Where Assyrians Get Their News.
101 San Fernando Street, Suite 505
San Jose, CA  95112  U.S.
Voice (408) 918-9200
Fax (408) 918-9201
6 Khzeeran 6752
Volume VIII
Issue 15
27 May 2002
return to zindamagazine.com

If you are printing the magazine from your web browser, click here.

This Week In Zinda

cover photo
cover photo

  Assyrian State Convention in California… Oh, Not Again!
  Assyrian Movie Producers Release a Two-Thumbs-Up Film
  US Planning A Kurdish-Turkoman-Assyrian Entity In Iraq
Cradle of Civilization Expanded to Khabour Region
  Solution to Regional Conflict: Love Thy Neighbor

Hariri & Khaei Mentioned in Amnesty International Report 2002
The Pope Appoints Fr. Sarhad Jammo as New Chaldean Bishop
Assyrians Target of Hate Crimes in Krasnodar, Russia
Ancient Mesopotamian Tablets For Sale on the Internet
Assyrian Man Goes to Bat in Cancer Fight For His Sister
Jewish American Who Defended Arafat Weds in A Chaldean Church
Ramin Odisho Victorious in Stanislaus Court
Karl Suleman About to Be Sued; ASIC Assessing Criminal Charges
Obituary: Margaret Badal
Obituary: Wilfred J. Jacobs


With Love From Russia
Assyrian Conventions Are Fruitless Vines


Assyrians at the MESA Conference in November 2002
Habbaniya Union School Students' 5th Reunion

  The 2002 Brussels Conference on the 1915 Genocide
  Modesto Urhai Basketball Team Clinches State Title
  Convention & Assembly
  Pre-Historic Cultures & the Siege of Nisbin
  Mar Dinkha IV Visits California
Walter Aziz Concert in London



Zinda Says


Once again many hours were spent organizing another weekend-long entertainment event with no substance and lasting memories. If the last two state conventions are any indication of where the Assyrian United Organizations of California is heading, the golden-state Assyrians are fast moving toward a very dismal future. We are now convinced that the Assyrian State Conventions in California should rather be marketed as "the huge California-style Assyrian party" and nothing less.

The only two conferences held this year were poorly attended and there were no academic, cultural, or artistic seminars organized during the three-day gathering. In fairness to last year's state convention, at least in Long Beach we were able to stop mindlessly roaming around the hotel lobby and walk to the eye-catching downtown bistros, watch the jellyfish in a nearby aquarium or walk along sandy beaches of the Pacific. The nearest public attractions to the Civic Club this year were the overcrowded homes of our relatives in Turlock & Modesto.

On Sunday, an Internet Conference and a political rally were held at the AACC of Turlock. The Internet Conference was attended by less than a dozen individuals. Official representatives of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, Assyrian Universal Alliance, Assyrian Democrat Organization, and the Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party were on hand at the political rally to discuss the latest developments in North Iraq and the United States. Mr. Yonan Hozaya was the rally's special guest from the homeland. The political rally drew less than 50 of the hundreds of the convention attendees.

Not taking the excitement of the sports games at the Turlock High School, this year's State Convention could be best described as a "glorified Civic Club party". The independently-held games at Turlock High School were on the other hand exciting and a thrill to watch. What a spectacular demonstration of the vibrancy of the Assyrian youth. The basketball games were organized by an independent group of Assyrian coaches and were not recognized by the Assyrian United Organizations of California as official games of this year's convention.

The state convention in California is organized each year by the Assyrian United Organization of California and held during the Memorial Day Weekend (last weekend in May). The convention rotates among the nine affiliates of the AUOC who are in turn divided into three regions: Central Valley, Bay Area, and Southern California. This year's convention was hosted by the Central Region which includes the Assyrian American Association of Modesto, Urhai Association of Modesto, and the Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock.

To the AUOC Directors: "If you organize it, they will come." This simple lesson has been taught to us by the men and women of the Assyrian Academic Society who have been successfully organizing some of the most educational and memorable seminars in recent convention history. Only a two-hour drive from Turlock are the world's most notable Assyriologists at the University of California in Berkeley deciphering the cuneiform writings of ancient Mesopotamia. An evening of Assyrian choral music at the Modesto Junior College would have been a well-attended event. Let's not forget the standing-room only poetry reading event of last year's convention in San Jose. What would most of us have given to hear an acoustic concert by Ashur Sargis! How sad it was to see our young and incredibly talented Assyrian artists, specifically painters, walking aimlessly at the picnic on Monday having given no opportunity to demonstrate their talents to their fellow Assyrians.

We are facing difficult challenges, but we have no courage to change anything. Let's be honest: our civic leaders do not want to deal with controversial issues. Neither do they want to face their disenchanted constituents. But these conventions are our best opportunity to re-energize our youth, discuss social issues, and sample our fine Assyrian visual and dramatic arts. Let's be careful not to weaken the future of our nation by discouraging our tomorrow's leaders with every convention we hold for the sole purpose of funding our AUOC budget. No one, not even the AUOC directors, can argue with the cliché "Time is running out!" California is home to some of the brightest, most active Assyrians from all age groups. The Assyrian State Conventions must be primarily a meeting place for these active minds and their creative ideas, and a sumptuous buffet to delight the palate of every Assyrian music, arts, and literary aficionado. And of course we can always reward ourselves with a little circle dance at the end of a very productive day.

We look forward to genuine changes at the next state convention…



The Lighthouse


Last Friday, the highly acclaimed film "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing" was released by Sony Pictures Classics in New York and Los Angeles and soon it will open nationwide at a theater near you. It features such familiar and impressive stars as Alan Arkin (Gene), Matthew McConaughey (Troy), John Turturro (Walker), and Clea DuVall (as Beatrice). It is also the latest production of the Assyrian brother and sister team of Beni and Sabrina Atoori, executives at the Stonelock Pictures production company.

Matthew McConaughey in Sony Pictures Classics' 13 Conversations About One Thing Photo: Larry Riley

The film has been a great success at film festivals around the world. Sony Pictures Classics was so impressed by "Thirteen Conversations" and its exceptionally complex adult themes that it quickly snapped up the movie last September at the Toronto Festival for national distribution.

"Thirteen Conversations" opened the 45th San Francisco International Film Festival in April and ran through May 2. Jill Sprecher, the film's talented Director, and her sister, Karen, introduced the film before a packed house at the Orpheum Theatre. It was also featured at the opening night for the 4th Annual Wisconsin Film Festival.

The film has a very original story by an even more original director. Its all-star cast are comfortable in their roles and perhaps offering the audience their best roles in years. Having fallen in love with the script, DuVall, McConaughey, Arkin and Turturro all rearranged their schedules to work with the director, Jill Sprecher. McConaughey is a cocky prosecutor haunted by one irreversible act; Turturro is a physics professor who tries to change his life after being mugged; and Arkin is a dour office manager juggling personal and professional crises. It is no wonder that audiences at film festivals in Toronto, Venice and San Francisco flocked to the movie's screenings.

"I found (the script) unusual in that, unlike some scripts, it was about something -- what people go through and search for in life," Turturro has said. "And this is not easy material to do because there's something elliptical about it."

The San Francisco Chronicle writes that it took Sprecher four years to make the film, which endured a series of financing ups and downs. The film's original backer, who pledged $4 million, withdrew the offer at the last minute, forcing Sprecher to decide whether to go ahead with shooting while all the cast was in New York or wait until another financier came forward. She went ahead, piling up credit-card debt, taking no salary for herself and ultimately relinquishing her New York apartment. Every dollar she saved was another dollar to finish the movie.

When Sony Pictures Classics bought the film at the Toronto Film Festival, Sprecher was ecstatic. But "Thirteen Conversations" is still suffering from the wider and more aggressive marketing campaign it deserves. During its first weekend it ranked 33 among the summer mega-movies and grossed just a little short of ninety thousand dollars.

Here's what film critics have said about "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing":

-Ebert & Roeper "Two Thumbs Up!"

-Karen Durbin, Elle "…spellbinding..."

-The New York Times
"Like its title, Jill Sprecher's ''Thirteen Conversations About One Thing'' is both straightforward and enigmatic: four fables of modern urban dissatisfaction woven into a fabric whose pattern is enchantingly elusive….There are no coincidences. The tiniest actions have unforeseen and dramatic consequences. Time is not a straight line but a tangle of contingencies….Ms. Sprecher…executes an unusually smart and intelligent variation on these familiar themes. Her lucid framing and graceful, deliberate pacing lift the movie above the pop mysticism of its conceit. Events that might otherwise seem like cliches -- a winning lottery ticket, a car accident, a glance through the windows of a subway car, a classroom discussion of entropy -- become haunting, teasing surprises.

-The New York Post
"…is a beautifully acted series of vignettes about New Yorkers whose lives intersect - an East Coast version of "Magnolia" or "Short Cuts"..."

Beni and Sabrina have slated a full schedule for the next couple of years, beginning with the release of this summer's "The Jimmy Show" starring Frank Whaley, Ethan Hawke and Carla Gugino. But the one picture with the greatest appeal to most Assyrians will be the epic motion picture "Gilgamesh" set to go into production later this summer. It will be entirely shot on location in India.

Be sure to catch "Thirteen Conversations" when it opens at a theater near you and watch for "The Jimmy Show" in July and the long-awaited "Gilgamesh" in a not so distant future.

Zinda Magazine

More about "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing":

MPAA rating: R, for language and brief drug use
Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes
Director Jill Sprecher
Producers Beni Atoori, Sabrina Atoori, Gina Resnick
Executive producers Michael Stipe (of the rock bank R.E.M.), Sandy Stern, Doug Mankoff, Andrew Spaulding, Peter Wetherell, James Burke, Heidi Crane
Screenplay Jill Sprecher and Karen Sprecher.
Cinematographer Dick Pope
Editor Stephen Mirrone
Music Alex Wurman
Costumes Kasia Walicka Maimone.
Production designer Mark Ricker.

Also visit:




[ Seen the "Thirteen Convesations" already? Go to the Ziggurat section and tell us what you thought.]

Ziggurat: http://www.zindamagazine.com/Ziggurat.php





Courtesy of KurdishMedia (21 May); based on article by Salamah Nimat

(ZNDA: London) Washington may be planning a semi-autonomous entity for Assyrians in North Iraq. According to al-Hayat Newspaper in London, the US Administration is planning to establish a "Federal Democratic Republic" in Iraq after overthrowing Saddam Hussain's Baathist regime. The report says that the new Iraqi Republic will comprise "Three separate entities administered by local and elected representative councils inside a united Iraq that will be ruled by a central federal government in Baghdad."

Washington's plan calls for "dividing Iraq into a Kurdish-Turkoman-Assyrian region north of the 36th line of latitude; an Arab Shi'ite region in the south; and an Arab Sunni region in the center." A central government in Baghdad will administer defense, foreign policy, and oil and energy policies. The decentralization of the government will allow establishment of local governments within each regions.

According to al-Hayat, Washington has begun discussions with Iran, Turkey, and other Arab countries "to reassure countries neighboring Iraq that their interests will not be threatened" when the plan gets underway.

In Beirut, Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan al-Mu'ashir denied Jordan's prior knowledge of this plan and commented that "an alternative regime cannot be imposed from the outside."


Courtesy of the New York Times (28 May); Article by John Noble Wilford

(ZNDA: Damascus) After three seasons of excavation in northeastern Syria, archaeologists say they are more sure than ever that they have broadened the geography of early civilization. The ruins at a site known as Tell Hamoukar, in the northern fringes of the Tigris and Euphrates Valleys, have revealed that people were apparently undergoing profound changes in the way they lived, worked and organized themselves politically in the early fourth millennium B.C. That development seemed to occur about the same time and independently of the more prominent cultures of southern Mesopotamia, traditionally viewed as the sole birthplace of cities and civilization.

Archaeologists said the findings, which the University of Chicago is announcing this week, disputed the standard view that civilization first arose in southern Mesopotamia, the modern-day Iraq. The new evidence also suggested that changes in social and political structure associated with early civilization did not necessarily hinge on the development of cities and writing, as often thought.

"Hamoukar has the appearance of a critical step in the history of civilization," said Dr. McGuire Gibson, an archaeologist at the Oriental Institute in Chicago and the co-director of the Hamoukar Expedition, a venture of the university and the Syrian government.

Other archaeologists agreed that the Hamoukar evidence offered important support for the emerging view that socially complex societies developed at many northern settlements before the southern cultures could have strongly influenced them.

Dr. Gil J. Stein, a Northwestern University archaeologist who also works in Syria, called Hamoukar the first large-scale site in the north where artifacts pointed clearly to emerging class distinctions, division of labor and some centralized political control.

The new excavations, Dr. Gibson said, have turned up remains of a monumental city wall and an imposing solidly constructed building. Both are considered strong evidence of centralized government sometime before 3500 B.C. Such an elaborate building, for example, would have been necessary to house a governing bureaucracy and specialized craft production.

In the ruins, the archaeologists found a mix of stamp seals, from small ones with simple geometric patterns to more decorative ones, the largest of which bear images of animals. An especially fascinating one is a black stone seal in the form of two bears sitting on their haunches and kissing. Others show lions, which came to be associated with royalty.

The Chicago team said the differences between the seals, presumably used in commercial and political transactions, indicated a bureaucracy with low-level functionaries, higher-ups and, perhaps, a king at the top.

"The seals make it clear that we are dealing with a fairly complex social structure," Dr. Gibson said.

Other archaeologists said it was probably a stretch to infer that the society was headed by someone as powerful as a king. More likely, they suggested, the people were led by a chief, someone with influence but just limited power.

The settlement at Hamoukar spread over 33 acres, much smaller than the sites of early cities in southern Mesopotamia. It also lacked writing, but had many signs of accounting, specialized skills and government, all of which are associated with cities.

Hamoukar was "clearly functioning as a city," Dr. Gibson said of the site even before it had any apparently meaningful contact with the rising civilization to the south.

For more information on Hamoukar visit:

Northern Watch


"Akhchee gabare k'khayih b'shlama" ("Only the great live in peace")
-Sargon II

Political change is imminent in Iraq. Three political parties in the North of Iraq - the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM), the Communist Party (CP), and the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) - have been working hard to make sure that the future of the North is safe, secure and peaceful.

"If there is peace in the area," said Yonadam Kanna, General Secretary of the ADM, "there will be more stability, enforced laws and human rights… each group will have their rights."

These parties are only three of a large number of parties in Iraqi Kurdistan. But they were the only three that remained a hundred percent independent and neutral in the conflicts between the PUK and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). As such, they are perfectly positioned to coordinate moves for a more unified North Iraq. The first step would be to bring all the various political parties of the region together as a loosely associated group working together.

Talabani's Heavily Armoured Convoy

On the 13th of May, the ADM, CP and KIU took the first step by meeting with the leader of the KDP, Masoud Barzani, to discuss forming closer ties. Two other groups - the Social Democrats (SD) and Kurdistan Toilers Party (KTP) - had been aligned with the PUK. After some discussion, Barzani indicated his willingness to develop closer relations with these two groups.

On the 14th, the three groups (ADM,CP and KIU) traveled to PUK territory, Sulemaniyah, to then meet with the KTP and SD to assess their willingness to form more friendly ties. After hours of discussion with the two parties, things again went surprisingly smoothly with all groups agreeing.

Another party, the Kurdistan Conservative Party (KCP), is a group in Sulemaniyah in conflict with the KDP since 1995. Discussions were also held with the KCP - who also indicated willingness to now form more open ties with the KDP - but, because of some complicating political problems, it was decided at this stage not to include the KCP in the group.

The final meeting of the groups took place in Jalal Talabani's headquarters near Sulemaniyah. This gathering went as positively as the other meetings, with Talabani agreeing to the principle of more friendly dealings between all the parties.

Rabbie Yacu Yosip & PUK Leader, Jalal Talabani

The overall intent of the five parties (ADM, KIU, CP, SD and KTP) now is to prepare protocols to bring the KDP and PUK together in the following week - the groups will work closely to assist in implementing the Washington Peace Treaty. The other goal is to form close relations with each other - even perhaps a coalition in the future - for a more stable future Iraq. "We believe that where we are living, we need to organise a close relationship with our neighbours, " said Mr Kanna, "with who we have had close historical ties in the past…. the Arabs, Kurds, Turkoman. To live well together, in peace, we need to be organised. We are sharers in our homeland, this part of Iraq contains a portion of our homeland, and we are living with a Kurdish majority. The solution to peace is to be in a coalition with good relations with your neighbours. This has been Zowaa's principle for the past 23 years. We have had bilateral, positive relations with the KDP, communists and socialists since 1982 and later in 1986 with the PUK (later because there was no PUK in Assyrian populated areas). In 1989 we joined the regional front which became the defacto authority in the 1991 uprising, that laid down the foundation for the democratic process and recognition of our national rights by gaining five seats in the 105 seats in parliament.."

The peaceful relations fly in the face of all current Western stereotypes of Christian and Moslem peaceful cohabitation. The ADM'd ties with the KIU for example are especially strong. "A peaceful region means positive gains for Assyrians," continued Mr Kanna, "… laws, justice, equality and human rights. These will all give us a better chance to guarantee our existence and develop our nation…The nation that doesn't stay in its land and stay strong…there is no peace for it."

The ADM's principles and work alongside the political parties of North Iraq, along with their continued active presence in the Peace Monitoring Forces - supported by the Allied Forces - mean that Assyrians and all people in Iraq finally have the prospect for a better future.

Sennacherib Daniel
North Iraq


News Digest


(ZNDA: London) Last week Amnesty International released its annual report on worldwide human rights violations. Under the country report for Iraq, the "2002 Report" refers to the arrest of Mr. Youkhana Yalda Kahei and the assassination of Franso Hariri, the Assyrian governor of the Arbil region. However, there are no references to the arrest and trial of Assyrians in Turkey. Father Yusuf Akbulut's trial and the on-going case of Soner Onder, who has been imprisoned since 1991 for having ties to the Kurdish separatist groups, are completely forgotten. Ankara continues to prosecute Mr. Onder and other Christian inhabitants of Turkey in an effort to intimidate the small Assyrian population of southeastern Turkey and Istanbul.

The following are the two references made to two Assyrians in the Amnesty International's "Report 2002" under the country report for Iraq:

Political arrests

In April Youkhana Yalda Khaie, a 32-year-old Assyrian Christian landowner from the Duhok area, was arrested by the KDP. He was held in solitary confinement, blindfolded, and allegedly subjected to torture before he was released in September. He was accused of having links with the Turkish opposition group, the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK). However, his family said that the real reason for his arrest was to expropriate his land and prevent him from raising funds to build a church.

Assassination and abduction by armed groups

In February Faranso Hariri, the Governor of Arbil and member of the KDP's Central Committee, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen while driving his car in Arbil. Scores of people were arrested and interrogated in connection with the assassination. The KDP later blamed armed Islamists belonging to the Islamic Unity Movement of Kurdistan who, it alleged, later joined Jund al-Islam.

The report in PDF format - Amnesty International Report 2002 - This report covers the period January to December 2001



(ZNDA: Vatican City) According to the Vatican news service, the Holy Father Pope John Paul II recently erected the Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle of San Diego of the Chaldeans, USA with territory taken from the Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle of Detroit of the Chaldeans, USA. The Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle of Detroit of the Chaldeans covered all of the United States for the Chaldeans since 1982. The Pope appointed Fr. Sarhad Jammo as first bishop of the new Eparchy.

The bishop elect was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1941 and was ordained a priest in 1964.

According to sources close to the Chaldean Church, Zinda Magazine was able to learn that, on the evening of Thursday; July 18, 2002, Father Sarhad Jammo will be elevated to the rank of bishop during a liturgical consecration which shall be presided over by the Chaldean Patriarch, His Beatitude Mar Raphael I Bidawid. It is also expected that a large number of bishops and priests both Catholic and from various Eastern Churches, including the Holy See (Vatican), will be present at this celebration. The ancient ceremony of bishop consecration will take place at Mar Yosip Church, in Troy, Michigan, which in November 1996 was co-consecrated by both Church of the East Patriarchs, His Beatitude Mar Raphael I Bidawid and His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East.


Courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle (21 May); based on a report by Anna Badkhen

(ZNDA: Krasnodar) The number of hate crimes committed by skinheads against foreigners and Russian-born ethnic groups is steadily increasing in Russia. Recently some Assyrians have been targets of verbal harassment and vandalism. Visitors to Russia get assaulted on the basis of the color of their skin, the shape of their eyes or the curve of their nose. Last month, an unidentified band of Moscow skinheads sent threatening e-mail messages to several embassies -- including the U.S. Embassy -- declaring a "war on foreigners." Five Jewish synagogues across the country have been vandalized and one has been set on fire in the past four weeks.

While the Russia law enforcement officials have promised that they would crack down on racist thugs, they routinely arrest darker-skinned people and sometimes beat and torture them while in detention, turning a blind eye to the skinheads, according to organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

President Putin condemned racial violence in his annual state of the nation address last month, declaring, "Gangs of extremists act, in effect, as organized criminal communities and must be persecuted similarly." But human rights groups say that Putin must translate words into action. And at a time when Russia is seeking more acceptance from, and cooperation with, the West, they hope Bush will strongly urge him to do so.

Abdulfat Quliev, the Azerbaijani consul, quickly went on television to tell his fellow Azeris: "Do not go out in the street at night." Gabriel Kotchofa, president of the Association of Foreign Students, gave foreign students the same warning.

The British Embassy also recently cautioned visitors from the United Kingdom about the increased number of hate crimes in Russia. "It's an ongoing situation, and people need to be aware of it," said embassy spokesman Richard Turner. "It's something we take very seriously."

Police officials say there are about 10,000 skinheads across Russia, but human rights groups say their number may be several times higher than that. No one keeps track of the number of hate crimes committed by extremists.

Two weeks ago, a Moscow court released Alexander Ivanov-Sukharevsky, the former leader of a small nationalist party, after giving him a three-year suspended sentence for inciting racial and ethnic hatred.

Alexander Tkachev, mayor of the southern town of Krasnodar - home to several hundred Assyrian families - has been openly urging all nonindigenous ethnic minorities -- tens of thousands of Armenians, Kurds, Georgian Muslims and Assyrians -- to leave his area. Unlike his predecessor, former Mayor Samoilenko, who was a friend of the Assyrians in Krasnodar, Tkachev is a extremest nationalist and is continuously pushing an anti-ethnic minority agenda in his region.

Police officials roundly have denied the allegations and note that they headed off what skinheads promised would be a weekend of bloodshed to coincide with Adolf Hitler's April 20 birthday. That week, law enforcement flooded thousands of officers onto the streets of all major cities. Assyrian families in Krasnodar were afraid to leave their homes during this time and did not send their children to school. In the meantime, skinheads encouraged by Tkachev's statement, attacked the cemeteries in Krasnodar where Armenian and Assyrian families bury their dead. Many grave sites were desecrated.

In Moscow, Abdul Hakim Hakrid, a 35-year-old Afghan interpreter for the Russian Interior Ministry's migration service, was beaten to death by a group of young ultranationalists. Two Pakistani students in the central town of Tula and four Afghans were brutally beaten at a Moscow market.

No one so far in the Kremlin has spoken against Tkachev, and the Kremlin was similarly mum when copies of an anti-Semitic book by David Duke, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, were offered for sale at bookstalls in the Russian parliament last year.

In March, the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper alleged that Moscow anti-riot police were training the capital's skinheads.

Last week, Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov denounced "law enforcement agencies, government bodies and municipal structures (for neglecting) to prevent the activities of organizations and individuals spreading the ideas of social, racial, ethnic and religious hatred."

In March, 18 students from Africa, Asia and Latin America left Rostov State Medical University in southwest Russia, fleeing constant beatings and insults by local teenagers and indifference by the police, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported. Rostov is home to a significantly large community of Assyrians.


Courtesy of Salon Technology (11 May); article by Katharine Mieszkowski

(ZNDA: San Jose) Iraq's economic collapse means the oldest writing in the world can be bought for a song on eBay (www.ebay.com) and has scholars racing to digitize Sumerian artifacts before they become paperweights (see last week's Zinda Magazine).

The opening bid for a cuneiform cone that allegedly hails from 2000 B.C.E. starts at $1. A square tablet recording a sale that took place more than 4,000 years ago of a sheep, or maybe some grain -- it's a little hard to read -- well, that receipt will set you back less than $10.

Every day on auction sites like eBay, the artifacts of the ancient Sumerian world -- some of the earliest examples of human writing -- are being sold off like so many mass-produced Tinkerbell tchotchkes. And these tidbits of the past are shockingly inexpensive: for less than a 1960s Donald Duck pinwheel from the Mickey Mouse Club, history plunderers can purchase their very own treasure.

Are these all patent fakes? Made of clay that hails not from ancient Mesopotamia but from contemporary Albuquerque, chipped and scuffed to look "ancient" to suckers eager to buy a trinket from the past? Or are there so many of these hoary artifacts flooding the antiquities market that authentic cuneiform on clay really has a lower fair market value than plastic Disney Americana?

Robert K. Englund, an Assyriologist and Sumerologist at the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA and a principal investigator on the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative, says that many of these artifacts are real, but he wouldn't recommend buying them.

Even a cursory look at the images of those artifacts by a scholar of the ancient languages of Sumerian and Akkadian, like Englund, reveals that they are probably authentic. Rogue forgers don't usually bother to spend the years it takes to learn cuneiform before they chisel their fakes, and copying from photographs of an original is harder than it sounds. Glancing at a dozen images of cuneiform objects being auctioned on a recent day on eBay, Englund spots only one likely fake. And these days, there's almost always some cuneiform up for bid.

But while these cuneiform artifacts may be real -- actual writing from millennia past -- that doesn't make them clean. Many of these treasures are cultural fallout from Iraq's geopolitical isolation since the Gulf War brought on U.N. sanctions. Since the early '90s there's been a flood of cuneiform artifacts onto the international antiquities markets, some probably pilfered from archaeological sites, others lifted straight out of regional Iraqi museums.

"Everything is coming out of Iraq these days -- statuary, cuneiform tablets, cylinder seals," laments David I. Owen, a professor at the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University.

Bidding at auction for that tantalizing tablet puts you at risk of trafficking in hot antiquities. "Much of it is certainly material that's resulted from illicit excavations since 1990," says Englund. "The government controls all excavation sites, but the war there resulted in the collapse of security." The regulations that do exist against exporting such cultural artifacts simply aren't enforced. And the amount of looting that's taking place makes some scholars suspect official corruption as well as outright theft.

"Given the quantity of material that has come out of the country," says Owen, "it's hard to imagine that this is happening without the cooperation of border guards."

An impoverished and isolated country is selling off its ancient history on the black market. The beginnings of civilization are surfacing only to disappear from view into private collections. But in a truly odd twist of fate, one of humanity's newest forms of communication, the Internet, may be the key to preserving the oldest of written words.

To collectors and novelty seekers looking for trinkets from the past, the sell-off represents a great -- if morally questionable -- boon. Bargain hunters alert! Rock-bottom prices for your own piece of the past! But to scholars of ancient Sumer the upsurge of availability has created a sense of urgency in a rather sleepy field. Can a record of these artifacts be captured and documented before they disappear into private collections forever?

"You don't want this stuff to end up as paperweights on someone's desk," says Owen. "They're so common today, I've found them in garage sales."

Reputable museums around the world have agreed not to buy up and "save" treasures likely to be hot. A 1970 UNESCO convention has tried to stem illicit trafficking in the import and export of cultural objects, with 92 states agreeing to return cultural objects shown to have been ripped off from other countries since then.

Translation: The great cuneiform museum collections outside Iraq collected by looting American, French, British and German colonialists in the 19th century will remain intact. But items discovered by excavations after 1970 that weren't on the up-and-up with local governments are contraband.

Paradoxically, this hasn't curbed the market for stolen treasures -- it's just redirected the treasure into private collections, creating archives to which scholars don't have access. So who knows whether those objects were excavated in 1910 or illicitly in 1999?

"If you know that you have got a stolen good, then you are committing a crime, but it is hard for anyone to know that, and probably most people don't want to know whether that is the case or not," says Englund.

The contradiction is galling. Many of these Sumerian artifacts may be discovered only to have their meaning lost. The rush of objects out of the country in the past decade has meant a race to try to record their existence before they disappear into obscurity again. "It's something like an island that has emerged from the sea for a short while," says Englund. "You want to make very good records of this material because it will sink into private collections, where you won't see it again. A lot of unbelievably exciting material has been made available to us through illegal operations inside and out of Iraq through the tablet trade."

Englund and his colleagues at the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative have actually captured images of these artifacts for posterity right off sites like eBay.

The scholars may never see the object as it passes from some British antiquities dealer to the fireplace mantel in a computer programmer's living room in Boise, Idaho. But it will not be totally lost.

The scholars who devote their lives to deciphering these texts don't fully begrudge the Iraqis who might be raiding archaeological sites. Englund, who says that he would never buy such a "dirty" tablet, adds that he can understand why they're being sold: "I would want to feed my child any way that I could."

The study of ancient Sumer seems an unlikely field to be transformed by a new technology. To call it specialized is to put it mildly. It's simply a tiny field. According to Englund, there are maybe a thousand individuals in the world with any passing knowledge of the relevant languages, and only 200 positions in universities on earth devoted to Assyriology.

Scholars who devote themselves to translating and interpreting cuneiform tablets have long favored old-fashioned 3-by-5 or 4-by-6 index cards and pencils as their primary tools.

An Assyriologist parsing an early cuneiform tablet at the Yale Babylonian Collection or the Hermitage would copy the words on each tablet by hand, writing a transliteration in Latin characters of what it said on the same card, noting the relationships between words and characters. It's a process much like creating your own index-card dictionary.

Photographing and publishing images of the tablets was prohibitively expensive, given the small potential audience. So usually only tracings or drawings of the tablets saw publication in academic books and journals, when they were published at all. And the print runs for those publications averaged 200 to 500 copies, so they quickly went out of print.

Over the decades, legendary scholars would amass thousands of index cards in their personal collections, piling up hundreds of them in their university offices, their handiwork and documentation accessible to themselves alone and maybe a few students. It was a monastic existence with a scholar passing down his knowledge of the language and culture to a few students who might carry on the tradition.

But romantic as this sounds, the form factor of index cards made cross-referencing one's own work, much less sharing it with other scholars, a challenge. Sometimes the scholars' work literally died with them.

"There were some famous file collections," Owen recalls. "Enormous collections of files. Unfortunately, a lot of them were lost when the professors died. Sometimes the families trashed them. There were some pretty grim stories about people whose scholarly work was destroyed -- sometimes consciously -- in a vindictive fashion."

But now that scanning technology, digital photography and the Web have lowered the incremental cost of producing and sharing an image to almost nothing, ancient Sumer is going online. Snatching images of plundered artifacts being sold off eBay is just the beginning.

"We have a collection of 600,000 file cards," says Steve Tinney, director of the Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary Project at the University of Pennsylvania. "But we don't look at them anymore, because we have everything online."

The Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative, which focuses on works from the beginning of writing, circa 3200 B.C.E., until the end of the third millennium or 2000 B.C.E., is in the process of digitizing the early cuneiform collections of the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the Louvre, the Yale Babylonian Collection and the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, among other museums. It now has digital records of 60,000 of the 120,000 tablets that are thought to exist from this period.

Venturing into these museums' collections can be its own kind of archaeological expedition, since many of the tablets have never been translated into Latin characters or fully categorized. They're just so many tablets in drawers.

Earlier scholars in the field concentrated primarily on the literature of the time, while most of the writing actually had to do with more mundane, but historically intriguing, financial transactions -- the sale of a sheep or some grain. "In a sense, you have to go excavate at the British Museum to bring out the old tablets that have never been published, that have been sifted through to find the literary material," Englund explains.

Endless numbers of receipts, which might bore a literary historian searching for another Epic of Gilgamesh or biblical scholars looking for confirmation of the flood story, are gold to an economic historian. They include records of the administration of very large, organized households as well as bookkeeping documents recording imports from Persia. How did the labor market value grinding grain vs. fishing in 3000 B.C.E.? The tablets know.

It's been understood for decades that going digital might help interpret these masses of financial data from history. The attempt to computerize cuneiform began as early as the late '70s at the Max Planck Institute of Human Development in Berlin, where computer punch cards were used to record about 2,000 transliterations of proto-cuneiform texts. Those punch cards are the roots of the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative.

Assyriologists hope that the new digital archives and dictionaries, online collections of images and documentation that now number in the tens of thousands, will open up their field, if not to laypersons then to other scholars in fields such as economic history. Allowing the data from the documents to be studied and analyzed in the aggregate could lead to new discoveries about how the ancient society functioned.

"With a large number of receipts, it's hard to make sense of any particular one," says Englund. "But if you put a lot of them together, you have something like a monthly statement. Then you can see why you were losing so much money!" It's a whole new way to read the plumbing receipts circa the third dynasty of Ur, despite what's being lost forever to the economic and political realities of the present.

Dave Shabaz, who hopes to raise $3,000 in 7-hour stint in batting cages, practices his swing at Pedretti Park.


Courtesy of the Modesto Bee (8 May); article by Patrick Giblin

(ZNDA: Turlock) Dave Shabaz does not want to hit just one home run for his sister. He hopes to hit a few thousand, and bring in thousands of dollars.

For the second year in a row, Shabaz, an Assyrian from Turlock, says he will spend several hours batting balls to raise money for the American Cancer Society. He will be doing it for his sister, a cancer survivor.

"I think my brother is awesome," said Sharon Warda, also of Turlock. "Without a doubt, I'll be out there this year cheering him on all the way."

Shabaz, classified advertising manager for The Union Democrat newspaper of Sonora, came up with the idea last year when his sister solicited money for the cancer society's annual Relay for Life.

Warda, coordinator of Family Medical Group Urgent Care in Turlock, received treatment for breast cancer, and has been cancer-free for about seven years. Family Medical Group has sponsored a Relay for Life team every year since she was treated for cancer, she said.

Relay for Life, set for the weekend of June 22-23 in Turlock and Modesto, typically involves running and walking. Team members take turns circling a track for 24 hours, from 9 a.m. to 9 a.m., in return for monetary pledges. Turlock's event will be held at California State University, Stanislaus, while Modesto's will be at Johansen High School.

Shabaz carries out his Relay for Life in the batting cage at Pedretti Park, which lets him accomplish his fund-raiser without charge.

Last year he batted nonstop for five hours.

"I was in the fast-pitch cage, and the operators estimated that I hit about 2,000 balls," Shabaz said. "The next morning, my hands swelled up and I couldn't make a fist for a day and a half."

He raised $1,500, making him the top fund-raiser for the 2001 Relay for Life in Turlock.

"This year I'm shooting for $3,000," Shabaz said. "I'm going for seven hours straight."

He has picked June 1 for the fund-raiser, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

He said he is upping the ante because he turns 40 this year and wants to prove that he can still go to the extreme.

"I'm taking some pride in that I can still do this," he said. "Several people have already told me I'm too old to be doing this."

Besides his sister, his 7- and 10-year-old daughters will be on hand to cheer his progress.

Relay for Life proceeds are spent locally. The American Cancer Society offers rides to doctor offices and chemotherapy appointments; a wig-purchase program for women going through chemotherapy; and a home visit program, in which cancer survivors spend time with people battling the disease.

People interested in contributing to the batting fund-raiser should make checks payable to the American Cancer Society and mail them to Dave Shabaz, P.O. Box 3544, Turlock 95381. Donations also will be collected at Pedretti Park on the day of the event.

To participate in Relay for Life, call the American Cancer Society, (800) 227-2345.



Courtesy of the Associated Press (27 May)

(ZND: Detroit) Adam Shapiro, 30, of New York, a Jewish American who joined Yasser Arafat at his besieged West Bank office married Huwaida Arraf, 26, a Palestinian-American activist in a ceremony blending Christian and Jewish rites at St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church in Troy, Michigan. Huwaida lives in the Detroit suburb of Roseville.

About 300 relatives and friends attended the ceremony, in which a passage from the book of Genesis was read in Arabic and the groom followed the Jewish tradition of stepping on a glass.

"It is not political in any way, shape or form," said Arraf. "I don't even think along those lines. I'm marrying someone from a Jewish background. I have many friends who are Israeli.

Arraf and 12 other foreign supporters of the Palestinians were arrested May 2 in Bethlehem, after 10 other members of their group got into the Church of the Nativity in defiance of the Israeli soldiers surrounding the shrine.

The activist couple's path to the altar began in Jerusalem, where they first met two years ago. Shapiro was director of Seeds of Peace, an international organization that promotes peace between cultures. Arraf was a program coordinator.

The couple plan to begin their married life in the Middle East.


Courtesy of the Modesto Bee (22 May); article by Patrick Giblin

(ZNDA: Turlock) Judge Al Girolami, a Stanislaus County Superior Court judge, last Monday ordered detectives to return property taken from the home of Ramin Odisho, former president of the Assyrian-American Civic Club, as part of the investigation into the club's finances.

"It's a relief to get the order," Odisho said last Tuesday night. "We've been trying to get my stuff back for months and we've been getting the runaround."

Odisho's attorney, Bruce Perry, confirmed last week's ruling: "This was his personal property, credit cards and stuff," Perry said from his Modesto office. He declined to comment further.

The judge ordered detectives to return all personal property, with the exception of documents and guns, to Odisho within seven days.

He gave detectives 30 days to copy any documents that deal with the investigation and 20 days to return the guns.

The investigation began in November 2000 when Turlock detectives searched Odisho's home and the Assyrian club and seized papers, computers and other items, including firearms, according to court documents.

The investigation was triggered by complaints of financial improprieties with the Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock which hosted this year's annual Assyrian State Convention last weekend.

In August, detectives again searched the club and Odisho's home, as well as Farmers & Merchants Bank in Modesto and the home of another club member.

A review of documents from the club revealed that the club did not have the proper nonprofit status to run a bingo game in California, so police pulled the club's bingo permit -- shutting down a three-day-a-week game.

Earlier this year, Odisho sent club members a series of letters defending his name and blaming the club's problems on other members. No one has been arrested in the investigation and no charges have been filed.


Courtesy of the Daily Telegraph (21 May); article By Peter Gosnell

(ZNDA: Sydney) Karl Suleman Enterprizes (KSE) liquidator, Horwath, produced a report last week indicating that Karl Suleman is about to be sued for damages. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is in the process of assessing if criminal charges should be laid against him.

There is an estimated 85 million Australian dollar missing and Mr. Suleman is reported to be ready to declare himself bankrupt. Horwath estimates that Suleman's creditors, mostly Assyrians from Australia, could recover between 15 to 19 cents per dollar owed. There have been 1,208 proof of debt claims for a totla of 54.8 million Australian dollars and another 1,000 investors who have yet to provide proof of claim against Mr. Suleman's company, KSE.

Horwath's Paul Weston and Neil Cussen even contacted Bill Clinton by letter. They are trying to recover an autographed picture of Mahatma Gandhi worth $50,000 which Suleman gave to the former US president during their exchanges surrounding a fundraiser for the New Children's Hospital at Westmead last year.

Suleman's business partners, Jessie George and Adam Oshana, who were last heard of in Canada and the Persian Gulf respectively, are also being saught by Horwath.

Last week, George's wife Elizabeth said in a public examination that Suleman had arrived at their home in his white Mercedes-Benz, wearing slippers, and warned them to leave the country and take their family with them. Suleman has since denied this.

The liquidators have unearthed more than 20 vehicles, including numerous Ferraris, one variety of Lamborghini and several specimens of BMW and Mercedes-Benz, all of which Suleman has disclosed to them.

Suleman's Cessna Citation is being sold for $1.6 million, though his stink boat was passed in at $2.3 million when it went to auction at the weekend. Unfortunately, the Beech Sierra aeroplane went down in a paddock in Victoria and as far as the liquidators can ascertain it's still sitting there, sans engine.

The two Rolex watches are still being authenticated and the jewellery, well apparently the men's dress rings would be most suited to a fancy dress party.

Weston and Cussen are also now effectively the proud owners of four racehorses which aren't expected to sell for as much as Suleman paid.

As for the men's clothes shop, Karl for Men, selling the stock has reaped $150,000. The jewel in the KSE crown, the supermarket trolley recovery business, has been sold for the massive sum of $278,300.

The liquidators said in their report. "Within the records of KSE it is now clear that many people received regular payments under a contract without having paid for an investment. We will continue our efforts to recover these funds.'' An interim dividend of 2 cents to 3 cents in the dollar will be paid in July this year. The liquidators announced that a meeting of creditors will be held on May 28.

Note: on 28 May, 1 Australian dollar = 0.56 U.S. dollar = 0.60 Euro


(ZNDA: Chicago) Margaret Badal, beloved wife of the late Lenny; loving sister of Helen (the late Robert) Johanan, the late Nellie (the late John) Sargis and the late Joseph (the late Fran) Shabaz; dearest aunt of Eileen Sargis and the late Bob (Ann) Johanan. Family and Friends met at Elmwood Cemetery, 2905 Thatcher Rd., River Grove on Saturday at 11 a.m. for entombment services. Margaret was a longtime employee of Sunbeam Corp. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Presbyterian Home, 3200 Grant St., Evanston, IL 60201 or charity of your choice would be appreciated. Arrangements by Smith-Corcoran Funeral Home, 773-736-3833 .


May 15, 1937 -- May 24, 2002

(ZNDA: Turlock) Wilfred Joseph Jacobs, 65, of Delhi, California died of natural causes last Friday at Doctors Medical Center. Mr. Jacobs was a native of Iran. He had lived in Delhi since 1993. He was a welder for shipyards in the Bay Area. He was a member of the Assyrian Church of the East Mar Adai and the Assyrian American Civic Club. He enjoyed fishing and gardening.

He is survived by his wife, Amelia Jacobs of Delhi; children, Wilfred Jacobs Jr., Ronald Jacobs and Shamiran Jacobs, all of Delhi, Anna Wilson of Modesto and Joseph Jacobs of Japan; sister, Rosa Allaverd of Denmark; brothers, William Jacobs, Daniel Jacobs and Valodia Jacobs, all of Turlock; and two grandchildren.

A funeral service was held at 11 a.m. Friday at Church of the East Mar Addai. Burial was at Turlock Memorial Park.


Surfs Up!


Let me, on pages of your wonderful Web-site, express many thanks to all who perceived with enthusiasm the Conference which took place in Moscow and say a few words about the results of this Conference.

Standing Right to Left: Edward Badalov, Emanuel Kelaita, and Aprim Shapira; Sitting Right to Left: Delegate from United Arab Emirates, Ninous Oussi, Sam Kassab, and Arsen Savva (President of the Assyrian organizations in Tatarstan) - Photos courtesy of Mr. Sam Kassab (Michigan)

First of all, I'd like to thank my dear friends Mr. Aprim Shapira, Mr. Malik Merza and Mr. Edward Badalov who prepared a press-release on-the-fly and published it at your Web-site. The day after our Conference I had to leave for International WHO Conference on Health Promoting Hospitals where I represent a member of Scientific Committee from Russia. But now, after my return I all the same would like to do my duty and express my great cordial gratitude to all the participants of Moscow Conference, members of the Organizing Committee and sponsors. It's especially pleasant for me that a number of Russian sponsors was increased by a sponsor from Arab Emirates - a fine person and businessman Mr. Emanuel Kelaita, who laid the first stone to the foundation of the next conference.

Unfortunately due to some problems with consular service in Russia Prof. Arianne Ishaya couldn't take part in the Conference. I believe that her participation would have enriched our Conference much more.

I'd like to thank prof. Eden Naby-Frye for evaluating our work highly. As for some problems with translation, I think, that the experience we gained at this Conference would give us all grounds to be positive that by the next conference this problem will be solved.

As we've already mentioned, 12 prominent scholars were personally invited to the Conference. All the other participants showed the initiative themselves and took the most active part. I thank them kindly and I hope that our friendship and collaboration will strengthen year in year out. My special thanks are to Senator John Nimrod, the only person among all our leaders, who considered necessary participating and speaking at this Conference. The idea of the Conference was exactly to give a scientific basis, by means of scientists' energies, to our public and political organizations which, unfortunately, can't find the unanimity which the participants of this academic Conference revealed. If pluralism of opinions in these organizations is a cause of numerous splits and hostility, at this Conference pluralism of opinions became the basis of our unification, mutual respect and trust.

Left to Right: Dr. Segei G. Osipov and Dr. Tamraz N.Ivanov - Photos courtesy of Mr. Sam Kassab (Michigan)


Cover of the Assyrian International Conference Program Book

I'd like to emphasize with pleasure that this very goal was set and I'm sure it was achieved. The way which would give a theoretical basis to the Assyrian National Movement is found. I'd realistically like to stress that our national intellectual elite took part in the Conference and I'm that the number of this elite will grow from year to year. All the proceedings of the Conference will be published. Numerous proposals of making this academic conference an annual one were met with full approval among the members of the Organizing Committee and our new friends. The concept of these conferences will be a common one but subjects will be changed year and year out. Expect new announcements.

Thank you all very much again.

Professor Sargis G. Osipov
M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc.

[ Prof. Osipov will be presenting a paper at the upcoming MESA conference in Washington D.C. in November. For more information please see CALENDAR OF EVENTS.]



These futile Assyrian Conventions are nothing but inane and preposterous cabarets created by the Federation that congregates moths around a scorching lampshade. These conventions teach us only to go outrageously undomesticated and to react in a disorderly manner with no ignominy. We act like untamed wild beasts. The Federation that has been created for over 50 years, has only caused disgrace and damage to the Assyrian nation. The dancing and shaking that was taught and still lives on, is the last thing we need to do because we lost the most precious thing of all, our homeland. Dancing and partying are for people who are proud of something they have accomplished. What are we proud of? We lost everything and now we are dancing and shaking to the beat of the losers' drum.

These conventions have not only created pandemonium in the Assyrian nation, in particularly the youth, but also, have left smelly manure in the minds of the hotel owners and managers. These conventions are the greatest environments for our youth to drink, instigate mayhem, and to do illicit drugs. Was this the raison d'être of the Federation?! No! Their whole rationale and foundation was to have a social gathering of the Assyrian nation in order to discuss imperative issues such as: educational programs, historical events, and social issues. Education is a potent constituent of a nation in order to be recognized in this diverse world.

Over all these years, the conventions have been a fruitless vine. Now all this money that was hoarded in all these years has not helped cultivate our new generation and their vital necessities. With all the money that was kept, the right thing you should have done was to build a school, a youth center to gather in, and to give incentives to the youth by bestowing them scholarships, especially those with high academic records, who can't even afford thinking about college. But did you do it?! NO! What happened to all of that money? Did it just float away in the Pacific Ocean? Or was it the Caspian Sea? What kind of legacy have you left to the jewel of the nation, the youth? Now, you must have some courage to post an instantaneous rejoinder explaining the basis of the Federation, the accomplishments over all the years, where the money has gone, and why was it wasted to debase the Assyrian nation.

I sincerely believe, that time has come to terminate these nonsensical conventions, which demeans us greatly. Although it may be a little late for that, it's better late than never. Coming from a 15-year-old, it is very distressing to know that I pinpointed all these blunders. Now shouldn't you go ahead and think twice about the conventions? Or would you like to keep purging the minds of the youth into a numb state for your own pleasure? If you like purging, let me just say that you can't sluice the new generation's minds because we are so astute that we would never fall for your gimmicks.

Ashuriena Baba

Surfers Corner


The Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) has accepted into its annual conference program for 2002 two panels sponsored by the Assyrian Academic Society (http://aas.net). This year's conference will convene in Washington DC between 24 - 26 November. The exact schedules for the panels will be available in late June.

Ever since it joined MESA as an affiliate in 1997, the Assyrian Academic Society has proposed and has had accepted a number of panels, but no more than one per year. This year, thanks to suggestions for solid research topics from several people, and the cooperation of international scholars from Russia, France, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, as well as the US, two panels were proposed on behalf of the Assyrian Academic Society. They were both accepted.

This marks another success for the initiatives taken by the Assyrian Academic Society to make Assyrians more visible in modern Middle Eastern Studies and to bring together those scholars whose research is related to the Assyrians. The Assyrian Academic Society is grateful for a grant from the Assyrian American National Federation (AANF) which partially subsidizes travel by participants in the panel ALMOST HOMELESS: THE ASSYRIANS OF THE MIDDLE EAST.

In addition to the panel dealing with the Assyrian presence in the homeland, the second panel, CONVERSION AND IDENTITY: THE ASSYRIANS, ARMENIANS AND GEORGIANS, deals with Assyrians of the western part of the Middle East, especially within the context of religion, languages and identity that are shared with other largely Christian groups of the region. That the Assyrian Academic Society recognized the significance of crossing ethnic lines to explore issues that are vital to several communities speaks to the recognition of the importance of breaking out of the scholarship ghetto.

For those Assyrians who attended the MESA panel THE ASSYRIANS OF IRAN - FROM CONTRIBUTIONS TO DIASPORA that was presented in San Francisco, Nov. 2001, the significance of the MESA conference, its many panels, its book exhibit, and its opportunities to meet scholars in the Middle Eastern field was obvious. The Washington conference will be even more pivotal because it comes at a time of heightened focus on the Middle East and will probably also include US and other government personnel as well as the mix of scholars.

Below are details of the two panels of the Assyrian Academic Society:

(Overseas travel partially subsidized by the AANF)

1 Sargis Osipov (Russia): "Russian-Assyrian Military Communications (1915-1918)"
2 Florence Hellot-Bellier (France): "The Consequences Of World War I On The Population Of Urmia"
3 Adrin Takhsh (Germany): "Assyrian Women And Their Role In The National Homeland Movement"
4 Robert DeKelaita (U.S.): "The Road To Nineveh Revisited"

Chairperson and organizer: Dr. Eden Naby


1 Eden Naby (U.S.): "Winning Recognition: The Key To Group Identity"
2 Werner Arnold (Germany): "The Relations Between Christians And Moslems In The Western Neo-Aramaic Speaking Minority Of Syria."
3 Hovann H. Simonian (Switzerland): "The Hemshin Of Northeast Turkey: Muslim Armenians Or Armenian-Speaking Turks?"
4 Mathijs Pelkmans (The Netherlands): "The Shifting Frontier Between Islam And Christianity: The Contents And Dynamics Of Religious Change"

Chairperson: Prof. Wolfhart Heinrichs

The papers for these panels will be incorporated into publications devoted to the Assyrians, in book form.

Assyrian or university groups that wish to invite any of these speakers to make local presentations should contact the Assyrian Academic Society through voicemail (773) 461-6633 or by post at: P.O. Box 613, Skokie, IL 60076.

Now is the time to think about making these arrangements as the panelists from overseas begin to plan their travel.

Assyrian Academic Society



The Fifth Habbaniya Union School Students' Reunion will be held this year in London, England, from August 1 through 13. The Reunion dinner-dance and other sideline activities will take place in London during the first five days and there will be an 8-day tour of certain European countries, as follows:

1. England, Wales and Scotland, or
2. England and France, including a visit to Lourdes, or
3. England, France, Belgium, Holland and Switzerland.

It is estimated that the whole trip, including air passage to and from London and one of the above three tours, plus 11 first class hotels, with bed and breakfast, and transportation, will cost approximately $US 1,800.00 per participant from outside England. Interested persons may call or write to one of the following nearest Reunion officials to request an application form:

Sargon Aboona (Skokie, IL) 847-674-1184
John Aghajan (Ontario, Canada) 905-276-4273
Andrious Mama (Kent, England) 01322-331711
Dinkha Warda (Sydney, Australia) 02-9823-2950
Odisho Warda (Kenosha, WI) 262-551-9153
Benyamin Yalda (Des Plaines, IL) 847-296-7587
Zacharia Zacharia (Modesto, CA) 209-551-1665

Habbaniya Union School Student's Reunion
Organizing Committee

[About HUSSR: The Habbayiya Union School Students' Reunion is a non-profit group. Members hold a Reunion every two or three years in a large Assyrian community in a different location. The last one was held in Sydney, Australia in 2000. After deducting all overhead travel expenses, HUSSR donates its profits toward Assyrian charitable needs.]



22 May 2002

Human Rights Without Frontiers
Information and Press Service
Avenue Winston Churchill 11/33, 1180 Brussels, Belgium
Phone: 32-2-345-6145 - Fax: 32 2 3437491

Editor-in-chief: Willy Fautré
Project Manager: Patricia Rio Branco
(University of Kent at Canterbury)
Website: http://www.hrwf.net
Email: info@hrwf.net

On the 26th of April 2002, the Assyrian Seyfo International Committee (ASIC) held a conference on that topic at the Residential Palace in Brussels.

The titles of the papers were:

  1. Introduction to the Conference by Nineb Tooma, ASIC spokesman
  2. Genocide against Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks, by Sabri Atman, an Assyrian intellectual and author
  3. The Assyrian exodus seen through the eyes of a Russian writer, by August Thiry, a Belgian journalist and author of the book "Mechelen on the Tigris"
  4. The Swedish Parliament recognises the Armenian Genocide, by Hanna Gedin, member of the Swedish Left Party and political advisor to the United Left parliamentarian group in the EP.
  5. Remembering the first genocide of the 20th century, by Willy Fautré, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers and a language professor

Introduction To The Conference

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
Respected representatives of various political parties and media,

We would like to take this opportunity and welcome you to this conference, organized by ASIC.

Assyrian Seyfo (Genocide) International Committee is a global organization striving to achieve international recognition in order to shed some light on the atrocities of the first inhuman acts of the past century. These were perpetrated against the Assyrian people by the Ottoman Empire, which was succeeded by the Turkish Republic.

We hope to achieve this through acts of peace that demonstrate our suffering to the international opinion, which we trust will empathize with our appeal.

One such activity is this conference that ASIC has organised in the Residence Palace-International Press Centre in Brussels. We have invited the following persons to present you with a detailed paper on the subject:

  • Mr. Sabri Atman; an Assyrian intellectual and author who has researched the subject extensively and is about to release two books on the Assyrian Seyfo (Genocide).
  • Dr. Gabriele Yonan: a German sociologist and the author of the reputable book on the Assyrian Seyfo entitled "The Forgotten Holocaust". Dr. Gabriele Yonan has toured the globe lecturing on the topic and attended court trials defending the issue.
  • Miss Hanna Gedin: member of the Swedish Left Party and political advisor to the United Left parliamentarian group in the EP.
  • Mr. August Thiry: a Belgian journalist and author of the acclaimed book "Mechelen on the Tigris", Mr. Thiry lectures on journalism and has researched the forced evacuation of the Assyrians from their villages in Turkey.
  • Prof. Willy Fautre: Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers and a language professor. Prof. Fautre has substantial knowledge of Turkey's human rights record and the forced assimilation of the Assyrians.

A documentary video will be presented subsequent to your questions, which will be answered by the distinguished speakers of today's conference.

We believe that this conference will serve as a stepping stone and will motivate each one of us to collaborate actively in order to further our appeal and gain international recognition of the Assyrian Seyfo (Genocide).

For further information please do not hesitate to contact us on info@furkono.com or
+ 46 853 170 506

Nineb Tooma

The Genocide Against Armenians, Assyrians And Greeks

Distinguished Guests
Distinguished Members of the Press

Today, 87 years on, we are here to talk about a genocide that took place in Turkey during the First World War. We also want to inform the international community and international organisations about the genocide, the pains of which are still persistent. We are gathered here to demonstrate to you that we, the grandchildren of those survivors, who were raised with the horrifying stories of that genocide, have not forgotten it; we have no right to forget it, nor allow it to be forgotten.

In the First World War, as it occurs in all wars, tragic events took place, and in the shadow of such pain, humanity witnessed the first genocide of the 20th century. This genocide is a genocide that was perpetrated against the Christian people (Assyrians, Armenians and Greeks) living under the rule of the [Society] for Union and Progress , which governed the Ottoman Empire.

In this genocide, hundreds of thousands of people were brutally slaughtered without mercy. Not even the women and children were spared. Many people were thrown alive into water wells, which were later on sealed. People were put on boats and thrown into the deep seas as food for fish. Hundreds of thousands of people were massacred by swords (Seyfo). Women were raped. Parents were butchered in the presence of their children. Hundreds of thousands of people were intentionally left to die of hunger and thirst in the wilderness of Mesopotamia. Great pains, great events, great tragedies were experienced.

Prior to the First World War, the population of Turkey was fourteen million, four million and a half of those were Christian peoples. In other words, thirty three percent of the population was Christian. Today in Turkey, the total number of all the Christian people only amounts to 0.1 percent of the population.

What happened to these people? What happened to the Assyrians, Armenians and Greeks? Where are they? Where did they disappear? Would not this diversity of people be a great wealth to a country? Then, what happened to Turkey's greatest asset, its ethnic diversity?

Distinguished Guests,
Distinguished Members of the Press,

The annihilation of this mosaic of colours and diversity was deliberately and strategically accomplished. This genocide against the Assyrians and other Christian people was planned, designed and systematically carried out. More than two million people were massacred and over two million people were forced to face migration.

I speak to the silent majority.

No one who can see wars, massacres and tortures taking place in many parts of the world today, has the right to think that our appeal to recognise a supposedly forgotten genocide that occurred long time ago is meaningless. This is because opinions like these are not right.

Genocide is a crime against humanity and there is no statutory limitation for a crime such as this. Such a crime should not be forgotten and if it is to be forgotten, it can lead to enormous disasters.

During the Second World War, when Hitler committed genocide against the Jews, Gypsies and all the democratic people, it was said "whoever mentions the genocide of the Armenian people today?" It is clear to everyone that Hitler saw an opportunity due to the silence, ignorance and forgetfulness of the international public opinion regarding the Armenian genocide.

If the international public democratic opinion and countries had not overlooked the genocide of our people in the shadows of the First World War, would Hitler have been able to implement a second genocide in the shadows of the Second World War?

This is why we speak to the silent majority!

The aim of bringing the issue of the genocides of the past to the fore today and discussing them, is not just to condemn them. This cry is equally important for people from different religions, races and cultures coexisting in democratic societies and living in security. Only such societies, which possess a democratic mechanism and functions, may remain distant from all kinds of oppression and massacres.

It should be clear that the massacres and the genocides that have been carried out until today share a unique characteristic, which is that they were all implemented in undemocratic countries and by forces opposing democracy.
It is therefore important for us to know in what kind of society and world we would like to live!

Do we want to live in a society of equality and brotherhood between people from different racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds; or, in societies where some brutal forces do not show even a modicum of tolerance?

The source of the problem is not the diversity of ethnic backgrounds. The source of the real problem is the inability to accept and tolerate diversity and beauty! This is what Turkey did in the shadows of the First World War.

They wanted to exterminate the Assyrian people who have a civilisation going back more than four thousand years.

Two out of three [Assyrians] were beheaded by the sword. That is why the Assyrians call this genocide SEYFO (sword). Today's Turkish Republic is established upon the blood of two million Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks, and the forced evacuation of two million and seven hundred thousand Greeks. Turkey homogenised this wealth of diversity. Turkey perpetrated genocide against the Christian Assyrians, Armenians and Greeks; and those that remained became subject to various massacres and assimilation methods in order for them to be obliterated.

Today, Turkey wants to construct [a society of] one flag, one language, one religion and one nation. Besides, it is said that "there is democracy in Turkey". It is said that, "the Turkish state is [governed] by the rule of law".

Can a society that does not settle the account of the murder of two million people, be a state where the rule of law is respected? Without accounting for these crimes, can Turkey become a democratic state? Furthermore, can Turkey enter the European Union?

Turkey is afraid of her past!

First and foremost, Turkey must reconcile with her past. A nation that is afraid of reconciling with the past has no future! In the aftermath of the discussions and resolutions that passed in the American senate, and the French and European parliaments, the debates that took place, the threats [that were issued] and the profanities that were uttered in Turkey are a big disgrace. Those who participate in these debates turn a blind eye on the genocide of two million people. Are they embarrassed? With no shame, they claim that this figure is not correct.

Even the official Ottoman newspaper statistics state that eight hundred thousand people were massacred. Yet, they still debate the issue with no sign of any empathy or shame. They claim that this figure is not correct either. They shamelessly debate a three number figure. Pick any European capital city and it will have a population that approximately equals to 800,000. Can you justify the extermination of babies, children, the youth, the elderly, the men and women, everyone who live in a city? Can such an act have any excusable or justifiable dimension?

When the genocide topic became a daily debate, typically, the Turkish officials embraced a nationalistic propaganda. As usual, they listed their customary lies. "They 'collaborated' with a foreign enemy in order to destroy our 'state' from within", they said. "Some of those who migrated were affected by bad weather conditions and fell sick and died of hunger", they said! "Some incidents happened which we neither wanted nor approved of", they said!

They are trying to say there is no need to magnify [these events]. These people are not embarrassed by the genocide, and they are not ashamed to be the grandchildren of those that perpetrated this genocide! And what is worse is that when they are pushed a little into a corner, they threaten: "do not enrage us", or else we will "repeat" it.

Distinguished Guests,
Distinguished Members of the Press,

Is there a difference between the mentality of the perpetrators of genocide and those that deny one?

This mentality that I am talking about is in power in Turkey. This is the mentality we are opposing here today! Other than that, we have no intention to foster hostility or hatred against Turkey or the Turkish people; absolutely not.
Let us be aware that Turkey's dirty past cannot be cleaned away by such threats as "We will do it again" or "We will crush you again". First and foremost, the Turkish state, which carries on its shoulder the historic responsibility of the Assyrian and Armenian genocide, owes us, the grandchildren of the victims and humanity, an apology!

The initial condition for eliminating the problems between peoples is not to compromise with history's brutality; on the contrary it is about not compromising. It's possible to encounter disgraceful pages in the history of any nation. What is important is what the nation does to save itself from these shameful and disgraceful pages!

When Willy Brandt was Prime Minister of Germany, he visited Poland. In his itinerary there was a visit to the memorial monument of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Willy Brandt, as soon he approached the monument, went down on his knees and apologised to the Jewish people for the atrocities that were committed by the Nazis.

This gesture, which is expected from an honourable statesman, opened the way to improving relations between the German and Jewish peoples. Everybody knows that Willy Brandt actively struggled against the Nazi regime and that he lived in exile as a result. As an individual he bore no responsibility for the Nazi brutality. But he realised that the German nation must apologise to the Jews, and he regarded it as his responsibility, as Prime Minister, to take the initiative. Willy Brandt gave a good example on how a nation can clear the muddy and shameful pages of its history.
What about the Turkish Prime Minister? What is he doing? Is he able to demonstrate the same great statesmanship as Willy Brandt? No, he is not able to demonstrate that. The Turkish Republic lives with its shame. It lacks the courage to settle the accounts of the past. The ruling powers and the Turkish media are only busy slandering the countries that treated the genocide as a current issue, recognised it and passed resolutions on it. In Turkey, they are striving to forbid the teaching of the French language in the schools and boycott French products. When these countries started to debate the genocide that happened in Turkey, Turkey tried to remind what "France did in Algeria", "what the American whites did to the indigenous Indians" and "what is Israel doing to the Palestinians in Palestine". Turkey is trying to draw attention to the mud of some parts of the world, in order to cover her own cruelty and filth. "Look they are doing the same elsewhere". Because father Yusuf Akbulut, of the Syriac Orthodox Church, said that "it was not only the Armenians but also the Assyrians that were killed because they were Christians", Turkey's ruling power committed him to trial to punish him.

Distinguished Guests,
Distinguished Members of the Press,

We the children of a people that were subject to genocide, have some expectations from the international public opinion and its democratic institutions.

Our people did not suffer just any tragedy. Our people suffered genocide. This should be known and remembered as such. Our childhood passed while listening to the tales of brutality perpetrated against our grandparents; when told of these, we shed blood instead of tears. We want to be understood. In this planed and systematic genocide which came to life by orders from the top, our people were not only massacred by the sword. Moreover, a significant section of our remaining population was uprooted from their ancestral homeland in Mesopotamia, which they had inhabited for thousands of years.

Turkey does not want to remember her own history; some people must remind her of her own past.
To ease the suffering of the Armenian people that were massacred at the beginning of the last century, the resolutions that were adopted in many countries and in the European Parliament, within the framework of the Armenian people's demand, are certainly gratifying. But it is a pity that the same attention was not paid to the Assyrian people, who experienced the same genocide and whose very existence was threatened. Why? Is our appeal to look at history and historical truths objectively unrealistic? Is it wrong to ask for commemoration and recognition of the genocide our people were subjected to?

The international public opinion and the democratic institutions should understand us and make Turkey comprehend this. Turkey must be brought to account for the murders of more than two million people!

Turkey should not to enter the European Union; but must enter the International Court of Justice in The Hague, where she should be brought to account!

Our appeal is not only for us as the children of the victims, and as those that grew up with the experience of such pain.
Our appeal is to prevent the occurrence of further massacres, genocides and savagery! Thank you!

Sabri Atman
Assyrian intellectual and writer
Translation from Turkish by Dr Racho Donef

The Assyrian Exodus Seen Through The Eyes Of A Russian Writer

From the novel Sentimental Journey by the Russian writer Viktor Shklovsky. He served in the Russian army in Persia in 1917-18. He was an eye-witness in Urmia (NW Persia) and wrote about the exodus of the Assyrian population from that town in the summer of 1918. The novel containing the fragments below was published in Berlin in 1923.

The Assyrians lived in Mesopotamia, in the Turkish province of Van and also in Persia around Salmas and Urmia. The mountain Assyrians are Nestorians, but in Persian Urmia the ancient Christian souls of the Assyrians were being pursued by foreign missions: British Anglicans, American Baptists, French Catholics, German Protestants. There were no missions in the mountains in Turkish Hakkari, from where the Assyrian mountaineers had to flee in 1915 when Turkish troops and tribes of Kurds invaded their homeland.

In January 1918 the Russian soldiers left Persia and went home. The Assyrians' home was now in Persia and even those who had escaped from Turkey stayed in Persia, because in Turkey they would have been massacred by the Kurds. The Assyrians formed their own army. Following the assassination of the Assyrian Patriarch Mar Shimun by the Kurdish chieftain Simko, the Assyrians decided to leave Urmia and to head for the English in Baghdad.

All told, 250.000 people set out from Urmia - men, women and children. A Russian detachment led the way; the Assyrians who had previously served with the Russians brought up the rear; volunteers from among the Assyrian mountaineers guarded the flanks. Most of the people marched in the middle with the women and children. There was no road. It was necessary to go along the Turkish front or, more exactly, through the Turkish and Kurdish mountains. On all sides were Turks and Kurds and Persians - a hostile, choppy sea of Moslems - with shots from behind the rocks and battles beneath the crags in gorges where swift rivers flow through the rocks and rocks fall from the crags, and crags, always crags - the Persian crags like powerful waves, like the rock ripples of an entire sea of rock.

The Assyrians kept going because they are a great nation. They left the gorges and proceeded through the mountains. There was no water. They ate snow for twelve days. The horses fell. Then they took horses away from the old men and gave them to the young. It was no longer a question of saving individuals, but of saving the nation. Then they abandoned the old women. Then they began to abandon their children. It took a month to reach English territory in Baghdad. On the day of their arrival, they numbered 203.000 people.

The Assyrians are a nomadic nation. The title of Mar Shimun was Patriarch of the East and India. And the fact is that since at least the seventh century, the Assyrians have been scattered over the entire world. They were in Japan, in India on the Malabar coast, and in Turkestan on the Chinese border. The Assyrians have not lived in vain upon the earth. Now they wander the entire world shining shoes.

August Thiry
Belgian journalist


The Swedish Parliament Recognizes The Armenian Genocide

First of all, I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to come and speak in this meeting.

My name is Hanna Gedin, I am a member of the Swedish Left party (Vänsterpartjet) and I work in Brussels as a political advisor to the United Left parliamentarian group in the EP.

I am here to present you some information on how the Swedish Parliament and the Swedish Left Party have dealt with the question of raising awareness about and recognition of the genocide of the Armenians, Assyrians or Syrians and Chaldeans.

The Swedish Parliament was the first national parliament ever to bring up the question of these genocides thanks to the initiative of the Left Party and, in particular, Mr. Murad Artin. I will now give you some background facts on the procedure in the Swedish Parliament.

In 2000 the Swedish Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs produced a report on the Armenian Genocide, which became the basis for discussion and decision in the Swedish Parliament. This report was, as mentioned earlier, a direct result of a motion put forward by Mr. Murad Artin, who represents the Left Party. The Swedish Parliament adopted the report with acclamation. In this report we read the following. (and now I quote):

"The Standing Committee considers an official statement and recognition of the Armenian Genocide important and necessary. In 1985 the UN and the European Parliament established the fact that the Ottoman Empire had committed Genocide against the Armenian People in the beginning of the 20th century. The Standing Committee is of the opinion that the greater openness Turkey presents, the stronger the democratic identity of Turkey will be. It is therefore important that unbiased, independent and international research on the genocide that struck the Armenian people is accomplished. It is of great importance that an increased openness and understanding of the historical events of 1915 and the following years can be developed. An improvement in this respect would also be of importance for the stability and the development in the whole Caucasus region."

The second statement is actually irrelevant because the motion of Mr. Artin does not advocate for a judicial treatment of the Genocide 1915-1922. The purpose of Mr. Murad Artin was not judicial but historical and moral recognition. The main aim of Mr. Artin's motion was to receive a historical recognition of the Genocide in 1915-1922 from the Swedish Parliament in the same way as the Parliament had done in the case of the Armenians two years earlier.

There are several research reports that describe the crimes committed during 1915-1922 against Assyrians/Syrians and Chaldeans in a way, which clearly corresponds to the definition of the UN Convention on Genocide. So, a deliberately different treatment of the Genocide of the Armenians, and that of the Assyrians/Syrians and Chaldeans really makes no sense.

The final decision of the Parliament was that the Chamber confirmed the report of the Committee majority. The Social Democratic Party, the Liberal Party, the Centre Party and the Conservatives voted in favour of the committee report while the Left Party, the Green Party and the Christian Democrats voted in favour of Mr. Artin's reservation.

In the report of the majority we read that - if the UN-Convention of 1948 had been in force at the time of the Ottoman Empire - the massacres of 1915-1922 should probably have been regarded as genocide. But the word "probably" gives rise to an important question:

Under which circumstances can a systematic murder of ethnic and religious minorities of between 2 and 2,5 million people conducted by a state organ not be regarded as genocide?

There have been some misunderstandings about the last statement.
The Turkish media has claimed that the Swedish Parliament withdrew its earlier 2000 statement on the Genocide of the Armenians. This is wrong. The 2002 majority report to the Parliament is only an attempt to make a correction of a believed mistake. It doesn't affect the report of 2000.

Now, before coming to this meeting, I spoke with Mr. Murad Artin in order to find out more about the Turkish reactions to his initiatives.

The Turkish Embassy in Stockholm has, during the last years bombarded the Swedish parliamentarians with information. The Embassy has responded to Murad's motion by saying that Murad is poorly informed. There has been heavy lobbying on the other political parties as well and it is clear that the representatives of Turkey do not want the genocide to be mentioned.

They are "really pissed", if I can quote Murad.

Murad says that his reason for bringing up the issue of the Assyrian/Syrian and Chaldean genocide is that he finds it extremely important that these peoples be also mentioned and not forgotten. He wants Turkey to recognise the genocides, because it would be an important step in coming to terms with their history.

To conclude this summary, I can tell you that the Swedish Left Party has not given up the fight for the recognition by the Swedish Parliament of the genocides of the Assyrians/Syrians and the Chaldeans in the same way as the Armenian genocide has been recognised. The Left Party has now asked for the assistance of the internal parliamentary investigation service to draft a background paper on the Assyrian/Syrian question. When that report is published we expect to re-open the procedure for parliamentary recognition of the genocide.

Thank you for your attention.

Hanna Gedin
Member of the Swedish Left Party and political advisor to the United Left Parliamentarian group in the EP.

Remembering The First Genocide Of The 20th Century

The first genocide of the 20th century took place between 1915 and 1919 in Turkey. About two million people lost their lives in that mass-scale massacre which was planned by the "Young Turks", Enver Bey and Minister of Interior Talat Pasha. Most of the victims were Armenian Christians. That was why this event was named the Armenian genocide. However, other Christian groups were forgotten in that tragedy: Assyrians, Syrian Orthodox, Chaldeans. The fact that the killings against Christian minorities had already started decades earlier and that nobody had cared was also forgotten.

This first genocide announced the Holocaust that was perpetrated on the occasion of WW II. In 1940-1945, a specific group was also targeted all over Europe under the nazi yoke, the Jews, but everybody seemed to forget that other minorities such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Romas, homosexuals and others shared also the tragic fate. Before WW II, the persecution of these minority groups had already started by means of the general international indifference and passivity. That page of the WW II is now being rewritten. The page on the so-called Armenian genocide should therefore also be rewritten.

Two wars, two genocides but one and the same pattern. Ignoring the first genocide paved the way for the second one because no lesson had been drawn from history. Before planning the Holocaust, Hitler said to the leaders of his party "Who still remembers now the Armenian genocide?"

In Turkey, the genocide is still a taboo issue almost a century after it took place and there is no sign of change in sight. Those who want to combat revisionist and negationist theses and who want to rewrite history risk to lose their freedom and even their lives in Turkey.

In 2000, Father Yusuf Akbulut, a Syriac Orthodox priest, was arrested, jailed and prosecuted on the grounds of treason because he had said to a journalist that the "Armenian genocide" was a reality and that other Christian minorities had been massacred during that genocide. On 4 October 2000, the newspaper "Hurryiet" entitled the interview "A traitor among us". Two days later, Turkish military security agents arrested the priest.

The Turkish government position is that during WW I Armenians and Assyrians were displaced because they were traitors who had taken sides with the enemies of the Ottoman Empire: Russia, France and UK.

The Armenian thesis shared and supported by many independent historians and academics is that the so-called war deportations were only a pretext for some nationalistic masterminds in Istanbul to plan the extermination and the systematic execution of the Armenian people, and more widely of the Christian populations living in the eastern provinces, so as to achieve an ethnically homogeneous Turkish state.

The word genocide is sometimes abused in media language and does not always correspond to the reality of the facts. So, what is a genocide? The United Nations answered that question in 1948 in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide:

"Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, such as:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.

The previous speakers have abundantly illustrated the aforementioned criteria with concrete examples. There is no doubt that the mass-scale massacre of Armenians and Assyrians was a genocide.

Of course, the U.N. Convention cannot be applied retroactively although Turkey has signed it and ratified it. But Turkey could recognize the genocide, point at the masterminds of it, condemn them morally at least, apologize for it and pay damages under one form or another to the minority groups that have been exterminated. One form of compensation could be to recognize those groups as national minorities and to grant them rights that are enshrined in the Framework Convention on National Minorities which Turkey has failed to sign and to ratify up to now.

Unfortunately, in the last decades, Turkey has chosen another way and has pursued its policy of extinction of the Assyrians through a cultural genocide. The war against the Kurds was a good pretext to put the Christian minorities under pressure, make their lives unbearable and push them to emigration. In the last 20 years, 90% of the Assyrians have emigrated from Turkey. All the methods listed in the U.N. definition of the genocide were used against them. Villages were burnt down and evacuated. Fields and vineyards were burnt. Graveyards and houses were destroyed. A number of Assyrians were deprived of the Turkish citizenship. Young girls were abducted and forcibly married to Muslims while others were released in exchange of a ransom. Assyrians were arrested on the ground of alleged collaboration with the Kurdish fighters; others disappeared, were killed or are still missing. Churches and monasteries became derelict and could not be repaired. Everything was done to prevent the survival of their language and their culture.

The Turkish state either carried out that cultural genocide or turned a blind eye to the exactions committed by the Kurdish Muslims against the Assyrians.

The only way the Turkish state can prove that these accusations are now inappropriate is to sign, ratify and implement the Framework Convention on National Minorities and to implement it without any restrictions.

Considering the aforementioned facts, Human Rights Without Frontiers recommends to the Turkish state

1 to recognize the genocide perpetrated against the Armenians and the Assyrians in 1915 and in the subsequent years
2 to set up an international enquiry commission on the 1915 mass killings which would comprise independent academics from various countries
3 to revise the history of Turkey in schoolbooks
4 to sign and ratify international instruments protecting national minorities such as the Framework Convention on national minorities drafted by the Council of Europe
5 to correct the mistakes of the past and to guarantee the present and the future of the Assyrians and other ethnic or religious groups by recognizing them as national minorities
6 to authorize the Assyrians and other national minorities
7 to protect, use and promote their respective languages and religions
8 to build new churches and monasteries
9 to restore architectural monuments and various places of worship
10 to open schools, social institutions and cultural associations
11 to restore the names of villages, towns and places in their original language
12 to allow the Assyrians and other members of religious or ethnic minorities in exile to go back to Turkey and to get back their property
13 to guarantee the economic development of the areas where those ethnic and religious minorities are rooted
14 to guarantee the life and property of people belonging to ethnic and religious minorities
15 to promote tolerance
16 to prosecute any individual or organisation which would spread ethnic or religious hatred

By doing this, the Turkish state would show its willingness to make up for the damages and losses inflicted on a number of its minorities under previous rules and would improve its moral profile on the international scene.

Willy Fautré
Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers
Avenue Winston Churchill 11/33. 1180 Brussels
Email: info@hrwf.net - Website: http://www.hrwf.net


Pump Up the Volume

Convention KNOOSH-YA
Masculine International Convention: knooshya tweelaya
Assembly KIN-SHA Masculine Assembly of Birds: Kinsha d'Tderih



Courtesy of http://www.assyrianbasketball.com (28 May)

It was the quietest championship celebration in memory, but it might have been the most satisfying. Modesto Urhai, charged by the scoring punch of shooting guard Mike Teleback, defeated the Modesto AASC Ballaholics in the championship, 54-50.

Channele Givargis, front, of Turlock dribbles while Nahrain Nissan defends during a basketball game at the Assyrian American State Convention in Turlock on Sunday.

The two teams huddled up in center court together before the game in a prayer-like ritual, showing respect to the city they represent, reassuring each other that it's only a game. That night was all about respect. The Ballaholics played to earn it, and Urhai played to win it back from everyone who doubted them.

The ties between these two teams made for a memorable game. First, Coach Benny Aziz of the Ballaholics co-coached Urhai to their first state title last year along with Michael Issac, Urhai's current head coach. The game was also a family affair, with power forward Claude Kanoun of Urhai playing against his younger brother Victor, the starting point guard of the Ballaholics. Tabi Elbahou, the Ballaholics' dynamic forward is cousin of "Big Dave" Alnajjar, Alan Sopar, and Issac, all from Urhai. Also, Urhai forward Simon Shimrado coached the Ballaholics, along with Aziz, in a 2001 tournament while he was away from the game.

These two teams practice together often, which made it easier for the players and coaches to respond to each other. The game started at a slow pace with many half-court sets, as both teams responded to each other with big baskets. Urhai was making its money in the paint and the Ballaholics kept attacking the basket with a strategy to get Big Dave in foul trouble early. It worked, as Alnajjar was the first player to get substituted for Urhai.

With some surprisingly big free throws from Claude Kanoun, known as a sub-par shooter at best, Urhai ended the first half with a 1 point lead, 25-24.

The second half was more intense, and the teams began opening up their games. Mike Teleback began picking up fire even though Urhai tried keeping the game slow and methodical, pounding inside to Alnajjar and Alan Sopar, while the Ballaholics did everything they could to earn fast break points with forced turnovers on the defensive end.

Mark Zaya, 8, cheers on the teams.

The drama elevated towards the end of the game. With a 9 point Urhai lead with a little over 1:00 to play, Issac, assuming the victory, took out his center, Alnajjar and point guard Amil Jacobs. Then the Ballaholics, always known as a team that never quits, made a push. With the full court press in full form, they forced crucial turnovers and began raining threes, one from Victor Kanoun, and the other from Ray "Dubb" Daoud. All of a sudden, the Ballaholics were down 51-50 with 15 seconds left to play. But the story of the game was free throw shooting, and the defending champions held on to the 54-50 victory, securing the win at the charity stripe after being intentionally fouled to stop the clock.

The win brought closure to a year of turmoil and doubts, and Urhai won its second consecutive California State Convention title, thanks to superb team play and passing, solid defense, and big shots down the stretch by Mike Teleback and company.

The Modesto Bee on the Assyrian Basketball Games

At Turlock High School, boys and girls from throughout the state played basketball as excited fans yelled, chanted and pounded hand-held Assyrian drums called doombaqs.

One of the most spirited drummers was 8-year-old Mark Zaya of Modesto, whose hands flew over the hourglass-shaped drum, alternating rhythms.

"We always bring it," Akalina Bertos, 17, of San Jose, said of the drum. "It just cheers them on."

The rhythms occasionally spurred people in the stands and players on the court to break out in dance.

Akalina and friend Roxanna "Roxy" Benjamin, 15, also of San Jose, have attended the state conventions for the past six years.

"It's like we are all in the same community, all together," Akalina said. The convention was expected to draw some 5,000 people of Assyrian descent and their guests.

"Assyrians all know each other one way or another," Benjamin said.


Back to the Future

(6000 B.C.)

The succession of the pre-historic cultures in Mesopotamia is as follows:

6000 B.C. Hassuna Culture
5500 B.C. Samarra Cultur
5000 B.C. Halaf and Ubaid Cultures
4000 B.C. Uruk Cultures

The Near East: Archaeology in the Cradle of Civilization, Maisele

(A.D. 337)

King Shapur II of Persia, immediately after the death of the Roman Emperor Constantine, attacks Mesopotamia and lays siege to the city of Nisibin for two months.


Calendar of Events







The Assyrian Society of the United Kingdom Presents:


Walter Aziz


Assyrian House

Temple Road, Ealing

London W.5


Contact:  +44 (208) 8567 3768 Or +44 (208) 8813-1655







“The Babyloniaca of Berossos & its cultural setting”

A Lecture by Dr. Geert de Breucker

Room G51, SOAS, Russell Square WC1 (followed by wine).







“Spatial Organization in early Mesopotamian cities: new contributions from microstratigraphic analyses”

A Lecture by Dr. Wendy Matthews

5:30 PM

British Academy

10, Carlton House Terrace

London SW1. BSAI

Bonham Carter Memorial lecture.

Lecture follows forum at 5:00 PM

Non-members are welcome to attend. 

Please confirm  your attendance to:

BSAI Sec., Mrs. JP MacIver at bsai@britac.ac.uk

Tel:  01440 785 244,   fax:  020 7969 5401







The St. Andrews Assyrian Church of the East Youth Association Presents

A Father's Day & Fundraiser Dinner Dance Party


Come enjoy a beautiful ambiance and live entertainment by our international singer

Isam Behnam


Lone Tree Manor Banquet

7710 Milwaukee Avenue



7:00 PM

Dinner will be served at 8:00 PM

Semi-Formal Dress, no jeans or gym shoes.


Price: $25.00 adults & children over 13

$15.00 children under 12

Tickets available at all local Churches & at:


Ashtar Imported Foods, 6410 N. Oakley in Chicago

Diana Styling Salon, 8016 Waukegan Rd. in Niles

Oakton Bakery, 4512 Oakton in Skokie

Zander Import Groceries, 8811 Milwaukee Ave. in Niles







The Mar Yosip and Mar Narsai Parishes of San Jose and San Francisco, respectively, invite you to attend a dinner in honor of His Holiness, Mar Dinkha IV, Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East.  His Holiness will give details about his recent trips to other Assyrian communities and parishes around the world.


5:00 PM

Mar Yosip Church of the East

680 Minnesota Avenue


Tickets:  $25.00


Tickets will be sold each Sunday after the church service.  There are only a limited number of seats and no tickets will be sold at the door.


For more information and tickets contact:

   Domarina Bet-Polis      408-927-8485

   Carmen Benjamin         408-829-3403


Note:  His Holiness will offering “Qurbana Qadisha” (Holy Sacrament) during the Church Service at the Mar Yosip Parish on June 9.


JUNE 26 – JULY 7




"The Silk Road: Connecting Cultures, Creating Trust,"


Held outdoors on the National Mall

Admission is free.


The Festival will be an international exhibition of Silk Road traditions with some 350 musicians, artisans, cooks and storytellers from the United States and more than 20 other countries telling the complex story of the Silk Road, its peoples and cultures, and the intercultural exchange it inspired.


Included are three Assyrian contributions: singers and musicians, jewelry makers and a calligrapher.


Ten Assyrian singers and musicians are coming from Qamishly, Syria, two Assyrian jewelry makers from Midyat, Turkey, and the calligrapher is none other than the very talented Issa Benyamin of Iran and Illinois. 


Festival hours are 11 AM to 5:30 PM. with special celebrations, performances and concerts continuing until 9 p.m.


Bring your children.




JULY 1-4





"Ethnicity in Ancient Mesopotamia"

Leiden University

Dept of Assyriology & Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten


Registration Form:  http://www.let.leidenuniv.nl/rencontre/mailform.html 

Registration Fee:  Euro 70 by April 1, 2002



1 - 13


Habbaniya Union School Students' 5th Reunion



AUG 30–SEP 2






NOV 23-26





(Overseas travel partially subsidized by the AANF)


1          Sargis Osipov (Russia):  “Russian-Assyrian Military Communications (1915-1918)”

2          Florence Hellot-Bellier (France):  “The Consequences Of World War I On The Population Of Urmia”

3          Adrin Takhsh (Germany): “Assyrian Women And Their Role In The National Homeland Movement”

4          Robert DeKelaita (U.S.): “The Road To Nineveh Revisited”


Chairperson and organizer:  Dr. Eden Naby




1          Eden Naby (U.S.):  “Winning Recognition: The Key To Group Identity”

2          Werner Arnold (Germany):   “The Relations Between Christians And Moslems In The Western Neo-Aramaic Speaking  Minority Of Syria.”

3          Hovann H. Simonian (Switzerland): “The Hemshin Of Northeast Turkey:  Muslim Armenians Or Armenian-Speaking Turks?”

4          Mathijs Pelkmans (The Netherlands):  “The Shifting Frontier Between Islam And Christianity: The Contents And Dynamics Of Religious Change”


Chairperson:  Prof. Wolfhart Heinrichs


Marriott Wardman Park Hotel

2660 Woodley Road, NW


202/328-2000 phone

800/228-9290 toll free

202/234-0015 fax


For more information:

Assyrian Academic Society:  http://aas.net/

MESA Conference 2002:  http://w3fp.arizona.edu/mesassoc/MESA02/02hotel.htm

Thank You!

Zindamagazine would like to thank:

Carmen Benjamin

Vivian Hermiz

Tammmy Jurgens

Petr Kubalek
(Czech Republic)

Johnny Michael

Jan Picton

Susan Warda


ZINDA Magazine is published weekly.  Views expressed in ZINDA do not necessarily represent those of  the ZINDA editors, or any of our associated staff. This publication reserves the right, at its sole discretion, not to publish comments or articles previously printed in or submitted to other journals.  ZINDA reserves the right to publish and republish your submission in any form or medium.  All letters and messages  require the name(s) of sender and/or author.  All messages published in the SURFS UP! section must be in 500 words or less and bear the name of the author(s).    Distribution of material featured in ZINDA is not restricted, but permission from ZINDA is required. This service is meant for the exchange of information, analyses and news.  To subscribe, send e-mail to:  z_info@zindamagazine.com.

Zinda Magazine™ Copyright © Zinda Inc., 2001-2002 - All Rights Reserved - http://www.zindamagazine.com