ASSYRIAN STATE CONVENTION IN CALIFORNIA OH, NOT AGAIN?!
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
ASSYRIAN MOVIE PRODUCERS RELEASE A TWO-THUMBS-UP FILM
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.
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":
-Karen Durbin, Elle " spellbinding..."
-The New York Times
-The New York Post
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
More about "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing":
US PLANNING A KURDISH-TURKOMAN-ASSYRIAN ENTITY IN POST-SADDAM IRAQ, SAYS AL-HAYAT
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."
of the New York Times (28 May); Article by John Noble Wilford
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.
SOLUTION TO REGIONAL CONFLICT: LOVE THY NEIGHBOR
"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.
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.
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.
HARIRI AND KHAIE MENTIONED IN AMENSTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT 2002
(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:
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
THE POPE APPOINTS FR. SARHAD JAMMO AS NEW CHALDEAN BISHOP
(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.
of the San Francisco Chronicle (21 May); based on a report by Anna Badkhen
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.
ASSYRIAN MAN GOES TO BAT IN CANCER FIGHT FOR HIS SISTER
of the Modesto Bee (8 May); article by Patrick Giblin
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.
AMERICAN WHO DEFENDED BESIEGED YASSER ARAFAT WEDS PALESTINIAN ACTIVIST
IN A CHALDEAN CHURCH
"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.
of the Modesto Bee (22 May); article by Patrick Giblin
"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.
Note: on 28 May, 1 Australian dollar = 0.56 U.S. dollar = 0.60 Euro
WILFRED J. JACOBS
(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.
ASSYRIANS AT THE MESA CONFERENCE IN NOVEMBER 2002
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.
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:
I. ALMOST HOMELESS: THE ASSYRIANS OF THE MIDDLE EAST
1 Sargis Osipov (Russia): "Russian-Assyrian Military Communications
Chairperson and organizer: Dr. Eden Naby
II. CONVERSION AND IDENTITY: THE ASSYRIANS, ARMENIANS AND GEORGIANS
1 Eden Naby (U.S.): "Winning Recognition: The Key To Group Identity"
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.
HABBANIYA UNION SCHOOL STUDENTS' 5TH REUNION
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
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:
Union School Student's Reunion
[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.]
2002 BRUSSELS CONFERENCE ON THE 1915 GENOCIDE
Human Rights Without Frontiers
Editor-in-chief: Willy Fautré
The titles of the papers were:
Introduction To The Conference
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
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:
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
The Genocide Against Armenians, Assyrians And Greeks
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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;
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
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.
MODESTO URHAI CLINCHES STATE TITLE
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.
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.
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.
The succession of the pre-historic cultures in Mesopotamia is as follows:
The Near East: Archaeology in the Cradle of Civilization, Maisele
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.
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