8 Tishrin II 6754
29 October 2004
Z I N D A M A G A Z I N E
A Zinda Interview with Nuhro Makko
Mr. Nuhro Makko is a Syriac Orthodox Assyrian. His heritage is rooted in the village of Anhel or Beth Nahle (the house of melodies) in Tur Abdin, Turkey. He lives in Augsburg, Germany, where on Friday, 24 September 2004 he received his Officer’s Diploma from the German Airforce Academy in Fürstenfeldbruck in Munich.
Nuhro is known for his activism in the Assyrian Mesopotamian Association (Hudro Othuroyo d’Beth Nahrin) in Augsburg. For the past year he has also been actively engaged with the Board of the Assyrian Youth Federation of Middle Europe (AJM). Last month Zinda Magazine's staff contributor, Dr. Matay Arsan, met with Mr. Makko and conducted the following interview for Zinda Magazine.
Zinda: Nuhro, we would like to congratulate you on your achievement: Tahenyotho sagiyotho! How does it feel to be an officer in the German army?
Nuhro: Tawdi Saggi! (Thank you). It feels great to pass the officer`s training and to receive my Diploma after the long, intensive and hard time at the Academy. I’m still not an officer though, because I need to reach a term of 3 years being a soldier before being promoted to an officer. The Officer`s Diploma ensures my promotion to second lieutenant (first rank of officers career) on 1st July 2006. By finishing the officer`s training I was promoted to Staff Sergeant and will be on my way through the ranks until July 2006.
Zinda: Tell us about yourself.
Nuhro: I’m 21-years-old and was born in Augsburg where I still live. I graduated from the German Gymnasium in June 2003 and entered the Air force Academy in July 2003. I am engaged to my fiancé, Nahrin, who lives in Sweden. I have a brother, Aryo and a sister Shamiram and my twin brother is Ninos.
Zinda: Do you know any other Assyrians in the armies of Europe? What is your future goal within the German military force?
Nuhro: I don’t know about any other Assyrians as officers or officer’s cadets in Europe, except for another person who is officer’s cadet in the German army.
I have the possibility to make a personal dream come true and study dentistry. So I applied for it and will hopefully change to a medical career next year. I’m planning to sign up for 17 more years and maybe have a professional career someday.
Zinda: How do you feel about the military occupation of Iraq?
You don’t need to be a military expert to know that the us-government had no plans for the time after the war. Just as in many international military actions of the US and NATO around the world, there has never been a general strategy for what to do after enforcing freedom or occupation of a country, and now they are facing bigger problems than they expected. Maybe the current coalition or NATO in future will be able to sustain a certain level of freedom and security in Iraq. But the problems within the different ethnic/religious groups are too deep to be solved easily and soon. In general it was a success for us, since we were able to inform the world about us and to achieve several rights.
Zinda: Tell us something about you and the Assyrian Association of Augsburg.
Nuhro: The Association was founded in 1978 and celebrated its 25th anniversary with a big festival in the summer of 2003. Actually I grew up in the club environment since my whole family and friends were involved in the Association`s activities. I passed all the steps from running around and playing soccer outside the building as a kid, through entering the dance group as a young boy, entering the board of the youth department at the age of 18, and finally entering the Association`s board this year in February. Beside my family, the Association had a big influence on me in learning about life within a community, learning about several important social values as well as being educated in the language, knowledge about our history and the awareness of the responsibility every Assyrian has and should face.
Zinda: How would you have lived your life if you had not been involved in the Assyrian Association?
Nuhro: well, I guess I would live my life just as the majority of the Assyrians around the world. I would do my work, have my family and maybe go to a party a few times a year, if I liked the singer.
Zinda: In the recent months we hear a lot about the youth federations in Europe. Since you have a role in this, could you tell us more about it?
Nuhro: The last big event was the youth exchange in Germany (opposite photo) in August this summer. It was a collaboration among the three youth federations of AJM, AJF of Holland and AUF of Sweden. Around 70 youngsters from all over Europe took part and it was a great success with interesting lectures and a lot of fun.
Beside all the traditional goals like learning about history, preserving language and culture and offering the youth several activities, the main goal of our work is to revitalize the youth, strengthen the networks, establish friendships within the youth in Europe, and wake up the “rikhsho umthonoyo” (National Awareness).
Zinda: What were your role models in the Assyrian or non-Assyrian world. ( and why?)
Nuhro: To be honest I`ve never had a real role model. Don´t ask me why.
Zinda: Are there any persons you wish to thank related to this achievement in your career or in general?
Nuhro: In general I want to thank my family for the great work they did in raising me up like this. And I want to thank all my friends around the world for sharing the same idea and all the nice moments we had, have and will have together.
Zinda: What is your message for the Assyrians and the Assyrian youth?
Nuhro: Honestly I don’t want to hassle the people with any idealistic notion or a motto, since you don`t need to motivate the ones that really feel a responsibility for their people and nation.
But a good friend of mine said once: “Don’t think Assyrian; Be assyrian.” Many love to wave the flag and dance to the tune of Assyrian music, but disappear when it comes to hard and mundane daily work.
Zinda: What are your wishes and dreams for the Assyrian people?
Nuhro: My only dream is to have several professional institutions that are able to give the Assyrian nation a frame, to lead and represent and not only the churches being the leading part. An example to this would be for example the Jewish Council in Germany which represents and is accepted by all Jews in Germany.
Zinda: What are your criticisms of our magazine?
Nuhro: You are the leading online magazine for Assyrians all around the world and I do read it every week. All I can say is thank you and keep up your great work and always supply us with latest news and interesting reports.
Zinda: How do you hope to help your people in the future?
All I can do is to keep up the work of the institutions I’m involved and to to sustain our values, culture and language. I`m trying to stay realistic, because we have a tough future ahead, since people are losing interest in their identity.
Zinda: Ahuno Nuhro, taudi sagi lu zabno d'hulukh elan bi methqablonuthathe. Ko tulbinalokh kashirutho u nasih’utho bu zabno dothe bu fulh’ono umthonoyo u Hwodo u yulfono Htidoyo.
Iraq’s Christian Minority in the Cross Hairs
Courtesy of Agence France Presse
Iraq’s provisional constitution signed in March and in force until elections planned for January, guarantees freedom for all religions
Iraq’s Christian community, targeted in a string of attacks on Baghdad churches on Saturday, represents some three percent of the population, or approximately 700,000 of the country’s 24 million mainly Shiite and Sunni Muslim population. In the only other coordinated attack on Christians since the fall of Saddam Hussein last year, a series of bombings in the northern city of Mosul and in Baghdad left at least 10 people dead and 50 wounded in August.
Iraq’s provisional constitution signed in March and in force until elections planned for January, guarantees freedom for all religions.
Article Seven says Islam is the official state religion “and a source of the legislation”. “This Constitution respects the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi population while guaranteeing complete freedom of all other religions and religious practices,” it says. The 1970 constitution adopted under the old regime guaranteed freedom of religion and prohibited any religious discrimination.
It also acknowledged that the people of Iraq consisted of “two principal nationalities,” Arab and Kurd, and “other nationalities”, whose rights were considered legitimate. In December 1972, the head of the ruling Baath Party identified these by decree as the Assyrians, Chaldeans and Syriacs. The Chaldeans, whose 600,000 people represent the majority of Christians in Iraq, are an oriental rite Catholic community.
Their church emerged from the Nestorian doctrine, which it renounced in the 16th century while preserving its rites. Former Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz, currently in custody, is the best known of the Chaldeans. The Assyrians, believed to be approximately 50,000 in number, are Christians who remained faithful to the Nestorian doctrine.
The Nestorian church became a dissident movement in 431 AD after the Council of Ephesus. They affirm that Christ has two separate personalities — namely human and divine — and not a single personality possessing both human and divine nature as Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy believe.
In Iraq, there are also Catholic and Orthodox Syriacs, Catholic and Orthodox Armenians, and since the time of the British mandate after World War I, Protestants, Anglicans and Roman Catholics. Many Iraqi Christians still speak Aramaic-Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, the language of Christ. During the 1970s, bilingual cultural magazines in Arabic and Syriac were published and radio and television transmitted programmes in Aramaic. In the northern region of Kurdistan, Christians number about 150,000, mostly Chaldeans. Christians are represented by only one minister in the interim Iraqi government to which the US-led coalition handed over power in June.
Poverty and war induced many Christians to start leaving Iraq starting in the early 1980s. Nearly half-a-million have gone in the last 15 years.
Since the fall of former president Saddam Hussein’s secular regime, many of Iraq’s Christians have kept a lower profile for fear of being equated with the largely Christian US-led forces present in the country.
Prince Charles in Mardin, Turkey
Photos from Reuters by Fatih Saribas
John Paul II Appeals to Iran for Religious Freedom
Courtesy of Zenit News Agency
(ZNDA: Vatican City) John Paul II appealed to Iranian authorities to respect the religious freedom of Christians and of all their citizens, when he received Tehran's new ambassador to the Holy See.
Mohammed Javad Faridzadeh, the new ambassador, has been working as the Iranian president's special representative for international cultural and political issues.
Addressing the ambassador in French, the Pope requested "the support of the Iranian authorities to allow the faithful of the Catholic Church present in Iran, as well as other Christians, the freedom to profess their religion."
The Holy Father also called for "recognition of the juridical personality of the ecclesiastical institutions, in order to facilitate their work within Iranian society."
Among the fundamental rights, in the first place is "the right to religious freedom, which is an essential aspect of freedom of conscience and which reveals, precisely, the transcendental dimension of the person," he said during today's audience.
"Freedom of worship is an aspect of religious freedom, which must be extended to all the citizens of the country," the Pope added.
Last Feb. 12 a congress held in Rome marked the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Iran. The vast majority of Iran's 69 million people are Shiite Muslims; Catholics number only 23,000.
In this connection, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican secretary for relations with states, said on Vatican Radio that "the Holy See is ready to defend and protect its freedom of conscience, faith [and] religion, lived both individually as well as in community."
Iran "assures us that there is full freedom of conscience for Catholics, and also of worship," the archbishop reported.
"We have questions that remain to be resolved," he added. He referred "first of all, to freedom of worship, freedom of organization, the granting of entry visas to religious from abroad, whose presence is necessary for the small number of Catholics in Iran."
"Then we have problems that affect schools, which at the beginning of the '80s were expropriated from the Catholic institutions that administered them," said Archbishop Lajolo.
"Our relations with Iran, nonetheless, are animated by a mutual willingness to understand and by ever greater concord," added the Vatican official.
The 2004 Report on Religious Freedom in the World, prepared by Aid to the Church in Need, described the difficulties of Muslims in Iran who decide to convert to Christianity. In particular, it mentioned the case of an Iranian citizen who was given political asylum by a court in Germany after his conversion.
A U.S. State Department report on religious freedom, published Sept. 15, also highlights the repression suffered by religious minorities in Iran.
To comment on these letters click on the image of the Ziggurat.
Church Does Not Deem Life Vital
Ashuriena-Gozal E. Baba
In response to Rev. Bet Rasho’s "The Significance of the Youbala of His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Patriarch of the Church of the East":
I am totally up for a spiritual gathering by dancing my share of khigga as a contribution towards my people and as a matter of fact, when I’m dancing that crazy sheikhaneh, I feel so much closer to God. While I’m doing that, I wouldn’t mind helping the needy Assyrians of America who can’t afford to buy that extra Ferrari for their three-car garage. It just saddens me to see that there is no opportunity for life in America as an Assyrian and that it is up to me and the rest of the Assyrian community to pitch in and help our holy man help us. I love to see the bright smile on our youths’ faces as we help them get through college through any financial means possible. Also, those against Youbala are not just non-believers, oh no, they’re straight up atheists. They believe in no God. To be honest, I’m all for a hoe-down at the church hall in the name of the big bishop.
Ha-ha! Constructive criticism is always shot down by church loyalists and they try to justify wrongdoing with simple balderdash. Personally, I am sick and tired of the churches trying to take the stage and run the show. That’s not how it works in the real world. Why are the churches throwing parties and dancing sheikhaneh as a means of meditation? I never saw Mother Theresa dancing in the khigga while she was risking her life to help needy individuals throughout the globe. I have witnessed the actions taking place in the Youbala during the Barkho-Qando era and I must say that those are certainly not spiritual gatherings. Spiritual gatherings occur every Sunday at mass. That’s a spiritual gathering—you go to church with your fellow Christians and pray together as one or you can simply meditate.
Youbala is a tradition, but it is not important. I strongly agree with Mr. Sargon Younan’s comments. If Youbala is so important to the church, push it back or cancel it to respect your fellow Assyrians suffering and dying in Iraq to preserve OUR identity—that includes Rev. Bet Rasho, me, and the rest of the Assyrian community. By continuing on with this nonsensical event, the church leaders are disrespecting their fellow Assyrians in Iraq by simply mocking their efforts for a better tomorrow in Iraq. Church loyalists hold Youbala as an important day for the church, but I pose this question to them all: Is human life not more important than mere tradition?
If one lies in a puddle of ego dreaming that they’re a leader, then they should take action to illustrate their leadership by supporting the Assyrians in Iraq by visiting them. Prayer and fasting doesn’t cut it when you’re supposed to be a leader. Physically, a leader should be there with his people to exemplify his encouragement. They should be there for the good times and the bad times. True leaders risk their lives for their people. Just like President George W. Bush did when visiting U.S. troops in Iraq during the war to show his support of the troops and to amplify their morale; just like Princess Diana when she aided needy people around the globe; just like Mother Theresa when she dedicated her life to helping needy people all over the world and passed away while continuing to do her good deeds.
Apparently, history got mixed up into the article, which I am writing this response to, and the mentioning of Mar Dinkha IV helps Assyrians. WOW! Where was Mar Dinkha IV when the church was splitting up and a laceration was being created in the Assyrian community in Los Angeles in 1996? According to Mr. Frankie Sarmo from Amman, Jordan, who wrote to the editor of Nineveh Magazine:
Where is he when no assistance is given to Assyrians in Amman, Jordan? How come our church leaders are not comforting them during their hardships? Seemingly, rumor has it that the church has been helping needy Assyrians. Where are the financial statements to back that up? Why can we not see returned checks scanned and shown to the global Assyrian community of what the Assyrian church here has done for needy Assyrians in third world countries?
Rev. Bet Rasho stated, “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.”
People should not take pride in the institution. Spiritual pride is the worst kind of pride. Seeing that Rev. Bet Rasho is a a priest, he should recall Luke 18:9-14 regarding the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector:
Just because people do not attend the Youbalas, that does not make them non-believers. Beliefs are not constructed by religious traditions. Religion cannot contain pride for it is condemned by the Lord. According to Proverbs 16:5, 18-19: "The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished…Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud."
Why Publish When No One Listens?
It is really upsetting and totally disappointing when we see Zinda magazine recent issues main titles are nothing but reflecting old news of messages and cries coming from our desperate people in Iraq at these difficult times.
There is a famous Arab proverb:
These cries and messages need to be delivered to the whole world and I don’t think that people outside our community read Zinda. So what is the goal of publishing such articles when no further actions are followed and when no real work is done to convey these messages to the proper media or authorities?
I know we have a serious problem in leadership, planning and coordination but I can’t understand why we are unable to fix these serious problems and I am worried now whether we even realize that these problems do exist.
It is really shameful that we witness such improper attitude in our leaders and so-called activists squander this historic opportunity by engaging in futile and disgraceful personal attacks preferring to satisfy their own leisure and comfort in such crucial times and put our nation’s best interests at serious stakes and risks.
I have some comments with regards to Zinda’s polls conducted with each issue.
Do we follow on the results of such polls?
Finally, in what way do you think your recent poll re Mr. Younadam Kenna performance would serve our current situation and are you planning to convey the result to him, to his party and to your readers?
[Zinda: Zinda weekly polls are meant to provide our visitors a glimpse of what our readers think of the important current issues. In the near future, all our past poll responses will be posted on a separate site for future reference. No one at Zinda Magazine can determine the identity of the voters, nor is this publication interested to do so in the future. Typically after every controversial question (as this week's) we receive several emails and calls from various political parties, churches, or concerned individuals - which makes us believe our polls do impact someone or some group in the forefront of the Assyrian Struggle. Next week Zinda Magazine will run an editorial on the record and impact of Yonadam Kanna's leadership in Iraq since June 30th. The results of this week's poll, signaling our readers' opinion on this matter, will be referenced in our editorial.]
Your Vote Will Count!
Please pardon the intrusion of this letter as it was sent in a good spirit to help the Assyrian cause in the U.S. If you have received this letter multiple times (from different people) kindly understand the sender intentions and delete. I am hoping that you will join the cause and resend this letter to all your Assyrian contacts in a hope that we can reach as many Assyrians as we possibly can.
On Tuesday November 2nd, please make every effort to go to your designated polling place and cast your vote
Vote for any candidate you like. If you do not like some of the opposing candidates skip voting for that race (you will be under voting and that is ok too). Whatever you do, please pay no attention to those who will tell you “your vote will not count because you will not change the outcome in your area because these areas are primarily owned by this or that candidate” Do not accept this or any other reasons because your vote will always count in many different ways.
In the U.S., when you vote you are voting indirectly for the Assyrians – yes, Assyrians, regardless of your candidate selection or your political party designation (Republican or Democrat). Here is how it works: When you vote in your precinct, your name (Last name, first name – amongst other basic information – not voting information) becomes permanently part of the voting record, which becomes public domain. When the voter records become public domain. Current and future public office candidates will buy these electronic records to see who are the voting communities.
Using propriety software that can all the names, they can sort, filter and/or separate the names by communities (Italian, Irish, Hispanic, Greek, Assyrian, etc…). This is how they know if the Assyrians are a voting community or not. If the Assyrians are a voting community, they will pay attention to them and, if they are not, then they will ignore them. Now you see why we need to get as many registered voters to vote. Adding Assyrian voting inflates our community numbers (shows that there are a lot of Assyrians). Lack of Assyrian votes deflates our numbers (shows that there are few Assyrians and they are not significant).
Things You Need to Know on Election Day:
1. YOUR BALLOT, YOUR VOTE. Don’t panic, if you registered to vote, but your name is not on the list.
2. I.D. – DON’T GO WITHOUT IT. You may need to show ID. To be safe, bring your driver’s license, or
3. WRITINGS ON THE WALL. Look at the sings at the polling place for directions on how to use the
4. WHEN IN DOUBT, ASK. Poll workers are there to help you. They’ll show you how to work the
5. IN AND OUT. You probably won’t have to wait too long. But even if the line is long, don’t leave
6. CALL AHEAD. Call the elections office or board of elections for your county, city or state to make sure
7. AVOID THE CROWDS. If you can, go to the polls during off hours: 10 AM-11:30 AM and 1:30 PM –
8. TAKE A FRIEND TO VOTE. Why go alone when you can take a friend, family member or relative to
In Chicago, Illinois please call this number find your designated polling station:
Assyrian Committee for Civic Responsibility (ACCR) will obtain the election records for this year’s election in
I hope that this will convince you to vote and help our Assyrian community and please do not forget to send this
Haweeton Baseemeh Raba
One Dream Came True! Can We Make It Two?
On a close-by site, stands the magnificent St Hurmizd Cathedral, and behind it, the beautiful Edessa Hall. However, the real icing on the cake has been the pride of Assyrians in the western world, namely, St Hurmizd Assyrian Primary School, which was established in 2002. Next year, with 300 students, our school will graduate the first group of Assyrian children who have received their formal education together with their Assyrian language and Assyrian Church of the East religious studies.
This has been a dream come true, which at the earliest stages, not many believed that it would be possible and some said that we were taking things too far. Now that we have seen it accomplished, we are planning for the future of these students and the future of those who will come after them, by establishing an Assyrian High School, which will run classes from years 7 to 12 and prepare our students to sit for the state’s higher school certificate (HSC).
His Grace Mar Meelis with the St Hurmizd Assyrian School Board, which is soon to change to “Assyrian Schools Limited”, are working diligently on a plan to purchase an 8 acres block of land within the vicinity of our community’s habitat. On that block, a high school will be built. It will most probably be called “St Peter & Paul Assyrian College”, comprising a complete high school facility, a church as a chapel for the school, and a youth centre. The latter will cater for our Assyrian school drop-outs by enrolling them in an Assyrian evening college on par with the state’s Tertiary And Further Education (TAFE) system, where they will be helped in finding out what interests them and upon which they can build a future for themselves.
The land will cost a lot of money for which no governmental subsidy will be forthcoming, as we have tried everything possible with different representations to local, state and federal government officials for assistance, to no avail. So, it is up to us Assyrians of all walks of life to put our hands in our pockets and pull together to raise a sum of money that will enable us to strike a deal and get on with building our high school. Once the land is purchased, then we can depend on state and federal governments to assist in loans and subsidized loan interest to build the facilities.
The current school board, together with the school principal, chaplain, Assyrian language coordinator and teachers, all under the guidance and leadership of His Grace Mar Meelis, are working ceaselessly on all aspects of running a high school in this country, including curriculums and syllables that will have to be approved by the State Board of Studies. The experience that we have had in running our primary school will pave the way for us to handle the more advanced stage of educating our teenagers who would have graduated from our own St Hurmizd Primary School.
But, we need you all, Assyrians in Sydney, Australia and abroad wherever you are, if you are reading this article or if you hear about this project, to come along and offer a helping hand to make our second dream also come true. We are setting a school fund to be added to the existing one for our primary school, whereas any contributor to this fund would be able to claim his/her donations as a tax-deductible amount. We are also working on setting up a debenture scheme, whereby contributors to this scheme can lend money to the school, which will return same in a number of years with interest.
We are also calling upon our Assyrian compatriots all over the world to contribute towards this sacred and patriotic cause. Donate to this project and have your contributions claimed as tax deductible, that way you will help our school and yourselves as well. We heard about the Assyrian couple in Modesto, California, who donated 4.5 million dollars to a local hospital. Hopefully, we can get them and others to donate even a fraction of that amount towards the first Assyrian high school in the western world, and we will be willing to name a large section of the school in their name as the hospital had done.
Finally, let us remember that our Assyrian language is one of the oldest in the world and it is our inheritance and therefore deserves preservation and our protection. It has been kept alive for more than two millennia. Our Assyrian Church is equally of the same duration and is the mainstream of both our language and faith without which we would not have lasted as we still are. It is our sacred duty to keep the church flames on and in its original Assyrian language.
If you’d like to donate, please click on the St Hurmizd Assyrian School website https://shaps.nsw.edu.au/index.htm and choose “wish to donate” from the menu on the left.
For more information, you can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
When will the Operation Tammuz forms be ready?
[Zinda: An immediate call for support of the Petition Campaign last month received quick and enormous response from our readers. Zinda Magazine decided to hold Operation Tammuz until the Petition Campaign had run its course, not confusing our public with similar projects. We now believe we can begin our international call for our readers' support in November after the presidential elections in the U.S. - a When will the operation tammuz forms be ready?]
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Political Maneuvering in Kirkuk
Courtesy of the Institute For War & Peace
With Iraq's national elections just over three months away, political groups in the northern city of Kirkuk are already jostling for power and eying each other up as potential coalition partners.
Kirkuk is as close to a microcosm of the Iraqi political scene as you can get, with its multiplicity of communities, and a range of political parties ethnic, religious and secular to match.
It's also important in its own right, given its position at the centre of an oil-producing area and the claims and counter claims of Kurds, Turkoman and other groups that the city should belong to them.
Last week, the Higher Election Commission, HEC, announced the opening of an electoral centre which will organise and run the election through a network of 23 local offices across Kirkuk governorate.
The Kirkuk centre is one of the electoral management bodies which the HEC is setting up across Iraq to pave the way for the January 31 ballot, intended to elect a national assembly that will draft a constitution to replace the current transitional law.
Subject to a national referendum scheduled for October next year, the country will move forward to a full parliamentary election, in which up to 450 political groups could take part in the first multi-party race for seats in half a century.
In the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq, the January election is being seen as a litmus test for their eventual status in other words, the extent to which the area known as Iraqi Kurdistan will win some kind of autonomy.
Kirkuk lies just outside the Kurdish provinces that won de facto independence in 1991. While Kurds there hope the city and surrounding governorate would be incorporated into any future autonomous entity, local Arabs and Turkoman are against any change in status.
But as the political party scene unfolds, the battle lines are not quite as clear as this suggests.
The two main Kurdish parties, the Kurdish Democratic Party, KDP, led by Massoud Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK, are likely to form an election bloc in Iraq, according to an announcement made by PUK leader Jalal Talabani.
Some analysts are predicting that the PUK-KDP alliance will be expanded to embrace the Iraqi Communist Party as well as various parties representing the Assyrian Christian minority in Kirkuk.
Both the Assyrians and members of the related Chaldean faith would have an interest in joining such an election block as a way of winning representation in the national assembly. There is a precedent for this, since they are already involved in the ruling coalition in the Kurdish governorates of Arbil, Sulaimaniyah and Dahuk.
Countrywide, the Shia thought to account 60 per cent of Iraq's population constitute a powerful electorate. In Kirkuk province the percentage is lower, and consists largely of parts of the Arab and Turkoman communities. The Shia Turkoman are represented by two groups, the Islamic Union of Iraqi Turkomans and al-Wafaa al-Turkomani, both of which have declared they will join the broad alliance of Shia groups that is likely to contest the election across Iraq.
A coalition centering on the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Muslim Clerics' Board is emerging as the main vehicle for Iraq's Sunni Arab constituency. There are signs that this coalition will expand to include non-religious political forces of Sunni background. In Kirkuk, for example, the Arab National Bloc and the Arab National Front which have wide support among Arabs west of Kirkuk have decided to join the alliance.
Sources within the Sunni coalition say negotiations are now under way with the Turkoman Front, a group whose nationalist views have created tensions in its relationship with Kurdish forces.
Khudeir Ghalib Kahya, who represents the Turkoman Front on the broader Turkoman Council, says the latter, an umbrella group of parties and individuals, is also considering joining the Sunni alliance. Kahya ruled out any Turkoman coalition with the Kurds.
Turkoman politicians appear conscious of the weight they carry in Kirkuk, given the number of votes they can bring to the table. A few weeks ago, the leader of the Turkmen Eli party, Riyadh Sari Kahya, voiced concern at the lack of clarity on the electoral process, and hinted that his group might mount a boycott if this was not resolved.
Those with a more global view of the election take a more positive view, talking about its value in terms of establishing democratic change and getting political rivals to collaborate rather than fight.
Tahseen Kahya, the chairman of Kirkuk governorate's assembly, and an ethnic Turkoman, said that whatever the result of the vote, it will set a historical precedent for Iraq and open the way to democratic practices.
Fareed Asseserd, director of the Kurdistan Centre for Strategic Studies in Kirkuk, agreed, saying, "Consensus between competing groups will be the most effective principle in the end."
All the parties realise that the election is the ideal means for solving Iraq's complicated problems, and that if the election fails it will be everyone's loss.
[Zinda: Suran al-Dawoudi is an IWPR contributor in Kirkuk. Modern Kirkuk was an important point of contact for the ancient Mesopotamian merchants in the first millennium B.C. Its original name was Arrapha. In a royal letter of assignment, King Sargon II (721-705 BC) notes his mediation between his two governors of the cities of Arrapha and Kalah on the issue of sharing a territory. Later, Arrapha was renamed "Kirkha d'Bet Slookh" as it maintained its importance in trade and a Christian center. In 448 A.D. the Persian king, Yezdegard II, began a wave of persecution of Assyrians throughout Persia. A massacre of ten bishops and 153,000 clergy and laity took place in Kirkuk. The slaughter in took place in several consecutive days. Local tradition still asserts that the red gravel of the hillock was stained that color by the martyrs' blood and the martyrium built over the bodies remains to this day. The place where this massacre occurred bears the name of the Persian executioner, Tamasgerd, who was led by the sight of the endurance and faith of the people he was butchering to believe that their faith must truly be from God, and who joined them in their confession and fate. He was baptized in his own blood.]
George M. Abouna
New Biography Tells Iraqi Surgeon's Inspiring Story
Courtesy of the Prime Zone
George M. Abouna was born in a small village in Iraq and developed the ambitious dream of becoming a physician early in life. Through hardship and strife, his determination proved strong enough to allow him to achieve his dream and become a renowned surgeon. Dr. Samir Johna tells the story of his mentor in George M. Abouna: The History of a Pioneer in Transplant Surgery (now available through AuthorHouse).
From the depths of poverty in the Middle East, Abouna rose out of the conditions of his birth. He longed to be a physician, and although his plans were temporarily derailed because he accepted an engineering scholarship in the United Kingdom, he eventually became a respected figure in one of the most innovative aspects of medicine: organ transplantation.
His success caused animosity among his colleagues, who started a political war and forced Abouna into voluntary exile. Their jealousy pushed him into a new country, but he emerged stronger than ever. Later he would relocate to America, where he continues to make a difference for transplant patients.
Johna, fascinated by Abouna's achievement and his contributions to surgical education in the Middle East, writes not only about a fellow doctor, but also a man who is Assyrian, a Christian minority in Mesopotamia nearly wiped out by the Ottoman Empire. "Today as we struggle for existence in our homeland, a man like George Abouna is a triumph against all atrocities and a sure sign that our nation is still viable," Johna writes.
A captivating story about the power of tenacity, compassion and strength, George M. Abouna: The History of a Pioneer in Transplant Surgery is inspiring and enlightening.
Johna, was born and raised in the suburbs of Baghdad, Iraq. He graduated from the University of Baghdad College of Medicine in 1983 before serving six years in the Iraqi military during the first and second Gulf Wars. After moving to the United States, he joined the faculty at Loma Linda University School of Medicine, where he currently is an associate clinical professor of surgery. Other books by Johna include The Memoirs of Allen Oldfather Whipple: The Man Behind the Whipple Operation and Twenty-Five Years in Prison: The Memoirs of Mary Allen Whipple (also available through AuthorHouse).
An Excerpt from George M. Abouna: The History of a Pioneer in Transplant Surgery:
Chapter 2 - Moving to Baghdad, 1939
It was a sad day for the Abouna family when they left Elkosh. It never occurred to them that they would miss their home before they even left! The long journey to Baghdad was set in motion. Under the morning blue sky, fresh blossoms scented the soft winds over the green prairies between Elkosh and Mosul. Another look at the ruins of Nineveh took Mansour centuries into the dark past. Overwhelmed by emotion, for him it seemed as if history was repeating itself! Centuries before, his predecessors had been forced to escape into the mountains when Nineveh was ransacked and destroyed, leaving nothing behind but a few silent artifacts that could not attest to the rest of the world the glory they once had.
Mansour knew that the hardest days were still ahead of him. Along with his wife and his two children, he had to face the uncertainty in a place where he had little help, if any. In the midst of thinking, he reached out for his tobacco pouch, ready to roll a cigarette. He lit the cigarette and took a deep sigh. Looking through the windows he exhaled as if he was trying to blow away all of his worries! The smile on the faces of his children made him keep his worries to himself. He tried to escape thinking about his looming problems as he attempted to focus on the scenery along the route. Unfortunately, there was not much to see! Most of the land south of Mosul is dry and relies heavily on rain. Once the rainy season is over, the land looks like a flat yellow basin, with some hills here and there but no signs of life other than a few small Arab villages scattered along the way, some of which have resting-places for travelers. He could not help but to think about the possibility of failing in his endeavor. Finally, he came to terms with himself.
“It is not a failure if I fall, but it is a total failure if I stay where I fall. I just have to pick myself up and keep going,” he thought.
It was late in the afternoon when the Abouna family made it to Baghdad, a totally different environment compared with the small towns and villages they had lived in. The city had new buildings with modern architectural designs, public squares, statures, neat gardens and wide, clean, paved streets. Stores were busy with customers; many of whom were dressed in western styles. New cars zoomed all day through the streets—a sure sign of life!
Although Baghdad was trying hard to catch up with the rest of the civilized world, many scenes from the past were still evident on its streets. Transport and passenger cars pulled by horses, and in the bazaars, people, horses, donkeys, mules, and even camels mixed together! It was ironic to see clothes and shoes placed in shiny and clean glass cabinets, whereas vegetables, fruits, and dairy products were placed outside along with animal carcasses hanging outside butcher shops exposed to dust and all kinds of insects (a common practice in all third-world countries). No wonder infectious diseases were so prevalent.
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The following individuals contributed in the preparation of this week's issue:
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