Over 350 Assyrian youth gathered last week in Sweden to participate at an educational conference (photo courtesy of Jacklin Chabe).
A Report on the Assyrian Youth Federation Seminar in Sweden
Dr. Matay Arsan
On March 27, 2004, the Assyrian Youth Federation in Sweden (Assyriska ungdomsförbundet / AUF) organized a historical seminar as part of the Assyrians´ cultural and educational programs.
The seminar that evolved around the Assyrians´ cultural heritage and ethnic richness and history commenced at 1:00 p.m. and ended around 7:00 p.m.
Prof. Parpola´s lecture, "Assyrian Identity in Ancient Times and Today," stressed on the Assyrian ethnic and cultural continuity throughout the centuries. Parpola stressed on certain important turning points in the Assyrian history and the evolution of the Assyrian name in its historical, political and linguistic context. Parpola explained how Assyrians embraced Christianity, which has become an indelible part of the Assyrian identity, but it has also subjected them to endless persecutions and massacres, which decreased their numbers drastically. He added that unfortunately, Assyrians are split into competing denominations and political groups, and that for Assyrians to survive as a nation, they must unite under the Assyrian identity of their ancestors. Click here to read Dr. Parpola's lecture (also in German and Swedish). Prof. Parpola had prepared his presentation specifically for this Assyrian Youth Federation’s educational and cultural event.
The seminar was the final part in a series of events that completed a project called "ARYO," initiated and organized by the Board of the Assyrian Youth Federation (AUF). The project had a specific goal and that was to provide the tools necessary to strengthen the concept of Assyrian identity in the mind of the Assyrian youth in Sweden and promote Assyrian culture among them. Besides this gathering at Göteborg, ARYO presented as well two weekends full of lectures and cultural activities earlier.
[Zinda: To view video excerpts of the seminar click here.]
Assyro-Chaldeans of France Commemorate the Martyrs of 1915
And so this is how the Val d'Oise daily paper, Le Parisien, presented the commemorative activities of the 89th anniversary of the Genocide of 1915, committed by the Young Turk government and executed by the tri, Djémal Pasha, Enver Pasha and Talat Pasha. It was a conference animated by the great Assyro-Chaldean genocide specialist, Sabri Atman, who specially came from Netherlands to this occasion. For a long time, our people in France have adopted the date of April 24th, the date in which in 1915 hundreds of Armenian intellectuals and personalities were arrested to be massacred during their forced exile, to commemorate with their Armenian and Greek brothers, the tragedy of 1915. The members of our people commemorate the martyrs by various activities organized in this period of the year.
On the occasion of the 89th commemorative year of the first genocide of the 20th century, the Assyro-Chaldean Youth and the Association of Assyro-Chaldeans of France organized various activities. The Assyro-Chaldean Youth reserved the number 15 of April, 2004 of its successful bulletin, Les Lions de Babylone (Lions of Babylone), for the genocide of 1915. Indeed, the special number dedicated to this first genocide of the last century made in the shadow of the First World War, contained 32 pages and brought in great specialists like Sébastien de Courtois, Joseph Yacoub and Sabri Atman. The special number of the Lions of Babylon, edited for the release of 1000 copies, includes testimonies of the victims of the genocide and testimonies of their descendants. Sébastien de Courtois tells the beginnings of the genocide, which started with the massacres in 1895. Sabri Atman remembers the genocide itself and requires from Turkey to recognize this crime against the humanity, the purpose of which was to eliminate all the obstacles blocking the way from the turkofication. Joseph Yacoub speaks about the peace treaties signed after the war and deals with the abandonment of the Assyro-Chaldeans, the smallest allies of the powers like France or the United Kingdom. The Lions of Babylon are trying by this mean to inform the readers on this black page of the Turkish and human history and to make them aware of these issues.
The Association of the Assyro-Chaldeans of France started the commemorative celebrations of the 1915’s martyrs, by placing a wreath in front of the monument of the Unknown Soldier under the Triumphal Arch in Paris on Friday, April 23rd, 2004. The representatives of the Armenian, Assyro-Chaldean and Greek people followed suite and revived the flame of the Unknown Soldier in the presence of the media and political, civil and religious personalities, and an large crowd. Sabri Atman, the special guest of the AACF, as well as his friends came from the Netherlands, took part in this ceremony with Naman Adlun, the president of the Association of the Assyro-Chaldeans of France and many other members of the board of directors of our association, who never miss these occasions, before coming back in Sarcelles.
Sarcelles is the city where the large majority of our community in France is concentrated, with nearly 4,000 people. The other sites are the Paris region, Lyon, Marseilles and Toulouse, where resides Khodeda Ellof, son of the Assyro-Chaldean hero of the First World War, General Agha Petros, in a castle offered by France to his father in the commune of St Jory to thank him for the help given to France during the war. Our association organizes most of its cultural, social and commemorative activities in Sarcelles.
To commemorate the sad anniversary of 1915, the Association of Assyro-Chaldeans of France had asked the Assyro-Chaldean researcher and writer Sabri Atman from the Netherlands, to mediate a conference titled “Turkey must recognize the genocide of 1915”, on Friday April 23rd, 2004. So far, the AACF and its various branches have organized many commemorative activities, in particular conferences to which they invite specialists of international fame like Yves Ternon, Joseph Yacoub, Sébastien de Courtois or Sabri Atman. Our association also takes part in the demonstrations and activities organized by the other communities, in particular the Armenians. Thus, our people are sensitized on the genocide and our young people waked up with the protection and the safeguard of their history and identity.
We welcome this time the great specialist of this dark period of our history, Sabri Atman, who is polyglot (he knows 9 languages), author of several literary works on the Assyro-Chaldean exodus and genocide, and who works relentlessly since years for the recognition of this imperceptible crime. The participants in this conference were very numerous. The Turkish press was also present, not missing such an event during which it was question of a genocide completely forgotten by the international public opinion and completely ignored by the Turkish authorities: the Assyro-Chaldean genocide, during which our people lost two-third of his population. The young people, who are the inheritors of this heritage, were extremely numerous. Sabri Atman, speaking following Naman Adlun, president of the AACF who welcomed him, started by greeting the audience and saying that this genocide was deliberately planned, organized and carried out by the Ottoman central power of that time. Underlining the similarities and the reasons of the genocides of last century, Atman specified that among the political, economic, religious and racial factors, the religious factor weighed heavy in the genocide of the Armenian, Assyro-Chaldean and Greek people.
Sabri Atman, who addressed to his own people in Turkish, by the means of a translation in French, calling upon his own memories, pointed out the tragedies and the sad events lived. The Assyro-Chaldean researcher did not hesitate to affirm that modern Turkey was founded on the sacrificed blood of the Armenians, the Assyro-Chaldeans and the Greeks, and noted that current Turkey had significant profits due to the genocide. Still today, many Turkish and Kurdish families and companies owe their considerable wealth to the massacres of the Christians by their grandparents. The 10,000 Assyro-Chaldean survivors of the genocide who are living today in Turkey cannot represent any more a danger to the government and the Turkish population: that is why the government must be sorry for the crime committed in 1915.
Dealing with the role of the Powers in war, in particular of Germany, and Kurdish populations, Sabri Atman indicated that the Kurdish tribes and leaders were used like a "scapegoat". In addition, the Kurds did not have a central power, which could have decided to organize the elimination of the Armenians and the Assyro-Chaldeans who lived among them. If that were the case, no Christian would have survived. The Ottoman power used them against the Armenians and the Assyro-Chaldeans, playing with the religious unity and by provoking them by false rumors. Finally, as recalled it a participant, some religious leaders and heads of tribes had a significant role in the protection of some Assyro-Chaldean villages. In spite of the threats of the central Ottoman power to punish those, which helped the Armenian and Assyro-Chaldean traitors, with the price of their lives, they saved lives. Lastly, many Kurdish organizations and the Kurds in general asked for forgiveness to our people for the significant participation of their ancestors in the genocide decided by Young Turkish government. It is the only thing Turkey should do without any fear. The Assyro-Chaldeans do not have any hatred neither towards the Kurds nor towards the Turks, they just want the justice to be made and that their martyrs be recognized.
The sword, this tool that is called Saypa or Sayfo in the two Aramaic dialects, was not used against us only in 1915. The massacres had started quite before. The declaration of Jihad in 1914 was only the top of hatred. At the beginning of the 20th century, a third of the Turkish population was Christian. Today, this rate is 0.01%. The Christians represent nothing but only a tiny community of 150,000 people, in decline, in a Turkey which considers itself as respectful of its minorities and which wants to integrate the European Union, pleading that it is the cradle of Christianity. The Armenians lost 1 500 000 of their brothers and sisters, men, women, children, old men, religious or civil leaders, passed to the sword, killed at the time of the deportations, died of diseases resulting from the bad treatments inflicted by the executioners. Our people lost more than 250,000 people. The Turkish young government wanted at that time to turkofy our whole population, one way or another, and any obstacle against of this new objective was to be eliminated. Stressing that the common point of the genocides is their not-recognition by their instigators, Sabri Atman noted that the words "so-called genocide" are never missing in the mouth of the Turkish leading class and certain pseudo-intellectuals like Dogu Perinçek or Emin Çölasan.
Referring to the deficiencies of our people on this subject, the Assyro-Chaldean writer Sabri Atman affirmed that the intellectuals of our people were liquidated during the genocide and that we must content ourselves with the testimonies arrived until our days, in an oral way. The European children grow by listening to tales, he said, whereas the children of my people grow by listening to true tragic stories. The young people of the Assyro-Chaldean Diaspora, who start to make higher studies and to form a certain elite, must turn towards the study of this genocide perpetrated by the Turkish young government. The Armenians have tens of specialists of the genocide and take advantage of tens of thousands of literary works written on their genocide; the Assyro-Chaldeans can only rely on five or six specialists and some literary works. However, essential actions were carried out, if we take into account the fact that the Armenian Diaspora is much more ancient than the Assyro-Chaldean Diaspora. The exodus of the Assyro-Chaldean people started in Europe, thirty years ago. It is thus difficult for us, currently, to reach the same results as the Armenian Diaspora.
Sabri Atman answered at the end of its intervention to the questions, which were asked to him. These concerned rather the question of the number of Assyro-Chaldean victims and tried to know why the Armenians appropriate so much the genocide. The reasons of this situation are of psychological and political nature. As for the number of the victims, we do not know exactly how many people were victims of the genocide. The writer estimates this number at more than 250,000 martyrs; the figures vary from one source to another. In addition, given that the religious and political Assyro-Chaldean leaders of that time, with an aim of subtracting our population from the special taxes, they declared a population much less than that real. The conference finished late in the evening.
This year, the commemorations of the 89th year of the genocide took place during three days. The representatives of our community, Naman Adlun, president of the AACF and Sabri Atman, took part in the demonstration organized on Saturday April 24th, 2004, in the direction of the embassy of Turkey. Mr. Adlun spoke in the name of the community and reminded the losses of the Assyro-Chaldeans during the genocide, beside their Armenian and Greek brothers. Naman Adlun had also taken part in the morning in the commemorative ceremony organized by the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë (Socialist Party) in the presence of the General Consul of Armenia.
The most significant commemorative ceremony for our people took place in Sarcelles on April 25th 2004, in the presence of the mayor of the city, François Pupponi (Socialist Party), the representatives of the community and many other people. Naman Adlun and Sabri Atman placed, in the name of the Assyro-Chaldean community, a wreath of flowers in front of the monument commemorating the Armenian genocide. The event took place on the recently baptized street “rue du 24 avril 1915: 1er génocide du 20e siècle” (“street of April 24, 1915: 1st genocide of the 20th century”). A commemorative monument of the Assyro-Chaldean genocide will be placed very soon beside the Armenian stele. One minute of silence preceded the speech of the mayor of Sarcelles, François Pupponi, who reminded that the municipality has always worked for the recognition of the genocide. Underlining the fact that the Assyro-Chaldean martyrs, who experienced the same fate, should not be forgotten, Pupponi said that the town of Sarcelles will commemorate every year this sad anniversary which ended the lives of two thirds of our people.
Bishop Warduni Pleads Americans to Stay
Courtesy of Zenit News Agency
Younadam Kanna in the United States
Assyrian Democratic Movement
What: Five members of the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) arrived in Washington D.C. on Friday, April 23, 2004. The IGC had decided to send this high delegation to Washington in order to discuss the future of Iraq with the U.S. Administration and with various Iraqi constituencies in the United States. These talks will continue through Tuesday April 27.
San Francisco/San Jose Bay Area
The Assyrians (known also as Chaldo-Assyrians) are the indigenous people of Iraq and make 5% of the Iraqi population. As Christians, the Assyrians are working with all other parties involved in Iraq and outside to establish a democratic, secular, free, and pluralistic Iraq.
Yonadam Kanna Joins Future of Iraq Conference in Washington
(ZNDA: Washington) Assyrians from Chicago, Detroit, and San Francisco are joining top Iraqi officials in Washington D.C. to discuss plans for the transfer of power on 30 June.
About 60 Chaldean-Assyrians - including former president of the Chaldean Federation of America, Dr. Jacoub Mansour- from Michigan traveled to Arlington, Virginia for "the Future of Iraq" conference yesterday, which included representatives of the Bush administration and the Iraqi Governing Council. 29 groups have sponsored this event.
The t wo members of the Iraqi Governing Council at this conference were Ibrahim al-Jaafari of the Daawa Islamic Party and Yonadam Kanna of the Assyrian Democratic Movement. Rend Rahim, the Iraqi ambassador appointed to represent the council in the United States, was also attend in attendance.
The following is the text of the speech delivered by the Honorable Yonadam Kanna at the conference yesterday:
Brother, Dr. Ibrahim Al-Ja'afari, Presidential Committee, Member of the Governing Council and Distinguished attendees,
It is a pleasure and honor to be with you and to share with you the first anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. We express gratitude to those who participated in arranging this meeting and invited us here. We came here to convey to you and to the American public the hard facts concerning the Iraqi situation after one year from the fall of the previous regime, unlike what has been published or presented in the media, which has been exaggerated or twisted for whatever purpose. Perhaps these exaggerations will earn votes in certain campaigns. However, ultimately, this is not the truth.
On this blessed occasion, let me express our gratitude and appreciation to President Bush and the American people, as well as Britain and other Coalition countries, for their assistance in the liberation of Iraq. Truly, the Iraqi people have been saved from a slow death under the oppression of dictatorship, and our peaceful world has been spared from danger.
Today, we stand in honor of those who have fallen on the path of our liberation and of those who marched for freedom and democracy. We hereby assure you that the vast majority of the Iraqi people are happy about the downfall of the previous regime. The people of Iraq will never forget the humanitarian efforts of those who helped us in times of need. Although the enemies of freedom and democracy are desperately trying in vain, to become an obstacle to progress and victory, we are confident that good will prevail, and soon, stability and security will be achieved in the new Iraq.
There will be a transfer of power and sovereignty by June 30; the march to rebuild Iraq will continue; Iraq will see free elections; the constitution will be written; and a democratic parliament that embraces all sectors of a united Iraq and guarantees equality and justice for all will be created.
I will focus on the reconstruction of Iraq and what effect this is going to have on the future of Iraq and democracy. Our colleagues have focused on other aspects of the future of Iraq.
What has been achieved in the past year has not been modest. Teaching resumed with a totally new curriculum, hospitals and healthcare facilities resumed their services to a higher level, and public services have reached the level seen prior to the liberation.
It is lamentable that the infrastructure of Iraq was nearly destroyed by the previous regime, especially in the areas to the South and the North. Further, in addition to an infrastructure below par, ministries and public institutions were looted, destroyed, or set on fire by those who supported the previous regime. Sanitation was at its lowest level. Portable water was a highly-sought commodity.
Mismanagement by the previous regime and the effects of war have had a detrimental impact on the environment and healthcare in Iraq, thus presenting us with new, nonpolitical challenges. The United Nations, in its survey, has indicated that Iraq needs 1.5 million new homes for its people.
Let me present to you a summary by the Ministry of Planning showing the needs present to cover the costs of projects for 2004. We are hoping to obtain the necessary support from our friends to implement these projects. In this way, we hope to fulfill the services needed and to contain the problem of unemployment in Iraq. this will help to bring about the sort of decent standard of living that promotes stability and security, pillars upon which democracy and freedom will rest.
It is to be noted that with the exception of the United States and Japan, donor countries have not fulfilled the promises that they have made at the Madrid Donor Conference, till this moment. '
Finally, let me thank you again. I wish to draw the attention our friends and allies concerning the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. Statements made to this effect have a negative impact on the morale of American troops in Iraq. Such statements will have serious consequences not only in Iraq, but also on peace and stability, and thus on American national security. If a withdrawal takes place from Iraq, then democracy will be defeated and international terrorism will prevail, bringing unwanted consequences in the world.
Iraqi Governing Council Member to Speak in Modesto
Courtesy of the Modesto Bee
(ZNDA: Modesto) The only Christian representative on the 25-member Iraqi Governing Council is scheduled to speak Saturday night in Modesto.
The event is open to the public, and admission is free -- including dinner, organizers said. But they added that seating is limited.
"We'd love for the public to come and ask questions, especially the families that have soldiers in Iraq," said Zalma Toma of Ceres.
She is a supporter of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, the party headed by Kanna.
The Iraqi Governing Council, appointed in July by the United States, has worked in consultation with American government representatives in Iraq.
Kanna and other members of the council are in the United States to meet with Iraqi-Americans and discuss the future of Iraq, event organizers said.
"The main issue for us right now is: How many rights will we have under the new constitution of Iraq?" asked Fred Isaac, a businessman who heads the Modesto Chapter of the Assyrian Democratic Movement.
Iraq's temporary constitution states that "administrative, cultural and political rights" of "Turcomans, Chaldo-Assyrians and all other citizens" shall be protected.
It does not create an Assyrian region, or state, within Iraq, however. The new constitution states that regions will be formed later, except for a
Kurdish region already established in northern Iraq.
Assyrian political opponents of Kanna's party have criticized the temporary constitution.
For example, Sargon Dadesho of Modesto, who heads a party called the Assyrian National Congress, has criticized the new constitution for failing to distinguish between Iraq's Assyrians and other Christian minorities.
Saturday's event is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at the Yosemite Banquet Hall, Suite L, 2549 Yosemite Blvd. For more information, or to make reservations, call Toma, 996-9636 or 538-8813.
Shattered Lives on a Baghdad Street
Courtesy of the Washington Post
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Vivian Odishu's face bears no resemblance to the portrait of a glowing young bride on the wall, taken just 18 months ago. Her left eye is a crooked slit, her cheek is stitched and swollen. Her shattered jaw has been rebuilt with artificial plates, requiring her to speak through clenched teeth like a ventriloquist.
"My life is finished. My heart is broken. Everything in me is broken. I feel like a dead person with open eyes," she said, sitting limply on her parents' couch. "I don't know who to blame; I just pray to God that no one else should ever have to see what I have seen."
On the night of March 17, Odishu was pulled barely alive from the rubble of her cement house in a quiet Baghdad neighborhood after a powerful car bomb exploded outside. Her husband and three of his relatives perished inside the collapsed building, leaving Odishu a widow at 23.
In the past year, suicide bombings have occurred with increasing frequency in Baghdad and other cities. Most have been aimed at foreign facilities or symbols, such as the U.N. compound that was rammed by a truck bomb last Aug. 19, killing at least 22 people, and the U.S. occupation headquarters, where a car detonated at the front gate Jan. 18, leaving 20 people dead.
The target of the March 17 bombing was apparently the Mount Lebanon Hotel, a lightly guarded, five-story building on a narrow side street where a number of international contractors and U.N. employees had been staying. But like Odishu, most of the victims were Iraqis, and the explosion resonated far beyond a single building associated with foreigners.
The bomb left 10 people dead and dozens injured, including hotel employees and neighbors. It destroyed the homes of five families living in an adjacent apartment building, tore the facade off a community hospital, cracked open the walls and roofs of three houses and incinerated an antique shop. It vaporized wardrobes and mattresses, smashed fish aquariums and windows, melted cooking pots and silverware, and burned carpets and family portraits to ashes.
Beyond the immediate physical damage, there were other, more lasting repercussions, some of which became evident only in the weeks of recovery and recrimination that have followed. The explosion cost men their jobs and savings, led to quarrels over rent and fruitless searches for financial compensation.
It destroyed the secure, familiar spirit of a street where people from a variety of ethnic and religious groups -- Sunnis and Shiites, Kurds and Turkmens and Assyrian Christians -- had lived as neighbors for a generation. And it turned feelings of gratitude and tolerance toward the U.S. presence into disillusionment and resentment.
"We went to the Iraqi authorities for help, and they say there is no government. We went to the Americans for help, and they say they can do nothing because the damage was not caused by them," said Khadim Neama Uraybi, 50, an antiques dealer who estimates he lost $265,000 worth of property in the explosion, including 48 Persian carpets and his '97 Opel sedan.
"They said this is a war of liberation, but now no citizen feels safe, even at home. The Americans occupied our country and they are responsible," Uraybi said, poking disgustedly last week at a jumble of melted glass chandeliers in his scorched shop next to the hotel lobby. "I survived with my life, but I lost everything I have. Where am I supposed to turn?"
When the explosion occurred, Uraybi was cooking stew for two friends in the apartment above his shop. The blast knocked him unconscious, but a neighbor smashed the locked kitchen door with a pipe and dragged him to safety. He was uninjured, but one of his guests was badly burned on both legs and the other lost an eye.
Everyone in the modest, five-story apartment building managed to escape alive, though many were singed or cut by shattered glass. Last week, the families described how they had raced up a narrow stairwell in the dark, parents carrying small children to the building's flat roof and leaping onto the next one. A bloody handprint was left on a brick ledge someone had grabbed for balance.
When the fire cooled and it was safe to return, half the families found their apartments roasted black, with lumps of former furniture congealed on the floors. The 10 tenants were poor; the husbands mostly worked as laborers, and two were employed as guards at the Mount Lebanon, which is now bricked shut. They had no savings and no insurance.
"The children's clothes are gone, so I can't send them to school. The mattresses are wrecked, so we have no place to sleep. I have been cleaning for 18 days, and it still smells awful," said Huda Abdul Qadr, 28, a pregnant mother of four. "On the first day lots of people came, officials asked questions and journalists took pictures. Now, no one comes to see how we are doing. No one comes at all."
The devastation was just as dramatic on the other side of the street, where the blast shook a cluster of old cement houses to their foundations. All but Odishu's home remained standing, but the explosion left gaping holes in roofs and jagged cracks in walls. Several inhabitants told of chance escapes that came close to the miraculous.
Jamal Baban, 51, a Kurdish man who works in a coffee shop, said that just minutes before the explosion, he happened to rouse his 13-year-old son from a nap in a first-floor bedroom. Suddenly the roof collapsed, raining jagged chunks of tin and cement down on the spot where the boy had been sleeping.
"I still don't know what made me wake him up," said Baban, who has spent the past month shoring up his weakened house and replacing the roof. The family of seven lost many belongings, from an heirloom mirror to a brand new TV set, but Baban shrugged off the material loss.
"We saved a long time for that television, but let it go. Let it all go," he said, glancing across his garden wall to the empty lot, strewn with broken bricks, where Odishu's husband and his family, members of the minority Assyrian Christian community, had always lived. "They were our neighbors for 30 years," Baban said. "They were good moral people, and they died."
Despite the natural sympathy the explosion created among its victims, it also generated controversy and disputes that still color many neighborhood conversations. The main issue has been whether the blast was caused by an insurgent bomb or an American rocket, because U.S. officials compensate victims for damage caused by American military forces but not for harm done by insurgents.
After the explosion, numerous U.S. military teams visited the area, first to give medical assistance and later to assess damage and collect witness accounts. Some residents insisted that a rocket had landed in the street, and they still claim they were cheated out of benefits when U.S. officials ruled the explosion had been caused by a car bomb.
To make matters worse, residents said, the financial aid they were offered turned out to be virtually inaccessible. At an American facility, each family was informed it could apply to a nonprofit agency for help and was given a brochure in English. The brochure gave an international phone number and e-mail address for a reconstruction organization in Maryland, which turned out to provide not cash, but low-interest loans. No one in the neighborhood has applied.
"What are we supposed to do with these pieces of paper? How can we afford to call these people?" demanded Ahlam Zainab, a stout mother of five who stood in her cracked living room with a trowel last week while her teenage son mixed mortar with his hands in a plastic bucket. "Do we have to throw stones at the White House until someone listens?"
For Vivian Odishu, the idea of receiving financial compensation seems like a monstrous joke. For weeks she lay semi-conscious in a Baghdad hospital for nerve and brain surgery, unaware that her husband, Farid, an optometrist's assistant, was dead. Last Saturday would have been his 40th birthday, and she marked the occasion by visiting his grave with her family and leaving a bouquet.
"We were a hopeful couple with a simple life. My husband went to work and came home. But then it all vanished in a minute, and he died for no reason," Odishu said. Her voice was a flat, angry buzz through motionless jaws. "I don't want to accuse anyone, and I don't want money from anyone. My gold is gone, and no one can bring him back."
Living in a State of War: the Story of a Christian Family
Courtesy of AsiaNews
He is sure that this is the case. Muayed, a 41 year-old Chaldean Catholic born and raised in Baghdad, spends most of his day speaking with people while working as transporter. He says he views the killing of hostages as confirmation that foreigners are involved.
“Personally I, like so many other Muslim Iraqis with whom I’ve had conversations about the killing of hostages, am disappointed and scandalized. It’s impossible that such killings were done by Iraqis.”
Muayed is married with 3 children ages 10, 7 and six months. He shares a home with his brother Samir, who is also married and has 4 children. The Shlimons believe they are more fortunate than others. Unlike many other drivers, Muayed owns his own van. After years of work “everyone knows him” and, thus, Muayed says he always has enough work. Meanwhile many others “who worked for the state or were employed in businesses still have trouble finding work.”
Muayed is a simple person: he heads out for work at 6.30 in the morning and returns home at 6.30 in the evening, since it’s “dangerous to stay out there in the dark,” he says.
“Once we used to go out to dinner or simply visit our friends and relatives in the evening. But now such a lifestyle is no longer possible,” he said.
“We talk to each other on the phone “as if we didn’t live in the same country,” Muayed said that life in the post-Hussein Iraq is full of “uncertainty and fear”.
“I served in Saddam Hussein’s army –I was forced to –during a 11-year term in the national guard. Back then we used to say: ‘Go to the frontlines and you never know if you’ll make it back alive’, he said. “Now every time I leave home I wave goodbye to my family as it were the last time I see them.”
The fear Iraqis have is that of being caught amid bombs, and explosions, crisscrossing sniper fire which can erupt at a moment’s notice. Like all Iraqis, the Shlimons are afraid to send their children to school by themselves. “Luckily it’s nearby. In the end children get kidnapped anyway. We can’t even let them play in front of our own home like in old days,” Muayed says.
And yet life goes on. Compared to a few months ago, Muayed says “we now have electricity, potable water and can fill our natural gas tanks. Sure, we don’t eat chicken or meat every day, but the shops and markets are filled with everything (you need).”
Muayed’s wife never leaves home –not out of tradition, but out of fear. Hence her husband must do the shopping since, as he says, “why should both of us have to risk our lives? I have to be outside for work, anyway.”
A new phenomenon is that of “medicines sold at market stands, which are often expired because they were stolen a year ago from warehouses during all the chaos. Or they’re no good anymore, since they were left outside to sit in the sun (for too long),” Muayed explains.
Muayed is certain that, in terms of the country’s many religions living together and getting along, “We all feel like Iraqis in the end. Us Chaldean Catholics have an excellent relationship with Sunni and Shiite (Muslims).
“We have a high opinion of and respect for one another. We were all raised together,” he said. Once upon a time, Muayed says, “they called us ‘crusaders’. Now, for them, the crusaders are the foreigners. We can pray out in the open and we have no fears at all in this sense.”
Muayed, whose name in Arabic means “supporter”, made an appeal to the world at the end of the interview: “Have mercy on our people. After years of suffering and war, we want our own government. Yet foreign troops must leave only after having guaranteed the nation’s security. Until now little has been done to ensure the safety of civilians. There are still many weapons in circulation, stolen and left behind by the former regime. No one has taken the trouble to collect and confiscate them.”
Muayed denied rumors about Iraqi Christians leaving the country. “On the contrary, many Christians are returning from abroad. This is our homeland. We are Iraqis and we get on well with Muslims. We are here to stay.”
Los Angeles to Iraq, Leader Helps Connect Assyrians
Courtesy of the Los Angeles Garment & Citizen
(ZNDA: Los Angeles) Pierre Toulakany is active as a property owner and community volunteer when it comes to efforts to improve downtown Los Angeles. His local focus is clearly demonstrated by his work as a founding member of the Historic Downtown Business Improvement District and as an elected representative on the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council.
The Seyfo Genocide of the Assyrians in Turkey
24th of April this year is the 90th commemoration for the decisive resolution drawn to annihilate the Assyrian people in Turkey. The perpetration commenced in 1915 and prolonged until 1919, thus becoming the continuation of centuries of massacres repeated by the massacres of Semele (1933) and Suriya in Zakhu's vicinity and still being manipulated, rather in progressive methods and contemporary tactics.
Flowers for Unity
It is sadly disappointing to read the letter/article by the Assyrian priests currently studying in Rome concerning the national name issue. Their view of our national situation as expressed by them "the Assyrians and Chaldeans will continue to exist as two, separate peoples even when categorized as ‘ChaldoAssyrians.’" is rather disheartening. This statement is sadly a complete over exaggeration. Their whole argument is based on a comment made by Mar Dally to a radio program in Detroit. They conveniently ignore the official position of the Chaldean patriarch in his letter to the Iraqi Governing Council citing only one name "ChaldoAssyrian" to label our entire nation. Statements made orally for a radio interview can be easily misinterpreted. We saw that on a number of occasions with the late patriarch BeDawid and how his radio statements were liberally interpreted and misinterpreted by those who did not particularly like his stands on unity issues.
The statement by the Assyrian and Syriac Orthodox bishops made lately is clearly a step in the wrong direction. What we all need now is support for unity efforts not undermining our fragile unity. A church that has failed to unite its branches for centuries has very little credibility in making divisive declarations concerning our national unity. Priests understand proverbs: If you cannot be a flower for unity, don't be a divisive thorn.
Should Church of the East Clergy Get Involved in the Assyrian Name and Identity Issue?
Rev. Patros Patros
A question that is often posed in the course of present-day Assyrian politics, and aptly expressed in last week’s Zinda Magazine poll, is whether or not clergy of the Assyrian Church of the East should be involved or ‘meddle’ in the issue of the Assyrian national name and identity – in one form or another. In this regard it is opportune to express our personal opinion and some reflections, coming from the stand point of individual clergy of the same Church named in this article. This article does not reflect the official position of the Assyrian Church of the East or its leadership; it is a personal reflection.
Are We a Nation or a Church?
During most of the Christian centuries until a hundred years or so ago the international community knew us only by our religious denominations. We were called Nestorians meaning members of “the Church of the East”, Jacobites for the members of the “Syrian Orthodox Church” and Chaldeans for those who were in union with the Roman Catholic Church. Currently clergies and most of the members of the Syrian Orthodox Church deny their Assyrian heritage by claiming to be Arameans. The Clergies of the Chaldean church and most of their members state that they are the descendant of the ancient Chaldeans. Such sentiment are fueled by religious factionalism and rejectionalism which have had tragic consequence for our people during the last fourteen centuries or so. In many cities where all three denominations live side by sided there is little or no interaction between them.
A few months ago when it was necessary for our people to unite under the Assyrian name the Bishops of the Chaldean Church wrote letters to the President Bush and Mr. Paul Bremer Civil Administrator of Iraq claiming that their people are not Assyrians and should be recognized ethnically as Chaldeans. This is the result of our people’s willingness to sacrifice their true national identity for the sake of their religious denominations. The Chaldean clergies falsely claims that the term Assyrian pertains primarily to the member of the Church of the East. This is a self serving explanation intended to discourage their community from identifying itself as Assyrian. During the last hundred years because of hard work and sacrifices of our people the name Assyrian has been finally recognized as a nation rather than a faith based moniker. In recent years however there are signs that even those who call themselves Assyrians are gradually retreating and dividing themselves acc ording to who goes to what church.
Not having learned the lessons of history even those who consider themselves “omtanaye” have abandoned their national obligations and have drifted toward their religious denominations wrongly assuming that by helping their respective churches they are fulfilling both their religious and national obligations. They think that now since churches are performing some of the programs previously done by the Associations these national institution are not needed any more. Although Assyrian churches are important part of our nation considering any one of them as the expression of Assyrian nationalism indicates a confusion between church and nation which will result in dividing us further into antagonistic religious factions.
The situation in Iraq where Islamic religious factions compete to wrest power from each other in ruling the country is a vivid example of what happens when religion considers itself as substitute for nationalism. Their competition for national leadership has brought disaster to the land and its people. Even in Iran where there is one religious faction its involvement in national affairs has made life unbearable to most citizens. While Christian factions are not violent it is a historic fact that even their peaceful conflicts serve to divide our nation. We have also to remember that Assyrian churches preach about the exploits of the Jewish kings and prophets rather than promoting Assyrian nationalism.
While each church is primarily concerned with the interest of its own denomination the Local National Associations serve to promote unity among all regardless of who goes to what church. For these and other reasons religion can never become a substitute for nationality. As a nation which has sacrificed dearly for the sake of this or that denomination we should know better.
The proliferation of the Assyrian Churches in all cities has led to difficulties for the local Associations. Most active people in these churches were former members of these organizations who have left and now are aggressively work against them. They seem to think that by helping their denomination they are fulfilling both their religious and national duties even if they cause the demise of the local Associations.
The great appetite of churches for more funding and willingness of the Assyrians to donate generously to them but nothing to the local Associations undermine the long term existence of national institutions. One Association reports that most of its fund raising activities such as picnics, and parties for lack of attendance have began to lose money. Its celebration of the Christian New Year which had been customarily an important source of funding now has become a losing proposition because some local churches have began to have competing parties for their members, friends and relatives. Even the celebration of the Assyrians New Year of Kha B’ Neesan which is the only legacy of our ancient heritage has suffered from lack of attendance. Perhaps clergies have discouraged their followers from participating. The cultural activities and seminars of this association suffer for lack of attendance even when more than a thousand Assyrian households are informed about thes e programs by flyers. It may be that Assyrians have already lost interest in their heritage and are now entering a period of national decline or the frequent church events and demand for more money leaves little for the local Associations. Other contributors to the situation are the Assyrian singers and their bands who perform for free or reduced rates at Church functions but charge between three to five thousand dollars for entertaining at Association’s parties.
In either case this is a bad omen for the future unity and survival of our people in the United States. Unless there is a willingness by the Churches and their members to stop decimating the local Associations it will become difficult for the latter to continue to exist and their demise would be a great bow to our national aspirations. With the disappearance of local Associations we will become nothing more than a nation of churches and will deserve to be known only by our religious denominations.
On the Letter of His Grace Mar Gewargis
1. His Grace Archbishop Mar Gewargis has incorrectly signed his own church name.
I think that the situation we are facing now in Iraq is urging us to call for a national reconciliation conference to resolve any internal disagreements (not bind to the name issue only!).
This national reconciliation conference must also include our political parties and organization from all factions (inside Iraq or in diaspora) to discuss and resolve the current and hot disputed issues including those related to our national rights stated in the Iraqi Transitional Administrative Law.
Sehr geehrter Herr Schwarzenegger!
Als Assyrer habe ich mich sehr darüber gefreut, dass Sie meinem Volk
in Kalifornien zum assyrischen Neujahrsfest am 01.04.04 gratuliert
haben. Diese Nachricht habe ich im Internet im assyrischen "Zinda magazine.com" gelesen.
Dieser Brief wurde auch an das Zinda magazine gesendet.
Shame on the Church of the East in Los Angeles!
This e-mail is in response to Paul Younan's letter regarding Pascha.
The biblical sources you gave, besides proving that the Passover was a feast day, in no way shape or form indicate that the Days of Unleavened bread and the feast day of passover were known by the same name.
Instead they are shown to be separate and distinct just as Acts 12:1-4 and your listed sources prove.
I say again the word, "Easter" has been incorrectly translated "Passover" in all Bible versions EXCEPT for the authorized King James version (AKJV). In the passage Acts 12:1-4, King Herod killed James and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he took Peter DURING the DAYS OF UNLEAVENED BREAD and was going to bring him forth to the people AFTER Easter.
Therefore, Easter(Ishtar) could not be Passover because Passover occurs BEFORE the days of unleavened bread which is when they arrested Peter. Passover had come and gone. Herod decided to bring Peter forth AFTER Easter. This is the sequence:
When the AKJV says EASTER in Acts 12:4 it is correct. When the other versions say PASSOVER in Acts 12:4 they are incorrect. And Easter in this passage is referring to our very own ancient Babylonian festival commemorating the resurrection of our God Tammuz and Goddess Ishtar.
As clear and obvious as this evidence is, it still will not convince people who believe in not only the infallibility of the Bible, but in the infallibility of the older original Aramaic versions of the Bible.
These same people still deny that Moses's Ten commandments are an abridged version of our Babylonian King Hammurabi's code of Laws.
They will still deny that it was Napishtim from the Epic of Gilgamesh who collected two animals of every kind and built an ark.
They still believe that the Book of Job preceded the Akkadian poem, I Will Praise the Lord of Wisdom(Ludlul bel nemeqi) which deals with the problem of the righteous sufferer.
They still deny that the so-called Song of Solomon bares an uncanny resemblance to the love poems written to commemorate the sacred marriage of Ishtar and Tammuz during the Autumn Equinox celebrations.
And they still deny that it was King Sargon who was found floating down a river as a babe and not Moses.
Now considering that of the 100 million cuneiform tablets left by our ancient ancestors in and around Iraq only 1 million have thus far been uncovered and of those 1 million only 25% have been translated. That means that ONLY 0.25% of our ancient knowledge has come down to us from our ancestors. If this small percentage of our knowledge has invalidated so much of the Bible already I believe that once uncovered and translated our cuneiform tablets will show the Bible to be nothing but a plagiarised version of our ancient myths, epics and poems.
So in that respect I agree with you Paul, let's go back to the original sources of the Bible but not the Aramaic version that you are referring to but to the original cuneiform tablets written by our ancestors thousands of years before the Bible was “written."
Assyrian FM Radio Broadcast from Australia
Legal Assistance Clinic for Assyrians in Chicago
Hammurabi Law Society &
The Hammurabi Law Society & t he Assyrian Academic Society present a free, legal assistance clinic for Assyrians.
Come and ask your Assyrian attorneys any legal questions you may have.
IMMIGRATION PERSONAL INJURY
Saturday May 15, 2004 from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Middle East Music Ensemble's Spring Concert
The University of Chicago Middle East Music Ensemble presents its final concert of the season on Friday, April 30, 2004 at 6:00 p.m. at the Oriental Institute’s Breasted Hall!
For the latest concert information, call the Concert Hotline: (773) 702-8069.
The Future of Iraq?
Rev. Ken Joseph Jr.
When One Takes Leave of His Faculties
The response to the new flag of Iraq and the speech by Mr. Kanna (click here), on April 25, 2004 in Washington, D.C., deserve magnanimous comments.
1. Those who envisage fiefdom and enslavement, the latter, for their brethren in Iraq.
What need is there for leadership which succumbs to all the whims and deeds of its enemies?
What need is there to respect such leadership which advocates an imposed democracy by Islam, under the titular military might of the U.S.?
What need is there to adorn the Assyrian halls, hearts and minds with infantile slogans and proclamations on behest of Assyria in Iraq?
Perhaps, one might assume, that Mr. Kanna and his followers in Iraq, namely Zowaa, are acting within the wrought upon irreversible conditions. This is coalescing, to a degree, as if to compare it with the pretentious disasters that might permeate our meager population in Iraq.
However, for the Assyrians outside of Iraq, to stand -- no, to applaud and to commend such actions by one of their political parties in Iraq -- is the ugliest aspect of all of the human thought, and all of the human reason.
Never mind the audacious new flag for Iraq, where a Kurd as a minority is given both religious, geographic and national recognition, whereas, Assyria is desecrated, annihilated, discarded and forgotten.
This is especially so evident, since most of the adherents to a one-party system happen to be thinking, or let us just say educated men and women.
For this latter group of Assyrians, I have unremorseful unguarded disdain.
Shame on you!
From Myth to Math & Magic to Logic
The Assyrian Nation is just emerging from such a phase. The phase of totally and willingly accepting what was taught to them by the knowledgeable as well as what was dictated forcibly by forces of occupation. Only recently, we are beginning to examine, explore, feel and touch issues for the sake of making informed decisions based on complex data. Having gradually but not totally removed some of the barriers we can see the emergence of a better educated and well informed generations coming to grips with the political, social and economical circumstances and the realities affecting our nation. The small glimmer of hope for a democratic Iraq still flickers and it would be a huge factor in establishing a base upon which we can plan and build on.
However, some remnants of the old school still exist and are hanging on to the old myths. Clinging to the notion that our religious beliefs or a single organization will eventually prevail will only result in missed opportunities and prolonging our national slumber. Our religious teaching has enough to suggest that a person is given the brain and acumen to think through and decipher what is good and what is otherwise. The constants of a changing world require that we evolve accordingly and adapt and/or seize calculated opportunities. Our organizations have not been organized to the point of establishing unified policies. In our universe, we all know that the sun is where the other planets revolved around and to think that one single organization is the centre of the Assyrian Universe is a myth. To the majority, our nation is the sun and all Assyrian organizations should find common grounds to work together harmoniously in plotting paths that lead to our unified objectives.
I will go on believing that sooner or later we will find that we need one another. Contributing to the well being of a fellow Assyrian is in reality serving myself as well. You being a single spoke in the Assyrian national wheel assure me that like you, I am very much attached to the same hub (our nation).
Vision we have, it is the plan and a National Fund that is missing A fund where all able Assyrians need to contribute a minimum of one dollar a month. If I can entrust my nation’s fate then I can certainly depart with my twelve dollars.
Planning, cannot and will not be achieved with magic. We need the proper resources namely people and money.
Is there an organization that is willing to shelve their differences and humble itself to take the initiative?
PS. This article was inspired by Mr. Wilfred Bet-Alkhas’s article in April 12/2004 entitled “Zinda Magazine Calls for Historical Sum
Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church Working for Captives' Release
Courtesy of Zenit News Agency
(ZNDA: Baghdad) The Chaldean Catholic Patriarch, Mar Emmanuel III Delly, has confirmed that His Beatitude is working for the release of hostages in Iraq, particularly three Italians, but he asked for patience.
Patriarch Delly told an Italian episcopal conference that the hostages "are well and I think that in the end they will be released."
The Chaldean patriarchate has been working for days, in collaboration with the apostolic nuncio, for the release of the three kidnapped on April 12. A fourth companion in captivity was murdered two days after being seized.
"We are looking at all solutions, without discarding any; we are knocking on all doors," said the Chaldean patriarch.
He appealed to family members "to pray and have confidence in the Lord. They must have patience and not talk too much. We must work in silence."
He added: "The situation could change from one moment to the next, because there are people who are not working for the good of Iraq. In this region, one must be cautious, proceed with slow but sure steps. On this question, less noise is necessary on the part of the media."
The kidnappers transmitted a video Monday showing the three Italians and asking the Italian people to organize a large protest in Rome against the war in Iraq. Otherwise the captors threatened to kill the hostages.
Family members have organized a protest in Rome for Thursday, calling for the release of the kidnapped.
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