IN THE MAKING
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
Interview with Mr. Yonadam Kanna
Only eight hours before the end of the ultimatum imposed on the current leadership of Iraq and one day before the beginning of the Assyrian New Year 6753, Zinda Magazine was able to contact Mr. Yonadam Kanna in Turkey for an exclusive interview.
Mr. Kanna’s strong and confident voice gave us great assurance that the Assyrian leadership is prepared for the uncertainty facing our people in the North and in Baghdad.
Kanna: Greetings to your staff at Zinda Magazine and your readers wherever they may be. We are about to witness the greatest event in our history. This is truly history in the making and we urge our people to share this with us in our homeland.
Zinda: Rabbie Yacu, what can we do in the next few days for our people in the homeland?
Kanna: Tens of thousands of our people are leaving the urban areas and moving into the villages where they feel there will be less threat of war. But this may be a temporary relief and a mass exodus could follow soon. At that time we will need our people’s help, particularly monetary support. Please be prepared to do your duty as Assyrians and offer support if such a need arises.
Zinda: Which groups and organizations do you wish for our people to contact in send donations?
Kanna: Any organization that is willing to help. We have the Assyrian Aid Society and the Babylon Charity, but any organization or NGO willing to help is acceptable. Even if they wish to bring the money themselves, we will find ways to help them enter Iraq.
Zinda: In case there is chaos and bloodshed immediately after the initial attacks, are you prepared to defend our people against aggression?
Kanna: We have Assyrian security forces set up in over 40 major locations, Assyrian villages, and centers. If the security system of the country or local regions collapses, we are prepared to defend our people.
Zinda: Are you armed?
Kanna: Yes, we are equipped to defend ourselves. But do not bear such thoughts, as we foresee no such scenario in the coming days.
Zinda: Are you confident that our neighbors will not repeat the mistakes of the past?
Kanna: We are working very closely with our Arab, Kurdish, and Turkomen neighbors and we will all labor together in rebuilding Iraq. Iraq must become a free and democratic nation and we must all have a part in this reconstruction effort.
Zinda: Can you compare the current situation with the one you experienced in 1991?
Kanna: Today’s situation is 25 times more serious than that of 1991. This is it for our people – a make or break situation. And because of this we expect 25 times more support from all of you in the Diaspora. Do not just sit back and observe. Be prepared to help in the immediate future. We need volunteers to come and help us here. Journalists and photographers are also needed to chronicle the history in the making. Be a part of the most important event in the history of our people.
Zinda: Where do you see the Assyrian people in the future of Iraq?
Kanna: We must and will have our rights honored in the new constitution of Iraq. Nothing is guaranteed to any group, Assyrain or Non-Assyrian, at this time. But Assyrians are recognized as one of the many nationalities that make up the country of Iraq. We, as the other groups, will have our place in the new constitution of Iraq.
Zinda: Should the Assyrians support the United States?
Kanna: The U.S. is a major player in all anti-Saddam efforts. We are working very closely with the U.S. government in Iraq.
Zinda: Will Assyrians actively participate in the reconstruction efforts?
Kanna: We have enlisted several Assyrian specialists to work within each of the 17 committees that will coordinate the post-Saddam reconstruction efforts. These names were handed to the U.S. government and other opposition groups in Salahadin. You already have Dr. Emanuel Kamber and Mr. Albert Yelda’s names as they have already been actively engaged in several meetings.
Zinda: Where will you be when the Azore Summit deadline ends today?
Kanna: I will be back in Iraq at that time. We just ended several days of meetings in Ankara with 7 other opposition groups, at the invitation of the U.S. and Turkey. Only the Iraqi Nationalist Movement could not participate at these meetings and they did apologize for not being able to attend. I have met with Zalmay Khalilzad, Jalal Talabani, Massoud Barazani’s representative, Sharif Ali, Chalabi, and many others in these meetings. We are prepared for what is to come in the next few days and for a new Iraq.
Zinda: You seem very confident that no harm will come to the Assyrians in the aftermath of a U.S./British-led attack?
Kanna: The tension that the media in the west speaks of is not felt here. The feeling is mutual. We all have a place in the future Iraq and will help one another to arrive at that juncture. Yes, we all have been trained to protect ourselves in case of a chemical attack, and keep safe if the security structure breaks up. But we do not expect any such pessimistic circumstances and are preparing to leave for Baghdad to begin a new chapter in our history.
I believe I must leave you now. The CBS crew is here to interview me.
Zinda: On behalf of our staff and our readers in 60 countries around the world, please accept our best wishes for the new Assyrian year. Our prayers are with you and we hope that no harm will come to any Assyrian.
Kanna: Likewise I extend my wishes for a new Assyrian year. These are the greatest days of our history and do not forget that it is your duty to support your brethren in the homeland. We must all come together and build a stronger Assyrian nation.
Prepared by Zinda Magazine
IN PRAISE OF WILLIAM DANIEL
March 17 is an important date in the history of modern Assyrian literature and music because on that day 100 years ago, William Daniel was born. To celebrate the centennial of this great Assyrian poet, writer, and music composer, his students and fans are planning a daylong event in late July 2003 in the city of San Jose, where William Daniel spent the last years of his life. The street, where on a December eve in 1988 a car ran over him and ended the life of this precious Assyrian, still evokes bitter memories in the heart of the Assyrians of San Jose.
William Daniel belonged to the generation of Assyrians who witnessed the ravages of World War I in Urmia region first hand. At the age of 11 he was snatched away from the comfort of a home, from school, and from the games children play, and was thrust into the army of Assyrian refugees as they fled the region with the enemy forces in pursuit. Having lost his mother earlier, now he also lost his father, Dr. David Sayad Daniel. A dedicated Assyrian physician and a hero in his own right, Dr. David Daniel was the one who saved Guytapa from the Kurdish siege during WWI, and gave his life in serving the sick and dying Assyrians in the American mission yards. He also lost his eldest sister who was abducted by Muslims never to be found again. At this tender age he witnessed events that no child should. Neighbors being shot and killed in front of his eyes, others dying of hunger and exposure; little toddlers abandoned at the roadside…I asked him once: “William, what is the worst memory you have of the flight of Assyrians from Urmia?” His answer was surprising. No mention of dear ones dying, or grotesque scenes of people being eaten alive by swarms of lice. What had really troubled his young mind was the sight of poor oxen and other beasts of burden, yoked to heavy loads, deprived of feed and water, dying of thirst their tongue, caked in the sun, hanging from their mouth.
These childhood experiences molded William Daniel’s personality in a special way. He developed a tremendous sense of compassion and pity for his orphaned people. He had an urge to protect and defend them. He used his God-given talents and his pen as a weapon to exonerate his people, and to engrave their rich language and culture forever in the pages of history. He fulfilled this mission in his masterpieces. Three volumes of Kateeni Gabbara that not only revive a dying Assyrian epic, but are also a flowerbed exposing the beauty and potentiality of the modern Assyrian languages as a medium of poetic and dramatic expression. His music book, William Daniel’s Creations, contains the most beautiful melodies and lyrics in 20th century Assyrian music. His Assyrians of Today, their Problems and A Solution contains a most important message: the establishment of a national fund as a first step in nation building. Moreover, in this book William Daniel uses the Assyrian language as an effective medium of scholarly discourse. Today no respectable scholar of 20th century Near Easter literature and music can bypass the Assyrians in his/her research work. This is how effective William Daniel has been in putting the Assyrian language and literature back on the scoreboard.
William Daniel, And Assyrian Music:
The roots of authentic Assyrian music today lie in two ancient sources:
William Daniel’s songs are all inspired by these two ancient sources. Thus they embody the authentic Assyrian musical heritage. At the same time his songs are intended to communicate the spirit of Assyrian music of modern times: the germ motives, the figures, sometimes the antecedents and the consequents, i.e., the whole theme represents the Assyrian type. These in turn have been often worked out further within the characteristics of the Assyrian music by observing the turns, variations of figures and sequences common to the music of the Mountaineer Assyrians, who have conserved the originality more faithfully than the Assyrians of the plains.
In the development of the characteristic fundamentals the composer, profiting from his Western musical education, has added his own personality, almost always keeping the originality of the type in perspective.
These songs do not claim similarity to the Assyrian dance music that today’s performers are accustomed to play. Their music is of mixed coloring, inclined in its directions or in treatment of passages to Arabic, Iranian or Turkish. That type of music is meant for dancing rather than for listening.
William Daniel’s musical compositions are breathtaking and
unparalleled. His melodies are as purely Assyrian as the spring waters
of the Assyrian homeland, and his lyrics are a mosaic of Assyrian
folkways and traditions. Among his many musical masterpieces, Shahra
has been played by a Soviet symphonic orchestra. His 10” L.P.
record Hoy Dalileh which is a new interpretation of an old tune, in
addition to several original creations, won the Biblis award in 1970.
It is unfortunate that due to lack of ethnic schools, the younger generation of Assyrians cannot read or write their mother tongue. I have therefore attempted to translate some of his songs into English. Despite the fact that these translations are not in verse form and lack the poetic flavor of the originals, yet the force and passion of expression comes through even in translation. The following is an example:
Tears of the Beloved
Why are your eyes brimful of tears, tell me.
Give me the true word, even if it costs life
William Daniel, and the Epic of Kateeny Gabbara
Only William Daniel could take the shreds of an old tale, passed
on by word of mouth in homes during the evening hours in front of
a fire pit, and weave it into an epic tale which portrays the history
of our people with all its tragedies and sorrows, the rise and fall
of its national fortune, and its hopes for the future.
In this passage a widow whose sons are taken captive by Shidda, the symbol of the enemy in Kateeni Gabbara, has pity on the youthfulness of Kateeni the hero, and tries to dissuade him from his perilous mission to confront Shidda (a female monster):
Retreat from this path Kateeni,
In answer Kateeni shows his unwavering resolve:
Do not fear mother
William Daniel lived most of his life as a lonely, unappreciated artist. He was hurt deeply, but never wavered in his love for his people. His lifelong goal was to serve and uplift his people. In the dedication page of his publication William Daniel’s Creations he writes:
Dr. Arianne Ishaya
URGENT APPEAL FOR ASSYRIAN EMERGENCY RELIEF PROJECT
17 March 2003
All of the world’s eyes have been focused on Iraq, awaiting an expected war.
Now the war is upon us and it is very possible Iraq is facing a humanitarian disaster.
In 1991 our organization was established to plan and carry out a relief program immediately after the Gulf War when tens of thousands of Iraqi people were forced to leave their homes and villages in search of safety at the Turkish and Iranian borders.
This is expected to happen again in the coming days, and now once again we must implement a vast relief program for our people.
Our Relief Project proposal [see below] is for 4,000 familes, or roughly 20,000 people. The number of Assyrian refugees is expected to be far higher but we have chosen this number as a realistic goal that we can support without seeking the assistance of the United Nations or other non-governmental organizations.
We are depending on our individual supporters, donor organizations, societies, clubs, churches, and others to assist us in this project. We ask for any support or donations you can offer, to see our people’s suffering and save them from the disaster we are facing.
Please visit www.assyrianaid.org to learn how you can help today
Our thanks in advance,
THE IRAQI OPPOSITION GROUPS MEETING IN ANKARA
Courtesy of Reuters (18 March); based on articl by Ayla Jean Yackley
(ZNDA: Dohuk) Iraqi opposition groups met in Ankara, Turkey on Tuesday to put their forces under a U.S.-led command in the event of war. At press time another meeting is scheduled in which Mr. Yonadam Kanna, Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, will be voicing the concerns of the Assyrian people in Ankara, Zinda Magazine sources indicate.
After Tuesday’s meeting U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said: "The Iraqi parties present...have committed themselves to fully cooperate with the coalition and to put whatever forces they have under the command and control of the coalition commanders."
Khalilzad struggled to hammer out a deal between the opposition groups and neighbouring Turkey on how to work peacefully in any U.S.-led assault on northern Iraq.
The main points of tension are the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, the heart of the country's northern oil industry.
Kurds feel the cities are historically theirs, and thousands of Kurds expelled from the region by the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein might return there during a war.
Turkey fears the Kurds may seize control of oil fields, a step toward turning the enclave into an independent state.
Khalilzad said Iraqi Kurdish groups at the meeting had agreed to hold back their people.
AZORES SUMMIT STATEMENT INCLUDES ASSYRIANS, CHALDEANS
Courtesy of the Associated Press (17 March)
Text of the statement on Iraq that was released yesterday at a summit in the Azores islands
Iraq's talented people, rich culture, and tremendous potential have been hijacked by Saddam Hussein. His brutal regime has reduced a country with a long and proud history to an international pariah that oppresses its citizens, started two wars of aggression against its neighbors, and still poses a grave threat to the security of its region and the world.
Saddam's defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding the disarmament of his nuclear, chemical, biological, and long-range missile capacity has led to sanctions on Iraq and has undermined the authority of the U.N. For 12 years, the international community has tried to persuade him to disarm and thereby avoid military conflict, most recently through the unanimous adoption of UNSCR 1441. The responsibility is his. If Saddam refuses even now to cooperate fully with the United Nations, he brings on himself the serious consequences foreseen in UNSCR 1441 and previous resolutions.
In these circumstances, we would undertake a solemn obligation to help the Iraqi people build a new Iraq at peace with itself and its neighbors. The Iraqi people deserve to be lifted from insecurity and tyranny, and freed to determine for themselves the future of their country. We envisage a unified Iraq with its territorial integrity respected. All the Iraqi people -- its rich mix of Sunni and Shiite Arabs, Kurds, Turkomen, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and all others -- should enjoy freedom, prosperity, and equality in a united country. We will support the Iraqi people's aspirations for a representative government that upholds human rights and the rule of law as cornerstones of democracy.
We will work to prevent and repair damage by Saddam Hussein's regime to the natural resources of Iraq and pledge to protect them as a national asset of and for the Iraqi people. All Iraqis should share the wealth generated by their national economy. We will seek a swift end to international sanctions, and support an international reconstruction program to help Iraq achieve real prosperity and reintegrate into the global community.
We will fight terrorism in all its forms. Iraq must never again be a haven for terrorists of any kind.
In achieving this vision, we plan to work in close partnership with international institutions, including the United Nations; our Allies and partners; and bilateral donors. If conflict occurs, we plan to seek the adoption, on an urgent basis, of new United Nations Security Council resolutions that would affirm Iraq's territorial integrity, ensure rapid delivery of humanitarian relief, and endorse an appropriate post-conflict administration for Iraq. We will also propose that the Secretary General be given authority, on an interim basis, to ensure that the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people continue to be met through the Oil for Food program.
Any military presence, should it be necessary, will be temporary and intended to promote security and elimination of weapons of mass destruction; the delivery of humanitarian aid; and the conditions for the reconstruction of Iraq. Our commitment to support the people of Iraq will be for the long term.
We call upon the international community to join with us in helping to realize a better future for the Iraqi people.
ASSYRIANS MEET WITH WHITE HOUSE OFFICIALS & U.S. CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVES THIS WEEK
(ZNDA: Washington) On 3 March Dr. Emanuel Kamber, an Assyrian activist and prominent member of the working groups formulating the post-Saddam policies and constitutional bylaws, delivered an important speech at the "Post-Saddam Iraq Conference Series" organized by the American Enterprise Institute in Washington D.C. This portion of the conference dealt with the "Constitutional Issues and Federalism: Ethnicity and Justice in Post-Saddam Iraq." (see News Digest)
On 6 March, Dr. Emanuel Kamber joined two Assyrian-Chaldeans, Dr. Ramsey Jiddou of Detroit and Dr. Katrin Micheal from Washington D.C., and a few other Iraqi-Americans in full day meetings at the White House and the U.S. Defense Department. They met with Vice President Chaney; Dr. Condolezza Rice, National Security Adviser; Dr. Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense; Dr. Khalilzada, President' Envoy to Free Iraqis; and Steve Hadley, Deputy National Security Adviser. A press conference was held outside the White House after the meetings. The Assyrian representatives introduced themselves as "Assyrian Chaldean Syriac people- one nation with different names."
At government expense, these representatives were brought to Washington to tell Mr. Cheney, Miss Rice and other ranking officials of the pressing need to remove Saddam from power.
"Finally, somebody is listening to us," Mr. Jiddou, 59, a chemist who immigrated from Baghdad in the late 1970s to escape Saddam Hussein's dictatorial oppression, said over the weekend.
The State Department would not comment on its effort to recruit these community members.
Dr. Jiddou and Dr. Kamber were among a delegation of 10 Iraqis who later met with Mr. Donald Ramsfeld, Secretary of Defense and Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon.
Dr. Katrin Michael also met with several Congressional Representatives last week, including Mr. Mark Kirk (Illinois-10th District), Co-Chairman of the Iraq Working Group, and Mr. Darrel Issa (California).
Last Friday, President George W. Bush met with three Iraqi civilian victims of the 1988 chemical attack Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein launched against their city that they say killed thousands and caused long-term physical and psychological problems among survivors.
Dr. Katrin Michael and two other Iraqis spoke with President Bush for approximately 20 minutes about their experiences after Saddam attacked the Iraqi city of Halabja with chemical weapons. The brief meeting came as Bush is set to leave for Portugal's Azores to discuss how to win U.N. approval for a new resolution on Iraq.
Dr. Michael, of Alexandria, Va., said she was blind for three days after the attack. "We had long-term effects. I suffered a lot of breathing (problems) and hands shaking. I've sought treatment in different countries. The psychological effects were most important," said Michael, who fled Iraq in 1988.
Dr. Michael, who urged governments not to use chemical weapons during war, is a researcher with the Iraq Foundation. She joined the Kurdish-based Iraqi resistance movement in 1982 to fight Saddam.
On Tuesday, 18 March, Dr. Michael will testify before Congress and describe her experience with chemical weapons. In her upcoming autobiography, Dr. Katrin describes her family's experiences with the Iraqi Baath regime.
See Also: Iraqi Assyrians Meet Top U.S. Administration Officials
ASSYRIAN & IRAQI DELEGATION'S LETTER TO DR. CONDOLEZZA RICE
The following is the full text of the letter submitted to Vice President Chaney and Dr. Rice after the 6 March meeting of the Assyrian & other Iraqi Representatives at the White House:
March 6, 2003
1. Human rights and equality for every Iraqi irrespective of gender, ethnicity religion, political or personal beliefs.
2. Unity and territorial integrity of Iraq and no intervention or
incursion from neighboring countries under any pretext.
4. An Iraqi transitional authority after the liberation.
5. An Iraq that is free from chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
6. An Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors.
7. An Iraq that is a catalyst for democracy, peace and prosperity
in the region.
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT MEMBERS STATEMENT ON
ASSYRIANS/SYRIACS IN TURKEY AND IRAQ
In particular, one of the ancient ethnic groups in Turkey and Iraq, the Assyrians/Syriacs, is near the point of extinction. Before the Gulf War 1,5 million Assyrians/Syriacs populated Iraq. Today this number has decreased to 0,5 million inhabitants. There are currently estimated 10-15,000 Assyrians/Syriacs left in Turkey.
The Assyrian/Syriac people have a precious cultural heritage of great importance for the entire civilized community. Nonetheless, Assyrian churches and monasteries are being systematically confiscated or even destroyed.
With every international crisis in the Middle East, the Assyrians/Syriacs as well as other Christian minority groups have been targeted by both fighting sides, as they found themselves caught in the middle of different political and religious power-constellations. At present, there is strong concern about the situation of Assyrians/Syriacs in Northern Iraq.
On the other hand, Turkey has not improved its record as regards the religious freedom and property rights of Christian minorities, in spite of recent changes in national legislation. The Commission states in its Strategy Paper on the enlargement that Turkey has made noticeable progress towards meeting the Copenhagen political criteria. This is not enough. It is time that the EU made clear to the Turkish administration that it expects full and proper implementation of the Copenhagen criteria as a pre-requisite for EU membership.
The Assyrians/Syriacs represent an original Christian group in the Middle East. Along with other religious minorities, they need to be officially recognized and be allowed to effectively enjoy their basic human rights by governments and national authorities. It is therefore of great importance that the EU demonstrates stronger concern for the plight of the Assyrian/Syriac people, by bringing the issue of their political and religious rights and indeed of their very existence to the main political agenda.
The situation of the Assyrians/Syriacs was raised in an open hearing in the beginning of October 2002 in the European Parliament arranged by the Nordic Christian Democrats.
Mr. Anders Wijkman, Member of the European
KURDISH RESOLUTION THREATENS ASSYRIAN LANDS IN IRAQ
Courtesy of ABC News (18 March); by Rob Johnson
(ZNDA: Chicago) With American troops close to Iraq's doorstep, there are frazzled nerves both in the Persian Gulf region and in Chicago. Younathan Youkhana is an Assyrian Christian originally from northern Iraq. Though he's been in the U.S. 31 years, he hopes someday to return to his homeland. So Youkhana supports President Bush's insistence on war.
"We hope we'll have a lot of democracy there and the freedom there and people to do business back home, that will do their business and people live there. They have been suffering for so many years. They will relax and have a place. They deserve to have a good life, too," said Younathan Youkhana, Assyrian National Council.
Dr. Qais Mekki believes the U.S. has absolutely no justification for attacking Iraq. Dr. Qais Mekki holds a very different view. He left Baghdad in 1981, and has been a U.S. citizen for a dozen years. He believes the U.S. has absolutely no justification for attacking Iraq.
"The president is setting a precedent which is essentially quite dangerous, especially that it lacks any credible linkage to any credible threat coming from Iraq," said Dr. Qais Mekki, Iraqi-born American.
Both men still have family in Iraq, and are understandably concerned about their loved ones' questionable futures. "We hope our people could be safe and to be -- to control the country in a nice way and easy way," said Youkhana.
"I'm puzzled what did they do to deserve all of this since they are innocent bystanders. It looks like the bombshells are going to fall on a lot of innocent bystanders," said Mekki.
Youkhana hopes that Iraq will become an economically stable Democratic country after the war. Mekki fears that the obliteration of Saddam's regime will lead to radicalism.
(ZNDA: North Iraq)
Ibrahim Yosuf Elias, bishop of the northeastern Iraqi city of Sulaimaniyah,
denies that Chaldeans and other Iraqi Christians face religious persecution
under Saddam Hussein's Baath regime.
But politics – not religion – caused their problems, he said.
"There were many Christians in prison with me," he said. "But it wasn't because they were Christians. It was because they opposed Saddam."
While Chaldean advocates, human rights groups and immigration lawyers in the United States argue that Chaldean Catholics are targets of religious persecution in Iraq, many Chaldeans in semi-autonomous northern Iraq paint a different picture.
"I haven't heard of any (religious) persecution," said Ibrahim Yosuf Elias, bishop of the northeastern Iraqi city of Sulaimaniyah. "There have been no problems for any of the Chaldeans of Iraq."
Elias was careful to note that many Chaldeans and other Iraqi Christians have been jailed and killed for their political opposition to Hussein. But he emphatically rejected the notion that it was because of their religion.
"Saddam does not tolerate political opposition," he said in his church office, surrounded by pictures of himself with Pope John Paul II.
On the other side of the globe, the notion that religious persecution does not exist in Iraq was hotly disputed.
Cheri Attix, a San Diego immigration attorney who has represented about a dozen Chaldean asylum seekers, said the bishop's comments "are absurd. . . . The human-rights reports speak for themselves."
Bill Frelick, director of Amnesty International's refugee program, said the situation is not as black and white as the long-distance debate suggests.
"In that part of the world religion isn't regarded as articles of faith, as it is in the U.S," he said in an interview from Washington. "Religion in many cases is an identity that attaches to you. Religion and ethnicity and nationality and politics all get mooshed together. So to me it's a matter of splitting hairs. It all boils down to the same thing: You are going to be persecuted."
Iraq has experienced an exodus since the 1991 Gulf War, Elias said.
The war and the sanctions that followed have left the Iraqi economy in ruins. Most of those fleeing are professionals, including engineers, who are seeking better economic conditions and jobs in Europe or the United States, he said.
He had a sharp retort to those who tell the United States and other governments that, as Christians, they risk being killed or jailed if they are returned to Iraq, at least in the semi-autonomous north.
"They are lying," Frelick said. "They are just trying to get (immigration) benefits from your government. . . . We have all the freedoms and rights of others here."
While reliable numbers are hard to come by, it is frequently estimated that 150,000 Chaldeans – Iraqi Catholics – have settled in the United States. Detroit and San Diego are the number one and number two destinations, respectively.
There also are an estimated 100,000 Iraqi Christians known as Assyrians living in the United States. They are Iraqi Christians affiliated with the Eastern Orthodox Church rather than the Catholic Church.
San Diego-area Chaldeans reacted skeptically to Bishop Elias' remarks.
The Rev. Michael Bazzi of St. Peter's Chaldean Catholic Church in El Cajon speculated that Elias "is afraid; that's why he said that. He is scared and afraid because if he speaks one word against Saddam he will be killed."
Bazzi said the bishop could be killed even though he is in the area controlled by Kurds. "Even if he is there, Saddam's agents will kill him. It is miserable for all Christians in Iraq. They are second-class citizens and they cannot talk."
Said one Chaldean refugee living in El Cajon since 1994: "If this bishop gets out of Iraq, I am sure he would say something quite different."
Elias, after conducting Mass on Sunday at the old Chaldean church in Sulaimaniyah, replied to their skepticism.
"I don't say it out of fear of Saddam," he said. "We really don't have a problem with religious persecution. Our only problem is that we can't get a bell for our new church."
The new church is under construction.
The old church, its plaster walls cracked, carries the heavy odor of kerosene, which is used to fire lanterns that heat the church during Masses and other rites.
During a recent ceremony marking the Stations of the Cross, the electricity failed and Elias was forced to use candlelight to read passages from the Bible.
The Chaldean village of Harmota is a two-hour drive from Sulaimaniyah. It is a remote farming hamlet within a rural portion of northern Iraq that was declared a Kurdish-controlled zone after the Persian Gulf War.
A fourth-century monastery sits on a hillside overlooking Harmota. It has been built and destroyed many times.
Most recently, Hussein's soldiers used dynamite to blow it up in 1988.
The monastery's destruction was part of a broad scorched-earth campaign targeting Kurdish resistance to Hussein's Baath Party rule and his efforts to "Arabize" Iraq.
Most of the dwellings in this heavily Kurdish area were destroyed. The same year in which Hussein's forces destroyed the monastery, Kurds say, they also attacked villages in the region with deadly chemicals.
U.S. and British warplanes for a decade have kept Hussein from imposing direct control over the region. This has created an opening for a Kurdish government organized under two separate parties, the Kurdish Democratic Party, or KDP, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK. The PUK, which controls this area, is providing much of the money to build the new Chaldean church in Sulaimaniyah.
Harmota awakens each morning like a 19th-century agrarian hamlet.
Chickens, roosters, goats and cows run along its unpaved streets. Women line up to fill containers with water from a pipe of constantly flowing water. Children head off to school on foot. Men let out the livestock and march out to plow their fields.
Hana, the vegetable farmer, hitches two donkeys to his plow. The rich, dark soil of this swath of the world's "Fertile Crescent" will produce wheat and a range of vegetables that are the lifeblood of the community.
Muslims and Christians say they co-exist peacefully here. Jacob Ibrahim Meekha, a Chaldean English teacher at Harmota's intermediate school, said Chaldeans have Easter egg hunts and decorate their houses traditionally for Christmas. Muslims frequently share in the social festivity of Christian holidays, and Christians reciprocate on Muslim holidays, he said.
There are tensions and differences. For instance, interfaith marriages are rare and heavily discouraged. Muslims for a long time were reluctant to eat with Christians.
But that has largely disappeared over time, especially in the urban areas.
Signs of harmony dominate: Christian and Muslim children sit side by side in Harmota's schools. Christian and Muslim women wait with each other to use the same spring and shoulder their containers home with each other. Men sip tea and work the fields together, regardless of whether they are Muslim or Christian.
"Everybody gets along," Meekha said. "We have complete freedom, not only religious, but for all our traditions. Of course, hatred (and fear) of Saddam reaches us all."
NO TO CHURCHES IN SAUDI ARABIA: MINISTER
Courtesy of the Times of India (12 March)
(ZNDA: Riyadh) Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, will not allow churches to be built on its land regardless of the outcry from ``fanatics,'' according to Defence Minister Prince Sultan.
“This country was the launch pad for the prophecy and the message, and nothing can contradict this, even if we lose our necks,” Sultan told reporters on Saturday. His comments were published by Saudi newspapers and confirmed by several journalists who attended the press conference.
“Those who talked (about churches in Saudi Arabia) are church people and they are, unfortunately, fanatics,” Sultan said, according to Monday's Okaz daily newspaper. “We are not against religions at all ... but there are no churches - not in the past, the present or future, and I am saying this and I am responsible for what I say.'' Officials at the Defence Ministry in Riyadh would not comment on the remarks.
Last Thursday, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent federal agency, complained that a new State Department list of countries that severely limit religious freedom omits several that deserve censure, including US ally Saudi Arabia. The commission's annual reports say that religious freedom ``does not exist'' in the Gulf Kingdom.
Islam is the only accepted religion in Saudi Arabia, home to the faith's holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina. ``The whole world knows the kingdom and its friendship and loyalty and sincerity in its religion,'' he said.
Sultan said that foreigners have been allowed to worship freely in their homes since they began arriving in Saudi Arabia in 1951. But permitting a church in the country ``would affect Islam and all Muslims,'' he reportedly said.
KASPER "KAY" AARON SAFFER DIES AT 94
(ZNDA: Worcester) Kasper “Kay” Aaron Saffer, 94, of 392 Mill Street, died Monday, 10 March at home after an illness. He leaves his wife of 62 years, Phyllis (Arslen) Saffer; 2 daughters, Pamela C. Saffer of Worcester and Leslie G. Saffer of New Haven, CT; a sister, Elsie Donoian of Worcester; several nephews and nieces. A brother, Charles A. Saffer and 2 sisters, Natalie Belezarian and Mary Baptist predeceased him.
He was born in Watertown the son of Aaron and Sophie (Atlas) Saffer and has lived here for many years. He attended Worcester and West Boylston Schools. He was a Navy veteran of WWII. Mr. Saffer was the owner and operator of Kay’s Barber Shop on Park Avenue from 1950 until his retirement in 1978. He was a member of the former St. Mary’s Assyrian Apostolic Church, an active member of the United Assyrian Association of Massachusetts, a lifetime member of the Disabled American Veteran’s Association and a member of the National Association of Watch and Watch and Clock Collectors, Inc. He was a respected resource of Ancient Middle Eastern History, a professional drummer and percussionist playing American and Middle Eastern music, a speed ice skater. He bought and sold antiques as a hobby, was an avid reader who loved gardening and animals. In the 1930’s he traveled by rail to New Mexico to dig for gold.
The funeral service will be held Saturday, March 15th at 10:00 AM, in O’Connor Brothers Funeral Home, 592 Park Avenue. Burial will be in Hope Cemetery. Calling hours will be Friday, March 14th from 5:00 until 8:00 PM. Flowers may be sent or memorial contributions may be made to UMass Memorial Home Health and Hospice, 650 Lincoln Street, Worcester, Massachusetts, 01605.
TEARS OF BLOOD: ASSYRIAN/ARAMIAC/SYRIAC ART & CALLIGRAPHY
In Celebration of Assyrian New Year 6753 the Assyrian American Association of Southern California & Royal Assyrians (Sharruyeh) cordially Invite you to attend the Opening Ceremony & Press Conference Titled: “Tears of Blood”: An Exhibit of Assyrian Art & Aramaic/Syriac Calligraphy
Featuring artworks of Assyrian-American artists
Hanna Hajjar, Vladimir Beit David, Fredrick Ayoubkhan, Robert DeKelaita, Raman Michael, Rabel Shamuel, Odet Tomik, Alexy Gevargis, Jenik Cook, George Shamoun
Save Assyrian Artifacts, & the Aramaic Language of Jesus!
If stones could cry,
Sunday March 30th, 2003, at 5:00 p.m.
At the Assyrian American Association Hall
Theme of the Tears of Blood Art Exhibit
· Stop the looting of Assyrian artifacts
The following are the topics that will be addressed and discussed during the Press Conference, on Sunday March 30th, 2003 at 7:00 p.m. at the hall of the Assyrian American Association of Southern California in North Hollywood:
· The looting of Assyrian artifacts from archeological sites in northern Iraq, and the responsibilities of the United Nations, the Allied Forces and Middle Eastern countries, namely: Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Iran and Iraq.
· The construction of the Makhoul Dam on the Tigris River, which will wipeout Assyrian civilization by inundating the capital City of Ashur (the birthplace of the Assyrian nation), plus 100 other Assyrian archeological sites, and the responsibilities of the United Nations and Turkey.
· How Arabs and Kurds don’t care about Assyrian archeological sites, language and culture, because these don’t relate to their ethnic and national heritage, and their hidden agenda of destroying Assyrian heritage and rewriting history.
· The exploitation of Assyrian oil, which so far has been benefiting everyone except Assyrians, and the legitimate rights of Assyrians to a percentage of that oil revenue to preserve their culture and national heritage.
· The causes that led Assyrians to become a minority in their homeland, who was (and still is) responsible for that, and what should be done to rectify that.
· How Syria, Turkey, Iraq and the Kurds handle Assyrian ethnic identity, and treat Assyrians in their respective countries or the territories under their control.
· Ethnic and religious discrimination against Christian Assyrians in the Middle East, and the ban of the language of Jesus that they still use to this date.
· The environmental disasters caused by Saddam, namely the burning of oil fields in Kuwait, drying of marshes in south Iraq, and demolishing Assyrian villages, destroying their farmlands and ethnic cleansing them from north Iraq.
· Iraq after Saddam; a challenge for the survival of Assyrians and Turkmen through an alliance in an independent and sovereign federal democratic state called Ashurkumen (Ashur + Turkmen), and what this new state would offer the civilized world.
· Suggested solution that would put an end to the looting and destruction of Assyrian artifacts, and the challenge facing the United Nations to have one set of rules that govern all world artifacts and historical sites, irrespective of their ethnic origin.
· The responsibilities of the U.N. to protect Assyrian artifacts, or leaving it up to the Assyrians to self-defend their culture through any means at their disposal.
2ND WORLD ASSYRIAN CONFERENCE IN MOSCOW
We are applying once again to all those who wish to take part in the 2nd World Assyrian Conference. The things is, that it-s necessary to begin arranging visas urgently and reserving rooms in the hotel, that-s why we need to know the number of people who are going to arrive and their passport data which is necessary for making an application for visas.
We decided to hold Conference during 2 days only v 26th and 27th of April 2003, as far as the number of lecturers is not so many as we expected. The additional cultural program will be on April 28.
Please, bear in mind, that visa legalization may require about 1 month, therefore your passport data must be sent before March 20, 2003. It-s desirable to make an advance of 150 USD for hotel reservation by bank transfer. Bank account is mentioned in our web site: www.geocities.com/moscowconference2002/index.htm
For visa reception, please, inform us of the following details:
- Full name
Conference Organizing Committee
ST. NERSESS SEMINARY TO CO-SPONSOR SYMPOSIUM ON ORIENTAL AND EASTERN ORTHODOX IN JERUSALEM
After a hiatus of two years, St. Nersess Armenian Seminary (New Rochelle, NY) and St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary (Crestwood, NY) will resume their co-sponsored annual symposium on the relations between the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches. This year’s symposium will take place on Tuesday, April 1, 2003 at St. Vladimir’s Seminary on the theme, “Jerusalem: Does it Divide or Unite?”
Since the time of Christ, Jerusalem has been a point of gravitation for Christians seeking a more authentic experience of the Gospel. The Oriental and Eastern Orthodox churches have an ancient presence in the Holy Land, and though long divided, have lived side-by-side in that unique religious environment for centuries. Today, the political turmoil and bloodshed in the Holy Land combined, however, with the growing tide of reconciliation between these ancient church families raises significant questions: What is the role of Jerusalem in the restoration of communion among the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches? What should be the role of the churches in restoring and supporting peace, welfare and renewed Christian witness in Jerusalem?
Featured speakers will include Serge Schmemann, Pulitzer Prize winning Senior Correspondent for the New York Times; Former U.S. Ambassador to Qatar, Patrick Theros; Dr. Tarek Mitri of the World Council of Churches; Fr. Leonid Kishkovsky, former General Secretary of the National Council of Churches; Fr. Alexander Rentel, Lecturer in Church History, St. Vladimir’s Seminary; Dr. George Kiraz, Director of Beth-Mardutho: The Syriac Institute; and Archbishop Cyril Mor Aphrem Karim, of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, and others.
Representing St. Nersess Seminary will be Dr. Roberta Ervine, Associate Professor of Armenian Studies; and Dr. Abraham Terian, Professor of Armenian Patristics and Academic Dean. Both Drs. Ervine and Terian have lived and taught in the Old City of Jerusalem for decades and have first-hand experience of the complex relations between the Orthodox Christians of the Holy Land.
The all-day Symposium will begin at 10:00am in the Metropolitan Philip Auditorium of St. Vladimir’s, and will conclude with Evening Prayer in the Seminary chapel at 5:00pm. The symposium is open to the public. Registration is $20 and includes lunch. For more information, see www.svots.edu/Events/Symposia/2003-0401-eastern-oriental/index.html, firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone (914) 961-8313 x342.
KHA B’NEESAN CELEBRATIONS IN SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA
On behalf of the Executive Board and the entire membership of AAA of San Jose, I am honored to announce that as part of our continued efforts to support the brave Assyrian people in Bet Nahrain, we will be donating the net proceeds of the Kha 'b Nisan Celebration to assisting and maintaining our people in north of Iraq. On the brink of a possible war, and when our people will face the most difficult living conditions and dangerous times, I am confident that once again the entire community in San Jose and the Greater Bay Area will pull together to insure that we can raise and send the much needed funds.
Tickets are $25 per person ($30 at the door) and can be purchased
SUMMER INTERNSHIP PROGRAM FOR ASSYRIAN STUDENTS IN WASHINGTON, DC
Assyrian students - apply now to meet deadline for an exciting opportunity to work this summer in Washington DC. See last week’s issue of Zinda Magazine for description of program or contact Lynnette Farhadian at (email@example.com)
LECTURE: THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH
Department of Near Eastern Studies invites you to a lecture:
Professor Tsvi Abusch, Brandeis University "The Epic of Gilgamesh: It's Development and Meaning"
12:30 pm, Thursday, 20 March
Professor Abusch has published extensively on magic, religion, and literature in ancient Mesopotamia.
NEW BOOKS FROM GORGIAS PRESS
The following books were published this month (March 2003) by Gorgias
Press. For more details, pricing, and to place on-line order, please
A general history of the Greek Church, including the "separatist" Churches. The work is unique in that it demonstrates that the Eastern Churches (even the pre-Chalcedonian ones) are of Orthodox Faith.
William Wright, The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius in Syriac,
With a Collation of the Ancient Armenian Version
Robert Browning, Justinian and Theodora
Budge, The History of Rabban Hormizd the Persian and Rabban Bar-'Idta
William Wright, The Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite, Composed in
Richard Gottheil, A Treatise on Syriac Grammar by Elia of Soba
MacLean, Grammar of the Dialects of Vernacular Syriac with Notes
of the Vernacular of the Jews of Azerbaijan and of Zakhu Near Mosul
Henry Layard, Early Adventures in Persia, Susiana, and Babylonia,
Including a Residence Among the Bakhtiyari and Other Wild Tribes
Before the Discovery of Nineveh
A very hard book to find in the original. When found, the original edition retails for over $1,000!
K. P. Paul , The Eucharist Service of the Syrian Jacobite Church
C. Plummer (ed.), Historiam Ecclesiasticam Gentis Anglorum (Bede's
Ecclesiastical History of England)
MacLean, Dictionary of the Dialects of Vernacular Syriac, as Spoken
by the Eastern Syrians, of Kurdistan, North-West Persia and the
Plain of Mosul, with Notices of the Vernacular of the Jews of Azerbaijan
and of Zakhu Near Mosul
Budge, The History of Alexander the Great, Being the Syriac Version
of Pseudo Callisthenes
Budge, E.A.W. The Book of Governors: The Historia Monastica of
Thomas of Marga A.D. 840
Segal, The Diacritical Point in Syriac
TEXT OF DR. EMANUEL KAMBER'S SPEECH AT THE AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE
The following is the full text of Dr. Emanuel Kamber's speech delivered at the American Enterprise Institute on 3 March 2003. Dr. Kamber was one of the two independent Assyrian representatives at the 16 December 2002 London Conference:
March 3, 2003
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I will actually talk on a totally different subject. I would like to emphasize mainly the problem of Assyrians. So first of all, I would like to thank the Institute for allowing me this opportunity to present the vision of our Assyrian people in a democratic post-Saddam Iraq.
The Assyrians are also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs. Assyrians are the original inhabitants of today's Iraq. Most of you are familiar with the numerous contributions made by the Assyrian nation to modern civilization. Some of you may not realize that there still exist today remnants of Assyrians living in their homeland. Since the fall of our last empire some 2,500 years ago, we have lived in the land of our forefathers with Arabs, Kurds, Persians, Turkomans, and others. Our people were among the first to accept Christianity, and over the centuries we have maintained our national identity, language, culture, and religion through great suffering and sacrifice.
The Assyrian peoples are the indigenous Christian people of Mesopotamia. There are approximately 1.5 to 2 million Assyrians living in Iraq, and probably constitute the third-largest demographic population in the country. However, the Iraqi government does not officially recognize the Assyrians as a people or as a nation. The present constitution only recognizes Arabs and Kurds, referring to Assyrians as a Christian minority or Assyrian sect. Sometimes they also refer to the Assyrian people as Syriac-speaking people. On other occasions, they call us Christian, Arab-Christian, and Kurdish-Christian.
The Assyrian people have long suffered because of their religious and cultural identity. They have been deprived of their home and have been victim to several massacres and other kinds of oppression over centuries. The Assyrians have been subjected to systematic attempts by the fascist regime to Arabize them. Recently, the Iraqi government has also forced the Assyrians, the Kurds, and the Turkomans to sign national correction forms that require them to renounce their national identities and declare themselves to be Arabs.
Assyrians, who have suffered national and political persecution and other brutal aspects of the dictatorial regime were forced to leave their homeland and seek refuge in other countries. Today, a majority of American citizens of Iraqi descent are actually Assyrians. There are about 300,000 Assyrians living in America. What I mean by "Assyrian"--usually they call themselves by different names, like Chaldean and Syrian and so on. Assyrians have been in the United States for some time, but maintain their national aspiration and link of affection with their homeland.
Assyrians in Iraq deserve specific attention because they are the oppressed among Iraqis, have been denied their human rights and equality, and suffering discrimination living as second-class citizens. We share the suffering of all Iraqis under Saddam's dictator rules. Along with our Kurdish, Shiite, and Turkoman brothers, however, we are further oppressed because we are Christian.
The Assyrian people in Iraq who have made great sacrifice in opposing the regime of Saddam Hussein will continue their struggle for a unified democratic and secular government that constitutes principles of democracy and human rights. Assyrian representatives of political organizations and Assyrian rights activists attended different Iraqi opposition meetings, or more recently, London meetings in December of last year. Assyrians participated--although they were under-represented--actively with all Iraqi patriotic and democratic forces toward the end result of creating a unified Iraqi national leadership to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein and establish a democratic regime that would allow our Assyrian people the opportunity to participate in the administration and political organization in Iraq.
Nowadays there is much talk about changing the regime in Iraq, and especially the talk of Washington's determination to end Saddam's regime. Talk of such action becomes more serious, and attack is probably inevitable after the president's speech on Wednesday, February 26, at this institute. Actually, the objective of the crisis is no longer regime change, but the liberation of the Iraqi people.
How will the political and human rights concerns of the Assyrians factor into any future Iraqi political equation? In other words, would we be dealt with as Iraqis or would we be regarded as second-class citizens?
Although the future of the political system in Iraq after the passing of the current dictatorship is the sole responsibility of the Iraqi people, we believe that an Iraq constituted on principles of democracy, respect for human rights, and recognition of legitimate national rights of all elements of its entire people, including our Assyrian people, will be a peaceful Iraq dedicated to stability and prosperity in the region and the world.
Recently, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP, drafted a new constitution for Iraq, calling for Iraq to become a united federal state called the United Republic of Iraq. According to this plan, Iraq would be comprised of two territories, or federated states--Rend mentioned, actually, about it--one in which the majority are Arabs, and the other the majority are Kurds. The proposed draft states that Iraq consists of mainly Arabs and Kurds and other minorities. The draft fails to mention Assyrians and Turkomans, and tries to put them under the word "minority," or squeeze them under the word of "minority."
The proposal should stress that Iraq comprises many national or religious groups, including Arab, Kurds, Assyrians, Turkomans, Yizidis, Mendais [sp], Armenians, and so on. In addition, the draft actually fails to address the basic national rights of the Assyrian people.
Federalism should not be for only one part of Iraq, but for the whole country. And it should not be only for the Kurds, but also for Shiites, Turkomans, and the Assyrians. Our objection to these and other issues within the draft does not mean that we reject the aspiration of the Kurdish people and their right to express the formula they envision to create Iraqi national unity.
I should stress here that the Assyrians are represented in the local government and parliament of the Kurdish Autonomous Region of northern Iraq through the Assyrian Democratic Movement as a member of the Kurdistan Patriotic Front.
Furthermore, the communiqué of the Iraqi opposition groups presented by Mr. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, representative of the Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and approved by all the Iraqi opposition groups--that's what we call G-6--attending the Washington meeting with Vice President Cheney--in it Mr. al-Hakim says, "Our people are eager for a fair and elected government with participation of all Iraqi opposition segments from Arabs, Kurds, and Turkoman, from Sunni and Shia, and the rest of minorities." Again, the Assyrians and the Christians of Iraq were ignored. It is thus to his credit that President Bush in his October 7th speech to the United Nations General Assembly formally addressed Iraqi oppression over the Assyrians.
The existence of different identities and cultures may create practical problems and challenges in the near future unless a lot of attention is paid to ethnicity and the equation of diversity. To avoid minority conflict in the future, any government must have different autonomous regions within the context of an integrated and sovereign Iraqi state. This will guarantee the legitimate national and administrative rights for all Iraqi ethnic communities. This will be absolutely necessary to the security and survival of the Assyrians in Iraq--or Assyrians of Iraq. The establishment of such an Assyrian area would allow greater local Assyrian controls within an integrated sovereign Iraqi state. Such an Assyrian area would allow for political education or linguistic, religious, and cultural expression.
In a questionnaire that was set up by the State Department for members of the Democratic Principles Working Group, which Rend mention about it, there were points concerning the advantages and disadvantages of a federal democratic republic. Most of the participants answered that federalism would abolish dictatorship, minimize central government, and consolidate Iraqi unity. As for the disadvantages of federalism, the answers centered on fears of minority conflict, possibility of separation, and possibility of intervention by neighboring countries. And today, the population of the Kurdish Autonomous Region of northern Iraq fear what they have achieved may be endangered not only by Saddam's army, but also by neighboring states' armed forces. I think it's very important to protect them, in particular against the incursion from--interference from Iran and Turkey.
As to the number of units that should be established in a federal state, it was suggested from two up to 18 units, as Rend remembered, be created.
Finally, the other important question was whether federal units should be defined ethnically, geographically, or by using a hybrid system. In our case--I mean the Assyrians--the federal units should be absolutely based on ethnicity--I don't agree with you on that--because of the abnormal demographic situation of Assyrians in Iraq due to their displacement, which was enforced upon them by the Iraqi government. We don't have really an area where the Assyrians are concentrated so we could have a geographic advantage of it.
If federalism is not based on ethnicity, however, then Assyrians would support the establishment of a unified democratic, secular, pluralistic, and parliamentarian government. That would guarantee human rights and equality for all citizens irrespective of their ethnic background or religion--an Iraq that's multi-ethnic and based on the rule of law, an Iraq that enjoys full sovereignty and territorial integrity.
In addition, we demand that the future government of Iraq recognize the Assyrian nation constitutionally as one of the principal nations, or ethnic groups, within the political framework of the Republic of Iraq.
Now, the League of Nations mandate countries agreed on Iraq admission in 1932, with reservations dealing mainly with the rights of minorities. The Iraqi government presented this report regarding minorities to the League, in which they guaranteed the right of all Iraqi citizens regardless of their race, religion, language, or nationality. None of this happened in reality. On the contrary, one year later, the new Iraqi government launched an anti-Assyrian campaign in which scores of Assyrian civilians were massacred--this was in 1933, August 1933--with their villages set on fire.
The main problem of the indigenous Assyrian people is that they have not been accorded self-determination, a right that is expressed in the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous people.
So who is going to serve guard and protect the Assyrian in post-Saddam Iraq? I think official constitutional recognition for the Assyrian people would be an important catalyst for democracy and human rights in Iraq. And without such an improvement, there will be no democracy at all. Assyrians wish to live in peace and prosperity and enjoy full equality with our Arab, Kurdish, and Turkoman brothers. In an atmosphere of mutual respect, Assyrians wish to contribute to development of greater tolerance and diversity in a sovereign, democratic, and secular Iraq.
In conclusion, let me emphasize that the vision of Assyrian Chaldean Syriac people in a post-Saddam democratic government among other things includes equality, human rights, constitutional recognition; representation in a democratic, secular, multi-ethnic government; the right to return to their homes and their lands; being allowed to practice and preserve their language, culture, and customs; to be free of political, religious persecution; and to be granted the same national rights of autonomy and self-determination afforded any other group within Iraq.
Dr. Emanuel Kamber
I am writing in dismay at the Assyrian community of their majority view on an impending war on Iraq. A very wise Mahatma Gandhi has said: “Exploitation and Domination of one nation over another can have no place in a world striving to put an end to all war.”
Those who support any war are supporting with anger and ignorance,
not with compassion and open-mindedness.
The purveyors of desruction, commonly known as “hawks”, claim a myriad of reasons to clamp down on Iraq from weapons of mass destruction to regime change, even to an unfounded speculation that the leader of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, has links with extremist Islamic groups such as Al-Qaida. For the United States to worry about human rights abuses can be seen as trivial in any global observers view, as the United States even today sanctions human rights abuses with its refusal to ratify an International Criminal Court and by still holding executions of its prisoners, a regressive and barbaric means of punishment.
Hussein’s “links” with Al-Qaida are not true, Iraq does not pose an external threat to the west without severe provocation and a US view of regime change and “pre-emption” goes against the foundations of International law.
From a political perspective, Saddam Hussein models himself on Josef Stalin. Stalin’s view on foreign policy was by not having direct conflict with the enemy (The United States). It is logical if one presumes that Saddam Hussein is not aggressive if he is not attacked directly, and only will unleash his wrath if found with nothing to lose. Regime change can only be achieved by the will of the Iraqi people.
Hussein has never experienced a rapport with Islamist groups due to the polarisation of their ideologies. Hussein, a secular arab socialist and machiavellian by philosophy, uses religion as a tool to maintain power and is not an Islamist himself. Al-Qaida on the other hand, are an organisation hell-bent on purveying islamic fundamentalism and see secular socialism as evil as the United States and Israel.
What surprises me about Assyrian opinion is how “right-wing” it generally is and how supportive it is of western powers ever since the events in Eastern Turkey and Iraq of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Have not the Assyrian community learnt that a complete century of support for both British and American empires have produced no fruit? The western powers quite simply use our unqualified (and unjustified) support as an easy espousal base in Iraq. Those who believe a special relationship with the west due to religious similarities are seriously deluding themselves. The religion of western powers are voter pursuit and economic strength, with ideology and religion a tool to muster the support of interest groups, exactly like Saddam Hussein.
The real reason for an invasion of Iraq is quite simply to secure geo-political and economic domination of the region. To be quite honest, if Saddam Hussein was not interested in the nationalisation of the Iraqi oil industry, would the United States and Britain be so interested in its occupation?
The Assyrian community globally needs a dissenting voice, to herald a change in the Assyran perspective, to bring prosperity and well-being; not just recognition for the global community. One stepping stone for this is to call against any war in Iraq – the ancient Assyrian homeland – to show the world our real strength – the strength of peace.
Alternative Assyrian opinion, alternative Assyrian organisations and a much more open-minded community also have to be promoted to ensure the health of a disenfranchised community. It (the Assyrian community), is faultering under a right-wing and extremely conservative voice, which intimidates the notion of a democracy, as disgustingly shown with the arrest of a man in Albany, New York for wearing a “give peace a chance” T-Shirt in a Shopping Centre . Even though the latter example has no relation with the Assyrian community, further travel along the route taken now by our leaders will surely accommodate such “liberty”. For an American Senator to be writing a letter to “President” George W. Bush approving an invasion of Iraq on behalf of Assyrians is sheer inanity. Not in my name!
Numerous criticisms of the Assyrian establishment by our youth include our leaders being “out of touch” with the youth of Assyrian society in general. Assyrian youth around the world are dissenting and embracing modernity and clinging onto western culture as it is not traditionalist and dropping off their Assyrian heritage as if it were a heavy backpack on themselves.
This has to stop. If things continue and mentalities persist the way they are, there will be no Assyrian community in thirty years time, only two or three million people with Assyrian “heritage”.
Finally, on the 16th of February 2003, a massive peace rally was held in Sydney, Australia. I proudly marched for peace on the streets of Sydney, along with around two hundred and fifty thousand fellow human beings. What most depressed me was that it seemed I was the only Assyrian marching. What a beautiful sight it would have been if fellow Assyrians would have marched with me.
Quotation obtained from Mahatma (D.G. Tendulkar)
Vol. 7; 2nd Edition (1960) Publications Division.
Coutesy of the Newsweek Magazine (March
24 Issue); article by Melinda Liu and Anne Underwood
To the oilfields, the ecology of the Gulf and the lives of countless
civilians and soldiers, add another potential casualty of the impending
war: the cultural patrimony of Western civilization. In January
scholars gave Defense Department officials the names of archeological
sites they hoped to spare. ”[The military] had a list of 150,”
says McGuire Gibson, professor of Mesopotamian archeology at the
University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute. “We gave
them over 4,000 more—but that only covers the 10 to 15 percent
of the country we’ve studied.” Gibson is cautiously
encouraged by the record of the earlier war, in which allied bombing
spared most important monuments, even those adjoining military targets
that were destroyed. But he’s also aware that in the featureless
plains of southern Iraq, the only high ground consists of the ruins
of ancient cities. If the Iraqis make a stand, these mounds, which
can be as much as four miles around and 80 feet high, are the natural
places to do it.
The larger danger, scholars believe, is from looting. This has
been a feature of war in this part of the world since long before
the seventh century B.C., when a frieze in one of the palaces at
Nineveh depicted an event described thusly in Michael Roaf’s
“Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia”: “An Assyrian
soldier brings in a severed head to be counted with the rest of
the booty after a battle in Babylonia.” In 1991, with Baghdad’s
iron control over the country shattered, “nine of 13 regional
museums were completely looted,” says Richard Zettler, associate
curator at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology
and Anthropology. Iraqi civilians began tearing into unexcavated
sites with front-end loaders, carrying away anything of value. The
plunder has been turning up ever since in dealers’ catalogs
and at auctions around the world. Last week on eBay, sellers were
offering 4,000-year-old cuneiform-tablet fragments (“Be sure
to bid on this fantastic piece of history!”) and a Sumerian
silver necklace from 2500 B.C. “There are Iraqi antiquities
everywhere you look,” says John Malcolm Russell, an authority
on the region at Massachusetts College of Art. “And they didn’t
all come from someone’s basement. There are very few legitimate
objects on the antiquities market.”
ASSYRIANS DEMONSTRATE FOR EQUAL RIGHTS IN SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA
On Sunday afternoon, over 600 Assyrians gathered in a peaceful demonstration at the Plaza de Cesar Chavez in downtown San Jose, California to publicize the mistreatment of Assyrian Christians in Iraq and to demand their representation in any future government of that country, calling for true Democracy, freedom, and equal rights. Their Press Release read as follows:
Today’s Assyrians are the direct descendants of the ancient Assyrian-Babylonian inhabitants of Mesopotamia, a land covering much of modern Iraq, Kuwait, southern Turkey, and Syria. They are predominantly Christian and are said to be the first people to accept the teaching of Jesus Christ in the First Century A.D. Assyrians are sometimes known in different Middle Eastern countries by their religious affiliation as Nestorians, Chaldeans, Jacobites, and Syrian Orthodox (Syriacs). The language of the Assyrian people is Aramaic or Neo-Aramaic (Syriac) to be more precise.
Between 1915 and 1918, over 500,000 Assyrians were systematically
massacred in the hands of the Turkish, Arab, Kurdish, and Persian
forces in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. In 1933, only a few months
after Iraq's admission to the League of Nations, another massacre
was committed by the Iraqi army against three thousands unarmed
Assyrian villagers in North Iraq.
The demonstrators walked a few miles along the major city and federal buildings and invited people of other nationalities to join them in the demonstration. Many American and Asian friends were seen waving the Assyrian flags and chanting: “Equal Rights, Human Rights”.
The president of the Assyrian American Association, Mrs. Jacklin Bejan, led the chanters and was aided by Mr. Alphonse Odisho, president of the Assyrian United Organizations of California. The following statement was read by Mr. Firas Jatou at the conclusion of the demonstration which was later covered by local television stations and major newspapers:
Thank you all for coming out despite the poor weather to make our voices be heard on this important issue that is very dear to our hearts.
First and foremost, we pray that God give our president, George W. Bush, and our troops, the strength and wisdom to persevere in their liberation of Iraq.
At this critical juncture, our nation is about to embark on war on the Assyrian holy land. The land of Beth-Nahrain, the land of Abraham of the bible, the land presently called Iraq. The over two million strong Iraqi Assyrian Christians have longed, FOR DECADES, for a free democratic Iraq. For decades, and especially in the past 30 years, Assyrians have witnessed hundreds of their villages annihilated, their monasteries desecrated, their men, women, and children murdered and raped, their lands expropriated by the regime and the Kurdish war lords.
Democracy, is therefore the last hope for any future Assyrian Christian survival in Iraq.
YET, the enemies of democracy have once again surfaced among the Iraqi opposition, to dictate a new policy that purposely and strategically rejects the involvement of Assyrians in a new Iraq. In the beginning of March Assyrians have once again been shoved aside from the leadership of a new Iraq.
The Assyrian American community is out today to let these opposition groups that are calling for freedom and democracy, that without Assyrians, there is no democracy. As Michael Youash, a political Analyst stated recently, "the presence of Assyrians in a new leadership, is a litmus test for democracy in Iraq".
The Assyrian American community calls on our president George W. Bush to deliver a clear message to these groups that Assyrian Christian involvement in a new Iraq is a an absolute condition for US support.
Assyrian constitutional recognition and rightful integration in a new leadership is a must! Because, in a new Iraqi leadership, if there are no Assyrians, then there is no Democracy. No Assyrians, No democracy!
God bless you
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Zindamagazine would like to thank:
Michael E Bradley
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