TO THE CRADLE
Yonadam Kanna, Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Movement and the Yezidi leader greet the jubilant crowd
Indeed the parade and concert had been a stunning success. All who had taken part realised that they had been a part of history. On the eve of what could be another war in Iraq, the mezalta and concert served to raise the Assyrians' morale and let them know that their brethren in the galoota had their eyes on them in the months to come.
Narsai Warda, member of the main committee organising the mezalta, said the main difference between this year's Kha B'Neesan celebrations and last year's was the number of people attending. Year to year the numbers are increasing, he said, which sends a clear message to the world that Assyrians are getting stronger and more united than ever before. This year, which was meant to be the most dangerous time to travel to Iraq, the numbers were the greatest. The negative propaganda, generated by those who want to keep Assyrians away from their homeland by creating fear and doubts in their minds, will forever be undone by the greatest Kha B'Neesan celebration since the fall of the Assyrian Empire
David "Tiglath" Chibo and Sennacherib Daniel
Photos by Sennacherib Daniel
Nohadra (Dohuk), Northern Iraq
For more Kha b'Neesan celebration photos visit http://www.zowaa.com/khabneesan6752/
IRAQ'S CHRISTIAN CHURCHES PROTEST GOVERNMENT RULING
(ZNDA: Baghdad) According to the Catholic World News the Christian
leaders in Iraq have been protesting a government ruling that would
place all churches under the supervision of the government's Ministry
of Islamic Property.
The Chaldean Catholic Church, centered in Baghdad, has enjoyed substantial religious freedom under Saddam Hussein, and Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid, the head of the Eastern-rite Church, has been an outspoken critic of Western sanctions on Iraq. But there have also been persistent signs of tensions between Church and state-- for instance, when the government forced the Chaldean Church to print quotations from Saddam Hussein alongside Gospel passages in the liturgical calendars printed for the year 2002.
In the early 1980's millions of dollars were spent by the government of Iraq to finance the construction of several Chaldean Catholic Churches in America, angering many Assyrian activists who felt that this action may put the largest Assyrian church (over 800,000 in Iraq) under strict government rule.
Iraq does have a Minister of Religious Affairs in the government (Adbul-Mun'im Ahmed Salih) who is responsible for all religious dealings in the country. The Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs supervises the various Islamic and other religious schools, state owned religious properties, and dealings with the various churches present in Iraq.
According to Reynolds Kiefer at the U.S. State Department's Iraq Desk the report from CWN may be only a speculation since the Ministry of Awqaf (Arabic for Law) and the Religious Affairs supervises all religious matters in Iraq, including those of the Christian churches in Iraq.
IRAN'S LEADER MEETS ASSYRIAN REPRESENTATIVE IN MAJLIS
Courtesy of IRNA News Agency, Tehran (8 April)
(ZNDA: Tehran) President Mohammad Khatami said on Sunday that in a community where the republic system of government has been accepted, all democratic means should be honoured.
In a meeting with members of parliament representing religious minorities, including the Assyrians, he said that the government has upheld the law in line with the republic system and its democratic nature. The president lauded the age-old history of coexistence between Iranian religious minorities and their fellow Muslim citizens and said that the religious minorities have always stood against the enemies of Iran.
Representatives of the religious minorities expressed deep concern about Israel's massive military attacks against civilian targets in Palestine which has caused heavy loss of life among the Palestinians. Mr. Yonathan Bet-Kolia was present as the representative of the Assyrians in Iran. He is also the Secretary for Asia in the Assyrian Universal Alliance.
The representatives of the Majlis for Iran's minority group voiced support of the Iranian Jews, Assyrians, and Armenians for the Palestinians against Israeli occupation and called on the international community to put an immediate end to the Israeli attacks in Palestine.
OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH VISITS IRAQ
(ZNDA: Baghdad) On 25 March a delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church
headed by Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad Kirill, the chairman
of the foreign relations directorate of the Moscow Patriarchate, began
a visit to Iraq.
This was the first visit of a Russian Orthodox Church delegation to Iraq in the whole history of Russo-Iraqi and Soviet-Iraqi relations.
Metropolitan Kirill passed to Iraqi President Saddam Hussain a message from Patriarch Aleksiy II and met with Minister of Religious Endowments (Awqaf) and Religious Affairs [Dr. Abd-al-Mun'im Ahmad Salih] and led a service in one of Baghdad's Orthodox churches. He then met with the heads of the Assyrian (Chaldean Catholic and Church of the East) and Armenian Churches in Baghdad.
ASSYRIANS IN SYRIA CELEBRATE NEW YEAR WITH MASS WEDDING
of San Antonio Express (2 April); article by Salim Abraham
The couples were escorted by men dressed in the uniforms of the royal guards of the Assyrian empire which, at its zenith between the 9th and 7th centuries B.C., stretched from the Gulf through modern-day Iraq, Syria and Turkey to the Mediterranean Sea.
"By acting as king, I revived history," said Osama Yakhanis, 31, who drove the chariot in royal costume along with his "queen," Nanar Younan, 27, who was dressed as the mythical Assyrian queen Semiramis in a red dress with yellow and white embroidery.
The sense of history was not lost on the bridal couples.
"I participated in this mass wedding for the greatness of the day for Assyrians," said groom Senharib Gabro, 33, a member of the Syrian Orthodox Church.
His bride, Shamiram Eskander, 26, said: "I loved this wedding because it was not traditional."
"I feel very happy today," she added.
The Assyrian population of Syria is estimated at more than 150,000 people, of whom about 90,000 live in al-Hasakah. While they enjoy freedom of worship, some Assyrians seek minority status in order to promote their language, Syriac, which is currently only taught in Assyrian churches.
"We call on the government to recognize Assyrians as a national minority, not only a religious one," said Aziz Aheh, an executive of the Assyrian Democratic Organization.
The head of Assyrian Women's Union in Sweden, Elisabet Nison, had come to al-Hasakah to attend Monday's celebration.
"Nissan is a message for all the world that we, Assyrians, still exist," Nison said.
ASSYRIAN NEW YEAR PARTIES ATTRACT THOUSANDS AROUND THE WORLD
(ZNDA: Los Angeles) Assyrians of Southern California came together on 22 March to celebrate the arrival of spring and the Assyrian new year 6752 at the Deukmejian Hall in Mission Hills, California.
Walter Aziz and his band entertained the more than 500 attendees at what may have been one of the most successful Assyrian New Year parties of this association. Historically the New Year's Eve parties have exerted a greater pull on the guests of the Assyrian organizations and churches. With the news of the successful Assyrian New Year parties from San Jose, Modesto, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles it appears that more Assyrians, youth in particular, are attracted to the Assyrian New Year's parties in North America. Assyrians in Sydney, Sweden, Russia, Armenia and Germany also observed the arrival of spring and the Assyrian year 6752 in public parks and dance ballrooms.
The Los Angeles City Council Member, Nick Pacheco (14th district), was the guest of honor at the New Year's Party in Los Angeles. After briefly speaking to his Assyrian hosts, Mr. Pacheco was shortly after interviewed for the local Assyrian T.V. show.
of South China Morning Post, The Washington Post, Knight Ridder, New
York Times, and Birmingham Post (6-7 April); based on articles by Tom
Hundley, Ahmed Shabaz and Keith B. Richburg
The Syrian Orthodox Church building in Bethlehem has been at the center of the heavy fighting in the city where Jesus of Nazareth was born over 2000 years ago.
At the same time a moaning Palestinian man was brought to King Hussein hospital dripping blood from his stretcher as he was rushed inside. Israeli troops made the ambulance wait for two hours after the man, shot through the armpit, was picked up at the Syrian Orthodox Church just 50 metres from the Church of the Nativity.
The Church of the Nativity is shared by the Greek Orthodox Church, the Armenian Church and the Roman Catholic Church. The fighters were mainly in the Orthodox and Catholic parts, sleeping in the large basilica, the priest said.
Bethlehem Mayor Hana Nasser said soldiers have taken over buildings overlooking the square and the church. At the Church of the Nativity - built over the traditional birthplace of Jesus - priests were forced to give refuge to Palestinian police and militiamen, who witnesses said shot their way in on Tuesday to escape Israeli fire.
As of last week about 120 armed men were hiding in the church, said Marc Innaro, an Italian television journalist, who was trapped in the compound by the fighting, along with five colleagues.
Ten of the gunmen were wounded, including one who was in critical condition, said the Palestinian governor of Bethlehem, Mohammed Madani, who was in the church.
The West Bank offensive - Operation Protective Wall - seeks to halt a wave of attacks against Israelis.
Much of the fighting continues behind the walls of the church on Star Street. Bullets and stones are flying everywhere. Gunshots occasionally sound elsewhere in the streets of Bethlehem.
[PHOTO CAPTION] An Assyrian-Orthodox monk, holding an olive branch, symbolizing peace, after he and other Christian priests, monks and pilgrims, were prevented by Israeli forces from marching into the West Bank town of Bethlehem at the checkpoint between Jerusalem and the biblical town, Wednesday, April 3, 2002. Senior Christian clerics urged Israel to let religious leaders mediate between the Israeli army and Palestinian gunmen holed up for a second day inside Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Last week the priests and commoners assembled at the hallowed, century-old
Mar Gregorious church in Parumala in Kerala's Pathanamthitta district
were overjoyed when Justice V.S. Malimath, the Supreme Court observer,
declared that 88-year-old Moran Baselios Marthoma Mathews II, Catholicos
of the East, had been elected the Metropolitan or the supreme head of
the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (MOSC).
The split among the 2.5 million members of the Syrian Christian church-they are either loyal to the Kerala-based Catholicos of the East or the Damascus-based Patriarch of Antioch-now appears complete. Dismissing the rival meeting as one of "defectors", Mathews II- elected by an overwhelming majority of the 3,483 delegates at Parumala-says, "The supreme authority of the Syrian Christian Association has been unambiguously approved by the Supreme Court. The factions no longer exist and there is only one official Church." The election was held as per the Supreme Court's 1995 judgement on the dispute in the second-largest and richest church of India. The division bench had observed that the Syrian Christian Association, the parliament of the community's priests and laity, should elect the Metropolitan.
There are Syrian Christian dioceses in Kerala, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and abroad in the US and UK.
The Patriarchists also swear by the Supreme Court judgement and rubbish all rival claims. "According to the Supreme Court, a Catholicos or the Metropolitan can be chosen only with the concurrence of the Patriarch. Mathews II doesn't have the Patriarch's approval," says Mar Dionysius. He says the pro-Patriarch group had boycotted the election because it believed the voters' list had discrepancies. "The Catholicos group deliberately omitted hundreds of voters from our side," he says. He claimed that the Patriarch himself would soon visit Kerala to consecrate him as the real Catholicos of the East.
Justice Malimath, however, rejected the charges about manipulation of the voters' list. "A tribunal with representatives from both the factions received all complaints regarding the voters' list and made the necessary corrections before the elections," he says, adding, "It is totally baseless to say that the list was fabricated."
The ruling United Democratic Front Government's alleged support to the Catholicos group, which has many senior Congress leaders as its members, has also peeved the Patriarchists. "Despite our appeals the Government did not intervene to resolve the dispute about the voters' list," says a pro-Patriarch bishop. The Catholicos group also has powerful backers in the Malayala Manorama media group.
The battle for supremacy between the two Orthodox Christian factions is now over a century old. Links between the Malankara church and the Eastern Church in the then Persian region date back to the 4th century, when all the churches east of Rome were brought under the authority of the Patriarch of Antioch. Until the 19th century the relationship was cordial. But in 1879 the Malankara Metropolitan openly challenged the Patriarch's rights to ordain or excommunicate bishops. This led to a division in these historic churches, which found its congregation divided on the issue of its spiritual head.
The Catholicos faction says the supremacy of Antioch in the Syrian Church is confined to spiritual affairs and that the Catholicos of Kerala is the final arbiter on temporal affairs, including ownership of assets. The faction also does not accept the authority vested in the Patriarch to consecrate or excommunicate bishops. The pro-Patriarch faction, on the other hand, believes that Antioch is superior in all aspects and has the authority to ordain or excommunicate bishops.
Many cases have been filed and several hundred disputes related to not just spiritual affairs but also to financial matters, like the ownership of assets like the 500-odd parish churches, hospitals, schools, colleges and so on, lie unresolved in courts. There is even an ongoing dispute over the sharing of the annual interest (about Rs 10,000) accruing from the 3,000 Star Pagodas (coins commonly used in south India in the 19th century) deposited by the Syrian Church with the East India Company.
The 1995 judgement of the Supreme Court on the dispute was believed to be harbinger of peace. It held that both the Patriarch and Catholicos were independent entities, neither superior nor inferior to each other. The Patriarch, the apex court held, was the supreme head of the Universal Orthodox Church with spiritual authority over all member churches, which includes the MOSC. But it also said that the Catholicos or the Metropolitan had primacy in the MOSC's temporal affairs, including the consecration of bishops. A final verdict is expected to be delivered on April 15.
The pro-Antioch faction fears that the rival group may now try to take over the disputed churches. "We don't want to take over their churches but will fight to the last if they come to take over ours," says Mar Dionysius, who claims his rivals have filed over 300 cases against him, including criminal ones. A bishop adds, "Courts have no say in matters of faith. We won't allow anyone to take over our churches or assets."
Having won the elections, the Catholicos group is in a celebratory mood. "Now there is only one MOSC and one Catholicos and one Malankara Metropolitan and he is Mathews II," says Thomas Mar Makarios who heads MOSC's Philadelphia-based American diocese. It's a pity though that not everybody is so assertive about the oneness in the Syrian Church.
WOMAN IS FIRST TO GET DIVORCE IN EGYPT
Egyptian Christians are mostly Coptic Orthodox, and that church does not allow divorce except in extreme cases such as adultery. Pope Shenouda III, the Coptic leader, recently approved of believers separating if reconciliation is impossible, but not their right to remarry.
Christians comprise about 10 percent of Egypt's population of 67 million.
ASSYRIAN MAN INDICTED FOR PHONE SCAM RELEASED BY FAMOUS FATHER
Courtesy of The San Francisco Chronicle, Contra Costa Times & The Newsbytes Service (21 March)
(ZNDA: San Francisco) Two Northern California men were indicted on 7 March on charges of orchestrating an elaborate scheme to bilk Pacific Bell out of a half million dollars in payphone revenues. A federal jury returned a 17-count indictment against Berkeley residents Daniel David, 36, and Scott Nisbet, 38, for charges of mail and tax fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.
Two days later they were released from federal custody on separate $750,000 bonds signed by each of their prominent fathers. Mr. Daniel David is the son of Mr. Narsai David, famous Assyrian chef, restaurateur, and president of the Assyrian Aid Society of America, a charitable organization.
The indictment is the result of a three-year investigation by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Division.
Authorities said the two men leased two dozen pay phone lines from Pacific Bell and routed the lines to a nearby empty office. From there, the two allegedly connected the lines to an autodialer and made more than a million calls to 1-800 numbers, knowing they would receive nearly 24 cents for every toll-free call made from the pay phones.
The money laundering, tax and mail fraud charges stemmed from the two men's attempts to mask their identities and cash checks from the long-distance carriers, the indictment alleges.
Authorities said they were alerted to suspicious activity after David reported roughly $440,000 from the scheme as income on his tax returns. David later claimed that he had not been paid most of the money, and deducted that amount as a bad debt expense, the indictment alleges.
If convicted, both men could face up to 30 years in prison and nearly $1 million in fines.
(ZNDA: Los Angeles) On 19 March members of the Assyrian American Association of Southern California voted overwhelmingly to continue funding their association's weekly television show.
Called "a stunning victory" by one member, the weekly show is now expected to expand to new areas in Southern California.
MARDUTHO JOINS AMAZON.COM TO MARKET BOOKS ON SYRIAC
ANCIENT CITY OF ASHUR SOON TO BE UNDER WATER
Courtesy of the The Christian Science Monitor ( 4 April); article by Peter N. Spotts
(ZNDA: Nineveh) The ancient city of Assur, once the seat of a mighty empire and now an archaeological window into a key period in the history of human civilization, is on the verge of falling victim to a dam.
The ruins lie in the path of a reservoir that will fill when Iraq completes
the Makhoul Dam across the Tigris River some 124 miles south of the
city of Mosul. The dam is designed to provide irrigation water to Iraqi
farmers who rely on the Tigris, a river whose flow has been reduced
by dams upstream.
"This is part of a larger pattern in the Near East," says Paul Zimansky, associate professor of archaeology at Boston University. "It's not unusual for sites to be flooded. And, in some ways, these are opportunities."
He notes that typically when governments undertake dam projects, it's easier for researchers to get permits and conduct field work because officials want to preserve as much of their countries' heritage as possible while meeting development goals.
Beyond what the finds say about the history of Near East cultures, Dr. Zimansky adds, these sites often present young archaeologists with an opportunity for cutting-edge research they might not be able to perform if they focused on Greek or Roman civilizations, which have been exhaustively studied.
Still, Zimansky says, the loss of Assur and other sites in the surrounding area will be tragic. "There's an enormous amount of information still in the ground."
Although reports of Assur's watery demise first began surfacing about a year ago, researchers say, it quickly became a focus during a scientific meeting in London last month.
There, officials with Iraq's Antiquities Department reportedly pleaded with their Western colleagues to help excavate ruins and record as much information as possible before the reservoir fills in 2007.
Efforts to provide that help are complicated by UN sanctions against Iraq, US and British restrictions on travel to Iraq, and uncertainty over what the United States might do, given President Bush's threats against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's regime.
Although German archaeologists began working at Assur during the early 1900s, their work was interrupted by two world wars. Work came to a grinding halt during the Iran-Iraq and Gulf wars, and only in the past few years have German, Austrian, and Japanese research teams resumed field work in the country, US researchers say.
Key parts of Assur are built on a rocky outcrop that rises more than 100 feet above the Tigris's flood plain, researchers note. Some find it hard to see that part of the city threatened.
But rising waters could threaten low-lying commercial and residential sections of the city - either by inundation or through the effects from a rising water table.
These sections are largely unexplored and have the potential to reveal much about Assur's role as a trading center, which predates its emergence as one of ancient Assyria's capitals.
"Assur is the most famous and oldest documented trade center," notes John Russell, an archaeologist at the Boston College of Art.
Much of Assyria's trade and manufacturing was conducted by powerful families, he says, who often wielded more clout than the kings. Yet much of what is known about Assyrian trade comes from records excavated from sites in what is now Turkey.
Trying to understand the rise and structure of Assyrian manufacturing and trading from these records, researchers agree, would be like trying to understand the US computer industry's "House of Gates" from records gleaned from a local Comp USA store.
"We know very little about the people of Assur," Dr. Russell says, noting that an exploration of the residential and commercial parts of the city could yield a gold mine in finds revealing more about commerce and culture.
The region around Assur marks a transition zone between a wetter climate to the north and drier to the south. Some researchers hold that among the unexplored sites will be those that could yield insights into the rise of agriculture in the region.
Russell, who also notes the accelerating loss of archaeological sites to dams, says he is uncertain that much can be done "in practical terms. If it's the will of the people to build a dam, a dam will be built."
Countries in the region have a crying need for economic development, he adds.
But beyond the well-known if not exhaustively studied sites, lie unexplored "sites that have the potential to enrich us as human beings," he says.
"That's what's lost to projects" such as the Makhoul Dam. (c) Copyright 2002. The Christian Science Monitor
A PHOTO JOURNAL OF THE KHA B'NEESAN CELEBRATIONS
Nanar Younan, left, 28, representing an ancient Assyrian queen of 7th century B.C, Shamiram, or Semiramis, and Oshana Yakhanis 31, representing an ancient Assyrian king, stand up in a two-wheeled ancient Assyrian-styled war royal chariot, drawn by a horse on Monday, April 1, 2002. This was a part of ceremonies of mass wedding made to mark the beginning of the new Assyrian year of 6752. More than 25,000 Assyrians gathered to celebrate the Assyrian new year in an area covered with trees near Abdul Aziz, in Hasaka province, 650 kilometers (400 miles) northeast of Damascus, the Syrian capital.(AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi)
The first recorded joke comes from a Sumerian text of 2000 BC, and was played out as a kind of improvised game between two wits. It went something to the effect of:
"The good news is that I have a good harvest."
For instance, the Japanese daberu means "chatting" and the Hebrew daber means "speak." Gai'Jeen is the prefix for a non-Japanese person while goy means non-Jew. And kensei means constitutional government in Japanese, just as knesset means parliament in Hebrew.
There are also similarities between names of kings. Osee, the first known king of Japan, ruled around 730 BCE and has been identified with the last king of Israel, Hoshea, who died around the same time - which was also approximately when the Assyrian exile took place. Some suggest the Japanese Samurai sect may be a lost tribe from Samaria.
As with the Babylonian temples, the Japanese shinto temple housed a section for the holy of holies and had several gates.
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Third International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East
Purpose: To promote cooperation and information exchange between archaeologists working in the ancient Near East, from the eastern Medi-terranean to Iran and from Anatolia to Arabia, and from prehistoric times to Alexander the Great.
Contact: Victoria de Caste, Secretariat,
CANADIAN SOCIETY FOR SYRIAC STUDIES LECTURE
La Societe Canadienne des Etudes Syriaques
"Bar-Hebraeus & His Time:
The Syriac Renaissance & the Challenge of a New Reality"
University of Toronto
[Zinda Magazine is a proud Corporate Sponsor of CSSS.]
ASSYRIAN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
The Editorial Board of “Melta” Bulletin and a committed group of Assyrians
in Russia plan to hold a two-day International Scholarly Conference “The
Assyrians Today: Issues and Perspectives.” The Conference program
will highlight the following aspects:
PLEASE SUBMIT THE FOLLOWING REGISTRATION INFORATION:
Family name: _________________________ First name(s):
Hotel accommodation: Hotel Rossiya (about 2 blocks from
the Kremlin). Per day costs are given in US dollars at the conference
rate, include breakfast, and are as follows:
Send this information to:
Melta Bulletin: P.O. Box 18, Moscow, 129642, Russia
Roundtrip fares – New York/Newark to Moscow - are available on all major airlines. Mid-week fare structures for the period of the conference begin at $625 (Alitalia) and range to $660 (Swissair). Weekend fares are about $20 more. These fares do not include taxes and are based on availability. They are available now through Rafih Hayek (Service Plus Travel) at 800-256-2865. Mr. Hayek’s travel service will be able to make similar special fares available to Moscow from all major US gateways.
Roundtrip fares - Chicago to Moscow - are available on Delta at $793 and on Luftanza at $814. The Chicago information comes from Shlimon Khamo of Bablyon Travel (773-478-9000). Cheaper group fares may be available also if a club or group of friends wish to make joint arrangements.
[Travel & Conference information courtesy of Melta Magazine and the Assyrian Star Magazine.]
AAA OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA GENERAL MEETING
THE SOCIETY FOR IRANIAN STUDIES LECTURE
"Identity and Institutions Among
Assyrian-Iranians in the United States"
An examination of the patterns of departure and arrival from Iran, the discovery of an expanded Assyrian identity in a milieu that began to include refugee Assyrians from other parts of the Middle East, tied by religion but not language, to Iranian Assyrians.
Due to special efforts exerted over the past twenty years at Harvard University and at the Ashurbanipal Library in Chicago, a record of printed materials and photographs affords an opportunity to study the issues facing the Assyrians from Iran as they settled in New York, New England, Chicago, and California.
The conference will be held at the Bethesda Hyatt Regency. Arrangements have been made for reduced rates. To make hotel reservations, contact Hyatt Regency Hotel directly at 1-800-233-1234 or the conference site at the following address:
Bethesda Hyatt Regency
July 1-4, 2002
48TH RENCONTRE ASSYRIOLOGIQUE INTERNATIONALE
"Ethnicity in Ancient Mesopotamia"
Registration Form: http://www.let.leidenuniv.nl/rencontre/mailform.html
MIDDLE EAST STUDIES ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE
Marriott Wardman Park Hotel
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Dr. George Habash
Dr. George Kiraz
Jozef Thomas Essavi
Dr. Eden Naby
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