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Volume IX
Issue 3
24 February 2003
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This Week In Zinda

cover photo

  Story Behind the Story
  War could make life Difficult for Iraqi Christians
  Iraqi Opposition Leaders Convene in Northern Iraq
Turkey’s Mountain Village Christians
  Venetians Adopt Assyrian Winged Lion as Their City’s Logo

Not So Fast Mr O’Reilly
Living on the Edge
Bravo Zinda
Leading Assyrian Electronic Magazine


A New Name for an Old School
Open Heart Society
Lobby For Assyrian Autonomy in North Iraq
Syriac Chants from India

  An Open Letter to Mar Sarhad Jammo
Checkmate: ‘The King is Dead!’
  Photographic Exhibition of Nestorian Tombstones in China



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Zinda Says


The Assyrian churches in California have been a model example of how the spiritual and patriotic forces in our interdependent microsociety can jointly heal many social and political upheavals troubling our communities. This past Sunday night’s gathering at the Assyrian Church of the East Hall in San Jose offered the residents of the this energetic city an opportunity to hear the views of one of the many active Assyrian political organization. Among the attendees were the clergies of the Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church.

The Assyrian political song-and-dance routine on some Sunday nights are a favorite here: a local representative introduces a regional representative, and then the Americas or North American representative calls on the Big Fish. These days most of the Big Fish have the Secretary General title and refer to one another as His Honorable.

This time it was the Assyrian Universal Alliance team’s turn to entertain us with the typical one-sided discourse on the magnitude of Mr. John Nimrod’s relevance (at these meetings he’s still referred to as the Senator) to the current Assyrian political agenda. Mr. Homer Ashurian praised “the Senator” as the most active Assyrian politician, logging over one hundred thousand miles a year traveling from one country to another.

Mr. Ashurian’s disparaging but honest comments included the following: “We, Assyrians, have nothing to give to other nations; nation-states do not recognize us; and a majority of Americans think that we are either Moslem or Arab Christians.” His presentation was somewhat different from the usual tune of “We were the greatest and once again can be a great nation”.

Had the optimistic AUA leaders of yesterdays become the candid naysayers of today, devoid of any vision for our nation?

Mr. Ashurian then yielded to his friend, John Nimrod, who approached the podium without receiving the usual round of thunderous applause. He was expected to discuss the immediate plans for a meeting of all Assyrian political parties within the next few weeks. Instead much of his sermon was a vituperative analysis of what he alluded to as “a disaster”. He was referring to the London Meeting of the Assyrian groups in London.

Mr. Nimrod explained ad infinitum that: “None of the 8 Assyrian representatives in London were appointed internally, rather others [Kurds] selected the list for us just shortly before the Monday meeting. The audience was nodding their heads in humiliation and feeling wretched as Mr. Nimrod continued sneering at the outcome of the London Meeting.

The truth of the matter is that Mr. Nimrod was the only one not selected from a list faxed to Zinda Magazine office three weeks prior to the London meeting. Moreover the AUA was well aware of the list, days before its receipt at our fax machine. Then why would Mr. Nimrod admit to such terrible series of missteps in a time when greater unity among our political leaders is gravely wanted?

The Assyrian Universal Alliance under Mr. John Nimrod has been an instrument of the U.S. State Department’s policies in the Middle East. In Mr. Nimrod’s opinion the United States policy in the region cannot be hostile to Assyrians, simply because of our common religious faith. A major portion of his talk was indeed around the importance of prayer and AUA’s call for a day of prayer for the Christians of Iraq.

Furthermore, the leadership of Zowaa, Mr. Nimrod believes, is not in a position to represent us freely without the consent of the other major political parties. He believes that the decisions of the Big Fish in the ADM is greatly influenced by the Kurdish hook upon which a few negligible baits tempt the myriad of smaller fish in and outside of Iraq.

While “the Senator” is unjustifiably incorrect about the significance of the London Meeting in December, he is quite insightful about the considerable pressure placed upon the Assyrian leadership in North Iraq. For instance, Mr. Romeo Hakari’s swift and tactless comment this week (see Good Morning Bet-Nahrain) in support of the Iraqi Opposition’s stand against U.S. liberation plans does not reflect the opinion of other major Assyrian political factions.

Now, more than ever, our political leadership must equivocally resonate the opinion of the Assyrian masses around the world. The groups outside of Iraq ought to remind themselves of the critical position of the Assyrians living amid thousands of belligerent Kurds and fundamentalist Moslems. And the European and Asian groups can jog Mr. Nimrod’s memory of the treatment of the Assyrians in the hands of the Great Powers after every single occupation of Bet-Nahrain.

Our deliverance from evil may commence with a solemn prayer on March 9, but our freedom can only be secured through a genuine resolve to stand united before God and the opinion of the world.

Wilfred Bet-Alkhas

The Lighthouse


Perhaps you, like many others, were surprised to learn that Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz is a professed Christian.

Given his politics, his public statements, and his relationship with Saddam Hussein, you might not think much of his brand of Christianity.

You might be even be more surprised to know that there are many Christians living in Iraq -- and have been for two millennia.

Exact statistics are unavailable, but estimates suggest that among the 23 million Iraqis, a half million to 3 million are Christian.

Iraqi Christians, obviously, are a minority in a land dominated by Islam. But the presence and strength of Christianity in Iraq is rather shocking.

The majority of Iraq's Christians are ethnically Assyrian, and many live in or near the city of Mosul. Mosul was known in ancient times as Nineveh, an enormous city during Old Testament times that unanimously repented after warnings from the Jewish prophet Jonah.

The Assyrians, also mentioned in the Old Testament, once made up the mightiest nation on earth, inhabiting lands known today as Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. In the first century, the Apostle Thomas visited the Assyrian King Agbar, and Assyria became the first nation -- long before the Roman Empire -- to make Christianity the official state religion.

Christian Assyria quickly mobilized as the largest missionary force in history, carrying the Gospel as far as China and Japan. Recent archaeological and historical research has discovered the presence of Assyrian Christian missionaries in China as early as A.D. 86, as well as evidence in central Asia, Turkestan, Mongolia and India.

However, Assyrian Christians have experienced numerous, horrific periods of persecution during these past 2,000 years, eliminating their national identity and reducing their population.

In addition to Assyrian Christians, there are also Chaldean, Armenian, Catholic and Protestant Christians living throughout Iraq. In Baghdad alone, there are 47 church buildings with active congregations.

Given Americans' understanding of Iraq, we might be surprised to learn that Christians have had an easier existence under Iraq's secular government than have Christians in other officially Arab/Islamic nations. In fact, Christians have been well respected as people of honesty and integrity.

Iraqi Christians, though they might not support Saddam Hussein, fear that regime change could put a more pro-Muslim government in power, making life for Christians more difficult.

The lesson here is that all of this talk of war and disarmament just isn't as simple and clear-cut as we sometimes think.

What will life be like for the millions of Iraqi Christians who remain when Saddam is gone?

As you say your prayers for our troops, for victory, or for whatever else you are praying for these days, don't forget to pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq. And don't forget that they are part of the greater Body of Christ.

The Gospel says so:

"We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future. There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and there is only one God and Father, who is over us all and in us all and living through us all." (Ephesians 4:4-6).

Pastor Vance Rains

[Z-info: The Rev. Vance Rains is pastor of The Grapevine, a United Methodist Church in Port St. Lucie, Florida.]





(ZNDA: Dohuk) At press time the Follow-up and Coordination Committee with at least 50 delegates out of the elected 65 were to meet within 24 hours in North Iraq. The meeting already has been postponed twice since January. Among the elected representatives are two Assyrian delegates: Mr. Albert Yelda and Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, Mr. Yonadam Kanna. Delegates from the U.S., United Kingdom, Turkey, and Iran are also expected.

The most sensitive issue discussed during the "exploratory meeting" Saturday afternoon in Salahuddin was the U.S. plans for an Iraq after the potential ouster of Saddam Hussein. The American proposal to replace the Baghdad government with a U.S.-led military government has been severely criticized by the influential members of the Iraqi National Congress, the Kurdish groups, and the Shiites.

At a news conference Saturday, a high-ranking Assyrian representative expressed similar concern. Mr. Romeo Hakari, head of the Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party in Iraq (BNDP-I) said: "We would not support any military regime in Iraq, whether by Americans or anyone else. We would not like to replace the current regime with another general."

Iraqi opposition figures insist the meeting will not wind up declaring a provisional post-war government with ministerial titles.

On Sunday night Mr. John Nimrod, Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance, announced at a public rally in San Jose, California that he has called for the Assyrian delegation’s dismissal of this meeting in a show of support for the U.S. policy in Iraq.



Courtesy of CWN (20 February); article by Chuck Todaro, photos by Karen Legerquist & Chris Hellier & Chuck Todaro

“We lived in terror” is how a Syriac Christian villager in the Tur Abdin region of southeast Turkey described life there for the last 16 years – years spent caught in the middle of a dogged guerrilla civil war between Turkish military forces and the secessionist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

This conflict threatens to empty the Syriac Christian heartland and is one more case of the pressure on Christians to leave Turkey. Memories of the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey in the early 20th century and the violence unleashed against Greeks in Istanbul in September 1955 are fresh enough to inspire Tur Abdin’s Christians to flee.

Tur Abdin’s once vital Syriac Christian population of about 80,000 has fallen to about 2,500. Yet, to those Syriac Christians who remain in Tur Abdin (Syriac for “Mountain of the Servants of God”), the arid mountainous land between the Tigris River and the Syrian border is their holy land. Christianity there dates to the early first century and to this day Syriac Christians celebrate liturgies in Turoyo – a dialect of Aramaic, the language used by Jesus Christ and the apostles.

A cease-fire between the Turkish govern-ment and the Kurds means conditions in the region are slowly improving. Fighting dropped off sharply since the 1999 capture of PKK commander Abdullah Ocalan, who ordered his followers to withdraw from Turkey into northern Iraq.

The PKK has changed its strategy and says it wants to campaign peacefully for the rights of Kurds and has dropped the demand to establish an independent Kurdistan. In 2002, it changed its name to the Congress for Freedom and Democracy in Kurdistan (KADEK). However, the move has been dismissed as a sham by the Turkish authorities; the European Union has placed it on its list of terrorist groups.

With the help of an economic recovery program, dirt roads have been paved and the number of bus routes into area villages has increased.

Virtually all military checkpoints have been removed and freedom to travel has returned. The spin-off to these improvements is that the tourist industry has been revived and new hotels, restaurants and even Internet cafes have opened.

Turkey has applied for European Union membership, but the EU says Turkey still needs to improve its political and human rights record and to reform its oppressive minority laws before the country can be admitted.

In the decades following World War I, many of the region’s churches fell into disrepair, becoming unusable. Muslim extremists and local Turkish government officials hindered restoration efforts often by denying construction permits.

Further restrictions were imposed on the Syriac Christians after the Lausanne Treaty of 1923, when the community was not listed as a distinct minority whereas official status was given to Turkey’s Armenian, Greek and Jewish citizens. For this reason, the government prohibited Syriac Christians from operating its own schools and interfered with church administration.

Now suddenly, after decades of being denied basic rights, the Syriac Church, Catholic and Orthodox, is permitted to teach freely its own language – a century-old ban that has threatened the survival of the ancient language.

“We have big hopes for the future because the political climate has changed,” said Father Gabriel Akyuz of the Syriac village of Hah. “If we are accepted into the EU our future will be even more secure.”

In Tur Abdin’s two main cities, Mardin and Midyat, dusty marketplaces are busy with shoppers. Boys weave through the crowds energetically chasing down scuffed footwear with offers of a quick shoe shine. Inside the shops, people are bargaining, buying and selling – a sure sign of the improving economy. The language shifts from Arabic, Kurdish and Turkish – only the Christians understand Aramaic, which is used for the liturgies of the church.

Mixed in the crowded streets are Kurdish women with facial tattoos as well as devout Muslim women in their all-covering black peces or burkas. Yet each community shares respect and understanding for the other. They speak the same mix of languages, shop at the same stores, attend school and play together. The differences are fewer than the similarities. One 12-year-old Kurdish girl playing outside a church gate said: “The only difference is that we go to mosque and they go to church.”

“We have no problems with Muslims. They are our neighbors, friends, colleagues and students,” a schoolteacher from Mardin said. She added that her Christianity has never caused a problem.

But these are not the views of all Christians from Tur Abdin. Opinions differ, sometimes drastically, depending on the city or village, or who may be listening.

“We are not free,” said one church official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Then he added, “I am not comfortable talking about these things,” citing a Tur Abdin priest who, after speaking to a journalist about the 1915 Christian genocide in Turkey, faced criminal charges.

The hillside city of Midyat looks down over the valley as a great amphitheater.

Its decorative houses, crafted by traditional Christian stone carvers, ascend the hillside step-like – one a little higher than the next. Dome-shaped bell towers and slim minarets pierce its skyline. But the city’s famed Christian stone carvers have all left. The Christian population, once a majority, now numbers some 100 families.

Midyat is also famous for its tradition of Christian artisans specializing in the fine art of filigree – fashioning silver wire into jewelry, vases and bowls. With fewer and fewer Christians to pass on the tradition, it is being taught to Muslim apprentices. Muslims now own most of the shops surrounding the city’s central square.

One of the few remaining Christian shop owners is Gebro Tokgoz. When he was a child, he learned the silversmith trade from his grandfather. He can only guess how far back the tradition goes. Mr. Tokgoz hopes to continue it for at least one more generation with his eldest son.

Conversation inside the shop shifts between Turkish, Arabic and Kurdish.

Mr. Tokgoz gets along well with his Muslim clients and neighbors, including the police who stop in for tea and a chat. But Mr. Tokgoz is uncomfortable with discussing the future of Turkey’s Syriac Christians. In fact, the moment the police enter the shop, any conversation about Christianity comes to an abrupt halt.

Once the police leave, the conversation picks up again. When he is asked again about the future, Mr. Tokgoz stares back with sharp hazel eyes and just shrugs. For him and most people in the area there is little time to think about politics. Their days are consumed with making a living – he spends 12 hours a day, six days a week tending to customers and crafting jewelry – until Sunday when all the Midyat jewelry shops close. A wall of metal security doors then hides the silver and gold sparkle of shop windows.

The main roads leading out from the center of Midyat curve through the hilly countryside into a vast network of little villages – some exclusively Christian, others mixed.

Sixteen miles outside Midyat is a hairpin turn where the road rises into the hills. What follows is a roller coaster of hugging curves and hair-raising drops. It is hard to believe this was a dirt road until 2001.

Along this road the splendid bell tower and church of the village of Hah appear. Fifteen Christian and two Kurdish families live here, but in spite of its small size, it has a rich history dating to the beginnings of Christianity. Once known as “the place of 40 churches,” a casual stroll through narrow streets reveals ancient carved stone blocks layered between rock walls.

“We can only imagine what is buried underneath here,” the village mukhtar, or mayor, Habip Dogan, said while standing before a row of ancient columns recently dug up during church renovations.

In the center of the village stands a castle. It is the home of four Christian families. Each family occupies a corner. To the villagers of Hah the castle represents a part of their history and, more important, it is a symbol of their suffering and great will to survive.

In 1915 the villagers barricaded themselves behind the castle’s walls as militant Turkish nationalists brutally murdered the region’s Christians. For two months they held fast and when it was over everyone from Hah survived.

Through the castle’s main gate a staircase leads to the corner home of the mayor, his wife and six children. It is a traditional home consisting of two large rooms and a kitchen.

The family room is the largest room of the house with aqua walls and a high domed ceiling. Opposite a colorful replica of da Vinci’s “Last Supper” looms a larger than life portrait of modern Turkey’s founding father, Kemal Ataturk, who glares over the sitting area. Mr. Dogan admires him but admits the portrait is there mostly for the benefit of visiting government officials.

This one room is where most of the family’s activities happen – where they eat, receive guests and sleep, except during the summer when the sleeping area shifts outside to the courtyard, beneath the stars.

Summer is a busy time of year for the villagers. From the break of day to evening the entire village empties into the fields – the mayor included. He too has to look after his plot of land. In his spare time, he can be found at the church teaching Aramaic to children or acting as a tour guide. Last summer, the village had nearly 4,000 guests – and for these hospitable people that does not just mean pointing out landmarks and answering questions. Hospitality often means offering lunch or even a place to sleep.

The village’s schoolhouse is in a small rectangular building next to the church. Its one room is where Hah’s 17 children, from grades one through five, are taught.

“This is not as difficult as you might think,” said the school’s teacher. Yet he does complain of the few materials the Turkish government gives students, forcing children to share books.

After graduating from primary school, village boys board at a monastery and attend middle and high school in either Midyat or Mardin. But for the majority of girls, education ends with fifth grade.

Shaking his head Mr. Dogan admits that, after this year, his daughter, Victoria, will be staying home with her mother.

“I am afraid for her,” he sighed. When asked what could happen he shoots back: “Who knows. I just hope it will be better in the future for the younger ones.”

The fear he and most Christian villagers feel for their children stems from a history of marriageable girls being kidnapped.

Though Mr. Dogan will not utter the word, the village priest, Father Gabriel Akyuz, does. “Kidnapping,” he blurted out, but only after checking to see that no one was listening. “It has happened before. Yes, 20 years ago, 15, 13 years ago. We are now very aware.”

Archdeacon Melfono Gulten from Mar Gabriel Monastery acknowledges that kidnappings took place but said: “It is a fear that belongs in the past. I think the teachers are better trained now and this new generation is a more understanding one. But it needs time.”

And other village children seem to agree – including Christians Hazni and Nahir, both 17, who attend Midyat high school. They say that they have never had a problem in school caused by their religion. They even seemed a bit surprised by the question.

From the outsider’s point of view this is an exciting period for the Syriac Christians of Tur Abdin. But those living there feel frightened; they find themselves at a crossroads. They are not really sure which road to take, not knowing where it will lead.

“I wish to be optimistic about the future, but that is not reasonable,” said one church official. “All the decision-making is essentially out of our hands and we find ourselves living a wait-and-see reality.”

“There is nothing certain about our future,” added Mr. Dogan.

“It is an open book.”

Chuck Todaro reports from the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Syriac Christians in Turkey

Turkey’s Syriac Orthodox Church is the nation’s largest Christian denomination. According to a 2001 report by the U.S. Department of State, there are an estimated 15,000 Syriac Orthodox Christians in the country.

The Syriac Orthodox Church is led by Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, who resides at the Mar Ephrem Monastery in Ma`arat Sayyidnaya, near Damascus, Syria.

Some 2,000 Syriac Catholics, whose ancestors embraced full communion with the Church of Rome, remain scattered in small communities in Turkey’s southeast.

Both of these churches use Aramaic in their liturgies, which are dominated by the twin themes of sinful unworthiness and majestic redemption.

Syriac Christians trace their origins to the early Christian community at Antioch, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles.

News Digest


Courtesy of the New York Times (20 February); article by Christopher Hawthorne

(ZNDA: Venice) Last week, the city of Venice, Italy unveiled a new logo, a rather severe-looking winged lion superimposed over the letter “V”. Winged lions, dating to Assyrian times, have been a symbol of Venice for hundreds of years.

The design is to appear on some souvenirs and consumer products sold in Venice, the mayor, Paolo Costa, said. Mayor Costa added that he hoped that more revenue would pour in from manufacturers of products with Venetian themes who used the logo and voluntarily paid licensing fees. He cited the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas as the sort of business he had in mind.

The logo is credited, officially, to a French graphic designer, Thibaut Mathieu. But the fingerprints of another, better-known French designer, Philippe Starck, are all over it.

In a series of events that began in July, Mayor Costa announced an open international competition and organized a jury of design heavyweights that included Mr. Starck, Piero Lissoni, Ron Arad and Tom Dixon. He promised a winner by December. To emphasize the analogy to Mr. Glaser's design, he scheduled a New York news conference to announce the choice.

When December arrived, city officials were not satisfied with the entries and canceled the conference. They turned the job of producing a logo over to Mr. Starck, the peripatetic designer of chairs, baby bottles and hotel lobbies, who owns three houses on the Venetian island of Burano and had volunteered to help.

Mr. Starck comments: “I know that the best symbol of Venice is the lion with the wings and a V — for Venice and for victory. But I want the lion facing us directly and not from the side. And I don't want two wings, because that could lead to something Fascist-looking, and I don't want any symmetry. I want one wing only.' "

They submitted their designs accordingly. It was apparently a coincidence that he picked the logo of a fellow Frenchman, Mr. Mathieu of Cake Design in Paris.

In addition to being "really, really, really sexy," the logo is "modern and classic at the same time," Mr. Starck said. "The lion has its feet in the mud of Venice, in the past, and its wings in the future. This means that Venice will not die under tourism. She will survive and prevail."


Surfs Up!
Letters From Zinda Magazine Readers


I am an Assyrian Christian, a descendant of the indigenous people of what is now referred to as Iraq. Our Aramaic language, the language of Jesus Christ, was once the lingua franca of the Middle East, until it was displaced by the Arab conquerors.

The discrimination practised against us in Iraq is every bit as oppressive as that of apartheid. Together with the Kurdish people, we are victims of Arab imperialism, yet our plight is ignored by the so-called peace protesters who just want Saddam Hussein to remain in power.

We also say no to war - the war that Saddam has mercilessly waged against us. How dare outsiders deny us the right to be liberated from his rule? When the American soldiers arrive, we will greet them with flowers.

Murat Metin
South Africa

Please explain this claim. I am an Assyrian American and there are close to three million Assyrian/Chaldeans living in the world. We are alive, vivacious and strong with annual national and international conferences (just check the internet).

Close to three hundred thousand Assyrians and Chaldeans live in the US with active political and social organizations.

I am a proud Assyrian American and expect a public apology.

Sharokin Betgevargiz

Assyrians do exist, and I am one of over 3 million that still survive today. There are more than 400,000 Assyrians in the United States alone.

Assyrians are a Christian community that has endured extensive persecution in the Middle East over the last century. My family fled Iraq in the 1960's along with many other Assyrians. Most of my relatives now reside in Canada, Australia, and the US.

I have many stories I can share with you, but in the mean time I would like to ask that you take some time to learn about our people.

I would also like to ask that you publicly acknowledge the existence of Assyrians on your next show. I would even welcome you to invite members of our community to share our culture with you.

I look forward to your response.

Marc Mar-Yohana

O'Reilly, in addition to being full of hot air, you are not independent in any sense of the word. Furthermore, you are not a historian. You know nothing of the Assyrians. Uneducated people like yourself only perpetuate ignorance.

Read "Assyrians After Assyria" by Simo Parpola, you windbag. Also, try reading a book sometime.

Jeff Atto

Well, I don't believe that you are an informed newscaster either. Because if you were, you wouldn't have made such an unwarranted and idiotic statement. How can you justify this claim? Because the Assyrians have been forced to register by Saddam's un-sanctioned oil-for-food program as Kurdish Christians? Because the Assyrians have quietly gone to their graves as Christians, not taking up arms and striking for their own defense because it is not the way of our lord? Because the British government, in their genocidal quest for conquest of the middle east in the early part of this century, turned on 'their smallest ally" and sent the Assyrians to their graves courtesy of the Arabs in Iraq in exchange for oil? The very oil that Assyrians had protected for the allies in WWII?

Your own president has recognized the plight of the Assyrians. You are oblivious to what is going on around you. Let me guess, in your world, there are only Christians, Jews, Moslems, Iraqis and Kurds? Is that it? Let me give you a quick history lesson. The Assyrians are the indigenous people of Iraq, they are a Christian people, they were also missionaries that were spreading the word of the Lord peacefully across much of Asia, Europe and the orient. (Are you following me so far?) They have been massacred for their beliefs; they are peaceful and have suffered ethnic cleansing at the hands of their Moslem neighbours, particularly your darling Kurds. They have also suffered genocide courtesy of the British government and their typical cold-blooded betrayal of their allies after WWII. Why? Because the Assyrians are too smart and too strong. Unlike the donkeys in the middle east that allowed the British to ride them for a few pounds sterling.

"I don't believe there are any Assyrians existing today". Well, I do. And I am. And incidentally, that sounds like the same rhetoric the British have been using on your Irish and Scottish brethren and, had it been followed through, there would be no Irish and no Scottish, only British. But then again, you just might be one of "those" Irish who gladly sold out his Northern cousins for a few pound sterling too.

Get your facts straight, clown, or get off the box.

Nick Dinkha

I thought I would just drop you a line and tell you that you don't have to look under stones to find Assyrians. There's a whole bunch of us right here in America! Love your show.

Irene Aurahan Kliszus
New Jersey

The comment that "I don't believe there are any Assyrians existing today" which you made on your Wednesday show is incorrect. We the Assyrians do still exist. It is true that we do not have a country now. The reason being that following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, in establishing of what became the modern Middle East, the victors left the Assyrians without a country, and we were dispersed among Iran, Syria, Turkey and Iraq. We have been the indigenous people of today's Iraq and have lived there long before the Arabs, Kurds, and Turks came to that region. The recent archaeological findings and our thousand year old churches give testimony to this fact. It seems you did not know that on October 8th, 2002, the President of the United States mentioned the Assyrian people along with other Iraqi minorities as victims of Saddam Hussein's rule in Baghdad and on December 9, 2002, he designated the Assyrian Democratic Movement ( an Assyrian organization in the northern Iraq) as one of the "Democratic Opposition Organizations" under the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998. Please check your facts before making such false and baseless comments. You owe the Assyrian nation a public apology.

Maryam Pirayou

What a surprise to learn that you have not yet met an Assyrian. Assyrians have been scattered to the far corners of the earth following 1400 years of being a barely tolerated Christian minority in their homeland after it came under control of successive Islamic states. All those centuries of regular persecution culminated in the Genocide, widely known for its Armenian victims, but most harmful to the existence of Assyrians since proportionally, more Assyrians were lost than either Armenians or Greeks.

Assyrians are, today, the last major living speakers of any of the many Aramaic dialects that thrived in the Assyrian Empire, and then became the most prominent language in the Eastern Roman Empire (hence the reason Jesus spoke it), as well as the most important alphabet system on the Silk Road. Just because under Islam Assyrians came to be recognized only on the basis of their religion and Christian denominations doesn't mean a man with a good Irish name should ignore their existence and ethnicity. After all, how would you like your family to be referred to as English speaking Catholics or Protestants without any recognition of their ethnic heritage?

Dr. Eden NABY

The phrase “Ignorance breeds contempt” has never more aptly espoused an imbecile radio personality as until now in the embodiment of Bill O'Reilly of the FOX News program. Even members of the esteemed U.S Congress, notably the honourable Congressman Hyde recognized the Assyrian Diaspora as evidenced in his letter to the Honourable William Burns which is quoted below: “April 25, 2002 The Honorable William Burns Assistant Secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs U.S. Department of State 2201 C. Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20520 Dear Mr. Secretary I understand that a majority of American Citizens of Iraqi descent are of Assyrian extraction. Assyrian- Americans have by and large been in this country for some time but retain, as do many Americans, links concern, family, and affections with their ancestral homelands. I share their concerns. I write to inquire about the treatment of the Assyrian community under the current Iraq regime as it relates to the reported suppression of their cultural and religious traditions. For example, does the fact that the Assyrians of Iraq are Christians detrimentally affect their well-being? Is it true, for example, that they are required to use Islamic names and forbidden to use traditional cultural or religious names? What protections are the Assyrian people enjoying under Operation Northern Watch? What aid has been afforded to them by the United States? How will the political and human rights concerns of the Assyrians factor into any future Iraqi political equation, especially in Northern Iraq? As you know, I remain a steadfast supporter of President Bush's policy of promoting regime change in Iraq. I hope that as the Administration proceeds to implement this policy, it will be mindful of the unique concerns of the Assyrian community, as well as the concerns of other ethnic groups in Iraq. I appreciate your consideration of these questions and look forward to receiving your response. Sincerely, Henry J. Hyde Chairman, Committee on International Relations http://www.aina.org/releases/2002/henryhydeletter.htm (1 of 2) [6/3/2002 8:30:05 AM]

William Dinkha


Few weeks back you lacked moral when you published an almost nude Assyrian woman as your front cover. You are lacking integrity when you had Tariq Aziz as your front cover. How dare you put a picture of the enemy of the Assyrians in your magazine? Tariq Aziz had his signature on the order by Saddam to wipe out 25 Assyrian villages in north of Iraq. Just recently Tariq Aziz had his signature on "Operation Nationality Correction" which deported many Assyrians from Kirkuk. You need to review the definition of a traitor and see if it applies to you. If you are doing it because you need attention and criticism then you have an unhealthy mind. Your magazine facing our nation is like garbage outside a beautiful home if the garbage was not picked up today it will be picked up in a very short time. Let us see if you can publish an opinion, which most Assyrians will agree with.

Albert Oshana
New York


Your article “NOT A TABLOID” is on the right track. It is about time for this belated action. Good on you.

Youaw Toma Kanna


Happy Birthday and best wishes to all the dedicated members of your staff. Zinda magazine has accomplished a great deal in the education of the public at large and Assyrians in particular about our history, church, current issues, arts, etc. I am confident that it will remain as the leading Assyrian electronic magazine. God bless you all and we pray that Assyrians all over the world will participate in reading it and contributing to it in a positive manner.

Youel A Baaba

Surfer's Corner


Over a quarter of a century ago, the Assyrian Australian Association (AAA), the owners and managers of Rabi Nemrod Simono Schoolarship, established in Sydney the Assyrian Language School. In 2003 and for the first time the school is running under the new name of Assyrian Australian Association DIQLAT Assyrian School (Madrashta Atoraita d'Diqlat). Diqlat School is sponsored and run by the AAA assisted by the Australian Government and by the parents.

The school has steadily progressed from year to year, starting with 2 classes under the Principalship of Rabi Philimon Darmo, and now it has over 400 enrolled students aged from 4 to 80. The school has proved its usefulness in that it has produced a number of Assyrian language teachers, many deacons, interpreters and radio and TV announcers. For this year we have 14 teachers, 2 for Kindergarten, 2 for parents and 9 classes for the in-between. We also run a class for keyboard music and one for Lishana Ateqa. The school runs once a week, on Saturdays and for this year, as last year, the Principal is Carmen Lazar, an ex-student of this school and the Vice Principal is Emmanuel Kanna. All our teachers have good grasp of the language and are holders of the Communicative Language Teaching Certificate that is offered by the Australian Universities.

The school invites all interested persons and workers of other similar Assyrian schools in the world to contact the school for exchange of ideas and resources. Our address is Diqlat School, PO Box 101, FAIRFIELD NSW 2165, Australia.

Emmanuel Kanna
Diqlat Assyrian School


Open Heart Society (OHS) is a non-profit, non-political organization. In 2001 OHS was founded with a goal to help the needy people of the countries Republics of the Former Soviet Union: Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Tatarstan, and Christians in Middle East: Iraq: Syria, Lebanon, Iran. OHS is organization that accepts and then distributes donations to the needy. The organization is going to provide practical humanitarian assistance to the peoples of these regions in order to improve educational, economic, social and medical conditions.

OHS is able to help people in need around the world because of the generous, ongoing support from individuals, corporations, foundations and local community and religious groups. It is these partners who make our work possible and we are indebted to their philanthropic spirit.

With one of the smallest overheads in the non-profit industry, our donors understand that donating to OHS means efficiency, expediency and effectiveness.


More than 1000 individuals support OHS on an annual basis. They range from organizations who collect nickels and dimes to high net worth individuals who give large contributions to further OHS missions around the world. Individuals can support OHS through outright contributions, stock donations, bequests and planned giving.

Programs and Projects

Dramatic events and political changes in the Former Soviet Union of beginning of 1990's introduced countries of the Caucasus to many political, economical and social challenges.
In 2001 we spent 3 weeks observing some regions in Georgia, Armenia and Russia. We visited many families and talked to them. Some of them smiled, some cried trying to explain us their terrible situation. They suffer from the cold, poverty for more than 15 years. We made a list of 4,000 families who need an urgent help and draw up a draft of projects:

Emergency Medical Assistance Project aimed to provide free medication to needy people Educational development. Carrying out education programs for students Economic seminars and meeting with Governmental and Non-Government Organization Fundraising cooperation with foreign countries: Russia, Sweden, Australia.

"Save Aramaic language" project.

Saving the most rare language which is dying now. There are very few small communities in the Former Soviet Union in Georgia and Armenia where this language is still survive but in very danger of disappearance.

Vasili V. Shoumanov

Sergey Yakupov

-Diana Solomon
-Albert Warda
-Alexander Sidorov


This group has been established for the purpose of lobbying western governments such as the USA and European states to ensure the rights of all Assyrians (including Chaldeans and Syriacs) in the Middle East and specifically Iraq. The Assyrians are indigenous to Mesopotamia and speak Aramaic, well-known to be the language of Christ. We fear that if the current Iraqi regime is toppled, the Assyrians will be placed under the control of the Kurds, in many respects even more fearful than the Baath dictatorship. We are against any type of new Kurdish Government or any Kurdish factions to rule over the Assyrians.

Kurds have in the past participated as the main murderers of Assyrians- most notoriously in the period between 1914 and 1918, where the Assyrians lost more than two-thirds of their number. Kurds still continue to murder, threaten and intimidate Assyrians, wherever they live. They will continue to do so if the west does nothing. We seek peace and harmony for all of Iraq, not just for Assyrians but for all Iraq's ethnic and religious groups.

The Kurds are the second- largest nation to inhabit Iraq. They have made it clear through their "democratic experience" in North Iraq that they intend to control that region as a state called "Kurdistan" - without a joint partnership with the Assyrians or other ethnic groups. We clearly oppose for this to happen as there are over a million Assyrians (including Chaldeans and Syriacs) living in Iraq and such a state would impede on their religious and economic affairs.

It has been reported by Assyrians themselves in various villages scattered throughout North Iraq that they have been illegally forced out of their own homes and off their land. They are constantly being pressured to convert to Islam so that in return they can receive some safety privileges from the Kurds. We plead for the USA, Europe and the United Nations to acknowledge this by investigating and implementing a policy to allow “Assyrians to autonomously govern the Iraq after Saddam's regime is toppled, many Assyrian refugees who remain in limbo in various countries will have the desire to return to their homeland. This will greatly help and reduce overall costs to immigrant intakes per year to countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia and Europe.

Assyrian Lobby Group

US Congress Members

United Nations (email)


I am glad to inform you that PAN Records in Netherlands has recently released a CD, "Qambel Maran: Syriac Chants from South India". The CD contains 29 melodies in Syriac from the Chaldean liturgy of the St. Thomas Christians in South India. The accompanying booklet (16 pages) provides extensive information on the Syriac music traditions, along with 7 photographs, map, and bibliography. Transliteration and translation of the text are also available. If you are interested, please reply to this mail or contact: http://www.indussociety.org/cmsindia

Anna Thomas
New Jersey



Your Grace, you recently, in a letter to the President of the United States, declared that Chaldeans are a separate and distinct nation. In quest for such separate ‘nation’ recognition, the appellation of which you dated back to the 16th century, you appealed to the President of the United States of America to accord the Chaldeans the recognition as a nation. This came immediately after the recognition of the Assyrian Democratic Movement [ADM] as a legitimate party in the Iraqi opposition. In my view as an Assyrian, this latter decision on the part of the President was not only a victory for ADM, which has sincerely spearheaded the unity of Assyrians, Chaldeans, Suryanis and Maronites; it was rather a magnanimous victory for all the Christians of Iraq, all the Aramaic-speaking indigenous people of Beth Nahrain including Chaldeans, Suryanis and Assyrians.

Considering your position, education, and previous pronouncements, this action shocks and saddens the majority of our much-maligned Christian people and Aramaic-speaking nation of Beth Nahrain. Our nation is going through one of its most critical periods in its history. We are on the verge of extinction if we do not unite our scattered brothers and sisters and stand firm and demand our rights in our homeland of Beth Nahrain. In the midst of this struggle, your declaration creates more confusion and divisiveness. All the five Patriarchs of our divided Church and nation have acknowledged, on different occasions, their Assyrian roots and are receptive to the idea of final reconciliation. Consequently, your untimely demand for distinct separation and isolation comes counter to wishes of the majority of our people. In my view, as a loyal Christian and a sincere Assyrian, this move amounts to a very dangerous schism in our national effort for securing a deep-seated unity of Christian faith, of Aramaic language and of Beth Nahrain civilization. This move is counter to our past history of one nation because it will legitimize the call for the recognition of four nations– the nation of Assyrians, the nation of Chaldeans, the nation of Suryanis and the nation of Maronite. It is this division that has brought us to the politically miserable situation in which we are.

I do not know exactly what are your motives and what is the rationale that is driving you to this isolationist position. As an Assyrian and supporter of Zowaa, I am hopeful that all of our brothers and sisters who are children of one nation, speak the same language, and profess the same Christian faith will rise and raise their voices against disunity.

Personally, I am encouraged when I see our intellectuals like Dr. Edward Odisho to take time to research and write quality material to educate our people. I sent you via e-mail a copy of his article in the hope that you will consider his recommendations as an ideal basis on which communications and negotiations can be continued between our two communities to reach a favorable understanding. We are all in need of a campaign of Christian awareness, national awareness and civilizational awareness of who we were and who do we want to be.

Irrespective of your present position, I am confident that you will acknowledge the following historical facts:

1. The Church of the East had its second division in the 15th century when a segment of its followers split away and had their candidate ordained by Rome as a new Patriarch.

2. The liturgy of both churches at that time was in the Aramaic language and the spoken language of both groups was Suraya or Surith. Presently, the Church of the East still maintains its services in Aramaic, while the Chaldean Church still suffers from the dominance of the Arabic language.

3. Rome applied the name Chaldean to the Uniat denomination in the middle of the 19th century to distinguish it from the ‘Nestorian’ denomination; however, this was not meant to create a Chaldean nation versus an Assyrian or ‘Nestorian’ nation.

4. The national identity of a people is the outcome of a long process of historical evolution; it is not an instantaneous creation resulting from putting pen on paper. We have had a religious and national unity and we should do our utmost to regain it and reinforce it.

We are informed that your purpose in this undertaking is to stop the Arabization process of our Chaldean brothers. This undertaking is truly commendable, but the process cannot be stopped by the selection of a new identity; conversely, the Arabization process is only countered through a long-term campaign of linguistic, historical and cultural awareness. We all– as Chaldeans, Assyrians, Suryanis and Maronites– need to be once again ‘baptized’ through this process of awareness which will undoubtedly make us better patriotic brothers and more faithful Christians. Without this campaign of awareness more and more of us– the speakers of Aramaic– will be drowned in the whirlpools of Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish and English languages and cultures. Alas, it will then be too late for the language of Jesus to survive and too late for our Beth Nahrain culture and heritage to be maintained.

I, therefore, sincerely appeal to our brothers and sisters on both sides of this debate to refrain from personal attacks, character assassination, and negative ideas. We should accord Mar Sarhad and all other clergy the respect they deserve. Let us debate the concept of unity and not make personal attacks. As Dr. Edward Odisho stated it so eloquently that we are all believers in the Christian faith, Aramaic is our language, and are children of our beloved homeland, Bet Nahrain. Using these unifying factors as the basis, let us attempt to establish better communication, deeper understanding and constructive approach to reach a final resolution that is an integral part of our future survival as Christians, as the speakers of Jesus’ language and as the indigenous creators of Beth Nahrain civilization.

There is so much historical material to prove that Chaldeans and Assyrians are only appellations for the same people. Chaldeans and Assyrians will remain one entity irrespective of how many individuals attempt to divide us into two.
Thus, I will not attempt to repeat these facts. It will suffice to quote one single source to prove that you are of the same historical descent like me regardless of whether you identify yourself as Chaldean or Assyrian. The source of the quotation is none other than the book written by your father, the late Yousif Hermiz Jammo. From his book, The Remains of Nineveh or the History of Telkaif written in Arabic and first published in Baghdad in 1937, I will quote certain statements that leave no doubt as to your national identity as documented by your father.

1. From his Introduction, “Telkaif, the city or small town in North Iraq is inhabited now by about 10,000 persons. And it is the only remaining town from the remains of the mighty Nineveh in that location…and their majority have preserved their language (Surith) which is the modern Aramaic.”

2. From the Chapter entitled The Name of the City

“The city (Telkaif) is one of the many suburbs of Nineveh…and its name is taken from the hill that the city (Nineveh) installed around itself…the fortress is ancient from the days of the Assyrian Kingdom just like other fortresses that were erected for the defense of Nineveh. It was an artificial fortress surrounded by large stones (keepe) and thus the hill of stones.”

3. From the chapter entitled Telkaif City, “Telkaif is the only remaining inheritance of the mighty city of Nineveh. And those who lived in it from ancient times are the children of those who established Nineveh. So those in Telkaif or around her are from the same generations of the people of Nineveh and there is no argument about it.”

Your Grace, your father– may God bless his soul– was a learned man and a proud descendant of Nineveh. In his book, he did not say Telkaif was a town in Babylon or that the inhabitants of Telkaif came from this district in southern Iraq, or that their language is Chaldean.

In conclusion, I sincerely appeal to your grace to lead the challenge of educating our people to recognize that we are of one nation, one native Church and one Homeland– the beloved Beth Nahrain.

Youel A Baaba


We use “maut” to mean “death” but don’t use the Arabic adjective from it “maat” meaning “dead”, except when we use it as a term in the game of chess. We vaguely connect the English word “checkmate” to an Arabic origin but still don’t get to its real meaning

In the game of chess when you say checkmate you are putting the top pawn on challenge. What are you actually saying? You are warning that the king will soon be killed. The literal warning communicated here is: the king is dead!

The dictionaries are confused about the real origin of this word. They all say that the expression has come from Persian and that somehow check is actually shah (king), the top pawn in chess. The “mate” part of the word they relate to an Indo-European root meaning to put down.

There are some dictionaries that say that mate comes from mat but don’t give its real meaning. Most dictionaries say that the word came into English from French but will not say how it came to French.

There is some clue in the Russian word for chess: shakhmati. It is very close to the expression used in Persian when the king pawn is challenged: shah maat. But the Persian word chess itself is different: shatranj.

Persian got its name from Sanskrit and the game from India because chatur-ang means four parts which is the spread (bisat) on which chess is played. It has four parts. Chatur means four and is seen in Latin quattuor (four). Russian is closer in chitir (four). Persian has chahar. In Urdu it is char.

If Russians got the name for chess from shah-maat, the French got it from Spanish jaque y mate. The French then took the word in another direction. They connected with another word echec (failure) which has a Latin root. The English got their chess from echec.

Thus was shah totally lost in the etymology. What happened to maat is even stranger. Maat is simply an Arabic word meaning dead. In Urdu we have the word maut (death) but strangely not its derivative maat (dead). It could be present in our word for mourning (maatam).

Mot or maut is a Syriac word which has come to Arabic as well as Hebrew (mavet) and means the opposite of life. In the Holy Quran, it is used to mean static or devoid of movement. It is used for such expressions as the breeze stopped (maatat).

Maat is used for dead in Arabic but in Urdu and Persian maat is also used for defeat, but its real meaning is going down or confounded. In English mat was taken from French to mean dull and colourless, from where the English word mat (dull).

The Spanish coined the word matador with the help of Arabic: he who kills the bull. It literally means killer. Spanish verb matar (to kill) comes directly from Arabic. Troubador is he who sings. The French also took it as mat (dead).

Khaled Ahmed



A photographic exhibition entitled “Christian Angels on the South China Coast” will be open to the public in the ground floor exhibition area at Macquarie University Library, North Ryde, Australia, from March 3rd-April 12th 2003. The exhibition deals with the Nestorian Christian tombstones of the Mongol period from Quanzhou in South China. The curator is Dr Ken Parry and the exhibition is being held as part of an ARC and CCK funded research project based in the Ancient History Department at Macquarie under the direction of Prof Sam Lieu. As well as Prof Lieu and Dr Parry the research team consists of Prof Majella Franzmann (UNE), Dr Lain Gardner (Sydney and Dr Lance Eccles (Macquarie).

Quanzhou was known to Western travellers as Zayton and it was the port from which Marco Polo left China in 1292. Since 1997 it has gained fame as the City of Light from the title given to the manuscript of a Jewish merchant, Jacob d’Ancona, who allegedly spent six months in the city in 1271-72.

The book launch is for Worlds of the Silk Roads Ancient and Modern: Walls and Frontiers in Inner Asian History, edited by Prof Sam Lieu and Craig Benjamin, and forms Volume VI in the Silk Road Studies Series published by Brepols. The volume consists of papers given at the 4th Biennial Conference of the Australian Society for Inner Asian Studies held at Macquarie University in November 2000.

The official opening of the Exhibition and Book Launch will be held at Macquarie University Library on Wednesday 26th February 3003 (by invitation only). The exhibition will be opened by the Vice-Chancellor, Emeritus Professor Di Yerbury, who will also launch Volume VI in the Silk Road Studies series edited at Macquarie and Published by Brepols. Dr Parry has invited Mr Li Jinsheng of the Consulate of the Peoples Republic of China and His Grace Mar Meelis Zaia of the Assyrian Church of the East to speak on this occasion.

Macquarie University
Sydney, Australia

Calendar of Events

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Thank You!

Zindamagazine would like to thank:

Jacklin Bejan

Dr. George Kiraz
(New Jersey)

Konstantin Sabo

Mar Meelis Zaia


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

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