Zowaa, Hands Off the AANF!
Opinions on the use of the compound name, Chaldo-Assyrian or Assyro-Chaldean, in Iraq continue to divide the Assyrian public, in the United States in particular. Many believe that the use of this term in Iraq may soon be accepted by other communities abroad and soon every Syriac-speaking individual could be identified as a Chaldo-Assyrian. An event which took place on Saturday in Chicago may confirm the suspicions of these skeptical nationalists.
Reliable sources to Zinda Magazine have confirmed that on Saturday, 9 August, a dinner party was attended by the heads of several Assyrian organizations and the Chaldean Federation of America. Attendees also included members of the Assyrian American National Federation’s executive board who presumably attended the event on behalf of their own local groups and organizations. These included Mr. Alaiden Khamis, Vice President of the AANF; and Advisor, Mr. Gilyana Yonan.
Apparently the most significant topic of discussion at this event was the possible merger of the two federations, namely the Chaldean Federation of America and the Assyrian American National Federation. As often is noted in this column, any means of bringing together the disparate factions and groups within the Assyrian nation must be praised and supported. However, what alarmed our editorial staff was the true intentions of this gathering when we discovered that a key player in such negotiations was absent on this evening. Zinda Magazine was informed that the president of the AANF did not attend the dinner. In fact according to the office of president Atour Golani, he was not even informed of such a gathering in Chicago.
A “Chaldean” source who attended this event has told Zinda Magazine that there were as many as 40 people in attendance. The Chaldean Federation of America was not aware that Mr. Golani was not informed about this event and that a high-ranking member of the AANF had promised the CFA that local organizations in Chicago will soon be rallying support for the merger of the two federations. Furthermore, at the upcoming National Convention in Chicago a proposal for the merger of the two organization and the adoption of a new compound name would be put before the AANF delegates.
Ever since the adoption of the compound name to designate the Syriac-speaking people of Iraq, the Assyrian Democratic Movement has encountered stiff resistance in North America. According to a local chapter organizer in the United States, the number of individual contributions to Zowaa in California has gone down since May of this year. The abrasive and politically motivated attacks aired on the AssyriaSat television program have further inflamed the public anger. Mr. Yonadam Kanna, Secretary General of the ADM is often called a “traitor” on the air and accused of selling off his identity. Even the author of this editorial has not escaped the wrath of Sargon Dadesho and his blindly supportive team of followers.
The attendees at the dinner function in Chicago comprised of the ADM supporters from Illinois and Michigan. Mr. Khamis is an ardent Zowaa supporter and as many other Zowaa sympathizers in the AANF does not appreciate the affiliation of his organization to the Assyrian Universal Alliance. The AANF under the control of the ADM from Iraq would in turn provide a greater market share for Zowaa in North America and guarantee a favorable outcome during all future general elections and negotiations in Washington. Mr. Khamis is a possible candidate for president in the 2004 AANF elections.
Mr. Golani has been quite active since he learned about the absence of his name from the guest list. In a memo to the AANF officials on Tuesday, he demanded the immediate resignation of all those “who attended an unauthorized meeting on behalf of the Federation”. He writes: “All their duties on behalf of the Federation shall seize to exist… These people will no longer have any association with the AANF and its affairs.”
Whether these individuals in question attended the meeting on behalf of the Assyrian American National Federation is yet to be determined. What is of importance in this case is the immediate effect of the use of the compound name in Iraq. The “local accord” in Iraq may soon take a new turn and expand into other important social, religious and political domains outside of Bet-Nahrain.
The local and national leaders of Zowaa in North America carelessly use such phrases as the “Assyro-Chaldean Martyrs” or “Chaldo-Assyrian history” and “AssyrianChaldean kings” in their political rallies and public speeches. The truth of the matter is that neither King Ashurbanipal nor Molphono Naom Faiq were Chaldo-Assyrian, nor at any time did likes of Dr. David Perley intend for the AANF to become representative of specific religious groups within the Assyrian nation.
The Assyrian American National Federation is the umbrella representative of 37 local Assyrian organizations in the United States, serving its affiliates regardless of their religious affiliation and background. Such religious and linguistic designations as “Chaldean”, “Suraye”, or “Syriac” cannot be applied to the collective national identity of “Assyrian”. The use of compound name in Iraq was and is a negotiated compromise among local political and religious groups to define a singular leadership in the interim post-Saddam Iraq.
What were the officers of the AANF thinking on Saturday
evening when the CFA executive group noticed Mr. Golani’s
empty chair? That somehow he will be missed by all attendees?
Such immature miscalculations and impromptu acts harbored
by the ADM sympathizers are costing the real Zowaa fighters
in Iraq a great deal of foreign support. Let us not absurdly
complicate the situation further for our fellow Assyrians
in Iraq. As for the compound-name supporters in America,
hands off the AANF! On the 70th anniversary of the establishment
of this national organization, no foolish impromptu acts
can alter or wipe away the true and collective 7,000-year-old
identity of the Assyrian people.
A Narrative of A Meeting with Kucukaydin
The appointment was for midday but we got there about fifteen minutes late, as it is not easy to find a place in Germany if you only speak English. We waited by the car as Sabri went to make sure that we have got the right house, five minutes later he came down to call us up, accompanied by this man that comforted me just by his presence; he was kind, cordial and seemed to posses a surreal tranquility.
This man was Demir Kucukaydin and we were there to interview him for a Seyfo documentary, produced by Firodil Productions.
I sat observing the apartment, as Jeet the Camera man started setting up the equipment. The faces framed on the walls seemed to converse with me, each telling me a story that differs from the other, yet they all formed a totality portraying a struggle of good verses evil. Suddenly my mind along with my eyes zoomed to the corner where Kucukaydin was setting, and now looking through his serene eyes I could almost see and feel the pains and perils, which he has endured for choosing to have a stance where democracy and justice are proclaimed but not found.
Kucukaydin is a dissident writer and thinker. He spent many years
of his life in Turkey’s political prisons. He now lives
in Germany and continuous with his struggle for a better world.
A world where equality prevails and the majority is not exploited
by an oligarchy that guards its interests with tyranny.
He instantly transformed from this tranquil man that I had come to know to a source of vigour and information. I felt as if he was drawing it all from his years of struggle and like a volcano that is finally ready to erupt he said, “It is no surprise that Turkey denies the Assyrian genocide, for the current state of Turkey has been built on the blood and bones of over four million Christians Assyrians, Armenians and Pontos Greeks.”
“To be quite honest with you I have been politically active as far as I remember but only twenty years ago I came to know that there were Assyrians and Kurds in Turkey. It is ironic that this revelation did not occur when I was a normal youth roaming the streets of Istanbul but in the political prisons where I met a few Assyrians and Kurds. So let it not surprise you that the common citizens in Turkey are ignorant of the true facts when it comes to the matter of the genocide. This is the result of biased media, books and the curriculum taught at the schools.”
After a warm cup of tea we started filming again and he said, “We often hear of Armenians and Assyrians lobbying for the recognition of genocide in Europe and America. In my opinion this is wrong because they are not serious about this issue! The genocide is only brought to the fore when it serves their interests and used as a flip card only to tease and not to pressurise Turkey. You must understand that they support and help maintain the Kemalist generals in power. The Assyrians must work towards bringing a democratic change in Turkey and help Turkey to transcend to a democratic state if they want their genocide recognised, and this can only happen if they liaise with progressive individuals and democratic institutions from within Turkey”.
Perhaps the most significant statement was his reply to our final
question which concerned the relationship of the Assyrian and
Turkish people, and if the Turkish public perceives the Assyrian
lobbying for recognition of Seyfo as antagonism. He said, “To
begin with and to be sincere with you I do not think that the
word genocide is enough to describe what your people have suffered
in the hands of the Young Turks. You must look and find a grander
expression, a term much bigger than genocide to depict your suffering,
and lobby for the recognition of that”.
On the way back driving through the fast autobahns of Germany
I could not help but compare Kucukaydin’s moving words with
the overt intimidations of Tansu Ciller’s and Ismail Cem’s
statements made when the French National Assembly recognised the
Armenian genocide. And I imagined a better Turkey if people like
Kucukaydin were in power.
The following speech was delivered last week in Sydney, Australia by Mr. Alfred Mansour on the occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the Semel Massacre and the Assyrian Martyrs’ Day.
* * * * *
Welcome here this evening. I hope that you are having an informative and enlightening time with us tonight.
I would like to share with you few of my thoughts in relation to the situations that we are living these days.
I think of August as a month of mixed feelings. Feelings of sacrifice and sorrow, struggle to survive, achievement and a feeling of happiness and pride.
Sorrow for Hiroshima and Nakasaki that were bombed with the terrible nuclear weapon during the month of August 58 years ago. Japanese people and the whole world remember and pray to God that what happened may not to be repeated again.
We Assyrians remember that event well and pray for the Japanese people as we understand the meaning of being wiped out from the face of earth as a result of many events that .We have suffered. Everyone knows the story of the great flood through which our hero Utnapishtim Noah saved the human race and all its creatures from extinction. Noah's journey of survival took almost a whole year but the world re-emerged. We also know well the fall of Nineveh 612 BC, the fall of Babylon 539 BC and the events that lead our land to be invaded by Persians, Arabs, Greek, Romans, Mongols, Turks and British. We do not have the time to talk in great details about these invasions but in brief we can say that our land became the fighting zone and our environment and people have suffered greatly during the many thousands of years of invasion. All through the wars that were fought to conquer our holy land many of our people lost their lives. Over one and a half million Assyrians were killed during 20 wars between Arabs and Persians in no more than 10 years. During the first and second world wars, the mass killings and destruction of history and culture resulted in the loss of more than 70 percent of our people and we were disbursed in more than 45 countries.
We remember the great Martyrs and sacrifices of 1933 in Semeileh and other Assyrian villages.
We lived through the Iraq Iran war. Which started during the month of August, and the invasion of Kuwait which took place in the month of August. We remember and grief over the innocent lives that were lost during the bombarding of our great land and people with the powerful bombs that equaled to seven and a half times more than the Hiroshima bomb. We witnessed the sanctions that extended over twelve years, the last war, the destruction of our country, people and history and the unveiling of the mass graves and crimes of Saddam on our people.
Ironically, I was reading the other day that August used to be a joyful month for ancient Assyrians. It is documented that ancient Assyrians used to celebrate their yearly sports festival during this month under the patronage of their great king Gilgamesh. They demonstrated their strengths and powers in bodybuilding, wrestling and other sports in front of him. This practice still took place during the modern Assyrian era and as such they used to call August the month of Gilgamesh.
Thinking of Gilgamesh and relating him to our current situation these days may rekindle the spark of hope in our hearts. If we consider literature, sports and art to be the mirror of a society's achievements we can see that Gilgamesh is the first person in history who gave value to the individual. He saw the importance of individuals in mobilizing and motivating the developments of societies rather than just being a reflection to their surroundings.
In literature, before Gilgamesh the individual's picture was vague with no clear definition, taking orders from the higher powers and Gods. Gilgamesh emerged as an individual who wants to take control of his destiny.. he wanted to find the secrets to eternity and to sculpture his future by his own hands. What we see today in discoveries and achievements in technology, space, medicine and biology is only an extension to the search that Gilgamesh once started the search for eternity. This is what makes me believe that we as Iraqis we have to follow the Gilgamesh example in trying to find our individuality and pull ourselves from the deep dilemma that we have been thrown into. It is time for us to take control of our own destiny and create a better future for our new generations. Let us step beyond our narrow approaches and consider the wider world society that we are part of. We too today as we do each year are trying to turn all the sadness and sorrow that we witnessed through the years into a proud moment that we commemorate in the honor of our Martyrs.
May our talk this evening about the real story of Baghdad museum and our sincere discussion that will shortly follow about our opportunities in rebuilding Assyria, may it restore our pride in our past and inspire us with hope and determination for our future.
God bless us all and thank you for listening.
[Z-info: Mr. Alfred mansour is the past president of the Gilgamesh Cultural Centre and the current Treasurer. During his presidency the GCC celebrated the Festival of Gilgamesh at the University of Sydney, celebrated the 150th anniversary of the University and installed the statue of Gilgamesh on the grounds of the university in the year 2000.]
AINA: PUK and KDP Deny Knowledge of Assyrian School Situation
The following statement was released by the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) on 8 August 2003:
The State Department stated that both parties requested more details
including the town and the local Assyrian authority which has been
denied permission. Assyrians in the U.S. expressed surprise that
the State Department had no knowledge of this situation. Assyrians
in northern Iraq are fearful that by the time there's a resolution,
the school year will be over and the Assyrian students will further
Assyrians Return to Mardin, Turkey
Courtesy of Zaman Newspaper (12 August); by Seyhmus Edis
(ZNDA: Mardin) The Elbegendi (Kafro) Village of Mardin will be built following European standards. The dream village will have pools, tennis courts and sports facilities.
After emigrating to different European countries years ago, the Assyrians of Mardin are returning to their homeland. After 30 years, 25,000 Assyrians decided to return to the lands they were born and raised in. The Turkish Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit, issued a statement in 2001 in which he stated that Assyrians can return to their villages at anytime.
A new project is to be implemented in the Elbegendi Village of Midyat town in Mardin. Already described as a dream village, the cost of the new Elbegendi Village project is quite high. In the first phase, 14 villas are to be built in the village. The villas are to be built with Midyat stones and the foundations laid in accordance with the design of historical buildings. Cost estimates for each villa is about 75-100 thousand Euros.
One of those preparing to return to Mardin is Yakho Demir, who has been living in Switzerland for 25 years and working as a hotel administrator. According to Yahko Demir, construction costs will be covered by Elbegendi (Kafro) villagers who emigrated to Switzerland and other European countries. The Elbegendi village will be built in accordance with European standards. The dream village's infrastructure will be laid underground. Old buildings will be preserved and restored. Yahko Demir said that they have received great support from Mardin Governor M. Temel Kocaklar and the GAP (Southeastern Anatolia Irrigation Project). Administration for the project has begun and the GAP has already started to drill at the village. Other plans for the dream village project include benefits from surrounding vineyards.
"The Mardin vicinity is the richest place on the earth with
its historical and cultural treasures. I believe that we will grab
the attention of the world with these new investments and projects.
I think any foreign tourist who visits Turkey will be willing to
visit Mardin as well", says Demir. "This is a start. There
are more projects to come. We owe it to these lands where we were
born and raised and owe our loyalty to our fellow men in these lands.
We decided to pay our dues."
(ZNDA: Amman) In an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Good Morning America on 11 August, the wife and children of Tariq Aziz said that the U.S. officials had not kept their part of the deal. During the interview, Mr. Aziz and his family were identified as “Assyrian Christian”.
Mr. Aziz, 66, has two sons, Ziad and Saddam, and two daughters, Zaina and Mayisa. Aziz was born in the Assyrian town of Qaraqosh in North Iraq.
Aziz, a Chaldean Catholic, turned himself in April 24, days after the fall of Saddam. Under the terms of the deal, his family received safe passage to Jordan aboard a U.S. C-130 aircraft. Since then, they have lived in an apartment in the Jordanian capital of Amman provided by the Jordanian government.
Since his surrender, the Aziz family said they received just two letters from their father via the Red Cross. The latest communication, a brief note, arrived last week.
"We never saw him since that day," said his son, Saddam Aziz. "We never had any contact with him, except for the letters from the Red Cross."
White House officials have refused to comment on the allegation. The Pentagon, for its part, issued a statement maintaining all detainees in Iraq were being held humanely and in accordance with the requirements of the Geneva Conventions.
From their Amman exile, his family said Aziz truly believed Iraqi forces would rally, and said the family never even packed a bag in anticipation of the end.
Reality struck on April 9, however, said Aziz' wife, Violet. On that day, television images showed U.S. tanks in the streets of Baghdad. "We realized Baghdad had fallen and we started crying," she recalled.
The next few days passed in terror as the family moved from house to house, watching their world crumble as looters ransacked the Baathist official's Baghdad home.
"Our house has been looted," said Zainab. "Our family home has been looted and destroyed.
"Around 11:30, the Americans arrived at the house," recounted Violet between sobs. "He was sitting next to me and his sisters. They came inside and he said. 'I am ready to surrender.'"
According to Zainab, her father negotiated his surrender solely for the well being of his children and grandchildren. "I think he believed he would be treated fairly," she said.
Although the family said it feels it has been let down under the terms of the negotiation, Aziz' wife and son still have faith in his captors.
"The Americans are very fair and very good people," said Saddam. "They know who is a criminal and who is not. And I would ask them to treat my father fairly — and to release him as soon as they finish."
With a penchant for French wine, Aziz was a polished diplomat who survived the shifting fortunes under the patronage of Saddam. With his trademark Cuban cigars and his glasses and moustache, his appearance was sometimes compared to that of Groucho Marx. But the image belied his well honed political and survival skills. With a degree from Baghdad University, Aziz rose to the top of the Baath Party ranks.
His family insists Aziz has no knowledge of Saddam's whereabouts.
When asked if her father knew about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program, Zaineb implied she did not believe it existed.
"They [U.S. officials] are going to detain him long enough so that they can find weapons of mass destruction; they are going to detain him for a long time," she said.
His family maintains despite the former Iraqi regime's abysmal human rights record, Aziz personally is not guilty of crimes against humanity.
"If they have proof that he has blood on his hands, there should be a trial, right?" asked Zainab.
More than three months after his surrender, Violet still holds out hope one of Iraq's most adept diplomats will make it through his latest ordeal and that she might be able to see him again.
"Insha'allah, [God willing]," said Violet with a sad
smile when asked if she thought she would ever see her husband again.
Iraq Sues Marvel Comics & Director Ang Lee over Copyright Infringement
Courtesy of the Watley Review
(ZNDA: Baghdad) The interim Cultural Ministry in Iraq is taking advantage of its new freedom to file a lawsuit against Marvel Comics and film director Ang Lee, alleging that the "Hulk" is based on the ancient Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh.
"It has become quite clear, after seeing the film courteously provided by the interim military administration, that this 'Hulk' is a blatant and uncredited adaptation of the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is an undeniable part of our cultural heritage," said Cultural Minister Ahmad Sattar. "We are demanding $100 million, plus punitive damages."
"Gilgamesh, like this Hulk, is mighty beyond compare: 'Like a wild bull he makes himself mighty, head raised over others/There is no rival who can raise his weapon against him.' Is this not reminiscent of the scene in the movie where the Hulk fights off American tanks?" said Sattar. "In addition, some translations of Tablets X and XI distinctly suggest that Gilgamesh was green."
Marvel Comics and Ang Lee dispute the charge. "We have nothing but the utmost respect for the newly freed Iraqi people and their culture," said a Marvel spokesman in a prepared statement yesterday. "However, the Hulk is based on Stan Lee's college roommate, not an ancient Sumerian god-king. Stan couldn't even find Sumer on a map." Lee disputed this, but declined to comment further.
The case is seen as a test for Europe's new "Cultural Heritage" copyright laws, which grant copyright dominion in perpetuity for works of art seen as intrinsic to a nation's cultural heritage. America, which has none, has protested the European laws.
"The notion of perpetual copyright protection in America has been gaining steam since Disney successfully lobbied Congress to extend its own hold on the early Mickey Mouse films," said legal expert Myra Banner. "Ironically, in doing so, Disney may have opened itself up to more lawsuits such as this." Other nations whose literary treasures have been plundered by Disney, such as France and Greece, are watching the Iraqi case closely.
"If we win this lawsuit, we pledge to use some of the damages awarded to fund our own blockbuster adaptation of the Epic of Gilgamesh," added Sattar. "Possibly a musical."
Shuraya Celebrates 25th Anniversary
(ZNDA: Wiesbaden) On 26 July the Shuraya political party celebrated its 25th year of inception in the German city of Wiesbaden. Several other Assyrian political parties attended the celebrations. The speakers at this event included:
Retired Senator John Nimrod of the Assyrian Universal Alliance
(ZNDA: Hasaka) Lina Nissan, the 18-year-old Assyrian girl from Syria, who was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) in 2000, passed away last Thursday in her hometown of Hasakah, Syria.
Since a bone-marrow transplant was not readily available in Syria, Ms. Nissan was brought to Canada and then the United States for treatment in 2001.
The surgeons at University of Chicago offered to perform the $250,000 operation for the $100,000 raised by the Nissan family through charity events in Chicago and from international donations.
With the help of many Assyrian families, doctors, and the generosity of several humanitarian organizations including the Assyrian Aid Society of America, Ms. Nissan was able to receive the required treatment in the United States. Her brother, Daniel, was identified as a matching donor for the crucial bone-marrow transplant.
Lina Nissan received her brother’s bone marrow in October 2002 and began a 7-week chemotherapy treatment. She returned home to Syria. Lina's condition deteriorated again this year and she passed away on 7 August surrounded by her family members and friends.
Lina Nissan is survived by her mother Wardeh, father Shimon, brothers, Daniel and David and sister Helen.
[Z-info: See Ms. Stella Alkhas' essay "The Day I Met Lina" at http://www.zindamagazine.com/html/archives/2002/10.21.02/index.php#TheLighthouse].
Christian Science Monitor Interview with Yonadam Kanna
Courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor (6 August); by Ann Scott Tyson
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Like many Iraqi politicians, Yonadam Kanna has a flair for the theatrical.
During a meeting over sugary tea in his spacious, well-appointed office, the member of Iraq's new 25-person Governing Council abruptly rises from his plush armchair. He steps into a back room, and returns gripping a three-foot- long sword.
"Don't be afraid," he says, his gray moustache curving mischievously. "This is the sword of Uday. He used it to cut women's heads off." In fact, "You are sitting in Uday's office," he tells a female visitor.
"I sent another sword to [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld to put in the US national museum to show people how criminal he [Uday] was," Mr. Kanna continues, referring to the late son of deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
The usually mild-mannered Kanna can be forgiven for a little victor's bravado. After repeated jail terms followed by two decades in the wilderness as an Iraqi opposition leader against the Hussein regime, Kanna relishes the irony of his new position: His Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) now occupies the sprawling Baghdad compound that formerly belonged to Uday Hussein's paramilitary group, Saddam Fedayeen.
"An empire of terrorists has collapsed," he says.
Still, the question for many Iraqis is whether Kanna's gusto will be matched by concrete achievements, as Iraq's fledgling Governing Council begins to create from scratch the framework for democratic rule in the nation of 24 million people.
The hurdles to genuine effectiveness by the council, which convened July 13, are many. First, it is an interim body approved by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which as the occupying force retains the ultimate decision-making power in Iraq.
Major international and regional groups, including the United Nations and - this week - the Arab League, have declined to recognize the Governing Council. Last month, the UN Security Council decided not to give the interim Iraqi body a seat. On Tuesday, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa called the Governing Council "a start" but opted to withhold recognition until post-Hussein Iraq has an elected government.
Among the Iraqi people, the power of the body remains a question mark, interviews with residents suggest. On the extreme end of the political spectrum, some strident Shiite Islamic clerics have derided the Governing Council as a tool of American tyranny.
Finally, Iraq's very ethnic and religious diversity - reflected in the council's makeup - makes reaching consensus difficult for Kanna and others as they debate key steps in the transition to a permanent elected government in Iraq.
In one of its first major decisions, for example, the council failed after an all-day discussion late last month to select a single president. Instead, it established a rotating presidency, with nine different members serving for one month each in the order of their names in the Arabic alphabet.
"Maybe it would be better if we had one president plus some deputies," Kanna said, "but we are trying to keep the coalition together, so to keep our momentum we agreed on nine people who roughly represent the majority of the council," he said. "We did this for the sake of unity."
The council's 25 members represent all Iraq's ethnic groups including the roughly 75 percent who are Arab, 15 percent who are Kurdish, and the rest who include Turkomans and Assyrians. More than 60 percent of Iraqis - and council members - are Shiite, with more than 30 percent Sunni. Three council members are women, or 12 percent of the total, a high ratio for Arab Islamic countries. About two-thirds of members come from long-time Iraqi opposition groups, while the rest were chosen for their technical expertise.
Collective leadership is the priority, with the president mainly serving to run meetings, Kanna said. The upshot, however, could be a continued lack of decisiveness by the council.
Other primary tasks of the council include: establishing ministries and appointing ministers - which is ongoing this week; selecting Iraqi envoys to other countries; setting national economic, education, and health policy; and creating a commission to draft a new national constitution.
A new constitution, Kanna and others agree, must ensure fair representation for all groups in order to secure Iraq's long-term political stability. This week, the council is discussing a constitutional preparatory committee of 15 diverse experts who will take approximately six months to rewrite the Iraqi constitution, Kanna said.
One sensitive issue will be the role of Islam in the constitution. While the constitution should uphold religious freedom, it is also likely to include a clause expressing respect for "the Islamic culture of the majority of Iraqi people," says Kanna, who is a member of Iraq's Christian minority.
Once the constitution is complete, the plan is to hold a national referendum for Iraqis to vote on it. National elections will then take place, possibly within a year from now, according to coalition and Iraqi officials.
Relations between the interim council and the CPA have been good, Kanna says, although he and other members voice some criticisms of the coalition's handling of security problems in Iraq. After the war, Iraqis looted vast arms warehouses, "taking their pick" of weapons ranging from AK-47s to grenades, he says. Hussein released thousands of criminals before the war.
The council will meet with top coalition generals this week to push for a greater Iraqi security role, he says. One plan calls for sending an Iraqi civil defense battalion to each of the country's 18 governorates.
"The people will never be happy with tanks in the streets every day," Kanna says. "A national Iraqi force will be much more active and productive," he says, adding that Iraqi forces can better sort out "bad guys" unwittingly hired by the US-led coalition.
Despite an ambitious agenda, the council faces practical obstacles to its work. It still lacks a spokesman, has no by-laws, and has yet to define its basic institutional relationships with the CPA or local governments in Iraq. Phone communications are limited, e-mail remains a novelty to some, and security is a constant concern - one reason the council is moving to new offices this month.
Still, Kanna is optimistic as he stands on the roof of his compound. An Assyrian women's movement building and TV station have taken the place of Uday's torture chambers, and children play soccer on a field where Iraqis five months ago feared to tread.
Creating a democracy in Iraq will take time, but at least, he says, the worst is over. "We suffered 35 years," he says. "Now the best job is done, there is no more Saddam Hussein and his regime."
Courtesy of AustraliaIT (13 August)
(ZNDA: Sydney) FlowCom is bidding for Karl (Khalid) Suleman’s Froggy internet business for an undisclosed sum, more than 18 months after it walked away from a previous bid. Better known as a small broadband network operator serving the corporate sector, Flowcom provided the underlying Internet service for Froggy.
In May 2002, the NSW Supreme Court banned Mr Suleman from from running a corporation for life over an unregistered investment scheme that cost more than 2,000 people, mainly from Sydney's Assyrian community, an estimated $65 million.
Froggy was last put up for sale in late 2001, along with the rest of the business empire of the Assyrian businessman Karl Suleman whose assets were liquidated after he was caught running a fraudulent investment scheme.
"This acquisition is an obvious next step in diversifying our user base, which we were not quite able to make in January 2002 when Froggy last changed hands," FlowCom chairman Neil Tuckwell said.
"We're better placed to make this sort of move now, with the support of Crown Financial, our secured creditor."
FlowCom had been the frontrunner to buy Froggy in January 2002, but walked away at the last moment and instead struck a four-year service agreement with Froggy's successful buyer, Bluejoy.
In January 2001 FlowCom was bidding against a range of parties, including OzEmail and Hotkey Internet Services, a subsidiary of US telco Primus. It offered less than $100 for each of Froggy's 30,000-strong Internet customers.
FlowCom this week announced it was acquiring Froggy's 30,000-strong customer base, as well as its infrastructure, domain names and brand.
Froggy's biggest shareholder Tim Berry had agreed to remain with the business.
FlowCom said the acquisition would help extend its presence among internet users.
"This continues the company's strategy of deriving the majority of its revenues from end-user services rather than from the carrier and reseller sector, which was the company's main market two years ago," it said.
FlowCom said Froggy already operated on its network, so the transition for Froggy's customers would be seamless.
Froggy staff and operations would continue as at present.
Zowaa Political Rally in San Jose
The Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) presents a political rally and two distinguished speakers on Friday, 15 August at San Jose’s St. Mary's Assyrian Chaldean Church at 8:00 PM. The church is located at 109 N. 1st St. in Campbell.
The speakers are Mr. Rommel Eliah, ADM representative in North America and Dr. Adam Benjamin, Executive Committee Member of the ADM. Dr. Benjamin visited Iraq in May.
ADM – Santa Clara Chapter
(ZNDA: Rome) Lasts week the 24th Rossini Opera Festival was inaugurated in Italy with the presentation of Semiramide (Assyrian Shamiram), Gioachino Rossini’s masterpiece. The symphony orchestra was directed by Carlo Rizzi. Darina Takova was Semiramide, Daniela Barcellona as Arsace, Ildar Abdrazakov as Assur, and Gregory Kunde as Idreno, supported by the Prague Chorus.
The story of the Assyrian queen Semiramide presents many characters, driven by different motives, both political and ethnic, much like the current situation in Iraq.
Semiramide is set in ancient Babylon. The queen Semiramide and Prince Assur have murdered her husband, Nino, and attempted to murder her son (and heir to the throne) Arsace. Arsace has survived however, and now, 15 years later, he returns, unknown to either his mother or would-be stepfather, as a decorated commander on one of the kingdoms far-reaching frontiers.
In a case of mutual misunderstanding, Arsace asks for the hand of Azema, and Semiramide misinterprets his amorous overtures as love for her.
Semiramide's accomplice, Assur, indicates that he expects to be chosen as king, but fears the priest Oroe knows about his role in Nino's death. Indian King Idreno also joins the ceremony, who has come to the sanctuary to ask the gods' blessing on his love for the princess Azema.
Semiramide arrives with much fanfare, and prepares to announce the successor to the throne (presumably Assur) when in a great flash the sacred flame is suddenly extinguished, to the shock of the crowd. Semiramide turns to Oroe for guidance, who claims the gods are troubled by the unpunished murder of King Nino's ghost, and that an oracle will soon arrive from Memphis (Egypt) to bring order.
Later, after the frightened crowd has dispersed, Oroe returns to find the Commander Arsace, who has arrived at the temple to also receive the gods' approval for his love for the princess Azema. He carries with him a casket containing the sword and scrolls belonging to his late father, items that Oroe appears to recognize. Assur appears, and reprimands Arsace for leaving his post without his (Assur's) permission. When Assur learns of Arsace's plan to marry Azema, he threatens to kill the young commander, and Arsace in turn vows to never recognize Assur as king.
Back at the palace, Semiramide rejoices over the return of Arsace, and with her ladies in waiting await his arrival. The ambiguously worded pronouncement by the oracle at Memphis proclaims that peace will be restored with Arsace's return and marriage, which Semiramide takes to mean her own wedding to him.
Arsace arrives, and in one of Rossini's most eloquent duets, a case of mutual misunderstanding transpires. Arsace asks for the hand of Azema, and Semiramide misinterprets his amorous overtures as love for her, agrees to his request.
In the finale of Act One, Semiramide announces that Arsace is to be both king and her husband, and that Idreno will be granted Azema's hand in marriage. The bewildered Arsace is appalled, Assur is furious, Azema is disappointed, and the citizens of Babylon are confused. Just as she orders Oroe to unite Idreno and Azema, the ghost of King Nino dramatically rises from his tomb, and proclaims that Arsace will be king, but that he must enter Nino's tomb to make a sacrifice to the dead king's ashes, thus avenging his murder.
Act Two of Semiramide opens in a room at the palace, where Semiramide and Assur quarrel over their past crimes, which are beginning to unravel their reign. Assur reminds Semiramide that she had promised to marry him as his reward for his assistance in the killing of Nino, and the two threaten each other with going public with the the secret.
Semiramide and Assur each threaten to "go public" and ruin the other with the truth. Meanwhile, in the palace sanctuary Oroe and the Magi assemble to lead Arsace to Nino's tomb. Oroe reveals to Arsace that he is the son of the slain Nino and Semiramide, and therefore rightful heir to the throne, and that his mother and Assur in fact murdered his father. Arsace vows to kill Assur, but prays that his father's spirit will be merciful to his mother.
In a room in the palace. Arsace reveals to Semiramide that he knows she and Assur have killed King Nino, and that he, Arsace, is her son. Tormented by guilt, Semiramide offers her life, but Arsace is forgiving, and responds that however hateful she is in the eyes of the gods, she is still his mother. He tells her he is going to Nino's tomb to beg pardon for her, and to avenge his father's death.
In a remote part of the palace, near the tomb of Nino, Assur prepares to meet and kill Arsace, but he learns that Oroe has revealed his crimes to the people, and he therefore has no hope of becoming king. This, and his guilt, drive him to the point of madness, which he shakes off and prepares to do battle.
Oroe has guided Arsace to the mausoleum of Nino, where he will meet Assur, but Semiramide, fearful for her son's safety, has also gone there, and in the ensuing duel Arsace kills her by mistake. As Assur is led off to his judgment the horrified Arsace accepts the crown and the acclaim of the people.
The "spatial" direction of Dieter Kaegi included an enormous round table in the center stage that acted as the table of King Artu and then transformed into a conference table where the powers of the world decide on the fate of a master plan that dominates the scene.
The synopsis of Semiramide courtesy of the National Public Radio].
Call for Papers: Fifth Biennial Conference on Iranian Studies
Friday, May 28 through Sunday, May 30,
The Program Committee of the Society of Iranian Studies (SIS) welcomes contributions in all fields of Iranian studies, especially new areas of investigation and/or novel approaches to traditional fields. Pre-organized panels and interdisciplinary panels, which attempt to establish dialogue between the many disciplines encompassed by Iranian studies, are particularly welcome.
The deadline for the submission of abstracts is September 30, 2003. The abstracts must be limited to 250-300 words, and must present a succinct outline of the central theme and main argument of the paper. Abstracts should be sent by e-mail to: Rahimieh@mcmaster.ca. Confirmation will be sent by e-mail. Please also send paper copy of abstracts to:
Fax: +1 (905) 528-6733
The conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Bethesda. Arrangements have been made for reduced rates. To make hotel reservations, contact the Hyatt Regency Hotel directly at 1-800-233-1234 or the conference site at the following address:
Bethesda Hyatt Regency
Name (first, middle initial, last):
The Society for Iranian Studies (SIS)
[Due to a strong current academic interest in the study of the various ethnic backgrounds in Iran, Zinda Magazine urges its scholarly readers to consider presenting the Assyrian Case at this academic forum.]
A Forgotten Genocide - A Forgotten People?
For the 2nd year the Austrian Section of the Assyrian Democratic Organisation (ADO) invited the President of the Austrian Federal State Parliament Johann Hatzl, numerous parliamentarians, Church honoraries, and Assyrian compatriots for a commemoration of the Assyrian Genocide ("Shato d'Seifo - Year of the Sword"). The ceremony took place at the famous ball room in Brigittenau in Vienna on May 3rd, 2003 and reminded about the Genocide, discussed its background and demanded its acknowledgment, both by the European states and by the Turkish government.
Each year, on April 24th, Christians living in Near East or originating from there – like Assyrians, Armenians or Greeks – commemorate the beginning of the Genocide 1914-18 in Turkey. Even after almost 90 years the topic of the bloody pursuit and killing of over 2 million Christian did not loose any of its importance. The official Turkish side placed since then the coat of the silence over the historical events and refuses its recognition. The Christian ethnic groups concerned fight for decades in vain for the acknowledgment of this Genocide. The trauma, which separates Christians and Muslims in Turkey and in the Diaspora for so many years gained on sharpness recently by a call of the Turkish education minister. As the German Newspaper S?ddeutsche Zeitung (May 23, 2003) reported, the minister requested that the Turkish and also Armenian primary schools have to write essays to fight the "groundless genocide statements". In the middle schools the pupils may write against the "statements of the Armenians, Pontus Greeks and the S?ryanis [Turkish name for Orthodox Assyrians]". The reactions are interesting in this context. Protests raised not only among the Christians but also among Turkish journalists against this "bad joke" (so the Islamic newspaper Yeni Safak). This until recently inconceivable behavior of the press can be interpreted as the breaking the old protection fences in this debate.
The Assyrian Democratic Organisation (ADO), established 1957 in Syria strives for years for the rights of the Assyrian people and acknowledgment of the Genocide. An important goal of the ADO, so Dr. Jaques Iskandar, is the internationalisation of the Assyrian Question. The fight for the cultural and national rights of the Assyrians is a peaceful effort and is based on mutual respect of their neighbours, emphasized Dr. Iskandar, the theologian and moderator of the event.
"The question of the past is important for the future," noticed Federal State Parliament President Johann Hatzl in his greetings. “History is part of the personality of a people” he added. Not only the suffering but also the achievements would contribute that. In this sense he congratulated the Assyrians in the name of the City of Vienna for what they carry out and accomplished in history.
That the destiny of a people lie not only in its own hands but are also dependent on the "more powerful ones" was the thesis of Mrs. Anna Elizabeth Haselbach, the Vice President of the Upper House of Parliament of the Republic of Austria. She demanded from the "powerful ones" to insist on the adherence to the contract of Lausanne from 1923 with regards to the Assyrians. Therein the rights of the minorities in Turkey were defined. Assyrians should be allowed to freely speak and teach heir language continued Mrs. Haselbach. "This are human rights that needs to be respected." She concluded "that we understand your efforts for a righteous and peaceful future” and promised to support this efforts “so far we can".
Mr. Issa Hanna, Chairman of the ADO, Europe, urgently appealed to the Federal State Parliament President to support the request for acknowledgment of the Genocide. In his speech he touched the U.S. led war against Iraq. He reminded about the fact that in Iraq the Assyrians place the third-strongest ethnic group and requested the responsible nations to let participate all ethnic groups (Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians and Turkomans) in a future government and organisation for a democratic State of Iraq.
Mr. Ergen Aslan, Chairman of the ADO, Section Austria, presented some new facts about Tur Abdin, which is the homeland of many Assyrian immigrants to Austria. In 2001, Mr. Ecevit, the Prime Minister at that time released a decree, granting all (emigrated) Assyrians the rights and obligation to their assets and property in Turkey. This triggered a large echo in the Turkish and Western media. Since then many Assyrians the possibility of a return is discussed.
Some Assyrian families took initiative with the responsible authorities in the district town of Midyat in order to initiate the legal formalities. Mr. Aslan Ergen reported that the applicants have been insulted, struck or intimidated by threats: "Not even Turkish attorneys take such cases because of fears from Kurds and Islamic fundamentalists, who illegitimately acquired the possession of the Christians", he said. By such cases the efforts around a peaceful coexistence of the different ethnic and religious communities in Turkey receive a setback again. Because they stir only fears and prejudices. At the same time it becomes clear that decrees are not converted necessarily into the practice.
In her extended speech, Dr. Gabriele Yonan defined a substantial problem in the enlightenment process of the Genocide by the Turkish side which resists vehemently the term "genocide". Meanwhile deportations, killings of Christians are hesitantly acknowledged, however a systematic Genocide is explained as "propaganda" and still rejected. Therefore Mrs. Yonan speaks of "a Genocide without names and search for identity". One must find a name she said which becomes fair to both, the descendants of the victims as well as of the perpetrators. Turks do not feel addressed by the current terminology. Therefore at a recent conference the suggestion came up to speak of "Ottoman Genocide at Christian minorities". Thus, it would become clearer that the victims were not only Armenians, but also Assyrians. Additionally it would be clear that the perpetrators are to be found in the late Ottoman regime. However, today's Turkey must take the responsibility to that extent, that it smoothes the way to an enlightenment about the dark marks of its history.
According to Yonan, the definition of the genocide as fixed in article 2 of the U.N. Convention of 1948 applies clearly to the murder of the Christians in 1915. It concerns a) The killing of a sub-population, b) Causing serious physical and mental injury to a sub-population, and c) Intervention in the living conditions of a sub-population. The historians agree, so Yonan, nearly without exception that 1915 was a Genocide. She mentioned numerous documents, among them some from Pater J. Lepsius as published in his "blue book". She also referred to the book “Flickering Lights” as published in 1924 in America and statements made by the Syrian Orthodox Bishop Afram Barsaum. The above mentioned instruments as defined 1948 however can not necessarily be applied to today's Turkey. However, one can not forget the cultural Genocide which occurred during the last three decades against the Christians in Tur Abdin. The Turks, so Yonan , wanted to get rid of the remaining Christian population and set under the pretext of the Kurdish fighting the Christians under pressure. 250,000 Christians left Turkey for these reasons and emigrated into the Western countries.
Meanwhile and after three generations passing, history still "exists in the collective memory of the population and can exist there for 1000 years." In order to come to a new and peaceful start, Yonan added that Turkey would have to recognize the Genocide as a part of their history and condemn it. Turkey should apologize with the descendants and carry out compensation, by recognizing Assyrians as linguistic and ethnic minority in Turkey - as specified in the "Convention for National Minorities". This convention was not signed by Turkey however until today.
The sensitivity of the topic rather increased in the long years since "Shato d'Seifo". The importance of education and investigations on the Genocide are urgent. A prove to this are the letters of the "Initiative of the Muslim Austrians" and the "Islamic Religious Community in Austria" on the occasion of the anniversary in Vienna. Both organizations do not deny the crimes of the ruling powers at that time, however vehemently resist that the Islam would have to hold debt as root cause of systematic driving out and destruction of the Christians.
Here sensible approaches are needed on both sides. It concerns right, not revenge, it is about forgiveness, but not forgetting.
Assyrian Democratic Organization
Nadia Mirza: Iraqis are Confused, But Also Grateful
[Z-info: The following commentary by Ms. Nadia Mirza is published in the August 8th issue of USA Today newspaper. Ms. Mirza is a member of Women for a Free Iraq and also a founder of the Assyrian Community for Civic Responsibility. She is also the president of the Assyrian Academic Society in Chicago. Ms. Mirza's picture with President Bush appears in the August 4th issue of Zinda Magazine.]
As an Assyrian-American of Iraqi ancestry, I publicly supported the liberation of Iraq because I had firsthand knowledge of the danger posed by Saddam Hussein; my family was forced to flee his rule of terror.
Most of my fellow Americans also believed Saddam was a threat to the world and that a war to remove him was necessary and just. But now many struggle to understand why there are attacks against coalition forces and why Iraqis do not seem more grateful.
Polls show Iraqis overwhelmingly support the coalition. But they still fear Saddam's Baathist loyalists, who threaten and murder those who cooperate with the coalition. Foreign terrorists also have infiltrated Iraq to sabotage the reconstruction. These terrorists and the Baathists want to perpetuate chaos, hoping mounting U.S. casualties will force us to retreat.
Iraqis fear that we will not have the staying power to defeat the Baathists and terrorists. The recent killing of Saddam's sons bolstered their confidence, but they still worry because some Baathists retain positions of power under the Coalition Provisional Authority. One member of the Iraqi Governing Council, Akila al-Hashemi, reported to Saddam's deputy Tariq Aziz. Also, the former ministers of information and health, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf ("Comical Ali") and Omed Medhat Mubarak, remain free or have left the country.
Plans for putting Baathists on trial remain vague.
Such indecisiveness confuses Iraqis, and our enemies manipulate it as anti-U.S. propaganda. The Persian Gulf states and Iran are broadcasting false rumors on TV and radio of U.S. mistreatment of Iraqis. It's urgent that we counter the disinformation.
When I recently met with President Bush, I told him how grateful I was for his leadership in removing Saddam. I also told him that Iraq will not be free, and the world will not be secure, until Baathism and terrorism are defeated. We owe it to the soldiers who gave their lives to liberate Iraq to finish the task.
A free Iraq will demonstrate how our faith in people's yearning for freedom and America's patient commitment to that cause can give birth to democracy in the Middle East. The enemies of freedom understand the stakes involved. We cannot afford to let them win.
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