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Volume IX

Issue 17

9 June 2003
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This Week In Zinda

cover photo

  A Laboratory of Democracy
An Assyrian From Connecticut
  The Assyrian American League
  Zowaa to be Represented at the Interim Council
Patriarchs Endorse Assyrian Democratic Movement, Compound Name
Fourteen Assyrian families Return to Hometowns
Catholics in Iraq Facing Persecution
  Baghdad Museum To Reopen in July, El Nino Tablets Missing
Iraqi Christians Uncertain About Their Future
Paris exhibit of Icons, Manuscripts by Syrian and Lebanese artists

Artists Discuss Assyrian Theatre in Sweden
This Magnificent Achievement
Patriarch Zakka Iwas’ Statement: A Strategic Alliance Over My Dead Body
Why Not an Assyrian Catholic Church?
Same Old, Same Old
Assyrian Chain of Command

  Rev Ken Joseph in Turlock & San Jose
Father’s Day Picnic in Palo Alto
  Rev Ken Joseph in Turlock & San Jose
Father’s Day Picnic in Palo Alto
  Ancient Assyrian Treasures Found Intact in Baghdad



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Zinda Says


Get out your calculators! The population of Iraq according to the CIA Factbook is a little over 24 million. The percentage of female population is a little less than 50 percent, and the ethnic makeup of Iraq is as follows:

Arab 75%
Kurdish 15%
Assyrian, Turkoman, or other 10%

5% of 24 million equals 1.2 million. We already know that there are well over one million “Chaldo-Assyrians” in Iraq, and perhaps just a little over half a million Turkmen. For sake of discussion, let’s stick to CIA’s figures and assume that our of every 100 Iraqi, there are 75 Arabs, 15 Kurds, 5 Assyrians, 2 Turkemen, and 3 Others.

Soon the Iraqi citizens will go to the polls and vote for their countries first leadership council. Until then the world is at the mercy of the U.S. planners and their “Made in Washington” slide rulers.

A truly democratic representative council in Iraq must have a minimum of 5 % “Chaldo-Assyrian” representation and a significant proportion of this council should be represented by women. For that matter, Assyrians must take the first step in demonstrating their desire for a genuinely democratic representation and elect at least one Assyrian woman to the Council.

If Iraq is to become what Thomas Jefferson called “the laboratory of democracy” then any current or future elections ought to reflect the broad ethnic and political spectrum of Iraq, keeping in mind the important role that women will play in the reconstruction efforts with this society – both psychologically and in the workforce.



The sun had already set by the time our plane landed at the J.F.K. Airport in New York. My brothers and I were firmly clutching each others’ hands as our parents briskly walked us from one immigration line to another. This was our first day in America. The daunting experience of seeing so many new faces and hearing equally more angry words was quickly mitigated by finding a familiar face among the crowd.

Abraham “Zaya” George had come to greet us at the airport. Remon, my cousin, and Zaya were married a year earlier in Tehran and were now living in Connecticut where Zaya and his family had settled since early 70’s. Zaya had immigrated to the U.S. in 1969.

While my family’s journey continued on to California, Zaya and his family remained in Connecticut and shored up a slowly-growing Assyrian immigrant community. A majority of Assyrians in Connecticut have been living around the New Britain area since early 1900’s - not too far from where my family resided for a few years.

In the last 10 years or so, Zaya served several leadership posts on Assyrian local and national levels. Several times he was appointed the Eastern Regional Director of the Assyrian American National Federation and elected president of the Assyrian Association in New Britain. He remained committed to improving the welfare of the small Assyrian community in Connecticut and the East Coast region until his passing away last Friday at his home in Farmington, Connecticut. He has been battling cancer for three years. Zaya was 57.

As with most cancer patients, Zaya’s body had slowly transitioned into an emaciated figure wracked with pain. But his spirit was as strong as I remember him on our first encounter. His pain and disease were never a topic of our telephone conversations, rather the future of the Assyrians in America, the circus-like affairs of the Assyrian American National Federation and Zinda Magazine.

Zaya George was a compassionate realist, both as a father, husband, and civic leader. He had an heightened awareness of the issues facing his family in Connecticut and his people in the U.S. His answer to every challenge was the same: Let the young take charge and encourage greater public participation in politics. If only more fathers and the delegates to the Assyrian American National Federation followed Zaya’s advice…

On that cold evening in January of 1979, Zaya’s presence was a source of comfort and reassurance for my family who had traveled to a foreign land during the political upheavals confronting Iran. He accompanied me to my first day at school and helped me and my brothers with our homework. In those days neither of us could speak a word in English. “What is your first name?”, asked me the school principal of Eastern High School in Bristol, Connecticut on my first encounter with any school official in America. I was only 12. I looked at Zaya and asked in Assyrian: “What does the word ‘first’ mean?”

Abraham is survived by his beloved wife, Remon George; son Ladimer George; two daughters and a son-in-law, Monica and Ronald Linstruth, Bianca George; a brother, Isaac Bet George, all of Farmington; two sisters, Marlene Petros of California, Cecelia Givargiznia of Farmington; and several nieces and nephews.

Funeral rites were held on Tuesday at St. Thomas Assyrian Church of the East in New Britain and officiated by the Rev. Gabriel Brakhia.

Donations in Abrahams memory may be made to the Assyrian Aid Society, 350 Berkeley Park Blvd., Berkeley, CA 94707. To extend condolences to the George Family, please visit

I took on Zaya’s challenge on my sixteenth birthday and given a little opportunity immersed myself in the affairs of my people at all levels. My ambitious plans continue through this publication and in an advisory capacity.

Zaya, thanks for believing in me and our youth.

You’ll always be missed.

Wilfred Bet-Alkhas

The Lighthouse


The Assyrian American League was established on April 25, 2002 to “promote the political and social well-being of all Assyrians through educational activities and through lobbying activities at the national level.” Congressman Michael Flanagan was engaged by the AAL on April 1, 2002 (Kha B’Neesan) as the Washington, D.C. representative and lobbyist for the AAL. Though independent, the AAL solicits input from all Assyrian organizations who choose to participate.

Congressman Crane, Chairman, Trade Subcommittee, House Standing Committee on Ways and Means, and former U.S. Presidential Candidate, the honored guest and keynotespeaker of our inaugural fundraising dinner, stated wholeheartedly, “I applaud the Assyrian Community for their active participation in the political process.” He went on
to say that “ America is a melting pot. As a country, we are made up of different ethnic groups, all of which add to our greatness and diversity. And the Assyrian community certainly adds to the richness of America.” Regarding Assyrians in Iraq, he stated “the government in Iraq must include the interests of all of the ethnic cultures present in that
country, especially the Assyrians, who have been so systematically excluded for so long.

Largely because of the efforts of the Assyrian American League (AAL), Congress is becoming increasingly aware of the contributions and needs of the Assyrian-American community.” He concluded by saying “ Long a friend of democracy and the rights of the individual, Assyrians have flourished in the United States to become a very important
part of the fabric of our nation.”

Assyrian activism has been building an impressive track record among members of Congress and the State Department. On March 15, 2002, then Congressman Rod Blagojevich, Illinois Fifth Congressional District, and current Illinois Governor, wrote to President Bush on behalf of the Assyrians. Eighteen Members of the U.S. House of Representatives joined him. The members, including the Assyrian community’s own Anna Eshoo, California Fourteenth Congressional District, asked of the President to support constitutional recognition of Assyrians in Iraq. The Congressmen stated that “The Assyrian Community has faced systematic terror campaigns in Iraq and Assyrian
political leaders have been assassinated. Since the Gulf War, Kurdish tribes tied to the ruling parliamentary parties have illegally occupied most of the Assyrian villages razed by the government.” The letter concluded “that the United States Government must send a clear and forceful message that it will not tolerate such abuses. Official constitutional
recognition for the Assyrian community would be an important catalyst for an improvement in human rights.”

This letter had come on the heels of a successful meeting with The Honorable Henry J. Hyde, Chairman House Standing Committee on International Relations, Illinois Sixth Congressional District, on November 17, 2001. Mr. Hyde’s committee has been an invaluable ally of the AAL and Assyrians. Through the work of the AAL’s lobbyist,
Honorable Michael Flanagan, Mr. Hyde wrote on April 25, 2002 to the State Department’s William Burns, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, on the “treatment of the Assyrian community under the current Iraq regime as it relates to the reported suppression of their cultural and religious traditions,” further asking, “ Is it true, for example, that they are required to use Islamic names and forbidden to use traditional cultural or religious names? What protections are the Assyrian people enjoying under Operation Northern Watch? What aid has been afforded them by the United States? How will the political and human rights concerns of the Assyrians factor into any future Iraqi political equation, especially in Northern Iraq?”

Paul V. Kelly, Assistant Secretary, Legislative Affairs, responded on May 7 to Mr. Hyde’s questions, confirming the long-standing Arabization campaign within Iraq, including the ban on Assyrian names. Secretary Kelly wrote “the Kurdish dominated administrations in Northern Iraq tell us they are both committed to providing all Iraqis, regardless of ethnic or religious background, equal treatment.” In addition, “Assyrian schools teach using the Assyrian language. Assyrian parties are allowed to print Assyrian language newspapers and broadcast Assyrian language programming on radio and television. Assyrian villages and churches destroyed by the Iraqi government have been rebuilt. Assyrian political parties participate in the regional administrations.” The AAL will work with Congress and the U.S. State Department to ensure equal treatment of Assyrians by the Kurdish administrations in North Iraq. To date the Kurdish track record has been abysmal.

Our task has been to try to educate members of Congress and the Administration about our special status, that we are Iraq’s indigenous people, having lived on that land for nearly 7,000 years, and that today we comprise perhaps 10% of that country’s population.

We are ethnically, linguistically, and religiously distinct, and thus must have our rights protected by the majority, which share none of these three qualifiers with us. However, like them, we are Iraqis and wish to build an Iraq where all of its citizens, irrespective of language, ethnicity, and religion, can participate in the building of a free, multiethnic,
secular, and democratic society.

Our activities directly resulted in the now-famous Presidential speech in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the President of the United States mentioned, for the first time in history, the Assyrians by name. Shortly thereafter, the AAL prevailed upon the President to expand the Iraq Liberation Act to include the Assyrian Democratic Movement.

The AAL has developed, with the help of a professional and intellectual activist ad hoc advisory group, a set of demands. Our single proudest achievement has been the groundswell of support from Assyrians from around the world who email and call us to volunteer to help us in our work. I am humbled by the words of encouragement which come from our intellectuals, students, professionals, and business leaders. We are told that they see for the first time a truly mature and professional approach to solving our nation’s dilemma. We are preparing position papers. We plan a rollout of our platform in Washington, DC in the not-too-distant future. We have hired a tireless and highly

skilled executive director, Mr. Pete Dagher, a former Congressional candidate. After the Chicago office is fully established, we will set our sites on opening the DC office. We plan outreach initiatives with domestic groups whom we feel can lend support, as well as with pertinent Near Eastern countries.

The AAL has made preliminary contacts with various concerned organizations, in particular, Cultural Survival, an organization dedicated to the promotion of the rights, voices, and visions of indigenous peoples. After early interviews with and reports on Assyrians and the AAL, the organization has remained interested in our plight, regularly
contributing pieces relating to Assyrian circumstances in Iraq.

Various American Christian organizations have reached out to the Assyrian American League, including UNI News, a network of 50 Christian radio stations, who carried interviews with the Assyrian American League. ReligionJournal.com, an internet publication, has taken up our issues with timely reporting. Major mainstream, national media organizations, have reached out to the Assyrian American League, soliciting our opinions, positions, and information relating to Iraq.

These have included the Wall Street Journal, ABC News, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun Times, and Sixty Minutes.

Among our achievements over the past year has been the building of close working relationships with various important members of the Administration’s Iraq policy team team. Henry Hyde, Chairman of the House Committee on International Relations, has been an Advocate. We are in regular contact with important Congressional staffers on
that Committee. We have pressed our case with Congresswoman Eliana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairwoman of the House Mideast Subcommittee. We have met Congressman Frank Wolf, a man noted for his interest in Christian Human Rights issues, most importantly prior to our introduction of Assyrian issues, that of Sudan’s Christians.

We are in regular contact with the State Department’s Iraq desk. Many of you may remember that the Assyrian American League hosted a meeting between the State Department and a number of our Assyrian political organizations at our last Federation

Convention in Detroit: Our Assyrian political groups made an important show of unity at that meeting. The Chaldean Federation and the Syriac Universal Alliance representatives present underscored the oneness of our people.

We have met with the President’s Special Envoy to Free Iraqi’s, Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad, and pressed the importance of Assyrian participation in any meetings regarding Iraq, most importantly, the Ankara meeting, the last such opposition meeting before Iraq was liberated. Assyrian representation was to be determined by Assyrians, a point the Kurds
have tried to deny us.

We have made important contacts with influential American Catholics and have conveyed our sense of concern with the fringe, disruptive separatist movement of certain Chaldean Bishops. On another front, we have begun preliminary discussions with individuals involved with the Knights of Malta to build a medical mission hospital in Assyria.

We have met with the Turkish Ambassador to the United States, to press our short and long term interests. We are in agreement that an independent Kurdish state on Assyrian land is unacceptable

Our activities over past year have culminated in the the formulation of a series of principles and demands that the Assyrian American League plans to put to the American Administration. We are planning a “Washington Week,” in conjunction with a major think tank to begin this process and formally introduce it.

We demand:

1.) a democratic and secular Iraq. Islam cannot be the religion of State, otherwise nonmuslims are immediately relegated to second class citizen status. The governing law of a new Iraq cannot be based on Sharia. Anti-apostasy laws, an important source of the loss of our people, and their inherited wealth, must be rejected.

2.) territorial unity and integrity of Iraq. A free Kurdish State in the North, or a Shiite one in the South, are destabilizing for the region and must be opposed. To be sure, there is discussion of Federalism for Iraq. We oppose this if Iraqi Federalism means three Federal Units: Shiite, Sunni, and Kurd. Iraq’s other minorities, Assyrians,
Mandaens, and Yezidis, lose in this formulation.

3.) constitutional recognition of Assyrians as a distinct ethnicity within Iraq and as the indigenous people of Iraq. We are not Christian Kurds. We are not Arab.

4.) right of return of the Assyrians of Iraq.

5.) return of expropriated Assyrian lands

6.) official recognition of and educational support of the Syriac (Aramaic) language

7.) freedom of religion

8.) respect, maintenance and protection of Assyrian ancestral, historical, cultural, and religious edifices, sites and places so that mankind for centuries to come can marvel at ancient man’s first attempts to think, write, create and build.

9.) government support of the establishment of Assyrian schools

10.) government support of Assyrian media

11.) proportionate participation of Assyrians in the political and economic life of Iraq; all Assyrians must be included, by whatever name they are known (Chaldean, Syriac), and include those who have left Iraq due to persecution these many years.

With these principles in hand, we are embarking on our most ambitious project to date, the establishment of the Assyrian Congressional Caucus.

Dr. Ronald Michael
Assyrian American League




(ZNDA: Baghdad) Confirmed reports to Zinda Magazine from Baghdad indicate that on 6 June, between 6:00 & 9:00 in the evening (Baghdad Time), a meeting presided by U.S. top official - Mr. Paul Bremmer- and the major political parties in Iraq was held at the Conference Palace (a former palace of Saddam Hussein).

The Assyrian Democratic Movement was represented at this behind-closed-doors meeting by Secretary General Mr. Yonadam Kanna & Mr. Ishmael Benyamin.

According to information obtained from Baghdad, within 4 to 6 weeks from today a “Political Council of Leadership” will be established in Iraq made up of 25 to 30 individuals, including Mr. Yonadam Kanna of the Assyrian Democratic Movement.

The council would be the interim administration in Iraq and its members would be considered ministers and would oversee all aspects of Iraq's internal affairs.

In accordance with a resolution passed by the U.N. Security Council last month, the ultimate authority in Iraq will remain with the U.S.-backed coalition until a new Iraqi government is chosen following nationwide elections. The process could take as long as two years.

The council would also be responsible for working with a separate, much larger group of more than 100 Iraqis that would draft a new Iraqi constitution, setting the stage for a national referendum followed by nationwide elections.



(ZNDA: Damascus) Zinda Magazine has learned that His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatios Zakka I Iwas, spiritual leader of the Syrian Orthodox Church, has asked his bishops and clergy in Iraq to grant full support for the Assyrian Democratic Movement.

In a show of unity among all Syriac-speaking churches in Iraq, Mor Iwas declared his endorsement of the Assyrian Democratic Movement in a recent meeting in Damascus between the heads of the Syrian Orthodox Church and the ADM representatives in Iraq.

His Holiness was born in the city of Mosul, Iraq where he completed his education in 1954. Mor Iwas was consecrated a patriarch in September 1980.

Last week, His Holiness Mar Addai II, Patriarch of the Ancient Church of the East also commented in a private meeting of his approval of the use of compound name, put forward by the Assyrian Democratic Movement.

Sources close to Zinda Magazine in Baghdad commented this week that the bishops and clergymen of five Syriac-speaking churches in Iraq have openly endorsed the use of a compound name to designate the identity of the Syriac-speaking people of Iraq. The five Churches are the Ancient Church of the East, Church of the East, the Syriac Catholic Church, the Chaldean Catholic Church, and the Syrian Orthodox Church.


Courtesy of the Turkish Daily Times (10 June)

Fourteen 14 Assyrian families, who immigrated from Elbegendi village in the Midyat district of Mardin to settle in Germany and Switzerland, will return to their homes.

The village is preparing to welcome these 14 families, who left their hometowns almost 20 years ago due to terrorism.

The Assyrian families will have 14 villas constructed in their village, each villa will cost between TL 80-170 billion.

Turabdin Metropolitan General Secretary Yusuf Begtas, in his interview to state- run Anatolia news agency, said that the villas will be constructed in conformance to the historical texture of Midyat and the families will meet the expenditure with their own opportunities.

Stating that the telephone and electricity networks would be installed under the ground, Begtas said that some sport facilities will be constructed within the villas.

"Mardin Governor Temel Kocaklar supports this project. GAP Development Management will supply water with the help of a test bore. The families will restore the historic church in the village," added Begtas.

He also said that another 60 families, living in several countries in Europe, wanted to return to their hometowns.


Courtesy of Zenit News Agency (4 June)

(ZNDA: Madrid) Catholics in Iraq are feeling persecuted by Muslim fundamentalists, and Baghdad has turned into a lawless city, says a Spanish missionary.

Father Ángel García, founder of the Catholic organization Messengers of Peace, has just returned from Iraq, where he supervised a contribution of humanitarian aid to that country.

The priest said he witnessed firsthand the sufferings and hardships being endured by the people of Baghdad and Basra.

"Baghdad is a lawless city where there is even greater fear of being assaulted or attacked than of dying from bullets," he said.

"Workers have not been paid their salaries for three months," he added. "Garbage piles up in the streets, temperatures are extreme, and now there is a shortage of gasoline."

The greatest efforts of his organization are focused on hospitals where, because of the lack of electricity, "incubators are useless and infants are put in plastic bags" to maintain their temperature, he said.

Of the Catholics he said: "They are scared, because they see themselves persecuted."

In Basra, where Father García met with the Chaldean-rite bishop, two Christians were killed. The Iraqi clergy is also being persecuted by fundamentalists, he said. "Some have even had their crucifixes trampled on, because there is no security there."

Father García is counting on prayer and the action of political authorities and international organizations during the period of reconstruction.

"We must cry out at the top of our voices for public order and security to be restored," he said. "The time has come to speak out to win the peace in Iraq, because it has been lost."

News Digest


Courtesy of the Jordan Times & ABC News (10 June)

Baghdad's famed antiquities museum, ransacked by looters as Saddam Hussein's rule crumbled, will reopen next month after many of the treasures feared lost forever were found stashed in secret vaults around the city.

The facade of Baghdad's museum of antiquities looms behind the steel bars of a fence Sunday. The museum announced it would reopen July 3 with priceless treasures retrieved from a flooded vault beneath the central bank. Meanwhile, concerned bodies were in the capital formulating plans to retrieve many of Iraq's stolen artefacts -Photo by Jamal Saidi/Reuters

Museum research director Donny George said that among the items on show would be the Treasure of Nimrud, a priceless set of gem-studded gold Assyrian jewelry that has been displayed only once, briefly, in the last 3,000 years.

Iraqi curators reported last month that over 50,000 items from the museum's catalogue of 170,000 entries were stolen from Iraq's National Museum in Baghdad since it was looted over six weeks ago.

But recent news from coalition forces in Iraq has contradicted those reports, saying original estimates of what was taken were exaggerated. American investigators said about 3,000 museum pieces were still missing, mostly not of exhibition quality. According to the head of UNESCO, Wolfgang Reuther, no one can accurately determine how much has been stolen.

Among the stolen tablets missing are believed to be the ones that can help climatologists unlock the secrets of El Niño, one of the most mysterious and destructive weather systems.

Researchers believe the tablets, written using a cuneiform text, one of the earliest types of writing, form the world's oldest records of climate change and could give vital clues to understanding El Niño and global warming.

The tablets record the ancient Akkadian and Sumerian empires, which once dominated the land now divided between Iraq, Iran and Syria. They outline the catastrophic collapse of the city of Ur more than 4,000 years ago. Hundreds of thousands of people are thought to have died in a disastrous series of flash floods and severe droughts that may have lasted up to 30 years.

Dr Richard Grove, research director at the Centre for World Environmental History at the University of Sussex, believes a series of dramatic changes in ocean currents and global winds was responsible for the collapse of the civilisation. His controversial theory suggests that the El Niño he believes contributed to the fall of the Sumerian and Akkadian empires was one of the most severe of the past 5,000 years, and may have vital lessons for climatologists today.

Dr Grove said: "What happened was like a nuclear explosion. The cuneiform tablets of Iraq record in detail the almost complete collapse of pre-industrial agrarian societies due to extreme climate events lasting up to 10 to 20 years and possibly longer."

The tablets, known as the Lamentations of Ur, tell of the city's decline in about 2200BC. Thousands of other clay tablets, many the size of cigarette packets, form an everyday record of tithes paid to temples in the form of grain and livestock. About 80,000 tablets are thought to have survived looting at Baghdad's antiquities museum. But scholars fear thousands more are being plundered around the country.

Some 130,000 tablets are also housed at the British Museum in London. Dr Irving Finkel, of the department of the Near East, said: "We have had alarming reports of tablets being taken out of the ground. The record is very much under threat.

"Nothing is being taken from the Iraqi museum now, but sites around the country are incredibly vulnerable. There is a very urgent need for an authority to crack down on that."


Courtesy of Radio Free Europe (9 June); by Valentinas Mite

Iraq's Christians suffered discrimination and manipulation under the former regime. Although a few became high-standing officials in Saddam Hussein's government, the vast majority of the country's Christians could not count on the beneficence of authorities in Baghdad. Now, some Christians say the United States has won the war but is still far from winning the peace -- something that leaves them wary about the future.

Baghdad, 9 June 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Iraq's small but diverse Christian community is divided in its stance on Saddam Hussein. Some remember him as a tyrant and say they are pleased he has been ousted. Others say he was their sole defender in a largely Muslim country.

William Nurvyn is a Catholic from a family with British origins. In his 30s, he belongs to the generation of Iraqis who remember no other leader beyond Saddam Hussein. With a comfortable house and Sylvester Stallone-like muscles, Nurvyn seems largely untouched by the difficulties experienced by so many Iraqis under Hussein's regime and the years of sanctions.

He says his family experienced no harassment during the former regime, and he knows of no Christians who did.

"We were not harassed by anybody, and nobody could harass us because we were backed by Saddam Hussein and he liked the Christians and gave them all freedom," Nurvyn said.

Nurvyn says a number of Christians were included in Hussein's entourage, including, most notably, former Deputy Prime Minster Tariq Aziz. But others say Aziz's success was due not to his religion but to his political skills.

Ara Karabed is a member of the Armenian Orthodox Church. He says that, as a Christian, he felt no pressure from the former regime. But he also says he has no sense that the Christian minority was ever given special treatment, and that Hussein treated many people the same regardless of their religion.

"[Hussein] protected Christian people in some ways, but when [a person] turned against him he did not care if he was a Christian, a Shi'a or a Sunni," Karabed said. "He killed [that person] or did something bad to him or put him in jail. He was bad to all of the people, you know."

Father Yousif Thomas Mirkis is a pastor at Al-Fikr Al-Masih, a Baghdad church run by the Catholic Dominican order. He is also the editor in chief of the Arabic-language magazine "Christian Thought."

He says the roughly one million Christians living in Iraq often felt unsafe and dependent on Hussein's goodwill. "It is wrong to say that Saddam supported Christians," Mirkis says. "But like all dictators he used a small community's fears to manipulate it and act as its defender."

Mirkis says some 200,000 Christians have emigrated from Iraq over the last 20 years. Many of them left after the 1991 Gulf War, when the largely secular Ba'ath Party turned to Islam to fill the ideological vacuum created by Iraq's defeat.

Mirkis says Hussein put forward many laws aimed at converting the country's Christian community: "If a Christian man or his wife becomes Muslim, automatically their children become Muslim. [No matter whether the parent is] a man or a woman, they are obliged to become Muslim and this was the law of the Ba'ath regime.

Muslims were also favored in Christian-majority towns, with Islamic religious instruction provided even in schools with a single Muslim student. Christian students, meanwhile, were often denied religious education or were forced to study the Koran.

Mirkis, who spent six years as a theology student in France, says Iraq's Christian community is small but unusually diverse, comprising Chaldean Catholics, Armenian and Syrian Orthodox and Nestorians (or Assyrians), and others.

The pastor says Iraq's Christians are also traditionally well-educated and claims many go on to enjoy prosperous careers.

"Even if we [make up] about 10 percent of the population [in Baghdad], we are 35 or 40 percent of the total of the engineers and doctors and educated people," he said.

Mirkis says the country's Christians have always thought of themselves as good Iraqi citizens. Many were strongly opposed to the U.S.-led war against Iraq. The Vatican's embassy is the only foreign diplomatic building that has not been evacuated, attacked, or looted, and Mirkis says two Baghdad hospitals run by the Dominicans also remain intact. Many people continue to seek refuge from looters by taking shelter in church buildings.

Iraq's Christian community remains strong, Mirkis says. But they are worried about the future.

"American wanted the war against Iraq, but will she win the peace? [America] invaded our country and now everybody recognizes it is a true invasion. They still have not succeeded at establishing peace and confidence among the population," he said.

Many Christians are also concerned that their interests will be lost in the rising power of the country's long-suppressed Shi'a majority. With Muslim religious sentiments on the rise, Mirkis says many Christians are nervous they will become the target of a fresh wave of oppression. He says many Christians are taking a string of recent attacks on alcohol shops -- many of which are Christian-owned -- as a warning.

"Our destiny," Mirkis says, "always depends on the ideology of those who are in power." It was a phrase he repeated several times throughout the interview.


Courtesy of the Daily Star (11 June); by Olivia Snaije

For the last seven months Europeans have had the opportunity to discover a hitherto little-known secret about Lebanon and Syria: A stunning group of 80 icons, principally from the 17th and 18th centuries, have been on exhibit first at the Frankfurt Icons Museum in Germany and currently at the Arab World Institute in Paris.

This exhibition, entitled Arab Icons: Christian Art from the Levant, is unusual because it features icons, manuscripts and a number of liturgical objects all from Lebanon and Syria, most of which have never before left their respective monasteries.

After the immensely successful show in Germany, Parisians are now absorbing the intimate atmosphere in the softly lit, rust-colored rooms of the Arab Institute, where a 17th century tempera on wood, St. Michael from Aleppo, shares the space with a beautifully restored icon of the Saints Serge and Bacchus on horseback from the Maloula convent in Syria.

The inspiration for the exhibition came from Sister Agnes-Mariam de la Croix. This entrepreneurial Lebanese nun, who has made it her mission to preserve the region’s icons, met Alexandra Bersch, the curator of the Frankfurt Icons Museum, several years ago and proposed that they organize an exhibit.

The museum agreed to a form of joint venture with monasteries in Lebanon and Syria, financing the restoration of icons in exchange for borrowing the best pieces for the exhibition. The restoration work was carried out in Lebanon in record time. While the Syrian pieces for the most part needed only surface cleaning, many icons from Lebanon had been severely damaged during the war or were extremely dirty from having been kept in storage.

“Our collaboration was also useful to the monasteries because they became aware of the value of their icons and how to take care of them,” said Bersch.

The result of this cooperative effort is the introduction of these Arab icons to a public far more familiar with Byzantine, Greek and Russian icons.

“In the immensity of Byzantine Art, which draws together Greek, Roman, Russian and Ethiopian traditions, the distinctive Arab features are unknown,” said Sister Agnes.

Even in Lebanon it wasn’t until 1969, when an exhibition of local icons was held at the Sursock Museum, that academics began to recognize the existence of a school of iconographers in the Levant. What sets the Arab icons apart is that, although their origins lie in Byzantine Art, the artists developed a particular style that integrated Arabic and Islamic elements into their work.

Icons, for Byzantine Christians, were not just decorative, but also inspirational and regarded as objects of veneration.
“Pictures made what was sacred, palpable,” explained Sister Agnes. “The icon’s role was to crystallize the symbolic side of faith and sacred writings.”

Most of the early Arab icons, referred to as Melkite because Arab artisans of the Greek Catholic and Orthodox churches painted them, were made in Aleppo. The city experienced an economic boom in the 17th century that greatly benefited members of the Christian communities, for the most part traders and craftsmen. During the art renaissance that followed, dynasties of painters were born, the most famous of which was the Mussawir family, who carried on the tradition for four generations.

The progression from Byzantine art toward a more local, Arab style is evident in the pieces in the Arab Institute exhibit.

Youssef al-Mussawir was a miniaturist, who illuminated manuscripts and began to paint icons during the first half of the 17th century. His Saint Simeon icon already had inscriptions in Arabic on it and he had included the Ottomans in the painting. His son, Nehmet, known as Al-Muallem (the master), continued in this direction and developed his own style.

A large icon of Saint George shows an explosion of color, in contrast to the more muted tones used in traditional Byzantine art, giving the painting an exuberant feeling. The dragon is jet black, with vermilion wings and Saint George is holding an Arab scimitar instead of a sword.

Youssef’s grandson Hanania and great-grandson, Girgis, incorporated even more Arab characteristics in their paintings, giving darker complexions to not only the saints but Christ and angels as well. They borrowed freely from Islamic art, using intricate decorations seen on Damascus wood panels or brocades; the manner of dress and other objects in the images are clearly regional.

“A lot of gold was used and worked on,” said Bersch. “They embossed and engraved the gold. You can just imagine the effect these icons had in a church, with the candlelight shining on the gold making them come alive.”
Another local master, Mikhail al-Dimashki worked in Damascus during the 18th century, producing a series of icons that were distinctly local.

“There is an individuality in each of his paintings,” said Sister Agnes. “You can almost pinpoint a specific geographical region in them.” Accordingly, the horses in his icons are Arabian, and his Saint George has Persian traits.

Another feature unique to Melkite icons and also evident in the manuscripts accompanying the exhibit is the juxtaposition of several languages and cultures. The Christians in the Middle East between the 13th and 19th century adopted Arabic as their language and set about translating philosophical and scientific texts in Greek into Syriac and then Arabic. Manuscripts were translated from Armenian and icons were inscribed in Greek and Arabic.

“Each piece is the result of an intermingling of three or four cultures,” Sister Agnes said.

Perhaps the best example of this rich cultural diversity is the very rare, 13th century manuscript recounting the legend of Barlaam and Joasaph. Never shown before, the manuscript, from the monastery of Balamand, Tripoli, is in the process of being painstakingly restored by hand in Arles, France. Several pages are exhibited in Paris alongside the icons. The oldest Arab Christian illuminated manuscript, it is the Christian transcription of the story of Buddha, written in Arabic.

When the preciously restored icons and manuscripts return home, many from the Saint-Sauveur convents in Sarba and in Joun but also from the Maaloula and Saydnaya convents in Syria, or to the Georges Antaki collection, their travels will have been a mission well accomplished. Fifty more icons will be restored beginning this summer and there is talk of opening an icon museum in Joun.

The interest in Melkite icons may be late in coming but it is surely growing.

[Z-info: Christian Art from the Levant runs until 17 August at the Institut du Monde Arabe, 1 Rue des Fosses Saint-Bernard, Place Mohammed V, Paris. It opens 10 am-6 pm Tuesday to Friday, and 10am-7pm Saturdays and Sundays.]

Surfs Up!
Letters From Zinda Magazine Readers


On Saturday, 31 May ORHAY Association for Art and Literature organized a day in which the Assyrians of Linköping, Sweden had the opportunity to meet with four Assyrian artists: Dr. David Gorgius, Gothenborg, Emmanuel Tomi, Rafiq Hanna, from Stockholm and Zuhair Abdulmaseeh from Eskilstuna. They were the guest of ORHAY Association.

They addressed our Assyrian audience about the present-day Assyrian Theatre. They pointed out the obstacles and the difficulties which Assyrian Artists are facing. At the same time they did evaluate the reaction of the people and how they view the present-day Theatre and the ways to improve its activities.

Dr. David spoke about the work of the Assyrian Artist Sami Yako from an academic point of view. He analysed his method of work and its quality. Meanwhile, Dr. David pointed out to the difficulties which the Assyrian theatre is facing and challenging its continuity. Among other things he mentioned the shortage of professional theatre team, in addition to theatre writers. He refers to the work of Sami Yako and his success in creating a tangible structure for his works. He divided his work into different categories among which were the classes, the culture and the history of our Assyrian society.

The second guest was Rafiq Hanna, who spoke about the exposing the object in a way that train the eye to see the beauty of the object, similarly to the role of the ear to hear the music. He did make it known some of his works in theatre and cinema, and display a short video tape about his theatre works in our native language (soreth).

After a short break it was the turn of artist Zuhair Abdulmaseeh, who presented himself, and his artistic work, which reflect his wide and deep experience by showing the public some video clips of his art.

Finally, the artist Emmanuel Tomi spoke about his artistic profession and his educational background as a high school graduate in Baghdad pursuing his high education in the United Kingdom. He obtained his bachelor in Theatre arts from London academic fine arts, and his Master degree in Theatre and representation. Emmanuel worked in Paris for seven years as actor. During the last four years he is living in Sweden, Stockholm, and managed to build an art studio in Stockholm and a theatre group.

Finally, I would like to mention the great Assyrian artist Tomi who came from the historic town of Alqosh, North of Nineveh.

Adam Odisho
Orahy Association for Art and Literature

[Z-info: Mr. Adam Odisho is an accomplished Assyrian painter and a member of the Federation of Swedish Artists. To view samples of Mr. Odisho’s work visit: http://www.atour.com/~adam/display.htm. Courtesy of Atour.com].


Thank you to inform me about the great news from Bet-Nahren, that Zowaa is to be represented at Iraq's interim council.

I would like to congratulate our Assyro-Chaldian nation in Bet- Nahrain and around the world for this magnificent achievement toward our nation prosperity in our homeland, it is a victory not only for Zowaa but for the whole nation. I hope it is the first step toward many other victories in near future.

At the same time I would like to remined and appeal to our people every where, all people, no matter what they are called, Assyrian, Chaldean, Syrian etc, to unite and support this victory because it is the only way toward better life and future for our people in our homeland.

Let's forget our differences, or our names that was imposed on us during sometimes throughout the history, and thing about our responsibility toward the future of our children, let's make the future for them as there is an opportunity, no matter who is leading this opportunity, let's use it this time, so we will not be blamed as we blame our ancestors of missing out opportunities in the past.

Fred Audisho


The Assyrians stood in owe days ago when news leaked about the meeting that had taken place between Mar Ignatius Zakka Iwas I, Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church, and the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) in Damascus. After the meeting, Patriarch Iwas had issued instructions to his clergymen and congregation in Iraq to work closely with and support the ADM. This move was shocking for many Assyrians because Mar Iwas had declared in the past that his church was in essence Arab. Other bishops within the said church have made similar declarations as well. We have to understand that Mar Iwas, birth name Sannacherib, was protecting his congregation when he made those declarations as Moslem-Christian relations and sentiments have been under tensions in the Middle East in recent years and specially after the September 11, 2001 tragic events. I do not want to go into the issue of Christians' situation in the Middle East in details because it is not the topic of this essay.

Why did Mar Iwas take this unprecedented move? The move is strategic in nature and it has to do with the Assyrian Orthodox Community (known as Suryan) in Iraq. Few claim that this statement could backfire on the patriarch. These few state that Mar Zakka will face a situation similar to that of Patriarch Raphael Bidawid of the Chaldean Catholic Church when the latter stated publicly in 2000 on the LBC (a Lebanese International Satellite TV Station) that he was an Assyrian ethnically and that Chaldean was his religious sect and creed. We recall how certain bishops, as Sarhad Jammo and Ibrahim Ibrahim, and others have reacted unfavorably to that statement. I believe that the situation is different and I will come to that later.

Everybody in the world was anticipating a change of regime in Iraq from the early 1990s; we knew that it was only a matter of time. The Vatican was looking forwards to strengthen its presence in Iraq by taking advantage from the vacuum left from the deteriorating position of the Assyrian Church of the East in Iraq. We even recall that the Pope at one time planned to visit Iraq couple years back, but much pressure was put on the Pope not to take that visit because it could have strengthened Saddam's position, thus it was cancelled. The Vatican began its close dialogue with the Church of the East and in 1994, a Christological Understanding was issued between the two churches. Meanwhile, the Assyrian Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church intensified their meetings towards unity and issued their famous joint declaration in 1996. But the dialogue reached a dead end after that when the issue of the leadership of the new proposed united church came to discussion and its status, i.e. whether the united church was going to be independent or under the Vatican's authority.

Sarhad Jammo began his so-called Chaldean renaissance campaign in early 1990s, as we know, while still a priest. He was an instrumental member with the Chaldean Catholic Church delegation in the communications between the two churches. The Vatican understood very well Sarhad Jammo's zealous nature in creating this new Chaldean ethnic status, but that did not stop her from supporting Rev. Jammo. In a matter of fact, to reward Rev. Jammo for his divisive role, the Vatican bestowed upon him the position of bishop over the western United States. This appointment was made despite disapproval from his own Patriarch, Mar Raphael Bidawid, and the dissatisfaction of Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim of the United States. It is clear that the Vatican had its eyes on Iraqi Christians and it is well-known that Mar Sarhad Jammo has his eyes set on the patriarchal see. Is it possible that Mar Sarhad Jammo has promised all the Iraqi Christians to the Vatican?

The question is could Mar Jammo do all this while sitting in San Diego. Of course, he could not. He has to receive the blessings of those in Iraq. This is why he traveled to Baghdad few months back to campaign for his dream of the so-called Chaldean renaissance. In Baghdad, fortunately, he was not received with the open arms he had hoped because of many reasons. First reason is the power struggle from within the Chaldean Catholic Church. There is for example a rivalry between the congregation of the two Catholic villages of Telkaif and Alqosh. Alqosh had been the source of the patriarchal family and the see of the mother Church of the East for centuries before the split of the Chaldean Catholic Church in 1830. However, lately there has been a shift of power towards Telkaif as it's congregation gained financial power and began to influence the church affairs and more bishops who originated from Telkaif were appointed until they made a majority. Secondly, the majority of the members of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad do not look at themselves as Chaldeans, as some imagine and propagate in the west, they rather identify themselves as Christian Arabs or simply Christians. Third, in northern Iraq, many members of the Chaldean Catholic Church respect, support and sympathize with the ADM. Fourth, many in Iraq look at Mar Jammo as the aggressive and arrogant clergyman. Therefore, in Iraq, Mar Jammo does not have what it takes to manipulate the Iraqi Catholic congregation as many fear in the West. Mar Jammo's right hand man Ghassan Hanna just proved to us that he indeed has no say in Iraq when he was shunned in 'Ainkawa and was forced to cancel his presentation in Dohuk.

There are other important factors to understand. Mar Sarhad Jammo, for all practical purposes, reports to the Vatican and not to Patriarchal see in Baghdad. This is due to old rules that were imposed by the Ottoman Empire when they recognized the Chaldean Catholic Church in 1844. At the time, the Ottoman authorities gave the patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church jurisdiction within the Ottoman Empire boundaries, i.e. in the region outlined today with Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, and Egypt. As the Catholics began to migrate to the West, the Vatican stepped in to hold this congregation under its direct authority since they were now outside the jurisdiction of the Patriarch residing in Baghdad. For this reason, it was the Vatican that made then Rev. Jammo a bishop and not Patriarch Mar Bidawid in Baghdad. This is not the whole picture of course of the Vatican-Chaldean Catholic Church relations, which is much complicated. Therefore, it was not hard for many Assyrians to point their fingers to the two Vatican favorites, Mar Sarhad Jammo and Mar Bawai Soro, as the two architects of the formation of this newly planned church under Rome. This, people have been propagating against Mar Soro since he was educated in the Vatican and he is less sensitive regarding the name issue than many Assyrians. He even is being accused of playing the role of the Trojan Horse who is to deliver the Church of the East to the Vatican. All these thoughts of portraying Mar Soro are in fact based on purely personal judgments, but not without a merit one might conclude because he is involved in a very sensitive dialogue that Assyrians have not experienced in the past. We have to understand that according to the Sonhadous (Canon Laws of the Church) Bishop Soro in certain issues must receive the consent of Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV before proceeding. In other words, Mar Soro could not be part of the said communications or dialogue if he was not authorized to do so by his patriarch. Therefore, whatever Mar Soro is doing is with the consent or directions of the Church and its supreme head.

We have to understand that the Vatican is not concerned about ethnic and national issues of its followers in the Middle East. The Vatican in fact remained idle while the process of the sweeping away of the Syriac-speaking Christians of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, and Iraq into Arabization was going on. The Vatican has proven to us in the past that as long as the Christians in the Middle East were Catholics and under its umbrella, it cared less whether they were Arabs, Assyrians, or any other ethnic group. What the Vatican and many Syriac-speaking Christians are missing is the fact that Arabization is that threshold that leads ultimately to Islamization.

Understanding all this explains the latest position of Patriarch Mar Iwas. The Syrian Orthodox Church has finally envisioned what was in the making by the Vatican in Iraq. The Vatican goal in Iraq has been in the recent years to unite the Christians of Iraq under the future patriarch Mar Jammo, who was presenting a fabricated Chaldean history as the most justified for all to belong to. This is where the meeting of Mar Iwas and ADM came in to counter this overtake by the Catholics. Mar Zakka understands that the ADM as a non-denominational political organization cannot be a threat to his orthodox church, unlike the Vatican and Mar Sarhad Jammo. It was for this reason that Patriarch Zakka had no hesitations from supporting the ADM. It is for this reason that Mar Zakka's statement cannot be compared to Mar Bidawid statement. The Syrian Orthodox Church in Iraq is facing the same threats that is facing the Assyrian Church of the East, i.e. the Vatican and Chaldeanism, hence the strategic alliance. But will Patriarch Mar Zakka Iwas turn to solve his bigger problem of the Arabization of his church in Syria, Lebanon, and the Diaspora? That is yet to be seen.

Fred Aprim


Saint Paul said, “I urge you my brothers, watch out for those who cause divisions. Keep away from them for those who do such things are not serving Christ our Lord, but their own appetites. By their words and flattering speech they deceive innocent people.”

Those deceivers are Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim and Bishop Sarhad Jommo. According to the Chaldean Federation of America there are 150, 000 Chaldeans living in the U.S and out of this number could they not find two intelligent representatives?

Instead they sent two Bishops who’s duty should have been in the prosper of the Church instead of putting its reputation at risk. They put the Church at risk by writing the memorandum on Chaldeans in the new Iraq, dated 10th May 2003 San Diego C.A.

I thought that the letter was to be about Chaldeans refusing to be called Assyrian, or even about Chaldeans not wanting to be put under the name Assyrian. When I actually came to read the letter I found that Chaldeans were not refusing to be called Assyrian, as they did not mention the Assyrian name. Instead under the actual political implications in the same letter, the letter states “Chaldeans are a distinct people different from Arabs, Kurds, Persians, Turkish, or Turkmen.” IF THE LETTER WAS TO BE ABOUT NOT BEING CALLED ASSYRIAN THEN WHERE WAS THE ASSYRIAN NAME IN THE LIST?

And then in the second part of the same letter, the Bishops ask for the Chaldean name to be after Arabs and Kurds due to the population number but at the same time have their name come before the Turkmen and Assyrian. It does not make sense to put the Assyrian name in the population list at all if the Assyrian name was not used in the list of names that stated Chaldeans as being a distinct people. Did they really think that the American government is that stupid to not realize that the Chaldean Church was involved with Saddam Hussein’s Government and were also receiving million dollar cheques from him?

I was going through a Chaldean websiteand found something that was very disturbing. On the website. It was stated that Babylon is the capital of Mesopotamia. I have read hundreds of books on Babylon and Mesopotamia and never once have I heard this nonsense before. Please let me know where I can read this if it even exists!?

Also I would like to ask Mr. Saad Marouf, the chairman of C.F.A (Chaldean Federation of America) about the letters he has sent to President Bush, sent on the 3rd December 2002, 12th March 2003, 24th March 2003, and the 15th of April 2003. The letters were concerning the name of the Assyrian and Chaldean people. Did you, Mr. Saad Marouf, have any replies from President Bush? If you did, then why are they not on your website? In one of your letters you stated that Chaldean Assyrian are one nation, so if you admit it then what is your problem? How can one nation have two names?

People say that we are to respect the Bishops, but we are not the ones who stood in Church and took a vow before God and all the Parishioners to be a Shepard that gathers sheep not scatter them! Chaldean church and their community were very depended on Saddam’s government and Tarek Azziz and God knows what they have been promised by these bad influences. After Saddam’s regime fell, the Chaldeans were left so desperate and afraid of what may happen to them, especially after president G. Bush, God bless him, mentioned the ASSYRIAN name on TV. They didn’t have any other choices left but to write a desperate letter to President Bush. The biggest mistake they made was to get the bishops involved in political matters of any kind whatsoever. When they didn’t get any response, they made another attempt, this time to go to Bet Nahrain, which was their second mistake.

You can do whatever you want to do with your name, but over my dead body will you put it in front or after the holy name of Assyrians.

To Mr. Yonadam Kanna: Zawaa always reminds me of the Baath Party, they never cared about being called Arab or Muslim or Iraqi. The only important name to them was Baath, so is Zawaa. You call your movement democratic, please, how can you explain what your party did? Do you call that democratic? Going behind your brothers and sisters and commit the biggest crime and betray Assyrians and Assyria. What did the bishop promise you? Another four years or, thirteen pieces of silver (Judas)? And you know very well what Judas did after he betrayed our blessed lord. He hung himself on a tree.

Let me remind you, in our beloved homeland we have very strong trees that were planted by Assyrians 6753 years ago and if you need a rope, I’ll be more than happy to send you one. Our blessed lord said, “they are blind leaders of the blind and if the blind leads the blind, both will fall in a ditch” (bishop and Zawaa). These are the two reasons, I think, why you did what you did, but if you think I am wrong then be a man and explain why????? You owe this to the Assyrian people. You might say I have no right because I am not living in the homeland but let me tell you my story.

I was born in Bet Nahrain, Kirkuk. My mother and father are both from Uremia. They left though because of the massacres and came to Habaniya. They lived for nearly fifty years in Iraq without any papers or even a passport. Even after all these years the Iraqi government refused to give them any. So in 1968 the Iraqi government asked everyone who was born in Iran to leave Iraq. I was only 13 years old so we left our homeland, me and my three sisters and my brother. Tehran was much better in every way than Kirkuk but it still wasn’t home. I lived there for seven years, day and night crying to go back home.

In 1974 I got married to a Scottish man and I went to live in Scotland. I’ve been there for over twenty years but it’s still not home. I had no choice then and now because of the current situation I have no choice. It’s my dream to go home. Even if I have left Bet Nahrain over 35 years ago a day doesn’t pass by without thinking of my beloved country. Even worse than that my father is buried in Shiraz, Iran, my mother is buried in Germany, and Lord knows where my grave will be. I cannot visit their graves.

This is not only my story. Every Assyrian has a story to tell who is living outside his/her homeland. So that does not mean that we are not Assyrian or we cannot have a voice. No one can stop us and no one has the right to change our name. Please stop saying that you are suffering and we are enjoying our lives outside our homeland. The worst suffering is to be away from your own country and living in a strange land.

So please tell me Mr. Yonadam! You know the Assyrian history maybe better than I do. Assyrians were kicked from place to place, persecuted and killed, tell me if we had a choice? Believe me if I had one I would be there. Right now I am living in Cairo, Egypt because of my husbands job. You know the late Shah of Iran is buried here and I have visited his grave. Do you think it was his choice to be buried here in a strange country? With all the power and money he had? And not long ago his younger daughter Princess Leila committed suicide. She couldn’t cope with being far away from her home and seeing her father buried away from home. Do you think that was their choice? Why? Why now Mr. Yonadam? Now that everything was looking bright for Assyrians you go and try to destroy it without explaining. Who gave you the right? We were waiting for the Antichrist not for AntiAssyria. Mr. Yonadam did you ever think about your grandchildren being born without a name? Maybe it’s alright for you but it’s not alright for me. Maybe you will allow it but I will not allow it, over my dead body.

According to the biblical account, and it is remarkable that recent discoveries all seem to point to the fact that the original civilization of Babylonia was non-Semitic and the Semitic element only gradually displaced the aborigines and adopted their culture. It must be noted also that verse 22 in Genesis Assur is described as a son of Sem. Though in verse 11 Assur comes out of the land of Sennaar. This exactly represents the fact that Assyria was purely Semitic where Babylonia was not. (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Long Live Assyrian! From a very proud Assyrian.

Sharleen Will


Any Christian Assyrian, has every right to belong to any Christian denomination of his choice such as Apostolic, Catholic, Church of the East, Evangelical, Methodist, Presbyterian etc. There are many Assyrians who belong to different Christian Denominations, and go to their Churches. But whenever their community became large enough to have church of their own, they proudly establish one, and they proudly associate their national Identity with the Christian denomination they belong to. Such as Assyrian Apostolic Church, Assyrian Church of the East. Assyrian Evangelical Church. Assyrian Presbyterian Church etc.

But in case of Assyrians belonging to Catholic Denomination when their community becomes large enough to establish a Church of their own, the name of their church usually is called Chaldean Catholic Church. Some times Assyrian name is affiliated with the Chaldean Catholic Church. Since there are some who are claiming Chaldean to be the name of their nationality, they have every right to name their Church Chaldean Catholic Church, but why is it that Catholic Assyrians can’t establish an Assyrian Catholic Church under dais of the Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church.

Wake up, Assyrian Catholics! No one is forcing you to change your Catholicism. The questions are: “Why is it you are accepting to drop your identity as Assyrian and affiliate your name with Chaldean Identity?” Why can’t Assyrian Catholics ask Mar Rafael Bidawid to have their church named Assyrian Catholic Church? And have Assyrian Priests, and Bishops. This way they can solve the dialogue difficulty that exists between the clergymen and the parishioners of the Assyrian Chaldean Catholic Church.

Simon J. Mirza


So what's new? More of the same old, same old. Perhaps it's time for a new Assyrian Movement. Perhaps the "Mover's and the Shaker's" should form a new movement. You know, the writer's of Zinda Magazine and the Reader's of Zinda Magazine could unite for a common cause "The advancement vs. stagnation of the Assyrian People".

The educated Assyrians that have a clear vision of the future, perhaps we should start our own form of social gatherings where constructive idea's and endorsements would take place along with dancing and conversation. I have a feeling from reading the Assyrian Chat rooms, articles, etc. that there are more frustrated, educated, enlightened Assyrians out there who see more for their people than those who simply wish to capitalize and exploit their own people.

Wake Up Assyrians, unfortunately a people divided. Once we UNITE we will see great changes. Until then, more of the same old, same old.

Louai Salim


The current status of the Assyrians is considerably overwhelming. We are well positioned throughout the globe and contain a ton of organizations that seem to be disarrayed. Somehow or some way we need to link each an every organization into one, otherwise our position in the world will remain status quo, or as is. Unless our organizations develop a team meeting and vote on one leader to speak for all, we will never be recognized. Our diplomacy is the worst of all. We have no one to represent us in any way, shape or form. Yonadam Kana recently went on air supporting the Kurds saying that during the Assyrian massacres of the early 1900’s the Kurds provided us with support when in fact they killed our brothers and sisters. Our leaders are great; people such as Dr. Ronald Michael, President of the Assyrian American League and Glen Younan of the Assyrian American Association of Chicago provide the necessary information to our statesmen, but the politicians will not listen!

Yet we still lobby thousands of dollars for a no solution purpose.

When you have one hundred people speaking at the same time you can only hear what is going on, but when you hear one person speaking, then you can either listen or hear what he or she has to say. The morale of the subject is one voice should be supported by all Assyrians to represent us the Assyrians. That will be the only way we will ever attract any political attention.

We are so well positioned throughout the world that the Assyrians can find a way to communicate from Chicago to Australia, yet we cannot find a way to network and communicate a political solution to form some type of formal organizational chart representing the Assyrian Chain of Command. How hard is that? How difficult could a task such as this take?

Positions open:
-Chief Information Officer
-Chief Operations Officer
-Chief Communications Officer
-Chief Financial Officer

Here is the problem, these people holding the positions currently in the organizations don’t want to lose their positions. I can understand that but they are destroying the Assyrian Potential. I believe it to be GREED! They all want to make a penny and these Assyrian parties going on, well lets just say they are all for profit. I wish they weren’t but this is the truth. I’m being a little biased here and I’m entitled to my opinion. Why else wouldn’t they sacrifice their positions to see the Assyrian Potential? Because they get US Government funding for the so-called non-profit organizations and they do a little side work here and there and it makes it worth while. Believe me you’d want to do it too.

There is no true explanation as to why the Assyrians have not formed some type of formal organization that represents all organizations. Personally to me I believe it to be The Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa) because they are in the homeland protecting the true Assyrians in our homeland. As for Yonadam Kana who downplayed the Assyrians by saying the Kurds provided us with support during the time they were killing us, well, I just hope he will be able to survive this one. I can understand his position with the Kurds but I think he hurt us more than he helped us; therefore my trust in Zowaa will be a bit distorted until someone else takes command.

Let’s get the ball rolling on this chain of command issue and find someone that the Assyrians can vote in as a leader. Someone educated please. We don’t need anymore representatives that can barely get their point across, we need someone to be able to guide us in the right direction.

Michael Benjamin Younan

Surfer's Corner


In the past three months, Rev. Joseph has spent his time helping the Assyrians of Iraq during their liberation by the Coalition of the Willing. Now, he is touring the USA and reporting his observations.

We ask YOU, our fellow Assyrians to come and hear him speak on the STATUS OF ASSYRIANS OF IRAQ PRE- AND POST-WAR

7:00 PM
Restaurant Nevsky
1740 South Winchester Boulevard
Campbell, CA 95008
Telephone: 408-379-0452

7:00 PM
Assyrian American Civic Club

Do Not Miss This Event

*For more information, please visit ASSYRIANCHRISTIANS.COM

Assyrian Universal Alliance
Assyrian American Association of San Jose
Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock
Assyrian Club Of Urhai
Assyrian American Association Of Modesto



Wondering what is the best way to celebrate father’s day this year? No doubt every Assyrian father wants to spend his special day surrounded by his family, friends from church, soul food (rice and kabob), chai and nartakhta games.

So don’t spend any more time wondering what to do, start getting ready for our church Father’s Day Picnic:

Sunday, June 15, 2003
12 Noon: Lunch available for salev(Kabob, Rice, Hot Dogs, & Soft Drinks)

Mitchell Park in Palo Alto, California
The Pine Grove Group Area
600 East Meadow Drive

There will be fun entertainment including music, dancing, and games.

Bring your Nartakhta (Backgammon), and Semavar.

Please RSVP by replying to this email or calling before Thursday 6/12:

Sargon Hermes 510-724-5902
Shimshon Antar 650-697-7488

Come and add to the fun....Looking forward to seeing you there.

Mar Narsai Parish
Church of the East
San Francisco



Courtesy of New York Times (10 June); by William Dalrymple

(ZNDA: London) The United States has probably never been more engaged in the Middle East than now. Yet the Bush administration has virtually ignored Syria, which physically links Iraq and Israel, except to single it out as a target of occasional bellicose threats. There has been no question of constructive engagement with Iraq's most powerful Arab neighbor. Instead Syria is seen merely as an unofficial adjunct to the "axis of evil," ripe for reform if not outright invasion.
That's unfortunate, because Syria, despite its many justifiably condemned policies, stands out in the Middle East in one respect that American policymakers should take into consideration. This aspect is most starkly on display at the Monastery of Our Lady at Saidnaya, north of Damascus.
The ancient Orthodox monastery sits on a great crag of rock overlooking the olive groves of the Damascene plain, more like a Crusader castle than a place of worship. But what is most striking about Saidnaya is that on any given night, Muslim pilgrims far outnumber Christian ones. As you walk into its ancient church, you find that the congregation consists largely of heavily bearded Muslim men and their shrouded wives.
As the priest circles the altar, filling the sanctuary with clouds of incense, the men bob up and down on their prayer mats. A few of the women approach the icons. They kiss them, then light a candle. Ordinary Muslims in Syria, it seems, have not forgotten the line in the Koran about not disputing with the people of the book - that is, Jews and Christians - "save in the most courteous manner … and say we believe in what has been sent down to us and what has been sent down to you; our God and your God is one."
The religious pluralism that the monastery represents was once not uncommon across the Levant. Throughout the region until very recently, villagers of all faiths would converge on the shrines of Christian saints to ask for children and good harvests. The Eastern Christians and the Muslims lived side by side for nearly one and a half millennia because of a degree of mutual tolerance and shared customs unimaginable in the solidly Christian West.
From Bosnia to Egypt, Christians and Muslims as well as many other religious minorities managed to live together. If that coexistence was not always harmonious, it was at least - with a few notable exceptions - until the beginning of the 20th century, a kind of pluralist equilibrium.
Only in the last 100 years has that pluralism been replaced by a new hardening in attitudes. Across the former Ottoman dominions, the 20th century saw the bloody unraveling of that complex tapestry - most recently in Kosovo and Bosnia, but before that in Cyprus, Palestine, Greece and Turkey. In each of these places pluralism has been replaced by a savage polarization.
In dribs and drabs, and sometimes in great tragic exoduses, religious minorities have fled to places where they can be majorities, and those too few for that have fled the region altogether. Only in Syria has this process been firmly arrested: there alone, you still find five or six religious sects coexisting in villages across the country.
Since the coalition's victory in Iraq, Syria has frequently been given notice that it could well be the next target of American wrath. Yet the Middle East is not a place where simplistic notion of good guys and bad guys makes much sense. It is a place of murky moral gray, not black and white. Torture, repression of minorities, the imposition of martial law and the abuse of basic human rights happen every bit as frequently and as unpleasantly in states that are American allies as they do in states that are not.
Certainly most would agree that Syria has much to reform. It is a one-party state where political activists are suppressed and the secret police fill the prisons with political prisoners who will never come before a judge. Violent opposition to the regime is met with overwhelming force, most horribly in the case of the armed rising of the Muslim Brotherhood in Hama in 1982. The city was sealed off and at least 10,000 people were killed.
Yet the balance sheet is not entirely one-sided, and with the Pentagon busy drawing up invasion plans even as Iraq still contends with postwar anarchy and the Taliban resurfaces in southern Afghanistan, it is well to consider carefully exactly what would be lost if Syria's president, Bashar Assad, were to be deposed. For if Syria is a one-party police state, it is a police state that tends to leave its citizens alone as long as they keep out of politics. And if political freedoms have always been severely and often brutally restricted, Assad's regime does allow the Syrian people cultural and religious freedoms. Today, these give Syria's minorities a security and stability far greater than their counterparts anywhere else in the region. This is particularly true of Syria's ancient Christian communities.
Almost everywhere else in the Levant, because of discrimination and in some cases outright persecution, the Christians are leaving. Today in the Middle East they are a small minority of 14 million; in the last 20 years at least 2 million have left to make new lives for themselves in Europe, Australia and America. Only in Syria has this pattern been resisted. As the Syrian Orthodox metropolitan of Aleppo, Mar Gregorios Ibrahim, told me on my last visit: "Christians are better off in Syria than anywhere else in the Middle East. Other than Lebanon, this is the only country in the region where a Christian can really feel the equal of a Muslim."
He added: "If Syria were not here, we would be finished. It is a place of sanctuary, a haven for all the Christians: for the Nestorians driven out of Iraq, the Syrian Orthodox and the Armenians driven out of Turkey, even the Palestinian Christians driven out by the Israelis" in 1948.
The confidence of the Christians in Syria is something you can't help notice the minute you arrive in the country. This is particularly so if you arrive from eastern Turkey. There, until very recently, minority languages like the Aramaic spoken by Syrian Orthodox Christians were banned from the airwaves and from schools. For Christianity in eastern Turkey is a secretive affair, and the government has closed all the country's seminaries. But cross into Syria and you find a very different picture. Qamishli, the first town on the Syrian side of the frontier, is 75 percent Christian, and icons of Christ and the Virgin Mary fill shops and decorate every other car window - an extraordinary display after the furtiveness of Christianity in Turkey.
The reason for this is not hard to find. President Assad is Alawite, a Muslim minority regarded by orthodox Sunni Muslims as heretical and disparagingly referred to as "little Christians." Indeed some scholars believe their liturgy to be partly Christian in origin. Assad's father, Hafez, who was president from 1971 until his death in 2000, kept himself in power by forming what was in effect a coalition of Syria's religious minorities through which he was able to counterbalance the Sunni majority. In the Assads' Syria, Christians have done particularly well: in his final years, five of Hafez's seven closest advisers were Christians. The Christians are openly fearful that if the Assad regime should fall, their last real haven in the Middle East will disappear and be replaced by yet another fundamentalist government, as may be the case in Iraq.
All this does not excuse the repressive policies of the Assad regime. But in a region where repression is the rule rather than the exception, it is important to remember that the political rights and wrongs are rather more complex than the neoconservatives and Pentagon hawks are prepared to acknowledge - or perhaps even know.

[Z-info: William Dalrymple is author of "From the Holy Mountain: Travels Among the Christians of the Middle East" and "White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India."]



When, back in mid-April, the news first arrived of the looting at the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad, words hardly failed anyone. No fewer than 170,000 items had, it was universally reported, been stolen or destroyed, representing a large proportion of Iraq's tangible culture. And it had all happened as some US troops stood by and watched, and others had guarded the oil ministry.

Professors wrote articles. Professor Michalowski of Michigan argued that this was "a tragedy that has no parallel in world history; it is as if the Uffizi, the Louvre, or all the museums of Washington DC had been wiped out in one fell swoop". Professor Zinab Bahrani from Columbia University claimed that, "By April 12 the entire museum had been looted," and added, "Blame must be placed with the Bush administration for a catastrophic destruction of culture unparalleled in modern history." From Edinburgh Professor Trevor Watkins lamented that, "The loss of Iraq's cultural heritage will go down in history - like the burning of the Library at Alexandria - and Britain and the US will be to blame." Others used phrases such as cultural genocide and compared the US in particular to the Mongol invaders of 13th-century Iraq.

Back in Baghdad there was anger. On April 14, Dr Donny George, the museum's director of research, was distraught. The museum had housed the leading collection of the continuous history of mankind, "And it's gone, and it's lost. If Marines had started [protecting the museum] before, none of this would have happened. It's too late. It's no use. It's no use."

A few weeks later - in London to address a meeting at the British Museum - George was interviewed for this newspaper by Neal Ascherson. George, said Ascherson, did not throw blame around, but did remark that most of the looters responsible for the damage were not educated.

On June 1, George was reported in the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag as reiterating that witnesses had seen US soldiers enter the museum on April 9, stay inside two hours and leave with some objects. When asked whether he believed that the US military and international art thieves had been acting in concert, George replied that a year earlier, at a meeting in a London restaurant, someone (unnamed) had told him that he couldn't wait till he could go inside the National Museum with US soldiers and give it a good pillage - ie, yes.

So, there's the picture: 100,000-plus priceless items looted either under the very noses of the Yanks, or by the Yanks themselves. And the only problem with it is that it's nonsense. It isn't true. It's made up. It's bollocks.

Not all of it, of course. There was some looting and damage to a small number of galleries and storerooms, and that is grievous enough. But over the past six weeks it has gradually become clear that most of the objects which had been on display in the museum galleries were removed before the war. Some of the most valuable went into bank vaults, where they were discovered last week. Eight thousand more have been found in 179 boxes hidden "in a secret vault". And several of the larger and most remarked items seem to have been spirited away long before the Americans arrived in Baghdad.

George is now quoted as saying that that items lost could represent "a small percentage" of the collection and blamed shoddy reporting for the exaggeration.

"There was a mistake," he said. "Someone asked us what is the number of pieces in the whole collection. We said over 170,000, and they took that as the number lost. Reporters came in and saw empty shelves and reached the conclusion that all was gone. But before the war we evacuated all of the small pieces and emptied the showcases except for fragile or heavy material that was difficult to move."

This indictment of world journalism has caused some surprise to those who listened to George and others speak at the British Museum meeting. One art historian, Dr Tom Flynn, now speaks of his "great bewilderment". "Donny George himself had ample opportunity to clarify to the best of [his] knowledge the extent of the looting and the likely number of missing objects," says Flynn. "Is it not a little strange that quite so many journalists went away with the wrong impression, while Mr George made little or not attempt to clarify the context of the figure of 170,000 which he repeated with such regularity and gusto before, during, and after that meeting." To Flynn it is also odd that George didn't seem to know that pieces had been taken into hiding or evacuated. "There is a queasy subtext here if you bother to seek it out," he suggests.

On Sunday night, in a remarkable programme on BBC2, the architectural historian Dan Cruikshank both sought and found. Cruikshank had been to the museum in Baghdad, had inspected the collection, the storerooms, the outbuildings, and had interviewed people who had been present around the time of the looting, including George and some US troops. And Cruikshank was present when, for the first time, US personnel along with Iraqi museum staff broke into the storerooms.

One, which had clearly been used as a sniper point by Ba'ath forces, had also been looted of its best items, although they had been stacked in a far corner. The room had been opened with a key. Another storeroom looked as though the looters had just departed with broken artefacts all over the floor. But this, Cruikshank learned, was the way it had been left by the museum staff. No wonder, he told the viewers - the staff hadn't wanted anyone inside this room. Overall, he concluded, most of the serious looting "was an inside job".

Cruikshank also tackled George directly on events leading up to the looting. The Americans had said that the museum was a substantial point of Iraqi resistance, and this explained their reticence in occupying it. Not true, said George, a few militia-men had fired from the grounds and that was all. This, as Cruikshank heavily implied, was a lie. Not only were there firing positions in the grounds, but at the back of the museum there was a room that seemed to have been used as a military command post. And it was hardly credible that senior staff at the museum would not have known that. Cruikshank's closing thought was to wonder whether the museum's senior staff - all Ba'ath party appointees - could safely be left in post.

Furious, I conclude two things from all this. The first is the credulousness of many western academics and others who cannot conceive that a plausible and intelligent fellow-professional might have been an apparatchiks of a fascist regime and a propagandist for his own past. The second is that - these days - you cannot say anything too bad about the Yanks and not be believed.

David Aaronovitch
United Kingdom
The Guardian - London



Courtesy of the National Geographic (6 June)

Gold jewelry and other precious items recovered from royal tombs excavated at the ancient Assyrian capital of Nimrud, and objects from the royal cemetery at Ur, have been found where they were stashed for safety—in a vault below the Central Bank in Baghdad—before the onset of the Gulf War in 1990.

The 2,800-year-old treasures—which are regarded by some archaeologists as rare and precious as the objects found in Pharaoh Tutankhamun's tomb—were in three cases that had been sealed and secured in the underground vault. The cases were not found until last week because the basement of the bank was flooded, possibly deliberately by bank officials as a way to protect the treasures from looters.

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