THE LIVING MARTYRS
According to one historian, in the past 2,000 years nearly 70 million Christians have been killed for their faith. Of these two-thirds have lost their lives in the past 150 years alone. One estimate indicates that since 1990 as many as 160,000 Christians have been killed every year, the vast majority by Muslims in the Third World.
The majority of the Middle Eastern population prior to the Islamic conquests under Mohammad the Prophet was Christian. It is estimated that by the year 2020 only one percent of the entire population will attest to Christian faith. Currently there is no pressure coming from the western governments and media to reverse the process of the emigration of the Christian families from the Middle East. As for the last 2000 years, Christians of whom a majority are Syriac-speaking, have endured a life under constant threat of jihad and militant uprisings. No Islamic country provides government-funded programs to help stabilize the diminishing population and worsening conditions of their Christian populations.
Today, no Christians are more threatened by the horror of fundamentalism than those in the Middle East. Western indifference to the Christian suffering in Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and even Israel (stand off at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem) continues even as more and more Christian missionaries are arriving in the major Islamic cities. Why are the western scholars not discussing the persecutions of Christians by Muslims in the Middle East? Why this silence dominates the western academia and the conferences such as the Middle Eastern Studies Association?
The Seyfo Genocide of 1915 through 1923, for example, destroyed two-thirds of the Assyrian population. These included Syrian Orthodox from Kharput in Turkey, the Church of the East bishops and patriarchs from Hakkari, Chaldean women and children in the Mosul Villayat, and even recently converted Presbyterians in the plains of Urmie, Iran. The eight-year bloodshed resulted in the death of two-thirds of our population in the Middle East. This year we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Semel Massacre in Iraq, which also coincides with the 80th anniversary of the end of the Seyfo Genocide.
The greatest act of martyrdom is the unswerving acknowledgement of one’s faith and identity in the face of the Moslem fanatics’ senseless debauchery, discrimination, persecutions and barbarism. Assyrians are predominantly Christian. Their dissimilar faith which has distressed their neighbors for the last 2000 years is recognized by their devotion to their Eastern (Nestorian), Chaldean, Syriani, & Protestant convictions.
Each year on August 7, we commemorate the martyrdom of the countless millions of Assyrians who perished under the sword of the Persian rulers, Roman emperors, Moslem leaders and fanatics. We remind ourselves of the massacres and pogroms, genocides and humiliations. We light candles and pray for the salvation of those still living under the threat of Islamic militancy.
As soon as the Assyrians are granted certain rights equal or greater than those of their Moslem neighbors, the Moslem masses revolt against them, arrest and kill their leaders, burn their churches, rape their women, and raze their villages. Today, Christians in Iraq and Assyrians in particular have a voice in the newly appointed Iraqi National Council. However, the recent kidnappings of the children in Baghdad and the grenade bombings of the stores in Basra are symptoms of a larger anti-Christian movement that may erupt as soon as the U.S. forces complete their mission and delegate the protection of the people to local authorities. The 24 “open-minded” Moslem representatives on the Iraqi National Council cannot even bear to see the name of their Christian colleague on the list of the future Council Presidents. A Christian representative according to the laws of Sharia cannot preside over the affairs of the Moslem constituency.
What must we do now? The threat of ethnic cleansing is eminent as more Christian missionaries from the west are arriving in large numbers with copies of the Bible in Arabic and Kurdish. Our churches in the Urmian villages are slowly converted to mosques, our women in Iraq are asked to wear a veil to cover their faces, and our relics and ancient manuscripts are stolen or vandalized in Turkey. The Coptics in Egypt, Maronites in Lebanon, and Catholics in Pakistan are in no better condition.
The massacres and genocides in the last 14 centuries divided our nation into five or more religious denominations and stripped us of our national identity. 150 years ago with the coming of the western Missionaries and the discovery of the magnificent ruins of Nineveh and Babylon, the notion of Martyrdom for Assyrians in the name of Christ evolved into a secular concept. We adopted a political identity under the name of “Assyrians” and initiated a massive effort to reorganize ourselves as a single body of people with a common religious, historic, and linguistic heritage.
On August 7 we remember the heroic acts of the past, and remember the anguish endured by many of us today under the intolerant governments of the Middle East. To be called the “Representative of the Chaldeans and Assyrians” in Iran, and the “Representative of the Chaldean Assyrian Christians” in Iraq is in itself an act of defiance in the face of bigotry and intolerance. To call oneself a “Christian Representative” during a time that waging a holy war against the forgotten Christian communities of the Middle East is as close as a Shiite Iyatollah’s Friday Prayer, is as gallant an act as the Martyrdom of the early fathers of our churches and the sacrifices made by the dozens of the Zowaa martyrs. Indeed to call oneself a Christian in the Middle East in 2003 is the most compelling act of Martyrdom. Those professing their identity as “Assyrian” and “Christian” in the Middle East are truly the Living Martyrs of a nation that has endured so much suffering in the last 2000 years. We must never forget the deeds of the past and boldly profess our true identities as Christian Chaldeans, Syriacs, Nestorians and ultimately, the Assyrians.
ART OF ANCIENT SUMER AT NEW YORK’S METROPOLITAN
Courtesy of the WSWS.org (30 July); by Sandy English
Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B. C. from the
Mediterranean to the Indus
“Art of the First Cities” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in New York features sculpture, jewelry, cylinder seals, clay tablets and other artifacts (about 400 items in all) from the world’s earliest complex society: Sumer in southern Iraq in the millennium after 3,000 BC.
While the geographical breadth of the exhibition extends from the Aegean Sea to the Persian Gulf to central Asia, at its core is exactly the same sort of artwork that has recently been plundered from or destroyed at archaeological sites and museums all over Iraq, beginning with the looting of Baghdad’s National Museum in April.
The continuing loss of this material to history and art is incalculable. As the exhibition shows, it is among humanity’s most precious creative work. Merely to view it or discuss it is to bring us closer to one of the major cultural catastrophes of the modern world. Whatever the intentions of its curators, Art of the First Cities is a protest against the policies of British and American imperialism in Iraq.
The Sumerians (they called themselves “the black-headed ones”) had, by the middle of the fourth millennium BC, become one of the most socially and technologically sophisticated peoples on earth. They farmed the arid land with canal-water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, constructed cities and large buildings, and were the first people we know of to write. They were perhaps the first even to organize their society into distinct social classes.
They were by no means unique in these developments: cities, monumental architecture, social stratification, and, in some cases, writing had emerged independently toward the end of the fourth millennium BC in Egypt, Peru, along the Indus river valley in Pakistan and later the Yellow River in China.
The Sumerians created a cultural region that the Greeks named Mesopotamia, the land between the rivers. This area, including roughly modern Iraq, parts of Iran at the foot of the Zagros mountains and southeastern Syria, had, more or less, a single, organic history that unfolded from the middle of the fourth millennium until the Persian conquest of 539 BC.
In spite of frequent invasions by less developed peoples, Mesopotamia possessed a unique economy, set of social relations and culture. The later Babylonians, Arameans and Assyrians all assimilated the culture initially prepared by the Sumerians.
In the Iraq of five thousand years ago, large, bureaucratic institutions centered on temples, and later royal palaces, dominated the social and political life of the Sumerian city-states (uru in Sumerian). They controlled a huge portion of the working population (whom we call, somewhat inaccurately “serfs,” farmers who had no or little land of their own) and the surplus that it produced.
The temple- or palace-serfs supported a ruling group of temple administrators, priests, or monarchs and palace officials, who lived at a much higher standard.
There were also groups of smaller or larger independent farmers, craftsmen and merchants. They had to pay taxes in the form of produce or labor-duties, but do appear to have enjoyed certain rights, at least in the earlier period, including even a kind of limited political representation.
The art of the Sumerian cities was almost universally oriented toward religious expression or the prerogatives of one or another monarch; that is, the sensibilities of the ruling classes dominated the work displayed in Art of the First Cities.
One of the first pieces in the exhibition that struck me was a small stone carving of a demon with a muscular male human body and the head of a lioness. (exhibit no. 14, magnesite or crystalline limestone, 8.8 x 6.2 cm., Proto-Elamite period in Iran [ca. 3200-2800 BC]). The twist of the upper body of this little figure is powerful and very human. Perhaps that is why it is startling to see the head of an animal on the shoulders.
Animals banqueting in what are believed to be religious ceremonies is a feature of the art of Elam , that came to be a motif in Sumerian art, as a number of cylinder seals in the exhibition show. (Cylinder seals, a unique Mesopotamian invention, were cylinders meant to be rolled in clay to seal property. Often the images have writing or mythological scenes on them.)
Some of most impressive objects in the exhibition are those removed from the city of Ur in the 1926-30 excavations lead by the British archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley. The so-called Royal Graves of Ur contain mass graves, probably of monarchs and their servants who were put to death along with them. In spite of this gruesome fact, some of the artifacts found with the dead—three well-known objects in particular thought to date to the Early Dynastic period (ca. 2700-2334 BC)—are particularly beautiful:
* “The Standard of Ur” (no. 52, wood with shell, lapis lazuli, red limestone, 20 x 47 cm.) is an inlaid wooden box (the wood has been restored) wrongly thought by Woolley to have been carried on a pole. Its real use is unknown.
The box has three registers of figures on each side, on one, banqueting scenes with religious overtones; on the other, scenes from a war (chariots running people down and bound, naked captives). Their exact meaning is still unclear, but there is something moving about the juxtaposition of two sides of life in this early class society.
* “The Great Lyre” with bull’s head and inlaid front panel. (no. 58, gold, silver, lapis lazuli, shell, bitumen; head is 35.6 cm high, plaque is 35 cm). The eyeballs in the head are made of white shell and the lids and pupils are made of lapis lazuli, which matches the bull’s long flowing beard of lapis lazuli backed in silver.
The plaque underneath has several images of humans, mythological figures (a scorpion-man), and animals (a seated ass plays a lyre identical to the Great Lyre).
* “Puabi’s Headdress” (nos. 61a-e, comb with six-pointed stars, wreathes and ribbons; gold, lapis lazuli, carnelian; bands, etc. with accompanying huge gold earrings). There is a fringe of golden willow and beech leaves on the headdress. We do not understand the symbolism of the elaborate headgear, which was found in the grave with a cylinder seal of a woman named Queen Puabi.
Light seems to emanate from all of these things, as diverse as their uses may have been, and we can only wonder at their presence in their original world—a world with altogether less wealth than ours.
As the third millennium progressed, the Sumerian city more and more became dominated by a ruler, an ensi who became the largest landowner in the community. He waged war with an army equipped with bronze weapons and the ass-drawn chariot, the armored tank of its day.
In roughly the last third of the millennium our knowledge of history and social life becomes enriched through the many readable baked and unbaked clay tablets with writing: economic data, myths and even personal letters. (The unbaked variety is precisely the sort of artifact that disintegrate when exposed to the air; an untold number is being destroyed in Iraq at present).
Some baked tablets are represented in the exhibition. There are not only tablets from Sumer in the third millennium (e.g., no. 321), but one containing a mathematical text (no. 322) or a record of monthly consignments of cloth from Syria. The exhibition has a number of tablets from the second millennium BC in the old Babylonian period (ca.1740 BC) including one of the famous “Sumerian King List” (no.330).
These also have a certain physical beauty in the incisions of the wedge-shaped writing, although the main value of these objects is the information they transmit—the “Sumerian King List” being one such important document. Not the least valuable piece of information is the fact that the different classes of Sumer came into conflict with each other.
In one document, King Urukagina of Lagash (r. 2351-2342) brags that he undertook broad social reforms to protect the poor from the incursions of palace officials. It is here that we encounter, for the first time in history, the word for freedom (amargi) .
In about 2350 BC, Sargon (Sharru-kin), speaking Akkadian, a distant cousin of Arabic and Hebrew, conquered the region, creating the world’s first known empire, a state with multiple cites ruled from a single capital, Agade, which he founded and which has not been located.
The art of the Sargonic period—especially the fragments of victory steles (pillars) incised with scenes of war (foreshadowing the Assyrian art of centuries later)—is well represented at the Metropolitan.
One realistic copper-alloy head of an Akkadian ruler (no. 132) stands out, though it serves to remind us that there is a gaping hole in the exhibition: the more detailed and truly stunning copper-alloy head of a ruler often thought to be one of Sargon’s descendants could not be borrowed from the National Museum in Baghdad. It was subsequently stolen during the April looting .
An invasion by mountaineers from the Zagros range of Iran overthrew Sargon’s dynasty. Once again rival city-states contended until Ur-Nammu, a Sumerian from the city of Ur, reconquered the region in 2112 BC. A new period of Sumerian florescence, splendidly documented in this exhibition, began.
While Ur-Nammu’s legacy is well represented here, it was the work of the very beginning of this “neo-Sumerian” period that really caught my attention. For some reason, many artifacts remain of a local ruler from the city of Lagash slightly before Ur-Nammu’s empire, named Gudea (r. 2141-2122 BC).
Many of these are solemn and moving statues of Gudea himself: solid, short-limbed in black diorite (no. 305, 44 cm high) or more elongated in blue-white paragonite (no. 306, 41 cm high). They seem less egotistical (after all, Gudea only ruled a city), and even less ferocious, than images of Sargon or Ur-Nammu. One in particular is captivating: a headless statue of Gudea, covered in cuneiform writing, holds in his lap the blueprint of a temple, one of the first known representations of an architectural plan.
The third millennium also saw the expansion of urban and class culture to other parts of the world. One of the remarkable things about this exhibition is the light it casts on developments in Syria, Iran, Anatolia, the Aegean, India and central Asia, with several rooms devoted to these regions.
The many artifacts from the city of Mari in Syria repaid close examination (as did the museum’s gallery notes on Mari): especially the lion-headed eagle (no. 81, lapis lazuli, gold, bitumen, copper alloy, 12.8 cm x 11.9 cm). The inhabitants of Mari seem to have been completely Sumerian in culture from an early period, but apparently Akkadian linguistically and ethnically.
Then there was the Harappan material from Pakistan. The Harappans built cities beginning in the fourth millennium in the Indus River valley. The material presented here from this key civilization that had (as yet undeciphered) writing and cylinder seals does not compare well, at least aesthetically, with the Iraqi material, but its presence marks a valuable contrast between two early urban cultures that developed apart from each other, yet clearly according to the same basic social laws. The exhibition is quite enlightening concerning the trade between the Harappan cities and Mesopotamia.
There is more ceramic work in the non-Mesopotamian displays, and this is dimmed, somewhat unfairly, by the luster and precision of the artwork left behind in the graves of Ur, or by Sargon, Gudea or Ur-Nammu, though there were notable works from each culture represented here. The golden goblets and ewers from Anatolia (nos. 186, 187a, b, late third millennium BC) are some fine examples.
It was a pleasure to read the clear explanation in the gallery notes of the central Asian third-millennium cultures, accompanied by the large maps of trade routes stretching from modern Tajikistan into Oman in the Persian Gulf. .
Art of the First Cities posed some major challenges from the start. It was impossible to display items from the National Museum of Baghdad because of UN-imposed sanctions on Iraq. Cultural or political tensions with other countries also caused problems in borrowing objects.
According to the review of this exhibition in the New York Times, statues from Saudi Arabian collections, for example, were loaned reluctantly because of the prohibitions in Wahhabi Islam against depicting the human body. By all accounts, the curators did a painstaking job in putting months and months of work in several countries to secure specific pieces.
There are also challenges to the viewer: the huge amount of information obtained from clay tablets deeply enriches our view of Sumerian society, but this information can only be hinted at in an exhibition devoted to visual art.
In addition, one has to look patiently at a good number of miniatures, especially imprints from cylinder seals, to fully appreciate the mythological and aesthetic scope of the art on display here.
Visitors to this exhibition should also be sure to see the Metropolitan’s Near Eastern galleries, with more third-millennium artifacts from Mesopotamia as well as the impressive Assyrian reliefs from the palace of Nineveh. Nineveh, near Mosul in Northern Iraq, has also been plundered in the last few months.
1. Elam, whose capital was at Susa, was a part of Sumerian-Mesopotamian cultural region although the Elamite language does not seem to be related to Sumerian. The Elamites also began writing quite early in the still-undeciphered Proto-Elamite script.
2. Samuel Noah Kramer. The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1963, p. 79.
3. See Donald P. Hanson, “Art of the Akkadian Dynasty” in the exhibition catalogue, p. 194. Images and a description of this piece can been seen in the Oriental Institute’s database of stolen Iraqi art at: http://www.oi.uchicago.edu/OI/IRAQ/53.htm
4. See Maurizio Tosi and C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky, “Pathways across Eurasia” in the exhibition catalogue, pp. 347-376.
[Z-info: An accompaniment to the Metropolitan exhibition of the Sumerian arts is Ms. Joan Aruz’ book “Art of the First Cities. The Third Millennium B. C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus” published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003, 540 pp.]
ASSYRIAN ELECTED MAYOR OF TELKAIF
(ZNDA: Telkaif) The result of last week’s elections in the district of Telkaif, Iraq which includes the towns and villages of Batnaya, Alqosh, Tallesqof, and Telkaif were as follows:
The 11-member City Council –
According to the information office of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, Mr. Wadhah Giwargis, a resident of Telkaif was elected as the mayor of Telkaif. Mr. Wadhah holds a Bachelors degree in Science.
CHRISTIAN FAMILIES TARGET OF KIDNAPPINGS IN IRAQ
Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times (5 August); by Robyn Dixon
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Sources to Zinda Magazine in Baghdad have confirmed the kidnappings of several Assyrian boys, between the ages of 3 and 17, from the streets of Baghdad in the recent weeks. The kidnappings takes place during day time and on crowded streets.
Salaam, A 13-year-old boy, and a group of seven friends were on their way to school two weeks ago at approximately 12 noon when four men holding guns in their hands take kidnap him at gun point, only half a mile away from his home in Baghdad.
Sources to Zinda Magazine explain that to date, 6 Assyrians have been Killed, 7 Assyrians boys kidnaped, 13 Assyrians shops burned down, and a majority of the liquor stores that belongs to the Assyrians have been forced to close down. The sources say that no Assyrian girl can walk alone in the street of Baghdad.
The kidnappers often ask for ransom and when the parents of the kidnapped children are unable to pay, shortly after the bodies of their loved ones are returned to them.
Stolen from his Baghdad street two weeks ago while playing with friends, Peter Yakob, a mute child of 6, couldn't tell the gang of Iraqi kidnappers his phone number.
For two days, the kidnappers tried to get it from him while the boy's family waited frantically for a message from the criminals.
On the third day, Peter's parents chalked their phone number on an exterior wall of their home. Within 30 minutes, a call came demanding what to them was an unimaginable amount: $50,000.
"When we said we couldn't pay, they said: 'That's your problem. Either pay the money or we'll send him home to you in a sack,' " said Peter's mother, Makdonya Yusuf, 47. After desperate bargaining, the family paid a $15,000 ransom.
The appearance of highly organized kidnapping gangs sends a worrying message to U.S.-led occupation authorities, suggesting a level of criminal planning and commitment well beyond the spasm of thievery that followed the regime's fall.
The kidnappings have a dark, ruthless quality, often targeting children and teenagers, usually from Iraq's Christian community where no networks exist to fight back against the gangs.
In many cases, the only sons of large middle-income or wealthy families are seized. The abductions, which are often committed in broad daylight, add to Iraqis' sense that nowhere is safe, day or night.
Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner who is overseeing Iraq's police force, held a briefing Tuesday to announce that a gang of nine kidnappers had been caught Monday in central Baghdad and that several hostages were freed.
He did not mention that the kidnappers killed a female hostage during the operation, carried out by Iraqi police. That fact emerged during questioning of Iraqi officers near the end of the briefing. Kerik said the police conducted the operation without U.S. help, attacking a house at dawn and triggering a gun battle. One suspect was wounded.
Because the Iraqi police force doesn't keep crime statistics, it's difficult to establish exactly how many kidnappings are occurring, but members of the Christian community listed many cases and Kerik said three other gangs had been arrested in recent weeks. Police uniforms were found at the home of those arrested Monday, Kerik said, suggesting that the kidnappers posed as police. He urged Iraqis to report abductions.
But several families of kidnapping victims said they had approached police or the U.S. military for help but got little or no assistance. Instead, they paid ransoms ranging from $15,000 to $75,000 for the release of loved ones.
"There are so many of these cases in Baghdad," said Adib Yunan, Peter's uncle, a businessman and liquor store owner who bargained the ransom price down. "It's a matter of money, simple money."
Yunan's brother, the boy's father, works in his store and lives in a rental house.
The gangs carefully track their targets, watching the victim's routine and gleaning details of the family's situation and activities.
Yunan and his brother went to a police station in the Hay Mikhaniq neighborhood seeking help. U.S. military police are stationed in all Iraqi police stations.
"We went to the police and saw the Americans. An American told us, 'What can we do?' " he said, a complaint echoed by other families of victims.
He said that after he provided information and pictures of the boy to American MPs and Iraqi police, the Americans promised to keep in touch. But his family heard nothing more and resolved the case itself by paying the ransom.
During his ordeal, Peter, who can communicate with his family but not with strangers, often cried. Ali, one of the kidnappers, would hold a gun to his head, screaming that if the boy didn't quiet down he would kill him.
Makdonya Yusuf got her son back four days after he was taken. But the formerly happy boy had changed. He was confused and seemed drugged. At night he lay awake, frightened.
"My son used to be carefree, but now he's nervous and terrified," she said. "He can't sleep. He shouts: 'Ali is coming! Ali is coming to take me!' " She has pinned a medallion of Christ to his pillow so that he can kiss it to help him sleep.
Emanuel Lirato is a patriarch with a motorcycle business he started 55 years ago. His son Maher, 50, an epileptic, was kidnapped July 20 when a car with heavily armed bandits cut him off as he reached the family business by car.
Lirato went to the police and stopped a military convoy for assistance, but he said neither gave him real help.
The U.S. soldiers in the convoy asked him what they could do. "I said: 'You have to decide. You're in charge.' " They searched the streets and shops in the neighborhood, but then gave up, he said.
His son was chained to a wall in a room for five days. Lirato paid a $25,000 ransom, but the gang still did not hand over his son. Instead they increased their price to $300,000.
"We kept negotiating. We agreed on $50,000 in addition to the $25,000," Lirato said. Now he wants armed guards to escort him to work, but ordinary Iraqi citizens cannot carry guns.
"Ninety percent of cases are Christians, because they know Christian people are calm and won't make trouble," Lirato said. "They just want their beloved ones to come back home, so they create no difficulties. But Muslim families might resist."
Lirato blamed coalition authorities for the frequent kidnappings, saying they had dismantled the old security structures without putting something in their place.
"They abolished the army, the security forces and the police," he said. "So they gave the bad guys a chance to make the best of this chaos and lack of security. They made it easy for them to commit their crimes.
"I think the gang will come again and maybe this time they'll take me, not my son," he said. "If things get worse, I'll have to leave Iraq."
Adib Yunan, Peter's uncle, said Hussein's release of prisoners before the war planted the seeds of the crime spree. "This is the aftermath of two or three wars," he said. "There are so many men who have no job, so they resort to the simplest way to get money."
Adnan Issa, a restaurant owner, paid $15,000 for the release of his only son, Rani, 17, kidnapped by gunmen who jumped into his taxi one recent morning. The gang initially demanded $120,000 and only relented after the family produced documents to prove that their house is rented.
"My husband was completely shocked. He couldn't do anything. Mary the Virgin gave me the strength to carry on and negotiate the matter," said Rani's mother, Suaad Jibro, who tearfully begged and bargained with the gang on the phone.
She said she and her husband were too frightened to contact police even after they recovered their son for fear of retaliation by the gang. Now they are desperate to sell the family restaurant and flee Iraq.
"These robberies and kidnappings are happening at daytime," Adnan Issa said. "The Americans' priority is to capture Saddam Hussein and guarantee their own safety."
The day Rani went missing, his parents approached U.S. soldiers who were searching the neighborhood to ask for help. "They told me: 'It's not our business.' " Issa said. " 'We're here to search for Saddam Hussein.' "
MILITANT MOSLEMS ATTACK CHRISTIAN-OWNED STORE IN BASRA
(ZNDA: Basra) On 27 July, a group of unidentified militants attacked a Christian-owned liquor store in the center of the southern city of Basra and wounded 5 Iraqis including the store owner. The attackers used several RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) fired from two vehicles 100 feet across from the store. Most of the injured were standing next to the store at the time of the attack.
IRAQI DOCUMENTS POINT TO ASSASSINATION OF FRANCIS SHABO
Courtesy of the KurdishMedia.com (26 July); by Bryar Mariwani
(ZNDA: London) Francis Yosef Shabo, an Assyrian member of the Kurdish Parliament was assassinated by the former Iraqi regime agents in 1993, reported the independent Kurdish weekly, Hawlati on 23rd of July.
Hawlati has obtained a document from the former Iraqi Intelligence Services which reveals that Shabo was assassinated on 1 June 1993by Khalid Hajitahir Al-Hamzani, an Iraqi agent working in north Iraq in 1993.
Shabo was a member of the Kurdistan National Assembly and the representative of the Assyrian community in the Assembly. According to the document, Al-Hamzani was the head of an Iraqi agents group of 5 members; they were: Waheed Majeed, Tahir Hussein Hassan, Mohammad Sidiq, Akram Majeed Muhammad and Ahmed Mohammad Sidiq.
The group carried out other criminal activities for the Iraqi government in 1993 including on 29 January 1993, the attempted assassination of the US citizen, William Brown, in Dohuk. He was accused of proselytizing Christian religion. Mr. Brown was severely wounded in the attack.
According to the document Al-Hamzani was jointly working with the head of the general military intelligence office, Istikhbarat Al-Amma.
In June 1993 another Assyrian, Lazar Mackho, a member of the Iraqi Communist Party, was also assassinated.
YONADAM KANNA APPEALS FOR A FORCE UNDER U.N. MANDATE
Courtesy of the Zenit News Agency (24 July)
(ZNDA: Baghdad) The only Christian in Iraq's Provisional Government Council said that there will be no religious discrimination in the new Iraq.
An Assyrian-Chaldean Christian, head of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, Yonadam Kanna explained that, among other things, his mission in the Council is to see that the rights of Christians in general are guaranteed, although he admits that the attributions of each member are still not clear.
"Under the former regime, we were second class citizens. The time of discrimination has ended. Today, in Iraq, every citizen is free, regardless of his religious or ethnic" background, Kanna said to the French newspaper La Croix.
"We will benefit from the same legal rights enjoyed by the two main ethnic groups, the Arabs and Kurds. So the Assyrian-Chaldeans will be recognized with the same title, as a nation."
"As the future Constitution will guarantee religious and cultural rights, we are going to militate for the de-nationalization of confessional schools so that our children can go back to their roots and, above all, to their maternal language," he promised.
The Constitution, Kanna added, "will establish the separation between State and the religious factor. When Iraq is a secular State, there will be no problems with our Muslim brethren," he added.
"The mission is arduous. The people criticize us. They still have not realized the risks we have taken. I can assure you that I took less risks at the time when I was condemned to death by Saddam Hussein, and had to flee to the mountains in the north of the country," he concluded.
CHILDREN’S BIBLE PRINTED FOR IRAQI KURDS
Courtesy of the Maranatha Christian News
Service (4 August)
Although fund-raising is still underway, both organizations expect 20,000 copies of the book "365 Stories" from the Bible to be delivered later this year, said United Bible Society official Nova Hagopian, an Iraqi “born again Christian.”
"This distribution would have been impossible in the past. Under the Saddam Hussein regime there were a lot of checkpoints between Kurdish controlled areas (in Northern Iraq) and the rest of the country,” he told in Baghdad, from where the operation is coordinated.
However there is still concern about Muslim extremism in the region. “Eight months ago one Muslim person died when an evangelical pastor held a Christian exhibition in Northern Iraq.” Yet, he suggested that with borders disappearing, new chances have emerged to spread the Gospel.
"We have also seen that many Kurdish Muslims are asking questions and accepting Christ as their Savior. That number is expected to increase now that the war is over. So there is a big need for a Children’s Bible," Hagopian said.
Since 1985 his organization was able to import an estimated 1.5 million Bibles in Iraq and over five million New Testaments as well as other Christian publications. "People always think that sounds a lot. But it was very difficult to receive permission from the former Ministry of Information. We now hope to import many more books", he stressed.
Besides spiritual needs, aid workers have also observed a cry for humanitarian aid among both Christians and Muslims.
"We are helping already 5000 needy Christian families as well as some Muslims," added Saleh Fakhouri, Iraq Coordinator of Jordan based Manara Book Ministries.
MBM and other organizations hope to reach different places in Iraq. But attacks, especially against Christian women in places such as Basra have made it difficult to reach the needy, including orphanages, church sources said.
Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times (29 July); by John Hendren
(ZNDA: Los Angeles) Pentagon strategists have a vision of a new Iraqi army that is well-trained, disciplined and welcomed by those it protects.
The residents of the village of Qaraqosh in northern Iraq have memories of a very different army. And they're taking no chances.
For decades, villagers say, the Iraqi army and despised paramilitaries loyal to Saddam Hussein terrorized them, raping women and carrying out interrogations and torture from a base at the edge of this small town about 15 miles southeast of Mosul. When the soldiers fled as Hussein's regime fell, town officials installed a volunteer guard around the base to ward off looters. They wanted to use it as a youth recreation center.
But when town fathers heard reports that the Americans wanted to use the base to train a new Iraqi army, the security guards were withdrawn and the word went out: Tear it down.
"They were guarding it and then they said, 'Go ahead. We want it razed to the ground,' "said Foud Jerma, 22, a looter with a cross tattooed on his forearm, perspiring as he broke apart foundation stones.
Iraqis here and elsewhere fear a new state security force, and their attitude illustrates one of the greatest difficulties the U.S.-led occupation forces face in stabilizing the country and shifting responsibility back to Iraqis. Many residents don't trust their own countrymen to carry out their duties without returning to the ways of the past.
"We don't want to relive the bad history," said Louis Qassab, the Catholic priest who oversees both the civic and religious affairs of this predominantly Christian town. "God gave us the gift of forgetting. We want to forget what happened here before.
"If there is a military base here, the Americans will not have liberated us," Qassab added.
What was one of the few military sites that had suffered only minor looting a month ago is now one of the few where looting goes on unabated. Attacked by dozens of sledgehammer-wielding residents, few of the buildings are more than a handful of stacked bricks.
A sign on the lone remaining wall of one read in Arabic: "The military intelligence center. The eyes of the country."
A few blocks away, a battered Mercedes-Benz truck and a horse-drawn cart hauled looted bricks that resell for less than a dime past beat-walking police officers and a soldier from the Army's 101st Airborne Division standing guard outside a government building.
Iraqis' mistrust of their own soldiers is so profound that they destroyed the buildings — and their hoped-for youth center — based on little more than a rumor. The actual army training site is a nearly five hours' drive to the south, in the equally small and similarly named Diyala province village of Kerkush, said Walt Slocum, the American advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority who is responsible for establishing an Iraqi Ministry of Defense.
"It's easy to understand the confusion," said Slocum, who noted that the site was chosen for its isolation. "When we tell Iraqis where it is they kind of look at us with a blank stare."
A number of sites will eventually be used to train the new army under a $48-million contract given to Northrop Grumman's private security subsidiary, Vinnell Corp. A spokesman said the 101st Airborne Division began preparing a site near Qaraqosh last month.
The first 12,000 troops are to be trained at the remote Kerkush site. Other areas are also likely to be selected with an eye to separating them from civilian areas, said a senior official of the Coalition Provisional Authority.
That news came too late for Qaraqosh to save its youth center. Every door, window and stick of furniture is gone, and a makeshift crew of resident looters spent the weekend taking down the few remaining walls on the site.
Most, if not all, of the looters are Christians who said they had at least the tacit approval of the church that governs the town on behalf of all its residents, including its minority Muslim Arabs and Kurds.
Qassab, the priest, denied that the church gave orders to destroy the site, contradicting the story told by several looters there. However, he acknowledged that he was pleased it could no longer house soldiers.
"They would come to the civilian streets and bother families and the women. We were always going there and asking them to keep the army away from the city," Qassab said. "We are saying very forcefully that we do not want a military base here."
Baram Khalil recalled how two village girls were kidnapped and sexually assaulted at the base, but never told their story until the military left because they feared for their lives. After the soldiers left, Khalil said, he was among the security guards the Kurdistan Democratic Party sent in to join the community volunteers in securing the site until American commanders, wary of the armed militia, asked them to leave.
"What you see now is an entire camp destroyed because we didn't want any military here," said Khalil, speaking at the party's village headquarters under a photograph of its president, Massoud Barzani. "People here saw many things with their own eyes that they don't want repeated."
The old regime's army, a force of 400,000 ranging from conscripts to the elite Republican Guard, was widely feared not only by neighboring countries, but by domestic groups such as Shiite Muslims, Kurds and Christians. The new Iraqi army is not expected to exceed 40,000 soldiers when it begins functioning in three years.
U.S. military officials expect it to be a purely defensive force. No high-ranking members of the former ruling Baath Party, or anyone ranked colonel or above in the old Iraqi army, need apply.
Most analysts say the force will be far too small and its duties too restricted to pose much of a threat to the country's neighbors — or to Iraqis.
Qaraqosh's impoverished community of chicken and rice farmers suffers from high unemployment and is desperate for economic development. Though he is in effect the mayor, the priest drives a faded white 1985 Toyota. Along the town's main strip, raw sewage streams through the gutters in front of sidewalk cafes. Residents say they want economic development if it comes from coalition troops, but not if it means strange Iraqis with guns milling about the village, as in the past.
"Life here is so bad, we are destroying this place so we can take the rocks and sell them," said Waleed Aziz, 40, taking a break from pulling down a wall at the former military base, where he planned to sell the bricks for 100 dinars apiece, less than a dime. "We want the American Army here, but if they want to train Iraqi soldiers here we want them to be from Qaraqosh."
Fellow looter Ammar Sulaiman, 24, added, "If they gave us jobs and wages, we would never do this."
MARDIN REACTS TO UNESCO REPORT
(ZNDA: Mardin) Based on a recent report from the Turkish newspaper Zaman, the city of Mardin in Turkey’s Municipal Council has criticized the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report refusing to designate Mardin as a World Heritage Site.
At a meeting in the Mardin Municipal Building, Mardin Mayor Abdulkadir Tutasi, Mardin Municipal Council President Cemal Artik, the Republican People's Party (CHP) Mardin Deputy Muharrem Dogan, and representatives of local civil groups evaluated the report.
Tutasi characterized the report as nothing more than a series of weak excuses. He said, “The report says that the Syriac Christians and the Deyrulzafaran monastery are not being protected, and that they feel threatened by migrants from the villages. But we have never denied our Syriac friends. And I also believe that it is necessary for us not to deny Islam. There is a hidden intent here. Because they take the subject from here to there and then bring it back to the monastery. I have visited the monastery, but I still haven’t been able to convince the monks to visit a mosque. If they want me to make concessions regarding my identity, personality and culture, then may it never happen. We don’t want it.”
The Province of Mardin in the Tur-Abdin region has been an important center for Syriac Christianity since the First Century A.D.
Reformatorisch Dagblad (29 July)
De Assyrische Syrisch-Orthodoxe christenen in Nederland -circa 40.000 leden- zijn dezer dagen blij verrast door de berichten uit Irak, schrijft Abraham Tunc. Ze zijn niet blij met de huidige chaotische situatie, maar wel met het feit dat de Assyrische christenen voor het eerst in de afgelopen 2500 jaar erkend worden als een etnische minderheid in Irak.
Irak blijft de gemoederen bezighouden. Het was in de afgelopen
maanden weer gewoon oorlog in Irak. Vreemd genoeg is dit voor Irak-kenners
geen nieuws meer, want dit is eigenlijk al 4000 jaar het geval.
Irak heeft in de afgelopen euwen
Het land heeft vele namen gekend; Sumeri?, Akkad, Assyri?, Babyloni? en Mesopotami?. Begin vorige eeuw is het land Irak genoemd en misschien dient het rijtje aangevuld te worden met een nieuwe naam: het land der oorlogen.
Nergens in de wereld is zo veel strijd geleverd. Zo zijn in de
afgelopen twintig jaar maar liefst drie bloedige oorlogen gevoerd.
Voormalig Assyri? voerde tussen 1980-1988 een bloedige oorlog met
Iran, waarbij miljoenen mensen om het leven kwamen. In 1989 bezette
Saddam Koeweit, waarna de VS het land van de emir te hulp schoten.
En de recente oorlog wipte Saddam eindelijk van zijn troon af.
WHITE HOUSE LETTER TO CHALDEAN FEDERATION PRESIDENT
THE WHITE HOUSE
Thank you for your letter expressing your support and that of the Chaldean Federation of America. Like you, Iraqis have taken heart from their liberation by American and Coalition forces. Saddam Hussein's regime has now ended, and the Iraqi people are regaining control over their own destiny. American and Coalition forces are still engaged in efforts to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and establish security throughout the country.
The United States has a deep respect for Iraq's citizens, civilization,
and religious faiths, including the Chaldean Church, which has played
so great a role in the history of Iraq and the development of Christianity.
Along with other Coalition leaders, I am strongly committed to delivering
aid to the Iraqi people. The United States is also committed to helping
the people of Iraq build a new country that is united, stable, and
free, in which people of all faiths arc free to
CFA PRESIDENT CONGRATULATION LETTER TO YONADAM KANNA
The following is a copy of the letter of congratulations from Mr. Saad Marouf, president of the Chaldean Federation of America on Mr. Yonadam Kanna’s appointment as the representative of the Chaldean Assyrian Christians in Iraq. To view the official statement from the Iraqi National Council click here:
Mr. Younadam Kanna
Dear Mr. Kanna,
It is with great privilege and pleasure that on behalf of the Chaldean Federation of America, an umbrella association of Chaldean organizations and people in the USA, I would like to extend our warm and sincere congratulations for your prestigious appointment as a member of The Interim Governing Council of our homeland, Iraq.
We are confident, based on our personal knowledge of your ability, commitment, and proud history in serving your fellow Christians, and in particular our great AssyrianChaldean nation, that you, along with our brothers and sisters, distinguished members of the council, will promote the implementation of freedom, democracy, equality, peace and justice to all people of Iraq.
We are hopeful that an Iraqi constitution will be constructed soon. It should respect the legal, civil and human rights of all Iraqis and recognize, with full representations all ethnic and religious groups, in particular, the AssyrianChaldean indigenous people of Iraq with roots since 3000 B.C.
During this turning point in the history of our nation, I urge all
AssyrianChaldean political, nationalistic and social organizations
to stand united with one voice towards a future full of harmony and
prosperity to our great one nation.
God Bless You.
A DECLARATION FROM WORLD LEADER OF THE YEZIDIS
For Immediate Release
The Yezidis are a part of the Iraqi people and they are the heirs to the old civilization of Mesopotamia and the roots of their ancestors go back far deep into the Assyrian and Babylonian cultures, and it is mixed with that of the Umayyads.
The Yezidis, through history, have passed through and endured so many difficult and cruel historical stages that until today have threatened their identity. The Yezidis, until the beginning of the nineteenth century, have been inflicted with such cruel massacres, migrations and dispersions at the hands of the Ottomans and the Kurds. This extended even into the times of Saddam’s dictatorial regime. We have suffered so many atrocities and denial of our rights under that regime who treated the Yezidis, sometimes as Kurds, and other times as Arabs.
Since 1915, the Yezidi people have participated in most of national movements in Iraq. They have assisted their brethren, the Assyrians, the Syrianees, the Chaldeans and the Armenians and had offered a lot to the British against the Ottomans.
After the removal of Saddam’s dictatorial regime, the Yezidis are looking forward for a future with a spirit full of optimism by allowing them to participate in the building of a free democratic Iraq to be a country for everybody without discrimination and for every party not to feel as prejudiced against or marginized or distanced.
The Yezidis have a futuristic perspective for Iraq of tomorrow, which we expect, through the gaining of all parties of the Iraq people, their rights equally. We strongly believe:
Prince Anwar Muawiya
IRAQI TREASURES TO TOUR UNITED STATES
(ZNDA: London) The Baghdad museum is lending some of its greatest treasures to the US, just months after fearing much of it had been looted.
The museum in the Iraqi capital was hit by a wave of looting in the days following the fall of Baghdad.
But after recovering much of what was thought to have been stolen, the Iraq museum is keen to show off its items of cultural importance.
Among the valuables which will form part of a travelling exhibition is the collection of Assyrian jewellery known as the Nimrud artefacts.
The priceless array of 650 bracelets, necklaces, royal tiaras and semi-precious stones is thought to be among the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th Century and dates from the 8th Century BC.
It was discovered in the tombs of Assyrian queens and princesses during excavation near the northern town of Mosul between 1988 and 1992.
The Nimrud collection comprises 650 pieces
It was among the pieces that were thought to have been lost during the looting but was later recovered from the Central Bank where it had been deposited in the 1990s.
A Sumerian Warca vase, dating from 3200 BC, will also be allowed out of the country.
The vase, which was discovered in 1940 in the town of Samawa, was one of the artefacts looted from the museum in April
The piece was then found by three men who handed it back to authorities, with the museum paying them "expenses".
"We are working on a travelling exhibition, which will be mounted for the first time in the United States within six to eight months," said Pietro Cordone, an Italian envoy charged with overseeing Iraq's cultural activities.
"Along with these pieces of extraordinary beauty, including
bracelets with clasps that still work, the American public will also
be shown the Warca vase, a unique piece made of alabaster dating back
to 3200 BC which portrays scenes from everyday life."
ASSYRIAN MARTYRS DAY COMMEMORATION IN CHICAGO
Thursday August 7, 2003
The 7th of August is a designated Memorial Day for the Assyrian Martyrs who gave their lives in defense of our culture and ethnic identity. This day also commemorates the genocide of the Assyrian people throughout centuries, beginning with third century BC at the hands of the Sassanide Persians in Mesopotamia and the mid of ninetieth century at the hands of the Kurdish Leader Bader Khan Beg in Hakkari and during the turn of the twentieth century at the hands of the Ottoman Turks Turkey and Urmia/Salames - Persia, all the way to the massacre of the Assyrians in 1933 by the newly asserted state of Iraq, as well as the ethnic cleansing which was conducted against our people (Maronites) in mount of Lebanon 1975 & 1985.
However terrible and decimating those massacres were unable to destroy the living spirit of our nation and her thrust for freedom and persistent struggle for preserving our ethnic and cultural identity.
On Thursday August 7, 2003, at 6:30 PM a commemoration ceremony, with candlelight vigil, will be held by “The Assyrian Martyrs Monument” at the Montrose cemetery, 5400 North Pulaski, Chicago, Illinois. Following the ceremony a consecrated “DOUKHRANA” will be offered at Mar Odisho Church, 6201 North Pulaski, Chicago, Illinois.
We call upon our people, especially, our youth to observe this very special day and participate in this ceremony.
NEW ISSUE OF HUGOYE IS OUT
(ZNDA: New Jersey) The Syriac Institute (http://www.bethmardutho.org) has published the new issue of its peer-reviewed academic periodical Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies (Vol. 6, No. 2). The issue is available electronically on the Institute's home page, and will be available in-print later this year.
The current issue features five papers, a short article, and
five book reviews, in addition to publication announcements, conference
reports, and advertisements.
The Book Reviews section contains the following reviews:
1. Daniel Caner, Wandering, Begging Monks: Spiritual Authority
and the Promotion of Monasticism in Late Antiquity. The Transformation
of the Classical Heritage 33. Reviewed by Robert KITCHEN, Knox-Metropolitan
Three Conference Reports are given as follows:
1. ARAM Society: Twentieth International Conference on Alcohol
, 7-9 July 2003. David G.K. TAYLOR, University of Birmingham
In the advertisements section, Beth Mardutho provides a link
to Amazon.com from which users are encouraged to make their purchases
(to support the Institute). The American Theological Library Association
advertises ATLA Serials' Digital Journal Project of which Hugoye
is a participant. Gorgias Press announces titles on Syriac studies.
Publishers interested in advertising in future issues of Hugoye
may contact the General Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1ST OPEN HEART SOCIETY FUNDRAISING PARTY IN CHICAGO
Lets stretch our hands and open our hearts through electronic connection with our brothers and sisters all over the world.
Computer Youth Centers for the Assyrian villages in Georgia, Armenia and Russia (installation of computer equipments: computer, monitor, printer, scanner, and internet subscription for one year) in a village center.
Sunday, August 24
70TH ANNUAL NATIONAL CONVENTION
Join us as we gather to celebrate our Assyrian Culture through great entertainment, insightful programs, inspiring events and good fun!
Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont, Illinois
Starting this year, convention registration has completely changed and has reached a new phase. All the events will be held at the convention center and we have 4 hotels to choose sleeping accommodation for your convenient. There will be no events held at the hotels.
There is one registration fee that will cover all the events including parties. The $100 registration fee for 18 years of age & over, $50 for teenagers between 13 - 17 years of age, and Free of charge for kids under 12 years of age, registered by August 28, 2003, will cover all the events including parties of the convention excluding the dinner for the Sunday’s banquet and Monday's picnic. All under 18 years old youngsters must be accompanied by their parents.
4 hotels are Double Tree Hotel $79, Hyatt regency Hotel $89, Sofitel Hotel $99, and Embassy suites $119 per night per room. All hotels are surrendering the convention center within the walking distance. All the hotels have a walkthrough to the convention center. Therefore, you do not have to walk outside the hotels. There are free shuttle busses from airport (O’Hare) to all the hotels for your arrival and back to the airport for your departure.
The convention website http://www.aanf.org/convention2003 is up and running now. Site has all the information that you might need regarding the events, registration fee, timetable schedules, Hotel accommodation options and price structures. Site will be updated daily with more detail information as they become available. Site is ready to register you online for the convention.
For online registration and more information:
http://www.AANF.org/convention2003 or contact us:
Assyrian American National Federation
The Assyrian American National Federation and the Midwest region affiliates for the 70th National Convention, along with the National Youth Excellence Pageant Committee would like to invite qualified students to participate in the 9th Annual Youth Excellence Pageant.
This is a program that promotes and rewards education, talent, knowledge of the Assyrian language and history, and good character among our young Assyrians. The pageant is also intended to instill the sense of Assyrianism in the hearts and minds of our youth.
The pageant will take place during this year's AANF Annual National Convention, August 28th, 2003 to September 1st, 2003 in the City of Rosemont, Illinois.
The pageant is open to all candidates who possess the following:
Please go to the link below for the Application packet which includes the criteria required to participate in the pageant, the application form and other necessary documents.
For more information contact me or visit www.AANF.org or contact us at Convention@aanf.org or call us at 773-583-0707.
A PETITION AGAINST 80 YEARS OF PERSISTENT INJUSTICE
As a result of the political developments and new state formations (foundation of the Soviet Union as an immediate result of the October revolution and beginning of the Turkish independence war against the allies) which took place during and directly after the First World War at first in the Middle East and, in the end, in the whole world, the treaty of Sèvres was declared invalid and instead, the Lausanne treaty was brought on the agenda. In order to clear the details of the agreement and so that the conditions for the establishment of Turkish Republic as the heir of the Ottoman Empire, be created, the representatives of Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Greece, the Serbian-Slovakian union, Romania and the new Turkey met in the Swiss town of Lausanne.
Although the representatives of the Assyrian-Syriac people arrived to this conference in which the future of the mesopotamian people should be determined by agreement, they had not been admitted officially to the meetings. In consideration of the circumstances the destiny of the Assyrian-Syriac people was left to the justice sense and morality consciousness of the leaders of the allied states and Turkey.
In the phase of the negotiations the Assyrian-Syriac delegation succeeded with strong engagement to bring the Assyrian-Syriac question on the agenda of the respective committees. Still, no concrete decisions were being brought forward in this matter. Consequently the identity and the rights of the Assyrian-Syriac people were generalized under the concept "Non-Muslim" minorities in Turkey and were denied.
Although after the ratification of the Lausanne treaty on 24.07.1923 in the III part in which the articles 37 to 45, while rights were partially granted for non-Muslim minorities, to the Armenians, Greeks and Jews, these had totally been kept from the Assyrian-Syriac people.
Therefore in 1923 in Mesopotamia the newly drawn borders and the posed status quo restrained the social developments and gave to the people no freedom. With the foundation the draconian regime the regional disputes increased. The enmities and differences between the people polarized and stepped up, so that hopes and views for peace were destroyed in every respect.
In protest against the events mentioned earlier we have begun from the 15th June to the 24th July 2003 a petition. This petition is directed against the injustice, the division policy, suppression policy and defamation policy of Turkey, as well as it is meant to activate the United Nations (UN) and the European parliament (EP) in this affair.
Hereby we call on the whole Assyrian-Syriac people to raise their voice to enlighten the public opinion about our concern and appeal at the same moment to the people of the different peoples, cultures and religions to support with their signature our petition which is directed against the Lausanne treaty .
Further we hope that the international institutions and organisations comment sensitively and with restraint on the new conditions in Iraq and prevent a second Lausanne treaty which the Assyrian-Aramean-Chaldean-Syriac people will block.
In this sense we demand:
1. the abolition of the third section of the Lausanne treaty of 24.07.1923 which regulates the rights of the non-Muslim minorities and was signed by the representatives of Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Greece, the Serbian Slovakian union, Romania and Turkey, and necessarily its correction in the course of a summoned international conference
2. that these states, who signed the Lausanne Treaty, have to fulfil their obligations to the Assyrian-Syriac people and to the non-Muslim minorities in Turkey.
3. a contemporary new definition of the sections concerning of the non-Muslim minorities in the 3rd section of the Lausanne treaty and an extension of the rights of the Assyrian-Syriac of people. In the following the articles of the 3rd section of the agreement:
This regulation should not hinder the Turkish government from prescribing the Turkish linguistic lessons as a compulsory subject.
In towns and districts with a larger part of Turkish citizens,
who belong to non-Muslim minorities, an adequate part of the public
means is to be granted to these minorities for the use and implementation
which are administered to the households of the land, the municipalities
or to other households for religious, charitable and educational
These measures are to be compiled by special committees which should
be formed equally from representatives of the Turkish government
and representatives of every single affected minority. If no arrangement
is achieved, a European lawyer is ordered by the Turkish government
and the council of the League of Nations by agreement as a referee.
This regulation does not release these Turkish citizens, nevertheless, from the duties which are imposed on all Turkish citizens in the interest of the maintenance of the public order.
Turkey recognizes that every member of the council of the League of Nations is entitled to steer the attention of the council to every breach or danger of a breach of the regulations, and the council should be authorized to give those measures which seem to it under the given circumstances suitable and effectively.
Furthermore Turkey recognizes that disputes about the juridical and actual questions which originate from this contract between the Turkish government and one of the remaining signatures or another power, the member of the League of Nations council is devoted, when international-law disputes are to be regarded in accordance with article 4 of the statute of the League of Nations. Herewith the Turkish government explains her approval that such disputes at the request of the other party are presented to the permanent international tribunal for the decision. The decision of the permanent tribunal should be indisputable and have the same force of law and effect like an arbitration according to article 13 of the statute.
3. the acknowledgment of the Assyrian-Syriac people as indigenous people of Turkey and the definition and manifestation of their rights in the state constitution.
4. the guarantee and protection of the national, cultural, religious, economic and political rights of the Assyrian-Aramean-Chaldean-Syriac people at first in Iraq, in Turkey and in other states of the Middle East in the course of a summoned international conference.
5. the ending of all suppression measures and methods and the assurance of freedom of expression of opinion for the Assyrian-Aramean-Chaldean-Syriac people which counts as the oldest and the original people of Mesopotamia.
The preparation committee
Mesopotamia Freedom Party (GHB)
AFTER DECADES IN EXILE ASSYRIANS TO REBUILD NATIVE VILLAGE
Kafro [Turkey] – Looked at from the roof of the church in the evening sunlight, it all seems possible. The velvet-green hills roll off into the distance, the birds chirp in the stillness, and even the ruins are picturesque in the warm light of the setting sun. In this light, one can even believe that history can be overcome, and that a new beginning is possible.
The people who have gathered on the roof of the 1500-year-old ruined church in Southeastern Anatolia believe this. They speak to one another in Aramaic, the language once spoken by Jesus, which had almost been doomed to die out. They have come back to Kafro from Zurich and Truellikon, from Augsburg and Goeppingen, in order to save their culture, a millennium and a half old, from dying out, and to try for a new beginning in their original homeland.
They need a firm faith, for the soft light is deceptive. The houses have been destroyed by war and plunder, the vineyards burned down, and the fields taken over by weeds. And it is still, because no human being has lived here for a long time. “My father was one of the last to leave,” says Bedros Demir as he points toward a ruined house downa below. “There, that was my parents’ house.” Only the foundations of the walls can be seen, but Bedros and his companions are able to fill in out of memory what is no longer there. They speak of the 17 different types of grapevine that once grew here, of the oak forests that surrounded the villages, and of fig and almond trees.
“Certainly rebuilding things will be difficult,” says Bedros, a shoemaker by trade. Even so, the 40-year-old wants to give up his secure life in Zurich, plant is wife and four children here, and invest his life savings in the reconstruction of the village. Just like the other people assembled on the roof of the church.
It is almost a miracle that they are back. In 1995, the last three families in Kafro got the order from the military to leave the area. The Christians of the area of Southeast Anatolia known as Tur Abdin were caught between the two sides in the war between the Turkish army and Kurdish separatists. Yet that was, after hundreds of years of torment, only the final blow for the “Suryanis”, who are also referred to as Assyrian, Aramaean, or Syrian-Orthodox Christians, and who have lived in Tur Abdin since the 5th Century.
Scorned as Unbelievers and Treated as Second-Class Citizens
Scorned as infidels by their Kurdish neighbors, and treated by the Turkish state as second-class citizens, many Suryanis emigrated [to Europe] as guestworkers in the 1970s. Today over 150 000 Suryanis live in Western Europe, while hardly 3,000 still live in Tur Abdin.
In the nearby monastery of Mar Gabriel the Bishop of Tur Abdin and a few monks and nuns held out even though the years of the war. “Our prayers have been heard,” says Malfono (Master) Isa Gulten from Mar Gabriel today. The war ended, Turkey is trodding the path toward the European Union, and so return now beckons to the Suryanis.
“If we don’t come back then soon there will be no Suryanis left here; then our 1,500-year-old culture will die out,” says Bedros, who has lived in Switzerland for almost 25 years, has a Swiss passport, and speaks excellent German. On Tuesday, there will be a celebratory groundbreaking for the rebuilding effort. By the coming spring, the “Kafro Development Association” wants to have the village in a livable condition once again. More than als 70 Suryanis, most of them families with children, want to return to the village from Switzerland and Germany.
In a less-mild light, the project would seem hopeless. The wells of the village have long been sealed up, the electricity for the construction work will have to be provided with temporary cables, and only a dirt track leads to Kafro. “We won’t be able to return without making sacrifices,” says Bedros. “But my grandfather and my father built the village three times over in any event. Now it’s my turn.” There are Return Associations in Western Europe for other Suryani villages as well. If the return to Kafro succeeds, thousands of Suryanis will follow the pioneers and return to Tur Abdin, says Malfono Isa Gulten.
“Sergeant Mehmet, there are strange flocks of sheep on our land.”
Not all observers share this confidence, but the initial signs are encouraging, as Turkish officialdom is showing itself to be cooperative. The returnees even try to have good relations with the paramilitary gendarmerie. “Hello, could I speak with Sergeant Mehmet please?” says Bedros, speaking in Turkish on his cell-phone with the local barracks. “Sergeant Mehmet, there are some strange flocks of sheep on our land; could you please send a couple of men over?”
Sergeant Mehmet himself soon arrives hurriedly in a jeep, greets the Suryanis with a handshake, and sends his troops after the Kurdish shepherds. The Kurds in the area have taken over use of the fields and meadows of Kafro in the intervening years, and they do not want to give them up. Recently, as two young Suryanis from Goeppingen were shoveling sheep manure out of the village church, built in the 5th Century, and working to repair a ruined house in order to stay temporarily in Kafro, they were set upon by shepherds from a neighboring Kurdish village and beaten to the point of requiring hospitalization. The returning Suryanis are not being welcomed by everyone.
Yet the returnees are not letting themselves be intimidated. “We have to trust the Turkish authorities; they promised us their protection,” says Yahko, who has come from Truellikon, near Zurich. Temporarily, however, the Suryanis go into the monastery at night, and only go to the ruined church in the daytime to work out their plans. Kafro is to get a sports field, and then perhaps even a small hotel, explains Yahko to the Turkish sergeant. The young soldier looks a bit skeptically at the field of ruins out of which a prosperous village is supposed to grow.
You have to have the right light in order to be able to see all of that -- as well as strong faith.
[Z-info: Courtesy of Sonntagszeitung, Mr. Martin Sarkis, and the Assyrian American Association of Southern California website at http://www.aaasc.com]
ASSYRIAN RAPPER RELEASES FIRST CD
Courtesy of the Alameda Times-Star (4 August); by Elizabeth Jardina
(ZNDA: San Mateo) At night, San Mateo hip-hop artist Kobo performs on dim stages to crowded clubs, spitting his rhymes to appreciative audiences. During the day, he sizes up his clients' heads, snipping and shaping their hair to best flatter their faces.
Kobo, born James Alkhass, is what you'd call naturally entrepreneurial.
He just released his solo debut album, "The Birth," on his own record label, MY Entertainment. Last year, the 29-year-old opened his own shop, MY Salon on 25th Avenue in San Mateo.
"I make all the cuts -- hair and records," he laughs.
A tall man with strong features and a curly, shoulder-length ponytail, he's quite dashing, riding a motorcycle and wearing a leather jacket.
Alkhass mostly goes by his nickname Kobo, which comes from "Kid Bass," the moniker he chose as a middle-schooler for competing in freestyle rap contests.
For Kobo, rapping quickly went from hobby to passion, especially when he won the Battle of the Rappers on KMEL (106.1-FM) when he was 15.
"From there, my mom finally started believing I could do something with this rap stuff, so she gave me her blessings," he says. "After she saw I won $1,000 at 15, she said, 'OK, maybe this could go somewhere.'"
His story starts even earlier, though. Born in Kuwait, Kobo is ethnically not Arab, but Assyrian, or Babylonian.
"We have no country," he says. "We lost Babylon 7,000 years ago. There are Assyrians you find in Iraq. That's really what Babylon used to be. There are Assyrians in Russia, there are Assyrians in Australia. We're Christian, Catholics."
He and his family left Kuwait when he was 10. "We were living in the Middle East, where it's tough on Christians," he says. "My father -- before (the Kuwaiti government) took us all to war -- just decided to pack us up and take us to our freedom, where we were free to practice religion and escape all that persecution and escape all that was going down."
From Kuwait, the family moved to Detroit. An important birthplace in the history of hip-hop culture, Kobo absorbed the beats and rhythms of the developing genre in the early 1980s, even though he hadn't really mastered English yet.
From Detroit, the family moved again, to San Mateo, where Kobo's parents opened up a deli in the Laurelwood Shopping Center, and he went to Abbott Middle School, then Aragon
After winning the Battle of the Rappers in 1989, Kobo began performing with a number of groups around the Bay Area, and then in Turlock, where his parents moved when they retired during Kobo's senior year in high school.
Did it matter that hip-hop was primarily developed by African-Americans, and that as a Kuwaiti-born Assyrian he didn't fit the mold?
"Back in the late'80s and very early'90s, the music was very Afro-centric, especially the hip-hop," he says. "Most people accepted, but there were a few ignorant people. But like I say, music is blind and product speaks for itself, You can never deny talent. You can never deny what your ear hears, what your eye sees."
Success came early, with a record contract in 1993 for Kobo's group, Abandoned in the Streets, which changed its name to DaHomlez (The Homeless). Their album "Abandoned in Da Streetz" came out in 1995.
The record did well, but the profits went into the record company's coffers, not the artists' bank accounts.
Kobo is philosophical about the whole situation now. "We were young, dumb, loved our music, didn't know our business," he says. "That was my learning the ropes. I lost a lot of time, dropped out of college for it. It was a deal, it just wasn't the right deal. There's a good experience. Made me stronger."
Meanwhile, as he was building his music career, he was also cutting hair at a barber shop on 25th Avenue. "I started music and hair at the same time," he says. "And I kept them both.
"Hair is my daytime gig, you know, and at nighttime all the music kicks in, all the clubs and the promotion and that good stuff," he says. "Opening up my own business gave me the flexibility to do my music. If I have to take off, I can take off."
Right now, he's hoping "The Birth" takes off. It's available in San Mateo at Tower Records and Vinyl Solutions, as well as MY Salon and Mr. Pickles sandwich shop.
He's building a fan base, doing gigs at clubs like La Fiesta in downtown San Mateo, The Edge in Palo Alto, Tunes in San Jose and Limelight in Mountain View.
He's also in negotiations with a couple of Los Angeles-based record labels, which would help him distribute his album and garner radio play. Right now, he's talking to folks from KMEL -- where his rap career started -- and Wild 94.9-FM. He's got a single, "Too Hot," on stations in smaller markets, such as Reno and San Luis Obispo.
He laughs when he talks about his parents' opinion of his career. "They're like, 'Take care of yourself. It's just a hobby. One in a million people make it,'" he says. "Until you make it, and then you're like, 'The one is me, Mom.' My ultimate goal is to go worldwide."
[Z-info: Check out Kobo’s web site at http://www.calikobo.com.]
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