24 Kanoon I 6754
14 December 2004
Z I N D A M A G A Z I N E
Assyrian Girl Becomes Australia's First Liver Cell Transplant Recipient.
|Choice Democracy – Quo Vadis Turkey?|
|Iraq's Besieged Christians Weigh Taking up Arms|
|Dutch Parliamentarian Takes on the Assyrian Case in Iraq
DreamLife Money Rejected
Funeral Held for Victim of Road Rage Confrontation in Sydney
Rebuilt Shenandoah Country Club Reopens Next Month
John Joseph on Hagarism
|Prof. John Joseph|
IRPP Conference on Turkey's Accession, Room Change
|The Quiet Tragedy of Iraq's Assyrians
Turkey – Arameans – EU
|Assyrian Girl Receives First Liver Cell Transplant in Australia|
Choice Democracy – Quo Vadis Turkey?
The Assyrian National Federation in Sweden – ARS
Assyrians/Syriacs and Turkey
The developments in Turkey over the last three decades have been of both hopelessness and joy. Whereas at one point over 100,000 Assyrians/Syriacs lived in the region, now there are only a few thousand.The gap between the Turkish Government and the Assyrians/Syriacs living overseas widened during the 1980s and 1990s. The Assyrians/Syriacs were trapped in the middle of a civil war and suffered as a result of the atrocities. The village of Hassana was one among many villages which were evacuated as a direct result of this war, and Assyrian/syriac activists were targeted by both the guerilla and paramilitary groups.The cease fire of last year has created a new atmosphere and the handling of Turkey’s minorities has become a central question affecting Turkey’s entrance into the European Union. At the same time the PKK has been forced to retreat and been forced to adopt a policy of political dialogue instead of military confrontation. Relative stability has come to the area over the past few years opening it up to development. The process regarding Turkey’s EU nomination combined with the changes in the political leadership have contributed to this progress. There is now both hopes for the future and confidence in the area as practical measures towards increased law enforcement have led to the expansion of the local economy. Exiled Assyrians/Syriacs have visited and are visiting their ancestral villages in large groups and considerable investment lies ahead if the development can be sustained.
Turkey, the EU and the Assyrians/Syriacs
Despite the positive development of recent years there is still a considerable amount of work to be done before Turkey can become a full member of the European Union as the EU commission correctly points out. Among others is the lack of a proper judicial system and areas of concern in the democratic process have been brought up. The influence of the military in politics is a fundamental but still unresolved problem. Paramilitary groups in southeast Turkey continue to make life difficult for the inhabitants of the countryside. Disputes land ownership and other such disputes which have not been accepted by the courts and minority rights, particularly for the indigenous Assyrians/Syriacs who are distinct from the majority due to their different religion, culture and language. The Assyrians/Syriacs aspire to take part and contribute to the transformation process in which Turkey is involved. We believe in a different Turkey. A Turkey with Democracy and mutual understanding is possible with the support of groups in Europe and specifically the support from various EU institutions. We agree with the report of the EU Commission which states that Turkey should be able to gain full membership in the coming years. This development would also be significant for the country and the Assyrian/Syriac question is important in that process. The following questions have to be solved before the process can move forward.
1. Turkish Democracy
Turkish democracy has the potential to take great steps forward. What is characteristic of the Assyrians/Syriacs is the fact that they are not a minority that entered this region sometime in history. The Assyrian people have been living in the parts of Southern Turkey for thousands of years and they must be perceived as indigenous extension of the Mesopotamian civilization. A democratic state must follow international conventions and as such Turkey must recognize the Assyrians/Syriacs as indigenous peoples and ratify the UN Convention on indigenous peoples. This will guarantee the survival of the Assyrian cultural, social and political rights in the country. In particular at a time when the number of Assyrians/Syriacs is falling dramatically.
2. The Fundamental Question
The Turkish government in the early 1900s ratified the so called Lausanne Treaty in which national minorities were defined and their rights agreed upon. The Assyrians/Syriacs were excluded from that treaty, a fact that has brought serious political and cultural difficulties for our people. The Lausanne treaty is of great importance, there must be a prerequisite, that the Assyrians be recognized in this document before proceeding to the adoption of the Copenhagen criteria.
3. Assyrians/Syriacs Rights
In accordance with the various moves the Turkish government has made towards its minorities the Assyrians/Syriacs should have access to TV and radio broadcasting in the Assyrian language.
This issue is a state matter and it is expected that the Turkish government will undertake this mission without delay. This decision should be made within the context of the fact that over 300,000 Assyrians/Syriacs are living in Europe.
Much of the 20th century history of the Assyrians/Syriacs in Turkey has been a great tragedy. It is normal for a democratic state to make up for its past mistakes by taking steps towards the new era. None of the current inhabitants of Turkey should feel guilt for the genocide of 1915 against the Assyrians/Syriacs and other Christians. Such an initiative would speed up the work of reconciliation and fasciculate the consolidation of political life.
Churches, monasteries and villages have been destroyed. These need to be restored. The village of Hassana, for example was evacuated and destroyed completely as a result of the war. This village and others need to be restored and those families who are from the villages and wish to return be assisted to do so.
Over the past few years the numbers of Assyrians/Syriacs visiting their home districts has increased dramatically. The driving force behind these has been the expectation to revive their childhood areas. As families come back the lack of security is the main obstacle to long term development. The Turkish Government must provide security for those returning Assyrians/Syriacs and newly populated villages and property that has been taken illegally must be return to their legal owners.
Villages rebuilt by Assyrians/Syriacs must be given protections, adjustment sin laws and legal assistance in preparing documentation must be provided. Further, the names of all Assyrian villages which were changed to Turkish names must be restored. This will have a great symbolic meaning for the remaining Assyrians/Syriacs and those from abroad.
The Turkish Government should aim through its Embassies and other institutions to encourage those Assyrians/Syriacs living overseas to return home. This can be accomplished by informing them of the current conditions and the advancements made in protecting their rights.
The slogan “Turkey is for the Turks” should be changed immediately. It should be replaced by one that says that Turkey is for all citizens regardless of race, ethnicity or religion.
Indoctrination of Pan Turkism and Pan Islamism should stop in the schools. Textbooks that contain racially incitements and misleading information about the nation’s minorities must be changed. Alternative textbooks should inform the Turkish people about the history of their minorities and their role in history objectively.
[Zinda: This article was translated from Swedish to English by Furkono Magazine.]
Iraq's Besieged Christians Weigh Taking up Arms
Courtesy of the Knight Ridder Newspaper
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Leaders of the ever-dwindling Christian population in Iraq say bombings of their churches and attacks against their communities may force them to take up guns.
Two more churches were bombed in Mosul last week, the latest attacks, and some Christians say extremist Muslims are terrorizing them with the intent of ousting them and seizing their houses and belongings.
Iraq is home to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, made up largely of ethnic Assyrians, an ancient people who speak a modern form of Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. But as the turmoil increases, hundreds of Christian families are leaving each week for exile in Syria and Turkey.
Some Christians have called for the establishment of a "safe haven" in Iraq's north, where they would be protected by special Iraqi army units. Others are threatening to add a Christian militia to Iraq's already militarized society.
"Assyrians need security, so we need a legal army within the Iraqi army to protect ourselves," said Michael Benjamin, a leader of the Assyrian Democratic Movement.
Said another Assyrian leader, Yonadem Kanna, "We do not want to transform our movement into a militia, but if we need to we can arm more than 10,000 people."
Christians are only a sliver of Iraq's population, but their leaders argue that driving them from Iraq would make it unlikely Iraq could ever develop into a nation that values religious pluralism and tolerance. Estimates of how many Christians have left Iraq in recent months range from 10,000 to 40,000 people.
Christians have lived in the region nearly since the dawn of Christianity. They are believed to number about 800,000, or about 3 percent of Iraq's population.
Many Christians are Chaldeans, or Eastern-rite Catholics, but there are also Christians who follow Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant lines.
Most Christians live in Baghdad or near Mosul, the modern city that surrounds what had been the ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh more than 4,000 years ago. Christian communities dot the Plain of Nineveh.
Many Christians have collaborated with U.S. forces, hoping that Iraq will become a democratic and free secular state. Their links to Americans, often as translators, have put them under threat. Some anti-U.S. Sunni Muslims warn that anyone aiding the Americans should be killed, or even beheaded.
As Iraq's turmoil deepens, religious tolerance has lessened. Christians in Mosul and Baghdad report receiving pamphlets ordering women to cover up for modesty.
"Other forms of pressure and threats include pressure to sell lands, the coercion of women to wear veils, and the abduction of women for marriage against their will," said a statement late last month by 11 Christian groups in the Middle East.
Even as elections approach on Jan. 30, and Christian groups put forth slates of candidates, many Christians say they are losing hope.
"The Christians have no future here," said Athnaiel Isaac, a 23-year-old deacon in Baghdad. "We may be under the same pressures that made the Jews leave Iraq (following World War II)."
Isaac said he will leave soon for Syria and that his al Wehda district of Baghdad is emptying of Christians.
"I know about 100 families that have left the al Wehda neighborhood in the last three months," Isaac said.
Other Christians said the nation's turmoil leaves them vulnerable.
"The extremist Muslims are attacking us because the coalition forces are not controlling the country," said Hayraw Bedros, an Armenian Christian.
Many of Iraq's churches have thrown up protective walls or placed perimeter barrels filled with cement to protect against car bombs. Some services have been cancelled following coordinated church bombings in Baghdad and Mosul Aug. 1, in which 11 people died, and subsequent bombings Oct. 16, Nov. 8 and again last Tuesday.
In last week's attacks, insurgents bombed an Armenian-Catholic church and the Chaldean bishop's palace, on the banks of the Tigris River in Mosul.
Christians say they have had to find new places for worship.
"I used to go before to Saint George Church but now it's destroyed," said Lilia Hermez, a 70-year-old Baghdad resident.
Ironically, many Christians are facing worse times than under Saddam Hussein's secular regime. Saddam viewed Christians as non-threatening and elevated a Christian, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, as the public face of his regime. But he also barred Christians from building new churches and kept strict controls on them.
Following Saddam's ouster last year, many Christians were heartened by an interim constitution that guaranteed basic religious freedom.
But as violence increased, including kidnappings of some rich Christians and beheadings of others who worked for the U.S. military, some Assyrians demanded creation of a "safe haven" in land currently governed autonomously by Iraqi Kurds.
The proposal has been rejected for fear it could spark conflicts between Christians and Kurds, and lead to a ghetto for Christians.
Some young Christians disagree with the idea of setting up a special army unit or militias to protect their community but want more help from abroad.
"We need help from the Christians abroad," said Ivan Anto, a 23-year-old dentist. "If they can't help the Christians here, let them help those who want to emigrate."
Iraqi Christians living abroad - including several hundred thousand in the United States - may play a significant role in the nation's immediate future.
Iraq's election authorities recently decided to permit exiles to vote in Jan. 30 elections, and expatriate votes may help Christian groups win seats in a National Assembly that will shape a new constitution.
[Zinda: Special correspondent George is an Iraqi working for Knight Ridder in Baghdad. Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondent Tim Johnson contributed to this report also.]
Dutch Parliamentarian Takes on the Assyrian Case in Iraq
[Zinda: The following is a letter sent by the Bert Koenders, member of the Dutch Parliament, to the Dutch Minister of Foreign Relations, Mr. B. Bot in reference to situation of the Assyrians in Iraq. Mr. Koenders inquired about the elections, the funds sent for the reconstruction projects, and the Assyrians in Hassake, Syria.
In reference to the elections Mr. Koenders notes that Assyrians in Iraq are worried about their misrepresentations in a “winner takes all” type of election system and the rights of minorities and women should a non-secular group wins the elections.
Mr. Koenders also writes about this concern for the EU funds sent to Iraq for the election process and the reconstruction efforts. He explains that there are no conditions set on how this money is distributed or shared among its target groups. “What are the guarantees that the minorities will receive a share of the money?” asks Mr. Koenders.
At the end Mr. Koenders alludes to possible discrimination against the minorities imposed by the “Kurds in the North” who “will not share the funds with the minorities.”
Partij van de Arbeid
Aan : de voorzitter van de vaste kamercommissie voor Buitenlandse Zaken de heer H. de Haan;
Betreft Verkiezingen en de EU-hulp met betrekking tot Irak
Geachte heer De Haan,
Bij deze wil ik u vragen om de regering te verzoeken om een brief inzake de wijze van organisatie en specifiek de wijze van vertegenwoordiging van minderheden bij de aanstaande Irakese verkiezingen en een uitgebreide toelichting ten aanzien van de EU en Nederlandse hulp voor de wederopbouw van Irak.
De reden daarvoor is dat er onder meer bij de Assyrische christenen van Irak veel zorgen bestaan over het kiessysteem dat neerkomt op een ‘winner takes all’ systeem. Ook in bredere zin zijn er vragen over het seculaire karakter van Irak, met name ten aanzien van de democratische vertegenwoordiging en de rechten van minderheden en vrouwen in Irak in de toekomst.
Het tweede punt van zorg betreft de EU hulp (180 miljoen Euro) ten aanzien van de verkiezingen en de wederopbouw en de condities die daar al dan niet aan worden verbonden. Welke garanties zijn er dat alle minderheden op evenredige wijze deze hulp kunnen benutten en op welke wijze wordt dat ook daadwerkelijk gecontroleerd en geverifieerd. Voorkomen dient te worden dat lokale overheden in Irak (onder meer in het deels Koerdische noorden) minderheidsgroepen links laten liggen of zelfs openlijk discrimineren.
Met vriendelijke groet.
DreamLife Money Rejected, Assyrian Couple in Deep Financial Troubles
Story courtesy of the Modesto Bee
(ZNDA: Turlock) Turlock's Emanuel Medical Center and California State University, Stanislaus, announced Tuesday that they will not accept millions of dollars in pledges from Tony and Nansi Masihi Daniloo and Modesto-based DreamLife Financial.
"Given the information that has come out, the hospital thought it was in everyone's best interest not to proceed with DreamLife and the Daniloos," said Pennie Rorex, a hospital spokeswoman.
The moves came after Sunday's report in The Modesto Bee that the Daniloos have a history of legal and financial troubles, including bankruptcies, late payments and accusations of fraud.
When the pledges were announced, the Daniloos were involved in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filed in Oakland, the third Nansi Masihi Daniloo had filed since 1998, the year before the couple married.
The couple in recent years has been slow to pay tens of thousands of dollars in credit card and tax bills, resulting in liens as well as lawsuits being filed against them, according to a search of property and court records.
Tony Daniloo is facing several lawsuits in Alameda County, where he worked as a mortgage lender and broker before joining DreamLife Financial in 2003.
Pending cases involve allegations of breach of contract and fraud.
One lawsuit alleges that a 71-year-old San Francisco woman did not receive $50,000 due her at the close of a loan.
Another case contends that a Contra Costa County couple lost more than $300,000 because Daniloo convinced them to make loans to a person he presented as a potential home buyer, but who turned out to be a relative who had no interest in the property.
What's more, four people said they have been questioned about Daniloo's business dealings by investigators from the Alameda County district attorney's office. Bill Denny, head of the DA office's real estate fraud unit, said he could neither confirm nor deny whether a criminal investigation of Daniloo was under way.
In an interview at DreamLife's headquarters on Standiford Avenue in Modesto, Tony Daniloo, 30, declined to discuss the bankruptcies, liens and lawsuits.
Later, however, he issued a statement through a public relations firm that read in part:
"I'm young and made some mistakes in my life. However, I've learned from them and have tried to correct any wrongdoings. I'm not proud of my past, but I am proud I made the most of a second chance."
A background check of the Daniloos would have turned up the bankruptcies, liens, lawsuits and other information. It also likely would have uncovered Tony Daniloo's arrest in 1997 on suspicion of rolling back odometers at his former Modesto car dealership, according to Stanislaus County court records. The charges were dropped.
In a statement, Daniloo attributed the arrest to youthful indiscretion and said he learned from the experience. "This is an excellent example where I've learned from past mistakes," the statement said. "Now I run my businesses morally right."
Nansi Masihi Daniloo, 29, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1998, 2001 and most recently in 2002, with the latest filing naming Tony Daniloo as a codebtor.
Chapter 7 is the most common type of bankruptcy filed by individuals, said Ann Marie Friend, a Modesto bankruptcy attorney. The filing of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy prevents creditors from seeking to collect their debts directly from the individual.
Under bankruptcy law, someone who wants to file a Chapter 7 case must not have filed a previous Chapter 7 and received a discharge within the prior six years, said Friend. Even though Nansi Masihi Daniloo received a Chapter 7 discharge in November 1998, and filed again unsuccessfully in 2001, the U.S. trustee opted not to file for a dismissal in the 2002 filing. Instead, the trustee seized the Daniloos' nonexempt assets and liquidated them to pay debts.
The latest case, which was scheduled for a final meeting Dec. 9, lists $1.15 million in assets and $346,270 in liabilities. It includes a judgment against the Daniloos for allegedly transferring a Tracy home within one year prior to filing bankruptcy, according to bankruptcy records.
In a prepared statement, Tony Daniloo said his wife was "swept into" the latest bankruptcy because she co-signed a mortgage for a cousin, who became ill and was unable to make payments.
"We just recently learned of the bankruptcy and are offering assistance to Nansi's cousin," said Daniloo.
But Friend, who reviewed the case at The Bee's request, questioned that explanation, noting that Nansi Masihi Daniloo initiated the bankruptcy and her signature appears on the original filing.
There are indications the Daniloos have struggled to pay their bills on time. In the most recent bankruptcy case, creditors include the Internal Revenue Service, which claims it is owed nearly $50,000, and the state Franchise Tax Board, which claims it is owed more than $13,000.
In October, Tony Daniloo was sued in Alameda County by a law firm that claims he owes more than $14,000. The Pleasanton firm of James G. Schwartz alleges in the lawsuit that Daniloo has failed to pay legal bills accrued over two years.
In 2002, the state Board of Equalization released two liens against Daniloo and his former company, D&T Auto Sales, which he co-owned with his father, David. The liens were placed in the late 1990s for allegedly failing to pay more than $52,000 in taxes to the state.
That same year, Wells Fargo Bank released a lien that it filed in 1997, for Tony Daniloo's failure to pay a nearly $30,000 MasterCard bill. Also, Stanislaus County placed a lien against Nansi Daniloo in 1997, claiming she failed to pay for treatment at Stanislaus Medical Center. That lien has been released.
Natives of Iran
Tony Daniloo and Nansi Masihi were born in Iran. Both came as youngsters to the United States in about 1980, during the Iranian revolution. Their families eventually settled in Turlock, which has a large Assyrian community.
Both graduated from Turlock High School; Tony in 1992 and Nansi Masihi in 1994. In a biography prepared for The Bee and in an interview, Tony Daniloo said he attended Arizona State University. But ASU officials said they have no record of his enrollment. Daniloo later said he "misspoke."
The couple was married in Stanislaus County in 1999.
During his years in the Bay Area, Tony Daniloo worked for a number of firms, including Residential Credit Corp., Park Place Capital, Sprint Funding Corp., Wausau Mortgage Corp., United American Mortgage and Ameriquest, according to court documents.
The Daniloos returned to Turlock from the Bay Area in 2002, the same year DreamLife Investments Inc. was founded.
Today, they live in a two-story home on a cul-de-sac on Carriage Court in Turlock that has been assessed at nearly $1 million. According to Stanislaus County records, the home is listed under the name of Nobella Masihi, a 24-year-old student and Nansi Masihi Daniloo's younger sister.
A year ago, Tony Daniloo joined DreamLife Investments Inc., which operates as DreamLife Financial.
He is chief executive officer and president of DreamLife Investments.
Among the principals of the company is Chief Financial Officer Paul Ovro, the husband of Karmela Ovro, Daniloo's sister.
Nansi Masihi Daniloo is not involved with the company, Tony Daniloo said.
DreamLife provides a range of services, but focuses on loans to aspiring homeowners with poor credit. The firm says it gears its services toward lowincome and minority groups.
DreamLife is growing fast. In one year, it has expanded to eight branches, which are spread throughout the San Joaquin Valley. Daniloo said the firm is eager to open more, including a branch in Las Vegas.
"Our goal is to hit $1 billion (in loans) a year by 2005," he said.
The company has been aggressive in its publicity efforts, stating on its Web site a desire to become "a household name."
In addition to the pledges to Emanuel and Stanislaus State, the firm has sponsored numerous events in the area. Last summer, DreamLife offered motorists gas for 99 cents a gallon during a spike in gas prices. The firm sponsored downtown Modesto's holiday parade. DreamLife also has partnered with the San Francisco 49ers in a sweepstakes promotion.
DreamLife has not been named in any lawsuits in Stanislaus County and has a satisfactory record with the Better Business Bureau.
Since 2001, Tony Daniloo has been accused in at least six civil lawsuits of committing fraud and engaging in acts of predatory lending that cost borrowers hundreds of thousands. It is alleged in some of the lawsuits that Nansi Masihi Daniloo helped her husband.
The couple denies any wrongdoing in those cases.
In a statement, Daniloo attributed the number of lawsuits to the nature of his lending specialty: sub-prime loans. "Often, these loans are more likely to lead to lawsuits," the statement said. "As a senior officer in the mortgage companies, I was named in the suits, which typically name all senior officers. I personally did no wrongdoing, and I am no longer involved with the firms named in the suits."
One case, which ended in a judgment of $45,000 against Daniloo, was filed in 2002 by a Tracy couple, Veronica and Perry Gaa.
According to the complaint, the Gaas approached Daniloo, a family friend, for a residential loan and he quoted them a rate he never delivered.
Acting on the belief that the loan would lower their monthly payments, the Gaas embarked on home improvement projects, including the installation of a swimming pool.
Instead, the loan they received boosted monthly payments to $3,200 from $2,200, according to the lawsuit. As a result, the Gaas started falling behind on payments to other creditors.
Court papers indicate that when Daniloo failed to live up to a settlement agreement, a default judgment was entered against him in May for $45,000. Veronica Gaa said she hasn't received any money.
"You wouldn't believe the stress this has put us through," said Gaa, 31. "We had to put off having kids. We haven't been able to take a vacation in three years."
In a case pending in Alameda County Court, a Contra Costa county couple alleged in 2003 that Daniloo duped them out of more than $300,000 while serving as their broker. The couple, Sharon and Enrique Pillado, wanted to sell their individual homes and buy one together. According to the lawsuit, Daniloo told the Pillados he had found a buyer for both properties, but there was a catch: The buyers needed second loans to make the deals work.
The arrangement, the Pillados contend, was to be structured this way:
The Pillados provided $310,000 — $170,000 to the buyer of one of their homes, $140,000 to the buyer of the other.
Those loans were to be secured through equity in the houses. The loans were to be repaid within a year with 14 percent interest.
The Pillados contend in their lawsuit that they did not receive equity, repayment or interest.
The lawsuit also alleges that one of the loan recipients wasn't a legitimate buyer, but was Daniloo's sister, Karmela Ovro of Turlock. The buyer for the other home never was identified.
Ovro declined to comment.
Michael Meadows, the Pillados' attorney, said the case has caused the couple a "considerable amount of anguish."
In another case, a 71-year-old San Francisco woman, Carol Hull, sued Tony Daniloo in 2003 in Alameda County claiming she did not receive $50,000 due her at the close of a loan. Hull also has filed a request for a $150,000 default judgment, claiming she hasn't received the money.
A Tracy woman, Evelyn Perilla, 57, said she couldn't afford to hire a lawyer to sue Tony Daniloo, who she says is responsible for her losing the Union City home her family lived in for 25 years. According to a report filed with the Dublin Police Department, Perilla approached Daniloo about refinancing her home loan in April or May 2001. The terms stated that Perilla would have access to $38,000 in cash when she wanted it. After being laid off from her job, Perilla requested the money. Daniloo said he would get her the funds, but it would take some time. In the meantime, he encouraged Perilla to give him the mortgage coupons for her loan, telling her that he would make the payments according to the report.
Perilla said she did as Daniloo asked. Eventually, Perilla began receiving late notices. Daniloo assured Perilla there had been a mistake and he would fix it, according to the report.
Then, in September 2002, Perilla received a phone call from her 76-year-old mother who lived at the home, saying the Sheriff's Department was evicting the family because the mortgage had not been paid.
The family was forced to live in hotels for three weeks, she said.
Perilla said the experience was devastating.
"I was 50 years old and I had nothing, no house, no money. I had to start all over," she said. "I didn't understand how he can do this to our family."
Daniloo maintains that he did nothing wrong in those cases. He also said any past actions should not be held against him.
"Judge me on what I'm doing today and the future good I plan to do," Daniloo said.
The Daniloos and DreamLife had pledged $4.5 million to Emanuel Medical Center to help fund a cancer center and remodel the pediatric wing. The center was to be named DreamLife Cancer Center, and the pediatric wing was to be named after Nansi Masihi Daniloo.
The cancer center will break ground next month as planned, Rorex said.
"The cancer center was going to be built even before the (Daniloo-DreamLife) pledge," she said. The pediatric wing will not be named for Nansi Masihi Daniloo.
The Stanislaus State announcement came shortly after the university was told Tuesday of a lawsuit filed this week in Stanislaus County Superior Court alleging that Tony Daniloo diverted more than $4 million from homeowners' escrow accounts for his personal use.
University officials announced that they were returning the first $250,000 installment, rescinding the naming rights and ending the school's association with the Modesto-based mortgage company and Tony Daniloo, 30, the company's chief executive officer.
In a brief statement, the university said the decision to end the partnership, made by President Marvalene Hughes, was "a decision to which both parties agree, without judgment."
University officials previously said the $1 million gift, one of the largest ever for a Division II school, would be used for scholarships, equipment and coaches' salaries. In exchange, the school's athletics arena was renamed DreamLife Arena.
Tuesday, Daniloo declined to comment. He referred questions to an attorney who did not return a call placed late Tuesday.
"Obviously, it would've been nice, anything to help the student-athlete is appreciated," said Kenny Leonesio, Stan State baseball coach. "But it's not like we're losing anything. We're basically back to where we started."
University officials said the DreamLife name and logo will be removed from the arena, but didn't say when that will happen.
Hughes could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Milt Richards, Stanislaus State's athletics director, refused to comment.
Neither university nor Emanuel officials did a background check into the Daniloos or DreamLife when the donations were offered.
A Chronology (produced by the Modesto Bee Staff)
JUNE 1992 — Tony Daniloo graduates from Turlock High School.
JUNE 1994 — Nansi Masihi graduates from Turlock High School.
MARCH 1997 — Stanislaus County files a lien against Masihi for failing to pay for treatment at Stanislaus Medical Center. The lien eventually is released.
MARCH 1997 — Daniloo is sued in Stanislaus County by Wells Fargo for nearly $30,000 for failing to pay a MasterCard bill. The case results in a lien, which isn't released until 2002.
MAY 1997 — The California Board of Equalization files a lien against Daniloo and his Modesto company, D&T Auto Sales, for $8,000 in owed taxes. The lien is released in 2002.
DECEMBER 1997 — Daniloo is arrested by a Department of Motor Vehicles investigator on suspicion of rolling back odometers in a scheme to sell cars at inflated prices. The charge later is dropped.
JULY 1998 — Masihi files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Modesto. The case is discharged in November 1998.
MAY 1999 — The Board of Equalization places a lien against Daniloo and D&T Auto Sales for nearly $39,000. The lien is released in 2002.
JULY 1999 — Daniloo and Masihi are married in Stanislaus County.
SEPTEMBER 2000 — The Daniloos are sued in Alameda County for failing to turn over rents on a property owned with Moraga Road Corp. Moraga Road eventually wins a judgment against the Daniloos for $15,000.
APRIL 2001 — Nansi Masihi Daniloo files unsuccessfully for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oakland. The case is dismissed in May 2001.
AUGUST 2001 — Tony Daniloo is sued in Alameda County by a Gilroy couple who allege Daniloo promised a loan he never delivered. The case, filed by Ronald and Patricia Ann Colla, sought $300,000 in general damages and $1 million in punitive damages. It was dismissed without prejudice in December 2003.
FEBRUARY 2002 — Tony Daniloo is sued in Alameda County by a Tracy couple who claim Daniloo promised a loan at a rate he never delivered. The couple, Veronica and Perry Gaa, reached a settlement with Daniloo, but he never paid, said Veronica Gaa. A default judgment for $45,000 was entered against him in May. Gaa said the couple has not collected any money from Daniloo.
MARCH 2002 — The Daniloos are sued in Alameda County by New Century Title Co. for allegedly diverting more than $440,000 from escrow accounts for personal use. The case alleges that Tony Daniloo re-routed checks to his wife and another woman. The case was dismissed without prejudice in July 2002.
MARCH 2002 — Stewart Title Guaranty Co. issues an alert advising agents not to close any transactions with the Daniloos.
MAY 2002 — Nansi Masihi Daniloo files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oakland. Tony Daniloo is listed as a co-debtor in the case. Among the creditors are the Internal Revenue Service, which claims it is owed nearly $50,000, and the state Franchise Tax Board, which claims it is owed $13,000.
JANUARY 2003 — The Dublin Police Department files a report that includes allegations that Daniloo was responsible for a Union City woman losing the house in which she lived for 25 years. The woman, Evelyn Perilla, told an officer that Daniloo promised to make her mortgage payments while she waited for cash due her from a loan with Daniloo. According to the report, Perilla never received the money and Daniloo did not make the mortgage payments. Perilla and her family, including her 76-year-old diabetic mother, were evicted and forced to live in hotels for three weeks.
FEBRUARY 2003 — Tony Daniloo is sued in Alameda County by a Contra Costa County couple alleging that Daniloo, serving as their broker, cheated them out of $300,000. The couple, Sharon and Enrique Pillado, alleges he did this in part by convincing them to make loans to a person they believed to be a potential home buyer but who turned out to be Daniloo's sister. The case is pending.
APRIL 2003 — A judgment in Bankruptcy Court in Oakland is entered against the Daniloos for fraudulently transferring property within one year before filing Chapter 7.
APRIL 2003 — Tony Daniloo is sued in Alameda County by a Hayward couple who allege they lost $100,000 because of a Daniloo loan. The couple, Nuevo and Cecilia Talaue, allege in part that Daniloo diverted $30,000 from their escrow account for personal use. The case was dismissed without prejudice.
JUNE 2003 — Tony Daniloo is sued in Alameda County by Carol Hull, a 71-year-old San Francisco woman who claims Daniloo failed to pay $50,000 due her at the end of a loan. Hull's attorney has requested a default judgment of $150,000 be entered because Daniloo hasn't responded to the complaint.
DECEMBER 2003 — Tony Daniloo opens DreamLife Financial, a division of DreamLife Investments Inc., a Modesto mortgage lending firm that specializes in loans to people with poor credit.
SEPTEMBER 2004 — DreamLife Financial and the Daniloos pledge $4.5 million for projects at Emanuel Medical Center, the largest donation in the Turlock hospital's 87-year history.
OCTOBER 2004 — Tony Daniloo is sued in Alameda County by a Pleasanton law firm that claims he owes more than $14,000 in legal bills accrued over two years. The case is pending.
NOVEMBER 2004 — DreamLife Financial pledges $1 million for naming rights to a basketball arena and several athletic fields at California State University, Stanislaus. The school plans to use the money for scholarships and coaches' salaries, among other things.
DECEMBER 2004 — Emmanuel Hospital and California State University at Stanislaus turn down DreamLife Financial pledges.
Funeral Held for Victim of Road Rage Confrontation in Sydney
Courtesy of Sydney Morning Herald
(ZNDA: Sydney) Ten days before Christmas the family and friends of Beni Sarkis gave thanks for a life taken by violence.
According to police, Mr Sarkis was offended when another man, Maku Afu, 35, blocked his path into the main street of Glebe Point Road. Afu told police Mr Sarkis had cut him off.
Mr Sarkis got out of his car and approached Afu, who got out of his car with two companions. Witnesses said the men argued and Mr Sarkis pushed Afu in the chest. Afu allegedly punched Mr Sarkis once in the face.
A witness said Mr Sarkis had "a blank look on his face and fell straight back onto the ground". He fell heavily, hit his head and died in nearby Royal Prince Alfred at 8:30 pm without regaining consciousness.
About 150 mourners were at St Hermizd's Church of the East Cathedral at Greenfield Park (Sydney, Australia), on 14 December, to farewell Beni Sarkis, the father of two.
Father Ashoor Lazar offered the community's condolences to the family of the Iranian-born 60-year-old.. The service, largely in Assyrian, ended with Mr Sarkis's son, Raman, leading a procession ahead of his sister, Ramona, and mother, Homa.
Maka Afu, 35, of Marrickville, faces manslaughter charges.
Rebuilt Shenandoah Country Club Reopens Next Month
Courtesy of the Daily Oakland Press
(ZNDA: Detroit) The reborn Shenandoah Country Club - a 93,000-square-foot banquet and conference center that was two years in the making - is scheduled to open early next month.
The Chaldean Iraqi American Association of Michigan, which broke ground on the new, two-story facility in 2002, also plans to open a 5,000-square-foot cultural center within the building by the end of 2005. The country club, on Walnut Lake Road east of Drake Road, is being built next to the existing Shenandoah golf course clubhouse, a 20,000-square-foot facility built in 1965 and owned by the Chaldean group since 1993.
A members' open house is scheduled for 7 January and the first wedding will be held 9 January. The Chaldean association, which also is upgrading the club's 18-hole golf course, could spend as much as $30 million on the entire project.
"The facility that was there previously was outdated," said Martin Manna, spokesman for the Chaldean group. "We had outgrown it."
The expansion on the 145-acre site is also a testament to the growth of metro Detroit's Chaldean community, now about 120,000 strong. Chaldeans, Middle Eastern Catholics primarily from Iraq, have a sizable population in communities including West Bloomfield and Walled Lake - about 75 percent of the club's membership will live within a three-mile radius.
For the past 25 years, Chaldeans have gathered for social events at Southfield Manor, on Telegraph Road in Southfield, but they're now planning to sell that banquet facility. It will close on 18 December.
"Southfield Manor could only hold 500 people," Manna said. "The average Chaldean wedding is that big or larger."
The new version of the Shenandoah facility, being built by Southfield-based Jonna Construction Co., also will allow space for corporate meetings. Much of the club will be open to the public.
"We built this for the whole area to enjoy, not just us," Manna said.
The centerpiece of the new Shenandoah club, designed by architect Victor Saroki and Associates of Birmingham, is the grand ballroom/banquet center, which will hold about 750 people.
Decor in the 11,300-square-foot ballroom includes a patterned, woven wool carpet imported from England, fabric wall coverings and crystal chandeliers.
Projectors will descend from the ceiling during conferences to allow for presentations.
Surrounding the ballroom will be two pre-function areas, with nearly double the capacity of the ballroom.
"We'll set portable bars up out here so they can have hors d'oeuvres and drinks before they go in for the function," said Paul Rizza, chief operating officer for Shenandoah, during a walkthrough earlier this week.
The pre-function areas have Italian marble floors, African cherry wood walls and Venetian plaster. They'll be tied in to the club's grand entrance.
An 4,000-square-foot, outdoor terrace, using New York bluestone, wraps around the back of the club and overlooks the course.
"We'll be able to hold ceremonies out here," Rizza said.
Also part of the new Shenandoah building are several corporate meeting rooms, an outdoor pool, an 8,000-square-foot gym with basketball hoops and a volleyball area, and a lower-level fitness center. The fitness center will have a yoga and pilates area, as well as exercise equipment.
Members, who will have their own card-accessed entrance, will be able to use the exercise facilities, a billiards room, several card rooms and a 160-seat, formal dining room.
The public will have access to a pro shop and mixed grill, as well as the conference area.
The club, itself, is only part of Shenandoah's new identity.
The Chaldean association already has spent $1.3 million to renovate the golf course, putting in a new irrigation system, relocating some of the holes and adding a practice range that doubles as a six-hole junior golf course, Rizza said.
"We might be doing another $4 million, bringing it up to a private course level," he said.
The old Shenandoah building will become a maintenance and storage facility for golf carts. A smaller building on the course, now used for those functions, will be demolished.
Yet to come, the cultural center is expected to be open in November or December of next year. The center, free and open to the public, will have $2 million to $3 million in exhibits displaying Chaldean culture, Manna said.
"You'll be able to write your name in Aramaic," Manna said, describing touch screens that will introduce visitors to the ancient language used during the lifetime of Jesus Christ.
Although Chaldeans have been in the United States for decades, they haven't operated a center devoted to their culture until now.
"This is the first of its kind," Manna said.
John Joseph on Hagarism
Prof. John Joseph
Mr. George V.Yana rightly points out that the book "Hagarism" can be confusing at times. Like him and many others I found certain passages of the book contradictory. But since I was writing on the subject, I felt that I had to write and ask for an explanation. I contacted Dr. Patricia Crone and have incorporated her answer in my book
Judging from his Zinda account, it is not clear if Yana has read my book If he has not, then he gets an F for his homework; his readers deserve better. If he had read my work but preferred to be silent about it, then he is simply engaging in fraudulent research.
Below is my reference to "Hagarism" as it appears on page 27, note 94 of my "The Modern Assyrians of the Middle East": "[I]n accordance with their methodology, authors Crone and Cook accept Qardagh's descendence from Assyrian kings [not because they believed it but because the legend was accepted] as a believed fact by his contemporaries, making Hagarism a favorite source book of the modern Assyrian writers. In a letter to [me], dated June 11, 1997, Patricia Crone wrote that she and Cook "do not argue that the Nestorians of pre-Islamic Iraq saw themselves as Assyrians or that this is what they called themselves. They called themselves Suryane, which had no greater connotation of Assyrian in their usage than it did in anyone else's... We take it for granted that they got the modern Assyrian label from the West and proceeded to reinvent themselves...Of course the Nestorians were Arameans."
In their prefatory remarks Crone and Cook, who warn the non-specialist not to expect a 'guided tour' but a pioneering expedition through some very rough country, also anticipate "the raised eyebrows" of the specialists. For reviews of Hagarism, see Oleg Grabar, in Speculum 53, (October 1978), pp. 795-799; Michael G. Morony, in Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 41, no. 2, (1982), 159; Joseph Van Ess, "The Making of Islam," in Times Literary Supplement (September 8, 1978), pp. 997-998. For nationalist references to, and misinterpretation of, Hagarism, see Odisho Bet Ashur (pen name), "The Continuity of Assyrian History," Nineveh, v. 17, no. 3 (1994), pp. 16-17, notes 19,20,24; Odisho, Sound Systems, pp. 10, 15-16, and "The Modern Assyrians of the Middle East, pp.28-29.
On December 17, the European Union will decide whether to launch accession talks with Turkey. As EU members grapple with increasingly strident, radicalized Muslim minorities in their societies, Europe is still reeling from the brazen assassination of a Dutch filmmaker by a militant Islamist last month. The need to balance religious freedom, which is a fundamental tenet of genuine democracy, with secularism that protects such freedoms from violent extremists and religious fanatics, is critical to understanding the full impact of the Dec. 17 decision, both for Turkey and for the European Union.
Many outstanding public affairs programs are being organized in Washington, D.C., to explore the policy ramifications of that decision, positive or negative, conditional or unconditional. The Western Policy Center is pleased to bring to your attention a major Washington D.C. conference planned as a forum for debate on the largely unexplored topic of "Religious Freedom in Secular Turkey: The EU Effect."
This issue of intense and timely interest in the post-September 11, post-Iraq war international focus on global Islam and Islamism involves the state of religious freedom among Turkey's 70 million citizens, who are overwhelmingly Muslim and worship within a heavily-regulated, state-managed religious framework. The Institute for Religion and Public Policy is the organizing entity for the half-day conference, which takes place on December 14 starting at 9:00 a.m. at the Russell Senate Office Building, Caucus Room 325.
The conference will consist of two panels probing religious freedom for Turkey's Muslim majority ("Islam in the Public Sphere") and for Christians, Jews, and other non-Muslims ("Religious Minorities in Modern Turkey").
Confirmed conference participants include:
The Institute on Religion and Public Policy is a Washington, D.C.-headquartered non-profit, non-partisan, inter-religious organization that seeks to shape public participation in policy of the community of faith. With offices in Brussels and at the United Nations, the Institute facilitates the expression of faith in the public interest through program activities and research in the public policymaking process. In particular, the Institute focuses very heavily on the question of freedom of religion as a cornerstone of international security. For more information, please contact Julia Kirby or Lidiya Zubytska, (Kirby@religionandpolicy.org; email@example.com), 202-835-8760 or visit www.religionandpolicy.org.
I have a New Friend: An Iraqi Chaldean Priest
Don Fredo Olivero
As everybody knows by now, Iraq went through decades of sufferings: the regime, three wars, thirteen years of embargo, and a situation that is still far from being “pacified.”
Iraqi population, who in the past had reached a high grade of development, was for these reasons plunged into poverty, and into the isolation that had its top during the regime of sanctions imposed by United Nations. Sanctions that definitively cut off the relationships between Iraqis and the rest of the world.
Unable to easily obtain entrance visas from other countries, and at the
same time thwarted by their own government in their desire/need to
leave the country, Iraqis have day by day lost the chance of growing
through the cultural confrontation with the outside world, busy as
they were, and how they unfortunately still are, by others and more
Instruction and cultural confrontation are all the same felt as fundamental for the future growth of the country by those who, during the dark decades, tried to keep them alive and ready to answer to the new demands and to the new course of history.
To the brain drain that began during the period of the sanctions we must add, since 2003, the phenomenon of many intellectuals who are escaping abroad voluntarily or compelled by threats; or, the more serious one of their murdering by who sees in culture and in development a threat to his own ambitions of power and control.
This drain hasn’t, till now, regarded a category of people who always had the culture at heart, and who need support to carry on its task: Iraqi christians, and in particular, some young priests who, now more then ever before, have became the point of reference for their communities.
They represent Christianity that arrived into Iraq by the time of the first apostolic preaching, and that now counts on about 750,000 faithfuls belonging to different religious confessions, most of whom to the Chaldean Church that only in Baghdad has 25 parish churches, 32 priests, monks, nuns, three bishops and a patriarch.
To the Chaldean Church is also entrusted the running of the only non-Islamic Iraqi faculty of theology and philosophy, the “Babel College” where students attending the courses are Chaldeans, Easterns [Church of the East], Armenians and Syriacs; and where, to stress the spirit of opening toward other confessions and religions, some Islamic students are admitted for their in depth studies, and 7 Islamic professors teach philosophy.
The plan titled "I Have a New Friend, an Iraqi Chaldean Priest", is intended to financially support these priests and is also a plan of exchange between two realities that, even if far away from one other, they have a lot in common: the desire of granting to Iraq a “normal” life, each one of them according to its own means and possibilities.
From Whom to Whom
The plan “I Have a New Friend, an Iraqi Chaldean Priest” will have two persons in charge:
The idea of the plan sprang in July 2004 during the one-month stay of Father Douglas in Turin. His stay was strongly supported by Don Fredo, and gave to our city the chance to have as a guest, for the first time and for a quite long period, a Chaldean priest living in Iraq, involving him also in the liturgical activities.
To the requests made by those who expressed the will to support the Iraqi Chaldean community we formulated a plan that, at least in its first steps, would be directed not just to a single and practical task (loan for a building or purchase of something), rather to support that which can give life to a reciprocal relationship in knowledge between the two communities.
For this reason it has been decided to support young Chaldean priests who, having been recently appointed as leaders of their own communities, we may share with them the present and difficult times.
Everyone of them knows his community and its needs, and everyone of them knows that material support is useful if linked to the cultural growth that it can promote. A growth that, even if directed to all, is particularly directed to children who must rely on the hope of a better future.
Iraqi Christian community, like other minority communities in the world, has always taken into high account the cultural qualification of its members. Qualification that permitted them, even if representing a minority in the country, to be highly respected.
It was this attention for culture that, for example, made the schools run by the Christian community the best in the country, so that they were attended also by Islamic students who found in them the respect for others’ creeds, and who appreciated the principle of the mutual respect in the mutual knowledge.
In 1974 those schools were shut down (nationalized) and their cultural
plan began to decline. Instruction passed completely under
governmental control that, even if supporting it, and, for example,
preserving Christian religion teaching, began to “direct” it. This
directing process became, year by year, a discriminating one towards
the minorities of the country, the Christian ones included. One example
of this discrimination was the practical decaying of a governmental
This decree, like many others, was nullified by the overthrowing of the Iraqi baathist regime in April 2003, but the situation is still potentially dangerous.
The end of the regime brought to light, also through violent means, religious and ethnic tensions that were appeased by the always impending threat of an omnipresent and strong regime, at least inside the borders of the country, a regime that saw in them a danger for its own survival.
It is still early to say what will be the future of Iraq, and if the factions that more violently fought for the establishment of an islamic republic will succeed or will return to the ranks, being satisfied with their becoming part of the new institutional structure of the country.
Undoubtedly, if the present situation will last, the non-Islamic minorities will suffer: identified as the western crusaders, and felt, even if their not being so, as foreigners in Iraqi land, they will have to adapt themselves to the rules of the most reactionary Islam. The rules for which, for example, it is now safer for “every” woman to go out from her house only if accompanied by a male relative and to wear Islamic traditional dress, or at least a veil to cover her head; rules to which Christian women never had to submit to before.
It is so obvious that in this possible scenario the Christian community will be tempted to emigrate towards safer countries, but if this happens the world will be witness to Diaspora of a native population, and of the progressive loss of an invaluable cultural inheritance: most of Iraqi Christian community still uses the Aramaic language that, even in a more modern form, was the language Jesus used to speak.
All considering, it is clear that supporting this community is a duty for us. Young priests will be able to help better their faithfuls through it, rendering the churches a safe refuge inside of which Christian and secular instruction can become again the starting point from which future generations can draw the strength to stay in their country, contributing to its revival.
The aim of the plan is to support young Iraqi priests, but also to bring into contact with them new friends, to break the isolation they have been living in for so many years.
Considering the situation in Iraq and that telephone and electronic communications are possible but difficult to attain, you are kindly requested to address your questions about the plan to Don Fredo Olivero.
How to Make Your Donation
The figure allotted to the plan should be paid into the bank account
European (IBAN) IT84 L030 6901 1250 0000 0665 206
The bank account is entered to: ARCIDIOCESI DI TORINO, UFFICIO PASTORALE MIGRANTI (Archdiocese of Turin, Migrants Pastoral Office).
Cause: GIOVANI SACERDOTI IRACHENI (Young Iraqi priests)
The figure should be paid in Euro and Dollars.
The Quiet Tragedy of Iraq's Assyrians
To paraphrase William Shakespeare, “Something is rotten in the state of Iraq.” Something is definitely rotten when the second-largest minority, the third-largest ethnicity and the only indigenous group in Iraq is nearly shut out of the political process and is the target of violence by Arabs, Kurds, Muslims and terrorists. On August 1, six of their churches were bombed, five more were attacked on October 16, and there is a long list of violence against them.
I am referring to the Assyrians, also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs. They are the only people native to Iraq, and they are Christian. We all know the Assyrians from our ancient history classes, or from the Bible; they are the builders of the great Mesopotamian civilizations when that area, now Iraq, was the center of the civilized world.
“What?” you may ask. “Are they still around? I thought they went the way of the dodo.” Well, not quite.
The Assyrian Empire was overthrown in 612 B.C. by the ancestors of today’s Kurds, the Medes (with the help of others). The Assyrians survived as a people. They converted to Christianity in 33 A.D., accepting the Gospel from St. Thomas, St. Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew, and thereafter embarked on establishing their second empire, the Church of the East, which reached to Mongolia, Korea, China, Japan and the Philippines. The influence of the Church of the East is seen to this day across the Asian continent. The Mongolian alphabet, which was first set down by Assyrian monks, uses Aramaic letters (because Assyrians speak Aramaic), and the hierarchical structure of Buddhism is modeled after the Church of the East. In fact, “Tora Bora” is an Assyrian phrase meaning “arid mountain."
Assyrians have lived in northern Iraq since 5000 B.C. The Arabs entered Iraq in 630 A.D. from Saudi Arabia and the Kurds came in 1050 A.D. from southwest Iran. The Turks are from Anatolia. Yet, despite their long history in the region, there is systematic discrimination against and disenfranchisement of Assyrians. They suffer deep-seated racial and religious bigotry because Assyrians 1) are Assyrians, 2) are Christians and 3) have their own language (modern Aramaic).
This is not a new problem. Assyrians have been the object of hate and discrimination since the coming of Islam, which treated them as Dhimmis, “people of the book,” recognized by the Koran yet treated as second-class citizens. What is new is the political context they find themselves in today. The sweeping changes brought about by the liberation of Iraq certainly have offered opportunities for the Assyrians, and they have managed to take advantage of them. However, the battle has been bitterly fought, even for the few and modest gains the Assyrians have made.
Though the Assyrians number an estimated 1.5 to 2 million (not 800,000, as is widely parroted in the media) people, or about 8 percent of the Iraqi population, they were allotted only 1 of 25 ministerial positions (Immigration and Refugees, the symbolism of which is not lost on the Assyrians). Percentages dictated that two positions should have gone to them. In contrast, the Kurds, numbering 3 million (12 percent), gained five positions, and the Turks, who number only 250,000 (1 percent), gained 1 position. Of the 100 seats in the Iraqi National Assembly, Assyrians gained four, while Kurds gained 25 and Turks gained eight.
Add to this political marginalization the violence targeted at the Assyrians—violence that has no direct military, economic or political effect other than the intended creation of a general sense of mass panic—and it is no wonder that some Assyrians feel there is no future for them in Iraq. It is reported that 40,000 have left Iraq since the August 1 church bombings.
It is this religious, bigoted violence that has concerned the Assyrian community the most. Political maneuvering and machinations are understandable, and are expected in any electoral process, but the specter of massacre, pogrom and genocide strikes a resounding chord in the Assyrian psyche. Assyrians have so frequently suffered both small- and large-scale genocides, the fear is deeply rooted in their subconscious. Since 630 A.D., the coming of Islam, Assyrians have suffered 33 genocides at the hands of Muslims—an average of one every 40 years. The worst one occurred in World War I, between 1915 and 1918, when 75 percent of Assyrians (750,000) were killed by Kurds and Turks. One of the first official acts of the newly formed Iraqi state, having just gained its independence from a British mandate in 1932, was to massacre 3,000 Assyrians in the village of Simmele and its surroundings on August 7-11, 1933.
The similarity between 2003 and 1933 has not escaped the Assyrians. The political disenfranchisement and religious violence have prompted Assyrians, particularly those in the Diaspora, who have more freedom to speak, to call for the establishment of an Assyrian Administrative Area—a safe haven—lest history repeat itself and they again suffer large-scale massacres. There is legal justification for such an administrative area in article 53D of the Transitional Administrative Law of Iraq, which states, “This Law shall guarantee the administrative, cultural, and political rights of the Turcomans, ChaldoAssyrians, and all other citizens.” To date, Assyrians have not fully enjoyed these privileges, even in the Kurdish areas, where the Kurds have applied to the Assyrians the same intimidation, terror, marginalization and violent tactics that Saddam applied to them.
The case of the Assyrians in Iraq is being closely observed by other Middle Eastern Christian and non-Muslim communities, such as the non-Muslim Yezidis and Mandeans of Iraq, the Christian Copts of Egypt and Maronites of Lebanon. As the Director of the Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House, Nina Shea recently called Assyrians “canaries in a coal mine." What happens to them will have effect far beyond Iraq’s borders, for they are the litmus test of the establishment of democracy in the Middle East. True democracies protect their minorities. Failure to protect the Assyrians of Iraq will embolden other Middle Eastern regimes to persecute their Christian minorities. On the other hand, protection of the Assyrians will be seen as a true paradigm shift in the way Middle Eastern regimes treat their Christian minorities.
Why is the Assyrian case important to America? It is a matter of moderating Islam, the source of the terrorist threat against America and the rest of the non-Muslim world. If Middle Eastern Muslims can learn to be tolerant, to accept and even protect their Christian minorities, they will set the example for the world’s mainstream Muslims and provide an alternative to the message of Osama bin Laden and the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia. The Assyrians are a moderating presence in Iraq. They are a highly educated group and their departure from Iraq would, in the words of Nina Shea, “substantially reduce Iraq's prospects of developing as a pluralistic and democratic society. Their leaving would be not only a ‘brain drain’ but a ‘sane drain’ as well.”
Failure to establish a new and democratic Iraq will be seen as a defeat of America and as a victory for the terrorists, and in such a case none of us would be safe. America simply cannot afford to fail in Iraq. In addition, the United States must insure that the Assyrians remain in Iraq and have full political, economic and social participation. Lastly, Americans must not refrain from standing up for Assyrians for fear of being perceived as “pro-Christian.” It is vital that America remain true to the principles of democracy and support all minorities in Iraq, even if they are Christian.
Turkey – Arameans – EU
A brief report of two activities in the Netherlands
Together with the support of some friends, whose names are mentioned at the end of this short account, the author organized a series of two activities in Hengelo and Enschede in the Netherlands on behalf of the Syriac Universal Alliance (SUA) delegation to the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG).
Highly regarded guest speakers were invited to share their contributions with respect to the theme “Turkey – Arameans – EU.” Whereas the first two lectures were held in Dutch, with occasional summaries given in Aramaic however, the speakers of the second activity presented their views in our beloved Aramaic language.
Hengelo, 2 December 2004
On a Thursday evening, some 150-175 Arameans (i.e. ‘Syriacs’) gathered in the building next to the St. Mary Church in Hengelo to listen to the lectures of two special guest speakers.
The first speaker was Prof. Martin van Bruinessen, a distinguished scholar who in 1999 was appointed to the chair of comparative studies of modern Muslim societies at the Utrecht University and the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World. The second speaker was Mr. Bastiaan Belder, who since 1999 represents the unified Christian political party of the ChristenUnie/SGP as Europarliamentarian in the EP’s foreign commission with three fellow Dutchmen – among them being Turkey rapporteur Camiel Eurlings.
After the host of the evening, Johny Messo, cordially welcomed all the participants, he continued with an introduction about the SUA, its recognition as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in 1999 and his own position as the main representative of the SUA to the UNOG. Mr. Messo further highlighted the important concepts of “minority” and “indigenous people” in light of international law. Next, he introduced the notable guest speakers to the audience and Prof. M. van Bruinessen opened the evening with his speech on “Minorities and Minority Rights in Turkey.” The Professor, who himself had visited Tur-‘Abdin already in the early 1970s, observed a positive development in Turkey towards the granting of minority rights and, albeit to a lesser extent, also concerning the recognition of minorities. Although the Aramean people, who are still not recognized by the Turkish government as an entity with a distinct non-Muslim and non-Turkish identity, are generally dubbed as a “minority,” they surely are a “people” just as other nations in this world.
Mr. Belder, on the other hand, spoke about “The European Parliament, for or against Turkey’s entrance into the EU?” He noted that the report, which will appear on December 17, is to be considered nothing more than as an advise to those who are authorized by the EU to take a decision on the question of whether or not Turkey will be judged ready to start the negotiations with. If the green light will be given for these talks with Turkey, it will be a process of about 15 years before Turkey might enter the EU; it was also stressed that in the meantime, however, these talks can be interrupted if Turkey shows serious signs of transgressions or misconduct. It was further noted that Turkey has a powerful lobby in Brussels.
Enschede, 10 December 2004
Roughly one week later, a similar event was organized on a Friday evening in Enschede, in the building of the St. Jacob of Serugh Church. This time, though, three prominent Arameans, who enjoy a record of national and international acclaim among our people, were invited. Again the host was Johny Messo, who introduced these special guests to the approximately 125-150 participants.
First, Dr. Aho Hadodo Sevinc (Switzerland), the former President of the Syriac-Orthodox Diocese Council of Middle Europe and the Benelux Countries (1980-1986) and the SUA (1987-1996; since 1996 he is SUA’s Honorary President), talked about the history and the establishment of the SUA and its NGO status. He mentioned the possibilities for our people with SUA’s status and added that so much more can be done if the Aramean people would invest even more in this unique position among our parties and organizations.
Next, the floor was given to Ibrahim Seven (Germany), a man with a remarkable record who has developed himself over the past decades as, I dare say, one of the few qualified political analysts among our people as regards Turkey and its history. The topic of his speech was “The Genocide: Before & After.” Mr. Seven first outlined the birth and expansion of Islam in the countries where the native Christian inhabitants were about to be conquered and elaborated on their “Dhimmi” status, which denotes a humiliated and second rank citizenship within Islamic societies. Then he continued on the notion of a distinct Turkish identity, which was instilled by outsiders, that was the main reason for the Young Turk movement to plot a systematic mass murder on the Christian population in Minor Asia in 1913; this movement used Islam in the form of the now notorious term “Jihad” as well as many Kurdish tribes as their instruments. Inevitably, as especially the Kurds have now infiltrated in our traditional lands, we have to seek practical ways to live with them side by side, sharing the same lands. Furthermore it was accentuated that today it is a necessity for all the organizations among our people, despite the quarrels over a political and national name, to try to seek a solution for this national dilemma in order to unify and cooperate on the common goal of recognition of our forgotten Genocide. This important point was also stressed by Mr. Messo in Hengelo and which he reiterated in Enschede.
The third and last speaker was Mr. Gouriye Mesut (Hengelo). Formerly head of the village of Mzizah in Tur-‘Abdin and known as a popular narrator about the Genocide, this aged man gave the audience a vivid picture of the mass killings that occurred in Tur-‘Abdin during the First World War by Kurdish locals and Ottoman soldiers. As a son whose father, and other family members, acted as a prominent ad-hoc leader in those days, he never forgot the painful memories when his relatives and congeners recalled and described to him the Genocide years as “Sayfo,” that is, “[The suffering years through the Islamic] Sword” in Aramaic. He further admonished the Aramean youth to beware of the original nature of Islam, which, as already exemplified by the so-called Dhimmi concept, is a violent religion and thus an Islamic environment is hard to live (read: survive) in.
On both occasions, plenty of intriguing questions were asked by the audience and sometimes room was given to discussion. Overall, it were two very educational and successful events and similar activities will be continued from February, 2005, on. As for now, we wish our readers a merry Christmas and a blessed 2004!
A Final Word of Thanks
I am particularly grateful to the following persons for their kind assistance in helping organize these two activities. Alphabetically: Gabriel Alp (Enschede), Daniel Altunkaynak (Amsterdam/Hengelo), Aziz Aygur (Enschede), Edip Can (Borne), Aho Ilgun (Amsterdam/Enschede), Tony Messo (Zwolle/Hengelo), Sylvia Onsal (Hengelo), Sabri Tunc (Enschede), Edvar Yanik (Enschede). The support showed by the Suryoye Aramean Federation Holland, the cultural unions of Baradeus (Hengelo) and Platform Aram (Enschede), the Aramean Movement for Human Rights as well as the boards of the St. Mary and St. Jacob Churches, needs to be acknowledged too.
Assyrian Girl Receives First Liver Cell Transplant in Australia
Courtesy of the Age Newspaper & Sydney Morning Herald
Rama Markos, an Chaldean-Assyrian, is the recipient of the first successful liver cell transplant in Australia at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne. If everything goes to plan, eight-year-old Rama's life could change dramatically. A defective liver that has left her jaundiced and bound to a light box for treatment eight hours a day, may soon function properly.
It is hoped that the relatively simple procedure, in which healthy cells are infused into the liver, will enable Rama to escape the need for a full organ transplant later in life.
Born with the genetic condition Crigler-Najjar syndrome, Rama's liver cannot process the yellow pigment bilirubin in the blood, which is usually removed from the body through bile.
"Now her liver is unable to do this, and because it's unable to do this the bilirubin builds up in the blood and can cause brain damage," said the head of hepatology at the Royal Children's Hospital, Winita Hardikar, who performed the procedure with pediatrician Katie Allen from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute.
Before the transplant, Rama would spend eight hours a day in a specially-made phototherapy box, which would process the bilirubin her liver could not.
Liver cell transplant recipient Rama Markos is flanked by
"Unfortunately this is a terrible thing on her lifestyle because as an eight-year-old she has to wake up at 4.30 in the morning, sit in this box for hours, then she goes to school, then she comes home and sits for another four hours," Dr Hardikar said. "So it's a big impingement on lifestyle, she goes to bed at midnight, and it's really surprising what a bright button she is."
The doctors took cells from a healthy donor kidney and inserted a catheter into Rama's stomach. Over an hour, they slowly injected the liver cells into the main vein that feeds into Rama's liver.
"What happens is they have this amazing ability to then find their home in the substance of the liver and take up, just like Rama's other cells," Dr Allen said.
As with a full organ transplant, Rama's body could reject the transplanted cells, so she is being treated with anti-rejection medication.
But so far it appears to have been a success. Rama was able to return home and while she still needs some photo-therapy, it will take up far less of her time than it once did.
Dr Hardikar said that had Rama not had the cell transplant, she would inevitably have needed a full liver transplant.
Transplant waiting lists are long. Doctors waited 10 months for a suitable donor from which to extract the liver cells for Rama's transplant. The technique means that, in the future, one liver may provide cell transplants to many more patients, rather than just one or two.
The procedure has been used on about five to 10 children worldwide, including two with the same condition as Rama.
Dr Allen said there was potential to use liver cell transplants on adults and children with other metabolic conditions, but it was not suitable for patients with cirrhosis as the scarring of the liver made it ineffective.
For Rama, the new cells will hopefully mean freedom from phototherapy and the chance to lead a more normal life. Sporting only a small plaster on her stomach where the catheter was inserted, she said she was already feeling better and was looking forward to colouring in and playing when she got home.
Rotary clubs from around Melbourne contributed more than $250,000 towards the transplant project.
[Zinda: The prayers and thoughts of Zinda magazine go out to Rama and her family. We join our readers worldwide in wishing her a speedy recovery.]
The following individuals contributed in the preparation of this week's issue:
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