4 Khzeeran 6754              
Volume X

Issue 12

24 May 2004
W h e r e....A s s y r i a n s...G e t...T h e i r...N e w s...&...I n f o r m a t i o n
Fax 1-415-358-4778 zcrew@zindamagazine.com

The new logo of the Iraqi Multi-National Force boasts the Assyrian Lamassu (Winged Bull).

This Week in Zinda
  A Marathon For the Recognition of the 1915 Assyrian Genocide Assyrian Youth Federation of Holland
  Brahimi Meets with Chaldo-Assyrian Groups in Iraq
Iraqi Multi-National Force Logo has Ancient Assyro-Babylonian Images
  Nahrain Yonaan, A Victim of a War of Retribution "
Assyrian Clubs around Europe are Finding Glory in Cup Finals
  What a Surprise!
I am not a Product of Eminem
Institute Strongly Condemns Assassination of Governing Council Leader
In Remembrance of our Martyrs
Armenians & the Assyrian Genocide
The Question Should Be: What did the Turks Do to Us?
The Real Work is Done in Iraq
Not Just Empty Promises?
One Man Cannot Do This Alone
Adoption of Assyrian Orphans in Iraq

Ellen Methvin (Florida)
Joseph Haweil (Australia)
Joseph K. Grieboski (Washington D.C.)
Peter Ibrahim (United States)
Benyamin Dinkha (California)
Alfred Alkhas (California)
Fred Rustam (Arizona)
Steve Enwia (Arizona)
Linda Mareewa Pecho (Illinois)

  Assyrian Children's Language Book Launch Anne Hall, Library Manager
  Kanna's Iraq
Good Job, Yako!
Assyrians and the Kurdish New Year of Newroz
The National Review
Rev. Ken Joseph Jr. (Washington D.C.)
William Warda (California)
  The Mardin Rendezvous Ali Bulac (Turkey)
  Assyria in the Face of History Ninos Isaaac (California)
The Lighthouse
Feature Article(s)

A Marathon For the Recognition of the 1915 Assyrian Genocide

Assyrische Jongeren Federatie
Assyrian Youth Federation

In Enschede, Holland, there is an annual marathon where people participate from around the world. This year more than ten thousand runners joined over one hundred thousand spectators who had turned out to watch the marathon.

The Assyrian Youth Federation of Holland took this opportunity to bring attention to the Assyrian Genocide. A large group of Assyrians ran for a good cause. They all wore T-shirts saying ‘Turkey Should Recognise the Assyrian Genocide of 1915’ on the front, and on the back: ‘Never again Assyrian Genocide’.

Participants over 18 years of age run the half-marathon (21 kilometers), and those younger than 18 run 10 kilometers. There was a large media presence and we talked with the national radio and newspapers. People were interested in the flags and the T-shirts and they asked: “Who are the Assyrians?” Best of all was the Assyrian flag hanging above these people. As if the run was not difficult enough, the runners kept the flag with them and held it high to the sky!

At the end, even the mayor of Enschede, Mr. Mans, had his picture taken with the Assyrian youth to show his support and solidarity for the efforts made by all to highlight the Assyrian Genocide. A great ending to a beautiful day.

Two things made us proud today. First of all the attention we received for such a small event and that they all finished. The second thing was our youth, who are raised outside Assyria and even though the Assyrian genocide happened over 80 years ago, they still realise how important it is for our disbanded nation that the Turkish government recognise and acknowledge this atrocity where around 750,000 Assyrians were murdered.

We demand that the European Union does not accept Turkey into its ranks unless it apologises to the children of Assyria.


Good Morning Assyria
News from Homeland

Brahimi Meets with Chaldo-Assyrian Groups in Iraq

(ZNDA: Baghdad) On 9 May in Baghdad, al-Akhdhar al-Ibrahimi (Lakhdar Brahimi), the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary General to Iraq, met with several Chaldo-Assyrians representing the political, civic, cultural, professional and vocational groups in Iraq. The meeting that took place at the Summit Palace as part of al-Ibrahimi's extensive dialogue with the various Iraqi groups.

Al-Ibrahimi stressed the importance of meeting with the various Iraqi groups to obtain their feedback and prepare for the transfer of power on 30 June 2004. He commented: "We cannot wait until June 30 and must work hard and prepare from now so that the transfer of power can be natural." Al-Ibrahimi added that the formation of a government is not the goal; rather a step toward the establishment of the new Iraq. Regarding some accusations against him about the participation of some ex-Ba'athist in the new government, al-Ibrahim stated that the United Nations has no plan to bring the Ba'ath back to power since this is not any of its business. He continued jokingly: "We are not going to kidnap Saddam Hussein from his prison and bring him back to the presidential palace."

Archbishop Giwargis Sliwa, the Patriarchal vicar of the Assyrian Church of the East in Iraq, spoke next. He thanked the U.N. special envoy for meeting with the Chaldo-Assyrian group, who represented various institutions. He stated that the Chaldo-Assyrians look forward to an important role for the U.N. and that it should draw the major outlines for the upcoming critical period facing Iraq. Following the Archbishops' speech, others participants were given a chance in the discussion on the importance of the guarantee to the Chaldo-Assyrians of a fair share in the upcoming government and all its agencies.

The participants stressed the particularity and special characteristics of the ethnic Chaldo-Assyrians that must be taken into consideration in any future elections. They stressed furthermore that the democracy of the majority must not predominate or overstep that of the smaller ethnic groups, or the rights of the larger ethnic groups must not stifle those of the smaller groups, especially when Iraq is new at this experience.

At the national level, the participants demanded that the majority of the future government should consist of technocrats and that the present Iraqi Governing Council be expanded and re-introduced under a title such as the National Assembly, in which all aspects of the Iraqi society are represented. This latter body would then be treated as the legislative authority overseeing the work of the Executive branch of the government.

Iraqi Multi-National Force & Corps Logos, Ancient Assyro-Babylonian Images

(ZNDA: Baghdad) The Multi-National Force and the Multi-National Corps of Iraq last week adopted two widely recognizable Assyrian and Babylonian images- for their official logos. The Assyrian Lamassu or the "Winged-Bull" is positioned in the center of the official logo of the Multi-National Force (see this week's cover photo). The Babylonian Lion - depicted from the Ishtar Gate in Babylon, adorns the official logo of the Multi-National Corps of Iraq.

The Multi-National Force of Iraq conducts offensive operations to defeat remaining non-compliant forces and trains Iraqi security forces in preparation for the future transition from the Coalition Forces to the Iraqi national forces. The Multi-National Corps assists in the restoration of the essential services and economic development in preparation for the transfer of sovereignty and operations from the Coalition Provisional Authority to a new Iraqi government.

News Digest
General News & Information

Nahrain Yonaan, A Victim of a War of Retribution

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times
21 May 2004
by Patrick J. McDonnell

(ZNDA: Baghdad) She was a spirited, animated presence in the coffee shop and Internet cafe of the U.S. base known as Camp Cuervo.

"She was the classic coffee shop girl: very bubbly, bright, positive," recalled Maj. Greg Bedrosian of the 1st Cavalry Division, an executive officer at the base. "She had a great rapport with the soldiers."

Today, the woman, Nahrain Yonaan, lies blind and broken in an ill-equipped Baghdad hospital, her left eye destroyed and her delicate face a battlefield of wounds from a drive-by attack and bombing.

Her mother doesn't have the heart to tell her the dreadful truth: Yonaan's younger sister and her aunt were killed in the assault Saturday evening on a minibus ferrying the women home from their jobs at the base. The driver was also killed. The mother changes her black mourning clothes before visiting the hospital, lest Yonaan notices despite her wounded eyes.

Gunmen in two black cars opened fire on the van as it was driving along a highway, authorities said. Then the assailants stopped and dropped a homemade bomb into the minibus, blowing it apart as though it were made of papier-mache.

The women's crime? Working for the Americans, a job that Yonaan, 25, said she loved.

They are among the latest to pay the price simply for accepting U.S. employment, part of the insurgent campaign to target collaborators. Most victims — cleaning ladies, interpreters, common laborers — are anonymous, their deaths unreported in this war of retribution that has killed scores of people and left many more fearful of being stalked by assassins. Unknown numbers have left their jobs.

Victims are often followed upon leaving U.S. installations. Watchful eyes are everywhere in Iraq, as are lurking killers. Christian women such as Yonaan and her relatives have suffered disproportionately, because Muslim women in Iraq generally eschew such jobs because of cultural reasons — husbands and fathers might balk at the idea.

A picture of the attack was pieced together in interviews with U.S. and Iraqi officials and Yonaan's relatives, with whom she has spoken intermittently about the incident. The nightmares come in the evening.

"The masked men are coming!" she screams, report relatives who stay in her hospital room 24 hours a day. "A bomb! A bomb!"

Yonaan and a friend who also worked on the base were not injured in the initial barrage and survived by pretending that they were dead as the assailants, who wore head scarves around their faces, stopped and surveyed the scene. The two women then slipped out of the minibus in the dark, Yonaan told her family, as the killers returned to their sedan to fetch a homemade bomb, with one declaring: "These are Christians. Let's burn them."

Yonaan and her friend were safe, but Yonaan felt compelled to act. She made her way back toward the van in the hope of saving her sister and her aunt, who, she reasoned, might still be alive. It is unclear whether she planned to drag them from the van or remove the explosive device. Then the bomb went off. The shrapnel pierced Yonaan's face and torso like tiny, hot spears.

The family is imploring the U.S. Army to move Yonaan to an American hospital, where her damaged eyes and other wounds can be treated properly. The Army expresses sympathy and says the request is moving up the chain of command.

"She deserves the best of care, she's a wonderful girl, but we have to go through channels," Bedrosian said.

Yonaan's mother, Najiba Gori, doesn't blame the Americans — somewhat of a novelty in a country where so much violence is blamed on U.S. forces, regardless of its origins. She just wants help.

"I have already lost two of my loved ones," she said Wednesday, her face drawn from days of mourning for her sister and her younger daughter and deep anxiety for Yonaan. "I want to save her."

The state of medical care in Baghdad is widely recognized as abysmal. A doctor who treated Yonaan here acknowledged that she had been "neglected" and needed help from a specialist.

"I want my daughter to be looked after. There is no hope here," Gori said. "Everyone knows that the reason she was hit is that she was working for the Americans."

The family has been staying with relatives and telling people that Yonaan is dead — lest the killers come to finish her off. Male friends and relatives stand guard outside her hospital room.

Yonaan, the second of five children, has always been the liveliest and most responsible, her mother said. She had to leave school early to help support the family, because her father suffered a back injury that forced him to leave his job as a construction foreman. The family lives in a two-room apartment rented for less than $100 a month.

"She has been the backbone of her family," said a cousin, Muhanned Nooh. Nooh tries to help Yonaan recall happier times: a picnic in the park, a family outing, a shared joke.

Yonaan was always a vivacious woman, with Assyrian features, thick black hair and a winning smile, Gori said. "She was very proud of herself, proud of her beauty," the mother said. "But she didn't think about marriage. She thought about helping her family."

Iraqis and U.S. soldiers alike spoke about Yonaan's effervescent personality. She was known to give impromptu Arabic lessons to the soldiers.

Now some relatives whisper about whether she would be better off dead. Even if she survives, some wonder, how can she cope with the deaths of two loved ones? Nahrain — whose name means "two rivers," a reference to the Tigris and Euphrates — hawked clothing in a south Baghdad market for a time, making a decent go of it. Her younger sister, Narmeem, 19, often helped. Narmeem was introverted, dark, somewhat depressed, relatives said; she and a brother were hospitalized with separate illnesses a few years ago. The boy still has seizures.

"Narmeem was always sad," said her mother. "She liked darkness. She liked to turn out the lights."

Still, Narmeem loved her big sister. And when Nahrain found a job through friends at the coffee shop and Internet cafe at the U.S. base in south Baghdad, Narmeem soon followed, finding work in the base call center on her sister's recommendation. Soon, the women's aunt, Eklass Gori, followed, working in a smoke shop on base.

The money was good — about $200 each a month, relatives said. The three and another Christian woman, Yonaan's friend, paid a taxi driver, Muthana Ramadhan Jassim, to take them to and from the base every day in his minibus. He picked them up about 8 a.m. at their houses, then returned to the base about 8 p.m. to drive them home. Jassim was known as an honest man who always watched out for the women.

The mother worried, especially after a bus carrying Christian women who worked on a U.S. base west of Baghdad was attacked this year and several women were killed. But Yonaan and the others had no fear.

On Saturday night, as the minibus was heading to the women's houses, two Opel sedans pulled up alongside the van and opened fire without warning. Hit immediately were Yonaan's sister and aunt, along with the driver, who managed to pull the van to the side of the road.

After the bomb exploded, a guard from a nearby Iraqi refinery took Yonaan to the hospital.

Yonaan says she would like to go to America. She smiled at a Westerner who dropped in on her this week and she offered her hand in greeting, though she couldn't see.

Her mother said Yonaan had mistaken the visitor for an officer from the base, a friend from a life forever interrupted.

Assyrian Clubs around Europe are Finding Glory in Cup Finals

Courtesy of the Financial Times
21 May 2004
by Simon Kuper

(ZNDA: Sydney) On Saturday Millwall, a London football club known chiefly for its hooligans, meets Manchester United in the FA Cup final. This is part of an exciting trend: tarnished, tiny and Assyrian clubs around Europe are finding glory in cup finals.

These finals used to be the preserve of big clubs. Stanley Matthews, the English winger who played from the 1930s to the 1960s, recalled: "I had two ambitions when I started. The first was a Cup-winner's medal and the second was to play for my country."

Today, though, the average English player has just one ambition: to have group sex with his team-mates, ideally in a car park. The Cup is shunned because it doesn't lead to great cash prizes. Big clubs aspire to play in the Champions League, and the cup doesn't get you there. Indeed, for Manchester United, appearing in Saturday's game is something of an embarrassment, like being in an egg-and-spoon race. But for smaller clubs like Millwall, the cup is the one chance of a day out in front of the nation.

For Millwall, the final must feel rather like a jailbreak. The club is famous for other things. Kasey Keller, a US sociology graduate who used to be their goalkeeper, likes to reminisce about the fans invading the pitch, as they were wont to do, and nodding to him, as they stormed past his goal towards the opposition, "All right, Kasey?"

Although this is the age of terrorism, and London is Europe's biggest city, a Scotland Yard policeman told me that the fighting after a Millwall-Birmingham game in 2002 ranks as the capital's worst public disorder of the last five years. Hooligans threw bricks, lumps of concrete, a chisel etc at policemen for about an hour and a half. "It was very difficult for a considerable amount of time," said the policeman in his deadpan manner.

Alemannia Aachen are tarnished in a different way. The German second-division club, who meet Werder Bremen in the Cup final next Saturday, get into so many scrapes that the saying about them in their cathedral town is, "After the scandal is before the scandal". Recent years have featured the "suitcase affair", involving the disappearance of €150,000 in cash in a suitcase, but the club is also good at finding legal ways to make money vanish. Only three years ago Aachen's board was flying to the team's away matches in Germany's lower divisions by private jet. The club coach drove a corporate Mercedes worth €100,000 euros while preaching to his players a mantra of "humility and modesty".

That coach's successor, Jorg Berger, was promised new players and a modern stadium. "In the end," sighed Berger, "all I got was this corporate car with two television sets". Berger should count himself lucky. To call Aachen a manager's graveyard is not a cliché. Berger himself said goodbye to his players after a match 18 months ago not knowing if he would ever see them again: he had intestinal cancer. Happily he recovered. But another predecessor, Werner Fuchs, had suffered heart failure in 1999 while his team were running in the woods, and died despite the players' attempts at resuscitation.

But this season has been better. Nobody has died yet, with the caveat that several Aachen fans set off on Saturday on a week long 750-kilometre cycle ride to attend the cup final in Berlin. A nation is rooting for them. As much as anything this has to do with Aachen's stadium, the Tivoli, which dates from 1928 and looks it. Here most fans watch the match standing, and the people in the VIP suites queue for sausages at half-time with everyone else. When swish Bayern Munich went there for the quarter-final in February, and lost, Christoph Biermann wrote in Die Zeit newspaper, "The future of football has met its past". Aachen, Millwall and the like of them are throwbacks to an age when neighborhood clubs fielding local boys played for the biggest prizes.

Unlikely cup finalists cover the range, from the tarnished to the nondescript. The French club Chateauroux were founded in 1883, the third-oldest club in the country, but did almost nothing before qualifying for next Saturday's cup final against Paris St Germain. They come from the vast empty middle of France, whence they will probably retreat after Saturday for another 121 years of anonymity.

And then there is a final category of finalists: the Assyrians. When Assyriska, a little club from the outskirts of Stockholm, made the Swedish cup final last November, about 10,000 Assyrians turned out to watch them. Some had apparently flown in from Australia. The Christian Assyrians, one of the world's lesser known ethnic groups, speak a version of Aramaic, and originate in northern Mesopotamia, which is unlucky enough to be divided between Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.

The final, a 2-0 defeat to Elfsborg, was apparently a pathetic match. But the Assyrians hardly cared. Many were crying as they sang the Roomrama, the seldom-heard national anthem ("Qa Roomrama, D-shima Rama," etc.). You never get that sort of thing in the Champions League.

Surfs Up!
Letters to the Editor


What a Surprise!

Ellen Methvin

What an educational, eye-opening journey in finding your web magazine! I am one of those Americans who lumped all Middle Eastern people under the heading "Arab", forgetting that many, many countries make up that part of the world. My thanks for an entrance into your world. I have marked the web site and will continue to read the magazine, and thereby continue my education. I'll also pass on what I learn, at work, at church, and to my family and friends. Again, thank you.

I am not a Product of Eminem

Joseph Haweil

In response to your editorial "Remember the Assyrian Titans!", please do not stereotype me! I am not "a product of MTV and Eminem". I am an Assyrian teenager, a youth who is passionate about our language, out culture and above all our heritage. One thing that I am not is a product of "Eminem". I assure you, I would rather sit and watch a video about Assyrian history rather than an Eminem concert. Yes ... Assyrian youth need role models. Although you honestly can't expect a 15 year old teenager to hang a poster of Yonadam Kanna on their bedroom wall! I am someone who is interested in what is happening on a global scale and what IS happening in the Assyrian world community but not everyone is as interested as I am.

I pose the question ... have we as a culture come to try and bribe youth into accepting and show interest in their cultural heritage? For the sake of the Assyrian cause, I hope to God we have not!!

Institute Strongly Condemns Assassination of Governing Council Leader

Joseph K. Grieboski
Institute on Religion and Public Policy
Washington D.C.

The Institute on Religion and Public Policy strongly denounces the assassination of Izzadine Saleem, who held the Iraqi Governing Council's rotating presidency.

Such an act of cowardice and inhumanity – as we have seen repeatedly committed in Iraq by criminals who claim to be religious believers – is an attack not only on the individual, but on the entire concept of democracy and against the Iraqi people themselves. The real enemy in Iraq is not the American soldier, but those who work to deny freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people in the name of their own faith.

In addition to damaging the process of transition, this senseless killing undermined the freedom of the Iraqi people, undermined the goal of peace, and served to lengthen conflict.”

In Remembrance of our Martyrs

Peter Ibrahim
United States

We should have demonstrated, instead of going to celebrate our food. We should have stood up, proclaimed that we are Assyrians, and that we also had hundreds of thousands of innocent Assyrians martyred along with the Armenians, and Greeks. You should have stood up, not for yourselves, but for my peers and I, the youth. So that our youth would take initiative and follow your steps, as you remembered our fallen brethren.

I am writing this opinion not because I want to hurt anyone. I'm writing to say we the Assyrians, are standing at the crossroads. Not only is it a time to become united, but it is a time that our voice be heard. It is also time, where we put aside little parties, festivals, and what not. I feel it is important that we focus on matters within our community, the Assyrian community. We will always have time to celebrate, but we are losing the ultimate battle of time.

Save the youth, help my peers, I’ll reiterate when I say time is running out. I propose that all Assyrians, in every corner of the globe remember our martyrs in August. Whether it is by demonstration, by a prayer, or by anything. Set examples by leading, and committing, not by empty words. Demonstrate so that my peers will see that our fathers and mothers care. I firmly believe that we can start that domino effect from the adults, to the youth. Hand in hand we will join in protest.

Armenians & the Assyrian Genocide

Benyamin Dinkha

In the last issue of Zinda (May 17, 2004) under the title of “What Did the Armenians Do For Us?” Mr. Joseph Bet-Shmuel touched on several issues which need to be commented on. It sounded like he was justifying his church’s choice to celebrate its food festival on April 24th.

He contends that each nation chooses its own Martyrs day. Armenians have chosen theirs on April 24th and “Our nation has decided to honor its martyrs on August 7th.” One has to wonder which nation he speaks of. Does he consider only members of his church as Assyrians? Not only the Armenians but also Assyrians of the Syrian Orthodox Church and the Chaldean Assyrians of France commemorate the April 24th as their memorial day. Celebrating on a day which half of our own nation remembers as a day of sorrow, to say the least, betrays poor judgement.

According to an article in Zinda of April 26th the Assyro-Chaldeans of France along with the Armenians on april 24th and the 25th of this year demonstrated to bring attention to their being massacred during world war one. During one of these events Mayor François Pupponi of Sarcelles (a town near Paris) promised that his city will soon build a commemorative monument for the Assyro-Chaldean’s genocide next to that of the Armenians. The Mayer also stated that the town of Sarcelles will commemorate annually the massacre of the Assyro-Chaldeans so that the loss of two third of their population along with that of the the Armenians will not be forgotten.

This resulted from an action by couple hundred Assyro-Chaldeans joining about 15,000 Armenians to declare that not only the Armenians also 750,000 Assyro-Chaldeans were massacred during world war one. The comparatively small number of the Assyro-Chaldean demonstrators would have been far less impressive if they had chosen to go it alone.

Armenians have worked hard during the last 89 years to inform the international community about the decimation of their community in Turkey and have claimed that it was only their people who were massacred and have asked for the recognition of what happened to them. Many countries of the west have recognized April 24th as the Day of Armenian genocide. Unlike Eastern Assyrians who in private spend a few hours to eulogize their fallen martyrs on August 7th Armenians strive to publicize the injustice inflicted on them as much as possible and ask for its acknowledgement by as many nations as they can, especially Turkey.

Every year on April 24th hundreds of thousands of Armenians take to the streets in several countries to remind the world about what happened to them during world war one and declare that it should never be forgotten or happen again. Millions of postcards are sent to the politicians annually to ask for their support. The Assyrian attempt to distance themselves from the so-called “Armenian Genocide” implicitly serves to state that Armenians are right to claim that they alone were massacred during world war one.

Learning a lesson from the Armenians on April of 2001 Various Assyrian organizations in Europe were able to put forward a resolution in the Swedish parliament with the help of an Armenian member of that body asking for the recognition of the Assyrian Genocide. In a vote by the MPs. the resolution failed even though it had the support of Sixty members. Another resolution which described the Assyrian plight during world war one as “Tragedy” passed instead.

On April 23, 2003 an Assembly Joint Resolution “No. 31” passed in the California legislatures requesting that US should recognize the Assyrian right to have representation during the restructuring of Iraq. This resolution was introduced by an Armenian member of the Assembly Mr. Aghazarian together with Steinberg and was co-authored by another Armenian senator Poochigian together with Senator Denham plus the Assembly member Cogdill, and Mathews. No nation can accomplish much without help form others.

The above cases show that Assyrians have much to gain from working with the armenians when possible rather than going it alone or continue to keep their being decimated during world war one as the best kept secret in the world.

During the last few decades Turkey did its best to force out Assyrians of the Syrian Orthodox Church from their homeland. They were threatened and oppressed by the Kurds from one side and the government from the other. Their villages including Churches and monasteries were confiscated, they were not allowed to repair their houses of worship, the teaching of the Syriac language was forbidden and Assyrians were not recognized as an ethnically distinct people or even as an existing minority. Through demonstrations, hunger strikes and lobbying Assyrians of the Syrian Orthodox church were able to educate the European Community about Turkey’s oppressions. Due to the pressure from the European countries Turkey has slowly began to reverse its discriminatory policies. There would have been no reason for Turkey to stop its injustices If Assyrians had kept quite and implied that every thing was great and dandy as Turkey wanted to pretend.

Mr. Bet-Shmuel ends his commentary by stating that he is “very proud of his church, which has always been a base for Assyrian nationalism, and strong belief in Christianity”. There in lies the Assyrian problem. He seems to imply that other churches are indifferent to Assyrian Nationalism and have no strong belief in Christianity. It is such religious prejudices which have divided us in the past and continue even today. Equating his Church with Assyrian nationalism could be interpreted to mean that Assyrian nationalism is nothing more than being a member of the Church of the East . In that case how does he expect members of the Chaldean Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church consider themselves Assyrians? Undoubtedly these churches consider their christianity superior to all others and will be offended by his remarks. If we care to unite our people under the Assyrian name we need to treat our nationalism independent from any specific church or denomination. Promoting any religious denomination as “a base for Assyrian nationalism” will alienate those who belong to other churches.

The Question Should Be: What did the Turks Do to Us?

Alfred Alkhas

I don’t know why would some people give ugly excuse for an evil guilt.

I was really shocked when I read the article “What did the Armenians do for us?” posted by Mr. Joseph Bet-Shmuel in Zinda’s last issue.

Are we justifying here what the Turks did to the Christians under the Ottoman Empire, with the full support of their those days friends and today’s rivals ‘Kurds’? Are we doing this just because the Armenians did not mention our losses in those barbaric atrocities and genocide claims? Do we deny such claims just because “we do not receive any political and territorial gains” as the author is suggesting?

The author does not stop even here, i.e. to wipe out such barbaric deeds, but, ironically, he is also blaming the Armenians for proclaiming their persecution by the Turks. I am not sure if the author realizes that Turkey’s membership in the European Union is denied for their inhuman treatments and atrocities against other Turkish factions.

Did the Turk really change after all these decades?

Turkish government accepted the Iraqi refugees (including Assyrians) only because the UN monitored their treatment in the refugee camps. Even with the UN monitoring these camps, I have friends and relatives who were booked in those camps and have some interesting stories that confirm the ‘respect’ and ‘human’ treatment rendered to those refugees, which the author has mentioned.

I wonder if the author knows about the Turk’s treatment of the Assyrians and other Iraqi factions refugees who were living outside the UN refugee camps. I was in Istanbul and I know how the Assyrians were horrified from being traced by the Turkish police and eventually deported back to Zakho. I know how the Turkish policemen were blackmailing these poor Assyrian families in their nightly raids to threaten them of deportation should not they pay bribe.

I don’t know what could we reach from such attempts to brighten darkened and ugly history of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which is absolutely undisputable. Is it just for the sake of defending some bad planning of celebrations or events or may be it is only defending some personal disputes?

Anyone can celebrate his own events or anniversaries and has the full right of doing so on any date. Anyone has the full right to dispute and argue any other criticizing views but trying to do that by justifying such historic barbaric atrocities is not acceptable at all and is deadly wrong.

The Real Work is Done in Iraq

Fred Rustam

It is amazing how detached some of our people are from reality. Here we are again, living in a great country and in the comfort of our homes away from the threats of suicide bombers and Ak-47's, and yet we are giving orders to Zowaa and its leadership and tell them how to run the affairs of our nation in Iraq.

To the Romina Khananishos of this world ( I have not met this person yet), I say : Wake up and small the coffee. We do not need "leaders" here, we need workers and activists in the West to support our people's demand and to be the financial and moral force behind our brethren in Bet- Nahrain.

As Assyrians living in the West with no plans for permanent return (which is the case for the majority of us), I think we have three options. First, you support our people in the homeland under their only capable leadership (Zowaa). Second, if you disagree with them, please be quiet and watch from the sidelines, no need for you to do our enemy's work. Third , if you can do better than Zowaa, the road to Baghdad is open! Because that is where the real work is done.

It was neither the U.S.A nor the CPA that granted our people the rights under the Transitional Law. It was the struggle of Zowaa for a quarter of a century and the sacrifices of the Martyrs. It is a known fact that Zowaa was an active member of the Iraqi opposition group since 1982 and until the liberation of Iraq. That is why they deserve the leadership of our people.

I realize that we live in a free country and we have the right to express our thoughts and ideas. I only ask we do that after we have the facts and not just because we want to have a say in everything that is Assyrian.

For the rest of us who believe in Zowaa's work, keep up the good work.

Not Just Empty Promises?

Steve Enwia

I challenge you to work with our people for one Assyrian Nation. I am appalled to have read an article in your last issue of Zinda, “Iraqi Christians Deserve a Homeland within Iraq, Not Just Empty Promises.” Where are the sane views of this kind of misrepresentation?

I want to share a brief uneducated story that was passed on to me by my late father (I will keep it basic). During a victorious war between 1914 thru 1918 Assyrian soldiers along with allies defeated their enemies and the Assyrians were promised a homeland. In 1922 his Holiness Mar Shimun entered a joint meeting with the League of Nations as the representative of the Assyrians to ask for what was promised to them; Assyrian rights to exist as a nation and to have a homeland.

Unfortunately the meeting was cut short by the Ambassador of Iraq because of Malik Yousip Khoshaba an Assyrian and Rev. Khando another Assyrian. You see, they had delivered two different telegrams to the Ambassador to let him know that Mar Shimun was not the Assyrian leader and the Assyrian people DO NOT recognize him as their leader.

Fast forward to present day. History will tell you that Blacks kill Blacks, Muslims kill Muslims, Whites kill Whites and today, Assyrians kill Assyrians. Ridiculous yet true, it is happening. I look at the 3 percent that are in Iraq and think to myself, “25 schools in the North, 5 schools in Baghdad, 3 radio stations, 2 TV stations, 6 school-shuttle busses, the list goes on and on.” Yet you question and challenge Mr. Kanna and the ZOWAA he leads to bring with him a picture of an Assyrian flag next time he visits? He’s not Zowaa alone, we all are. You are talking about these people that came together in a country through the worst times and experiences you can ever imagine. Listen to their cries my sister. You still ask what Mr. Kanna and Zowaa are doing there to make a difference for our people? Do you seriously think that without a voice the American Government will provide you and your children and the Assyrian people in Iraq a voice, a nation, Democracy?

The visit by Mr. Younadam Kanna was an inspiration; I have goose bumps every time I see his face on the News, an Assyrian, ahh the 3 percent. Almost a century later, we have one up there to give the world a second whisper of the Assyrian nation. Maybe God is giving us a second chance, maybe it’s our turn this time around, let’s not mess this up again.

I pray and thank the Coalition everyday for their efforts for a free and Democratic Iraq. This is not my point. Romina Khananisho asked what fights are Mr. Kanna and Zowaa winning that bring him to the United States to tell us about? What fights has Romina Khananisho won in this country that she can tell me about? What humanitarian efforts has she volunteered for here in the states, or her OWN country? She should be ashamed of herself. How can she cipher for one minute to try to ridicule us with such nonsense? I am more than confident that when that day comes and we have that land she ’ll be one of the first to ask for her piece of the pie. Always remember this, leaders will come and go, but ZOWAA will never die.

Once again, the challenge has been issued. Work with our people for one Assyrian Nation.

One Man Cannot Do This Alone

Linda Mareewa Pecho

As an Assyrian-American, I am pleading with everyone to write a letter, make a call, whatever it takes to let America know that Assyrians exist all over the world and especially in Iraq. We have a chance in a life time to be heard and receive help. One man cannot do this alone. It will take all of us to come together with one voice and bombard the media and the statesmen, senators, whoever is in government to listen to our pleas for help for religious freedom and political freedom we should have in Iraq. I have written to the Chicago Tribune and asked for help. Will you do the same? Let's use our voices as trumpets, our pens as leaders, and our hearts as Christians. I am asking God our Ruler to guide us and give us courage to stand today and make a difference in Iraq. God Bless us one and all. Alaha Brakh-lan.

Adoption of Assyrian Orphans in Iraq

My husband and I would very much like to adopt an Assyrian orphan. We have been told that prior to September 11 (2001) it was feasible. Unfortunately it was after 9/11 that we made our decision and were told that since there is no formal government at this time we would be unable to adopt from Northern Iraq.

Regardless of whether or not we are successful on our own we would still like to adopt a child in the future. Could you please keep us posted should things change and give us some type of guidance as to the proper procedure and who could assist us in our desire to become parents? Thank you and God Bless.

[Zinda: According to the United States Department of State at this time it is not possible to adopt Iraqi children. There is no adoption under Iraqi law and the Iraqi law does not permit foreigners to obtain legal guardianship of Iraqi children. However, in the near future it may be possible for the Iraqi nationals living abroad to obtain legal guardianship of Iraqi orphans. To date, Zinda Magazine has received several such requests for information and assures its readers that detailed information will be posted as soon as the Iraqi law in regard to international adoption of children is modified in the coming months. Zinda Magazine withholds the identity of the authors of this Letter to the Editor due to the personal nature of its content.]


Surfer's Corner
Community Events


Assyrian Children’s Language Book Launch

Media Release
Anne Hall, Library Manager
18 May 2004

Fairfield Public Library is pleased to announce the launch of the first Assyrian language book for children (ages 4 – 10), "Our Assyrian language" or Lishana Aturaya d'Ganan, published in Australia, written and illustrated by Younia Zaya. This book is the result of Younia’s many years of research and experience working with children and is written and illustrated in Australia in 2002.

Younia Zaya is a qualified early childhood educator who taught in several well-recognized schools in Tehran, Iran prior to migrating to Australia. She established and operated a Kindergarten called Naghmeh (melody) in Tehran. Younia was the recipient of a scholarship award from the Empress Farah Pahlavi for a master degree in early childhood education. Younia has lived in Smithfield for the past thirty-three years. She worked as a volunteer teacher with the Saturday Assyrian Language Schools in Fairfield LGA for several years.

Members of the Assyrian community and interested public are cordially invited to attend this launch at the Fairfield Branch Library at the corner of Kenyon and Barbara Streets in Fairfield City, on Thursday 3 June at 3:30 pm. During this event refreshments will be served and the author will be signing and selling copies of her book.

For further details please contact:Anne Hall, Library Manager: 9725 0358 / Younia Zaya: 9604 9606 / Sami Ziyeh: 9130 3131


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Editor's Choice

Kanna's Iraq

Courtesy of the National Review
19 May 2004
b y Meghan Clyne

(ZNDA: Washington D.C.) "We are calling on...America not to stop; to go on with us on this blessed mission, which the Iraqi people will never forget: this blessed mission of liberation, of democracy, and of freedom."

This is the plea of Younadem Kanna, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council and leader of Iraq's Assyrian Democratic Movement.

Kanna has just wrapped up a whirlwind tour of the U.S., aimed at reaching out to Assyrian Americans and combating the image of Iraq as a lost cause. It has been a tiring journey — Kanna has visited seven cities in six states in ten days — but well worth it. He knows first-hand what is at stake.

From Apartheid

As an Assyrian Christian — the only one on the Governing Council — Kanna and his people suffered greatly before the war. "During Saddam's time," Kanna says, "we were disrespected guests in our own home." The Baathist regime destroyed close to 200 villages and over 125 churches and historical monasteries in the region; it tried to impose Koranic law on Christian children; it employed a policy of Arabization toward the Assyrian community; it assassinated the leader of the Assyrian Christian church; it exiled and killed many in the Chaldean community. "They destroyed us and deported our people, without even giving them a chance," Kanna notes.

In 1991, following his defeat in the first Iraq war, Saddam Hussein used religion to try to endear himself to the Islamic world. During this "faith campaign," symbolized by the addition of "Allah Akbar" (God is Great) to the Iraqi flag, Saddam closed down Christian businesses and shut Christians out of politics and positions of power. Unable to make a living for themselves, and weary of the persecution, many hundreds of thousands of Assyrians were forced to leave Iraq, fleeing to Europe, Australia, and the United States.

"Under Saddam's sectarian, apartheid policies, we were fifth-degree citizens," Kanna explains. "First came the Sunnis, then the Shiites, then the Kurds, then the Turkomen, and we were fifth — unwelcome, even though we are Iraq's native people. This oppression was for nothing more than our Christian faith and our Assyrian ethnicity; we were allowed only to be Baath-party members, and to be Arabized."

To Freedom

While the world's elite opinion-makers rail vehemently against the current U.S. presence in Iraq, Kanna appreciates what has been accomplished there.

"Since the liberation, everything has changed."

"The Iraqi people are free now," Kanna proclaims. "For the first time in the history of Iraq — for the first time in 14 centuries — our neighbors, and the majority of people today, recognize us [Assyrian Christians], and acknowledge us. We are all together on the Governing Council, and the cabinet; our rights are guaranteed under the fundamental law" (referring to the provisional constitution signed on March 8).

Satisfaction with Operation Iraqi Freedom is not limited to the Assyrians. "The vast majority of Iraqis are very happy with the liberation," Kanna says. "Maybe fewer than five percent today are unhappy — but that's because they were Saddam Hussein's people, or are fanatic extremists."

What proves frustrating to Kanna, and to others striving to rebuild Iraq, is the ill will shown by the media in obscuring these positives. "The media are very bad," Kanna observes regretfully. "This is mostly because they are the tools of Islamist fanatics; because they are unhappy with the democratic freedom process." It's not just al-Jazeera: "Even the Western media are very bad. They are trying to sell their product, so they keep exaggerating the bad spots. The media in America are not fair; they hide the liberation of Iraq, the restoration of public services — of hospitals, and schools. Nobody wants to speak about those achievements, or about the fundamental law, which was a very successful compromise and is the most liberal constitution of any Islamic Arab country."

In a Washington indignant over the now-infamous Abu Ghraib images, Kanna adds ruefully, "But they will speak about some simple problem, some crazy incident like with these prisoners in jail."

Over the Abu Ghraib scandal, Kanna is unruffled. "Yeah, we condemn that — but it's certainly not the official or normal policy of American troops in Iraq. And Saddam did far worse than that every day, and no one stopped him!"

Oddly enough, while those on Capitol Hill gasp that prisoner mistreatment will destroy America's reputation in Iraq and the rest of the world, Kanna reports, "If Iraqis are upset with the American troops, it's mostly because they are very nice — too nice — with these criminals, dealing with them as prisoners of war. But they are not prisoners of war, they are criminals; they are killers. But Geneva Convention rules put pressure on the Americans to be nice, and to take good care of them."

"We had heard that there were rumors, bad rumors, about Americans raping Iraqi women in these prisons. So we sent the leader of the Iraqi Islamic party, Mohsen Hamid, to visit the prisoners. And he came back to the Governing Council and was a very positive witness. He is the closest to the Sunni sect of Iraq, and is the most trusted guy in the Sunni Islamic world — and he gave a very positive account, saying there is no big problem."

"But unfortunately these isolated bad spots — bad moves here or there by some crazy soldier — are exaggerated, and abused."

More Than 50 Percent Done

Kanna is, of course, aware of the difficulties that lie ahead in his homeland, difficulties that need no exaggeration to loom large and daunting. There is, most immediately, a concern over what will happen after the June 30 handover deadline. There is fear that if U.N. Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has his way, a weak and ineffectual government — possibly filled with ex-Baathists, and unable to withstand attempts to turn Iraq into a mullocracy — will be instituted. Brahimi's Francophilia is worrisome, too; in the wake of the Oil-for-Food scandal, Iraqis are rightfully wary of U.N. involvement in their country's rehabilitation.

Kanna, however, remains optimistic; he urges Americans to remain optimistic too. The work of rehabilitating Iraq, he says, is "more than 50 percent done." For the U.S. and other coalition members to abandon it now would be tragic. The prospects for July 1 are good; Kana insists that once the Coalition moves out, foreign extremists will lose their strongest card. They will no longer "be able to move the emotions of simple people by saying they are fighting a holy war against the occupier," because, after June 30, there will be no occupier. He adds that the U.S. troops that do stay will be removed from danger, in safer camps. "When we need them, we will call on them, but they will no longer be easy targets in the streets."

"Plus," Kanna explains, "we will be imposing Iraqi laws, and there will be no more Geneva Convention conditions. The death penalty will be back again; he who kills will be killed. And in my opinion, this will bring the violence down very much. So I call on public opinion to be more confident that, on July 1, things will change. This is a moral and psychological issue, not a numerical issue."

This urging aside, Kana is not oblivious to the numbers. "We appreciate the losses of the United States, of those 700 victims — martyrs, we call them — who shed their blood on Iraqi soil. But compare the losses in one year of fighting terrorism to the roughly 3,000 people terrorism killed in America in two minutes. Think of the $84 billion lost in those two minutes, and compare that to the financial cost in Iraq. You have to make these comparisons, and then choose whether to fight the terrorists in the Middle East, and keep yourselves safe, or to fight terrorism here, in your home."

The Price of Freedom

If it seems odd that an Iraqi would be more attuned to what America stands to lose should the terrorists win than many Americans are, perhaps it's because he faces terrorist brutality every day, and has for most of his life.

Kanna began his career as a dissident in 1970, during his last year of secondary school in Kirkuk. "Our people had always been persecuted, for being Assyrians and for being Christians. But when I read the Baath-party philosophy, I saw that they were even worse," Kanna explains. In 1976 the Baathist regime began destroying Assyrian villages and churches, and on April 12, 1979, Kanna and his fellow dissenters established the Assyiran Democratic Movement to combat Saddam's aggression.

"We founded this movement in order to push for peace, democracy, and freedom in Iraq; for recognition of our existence in Iraq, and for the rights of Christians in Iraq." In 1980, the ADM began negotiations with other opposition movements — democrats, Communists, Christian groups — and prepared to unite in the mountains to fight Saddam Hussein. They launched their opposition in 1982, sending rebels to the northern part of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war.

Saddam, of course, struck back. On July 14, 1984, the Baathist regime attacked the ADM's bases in Baghdad, arresting over 150 members of the movement. "I was saved by the wife of a friend who was killed by Saddam. I had to flee," Kana recounts. "Of the 150 people they arrested, 22 of them were sentenced to life imprisonment by Saddam. Four of us were sentenced to death. Three were killed, and I was sentenced to death in absentia in November of '84." With a look of wistful sadness, Kanna adds that he recently visited the graves of his executed comrades.

"That's why we have continued our struggle since 1984 until this moment, nonstop — for 20 years."

The struggle is a dangerous one. Being a member of the Governing Council is no secure job — two have now been assassinated. Kanna is married, and has three children; while they are pleased with his work, "they are at risk all the time. I am at risk all the time. But this is the price of freedom."

To Kanna, it's a price well worth paying. Is it a sacrifice he will continue to make, exposing himself in such a public capacity, once the Governing Council is disbanded? "It is not necessary for me to be in an official position, necessarily. What is necessary is for our community to be represented, and for there to be no more persecution, no more apartheid policies against us because of our ethnicity or religion. This is what's most important to me; not a position. After all, I'm tired! I've spent 34 years fighting this crazy guy, and these crazy criminals. But if it's necessary, I'll keep going."

Though the fight has been long and exhausting, it has not been without its rewards. Kanna relates, "A few days ago, in Chicago, I was given a present. It was a picture of me, with my friends, during our last year in high school and our first at university, when we began our struggle against Saddam. The photograph was taken on March 9, 1970. They then presented to me a second picture: the photograph that appeared in the Chicago Tribune, and other papers, on March 9, 2004 — a picture of me raising the new constitution of Iraq, exactly 34 years later."

Kanna wants Americans — and people the world over — to keep these rewards in mind when processing the daily news out of Iraq. He cautions election-year bickerers: "...[T]he challenge in Iraq is not a challenge for Republicans, or for Democrats. If we don't stand united, the terrorists will win. You will have to prepare yourselves here, at home, to have more September 11ths, and that will be a tragedy. This is not a challenge for President Bush: It is a challenge for all free and democratic people, not only in America, but in the world, together."

It's a challenge that must be met.

[Zinda: On 17 May United Nations Special Adviser Lakhdar Brahimi met with the top United States official in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, and visited with members of the Iraqi Governing Council, who were meeting in emergency session following the assassination of the current President Ezz El-Din Salim. Mr. Brahimi, who is currently in Iraq helping to set up a caretaker government for the transfer of sovereignty from the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) on 30 June, also met with the Honorable Yonadam Kanna and the Minister of Defence, Ali Alawi.Ms. Meghan Clyne is an associate editor at the National Review.].

Good Job, Yako!

Rev. Ken Joseph Jr.
Washington D.C.

`Better late than never` would have been the theme of a recent trip - his first since the Liberation of Iraq for the man we all lovingly call `Rabi Yako` - Hon. Yonadam Kanna.

For all the problems with schedules, staffing and more - literally almost one day in one city - Washington DC, Chicago, San Jose, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Detroit - in a little over one week the real star of the whirlwind trip - one that should have happened a year ago was `the man`.

While off to a bumpy start as a seeming Iraqi Government official at the `Future of Iraq` conference in Washington DC which was opened by a Mullah reading from the Koran and praying it ended with a bang!

Followed all day by a star reporter sent personally from the editor of The National Review, Mr Rich Lowry, the day began with a meeting at Vice President Cheney`s office.

In the car between appointments `Yako` was his real self. Speaking to the reporter seated next to him in the car he said `We thank the Americans for what they are doing in Iraq. The vast majority of the Iraqi people are angry that the US is not harder and does not act more decisively with the insurgents that are threading to destroy everything` he stated to the National Review writer sitting next to him in the car.

Moving effortlessly into the studios of The Christian Broadcasting Network, he quickly had a mike put on and without skipping a beat the interview with International Reporter Paul Strand, personally arranged by The Christian Broadcasting Network heir apparent and son of it`s Founder Gordon Robertson began.

`What message do you have to America today?` the newscaster asked.

`To stay the course - to keep going - to not give up on Iraq` was his quick and measured reply.

`What do you think of the future` the questions continued.

`I am an optimist! I believe that in the long term things will go well. The Iraqi people are on our side. Saddam Hussein is gone. Iraq is free again and the enemies of freedom and democracy are on their way out`.

`What is the state of the Christians in Iraq` was the next question.

`The state of the Assyrian Christians in Iraq is the state of all Iraqis. Finally free there are many challenges fo our people, but now it is up to the Iraqis and the Assyrians in particular to work for our future. Frankly we are angry at all the bad news from Iraq. Things are going well. The incidents reported all the time are being done primarily by outsiders - terrorists and foreigners.`

The newscaster seemed to be surprised by the excellent command of English and the quick, easy to understand and `to the point` answers.

Escorted outside a quick run to the next forum, the Foxnews studio in Washington, DC. Then into a Foxnews provided car to the next stop, the State Department.

Another quick meeting and then straight to the airport to the next stop - London!

`Is the guy never off the telephone? Does he ever stop talking on the telephone` was the laughed comment on `Yako`s `always on` style.

Only one day in Washington - not enough time to fulfill the meetings requested from the Heritage Foundation, The New York Times, AP, Foxnews, UPI and others that will have to wait until the next time.

`The guy is great` quipped one of the interviewees! and `the guy was great`!

In Mel Gibson's `Braveheart` he characterizes leadership with the phrase `men don’t follow title - they follow courage`.

Having been for 25 years underground, having lost many a fellow fighter to Sadaam and just adjusting a little over year to the newfound freedom of a liberated Iraq, `Yako` - Hon. Iraqi Governing Council member, Mr. Yonadam Kanna was fabulous, not just as a communicator but as a representative of the Assyrian people experienced in `courage`.

As for the future? Optimistic as always `Yako` told the interviewer `we will be ok! There will be difficult times ahead but our people are intelligent and we will make it`.

In and out of the government, media and just about everything else in between and then finding the time to visit every major Assyrian community in the country, the trip was a resounding success.

Too little too late? Too many compromises? Only time will tell. The Assyrian people should be grateful to God that with all his faults they hae a leader that is up to the challenge.

A little better staffing, coordination and `pizzazz` and things will be just fine. Will he succeed? Frankly it is not up to Yako, but it is up to the Assyrian people. Will they stop fighting among themselves? Will they stop all trying to be the `General` and instead be `soldiers`?

Will they put aside politics, personal feelings, pride, arrogance and just plain, old fashioned jealousy and support the one Assyrian delegate on the Governing Council? He will fail on his own - he will succeed when the Assyrian people beseech God for His favor and then support him with all they have.

Could he be better? Yes! Could he be stronger? Yes! Could there be less compromises? Yes! But as my father always says `I sure like the way he is doing the job a lot better than the way you are NOT doing it!

Will the Assyrian people support him? They had better! With less than two months until the proposed handover of power in Iraq time is truly gone.

Instead of criticizing him and his organization - and there is plenty to criticize - they should pray for him and at the end of the prayer thank God that he is doing the best he can for his people. If there is anything that he is not doing right it is simply because we are not supporting him enough and giving him the confidence and backing that he needs first on our knees and then through our efforts.

[Zinda: Rev. Ken Joseph Jr. directs Assyrianchristians.com and spent a week in Washington arranging meetings and interviews for Hon. Yonadam Kanna.]

Assyrians and the Kurdish New Year of Newroz

William Warda

Because Kurds have no idea when and why they began to celebrate their New Year they have invented mythical origins for it during the recent times. They claim that Newroz is the celebration of Kawa’s victory over the Assyrian king Zahak.

One website describes the origin of the Kurdish New year as follows. “On March 21st in the year 612 B.C., Kawa killed the Assyrian tyrant Dehak and liberated the Kurds and many other peoples in the Middle East. Dehak was an evil king who represented cruelty, abuse, and the enslavement of peoples. People used to pray every day for God to help them to get rid of Dehak. On Newroz day, Kawa led a popular uprising and surrounded Dehak's palace. Kawa then rushed passed the king's guards and grabbed Dehak by the neck. Kawa then struck the evil tyrant on the head with a hammer and dragged him off his throne. With this heroic deed, Kawa set the people free and proclaimed freedom throughout the land. A huge fire was light on the mountaintop to send a message: firstly to thank God for helping them defeats Dehak, and secondly to the people to tell them they were free. This is where the tradition of the Newroz fire originates.” [1]

The above claim is clearly fictitious intended to serve Kurds’ political agendas. The Kurdish nationalists by using a convoluted version of the Persian myth of Zahak who was not an Assyrian hope to inspire their people to rise against the cruelty of the ruling governments.[2] In doing so they portray the ancient Assyrians as cruel and the enemies of the Kurds and all other people thereby promoting hatred for the contemporary Assyrians.

To further add insult to the injury they claim their celebration of this day began in 612 B.C. which is the year when Ancient Assyrians were defeated by the combined forces of the Medes, Babylonians and the Scythians. However as we will shall see Kurd’s Newroz has nothing to do with the fall of Assyria or the Zahak’s myth. In fact the New Year they celebrate is in reality that of the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians originated in the third millennium B.C. long before there was a mention of Kurds in history. Further more March 20-21 the first day of this event is vernal equinox and has nothing to do with the fall of Nineveh which happened in August of 612 B.C.. It is unconscionable for the Kurds who are eager to portray themselves as an oppressed people to further their political agendas at the expense of the Assyrians especially because the latter have been subjected to repeated massacres by the former during the last few centuries.

Evidently Kurds acquired their knowledge of the Zahak’s myth From the Shahnameh (the Book of Kings) by the 11th century Persian poet Ferdosi who identifies the tyrant king as Arab and not Assyrian. Furthermore According to Ferdosi Zahak was killed by Feraidoun and not Kawa (Persian Kaveh). [3] After crossing the river Tigris the forces of Feraidoun “turned their faces towards the city which is now called Jerusalem, for here stood the glorious house that Zahak had built. And when they entered the city all the people rallied around Feraidoun, for they hated Zahak and looked to Feraidoun to deliver them.”[4] “And Feraidoun did as he was bidden, and led forth Zahak to the Mount Demawend [north of today’s Tehran]. And he bound him to the rock with mighty chains and nails driven into his hands, and left him to perish in agony. And the hot sun shone down upon the barren cliffs, and there was neither tree nor shrub to shelter him, and the chains entered into his flesh, and his tongue was consumed with thirst. Thus after a while the earth was delivered of Zahak the evil one, and Feraidoun reigned in his stead.” [5]

The disparities between the real story of Zahak and the one advanced by the Kurds is either due to lack of specific knowledge of the myth or is a deliberate attempt to vilify the ancient Assyrians. It is clear that Zahak’s ruling center was not in Mesopotamia and he did not die on March 21, 612 B.C. and his myth has nothing to do with the Kurds. There is always a danger in defining historical event based on myths rather than documented evidences because myths and legends can be easily perverted to satisfy the prejudices and political ambitions of the moment. The same legend can be told in different ways to indirectly vilify this or that people as the Kurds have done in this case.

While there is no documented historical evidence for when and why the Kurds began to observe their Newroz there is no doubt that they learned to celebrate it form the Persians. The Persian new year Nowrouz in addition to the Kurds is observed by the Afghans and the Persian speaking people of pakistan, India and Central Asia who were once part of that empire.

Although Persian writers have tried hard to credit the origin of their New Year to the Zoroastrian religious teachings historical evidences indicate that it was borrowed from the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians.The Assyro-babylonian new year originated during the Sumerian period in mid third millennium B.C.. It was the most important religious ceremony which was observed on the day of the spring equinox (March 20-21) considered as the day of creation and also of the rebirth of the nature. Reports by the Greek historians about Alexander the Great indicate that the Persian new year as celebrated in 330 B.C. shared common elements with that of the Assyro-Babylonians. When on the spring equinox of that year Alexander the Great participated in the Persian new year ceremonies he was asked to go through a ritual ordeal which consisted of fighting a “monstrous death demon” and emerged victorious. His participation in this event renewed his office as Ahura Mazda’s vice regent o n the earth.[6]

The fighting of the “monster of death” brings to mind the Mesopotamian creation story of “Enuma Elish” which was recited and reenacted during the Assyro-Babylonian new year.[7] The epic describes how Marduk in Babylon and Assur in Assyria battled the monster Tiamat in the beginning of time and by splitting it in half they created the heaven, the earth, the mountains, rivers and later the plants and all the living creatures. The Assyrian king Senneacherib had the event engraved at the “Bet Akitu” at Assur on a pair of copper doors. His inscription reads: “I engraved upon the gate the gods who marched in front, and the gods who marched behind him [Assur], those who ride in chariots, and those who go on foot [against] Tiamat and the creatures [that were] in her.”

The Assyrian and Babylonian king was considered as the viceroy of god on earth and every new year he had to go through a ritual which led to his dethroning by the high priest in the presence of Marduk or Assur and after confessing that he ‘had not sinned against the land and had not ignored divinity’ his crown was returned to him by the high priest and his kingship was extended for another year.[8] This concept seems to have survived among the Persians as we saw at the time of the Alexander the Great and even during the the Sassanian dynasty when the Persian kings were considered as the regent of the Ahura Mazda and referred to themselves as “Bokh” or “Minu Chehre Az Eazadon” i.e. ‘related to god’, also ‘Farah Eizadi’ i.e ‘guided by god”.[9] Bas-reliefs left behind by some Sassanian kings show them receiving their crown form the Mobed Modbedan i.e. the Zoroastrian high priest. [10]

Evidence suggest that the practice of the Sacred Marriage of the Assyro-Babylonian new year intended to insure the fertility of the land was a part of the Persian New year also.
“..the [Achaemenian] king would spend the first night of the New Year with a young woman. Any offspring produced from this union would be sent back to a temple and they would normally end up as high-ranking religious officials.” [11]

The new Year festival was canceled in Mesopotamia when the ruling King was not present in the city . Such was the case during the Nabunid period in Babylon which among other things led to the conquest of the country by the Persian king Cyrus in 539 B.C. Religious conflicts between Nabunid the last king of Babylon and the priests of Marduk had created great resentment of the population against Nabunid rule. In describing the Babylonians disappointment at his failure to participate in the New Year festival one inscription reads: On the eleventh year [of the Nabunid rule] ... ‘The King did not come to Babylon for the Ceremonies of the month Nissanu, Nabu did not come to Babylon, Bel [Marduk] did not go out in procession, the festival of the New Year was omitted..” [12]

Another inscription after the invasion of Babylon by the Persians states: “Nabunidus was heretical; he changed the details of worship. He was also an oppressor....But Bel-Marduk cast his eye over all countries, seeking for a righteous ruler.. Then he called by name cyrus, King of Anshan and pronounced him ruler of the lands.”[13]

In another inscription Cyrus declares that Marduk the great lord was pleased with his deeds and sent friendly blessings to ‘the King who worships him’ and his son Cambyses.[14] Clearly Cyrus and his son were eager to portray themselves as patrons of the Babylonian religion and way of life because the priests of Marduk had helped the Persians to conquer Babylon. Their good will would insure a peaceful rule in the future.

In 538 Cambyses the son of Cyrus was installed as the king of Babylon and on the 4th day of Nissanu [March 24 of the western calendar] he went through the historic New Year ritual of paying homage to Bell [Marduk] and Nabu thereby he was appointed officially the viceroy of Marduk in Babylon with a headquarter in Sippar.[15] This is the first mention of a Persian king participating in the celebration of the New year festival which later became to be known as Nowrouz. When Cyrus was killed on the battlefield in 530 B.C. Cambyses inherited the empire’s throne. As king of Babylon he had presided for eight previous years over the Babylonian New year celebrations which by then had been gradually passed on to the Persians.

In Persepolis or Istakhar which was founded by Cambyses and developed by Dariush along the side of the stair cases leading to the Great King’s palace carvings show various nations of the empire bringing gifts to the Persian ruler during the New Year’s celebrations. There is no historical documentation to show that either the Medes or the Persians celebrated the Spring Equinox as New Year before the conquest of Babylon.

Above mentioned facts clearly show the process by which the Assyro-Babylonian new year of the spring equinox was transferred to the Persians which the Achaemenian kings embraced. If the Persian Nowrouz had a Zoroastrian origin, as some claim, elements which were not of the Persian religion would not have been incorporated into it. Ruling nations seldom adopt the traditions of their subjects but in the Persians case Cyrus and Cambyses were eager to please the Babylonians by showing that they respected their religious practices. Since the New Year celebration was a very important event for the Babylonians during which the legitimacy of the ruler was acknowledged it was to the benefit of the early Persian kings to accept this tradition as their own. Regardless of its origin Nowrouz during the last 2,500 years has evolved into a tradition which is uniquely Persian and no longer resembles its ancient version.

Kurds undoubtedly learned form the Persians to celebrate this event which explains the similarity of name by which it is known among both people and the lack of knowledge of its origin by the former. While myths may have been enough for the primitive societies to explain important events in their life in today’s world nothing less than documented facts will do. The Kurds' attempt to explain their new year, or so-called “National Day” based on a questionable myth is not only out of step with reality but also improper because it is meant to deceive people and promote hatred against the Assyrians who in the past have been persecuted by their neighbors including the Kurds primarily because of their christian faith. During the last few decades Kurds have changed their predatory practices against their Assyrian neighbors but the myth of Zahak falsified by them to explain their new year threatens to transform their former religious intolerance against the Assyrians into a form of permanent national hatred celebrated annually.


1- (Newroz @ http://homepages.tig.com.au/~simko/newroz.html May 2004)
2- (Tahiri, Hussein “Is Newroz the Kurdish national day?”, @ http://www.kurdmedia.com/reports.asp?id=133)
3- (Ferdosi, “Shah-Nameh”, Moasseseh Chaap was Entesharrat Ameir Kabeir, Tehran Iran, Chaape sevome 1344 pp.28-35.)
4- (http://www.farhangsara.com/shanhnameh_shahsofold3.htm)
5- (ibid)
6- (Green, Peter “Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 N.C. A historical biography” copyright 1991, p. 314.)
7- (Alexander Heidel, “The Babylonian Genesis, The Story of Creation”, The University of Chicago Press 1951 pp. 16-17.)
8- (Grankfort, Henri “Kingship and the Gods, as Study of the ancient Near Eastern religions”, Chicago University Press 1948 p.320)
9- (Nafissi, Saeid “Masseheyat Dar Iran”, Noor Jahan Tehran, Iran 1964 pp. 40-41)
10- (ibid p.41)
11- (Massoume, “Iranian New Year Nowruz”, @ http://persia.org/Culture/nowruz.html, May 2004)
12- (Pritchard, James B. “The Ancient Near East, An Anthology of Texts and Pictures”, Oxford University Press, London 1958 p.204)
13- (Burn, Andrew Robert “Persia and the Greeks, the Defense of the West 546-478 B.C.”, Stm Marin’s Press, Inc. 1968 p. 58.)
14- (Prichard p.207)
15- (Burn p. 58)

An Editorial

The Mardin Rendezvous

Ali Bulac
Zaman Newspaper
15 May 2004

The second of the 'inter-religions dialogue' meetings, after the first one held in Harran, Urfa four years ago, took place in Mardin. The opening of the second meeting, entitled, "Inter-Cultural Dialogue/Mardin Meeting," was held in Kasimiyye Madrasah, Mardin and ended with a tour of Mardin city center, Midyat and Nusaybin. The symposium session of the meeting continues today and tomorrow in Istanbul.

Holding the first two meetings in Harran and Mardin has a meaning. In the first meeting, the religious and historical framework under which the three celestial religions should come together around was taken up. Prophet Abraham was determined as the common ancestor, and a general consensus was reached by the followers of the three religions on the common standard. Therefore, the first meeting was a theoretical search in a sense. But of course, it is a 'practical issue' how the followers of different religions will come together, how they will view the serious crises that our world, and particularly our region, have passed through, and on what effective level they will convey messages of peace and cooperation. If a targeted thought had not been implemented at first, concrete possibilities are being sought for the realization of this theory. A concrete possibility is directly related to time and experience. Whereas, we had a concrete living example of this issue, and that is the crucial experience of the different ethnic and religious groups that lived together in Mardin for hundreds of years.

Mardin has come to agenda in recent years for various reasons. Mardin is a concrete example of how to live together without clashes in our world, where the clashes are growing more violent, and gradually moving towards destructive dimensions; it is an epitome of a living tradition. Even though the Jewish population emigrated to other places from the beginning of the first quarter of this century, there is still a 'Jewish neighborhood' in people's minds. Assyrians still maintain their existence with various sects. Besides, it is possible to see the influence of the different cultures in the architectures and stone carvings in the city. From this angle, it was very appropriate to choose Mardin to host this year's meeting. In addition, local and international guests touring the city could not hide their astonishment and admiration. Some said, "We did not think that there could be a such city keeping these cultures alive."

The organization was perfect. However, both in Mardin and Midyat as well as Nusaybin, Assyrian churches and historical sites were somehow brought to the fore. It is certain that there are very many important Assyrian sites in Mardin; everybody is proud of protecting and carrying them to this day. However, there are also as many Islamic historical sites, even more than the others. Mardin came under the rule of Islam in the early ages. Muslims embarked on tracing history during the era stretching from the Emevis to the Ottomans. From mosques to madrasahs, from bazaars to hamams... The Mardin Ulu Mosque, Sehidiye Mosque, Latifiye Mosque, Zinciriye Madrasah and many other important masterpieces. Somehow, none of them were put in the program and some Muslim participants, for example Istanbul Mufti Mustaf Cagrici, said that they could not see the Islamic traces even though they had wished to, and thus they were saddened. Some conveyed their complaints to me personally. They said, "It was as if we walked around an Assyrian church. We couldn't see anything except the Christian motifs." If the concrete examples of the fact that religions can live peacefully together were to be shown, the sites of the two religions should have been put in the program and we should have been shown the traditions of both religions.

At the moment, we should dwell upon the dialogue issue that is facing a serious problem, rather than on the trouble about the visit to Mardin considered as a rendezvous point of religions. I hope the symposium, in which I will participate with a paper presentation, will open up new horizons and bring new approaches. I will continue this issue with two more writings.


The Chariot
Back to the Future

Assyria in the Face of History

Ninos Isaac

No one felt sorry for the Assyrians. They were a violent people, and other nations despised them ... Their last king, Ashurbanipal liked to hunt. Earlier kings had hunted for food, but Ashurbanipal hunted for fun ... [The Assyrians] taxed the people they conquered. However, sometimes the Assyrians were so destructive there wasn't anyone left to tax ... If a city was captured its people were treated mercilessly. Sometimes they were forced to become slaves. Other times they were murdered. The Assyrians also prided themselves on destroying the temples, tombs and holy places of their enemies. (The Ancient World, Chief Historical Advisor: Alvin Bernstein).

This passage is taken from a history textbook approved for use in the Turlock School District, although the book is used statewide. Clearly, it is biased. The author frequently utilizes value-laden statements which cannot be proven. He substitutes his own subjective viewpoint for that of a neutral description of historical events. This is apparent when he insists that the Assyrians were "despised," "violent," "so destructive," "merciless," murderous, and that they "prided themselves on destroying." Equally offensive is the historical inaccuracy. For example, the author believes that Ashurbanipal was our last king! He is wrong. The kings Ashuretililani and Sinsharishkin consecutively ruled Assyria from 630 BC to 612 BC ... after Ashurbanipal! After the fall of Nineveh to the Babylonians and Medes, there was also another Assyrian king, Ashuruballit II. He ruled from Harran, which was west of Assyria, until 609 BC. Allied with the Egyptians, he made a last stand against the Medes and Babylonians at Carchemish. There were actually later Assyrian kings too. However, Ashuruballit II was the last king of the ancient Assyrian empire, not Ashurbanipal (which is the author's ignorant implication here)!

The remark about excessive taxation by the Assyrians is quite misleading. It is evident from the reports of later Assyrian kings that when the Assyrians conquered a particular peoples, they levied a tax on those inhabitants. Interestingly, the tax levied on those people was most often the same amount as was levied on natives of Assyria. Tiglath-Pileser III, for example, declares that "a tribute like that of the Assyrians I laid upon them [the Judeans]." An exception to this was when a serious revolt had taken place and the King wished to make an example of the rebel city or state by imposing a particularly burdensome level of tribute. Examples of both of these occurrences are witnessed throughout Assyrian royal inscriptions. Very rarely did Assyrians destroy entire populations, as is implied here. They most often pardoned rebellious people, sometimes deported them, but almost always cared for them.

Prejudiced and unscholarly textbooks such as the one above serve to undermine our children's sense of cultural identity. Our national identity is preserved through our language and history. We need to have a strong appreciation (and sense of pride) for both. When blatant mistruths are woven into the malleable minds of our youth, our cultural identity is being destroyed at the very root. This absurd propaganda must therefore stop, and it is we who must stop it. As an Assyrian scholar, I want to play a small part in the defense of my history by investigating our ancient history and demonstrating that a close reading of the scholarly evidence clearly indicates that ancient Assyria was indeed a great civilization, and perhaps one that has yet to be equaled. The imperial policy of the Assyrians was not barbaric, but visionary. Although the Assyrians were a militaristic nation who at certain times resorted to tough measures, they were defenders, not destroyers, of civilization and culture. There were many facets of their political society which demonstrated this.

Assyrians were the Earliest Advocates of Free Trade

Trade is a key attribute of any civilized society, and the Assyrians (more than any other nation of the region) had a distinct history of promoting free trade throughout the ancient Near East stretching as far back as 2000 BC. First, Assyrian merchant colonies were at the forefront of international trading activity in ancient Mesopotamia. At least 14,000 cuneiform tablets indicate that businesses in Ashur retained commercial representatives in far-away places such as Turkey. Second, the earliest kings of Ashur, such as Illushuma and Erishum I, declared that one of their primary accomplishments had been the abolishment of inter-state taxation. Assyrian kings valued free trade, and were reluctant to intervene in the domestic economy as well. There is no record that any king ever instituted price controls. Rather, they sought to maintain a pure market economy. Accordingly, Assyrian business contracts frequently make reference to the amount repayable to the creditor to be set at whatever happens to be "the current price in Nineveh."

Assyrians were neither isolationist nor primitive in their understanding of economics. Inasmuch as we in the West today accept international trade as an essential element of life, so did they. The Assyrians were the first known proponents of an international, free market system. Their heavy emphasis on trading never stopped, and it comes as no surprise when a prophet of the Bible (in Nahum 3: 16) declares (as a reason for the ultimate fall of Assyria) that "you increased your merchants more than the stars of the heavens."

Cultural Diversity: An Assyrian Invention

The Assyrian mindset, which sought to apply the principle of multiculturalism in ancient times, was visionary. Whereas the God of Israel had insisted that his people not mix with other peoples, Assur (Chief of the Assyrian pantheon) wanted all to share together in the richness of the empire, irrespective of the individual's color, creed or national origin. Racial purity was a conception which was immaterial, even hostile, to the Assyrians. This is demonstrated quite lucidly in the commentaries of the Assyrian kings. For example, when Ashurnasirpal II built a new capital city at Nimrud he decided to populate that key city not with native Assyrians, but rather with "people which I had conquered from the lands over which I had gained dominion." Likewise, when Sargon II sought to populate his new city at Dur Sharrukin, he tells us that he spent many long hours contemplating whom he should settle there. "To settle that city ... day and night I planned," says Sargon. Finally, he decided that this, his most prized Assyrian city, would be made home to a host of different nationalities:

Peoples of the four regions (of the world), of foreign tongue and divergent speech, dwellers of mountain and lowland ... I unified them and settled them therein. Assyrians, fully competent to teach them how to fear god and the king, I dispatched to them.

There are few passages in the royal annals which illustrate (what one might call) the global consciousness of the Assyrians as succinctly as Sargon's testimony here. The Assyrians took great pride in the fact that they were a nation not a race. One could actually become an Assyrian. All one had to do was respect god and king.

The Assyrian deportation of the northern kingdom of Israel occurred between the reigns of Shalmaneser V and Sargon II (at around 720 BC). The Israelites were settled in north-western Mesopotamia. As the Bible intimates (and as history confirms), they were completely assimilated into Assyrian culture, effectively vanishing from history as a particularized ethnicity. Their successful absorption was partly a consequence of the fact that the Assyrians attempted to relocate the whole community to an environment which was similar to their original homeland. Their integration was made less difficult because the Assyrians themselves were free of an ethnocentrism that typified other countries of the era. It is worthwhile to briefly contrast the deportation policy of the Assyrian Empire with that of the later Babylonian Empire. The Babylonians, under Nebuchadrezzar were responsible for the exile of the Jews from Judah. It is interesting to note the failure of the Judeans (unlike the Israelites) to assimilate fully within the local community. Many eventually returned to Jerusalem. This comparison reflects kindly on the Assyrians, for it demonstrates that they were much more readily accepting of different cultures.

The Assyrians: A Religious People

Not only were the Assyrians and their kings sensitive to ethnic diversity but they were also a pious people, who manifested a surprisingly unflappable belief in the importance of a freedom of religion. Although Assyrian religion was both monotheistic and polytheistic, one should not therefore conclude that Assyrians worshipped graven images. The Assyrian gods were rarely portrayed in physical form, and those who believed in one god, called Him Assur. The Assyrian religious sculptures which we are most familiar with (such as winged bulls and eagle-headed men) were not gods, but protective genies. Assyrians understood their gods to exist in the spiritual realm.

Unlike most kings of ancient civilizations, the Assyrian sovereign did not claim to be divine. Rather, he viewed himself as the gods' official representative on earth. This meant that Assur was actually the true regent while his steward, the secular ruler, was "vice-regent." The ruler exercised religious authority over Assyria, on behalf of the deity. Kings of Assyria, therefore, gave themselves such titles as "prefect," "shepherd," and "high priest" of Assur. In fact, it was not until the reign of Ashur-Uballit I that Assyrian kings actually began to refer to themselves as 'kings' in royal inscriptions! Prior to that date, each sovereign had held piously to the tradition of referring to himself only as a servant of the true king, Assur. The oldest records that we possess indicate that a great proportion of those kings' energies were spent renovating the temples of Assur, Ishtar and other deities. The Assyrian rulers were both mindful and respectful of the will of the gods.

Kings not only paid homage to their supernatural leaders, but actively sought guidance from them. There are references by almost all kings for whom we have records that the gods were consulted on all important issues. For example, a king would typically request that the oracle gods indicate a favorable day for the deployment of the army. A weightier question was laid before the gods when a king sought to determine his successor. The heir was always a son of the king, although it was not necessarily the eldest. The wisdom of the gods was solicited. Which of the royal princes did the gods favor? The reply of the gods led to a decision that was binding. Esarhaddon (680-669), for example, was selected as heir to Sennacherib, in spite of the fact that he had two older brothers. He discusses his accession to the throne saying,

I was still a youth, when at the command of Assur, Shamash, Bêl and Nabû, Ishtar of Nineveh and Ishtar of Arbela, the father who begot me [Sennacherib] ... solemnly lifted up my head and concerning my right to succession to rulership, he inquired of Shamash and Adad [the Oracle gods]. A positive answer they gave him, saying : "He is your successor." He honored their weighty word and gathered together the people of Assyria ... my brothers ... before ... the gods of Assyria ... [and] he made them take solemn oath, in their name, to guard my accession to power.

The Religious Tolerance of Assyria

In spite of the fact that the Assyrian state itself espoused a certain set of polytheistic beliefs, it was completely willing to accommodate the religious predilections of others (which might include monotheists, polytheists who believed in a different pantheon). A good illustration of the respect afforded by the Assyrians for gods of other nations can be found in the Bible. Subsequent to the Israeli Deportation, the Samaritans (the mix of races now dwelling in the various cities of Samaria) had complained to the Assyrian King that: "The nations which thou hast removed and placed in the cities of Samaria, know not the manner of the God of the land; [and] therefore he hath sent lions among them." Lions were a serious threat to people throughout the ancient Near East, so the king of Assyria reacted to the concern of the Samaritans by commanding his official to "carry thither one of the [Jewish] priests whom ye brought from thence; and let them go and dwell there, and let him teach them the manner of the God of the land. Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD." (2 Kings 17: 26-28).

The Assyrian king here had not only exercised deference and respect for the will of the new inhabitants of Samaria, but he had demonstrated a pious regard for a God that was not even his own. This account indicates the incomparable civility of the Assyrians. Would any other contemporary religious culture have accorded a foreign country such high consideration for the religious tradition of their land?


The Assyrians then were neither barbarians nor barbaric; first, the true barbarians of the age were the wandering nomads of the mountains and deserts, who plundered the lands of Mesopotamian states. Second, the so-called atrocities of the Assyrians should not be viewed through the lenses of modern society. War and the vices of war permeated the ancient world. Therefore, what we would now consider to be ruthless cruelty, such as the dismemberment of bodily parts, was common practice in ancient times. In reality, the old world was a cruel world. All nations, including the two kingdoms of Israel committed such acts. For example, the Bible informs us that Joshua and the Israelites hung the King of Ai from a tree until sundown, after which the carcass was taken down and cast at the gate of the city, prior to a heap of stones being raised on the rotting body. In fact, Joshua utterly destroyed all of the inhabitants of such cities as Jericho, Ai, Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, Hebron and Debir. Even women and children were not spared.

Nicholas Postgate, Director of the British Archaeological Expedition to Iraq, maintains that there is no evidence to indicate that the Assyrians were any more cruel than their contemporaries; the only difference, he insists, is that the Assyrians thought fit to record their acts of cruelty. Even Postgate misses the point that our bas-reliefs have delivered a distorted view of our culture. This is the point which The Chariot will continue to drive home.

At this juncture, it becomes worthwhile to note some specific contributions of Assyrian kings to civilized society. When Ashurbanipal decided to gather together over 20,000 Mesopotamian tablets and fragments he established the first ever-recorded library. This systematically-organized library at Nineveh has become our chief source of knowledge for Mesopotamian art, literature, religion, history and culture. Assyrian monarchs also undertook major building projects. Ashurnasirpal II and Sargon II built entirely new cities at Nimrud and Dûr-Sharrukin respectively. Full accounts of each construction project are given by the kings in their inscriptions, including how they engineered canals to water the land around each of these cities. Sennacherib's extensive construction of canals and aqueducts around Nineveh is a marvel of civil engineering. Part of it is depicted on a bas-relief, and may be viewed today at the British Museum. At Nineveh, Sennacherib used some of the available irrigation water for his botanical gardens, where he grew exotic trees and plants. Nature preserves and safari parks, in which rare species of animals were introduced, were not atypical creations. The Assyrians, having conducted extensive developments of their natural resources, became masters of their environment.

To determine the character of an entire empire then, without a thorough consideration for the policies of individual rulers is to make presumptuous claims to knowledge. Some monarchs could be quite rough, whereas others were comparatively merciful. This is nowhere more evident than in Assyro-Babylonian relations. Sennacherib devastated Babylon as revenge for the ransoming of his son to the Elamites. In turn, Esarhaddon rebuilt all of the Babylonian temples and cities that had been leveled by his father. While many other kings relied heavily on their own abilities and intuitions, Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal were both highly religious kings, who constantly sought the will of the gods. They kept the diviners and priests very busy.

Given what has been said here about the advanced state of affairs with respect to international trade, ethnic diversity and religious tolerance, why have the Assyrians received such negative reviews from the Judeo-Christian culture of the West? There is no definitive answer without extensive methodological research. Here we may only speculate as to the cause. Perhaps it is a consequence of our predisposition to the biblical tradition that has sensitized us to the plight of 'God's chosen people,' the Jews. Consequently, it is the Assyrians (who as conquerors of the biblical lands) assume the role of villain. Add to this the depiction of war on the bas-reliefs, and we have the recipe for unfounded prejudice. One should also bear in mind that the kings of the Neo-Assyrian empire documented their exploits in great detail, whereas relatively speaking, their contemporaries recorded very little. In so doing, the Assyrians are the ones who allowed themselves to become vulnerable to criticism.

I have nowhere denied that the Assyrians were imperialistic. Neither have I denied that conquered peoples were abridged their freedom by being forced to relocate, nor do I refute the harsh treatment of enemy ringleaders. What I have explicitly rejected is the belief that the Assyrians were barbarians. The Assyrians were in fact the standard-bearers for civilization and culture in ancient times. They administered vassal states with justice, fairness and firmness. They were remarkably tolerant of diverse nationalities and religions. Their use of direct military force was always circumspect, rather than impetuous, always calculated, rather than mindless. And most of all, they tried to act not in their own interest but according to the will of the gods. In summary, the Assyrian empire was a new world order, and a new model army guarded it.

Thank You
Zinda Magazine thanks the following individuals for their contribution in the preparation of this week's issue.

Dr. Matay Arsan (Holland)
Hanna Chamoun (Holland)
David Chibo (Australia)
Tomas Isik (Sweden)
Pauline Jasim (Baghdad)
Petr Kubalek (Czech Republic)

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