1 Tishrin II 6754
Volume X

Issue 37

22 October 2004


Fax 1-415-358-4778

Monika Vardeh, an Assyrian student from Turlock, is facing deportation from the U.S.

This Week in Zinda
  The Significance of the Youbala of Mar Dinkha IV Fr. George Bet Rasho
  ChaldoAssyrian Students in Mosul Stop Attending Classes  

British Parliament Raises Question of Autonomous Region
Press Release of the Assyrian Church of the East
Ibrahim Baylan, The First Assyrian in the Swedish Government
Assyriska's Final Chance to Advance
Assyrian Student in Turlock Fears Deportation from U.S.
Syria Launches Program to Save Aramaic Language
Bob Rasho of Forsyth, IL Returning to Homeland

Ancient Assyrian Fashion Show a Success in Arizona
The Real Digital Flag

Sergei Star (Russia)
Bar Suryoyo (Sweden)


Conference: History, Genocide, & Democracy in Turkey
Hannibal Alkhas’s Latest Literary Work Available
Call For Papers on Medieval Global Economies


  Gilgamesh:  A New Translation (Fragments of Majesty)
Sidelined Neo-Cons Stoke Future Fires
Stephen Mitchell (UK)
Jim Lobe (D.C.)
  Ibrahim Baylan
The State of the Art Conference in Sweden
Nisha Besara (Sweden)
Ninos Simon Oussi (Sweden)
The Lighthouse
Feature Article(s)

The Significance of the Youbala  of His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Patriarch of the Church of the East

Father George Bet Rasho
Press Secretary, Assyrian Church of the East
Western United States

We, the Assyrian Church of the East parishioners, take much pride in celebrating the patriarchal inaugurations. An anniversary, to most of us, means longevity. Whether we are celebrating time on the job, the enduring nature of the institution of His Holiness, or a meaningful relationship with another person, the time we have spent is important to us. We believe when we emphasize only time, we are missing the point in many ways. Because we are emphasizing quantity rather than quality. The patriarch anniversary celebration is referred to as “Youbala” in Assyrian which means succession; the following of things in order of time or place, or a series of things so following; a course, tradition, or custom. We are celebrating the tree of life of the apostolic succession of the Catholicos Patriarchs of the Church of the East, those who served the Church of Khuky, in Seleucia – Ctesiphon, Babylon. This festivity of life which can be traced back to Mar Tooma Shlikha, Thomas the Apostle, who after establishing his Church in Mesopotamia and Persia went to India. This tradition that began two thousand years ago when Bar Tulmay was chosen to the first throne.

Khanania Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East

Today’s celebration has the same intent; with added facets of enhancements and upgrades. As in the past; the Patriarchal office needs financial support to maintain its infrastructure and promote the Church mission. Funds are needed to:

• Help and maintain upkeep of the priests’ studying abroad;
• Patriarchal office, travel expenses, and living facilities;
• To provide financial support to the needy.

Whether we are celebrating 28th Youbala this year or whether we are celebrating Tulmay’s first anniversary is certainly up to debate, but regardless, this institution has been here longer than any other and we all take pride in that. That is often lost on non-believers who do not seem to understand the significance of Youbala.

For those of us who have been here for awhile and for all of you who have grown up and lived your lives in this Church as a constant presence, it has tremendous significance. This Church has been the source of pride to the Assyrian community for centuries and for us to lose our identity at this stage of the game would be a tragedy. Because Youbala, in addition to being here for a long time has offered quality educational opportunities for many students. It has provided quantity and quality.

His Holiness’s empathy for his flocks is immeasurable. Love of his Lord, Nation, and the Assyrians is evident when he constructed this graceful prayer is support of Iraq (Click here for Assyrian version, translated original copy listed below):

In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Lord, God the Almighty, we believe You are merciful and righteous. Today we desperately seek the abundance of Your Fatherly Mercy to be bestowed upon the sons and daughters of our Church and the Assyrian nation throughout the universe. Protect them from the evil; so they can work faithfully in the vineyard of your Holy Church.

O’Lord; we ask for the tranquility and peace of Your Godhead to be poured unto the country of Iraq. Among all different ethnic and religion groups that are dwelling in that country, that has been the cradle of Christianity. Likewise; today we beseech you to stop and cast away the evil; so that it will not succeed in promoting division and hatred among the Christians and Moslems of Iraq.

We implore You to guide and help all Iraqis, from which ever ethnicity and religion they might be, to work in harmony with love and peace for the formation of Iraq, for this county is the home for all.

O’Christ; our hope is upon You, to bring the sons and daughters of the Church and the Assyrian nation to Your radiant light – to be protected and made safe. From now, and all times for ever and ever.

On this day, October 17, 2004 the following proclamation (click here for Assyrian copy ) was declared by our Patriarch concerning the peace and tranquility in the country of Iraq. His Holiness is instructing the Church to observe a three-day fast concerning the Iraqi people. The original copy with English translation is listed below:

My Brethren Bishops, Reverend Priests of Our Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East,

Prayers and blessings receive.

The aim of our patriarchal epistle, to you, is with our power and strength to help the sons and daughters of our historical country Iraq; which has been the cradle of our Church and the Christian nation.

Prayer and fasting are the strengths and capabilities that we have today. As our fathers in Nineveh, before Christ, at the time of Jonah the profit were saved from death through fasting, prayer and repentance. So also in the years of our Lord at the time of Mar Sawrisho, Metropolitan of Karkha D’bet Saloq with fasting and prayers God detained the death from the Christians of Garmay, Atour and Nineveh. Today also the people of Iraq are in need of our fasting and prayer and our beseeching of God on their behalf. So that He may bestow His mercy, tranquility and peace in the country of Iraq; that all Iraqis who are dwelling in this blessed country can live together in love, harmony from which ever ethnicity or religion they might be; especially Christians and Moslems to respect each others faith as believers in One Living God.

With this goal in mind we ask you all to inform all the members of your congregations from this Monday, October 25, 2004 when the rogation of the Saint George- the Martyr begins; that we all fast in prayer for three days, and beseech God to end all wars, chaos, killing, and all uneasiness for the people of Iraq. To live in their country without fear and to work jointly in building their home of Iraq. Because the fruits of fasting and prayers are salvation from anguish and serenity of soul from grief.

Grace and Mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you for ever and ever.

Assyrians who belong to this religious Church are also members of the secular society, and this dual association generated complications. Religious beliefs have moral and social implications, and it is appropriate for people of faith to express these through their activities and actions. The fact that ethical convictions are rooted in religious faith does not disqualify His Holiness from the political realm. However, they do not have secular validity merely because they are thought by their exponents to be religiously authorized. They must be argued for in appropriate social and political terms in harmony with the Assyrian national values. In both cases, we should be prepared to deal with complexities, ambiguities, and overlapping realms in which practical discernment must find workable principles to guide us that are as compatible with fundamental lawful imperatives as human reason can devise. This astute balance in judgment is very much highlighted by His Holiness letter to the Iraqi president (Click here for Arabic copy ):

The Honorable Ghazi Agel Al-Yawer, President of Iraq

With joy, happiness and pleasure we praise your leadership and your newly established government; myself, all the bishops of the Holy Synod of the Assyrian Church of the East assembled in Chicago August 23-30, 2004 wishing you fitting prosperity for the benefits of Iraq and for the greatness of its people.

Iraq was the cradle of civilization; its roots extended to the beginning of history; to culturally enrich the entire world. The Assyrian Church of the East Fathers played a significant roll in transporting this culture by translating Greek philosophy and acted as a conduit between the Arabic and European culture.

As we observe these hard conditions crossing our beloved country; we raise our hand and ask God to bestow peace, love, and unity among Iraqi people to be able to rebuild our country. We have the confidence this nation will stand jointly united with all its different sects against all who seek its division and disarray.

In the conclusion, we kneel and pray to the God the Almighty to bless you and bring prosperity to your reverential government to install peace, democracy, and justice; which is in the interest of the noble Iraqi people.

The above letter was mailed to the Iraqi president via the Ambassador of Iraq. Below is the cover letter to the Ambassador of Iraq to the United States, Mrs. Rand Al-Rahem (Click here for Arabic copy):

Mrs. Rand AL-Rahem
Ambassador or Iraq to the United States of America

In Godspeed and protection we ask you to forward this attached letter to His Sovereignty President Ghazi Agel Al-Yawer of the Republic of Iraq

Thank you for your assistance.

In conclusion, my dearest Assyrian brothers and sisters be assured His Holiness is aware of the suffering and pain of his people; like all of us, his heart is full of sadness when he hears Christ’s Churches are desecrated and destroyed. Be certain his heart is in the right place; and is willing to return to the homeland and take hold of his ancestral history. I leave you with the words of the Psalmist 85:

“I will listen to what God the Lord will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints- but let them not return to folly.”


Good Morning Assyria
Feature Article(s)


ChaldoAssyrian Students in Mosul Stop Attending Classes

Courtesy of the Iraqi News Agency
19 October 2004

(ZNDA: Mosul)  The ChaldoAssyrian Students and Youth Union decided in its press release dated 18 October stated that the its members have stopped attending Mosul University effective 16 October. There are are 1500 ChaldoAssyrian Syriac students attending this university.

The Union members live in the towns and villages of the plains of Nineveh.  They have been frequently towns harassed and have received numerous threats from terrorists who take advantage of the instability and chaos at the

The ChaldoAssyrian Syriac students are also afraid that the automobiles and buses used in transporting them would be subject to terrorist attacks in the coming months.  At the beginning of Ramadan, a flyer started appearing at Mosul University promising “death to all Iraqi women who did not cover their heads”. It was signed by a shadowy group calling itself the Mujahideen Parliament representing six armed groups: ‘Monotheism and Martyrs’, the ‘Army of Sunnah members’, ‘Mujahideen Squads’, the ‘Islamic army’, the ‘Secret Islamic army’ and the ‘Sunnah members group’. It warned women against wearing make-up and Western-style clothes. “We will follow transgressors to their homes,” it said, “and shall not hesitate from striking you”.

The ChaldoAssyrians Students and Youth Union is asking the authorities in Mosul to take all necessary steps to remedy these problems so that the students can return to their classes.

A few days ago, two young women were attacked for not wearing a head cover in a Mosul market. A syringe containing nitric acid—a corrosive liquid inorganic acid— was sprayed onto their faces.

Young Christian female students are especially singled out. In another flyer signed by a group calling itself the “Phalanxes to Settle Scores with Collaborators and Spies”, Christians are accused of spreading “corruption and shamelessness in the streets”. They will “suffer violence and persecution in their homes and their churches” if they do not stop “cooperating with the infidel invader”.

There are more than 100,000 Christians living in the Mosul area, mostly of the Chaldean Catholic faith.

Local churches initially responded to the threats by organizing a bus shuttle to and fro the university, but in the last two weeks students have stopped going to class after threats were made against the buses.

According to Father Joseph, a priest in Mosul, the anti-Christian fury stems from the fact that although Christians are just “3 per cent of the population they represent around 40 per cent of the professional class: university professors, doctors, engineers. By striking at them, the terrorists are striking at the country’s culture and economy in order to weaken it and thus more easily subjugate it”.


News Digest

British Parliament Raises Question of Autonomous Region for ChaldoAssyrians of Iraq

(ZNDA: London)  On 21 October, the following three questions pertaining to the ChaldoAssyrians of Iraq were tabled for written answers:

For Lord Hylton—To ask Her Majesty’s Government what measures they are taking, in conjunction with the interim government of Iraq and the United States, to protect the lives of Chaldo-Assyrian Christians from murder, and their church buildings from destruction by bombs. (HL4609)

For Lord Hylton—To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will consult with the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Damascus and Amman to ensure that adequate assistance is afforded to Chaldo-Assyrian Christians who have recently fled from Iraq. (HL4610)

For Lord Hylton—To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they consider that an autonomous region near Mosul should be established for the Chaldo-Assyrian ethnic and religious minority; and whether they will ensure that special provision is made for this minority in any future constitution of Iraq. (HL4611)

The Jubilee Campaign, a Christian human rights organisation established in the United Kingdom, issued the following press release on 22 October:

At a meeting chaired by Stephen Pound, MP in the House of Commons on October 21st, the UK branch of Iraq's leading Christian political party, the Assyrian Democratic Movement and the Christian human rights organisation, Jubilee Campaign, called for an Administrative Region for the ChaldoAssyrian Christians of Iraq, which they can administer for themselves. Article 53 (D) of Iraq's Transitional Administrative Law guarantees the ChaldoAssyrians the right to administer their own region. It states, "This law shall guarantee the administrative, cultural and political rights of the Turcomans, ChaldoAssyrians, and all other citizens."

Stephen Pound MP and other speakers at the meeting, jointly organised by the Assyrian Democratic Movement (UK branch) and Jubilee Campaign, stressed that the British Government should support the creation of an Administrative Region in the ChaldoAssyrian heartland in the Nineveh Plains. The escalating attacks perpetrated against the ChaldoAssyrians by extremist and fanatical Islamic groups warrants the creation of such a region. The meeting also called on the British Government to strongly support the return of ChaldoAssyrian villages in the provinces of Nineveh and Dohuk, which the ChaldoAssyrian's Arab and Kurdish neighbours have encroached on. ChaldoAssyrians, who feel threatened, especially in Mosul and parts of Baghdad, could then move to the regions of Nineveh and Dohuk, rather than flee their ancestral homeland in Iraq.

Christians have been subjected to escalating violence in Iraq, including a series of bombs exploded at five churches across Baghdad early on Saturday 16th October. There were no casualties in that incident. Islamic extremists conducted lethal terrorist bombings on Sunday August 1st against 5 churches in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul, which killed 12 people and injured many more. On July 4th, two ChaldoAssyrian children were killed in Baghdad at their home by Islamic terrorists. Raneed Raad, 16, and her six-year-old brother, Raphid, were shot dead. Since April 2003, the assassinations of at least 88 Christians have been recorded by ChaldoAssyrian organisations in Iraq. The most recent victim was a little girl who was brutally murdered by Islamic extremists. In the wake of the August church bombings and other anti-Christian violence, tens of thousands of ChaldoAssyrians have fled, further decimating Iraq's Christian presence.

The headquarters of the Assyrian Democratic Movement in Baghdad came under mortar attack in the early hours of Sunday morning, August 8th 2004. The Assyrian Democratic Movement is the leading political party representing the ChaldoAssyrian Christians of Iraq. One of this party's founders and its current Secretary General, Yonadam Kanna, was the only Christian member of Iraq's former Governing Council and is now one of four ChaldoAssyrian Christians serving in the Iraqi National Assembly. Over 95 percent of Iraq's Christians are ChaldoAssyrian and they are the indigenous people of Iraq, descended from the ancient Assyrians of Biblical times. Their language is Aramaic-based and similar to the Aramaic which Jesus spoke.

The meeting's speakers were Stephen Pound MP, John Michael, an Assyrian who is British representative of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, Professor Eden Naby, an Assyrian and specialist on the Middle East, Shamiran Mako, from the Council for Assyrian Research and Development and Human Rights Without Frontiers, and Wilfred Wong, Parliamentary Officer for Jubilee Campaign.

John Michael says, "If the International Community, specifically the governments of the U.S.A and U.K, want peace, stability and democracy to prevail in Iraq, thus spreading throughout the Middle East, then the security and continued presence of the ChaldoAssyrians in their ancestral homeland must be guaranteed. Therefore, it is imperative that the British government supports the ChaldoAssyrians in every respect, including the creation of an administrative region for the indigenous ChaldoAssyrian people, as granted under article 53(D) of the Iraqi Transitional Administrative Law."

All the speakers supported the meeting's call on the British government to urgently encourage and support the creation of an administrative region for Iraq's ChaldoAssyrians; financially support the reconstruction of ChaldoAssyrian villages and infrastructure; provide across the board political support to the ChaldoAssyrians; assist ChaldoAssyrians in their struggle to reclaim their towns and villages; financially support the return and resettlement of ChaldoAssyrian refugees and to facilitate the ability of those forced to flee Iraq by the Hussein regime, or exiled in recent months, to register to vote if eligible.

In his presentation to the meeting, Wilfred Wong stated, "There is no danger of the Kurdish or Arab community disappearing from Iraq but there is a real risk that one day soon the ChaldoAssyrian community may largely vanish from that country. Not only are the ChaldoAssyrians facing the usual risks of violence which all average Iraqis have to currently put up with in their daily lives, they are also having to deal with the additional violence of being targeted by Islamic fundamentalists simply because they are Christians and intimidation from their Kurdish neighbours because they want to grab ChaldoAssyrian land for themselves. The British government must support the forces of moderation in Iraq, which include the Christian community. Moderate Muslims would be much better able to oppose the Islamicisation of Iraq if they had the support of a strong Christian community and the British government should do all it can to empower Iraq's Christians."

Stephen Pound MP says, "This meeting is only the start of a process to bring the world's attention to the terrible suffering of the Christian communities in Iraq. By meeting today we not only raised the issue in the British Parliament but also sent a strong signal of support and solidarity to this persecuted minority. No one in Parliament can now say they are unaware of the sufferings of this beleaguered community. I'm very grateful to the UK branch of the Assyrian Democratic Movement and the Jubilee Campaign for organising this meeting."

Press Release of the Assyrian Church of the East

Press Release
Father George Bet Rasho
Press Secretary, Assyrian Church of the East
Western United States
21 October, 2004

“The Truth Shall Set You Free”

Prayers and blessings receive. We greet you all in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May you be in the best of health and happiness, rejoicing in the blessings bestowed upon us by our Holy and Merciful God. We pray that this day and every day starts with His will, and that it continues under His Grace, complete with joy and happiness.

We humbly ask that the information that is provided here be used to build up the crumbling wall that embodies our Assyrian Nation and the Church. It is highly unfortunate that misleading statements and outright falsities have created division when we should all be united as one. These allegations and false assertions do not serve to anyone’s benefit; rather, it causes nothing but pain and disruption. Character assassinations are for breaking down the ties that bind us, not for building them up. We appreciate and encourage a free flow of expression so that all may engage in honest debate, but it ought to be done in such a way so that no one is hurt and that all may benefit.

We have heard on some occasions murmuring and outright criticizing regarding the Patriarch of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East and the location of his see. Contrary to some popular belief, the location of the see has not always been in Baghdad. History has shown us that the see has been moved on many occasions due to such calamities as discrimination, persecution and genocide. This was done not to protect the physical well being of the Patriarch at that time, but to preserve the office of the Patriarch and what it represents. Such decisions were made solely for the benefit of the universal church at large and not for any one person. We do believe the day will come, hopefully in the very near future, that the see of the Patriarch will one day return to the ancestral home of the Assyrian people. However, this is a delicate matter that absolutely cannot be rushed and should only be done at such a time that it serves the Church and Nation’s best interests. We will recall when Mar Benyamin, one of the greatest leaders and martyrs we have ever known, was assassinated when he rushed to attend what he believed to be a peaceful meeting. We honor and respect his memory and what he stood for by engaging in such forethought.

There have been questions raised in regard to the celebration of the 28th Anniversary of the Consecration of His Holiness, Mar Dinkha IV. It is imperative for all to know that this celebration emanates solely from individual parishes. There is not a call from on high commanding us to engage in this event. Furthermore, it is not a party or a celebration in the customary sense. It is a spiritual celebration as we rejoice in the work of God in our church where we sing spiritual hymns. In addition, this annual celebration is a fundraiser for the Patriarchal Fund, the only one we do throughout the entire year, that supports our clergy studying abroad, at time provides help to fulfill some of the needs of our parishes in the Middle East, and many other pressing needs which we serve to meet through this very fund.

As to charges of the Patriarch and the bishops as a whole not caring about the plight of Assyrians in Iraq, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, at this year’s dinner, he declared that the upcoming rogation of St. George the Martyr, taking place this Monday, October 25th, through Wednesday October 27th is dedicated to the people of Iraq and to the peace and stability that is desired by all. When the bishops held their synod in Chicago, the plight of Assyrians in Iraq was discussed at great length. In fact, His Holiness has sent the following letter (please see attached) to Ghazi al-Yawer, the current President and chief of state of Iraq. Moreover, His Holiness is in constant contact with Mar Gewargis, his representative in Iraq.

The Church of the East is as strong as it has been for the past six hundred years due to the diligence and commitment of all our members and the leadership of our bishops and Patriarch. As we continue on our upward scale, we wish to bring our people together in harmony and love for one another no matter where in the world we are, but especially to those who are suffering through hardship.

Lastly, we recognize that the Church and our Assyrian Nation are symbiotic and we strive to do anything within our power to maintain a strength and dignity that can never be torn down by pettiness or condescension.

Ibrahim Baylan, The First Assyrian in the Swedish Government

Ibrahim Baylan, the new Minister of Education in Sweden is that country's highest-ranking immigrant government office holder and a Suryoyo-Assyrian.

(ZNDA: Stockholm)  After many years of hard work and dedication to the politics of Sweden, Mr. Ibrahim Baylan a native of Salah in South-East Turkey, this week became the first Assyrian in the Swedish government. The Swedish Prime Minister, Göran Persson, chocked and delighted fairly many Assyrians when he presented his new reorganization of the government. Responsible for the high school and public school education in Sweden, Ibrahim Baylan from Umeå, Sweden enters the absolute political top in Sweden. As the first minister with a non-european background he is given a huge responsibility and many expectations.

Ibrahim has a long political career behind himself, with both student union politics at the university and local school politics in Umeå (circled in the opposite map). In the last two big national elections in Sweden he has been close to both the Swedish Parliament (2002) and the European Parliament (2003). Both times he lost close to the goal line. But this time no election was even required, only the attention of the Swedish prime minister Göran Persson.

Ministry of Education and Science in Sweden is responsible for matters regarding pre-school education and child care for school children, pre-school classes, compulsory school and equivalent schools, upper secondary school, independent schools, adult education, popular adult education, post-secondary education, universities and university colleges, research, study support, student social issues and youth policy.

Göran Persson seemed to be relaxed and merry under the press conference when he presented his reorganization of the government. He was joking with the journalists and was very intimate with self-perspectiviness and a sense of humour. He called Baylan "Ibbe", and declared his confidence in him.

"There are a lot of expectations for the first minister with immigrant background, but we will support him", said Persson. Furthermore, Persson added that Ibrahim Baylan definitely was not elected because of his immigrant background. "Ibbe" himself was calm and gave a very serious impression and was careful with the answers he gave to the questions that were asked. But at one point he was very clear: "I belong to the Assyrian/Syriac minority", he answered on the direct question about his background.

On 19 October, the Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson said that his country would support Turkey’s European Union membership bid if it fulfills the EU’s political criteria, especially those concerning human rights and minorities. Speaking after his meeting with Jacques Chirac, Persson said that Stockholm favored Turkey’s membership.

[Zinda:  The article is based on a piece written by Abraham Staifo, President of the Assyrian Youth Federation in Sweden and translated by our Zinda correspondent in Sweden, Mr. Tomas Isik.  For a report by AINA click here.  Zinda Magazine urges the Assyrian groups, federations and political groups around the world to extend their congratulations to Mr. Ibrahim Baylan on this significant achievement.  Send your letter to:

Ministry of Education and Science
Drottninggatan 16
103 33 Stockholm
Tel: +46 8 405 10 00

Zinda readers can send their congratulatory messages here.] 

Assyriska's Final Chance to Advance

(ZNDA: Stockholm)  Assyriska, the Assyrian Swedish football (soccer) team, lost its final match against the leader of the Superettan League of Sweden (Bollklubben Häcken) on 23October (1-3).  The final standings of the top three teams in the Swedish Superettan (Super-1's 16 clubs) are as follow:

1. Bollklubben Häcken wins the title with 65 points
2. Gefle IF in second place with 58 points
3. Assyriska in third position with 54 points

Out of the 30-games season, Assyriska won 17 games, lost 10, and drew even in 3 games.

Since Assyriska did not win the first two top positions (first and second) of the "Superettan" to advance automatically to the Swedish Premier League "Allsvenskan, it needs to go through a special qualification process to have a chance to advance. It needs to face the team in 12th position of the Premier League "Allsvenskan," which is still to be determined, and play it twice: home and away. The Swedish Premier League "Allsvenskan" is not concluded yet to determine the final standings; there are still two more games remaining for each team.

Assyriska's opponent will be known within the next two weeks, depending on the points the bottom teams attain and whom they play in the last game.

Assyrian Student in Turlock Fears Deportation from U.S.

Courtesy of the Modesto Bee
7 October 2004
By Jeff Jardine

(ZNDA: Turlock)   Monika Vardeh's résumé has an all-American look:

  • Honor student at Turlock High, class of 2001.
  • Graduate of Modesto Junior College.
  • Senior at California State University, Stanislaus.
  • Teller at Bank of the West in Hughson.

She speaks English perfectly, with only a slight Middle Eastern accent, and also knows Assyrian and bits of German.

"She can go anywhere in the world, and they'll know she's an American," said Ron Mekah, her fiancé. "They can tell."

Monika Vardeh holds a letter she wrote and faxed to President Bush making her case for remaining in the United States, where the 22-year-old has lived since she and her mother, Pratis Chalabi, left, arrived here on visitors' visas in 1997.

Therein lies the rub. She doesn't want to go anywhere else. She wants to stay here. But the U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to deport her to Germany, which, she fears, would send her to certain death in her birthplace of Iran.

She needs to convince American authorities that she belongs here, in the United States and in Turlock, and she took a step toward achieving that Wednesday morning when she surrendered to authorities in San Francisco.

The meeting went better than she expected. Officials are allowing her to remain free without bond until her case is sorted out.

"They trust me," she said shortly after her hearing on the morning of 6 October. "They usually handcuff (immigrants), but my lawyer talked them out of it. They treated me with dignity. They looked at me as a human, not a number. They took my background into consideration. It was absolutely phenomenal."

Vardeh must go to San Francisco every third Tuesday of the month to sign in, letting officials know of her whereabouts. She can't leave the state without advising them of her plans. She can't leave the country, period, which is interesting since they're trying to deport her.

And yes, they still want to deport her. But it's not that simple.

The 22-year-old Turlock woman is caught in one of those immigration Catch-22s.

She was born in Iran in 1982. Her family — all Christians — fled Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic fundamentalist regime in 1985. They went to Germany, hoping to continue on to the United States, which they did — a dozen years later.

Monika's brother, Jeffrey Warda, preceded them to America and received permanent resident status. Their mother, Pratis Chalabi, and Monika came here on visitors' visas in 1998, when Monika was 15.

This certificate of holy baptism certifies Monika Vardeh's birthdate and confirmation according to the rites of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Church of the East. The Stanislaus State student is fighting deportation to Germany, where she was raised after her family fled Iran.

Warda tried to sponsor them for permanent status. Immigration approved Chalabi's residency, but denied Monika's. So she applied for political asylum in 1999.

Immigration officials, she said, canceled numerous hearings on her case. Years passed before she learned that her political asylum request had been denied. She appealed, and that also was denied.

When she dropped her second stage of appeal — on advice of her attorney, Banafshef Akhlaghi — it triggered the order for deportation to Germany.

Akhlaghi knew the move ultimately would force U.S. officials to look more closely at Vardeh's case and, more importantly, make them understand what would happen if they deported her.

Vardeh never was granted refugee status by Germany, and that country now refuses to take her back or grant her a travel visa. And the United States won't send her directly back to Iran.

"I can't go back to Germany," she said. "They won't allow it. The minute I set foot in Germany, they'd put me on the first plane to Iran. And the minute I set foot in Iran, they'd kill me."

So now she waits, hoping Germany will stand firm in its refusal to take her back.

Once that happens, she can take her immigration case to trial, where she can show how American she's truly become, that this country is her home.

Her entire family is here. She has no relatives remaining in Germany or Iran.

She's finishing her education here, scheduled to graduate in the spring. She works here. She wants to get married and have her family here, to live the great American dream.

Yes, she is American in everything except the paperwork.

"We respect what they (the Homeland Security people) are doing," Vardeh said. "We just want to live in peace. We don't want to live in terror. We've done that before."

Here is an article written in the local town of Forsyth, Ill. about my uncle going to work in Baghdad after 45 years.

Syria Launches Program to Save Aramaic Language

Courtesy of the Australian Broadcasting Company
4 October 2004
By Hamish Robertson

(ZNDA: Damascus)  In Syria, the government has launched a program to save one of the world's oldest and most important languages from dying out.

Aramaic is believed to have been first spoken in ancient Mesopotamia about 3000 years ago. And scholars say it was the language spoken by Jesus Christ. But it's now only spoken in three villages in central Syria and even these communities need help to pass it on to their children.

Our Middle East correspondent Mark Willacy compiled this report in the village of Ma'aloula in central Syria.

MARK WILLACY: Sunday morning in the Qalamoun mountains north of Damascus, and church bells summon the Christian community to mass. In the hilltop village of Ma'aloula the service is performed in a mix of Arabic and Aramaic.

In the church of Saint Serge, Father Toufic Eid recites the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic.

TOUFIC EID: In fact Aramaic was the language of all this area here and Jesus spoke in Aramaic. And this language remained in these villages, Ma'aloula, Jebadin (phonetic) and Sarqa (phonetic).

MARK WILLACY: Outside the church Joseph Sharbit and his friend Mike Khoury are discussing the looming fig harvest in Aramaic. I ask Joseph about the future for this ancient language.

"I am very much afraid this language will disappear," he says. "But at least now there is a new institute here in Ma'aloula to teach it to our children so we can keep it alive," he tells me.

His friend Mike Khoury explains that Aramaic is the oldest language in the Middle East.

"It existed in Damascus 1,000 years before Jesus Christ," he says in Aramaic. "It's now only spoken in three villages, but the new government institute is trying to keep it going. We're very proud of it," he says.

About ten per cent of Syria's population is Christian, and for them Aramaic is a direct link to Jesus Christ.

"The language is over 3,000 years old," says Joseph Sharbit. "And in this village we are making an effort to pass it on to the next generation," he says.

Bob Rasho of Forsyth, IL Returning to Homeland to Help with Reconstruction

Courtesy of Herald & Review
16 October 2004
By Huey Freeman

(ZNDA: Decatur)  Bob Rasho believes the war in Iraq is the right war at the right time.

The 66-year-old former civil engineer is moving to Baghdad to act upon his belief.

"I will be part of the U.S. Embassy staff in Baghdad," Rasho said in an interview at his Forsyth, Illinois home, where he has lived since 1980.

Rasho's assignment will be to advise Iraqis on reconstruction projects as part of the State Department's Iraqi Reconstruction Management Office.

A native of Iraq who has lived in the United States since 1959, Rasho said he is motivated by a desire to serve his adopted homeland.

"I feel that I owe it to this country," said Rasho, a friendly, easygoing man who became a U.S. citizen in 1970. "This is a unique opportunity to serve this country in a time and place where I can be useful for our overall cause. I feel very strongly for the cause of fighting the war on terrorism."

The retired Illinois Power project manager flies to Washington, D.C., on Sunday to receive two weeks of State Department training before joining the staff in Iraq. He said his experience as an engineer and manager, as well as his ability to communicate with Iraqis in their native language, will help him in his new job.

A native of Habbaniya - in the heart of the Sunni Triangle, 45 miles from Baghdad - Rasho has not returned to Iraq since he moved to Chicago as a young engineering student.

"Moving to America was the dream of everyone in Iraq, particularly the Christian minority," Rasho said, adding that Christians have been systematically persecuted and discriminated against by the overwhelming Muslim majority.  Rasho belongs to the Assyrian ethnic group.

"Assyrians are as ancient as Indians in the United States," Rasho said.

The Assyrians, along with other minorities, including Kurds and Turks - as well as the Shiite majority - have been treated as second-class citizens by the Sunni Arab ruling class in Iraq for more than 80 years, he said.

Rasho said minorities have been discriminated against in many ways, including employment and educational opportunities.

"We had no rights," Rasho said.

Since the Baath Party seized control of the government in 1968, things have gotten worse for all non-Sunnis. The Sunni Arabs comprise about one-fifth of the nation's population.

"Things have really gotten bad since Saddam and his Baathists took over," Rasho said. "They were only good for Sunni Arabs.

"They did not recognize Assyrians as an ethnic group. They forced them to adopt Arab names and register as such. This to me is ethnic cleansing."

For example, all sermons in Christian churches had to be approved in advance by Saddam's secret police. A picture of Saddam had to be posted in each church, and services had to include words of praise for the dictator.

Rasho said it infuriates him to hear so many reports on the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by a few "stupid, misguided American soldiers" in Abu Ghraib prison while Saddam's massacres have gone largely unreported.

"He instilled fear in everybody," Rasho said. "He massacred hundreds of thousands of people. He gassed the people of Halabja."

Rasho said he did not support the idea of overthrowing Saddam until 9/11. Before that, he advocated the idea that the Iraqis themselves should figure a way to overthrow Saddam.

"However, 9/11 in my opinion was a wake-up call to all Americans who cherish our freedom, our democracy and our way of life," Rasho said. "The wake-up call was that these fanatic Moslems - not all Moslems -are determined to destroy our way of life. So we had no choice but to try to destroy them first."

But why Iraq, and not just Afghanistan, where al-Qaida had its base?

"Both countries, in my opinion, were very dangerous in support of terrorism," Rasho said. "As far as Saddam Hussein, particularly after the United States and the coalition kicked him out of Kuwait, he was directly and indirectly supporting terrorism."

As evidence, Rasho cites the presence in Iraq of Abu Nibal and Abu Musab Zarqawi, known terrorists believed to be responsible for killing Americans in the Middle East. Zarqawi, who has been linked to al-Qaida, is the leader of the group that has been abducting and beheading civilians in Iraq.

"Saddam was as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than the Taliban in Afghanistan because Iraq had rich resources," Rasho said. "The brutality of Saddam was well-known and his hatred of the United States."

Rasho believes in the strategy of having well-equipped U.S. soldiers fight jihadists, or Muslim holy warriors, in Iraq, rather than waiting for them to hit America again.

Pauline, his wife of 33 years, and their adult children, David and Anne, support his service in Iraq.

"It's just something he wants to do," Pauline Rasho said. "He's supported this family through all these years. I feel I need to support this decision."

She said she is not apprehensive, despite the well-known dangers. Bob Rasho said he will be living in a well-guarded embassy complex, within the Green Zone, also known as "the bubble."

Shortly after hearing news of the attack in the Green Zone two weeks ago, Rasho called the people he will soon be working with in Baghdad.

"They are OK, and I am still proceeding with my plans," Rasho said, adding that there are thousands of people working in the zone. "The group I am with is all safe. My future colleagues are all OK. It's a war zone. Things happen."

Pauline Rasho said she might become apprehensive once he's gone, but now she is too busy with family and friends to think about it.

"He will be in the Lord's hands, and he'll take care of him," she said.

Members of Operation Enduring Support, a Decatur-based military family support group, have embraced Rasho as one of their own. He has faithfully attended the group's weekly meetings for the past 20 months, encouraging service members who are home on leave and consoling those who have lost loved ones in battle.

"He's meant an awful lot to the soldiers because it's made them more aware of the Iraqi people," said Betty Gaumer, who leads the support group along with her husband, David. "Just knowing that he's so supportive and so appreciative of the efforts has been meant a lot to them."

David Gaumer said he considers Rasho a loyal American who has been doing a lot for the United States and will do a lot for Iraq.

"He's just a fabulous person, and I think it's wonderful that he's doing this," he said.

[Zinda:  Mr. Rasho is the uncle of our reader, Ms. Mona Malik, Chair of the Narsai’s Taste of the Mediterranean, to be held this year on Friday, 12 November.]

Surfs Up!
Letters to the Editor

To comment on these letters click on the image of the Ziggurat.


Sargei Star

I am a student of the University of Literature [in Moscow] and I am currently doing research on semantics of the “Harry Potter” Language. I have a question: is the following paternoster derived from the Aramaic language (has Aramaic origin) – Abbada (avada) Kedavra? Can I translate it as: “I want this word to disappear”? Please help me, if you have time. I can’t find anybody who would help me with this and who would know Aramaic language! Are there analogues to this paternoster in the Aramaic language?

[Zinda:  There are many views on the origin of this most universally adopted phrase in magic and sorcery.  In Aramaic, one possible meaning may be the use of this phrase as part of a sentence uttered by ancient magicians and healers:  AVRA/KHAD/AVRA. "It will pass when it will pass".  It may also be from the Aramaic AVADDA KED HAVRA, meaning 'disappear like this word'. It is believed that this paternoster was used to rid patients of illnesses caused by demonic intervention.  The author of Harry Potter uses the original phrase, Avada Kedavra, correctly when Lord Voldemort uses it to kill his enemies.  Interestingly, the term Kedavra later became the English cadaver or dead body.  So much for saving lives!]

Click Image to Enter Harry Potter's Official Website

Ancient Assyrian Fashion Show a Success in Arizona

Assyrian Aid Society of America
Arizona Chapter

September 25th, 2004 marked a historic night in Phoenix, Arizona. The very first Ancient Assyrian Fashion Show took place to show off the ancient clothing of our people, the Assyrians. Designer Youkhanna Odisho (Kenny) came all the way from Sweden to show off his historical clothing. Over 20 youth members from all the local churches joined in to help Kenny show off his designs. The event was a success with more than 400 attendees. The event lasted about an hour and half, and was very informative. Soon after the fashion show it was followed up with a party. Singers Julie Yousif, and Edone Odisho (Kenny's brother) entertained the crowd for the rest of the evening.

The Real Digital Flag

Bar Suryoyo

On the Internet a wrong picture of the Assyrian flag has been circulated. You know the one with orange in the middle, and the two lower rivers which do not end at the corners. This is a catastrophe for "the Digital Assyria", because now it's everywhere in all Assyrian homepages. Thanks to that ignorant "paintdesigner" who designed that picture.

Well, now as you see I have fixed it and made the picture to how it should be from the beginning - the Assyrian flag, not a fake form of the Assyrian flag as the previous one.

So I urge you and all Assyrian webmasters to put this JPG-picture in your website. If you think it's too big, then just minimize it.

If we can't get Assyria in Northwest Iraq, then we should take extra care of what we have in the Internet, the Digital Assyria.

[Zinda:  Our publication has adopted Bar Suryoyo version of the digitized Assyrian flag and beginning with this issue will be using this image instead of the previously used copies.  At Zinda Magazine office we affectionately refer to this as the BarSuryoyo Assyrian Flag.  The old version we now call the Orange Middle.  We hope that our colleagues on the Internet will also follow suit and replace the current copies with the BarSuryoyo version.]


Surfer's Corner
Community Events

To comment on these article click on the image of the Ziggurat.

Conference:  History, Genocide, & Democracy in Turkey

Södertörns högskola; Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac Association;
Assyriska riksförbundet.
Contacts : Ozcan Kaldoy and Yahkub Rohyo

Date...................................Tuesday, 26 October 2004
Place..................................Södertörns högskola: Campus Telge, Södertälje, Sweden
Time...................................09:00-18:00 (6 PM)

Professor Taner Akçam (University of Minnesota)
Wartime Ethnic Policies and the Legacy for Turkey Today

Professor David Gaunt (Södertörn University College)
Turkish Military Actions against the Christians of Northern Mesopotamia 1914-15

Historian Jan Betsawoce (Södertörn University College)
Oral Testimony on the massacres in Midyat (in Tur§oyo)

12 :00-13 :30

13 :30-14 :30
Publisher Ragip Zarakolu (Istanbul)
History and Human Rights in Turkey

Özcan Kaldoyo (ACSA)
What has Happened with the Confiscated Christian Property?

Sten Lundström (Member of Riksdagen)
Can Turkey become a
Democracy without Accounting for its History?

15:30- 16:30
Not Known
Possibly a historian/scholar working in Turkey (through Turkish Embassy)

17:00-18:00 Open debate with speakers and other participants

[Zinda:  T he conference is free, but participants must register beforehand because of the limited size of the conference hall. Please contact Can Diarbekerli by e-mail at betsawoce@hotmail.com].


Hannibal Alkhas’s Latest Literary Work Available for Pre-Purchase

Assyrian American Association
San Jose, California

The Assyrian American Association of San Jose is proud to announce that Hannibal Alkhas’s latest literary work is available for pre-purchase. This magnificent work of poetry comprises 100 Ghazals of Hafez – one of the greatest Iranian poets of all time - translated into Assyrian in the same style of poetry. The book, which presents the original Ghazal in Farsi and the Assyrian version side by side, is also embellished with about 100 paintings created by Mr. Alkhas. The book comes with two CDs - one contains the narrated Ghazals in Assyrian by Mr. Alkhas, and the other features various Ghazals sung by Assyrian and Iranian artists - and will be published early next year. The publisher has agreed to print the names of the Assyrians who pre-purchase this book, in Assyrian, in the acknowledgement section of the book. All pre-purchased books will be autographed by Mr. Alkhas.

If you would like to pre-purchase this book, please fill the section below and return this form with your payment to the Association. Please provide your name in Assyrian as you would like it to appear in the book. The pre-purchase price of this book/CD package is $100. Please make your check payable to the AAA of San Jose, and put Hafez in the memo section of your check. Mail this completed form with your check to:

The Assyrian American Association of San Jose
P. O. Box 41311
San Jose, CA 95160

Also include your:

Telephone Number

Also please write your name in Assyrian, as you would like it to appear in the book.

Call For Papers on Medieval Global Economies

Eona Karakacili
Department of History,
University of Western Ontario

Nathan Sussman
Department of Economics
University of Western Ontario

"Medieval Global Economies"
University of Western Ontario, Canada
November 11 - 12, 2005

The goal of this conference is to bring international researchers together, permitting a comparative analysis of wealth and economic development, globally, in the middle ages, c. 300 ­ c. 1500. What were the foundations of medieval growth? How was growth characterized? Who forged ahead in wealth, who fell behind, and of course, when and why? In making these comparisons, we also seek to achieve a greater understanding of the intersection and exchange between countries, the character of global economies, during these centuries.

We seek papers which address these issues of growth, development, and globalization during the medieval period for any country or countries. We particularly welcome submissions that focus on non-European experiences.

Graduate students are encouraged to participate and present their ongoing doctoral research. Prospective presenters are requested to submit via email a two page abstract and a CV (required for funding applications) to both conference organizers by October 15, 2004. Notification of acceptance will be made before November 1, 2004.

Feature Article(s)

Fragments of Majesty

Gilgamesh:  A New English Translation by Stephen Mitchell

Stephen Mitchell
16 October 2004
The Guardian

In Iraq, when the dust blows, stopping men and tanks, it brings with it memories of an ancient world, much older than Islam or Christianity. Western civilisation originated from that place between the Tigris and the Euphrates, where Hammurabi created his legal code and where Gilgamesh was written - the oldest story in the world, 1,000 years older than the Iliad or the Bible.

Its hero was a historical king who reigned in the Mesopotamian city of Uruk in about 2750 BCE. In the epic, he has an intimate friend, Enkidu, a naked wild man who has been civilised through the erotic arts of a temple priestess. With him Gilgamesh battles monsters, and when Enkidu dies, he is inconsolable. He sets out on a desperate journey to find the one man who can tell him how to escape death.

Part of the fascination of Gilgamesh is that, like any great work of literature, it has much to tell us about ourselves. In giving voice to grief and the fear of death, perhaps more powerfully than any book written after it, in portraying love and vulnerability and the quest for wisdom, it has become a personal testimony for millions of readers in dozens of languages. But it also has a particular relevance in today's world, with its polarised fundamentalisms, each side fervently believing in its own righteousness, each on a crusade, or jihad, against what it perceives as an evil enemy.

The hero of this epic is an antihero, a superman (a superpower, one might say), who doesn't know the difference between strength and arrogance. By preemptively attacking a monster, he brings on himself a disaster that can only be overcome by an agonising journey, a quest that results in wisdom by proving its own futility. The epic has an extraordinarily sophisticated moral intelligence. In its emphasis on balance and in its refusal to side with either hero or monster, it leads us to question our dangerous certainties about good and evil.

I began my version of Gilgamesh because I had never been convinced by the language of any translation of it that I'd read. I wanted to find a genuine voice for the poem: words that were lithe and muscular enough to match the power of the story. If I have succeeded, readers will discover that, rather than standing before an antiquity in a glass case, they have entered a literary masterpiece that is as startlingly alive today as it was three-and-a-half millennia ago.

Gilgamesh is a work that in the intensity of its imagination stands beside the great stories of Homer and the Bible. Yet for 2,000 years, all traces of it were lost. The baked clay tablets on which it was inscribed in cuneiform characters lay buried in the rubble of cities across the ancient Near East, waiting for people from another world to read them. It wasn't until 1853 that the first fragments were discovered among the ruins of Nineveh, and the text wasn't deciphered and translated for several decades afterward. The great poet Rainer Maria Rilke may have been the first reader discerning enough to recognise its true literary stature.

"Gilgamesh is stupendous!" he wrote at the end of 1916. "I... consider it to be among the greatest things that can happen to a person... I have immersed myself in [it], and in these truly gigantic fragments I have experienced measures and forms that belong with the supreme works that the conjuring Word has ever produced." In Rilke's consciousness, Gilgamesh, like a magnificent Aladdin's palace that has instantly materialised out of nowhere, makes its first appearance as a masterpiece of world literature.

The story of its discovery and decipherment is itself as fabulous as a tale from The Thousand and One Nights. A young English traveller named Austen Henry Layard, who was passing through the Middle East on his way to Ceylon, heard that there were antiquities buried in the mounds of what is now the city of Mosul, halted his journey, and began excavations in 1844.

These mounds turned out to contain the ruined palaces of Nineveh, the ancient capital of Assyria, including what was left of the library of the last great Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal (668-627 BCE). "In amazement," Layard and his assistant Hormuzd Rassam "found room after room lined with carved stone bas-reliefs of demons and deities, scenes of battle, royal hunts and ceremonies; doorways flanked by enormous winged bulls and lions; and, inside some of the chambers, tens of thousands of clay tablets inscribed with the curious, and then undeciphered, cuneiform ('wedge-shaped') script." More than 25,000 of these tablets were shipped back to the British Museum.

When cuneiform was officially deciphered in 1857, scholars discovered that the tablets were written in Akkadian, an ancient semitic language cognate with Hebrew and Arabic. Fifteen years went by before anyone noticed the tablets on which Gilgamesh was inscribed. Then, in 1872, a young British Museum curator named George Smith realised that one of the fragments told the story of a Babylonian Noah, who survived a great flood sent by the gods.

"On looking down the third column," Smith wrote, "my eye caught the statement that the ship rested on the mountains of Nizir, followed by the account of the sending forth of the dove, and its finding no resting-place and returning. I saw at once that I had here discovered a portion at least of the Chaldean account of the Deluge."

To a Victorian this was a spectacular discovery, because it seemed to be independent corroboration of the historicity of the biblical flood (Victorians believed the Genesis story was much older than it is). When Smith saw these lines, according to a later account, he said, "'I am the first man to read that after more than two thousand years of oblivion!' Setting the tablet on the table," the account continues, "he jumped up and rushed about the room in a great state of excitement, and, to the astonishment of those present, began to undress himself." We aren't told if he took off just his coat or if he continued to strip down further. I like to imagine him in his euphoria going all the way and running stark naked, like Enkidu, among the astonished black-clad Victorian scholars.

Smith's announcement, made on December 3, 1872 to the newly formed Society of Biblical Archaeology, that he had discovered an account of the flood on one of the Assyrian tablets, caused a major stir, and soon more fragments of Gilgamesh were unearthed at Nineveh and in the ruins of other ancient cities. His translation of the fragments that had been discovered up to then was published in 1876. Though to a modern reader it seems quaint and almost surrealistic in its many mistaken guesses, and is often fragmentary to the point of incoherence, it was an important pioneering effort.

Today, more than a century-and-a-quarter later, many more fragments have surfaced, the language is much better understood, and scholars can trace the history of the text with some degree of confidence. Briefly, here is the consensus.

Legends about Gilgamesh probably began to arise shortly after the death of the historical king. The earliest texts that have survived, which date from about 2100 BCE, are five separate and independent poems in Sumerian, entitled "Gilgamesh and Aga", "Gilgamesh and Huwawa", "Gilgamesh and the Bull of Heaven", "Gilgamesh and the Underworld", and "The Death of Gilgamesh". (Sumerian is a non-semitic language unrelated to any other that we know, and is as distant from Akkadian as Chinese is from English. It became the learned language of ancient Mesopotamia and was part of the scribal curriculum.) These five poems - written in a leisurely, repetitive, hieratic style, much less condensed and vivid than the Akkadian epic - would have been familiar to later poets and editors.

The direct ancestor of the 11 clay tablets dug up at Nineveh is called the Old Babylonian version. It was written in Akkadian (of which Babylonian is a dialect) and dates from about 1700 BCE; 11 fragments have survived, including three tablets that are almost complete. This version, though it paraphrases a few episodes in the Sumerian Gilgamesh texts, is an original poem, the first "Epic of Gilgamesh". In its themes and its form, it is essentially the same poem as its Ninevite descendant: a story about friendship, the death of the beloved, and the quest for immortality.

Some 500 years after the Old Babylonian version was written, a scholar-priest named Sîn-leqi-unninni revised and elaborated on it. His epic, which scholars call the Standard Version, is the basis for all modern translations. As of now, with 73 fragments discovered, slightly fewer than 2,000 of the 3,000 lines of the original text exist in readable, continuous form; the rest is damaged or missing, and there are many gaps in the sections that have survived.

We don't know exactly what Sîn-leqi-unninni's contribution to the Standard Version was, since so few fragments of the Old Babylonian version have survived for comparison. From what we can see, he is often a conservative editor, following the older version line for line, with few if any changes in vocabulary and word order. Sometimes, though, he expands or contracts, drops passages or adds them, and functions not as an editor but as an original poet. The two major passages that we know he added, the Prologue and the priestess Shamhat's speech inviting Enkidu to Uruk, have the vividness and density of great art.

My translation is a sometimes free, sometimes close adaptation into English verse of Sîn-leqi-unninni's Standard Version. Even scholars making literal translations don't simply translate the Standard Version; they fill in some of the textual gaps with passages from other versions, the Old Babylonian being the most important. I have taken this practice further: occasionally, when the Standard Version is particularly fragmentary, I have supplemented it with passages from the Sumerian Gilgamesh poems. I have also added lines or short passages to bridge the gaps or to clarify the story. My intention throughout has been to recreate the ancient epic, as a contemporary poem, in the parallel universe of the English language.

[Zinda:  This is an edited extract from Stephen Mitchell's introduction to his translation of Gilgamesh. To purchase Mr. Michell's book click here.]

Sidelined Neo-Cons Stoke Future Fires

Jim Lobe
8 October 2004
Inter Press Service

Sidelined by their failed predictions for Iraq and U.S. President George W Bush's efforts to reassure voters he is not a warmonger, prominent neo-conservatives and their Christian Right allies are nonetheless trying hard to prepare the ground for future U.S. adventures in the Middle East.

Echoing increasingly threatening noises from the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon about preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, neo-cons are calling for Washington to undertake covert action, at the very least, to oust what some of them call the ''terror masters'' in Tehran as part of a more general ''World War IV'' against alleged Arab and Islamic extremism.

A growing number of observers, particularly in the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), are coming to the conclusion that the neo-cons may actually enjoy greater influence if Bush wins re-election.

Some neo-cons are even complaining that if Bush had been serious about the ''war on terrorism'', he should have taken on Iran after Afghanistan, rather than Iraq.

''Had we seen the war for what it was, we would not have started with Iraq, but with Iran, the mother of modern Islamic terrorism, the creator of Hezbollah, the ally of al-Qaeda, the sponsor of Zarqawi, the longtime sponsor of Fatah and the backbone of Hamas'', wrote part-time Pentagon consultant Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) this week.

His article also reprised an argument he first made three years ago -- that the Iranian people were already rising up against the mullahs and needed only a little nudge from Washington to succeed.

Neo-conservatives are also busy stoking tensions with Syria, even amid indications that Washington and Damascus are feeling their way toward some kind of ”modus vivendi” that may even include joint military patrols along the latter's porous border with Iraq.

Last week they heard from a Syrian exile, Farid Ghadry, who apparently aspires to become the Ahmed Chalabi -- the neo-con boosted leader of the exiled Iraqi National Congress whose standing in Washington plummeted after it was alleged he passed secrets to Iran -- of his homeland.

In addition to lobbying for the pending Syria Liberation Act (SLA), which would commit the U.S. government to ''regime change'' in Damascus, Ghadry charged that the government of President Bashir Assad was building ''a new colony of terrorism'' for youths in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.

The neo-conservatives, who led the charge to war in Iraq, have steadily lost influence over U.S. policy in Baghdad since a year ago, when U.S. troops found themselves welcomed by a serious and growing insurgency rather than the flowers and sweets the neo-cons had predicted.

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At the same time, Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, was reported to have told unhappy war hawks in the Pentagon and Vice President Dick Cheney's office, the two neo-con strongholds, that Bush's re-election prospects would be greatly enhanced if there was ''no war in '04''.

Led by arch-realists Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage, the State Department gradually wrested control over policy towards Syria and Iran. With U.S. troops bogged down next door, a policy of confrontation, as advocated by neo-cons, not only risked another war, the realists argued, but could also invite more damaging efforts by both Damascus and Tehran to destabilise Iraq.

Wary engagement with both countries has thus become official policy. The recent visit by a high-level U.S. delegation to Damascus and the invitation of European and Arab allies and Iraq's neighbours to attend a U.S.-sponsored meeting on Iraq in Tehran later this fall mark hard-fought advances in the State Department's agenda.

But while the neo-cons may be down, they are by no means out. As more than one foreign-policy analyst has noted, no neo-con within the administration has resigned or been fired, despite their responsibility for the Iraqi quagmire and public calls by even some senior Republican lawmakers and retired military officers that they be ousted.

Some analysts have argued the neo-cons remain in place only because their departure now would amount to an admission by the administration -- and thus Bush himself -- that serious mistakes had been made. In this view, Bush would purge them in a second term, as he continued along the State Department's ''realist'' line.

But a growing number of observers, particularly in the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), are coming to the conclusion that the neo-cons may actually enjoy greater influence if Bush wins re-election.

In just the last few days, for example, an article, 'The State Department's Extreme Makeover,' published by online magazine 'Slate' and attributed to an ''anonymous'' veteran foreign service officer, made precisely this argument.

It is in this context that neo-cons' recent efforts to focus their fire on Syria and Iran, in particular, should be seen.

Ghadry spoke at an all-day symposium co-sponsored by the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), a predominantly neo-conservative lobby group set up in August, and by the Foundation for Defence of Democracies (FDD), a group created two days after the Sep. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, whose views largely mirror those of Israel's ruling Likud Party.

On FDD's board of advisers are prominent neo-cons and Iraq war boosters, including former Defence Policy Board (DPB) chairman and Ledeen's sidekick at AEI, Richard Perle; AEI fellow Jeane Kirkpatrick; and former CIA Director James Woolsey, who also co-chairs the CPD.

Joining them are 'Weekly Standard' Editor Bill Kristol, whose own 'Project for the New American Century' (PNAC) first named Iran and Syria -- as well as Iraq and the Palestinian Authority (PA) -- as targets of the ''war on terrorism,'' in an open letter published just 10 days after 9/11.

The conference was addressed briefly by telephone by former Secretary of State George Shultz, the group's new co-chair, while Woolsey announced that former Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel and former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar had agreed to head an international chapter.

Keynoters for the symposium, titled ''World War IV: Why We're Fighting, Whom We're Fighting, How We're Fighting'', included Woolsey, who has long spoken of the fight against ''Islamo-fascism'' -- defined as including ''the mullahs of Iran'', the Ba'athist parties of Iraq and Syria, and ''the Wahhabis'', of which the al-Qaeda terrorist group is a part -- as the equivalent of a world war.

On hand was Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, whose participation appeared not only to provide an official sanction of the radical agenda, but also to confirm that the neo-con faction within the Bush administration is alive, kicking and unashamed despite the quagmire in Iraq.

Neo-conservative godfather Norman Podhoretz, who has also used ''World War IV'' as his favored description for the challenges Washington faces in the Near East, in particular, made a rare public appearance.

He called Israeli tactics in the occupied territories a ''model for how to fight this kind of war'', and asserted that ''Iran is unquestionably on the agenda'' of a second Bush administration.

''I have no doubt that we're going to have to do it and do it fast'', he declared, noting there were ''many different instrumentalities'' at Washington's disposal for dealing with the mullahs and their nuclear program.

Podhoretz, whose son-in-law Elliott Abrams is the Middle East director on the National Security Council (NSC) staff, also offered a sweeping vision of what the region might look like when the United States triumphed.

Stressing the long-held Likud view that the nations of the region were artificial creations forged out of the defeated Ottoman Empire, he suggested, ''what was done in the aftermath of World War I can be undone in World War IV''.

Two days later, FDD helped convene the Middle Eastern American Convention for Freedom and Democracy to elaborate a foreign policy towards the region by several dozen mostly sectarian groups, including the American Coptic Association, the American Maronite Union, the Southern Sudanese Voice for Freedom, the Assyrian American National Federation, the Chaldean National Congress, the American Middle East Christian Association, Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa and the Washington Kurdish Institute.


Ibrahim Baylan

Nisha Besara
Tvärdrag (a Swedish magazine)

Today the Swedish Prime Minister, Mr Göran Persson, appointed his first minister with a non-European background, Ibrahim Baylan. Ibrahim will from the first of November be minister of the elementary school and high school.

Ibrahim Bayland was born 1972 in a small village in South Eastern Turkey, on the border of Iraq and Syria. His family were peasants from a Christian minority, the Assyrians. Ibrahim’s family had to flee Turkey after the military coup in 1980, because the Assyrian minority was suppressed and persecuted.

In Sweden Ibrahim ended up in one of Stockholm’s suburbs, Norsborg. A large group of Assyrians lived there already, which gave Ibrahim and his family a feeling of comfort and security.

But it was also here that they met racism and intolerance:  "People would yell at me 'Go home, turkish bastard!'. What an ironic situation it was, we were suppressed in Turkey because of the fact that we were not Turks. And our new country people wanted to offend us by calling us Turkish bastards," Ibrahim remembers.

In the early 1990’s Ibrahim decided to leave Norsborg and begin studying at the university. He wanted to get as far away as possible from the pessimism and resignation in the suburb. So, in 1993 he ended up in Umeå in northern part of Sweden (see News Digest map) and obtained Masters in Economics.

It was in Umeå that he became engaged in politics. His experience from the segregated and poor suburb in Stockholm, combined with the racist atmosphere in the Swedish society at that time, convinced him that something needed to be done. And he joined the Social Democratic Youth, SSU.

The State of the Art Conference in Sweden

The international State of the Art Conference (Advanced Medical Simulation, a Systematic Approach – Reducing the Learning Curve) arranged by Karolinska Institutet at Södertörns Aula, on September 30th 2004, engaged many interesting lecturers from different parts of the world.

Saais member and 4th year Assyrian medical student, Ninos Simon Oussi (pictured below), participated as one of the lecturers, addressing the importance of having advanced medical simulation as part of the medical education, under the headline: “Our heritage to the Future in Medicine”.

The theme of this years State of the Art-conference focused on advanced medical simulation in health care, education and training. Many lecturers joined together to share their experience with each other and discuss the future professional medicine.

To keep up with national and international development in medical education and training, health care of today and in the future, it is important with alternatives to cathedral lectures. A new approach, with advanced technological methods, leaning towards an even more advanced learning is necessary.

Training in advanced medical simulators is a new method to train and educate students and staff in health care. The aim is to reduce medical errors, caused by human mistakes, through better training, and thus improve patient safety.

Mr. Oussi explained that "Advanced Medical Simulation provides a serious alternative to cathedral lectures, and an up-to-date education. It provides training for the medical staff, decreasing errors caused by human mistakes.   When applying this new technique in medical schools one may tailor-make the education becoming even more beneficial for the students in general. It also prepares the student in both team-training and teaches how not to jeopardize patients life’s."

Author appears in the center of this promotional photo.



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Thank You
The following individuals contributed in the preparation of this week's issue:

Fred Aprim (California)
Dr. Matay Arsan (Holland)
David Chibo (Australia)
Attiya Gamri (Holland)
Tomas Isik (Sweden)
Youkie Khaninia (Arizona)
Petr Kubalek (Czech Republic)
Ninos Maraha (Sweden)
Anobel Odisho (California)

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