SILENCE NO MORE!
An AFP news article released on 25 December 2003 affirmed the greatest fear of the Assyrian nationalists after the liberation of Iraq and the weakened central authority in Baghdad. The Assyrians in the three Kurdish-dominated northern governorates were referred to as “Kurdish Christians”. A week later we regretfully understood the reason behind such misrepresentation of a non-Kurdish constituency in North Iraq.
What do you call a region that is not exactly an independent nation with an internationally recognized government that acts like a sovereign nation-state with a capital and a parliament, Head of State, and ministers? The Bush Administration calls it a “semi-autonomous region”, cautiously avoiding the terms “country” or “state”. This is what Washingon is now referring to the Kurdish area after their surprising January 4th announcement. For those of us familiar with the creation of nation-states since the end of World War I we recognize this as the first step toward the establishment of a sovereign state which Mr. Bush may during his second term in office simply refer to as the Republic of Kurdistan. Would the Bush Administration not prefer to deal with a Kurdish Oil Minister in the future, minimizing the impact of an all-Arab economic front? Is investing in a non-Arab state in the Middle East not to the advantage of the state of Israel?
For Assyrians in Iraq this means that they may soon face a choice between minority ethnic status within a Kurdish state or a minority religious status within a Sunni-Shiite Arab country under Islamic law. There is however a third choice: the Little Bet-Nahrain – a small enclave around the Nahla and Mosul regions, independent of any Kurdish rule and protected by the central government of Iraq in Baghdad and the United Nations in case of religious uprisings and civic conflicts.
Assyrians, unlike the Kurds and Turkomen and certain Shiite leaders, have maintained their equivocal stand on preserving the integrity of the Republic of Iraq as one country with its many ethnic facets. The Bush Administration has a different plan for Mesopotamia. It believes that Iraq divided into ethno-religious states represented by a federation-style government may be the only viable solution. Turkey and the neighboring Arab counties disagree.
On 30 June 2004, the Bush Administration will hand over the governance of Iraq over to an Iraqi Authority or government, while keeping its troops on the Mesopotamian ground. The Kurdish government may be formalized on or before 30 June and a more concrete form of government recognized later this year or in early 2005.
Whereas Assyrians are the indigenous people of Iraq and the 3.5 million Christians in Iraq --both Assyrian (Chaldean, Syriac, Nestorian) and non-Assyrian or Arab Christians -- must be fully protected from the militant Islamic fundamentalism in the region, Assyrians must clearly express their demands for political and administrative autonomy under the regulation of a central government in Iraq between now and 1 Neesan 6754 (21 March 2004). These demands must include the following:
An Assyrian in Iraq is a citizen of Iraq and must always protect his homeland’s territorial integrity. All eighteen provinces of Iraq must belong to all 24 million Iraqis and no portion of Iraq may be handed to a certain ethnic or religious group. The formation of a enclave for the protection and preservation of the Assyrian population in Iraq will ensure the direct tie between the Assyrians and the Central government in Baghdad. A similar relationship with a Kurdish government in the ancient Assyrian city of Kirkuk is not an option. This is not a first or last step to any future plans – only a guarantee of safeguarding the Christian population of Iraq until all ethnic and religious conflicts are fully resolved. We cannot allow our Moslem neighbors to tyrannize us again as before. No more arabization, turkofication and kurdofication of our people in our own homeland.
The majority of Iraqis do not want their country divided up. If the Kurds continue to insist on a semi-autonomous existence in North Iraq, a civil war will surely ensue to prevent the balkanization of the Mesopotamian territories. Thanks to the U.S. presence in northern Iraq in the past 12 years, the Kurdish forces are now well-trained and prepared to secure their northern territories against the Arab (Shiite and Sunni) forces.
Iraq is a long long way from being a fully democratic state. The next few months will determine the shape of things to come for the next few years. It is vital that the “Assyrian Case” be fully analyzed and expressed by the Assyrian political leadership within and outside of Iraq. The Neesan 1 deadline is based on the following dates set in the November 15 Agreement signed by the IGC and Bremer’s provisional government:
It is up to our political leadership to clearly express the following statement to Mr. Paul Bremmer and the Bush Administration: “Assryians are not Christians living in Iraq, rather the Kurds and Arabs are Moslems living in Assyria – now called Iraq.” An immediate response to this editorial from all political parties in the Middle East, Europe, and North America is expected by 15 February 2004.
The Assyrians of the San Joaquin Valley, California: From Early Settlements to the Present.
Modern Assyrians are the descendents of the ancient Assyrians who have continued and for thousands of years to occupy a land known by the Greeks as Mesopotamia, a reference to a region between the Tigris and the Euphrates. Although the Assyrian Empire fell in 612 BC, the Assyrian people, contrary to common belief in the west, did not vanish. Just as today’s Italians, Greeks, Egyptians, Jews, and Persians rightly claim that they are the descendents of the ancient Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Israelites, and the Medes respectively, so do the modern Assyrians who trace their heritage to the ancient Assyrians. After the fall of their empire, the Assyrians continued to live as peasant subjects under conquerors such as the Mede Persians and the Greeks. With the coming of Christ, Assyrians were one of the first people, besides the Armenians, who accepted Christianity. As Christians, the Assyrians lived chronologically under the Parthians, Romans, Sassanid Persians, Arab Caliphate, Mongols, Ottoman Turks, and finally Arabs.
In 1915, and during World War One, a systematic extermination of all indigenous Christians of today’s Turkey, i.e. the Assyrians, Armenians and the Greeks, was ordered by the Turkish Government. The Turkish army assisted by the Kurds burned many Assyrian villages in the Hakkari Mountains in southeast Turkey and forced the Assyrians to flee and join their Assyrian brothers and sisters in Azerbaijan (northwest Persia). The Russian army stationed there gave the Assyrians some protection but withdrew later and many Assyrians (some 20,000) fearing for their lives followed the Russians. The Russians returned to Azerbaijan later and protected the remaining Assyrians for some time but the Russian Revolution of October 1917 changed everything. All for a sudden and in January 2, 1918, the Russians withdrew again from Azerbaijan leaving the Assyrians at the mercy of the Turkish army and the Kurds. Thousands of Assyrians and many Armenians were killed. Some (80,000) Assyrians, including some Armenians, were forced to evacuate Azerbaijan and flee to the south and seek the protection of the British army stationed in Hamadan, Persia. The Assyrians were later set in a refugee camp in Baquba, Iraq. One-third of the original (80,000) perished in what became known as one of the most horrifying exoduses the world has known. It is reported that two-thirds of the Assyrian total population was killed during WWI (1914-1918).
In 1924 the Turkish army while massacring and harassing the remaining of the Assyrians in the southern Turkish region of Tur Abdin, forced thousands into mass deportation towards the Syrian frontier. Consequently, Assyrians in southern Turkey dwindled to only couple thousands due to persecution policies or the later Kurdish-Turkish bloody conflict as the Assyrians were caught in the middle. Due to the above and other reasons directly related to the massacre of Assyrians in 1933 in Iraq by the Iraqi Army, other Assyrian settlements were established in Lebanon too. The Assyrian settlements in Iran, meanwhile, are of much earlier periods dating to pre-Christianity.
For some two millennia, the Assyrians have continued to form ethnic clusters confined to southern Turkey, northern Syria, northern Iraq, and northwestern Iran. But World War I changed the political and demographical shape of the region. Instability and continuous persecution against the Assyrians in the Middle East in the last 100 years have scattered the Assyrians in almost every continent of the world. They live in countries such as Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Russia, Armenia, Jordan, Greece, Italy, Sweden, The Netherlands, France, Germany, England, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand, and many others, with the majority of the Diaspora Assyrians in the United States numbering some 250,000.
The nature of the Assyrian society is very complex. Today, they are living in isolated and separated communities due to circumstances beyond their control. The various Assyrian communities today are desperately searching to come together again as one people. Many reasons have fostered the creation of these isolated Assyrian Christian communities:
In time, and due to the above-mentioned reasons, the Assyrians came to be known by their ecclesiastical designations: Nestorians (members of the Church of the East); Chaldeans (members who separated from the Church of the East, joined Catholicism and formed the Chaldean Catholic Church); Jacobites (members of the Syriac Orthodox Church); and Melkites (Christians who refused Monophysitism and remained faithful to the Byzantine rite of Constantinople and mainly Catholic).
The Assyrians are an ethnic group separate from the Arabs, Kurds, Turks and the other groups in the Middle East. The Assyrians are born into their ethnicity. The Assyrians’ unique racial background determines their unique ethnicity. The Assyrians’ ethnicity is focused upon their race and Christian religion; both go hand in hand.
Brief Description and Reasons of Early Settlements
Early Assyrian settlers began to arrive in the United States during the last part of the 19th century. The Assyrian settlers of the San Joaquin Valley came mainly from northwestern Iran (Urmia region) as early as 1910 but the migration increased due to the genocide committed against them before, during and after World War I by the Turks, Kurds and Persians Moslems. The Assyrian Christian migration continued throughout the 20th century with peak points during and post WW1 and WWII and after other specific political and religious upheavals specially after the Ba’ath Pan-Arab Party took power in Iraq in 1968 and the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979.
According to Smith, the reasons for the Assyrian Christian migration from the Middle East could be generally speaking classified under three categories: family, politics and religion.  A good percentage of Assyrians did not come to the San Joaquin Valley directly from the Middle East. They came from Chicago, San Francisco and other American cities. Some came from Canada. Smith’s study showed that one-third of the Assyrians polled have lived in the United States for over ten years before moving to Stanislaus County.  Almost half of the Assyrians polled stated that family was the reason why they moved to Stanislaus County, another 25% did so because of the existence of the noticeable Assyrian community and some 20% gave the climate as their reason. 
Dr. Isaac Adams, an Assyrian Medical Missionary, had begun to plan to settle in California, as early as 1902. In that year, he wrote to Sacramento for the availability of land for settlement but the answer came negative from the authorities. Then he contacted the Canadians and was told that a settlement in North Battleford was possible. Dr. Adams thereafter brought a group of Assyrians from Urmia to Canada. In 1906, Dr. Adams and few others moved to Chicago and it was there that he met an official from the Santa Fe Railroad, who recommended the San Joaquin Valley as a settlement area.  In 1910 he established an Assyrian colony in Turlock after his first attempt to settle in near by Delhi region had failed. His failure was due to a foul play by a real estate agent who gave the Assyrians the wrong picture regarding the true condition of the soil. The real estate agent did not tell the Assyrians that they did not have access to water for irrigation in that part of the valley.  Despite this set-back, Dr. Adams and few others including George Peter, Odisho Backus, Joseph Adams, and Sargis Hoobyar liked the climate of that part of California, which was similar to that of their homeland in Urmia, Iran, and thought that they could have better chances in near-by Turlock. In 1915, while the total population of Turlock reported being (1,500), there were ten Assyrian families living in Turlock.  “By 1921, the Assyrian community grew to a degree where an area south of Turlock proper became known as “little Urmia.”  The Assyrians migration to the region was so noticeable that the Turlock Daily Journal published an article titled “Assyrian refugees, persecuted by the Turks, are coming to Turlock” in its issue of May 14, 1920.
The Assyrians During the Early to Mid 1900s
The Assyrian population continued to increase significantly. In 1930, 20% of the Turlock population was Assyrian; unfortunately, they still did not have adequate representation in the local political power.  This was not completely strange since as minorities in their original homelands the Assyrians were kept away from any participation in the local governments, therefore, they did not have the tools necessary to understand what the concept of representation in government meant and how important that was. Even after moving to the west, they continued to shy away from local politics. Most Assyrians concentrated, generally speaking, on living in peace and making an honest living. They worked year-around picking melons, tree-fruits; later pruning. Women picked grapes or worked seasonally in the canneries, cutting apricot and peaches.  It seems that many Assyrians began to purchase land and started farming during the early days of their settlements. The 1926 Stanislaus County Rancher’s Directory contained forty-four Assyrian surnames. The size of the Assyrian farms ran from five to forty-two acres.  Most planted alfalfa and fruit trees such as grapes, melons, peaches, beans and they raised Turkeys and Chickens. The 1931 Stanislaus County Rancher’s Directory listed sixty-five Assyrian surnames, totaling some (320) people, and they were mainly small or medium family farmers.  The depression of the 1930s forced some Assyrians to sell their farms, while others found work in San Francisco to pay for their mortgages. Those remaining helped each other by joining forces in order to survive.
The Depression of the 1930s slowed the Assyrian migration to Turlock considerably. The Assyrians population from 1930 to 1940 increased by a mere seventy-two people, increasing from five hundred to five hundred seventy two.  The boom of the 1940s though allowed many Assyrians to buy back their farms, which they had lost during the Great Depression. In addition, Assyrians from Chicago began to move to Modesto-Turlock area and began to buy orchards and continued to be mainly farmers.  The 1950 Turlock-Modesto Polk’s City Directory recorded a listing of (414) Assyrian surnames in the district or about (1656) total Assyrians. The Turlock Assyrians meanwhile consisted of (148) families, making about 8% of Turlock’s population, working as farmers, business owners, professionals, clerics, skilled laborers and other professions. The breakdown of the Assyrians in the district, in 1950, is illustrated in the chart below. 
There is a noticeable drop in the Assyrian population in the town of Turlock from the 20% in 1930 to 8% in 1950. This is due to the increase in Turlock’s overall population to the whopping (6,800) people and the move of some Assyrians from Turlock to Modesto, Keyes, Hughson and other areas in the district. During this period the Assyrians continued to be absent from managerial or executive positions whether in private or public offices, with one exception of Mary Shimmon. She was the 1927 Turlock High School graduating class Valedictorian who later became a lawyer and the Stanislaus County Deputy District Attorney. In addition, she held the position of the Counsel for the California State Dept. of Employment. 
Despite the considerable success of some Assyrians with farming in the region, discrimination was an issue they had to learn how to deal with in the early years of their settlement. The Swedes who made the majority of the Turlock groups in the 1920s looked down at the Assyrians. Some stores would not sell farming equipments to the Assyrians or some banks refused Assyrians’ loan applications. Other problems arose when a couple Swedish girls in the Presbyterian Church fell in love with Assyrian boys. The Assyrians, who attended the church at the time, with the absence of an Assyrian church, were kicked out of the church because of these relationships and hence forced to retreat in to isolation. 
This non-friendly behavior motivated the Assyrians to begin to plan to build their own church. They began to raise money and decided to establish an independent, non-denominational Evangelical Assyrian church. Joseph Adams donated seven lots and a few Assyrian contractors in San Francisco like Paul Karib, Aprim of Kossi and Eshaya Aveetar among others donated generously for building the church. The decision was to build a hall first, which could nicely be used to conduct the Sunday service in and at the same time use it for other purposes such as weddings and special gatherings. They decided to build a typical church structure later. But it was not until 1948 though that the real church was completed under the title of the Assyrian Evangelical Church. The church is situated on 500 Morof street, Turlock, California 95382, and has over (300) member families.
One of the interesting incidents occurred when Dr. John Sergis, an Assyrian dentist from San Francisco, bought forty-three acres of land in Keyes for $20,000 and moved in after he finished building his house on the property in 1925, but this is not the point. What is interesting to say is that his house was the first in the area to have tiled bathroom, which attracted the curiosity of many neighbors and they were dropping by to inspect it. 
On April 14, 1926, the Assyrians build a second church, The Assyrian Presbyterian Church. Today the church is located on 450 S. Palm, Turlock, California 95380. And late in the 1940s the number of the Assyrians from Iraq, who were members of the Church of the East, began to increase and donations began to be collected to built a church for them and thus the Mar Addai Assyrian Church of the East was consecrated in January 1950 by the Late Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimun.  Situated on Canal street, Turlock, California, and has some (450) family members.
At the same period, the thought of building an Assyrian club to host the Assyrians and their events began to materialize; hence, the Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock was established in 1946, today situated at 2618 N. Golden State Blvd., Turlock, California, 95381. The Civic Club today has over (1,200) family members and is involved in many Assyrian civic and national activities. Such activities include the Assyrian Martyr Day (on August 7th) in commemoration of the Assyrians massacred during the 20th century, and the Assyrian New Year (start of Spring season). It worth mentioning here that the Assyrian year of 6751 is equivalent to the 2001 of the Gregorian year. The club in addition has a beautiful national choir and orchestra under the name the Nabouram Assyrian National Choir and Orchestra. The Choir and Orchestra have twenty-five and fourteen members respectively under the direction of maestro Alexander Shoora Michalian. Nabouram promotes Assyrian culture and heritage through concerts conducted throughout the United States.
Assyrians in More Recent History
By the 1960s the Assyrian population doubled according to Smith. Polk’s Stanislaus County Directory gave (253) Assyrian surnames, meaning over (1000) Assyrians in the county, many living in urban locations.  Need to make clear here that the Polk figures do not reflect the total population of the Assyrians rather the farm owners only. Since many Assyrians had left the farming business at this time, the (253) figure in the Polk 1960 reflects the natural decrease from the (414) Assyrian farm owners in the 1950. Many second generation Assyrians had begun to seek non-farming jobs and moved to Modesto or few moved to Ceres. These Assyrians were intent on getting accepted as Americans and were less interested in the maintenance of Assyrian ethnic identity.  These second generation Assyrians, wrote Smith, began to join non-Assyrian churches since they did not understand the Syriac language and did not relate to the non-western aspects of the service.  These were natural consequences to the early discrimination their parents had witnessed in the valley. They needed to break the Assyrian isolation of their parents whether due to those discrimination practices or language barriers. Still, Assyrians have begun to have some impact in the political arena. An Assyrian was elected as a County Supervisor and served for two terms in the 1960s. Other Assyrians began to hold positions in local political offices.
At this time, the Catholic Assyrians (i.e. Chaldeans) increased and accordingly the Assyrian Chaldean Catholic Church was established in May 24, 1964, situated on 2901 North Berkeley Ave., Turlock, California 95382, and has about (350) family members today.
By 1970 Assyrians in the San Joaquin Valley experienced a change in profile, writes Ishaya. The Assyrians were no longer practicing family farming. They were engaged in urban occupations instead. As powerful non-local agricultural businesses moved in, they provided opportunities for wage work. Family farmers, who could not compete with corporate operations, sold out and took up urban occupations.  It was not surprising to notice that the 1970s Assyrian working class in Turlock for example increased compared to the 1950 figures.
Below are the owned businesses, professionals, clerical jobs or sales and skilled labors categories of the two periods. 
In April 1974 the Bet Nahrain Inc., an Assyrian organization dedicated to Assyrian educational and cultural activities, was established. The organization, in addition, promotes national awareness among the Assyrian people. The organization succeeded soon after in establishing a radio and later a TV station (AssyriaVision) broadcasting programs in Syriac, also known as the Neo-Aramaic (the Assyrian’s mother tongue), and in English and Arabic. The Station later in 2002 was linked to the Satellite system and AssyriaSat was born; it is viewed worldwide. The organization is involved in many social and cultural activities just as that of the Civic Club. The Assyrian Cultural Center of Bet-Nahrain is located at 3119 South Central Ave., Ceres, California 95307.
The 1975 special census indicated that in Turlock the Assyrians were the third largest ethnic group after the Mexican-Americans and the Portuguese.  In the 1980s, Assyrians had large investments in commercial and residential property in Turlock. Assyrian real estate agents confirmed that some twelve Assyrians had assets worth one million or more. An Assyrian family owned a whole block of a residential property in down town Turlock. One real-estate firm owned a block of business property on Main Street. The firm belongs to the heirs of Bob Abraham, the first Assyrian businessman who started a hamburger and hot dog stand on the above street in the early 1920s.  Although very few Assyrians ventured into business in early settlement periods yet as the number of Assyrian immigrants increased in the San Joaquin Valley, businesses owned by Assyrians increased accordingly. In 1985 there were some ninety-one Assyrian owned businesses in the Turlock-Modesto area ranging from restaurants, auto dealers, repair shops, groceries, gas stations, real estate agencies, beauty shops, jewelers, tailors and many others. 
To accommodate other Assyrians in the valley, the Assyrian Club of Urhai was established in 1989 on 2016 N. Central Rd., Modesto, California 95357 and it has close to (200) members today. Furthermore, the Assyrian American Association of Modesto, which is still very young, was established too in the last few years.
We hear from older Assyrian residents in the valley that in the 1960s Assyrian church members had begun to dwindle seriously. We are told too that the Assyrian community feared that it would eventually decline in regards to ethnic identity and began to face a dilemma.  As much as Assyrians love America and being Americans, at the same time they fear complete assimilation. The majority of the early Assyrian settlers of the 1920s and their heirs have indeed lost all ties to Assyrian culture, language and customs. The influx of the Assyrian immigrants and refugees in the 1970s brought new blood to the region; it revitalized ethnic identity in the community. Prior to this influx, Smith’s study showed that 65% of the Assyrians polled were marrying non-Assyrians. If this trend continued, the researcher stated, the continuity of the Assyrian ethnicity in Stanislaus County would be questionable.  The percentage mentioned by Smith in 1981 would be completely revised in my opinion if the study were to be conducted today since a good percentage of the new Assyrian immigrants and refugees choose their marriage partners from within the Assyrian community. As far as language, Smith writes, almost half of the first generation Assyrians spoke, read, and wrote Syriac, while none of the second generation was proficient in all the three aspects of the language, although many spoke it only.  The study finally showed that half of the second generation Assyrians at the time of the study in early 1980s in Stanislaus County did not attend Assyrian churches.  This issue has been addressed many times in Assyrian Church meetings. The sixty-four thousand dollars question continues to be what should the Church do in order to attract the Assyrian youth?
Still, some Assyrians continue to complain at times that more churches are needed as more immigrants and refugees continue to arrive and establish new communities in the valley. In 1991, the Mar Zaia Parish of the Assyrian Apostolic Catholic Church of the East was consecrated at 1457 Mable Ave. Modesto, California 95355. Its membership is not known today exactly, but it is stated that it might reach (100) families. Then the St. Mary Church was born on 7401 Fox Rd., Hughson, California 95326, with approximately (200) family members. And most recently in 1998, the Mar Giwargis (St. George) Parish of the Assyrian Apostolic Catholic Church of the East was consecrated at 3900 Brickett St. Ceres, California. Today, the St. George church has over (400) family members.
We have to admit that despite all the obstacles the Assyrians faced and the complete change of life style and environment, Assyrians have generally succeeded in adapting to their new home. Sarah Sergis Jackson and Victoria Yonan Nevils write:
“Indications are that the Assyrians have achieved what they were looking for in migrating to the United States; opportunity to develop their individual potential. Nothing really stands in the way of their doing so, unless it is whatever hampers anyone in this country, be he of long time native stock or of recent ethnic origin.” 
Many freelance writers in the valley have become interested in the Assyrians, their culture, language and way of life. Brenden Cassidy describes one Assyrian in an article for a Modesto publication. She writes:
“Our family's friend Janet came to America from Iran in 1975. Some of her relatives from Turlock sponsored her and her family. Janet is 100% Assyrian …Being a religious minority in their homeland has helped keep them together for 2000 years. Janet celebrates American and Assyrian holidays.” 
The Assyrians who have arrived very recently to the Stanislaus County as refugees have witnessed some of the most unpleasant and horrific experiences mankind has witnessed. Most of them have fled Iraq after the Gulf War or Iran after the Islamic Revolution. Many of them had stayed for years in poorly maintained and disease infected refugee camps mainly in Turkey. The Stanislaus County Refugee Health Program’s staff has worked with these Assyrian refugees and has examined (218) refugees, in the span from fall of 2000 to April 2001, for parasites from contaminated water or food, or for tuberculosis that may have been spread in those crowded refugee camps. That was double the number examined for all of 1998. In fiscal year 1999, the staff examined (152) people and had a backlog of (101) more cases, says program's refugee coordinator, Roselyn Cunningham.  “ … The refugees are coming to Stanislaus County to join family in the growing Assyrian communities in Turlock, Modesto and Ceres, said Peter Kucher, who resettles families in the Modesto area for New York-based World Relief.” 
These Assyrian refugees go through different adjustment process to their new life in the United States. This process is very difficult and especially in the first years, depending on their socioeconomic status, age, educational background and their knowledge of the English language. The previous factors influence in addition their social interaction with other ethnic groups.  Studies had shown that the process of migration effect these refugees directly as they develop various psychological problems such as panic attacks, social phobia, and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). 
“…The refugees, according to Baskauskas, L. (1981) and Loizos, P. (1981), pass through three stages: conservatism, a defensive element to maintain the past; bereavement and anger for the irretrievable losses; and, moving on beyond one’s loss to develop new patterns of life.” 
Most of heads of families experience harder times in the process of adjustment. However, they learn how to adjust and adapt to the new life, with very few exceptions. One of the most important reasons is the well-being and safety of family members, mainly spouse and children that become more important to them.  Treatments for these eastern refugees in the west are, unfortunately, culturally biased or insensitive in general and do not take into consideration their unique background.
Badal states: “These refugees may have limited resources to deal with their stressors, but their extended family, self defense mechanisms, and cultural and community support may provide some immunity against persistent and long-term emotional disorders.” 
Having experienced a culture shock, i.e. lost everything on their way to their new home in the west, the Assyrians feel that preserving social and cultural identity could provide self-esteem, security, purpose and a mean for a better life. A sense of identity and purpose therefore is very essential for Assyrians, which explain their strong tie to their culture despite their financial or health conditions.  Many portray this behavior of semi-isolation as a rejection or dislike for the new culture and life style, which is not the case at all. The Assyrians value the opportunity given to them to have a better life and most importantly the freedom they experience as American citizens. They understand that the USA is the land in which dreams come true. The Assyrians had to learn how to walk that thin line where they can be successful and good American citizens yet still preserve their unique Assyrian culture, language, customs and identity. And if there is one country in which Assyrians could make that dream come true, then it is in the United States of America.
Although the Assyrians are a distinct ethnic group, they still believe and act as part of the larger fabric of the American society. The Assyrians try to facilitate and promote greater interaction with the society at large to have a better understanding, respect and harmony among all various ethnic groups in the region. In that respect, the Assyrians donated on April 24, 1999, through the renowned Assyrian Food and Wine expert Narsai David, a bust of the Assyrian King Ashurbanipal to the Vasche Library of the California State University, Stanislaus. King Ashurbanipal had of course established the first library in the world in the Assyrian capital of Nineveh during the 7th century BC. Furthermore, they had started, with the cooperation of the local school district, special Syriac language classes held at the Turlock High School for anybody who is interested to learn the language of the Assyrians. In accordance with that same purpose, the Assyrians hold annual Food Festivals at the Assyrian Cultural Center of Bet-Nahrain where literature about the Assyrians is made available and special Assyrian food is enjoyed while typical Assyrian music and dance are played and performed.
Today, the San Joaquin Valley (Turlock, Modesto, Ceres, Manteca and the neighboring towns) is the home for some (15,000) Assyrians. It is a bustling Assyrian community with seven churches, four clubs, and youth and adult cultural groups, in addition to various athletic teams and much more. Assyrians have available to them many hours of TV and radio broadcasting whether via public or private enterprises. Many Assyrian youth attend local and remote universities and go on to become prominent citizens in the community. The Assyrians are part of almost every business in the San Joaquin Valley. They are the lawyer, engineer, teacher, professor, technician, car dealer, farmer, real estate agent or broker, insurance agent, hair stylist, restaurant owner, doctor, nurse, convenient storeowner, artist, gas station owner, and others. Among the Assyrians today, there are those who live an average life and those who had become millionaires and live lavishly. They all work together to make their community a better place to live.
 Smith, Gary. A Ph.D. Dissertation: “From Urmia to the Stanislaus: A Cultural-Historical Geography of Assyrian Christians in the Middle East and America”, p. 174.1981.
 Ibid, p. 178
 Ibid, p. 172
 Hohenthal, Helen. “Streams in the Thirsty Land: A History of the Turlock Region”, p. 100. 1972. Chapter XII by Sarah Sergis Jackson and Victoria Yonan Nevils. “The Assyrian Settlers from the Near East.”
 Ishaya, Arianne. A Ph.D. Dissertation: “Class and Ethnicity in Rural California: The Assyrian Community of Modesto-Turlock 1910-1985”, p. 140-141. 1985
 Smith, Gary. A Ph.D. Dissertation: “From Urmia to the Stanislaus: A Cultural-Historical Geography of Assyrian Christians in the Middle East and America”, p. 116.1981.
 Ibid, p. 119.
 Ishaya, Arianne. A Ph.D. Dissertation: “Class and Ethnicity in Rural California: The Assyrian Community of Modesto-Turlock 1910-1985”, p. 139. 1985
 Ibid, p. 142.
 Ibid, p. 143-145
 Ibid, p. 147.
 Smith, Gary. A Ph.D. Dissertation: “From Urmia to the Stanislaus: A Cultural-Historical Geography of Assyrian Christians in the Middle East and America”, p. 126.1981.
 Ishaya, Arianne. A Ph.D. Dissertation: “Class and Ethnicity in Rural California: The Assyrian Community of Modesto-Turlock 1910-1985”, p. 151-152. 1985
 Ibid, p. 152-154.
 Hohenthal, Helen. “Streams in the Thirsty Land: A History of the Turlock Region”, p. 104. 1972. Chapter XII by Sarah Sergis Jackson and Victoria Yonan Nevils. “The Assyrian Settlers from the Near East.”
 Ishaya, Arianne. A Ph.D. Dissertation: “Class and Ethnicity in Rural California: The Assyrian Community of Modesto-Turlock 1910-1985”, p. 146. 1985.
Read also Smith, p. 121.
 Hohenthal, Helen. “Streams in the Thirsty Land: A History of the Turlock Region”, p. 104. 1972. Chapter XII by Sarah Sergis Jackson and Victoria Yonan Nevils. “The Assyrian Settlers from the Near East.”
 Smith, Gary. A Ph.D. Dissertation: “From Urmia to the Stanislaus: A Cultural-Historical Geography of Assyrian Christians in the Middle East and America”, p. 107.1981.
Read also Hohenthal, p. 107.
 Smith, Gary. A Ph.D. Dissertation: “From Urmia to the Stanislaus: A Cultural-Historical Geography of Assyrian Christians in the Middle East and America”, p. 131.1981.
 Ibid, p. 130.
 Ibid, p. 133.
 Ishaya, Arianne. A Ph.D. Dissertation: “Class and Ethnicity in Rural California: The Assyrian Community of Modesto-Turlock 1910-1985”, p. 161-164. 1985.
 Ibid, p. 153 and p. 167.
 Ibid, p. 170.
 Hohenthal, Helen. “Streams in the Thirsty Land: A History of the Turlock Region”, p. 105. 1972. Chapter XII by Sarah Sergis Jackson and Victoria Yonan Nevils. “The Assyrian Settlers from the Near East.”Read also Ishaya, p. 179.
 Ishaya, Arianne. A Ph.D. Dissertation: “Class and Ethnicity in Rural California: The Assyrian Community of Modesto-Turlock 1910-1985”, p. 181-182. 1985.
 Smith, Gary. A Ph.D. Dissertation: “From Urmia to the Stanislaus: A Cultural-Historical Geography of Assyrian Christians in the Middle East and America”, p. 134.1981.
 Ibid, p. 197.
 Ibid, p. 198.
 Ibid, p. 207.
 Hohenthal, Helen. “Streams in the Thirsty Land: A History of the Turlock Region”, p. 107. 1972. Chapter XII by Sarah Sergis Jackson and Victoria Yonan Nevils. “The Assyrian Settlers from the Near East.”
 Cassidy, Brenden. Stanislaus Connections: A Modesto Peace/Life Center Publication, “A Culture Without a Country”. May 2001.
 Hurt, Suzanne. “Health staff sees influx of Iranians”. Modesto Bee, April 22, 2001.
 Badal, Ashour. A Ph.D. Dissertation: “A Qualitative Case Study of the Psychosocial Effects of Acculturative Stress and Forced Displacement of Assyrian-Iranian Refugees Living in the United States,” p. 8. 2001
 Ibid, p. 16
 Ibid, p. 102
 Ibid, p. 88-89
 Ibid, p. 91
 Ibid, p. 94
200 IRAQI LEADERS DENOUNCE ATTACKS ON CHRISTIANS
(ZNDA: Baghdad) A number of Iraqi intellectuals and politicians have called upon Muslim religious leaders, Iraq's Governing Council and the coalition authorities to prevent Shiite groups from attacking Christians.
A call by more than 200 mainly Muslim intellectuals and political leaders to stop attacks on Christians and cease forcing women to wear the veil was published Jan. 4 on the Arabic Website Elaph.
The news was reported, among others, by the Barnabas Fund, an organization that works to support Christian communities mainly in the Muslim world.
The intellectuals and political leaders specifically called upon Muslim religious leaders to issue fatwas forbidding such "atrocious crimes against humanity."
The declaration said "horrific" crimes had been committed against women in forcing them to wear the veil, but worst of all was the "terrorizing of our Christian brothers," intimidating them to become Muslims.
It noted that Christians had lived in Iraq for 2,000 years and
had contributed greatly to the region's civilization, both before
and after the coming of Islam.
ADO LECTURE IN QAMISHLY
(ZNDA: Qamishly) On Thursday, 8 January, the Assyrian Democratic Organization held a lecture in the city of Qamishly, Syria entitled “Syria and the National Identity Problem.” The lecturer, Mr. Suleiman Yousif Yousif, addressed the national identity of the people in Syria and described ways to change the system of government in Syria from the current totalitarian single-Party system into a multi-party system. Mr. Yousif also explained how the government can respect the identity, culture, language of the non-Arab ethnic populations of Syria.
The lecture was the first public lecture to be held by any non-government political organization to analyze the political conditions in Syria, to criticize the government, and offer solutions on how to solve the current ambiguity in the national identity of the people in Syria.
The lecture was attended by a large audience which included the
representatives from the Human Rights Organizations, Syrian government
officials, governmental representatives in the region, the Syrian
Baath Party representatives, representatives of all ethnic groups
in the region, representatives of government backed and non-government
backed political organizations, and a large number of other interested
YONADAM KANNA HOSTS DINNER HONORING MAR EMMANUEL III
(ZNDA: London) On Saturday 10 January the Honorable Mr. Yonadam Kanna, the official representative of the Assyrian Chaldean Christians in the Iraqi Governing Council and Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, hosted a dinner reception at his residence in honor of Mar Emmanuel Deli, who was recently consecrated the Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church.
Also in attendance were the following dignitaries:
Ambassador Paul Bremmer – Coalition Provisional Authority
Due to health reasons, Mar Addai II, Patriarch of the Ancient Church of the East, was unable to attend.
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Members of the Iraqi Governing Council argued on
5 January over whether to honor or condemn the disbanded Iraqi army,
reflecting deep divisions over an institution seen by some as an
instrument of atrocities and by others as a symbol of national pride.
During the Governing Council debate, some members condemned the
former army and Mr. Ahmed Chalabi criticized its involvement in
wars against Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973.
Founded 6 January 1921, Iraq's army grew to become the world's fourth largest. Under Saddam, it became an integral part of the security apparatus, with soldiers forced to study the doctrines of Saddam's Ba'athist Party.
Ambassador Paul Bremer's decision to disband the army immediately
put 350,000 Iraqi men -- all trained in the military arts -- out
of work and has been blamed for filling the ranks of an occupation
insurgency throughout the country.
ASSYRIAN IRAQI MINISTER OF TRANSPORT: TURKEY IS KEY TO OPENING OF IRAQ'S DOOR TO DEVELOPED EUROPE
(ZNDA: Ankara) The Assyrian-Iraqi Minister of Transport, Bahnam Ziya Bulus, said on 30 December that Iraq's door opening to developed European countries is Turkey.
Bulus, who visited Ankara Chamber of Industry (ASO) Chairman Zafer Caglayan, expressed belief that Turkey would help Iraq.
Noting Iraq had very difficult days in 2003, Bulus stated that Iraq started to restore stability in recent days.
Bulus said that Turkish businessmen having business deals in Iraq did not stop their communication with Iraq even in the difficult days their country was facing.
Significant changes would be made in Iraq in the following few months, Bulus pointed out.
Bulus noted that they were aware of where Turkey's red line started and ended.
Hoping that they could have a more suitable ground for projects in coming few months, Bulus said that they thought of financing projects between 2004 and 2007 by three separate sources, including Iraq's own budget, finance of countries which had promised to help Iraq and the U.S. assistance.
Bulus said that Turkey was one of the most suitable countries which could undertake projects in Iraq and hoped that existing bilateral relations would be further improved in coming days.
Committing that his ministry would give priority to Turkish companies in the projects concerning itself, Bulus said that Turkey should be in contact with countries which would give loan to Iraqi projects.
Bulus stated that they were dealing with a second border gate which would reduce the burden between two countries, adding that efforts to open a second border gate continued.
STATEMENT ON ASSYRIANS/SYRIACS SIGNED BY FOUR EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT MEMBERS
[Z-info: The following statement was issued last week in the European Parliament, a significant step toward the recognition of the Assyrians (Nestorians, Syriacs, and Chaldeans) as an indigenous ethnic population of Iraq.]
It is of utmost importance that the European Union directs its attention to the alarming situation as regards violations of the political and religious freedom of Christian minorities in the Middle East. At stake are fundamental human rights guaranteed by international law.
In particular, one of the ancient ethnic groups in Turkey and Iraq, the Assyrians/Syriacs, is near the point of extinction. Before the Gulf War 1,5 million Assyrians/Syriacs populated Iraq. Today this number has decreased to 0.5 million inhabitants. There are currently estimated 10-15,000 Assyrians/Syriacs left in Turkey.
The Assyrian/Syriac people have a precious cultural heritage of great importance for the entire civilized community. Nonetheless, Assyrian churches and monasteries are being systematically confiscated or even destroyed.
With every international crisis in the Middle East, the Assyrians/Syriacs as well as other Christian minority groups have been targeted by both fighting sides, as they found themselves caught in the middle of different political and religious power-constellations. At present, there is strong concern about the situation of Assyrians/Syriacs in Northern Iraq.
On the other hand, Turkey has not improved its record as regards the religious freedom and property rights of Christian minorities, in spite of recent changes in national legislation. The Commission states in its Strategy Paper on the enlargement that Turkey has made noticeable progress towards meeting the Copenhagen political criteria. This is not enough. It is time that the EU made clear to the Turkish administration that it expects full and proper implementation of the Copenhagen criteria as a pre-requisite for EU membership.
The Assyrians/Syriacs represent an original Christian group in the Middle East. Along with other religious minorities, they need to be officially recognized and be allowed to effectively enjoy their basic human rights by governments and national authorities. It is therefore of great importance that the EU demonstrates stronger concern for the plight of the Assyrian/Syriac people, by bringing the issue of their political and religious rights and indeed of their very existence to the main political agenda.
The situation of the Assyrians/Syriacs was raised in an open hearing in the beginning of October 2002 in the European Parliament arranged by the Nordic Christian Democrats.
INDEPENDENT OBSERVERS TOUR CALIFORNIA, REPORT ON OCTOBER 2003 BAGHDAD CONFERENCE
(ZNDA: San Jose) Over 300 people attended a meeting on 9 January at the Assyrian American Civic Club in Turlock, California where a group of four Assyrian activists described their trip to Iraq and reflected on their observations during and after the “Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian Conference” in Baghdad between 22 and 24 October 2003. None of the four speakers were members of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM).
Mr. Shiba Mando, President of the Assyrian American Council of Illinois; Mr. Yousiph Canon, an Assyrian author; Mr. Odisho Dinkha, of the Assyrian Liberation Movement; and Mr. Robert Dekelaita, an Assyrian attorney from Chicago conveyed the following observations in Turlock:
1. Assyrians have lost their homelands in Urmia, Hakkari, and Tur Abdin. They lost their lands because they failed to work together and as one people. They lost, for the same reasons, the opportunity in 1921 (at the establishment of Iraq) to be recognized as ethnic people in Iraq, rather than various religious sects.
2. For the first time Iraqi groups recognized Assyrians as ethnic group in the Beirut Conference of the Iraqi Opposition Groups in 1991, and that was based on a demand placed by the Assyrian Democratic Movement.
3. The majority of those who attend these political gatherings and those who are involved in the national affairs are those who were born in the Middle East. One wonders were it not for the recurrent immigration of the Assyrians to the west, how would the national movement survive? Who would carry the flame, especially when the west begins to institute stricter laws on immigration from the Middle East?
4. “Our hope is in Iraq, period.”
5. The Assyrian villages and lands throughout northern Iraq have been lost, and continue to be lost to the Kurds. One example is the village of Diana; it used to be an Assyrian village, today it is a Kurdish town. What is left in northern Iraq (i.e. Assyrians living in true Assyrian villages) are the Nahla Region and the Nineveh plain.
On Saturday, 10 January the group of four offered their observations to a smaller but less agitated crowd in San Jose, California. After a prayer by Bishop Mar Bawai Soro of the Assyrian Church of the East, Mr. Yousiph Canon began to discuss the historical reasons for the fate of the Assyrians in Iraq. He explained that Christianity after the internal strife between Nineveh and Babylon and the fall of the Mesopotamian empires united the Assyrians under three religious names. He said: “Greatness depends not on our history, rather our voice. Our voice is weak.” He finished his speech by emphasizing the importance of a united Assyrian-Chaldean front and a place in the future Iraq.
Mr. Odisho Dinkha explained that the region has changed since his the last time he was in Iraq, either by natural forces or the destruction caused by the Baathist troops. He then received a thunderous response when he reminded the audience that over 5,000 students in northern Iraq are studying from grades one through twelve in several Assyrian schools. A new Assyrian school, “Bahra”, just opened its doors in Kirkuk, Iraq.
Mr. Shiba Mando, praised the ADM security forces for their continuous protection of all Conference attendees. Mr. Mando also explained that the Conference was the first of its kind as it included members of every Assyrian eastern churches and even the Maronite church from Lebanon. “We cannot ask for our rights sitting in California,” alluding to the attacks received from the meeting in Turlock by members of the Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party. Mr. Mando ends his speech by explaining to his audience that “Zowaa is not just a political party, rather our hope in Iraq.” In describing the reason for the appearance of the name “Assyrian” in the compound name “Chald-Assyrian” Mr. Mando explained that “the name “Assyrian” has history and pertains to a specific geographic area. The name Chaldo or Chaldean does not.” Mr. Mando pointed out that over 125,000 Chaldean-Assyrians live in the Nineveh Plain in Iraq and asked that Mr. Yonadam Kanna should be respected as “our representative and the representative of the Chaldean Assyrian Christians in Iraq”.
The final speaker, Mr. Robert Dekelaita described his emotional trip
to the ruins of Nineveh and explained that the Assyrian population
in Iraq lives under dire economic condition, as dire as the condition
of the city of the Nineveh itself. He also emphasized that the Assyrian
Democratic Movement “brings us hope”. Mr. Dekelaita further
explained the importance of establishing an administrative region
in the Nineveh Plains in Iraq as was demanded in the final report
of the October Conference. Mr. Dekelaita also asked for greater support
for the Assyrian leadership in Iraq.
AACC OF TURLOCK PICKS A NEW PRESIDENT
(ZNDA: Turlock) Months of meetings, rallies, debates and campaigning have finally come to an end for Fred Betmaleck and William Julian, the two candidates running for president of the Assyrian American Civic Club in Turlock. Mr. Julian was declared the next president of the AACC of Turlock after all votes were counted on Saturday evening.
Betmaleck has been a member of the Assyrian American Civic Club since 1991. His positions within the club include chairman of the constitution and by-law committees, vice-president, delegate to the national convention, and member of the board of directors.
Now at age 70, Betmaleck is retired but still does consulting in San Jose and also owns some housing development in Turlock.
He said he joined the race because he felt the Civic Club needed better leadership.
He comes from a background of many years in management, and has worked as a project engineer, section manager, engineering manager and production manager.
“I felt that I could use my experience to improve the Civic Club,” he said, “ but it wasn’t until my brother said, ‘ If you do not do it you’re not doing justice for your people’ that it was then that I knew I had to run.”
Included in his ideas were to waive the dues that students have to pay in order to become members, and increase the scholarships that are given out to college students.
“The long-term goals are to build a school that will be open to Assyrians from all churches, all clubs and organizations,” he said. “I also want to focus on our elderly, to build a low-income senior center, and to get help translating when they need to go to the DMV or Social Security.”
Uniting Assyrian Americans was also one of his goals.
“There is a lot of arguing and a big power struggle that is going on in the Civic Club,” Betmaleck added. “A lot of people feel like they own the club - we need to unite and work together.”
Betmaleck hoped to look back at his two years in office and see more youth involvement.
“ I would like more youth activities, such as sports, music and drama,” he said.
The elections winner, Mr. William Julian, has been a member of the Assyrian American Civic Club since 1958 and has been heavily involved in its activities.
He has held positions such as recording secretary, board member, treasurer, director of the 2002 national Assyrian convention, and has attended every meeting at the Civic Club.
He is currently retired but devotes his free time to being a building contractor and a real estate broker.
Julian said he decided to run for president because he noticed that there was a lack of youth involvement, and he wanted to bring them back.
“No one pays attention to the youth,” he said. “We need to put more of an emphasis on our youth. I would like to open up a center and set up a group that will get the youth involved.”
Julian doesn’t want to waste any time, however. He has set up some goals that he would like to start on right away if he gets elected.
“I would like to increase the membership to 2,000 people in two to three months,” he said. “I want listen to the members’ problems, mix the administration and members together, and work as one.”
Julian also wants to build an environment in which members and non-members, all churches, political groups and organizations come together and unite.
“I want to keep the doors open for everyone,” he said. “The youth has been turned away and made promises that haven’t been kept.”
Julian doesn’t want the young people to be judged or looked down upon because of their parents’ decisions and votes.
“Once there is a winner, there will be only one team, not two,” he said.
Julian also has plans to bring in a modern way of doing things that will carry on to future presidents.
“There’s not a proper system in place,” he said. “I would like to bring in a data base system that will help us run the Civic Club better and will help the future leaders.”
Julian has 20 promises that he hopes to have accomplished after his two-year term. A few of those goals are to stop the favoritism and give everyone equal rights.
“I also want to get a lot of people to volunteer their time
and help out,” he said.
LOCAL NEW YORK CHURCH LEADER APPOINTED MARONITE BISHOP
(ZNDA: New York) A news Sunday morning announced a big promotion for a local Catholic Church leader. This week Pope John Paul II appointed Father Gregory Mansour to be the third bishop of a Brooklyn, New York based Maronite diocese. It's called the Eparchy of St. Maron, and covers 16 states and the District of Columbia.
Fr. Mansour is currently the rector of St. Raymond's Maronite Cathedral
in St. Louis, where he has served since 2001.
Maronites are primarily Lebanese Christians who similar to the Chaldean
Catholics in Iraq have ties to the Roman Catholic Church, but have
different liturgies. The masses are performed in Aramaic.
BRITISH BOOK SPARKS DESTRUCTION OF ASSYRIAN TABLET IN INDIA
The incident was sparked by an allegedly objectionable observations by author and teacher James Laine in a book on the parentage of Maratha warrior king Shivaji.
In the process, he paints a new and more complex picture of Hindu-Muslim relations from the seventeenth century to the present.
The controversy had seemed to have been resolved when Mr Laine apologized last month for his statements on Shivaji. The book's publisher, Oxford University Press, withdrew the book from the market.
But this Monday, thousands of rare Sankskrit manuscripts, ancient books and palm leaf inscriptions were destroyed in half an hour as 250 protesters ransacked the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute.
One of the worst losses includes a clay tablet dating back to the Assyrian civilization of 600 BC.
The protesters, members of a group called Sambhaji Brigade, pelted stones and broke glass at the institute. Some cut the telephone lines so the police could not be contacted.
Police protection has been given to three historians, G B Mahendale, Shrikant Bahulkar and V L Manjul in the light of the controversy over the book.
Police have arrested 72 people for the vandalism
AMERICAN TROOPS LAUNCH 'EXORCIST' TOUR AT ANCIENT TEMPLE
(ZNDA: Baghdad) For a country recently purged of its chief tormentor, it is perhaps a grimly appropriate theme for its first new tourist attraction.
American troops in Iraq have launched what has been dubbed "The Exorcist Experience", after discovering that the ancient ruins they were guarding provided the location for the 1973 horror classic's opening sequence.
They now plan to help locals put the 2,000-year-old city of Hatra back on the international tourist map by marketing it as a future holiday destination to fans of the cult film.
Using a modest $5,000 (£2,800) grant, the soldiers have recruited local guides and guards to the city and built a car park and police station nearby. They have also revamped the nearby Saddam-built Hatra Hotel, which they hope to privatise.
"Once it's up and running again as a visitors' spot, this place will be a real moneypot," said Capt Nik Guran of the 2-320 Field Artillery Regiment, attached to the 101st Airborne Division. "The film will just add to the numbers of people coming here. You should see it all at night - we've put in floodlights and it looks really beautiful."
The regiment hatched the plan to revamp the Assyrian site's derelict visitors' facilities after spending the summer living in Hatra's 200ft-high sun temples to protect them from looters. An oasis of pre-Christian civilisation in the middle of the desert south-west of Mosul, Hatra's finely preserved columns and statues make it one of the most impressive of Iraq's archaeological sites.
After spending several months looking after the site and researching its history, most of the soldiers can now discourse knowledgeably on the various Assyrian, Sumerian and Parthian influences on its butterscotch-coloured stonework.
Pointing with a hand that guided 105mm howitzer shells during the war in Iraq, Capt Guran slips fluently into tour-guide mode as he strides towards the 100ft iwans - huge, open-fronted vaulted halls that resemble Arab guest-tents. Initially, the troops thought the main interest would come from archaeology enthusiasts who flocked there decades ago, before Saddam virtually closed the site to the outside world.
They only realised its marketing potential to millions of fans of the world's most famous horror film when, completely by chance, Capt Guran watched The Exorcist on a portable DVD player one night.
To his astonishment, he spotted Hatra's distinctive skyline in the director William Friedkin's opening sequence, in which a priest at an archaeology dig unearths the ancient Mesopotamian demon that goes on to possess a young American girl. "It was filmed a bit before Saddam really came to power, and the opening scene was made at an actual excavation that was taking place here at the time," said Capt Guran, 30.
"I thought, 'Wow - that's the place we've been guarding'. We've spent so much time down here, you recognise it straightaway."
Saddam would no doubt have admired Hatra's defensive record against invading superpowers, which involved using early forms of chemical and biological weapons. Naptha bombs and jars of desert scorpions were poured over the outer wall to successfully repel Roman invaders , according to the classical folklorist Adrienne Mayor.
More recently, the temple has been associated with the so-called Exorcist's Curse, said to have plagued all those involved in the film with bad luck.
"We had an incident a while back where one soldier shot another, and there were mutterings about it being the curse of Hatra," said Capt Guran. "We had to stop that right away."
The city was left in ruins after it was sacked and burnt by Sapor, the Sassanian Persian king, in AD 241. The impressive temple complex dedicated to several Hatrene gods, the chief of which was the sun god Shamash, lies in the very centre of its limestone and gypsum walls.
Mohammad Sulaiman, 35, a former US army translator who has been trained to manage the hotel, hopes it will revive the economic fortunes of the poverty-stricken local town. "This is our heritage and we want to show it to all the world," he said. "Hopefully, now that Saddam has been captured, peace will come and the tourists will return."
Lt Col Kevin Felix, who had the original idea of revamping the site,
said: "I would love to come back in a few years' time and stay
as a tourist at the hotel, if things work out in this country. I guess
it will either be doing brilliantly, or it will have burned to the
EYES ON MESOPOTAMIAN GLORY
(ZNDA: Chicago) Until last year, few Americans felt drawn to museum shows featuring Mesopotamian antiquities. But the looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad in April focused new attention on this ancient civilization, and its glories are now the subject of two lavish shows.
The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, which has one of the world's richest collections of these antiquities, has opened a new hall to display them. At the same time, museums are clamoring to mount a traveling show about Mesopotamia that has been assembled by the University of Pennsylvania.
"I've been amazed at the response," said Richard Zettler, a curator of the University of Pennsylvania show, "Treasures From the Royal Tombs of Ur," which has extended its run in Philadelphia and will go on the road again later this year. "The pictures you see on television these days don't present the most positive image of Iraq, and this presents the other side. People get a sense that something happened there that is very important for the history of humanity."
The show, which Mr. Zettler helped assemble for the university's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, came home to Philadelphia a few months ago after being seen in 10 cities over the last five years. Its last stop was New York, where its most magnificent objects were part of a larger show called "Art of the First Cities" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
News of the looting in Baghdad has led at least three other museums to ask for the show. As a result it will go on view in Pennsylvania for just six months starting in March and will then be sent back on the road.
Although several of the world's leading museums, including the Metropolitan, have large collections of Mesopotamian artifacts, specialists in the field consider the Chicago and Pennsylvania collections especially valuable because they are made up mainly of items that come directly from ancient sites rather than through dealers or collectors. Archaeologists consider this a crucial distinction.
"Context is an absolutely critical part of understanding these artifacts," Mr. Zettler said. "Knowing exactly where an object came from is what allows you to tease the meaning out of it. It makes all the difference in the world, and you normally don't get that in any detail at an art museum."
The Edgar and Deborah Jannotta Mesopotamian Gallery at the Oriental Institute in Chicago, which opened in October, reinforces this museum's position as one of the premier showcases for Middle Eastern archaeology. It marks the latest phase in a 10-year program of expansion and renovation that has already produced new Egyptian and Persian galleries. Other galleries to display artifacts from Anatolia, Nubia and the ancient town of Armageddon, now Meggido in northern Israel, are to open by 2006.
No one imagined that this opening would be so timely. McGuire Gibson, a University of Chicago archaeologist who has spent decades working in Iraq, said that the April looting there resulted in the loss of about 14,000 artifacts, of which only about 3,000 have been recovered.
The director of the Oriental Institute, Gil J. Stein, needs only the slightest provocation to begin a lengthy discourse on what ancient Mesopotamians contributed to the world.
He said they built the first cities, conceived the idea of the centralized state, and invented mathematics, astronomy, writing, the wheel, the sail, government bureaucracy, and even the 60-second minute and 60-minute hour.
"Everything starts there," he said. "The way we think of who we are all began there, and it hasn't changed all that much. Mesopotamia's impact on our own civilization is so pervasive that we don't even think about it. It's not just the birth of Middle Eastern civilization; it's really the foundation for all Western civilization and also, to a large degree, Eastern civilization."
The new permanent exhibition that Mr. Stein helped install here is in a 5,400-square-foot hall and contains more than 1,300 artifacts. Some are huge and spectacular, like a 40-ton winged bull with a human face that gazed out over the palace of the Assyrian king Sargon II in the eighth century B.C. There is also a tablet on which is inscribed part of the Gilgamesh epic, often considered the world's first piece of literature, and another with two songs written by King Sargon's sister that are the earliest works known to be written by a woman.
These awesome treasures, however, are the exceptions in the new display. Most of it concentrates on daily life rather than the grandeur of royalty, with objects like toys, jewelry, cooking utensils and writing tablets.
Some of the tablets are mundane but fascinating, containing everything from quadratic equations in cuneiform to a contract that records the sale of three goats. Others offer deeper insight into Mesopotamian life.
On one tablet, a father laid down rules for his son. They include "Do not buy an ass which brays too much," "Do not commit rape upon a man's daughter" and "Do not answer back against your father, do not raise a `heavy eye.' "
Many of these tablets were left by students learning how to write. One contains part of a love story in which Gilgamesh's father, after meeting his wife-to-be, "could not resist kissing her on the eyes, could not resist kissing her on the mouth, and also taught her much about lovemaking."
Mr. Stein said his favorite item in the exhibition was a table than contained only an idle doodle."It's so easy to imagine this poor kid in writing class," he said. "It's 120 degrees, the teacher is droning on, and he's sitting there daydreaming and scratching out this doodle."
The Mesopotamian exhibition and the others in adjacent galleries are only the public face of the Oriental Institute. It also pursues scholarly projects, for example compiling a 26-volume dictionary of Akkadian, a Semitic language used in parts of Mesopotamia beginning around 2500 B.C.
Just days after scholars here learned of the looting in Baghdad, they began designing a Web site that now contains the world's most comprehensive data bank of Mesopotamian artifacts (www-oi.uchicago .edu/OI/IRAQ/Iraqdatabasehome .htm). It is meticulously cross-indexed, and has proved to be a unique resource for tracing lost objects.
"This database is intended less for a scholarly audience than for anyone who might encounter a stolen object from the Iraq Museum — anyone from a customs official to the cleaning personnel working for an unscrupulous antiquities dealer," Clemens D. Reichel, director of the project, wrote in a recent report.
The Oriental Institute acquired most of its vast collection, more than 120,000 objects from almost every corner of the Middle East, through the system of partage, under which Middle Eastern governments gave foreign archaeologists permission to take home about half of what they found.
That system ended in the late 1960's, when governments began insisting that archaeologists deposit almost everything they discovered in local museums.
"What we have here is irreplaceable," said Mr. Gibson, the University of Chicago archaeologist. "It could not be reconstructed today. Even if by some miracle you could go out and discover comparable sites and make comparable finds, you would not be able to bring them out."
ACLC’S URGENT APPEAL FOR WORLDWIDE SUPPORT
The Assyrian Canadian Lobbying Committee (ACLC) and the Assyrian Community worldwide are putting out a worldwide appeal for assistance to the world Governments, Christian Community worldwide, and organisations and individuals committed to freedom of thought, democracy, and the rule of law.
As the indigenous people of Iraq, the Assyrians with a worldwide population of over 4 million and a population in Iraq set at 2.5 million by the previous government of Saddam Hussein, the community is appealing for help in attaining the following, all under serious jeopardy at this time:
Noting with regret that the Assyrians are continuing to be threatened with violence and persecuted and killed by the Shiite Arabs and the Sunni Kurds by virtue of their ethnic and religious status, including, but not limited to, the Assyrian women are forced into the wearing of the Islamic “hijjab”, the confiscation of their properties and businesses, the killing of Assyrian business people, the forced removal from their homes and villages and their violently forced assimilation;
Noting and dismayed by the neglect of the Assyrian question by the international community following the genocide of two-thirds of Assyrians by the Ottoman Turks following WWI, the broken promises of the allied forces particularly of the British to give the Assyrians their autonomy in their homeland of Iraq and the failure by the international community particularly of the British to provide protection to the Assyrians following the lifting of the British mandate in 1932 and the consequential extermination of the Assyrians by the subsequent governments of Iraq particularly the Baath government of Saddam Hussein;
Continues to be concerned that the constant announcements by the Coalition to allow Iraq to be ruled free of any influence of the Coalition and to surrender Iraq to the “Iraqi people”, if acted upon prior to the placement of human rights and the rule of law in a constitutionally guaranteed bill of rights and prior to the establishment of all appropriate democratic institution, will leave the Assyrians in a vulnerable and dangerous predicament and in danger of extinction;
Therefore, the Assyrians,
· Oppose the early departure of the Coalition prior to ensuring that the rights of all people of Iraq including the indigenous Assyrians, ethnically and religiously, are rightfully and constitutionally protected;
· Oppose further the formation of a non-secular government or any government endorsing any official religion of Iraq;
· Call on the Coalition, the international community and the United Nations to recognise the political psychology and history of Iraq, the presence and continuity of Islamic fundamentalism and its resistance to a system of democracy that constitutionally guarantees the rights of ethnic religious and indigenous people of Iraq,
· Call further on the Coalition, the international community and the United Nations to:
1. Ensure that the Assyrians will be constitutionally recognised
as the indigenous people of Iraq;
13. Further call on the Coalition, the international community, and the United Nations, that in the event that the eighteen (18) designated provinces be maintained in a new government of Iraq, than that division should be as that of the current designation in respect of the provinces on Nineveh (Ninawa) and Dohuk;
14. Further call on the Coalition, international community and the United Nations that in the event that there be an establishment of an ethnic division of Iraq, then the two provinces of Nineveh (Ninawa) and Dohuk should be designated as the ethnic provinces for Assyrians.
Realise that in the absence of appropriate measures by the Coalition to protect the indigenous and Assyrians of Iraq, Assyrians will again be the subject of ethnic religious cleansing by the dominating and fundamental Islamic groups in Iraq and realise further that will mean the extinction of an ancient heritage, culture, language, and civilisation.
The latest issue of the "The Tree of Life", the newsletter of the Assyrian Aid Society of America has been published and is available online. This issue features November 7th 2003 fundraising dinner and keynote speech, message from Narsai David president of the Assyrian Aid Society of America, report by Rommel Moushi president of the Assyrian Aid Society of Iraq, fiscal year 2003 financial statement, and more.
Please visit www.assyrianaid.org/TOLarchive/TOLfall03.pdf
The Assyrian Aid Society of America (www.assyrianaid.org) is
a tax exempt, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization · Federal
ID # 94-3147517 · All contributions are tax deductible.
ASSYRIAN LANGUAGE CLASSES IN CHICAGO
The Assyrian Academic Society of Chicago in conjunction with Oakton Community College is pleased to announce the introduction of two Assyrian language classes for our community in the Chicago area and suburbs.
We coordinated these classes with Oakton College in order to provide an appropriate academic and professional environment for the prospective students. Furthermore, the success of this program will facilitate our future commitment to transition these classes into full college credit classes that will be transferable to other educational institutions.
There are limited seating for this class, therefore it is essential that you act quickly and register in advance.
** Credits awarded are adult education credits. These credits
are non-transferable and not applicable towards a degree. Enrollment
in these classes is limited to adults eighteen years of age or
Learn basic Assyrian vocabulary, pronunciation, and writing skills. Course will incorporate reading, writing, and some speaking practice.
Course Name: LSY B01-01
This course is a continuation Assyrian I. Continue to improve your vocabulary, pronunciation, and writing skills.
Course Name: LSP B02-01
For further information on the class and/or registration, you can e-mail AAS at email@example.com or contact us at 847-507-4612 or go to the following links:
The Assyrian Academic Society would like to recognize the Assyrian National Foundation for its assistance and support in arranging this class.
Missionaries all over the world sacrifice their lives for people and ideals. The new book, Twenty-Five Years in Persia: The Memoirs of Mary Allen Whipple (now available through 1stBooks), by Dr. Samir Johna, is an account of sacrifice that compelled a family to travel to the Middle East to help others.
"(This book) is not just another missionary story, but rather a unique account of a family whose ideal of service required them to make the difficult journey to Persia and to make considerable sacrifices in seeking that ideal," Johna says.
Twenty-Five Years in Persia is an edited version of the previously unpublished memoirs of the Whipple family. The memoirs recount the story of a family who shared everything they had to spare the lives of people they had never met. In this book, Mary Allen Whipple tells her life story, beginning in the mid-1800s when she first met William Whipple. Their love and commitment to each other and other people led them to Persia in the 1870s.
In Persia, the Whipples spent 25 years as dedicated missionaries. The book recounts their tumultuous life in the Middle East and tells how they trudged on through countless tragedies and hardships. They lose four children to disease and battle the heat and destruction all around them. Whipple offers snap shots of herself, her family and friends as they traverse through the hardships and tragedies that befell them. She relishes in the moments of triumph and the confusion of the changing times in which they lived.
Offering a complete picture of these people and who they were, Twenty-Five Years in Persia is a book like no other told in the words of a woman who lived it.
Johna is an Assyrian surgeon born in the suburbs of Baghdad, Iraq. A graduate from the University of Baghdad School of Medicine, he was drafted into the Iraqi military. After six years, he migrated to the United States where he completed his residency in general surgery. He is an associate clinical professor of surgery at Loma Linda University School of Medicine. He has published one other book, The Memoirs of Allen Oldfather Whipple: The Man Behind the Whipple Operation (TFM Publishing).
[Z-info: Dr. Samir Johna is the chairman of
the Assyrian Medical Society, an organization dedicated to the
education of the Assyrian people about the latest medical advances
and preventive medicine. In the recent years, Dr. Johna and other
members of the AMS have organized informative seminars during
the Assyrian national conventions.]
AKH MIN KHIMYANI GOES ON SALE!
I would like to thank you all for the support you showed us in
advertising the Assyrian Film, Akh Min Khimyani. It has been a
long 10 months since we started on this project and we are very
pleased to announce that we are finished. The movie went on sale
in Chicago on December 26, and is now all over the world. The
tape will go on sale in the following location:
The video tape will also be available at www.assyrianmarket.com
for those that want to purchase it online or cannot find a vendor
in there area.
KURDISH AUTONOMY PROPOSAL THREATENS IRAQI TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY
A recent Kurdish proposal to establish an ethnically based autonomous
area even beyond the current occupied northern provinces has alarmed
various Iraqi communities including Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans
and Syriacs), Arabs,
According to a December 25, 2003 Jordan Times article, Mr. Barham Salih asserted that "Karkuk is an integral part of Kurdistan, administratively, geographically, and historically." In addition, Mr. Salih affirmed that the Kurdish map includes the historically Assyrian provinces of Arbil and Dohuk and now unabashedly extends the proposed area to occupy the remaining Assyrian towns and villages in the plains of Nineveh, the ancient Assyrian capital, which up until the war of liberation were under government control.
The Kurds seem especially emboldened to press their advantage since
the capture of Saddam Hussein. On December 22, 2003, thousands of
Kurds descended on Karkuk from the surrounding areas in a bid to
claim Karkuk as the capital
The Assyrian position in favor of a unified Iraq has been articulated
by Dr. Emanuel Kamber of Western Michigan University. "Let
us be clear that the new Iraq is for all Iraqis and any political
system in Iraq should not be for only
Alluding to his work with other Iraqi opposition groups within the State Department Working Groups framework, Dr. Kamber added "We worked with patriotic and democratic forces to establish a democratic, pluralistic, secular, and sovereign Iraq that will be constituted on principles of democracy, the rule of law, and guarantee human rights and equality for all citizens, irrespective of their ethnic background or religion."
In response to the Kurdish proposal, Dr. Kamber added "Our
objection to this issue does not mean that we reject the aspirations
of the Kurdish people, but we should all express a formula to create
Iraqi national unity." Hinting at
In fact, Iraq's neighbors have already reacted to the Kurdish proposal with deep concern. A January 6 joint statement between Syria and Turkey flatly rejected any possible scenario that would tamper with Iraq's territorial integrity. The Kurdish proposal prompted a historic first ever visit by a Syrian President to Turkey. Syrian President Bashar Assad noted that "We agreed that it is a must to protect Iraq's territorial integrity. We condemned approaches that could endanger Iraq's territorial integrity." Turkish leader Ahmet Necdet Sezer echoed Assad's statements asserting that Turkey shared Syria's view on the territorial integrity of Iraq and added "Turkey and Syria, as regional countries neighboring Iraq, are determined to efficiently pursue these objectives."
Most observers believe that the Kurdish proposal has been timed
to pressure concessions and guarantees from the Iraqi Governing
Council (IGC) and the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) prior
to the formalization of an Iraqi
Echoing similar discontent with the Kurdish scheme, Mr. Abgar Maloul of the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO) added that "ethnic federalism built on the premise of the subjugation by one ethnic group of other minorities is not what we envisioned a liberated Iraq would resemble. We have long stood for a free, sovereign, secular, and democratic Iraq for all Iraqis."
It is widely believed that the controversial Kurdish plan reflects Kurdish overconfidence in their current relative political and military capability. According to one analyst, "the Kurds have reason to be confident since they have the largest, best organized and unopposed militia in Iraq. Moreover, they have had a 12 year head start to prepare for this opportunity. Also, they enjoy a very, very close working relationship with the US military and the CPA." Still more, the PUK's reported assistance in the capture of Saddam Hussein has greatly enhanced Kurdish political capital with the US government.
Never the less, according to one Assyrian analyst, the Kurdish
gambit remains problematic. The Kurdish move is described as a "brazen
gamble that risks alienating the Kurds from within and without Iraq."
"Turkey, as an example,
`If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves,
and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways then
I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will HEAL
(RETURN) THEIR LAND! (II Chronicles 7:14)
A TALE OF TWO TREASURES
There were many features common to both the Iraqi campaign and the Afghan conflict: American hi-tech weaponry, vigorous anti-war protests all over the world, the sudden collapse of opposition forces - and, less obviously, archaeological catastrophe. Great publicity was given to the looting of the Baghdad and Kabul museums, and also to the criminal destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Taliban.
Less attention has been given to the unexpected reappearance a few months ago of two fabulous hoards of ancient golden objects with oddly similar histories. Both have been compared to the objects found in the tomb of Tutankhamun; neither has ever been seen except very briefly.
In each case, the initial rediscovery was made just before the fog of war descended and the treasures were hidden away again, only to re-emerge in circumstances of Tintin-like daring-do. The tales of the two hoards involve tombs bearing chilling curses, high political drama, bank vaults with uncrackable locks, and - just for full measure - a peripheral role for the author of Death on the Nile.
On July 3, 2003, in the Assyrian galleries of the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad, a small part of the treasure known as the gold of Nimrud was shown to a select group of journalists and dignitaries. Among the precious items were a gold crown and a diadem, 79 earrings, 90 necklaces, 14 amulets, 30 rings, 15 gold vessels and more of rock crystal.
That brief exposure was the first time in 14 years that the treasure had been displayed publicly, and only the second time in its 2,800-year history. For most of that time, it had lain unnoticed by successive looters, tomb-robbers and archaeologists in a series of tombs beneath the harem in the Assyrian Palace of Nimrud.
This treasure trove is not only the very best example of Assyrian jewellery to have survived, it is also virtually the only one. "Very little Assyrian gold work has been discovered at all," explains Dominique Collon, a specialist in the subject at the British Museum.
"It was all carted away and melted down in antiquity. So previously, the only evidence we had for Assyrian jewellery was representations on reliefs. Then suddenly, there we were with the real McCoy."
The Nimrud treasure is regarded as the finest jewellery of the 8th and 9th centuries BC from any part of the ancient world.
The existence of this hoard - like the discovery of Tutankhamun's burial regalia in the 1920s - was an enormous surprise to the scholarly world. The North-West Palace of Nimrud - near modern Mosul - had been excavated in 1950 by the British archaeologist Max Mallowan (the husband of Agatha Christie). But he had failed to notice tell-tale irregularities in the floor of a room used by the royal Assyrian women.
Mallowan was not the first to have missed these clues - they had also been overlooked by the hostile Medes and Scythians, who had sacked the palace in 612 BC. Very few people had probably known what lay beneath those rooms - since only a handful of royal eunuchs and trusted servants would have been allowed inside these female quarters.
Then, in 1988, Muzahim Mahmud, an Iraqi archaeologist, noticed that the floor tiles had been relaid sometime in their history and looked beneath. Over the next two years he found a series of tombs, including those of Mullissu, the queen of Assurnasirpal II who reigned from 883-859 BC and built the palace (he also plays a starring role in many of the celebrated Nimrud reliefs in the British Museum).
There were also inscriptions recording the names of two other queens from the following century - and one threatening anyone who lays hands on the jewellery or breaks open the seals of the tomb: "Let his spirit wander in thirst." One tomb alone yielded 450 items, some 50 lbs of gold and silver.
Mahmud's finds were briefly exhibited in Baghdad in 1989, but because of a lack of suitably secure cabinets they were never put on permanent display. The cabinets were on order from a specialist German supplier, when the situation dramatically changed.
On August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, the United States launched Desert Storm early in 1991, and the gold vanished from view into the most secure vault of the Iraqi Central Bank, which was then flooded with sewage.
The treasure was next seen last summer, after a team of Iraqi investigators assisted by National Geographic had pumped out two million litres of water (a process that required three pumps operating for three weeks). The Nimrud finds were in three boxes with intact seals, exactly where they had been left.
But some mystery still surrounds the exact motives for flooding the vault. It has been suggested that it was done deliberately by Iraqi officials in order to prevent the Baathist regime from removing the treasure - and also the large quantity of bank notes stored in the same place.
"I think they were rather afraid that Saddam Hussein would get his hands on it and turn it into gold taps for his bathroom," says Dominique Collon. She is convinced that key people in the Iraqi museum service and international specialists always knew that the treasure was safely stored away. "It wasn't written or much talked about precisely because we didn't want Saddam to get it."
A similar story of ancient riches from antique lands being protected from a malign government comes from Afghanistan. In the late 1970s Russian archaeologists working at a site in the north of the country made a staggering discovery of 21,000 precious objects.
This so-called Bactrian gold is even more dazzling than the Nimrud hoard. It is made up of the burial riches of Kushan tribes from the area known in ancient times as Bactria, which were buried around the 1st century AD. And, like much of the now tragically depleted Afghan heritage, they show evidence of a unique cultural fusion.
Some of the objects - a griffin in white chalcedony, a representation of Aphrodite, a man riding a dolphin - show clear signs of the influence of Alexander the Great, whose Greek armies had passed through Bactria and left colonies three centuries before. Other pieces are in the style of Siberian cultures; coins come from India and ancient Iran. The Russian archaeologists made over this amazing array of riches from the crossroads of Asia to the Kabul Museum - just before the war began in 1979.
Little was heard of the treasure for the next decade or so, though it was briefly glimpsed in 1989, when President Mohammad Najibullah showed it to group of ambassadors. In 1996, when the Taliban took Kabul, they sought out the ex-President, castrated him, dragged him around behind a lorry and hanged him. There was no trace of the Bactrian gold. It was widely assumed to have disappeared in the looting and almost total destruction of the remaining collection of the Kabul Museum in February 2001.
It now appears that the Bactrian gold had been put in a secure vault of the Afghan national bank beneath the presidential compound in Kabul. Considerable confusion still surrounds the circumstances of its rediscovery. It was initially reported that the treasure, together with part of the Afghan bullion reserves, had been hidden in a vault whose locks - turned by seven keys held by seven different holders - the Taliban were unable to open.
The current issue of The Economist, on the other hand, reports that though the vault was indeed sealed, it had been done by the director of the bank having deliberately broken his key in the lock, thus jamming it. As coalition troops were poised to take Kabul in 2002, Taliban officials had tried in vain to enter the vault. What they could not have known is that although the gold bars were in the vault, the Bactrian treasures were, in fact, stored in a room upstairs, in a number of ordinary travel trunks underneath bags containing old coins.
The Taliban had walked straight past the treasure. But four months ago, Hamid Karzai, the new President of Afghanistan, and a number of his ministers inspected the vault, which had finally been opened by a local locksmith, and announced to the world that everything was safe.
It appears that they did not actually see the Bactrian gold (as they claimed) but even so, according to The Economist, it is apparently intact. And it is also possible - according to a source who spoke to Martin Bailey of the Art Newspaper - that some of the other most important pieces from the Kabul Museum may also have been hidden there safely.
But when will these astonishing objects next be seen, and where? That, too, is highly controversial. In neither Baghdad nor Kabul is the security position good enough to allow museums to reopen - and the Kabul Museum is a ruin. It has been mooted that both the Bactrian and Nimrud treasures should go on international tour to museums in America. The Musée Guimet in Paris - which has a magnificent Afghan collection - has expressed interest in the Bactrian gold.
But these are highly sensitive proposals. To parade the Nimrud jewellery around the USA, insists Dominique Collon, would "not be at all a tactful thing to do. Let the Iraqi people see their treasures first."
But then magnificent antiquities usually are linked in one way or another to high politics. That is one reason why they have such strange and complex fates.
NEW VIDEO RELEASE FROM KINNARA PRODUCTIONS
Kinnara Productions has produced a music video entitled Road to Nineveh. All footage was acquired from the ruins of current day Nineveh and Nimrud.
Pay close attention to the music which was arranged by renowned Assyrian arranger and composer Rasson Bet-Yonan. The molody and performance are by Shlimon Bet-Shmuel, another renowned Assyrian musician.
This is for all to enjoy: http://www.kinnaraproductions.com/film/roadtonineveh/
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