CHALDO-ZOWAA VS. EVERYONE ELSE
Barely a month after expressing its intention to use a compound name in uniting the Assyrian and Chaldean forces in Iraq, the Assyrian Democratic Movement remains the sole political actor eager about the compromise with the Catholic Assyrians. The other kids on the block are slowly forming a broad-based religious-secular coalition and mobilizing Assyrians outside of Iraq to participate in a massive anti-compromise rebellion. As expected, none of the dissenting groups has yet expressed a more acceptable political solution to the long-standing Assyrian-Chaldean conflict in Iraq.
Amid the power vacuum created by the fall of Saddam’s regime and a renewed opportunity for the Assyrians to obtain political power previously unattainable in their ancestral homeland, the major political groups outside of Iraq have found the subject of the compound name a convenient tool to undermine the fast-growing supremacy of ADM in Iraq.
Fear of the ADM’s proximity to Kurdish sphere of influence in the north and Mr. Yonadam Kanna’s monopolization of power in Baghdad causes a greater gap between Zowaa and everyone else. The various Assyrian political parties face a disadvantage in the post-Saddam Iraq because they failed to appeal to the people of Iraq during Saddam’s rule, while the ADM’s closer ties with the five Assyrian churches in Iraq appeals even more to the broader spectrum of the Assyrian-Iraqi society.
The anti-Zowaa movement is growing rapidly in Europe, Chicago, and California and is led by such charismatic leaders as Dr. Sargon Dadesho. Capitalizing on the unpopularity of the use of a compound name in the west, the political groups in the Diaspora are in fact launching this uprising in an attempt to consolidate their diminished power within Iraq. In this week’s Assyrian National Congress press release (see News Digest), Dr. Dadesho writes: “At this crucial time in the long and glorious history of the Assyrian Nation, certain political and religious circles of interest have initiated a concerted campaign to fabricate new names for the Assyrian people. These pseudo historians and intellectuals have taken upon themselves the sole responsibility to glue to our historical and national name the religious denominational names, such as "Chaldo-Assyrians", "Assyro-Chaldeans" and other similar ridiculous fabricated names. Such actions have been taken without the approval or consent of the Assyrian people.”
Last Sunday, a scheduled talk by Rev. Kenneth Joseph who has recently returned from Iraq to report on the conditions of the Assyrians became a political rally for Mr. Ishaya Eshoo of the Assyrian National Organization in Chicago. Mr Ishaya Eshoo announced the formation of a group comprised of several political parties within Iraq, including a branch of Zowaa no longer affiliated with that organization. The subject of the compound name was a hot topic. A disappointed Rev. Joseph quickly discovered the intentions of his sponsor – the Assyrian Universal Alliance - that evening and questioned the genuine attitudes of the Assyrian political groups in the U.S. and in Iraq.
Only six months after the historic gathering of all major
Assyrian political parties in London, the ADM and Mr.
Kanna could be following a self-destructive path which
may even lead to their unpopularity in the Diaspora and
impact the contributions received from such organizations
as the Assyrian Aid Society. ADM’s leadership in
Iraq feels that it is the sole representative of the Assyrian
people in Iraq and can afford to ignore all non-Zowaa
groups for the time being.
Our political groups in the Diaspora seem to forget that the 500-year old cultural difference between the Chaldean and the non-Catholic Assyrian populations cannot be resolved before the formation of a more permanent government in Iraq. Moreover, the Chaldean counterparts cannot continue to trust the intentions of the Assyrians and may even begin to remove their eggs from the Assyrian basket shortly before the final countdown to the ratification of the Iraqi constitution. Barazani and his cohorts are betting on this. Neither should the Assyrian Democratic Movement trust all its eggs and 150 years of Assyrian nationalism to Chaldeans who have yet to bring forth a genuine political representation that is not under the auspices of the Chaldean Catholic Church. Last week’s announcement on the formation of the Chaldo-Assyrian National Committee was a strong testament to the resilient political influence of the Assyrian churches in Iraq.
Indeed, there are no other baskets for the Chaldeans to engineer a “Return to Assyrian Identity” solution. Our political parties, activists, and academic groups failed to properly address the name issue before the demise of Saddam. A month before the U.S.-led empowerment of a leadership council and a year before the ratification of a new Iraqi constitution, Assyrians and Chaldeans cannot afford to be represented as two distinct Christian populations – a harsh reality much preferred by the Kurdish groups in the North.
Any attempts to undermine the power and the historic role of the Assyrian Democratic Movement must be congested at once. It would also behoove Mr. Kanna, in the interim, to call for greater understanding among various Assyrian political parties and a gathering in Baghdad to resolve the issue of representation, power-sharing, the compound name, and the humanitarian concerns.
The adoption of a compound name is a practical and localized solution within Iraq to bring greater unity and increase our political representation in that country. The Assyrian political parties outside of Iraq, on the other hand, must maintain a strong stand in discouraging such a compromise affecting communities outside of the Middle East. The ultimate national identity of Assyrians is rooted in history, not religious affiliation and the destiny of the Assyrian people cannot be made subject of short-lived political ambitions.
WOMEN’S ROLE IN POST-CONFLICT IRAQ
The crucial role women can—and should—play in Iraqi reconstruction was the focus of a forum on April 21 and 22, 2003 in Washington D.C. “Winning the Peace: Women’s Role in Post-Conflict Iraq” was hosted by the Conflict Prevention and Middle East Projects of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and Women Waging Peace, a global initiative of Hunt Alternatives Fund.Twentyfive Iraqi women participated in the meeting—some of them expatriates living in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, others living in Iraq. Among the participants were: the first woman to be appointed judge in Iraq, the Minister of Reconstruction and Development of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Northern Iraq, and the President of Iraq’s Assyrian Women’s Union. More than 60 experts from non-governmental organizations and key international and U.S. agencies participated in discussions.
Hailing the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime and looking to the future, the Iraqi women, who came from different political, ethnic, and religious groups, cited the notable lack of consideration regarding the participation, concerns, rights, and particular needs of the majority of the country’s population —its women. Discussion focused on the inclusion of women in four vital sectors of Iraqi administration: democracy and governance, economic activity, constitutional law and legislation, and civil society.
Over the two-day conference, participants reached conclusions
regarding the most important ways to integrate women into reconstruction.
On the first day of the conference, the Iraqi women met with sector
experts and policymakers
The second day of the conference featured two panels—the first focused on future prospects for Iraqi women, and the second focused on key issues in the transition to self-government for Iraq.
Following two days of meetings, participants found that:
Assyrian Attendees to the Conference were:
Riva Khoshaba is currently an associate with the law firm Foley and Lardner in Washington, D.C. In that capacity, Khoshaba reviews international oil corporations’ security, labor, and land provisions with an eye for potential conflicts with international human rights law. Khoshaba has worked with the Human Rights Chamber for Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo and with Physicians for Human Rights in Bosnia. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and anthropology from the University of Chicago and a law degree from Yale Law School. She is originally from Iraq and now lives in northern Virginia.
Pascale Warda is President of the Assyrian Women’s Union in Iraq, applying her experience with human rights, refugees, and civil society in her work with Assyrian women. Ms. Warda co-founded the Iraqi Society for Human Rights in Damascus, Syria, and served as the representative of the Assyrian Democratic Movement Foundation (ADM) in Paris—the highest position of any woman in the ADM, which is the primary Assyrian political party in Iraq. Warda holds a degree from the Human Rights Institute at the University of Lyon in France. She currently resides in Arbil, Northern Iraq.
ZOWAA, IRAQI LEADERSHIP COUNCIL MEET WITH BREMMER
(ZNDA: London) On Thursday, 19 June, the proposed Iraqi Leadership Council met with Ambassador Paul Bremmer, the United States Administrator to Iraq for a 3-hour meeting in Baghdad. Other Coalition guests included Ambassador John Stewart, UK envoy; Mr. Ryan Crocker, Deputy Assistant to the US Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs; and various other US and UK officials.
The following Iraqi groups represented at this meeting:
Expert from planning Ministry Mr. Behnam Petros
The meeting commenced at 10.00 am and concluded at 1.00 pm.
Based on the information received from the Assyrian Democratic Movement’s desk in London the following agreements were reached by the end of this meeting:
Following the meeting, a delegation of the Assyrian Democratic Movement including Mr. Yonadam Kanna, Mr. Shmael Nano and Mr Narsai Warda met with a delegation of the Socialist International (S.I) Organisation:
Discussions at this meeting included such topics as history, current
circumstances in Iraq and how to ensure that Iraq maintains its
sovereign territorial integrity, establishing a multi-ethnic and
representative democratic and secular government which respects
the equal rights of all ethnic groups, religions and genders.
SHIMON KHAMO'S VISIT TO IRAQ
Courtesy of the Fresno Bee (19 June); by Michael Doyle
(ZNDA: Washington) A generation had passed and a dictator had disappeared since Modesto resident Shimon Khamo last saw Baghdad.
So it was 29 years worth of bound-up feelings that came flooding out when Khamo returned several weeks ago to his native Iraq.
"When I saw the sign saying 'welcome to Baghdad,' I went to tears," Khamo said.
Khamo's recently concluded monthlong trip, though, was more than a personal homecoming. It was the latest effort by an Assyrian activist to build political influence in a country where grass roots are sprouting but final outcomes remain unpredictable.
In Baghdad, Khamo said he was able to help establish an Assyrian community center. He said it's organizing a crime-fighting program akin to Neighborhood Watch and offering first aid classes. Soon, he hopes, the Baghdad center will offer English lessons for area residents.
"They'll need it, if they want to work for foreign companies," Khamo said.
In Modesto, the 53-year-old Khamo works in sales and is completing a doctorate in international business from the Southern California University for Professional Studies, a distance-learning institution.
But Khamo also wears another hat, as general secretary of the Bet-Nahrain Democratic Alliance. It is one of several Assyrian political entities with roots in the northern San Joaquin Valley, where the Assyrian population is estimated at 10,000 or more and where the ethnic politics can be a tangled thicket.
There are distinct factions beneath the shared hopes of shaping postwar Iraq. Some activists dream of an independent Assyrian state, while others emphasize representation within Iraq's future government.
Rhetorical sniping and rivalries recur.
Khamo's Bet-Nahrain Democratic Alliance is one group. The Assyrian National Congress, led by Modesto-area resident Sargon Dadesho, is another. A third is the Assyrian Democratic Movement, praised Wednesday by Modesto resident and Assyrian immigrant Shimshon Warda as among the most active of the lot.
"They are united, and they are everywhere in Iraq," Warda, a 63-year-old civil engineer, said of the Assyrian Democratic Movement.
"They are established in all of the major cities."
Bush administration officials, and the Coalition Provisional Authority leadership now ruling Iraq, have already consulted different factions. Dadesho and Stockton-area engineer John Kanno served on voluntary committees advising the State Department on Iraq planning.
Subsequently, both men became frustrated when they were not brought back to Iraq as official advisers once U.S. troops had toppled Saddam Hussein. Nonetheless, Assyrian activists from different perspectives are pushing to be included in the 25- to 30-member advisory committee that U.S. officials expect to appoint this summer.
"I would love to be on that committee," Khamo said. "We have to have people on the committee to keep an eye on what's going on."
Khamo's recent trip was thus part political reconnaissance, part foundation-building. Though he'd ventured back to northern Iraq twice since he left the country in 1974, he had not previously returned to Baghdad while Saddam was in power.
"They would have hung me," Khamo said.
Entering the country in late May through its northern border with Turkey, Khamo and colleagues met with allies in the cities of Douhok and Mosul. He described the cities as stable, quiet and well-served by water and electricity. But driving south in a van toward Baghdad, the visitations of war became more evident, with burnt-out tanks and military vehicles littering the highway.
A city of 5 million residents, an estimated 400,000 of whom are Assyrians, Baghdad presented a mixed picture to Khamo. The electricity came and went every two hours, he said, and some areas lacked telephone service. Gunfire was sporadic, traffic was jammed, and jobs seemed scarce. And yet, he said, he sensed at least some hope and attracted a crowd for a political rally.
"The morale is a little lower than what I expected, but one thing I heard on the streets was, 'Thank God we got rid of the tyrant regime,' " Khamo said.
[Z-info: Mr. Shimon Khamo will be speaking at a Banquet-Political rally next Monday (30 June) at 7:30 PM at the Assyrian American Association of Chicago, located on 1618 W. Devon Ave. For more information, Please contact Mr. Emmanuel Isho at 312-802-2208, or Mr. Glen Younan, the Foreign Relatiosn Committee chairman at 312-735-2848.]
Courtesy of the Zenit News Agency (18 June)
(ZNDA: Vatican) On his recent visit to Iraq, Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes realized that the first thing the citizens want is stability, for the sake of their future.
The president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," who is responsible for coordinating the work of the Church's charitable institutions, visited the postwar country from May 28 to June 2 as a papal envoy. Here, he talks about the enormous reconstruction work facing Iraq.
Q: What is the Iraq that you saw like?
Archbishop Cordes: The road to normality still seems very long. People want light, water, food. At this time, they do not see the political problems -- they must think of living.
The first thing to ensure, the first conquest, then, is stability, indispensable to address with the necessary serenity the problem of the political order and to avoid the risks of a theocratic drift, or of a confrontation between Christians and Muslims that, inevitably, will not be able to be resolved without great harm to the former.
The conclusion I came to is that the military administration will not be able to be brief -- in fact, quite the opposite.
Q: Why did you go to Iraq?
Archbishop Cordes: The Pope himself wanted the mission; he asked me to go down there to assess the situation personally.
In Baghdad and in other Iraqi cities I met with Christian communities, in keeping with the intention to cooperate loyally in the reconstruction of the country, and with representatives of the allied forces and those of the United Nations.
Q: Are you worried?
Archbishop Cordes: Let us say that there is no lack of reasons for concern. I fear that the model of democracy that the U.S. would like to export is not, in fact, applicable there.
America is a great democracy formed by parties and based on numbers: one man, one vote. Unfortunately, it does not seem to me to be transferable to a nation with different cultural dynamics, such as Iraq.
I think that the Americans will understand that it is an inapplicable model, but that instead it is necessary to think of something that takes into account Iraq's history.
Q: But aren't the Americans aware of this?
Archbishop Cordes: Those that I met were in agreement with this judgment. And for this reason, it seems to me, they also foresee staying in Iraq a long time.
Hence, it will not be something brief. The future state structure will not be seen tomorrow. And there is also a risk in this, because the longer that that which the Iraqis see as a military occupation lasts, the more that the little favor on which it has been able to count on until now is weakened.
Q: And how do the Christians live in this situation?
Archbishop Cordes: There are some positive signs. At Mosul, in the north of the country, I saw, for example, that the present city administration, which was installed after the collapse of the regime of Saddam Hussein, also includes the presence of some representatives of the Christian religion.
Thus, as I was also able to see in many areas, there is great appreciation for the Pope and the action he undertook.
But in a nation where Muslims, 60% of whom are Shiites, constitute the great majority of the population, while Christians represent only 4%, the risk of a drift to theocracy is very strong.
In the whole of the Middle East the emigration of Christians represents a very great problem.
Q: Were there signs that there might also be a mass exodus of Christians from Iraq?
Archbishop Cordes: No, I did not have this impression. Rather, on the contrary, it seems to me that the intention is to make themselves available to the country to offer their own contribution to the human, civil and material reconstruction.
Very beautiful, in this respect, is the document that the Iraqi bishops published last April 29, in which, precisely, they forcefully underline this intention and this willingness. However, and here we refer to what was said earlier, it is necessary to ensure specific guarantees for the minorities.
Q: How can Iraq be helped in this difficult situation?
Archbishop Cordes: The first thing, absolutely indispensable at present, is to guarantee stability and security. The primary needs of the people are still the supply of water, of food, and of electricity. And then there is the problem of security, which continues to be critical.
Just think that some time ago an entire convoy of aid that left Amman destined for Baghdad was robbed of everything in the middle of the desert and, fortunately, the robbers were kind enough to give the drivers the trucks to be able to make the return journey to Jordan.
In these conditions, the activities of the humanitarian agencies are not possible. Because of this, I repeat, stability and security must first be ensured; this will be better for everything and for everyone.
Q: What is your judgment today on the war?
Archbishop Cordes: War does not create peace and, therefore, cannot be considered the means to destroy the evil that is in man's heart.
I would like to add, moreover, that that which was said to justify this conflict was revealed not to be true, and now I wonder why an alternative was not tried all the way to the end.
Fortunately the war was brief, and did not cause widespread destruction. If we think of what could have happened, and what many feared, one cannot but rejoice.
ANC PRESS RELEASE ON THE NAME ISSUE
Assyrian National Congress
The regime change in Iraq and the recent advances toward democracy in our homeland, under the benevolent leadership of the American government, are appreciated and supported by the Assyrians, the indigenous people of the country.
At this crucial time in the long and glorious history of the Assyrian Nation, certain political and religious circles of interest have initiated a concerted campaign to fabricate new names for the Assyrian people. These pseudo historians and intellectuals have taken upon themselves the sole responsibility to glue to our historical and national name (ASSYRIANS) religious denominational names, such as "Chaldo-Assyrians", "Assyro-Chaldeans" and other similar ridiculous fabricated names. Such actions have been taken without the approval or consent of the Assyrian people.
In the past, the Assyrian National Congress stood against several attempts by the criminal regime of Saddam Hussein to change the name and history of the Assyrian Nation. His ethnocide policy against the Assyrians is well documented by the U.S. Department of State and international human rights organizations. Once again, the ANC rejects the proposed names and will not support any attempt to corrupt the holy Assyrian name. The ANC will confront these revisionists, the new disciples of "Name Change", on all fronts. The ASSYRIAN (Al-Ashuryeen) name is the only historical, political, national and God given name for the Assyrians.
We call upon our Assyrian compatriots, inside and outside Iraq, to stand against the newly created self-serving names for our heroic nation. The ANC is proposing an Assyrian Conference to be held in Baghdad, Iraq within the next two months. Delegates from all Assyrian political parties, religious denominations, and intellectuals will be invited to attend. The main objectives of the conference will be to discuss and debate all questions of interest to the Assyrians of Iraq and their future role in rebuilding their country.
We call upon our Assyrian people (Al-Ashuryeen: min Al-Kaldan wa Al-Athouryeen wa Al-Suryan) to support this vision of the ANC. This By The Grace Of God.
Sargon Dadesho. Ph.D.
ASSYRIAN FILM PRODUCER PLEDGES $1.5M TO BAGHDAD MUSEUM
(ZNDA: Hollywood) The Assyrian producer of the upcoming movie, GILGAMESH, has pledged US$1.5 million to the Baghdad Museum Project (http://www.baghdadmuseum.org).
According to an official press release today, Mr. Beni Atoori of the Stonelock Pictures will be the Baghdad Museum Project's first corporate sponsor.
"I like the Baghdad Museum Project because of my own Assyrian heritage," says Stonelock Pictures' Beni Atoori. "I feel like I'm doing my part to help preserve the Assyrians' cultural property," he says.
The production of GILGAMESH will commence at the end of summer in Morocco. "We're taking mankind's oldest known written epic and making it a living document," says Atoori.
Beni Atoori is the CEO/CFO of Stonelock Pictures; a film production company headquarted in Hollywood. The Baghdad Museum is a non-profit organization with a proposal to help save the artifacts which were once housed in the National Museum of Baghdad, following the looting of the museum in April 2003.
To learn more about the Baghdad Museum Project visit: www.BaghdadMuseum.org
To find out more about Stonelock Pictures and their upcoming epic Gilgamesh visit: www.StonelockPictures.com
[Z-info: Press information courtesy of Jude Calvillo, Director of Development at Stonelock Pictures, LLC]
Courtesy of San Francisco Chronicle (18 June)
(ZNDA: Turlock) Donations are being accepted for a new Turlock museum set to open in August.
Members of the Turlock Historical Society are seeking artifacts to fill shelves in the restored 1910 building.
The 2,300-square-foot museum will, among other things, highlight the ethnic backgrounds of Turlock pioneers, including Assyrian, Hispanic, Portuguese, Asian and Scandinavian.
The group spent about $130,000 renovating the building. "It's big step for Turlock," society president Myron Sawicki said. "This town has grown so much and a lot of people are moving in, and they need to learn something about it."
Harris said ideal artifacts to donate include items such as button
hooks, bed warmers and cream separators. The society is also making
a special request for artifacts about Hispanic, Portuguese and Scandinavian
MESOPOTAMIAN MUSEUM IN CHICAGO: A LABOR OF LOVE
Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune (17 June); by Robert K. Elder
(ZNDA: Chicago) Since 1997, Solhkhah's Mesopotamian Museum on the Far North Side has been home to full-scale facsimiles of ancient Middle Eastern artifacts.
A half-block from bustling Devon Avenue, the yellow-brick building sits across from a preschool on Pulaski Road. Inside is Solhkhah's collection of marble-colored plaster casts and vibrant paintings of Assyrian kings. On one wall, five human-size Assyrian infantrymen stand armed with lances and shields -- frozen in plaster and time. Only when viewing the slabs up close do cracks betray the white plaster beneath.
"My purpose is to teach people about history, not show them expensive pieces," says Solhkhah (pronounced "SOLE-kah," he says, "like polka").
It's not only a way for him to honor his family, his Assyrian heritage, but also an opportunity to educate others about his cultural roots.
The fast-walking Solhkhah, 74, can be difficult to keep up with. The left front pocket of his blue, button-down shirt bulges with business cards. Some are his own full-color cards with a map of ancient Mesopotamia, but most are from friends and contacts. They serve as a Rolodex-in-waiting for numbers that he hasn't yet programmed into his belt-clipped cell phone that seems to constantly ring.
Solhkhah, although born in Iran, introduces himself as Assyrian, a political and cultural distinction held by a modern population of Christians with origins in the modern-day Iran, Iraq and Syria. In 1959, he moved to the U.S., fleeing the climate of religious persecution in Iran. Starting at age 29, Solhkhah settled in Rogers Park, married an Irish girl, had two sons and worked on multiple degrees at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
After retiring from his psychology practice in 1988, Solhkhah filled the days managing his strip mall properties in Wheeling and Prospect Heights. Still restless, however, Solhkhah's interest in his ancestral history turned into obsession when he and his youngest son Siris traveled to Helsinki, Finland, for an Assyrian conference in 1995.
Near the end of the event, he learned that a 600-square-foot wooden reproduction of king Shalmaneser II's painted palace, commissioned for the conference, was to be dismantled. Solhkhah considered purchasing it, although at the time his plans ended there.
"Dad, if you don't buy it, you're going to be sorry for the rest of your life," said Siris, a Chicago psychiatrist.
And buy it he did, from the University of Helsinki for $15,000 (and $5,500 in shipping).
"That became the beginning of my hobby, if you want to call it a hobby," Solhkhah says. "It's history, it's my history. I get satisfaction doing what I'm doing. When you retire, what are you going to do? Go sit home and rock yourself in a chair?"
Today, Shalmaneser II's throne room occupies the back right corner of Solhkhah's 2,800-square-foot museum. In the front gallery, five glass cases full of maps and ancient stone contracts take up most of the floor space. There isn't much room for a rocking chair.
Outside, three regal-looking Assyrian bulls guard the front entrance of his modest, single-floor museum. In ancient times, Assyrian kings posted these guardians at their palatial gates, Solhkhah says, to symbolize power of the nation. The tallest is a 10-foot, tan-colored plaster statue with the bearded head of a man, with wings and the body of a lion. The other two guard a darkened glass door under an awning with the words "The Museum" printed in black.
"I couldn't fit `Mesopotamian Museum,'" Solhkhah says, laughing. "I didn't have room."
Although "98 percent" of his artifacts are copies with origins in modern-day Iraq (the rest from Syria), Solhkhah says the name "Mesopotamian" Museum is more fitting because it means "between the two rivers" -- namely the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers -- which run through the Middle East.
"It's not Iraqi," Solhkhah says. "Iraq only showed up after the first World War."
The museum's collection, he points out, is devoted to art and culture in the region since 2800 B.C.
Most of Solhkhah's collection was molded circa 1891, from items in the British Museum. The casts later made their way to Harvard University's Semitic Museum, which, short on space for its growing collection, gave its pieces to Solhkhah on permanent loan in 2000.
John Russell, archeologist and art historian at Mass College of Art, says replica collections used to be very common in museums and in historical studies.
"In the 19th Century, it was understood you could learn a lot by studying those," says Russell, author of "The Final Sack of Nineveh." "A well-done reproduction is a great way to experience things that you can't get from the fragments alone."
The ancient empire of Assyria (roughly 2400 B.C. to 612 B.C.), with its agricultural origins and rich art heritage, has fascinated archeologists such as Russell for years.
But this "dead civilization" has very lively roots in modern Assyrians, who have been migrating to the U.S. since the early 20th Century after forced conversions, persecution and murder by Islamic powers.
"We aren't welcome too nicely in the Islamic world," Solhkhah says. "I don't want to make my life sound tragic, but my father and my brother were killed by Islam in 1946 because they were Christians. It's a continuing process there. …"
Nearly 14,000 Cook County residents checked "Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac" in their 2000 census survey, although Solhkhah says there are probably more.
"We have a lot of businesses, grocery stores and bakeries in Skokie, Niles and Rogers Park," says Isho Lilou, director of the Assyrian National Council of Illinois.
Lilou estimates the Assyrian community in Cook County may be as large as "80,000 to 100,000" because some may have marked their ancestry as "Arab/Arabic," "Iranian" or some other geographical distinction.
"There's no question that the personal part [of the museum] has been the family legacy," says Roman, the eldest of his two sons and also a psychiatrist, based in New York.
Solhkhah's passion for the museum isn't shared by everyone, however.
"Most of the rest of the family thinks he's kinda crazy and doing wasteful things with the money," Roman says, laughing. "Maybe they think it is better spent on them."
Solhkhah pays for most of the restorations, maintenance and additions to the museum. In effect, his real estate investments fuel his archeological interests.
"The museum itself does not produce money. You cannot take the money with you," Solhkhah says, philosophically. "God is not interested in your money. What am I going to do with it?"
A staff of volunteers run the museum on weekdays from 1 to 6 p.m., although Solhkhah himself says he spends 20-30 hours a week at the site -- more if he's restoring a piece. Although the Mesopotamian Museum has been open for more than six years, Solhkhah says few people outside the local Assyrian community have visited it.
"That man is working very hard to establish the museum," Lilou says. "He's just not trying to reach a neighborhood, but everywhere."
It's an uphill battle Solhkhah is fighting and he's hoping to increasing community awareness of the museum by reaching out to high schools, offering it as a field trip opportunity. He's also participating in the education program for the 70th Annual National Convention of the Assyrian American National Federation in Rosemont Aug. 28-Sept. 1. During those five days, Solhkhah will book shuttles between his museum and the convention center.
And for the second year in a row, he'll have a handful of interns helping out from the Urhai Community Service Center.
In the meantime, Solhkhah continues to do restoration work and talk to the occasional tour group. Although Solhkhah often travels abroad for conferences and archeological digs, he has declined to visit his native village in Iran.
"I talked with him about it and he's absolutely refused to go because he thinks it'd be too painful," Roman says. "Remembering the persecution is too difficult. Very painful."
Honoring His Father
Roman says his father seldom discusses his father, Abraham, or his brother, Owner, but Roman says the museum is his father's way of paying tribute to them.
"It's a way to honor them and share with the future generations," Roman says.
When asked directly about this, Solhkhah only grows uncharacteristically quiet. What would his father say about the museum?
"`Bravo,'" Solhkhah says. "I think he would say, `Bravo.'"
[Z-info: The Mesopotamian Museum is situated at 6301-07 Pulaski Rd., the and is open 1-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and Sunday by appointment. For more information, call 773-251-8000.]
CAVEMAN STUDIO ARTWORK
How would you like to own a painting with your name written in the language of Jesus?
The Assyrian Artist, Hanna “John” Hajjar, has done it again. With the debut of his new online art gallery, www.cavemanart.com, Hajjar brings Syriac-Christian genre in art to a new level of admiration. Focusing on the stylistic calligraphy of the eastern and western Syriac script, Hajjar seeks to bridge the artistic gap between the two prominent forces of the Assyrian literary cultures. In the process this hugely talented artist offers us a glimpse of his personal views on religion, history, and language.
To learn more about Hajjar’s Assyrian & Christian artwork
MUSICAL PRODUCTION OF INANNA IN HOLLAND
I'm pleased to inform you about the latest production of The Theatregroup ZT Hollandia:
Music theatre by Louis Andriessen en Paul Koek
Inanna is the title of the oldest myth handed down in writing. Archaeologists date the tale, which has been recorded in Assyrian cuneiform script, to about 4000 B.C.
The story is about the Goddess Inanna, who ascended to the upper world to marry the human ruler of the world, Dumuzi. Together they have a child. In exchange for the permission to be allowed to go the upper world, she had to give up the capacity to speak. She can only sing. For no reason whatsoever, she wants to go to the underworld to meet her sister, Ereshkigal, who rules over the underworld. While her husband is busy retaining his hold on his empire, her sister-in-law and her father Enki, God of the water, try to dissuade her from doing so. To no avail, however. Once descended, Inanna’s sister accuses her of being power crazy and kills her. Accomplices of her father, however, manage to get her body back. Ereshkigal is prepared, after Inanna has been brought back to life, to let her go in exchange for another living soul. Inanna chooses her husband. Out of pity with her brother Dumuzi, her sister-in-law offers to go in his place. Enki decides that they will change places in the underworld every six months.
The myth can be interpreted as a tale about life and death, about fertility and dying, but also, simultaneously, about the change of the seasons of summer and winter, and the alternation of life and death, a precondition for life. Themes which Louis Andriessen and Paul Koek happily seize upon to make music theatre.
The script by the American film maker Hal Hartley narrates the myth, in which the upper world is the modern, contemporary world dominated by the United States.
The performance uses the most state-of-the art technical and theatrical resources, including computer animation, film and projection on various screens and backgrounds.
Composer Louis Andriessen wrote the music. In his opera the singing is reserved for the Gods. All other characters speak. The cast is therefore a mixture of opera singers and actors of ZT Hollandia. Besides conventional instruments, the music ensemble will use live electronics and sampling.
The performance is produced by ZT Hollandia.
Performances and premiere:
Westergasfabriek Amsterdam, The Netherlands
MY TRIP TO IRAQ: A PRESENTATION BY REV. YOSHIYA SANNA
On Sunday, June 22 in an informal setting, Rev. Yoshiya Sanna of the St. Mary Assyrian Chaldean Catholic Church in Campbell, California, addressed a gathering of some twenty-five people about his recent trip to Iraq.
One note before I proceed, Rev. Sanna used the Syriac language throughout his presentation and thus he referred to all Syriac-speaking people in Iraq as "Surayeh." Here, I am using the English equivalent "Assyrian" for the Syriac term "Surayeh”. We know that "Surayeh" is originated from "Asurayeh" and the earlier "Ashurayeh", meaning Assyrians.
Part of the delegation of the Chaldean Catholic Church had traveled to the capital city of Amman to attend a conference organized by Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan. The conference addressed Christian/Moslem relations in the new Iraq. The delegation that attended the conference comprised of Mar Iberahim Ibrahim, Mar Emmanuel Dalley, and a few others from Detroit.
After the conference Rev. Sanna joined the delegation in Amman and traveled with this group to Iraq. Regarding the conference, Rev. Sanna states that it was successful and he was touched by the warm feelings and understanding of the Moslem Iraqi clerics towards the Christians of Iraq. He states that Moslem Iraqis admitted that the Assyrian Christians were the original people of Iraq and they look forward to working with them in the future free Iraq. This was also the general feedback he had received from Mar Ibrahim Ibrahim about the conference.
The main objective of the participation of the western dioceses of the Chaldean Catholic Church, represented by Rev. Sanna, was to help our people in Iraq and give them support today when it is needed the most; not when Iraq is all rebuilt anew. The western diocese (seven churches in California and Arizona) raised some $25,000 while additional $100,000 was raised in Detroit by Mar Ibrahim Ibrahim. Additionally, the delegation carried with them private contributions from individuals or families for their own loved ones.
The journey from Amman to Baghdad was harsh due to the usual hot weather in this time of the year and sand storms that forced them to stop sometimes due to lack of visibility. Accidents are common on the Amman-Baghdad highway in such conditions. Security was not an issue, although few cars were robbed earlier.
In Iraq telephone service is non-existent; therefore, the delegation had to deliver monies personally and door to door throughout Iraq, a process that took much of their time. Rev. Sanna states that because of this he was unable to visit with the other churches in Iraq.
According to Rev. Sanna there are 30 Chaldean Catholic Churches in Baghdad alone. He estimates the population of the Assyrians (including Chaldeans and Suryan) in the capital at around 600,000. Certain Catholic churches in Baghdad have grown so much that few have from 2,500 to 3,000 family-members.
The delegation, headed by Mar Ibrahim Ibrahim, met with the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) in its Baghdad headquarters, which used to be the headquarters of Fedayeen Saddam (Saddam’s Martyrs). Chaldean Bishop Ibrahim N. Ibrahim heads the Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle, based in Southfield, Michigan. Rev. Sanna stated that the ADM has their own militia recognized by the American authorities in Iraq. The delegation was offered security escort during their travel to north of Iraq but the delegation declined gracefully as they did not see a necessity for it and preferred to keep a low profile.
One important event Rev. Sanna referred to was the program on the Arabic al-Jazeera Satellite TV station in which an interview was conducted with Yonadam Kana, Secretary General of the ADM; Mar Jack Isaac, Dean of the Babylon Seminary College in Baghdad; and Rev. Yousif Toma. This interview, says Rev. Sanna, had great impact in the Middle East. Many international media sources, including few in London, have commented positively on the program and the well-presented remarks of the guests.
In Baghdad, Rev. Sanna states that security is not an issue but the Americans have ordered a curfew between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. However, earlier two members of the Chaldean Catholic Church were killed in Basrah when they opened their liquor businesses despite warnings from Bishop Kassab of Basrah. In general, there is no Moslem-Christian conflict and what happened was an isolated incident.
The problem in Iraq says Rev. Sanna is the very slow progress. Iraq is destroyed; some of this destruction was caused by the latest war, while the rest was during Saddam's regime. The regime devastated the country and this is seen in the main aspects of life: schools, hospitals, etc. When a teacher is paid $3 per month salary, he puts no efforts in his work. This has led to the collapse of the school system and education. Rev. Sanna continues that this is not overturned easily; it requires time. The Iraqis are running out of patience and this is leading to the street demonstrations, unrest, and ultimately fatalities.
Rev. Sanna emphasized throughout his presentation on unity. He stated that the various segments of the Assyrian denominations must unite before the constitution of Iraq is constructed or they will suffer greatly. He stresses that Assyrians must be mentioned in the constitution under one name, even if compounded. He adds that there are many forces, whether Kurds or Arabs, who want us divided and weak and we must not give them such an opportunity.
Rev. Sanna continued that the fact of the matter is that some 75% of the Christians of Iraq have known themselves as Chaldeans for few hundred years and one cannot ignore that. However, he adds, we do not want to see Assyrians alone, Chaldean alone, or Suryan alone in the new constitution. The dash in Assyrian-Chaldean for example is not a dividing sign; it rather unites, he affirms.
Rev. Sanna confirms that the separatists, headed by Abd al-Ahad Afram, and his Chaldean political organization, have no weight in Iraq. Afram tried to meet with Mar Ibrahim Ibrahim but the bishop refused to meet with him. Rev. Sanna stresses that the compound title Chaldo-Assyrian is widely accepted in Iraq among all denominations of our people. The majority of the Suryan (Syrian Orthodox and Catholic) in Iraq, adds Sanna, might accept this title as well if for example the language is recognized as the Syriac language (Lugha Suryaniya) and the literature is addressed as Syriac literature (adab al-Lugha al-Suryaniya).
In north of Iraq, Rev. Sanna stated that all Chaldean villages have ADM offices and the congregation of the Chaldean Catholic Church is pleased with the ADM and its representation and performance. He stated that there are many organizations in north of Iraq but the reality is that the name ZOWAA has become most acceptable among the people to a degree where Zowaa is synonymous with Surayeh. The ADM is much appreciated there because it has won the respect of the people through its real performance on the ground.
Iraq is administrated through a system that is classified as such: Province (Muhafadha), City (Madeena), District (Qadha), Canton (Nahiya). All major cantons (Nahiya) in north of Iraq with the Assyrian majority have Assyrian mayors (Mudir Nahiya) and any districts (Qadha) with majority Assyrians have Assyrian administrators in that district (Qaim-Maqam). In Kirkuk, there are some 1,200 Assyrian families. The Assistant-Governor in Kirkuk is Assyrian and the head of police force is an Assyrian as well, in addition to four Assyrian members of the city Council.
Addressing the Arabization of the members of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq, Rev. Sanna answers that there is around 5% of the congregation that refers to itself as Arab Christians. When I asked him about the 50% figure that has been propagated, he stated that it is greatly exaggerated. Rev. Sanna was happy to report that Churches in Iraq are alive. In certain churches, there are days, he states, when there are two services are conducted: one in the morning and another in the evening, and in both cases they are filled to capacity with parishioners.
Rev. Sanna sees hope for Christians in future Iraq, but he continues to emphasize unity in order to have a better life.
REMEMBERING AN ASSYRIAN LADY
June 17th, 1978- a beautiful Assyrian lady, a devoted wife, mother and grandmother, shut her eyes for the last time bidding farewell to all those who loved and respected her in this world.
This beautiful Assyrian lady was my mother. Baghdad was her homeland and Iraq was the country that was in her heart though she lies buried in Dhaka. Bangladesh is the country which she adopted as her own and which she taught her children to love, respect and be loyal to.
Why she was in Bangladeshi is a romantic, sad and long love story which began with her marrying a Zaminder's son who was serving in Baghdad when the whole sub-continent was under the British Empire, and known by the name India. Young and very much in love, she did not pay heed to her brother's advice about not marrying a foreigner. She was told that he would one day take her to his country and make her a 'Maharani' of his Kingdom. But after that he shall maybe have an added number of wives, which was very usual in those days. Blind in love, she married him with the trust that he would never do such a thing.
Years passed and a few children were born to this happy couple. But a day came when the 'Rajkumar' sighed for his homeland and told her about it. Being a devoted and loyal wife, she bowed to his wishes bidding farewell to the land the people and the language which she loved thinking that she would be able to visit in future. But that was not to be. That good-bye was forever and she never managed to return.
Assyria existed about 2000 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. It was a strong Kingdom and the people were a very proud race having their own language, culture and religion. Assyria has been mentioned in the Holy Bible several times. Today Assyrians can be found in Iraq, Turkey, Egypt and even in America. They try to maintain their own language as far as possible but the old religion does not exist anymore, as they are all followers of the Christian faith.
It is strange how my mother, Asnat Zia Ghosh as she was known, adapted to the different ways of life. When she first came to Dhaka (India), the majority of the people were Hindus by faith, but with partition of the country in 1947, the Muslims dominated the scene. She managed to get along with both communities in a splendid manner. During the Puja celebrations big 'thalas' of sweets used to be sent from the various temples for the 'Assyrian lady' and her family. She taught us to respect the religion of other people and made it a point to share all the sweets with friends who used to assemble at our house on those particular days. With the change in the environment came 'Eid' and that was again a great celebration in the house. Mother always had a ready-table for all that visited us on that special day, and believe me, there were many! Christmas, of course, was a great occasion with all the house decorated in a fantastic manner, dainties laid on the table and naturally a big cake adorning it. There were gifts for all the family and for close friends too. In this way, she taught her children that god is one, and the proverb 'Do in Rome as the Romans do', was always what she believed in.
She often used to talk to us about Assyria. In fact she was our first history teacher. She mentioned places like Babylon, spoke of the civilization and culture in those days. Names like Mosul and Basra were not unfamiliar to us in childhood and there were times when we could see a tear floating in her eyes.
How mother adjusted to her new life was amazing. She was simply fascinated by the long piece of cloth called Sari and wondered how the women wrapped it round their bodies in such an elegant style. She not only learnt how to wear it but also finally gave up her native dress and started wearing the sari instead. She looked beautiful in it. Her favourite colour was white which added to her dignity and beauty. As we grew up, she made it a point that we too should wear the sari. "This is your country, these are your people and you must be one with them in every respect," is what she put into our heads. Not only the clothes but we also gradually stopped speaking in Assyrian and Arabic as no one understood us and mother insisted that Bangla and English should replace them. She herself picked up Bangla and English to a certain extent. She spoke English with a heavy Arabic-accent and even today when I hear Arabs speaking in English, I think of my mother more than ever. The Bangla she spoke was enough to communicate with those who did not understand English, and it was really enjoyable hearing her speak in that language!
The more I write, the more I remember the rare qualities she possessed. She became a truly Bengali lady in every sense of the word. She picked up cooking the Bangladeshi dishes in a manner, which amazed those who were lucky enough to taste the food. The big prawns and the 'Koi' fishes cooked with cauliflower were fit enough to the set before a King. Not to speak about the Arabian dishes which she put on the table.
There were Tomato Pulao, Cabbage Dolnas, Brinjal and Tomato Dolnas, Minced Meat-Balls cooked in tomatoes sauce and many more mouth watering dishes for her family and guests.
No matter how much she tried to pave the way for us by showing good examples, and putting up a big smile, we at times caught her unaware with teary eyes reading her Assyrian Bible. This Bible is still in the possession of the family and considered to be a relic.
Twenty five years have passed since this great, wonderful lady left this world, and I take this opportunity of saluting her a million times not only as my mother, but as a woman of immense courage and vast mental strength from whom all women should take an example.
Alice A Islam
[Z-info: Ms. Islam’s
piece was published in the June 13 edition of the Independent, Bangladesh].
COVER YOUR HAIR
Still no luck in my quest to help the administration find Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. But meanwhile, I'm getting the impression that America fought Saddam, and the Islamic fundamentalists won.
For a glimpse of the Islamic state that Iraq may be evolving into, consider the street execution of an infidel named Sabah Ghazali.
Under Saddam Hussein, Christians like Mr. Ghazali, 41, were allowed to sell alcohol and were protected from Muslim extremists. But lately extremists have been threatening to kill anyone selling alcohol. One day last month, two men walked over to Mr. Ghazali as he was unlocking his shop door and shot him in the head — the second liquor store owner they had killed that morning.
An iron curtain of fundamentalism risks falling over Iraq, with particularly grievous implications for girls and women. President Bush hopes that Iraq will turn into a shining model of democracy, and that could still happen. But for now it's the Shiite fundamentalists who are gaining ground.
Already, almost every liquor shop in southern Iraq appears to have been forcibly closed. Here in Basra, Islamists have asked Basra University (unsuccessfully) to separate male and female students, and shopkeepers have put up signs like: "Sister, cover your hair." Many more women are giving in to the pressure and wearing the hijab head covering.
"Every woman is afraid," said Sarah Alak, a 22-year-old computer engineering student at Basra University. Ms. Alak never used to wear a hijab, but after Saddam fell her father asked her to wear one on the university campus, "just to avoid trouble."
Extremists also threatened Basra's cinemas for showing pornography (like female knees). So the city's movie theaters closed down for two weeks and reopened only after taking down outside posters and putting up banners, like this one outside the Watani Cinema: "We do not deal with immoral movies."
"We're now searching all customers as they enter the movie theater," said Abdel Baki Youssef, a guard at the Atlas Cinema. "Everybody is worried about an attack."
Paradoxically, a more democratic Iraq may also be a more repressive one; it may well be that a majority of Iraqis favor more curbs on professional women and on religious minorities. As Fareed Zakaria notes in his smart new book, "The Future of Freedom," unless majority rule is accompanied by legal protections, tolerance and respect for minorities, the result can be populist repression.
Women did relatively well under Saddam Hussein (when they weren't being tortured or executed, penalties that the regime applied on an equal opportunity basis). In the science faculty at Basra University, 80 percent of the students are women. Iraq won't follow the theocratic model of Iran, but it could end up as Iran Lite: an Islamic state, but ruled by politicians rather than ayatollahs. I get the sense that's the system many Iraqis seek.
"Democracy means choosing what people want, not what the West wants," notes Abdul Karim al-Enzi, a leader of the Dawa Party, a Shiite fundamentalist party that is winning support in much of the country.
Mr. Enzi is the kind of figure who resonates in mud-brick Iraqi villages in a way that secular American-backed exiles like Ahmad Chalabi don't. While Mr. Chalabi was dining in London, Mr. Enzi was risking his life on secret spy missions for the Dawa Party within Iraq, entering from his base in Iran.
Four of his brothers and one sister were executed for anti-government activities, and Mr. Enzi was himself sentenced to death in absentia in 1979. He was once arrested in Iraq on a spy mission, but officials did not realize who he was and released him a month later. I found Mr. Enzi brave, admirable and medieval.
What should we do about this?
I'm afraid there's not much we can do to discourage fundamentalism in Iraq, although staying the course and building a legal system may help. For now, the U.S. seems to be making matters worse by raiding offices of Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, who ran an anti-Saddam organization from exile in Iran and who in the past advocated an Islamic government. Cold-shouldering Mr. Hakim is counterproductive. It bolsters his legitimacy as a nationalist and further radicalizes his followers.
We may just have to get used to the idea that we have been midwives to growing Islamic fundamentalism in Iraq.
Nicholas D. Kristof
CALIFORNIA BILL NUMBER AJR 31 PASSES THE SENATE
The California Assembly Bill AJR-31 passed the California Senate last week and is on its way to the White House. Everyday tens of votes in support of this bill were submitted to the office of Assemblyman Aghazarian in Sacramento via Zinda Magazine’s online form at http://www.zindamagazine.com/ajr31.php. The following is the full text of the amended Senate Bill as of last week:
Passed the Senate June 19, 2003
Introduced by: Assembly Members Aghazarian and Steinberg
(Coauthors: Assembly Members Cogdill, Matthews, Bates, Benoit, Berg, Bermudez, Bogh, Calderon, Campbell, Chan, Chavez, Chu, Cohn, Corbett, Correa, Cox, Diaz, Dutra, Dutton, Dymally, Firebaugh, Frommer, Garcia, Goldberg, Hancock, Harman, Haynes, Jerome Horton, Shirley Horton, Houston, Keene, Kehoe, Koretz, La Malfa, La Suer, Laird, Leno, Leslie, Levine, Lieber, Liu, Longville, Lowenthal, Maddox, Maldonado, Maze, McCarthy, Montanez, Mountjoy, Mullin, Nakanishi, Nakano, Nation, Negrete McLeod, Nunez, Oropeza, Pacheco, Parra, Pavley, Plescia, Reyes, Richman, Ridley-Thomas, Runner, Salinas, Samuelian, Simitian, Spitzer, Strickland, Vargas, Wesson, Wiggins, Wolk, Wyland, and Yee) & (Coauthors: Senators Denham and Poochigian)
APRIL 23, 2003
Assembly Joint Resolution No. 31--Relative to Assyrians in Iraq.
This measure would declare that it is a matter of urgent and enduring importance that Assyrians be given a seat of recognition at the table during negotiations regarding the postconflict restructuring in Iraq and would memorialize California's Senators and Members of the House of Representatives to take all prudent and necessary steps to ensure that this matter is addressed at the highest levels of the federal government.
WHEREAS, Assyrians are a Semitic people indigenous to Mesopotamia
WHEREAS, By 2500 B.C., three Assyrian cities were well established and thriving metropoli, including Nineveh, where eminent British archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan in 1932 dug up a pottery sequence showing it to be inhabited by 5000 B.C., Arbel, the oldest extant city, and Ashur; and
WHEREAS, This period around 5000 to 2500 B.C. saw the development of the fundamentals of civilization, including animal domestication, agriculture, pottery, controllable fire in kilns, and smelting. The Assyrian city of Arbel was one of the very earliest permanent agricultural settlements; and
WHEREAS, Between 4500 and 2400 B.C., as complex societies began to appear among Sumerians and in other parts of Mesopotamia, including Assyria, in the form of cities, with craft specialization and writing, Assyrian settlements became large and guarded by fortification walls, which implies the risk of attack and the need for defense and warfare; and
WHEREAS, In 1813 B.C., Assyrian political coherence was clearly in existence. King Shamshi-Adad I established the early Assyrian Empire, and laid the foundation of the Middle Assyrian Empire in 1365 B.C.; and
WHEREAS, The years 745 to 727 B.C. marked the beginning of the greatest expansion of the Assyrian empire with Tiglath-Pileser III. Through a series of able kings, Sargon II, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Ashurbanipal, Assyria would extend its rule over a vast area, from Egypt up to Cyprus to the west, through Anatolia, to the Caspian region in the east; and
WHEREAS, The Assyrian empires, particularly the Neo-Assyrian (912-612 B.C.), had a profound and lasting impact on the Near East. Before Assyrian hegemony would come to an end, the Assyrians would bring the highest civilization then known to the world. From the Caspian region to Cyprus, from Anatolia to Egypt, Assyrian imperial expansion would bring into the Assyrian sphere nomadic and barbaric communities and would bestow the gift of civilization upon them; and
WHEREAS, Today we are far removed from that time, yet some of our most basic and fundamental devices of daily survival, to which we have become so accustomed that we cannot conceive of life without them, are believed by many to have originated in Assyria. One cannot imagine leaving his or her home without locking the door; it is in Assyria where locks and keys were first used. One cannot survive in this world without knowing the time; it is in Assyria that the sexagesimal system of keeping time was developed. One cannot imagine driving without paved roads; it is in Assyria where paved roads were first used. Other developments originating in Assyria include the first postal system, the first use of iron, the first magnifying glasses, the first libraries, the first plumbing and flush, the first electric batteries, the first guitars, the first aqueducts, and the first arch; and
WHEREAS, Not only things originated in Assyria, but also ideas that would shape the world to come, including the idea of imperial administration, of dividing the land into territories administered by local governors who report to the central authority, the King of Assyria. This fundamental model of administration has survived to this day, as can be seen in America's federal-state system; and
WHEREAS, It is in Assyria that civilization itself was developed and handed down to future generations. It is here where the first steps in the cultural unification of the Middle East were taken by bringing under Assyrian rule the diverse groups in the area, from Iran to Egypt, breaking down ethnic and national barriers and preparing the way for the cultural unification that facilitated the subsequent spread of Hellenism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; and
WHEREAS, In the 20th century, Assyrians have suffered massive genocide, have lost control of their ancestral lands, and are in a struggle for survival. The Assyrian nation today stands at a crossroad. One-third of its population is in a diaspora, while the remaining two-thirds of the population lives perilously in its native lands; and
WHEREAS, In spite of the struggle for survival, the Assyrian Levies have performed heroic acts fighting on the Asian, European, and African fronts from after World War I until 1955, including a victory over the pro-German rebel forces backed by the Iraqi government that prevented the oil fields from falling into the hands of Nazi Germany in the early stages of World War II, thereby guaranteeing the continuous oil supply for the Allies in the Middle East; and
WHEREAS, In 1955, the Assyrian Levy was dismantled and the force was integrated in the Iraqi Army. The Assyrians withdrew in isolation. With the coming of the Arab national parties to power in Iraq since 1963, the oppression of the Assyrians became visible and obvious; and
WHEREAS, In the late 1970s, the Assyrian private schools were closed, and teaching the Syriac language of the Assyrians was prohibited. In the 1977 and 1987 Iraqi general census, the Assyrians were prohibited from registering as Assyrians and were given the option of registering as Arabs or Kurds only; and
WHEREAS, In 1981, as the Iraq-Iran War commenced, many Assyrian families in Iraq were deported to Iran. These families were forced to leave their homes and properties behind. The Iraqi government deported these families despite the fact that members of these families were born in Iraq; and
WHEREAS, Since 1985, many Assyrian villages and ancient churches and monasteries have been destroyed; and
WHEREAS, After the 1991 Gulf War, the Assyrians in northern Iraq
began to face acts of aggression, assassination, and intimidation.
Other ethnic groups were encouraged to move and live in purely
Assyrian villages in order to change the demographic picture of
the purely Assyrian regions. Many acts of assassination against
Assyrian priests and political leaders took place, rape cases
against Assyrian young women increased, and attacks on Assyrian
WHEREAS, With continued attempts by the Iraqi opposition to marginalize legitimate Assyrian representation in ongoing deliberations about the future of Iraq, three Members of the United States Congress have sent a terse letter to the United States State Department expressing concern about the undemocratic nature of the Iraqi National Assembly meetings. The bipartisan letter was spearheaded by the Honorable Rod Blagojevich (D-Illinois) and cosigned by the Honorable Anna Eshoo, (D-California), an Assyrian, and the Honorable Frank Wolf (R-Virginia); and
WHEREAS, An estimated 350,000 Assyrians have migrated to the United States, many of them concentrated in the Turlock-Modesto-Ceres areas and in Detroit and Chicago. They brought with them farming and business skills, entrepreneurial ideas, capital, and their religious heritage; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Assembly and Senate of the State of California, jointly, That, considering the ancestral history of the Assyrians in Iraq, it is a matter of urgent and enduring importance that Assyrians be given a seat of recognition at the table during negotiations regarding the postconflict restructuring in Iraq; and be it further
Resolved, That California's Senators and Members of the House of Representatives should take all prudent and necessary steps to ensure that this matter is addressed at the highest levels of our federal government; and be it further
Resolved, That the Chief Clerk of the Assembly transmit copies of this resolution to the President and Vice President of the United States, to the United States Secretary of State, and to each Senator and Representative from California in the Congress of the United States.
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