Resigned to His Fate
Shortly after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the greatest profilers working for the U.S. intelligence began deciphering every minute detail of the life of Saddam Hussein. I was a student of Political Science at the time and after a heated discussion following a student gathering with the former French president Valerie Giscard D'Estaing, I was asked to write a “student” report of the profile of the leader of Iraq . In my research I came across an interesting observation made earlier of Saddam. In describing his irrational behavior he was likened to the biblical ruler of Babylon – Nebuchadnezzar and his psychological profile described as the Nebuchadnezzar Factor.
Saddam was in one study described as a “megalomaniac who sees himself as Nebuchadnezzar II, King of Babylon.” Most Iraqis would undoubtedly recall the larger than life size posters of Saddam and Nebuchadnezzar standing shoulder to shoulder or even shaking hands. Saddam believed that he was the inheritor of the Mesopotamian heritage and may have even called himself Nebuchadnezzar III had he succeeded in his invasion of the “19 th province”.
Nebuchadnezzar II ruled Mesopotamia a few years after the fall of Nineveh until 562 BC. He destroyed Solomon's Temple in Jeruslaem and brought the Israelites to Babylon . He is described as an “architect” and many of the ancient Mesopotamian buildings including the Hanging Gardens are ascribed to his efforts in rebuilding Babylon . Recall the tens of palaces built by Saddam, his monumental building projects from the Saddam Mosque to the dams on the Euphrates and even the Ashurbanipal library and museum project.
The true intention of a psychological profile is of course to predict future actions of the individual under scrutiny. I debated the logical inference of some of the analysts in likening Saddam to Nebuchadnezzar. In contrast to Saddam, I found Nebuchadnezzar a compassionate ruler, who loved restoration and construction over destruction. He even spared the Israelites several times until he finally resorted to the destruction of their temple to quell their rebellion. Saddam's attack on Kuwait could not be explained in the same way.
I was also quite irritated by the biblical description of the latter days of this magnificent ruler of Mesopotamia . It is written that he suffered an attack of a type of madness similar to what many mythologists call lycanthropy – the transformation of a human to a beast. Since 1990 many Christian fatalists have written about the “Beast of Babylon” and the final transformation of Saddam Hussein into a bellicose and authoritarian ruler surpassing Hitler's notoriety.
In one Sunday School textbook I saw the depiction of Nebuchadnezzar as a beast inside a cave-like structure, on his hands and feet, looking frantic and confused. I have despised this picture ever since and had completely erased it from my memory until I saw a real lycanthrope on Sunday morning.
I could not believe my eyes. Saddam was captured inside a "spider hole" two meters below ground. The images of the “inheritor of the Mesopotamian legacy” on my television screen had eerie resemblance to the painting of the Babylonian ruler I had so happily dismissed for so many years. I stood frozen before my television set. In a momentary lapse of raison d'être I finally comprehended the symbolic meaning of the biblical story of the ruler of Babylon . U.S. commander Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez said about the capture of Saddam Hussein in a press conference on Sunday: “Hussein appeared "a tired man," and "a man resigned to his fate." In Saddam's eyes I saw the same resignation to a pointless life that nearly all deposed “deities” afford themselves in their final days as “mortal men”. I sat down in my chair and began to weep. I pondered the huge ongoing human cost suffered between 1979 until today. If history is meant to repeat itself, the end of Saddam will only mean the end of another Mesopotamian oppressor. Tyrants and dictators will always live among us, emerging from one hole and descending into another, trying to exploit every fiber of our existence and denuding us of our dignity. Nonetheless, the legacy of Mesopotamia will remain among those of us who respect life, cherish freedom, and like the twin rivers of Bet-Nahrain breathe life and hope into our wretched bodies. Perhaps both Nebuchadnezzar and Saddam, as well as all future Mesopotamian dictators
The Legacy of Malik Khoshaba Yousip & Yousip Malik Khoshaba
Lately, certain attempts have been made to rewrite the legacy of malik* Khoshaba Yousip and his son Yousip (Joseph) malik Khoshaba Yousip.
Before we proceed, it is worth mentioning that the term "malik" is an Assyrian hereditary title that is given to heads of tribes. Although Khoshaba was known as malik Khoshaba and his son as malik Yousip, many familiar with the Assyrian history stress that both father and son acquired the title "malik" later in life and not because their family came from a tribal head.
The rewriting of the legacy of the father and, or, the son started a while back, however it remained as scattered verbal attempts. The written attempts began, as it seems, with an article about Yousip Khoshaba in Syriac, which appeared on page 32 of Nineveh Magazine, third Qtr., vol. 23, No. 3, 2000, originated by a so-called Assyrian Preparatory Committee in the Diaspora. I do not believe that publishing that article in Nineveh magazine reflected the views of that well-respected magazine about the person in question, but the opinion of its Syriac section editor, who in my opinion did not have all the facts straight.
The article included much untruthful and deceptive information. First, the article claimed that Yousip Khoshaba was elected by heads of church and tribes as “archana d' Atouraye” and then as the official head of the Assyrians after the death of his father malik Khoshaba in 1952 (some records indicate 1954). The question is who were these claimed heads of church and maliks who elected Yousip as so. The truth is that it was the Iraqi government, which was behind such appointments. Secondly, the article claimed that in 1964, Assyrians elected Yousip as “archana” for them (i.e. their head or representative)! Again, who were the Assyrians who elected Yousip as such? Thirdly, the article claimed that Yousip was elected around 1999 as president of a mysterious ‘Assyrian Supreme Committee' by the so-called Assyrian Preparatory Committee in Diaspora to demand national rights for Assyrians in Iraq . They claimed that they selected Yousip since he was a son of one of the great Assyrian heads (referring to malik Khoshaba). One might wonder, what is the background of this preparatory committee and who gave it the authority to elect Assyrian representatives and who was behind it? Some have linked William Shawil with this preparatory committee, however, that has not been verified by this author. Many argue that the Iraqi government was behind this process, which wanted to undermine the progress of the Assyrian national movement in Iraq ?
Yousip malik Khoshaba was born in 1914. In 1918, he joined the Mar Toma ( St. Thomas ) Jacobite School in Mosul . In 1928, he joined the Iraqi Military College from which he graduated in 1934/1935 as an officer in the Iraqi Calvary Division. He advanced in the ranks of the army until 1960 when he retired as Colonel. Yousip Khoshaba died in Baghdad in June 2000.
Assyrians who lived in Iraq during the period 1960 to 2000 know well the unpatriotic role and divisionism that Yousip Khoshaba played. He was a person who worked faithfully for implementing the policies of the Iraqi government. He was behind the persecution of many Assyrians in Iraq during the height of the turbulence, which shock and ultimately divided the Church of the East. When the Church of the East adapted the Gregorian calendar, Yousip was a major player in the very unfortunate events that led to the split in the Church in 1968. He was a pro-Iraqi government in every sense of the word throughout his life. It is unbelievable how today few are trying to glorify him or his father for that matter.
The Documented Accounts
Nobody can deny the heroic role malik Khoshaba Yousip played during World War I and the immediate following years. However, and as they say, people change and so did malik Khoshaba when he began to take part in the Assyrians' communications with the Iraqi government regarding the Assyrians settlement in late 1920s. In June 1932, all Assyrian maliks, including malik Khoshaba, many clergymen, and notables met in Sar Amadiya and agreed to send the Late Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimun to Geneva to represent the Assyrians in the League of Nations (replaced later with the United Nations). It was malik Khoshaba among few others who supplied the Iraqi government, immediately after that meeting, with a letter, which was used by the Iraqi representative in the League to undermine the representation and authority of the patriarch. It was in that letter where malik Khoshaba claimed that Assyrians were happy in Iraq with the treatment of the Iraqi government and that the patriarch was not their representative. That letter and the stand of malik Khoshaba was one of the main reasons for the failure of the Assyrian mission in the League. Malik Khoshaba died in 1952 and his son Yousip Khoshaba took over and followed in his father's footsteps.
Below are seven references (A – G) about the father and the son:
A. Malik Khnoshaba was born as a member of the Church of the East. It seems that he had joined the Presbyterian Church just before the Great War. After the Great War, he had gotten in serious trouble with the Iraqi government when he murdered his own wife and child and escaped to Turkey . However, he was pardoned later and returned to Iraq . Giwargis Bet Benyamin, an Assyrian author, writes that when malik Khoshaba realized that the Presbyterian Missionaries would not be able to destroy the Church of the East, he converted to Catholicism while in Mosul . The destruction of the Church of the East by Catholicism was progressing, and that was the reason why Khoshaba joined it; he wanted to be part of the process. In 1932, the Iraqi government supported Khoshaba and his group and succeeded through the latter's infamous letter to destroy the Assyrian national cause in Iraq . During the twenty years, from 1933 to 1952, the Iraqi governments recognized malik Khoshaba as head of the Assyrians in Iraq , yet he accomplished nothing except creating more divisions among the Assyrians.
Source: Giwargis Bet Benyamin d' Asheeta. “Reshanoota d' Atourayeh d' doora d' Isri” (Assyrians' Leadership in the 20th Century). In Syriac. Chicago : 1987, pp. 43-54
B. The Assyrian heads and notables gathered in Sar Amadiya in mid 1932. They agreed unanimously to send the Mar Eshai Shimun (the Patriarch) to Geneva to present the Assyrian case to the League of Nations . This was vital before the termination of the British Mandate over Iraq was announced and the admittance of Iraq in the League became a reality. The Assyrians were concerned that if the Assyrian issue was not resolved before the admittance of Iraq into the League, they would face great danger under a non-supervised Arab government. Malik Khoshaba was one of the attendees in that meeting. After the meeting, he had contacted the Iraqi government and generated a letter in which he and few others had denied the representation of the Patriarch.
Yusuf Malek, a member of the Chaldean Catholic Church, writes that in return for malik Khoshaba's dirty work:
“Khoshaba was promised to be made "Sheik ul-Mashayikh" of the Assyrians, if he were to consent to the Dashtazi settlement scheme; his son, Yusuf, a student in the military school, was to be promoted to the rank of an officer; his second son Daud was to be made a police officer; other relatives were to have access to government posts in preference to the other "obstinate" Assyrians; and his son-in-law, Lazard, was to be made Mudir Nahiyah of Dohuk.”
Yusuf Malek continues to state that for these privileges, malik Khoshaba, and his group, was asked by the government to:
Source: Yusuf Malek. "The British Betrayal of the Assyrians." New Jersey : The Kimball Press, 1935, p. 221
C. After the death of malik Khoshaba in 1952, the Iraqi government brought his son Yousip malik Khoshaba and made him the head of the Assyrians in Iraq . The son did yet greater damages throughout his life till his death in June 2000.
Bet Benyamin adds that what Yousip did to the Church of the East in Iraq in the period from 1960 to 2000 is known well to Assyrians involved in the Church of the East and national affairs. When the Church of the East decided to adopt the Gregorian Calendar in the early 1960 in order to be in concert with the majority of the Christian world, Yousip fluxed his muscles. He gathered a gang around himself and stood against the church leaders and the switch of the church. One wonders why! Why would Yousip care whether the Church of the East uses the Eastern or the Gregorian Calendar? It just boggles any man's mind since Yousip was not a member of the Church of the East; he was a Presbyterian! When the Assyrians thought of building a church in Mosul and began raising money, Yousip wrote to a clergyman: “You go ahead collect the money but you will not decide where it will be built!” The Assyrians had picked a very suitable place close to where many of the Assyrians had resided, but Yousip because of his influence with the government rejected the location. He wanted to build it in the middle of a Moslem neighborhood! Bet Benyamin wonders, why do people meddle in issues not relating to them? Why did Yousip continue to act in such manner?
Bet Benyamin continues to state that Yousip malik Khoshaba was a member of the Iraqi Armed Forces with great influence and connections. He used this power to terrorize every Church of the East clergyman who did not agree with his opinion. It reached a point where he took many of the Assyrian clergymen to State Courts where they were insulted and called degrading names by his own people or allies, a humiliation to the Church of his ancestors. Because of his position in the Iraqi Army, Yousip had made many government officials be under the pretence that every Assyrian who was not with him, was therefore against the authority of the Iraqi government. He made the government believe that those Assyrians who did not consider him their ‘master' were collaborating with foreign powers against the sovereignty of Iraq . Yousip went so far that he deposed of some priests who did not agree with him and brought his own puppets in their place. All churches belonging to the Church of the East in Iraq were closed in late 1960 at the orders of this Yousip and many clergymen who wanted to challenge the orders were harassed inside courtrooms. The Church of the East had never seen so much humiliation more than in the era of Yousip malik Khoshaba. He had said: “I will do just as Samson the great had done; I will destroy Assyrians and their church and let me die with them all in the process!” What could we expect from such a man? What could we expect from a selfish, egocentric, Iraqi government driven individual?
Source: Giwargis Bet Benyamin d' Asheeta. “Reshanoota d' Atourayeh d' doora d' Isri” (Assyrians' Leadership in the 20th Century). In Syriac. Chicago : 1987, pp. 125-134
D. Col. (Retired) Yousip Khoshaba played an important role in the split of the Church of the East in the 1960s. His father malik Khoshaba always opposed the patriarchal family. It is stated that when Yousip Khoshaba caused the spilt in the church in 1968 (i.e. establishing the Old Calendar Church ), and creating the new patriarchy under Toma Darmo, he was in reality taking revenge from the Mar Shimun's family. Worth mentioning that Yousip was not member of the Church of the East, he was a Presbyterian.
Source: Dr. Mar Aprem (George Mooken). "The Assyrians in Iraq : A Travelogue." Trichur , India : M. T. B. C. Technical Training Center , 1990, p. 42.
I need to stress here that we cannot apply modern rules on old practices that were the Bible of people at the time. The patriarch was for centuries the religious and secular leader of the Assyrian "millet." This "temporal" power was practiced among the Assyrian tribes of Hakkari undisputedly, whether Turkish government sometimes liked it or not. The government of Iraq and its king, originally from the Arabian Desert , did not understand what the word "Temporal" meant. It was translated as "sulta zamaniya" (literally Timed Power), however, it hardly meant that. As any leader, the patriarch had to protect his authority, which the Iraqi government wanted to undermine. The British understood exactly what this word meant and since they were in control in Iraq , they could have done something. The British could have explained the history behind the word "Temporal" to the king and the Iraqi government, just as the patriarch tried hard to do, before allowing the detention of the patriarch, his deportation, and the massacre of the Assyrians, but they did not bother.
E. Staff ord writes that the Assyrian leaders nominated the patriarch as their leader in June 1932 in Sar Amadiya, but the Iraqi government tried to abolish this authority and the Temporal power. The patriarch tried more than once to explain what this word meant. He stated that the power was not assumed by him but descended to him from centuries past, which was recognized during the Sassanid Kings, Islamic Caliphs, Mongol Khans, and Ottoman Sultans. No proof of any misuse of that power have ever been traced in history. (pp. 100-105)
Staff ord adds that malik Khoshaba was not a real malik (head of tribe), he was a man of stormy past, a man of mood, and his whole life was dominated by his hatred of the Mar Shimun. After returning to Iraq , he murdered his wife and daughter. Malik Khoshaba and Bishop Yawallaha have long opposed, for personal reasons, to the patriarch. Therefore, it was not difficult to win them over to the government side. (p. 122) The Iraqi government had in the absence of the Mar Shimun appointed malik Khoshaba as President of the Assyrian Advisory Committee, a committee established to find lands to settle landless Assyrians. While the patriarch felt naturally betrayed for having his deadliest enemy appointed to such position, the Iraqi government argued that Khoshaba was the only Assyrian leader who accepted working with the government. Furthermore, the Iraqi government tried to interfere and appoint and nominate Assyrian maliks and raises, was a further interference in the patriarchs duties. (p. 123)
When given the option and as most competent and impartial observers consider that 90% of Assyrians would have decided to leave Iraq (even if not to the same place) and only few hundreds would have remained in Iraq backing malik Khoshaba. Later Staff ord tried to justify the Iraqi government and British actions, he tried hard to add certain doubts in the readers mind. He states next that the strength of the two parties, i.e. the patriarch and malik Khoshaba, cannot be accurately stated. Still, he state, quote: "Possibly the anti-Mar Shimun party represent 25 to 33 per cent of the whole, but it is difficult to say, as none can tell for certain to what extent the sectional leaders, for example, malik Khammo of the Baz and malik Nimrud of the Jilu represent the rank and file." Unquote. (p. 213)
Source: R. S. Staff ord. "The Tragedy of the Assyrians." London : George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1933.
F. Louka Zodo describes the opposition group that betrayed the Assyrian cause by rejecting the leadership of the Mar Shimun in Geneva as a group that sold their alliance to Sir Francis Humphrys and the Iraqi government, British High Commissioner in Baghdad, although these leaders have no conscious to start with.
Source: Louka Zodo. "5000 Years History of the Assyrian Civilization and Racial Aims." In Syriac. California : 1981, p. 239.
Of course, Louka Zodo is referring to the group of malik Khoshaba in the 1930s, and exactly in 1932, when he undermined the authority of the patriarch in the League of Nations with his infamous latter that was used by the Iraqi government.
G. "Malik" Yaqu d' "Malik" Ismael writes in his book:
In May 1932, the Late Mar Eshai Shimun invited all Assyrian villages' heads and tribes' maliks to attend an Assyrian Council meeting in Amadiya. Malik Yaqu malik Ismael attended as a representative of Upper Tyari since malik Ismael was very old and weak to endure the long trip. During the trip, malik Yaqu writes that he was thinking what to do and how to handle the situation with malik Khoshaba. He concluded to address these four facts:
Upon the arrival of malik Yaqu to Amadiya he went immediately to visit malik Khoshaba to reach an understanding. The following was concluded; that the Assyrians have no future in Iraq unless their autonomy is secured, otherwise if Turkey does not allow us to return to our homes, then we must look for alternative places. This understanding was the same malik Yaqu and Rab Imma Khnano (representing Tkhoma) had reached together earlier while driving together from Mosul to Amadiya. At that night, a meeting attended by all heads between themselves took place and this understanding was presented and agreed upon by all. Next morning, the meeting with the Assyrian Patriarch Mar Shimun took place. In attendance were Mar Yousip Khnanesho, Metropolitan of Shamisdin; Mar Sargis, bishop of Jilu; Mar Yaw-alaha, bishop of Lower Barwar . The Patriarch said that he prefers negotiating with the Iraqi authorities rather facing the troubles of migrations and many have settled in and opportunities for prosperity in Iraq are plentiful. After more discussions, everybody agreed on the Patriarch's proposal and was given the authority to lead the people in this direction.
Here it was decided upon to have a second meeting of the Assyrian Council attended by one representative from each tribe and as follows under the leadership of the Patriarch:
The following demands were listed and planned to be presented to the authorities:
A second Council meeting was decided to take place in June 1932. As the first meeting was adjourned, news arrived to the Assyrians that malik Khoshaba has begun his contacts with the Iraqi authorities against the Assyrian Council. Khoshaba began to create divisions among Assyrians against the patriarch and succeeded to gain some supporters.
In June 1932, malik Yaqu while in ‘Swara Tookeh' on his way to attend the second meeting in ‘Amadiya,' was contacted by a messenger from Khoshaba asking him to join forces together against the plans of the Council. Malik Yaqu declined since they have all discussed the matter and swore in the first meeting to stay united. At the break of the new development three Assyrian notables from Lower Tyari: Audisho Lawando from bnay Lagepa; Shim'aon Barkheesho from bnay Matad d Jaliya d Leezan; and Khiyo Audisho from Asheeta, sent a letter to Khoshaba Yousip stating that they refuse to accept him as a representative of Lower Tyari.
In this meeting, the patriarch read the response of Sir Francis Humphrys to the Assyrians' demands stating: “Your demands have been received: but regretfully the issue of uniting your home of Hakkari with Iraq, the rebuilding of destroyed churches, and the establishing of schools, are out of our control. These demands must be presented to the League of Nations , and we will be supportive in such matter.”
According to these latest devlopments, it was decided that the patriarch would represent the Assyrians and the council to present these demands to the League of Nations . Here malik Khoshaba Yousip requested that the three Lower Tyari notables who wrote him the letter mentioned above be called in and accept him as the representative of Lower Tyari, or he is going to resign. Many tried to convince Khoshaba that the letter should be put aside and work to continue, but he insisted. Here malik Yaqu stood and addressed Khoshaba saying: “This is not an important issue. It seems that you are looking for excuses to put obstacles in the Council's path. We cannot please everybody. By staying so stubborn about the three men and their letter, you are proving that this was some sort of a planned scheme to undermine the decisions of the Assyrian Council and an excuse so you pull away and create division.”
Malik Khoshaba thought for a second and stated: “Indeed, your conclusions are logical, let me then join all of you!” Therefore the matter was dropped. The Council hence adopted a decision to send the patriarch along with Shamasha Emmanuel Shimun as a clerk to Geneva . On October 1932, His Holiness departed from Mosul to address the League of Nations and Mar Sargis of Jilu was appointed to occupy the patriarchal chair temporarily in his absence.
Upon the patriarch's departure, malik Khoshaba began his intensive and quick efforts backed by the Iraqi authorities to undermine the patriarch's mission in Geneva . A letter was written stating that the Mar Shimun has no authority to speak on behalf of the Assyrians in Geneva since the Iraqi authorities are taking care of the Assyrian resettlement issue and all other necessities. This letter somehow was approved by some of those who participated in the Amadiya meetings. Accordingly, the presence and all the demands of the patriarch in Geneva were rejected.
In early 1933, Britain reduced the Assyrian Army. Second Battalion in Diyana-Rawandoz was retired, replaced by the Iraqi Army. Other Assyrians were placed as Britain 's Airplanes keepers in Hinaidi and Baghdad . In May 1933, the patriarch returned to Mosul empty handed from his mission to the League of Nations . The British began a campaign to show that the patriarch had failed to represent the Assyrians in the League and in June 10, 1933, it appeared that two sides has emerged within the Assyrian community. Khalil ‘Azmi, the governor of Mosul , asked both sides to attend a meeting in his office. Lt. General R. S. Staff ord was present too. Below are the names of both camps.
The Patriarchal Coalition:
The Opposition headed by Malik Khoshaba:
In this meeting, the Mosul governor stated that it has been decided to settle the Assyrians in the towns of Na'la, Ziha, and other undesirable regions. He threatened anybody who would try to stand against the Iraqi authorities. Malik Khoshaba Yousip stood and praised the authorities, thanked them for being merciful and full of virtue. He declared that Assyrians would accept any suggestions and solution by the Iraqi authorities. Many arguments were discussed based on one principle, which is that Assyrians do not want to have any problems with the Iraqi government, but they did not ask for those badly infested regions. The governor sat there and watched the two sides argue other matters like the authority of the Mar Shimun. From here on it was decided that separate meetings between the authorities and the two camps would be conducted. The opposition side began to get a very special treatment from the government. Their families transferred in special transportation means into desirable areas while the Mar Shimun camp were treated unfavorably. Finally, on July 10, Shamasha Kanno of Jilu, speaking on behalf of the Mar Shimun camp, stood and requested that they be allowed to chose a different country to go to.
Khalil ‘Azmi said first you need to get permission from the authorities of the country you wish to go to, then the Iraqi government will supply all needed transportation to take you there peacefully. Here Lt. General Staff ord leaned over and had couple of words with the governor who turned and said that by the way I need to get the approval of Baghdad about the transportation issue.
The Mar Shimun group left the meeting but soon after they stepped outside, Mar Yousip, malik Yaqu, malik Andriyous and malik Loko were called back by Lt. General Staff ord and Major Thomson to the office again. They were asked to travel to Baghdad to ask the patriarch to sign a declaration surrendering his temporal powers. Mar Yousip said that he is a religious person and he would rather leave the matter to the others to carry on. It was decided that malik Yaqu and malik Loko to travel to Baghdad the next day. Fearing for their lives and realizing that their travel to Baghdad is nothing but a trap to capture them, the latter two did not head south to Baghdad as ordered by the governor and the British but headed north of Mosul . An urgent meeting commenced in Boosriya attended by many Assyrian leaders and it was decided to head for Syria .
Source: Malik Yaqu d' malik Ismael. “Assyrians and the two World Wars.” In Syriac. Tehran: The Press of the Se?ata Saprayta d' ?Alayme Atouraye, 1964.
Based on the seven accounts above, what I have heard from my own father who was personally involved in the Assyrian affairs in Iraq and was harassed and imprisoned because of such involvement, and based on additional information from other Assyrians, it is fair to conclude the following. There is much that needs to be said and uncovered about malik Khoshaba and his son Yousip malik Khoshaba. The father and son have played a very questionable role in Assyrian history, the father from WWI to 1952, and the son from 1952 to 2000. Malik Khoshaba was a great army commander during the Great War; no one can take that away from him. However, he changed in Iraq with the smell of wealth and power and the sense that he finally can accomplish what he had sought for long. For his personal satisfaction, malik Khoshaba, some argue, perhaps changed the course of Assyrian history. No one knows what the Iraqi government and the British would have done if the Assyrians remained united behind their patriarch in 1932 who was insisting on the recommendations of the League of Nations ' Special Commission for a homogenous Enclave for the Assyrians in Mosul Province . Yousip Khoshaba, meanwhile, brought the Church of the East back to the dark ages; he was instrumental in splitting the church, humiliating, terrorizing, and imprisoning many laity and religious figures who did not agree with him. He used his Iraqi military background and the support of the Iraqi government not to help Assyrians as a whole, but to get whatever he, and those very few around him, desired. He was the man the Iraqi government turned to whenever it needed to accomplish something; He was the man for hire indeed, as described by many Assyrians.
Looking Towards the Future
The various Iraqi chauvinistic governments have dealt unfairly with the Assyrians. They applied the divide and rule policy to pin one side on another in order to undermine the Assyrians' legitimate rights as indigenous people of Iraq . With the liberation of Iraq , end of oppressive regimes, and the promises of democracy, freedom, and liberty, Assyrians must look for the future and undo the mistakes of the past.
The following steps must be initiated immediately:
First step is to undo the division of 1968 and the reunification of the Ancient Church of the East (Old Calendar) and the Assyrian Church of the East. As soon as that process is completed, dialogue must be initiated between Mar Emmanuel III Delly, Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, and Mar Dinkha IV, Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, to undo the division of 1830. These two steps should restore the church to its original status through its glorious name "Church of the East."
With the mounting of challenges in the Middle East in general and Iraq in particular, Assyrians' chances for survival is only through their unity. Since Assyrians are Christians and the church plays a major role in their lives, the church leaders must seek the fulfillment of this urgent goal.
Iraq : An Overview 1900-1922
Britain forwarded this seven-page document reproduced below to the Australian Government possibly in early 1923. The Australians were being primed with important information on a region whose future was still undecided but Britain wanted to keep it for military, strategic, economic and political reasons.
This item provides an excellent historical overview of the British presence in Mesopotamia ( Iraq ) and Persian Gulf from 1900 till 1922. The document titled “ Why did we go to Iraq ?” was prepared by the Middle East Department in the Colonial Office under instructions from the Cabinet Committee on Iraq .
During its deliberations the British Cabinet would have discussed this item on its future policy direction in Iraq and also how this might impact on its relations with Turkey .
It is possible that this document could have been forwarded to Lord Curzon in Lausanne where the Allies-Britain, France and Italy , Greece and Turkey had gathered to establish peace in the Near East . It will be noted that the Greek army suffered terrible military defeat at the hands of the Kemalists who entered the city of Smyrna ( Izmir ) on September 9, 1922 . It is in this context that this document can be best understood.
There are some important six key themes from the document that will be adumbrated below.
Firstly Lord Lansdowne who was the British Foreign Secretary in 1903 outlined Britain 's position in the Persian Gulf . No foreign power would be permitted to establish a naval base along the shores of the Persian Gulf , this policy was mainly aimed at Czarist Russia who was interested in establishing a warm water port for its naval fleet. The British were also concerned at German economic penetration into Asia Minor along with the creation of the Berlin to Baghdad railway with its terminus on the Gulf posing as a serious threat to its interests in the Persian Gulf . However the Anglo-Russian Entente of 1907, saw these two powers establishing spheres of influence in Persia with Russia controlling the northern part of the country and Britain the southern region. This meant that Britain was able to maintain its control and influence in the Gulf.
Secondly after the First World War Britain quickly demobilised its huge army of nearly 2 million men but at the same had to garrison the former Ottoman territories of Mesopotamia , Syria , Egypt and Palestine . The cost of maintaining military forces in the Middle East was costing the British taxpayer many millions of pounds. In Mesopotamia , Britain retained Indian troops for garrisoning of Mosul and trained native “levies” who served under British command. One issue that requires clarification is that Britain was trying to cut its military expenditures in the Middle East as part of its overall policy of economic retrenchment.
Thirdly, the oil fields of Persia and Mosul are given a lot prominence in this document. Britain understood the importance of controlling the oil fields of the Middle East . Particularly “ The Iraq oil-fields have not only not only been developed but have not even been properly prospected. There is no doubt that there are considerable deposits of oil, particularly in the Mosul vilayet, though the exact quantities still remain a matter of surmise.” (See Item 4)
Fourth, Britain was interested in establishing friendly relations with the new Turkish State but the issue of Mosul complicated matters between them. Britain may have been concerned by a Turkish invasion of northern Iraq . The Turks were in no position to launch such an offensive, as nearly 10 years of continuous warfare had economically and militarily exhausted them. They could have encouraged the Kurdish and Arabs elements that were opposed to British occupation of Mosul .
Fifth, Emir Feisal's appointment as King would serve British interests in Iraq . As monarch the British considered him a symbol in uniting the different racial groups -Arabs (Shi'ites and Sunnis), Kurds, Assyrians, Yezidis and Turkmen – behind the Iraqi throne. The Anglo-Iraq Treaty of October 1922 gave legitimacy to Feisal's position as sovereign with exchange friendly letters with the British monarch. He also commanded the nascent Iraqi army.
Finally Britain believed it had an obligation to assist the Assyrians who loyally assisted the Allies during the 1914-18 war. Many surviving Assyrians ended up in the Baqubah refugee camp where the British provided them with food, clothing and shelter. This camp was closed in 1921 and many Assyrians were moved to the Mosul Province .
Source: National Archives of Australia , Canberra ACT Series A981/4 item IRA 15 part 1 Iraq-Mosul dispute British policy and interests, Mosul question, etc 1922-1923
Istanbul Attack Shook Chaldean Church
(ZNDA: Istanbul ) Among the little-known victims of the 20 November suicide bombing on the British Consulate in Istanbul was the small community of the Chaldean Catholic Church.
Iraq 's Christians on Edge as Christmas Approaches
(ZNDA: Baghdad ) They may not be decking the halls with boughs of holly, but in all other respects Iraq 's Christian community is getting ready for Christmas.
Yasmeen Yuaw has been buying presents for her three-year-old daughter Natalie and on Wednesday was contemplating which Christmas tree to buy -- a large one for 80,000 Iraqi dinars (about $40) or a smaller one for 50,000.
Rafid Najib, the owner of the Virgin Mary shop in Garraj Amana, a mostly Christian neighbourhood in central Baghdad , is selling out his range of plastic trees from China .
But rather than joy, it is mostly with fear that Baghdad 's Christians are awaiting the high-point of their calendar.
"The problem is security," said Elishwa Sadiq, hobbling on a stick as she ushered journalists into her home, decorated with pictures of Jesus, to explain the situation.
"There were fears before, but now we're more scared -- we can't leave the house to go to the shops because of explosions and kidnappings. We were safe under Saddam, but not now."
Iraq 's Christians, the vast majority of whom are Assyrian Catholics, also known as Chaldeans, were rarely discriminated against under Saddam Hussein, who mostly ran Iraq as a secular state, at least until the final years of his rule.
One of his closest advisers, Tareq Aziz, was a Chaldean. As a Sunni Muslim, Saddam's chief goal was to keep down the Shi'ite majority, who make up about 60 percent of Iraq 's 26 million people.
Before the U.S.-led war to oust Saddam, there were concerns in the Christian community, estimated to number about one million, that Muslims would persecute them as Sunnis and Shi'ites battled for the upper hand in an Islamic Iraq.
No Presents This Year
There have been isolated incidents of harassment, with flyers distributed in Christian communities warning women to wear the veil and men not to drink alcohol. Kidnappers also often targeted Christians, who without a tribal network are seen as less likely to retaliate against criminals.
But time and again, Christians -- like virtually all Iraqis -- say their chief concern is safety, one that has been brought into much sharper relief as Christmas approaches.
Many Iraqi civilians have been killed in the relentless conflict between U.S.-led forces and guerrillas fighting the occupation while crime rose sharply in the chaos that followed Saddam's fall in April.
"This year won't be the same as before," said Mazin Putros, a security guard who lives opposite a Chaldean church with an active 500-strong community in central Baghdad .
"The big problem is security. No one wants to go out on the streets or go visiting with all the bombings and killings. It's just too dangerous," he said with a shrug.
Putros had to close his shop on a popular Baghdad street after the Americans blocked it off with concrete barriers. He says he can no longer afford some Christmas traditions.
"Usually, every year, we would buy the children gifts, but this year it will be difficult -- we can't even afford a tree."
But he said his immediate family would still gather after church for an evening meal on December 25, share some wine and try to forget the hardships.
Others said that despite their concerns, this Christmas would be a festive time.
"We won't have any lights on the tree because there's no electricity," said Yuaw. "But we'll put some presents under it and tell the children they must behave if they want to get theirs."
Assyrian Director of Olympics in Iraq Visits FISA
(ZNDA: Baghdad ) The Director General of the Interim Committee to Administer Sports in Iraq, Mr. Tiras Odisho Anwaya, visited the FISA Headquarters today, 4 December 2003, to discuss with the World Federation of Rowing (FISA) Executive Director Matt Smith and FISA Development Programme Project Manager Sheila Stephens the re-establishment of rowing in Iraq.
Iraq 's National Canoe and Rowing Federation has already produced some talented canoe athletes. They, as is well known, have a long history of rowing and canoeing on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers .
Discussions were held on ways to provide equipment to athletes in the Bagdad Training Centre. This centre's boat hangars were unfortunately looted in the spring of this year. The Iraqi Canoe and Rowing Federation has an offer from Romania for athletes to train for the Olympics there and for the Pan Arabic Games which will take place in Algeria in September of 2004. However, there is a serious lack of equipment for local athletes and teams returning from foreign training. FISA hopes that, in cooperation with the International Canoe Federation (ICF), some projects can be initiated to further develop and enhance these two water sports in Iraq .
The Interim Committee to Administer Sports in Iraq is in the process of re-commencing its coaching education and development programme with a focus on management.
Mr. Anwaya explained that there are many highly educated individuals in the sports movement in Iraq but that he wants to see them to be more empowered with management of the teams and sports federations as progress takes place in his country. For the moment a focus has been placed on preparing some sports teams for the competitions at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
An Afternoon of Poetry in Melbourne
(ZNDA: Melbourne ) As part of their tour of Australia , renowned Assyrian poets Malfono Ninos Aho and Rabi Yosip Bet-Yosip, visited the 15,000 strong Assyrian community in Melbourne . Last Sunday the Beth-Nahrin Cultural Club organised their stay and also a poetry afternoon, held at the Hume Global Learning Centre in the suburb of Braodmeadows.
The program lasted two hours and was attended by over 120 Assyrians. It included not only the two guest poets, but also three local Assyrian poets, and was conducted in both dialects of Assyrians (eastern and western), as well as explanations in English. Also many CDs were sold as mementos of the occasion.
One observer commented: “the visit of Malfono Ninos Aho and Rabi Yosip Bet-Yosip has healed many wounds in the Assyrian community in Australia at large.”
[Z-info: Special thanks to Malfone Hanna Haddad and Aziz Murad for their hard efforts in making this evening a success.]
The name in the second one should be Robert Georges not George Georges!
An Evening of Poetry at Sydney's Assyrian Charity and Educational Community
(ZNDA: Sydney ) On 11 December, a poetry reading was held by the Assyrian Charity and Educational Community (ACEC) at Ashur Club in the suburb of Horsley Park in Sydney , Australia . It was attended by more than 50 people, mostly members of the Assyrian Australian National Federation and their families.
Present were members of the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA), Assyrian Australian Association, Nineveh Club, Babylon Cultural Association and others. Also present were guests of the Councillors Anwar Khoshaba and Albert Mooshi.
The program included speeches made by master of ceremonies Mr. David David , Mr. Yonatan Afarin (ex-chairman of the Federation and ACEC), Councillor Anwar Khoshaba and Mr. Hermiz Shahin of the AUA.
The speeches were followed by an ecd otes and poems recited by Malfono Ninos Aho, and Raabie Yosip Bet Yosip whoperformed a touching song by the late Addai Alkhass. Many of the people present were seen crying. One attendee commented: “I am certainly leaving the event with a new perspective, and above all, a new ray of hope in my heart.” Many CDs by the two poets were sold as mementos of the occasion.
[Z-info: Special thanks to everyone from the ACEC and Ashur Club, especially Mr. Hormiz Karimi and Mr. George Georges, for all their hard efforts in making this evening a success.]
(ZNDA: Phoenix ) After celebrating the capture of Saddam Hussein on Sunday, Iraqi exiles living in Phoenix began to debate his fate.
Most were adamant that the former dictator should face justice in his own country and said they would like to see him executed in front of the Iraqi people.
They also said Saddam's capture marks the end of more than 30 years of tyranny and, they hope, the beginning of stability in Iraq .
"I think he should be put in a zoo with the monkeys and they should charge one dollar for people to spit on him," said Rasul Al-Ramhahy, 32, who fled Iraq in 1991 after his brother was killed in an uprising to overthrow Saddam.
He was one of several Iraqi refugees who gathered at the Baghdad Restaurant on Camelback Road in west Phoenix to celebrate Saddam's capture.
At the Assyrian Catholic Church of the East on 35th Avenue in west Phoenix, hundreds of Iraqi dissidents also celebrated, pouring out of the traditional Sunday morning Mass waving Assyrian flags, singing the praises of President Bush and chanting "Down, down Saddam!"
Sam Darmo, one of about 8,000 Assyrian Christians from Iraq living in Phoenix , said that even after Saddam went into hiding, many Iraqis continued to fear that he could somehow return to power. But now that he has been captured, Iraqis will be more willing to cooperate with the United States against hostile forces.
"We are hoping that the terrorism against the United States will stop because Iraqis now have the message that Saddam will never come back. They will be more cooperative with Bush knowing Saddam will not come back and have revenge on them," Darmo said. "Living under Saddam's dictatorship for 35 years, they thought he might come back. . . . Now that fear is gone."
What will happen to Saddam remains unknown but Darmo and other Iraqi exiles interviewed on Sunday were adamant that Saddam should face justice in his own country.
"He should be tried by the Iraqi people because he is responsible for the death of! ! more than 4 million Iraqi people. After that he should be tried by the international community for crimes he committed internationally," said Darmo, who is also the Arizona spokesman for the Assyrian Democratic Movement, a major political party in Iraq .
Darmo said Saddam should spend the rest of his life in a "small cell, the same cell he built to torture people. Killing him would be like comforting him."
But Darmo's views did not seem to be shared by the majority of Iraqi exiles.
"He should be executed right before everybody's eyes in his homeland," said Violette Baroutta, a parishioner at the Assyrian Catholic Church who left Iraq in 1976 and now works for a bank in Phoenix .
Douglas Elia, 39, another parishioner, agreed.
Bishop Mar Aprim Khamis, who oversees the Assyrian Catholic Church in the western United States , said he believes Saddam's capture is an act of God.
"I can't say how happy I am," Khamis said outside the Assyrian Catholic Church after Sunday's Mass. "Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been tortured and killed by this tyranny. He was living as a rat in a hole. That is the way that he deserved to live. He was hiding from the rod of God."
Salih Al-Ramhahy, 30, one of about 3,000 Iraqi refugees living in Phoenix , was so overjoyed when he heard Saddam had been captured, he asked for the day off from his job driving a bus at Sky Harbor International Airport .
"I told my manager, 'Can I go home? I am so happy I cannot work,' " Al-Ramhahy said.
He telephoned his friend, Ali Al-Hachami, who was in a deep sleep when his wife rousted him out of bed at 4:40 a.m.
Al-Hachami, 34,who owns the Baghdad Restaurant, said he felt relieved that the man responsible for his uncle's death is no longer a threat.
In 1988, Al-Hachami said, Saddam's security forces executed his uncle for joining a militia that opposed the regime, then demanded that his family pay for t! ! he cost of the bullet used to kill him.
David Yonan Performs in Chicago
(ZNDA: Chicago ) On 12 December the Assyrian violinist, David Yonan , performed a violin recital at the Fine Arts Building in Chicago . He was accompanied by Ms. Yulia Lipmanovich on piano. The program included Franz Schubert's Sonata in d-major, Cesar Franck's Violin Sonata in a-major, Augusta Read Thomas' Incantations for violin, and Pablo de Sarasate's Carmen-Fantasy for Violin and Piano. The proceeds from this event went towards the Fine Arts Music Society.
The Nineveh Project
The Nineveh Project was created with a single goal in mind: helping our Assyrian people in Bet Nahrain. It began merely as a tune that I whispered to myself for about two years. It was one of those tunes that I could not get out of my head, and slowly I began shaping that tune into a song.
From the moment I began writing the song I knew it was going to contribute to an important cause. For that reason I was careful not to rush the project. I discussed my intentions with one of my friends, Nina Chanko, a young Assyrian vocalist with a mermerinzing voice who sings in the church choir. Nina agreed to sing the female part of this song and was equally excited to be part of a project aimed at helping our people.
After a year of work on lyrics and music, we finally recorded Nineveh . Six months later I produced the music video, the final stage of this project and my gift to all. The music video was produced with the highest quality of work in mind and I am honored that the legendary Assyrian musician and violinist, Nebu Issabey, has taken a part in it. This song is a tribute and remembrance to Nineveh , the capitol of ancient Assyria , and metaphorically also Nineveh , the mother of our Umta Atoureta?. It resonates passages of one day arriving again to see Nineveh , our ancestral homeland.
Though the artistic part of this project is behind me, I am still a long way from accomplishing the mission and the ultimate goal of this project, which is raising funds through the sale of the DVD in order to provide help to our people in need. Hence, my collaboration with the Assyrian Aid Society of America .
For a mere $20 tax-deductible donation, people can enjoy a digital quality music video of this song, which also includes commentaries by Nina and myself. The entire proceeds are donated to the Assyrian Aid Society of America to support and further assist our Assyrian people.
New Year's Eve Party in Southern California
The Assyrian Association of Southern California is having their annual New Year's Eve Party at the Pasadena Convention Center ( 300 E. Green Street , Pasadena , CA ) on Wed., Dec 31st at 7:30pm . Performing this year are Evin Aghassi and DJ Noel. Tickets are $100 and are available online at http://www.aaasc.com or through the AAASC offices at (818)506-7577.
Akh Min Khamyani Comes to San Jose
The Assyrian film, “Akh Min Khamyani” will be shown in San Jose , California on Saturday, 20 December at the Willow Glen Middle School on 2105 Cottle Ave (Between Curtner and Malone)
Good Riddance: A message to the former leader
“Sorry to wake you, but history is being made,” I heard my father saying as I picked up the phone early Sunday morning. “Turn on your television – they've just captured Saddam.” With eyes barely open, I flipped on my television to hear the now famous words by Ambassador Paul Bremer, “Ladies and gentleman, we got him.” Words that were immediately followed by thunderous cheers and shouts of “Death to Saddam” by members of the Iraqi press who were present at the press conference.
Feeling the adrenaline of emotion, I immediately called my mother, an Iraqi native herself, only to be greeted with words of elation, “Did you hear?”
Just as I had gotten an early phone call that morning, thousands of Iraqi-Americans, like my mother, had placed and received similar celebratory calls. Her brother, Shimshon Antar, a resident of Milbrae , California , had been awakened by his son at 5:00 am Pacific Time. His response – “It was the best phone call I'd ever received.” Emille Aboona, my cousin and a native of Iraq told me, “There are no words to describe how I felt at that moment when I turned on CNN and heard the news. The fear and suffering that our relatives and people of Iraq have encountered daily will go away.” He went on to try and describe his feelings as, “It was an overwhelming feeling of relief, joy, redemption and victory knowing this man will get what he deserves. How ironic that he was found living underground where he had killed and buried hundreds and thousands innocent Iraqis. Things will only get better from here.”
As images of the once larger-than-life dictator standing tired and bewildered before a U.S. medic being searched for lice and wounds flashed before the world on Sunday, we all caught a glimpse of what had become of the former Iraqi leader. Almost child-like in his innocence, and looking more like a homeless man living on the streets than someone of his former authoritarian position, it was difficult to comprehend that this was the same man who had led a regime and terrorized millions of Iraqis for 35 years.
Found in a hole, six feet below the ground in Adwar, just 8 miles south of his hometown of Tikrit, the justice he has thus far received has been poetic. The man who, just nine months prior had thousands of military men protecting him, who had ruled a country by fear and intimidation, who had stolen millions from his people to built extravagant palaces throughout the country, was found in a hole with rats and just two security guards left to protect him. If he was in his right mind, his pitiful existence should have brought him enough shame to commit suicide long before his surrender on Sunday.
But now that Saddam has had a shower, a shave, a decent meal, and good night's rest, how can he not realize the magnitude of what is ahead of him. A public and televised trial before the very people he once ruled will bring utter humiliation. This certainly wasn't the destiny that he had anticipated, and it wouldn't surprise me if in his quiet moments, he doesn't wish he would have stayed in that hole among his peers or ended his pathetic life before the Americans had pulled him out of that pit.
No one knows what the next few months will bring as Iraqis attempt to put this chapter behind them in their struggle for freedom. For now at least, there is dancing in the streets and they have the support of a great coalition.
“They are smelling freedom in the air,” my mother exclaimed to me on Sunday. “Before Saddam was captured, freedom was still just a hope. But now it is a reality.”
Echoing the words of President George Bush on Monday, Iraqis all over the world have a message for Saddam Hussein, “Good Riddance.”
[Z-info: Angela J. Phelps is an Assyrian American whose mother is a native of Baghdad , Iraq . Phelps is the producer of Concerned Women for America 's national radio program Concerned Women Today. Ms. Phelps along with the editor of this publication were invited guests of the U.S. State Department at the performance of the National Symphony Orchestra of Iraq at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. See the following article.]
Sound of Freedom: An Iraqi Beltway Invasion
In his opening remarks to the sold-out crowd in attendance Tuesday evening at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Secretary of State Colin Powell referred to the historic event as "the music of hope; the sweet, sweet sound of freedom."
On Tuesday, the National Symphony Orchestra, led by music director and conductor Leonard Slatkin and joined by renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, shared the stage for the first time ever with the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra. Speaking to the audience, Slatkin said, "We are musicians, coming together from all walks of life to share what's in our hearts ... for there is no greater joy than this language of music."
Showcasing their talents before the 2,000-member audience that also included President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, numerous other dignitaries, and many former Iraqis, emotion filled the air from the moment the musicians entered the stage. Met by spontaneous thunderous applause, cheers, and a standing ovation, it was obvious that the orchestra wasn't prepared for the reception they received. "They were blown away," commented Arabic interpreter Mustafa Sayid. When asked about his emotions, Iraqi violinist Luay Yousif simply said through a smile, "wonderful, very wonderful." Another said "this was the first time we were ever able to leave Iraq without government minders watching our every move and ordering our steps." For the first time in many of the musician's lives, they were experiencing a small taste of freedom.
The Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra (INSO), led by conductor Mohammed Amin Ezzat, was founded in 1959, but abolished in 1962 by the Iraqi minister of culture. In 1970, when Tariq Aziz assumed that position, the orchestra was once again allowed to perform in public. Today, the INSO consists of 63 members, ranging in age from 23 to 72 years old, and among them are Shia, Sunni, Kurds, Armenians, Assyrian Christians, and Turkomen. There are also four female members.
At last evening's event, they accompanied the National Symphony Orchestra in presenting five arrangements, ranging from Beethoven to Bizet. They performed two pieces by Iraqi composers, including one by the conductor himself, both reminiscent of epic scores such as Lawrence of Arabia's.
"Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful," commented my mother, Jane Phelps, an Iraqi native herself. For the other Iraqi expatriates in attendance, Tuesday night was much more than just an evening of pleasant music and composition. It was a celebration of freedom and hope for the future of their homeland.
Mar Bawai Soro, another Iraqi native and a bishop in the Assyrian church, traveled from California for the concert. "The Iraqi artists are finally redeemed from their 35 year curse and are induced into a new world that America created for them — a world of liberty, freedom, and prosperity," Soro said as he beamed with emotion. "And by bringing the Iraqi symphony to Washington , Iraqi Americans thank President Bush and the State Department for giving us the best Christmas present we could have ever imagined."
"It amazes me to see how far Iraqi's have come in such a short period of time," mom commented to me. "Never in their wildest dreams could they [the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra] have imagined that they would be here tonight — in the most powerful city in the world, performing for the President of the United States ."
Tuesday night's performance was part of a Department of State-sponsored cultural-exchange program, thanks largely to the efforts of Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser and Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Patricia S. Harrison, who traveled to Iraq in late September to meet with the INSO and other Iraqi artists.
Following the performance and reception that followed, Harrison commented to me, "Now that Saddam is gone, the Iraqi people are free to affirm their culture, their heritage. We are in awe of all they have gone through to hold on to their music. Freedom was really playing tonight."
Iraq has indeed come a long way. Babylonia Marcus, the daughter of Iraqi parents and a graduate student at George Washington University , commented on Iraq 's progress, saying: "The diversity of the Iraqi symphony truly reflects the diversity of the Iraqi people. I was so encouraged to see four women musicians on stage — it's the sign of a culture open to the participation of women in a region known for being so restrictive. I have a lot of hope that cultural exchanges such as these will remind us that it's not just governments that can engage in dialogue, but people — people who share universal values of pride for their heritage, honor in professional accomplishments, and the continual struggle for self-improvement."
Just as when the orchestra had converged onto the stage, they also received similar overwhelming applause and ovation when they took their final bows. Some were even moved to tears. One Turkish musician, as he exited stage left, turned slightly to the crowd, smiled, and gave us two thumbs up.
For anyone who attended Tuesday evening's concert, it was certainly memorable for its music. But it was undeniably even more memorable for what was felt: the shared blessing of freedom.
We Got Him!
`We Got Him`! With those words the greatest barrier to the the future of Iraq was lifted! It is very difficult for most people to understand the deep, psychological scar the people of Iraq have born collectively as a result of the rule of Saddam Hussein.
Many, many times I have heard the reaction `We freed them - why dont they rise up and take advantage of the opportunity`. The reason was Saddam.
After 35 years of terror in an almost collective case of PTSD - Post Traumatic Distress Syndrome - a nation was so paralyzed with fear that even after the war had ended people still believe he would be back.
The primary reason for seeming lack of cooperation and `rising up` as people expected was this deep, ingrained fear of Sadaam.
If they `told`, then someone would get them. Even though circumstances clearly said otherwise people in general in Iraq could not psychologically come to grips with Sadaam being gone as he had been such a huge part of their lives.
One could not literally pass a minute in pre-war Iraq without seeing the face! We used to joke there were four faces of Sadaam everywhere - his black and white official picture taken 20 years ago in every public place, the picture of him shooting his gun, the picture of him in his Arab Headdress and then Sadaam on the money!
He was everywhere, all seeing - if you were there long he would appear in your dreams! Every building, every office, a every corner was his face!
Most people had been born and raised in the nightmare and could not imagine, months after he was gone that in fact he was.
The capture of Sadaam will have its greatest effect in liberating the Iraqi people psychologically from their collective trauma of fear. Now, for the first time in most peoples memory they will be able slowly to return to normality.
Over the next days there will be a radical change in the `turning in` of those causing much of the terror and a slow but sure strengthening of the Iraqi Psyche and self confidence.
The greatest need now in in Iraq ? A stable and `normal` government. Now that the people for the first time in memory have a chance to be `normal` the United States and its allies must `stay the course`and ensure that the dancing in the streets will truly be the beginning of a new day for Iraq an in fact for the region.
A secular, `normal` constitution, fair and free elections with special provisions for the persecuted minorities, a sitting legislature, local autonomy - these are the minimum requirements that must be in place before any power is handed over to local administration.
But the biggest effect in fact is not for the Iraqis but for the `thug` rulers all over the world. For all its mistakes in postwar Iraq the United States has stood up for a cause supported by all the Iraqi people who did not work for Saddam and for all the peoples first of the middle east and throughout he world who suffer daily in a fate far worse under their own `sadaam`.
The capture of Sadaam by the Americans has put the `thug rulers` on notice that their days are numbered and given hope and joy to those living under their similarly despotic rule that their day too will come.
The true winners of the capture of Sadaam is not only the people of Iraq who are `free at last` but those living under oppression that their day will truly come.
`Staying the course` in Iraq will ensure that the remaining `dominoes` of oppression through the middle east and in fact the world will fall too and all men, created by God will live in the freedom they so deserve.
May their day come too!
[Z-info: Ken Joseph Jr, is an Assyrian who are the indigenous people of Iraq, was in Iraq before the war under Sadaam and is currently writing a book on his experiences there entitled `I Was Wrong` and directs Assyrianchristians.com.]
The Assyrian Alphabet Video
AssyrianKid.com is proud to announce the release of the "Assyrian Alphabet" (Alap Beet) video! This unprecedented video teaches the Assyrian alphabet through creative animation, delightful music and playful visual presentation.
Children of all ages are sure to be captivated and educated by watching this video. It's the perfect gift for all the kids in your life!
AssyrianKid.com is committed to reaching Assyrian kids worldwide and instilling in them the love for Assyrianism. We hope that every Assyrian child will grow up speaking the Assyrian language, learning our culture and heritage, and will be proud to be an Assyrian.
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The Introductory Offer
Purchase the "Assyrian Alphabet" video and get the Assyrian Alphabet Peg Puzzle for just $10 more - - - that's 50% off the original price. Shipping & handling not included. Offer expires 31 December 2003 .
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