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Volume X

Issue 28

31 August 2004


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The Ziggurat!

Representatives of the Kaliningrad Assyrian community discuss their language and culture at a morning television program.

This Week in Zinda
  The Next AANF President Wilfred Bet-Alkhas (Editor)

Youra Eshaya, the "Desert Footballer"

Hassanin Mubarak

Guards Living in Turkey's Assyrian Villages Refuse to Leave


Assyrian Man Arrested in Chicago for Spying for Saddam
The Last Assyrians, in English, will be shown in Lebanon

  The Arrest in Chicago
It's Time to Protest in front of the White House
Are We Moving in the Right Direction?
The Great Assyrian-Iraqi Football Players of the Past

Gewargis Butta (California)
Martin Givargis (Virginia)
Ninos Lazar (California)
Jacob David (Ohio)

  9th Syriac Symposium


  Days of Plunder
A Kurdish Revolt in 1963
Zainab Bahrani
Stavros T. Stavridis
  Assyrians of Kaliningrad Discuss Culture on Russian TV Irina Kolesnikova (Russia)
Zinda Says
An Editorial

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

The Next Assyrian American National Federation President

Wilfred Bet-Alkhas

On Thursday, the short but effective process of the election of the next president of the Assyrian American National Federation will commence in San Jose, California. Some 100 or more delegates from more than thirty Assyrian affiliates of this 71-year-old Assyrian-American institution will gather next Sunday and elect one from among themselves to represent the Assyrian-Americans in the next two crucial years.

The bargaining, bickerings and the late-night maneuvers will go on for three days inside the convention halls and upstairs in the hotel suites. Supporters of each candidate will try to convince the delegates of the undecided affiliates to cast their vote in their favor.

This year, three names appear on the presidential ticket. The winner of this year’s election will replace the two-term current AANF president, Mr. Atour Golani of Detroit, Michigan.  The three individuals, all from Chicago, are Dr. Audisho Khoshaba, Mr. Alladin Khamis, and Mr. Mark Thomas.

The week before every presidential election, Zinda Magazine’s editorial staff endorses one candidate on the basis of his or her character, past accomplishments, and future vision. This year, Zinda Magazine endorses Mr. Mark Thomas to effectively discharge the duties and functions of the the president of the Assyrian American National Federation.

Mr. Thomas can be called the “Federation Child”.  He has spent much of his adult life as an affiliate member, a delegate, executive member, and consul to the AANF.  His grandfather, Jacob Waldo, was a past president between 1958 and 1960. His paternal grandfather built the first Assyrian church in Flint, Michigan. When Mark was 13, there existed only two Assyrian clubs in Chicago. Today there are 14. 

Three years ago, Mr. Thomas introduced a new legislation to curb the voting power of the inactive and less populous Assyrian organizations in America. Today, an organization as large and wealthy as the Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock has the same voting power as the Assyrian American Association of San Francisco which perhaps holds a total membership roster of less than five individuals. Certain groups in the Midwestern and Eastern regions have been nicknamed the “Wives’ Clubs”, as their members consisted of the wives of the executive members of other organizations who brazenly pursued the establishment of more clubs to increase their voting powers.  Mark Thomas hopes to remove this inequality during his term in office.

Mr. Thomas is an immigration attorney and believes the Assyrians can accomplish more by working with the U.S. Congress and the United Nations. He believes the education of the Assyrian people and the world about ourselves and by ourselves is an important step toward accomplishing such a task.

“I want to open the Federation to every Assyrian in America. I want to have a one person-one vote system. If we get 10,000 people at a convention we should be attracting the best and the brightest of our nation and not the same faces we see yearly,” commented Mr. Thomas recently to Zinda Magazine.  Mr. Thomas is a proponent of de-centralization of power within the federation, distributing the voting and decision-making power all through the clubs across the country. “The civic organizations must be strong so that the Federation can be strong,” says Mr. Thomas.

On educating the young, Mr. Thomas believes in establishing Assyrian studies programs at major universities across the USA. “I want to have the AANF come up with a standard educational program for our children and have the affiliates teach the language, heritage and culture of our people – past and present. Our people were great in 2600 BC, but I think Walter Shabaz's invention of the lunar landing vehicle is significant too.”

Mr. Thomas graduated from University of Michigan in 1973 as a Masters Candidate and the Thomas Cooley Law School in 1978. Between 1979 and 1981 he was an Executive Director at the AUA Foundation.  He is licnesced to practice law in Michigan and Illinois and seven federal courts.  Since 1981 he has had a private law practice and served either as legal counsel or C&B Chairman from 1988 to present.  Mr. Thomas was a past president of the Assyrian Student Association for two terms:  1970-71 and 1971-72

On assisting the Assyrians in Iraq, Mr. Thomas commented: “I want to lobby, lobby, lobby, the U.S. Congress for money to rebuild our churches and villages in Iraq. I believe if we form an economy in Iraq and provide work and homes for our people and a safe and stable environment, they will not leave. I want to push for the implementation and guarantee of Article 53D that secures the administrative, political and cultural rights of Assyrians in northern Iraq…How can we seek a Bet-Nahrain, if we continue to leave our homeland. I also want congress to pass new INS laws to grant amnesty and humanitarian relief to all Christians from Iraq now in the USA whose asylum cases have been denied because Saddam is nor longer in power.”

Mr. Thomas, in response to the “name issue” commented: “I believe the issue of the Chaldo-Assyrian name or whatever name our people choose should be decided by our children and grandchildren who will live on the plains of Nineveh. They, not us, must decide who we are and what will become of our people there. We only need to supply the money and political support for them.”

On the topic of unity among all Syriac-speaking groups, Mr. Thomas strongly believes in first finding some common grounds that offer immediate benefits: “I want to forge an alliance with the Chaldeans and Jacobites, not by insisting that we must all be Assyrian, but through economics to rebuild our communities in Iraq and resettle our people on the land.”

* * * * *

Mr. Thomas, unlike his opponent – Alladin Khamis who has lost sight of what is good for the Assyrians in the U.S. - is far removed from the Assyrian political jungle and unlike his other opponent, Dr. Khoshaba, has been engaged over the years in getting the Federation a status and an image and a sense of dignity. As a consul to the Federation, Mr. Thomas has been able to advise and caution the affiliates when things were appearing to go out of control.

Mr. Thomas even had a challenge for our staff and our active readers: “I want an editorial staff to challenge the news agencies here to stop calling our people, Christian Kurds and Christian Arabs, and recognize us for what we are.”

Mr. Thomas concluded his comments to Zinda Magazine in an emotional tenor: “I am not a rich personal injury attorney. I do Immigration, because I affect the lives of people for generations to come. I love my people and love this federation. I believe it is the most viable organization for all Assyrians in America and want it to represent all Assyrians not just a few families who decide to start a club locally.”

Mark Thomas is a unique product of a composite Assyrian-American culture — a person imbibed with the American values for freedom and democracy, and consciously adhering to the Assyrian family values and unity.  In a post-Saddam world the Assyrian-Americans deserve the service of a federation president who can provide leadership of the highest quality and earn a name and recognition for the hard-working men and women of Assyrian descent in this country. No words can fairly describe the significance of this year’s AANF presidential elections. Assyrian-Americans deserve an articulate representative who can convincingly embody their aspirations in the U.S. and in the Middle East.  Let us hope that the delegates at this year’s convention will not fall victim to peer-pressure and vote with honesty and dignity for a qualified candidate. Mr. Mark Thomas, Zinda Magazine believes, is the right choice at the right time.

The Lighthouse
Feature Article(s)
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Youra Eshaya, the "Desert Footballer"

Hassanin Mubarak
Iraqi Sports Online
27 August 2004

On August 27, 1954, Youra Eshaya, a 19 year-old youngster dubbed the ‘Desert Footballer’ by the Daily Mirror put on his boots, laced them up and kicked a ball on a grass pitch for the first time. He’d come from Habbaniya, Iraq traveling 3390 miles on land, sea and foot, all to play football for Bristol Rovers Football Club.

The talented attacker became the first Iraqi player to parade his skills abroad and in Europe, when he was spotted playing for an R.A.F Iraq Command team by an English football scout, who offered him a trial at his club. Youra grew up on the big RAF Station in Habbaniya, in the heart of the Iraqi desert, where his father was employed by the British Royal Armed Forces; it was there that the young man would learn to play the great game of football, watching, learning and competing alongside English soldiers, some of whom had professional experience in the English Football League. By the age of 18, he was already the star of the Habbaniya station side, a select team that played various other military teams in the Middle East, and was even named "Iraq's Greatest Footballer" by The Iraq Times newspaper in 1952 but Youra was destined for more. He was born in Iran in 1933, one of six children of Eshaya Pera and Batishwa Benyamin, 4 sisters Peeda, Amelda, Leeda, who died in January 1978, and Joan and his only brother Shora, who died in his early teens in July 1959 after drowning in the River Tigris in Baghdad. During the mid-30s his family moved to Iraq and settled in Maharatha Lines in Hinaidi in the outskirts of Baghdad, where Youra's father found work in a NAAFI (Navy, Army & Air Force Institutes) canteen, a commercial supply corporation for the British Military Services. Youra’s family were Assyrians, descendants of the Assyrian empire in the Middle East from 2500-612 BC in Northern Mesopotamia (Now Iraq), which at its greatest stretched from the Eastern Mediterranean coast to the head of the Persian Gulf and included Egypt. From around 100 AD, Christianity became a major factor strengthening the ethnicity of the Assyrians, which later brought them in the centre of the power-struggles in the Middle East during the 19th century with the Europeans exploiting the fact that Assyrians were Christians. This was unpopular with the Turkish authority and resulted in repression. Around the First World War some 500,000 Assyrians were killed by Turks and Kurds, and many like Youra’s family fled to neighbouring countries.

Youra Eshaya

After the end of WW1, the Turks were defeated resulting in the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire, the British were given the mandate to rule the 3 Vilayets or provinces of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra, which all molded together what is now known as Iraq. In 1920, with the British Empire facing a financial crisis after the end of the Great War, the Minister of War and Air Winston Churchill asked the Chief of the Air Staff Hugh Trenchard to draw up a plan for Iraq to be controlled cheaply with aircraft armed with gas bombs supported by as few as 4,000 British and 10,000 Indian troops. Months later a uprising across many parts of the country broke out, which was suppressed through months of heavy aerial bombardment, including the use of mustard gas. Both Churchill and Trenchard tried to put the most favorable light upon actions of the Royal Air Force to the British parliament and public but at least one military officer resigned. One Air Commander Lionel Charlton resigned after sending a letter of protest over the “policy of intimidation by bomb” after he visited an Iraqi hospital filled with injured civilians. At the time the British Army controlled Iraq, but after a proposal from Major General Sir Hugh Trenchard would see the RAF control the country at a fraction of the price of the Army. In 1922, AVM Sir John Salmond took over with 8 Squadrons of aircraft, RAF Armoured Cars and the Iraq Levies.They were based at Hinaidi cantonment on the outskirts of Baghdad and with other airfields, at Mosul and Shaiba in the southern city of Basra. The Kingdom of Iraq became independent in 1931 and although heavily influenced and controlled by the British, it was not seen as acceptable to have an RAF station in the Iraqi capital Baghdad so blueprints were drawn up to build a major base west of the Euphrates.The site was chosen because there was water from the Euphrates, a flat area for the airfield and the lake for flying boats and recreation. It was also considered an ideal defensive position but how wrong that proved to be in May 1941, when Iraqi forces attacked the station. Construction in 1934, the camp was originally known as RAF Dhibban after the nearby village but as this translated into Arabic word for flies the name was changed in May 1938 to RAF Habbaniya. The first operational use of the airfield was in October 1938 when 30 Squadron moved in and then all the various units at Hinaidi transferred to Habbaniya with the station fully open from March 1937.

In 1937, the four year-old Youra moved to Habbaniya with his family to live on the Civil Cantonment along with the rest of the Hinaidi civilians employed by the Royal Air Force. The cantonment was a town within a town at RAF Habbaniya with over 10,000 residents. They were included civilian workers, RAF Iraqi Levies and their families. There Youra started playing football at Raabi Yacoub's R.A.F. Union School, kicking a tennis ball with his classmates around the playground. He first studied the great game with the aid of text-books and gradually began to hone his natural talents and dribbling skills. Every morning his friends would knock on No.C2/149 to ask if Youra wanted to play football. The friends, who like Youra later went onto play for top teams in Iraq lived only a few blocks from each other Armenak Goujo lived only a block behind Youra’s house along with Zia Shawel, Albert Khoshaba, Hormis Goriel, Gilbert Awekam, Shidrak Yousif and his brother Ammo. Ammo Baba, lived the furthest, around 10 minutes walk from the others. The youngster played for his school team and was hardly into his teens when observant eyes began to notice him giving captain Aram Karam no choice but to select him to play for his Levy Civilian team at the age of just 15. Aram was one of the most accomplished footballers to have ever come from Iraq and a big star in Habbaniya. He began his career in 1936 playing for local teams on the RAF Hinaidi in Baghdad, today known as Al-Rasheed. He later moved to Habbaniya joining the C.C. team, one of the strongest at the RAF base. After the team was disbanded in 1947, Aram went onto play for and captain the newly formed Levy Civilian. He was distinguished from other players in Iraq because of his uncanny ability of scoring goals from seemingly impossible long range distances of up to 40 yards with either foot. In 1951, Aram was one of 16 players to be selected to play for Iraq’s first ever national team by coach Dhia Habib. He missed Iraq’s first international game against Turkey in Izmir on May 6, which ended 7-0 to the hosts, but competed in the second game six days later against Ankara Select. He proved to be a valuable player on the day as he scored Iraq’s first goal and ended the game with a hat-trick but was unable to prevent a 7-5 defeat. At around the same time, the C.C select team was formed in Habbaniya, this team achieved respectable results over top sides from Baghdad including the Police team, Air Force and the Royal Guards. In 1952, Aram moved to Kirkuk in the province of Al-Tamim and signed for a newly formed team called the Iraqi Petroleum Company of Kirkuk. Aram was captain and head coach of the Oil Company team and under his leadership, the team won six consecutive titles in the Middle East Oil Companies Championships while also winning the 1954 northern Iraqi championship. He was a quick and commanding player and an outstanding dead-ball specialist; his penalty kicks were so powerful that many say they could tear holes out of the nets. In 1960, he retired and was appointed as head of sport in the pipeline areas of the Iraqi Petroleum Company and also worked as a coach for the junior side. Additionally, Aram was a great asset as an advisor to the Iraqi FA in the selection of the national team. Apart from football, Aram was also an accomplished tennis player, winning six consecutive titles in the Persian Gulf Tennis Championships. The great striker, who emigrated to Turlock, US in 1992, scored nearly 600 goals in a long and distinguished career.

During the same season while playing for the Levy Civilian, Youra also captained the junior team of the R.A.F. Employees' (Assyrian) Club, which won the R.A.F. F.A. Youth Cup. Realising his talent and potential, the Employees' Club snatched him for the following season. In his first season, Youra won the R.A.F. Football Association League and Knock-out competitions alongside Captain Hormis Goriel and the Shimson Shallou brothers Sargis and William. While playing, Youra continued to work as a clerk for the R.A.F. and play for the Employees' Club and the Civil Cantonment (C.C.) select team alongside Ammo Baba, Aram Karam and many others. Youra was not only a great footballer but also an all-round sportsmen, a keen table-tennis player, he won the Employees' Club championship in season 1951-52 and also played hockey and even boxed, winning his first boxing bout in 1952.During his time in Habbaniya, Youra, made a big impact, creating a reputation for himself as one of the teams best attacking players and also an irrepressible prodigy and matchwinner during the early 50s. A year after making his debut for the Employees’ team, he was selected to represent the famous C.C.team(Civil Cantonment), a team that represented people living on the Civil Cantonment in Habbaniya, the team made up Assyrians, Armenians, Arabs and Kurds from Employees’Club, Levy Civilian, A.M.W.D (Air Ministry Works Directorate) and Oriental, the latter made up of Kurds and Arabs, participating in the RAF league in Habbaniya. The team played with Iraq's elite clubs such as Baghdad based teams Police (Al-Shurta), Air Force (Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya) and the Royal Guards (Haris Al-Maliki) and featured players like Edison Eshay, Aram Karam, Ammo Samsom,Youel Gorgis, Zia Shawel and was led by Employees captain Hormis Goriel. With the defender as leader, the team dominated during it’s short-lived existence.

The first C.C team was created of various Assyrian and a few Kurdish and Arab players of disbanded local teams, such as Eagles, Tigers, Arsenal and Blackpool, which was later dispersed in 1947 to form other teams. In 1951, the C.C select team was put together from the crop of top players from the Employees, Levy Civilians, A.M.W.D., and Oriental, the latter of Kurds and Arabs. The former R.A.F. Station of Habbaniya in Iraq was the breeding ground during its two-decade era during the 40s and 50s for many outstanding Assyrian sportsmen, a few of whom later on went to become top sportsmen in Iraq. Players like Aram Karam, Albert Khoshaba, Khoshaba Lawo, Gilbert Sami, Edison Eshay and Ammo Samson, who both played for the Air Force Club and Iraqi national team, Iraqi international Zia Shawel, who captained and coached the Assyrian Sports Club (Nadi Athori) during the mid-50s after starting his career in Habbaniya went onto play in Basra, Baghdad and then Frankfurt, West Germany, where he played for Eintracht Frankfurt amauters for a season in 1961-62, before coaching a local amateur team called Kelsterbach for 5 years. All these players and many more started at the R.A.F Station in Habbaniya before making it big with the Iraqi national team and with the more successful Baghdad clubs. The biggest star to come out of Habbaniya was Ammo Baba, who had a successful career with number of Baghdad clubs and the Iraqi national team. Ammo was born in the R.A.F. Station Hinaidi in Baghdad, later on went to coach the Iraqi national team to two Olympic finals, 2 Gulf Cup victories and 2 CISM World Military Championship. Even after the 1950s, players like the Yousef brothers Shidrak and Ammo who grew up in Habbaniya and played for the successful C.C. select team continued to have success with the Iraqi national team in the 70s, with both players winning the 1972 CISM World Military Championship in Baghdad and also participating in Iraq's 1st ever World Cup qualifying campaign in Australia in 1973.

Youra's progress was rapid and in his first three years in the Employees' 1st team, he out-shone the rest of the players on the R.A.F. Station. He loved football and played the game with magnificent enthusiasm, he was a player full of energy and worked hard for his team. He was a constructive player, unselfish, moving all over the field, collecting and distributing the ball, creating scoring chances for his fellow-forwards. Youra was never an out and out forward and was always very unselfish in front of goal often passing to a better-placed team-mate even in the penalty area rather than netting a goal himself.

The R.A.F. Football League in Habbaniya had two sections, Division 1 and 2 with promotion or relegation at the end of the season. The little 5'6' wizard mastered his football skills from Youel Gorgis, a player who later on went to play in Baghdad for Public Transport Service FC (Al-Maslaha). During the early 50s, Youra became one of the most popular players in Habbaniya and was once asked by journalist Mikhael K. Pius why he thought he was so popular with the fans, he replied. "I think it is because of my dribbling," and added "My tricks amuse the people.." However, there was more to Youra than just tricks and dribbling. Youra was a clever playmaker, an intelligent distributor, as well as a persistent and tireless runner between the midfield and attack. He was constantly moving making it impossible for his opponents to man-mark him. When he asked him if the rumour was true that he "played" football even in his dreams, Youra kicked a pebble, smiled sheepishly and said, "Yes, I have often jumped out of bed in my sleep shouting to Youel or Aram to pass me the ball!" Youra was a small player but very agile. Although only 5'4" tall, Youra sometimes beat taller opponents to headers, an ability he said, he had learned by constant practice - leaping and heading clotheslines in the Cantonment! Youra's enthusiasm and love for the game was clearly shown in October 1951 before a game between Basra. Youra had broke his nose in a game a few days earlier and was expected to miss the trip to Basra, but not if Youra had anything to do it. He had nose surgery at the British Hospital and left three days later with his team for Basra. On the train on the way to the southern Iraqi City, someone had dropped a cigarette into his sports bag, which had caught fire. But despite all the obstacles, Youra reached Basra and played in partially burnt kit and boots scoring one of his team's two goals at the end of a memorable week.. In July of 1952, Youra left his home to try to establish himself elsewhere in Iraq, but after a short while, he returned after missing his home and family.

In April 1953, Youra made his big break and a earned himself a move to Europe after hitting a hat-trick in a match in Egypt. He was playing for an Iraqi Command team, made up of players from R.A.F. players from Iraq and the C.C. select team of Habbaniya against an all-professional Canal Zone side from the Suez Canal, Al-Qanah. In the crowd was a Bristol Rovers Football scout, Flight Lieutenant R.K. Weston, a Command Transport pilot shuttling between Britain and the Middle East. He was so impressed by Youra’s performance in the game, that he offered him a trial at the Football League club. The manager of Bristol Rovers Football Club Bert Tann, who was usually against bringing in foreign talent into the English game was gradually persuaded to give Youra a chance by the pilot, R.K Weston and a group of R.A.F officers at Habbaniya. When travel arrangements for the long journey to London were made, the R.A.F. officers at Habbaniya chipped into help Youra with his expenses, when the travel arrangements were made.

Bristol Rovers, the club Youra joined were formed as the Black Arabs in September 1883, following a meeting of five young men at a restaurant on Stapleton Road in the Eastville district of the city. The name of the club was derived from the black shirts worn by the players and a rugby club known as the Arabs, who played on an adjacent pitch at Purdown in East Bristol. The Black Arabs played their first match, a friendly fixture on 1 December 1883 and played a further nine games during their first season, during which time they assumed the nickname of "The Purdown Poachers". The club became known as Eastville Rovers in 1884/85 and continued to play friendly matches for a number of seasons though they moved grounds on several occasions. They joined the Bristol and District League, forerunner of the Western League, in 1892 and moved to a ground at Eastville in 1897. Professionalism and a further name change, to Bristol Eastville Rovers came at the start of the 1897/88 season, with the name Bristol Rovers being adopted prior to the start of the following campaign. Having competed in the Western League and the Birmingham and District League, Rovers joined the Southern League at the start of the 1899/1900 season. They acquitted themselves reasonably well at the higher level and clinched the Championship of the Southern League in 1904/05. Though they remained in the competition until 1920, it proved to be the club's only Championship success before they became members of the Football League. The Eastville Stadium was responsible for the Clubs' nickname 'The Gas', thanks to the nearby Gasometers and subsequent air pollution they produced on damp and foggy matchdays. The Towers could be seen between the Tote End and the North Stand.

Youra Eshaya receiving recognition from King Faisal II of Iraq during his days in Habbaniya.

Youra joined the club at its most successful period having reached the FA Cup Quarter Finalists in 1951and won the Third Division (South) Championship in 1952/53, scoring an astonishing 92 goals during their league title win under coach Bert Tann, who joined the club in 1950 and later became the longest serving manager in the clubs history with 18 years at the club. The great manager had took over from another long serving coach Brough Fletcher, who had joined the club in 1938. At the time, the club had a number of talented players like goalkeeper Howard Radford, who got his big break when regular keeper Bert Hoyle was injured in a car crash and Howard was asked to play in ten league games as Bristol Rovers had almost secured the Third Division (South) Championship, defenders Harry Bamford who represented the English FA team in South Africa in the 50s and later died in 1958 in a motorcycle accident after returning home from a coaching session at a local school, Ray Warren, who captained his only club during a 20 year career that started in 1935 to the Third Division (South) Championship in 1952/53 and Captain Jack Pitt, midfielder Peter Sampson who's formidable career began in an unusual way as he bought himself out of the Army for £65 after serving in West Africa during the late 40s, the goal-scoring right winger George Petherbridge, forwards Vic Lambdon, who was deceptively quick and could run 100 yards in 10.3 seconds, his extraordinary speed was reflected in his goal after only eight seconds in an FA Cup tie in 1951, Peter Hooper and Alfie Biggs, who all three scored over 100 goals for the Pirates. Biggs, who was a strong courageous forward played for Rovers over a considerable number of years from 1953 to 1968, the Rovers Legend had a spell with Preston North End in 1961 but returned as Rovers' record signing just over a year later and was appointed captain.

However, to many Rovers fans Geoff Bradford was undoubtedly the star name in the clubs history. Bradford who is easily the club's record scorer, with a staggering 242 goals in league football and achieving a ratio of a goal every two games over fifteen seasons at his only league club, attracted the attention of the Rovers' scouts in 1949 and it proved to be an inspirational signing as he began to score freely in the third division. He scored an astonishing eight league hat tricks and was the club's top scorer in five seasons. In April 1953 he scored a hat trick against Newport County at Eastville to secure the Division Three South Championship and left him with a club seasonal record of 33 league goals. On the 2nd October 1955 in Copenhagen, Geoff became the only player ever on Rovers' books to play for England. Eight minutes from time, he characteristically scored the final goal in a 5-1 win over Denmark. The mighty Liverpool, managed by the legendary Bill Shankly once offered £20,000 for his services in 1961 but he decided to stay at Eastville to enjoy two more seasons with Rovers at fullback before retiring from football. His final goal ever came in a 4-0 win over bitter rivals Bristol City in 1963.

The only other Asian footballer apart from Youra to have travelled to Britain, was the Indian international Abdul-Salim Bachi Khan, who arrived in Glasgow, Scotland in the mid-1930s to play for the famous Scottish club Glasgow Celtic. Born in Calcutta, Abdul Salim or to give him his proper name Mohammed Hashean never made a first team appearance for Celtic but did attract large amounts of attention from the Celtic faithful by not wearing the regulation heavy football boots, instead preferring to merely tighten bandages on his feet, a local custom of his. Abdul Salim played twice for the reserve side in 1936, attracting a great deal of interest and curiosity. He was described as having good ball control and a good crosser, he also scored a penalty against Hamilton. Iraq’s neighbours Iran also had a few players who had played in Europe. The first was Hussein Sediqani, he left Iran to study in Europe during the early 20th century, where he joined the youth team of Turkish club Fenerbahce before moving to Rapid Vienna. At the same time, goalkeeper Hussein Ali Khan Sardar played for Swiss first division club Servette of Geneva and also played for Belgium. Sediqani arrived back in Iran and established a team in the city Mashhad. In September 1941, Sediqani coached the first Iranian national team in their first international against Afghanistan in Kabul. The result was a goalless draw.

Asian players moving to Europe to play football was largely unheard of during the early and mid-20th century. The first known Asian footballers to have played in Europe, were the Cother brothers. Edwin ‘Eddie’ ‘Darkie’ Cother and John William Cother or Jack ‘Darkie’ had a father who was born in India and were the first Anglo-Indian footballers in the English Football League. Both brothers joined Watford FC in 1898, however Eddie’s career was ruined by petty criminal convictions after only a year. He spent his last days in a Watford workhouse and lies in a paupers grave. The elder brother, Jack, a tough and ‘bulky’ full-back was more successful, making 140 appearances for Watford, scoring 3 goals during his seven year spell with the London club. After his football career he was employed by Watford Council and later worked as a programme seller and assistant on match days at the club. Another Asian player, who played in England was Frank Wong Soo. The inside forward was born in Buxton, Derbyshire, England on the 8th March, 1914, a son of an English mother and Chinese father. He started his early career playing alongside legends such as such as Joe Mercer and Stan Cullis for Cheshire Schoolboys. Frank signed for Stoke City in 1933 and went on to play for England during World War II, making 9 appearances in a team that included the legendary Stanley “The Wizard of Dribble” Matthews, Tom Finney, Tommy Lawton and Bill Mercer. However, the former Potteries man remains a "forgotten" international because the Football Association did not recognise his appearances for the England team during WW2. But for the intervention of the war, Soo would probably had become a full England international. In 1945 after playing for Reading, Soo joined his former boss Tom Mather at two clubs, first at Leicester City and again at Luton Town in 1950 before finally retiring. he became successful coach, coaching Padova in Italy for two seasons in the early 1950s, before moving to Scandinavia, where he stayed for three decades managing and coaching several Danish, Norwegian and Swedish teams including AIK Stockholm, and, most successfully, Djurgaardens IF with whom he won the Swedish Championship in 1955. Soo returned to England to manage Scunthorpe United at the end of the 1950s for one season.

However foreign players in the England was not uncommon even before the Bosman inspired foreign invasion during the mid-90s. Several players from the British colonies in South American, the Caribbean and Africa came to play in the Football League in England. One such player was Arthur Wharton known as the World’s first Black Professional Footballer. He was born in Ghana and first came to England to train as a Methodist preacher, before he was discovered during the late 19th century. Arther played for Darlington, Preston North End, where he played in an FA Cup semi-final, before moving on to play for Rotherham and Sheffield United. He was an eccentric goalkeeper, often seen hanging from the crossbar catching the ball with his feet. Another of his trick was to lie on the goal line before sprinting out to foil the oncoming striker. Apart from his ability as a goalkeeper, he was also a professional cricketer playing well into his forties, a record breaking cyclist, sprinter and noted boxer. Other players followed Wharton like Tessilli ‘Thunder’ Balogun, a 6’ 2’’ athletic, bow-legged Nigerian striker. He was signed up by Peterborough United FC after his exploits while on the Nigerian Football Association tour of England in 1949, he also played for season for Q.P.R and returned home to his native Nigeria in 1958 to become a football coach. Another player Roy Brown of Anglo-Nigerian decent played in the 1950s amongst the likes of Stanley Matthews and Neil Franklin before moving onto play for Watford and Chemsford City, while in the mid-50s South African Steve ‘Kalamazoo’ Mokone, who had represented his country at the age of 16, came to England to became South Africa’s first Black Professional footballer after being encouraged move to England by the Wolves and England Captain Billy Wright. Mokone had a season playing for Coventry City in 1956 at the age of 18, but left England to become a superstar first in Holland with Hercales and later in Italy with Internationale and Torino and and he also quested for Valencia (Spain), PSV Eindhoven(Holland). He signed for Spanish giants Barcelona in 1959, but because they had fulfilled their full quota of foreigners, he was loaned to Olympique Marseille in France.

A trio of Egyptian internationals also played in England during the early 20th century. The first was Hussein Hegazi, who came to England in 1911 to study at Cambridge University, where he played for the varsity team, amateur side Dulwich Hamlet and Football League sides Fulham and Millwall. Tawfik Abdullah played for Derby County in 1920 and later Hartlepool United. Two Egyptian internationals joined clubs in Scotland in the mid-30s, after returning with their national coach Scotsman James McRea. One was Mostafa Kamal Mansour, he played in goal for Queen's Park, while the other was right winger Mohammed Latif, who joined Glasgow Rangers. Players from the Caribbean also arrived to play in Britain. One of the first was Jamaican Lloyd Lindbergh 'Lindy' Delapenha, he started his career as an amateur for Arsenal in the late 40s before moving to Middlesbrough during the early 1950s. He was a great favourite at the North East club scoring 90 goals in 260 appearances. Another was Gil Heron, the father of highly regarded jazz musician and poet Gil Scott Heron, whose lyrics and music inspired the majority of cutting edge American Black musicians in the late 70’s and 80’s. He was born in Kingstion, Jamaica in 1922 and was spotted by a scout from Celtic, while playing for his American club Detroit Corinthians on a North American tour and was later signed up by the club in 1951. Gil went on to score on his debut, but he was released by the club the next year and joined Third Lanark and the English club Kidderminister Harriers before moving back to Detroit Corinthians. South Americans footballers were also brought in by clubs in England. Third division club Barrow signed 2 Argentinian players in 1937, nearly 40 years before Tottenham Hotspurs brought in the exciting duo of Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa. The two players, half back Augustus Corpa and inside left Casco Rinaldi were crew members on a ship that had just been built in the town for the Argentine navy, and was in the process of being fitted out before undergoing sea trials. Another South American playing in the Football League was the Chilean forward Jorge ‘George’ Robledo Oliver, who played in England alongside his brother Ted. George was the more successful and played for Huddersfield and Barnsley before moving to Newcaslte United in 1949 scoring a total of 91 goals in 164 games. The striker, who won the FA Cup consecutively in 1951 and 1952, played for Chile in the 1950 World Cup, lining up against England.

The most successful Asian footballer to have played in Europe bar Cha Bum Kun of the 1970s was Filipino international forward Paulino Alcantara, who played for Spanish giants Barcelona from 1912 to 1927, ending up as the Catalan clubs all-time leading goalscorer with an outstanding 374 goals in 375 games. Alcantara was born in Iloilo, Philippines in 1896 to a Filipina mother and a Spanish father who was in the Spanish Army stationed in the province. He arrived in Barcelona, Spain in 1910 to continue his education. While in school, he played for a club formed by his classmates called, "Galeno”, but later joined the Barcelona youth team. At the age of 15, Alcantara made his first team debut and made an instant impression, scoring a hat-trick in an 8-2 win. From 1916 to 1918, he went back to the Philippines. During this time, he played with a team called the Bohemians of Manila. After coming back to Barca, Alcantara was placed in defense by the British coach Jack Greenwell, but his decision was short-lived as Barca’s club members, "Los Socios," demanded that Alcantara be switched back to his normal position. The paying members received their wish as Alcantara went back to scoring goals on a usual basis. In 1920, Spain selected him for the Olympic team, but he turned down the offer because of his medical studies. Since education was his first priority, he only represented Spain in international football competition five times. He scored both goals in a 2-0 win over Belgium in his first international match at the age of 25. He also played for the Philippine National Team. At age 31, he felt it was time to dedicate his life to his profession and retired from playing, after a "testimonial" in honor of the star between the Spanish national team and Barcelona in 1927. He briefly served on the coaching staff of Spain’s national team in the 50s – three matches against Switzerland, Belgium and Sweden.

One of the most successful foreigners playing in England during the 1950s was the remarkable German Bernhard “Bert” Carl Trautmann. Bert was born in Bremen in northern Germany on October 22, 1923. Like any youngster at the time in Germany, he joined the Hitler Youth and fought for his country during World War 2. When the war had ended, the German paratrooper had been court martialed for sabotage, captured by the Russians, he escaped for the first time but was captured by the Free French, he escaped of another time and was captured by the Americans, however he escaped again and was finally captured by the British. The German first started playing in England at the POW Camp 50 at Ashton in Makerfield, he played at left half at first before playing in goal, only when he was unable to play in the outfield due to injury. He played in local games and earned himself a reputation which eventually earnt him moves to first St. Helens Town and then Manchester City. The signing of the former German soldier caused uproar and even caused season ticket holders at the club to threaten a boycott, while various groups in Manchester and around England bombarded the club with letters denouncing the act. Trautmann overcome the anti-German hatred from the fans and even successfully succeeded the great Frank Swift, whom many fans considered to have been the greatest of all time. He made his debut for the club at Craven Cottage against Fulham, where he ended up being applauded off at the end by the opposition players. The great keeper went on to help City to win the 1955 Cup Final and the 1956 Cup Final when he broke his neck with 15 minutes left and continued in goal to help his club to win the FA Cup, he famously went up the Wembly steps to receive his cup medal, still clutching his neck. In 1956, he won the footballer of the year award selected by the Football Writers' Association, the first foreigner to win the prestigious award.

Youra's arrival in London on a boat and train from France created a commotion. Equipped by the memory of a photograph, 'a travel agency man was to meet and greet Youra at London's Victoria Station to escort him to Paddington to catch a train to Temple Meads in Bristol. But he missed him in the crowd! Mr. John Gummow, Bristol Rovers' secretary, waited at the Bristol station for the "handsome, tanned desert boy" with a photo of Youra in his hand, but Youra was not on the train! He telephoned the agency. "Sorry," he was told. "Your desert footballer has slipped through Victoria and vanished! He is somewhere in London." Inspired by the spirit of adventure, Youra had decided to make his own way to Bristol. Youra arrived in Bristol on 26th August, 1954 and played in a trial game against Paulton, 2 days later. Impressed by his skill and talent, Bristol Rovers signed him up. However as Youra was only admitted to England on a one-month visitor's permit and though the intervention of his club manager, Mr. Bert Tann, and other officials, he was granted a months extension but after that had ended he was ordered to leave the country, The Bristol Evening World headline read "Bristol Rovers are fighting "Go Home on Tuesday " order to Youra Eshaya" In the short period of time Youra had made such a good impression on the press and the football public that the Home Office's "Go Home" order created an uproar in the football circles. Dozens of people offered Youra a job so that he would not be a drag on the labour market, and the Bristol Rovers FC and the Bristol Evening World enlisted the help of members of parliament. Mr. Tann saw Sir Walter Monkton, Minister of Labour and MP for Bristol West, and Mr. W. A. Wilkins, another MP and a football fan, both of who had a talk with the Home Secretary." The hue and outcry from the public finally softened up the Home Secretary, who finally agreed to let Youra stay permanently and play football. He was also granted employment by the National Coal Board and he started working as a miner at Pensford Colliery, Somerset, on November 7, 1954, earning 8 pound, 1 shilling a week.

Bert Tann, the coach of Bristol Rovers Football Club, who did not employ foreign players before Youra's arrival after the club decided that it would not harm them if they broke their rule considering the talents of the RAF's like-able protégé, was impressed by the continual good reports he had of Youra's rapid progress. At first, Youra played for the Western League team of Bristol Rovers, which was their 3rd team. Rovers Reserves team was a nursery from which players were picked to play for the higher league teams. Youra played as an amateur because he was not allowed by the Football Association to play as a paid professional until he had had at least two years' qualified residency in England. In a short time Youra proved that he could play football as well as any of his English team-mates, and the officials were delighted by his talent and future potential, even though some thought his small size might be a problem. But this did not worry Youra because he was confident he could make the grade. Youra quickly proved his worth and was promoted to higher grades. He made friends and was popular among the local football circles. The local press described him as a player with " a lot of football in him," and he was dubbed also "Ali Baba," the "Live Wire " and "slippery as an eel" and Youra was once described by a journalist as "the footballer who can do everything but the Indian rope trick" .

Youra played for Bristol Rovers Colts in the Western League, the clubs 3rd team made up of inexperienced young players where the players were given time to develop their skills and talent before they were released to explode into the Football League. He played as an amateur because he was not allowed by the Football Association to play as a paid professional until he had had at least two years' qualified residency in England. In a short time,the clubs officials were delighted by Youra’s performances and future potential, even though some thought his 5’4 build might be a problem. He quickly proved his worth and was promoted to the Rovers reserves, after a scoring his first goal in his 14 appearance for the Colts, in a 4-2 win over the Bath City reserves on the 11th December at the Douglas Sports stadium, the Colts home stadium. On the 18th December, he made his debut in a 4-3 win over the Watford reserves and his second appearance for the reserves on the 25th December against the Fulham reserves, helping the team to a 2-1 win. These were the only appearances, he made for the reserves in the Football Combination League, but he also made one appearance, scoring a goal in a 4-3 friendly win over Paulton Rovers in September 1955. Youra continued to play for the Colts scoring 3 goals in 22 games in the Western League, and also made an appearance in the Western League Cup in a 1-1 draw with the Gloucester City reserves during the 1954/55 season. In his 2nd season in England, Youra made 4 appearances for the Colts scoring 1 goal. After 16 months of working as a miner and playing for Bristol Rovers FC, Youra was persuaded to return home. He was pestered by his family's "come-back-home" appeals and by the Royal Iraqi Air Force Commander, Brigadier Khadim Abbadi, who offered to obtain for Youra and his family members Iraqi naturalisation and a place for him on the Air Force as a warrant officer provided he play for his team. At first Youra resisted, but finally relented and returned home to Baghdad in December 1955, only months short of his eligibility to play professional football in England and less than a month before the greatest moment in the clubs history beating the mighty Manchester United 4-0 at Rovers ground, the Eastville as the Rovers' song 'Goodnight Irene' rang out over the ground. As Youra and his family members were Iranian subjects obtaining Iraqi naturalisation was not a particularly easy procedure. But within a very short period of time Brigadier Abbadi arranged for their papers to be processed and Youra was admitted to the Force as a warrant officer and joined the team.

The Air Force Club is the first and oldest club in Iraq. It was assembled by a group of Iraqi policemen on the British controlled RAF base Hinaidi (now known as Al-Rasheed). The club was officially founded on the 22nd April, 1931 and played its first game on the 5th July, 1931 against a team from the Al-Habbaniya RAF base, who they beat.The first ever Air Force team Mustafa Hussein, Hassan Abid, Wajdi Ali, Mahod Fartona, Wafiq Ali, Abdul-Razzaq Abdul-Wahab, Kamil Keri, Raouf Shabib, Ali Khadim, Anwar Mustafa. The win over the British forces helped the club grow as many people started supported as the club as its reputation spread all-around Iraq. As the British forces and its leaders saw that the clubs activity’s had broadened and its supporters had multiplied which was clearly apparent during match days The British wanted to get rid of some of its leaders but King Ghazi who took over as ruler of Iraq in 1933, had a strong relationship with the Iraqi flight policemen and he invited the counsel to have talks to solve the problem. It was not long before a solution of the development of the club had been thought of and the Air Force club converted to the Iraqi Flight Association, which opened a number of doors for the club around areas in Iraq. Shortly after, the club started playing again against Al-Laslaki, the top team in Iraq.In season 1932 – 1933, the club won the Prince Ghazi Cup beating Al-Laslaki 1-0 in the final with a goal from Nassir Hussein. The Air Force team was wearing green and purple jerseys during that period. The players at the time were Bashir Sadfi, Mohamad Abbas, Mustafa Hussein, Nassri Issa, Manati Ali, Salih Hindawi, Fakari Kothar, Hatim Hussein, Zaki Ali, Najib Salman, Kamil Keri, Joda Ali, Abdullah Mahmoud, Mikhail Fatahallah. In 1934, the club won Casual’s Cup arranged by Casuals Club for season 1933-1934. The Air Force Club continued its success in season 1934-35, winning the Casual’s Cup for the third time while also winning the King Ghazi Championship cup as the club became the strongest club in Iraqi football.

Much had changed since Youra was away in England, many of the people he had grown up with at R.A.F.Habbaniya had moved to Baghdad, when control of the R.A.F. base was passed to the Iraqi forces in May 1955. Many of Youra's team-mates from the Employees' Club, Levy Civilian and C.C. Select team moved to Baghdad to play for top Iraqi clubs in the Iraqi League like the Royal Guards (Haris Al-Maliki), Air Force (Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya), Police (Al-Shurta), Public Transport Service FC(Al-Maslaha) and the newly founded Baghdad team Assyrian Sports Club (Nadi Athori Al-Riyadhi). Soon after returning, Youra played his first two games for Iraq in January 1956, one against Turkey's Mersin Idmanyurdu SK and the other against Tehran Select. They were thrilling games, watched by tens of thousands and broadcast live over Baghdad radio. The Turkish 2nd division club Mersin Idmanyurdu SK had toured a number of Arab countries including Syria and Lebanon and on the day they arrived in Baghdad, the newspapers were full of information spread on their pages about their victories over fellow Arab teams. On the day of the meeting between the Turkish team and our military team, played on the 2nd January 1956, the fans continued to pour into the Scouts Ground until the numbers reached 15,000 spectators. The Iraqi team included Ammo Baba of the Royal Guards and Ammo Samson of the Air Force but the spectators were all there to watch Youra, who was seen as the natural successor to Iraq’s legendary player Nassir ‘Chiko’.

Nassir Chiko was the first great Iraqi footballer, who played for Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya and the Iraqi national team during the 1950s. Nassir Yousef, or “Chiko” as he was known, began his career in 1935 with Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya. The legend was one of the eleven players, who lined-up against Turkey in Ankara in 1951, to make up Iraq’s first ever international team and was later starred for the Iraqi Military team that participated in the Arab Military Championship in 1954. He also played in the Asian Military Championship, a year later in Tehran. Nassir helped Al-Jawiya to become the best team in Iraq since its foundation guiding them to a number of cups and championships during his long career with the club. Even though, Chiko was only seen by fans at stadiums in Iraq and heard on the radio during the 1950s, the player had still managed to develop a legendary status with Iraqi fans of today. He retired in 1957 and took over as coach of newly founded Amana Club, where he won the league and cup double in 1959. Filling the boots of the great man would be a big task for anyone but by his first game, the Iraqi fans would be cheering for their new hero. Youra.

At the packed Kashafa stadium, the fans had all come to see the little wizard from England and he did not disappoint. They were delighted by his impressive movement, dribbling and distribution, which were the root of nearly every goal. After only 7 minutes the outside right “The Iraqi Stanley Matthews” Abbas Hamadi, scored the first goal, which was followed by another goal but the visitors objected to the decision and the goal was corked off. In the 30th minute Ammo Baba scored the second goal and then the Mersin players once again objected to a decision and the match was stopped for five minutes. The referee threatened to end the game but matters returned to normal and the game continued. The first half ended 3-0 to the Iraqi military team and at the start of the second half, Ammo Baba scored in the 50th minute and was later followed by Fakri Mohammed Salman who scored the fifth goal. Playing in midfield, Youra prompted his fellow forwards on, often changing a defensive move into an attack and netted one of the goals himself, scoring Iraq’s last goal in the 72nd minute. At the end of the game, the Iraqi fans surrounded the players, chanting and cheering while carrying them off the field on their shoulders. In the second match, a week later, Iraq came up against a Tehran XI, with Youra playing all over the pitch, he engineered the demolition of the Iranians with Ammo Baba firing in four goals in an emphatic win. Al-Bilad newspaper headline the day after read "20 Thousand Fans Cheer New Iraqi Football Wizard Youra, Successor of Nassir 'Chiko'"

When he arrived at his new club Air Force, Youra was met by three familiar faces, his childhood friends Armenak Goujo, Edison Eshay and Ammo Samsom. After a short space of time, Youra was already drawing attention, with Air Force challenging deadly rivals Royal Guards for silverware. The Royal Guards included many of Iraq’s best players, captain Jamil “Jamoli” Abbas, Toma Abdul-Ahad, Ibrahim Haidar, Abbas Hamadi, Fakhri Mohammed Salman “Abu Layla” and a 20 year-old striker, Ammo Baba. In 1956, the two sides played out four thrilling games for the Army Cup Championship. The first two games ended 1-1 with the third finishing 1-0 to the Royal Guards with a goal from Hassan ‘Fiore’ Karim, his son Malik Hassan Karim later went onto play professionally in France and Portugal. The loss put the Guards through with ‘Al-Jawiya’ having to play the Military Academy to book a place in the final, thanks to a great performances from the aging Nassir Chiko and Youra, the soldiers of the Academy were beaten 4-0 to set-up a final against the Royal Guards. Hassan Fiore was once again the hero as he netted the only goal of the game, the Jawiya players were distraught but it would be the Air Force team that would go onto dominate Iraqi football unlike the Royal Guards team, which was dismantled after the 1958 Revolution. The Air Force reclaimed the Army Club Championship in 1959 with Youra the hero, as his double beat the Kirkuk-based Second Armoured Division 2-1 at the Kashafa stadium.

On the 20th June 1956, Youra was selected to play for the Assyrian Sports Club in a match against Taj Club of Iran. The club had been formed in 1955 to represent the Assyrian community in Baghdad, coached and captained by Zia Shawel the club included some of the best young Assyrian talents in Iraq like Khoshaba Lawo, Gorgis Ismail and the 17 year-old left back Gilbert Sami, who lined-up for the side against the Iranians. Other players called up for the game were Al-Maslaha players Youel Gorgis, Hormis ‘Gabriel’ Goriel and the Shimson Shallou brothers Sargis and William, Youra’s Air Force team-mates Edison Eshay and Ammo Samson, Royal Guard forward Ammo Baba, Iraqi Petrol Company of Kirkuk (Sharakat Al-Nafat) duo Youaresh Isaac and Aram Karam, who captained the team. The side was the nearest the Assyrians had to a national team and with Aram, Youra and Ammo Baba in goalscoring mood, not even the top players from Tehran could stop them as Aram grabbed three with Ammo and Youra netting one each.The eventful game ended as the Iranians walked off the pitch at the protest of the 5th goal being allowed to stand, only a few minutes before the end of the game. The score was 5-3 to the Assyrians. Youra played a number of times for the team in Iraq and abroad during 1956 and 1957 playing in the return game against Taj Club in Tehran, where the Assyrians lost to the Iranians and in Beirut against Racing Club. Al-Maslaha goalkeeper Mohammad Thamir, a close friend of Sargis, William Shimson, Youel Gorgis and other Assyrian players at Al-Maslaha, was the only Arab to have made a guest appearance for the side during their games against foreign teams.

After only a few months back in Iraq, Youra was voted one of Iraq’s best 11 players by sports paper Al-Bilad, with his club contributing with 4 of the 11 players, the most from any other team. He became a regular in the national team replacing the fan’s former idol Nassir Chiko and in 1957 Iraq participated in their first international competition at the 2nd Pan-Arab Games in Beirut. They were placed in a difficult group containing Morocco, Tunisia and Libya. With an inexperienced but ambitious side, coached by Ismail Mohammed, Iraq were not expected to win the tournament however the amazed many with performances. In the first game against Morocco, regarded as one of the favourites, they were 1-0 down by half-time but three minutes into the second half, a cross from Youra was volleyed into the goal by Ammo Baba for the equaliser, a minute later Youra turned from provider to goalscorer to put Iraq 2-1 ahead. A third was added minutes later to give them a 3-1 lead and a certain win but the Moroccan’s coached by the famous Larbi Ben Barek fought back to bring the teams level. The following game against Tunisa, Iraq were again 1-0 down going into the second half, but Youra was again the inspiration as his run was impeded by a Moroccan defender in the box. Iraqi captain Jamoli stepped up to level at 1-1, a few minutes later Edison gave Iraq the lead but then they just fell apart were the Tunisians putting 3 goals past keeper Mohammed Thamir to hand them the win and the points. With only a point from two games, Iraq had little chance to make the next round but they ended the competition on a high note beating the Libyans 3-1 with goals from Ammo Baba, Youra and Fakri Mohammed Salman.

A year later, the July 14 Revolution deposed of the monarchy of Iraq and brought many changes in the new Republic of Iraq. Before the Revolution, Iraq had been heavily influenced by Great Britain and was seen as very pro-Western but with new leader Abdul-Karim Qasim, who favoured relations with other sovereign nations whether communist or capitalists things changed. After the revolution Britain and the US nearly invaded Iraq but retreated from their threats as the regime had great support from the people of Iraq and was recognised by the Soviet Union, China and the United Arab Republic (Egypt & Syria). The Republic of Iraq established normal diplomatic relations with a number of socialist and liberated countries and at the end of the 1958-1959 season, the Iraqi FA selected 2 teams, a Iraqi military team and an Iraqi XI, to tour ‘the friends and brother nations’. The military team, composed mainly of national players went to play a few matches in Far East Asia while the Iraq XI went to play in Europe in Austria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Romania, Austria, Bulgaria and Hungary. Youra was selected to play for the military team along with Jamoli, Ammo Baba and his brother Benul. They traveled first to China to play in Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin before jetting off to Pyongyang to play North Korea. There they won 4-2 before being trashed 6-2 by a local side!. Two 4-2 wins in Vietnam followed before the side rounded off the tour with two games in the Soviet Union, losing both to Dinamo Kirov (1-4) and Zhytomir (1-2). Both teams arrived back in Baghdad in time to prepare for Iraq’s first Olympic qualifying campaign against Lebanon. They beat their Arab rivals 3-0 in Beirut before trashing them 8-0 back in Baghdad. Then came the big test, Turkey in Adana, but with the team missing their elegant captain Jamil ‘Jamoli’ Abbas through injury, they were pulled apart by the Turks eventually losing 7-1, with the only goal coming from stand in captain Ammo Baba. In the return game, though giving the Turks more of a fight, Iraq lost 3-2 and were out.

Youra continued to play for the Iraqi military and national team until the mid-60s, coming up against a number of top sides including the Algerian FLN national team, Iran, Spartak Trnava, Spartak Yereven, CCA Bucharest (now Steaua) Egyptian clubs Al-Ahly and Zamalek and a host of other top teams from Europe and Arabia. The magical Youra made the Iraqi No.10 jersey his own playing in nearly 80 international matches for Iraq in North Africa, Europe and the Middle East, beside Jamil “Jamoli” Abbas, Jalil Shihab, Hamid Fawzi, Jabar Reshak, Abbas Hamadi, Husham Atta Ajaj, Qasim ”Zawiya” Mahmoud, Edison Eshay and Ammo Baba. Due to political problems involving the Zionist entity Israel, which restricted the development of Iraq’s international and domestic football, many players like Youra and others such as Ammo Baba and Husham Atta Ajaj were all prevented from making a name for themselves in World Cups, Asian Games and many other competitions due to the Iraqi FA’s refusal in playing in international or club competitions involving Israeli teams, this isolation which involved all the Arab countries and also the Muslim countries in East Asia, began in the 1950s and lasted until the mid-70s, when Israel left the Asian Football Association. As a result great players like Youra never got the chance to grace the fields of Asian or World football, which a player with his class would have relished. While failing to gain international recognition like many of Iraq’s top players in the 50s and 60s, Youra craved his name into the history of Iraqi football, having played for the first official Iraqi national team in 1957, setting up Iraq’s first official ‘FIFA’ international goal scored by Ammo Baba against Morocco, while scoring one himself a minute later. He was also part of the first Iraqi Olympic team, making appearances in the 1960 and 1964 qualifying campaigns.

Aside from playing for Iraq, Youra donned the blue of the Falcons for nearly fifteen years and was one of the most talked about players in Iraq because of his unique abilities, which he displayed week in and week out for Al Jawiya. He was more of a creative player than a natural out and out goalscorer, who helped a successful Al Quwa Al Jawiya side to obtain a cabinet full of Iraqi Cups and League Championships during the mid-Fifties and through the 60s. The biggest accomplishment came in 1963-64 when the team won the Iraqi league, Iraqi Cup and Army Cup Championship all in one season, a year later he help beat the great Egypian club Al-Ahly 2-0. He is considered one of club’s most successful players alongside the likes of Nassir Chiko, Jalil Shihab, Edison Eshaya, Hamid Fawzi, Husham Atta Ajaj, Qasim ‘Zawiya’ Mahmoud and many others. Youra was a strong, skilful playmaker, with magnificent stamina and the undoubted leader and star whether playing for Iraq or for “Jawiya”. On the field, he was a complete footballer, one moment he would be defending in his own penalty area, organising his midfield, the next scoring from the edge of the opponents' six-yard box. He maintained such extraordinary stamina through his cross-country running, which he had started from an early age. He was once asked him if he ever got tired running around so much, his reply was a swift "No!" and added "I tire more when I am waiting for the ball than when I am playing with it."

Nearing his forties, Youra married a Swedish woman in 1971, but was immediately suspended from the Force, preventing him from playing. The reason was that the Ba’ath Government, who had come to power after the 1968 Revolution had enacted a rule forbidding Iraqi military men from marrying foreign women from non-Arab nations. His suspension did not last long and was later transferred to the Habbaniya Air Base to work as a sports officer to coach and oversee the training of training of military sportsmen. The interference from the Ba’ath regime into the nation’s favourite sport would become constant during the following decades, sensing this and with his playing days all but over, he retired after 15 years of service. A year later and seven years before Saddam Hussein took power in 1979, Youra emigrated to Sweden with his wife Elizabeth, settling down in Gothenburg. He continued to coach the game he loved while raising three children, two daughters Magdalena, now a well-known actress in Sweden, Maria, and a son, Younis. On July 21, 1992 at the age of 59, Youra tragically passed away after suffering a heart attack while running on a football field coaching a group of youngsters. To no ones surprise especially to his fans, he died wearing his football boots.. The little ball juggler from Habbaniya in the middle of the Iraqi desert was a unique talent and will never be forgotten by the many fans that saw him play. Youra was truly an exemplary footballer.

Good Morning Assyria
News from Homeland

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Guards Living in Turkey's Assyrian Villages Refuse to Leave

Courtesy of the Turkish Daily News
31 August 2004

(ZNDA: Anakara)   The village guards who moved into Sarikoy village in Idil, Sirnak in 1994 are refusing to leave the homes of the original Assyrian occupants, who are gradually returning to the area.

Sirnak Governor Osman Gunes said that the administrators at the time had allowed the guards to live in the homes illegally; adding that he had given orders to the gendarmerie to evacuate the village, in accordance with orders sent by the Interior Ministry.

Gunes said that the same administrators had housed the guards in the village, as part of efforts to combat terrorism, when the original occupants, Syriac Christians, left.

He said the Syriac citizens, who had moved to Europe, now wanted to return to their homes and as the administrator of the state that respected the rule of law, he was obligated to satisfy their wishes.

He said: "They (the guards) don't have the right to live there. Those houses belong to other citizens. The state owes nothing to the guards. They regularly received pay for their services."

Gunes noted that he had been appointed as Sirnak governor 4 months ago and had visited Sarikoy three times. He said: "I offered these guards two different regions near Karalar. I also told them that I would give them the necessary material to build houses. I even ordered the preparation of the house plans. When they did not accept that, I offered to give them finished houses located in Cizre. They did not want to go there either. 80 percent of the guards already have homes in Yayalar village, where they came from.

He said: "When the previous owners came before, the guards signed papers, promising to evacuate the village. If necessary, I will terminate their employment as village guards. These people have begun to damage the people's goods, instead of protecting them. At a time when we are so close to starting European Union membership negotiations, I will not let anyone abuse the laws in such a way."

Gunes also said that these guards had utilized the village land as their own and had illegally received tax incentives, adding: "I put a stop to that."

Head guard Mehmet Ali Bulut said that the Sirnak governor and Idil local administrator had ordered them to move into Sarikoy, from Yayalar in 1994, where they were working as village guards.

Bulut said they used to stay in the village temporarily, but after two of their friends were killed by terrorists, they permanently moved to the village.

He said: "We started out as 22 guards. Later 6 more came. They told us that this village was ours, so we brought our families. We have been with the state until now and will continue to be so. In May and August, 2004, a letter told us to evacuate the village."

He confirmed the offers of free-homes in Cizrem, but added: "We cannot live in Cizre on 300-million Turkish Lire a month. We asked for homes to be constructed on the treasury lands in Sarikoy. We used to have homes at Yalalar. However, our families are living in them. If we return, we have to ask them to leave their homes, because we have larger families now."

Bulut said: "The Gendarmerie came and officially boarded-up five homes. Our electricity and water were cut. We don't deserve this. 240 people live here. We will leave if they built homes for us."

Syriacs in Europe waiting for news

Deyrulumur Monastery Metropolitan Samuel Aktas said that Syriacs that used to live in Sarikoy had moved to Europe, but wanted to return. He said some had been staying at the Monastery for the past two months, waiting for their village's evacuation.

He said, "They can stay here as long as they want, but we are calling for the resolution of this issue as soon as possible."

One former occupant of Sarikoy, Suleyman Turan, asked for the immediate evacuation of their homes, adding: "I am calling for this illegal occupation to end. Our families are waiting in Europe with their suitcases ready. No Muslim has ever lived in our village. We will not let anyone steal our homes."

Former Muhtar of Sarikoy Fikri Turan said that he worked at the post for 17 years, before leaving in 1994, when there was no one left. He said: "We always thought of returning when conditions improved."


News Digest
General News & Information

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Assyrian Man Arrested in Chicago for Spying for Saddam

Courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times
31 August 2004
By Natasha Korecki

(ZNDA: Chicago)  Sami Khoshaba Latchin, 57, an Assyrian living in the northwest Chicago suburb of Des Plains was an Iraqi "sleeper" who was planted in the United States by Saddam Hussein's spy service.  He once worked security at O'Hare International Airport has been lying about his intelligence ties.

Latchin was arrested Monday and charged with making false statements to U.S. immigration officials when applying for citizenship in 1998.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said Latchin did not disclose his membership in the Iraqi Intelligence Service and affiliation with Iraq's then-ruling Baath Party.

Latchin allegedly traveled overseas to meet with intelligence officials three times in the late 1990s, but authorities would not go into what they say happened at those meetings except to say Latchin was paid and he did not compromise U.S. security. Latchin also was charged with falsely saying he was on vacation during those absences.

Latchin, speaking through an Assyrian interpreter in federal court, pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Fitzgerald said Latchin on three occasions -- in 1994, 1996 and 1999 -- traveled overseas to meet with the Mukhabbarat, the intelligence arm of the former Iraqi government.

"We take it very, very seriously when people from a foreign intelligence service, particularly one hostile to the U.S. government at the time, come to this country and try to come here and plant themselves here," Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald said Latchin's presence alone as a "plant" was a threat to national security.

Latchin lived in the United States for 11 years, authorities said. He is a citizen who is now subject to denaturalization.

Latchin lived on Bay Colony Drive in a condominium for nearly eight years with his wife and son.

From 1995 to 2000 Latchin was a worker with a badge with three different security screening firms at O'Hare. He was hired by Services Services Inc. in May 1995 and subsequently by Huntleigh USA in January 1997. Another firm, Prospect, hired him April 3, 2000, but the company terminated his employment by the end of the month, Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman Annette Martinez said. Martinez said she didn't know why his badge was revoked.

Martinez said that before Sept. 11, badged employees were neither fingerprinted nor did they get background checks. Today, it is required of all badged employees.

Could get 10 years

If found guilty, Latchin faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

A grand jury indicted Latchin July 21. The indictment was unsealed after his arrest Monday, but Fitzgerald would not comment on the reason for the delay, saying only it was "appropriate to wait."

"We waited 30 days for a reason I can't get into, but I think it's appropriate to move forward now," Fitzgerald said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Conway said Latchin was a "spy" and a "sleeper" who "Iraqi intelligence assigned to assimilate himself into our culture and become a U.S. citizen."

He is being held in the Metropolitan Correctional Center pending his detention hearing at 2 p.m. Sept. 7.

The Last Assyrians, in English, will be shown in Lebanon

(ZNDA: Paris)  Lieurac Productions in France announced this week the completion of the English version of the documentary film, "The Last Assyrians", directed by Robert Alaux, which will be shown on 22 September in Kaslik, Lebanon, during the Symposium Syriacum gathering (see Surfers' Corner).

Photo courtesy of Kode'da Petros Elloff, son of General Agha Petros

The film has received congratulatory notes from Cardinal Ignace Moussa Daoud, Patriarche Emerite d'Antioche des Syriens, Prefetto della Congregatio Pro Ecclesiis Orientalibus and the Director of the Oriental Catholic Churches in Vatican.  It has also received support from the Assyrian Democratic Movement, the Assyrian Democratic Organization; Mr. Yonnadam Kanna, former ChaldoAssyrians representative in the Iraqi Governing Council, and many other Assyrian scholars around the world.

According to Lierurac Productions, The Last Assyrians is a film documentary about "the Chaldo-Assyrians, one of the first people to convert to Christianity, still speaking Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus. Members of the Chaldean, Assyrian, Syriac Orthodox or Syriac Catholic Churches, these refugees from Iraq, Turkey, Syria or Iran claim to be descendants of the people of ancient Mesopotamia. They were the first to evangelize China and Mongolia during the Golden Age of the Arabic Empire.  In 1915, together with the Armenians, they were victims of a genocide and many fled to Europe and the United States.  There are still around one million Chaldo-Assyrians in Iraq today and the Assyrian Democratic Movement is working to help maintain their culture."

Film Director, Mr. Robert Alaux explains that: "Nowadays they are threatened by Islamic extremists, and fleeing toward Western countries where they run the risk of losing their culture and traditions that they have managed to preserve until now.  Therefore, a knowledge of their past will help us understand their situation in the Middle East and the position and responsibility of the Western block towards them."

A New Film About Assyrians in Armenia by Lina Yakubova
Copies will be sold at the Assyrian American Convention in San Jose, California
September 2-6, 2004


Surfs Up!
Letters to the Editor

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The Arrest in Chicago

Gewargis Butta

The arrest of the Assyrian mad is a sad comment on the moral decline of Assyrians indeed.

It's Time to Protest in Front of the White House

Martin Givargis

The recent demonstration in London for the protection of our Assyrian brothers and sisters in Iraq was an excellent idea and everyone who organized and participated should be praised. Well done. However, now it is time for the Assyrians of the U.S. to do the same but on a much larger scale that should receive both national and possibly international media attention. I am not proposing a few hundred Assyrians protesting in Chicago Illinois, Phoenix Arizona, or Sacramento California. These cities get only local coverage reaching an insignificant limited audience.

My proposal is several thousand Assyrians from all over the U.S. and Canada protesting in front of the White House in Washington D.C. where the whole country has their eyes on. Instead of organizing conventions and parties, every organization, whether being social, political, or religious can unite and coordinate their efforts to undergo this much needed justice for our people. Setting aside a few days out of the year for such a worthwhile cause is a very small sacrifice to make on our part and should not make a significant economic impact on our daily lives.

Our people should also have a voice here, fighting for them so they will know we have not forgotten.

God bless the Assyrian Nation.

Are We Moving in the Right Direction?

Ninos Lazar

It seems like the efforts to unify our nation is actually creating more divisions.

Before all this naming drama started, there were those calling themselves Assyrians, and others calling themselves Chaldeans. Now, and after years of trying to give our name a plastic surgery, and after years of history changing attempts, we find that some of us are still calling ourselves the only name that the history will accept, Assyrians, others who are still calling themselves Chaldeans, however we created a new division for those calling themselves the new baseless and embarrassing name of Chaldo-Assyrians.

Can anybody see that this is not the right way of unification? Isn’t it clear to you that by doing so you are nullifying the cause for which all of our Martyrs died for ?

If you have been supporting this new naming and you believe you’ve made a mistake, why don’t you stop now before it’s too late. We will respect you more if you admit your mistakes than if you keep going stubbornly in this obviously wrong path.

The history knows us as Assyrians, our heritage is Assyrian, our Language is Assyrian. We know it, you know it, and the history and the world know it. Therefore we will always be Assyrians, nothing can change that reality. If others, like Chaldeans and Syrianees, can find it in themselves that they are also Assyrians then we will welcome them, and if not then let them be whoever they want to be, we should still love them and work with them. It’s their right to call themselves whatever name they wish. If we can work hand in hand with Arabs, Kurds, Turkmans, then why can’t we just work with Chaldeans and Syrianees just as they are, without pushing them to change their name, and for God’s sake do not try to change mine.

When we asked “why creating this name?” they said because there is no time now to prove that the Assyrian name is the correct name, the important thing is to unite under whatever name !!!! My response to that is that we just wasted a year and a half on this subject, don’t you think that would’ve been enough time to hold few conferences inviting historians and linguists to prove to us if we are all Assyrians, or are the Chaldeans truly the descendents of the ancient Chaldeans in south Mesopotamia, or are they the Babylonians, in which case they would not be Chaldeans !! We, the Assyrians, should’ve been so courageous to invite a discussion on this subject, knowing that we are right, knowing that we are Assyrians.

The Chaldo-Assyrian name might go forward for a short time, but eventually it will disappear, because it does not have any historic basis to it, and there is no truth to it, and the truth always prevails !!

I am urging all return from this path. Look around you, look beyond the few that are surrounding you, and see that this is not going to get us anywhere.

Assyrian “so called leaders”, stop hating each other, and be open for discussion even if you don’t agree with each other.

As for me, I would rather be one person in the world calling myself Assyrian, than to be part of a 2 million nation calling themselves other names just for the sake of numbers. If you really want to have big numbers, then why don’t you do like what others did for the last few decades by calling themselves arabs !!! That, my friend, made them part of majority then, but today they are confused about who they are !!! Do we want to do the same today ?

Please pray for God to bless our nation.

The Great Assyrian-Iraqi Football Players of the Past

Jacob David

With the recent success of the Iraqi soccer team, I thought this article I found on Iraqi Sports Online was a nice read. It gives a great history of the Iraqi game with a big emphasis on the great Assyrian players. Some of the older readers might appreciate the nostalgia of remembering our great players that dominated the Iraqi game. The younger readers will get a nice history lesson.

[Zinda:  See this week's The Lighthouse.]


Surfer's Corner
Community Events

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9th Syriac Symposium & 7th Conference on Christian Arab Studies

Samir Kh. Samir (cedrac@usj.edu.lb)
Elie Khalife-Hachem
Joseph Obeid, Secretary (melto@usek.edu.lb)

Lebanon, Sayyidat al-Bir
Monday 20th – Saturday 25th September 2004

  1. We are pleased to confirm that the 9th Symposium Syriacum and the 7th Christian-Arab Studies Congress will take place from Monday 20th to Saturday 25th of September 2004, at the convent of Sayyidat al-Bir, Lebanon. This dual gathering is jointly organized by the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (Jounieh) and CEDRAC, St. Joseph University (Beirut). The specific, but non-exclusive, theme of these two gatherings will be: “The Dialogue of Cultures”.
  2. The response has far exceeded our expectations with 103 Orientalists already having given notice of their intention to attend not counting all those participants from the Middle-East. Up until now 65 people have offered to contribute papers to the Symposium Syriacum (of whom 16 have not yet submitted a title) and 34 people have offered to contribute papers to the Christian-Arab Studies Congress (of whom 16 have not yet submitted a title). Please note that these papers should not exceed 20 minutes (to be followed by a few minutes of questions or discussion).
  3. Please find attached a list of current participants. Please fill in this form correcting and completing it as necessary and return it to us as soon as possible to the double email address. Please also forward this announcement to other researchers so that they might get in touch with us. In the meantime the date for the end of subscription is Easter (11th April 2004). Given the numbers we will be obliged to have two simultaneous papers.
  4. The Congress will take place at Notre-Dame du Puits (Sayyidat al-Bîr), a fully equipped centre with individual rooms with en suite bathrooms, numerous airconditioned conference chambers, excellent Lebanese cuisine and a friendly reception. It is located 30 minutes away from Beirut Centre, at an altitude of 350 meters above sea level and surrounded by a pine forest. It can accommodate 67 people. Given the declared number of participants it will be necessary to rely upon hotels. A bus service will provide transport for participants to and from the hotel.
  5. The price for your participation, in order to pay for expenses, will amount to 250 euros for the complete 6 day period, fully comprehensive. Arrival is expected on the 19th of September and departure is set for the evening of Saturday the 25th of September. Those who wish to come earlier or leave later are asked to inform us as
    soon as possible if they wish for us to look after them.
  6. An excursion day and a tour of Lebanon is planned for those who are interested. It will probably take place on Sunday the 26th after the Congress. Please inform us if you are interested in taking part.
    P.S. If you wish to receive a letter of invitation in order to obtain a visa for Lebanon, please inform us as soon as possible.

Looking forward to meeting you in Lebanon and awaiting your responses.

[Zinda:  Inscription Form (click here).  At press time 114 speakers and presenters have been registered at this year's symposium.  Below are a few of the many interesting topics covered at this year's Syriac Symposium in Lebanon:

  1. New Books from Gorgias Press
    Click Here
    For More Detail
    H.L.Murre van den Berg (The Nederland), The Church of the East in North Iraq between 1550 and 1800
  2. Christine Chaillot (France), Integration of some Syrian Orthodox in some west European countries
  3. Mark Dickens (Great Britain), Medieval Syriac Historians’ Perceptions of the Turks
  4. Majella Franzmann, Syriac language and script in Chinese setting: Nestorian inscriptions from Quanzhou, China
  5. Philippe Gignoux (France), La transmission de l’héritage grec aux Arabes par les Syriens
  6. Mar Makil Gurukulam (India), Dialogue between Syriac and Indian culture in Malabar
  7. Amir Harrak (Canada), The New Incense Burner of Takrit: An Iconographical Analysis
  8. Sargon Hasso (U.S.), The need for the Development of Scientific Literature for the Revitalization of Neo-Syriac
  9. Cornelia Horn (U.S.), Children and Violence in Syriac Sources
  10. Erica Hunter (Great Britain), Comparative Aspects of Edessene an Proto-Manichaean Syriac
  11. Alessandro Mengozzi (Italy), Neo-Syriac Culture and Islam: The Dialogue of Cultures in Early Neo-Aramaic Poetry from North Iraq
  12. Edward Odisho (U.S.), The Assyrian Democratic Movement’s Educational Program: Principle of Syriac Language and Culture Maintenance and Revitalization
  13. Ute Pussekel (U.S.) On Bardaisan of Edessa
  14. Martin Tamcke (Germany), Die Union der Kirche des Ostens in der Urmia-Region mit der Russischen Orthodoxen Kirche aus der Sicht des Pera Johannes
  15. Jan M.F. Van Reeth (Belgium), The Cosmology of Bardaisan.]

Editor's Choice

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Days of Plunder

Zainab Bahrani
Columbia University

The destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban was met with an outcry in the United States, Britain and the countries that form the coalition in Iraq. Yet the coalition forces can now claim, among other things, the destruction of the legendary city of Babylon.

Ironically, the bombing campaign of 2003 had not damaged archeological sites. It was only in the aftermath, during the occupation, that the most extensive cultural destruction took place. At first there was the looting of the museums under the watch of coalition troops, but that was to be followed by more extensive and active destruction.

Active damage of the historical record is ongoing at several archeological sites occupied as military camps. At Babylon, I have seen the continuing construction projects, the removal of and digging into the ancient mounds over the past three months, despite a coalition press release early in June stating that work would halt, and the camp would be removed.

A helicopter landing zone, built in the heart of the ancient city, removed layers of archeological earth from the site. The daily flights of the helicopters rattle the ancient walls and the winds created by their rotors blast sand against the fragile bricks. When my colleague at the site, Maryam Moussa, and I asked military personnel in charge that the helipad be shut down, the response was that it had to remain open for security reasons, for the safety of the troops.

Between May and August, the wall of the Temple of Nabu and the roof of the Temple of Ninmah, both sixth century BC, collapsed as a result of the movement of helicopters. Nearby, heavy machines and vehicles stand parked on the remains of a Greek theatre from the era of Alexander of Macedon. The minister of culture has asked for the removal of military bases from all archeological sites, but none has yet been relocated.

Iraq is ancient Mesopotamia, otherwise called the "cradle of civilisation". It has more than 10,000 listed archeological sites, as well as hundreds of medieval and Ottoman Muslim, Christian and Jewish monuments. The coalition did not establish a means of guarding the sites, though they would be protected in any other country rich in antiquities. As a result, archeological sites are being looted to an extent previously unimagined.

The looting supplies the appetites of an international illicit trade in antiquities, and many objects end up in places like Geneva, London, Tokyo and New York. The lack of border controls has only added to the ease with which the illegal trade in Mesopotamian artefacts functions. The looting leaves the sites bulldozed and pitted with robber holes. Ancient walls, artefacts, scientific data are all destroyed in the process.

But it is not only the stolen artefacts that are lost. The loss of this data is the loss of the ancient history of this land. Many important Sumerian and Babylonian cities have been irreversibly damaged in this way already. Passive destruction of this kind has been widespread under the occupation, but antiquity is not the only area of concern.

In Baghdad, the National Library and State Archives building is a burned-out shell in which the employees work in the most horrendous conditions. The Ottoman archive that records the history of the country, spanning the 16th to the early 20th centuries, is in the gravest danger. Having been soaked by flooding last year, the archive began to mould. Upon the advice of conservators, the entire archive was removed to freezers to stop the mould.

Because of the lack of electricity and equipment, the only place that could be found with large freezers, and where power could be maintained, was an abandoned and bombed building that had previously been a Ba'athist officers' club. In Iraq, where it is not unusual for temperatures to soar up to 60C (140F) in summer, and where the Coalition Provisional Authority never managed to restore the electrical power to the country, this was no small feat.

The power in Baghdad (outside the US-occupied presidential palace and embassy buildings) is available, sporadically, about nine hours a day. If the archives should thaw, the documents will be destroyed. The conservation process needs to be done in a time- and climate-controlled manner if the archive is to be saved. But the Coalition Provisional Authority reassigned ownership of this building to the ministry of justice. There is now still no place to move this archive to, the loss of which would be the loss of the modern historical records of Iraq, much of which has not been studied or published.

In the midst of the disasters of Iraq under occupation, the condition of its cultural heritage may seem a trivial matter. But, as a historian of antiquity, I am painfully aware that there is no parallel for the amount of historical destruction that has taken place over the past 15 months in Iraq. The Geneva and Hague conventions make the protection of heritage the responsibility of the foreign powers during occupation. Instead, what we have seen under the occupation is a general policy of neglect and even an active destruction of the historical and archeological record of the land.

[Zinda:  Zainab Bahrani is professor of ancient near eastern art history and archaeology, Columbia University. Her article appeared in today's edition of The Guardian. ]

A Kurdish Revolt in 1963

Stavros T. Stavridis

This recently declassified Australian political intelligence bulletin describes a Kurdish revolt in Iraq taking place in early 1963. When reading this document, one is reminded of the recent events of February 2004 that took place in the Kurdish controlled areas of Northern Iraq with the Kurds calling for autonomy within a proposed Iraq-Kurdish Federation. However the Arab members of the Iraqi Governing Council were not keen on the Kurdish autonomy proposal seeing this as a way of shattering the unitary nature of Iraq.

The document absolutely makes no reference to the Assyrians, who are the second largest ethnic group, after the Kurds living in Northern Iraq. Currently, the Assyrians are worried about their long-term future in the Kurdish enclave fearing harassment and persecution from Kurdish authorities. The Assyrians have never forgotten the Kurdish violence perpetrated on their ancestors during the period of 1915-1923.

(Source National Archives of Australia, Melbourne Office, B142/0 SC1962/11 Political Intelligence Bulletins of Dept of External Affairs, 1962-63)

[Zinda:  Stavros T.Stavridis is a Historian/Researcher at the National Center for Hellenic Studies and Research, Latrobe University, Melbourne, Australia.]

Assyrians at their Best

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Assyrians of Kaliningrad Discuss Culture on Russian TV

Irina Kolesnikova
Translated from Russian by Zinda Magazine's Staff Translator, Vyacheslav Vituk

On April 8 the representatives of the Assyrian Association of the City of Kaliningrad in Russia called "Ashur" took part in the television program, The Early Riser, presented by the Cascade Broadcasting Company.

President of the Assyrian association in Kaliningrad “Ashur”, Mr. Oleg Avdysh and his vice-president, Irina Kolesnikova.

The theme discussed was the multinational potential of the Kaliningrad Region. The discussion was broadcasted live. Members of the Assyrian community – Oleg Avdysh, Irina Kolesnikova and Lena Iosipova – told the viewers about the Assyrians, their culture, traditions, customs and everyday life, and about the activities of their organization, "Ashur" and their plans for the future.

Other topics discussed concerned the development of integration processes among Russian Assyrians and the reinforcement of connections with other foreign communities.

Special attention was paid to the issues of the preservation of the Assyrian nation, consequent inheritance of the culture and language.

In the end, Lena Iosipova performed a song in Assyrian called "Yemmi" (my mother); telling the listener about the bitter tears "Mother Assyria" sheds as she begs her children to unite.

The interview lasted twenty minutes, and it was replayed four times for two days by two local channels.

[Zinda:  The exclave of Kaliningrad is Russia's smallest region.  It is located 200 miles away from the border of Russia proper, a wedge-shaped piece of land along the Baltic Sea between Poland and Lithuania, approximately one-half the size of Belgium, 5,830 mi2 (15,100 km2). Its primary and port city is also known as Kaliningrad.  Kaliningrad was a spoil of World War II, ceded from Germany to the Soviet Union at the Potsdam Conference that divided Europe between the allied powers in 1945.  Today, a thriving Assyrian community proudly promotes its language, history, and traditions in Kaliningrad.]


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

Dr. Matay Arsan (Holland)
David Chibo (Australia)
Tomas Isik (Sweden)
Petr Kubalek (Czech Republic)


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