ARE WE READY TO CLAIM OUR POLITICAL POSITION IN THE INTERNATIONAL ARENA?
The change has finally come to our beloved homeland. The question remains, what next? Are we, as the indigenous people and rightful owners of this blessed land, prepared to claim our rights within our ancestral homeland?
As a litmus test to determine if Assyrian nation at large is prepared to undertake this task, the following questions have to be addressed:
I hope that these questions, after being fully considered and analyzed by the readers, will offer us all an opportunity to determine the level of our preparedness to meet the challenges before us and ultimately, answering the original question asked under the heading of this article.
Along the advancement of world civilization, at present there is the emergence of the two global agendas: “Human Rights” and “Environment Rights”, but has the world civilization body matured enough to have the principal global agenda of the “Civilization Rights”? Actually encompassing both of the two of the above? To protect the civilization achievements, the most contributor nations against zero contributor masses? And to secure the advancement of civilization?
In proposing this pre-question it is assumed that the body of the “Civilization Rights” is matured and soon to be on the agenda and on top of the two other rights.
Now the pre-question for litmus: Does the benefit of the civilization body allow:
And the identity acquired not by chance but in the ups and downs conditions, and the identity imprinted with the following major characteristics:
If the answer to the above four questions is “Yes”, then the civilization is not concerned about the existence of Assyrian Nation, and the civilization body is not yet matured!
Then the present civilization must expect a much worst end than that which befell on the civilization two and a half millennia before, by the fall of the sole “Assyrian Superpower”, invaded by anti-civilization zero contributor hordes and unfortunately in alliance with their sister state Babylon, shortly to be perished itself by nomadic hordes.
It is academic consensus that a power did fall that by today’s standards should have continued for another millennium! And that the fall did lead the Western world to plunge into dark ages up to the Renaissance, and the Eastern world into turmoil to present.
The world civilization had to wait 2.3 millennia to catch up with Renaissance and make a breakthrough to reach to present civilization.
But even for having the Renaissance the civilization was lucky. Because of the two exceptional events, without which the world would not have been enjoying the present civilization.
The two events were offered and caused by the second Assyrian resurgence after the Christ, in the from of the “Assyrian Spiritual and Cultural Empire” (ASCE) of A.D., also known as “Assyrian Church of the East”. The empire wielding scientific, cultural and spiritual power and influence all over the Asia to the farthest ends of the continent, until the middle of the second millennium A.D. The first event did occur when in early second millennium, the central Asia’s volcanic human eruption of Turks and Mongols did send sweeping and annihilating waves to East and to the West.
Th Assyrian Church because of its influence and footholds did save Europe from eradication. Along this effort, the Assyrian Church did urge the volcanic forces to send emissaries to Europe to have alliance against the evils of the time. But Europe of that time was not that mature to understand and appreciate the blissful offer. Europe had to pay dearly later because of the developments that did occur as a consequence of rejection, the Turks and Mongols now had embraced Islam.
The second event was, that as Assyrian Church of the East was the major body in A.D. era, holding and developing science, technique and medicine and other academic knowledge along with the spiritual activity, did also have all respective institutions in Islamic realm. Thus, the academic knowledge of two previous introductions to West during Alexander the Great and Crusader Wars were enriched in the third introduction through the Islamic realm of Spain and did spark the Western world Renaissance.
Well, fro the impacts of Assyrian civilization, luckily there were these two events, saving of Europe and sparking of Renaissance that came to the help.
But what of present civilization is annihilated, with having in view the effects of mass destruction technology, what end does the poor civilization have to expect?
Lamassu (the epitomized emblem of the Assyrian identity)* hopes that at this critical time all academic, social and potential centers of civilization that are presently financially strapped and out of attention, will be activated and get their role and enforce the world civilized political bodies to save the civilization body from Armageddon.
Here are respectively the answers for each question with omission of questions to be added in printing:
A-1: The Assyrian nation demands:
Then, why this want must not be a common objective with inhabitants? And where part of them is originally and historically Assyrian, converted forcibly to other faiths? It is academic consensus that since the fall of Assyrian Empire, Mesopotamia has never been relieved from perpetual turmoil and instability.
Thinking pragmatically, wouldn’t a democratic, free and powerful Mesopotamia with the help of its indigenous people who had made it a cause history in civilization and power, ensure a better future for its inhabitants? Could there be a more sound common objective than this?
A-2: There is a plenty of land to be reclaimed, plenty of economic potentials to be exploited. With Assyrian assuming their constructive role, wouldn’t there be a powerful Mesopotamia to ensure their rights for existence in future? While weakness does make it unsure. Pragmatism, flexibility is the key for existence.
A-3: Why a pragmatic and logical thinking neighbor-country must not be interested in having a democratic, free and well developed neighbor?
A-4: As the neighborhood people have been fundamentally benefiting from Assyrian culture in the past, there do exist potential common interests in political, economical areas, where the plan of action will be elaborated on time.
A-5: No. Because all the people around are pragmatic. And they will benefit from a prosperous, wealthy Mesopotamia’s original owners that have determined to renew its beneficial past. And civilization momentous course at present has made it inevitable.
A-6: The answer is yes. If they do understand that at present cross section of history the civilization body has matured and do understand the nature’s law of “natural selection”, the power of civilization thrust and they are pragmatic. Just in our time in Near Eats, we are witnessing the case of Palestine, where the pragmatism was ignored and it did result in catastrophic end.
A-7: Yes and a big yes. There is long list of the key, academic, international institutions and societies who have been and are dreaming to help the Assyrian cause.
Why to help? Because the Assyrians are the world’s most contributor nation for the civilization. Their political super and sole super power empire, having the history’s longest duration for couple of millennia has left that immense invaluable documentary material, that it would take the four next centuries, to unearth, to decipher and examine just the written material.
The same is the situation with less time, for the written material left by “Assyrian Spiritual and Cultural Empire” of A.D., known also as “Assyrian Church of the East” or “Nestorian Church of the East”.
Why the Assyrian heritage is that much invaluable to put the immense effort on it?
Because there is a big gap between quantitive pure science and comparative human science. To fill the gap, you need documentary historical material of the long past period.
Before the discovery of Assyrian heritage material, the civilization
body had exhausted the documents left by Latin and Greek nations,
but no avail to obtain further social science criteria.
Then why the civilization bodies mentioned above do dream to help Assyrian nation to exist?
A-8: Unfortunately, the answer is no. Assyrians are the most persecuted nation of the world. Since the fall, they have been under the nonstop, most annihilating attacks and crippled to extinction extent. If there now do exist couple of millions of the once the sloe super Power Empire, that is by itself an unbelievable miracle.
So, the Assyrians at this moment hardly can provide a capacity that is required efficiently represent their cause to the international political authorities for help. Assyrian do hope that the civilization advancing elements, and the most effective one, the Assyrian.
A-9: Yes. They possess inherently and at highest level all the basic potentials indispensable for a successful management and prosperous accomplishments (see A-10)
Assyrians do hold major (may be the most) initially revolutionary evolution jumps and or break through records in civilization advancement course. Here just to mention the ones in management, examining the evolutionary and revolutionary course of power struggle, Assyrians do hold the initial break through records of: from city state to nation state, then to empire, to super power and to sole super power of the civilized world!!
To manage one business store, you don’t need that management skill, but for a number of stores you need special management skill.
The same is the case of managing one city to a number of them to a sole super power empire, having in view that, at that time, they didn’t have the developed systems of transportation and the communications of today. Which are indispensable for management of vast complexes.
With the same unparalleled intrinsic genius managerial skill they did established and manage their “Spiritual and Cultural Empire” of A.D. all over the Asia, and ocean of diverse people. The academic consensus is that in precision wise it was functioning like a watch!! And this all accomplished without having a political and financial support behind them.
You just concentrate to shower your people with:
A-10: There are nation states with zero achievements record, then why the Assyrian with their unique unparalleled record of achievements, acquired in the historical longest period, are not more than deserved and qualified to own their national homeland?
A-11: Yes, it is a national aspiration to acquire the “National Unity Synergy Power” in accordance to nature’s laws for living entity, which as a result encompasses the first part of the question.
I will add, the aspiration is for all historically Assyrian,
with identical Assyrian culture. Here, the culture is meant:
A-12: If my understanding of the last part of the question is right, the answer is the same as for Q-11.
A-13: Yes as follows.
To acquire and to enjoy the “National Unity Synergy Power”. This, to be behind of each Assyrian to help to meet the following triad needs:
Directive and Plan:
To concentrate, again to concentrate to shower our people with following triad disciplines:
To meet the Assyrian and Mesopotamian basic and urgent academic needs, also to fulfill the dream of international centers, six enclaves must be allocated in Assyrian Metropolises: Ashur, Kalikhu, Nineveh, Arba-ilu, Babylon, and else – to establish the following international academic and financial centers:
ASSYRIANS HOLD THEIR FIRST CONFERENCE IN IRAQ
(ZNDA: Damascus) Iraq's long-oppressed Christian Assyrian minority held its first ever conference in Baghdad, made possible by the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime, a statement issued at the end of the conference said.
"The conference came under circumstances during which our (Chaldean-Assyrian) people are looking forward to a new dawn after the removal of (Saddam's) regime and to an era in which freedom, democracy, human dignity and the homeland's independence and sovereignty are achieved," said the statement, faxed to The Associated Press office in Damascus.
More than 500 people, followers of Assyrian, Orthodox Syriac, Chaldean and Maronite churches from around the globe came to Baghdad to attend the Oct. 22-24 conference, held under the auspices of Ayad Allawi, the president of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, according to the statement.
The conference, organized by the Iraqi Assyrian Democratic Movement and the Syrian Assyrian Democratic Organization, called on the international community and Iraq's neighbors to help Iraq achieve security, stability and restore its independence and sovereignty.
The conference also called for building a pluralistic Iraqi regime that "respects all ethnic groups and religions" in the country, according to the statement.
The statement stressed the need for Iraq's one million Chaldean-Assyrians to be given "an administrative region in the Nineveh plateau" - the place where the ancient Assyrian capital stood 3,000 years ago - and their "political, religious and cultural rights in the rest of Iraq."
"The conference stressed that Chaldean-Assyrians be recognized as the indigenous people of Iraq on basis of equality with all other ethnic groups," the statement said.
One member of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council in Iraq, Younadem Kana, is Assyrian Christian.
The zenith of the Assyrian empire was between the 9th and 7th centuries B.C., when it stretched from the Gulf through modern-day Iraq, Syria and Turkey to the Mediterranean Sea.
In 1933, the then Iraqi government massacred around 5000 Assyrians in Semele, a town in northern Iraq. Since the secular Iraqi Baath Party took power in Iraq in 1968, Chaldean-Assyrians were referred to as Arab Christians.
The three-day conference called for including Syriac, a modern version of Aramaic - the language Jesus Christ is believed to have spoken, in any future Iraqi constitution.
Participants, politicians and intellectuals, came from Syria, Lebanon,
Iraq and as far as Europe, the United States, New Zealand, Canada
and Australia, according to the statement.
FINAL STATEMENT OF THE CHALDEAN SYRIAC ASSYRIAN GENERAL CONFERENCE
Under the auspice of Dr. Ayad Alawi, the interim President of the Iraqi Governing Council, and under the slogan "Our Unity and Our National Rights in Iraq," the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian General Conference in Baghdad was held between October 22-24, 2003.
Among the participants were Mr. Yonadam Kanna, the representative of our people in the Iraqi Governing Council, representative for Mr. Paul Bremer, Head of Civil Administration in Iraq, and representatives from various Iraqi organizations. Among the participants were as well representatives from different organizations, religious, civic and cultural institutions representing all aspects of our people from throughout Iraq and delegates from Syria, Lebanon, Iran, and the Diaspora (Europe, United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand).
The conference took place under circumstances when all Iraqi people are looking forward to a new era and dawn after the passing of the previous regime. Iraqis are looking forward to an era when freedom and democracy is accomplished, human dignity is preserved, and Iraq is independent and sovereign. The conference represents a historic and important point; long awaited by our people, an urgent necessity fulfilled by many merits on the path to secure this people's identity, continuous national and civic existence on his forefather's land.
This existence extends to thousands of years since Sumer, Akkad, Babylon, and Ashur where the first laws were coded and where rules and regulations were put in place. This nation continued in her offers with her adoption of Christianity until this very day. For three days, the participants debated the conference's agenda with its main points. Many valuable studies and researches were presented, which addressed the Iraqi national matters, ethnic matters, and our case.
After thorough deliberations and discussions, the conference instituted certain principles and foundations:
On the Iraqi National Side:
-The conference stressed the unity of Iraq. It called upon the international community and neighboring states to support and help Iraq to secure his security and stability, his independence and national sovereignty. A support needed to take Iraq back to his normal place where he can play his role and build relations based on common interest and mutual respect with all of his neighbors and his return to the international community.
-The conference stressed the establishment of a federal, pluralistic, and democratic system of government. This system shall affirm the principles of governing in peace and the separation of authorities; a system that honors international treaties and agreements, prescribes to human rights, institute the rights of all ethnic and religious groups that the Iraqi people belong to.
On the Ethnic Side:
-The conference stressed the unity of our people, with all the names known by (Chaldean/Syriac/Assyrian) since they are titles for one creator, which we are proud of and is dear to us. This we feel because it proves our historic and civilized depth into ancient times and reflects various historic periods that diversified our peoples' roots and connection to this land, and still is. And due to the urgent necessity imposed by the fragile situation that our people and case are going through, the conference stressed the importance to agree on one united ethnic name that go hand in hand with our situation in Iraq. Thus, the participant agreed on the title ChaldoAssyrian for our people and on Syriac as the name of our language and culture, to be used in the constitution. The conference stressed that the Iraqi permanent constitution shall be liable to institute the ethnic existence of the ChaldoAssyrians as indigenous people. They are to be equal with the rest of the Iraqi ethnic groups and live with the principles of partnership in this country, which will guarantee his ability to practice his ethnic, political, administrative, and cultural rights and his right to be represented and nominated in the legislative, administrative, and judicial branches of government.
-The conference stressed the issuance of legislations that remedy the injustice that has befallen our people and the removal all traces of policies that changed the demographic picture to regions that belonged to our people, relying on the census of 1957 and earlier.
-The conference demanded the acknowledgement for the rights of our people who migrated or were forced into migration to return to Iraq. In this regard, the conference values the decision of the Iraqi Governing Council for issuance of the new citizenship law.
-The conference stresses the role of the ChaldoAssyrian woman through her exercising of her full rights and her participation in all aspects of life. The conference calls upon our people in Iraq and Diaspora to do their part and practice their national and ethnic responsibilities in the rebuilding and the advancement of Iraq. Additionally, the conference calls for the continuation of dialogue with the rest of the organizations and institutions that did not have the chance to attend the conference for whatever reason to stand united in serving our cause. The conference concluded its sessions by establishing a general secretariat, which will follow up and apply the conference's recommendations and decisions through the committees that were emanated from the conference.
[Z-info: Unauthorized translation by Fred
ASSYRIAN PATRIOTIC PARTY ON THE NAME ISSUE
Concerning the issue of our people's name, the Assyrian Patriotic Party (APP) has dealt with in complete transparency and through positive activism. This, the APP has approached from two levels:
First is subjective, internal, and on the Assyrian level. Through this level, the APP stressed and since its first steps in the path of national struggle, and we stress it today again explicitly and unequivocally, that we were committed with rooted faith, and with great pride and honor to the Assyrian name for our people. This commitment was without hesitation, fear from being blamed, and with absolute satisfaction that the Assyrian name gained its historic legitimacy from the great sacrifices that our Assyrian people have given through their long history and the columns of martyrs who gave their souls offerings on the altar of freedom. Accordingly, we used the Assyrian name in our daily lives and in our correspondences, whether through our writings, announcements, radio stations, and through other media outlets. However, and at the same time, we do not deny to others among our nation their rights to commit to any other name that our people as a whole, or a segment of it, were known by through our long history; a name that they see fit for our people. We assure that we respectively are committed to their choice and will deal with them with transparently and positively. This we do because of one essential fact, which we consider as the good grounds for the mutual national activity. This fact is our faith that we are one nation and one people and that every name includes the others. This is what our political party confirmed in its second congress in July 2002.
This is our stand; it is felt by everyone whom we dealt with through our positive correspondence towards the many points of interest that brings us closer to each other. This we should promote without getting into useless arguments that leads us to much wasted energy and efforts and subsequently squandering our national rights.
The Second is on the official, external, and objective level. Through this level, we stated and we assert it here again without amiability, ambiguity, or bargaining or yielding towards any side in order to gain limited political advantages. We state it because it is something of importance that we realize and understand completely, it forces itself upon us, and that is the reality on the ground. The APP is with any name that guarantees our national rights and affirms our existence as people similar to the other ethnic groups in Iraq, our home, whether the name is ChaldoAssyrian or that used in the United States during the Census 2000 (Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac). We are with any other suggestion that solves this problem and ends these useless arguments. We will be committed and will cooperate positively with any suggestion on condition that it will be born through common understanding formulated by everybody (intellectuals, institutions, political organizations, etc.) and where the majority agrees upon it.
We wish that we had made our stand clear and definite; a stand that leaves no room for misinterpretations or doubts.
[Z-info: Unauthorized translation from Arabic
by Fred Aprim. Original Statement in Arabic at
FIRST POLITICAL CONFERENCE FOR IRAQI CHRISTIANS ADDRESSES THE ESTABLISHMENT OF INDEPENDENT CHURCH COUNCIL
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Iraqi Christians, from the three major sects, held their first political conference in Baghdad, which continued for three days, under the banner "Out Unity and Rights." The Preparatory Committee stated that they are seeking to establish "Independent Church Council" that will be responsible to reflect their voice.
Archbishop Shlimon Wardoni, the Patriarchal Vicar of the Chaldean Catholic Church, stated in the opening ceremony that the aim and goal of the heads of churches and sects in Iraq is to establish Independent Church Council. In that Council, all Christians will work together in order to unify their voice in dealing with the state and people.
Furthermore, the council will work and construct in a way so that every ethnic and every sect becomes an integral part of it and without any of them the council will be incomplete and its work adverse. He added that the Independent Church Council would administer its affairs by itself; however, it will consult with the Church authority. The Independent Church Council will chose its own title that will represent it inclusively in the new Iraqi Constitution where religions will not be mentioned rather ethnic groups.
Bishop Warduni clarified further that the main reason for holding this conference is to clarify thoughts and exchange opinions. He added that the present members of the council have agreed on the title "The Independent ChaldoAshur Council" only for the sake of unified representation and is not intended to melt any of the nationalities or ethnic groups rather to give a title to include everyone in general. “Now, if all these nationalities”, he added, “were mentioned in the constitution then that is fine, otherwise let us have a general title that everyone agrees upon.”
It is worth pointing to that in Iraq there are various Christian sects: Chaldean, Assyrian, and Syriac, which represent 5% of the Iraqi people. They live mainly in Mosul and its surrounding villages and towns. They live in Baghdad as well where they number around three quarters of a million.
Warduni considered Christians as an inseparable part of the rooted Iraqi people. “Therefore, we”, he stated, “have to stand together, as we were and still are, for better or for worse. From this logic, Christians must work as one hand, through understanding and cooperation, with their brothers in Islam and the other sects to build the new Iraq.” He pointed that this is the goal and aim of all heads of Churches and Christian sects. He continued to state that “we want the ChaldoAshur Council to be a mosaic piece that include all brilliant colors and gemstones in which if one was lifted from its place then the mosaic's appearance will lack beauty.”
Meanwhile, member of Iraq Governing Council, Mr Yonadam Kanna (a Christian), criticized the policy of the ousted Iraqi regime towards the Iraqi Christians. He stated that our conference that has gathered us here from the four corners of the world is great positive indicator for our nation's struggle that suffered too much dispersion and negative stands throughout the centuries.
Meanwhile, Mr. Imad Chamoun (Lebanese), head of the International Maronite Council and the representative of Mar Nasrallah Sfir, Patriarch of the Maronite Church, stated in his speech that the first of the recommendations that this conference could come out with is to demand from the present Iraqi Governing Council to acknowledge the ethnic presence of the KaldoAshuri (ChaldoAssyrian) people in Iraq: “This is to be an alarm that we are not only the sons and daughters of a Chaldean and Assyrian Church alone; rather we are ChaldoAssyrians ethnically.”
Mr. Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, member of the Iraqi Governing Council, stated that we want the new Iraqi society to be built on the foundation of diversity. A society that is big enough for all the geopolitical factors without distinction between people. He added that Iraq is not a country for you rather Iraq is your country; Iraq is not only a land you meet each other accidentally, it is a contract between you and the land that made you who you are.
Patrick Kennedy, the representative of the Civil Administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, asserted in his speech that the Christians of Iraq have a rooted history in language, heritage, religion that goes back to father Abraham and the Sumerian Civilization. He added, “where I come from, civilization in it does not exceed few hundred years. I stand to honor your power that saved your churches despite hundreds of years of challenges and persecution.”
CHALDEAN NATIONAL CONFERENCE TO BE HELD IN FEBRUARY 2004 IN BAGHDAD
(ZNDA: Detroit) An official of the Chaldean National Congress has announced that the initial preparations for a general Chaldean National Conference are underway in Baghdad for next February. The conference will include all Chaldean ethnic institutions and groups. It will address the following issues in addition to other topics that will be defined by the preparatory committee.
1. The ultimate challenges that face the Chaldeans, especially not being represented in the Iraqi Governing Council and the Iraqi government. In addition, defining the ways and means to block all efforts to marginalize the Chaldean legitimate rights.
2. Ways and means to guarantee the Chaldeans ethnic, political, and cultural rights in the new Iraqi constitution.
3. The present challenges that the Iraqis are facing and the means to guarantee the Chaldeans' effective participation in the democratic transformation, which is taking place in Iraq at this time.
4. The posture to be held in future relations with the Assyrians and Syriacs, and the means to block all efforts to distort the Chaldeans' ethnic identity practiced by certain political groups and institutions.
The Conference will take place on February 16, 2003 in Baghdad. The conference will coincide with the holding of the first gathering of the Chaldean National Congress, in which all internal documentations of the organization will be approved and its leadership officers elected.
The names of the preparatory committee will be announced soon, followed
by the invitations to all Chaldean organizations, inside and outside
DONNY GEORGE: UNEASY GUARD OF IRAQ'S PAST
Visiting U.S. universities to drum up support for renewed research collaboration, Youkhanna spoke recently with USA Today on the "precarious" condition of archaeological research in the cradle of civilization. He speaks reluctantly at first about the museum's hardships of the past year. "I cannot speak for just myself. It was a real hard time for everyone," he says finally. "Very hard times."
Amid reconstruction to restore electricity, pipelines and order, patrolling tens of thousands of archeological sites remains a low priority for U.S. forces and Iraqi police. Some prominent sites, such as the ancient city of Nimrud in northern Iraq, and Babylon, where Saddam Hussein built three palaces, are now guarded. World attention has been drawn to these sites because of their place in history and the National Geographic report in June of the looting there.
In Baghdad, about 11,000 museum objects 2,000 to 6,000 years old remain missing, and the number is expected to climb as assessments continue. And in southern Iraq, the remains of famed ancient cities such as Umma are being ripped apart by criminal gangs. "The future looks very grim unless the antiquity trade is halted," Youkhanna says.
About 3,000 objects have been returned to the museum. U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced in May that they had recovered 700 museum artifacts. Jordanian border guards have returned a similar number, and about 500 more have been seized by French Customs guards, Youkhanna says.
But with an open border to Iran beckoning and looting continuing at dozens of sites, "we don't even know what we are losing," says archaeologist Elizabeth Stone of Stony Brook (N.Y.) University.
The Baghdad museum remains closed, but cleanup is well underway. In basement storerooms, the museum holds hundreds of thousands of objects, chiefly cuneiform tablets, seals and other clay objects from the Mesopotamian cultures that ruled ancient Iraq.
"The day I knew the museum was looted, I felt a cut to my heart," Youkhanna says. For three days prior to April 8, when Baghdad fell, he and three other museum personnel stayed on site, hoping to guard the museum. They fled only after Saddam loyalists started firing at U.S. forces from the museum grounds, Youkhanna says. For two days he stayed with relatives, unable to return to his family or to the museum.
The looters appear to have been a mixture of common and professional thieves. They hit three of five storerooms under the museum. In many cases, for example, thieves bypassed exact replicas of objects such as statues and cuneiform seals to take only the most valuable objects, which shows expert knowledge, Stone says.
Fortunately, museum officials began efforts to protect records and artifacts when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. They stored the most valuable museum objects in secure sites, such as the bank vault holding treasures from the royal tombs of Nimrud.
In the days of chaos after the looting, Youkhanna kept the location of the treasures a secret but revealed their existence to U.S. officials once it appeared that the safety of the museum had become a priority.
"We didn't want it made public," he says. Even today, "it is still anarchy there." Shootings and robberies are common, along with bombings.
In July, Stone returned to Baghdad with a $200,000 State Department grant to buy equipment, such as computers and desks, for museum personnel. (Even doors had been looted from offices.)
Stony Brook University announced Tuesday that it has received a $4.1 million U.S. government grant to rebuild archaeology and environmental programs at four Iraqi universities.
Youkhanna says the future of scholarship in the cradle of civilization remains very much in doubt. Looting of archeological sites began in earnest in 1994, when locals realized the value of tablets and other artifacts.
"Now the looters are armed with rifles and RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades)," he says. "They are well-organized to dig and steal."
This month, Youkhanna was named to the reconstituted Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage. U.S. officials have pointed to the agency as the best long-term hope for protecting artifacts. "Iraq holds part of the whole world's heritage," Youkhanna says. "Looters are stealing from all of us."
HIRMIS ABBONA LECTURE IN LONDON
Rabbie Hirmis Aboona will present a lecture entitled “The Church of the East and the Mongols” at the University of Cambridge in England on 13 November:
LISTEN TO VOIX DES ASSYRO-CHALDEENS
Here is the program of our weekly broadcast from Thursday, October, 23rd to Thursday, October, 30th, which you can listen 24 hours a day and 7 days a week on www.aacf.asso.fr.
An interview with Yonadam Khanna, member of the Iraqi Temporary
Government, about the current situation in Iraq, on October, 21st,
2003 (in Soureth)
The land surrounding the Tigris and the Euphrates was known as Mesopotamia until 1920. By the end of the First World War, when it was still part of the Ottoman Empire, the British Army had occupied Baghdad and Basra, but the Turks, who had fought alongside the Germans, remained in control of the northern region around Mosul and Kirkuk. The British generals didn’t see any military value in routing the Turks, but David Lloyd George and his colleagues were looking ahead. In 1917 and 1918, a petrol shortage had demonstrated the economic vulnerability of the British Empire, which had no liquid fuel of its own. The area stretching from Baghdad to the Turkish border was well-known for its oil and gas, which in some areas seeped to the surface, creating fires that were said to be the “fiery furnace” into which Nebuchadnezzar, the ruler of ancient Babylon, dispatched the Jews.
In Imperial Quest for Oil: Iraq 1910-1918, the German historian Helmut Mejcher detailed the debate that took place within the British government. “There is no military advantage in pushing forward in Mesopotamia,” Sir Maurice Hankey, the Secretary of the War Cabinet, wrote to Lloyd George. However, Hankey went on, “Would it not be an advantage, before the end of the way, to secure the valuable oil wells in Mesopotamia?” In autumn 1918 British troops marched into Mosul.
Under the San Remo Agreement, which was completed in 1920, the northern province became part of Iraq, a League of Nations protectorate under British control. Faisal, the third son of Hussein, the Shariff of Mecca, was installed as king of the new country. The French, who considered Mosul to be within their colonial sphere of influence, demanded compensation for the British demarche, and they obtained a promise that Paris would receive a quarter of any future Iraqi oil revenues. Meanwhile, Walter Teagle, the formidable head of Satndard Oil, America’s largest oil company (and the precursor of ExxonMobil), headed for London to stake his firm’s claim. “It should be borne in mind that the Standard Oil Company is very anxious to take over Iraq,” Sir Arthur Hirtzel, a British colonial officer, warned his colleagues.
Before the war, an Armenian entrepreneur named Calouste Gulbenkian had established the Turkish Petroleum Company (TPC), with the backing of Royal Dutch/Shell and Anglo-Persian (later renamed British Petroleum), to explore for commercial deposits of oil in Mesopotamia. In 1925, King Faisal granted the TPC a monopoly on oil exploration in Iraq for 75 years, along with the sole authority to determine how much oil would be pumped and at what price it would be sold. In return, the government in Baghdad would get a small royalty on each barrel produced. This one-sided arrangement became the model for subsequent deals between Western oil companies and Arab governments in the 1930s and 1940s.
The TPC quickly struck oil. In October 1927, a team of geologists was drilling area near Kirkuk, 150 miles north of Baghdad. One morning, a roar was heard in the drilling area, and a great gusher burst from the ground, carrying rocks 50ft above the derrick. The countryside was drenched with oil, the hollows filled with poisonous gas,” the energy expert Daniel Yergin recounts in The Prize, his panoramic history of the oil industry. Intensive discussions followed about how to restructure the now immensely valuable TPC. In July 1928, the interested parties agreed to divide the business between the TPC’s founder, Gulbenkian, who got five per cent of the equity, and four Western companies: Royal Dutch/Shell, Anglo-Persian, Compaigne Francaise des Petroles and Teagle’s Standard Oil. In 1929, three years before Iraq gained independence, the Turkish Petroleum Company was renamed the Iraq Petroleum Company, but the Westerners remained in control – a situation that prevailed for decades.
As the 20th century progressed, the United States gradually usurped Britain’s role as the dominant military power in the Middle East. Economic self-interest drove this strategic shift. In 1940, the United States produced two-thirds of the entire world’s oil supply. During the Second World War, however, fears arose that American reserves might eventually be depleted; when American officials began to look covetously at Britain’s Middle East reserves, Winston Churchill was moved to write to Franklin D Roosevelt and point out that some people in London feel “that we are being hustled”. After the Second World War, American oil companies concentrated on Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where new “elephants” were being discovered regularly. But in 1953, after Iran nationalized its oil industry, the CIA helped to organize a coup that ejected the nationalist government of Mohammad Mossadegh and reinstalled the Shah. A few years later, Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser was calling out on the Arab masses to seize control of their oil, and the unrest spread to Iraq. In 1958, and Iraqi army officer named Abdul Karim Qasim organized a coup that overthrew King Faisal II and established a republic. Faisal and his family were assassinated.
In 1961, Qasim’s government introduced a law banning the Iraq Petroleum Company from developing new oilfields, while leaving its existing assets in place. Less than two years later, the Ba’ath Party, an alliance of socialists and disaffected army officers, seized power and put Qasim to death. The Ba’athists were quickly dismissed in a countercoup, but they returned to power in 1968 and asserted control over the oil industry. In 1972, they nationalized the Iraq Petroleum Company, folding everything from drilling rigs to refineries and petrol stations into the state-owned Iraq National Oil Company. The Iraq Petroleum Company’s Western employees were forced to leave. From that point on, anybody who wanted access to Iraq’s soil had to deal with the leaders of the Ba’ath Party, the most powerful of whom was Saddam Hussein.
RET. SENATOR JOHN NIMROD DISCUSSES FUTURE OF IRAQ DURING HIS VISIT TO AUSTRALIA
(ZNDA: Sydney) The future of post-war Iraq is being watched closely by more than 20,000 Assyrians living in airfield City, Australia many of whom may consider returning to their homeland if they are represented in Iraq’s new government body, says a US senator.
Assyrian Universal Alliance Secretary General, Senator John Nimrod, addressed members of the Assyrian community last Friday night in Greenfield Park about the plight of post-war Iraq.
Senator Nimrod told Federal Parliament last week that it was time for the Assyrian people to push for a democratic government in Iraq. The Assyrians, who Senator Nimrod described as the “Aboriginal people of Iraq”, have never been formally recognized as the indigenous people of the country and he is hoping after the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime, they will receive the recognition they deserve.
“We just want the doors of communication between governments and the people opened…Assyrians are the key to a secular government, because we represent a large part of the country which is non-Muslim,” Senator Nimrod told the Advance.
“If the Assyrians had a voice in the new government, many of the people who were forced to flee the country world return.”
Touring major countries in a bid to raise awareness of the Assyrians’ plight, Senator Nimrod is calling on a bill of rights that encompasses all Iraqi citizens and a promise that if there is an ethnic division in the country, the provinces of Ninawa (Nineveh) and Dohuk be designated as the area for non-Muslims.
“This would allow Assyrians culture and religious rights and relives them of the fear of being persecuted.”
Assyrian Universal Alliance Australian Chapter secretary Hermiz Shahen said Assyrians in Fairfield were watching closely the daily events in Iraq, but were not yet confident of returning to visit family and friends. “Every day we see assassinations and instability, which greatly affects people in the Fairfield community,” Mr. Shahen said.
“Because of the history of persecution in the country, people are waiting to see if the politicians can resolve the issues and if the wishes the Assyrian community are asking for are granted.”
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