THANK YOU FOR OUR 9 MAGICAL YEARS
A small “email experiment” at a high-tech company in Silicon Valley turns 9 this week. On a very cold (or was it rainy?) February afternoon in 1995 a simple email message was sent off to a dozen Assyrians. Little did we know then that “the spark” would kindle a social revolution in the moral fabrics of the Assyrian nation and our social and political life forces would change for ever.
The idea was simple: gather information about the Assyrians and disseminate it to all corners of the world. But there was more! For the first time an Assyrian magazine was focusing more on the opinion of its readers than its contributors, allowing the voices of the public be heard without any censor. The concept was unheard of. The Zenda Staff was immediately labeled “Baathist”, “Zionist”, and our favorite “a poison”. There were death threats, letter envelopes containing human feces, followed by other demeaning acts. But Zenda issues kept traveling through the fiberoptic lines of our readers’ offices, living rooms, and imagination.
Zenda asked the hard questions. We actively investigated and explored every field of endeavor dealing with Assyrians: politics, arts, religion, and even sex. When we published a feature article dealing with sexuality in Ancient Assyria, a reader responded: “Shame on you for putting the words Assyria and penis in the same paragraph.” Questioning authority, our staff fed on disapprovals, rejections, and for a while mass un-subscribe-me’s. We realized after the first three years that a majority of our readers were still uncomfortable with our blatant style, but kept coming back for more.
The name Zenda was changed to Zinda, mainly because our ‘informants’ were sometimes emailing and faxing their “zStuff” to a company in San Jose that manufactured electronic games and carried the same name as ours. Ironically as with many other dot.coms, the said company kicked its last bucket, and yet Zinda Magazine is toying with new ideas and experiments.
“It is impossible to love Zinda Magazine all the time”, wrote one reader last year. “I loved you last week and I hate your guts today.” This love-hate relationship between our magazine and our readers is the basis of the creative force giving life to every page and explosive innovations. Zinda is an encyclopedia of ideas, opinions, and a chronicler of modern Assyrian history. Take a few minutes of your time this week and browse through a few early issues of Zinda Magazine. The transformation is obvious.
There's no denying the fact that our staff enjoys the weekly task of collecting, editing of news articles and designing each issue. Approximately 100 hours of volunteer work are spent each week to produce a single issue of Zinda Magazine. For an unexplainable reason we come back to our keyboards the day after the release of each issue and begin working on the next one.
In the next two week, Zinda Magazine will introduce our brand new 2003 staff and our fantastic new projects. More educational videos, websites, CDs, and news sections are just a few of the things we have in mind for the Assyrian year 6753.
Nine years later we are still experimenting with fresh ideas and listening to every single suggestion that comes to us. Whether you praise us for our ideas and writing, or criticize us for a few mishaps here and there, we hope that you will always remember us for the fundamental reason of our existence: to become the official news agency of the Assyrian people, one reader at a time.
Our staff looks forward to the next nine years – at least – and we’re certain you do too.
Thank you for being there with us during these nine magical years.
GENERAL LINE OF ASSYRIAN NATIONAL POLITICS
Assyrian mass media, including Zinda Magazine, are filled mainly with what is usually referred to as political eclecticism. No wonder, that it is difficult for an ordinary reader to gain an understanding of this mixture, of this “richest” set of ideas, opinions, views and arguments.
On the one hand it pleases one to know that the intellectual basis of our nation has not been impoverished. However, the thing, which distresses is that there is no “general line,” the direction, which determines the character of the nation’s existence, the nation’s future.
Lately we have become witnesses of a stormy discussion about some statements of church hierarchs. Despite my great respect for them, I do not think the topic, which was touched upon, is worthy of such rapt attention. I agree with those who mentioned correctly that solution of ethno-confessional issues requires high level of culture and a long period for forming a consensus about correct and distinct differentiation of ethnic from confessional and of secular from religious. Today an issue of a common, uniting name for the ethnos does not present any problem for people of high level of culture, higher education, and keen intelligence. That is why all manipulations for dividing the nation into ethnic groups according to a confessional characteristic are speculation of the first water, belonging probably to those clerical circles, which are extremely alarmed by a loss of a primary role in public, political, and cultural life of their nation.
Today hardly anybody could be carried away by a dispute between monophysites and diaphysites. In the 21st century, such disputes are as “urgent” as a dispute between the advocates of monogamy and polygamy. Issues of national and ethnic origin, interrelation between ethnic groups are much more urgent and painful. Hence, there is a tendency to convert problems of synthetically created confessional distinctions into ethnic ones.
I believe that a scientific, academic approach to solution of the main problems existing in our nation will allow rejecting this historical anachronism and getting rid of political eclecticism. Moreover, it will permit to concentrate all our efforts on solution of general issues, particularly, the issues connected with fate of our historical motherland and striving of our nation to their homeland’s revival.
The experience of the first academic conference “The Assyrians today: Issues and Perspectives”, which took place in Moscow in May 2002, showed the importance of such a scientific approach and a possibility of solving many problems by means of attracting intellectual power of the whole nation irrespective of confessional or tribal belonging of the participants of the dispute. In April 2003 the 2nd World Assyrian Conference “The Assyrians Today: Historiography and Linguistics” will be held in Moscow. We suppose that participation of leading national scientists, cultural workers, art, and religious figures in this conference will become an important stage in the matter of massive unity of the nation.
Professor S.G. Osipov, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc.
[Z-info: To participate in at the second conference in Moscow visit: http://www.geocities.com/moscowconference2002/].
Every Christian has an opinion on the impending possibility—now, it seems, likelihood—of war with Iraq. A bishop from President Bush's United Methodist Church appeared in a recent television commercial opposing war with Iraq. The National Council of Churches and its 36 member denominations have backed similar protests. President Bush has made heavy use of spiritual rhetoric in pushing for action. Conservative American Christians have proved cautious, many waiting to hear the administration's full case.
But what about those Christians most directly affected by the conflict? Though many fled Saddam and sanctions in the '90s, more than 350,000 Christians have remained in Iraq. These men and women, who trace their church lineage to Pentecost, are caught in a clash between Eastern and Western powers that echoes a conflict faced by their forefathers in the faith.
During the fourth century, Persia's ongoing conflict with the newly Christianized Roman Empire threatened to destroy the Christians living in the Mesopotamian lands of modern-day Iraq.
Mesopotamia emerged on the New Testament scene during Pentecost in Acts 2:9 when Luke noted the presence of Parthians from Mesopotamia. Soon the Gospel spread to Mesopotamia from Edessa, known today as Urfa, which is located in southeastern Turkey. Edessa was the Assyrian region's major trading center and became one of the early church's most successful missionary-sending cities. This Assyrian Church based in Edessa found great evangelistic success among the Mesopotamian Jews, who shared the Syriac language. The Assyrian (also known as Nestorian) church in Iraq still proudly speaks this close relative of Jesus' own Aramaic mother tongue.
Mesopotamians speaking Syriac in the third century were automatically subservient to either the Romans or Persians depending on where they lived, so the spread of their Christian faith was limited. Living on the fringes of the disputed border separating the Roman and Persian worlds, Mesopotamian Christians began suffering severe persecution from Persia following Constantine's conversion in 312 A.D. and subsequent promise to protect Christians in the East. The Yale orientalist and missionary historian Kenneth Scott Latourette explains, "After [Christianity's] adoption by Constantine, it was regarded by the Persian rulers as the faith of their deadliest rivals. To be a Christian was to be under the protection of Rome. . . . Christianity was suspect and in the vicissitudes of Persian-Roman relations subject to repeated and often severe persecutions."
Constantine only made the situation worse by writing Persian monarch Sapor II to express how pleased he was to hear about the Christians under Persian control. This letter incited suspicion and fear in Sapor, who couldn't have been pleased when he also heard how Constantine petitioned the prayers of Christian bishops for Roman victory. The Persian ruler ordered the Christians to pay double taxes, with death the punishment for bishops who did not collect from their flocks.
As Latourette tells it, the situation of these early Iraqi believers soon became even grimmer. "Christians were accused of opposing the tenets of the state faith—of teaching men to pay honor to the sun and fire, of defiling water with ablutions, and of burying the bodies of men in the earth. They were also said to have refused to assist Sapor in his wars. It is not unlikely that many of them desired a Roman victory."
But connection with Rome was not the only thing working against the Mesopotamian Christians. Ever since the Sassanid ascent to power during the first half of the third century, Persia had seen an upsurge in nationalistic Zoroastrianism—a cult that did not look favorably upon competing religions. While the Greco-Roman world featured a smorgasbord of religions and philosophies, Zoroastrianism dominated throughout Persia, raising the heat on the area's Christians.
Latourette's final assessment may give some comfort to the modern heirs of those beleaguered 4th-century believers: "The amazing fact is not that Christianity remained a minority cult, but that it survived at all." We pray with the Iraqi Christians that the God who still redeems evil circumstances will once more protect his people.
(Z-info: Collin Hansen is a freelancer pursuing degrees in journalism and European history at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Mr. Collin’s article was published in the Christianity Today).
ZOWAA & TURKOMAN LEADERS DISCUSS BILATERAL RELATIONS
Courtesy of BBC Monitoring (8 February)
(ZNDA: Ankara) According to a report by the Turkomaneli
newspaper, Mr. Kanan Shakir Azizaghali, head of the Independent
Turkomans Movement, received a delegation of the Assyrian Democratic
Movement, led by Secretary General Mr. Yonadam Kanna, on 2 February.
Mr. Azizaghali welcomed Mr Kanna and his accompanying delegation.
Two leaders discussed ways of strengthening bilateral relations
between the the Turkomen and Assyrians in Iraq, coordinating
stances and bringing the views closer regarding all the domains,
particularly in the current and future stages. The two sides
discussed issues related to the Iraqi opposition conference,
which was held in London, stressing the need to overcome the
Mr. Talabani warmly welcomed his guests and talked about the current situation in North Iraq, Iraq and the region, stressing the fraternal bond between Kurds, Assyrians and Turkomans and all the ethnic groups and strata in North Iraq and Iraq. Mr. Talabani noted that there is a great need for full coordination between all northern Iraqi political forces and for the strengthening of solidarity among them in preparation for any future change.
Toward the Assyrians, Mr. Talabani explained: “We will continue our support for you to gain all your rights."
He expressed his hope that all the Iraqis would gain their rights and participate in government in Baghdad in the future under a united, democratic and federal government.
Mr. Kanna offered his thanks to Mr. Talabani and the PUK for their continued support for the Assyrian people to achieve a free and prosperous life. Earlier in the week, on 3 February 2003 Mr. Yonadam Kanna had met with Mr. Kosrat Rasul Ali, head of the PUK Political Bureau.
CARDINAL ETCHEGARAY WITH A LETTER FROM THE POPE TO SADDAM
Courtesy of Zenit (11 February)
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, John Paul II's special emissary, has arrived in Baghdad with a message he says is "crucial for peace." An Iraqi official, meanwhile, said the Pope is welcome to visit the country.
"I land as John Paul II's messenger," Cardinal Etchegaray told reporters when he arrived this afternoon in a U.N. plane from Jordan.
"I am the bearer of a message for President Saddam Hussein, and this is crucial for peace in Iraq," the papal envoy said.
He plans to meet with several Iraqi leaders, celebrate Mass on Wednesday in St. Joseph's Chaldean Church and "pray for peace."
The content of the papal letter has not been made public. But Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls on Sunday said that its intention is to inspire "a serious reflection on the duty of effective international cooperation, based on justice and international law, for the purpose of ensuring to those peoples the supreme good of peace."
Cardinal Etchegaray might return to Rome with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.
Meanwhile, Amir Alambari, Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican, told the press that the doors of his country are open to John Paul II, who does not need an official invitation to visit the country.
On the eve of the Jubilee of the Year 2000, John Paul II wished to make a pilgrimage to Ur of the Chaldeans in Iraq, birthplace of Abraham, but the Iraqi regime did not favor that visit.
"His visit would be a blessing not only for our people, but for the cause of peace of the whole planet," Alambari said. "An expression of solidarity at the highest level, even if the Pope did not say a single word."
Courtesy of Reurters (10 February)
(ZNDA: Rome) Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz is set to pray for peace at the tomb of Saint Francis in the central Italian city of Assisi later this week.
As his country continued to face the threat of military action by the United States and Britain, Aziz will meet Pope John Paul II on Friday at the Vatican and then travel to the city where St. Francis was born and buried.
"This is an extremely important gesture for us because we want to offer the world a sign of peace," Father Vincenzo Coli, the head of the Franciscan monks in Assisi.. "This is our way to try to raise awareness about the need for peace and the fact that he is coming here to pray with us is very encouraging."
Aziz, who is one of Iraq's most prominent Christians, is a member of the Chaldean Catholic Church, an Eastern Rite church based mostly in Iraq but in communion with Rome.
While Aziz is in Assisi he will be shown a horn which was given to Saint Francis by a sultan in 1219.
Saint Francis traveled to the Middle East with the crusaders
and is believed to have visited what is now modern-day Iraq.
MAR WARDUNI SAYS WAR WOULD HURT CHRISTIAN PRESENCE
Courtesy of Zenit (10 February)
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni, of the Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans, made this observation in a book-interview with Italian journalists Riccardo Caniato and Aldo Maria Valli.
In "God Does Not Want War in Iraq" (Medusa Publishers), the bishop gives the reasons for opposing the war, which he says has economic motives.
"For centuries, no one was interested in us, but everything changed when it was discovered that there are enormous oil reserves under our feet," he observed.
The embargo has not only impoverished the country but caused "mass emigration" as well, especially of Christians, he said. This trend would be exacerbated in the event of war, he added.
"The diaspora harmed many and we are witnessing the end of the Christian presence not just in Iraq but in the whole of the Middle East," the book-interview reads.
There are 80 Christian churches in Baghdad, including 35 Chaldean parishes. Christians are respected and, "in general, we are well, including in our relation with those in power," the bishop said.
Regarding Muslims, Bishop Warduni said the tensions that followed the Gulf War "enabled a new wind of fanaticism to penetrate the country."
Muslims identified Christians with the West "and our situation has become much more delicate," he added.
If there were a conflict, "we would surely have to face even more serious difficulties," the bishop lamented.
"We Christians must continue to wait and pray," to be able to speak about "our God, who loves everyone, and to find the right way to be able to touch the hearts of men, as Christ did," Bishop Warduni said.
According to the Vatican there are 670,000 Chaldean Christians
in Iraq representing 3% of the population. Three-quarters of
the Christians in Iraq are Catholic, mostly of the Chaldean
IRAQI OPPOSITION MEETING DELAYED AGAIN
Courtesy of Reuters (10 February)
(ZNDA: Tehran) A planned meeting of Iraqi opposition leaders in the Kurdish controlled enclave of northern Iraq has been put back for a third time to around February 19, opposition officials in Tehran said this week.
The sources said the meeting, scheduled to take place on February 15, was postponed to allow some delegates time to return from their pilgrimage to Mecca, the annual Muslim Haj. "The meeting might be held on February 19 or 20, but the exact date has not been set yet," he said.
The 65-member grouping of opponents of Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein includes two Assyrians: Mr. Yonadam Kanna, Secretary-General
of the Assyrian Democratic Movement and Mr. Albert Yalda, an
independent delegate. Mr. Kanna and Mr. Yalda will be representing
the opinions of the Assyrian political parties and voices present
at the 14 December 2002 meeting in London. Observers expect
that the 15-member “leadership council” appointed
at the 19-20 February meeting will include at least one Assyrian
representative, possibly of Chaldean religious affiliation.
ASSYRIAN MAN FATALLY SHOOTS HIMSELF IN STANDOFF WITH POLICE
Courtesy of Daytona Beach News Journal (12 February)
(ZNDA: Daytona Beach) An Assyrian man believed to have burglarized a Port Orange home in Florida fatally shot himself in a motel room during a standoff with police early Tuesday.
Jako Israel, 33, of Daytona Beach, Florida was pronounced dead at 1:19 a.m. after he shot himself one time in the chest, police said.
Israel's suicide occurred after Port Orange detectives investigating a burglary found him at the San Souci Motel at 1020 S. Ridgewood Avenue.
Port Orange police were in the process of obtaining a warrant for Israel and had learned he was staying at the motel in Room 1, police said.
With guns drawn, Daytona Beach police and a Port Orange detective surrounded the room and tried to negotiate with Israel through the open door to drop the .357-caliber handgun he held to his chest.
When told to drop the gun, Israel repeatedly threatened suicide and then fired, police said. Police found two other handguns in the room.
Courtesy of Times of Oman (23 January); based on article by Sharifa Al Kindy
Assyrian-American film producer Beni Atoori joined Director Roger Christian (Battlefield Earth, Nostradamus, Monty Python's Life of Brian) and Scriptwriter Mitchell Cohen (The Toxic Avenger) at the Sultanate of Oman’s Muscat Film Festival 2003 to promote their upcoming film “Gilgamesh”, scheduled to be released early next year.
Oman’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry had invited the U.S. Embassy to participate in the 3-year old film festival. The US State Department has nominated this the team led by Beni Atoori to introduce the U.S. film industry and Hollywood to the Arab film world. The Muscat Film Festival was held between 18 and 25 January.
International filmmakers representing 15 countries took part in the two-hour long workshop where Director Christian, Mr. Atoori, and Script Writer Mitchell Cohen discussed independent filmmaking in America.
Mr. Atoori tells the Times of Oman: “It’s a great opportunity for us to be associated with the festival and to see the differences between American and Arabic films in terms of freedom of expression, story telling, women’s issues, etc. It offered us a forum to share our views.’ Mr. Atoori’s films “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing” & “The Jimmy Show” produced by his southern California company – Stonelock Pictures – were featured at the Muscat Film Festival.
"The Jimmy Show" is about an inventor who tries and fails at comedy, then struggles to keep his family together. Frank Whaley stars and directs the film. The film was released theatrically in December 2002.
A Dennis Hopper film, "The Spreading Ground," was shown on Showtime in December. The movie depicts the pursuit of a serial killer of little girls.
“Thirteen Conversations About One Thing” in which Matthew
McConaughey, Alan Arkin, John Turturro and Amy Irving appeared, received
excellent reviews. The Chicago Tribune called it "a film about
ideas, about human frailty and, ultimately, a film about spirituality."
Roger Christian will direct and Michael Madsen (“Die Another Day”, "Reservoir Dogs) will play the title role. Robert Davi ("Profiler" and "Columbus") also co-stars. Omar Sharif (Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago), Egyptian actor with international renown, will appear in the film Gilgamesh also.
The Epic of Gilgamesh was written some 4,000 years ago on clay tablets found in the second hald of the 19th century. The tablets describe the story of a Mesopotamian god-king who rules over the people of the city of Uruk, from which the name “Iraq” is derived. Gilgamesh begins a search for immortality with the help of his friend, Enkidu, and along the way meets a monster in the Cedar Forest, Goddess Ishtar, and Utnapishtim (Mesopotamian Noah). The Epic of Gilgamesh is world’s oldest written story, and a deeply philosophical journey through human mind searching for the meaning of life and that which makes a living being- human.
A former resident of Modesto, California, Beni has two children, a son Aiden, 3, and a daughter Nikki, 7.
HIGHWAY 99 STRETCH IN CALIFORNIA IN MEMORY OF AN ASSYRIAN
Courtesy of Modesto Bee (11 February); article by John Holland
(ZNDA: Turlock) California State lawmakers will consider naming an 8-mile stretch of Highway 99 in memory of Joash Paul, a 12-year Stanislaus County supervisor.
The Joash E. Paul Memorial Highway would extend between Faith Home Road near Keyes and the county's southern boundary. The designation would recognize Paul's service on the board from 1968 to 1980 and his involvement in business and civic affairs.
"I think many agree that Supervisor Paul did quite a bit for our area," said John Lazar, a Turlock City Council member, and an Assyrian leader in the effort. "Not only was he involved in government, he was involved in the community."
Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian, whose district includes the south county, introduced a bill last week to name the segment for Paul. The backers would have to raise an estimated $5,000 for highway signs noting the designation.
"The assemblyman thinks it would be a good thing," said Carl Fogliani, chief of staff for Aghazarian. "(Paul) made some solid contributions."
Paul, who died in 2000 at 80, was a Turlock native and a rancher for 50 years. He also worked in real estate and for 25 years helped run a family business, Paul's Motel and Pixie Pancake House, along what was then Highway 99 through the heart of Turlock.
Paul was an active member of the Assyrian-American Civic Club of Turlock, a board member and fund-raiser for county-owned Scenic General Hospital in Modesto, which has since closed, and Sacred Heart Catholic Church and the Portuguese Union of the State of California. He was an Army veteran of World War II.
Aghazarian's bill called Paul "a good man who was dedicated to his family and community and was a tremendous leader for the Assyrian community and the Central Valley of California."
The bill, Assembly Concurrent Resolution 19, has not gone to a committee.
Courtesy of Canton Repository (12 February); article by Charita Goshay
(ZNDA: Jackson Township) If the world was willing to go to war to liberate Kuwait, and even France, it is only fair that Iraq be given the same consideration. So argues Dr. Nashat Y. Gabrail of Jackson Township, who lived for a time under Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.
Gabrail said Iraqis want democracy, but need the world’s help to make it happen. Countries like France, he said, are hypocritical to deny Iraq what they enjoy.
A Christian of Assyrian descent, Gabrail was born in Ninevah, Iraq, where his mother still lives. A sister lives in Baghdad.
Gabrail said Saddam’s reign of terror through murder, torture, and oppression, is no secret.
“That’s why I don’t understand why people are against this,” he said.
He charges that some nations’ opposition is rooted in economics.
“France and Russia are owed billions by Iraq,” he claims. Gabrail said Iraqis want democracy, which they practiced up until 1958. If the West invades Iraq, it will have to remain there for several years to ensure its success.
“If the U.S. goes there and leaves, it will be chaos,” he said.
The socialist Baath Party made an unsuccessful attempted coup of Iraq in 1959. In 1968, Gen. Ahmed Hassan Bakr and the Baaths led a bloodless revolt which became known as the “White Revolution.”
Saddam, who was the vice president, deposed Bakr in 1979.
“At first, the country did well,” Gabrail said. “There was a lot of construction. There was no more poverty because of the oil reserves. The universities were free. Even in our little town, there isn’t a family that doesn’t have two or three college graduates.”
Things turned for the worse in the 1980s, sparked by the war between Iraq and Iran.
“That was the beginning of hell,” Gabrail said. “You know how in this country, you’re innocent until proven guilty? In Iraq, it’s the opposite. Thousands of innocent people were executed. He made sure he eliminated all opposition.
“You resisted them, you disappeared.”
In 1981, Gabrail left Iraq for Scotland. He arrived in the United States in 1984. He taught briefly at St. Louis University in Missouri, and relocated in 1990 to Stark County, where he specializes in oncology.
Gabrail is proud of his heritage. One wall of his office is covered by a mural of an oasis. A small, stone Assyrian sphinx stands on a bookshelf. He is among many Iraqis who believe that civilization began in Mesopotamia, and that the Garden of Eden was in Iraq.
Gabrail said he keeps in touch with his family in Iraq by phone, or by e-mail, which is screened first through a government clearinghouse.
Asked whether there is public support for Saddam as shown in some news reports, Gabrail laughed.
“It’s a joke. The Iraqi people hate him with a passion,” he said. “But if you say that in Iraq, you’re dead.”
Gabrail predicts most Iraqi soldiers will surrender the moment they encounter opposition forces.
Gabrail said the West’s policy on Iraq during the Gulf War was an “error of strategy.” He charges that the West opposed democracy for oil-producing countries then because it was easier to deal with a dictator than an entire government.
“No one back then mentioned a change of regime,” he said. “There were American soldiers within 40 miles of Baghdad. He (Saddam) had chemical weapons, but he didn’t use them on U.S. soldiers because he was told, ‘You do, and you’re gone.’ ”
Gabrail hopes Saddam will consider exile.
“If it takes that Saddam goes into exile to save thousands of lives, it’s worth it,” he said. “But he will not go into exile.”
Gabrail said he hopes a post-Saddam Iraq will unite in peace the way America reunited following the Civil War.
He predicts that democracy in Iraq will spread to other Middle Eastern countries.
“Democracy is like grass,” he said. “It grows. I think they’re all scared of it.”
ANALYSIS: TURKS EDGE TOWARD FAITH FREEDOM
Courtesy of United Press International (11 February); article by Uwe Siemon-Netto
(ZNDA: Washington) Turkey gradually seems to adjust its religious freedoms to European norms as it tries to win acceptance into the European Union, Rev. Hans Voecking, Islamic affairs adviser to the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Europe and a top Roman Catholic expert notes. "Curiously, Christians and radical Islamists in Turkey favor their country's attempt to get into the EU because they know the Turkish authorities would have to play by its rules.”
While there is little discrimination against Jews and most Christians in daily life, according to a U.S. State Department analysis, religious freedoms in Turkey are far from complete. For example, neither members of religious minorities nor radical Islamists may become officers in the military or attain senior positions in the state bureaucracy, Voecking related.
The reason for this is the secular nature of the Turkish state. "The Turks would like Europeans to believe that their country adheres to similar principles as France (whose constitution affirms the strict division between church and state). This is not quite so," explained Voecking, a member of the White Fathers, a missionary order.
To begin with, the government's Directorate of Religious Affairs, called the Diyanet, oversees Muslim religious facilities and education, the State Department reports. Some groups claim that the Diyanet reflects only the beliefs of the Sunni Islamist mainstream.
It regulates the operation of the country's more than 70,000 mosques, whose imams are civil servants, as are the muftis (religious jurists). Many of the sermons delivered every Friday from Turkish pulpits were written at the Directorate, Voecking said.
Helmut Wiesmann, a senior official in the Catholic Bishops Conference of Germany, claimed in a recent article in Herder Korrespondenz, a Catholic publication, that the Diyanet employed 123,000 people from theologians to cleaning men. According to Voecking, the government finances more than 20 university-level Muslim divinity schools.
"Mosques are mushrooming all over the place, often paid for by Saudi Arabia," he continued, "while no new churches are allowed to be built and the cost of the renovation of olds ones must not exceed $400." United Press International tried to verify these and other claims in telephone calls to the press and religious affairs counselors at the Turkish Embassy in Washington. They did not return UPI's calls.
The State Department says that 99 percent of the 65.6 million Turks are Muslims, primarily Sunnis. However, some 12 million Turks adhere to the Alawi Muslim minority, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Their religious leaders do not receive government salaries.
The Alawis claim that their doctrines are not taught in the religious instruction classes that are mandatory at secular schools for all Muslims and also members of those Christian denominations that are not covered by the 1923 Lausanne Treaty between the Turkish government and the Greek Orthodox, the Armenian Orthodox and the Jews.
This means that young Protestant and Catholic pupils at primary and secondary schools must submit to instruction in the Islamic faith. The same applies to young members of the ancient Syrian Orthodox (Syriac) Church, which -- like the Chaldeans (Assyrian Christians affiliated with Rome) -- have been caught in the Turkish-Kurdish conflict in southeastern Anatolia, according to Freedom House scholar Paul Marshall.
Most of its members have fled to Istanbul and other large cities, where they have no churches of their own. They may not build new sanctuaries and if they use the churches of denominations recognized by the Lausanne Treaty, these can be confiscated. Should they celebrate Mass in private dwellings, they risk arrest.
Wiesmann reported that Christians in Turkey were stigmatized by the numerical code 31 in their identity papers -- much as the letter "J" in passports or ID cards identified Jews in Nazi Germany. "This has stopped several years ago," said Voecking, with some satisfaction.
Perhaps it is worth remembering that more than 20 percent of all Turks at the beginning of the 20th century were Christians; today their share has dwindled down to 0.6 percent. Much of the decline was of course due to the genocide of between 500,000 and 1.5 million Armenian Christians immediately following World War I. There are no more than 45,000 Armenians left in the country.
The State Department, Voecking and Paul Marshall are cautiously laudatory about Turkey's advances in the area of religious freedom. But, as Voecking says, "much has to be done to make Turkey a pluralistic society according to European standards -- and that may take decades."
IRAQI PRESBYTERIANS ARE USING EMAIL TO STAY IN TOUCH
Courtesy of the Presbyterian Church -U.S.A. News (7 February); article by Evan Silverstein
(ZNDA: Louisville) As war looms, people in the Presbyterian Church (USA) are finding that the Internet is a useful tool for connecting with their Presbyterian counterparts in Iraq.
A minister in Vermont, a congregation in Michigan, a retired campus chaplain in Ohio - they and many other Presbyterians nationwide are punching buttons on computer keyboards, sending prayerful email messages of support, hope and peace to Iraqi Presbyterians.
"There are people in this congregation who are concerned about the potential of war with Iraq," said the Rev. Scott L. Barton, pastor of First Congregational Church in Bennington, VT. "I communicate through email that we're keeping them (Iraqi Presbyterians) in our prayers."
The email well-wishes are a show of Christian solidity and friendship that crosses international borders and rises above disputes between governments.
The effort also assures Iraqi Presbyterians that not all Americans favor war or consider residents of the Gulf nation enemies.
"It is to talk to them on a one-on-one basis, so that they know we're not all war mongers," said elder Joe Tierno, who last year exchanged a handful of emails with an Iraqi congregation on behalf of New Hartford Presbyterian Church in upstate New York. "We want them to know that there are people in the United States who are suing for peace, and we don't want to have a war."
The U.S. correspondents say they have been touched by heartfelt replies from the Iraqis, including electronic Christmas cards, quotations from scripture and descriptions of the hardships faced by the people of Iraq.
The email contact has helped many American Presbyterians put a human face on the nation with which the United States may soon be at war.
"Whenever we do anything like this, we give witness to our faith that in Christ we're not strangers to other human beings," said Barton. "If we can put names and faces to other human beings, it seems like it ought to be a lot harder to go to war with them."
Iraq, which is about 95 percent Muslim, has five Presbyterian churches. All are part of the newly registered national General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Iraq.
The five congregations have more than 2,000 members (Presbyterians
in Iraq tally membership by numbers of families).
National Protestant Evangelical Church, in Mosul, in northern Iraq, is the oldest Presbyterian church in the country, founded in 1840. It now has just five to 10 member families. National Presbyterian in Baghdad (The Arab Presbyterian Church), founded in 1952, has more than 300 families. The Assyrian Evangelical Presbyterian Church, also in Baghdad, was founded in 1921 and has 36 member families. Kirkuk's National Evangelical Church, founded in 1958, has 36 families. The only church in the south, National Presbyterian Church, in Basra, was established in 1940 and has 32 families.
The Rev. Victor E. Makari, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s coordinator for the Middle East and Europe, returned just last month from a visit to Iraq. He said it is imperative that Presbyterians in this country reach out to their brothers and sisters in Iraq. "Even though we may not be in a position to avert a war," he said, "it is important for them to know that they are not isolated or forgotten or neglected."
Others who have exchanged emails with Iraqi Presbyterians said the experience has proven educational, because many Americans were not aware that there are Christians in Iraq, let alone Presbyterians.
"There is still surprise here that there are Christians in Iraq,"
said the Rev. Linda A. Knieriemen, associate pastor of Westminster
Presbyterian Church in Grand Rapids, MI. "That's part of the
whole learning (experience). And
Last month, Barton sent electronic mail to the four Presbyterian congregations with email addresses. He got a reply a few days later from an elder at National Presbyterian Church in Basra, in southern Iraq.
"He mentioned that they celebrate Christmas with the music of the siren warning of air raids," said Barton, referring to Dr. Zuhair Fathallah, an elder. "This is the usual story every Christmas."
Fathallah's email included an electronic Christmas card picturing 15 young Iraqi children holding large colorful letters that spelled out "Merry Christmas."
Barton said he got the idea of contacting Iraqi Presbyterians from his congregation, New Hartford Presbyterian, where Tierno is an elder. The church has published excerpts of the exchange in one of its newsletters.
"Part of what has been powerful for me is the fact that here we have two groups of people who live in totally different worlds," said New Hartford's pastor, the Rev. Janet Hoover. "(Two groups) who speak totally different languages, who are still trying to find what we have in common through Jesus."
In November and December, Tierno, a member of the congregation for
more than a quarter-century, had email conversations with Dr. Mazen
Saleem, a physician, and Monther Saleem, elders at National Protestant
New Hartford's misson committee later contributed $200 to the Iraqi congregation's Christmas project for underprivileged children.
"I am writing to let you know that there are many people in our congregation praying for peace and hoping that we can find a way to come together soon," Tierno wrote on Nov. 9. "We pray that Christ will intercede and bring peace to your entire region of the world."
Two days later, he got a reply in which Mazen and Monther said they were moved by the message of support and the call for peace.
"We are very thankful to God," they wrote. "To know that in this time still there is a believer who can share with us our praying to God to prevent war and (that) peace with love (may) come to the world . . ."
In another email exchange, Mazen replied wrote: "I'm happy to know that there are many believers (who) try to pray for us and (want) to know about us and encourage us in this situation. We believe that if we unite in our prayers, God will listen to us."
In Grand Rapids, Knieriemen received a colorful holiday greeting from one Iraqi Presbyterian church. After emailing four of the congregations the first of the year, she got a response from Mazen of the National Presbyterian Church in Mosul, in northern Iraq.
"We wish you a peaceful Christmas and peaceful New Year,"
the Iraqi church elder wrote. "This is our greeting in the church
of Iraq, and we pray that God will do (the) same thing . . . (let)
you see He is bigger than we
Attached to Mazen's message, which incorporated several Bible verses, was an electronic holiday greeting depicting angels, signed "from Iraqi children."
"I felt all of a sudden so connected and closer to people in Iraq - Christian, Presbyterian or otherwise," said Knieriemen, who also serves on the PC(USA)'s General Assembly Council. "I wanted them to know in my own small little way that they weren't alone."
As the war drums grew louder, a chaplain and professor emeritus at Hiram College in Hiram, OH, also wanted to let Presbyterians in Iraq know they are not alone.
"I just think in conflict situations that we need to make a witness to God's spirit, which calls us to mend those and to heal the brokenness," said the Rev. Thomas Niccolls, a retired Presbyterian minister and member of Eastminster Presbytery in northeast Ohio.
Niccolls, who is active with the Peacemaking program, sent letters by regular mail last month to all five Iraqi Presbyterian churches and also sent digital copies to the four with email service. So far he has had no replies.
He said he will urge his presbytery's social justice and peacemaking committee to encourage church sessions to send "letters of support and Christian unity" to the Iraqi congregations.
"I see that as an opportunity to do a little consciousness-raising among the churches," he said. "It makes people think twice about where our fellow Christians are, particularly in difficult situations like this, with an impending war on the horizon."
KARL “KHALID” SULEMAN FACES FOUR CRIMINAL CHARGES
Courtesy of Sydney Morning Star (12 February);
article by Anne Lampe, photo by Edwina Pickles
Suleman was in court when magistrate Clare Farnan set stringent bail conditions.
Suleman must not apply for a passport, not approach any points of departure from Australia, must notify the Australian Securities and Investments Commission if he changes legal representatives or his address and has been ordered to hand over his passport to ASIC if the NSW Supreme Court returns it to him.
Suleman, whose investment schemes included a commission-based deposit scheme marketed by Karl Suleman Enterprises as well as Froggy.com, last year was banned from being a director of a company for life, ordered to pay KSE compensation of $17.5 million and bankrupted.
Yesterday, he appeared in Downing Centre Local Court on four Crimes Act charges.
One charge alleges that he used a false instrument. He also faces three counts of obtaining a financial advantage for himself as an officer of the company.
Suleman was not required to plead and will appear in court again on April 29.
The court was told that Suleman was living apart from his family and wanted his address to be kept confidential after receiving death threats since the collapse of his investment empire.
David Thomson, counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, pressed for bail to be imposed on Suleman and handed up three pages of facts outlining the charges.
He said the charges related to "a set of transactions" in which Suleman gave the impression that his personal worth at the time was $2.9 million.
He also applied for a loan of more than $250,000 that was not repaid.
The court was told Suleman was living with his new employer and was required to travel interstate from time to time.
A NEW PARK IN SKOKIE TO HONOR ETHNIC HERITAGE
Courtesy of Pionner Press (11 February); article by Kathy Routliffe
(ZNDA: Skokie) A new sculpture park planned along the Chicagoland’s North Shore Channel will honor the city of Skokie’s diverse ethnic groups and demonstrate their peaceful coexistence. Heritage Park is planned for McCormick Boulevard, between Dempster Street and Church Road just north of the village’s Sculpture Park.
The new park is to include locations for 13 sculptures, each sponsored by a village ethnic association, including the Assyrians. Two other pieces of art would be picked by the village. Groups which raise sculptures there will be responsible for their upkeep.
Village officials expect the first park sculpture will be a larger-than-life representation of Indian statesman and peace activist Mahatma Gandhi, financed by the Indian Community of Niles Township.
An Indian Community official said Tuesday the group hopes to raise $100,000 for the project, pick a sculptor and have the statue in place by Oct. 2, the anniversary of Gandhi’s birth.
The Village officials have met with the Indian group for the past year and a half, but the Greek and Assyrian groups have not followed up yet.
The statues cannot promote religious beliefs, depict or advocate violence or law-breaking, provoke anger, resentment or hostility or disrespect other residents’ views.
Groups would have to apply for a permit to raise their statue. Statue plans will be reviewed for aesthetic purposes, by the committee that oversees selections for the Sculpture Park or others qualified to review art.
Sculptures could stay in the park as long as Skokie holds lease,
set to expire in 25 years.
ASSYRIAN UNIVERSAL ALLIANCE PUBLIC RALLY IN SAN JOSE
Present Plight of the Assyrian Nation
Sunday – 23 February
Assyrian Church of the East Hall
Don’t Miss This Historic Event
Assyrian Universal Alliance
ALAP YOUTH & COMMUNITY SERVICE ORGANIZATION
We would like to invite you to Alap Youth and Community Service in London United Kingdom a new independent youth and community organization supported by the British Government official launch 4pm. 1 April 2003 at 44- 46 South Ealing Road, London W5 4QA.
The day is planned to be an open invitation for the community to come and experience the operational aspects of Alap YCS. This will help the community to understand how we are determined to implement our aims, which we briefly state below:
We strongly believe that all young people are entitled to high standard of care both emotional and physical which include acceptance and warmth, stability and consistency, structure and clear boundaries, and the opportunity, in a safe environment, to experience or re-discover a sense of their worth.
We aim to provide as normal an environment as possible for young people. All young people require safety and normality to grow and develop with confidence. Young people whose lives have been disrupted and traumatised will experience normality as genuinely therapeutic.
At the same time we offer individually planned therapeutic work targeted on specific and professionally agreed areas for each young person’s life experience and functioning. Such work is time limited, with clearly defined goals, and contractual in nature.
Alap Residential Care endeavour to create and maintain an environment that is characterised by warmth, a sense of security, acceptance, and a feeling of stability and belonging. Our long experience of working with young people who have educational and personal problems has taught us the importance that has to be placed on their loss of social and life skills.
We look forward to welcome you to Alap YCS official launch day, we also welcome the opportunity to liase with you to explore how we can best assure close network development between your organization and Alap YCS.
For more information or an article about Alap YCS please email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There will be food and drinks served in a social atmosphere
On the 4th of March 2000 The first Assyrian satellite channel started broadcasting its first test program to all of Europe and Middle East. Assyria TV is an achievement of the immortal Assyrian society. First, Assyria TV started broadcasting 4 hours per week programs: from 1 to 2pm on Saturday and from 1 to 2pm on Sunday central European times. The test program lasted till 1st of October. Assyria TV used all that time to build a new studio to accommodate the needs of the professional staff, that were newly recruited and who were fully dedicated to produce liberal, entertaining and informative programs for the Assyrian people of all ages.
Unfortunately the happiness of the Assyrians around the world did not last when Assyria TV ceased broadcasting. Since then the members of Assyria TV in Skövde have done everything in its power to rebuild what we, the Assyrian people, once had. for what is better way than Media, to show people around all the world and all different kind of races what we Assyrians are and that we still do exist.
After many sleepless nights and hard working hours we finally found a new beginning for Assyria TV. Our first broadcast in Skövde was December 19th 2002 and since then we have been broadcasting once a week every Thursday at 6.55 pm to 8.00 pm. The test broadcasting will be active until March this year (2003) where we hope to expand our TV hours to 3 times a week and 2 hours each broadcast.
Assyria TV Crew
POSITION AVAILABILITY: PROJECT MANAGER FOR IRAQ HUMANITARIAN RELIEF
Organisation: Save the Children - USA
The Project Manager will oversee the coordination and implementation of the Joint NGO Emergency Preparedness Initiative for Iraq project, an initiative formed by a consortium of major NGOs (IMC, IRC, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, and World Vision). The project will provide critically needed support and guidance to the Iraq preparedness efforts of NGOs in the region, including: project design and work plan development; project implementation; establishment of joint policies on host government relations, administrative requirements, logistics and security management; establishment of a centralized communications system on pertinent issues in Iraq; and collaboration with consortium agencies to identify gaps in assistance efforts in and around the region. Initial funding for the position is four months.
Must have a Masters' Degree in a related field and five to eight years' experience in international humanitarian relief work in a third world country; previous management experience highly desired. Demonstrated skills in project design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Excellent interpersonal skills and cross-cultural sensitivity. Effective written and oral communication with ability to speak and write fluent English. Knowledge of Arabic very helpful. Must also be able to relocate within the region (from Amman) as required.
Contact: Robin Schaefer at email@example.com
NEW BOOK BY DR. GEORGE KIRAZ
Kiraz, George. Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels: Aligning the Sinaiticus, Curetonianus, Peshitta and Harklean Versions (4 volume set)
This new edition conveniently provides for the first time the text of all three versions of the Syriac Gospels in one place aligned under each word-for-word to illustrate the development of the text.
The three surviving versions of the Gospels in Syriac are of considerable importance both for Biblical and for Semitic Studies. The Old Syriac, preserved in two manuscripts, is one of the earliest translations of the Greek Gospels; the Peshitta remains to this day the official Bible of the Syriac Churches, while the Harklean is a masterpiece of mirror-translation. This new edition conveniently provides for the first time the text of all three versions together. The texts of the two Old Syriac manuscripts, the Peshitta and the Harklean are drawn from the best sources and have been carefully aligned so that their inter-relationship can immediately be seen and studied. The volumes, which include the first edition of the Harklean Gospels for some 200 years (prepared by Dr. Andreas Jückel), will prove an invaluable resource for both Biblical and for Semitic scholarship.
BEHIND "NO WAR ON IRAQ" SLOGAN
Analysis and Commentary
In my previous article, "Behind US Iraq Policy, Analysis and Commentary" published in Zinda Magazine of January 13, 2003; I discussed the, purpose, motives and results of imminent US Military action in Iraq. This article refutes the reasons, justification and rationale promoted by the anti-war movement.
There is a growing momentum in public opinion here and abroad among those opposing US’s unilateral intervention in Iraq without the prior approval of the Security Council. Anti war movements be they organized groups or individual citizens, in US and around the world, who oppose wars are undoubtedly sincere in resolving conflicts peacefully with a sacred and unique mission of saving human lives, denouncing aggression and not infringing on a nation’s sovereignty. Among the increasing number of dissenters are decent and honest groups including intellectuals and ordinary peace loving people who perceive that war would inflict tremendous harm and suffering on the Iraqi people.
While this argument may be partially correct, since some suffering and loss of innocent lives may be unavoidable, I strongly believe that their vision is shortsighted and a vivid demonstration of lack of awareness of the current conditions in Iraq, especially, over the last thirty years under Saddam’s oppressive regime.
Those who oppose US efforts for a regime change by any means possible, including full-scale war, are either uninformed or oblivious to the on-going genocide and consciously or otherwise are reinforcing the status quo thus prolonging the suffering of the Iraqis under the current oppressive regime. Millions of innocent citizens have died in two unwarranted wars, i.e., Iraq-Iran war and the Gulf War, waged by the ruthless dictator in order to enhance his vision and ambition for ultimate leadership and control of this region with vast resources. A consequence of Saddam’s misguided and expansionist dictatorial ambitions has been and still is the suffering of millions of innocent Iraqis mostly children who have died due to malnutrition, diseases, lack of medicine and sanitation.
Revenues from the sale of oil resulting from United Nations' "food for oil program" mainly benefits Saddam’s elite forces and his clan but ignores millions of those who are desperately in need. Undeniably, United Nations/US imposed sanctions are inhumane, indiscreet and a failed policy. The primary purpose of the sanctions was to deprive Saddam from oil revenues, which he would have diverted to re-build his military might. Regrettably, this policy failed, backfired and resulted in more suffering of the Iraqi people. Despite the deterioration of Iraq’s economy and further collapse of its infrastructure as a direct result of the sanctions, Saddam built hundreds of Mosques and lavish palaces. Sanctions turned out to be a good omen for Saddam, where he and his clan live in prosperity at the expense of his people. It is obvious that sanctions’ brought suffering on the Iraqi people and played well into Saddam’s wicked game. The aftermath of war should bring freedom of speech, movement, and religious tolerance and instill a semblance of democracy to all deserving Iraqis. The only viable way of achieving such a state is by removing Saddam's brutal regime by whatever means possible.
Under current oppressive dictatorship, ethnic-cleansing policies of minorities including Kurds, Assyrian Christians, Turkomans coupled with religious persecution continues unabated. The on going genocide should not be, encouraged, allowed or tolerated by misguided peace loving people whose well intentions in advocating a "No War on Iraq" slogan is undermining their own belief of saving humanity from the cruelty of evil forces as demonstrated by Saddam’s corrupt and morally bankrupt regime.
The US finds itself caught in a dilemma of appeasing the skeptics or engaging in a direct and decisive military action to topple Saddam, liberate the Iraqi people from forces of evil and put an end to the failed inhumane "Sanctions and Containment" policy. If, indeed, those peace loving people care for the well being of the oppressed Iraqis, they should not hinder but rather encourage the efforts to liberate them and end their suffering.
It would be difficult for the voices of peace to support war efforts. This would contradict their convictions and long standing efforts in promoting peace all over the world, however, only a few times in our recent history, war was deemed a justifiable solution to end tyranny, genocide and liberate oppressed people. Hitler’s ascendancy to power and the ensuing havoc created is sufficient proof in our living memory when war is a just cause and an Iraqi war would similarly be justified as in Nazi Germany during the World War II.
Sargon R. Michael
In 1974, there were clashes between the Turkish minority and the Greek majority in Cyprus. In Turkey, the media, politicians and Muslim clerics used the Cyprus crisis to encourage hatred towards Christians living in Turkey. There was a public perception that Christians living in Turkey should be attacked in revenge of perceived harassment of Turks in Cyprus.
Most Assyrians/Syriacs were unaware of the conflict, but as the hate propaganda intensified, our people were regarded as enemies, traitors and infiltrators. That was not the first time that our people ended up in this lamentable situation.
Throughout the entire conflict, our people were harassed and humiliated everywhere: in schools, workplaces and roadblocks, while running their daily errands and in their contact with the authorities. The atmosphere was so threatening that even adults ceased to engage in any activities – even sports activities such as football - that put them in contact with Muslims. There was a need to be seen not to provoke Muslims in any way, as the smallest event could have triggered a major conflict.
In spite of our people living thousands of kilometres from the Cyprus conflict area, the State contributed to increasing the tension. Apart from thorough and humiliating searches at the roadblocks, the authorities also shut down the electricity supply in the evenings, citing the risk of attracting aerial attacks from Greek fighter aircrafts (!). These events happened in the summer, when the people in this area where sleeping outside.
One evening it all started. At first, there was an exchange of fire. Shortly afterwards, the military searched Midyat with searchlights. Military sirens were heard. Soldiers started attacking and searching Assyrian/Syriac houses in the vicinity of the city’s military base. People were brutally beaten up by the army in their houses. Terrifying cries from children and women filled the night. Loudspeakers announced a curfew. Most people were defenseless in their homes. No one knew how it all would end. People panicked, but were still forced to await further orders from the military. In the morning the army lifted the curfew.
In reality, what had happened that night was that two Muslim men had opened fire on two military polices (“MPs”) who were on their way to the military base. One of the MPs died instantly while the other returned the fire. One of the attackers was wounded and when the two men fled, the remaining MP requested assistance over the radio. The military assumed that the Assyrian/Syriac community had started a rebellion. Consequently, all Assyrian/Syriac homes near the military base were attacked. Thousands of soldiers participated in the attacks on the Assyrians/Syriacs.
One of the men who attacked the MPs – the man who was wounded – had hidden under a grape vine. He was soon caught and brought to the military base. The first action of the military was to verify whether he was a Muslim or a Christian. When learning that the man was circumcised, the attacks on the Assyrians/Syriacs were called of. But before that, many Assyrians/Syriacs had been brutally beaten up.
Subsequently, it was learned that a Muslim fundamentalist who wanted to exterminate the Assyrians/Syriacs during the disturbances had staged the ambush. The intention had been to kill the MPs, flee and blame the Assyrians/Syriacs. One of the minds behind this plot was Abdulkerim Islamaga. Islamaga’s family had participated in the 1915 Genocide of the Assyrians/Syriacs in Turabdin.
The second man involved in the ambush was never caught. In spite of it being common knowledge that Islamaga was behind the plot, he was never forced to face the consequences of his actions. It took a long time for the Assyrians/Syriacs in Midyat to get over the events of the summer of 1974.
Many Assyrian/Syriacs were also abused while doing their military service. Many were humiliated and some were forcibly circumcised with a razor blade and without any anaesthetic whatsoever. When the Cyprus war was over and the Turkish army occupied northern Cyprus, the Lebanese civil war started. Once again the atmosphere became increasingly hostile towards the Assyrians/Syriacs in Turabdin.
It was after these excesses and persecutions that the emigration from Turabdin to Sweden and other European countries gained pace.
The Turkish state has not lost one single opportunity, be it international conflicts or domestic events, to oppress and persecute the Assyrians/Syriacs.
WERE THE LATTER BABYLONIANS OF ASSYRIAN BACKGROUND?
The reader is aware of the fall of Babylon for the first time in 539 BC at the hands of the Medes and their King Cyrus. Interestingly, the city fell again during the reign of the Persian King Darius when Babylon rebelled. The circumstance of the second fall of the city is very interesting and is described by the Greek historian Herodotus, who lived between 480 and 420 BC, some 200 years after the fall of Nineveh. It is worth mentioning that Herodotus is considered as the father of History. Furthermore, we should keep in mind that Babylon was for a long time, whether directly or indirectly, under the Assyrian rule during the Neo-Assyrian Empire.
In chapter VII sub-titled “The City of Babylon. Cyrus Taketh it”, Herodotus implies that Babylon was an Assyrian city.
Herodotus writes: “When Cyrus had overthrown the kingdom of the Lydians, and had conquered also such countries and cities as had as had appertained thereto, he made war in the next place against the Assyrians. Now the Assyrians have many other great and famous cities, but the greatest and famous of all is Babylon, for there, when Nineveh was destroyed, was set up the palace of the King.” (p. 93)
In chapter XVI sub-titled “Babylon Rebelleth Against the King and is Taken”, Herodotus describes the siege and ultimately the fall of Babylon at the hands of Darius.
Herodotus writes: “When Darius had reigned no long time, the Babylonians rebelled against him, having made very great preparations beforehand…
… When Darius heard these things, he gathered all his host together, and marched to Babylon and besieged it. But the Babylonians took no heed of the siege, but went up on the bulwarks of the wall and danced, scoffing at Darius and his army. And as they did so, one of them cried aloud, saying, ‘Why sit ye here, ye Persians, and depart not? For Babylon ye shall not take till mules shall bring forth foals. These words said one of the Babylonians, thinking that mules should never bring forth foals. And after the space of a year and seven months, King Darius was sore troubled and his army with him, because they could not take the city of Babylon…’” (p. 246-247)
Herodotus later writes that there was in the army of the Persians one Zopyrus of great repute, who in the 20th month of the siege had his mule mysteriously bare a foal. He remembered the words of that Babylonian at the gates and saw this as an act of, and message from, the gods. He thought about the matter and dreamed of personal glory. He cut his own nose and ears and laid many stripes upon his back, and stood before King Darius. He told the king: “…I have done it because I judged it to be a dreadful thing that these Assyrians should laugh the Persians to scorn.”
Then the King said: “This is a fair name that thou givest to a very dreadful deed, saying that thou hast thus hurt thyself beyond all healing, because of these Assyrians that we are besieging. For how shall they be vanquished the sooner because thou hast suffered this thing?” (p. 249-250)
Zopyrus told his king that he was going to the gates of Babylon seeking refuge there as a reputed Persian deserter. He told the king that when the Babylonians will see his injuries and mutilated body parts, they would believe his desertion story and let him in. He will then give the Babylonians some details of certain plans of the Persians so they will trust and confine in him and they might even give over to him part of their army.
Zopyrus explained to his king Darius the plan as follows: “…Reckon 10 days from the day whereon I shall enter their city, and on the 10th day set a 1000 men of thy army, being such as thou carest not if they perish, and set them in order by the gates that are called the gates of Semiramis. And on the 7th day after the 10th set 2000 in like manner by the gates that are called the gates of the Ninevites. And on the 20th day after the 7th set 4000 others by the gates of the Chaldeans. And let these have no other arms but short swords only; these let them have. And when the 20th day is past, then cause thy army to compass the city round about, but bring thy Persians near to the gates of Belus. For I judge that when I shall do great deeds for them, the men of Babylon will commit many things to my hands, and among these the keys also of the gates. But after this the Persians and I will order the matter as thou wouldst have it.” (p. 250-251)
And it came to be that everything that Zopyrus had planned happened. First he asked the Babylonians for a very small army to beat the Persians because as he claimed he knew all their goings out and comings in. Hesitantly, and after some discussions the men of Babylon committed a very small army under Zopyrus who went out in the planned day and slew the 1000 poorly armed Persians at the gates of Semiramis. The Babylonians rejoiced. Then he asked for the army again and went out and slew the 2000 Persians at the gates of the Ninevites, as planned. Finally, in the third time he took a good size army and went out and slew the 4000 Persians, again as planned with his King Darius. After this the Babylonians praised Zopyrus, they trusted him and appointed him captain and keeper of the wall. Then Darius made the attack as had been arranged and the men of Babylon went up on to the wall and fought the Persians. Here, Zopyrus went to the gates called Belus and opened them and let the Persians into the city.
Thus was the city of Babylon taken for the second time, first by Cyrus and now by Darius. The latter threw down the walls of Babylon and took away their gates. He took 3000 of the chief men among the Babylonians and slew them and for the rest of Babylonians, he gave them their city to dwell in.
Source: Alfred J. Church, “Stories of the East From Herodotus”,
Seeley, Jackson, & Halliday, London, 1881.
ZAGAT SAYS SHOOPRA RESTAURANT IN SAN FRAN ONE OF THE BEST
Congratulations to Shoopra Restaurant, a favorite gathering place for the Zinda Crew in San Francisco, on being rated as one of the best restaurants according to Zagat Survey Restaurant Guides.
The Zagat of New York City has recognized this achievement with a certificate featuring the review of Shoopra Restaurant. Shoopra is listed in the Zagat directory of restaurants in northern California. The Zagat guides to restaurants cover 120 markets around the world.
Also recently, Shoopra was rated one of the top 10 restaurants for a romantic date in the city by the Bay. The family-run Shoopra is located on the edge of the Marina district. Z-Crew’s favorite dish are the cabbage dolmas, and “coobba” – very yummy!
The presentation of the food is as fabulous as the décor of the establishment. The dress code is casual. Open for lunch and dinner, Shoopra offers over 40 different wine selections from around the world. Check it out at http://www.shoopra.com.
For a superb Assyrian dining experience in San Francisco call 415-614-9300. You might just find two or more Zinda staff enjoying a beef or vegetarian dish and discussing the contents of the next issue over a bottle of red wine. Albert’s choice of course.
JUSTINE MINER & RNM RESTAURANT
Courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle (2 February);
Some chefs are born with a knife in one hand and a saute pan in the other. But not Justine Miner.
She could have done anything, what with her Pacific Heights (San Francisco) upbringing, her Hamlin School and University High education and a degree in French and economics from UC Davis.
But a love of cooking and strong culinary instincts were steeped in her bones - thanks to a European mother who whipped up her favorite French and Italian dishes every night for dinner and a father who took the family to France, Italy and Germany for three summers, checking out markets and restaurants along the way.
So it's natural that Miner, at 29, is chef-owner of her own restaurant, the hip and stylish RNM in the Haight. Her intuitive riffs on classics and on seasonal dishes have drawn raves since RNM opened in August.
"I was always interested in cooking, and both my parents loved food and wine," Miner says. Her mother's gourmet dinners and the family trips opened her eyes to the European style of eating and sharpened her taste buds.
"In France, we went to Burgundy, and for lunch we'd go to the cheese shop, and then the charcuterie, and then the baker's to get bread and we'd sit down on the grass and have lunch," she remembers. "It was cool to experience because there was nothing like that in America."
So, with UC behind her, Miner checked out culinary school and felt the pull.
She simply had to go. And while she learned to dice and saute, she also started earning her restaurant chops, waiting tables and then making salads at Gordon Biersch.
"It was my first exposure to a busy kitchen, and I loved the excitement and the energy of the restaurant," Miner says. She knew then what her life would be about - and in a few short years she's made it so.
Joseph Manzare at Globe restaurant hired Miner as a line cook. "He really gave me a chance," she says.
From there, she learned some Asian moves at Cafe Kati, worked pantry, pasta and pizza, at Postrio, and then earned a sous chef's job when Julia McClaskey and Robert Hill made Dine a South of Market must-eat during the dot-com heyday.
Miner felt a kinship of shared values and culinary ideas with McClaskey, who, since Dine's demise, has gone on to make a name for herself, with Hill, at their new hot spot, Julia.
"It's having this total love for food, where it's going to be consistent and the best it could be regardless of how tired you are or whatever else is going on in your life," Miner says. "It's the sense of caring a lot about what you do."
Owning her own place became inevitable at a certain point.
"I wanted to open a restaurant that I would want to go to with my friends - a place you can go with a lot of people and taste a lot of things, that's not too expensive or stuffy, that's in a neighborhood," she says.
She did, and RNM made her an instant star. Her French-inspired menu changes constantly to reflect the season, and Miner has a talent for combining flavors and textures to bring out the best in her seasonal ingredients.
She'll serve crunchy porcini-crusted scallops with a rich chanterelle ragout over a parsnip puree with a spear of braised endive. Or grilled quail over arugula with blue cheese, pomegranate seeds, apples and grilled portobellos.
"I don't know how I come up with new dishes," she says, "I just wake up in the middle of the night and think, 'I'll do that.' "
Miner's restaurant takes its name from the initials of her father, Robert. He never told the family what the "N" stood for, but she's pretty sure it's something Assyrian because his parents were Assyrians who fled Iran for America when they were just 18, and changed their name to Miner. He became a successful computer entrepreneur, but died when Justine was still in college - before the culinary bug bit.
"I think he'd be shocked right now if he knew I had a restaurant," she says.
"But he definitely loved food and wine, and I know he would have been here chomping it down."
[Z-info: Robert Miner
was the co-founder of a computer company in the 1960’s that
later became today’s Oracle Corporation. He passed away
in 1994. Robert and Mary Miner (Justine’s Parents) established
a small winery at the Oakville Ranch vineyard in California. In
1996 Robert's nephew, Dave, along with his wife Emily and his
parents Ed & Norma, produced wine under the Miner Family label
at their newly purchased winery in Oakville. The wines of Oakville
Ranch are now crafted by winemaker Ashley Heisey and managed by
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