals overlook the historical unity of our people and overstep the founding laws of the Parliament in the region.” It continues: “This is interfering in the internal affairs of our people known by different church denominations (Chaldean Catholics, Syriac Catholics, Syriac Orthodox, Eastern Assyrian with two calendars, Protestants, and so on).”
The ADM Central Committee concurs with the establishment of a federal political entity in Iraq which “guarantees the rights of all components of the Iraqi people so that they can practice their national rights and strengthen the patriotic idenity and unity of Iraq. A unified parliament must represent these nationalities.”
CHRISTIANS IN IRAQ FAST & PRAY FOR PEACE
Courtesy of the Associated Press (24 November)
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Worried about a possible U.S. military attack on their country, hundreds of Iraqi Christians fasted last Friday and prayed for peace.
Faithful of all ages attended special services called by leaders of Iraq's Christian churches. About five percent of the country's 22 million people are Christians, with the vast majority of the population Shiite or Sunni Muslim.
At Notre Dame de la Deliverance church in Baghdad's well-to-do Karradah neighborhood, about 500 Assyrian Catholics chanted, "Forgive us, and give us peace." Many lighted candles in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary as they headed into Mass.
President Bush has warned that Iraq will face military action if it does not cooperate with inspectors searching for nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The first contingent of 18 inspectors arrive in Iraq this week.
Iraq has been under U.N. economic sanctions since 1990 when it invaded neighboring Kuwait, provoking the 1991 Persian Gulf war. U.N. Security Council resolutions adopted after the invasion demanded Iraq give up its weapons of mass destruction, and the demand was renewed in a resolution passed two weeks ago.
In his sermon, the Rev. Rafael Qoteimi said, "We are praying for our Iraq that has been suffering for years from war, and until this day we are threatened by war."
"We call upon world leaders to work for peace ... and let people live in peace and security," he said. "We raise our hands so that war stays away from us and peace prevails."
Margaret Saadallah, a housewife dressed in black, said Iraqis want to live in peace. "We have tried war, and it was horrifying. I hope there won't be another war," she said.
Christians do not play a major role in President Saddam Hussein's government; the highest-ranking Christians are Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and Foreign Minister Naji Sabri. Though Shiite Muslims are Iraq's majority sect, the government is dominated by Sunnis.
Several of the worshipers at Notre Dame noted that most Americans are Christians and pleaded for their help in preventing war.
"We ask those American Christians to make their government help the Iraqi people. We want the help of all Christians after all this suffering," said Fadi Victor, a 24-year-old businessman.
Salam Dawoud, a 14-year-old pupil, addressed his plea to a higher power. "I am very much afraid of war," he said, "and I ask the Lord and Jesus in this day to prevent a war."
WAR COULD BOOST LOOTING OF MESOPOTAMIA, ARCHEOLOGISTS FEAR
Courtesy of the Globe (27 November); article by Ted Smalley Bowen
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Western television viewers have grown accustomed to aerial views of Iraq -- footage shot from military jets or the tips of high-tech bombs shows grainy images of indistinct structures being blown away with video-game certainty. The resumption of high-tech UN weapons inspections, starting today, may well generate still more satellite footage.
But the view from the ground includes some of the world's most significant archeological sites, most famously those in Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Vestiges of Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Parthian and other ancient cultures are scattered throughout the country, a magnet for archeologists for more than a century.
That heritage will be exposed to serious threats in the event of another war in Iraq, according to scholars and United Nations officials, and little can be done to protect the many vulnerable sites. Instead, they are hoping for the best and pushing to strengthen Iraq's antiquities agency.
"It would probably be strategically ineffective, at this stage, to invest precious resources to restore or develop individual monuments while the central services are not in a position to ensure their long-term conservation," said Paola Leoncini-Bartoli, a program specialist with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Despite sanctions imposed in the early 1990s, UNESCO has maintained contact with officials of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage, and international archeological teams have been digging in the country. But the sanctions have depleted the Baghdad agency's staffing levels and contributed to the alarmingly high incidence of looting and illicit trade in Iraqi artifacts -- the main concern among scholars and officials.
"In the last war, there was some 'military' damage to a few sites, but we're more worried about the aftermath," said McGuire Gibson, professor of Mesopotamian archeology at the University of Chicago.
In outlying areas, looting goes well beyond a few grave-robbers with shovels. Archeologists say armed crews often number in the hundreds and use heavy equipment to gut sites of interest.
After the last war, the seventh-century BC neo-Assyrian palace of King Sennacherib, in Nineveh, northern Iraq, was stripped of significant wall sculptures -- part of a steady flow of illegal exports that has surfaced on the international market since, according to John Russell, a professor of art history and archeology at the Massachusetts College of Art. Likewise, he said, in nearby Nimrud, a storehouse containing sculptures from another Assyrian palace was robbed.
A renewed conflict could spawn looting on a similar scale, Prof. Russell said, not unlike the pillage that has taken place in another target of Washington's war on terror.
"Afghanistan is a possible example of what happens when a government is destabilized and there's no provision made to extend control of the new government anywhere beyond the centre," he said.
Iraq's antiquities laws date from the 1930s, the legal legacy of the post-First World War British mandate. UNESCO and a number of other international groups want to support that legal infrastructure and bolster the Iraqi antiquities department.
"The legal regime for dealing with antiquities is just fine," said Patty Gerstenblith, a professor at Chicago's DePaul University School of Law who also has a doctorate in archeology.
But a postwar scenario would present challenges, especially given the stiff competition for resources.
"They will need money to protect sites -- to rebuild museums, and make sure security is in place," Prof. Gerstenblith said. "Saddam Hussein built a lot of local and regional museums. A lot of security is needed."
Occupation forces will be the first line against looting, although it's unclear how high a priority that will be.
A secondary concern for scholars and agencies is the possibility for bombing damage in Iraq. The 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict bars the targeting of cultural sites unless militarily necessary. However, the United States is not a party to the treaty, although it recognizes it as customary international law.
With war looming, U.S. officials are studying maps and polling scholars on the locations of significant sites, and combat commanders would be alerted to their presence. "If there's any question of a monument under protection in the area, then the commander knows that," said Scott Silliman, a professor of law at Duke University and an adviser to combat commanders during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Few experts expect the United States to target cultural sites deliberately, but Prof. Silliman noted that "when the country that has responsibility for that facility or monument intentionally abuses the protections by using it as guise for military activity; it becomes a lawful military target."
Father Afram Isho performs prayers during Sunday Mass ceremony at 'The Lady of Salvation' church in Baghdad. Photo courtesy of AP Photo / Hussein Malla
"There can be no just war, since men have the choice to negotiate
and arrive at peaceful solutions or to unleash a general destruction,"
said the statement released. The statement issued after the church leaders'
12th congress in Raboueh, east of Beirut, criticized "the policy
of double standards" of not holding Israel accountable to U.N.
resolutions while condemning Iraq for not abiding by them.
"Equity demands that countries in the region are treated according to the same criteria - if we wish to finish with weapons of mass destruction, all the region's countries should be disarmed together, including Israel," the seven patriarchs said.
The five-day meeting, held in the residence of Melkite Patriarch Gregoire III Laham of Antioch, was attended by 33 Middle East church members and observers, including Patriarch Michel Sabbah, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, and Cardinal Stephans II Ghattas, Patriarch of the Coptic Catholic church.
BNDP ENDORSES ZOWAA’S STANCE ON KURDISH PROPOSALS
The Kurdish Parliament in northern Iraq, in its assembly of 11-7-2002 debated and approved both forms of the constitutions. This comes at a time when Iraq as a whole is passing through difficult and decisive stage where the results are not clear.
This proposal is surrounded with suspicions and causes lack of confidence and despair in lieu of brotherhood and trust in a joined struggle which our Assyrian people render to the Kurds during the last forty years. As out come was the vengeance of the central government poured upon our people in form of destruction of their villages, Churches and Farms, plus forcing them to migrate into other regions or behind Iraqi borders. Only to have their Kurdish Allies resettle in their Villages, Thus completing the Kurdofication of the Assyrian territories, While expelling the rest into unknown fate, This resulted in changing the region's Demography forever.
Right after the popular uprising, a change took place with the presence of Western allies protecting the northern region, and providing an opportunity for the Kurdish political parties to return to the Cities and take control of the region's administration, in hope the when time is ripe, Iraq people will remove the fascist regime in Baghdad and subtitle it with a Democratic process that will respect and recognize the Iraqi nationalities and religious sects.
Our people have their share of suffering equally with the Kurdish one prior to the uprising of 1991 and joined the resistant movement in the Cities and Mountains and also took part in the Kurdisani front through the Assyrian Democratic Movement, hopping and struggling for equality and justice, the ADM was able to win four seats plus one independent for our people within the Kurdish Parliament.
The Assyrian representative took part in adopting several decision to implement democracy in the region, also they demanded of the authorities to order the return of the Villages and Farms to their Assyrian inhabitants, there were several against Assyrian leaders which still unsolved in spite of continues inquiries by our officials there.
Our people firmly believe in brotherly existence and sharing the destiny of the homeland, yet our expectations and aspirations have run through various hurdles of Bureaucracy aimed at belittling our cause and forfeiting our nationalistic existence.
While we still as we did in the past support a federated Iraqi system, one that guaranties the rights of all Iraqi nationalities in order to attain National unity and brighter future that will serve all the concerned parties while guarding the rights, characteristics and nationalistic status within a national united congress.
The following is are references to the unfair articles include in both versions of the constitutions in question:
1- The project refer to the Iraqi people as Arabs and Kurds only, plus nationalistic groups, which means marginalizing the Assyrian and Turkmen, this in itself an insult to Democracy, and it contradict Mr. Masoud Al Barazani's statement (KDP Chairman ) "I hate the phrase ethnic minorities, each nationality should be identified by name whether its small or large in numbers", the above reference also contradict Mr. Jalal Talabani ( PUK, secretary General) statement made in a meeting with an Assyrian political delegation (on video ), saying to them "you are not here to demand your rights, rather you are entitle to it, since you are the indigenous people of Iraq".
2- At the time when the parliament debated the Kurdish people rights, they barely touched on the ethnic minorities equal rights while not identifying their nationalities by name.
3- Continuous interference in Assyrian internal affairs and addressing our religious sects as nationalities (Assyrian and Chaldean) can only be seen as an action which render two different nationalities, this is aimed to weakening our position and minimizing our rights and nationalistic status not to forget derailing our cause.
4- The constitutional project divides Iraq into two federated regions, Arabic and Kurdish, plus a parliament or assembly formed of their respective representatives, thus ignoring the roll of other nationalities (Assyrian and Turkmen ). While we are with a federated region for our Kurdish brothers, yet we demand and aspire for a federal system that will insure participation and sharing of all other nationalities, while guarantying their recognition and equal national and nationalistic rights. Even though we respect the Kurdish people's right of self determination, we also demand similar secured rights for our Assyrian people, since we participated in the parliamentarian process and lived the practice of democracy in Kurdish (North Region of Iraq) where two Assyrians members of the parliament were assassinated namely Francis Shabo of the Assyrian Democratic Movement and Franso Hariri of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. Their martyrdom witness the believe of our people in brotherly existence sharing and protecting the region along the homeland.
We promise our people to continue the struggle which was initiated by our nation’s Martyrs for our rights as a people and original natives of Iraq, also we will struggle to reinforce our brotherly relations with the Kurdish people along with the other Iraqi nationalities, Arabs and Turkmen, so that we all may secure a united national process which will prevail in all of Iraq, to maintain freedom, peace and prosperity for all the Iraqis.
Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party,
NEW ZEALAND CENSUS DATA ON ASSYRIAN REFUGEES
Courtesy of Waikato Times (23 November)
(ZNDA: Waikato) Last year's census in New Zealand showed that 11,019
new migrants arrived in the Waikato in the five years from 1996 to
2001, says Waikato University researcher Dr Elsie Ho. She estimates
that about half were Europeans, about 40 per cent were Asian and about
5 per cent Pacific people.
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If you are a parent, relative or a friend of an Assyrian child, don't delay. Encourage that child to think Assyrian, speak Assyrian and live Assyrian! Give them an Assyrian related gift today.
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KNOW ANY ASSYRIAN POPULAR PROVERBS?
In order to preserve a part of our national heritage in the field of Popular Wisdom, I am glad to announce that I have compiled a collection of about 2000 Assyrian Popular Proverbs with a short explanation and application for each proverb. I intend to publish these proverbs in a book in the near future in Modern Syriac (Lishana Atoraya Khata).
Targated proverbs are:
1. Those said to fit an event which had already occurred or is about to occur, not necessarily those given as an advice or instruction.
2. Only those that are originally Assyrian or widely spread among Assyrians (not translated from other languages).
Your contribution of any number of proverbs toward the project will be most appreciated.
Thanks and may God bless.
Rev. Samuel Dinkha
The Department of Justice and the Immigration and Naturalization Service have announced new procedures that require special registration for certain non-immigrants. Failure to comply may have serious consequences.
Immigration & Naturalization Service and Assyrian American National Federation, Midwest Region are hosting a special informational meeting to explain this new procedure. Please join us to learn more about who must register and what the registration procedures are. Informed staff of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Chicago District office will explain and answers all your questions.
For more information visit the Immigration & Naturalization Service website
Please join us at a community meeting to discuss how to comply with the
ALBERT YELDA AT THE 29 NOV PARIS CONFERENCE
International conference: "What Future for the Kurds in Iraq?"
Organised by: The Kurdish Institute of Paris
8.45: Welcoming speech.
9.25: Opening speech : Jalal Talabani, Secretary General of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
9.30 – 11.00 : Panel 1 : Is the status quo tenable ?
· Hamit Bozarslan, lecturer at the Ecole des hautes études
en Sciences Sociasles (School of Advanced Social Sciences)
11.00 — 12.45: Panel 2 : The situation of the Kurds and the minorities
Key Speaker: Mrs. Nasrine Berwari, Minister of Reconstruction in the Kurdish Regional Government (Irbil)
12.45 - 14.45 Lunch Break
15.00 — 16.30: Panel 3 : What political future for the Kurds in
16.30 – 18.20 Panel 4 : What role for France and Europe in tomorrow’s
18.20 Closing speech : Massoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Democratic Party
* Not yet confirmed.
ONE MAGICAL NIGHT IN SAN FRANCISCO
My Friend Raymond and I, after finding a parking spot a couple of blocks down the road walked up to the hotel where we promptly asked about the Narsi David Event. We were directed to go over to the elevator and down to the first floor. We came to the booth, got our tickets and auction information, then walked over to the enormous double doors where the party lay awaiting us, as we reached them I spotted a girl outside all dressed up. I assumed she was part of the event. We pushed them open and an amazing sight was revealed to us.
A vast ballroom, like at an Assyrian Convention, with countless
individuals, mostly being Assyrian, were situated talking, chatting
and drinking. As my friend and I walked through the room we spotted
the student table, A.K.A the youth table containing the only people
under 25 in the entire room graciously offered to us by Zinda Magazine.
We sat down and saw some familiar faces, friends of ours of course,
from school and other acquaintances. The table was covered in multiple
wine glasses, I think about 3 or 4 for each person. People were
talking and enjoying themselves, and as I looked around I got this
overwhelming sensation of excitement. Not too often do I see a room
filled with Assyrians, and especially in San Francisco.
Narsai David came out and introduced himself and told us what delights we were destined for that night. Multiple chefs from all over the world, each cooking one of the complete five course meal that was soon to be served. Then a girl came out to dance, it was Sherene Bretschneider, the girl whom I had spoken to earlier. She danced magnificently in, what looked like a Russian/Iranian style. It was definitely a magical couple of minutes. Then after she finished, a dance group comprised of some young children came out and did some traditional Khigga style dancing among other dances which made people rise up from their seats and clap along. It was very exciting and energizing.
After all the dancing with completed, Narsai came out and introduced a literary Assyrian figure named Youl A. Baba. He gave a very nice speech, in Assyrian, about the Assyrian situation in northern Iraq in regards to the possible American strike on Iraq and regime change. I remember everyone laughing and clapping when he referred to Saddam Hussein as 'Mookhrima.' He also mentioned that he was happy to see so many Assyrians, but that we Assyrians need to gather and help out not only with fun and social events, but also in times of need. There was an English translation on the table for anyone who did not understand Assyrian.
Willie Brown also made an introduction and the evening was underway. They brought out the dishes and one by one everyone consumed the small, but scrumptious courses, along with the nice wine that was served. I remember we also enjoyed seeing a bottle which had ‘Zindamagazine.com’ written on it. I also went over and said hello to and thanked Wilfred Bet-Alkhas, editor of Zinda Magazine, for the opportunity. He was having a good time. And also our beloved Jacklin Bejan, president of the Assyrian American Association of San Jose, who was also enjoying herself. Then the auction started where countless interesting and expensive items were auctioned off.
Later we, the students, went and took a picture with Willie Brown,
who I should mention is the Mayor of San Francisco. He asked who
was studying at San Francisco and everyone pointed to me. I looked
up and before I knew it, I was joking with Willie Brown. He said,
"I went to San Francisco State as well."
In the end, my friend Raymond and I went over and introduced ourselves to our beloved host, Narsai David, and told him about our Assyrian Student Group at UC Berkeley and told him we would like to help out in his efforts. He responded with interest in hearing that there was an Assyrian group in Berkeley. We briefly told him of our activities and he gave us the information about how to help the Assyrian Aid Society's efforts. Before we left we also took a picture with him as well.
Well that's it. The night was more than I ever could have hoped
and I was grateful that I could have gotten the chance to be part
of such an event. All together the event raised $150,000 for the
Assyrians in Northern Iraq.
Something fresh to go with your glass of Chardonnays and a slice of Chabichou du Poitou? May we suggest the latest music from Europe’s brightest new Assyrian star: Farmo Marcos.
Farmo is hardly known in the United States, but his talent has already captured the attention of the Assyrian music lovers in Europe, France in particular.
Born in Turkey’s Hakkari region, Farmo arrived in Paris in 1985. For 3 years he took voice training and learned to play guitar and drum. Farmo sings in Syriac, Arabic, Turkish, and Kurdish.
And don’t miss Farmo on his world tour. Stay tune for more information from Zinda Magazine.
Visit the Zinda Magazine Calendar at http://www.zindamagazine.com/calendar
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