16 Tdabakh 6754
Volume X

Issue 21

Friday, 6 August 2004

Z I N D A M A G A Z I N E

Fax 1-415-358-4778
zcrew@zindamagazine.com

 

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ZIGGURAT


Meet The Ziggurat!

The Birth, by the talented Assyrian painter, Adam Odisho.

A little more than 70 years after the Semel Massacres, Assyrians of Iraq are
preparing to cross the river of hope into a new reality and self-determination.

This Week in Zinda
  The Occult Massacre of Iraq's Assyrians Guest Editorial
 

Tamasgerd
Secret Iraqi Agenda to Wipe Out Christians?

Peter BetBasoo (Chicago)
Stefan J. Bos (Washington)
  Mar Delly, Chaldean Patriarch, Calls for Unity
Attacks Shake Christians' Faith in Their Future in Iraq
 
  Australian Bishops on the Bombings in Iraq
Kurdish Moslems in Tennessee Remember Assyrians Killed
New Iranian Book Condemns WWI Kurdish Attacks
Soldiers Help Restore Cultural Treasures in Nineveh
Chaldean Wife Stabber to Get Retrial in Australia
83-year-old Assyrian Loves His Job at County Fair
 
  When Will This Hatred and Cold Murder End? When?
The Old / New Victims A Call for Peace
Joseph Haweil (Australia)
Alfred Alkhas (California)
  Martyrs Day Commemorations in Chicago
Protests in Arizona Against the Bombing of the Churches
AANF - Midwest
Several Assyrian Orgs
  Iraq's Church Bombers vs. Muhammad
Is Iraq Another Yugoslavia?
Bet-Nahrain: the Beginning of the End?
Uwe Siemon-Netto
Sasha Uzunov
Dean Kalimniou
 

Assyrian Youth Meets U.S. Officials in Iraq

 

Zinda Says
An Editorial


The Occult Massacre of Iraq's Assyrians

On the eve of World War I, the Assyro-Chaldeans, Christian Oriental and descendants of the inhabitants of ancient Assyria and Chaldea, lived in two principal groups: 1) to the west of Euphrates River south of Turkey (Mardin, Diabaker, Orfa); south of Lake Van in the valleys of Hakkari Mountains; along the shores of the upper Zab and Bohtan, north of Mosul in Iraq (Dohouk, Zakho) near the ruins of Nineveh, and 2) in Persia west of Lake Ourmiah. In 1914, this small population numbered about 400,000 souls. However, the Assyro-Chaldean community ended up losing 250,000 of its members by massacre, deportation, misery and starvation — all orchestrated by the Turks and Kurds. The cruelest incidents during this period were massacres that took place in the Urmiah Plain between January and August 1915.

However, a new and tragic episode in the history of the Assyrian people happened during the second half of 1933 in the Mosul region in northern Iraq. Systematic massacres cost the lives of at least 1,000 people.

In September 1929, the British Government, having a mandate from the League of Nations since 1920, announced its intention recommending that in 1932, the mandate over Iraq should be terminated. Iraq, having complied with independence procedures, joined the League of Nations on October 3, 1932. This rapid evolution aroused concerns among Assyrians, who thought the end of the British mandate signified the definite rejection by Baghdad, not only of Assyrian local autonomy claimed since 1919, but also of guarantees which assured Assyrians freedom of conscience and equal treatment with Moslems.

The League of Nations received many petitions from Assyrians demanding local autonomy. In December 1932, the council of League of Nations asked five of its members to investigate the petitions. The Council’s decision went against the Assyrians. Thus, they “found themselves victims of European political preoccupations. They were chosen to be sacrificed rather than create (as a minority) a precedent that could have turned against Poland or Rumania.”

In 1933, Mar Eshai Shimun, the Nestorian patriarch and spiritual and temporal leader of the Assyrians, was arrested in Baghdad because of disagreements he had with the Iraqi Government over the rights and powers to be enjoyed by the Assyrians. Baghdad refused to recognize the patriarch’s temporal authority. Nevertheless, the Kaylani cabinet, along with British Maj. A.D. Thompson proposed a plan for the integration of Assyrians as mandated by the League of Nations.

Three months later, on July 17, 1933, some Assyrian chiefs, such as Malek Yacoub and Malek Loko decided to leave Iraq and enter Syria — then under French mandate — thus signifying their rejection to the project then under way in Baghdad. On July 19, they were followed by a group of 1,500 armed Assyrians who had been detained in Iraq since the dissolution of British rule.

They were at first disarmed, as the high French Trusteeship opposed the formal refusal to the Assyrian request for exile. On August 5, the Assyrians crossed back into Iraq in an effort to retrieve their families. This migration movement involved nearly 300 families which were to be followed by 5,000 other people.

As they crossed back over the Tigris River, when 500 people had reached the river’s shore, shooting started. The shelling lasted a few days. Many deaths and casualties were reported. Five hundred and fifty Assyrians recrossed the Tigris, and to this day many still live in northeastern Syria in the Khabour (Djezireh).

The battles of August 4 and 5 were followed by massacres of the remaining Assyrians in Iraq and was perpetrated by the Iraqi army. Meanwhile, Mar Eshai Shimon had been deported to Cyprus. The massacres were bloodiest in the village of Simel. Robert Cru, a London Times reporter, wrote about the massacres, “Sinister revelations added to what we already know about the atrocities which took place in Northern Iraq. A visiting British official found 315 slain Assyrians. They were identified as peasants and were by no means associated with the recent troubles on the Syrian border."

The government of King Faisal I deplored these incidents and “promised that such cruel acts would not recur” (Times: August 18, 1933) but, nevertheless, the government granted a one-year promotion to all the officers who participated in the operations against the Assyrians, and promoted Col. Bekir Sidki to the rank of General.

[Zinda: The above article appeared 20 years ago in the French newspaper Le Monde. English translation by Lena Rayes, Chicago. This and other articles appear in Prof. Joseph Yacoub's classic work, "The Assyrian Question"(1986).]

 

The Lighthouse
Feature Article(s)

Tamasgerd

Peter BetBasoo
Chicago

In the year 448 A.D., during the reign of Yezdegerd II, there occurred a horrific massacre of Assyrians by the Sassanians (Persians) in which 153,000 Assyrians and one Persian were killed. This poem is about the true story of that Persian man, Tamasgerd, the executioner.

I stand upon red stained soil
I drift back sixteen hundred years
I see them
I hear their screams of joy
I see the fire god with his ax
Stop! Tamasgerd!
But he cannot hear me
They come from the plains of Nineveh
Not to seek vengeance
Not to wage war
But to delight in the celebration
They come by the thousands
And the fire god consumes
One hundred fifty three thousand
By the third day
And still they find their way
And the fire god consumes
A mother holds up her infant
Tamasgerd lowers his ax
But to the ground
And he screams
You were not captured
Why do you come?
Why do you offer me your infant?
Do you wish to know? She sings
Then kneel down beside me
And accept the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
Is your faith as strong as mine?
Can a fire bring you salvation?
Strike me now, Tamasgerd
I do not fear, for truer than my faith there cannot be
I see pain on his face
I see tears in his eyes
Forgive me my lord, he cries
Only a true god can inspire such faith
Only you must the true god be
I believe! he screams
I believe!
The fire god lowers his ax on Tamasgerd's head
The mother screams in joy
You have been baptized in your own blood
You are saved
Still the fire god consumes
I drift back sixteen hundred years
In a province named Tamasgerd
I stand upon red stained soil

[Zinda: Mr. BetBasoo's poem was written on 28 June 1993].

Secret Iraqi Agenda to Wipe Out Christians?

Stefan J. Bos
Washington

Secret documents show Saddam Hussein's regime and local Kurdish leaders were involved in the "ethnic cleansing", "gassing" and "Islamization" of Assyrian Christians in Northern Iraq, with international religious aid organizations refusing to intervene, an Assyrian official claimed Wednesday, August 4. (Pictured: An Iraqi Christian nun walks past a charred vehicle left after a bomb blast outside of a church in Baghdad, Iraq, VOA/AP)

Rev. Ken Joseph Jr., a leader of the Assyrian Christian community, said he had obtained evidence confirming a "decades-long pattern" of persecution by the previous Iraqi ruler, who is now awaiting trial in an Iraqi prison for alleged atrocities.

"Page after page tells the shocking story of Assyrian Christians uprooted from their villages by force - villages they have lived in for centuries and ordered immediately to leave by Moslems in conjunction with the forces of Saddam Hussein and the Kurdistan Regional Government," Joseph Jr. said.

"Entitled `The Settlements And Villages Of The Christian Assyrians In The Region Of Kurdistan Iraq`, an apparently official 104-page report, "is a shocking view of a previously mostly unknown campaign of terror against a tiny minority in Iraq," he added.

Villages Destroyed

He claimed at least 290 villages were destroyed during the "terror campaign" adding that "entry after entry reads `demography forcibly changed`, ``destroyed`, `disappeared` `gas holocaust` and `intifada`.

"What is in many ways even more shocking, though is what forms the subtitle of the report the role of International Aid Organizations, in many cases religious ones, in the effort," Joseph Jr. said.

The official noted that "the `gassing of the Kurds` extended to a much greater population of Assyrian Christians as well, although this has been previously completely hidden." He stressed that "not only the Assyrians but also populations of Jews disappeared according to the secret document."

Massive Scale

Human rights watchers say the policy first occurred on a massive scale in the second half of the 1970s as the Iraqi government sought to alter the demographic make-up of northern Iraq to reduce the political power and presence of ethnic minorities and consolidate control over this oil-rich region.

As an example Joseph Jr. said that `Mar Gewargis Church 1300 years old" was "destroyed (in) 1978" according to the documents which he pointed out "is another entry telling the story of the attempt to destroy all vestiges of the Christians and Jews of an area that has been theirs for centuries."

"The Document with `Confidential For Internal Use Only` and subtitled `The Contribution Of The International Non-Governmental Organizations To The Islamization of Assyrian Villages` goes into great detail on the destruction of the indigenous people of the region," he said.

No Reactions

There were no immediate reactions from the Iraqi interim government or international aid organizations to the reported revelations, which came a day after Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed concern about the situation in Northern Iraq.

HRW warned Tuesday, August 3, that "the authorities' failure to resolve property disputes" and "rising tensions" between people returning to their lands "could soon explode into open violence."

Its 78-page report, "Claims in Conflict: Reversing Ethnic Cleansing in Northern Iraq," documents the increasing frustration of thousands of Assyrians as well as displaced Kurds, and Turkomans "who are living in desperate conditions as they await a resolution of their property claims." HRW said the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority "failed to act even as the situation grew more volatile."

Church Rubble

Joseph Jr. suggested however that the international community will face an uphill battle as church leaders have told him villages have been destroyed while churches, seminaries and homes were reduced to rubble.

"They forcibly came into our villages and ordered our people out under penalty of death. Each time we were replaced in our own villages by Moslems who had come from other parts of the country," he quoted Assyrian Activist Amir Oraha as saying.

"It is careful and organized plan to get all Christians out of Northern Iraq, particularly in an area where we have the historical right to be there` said the activist who was jailed under the regime of Saddam Hussein for his activities.

EU Complaints

Oraha said 10,000 families wanted to return to their villages from Baghdad, Mosul and overseas, but that a lack of resources makes that difficult. A recent report by European Union Parliament Member Albert Jan Maat has reportedly warned that `International Aid is mainly distributed through regional and therefore Moslem leaders and seldom or never reaches the Assyrians`.

"We do not understand why the United States budgeted 180 million dollars for Kurds to move to our villages and nothing budged for us to move back to the villages that we were forcibly taken out of by Saddam Hussein and his men.` Oraha reportedly said. `We are waiting for help so the Assyrian Christians can finally return home.`

It comes amid concern about the number of fleeing Christians, which is expected to increase, following bomb attacks against churches last Sunday, in which up to 15 people died.

[Zinda: Mr. Bos has traveled extensively to cover wars and revolutions throughout the region and received the Annual Press Award of Merit from the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for his coverage about foreign policy affairs including Hungary's relationship with NATO and the European Union. His article appeared in Washington's Insight magazine on 5 August]


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Good Morning Assyria
News from Homeland


Mar Delly, Chaldean Patriarch, Calls for Unity

Courtesy of the Middle East Online
2 August 2004


(ZNDA: Baghdad) His Beatitude Mar Emmanuel Delly, Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, urges Christians and Muslims in Iraq to stand together for good of this country after deadly car bomb attacks on 5 churches on Sunday.

The Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq urged Muslims and Christians to stand shoulder to shoulder Monday, after orchestrated bombings against churches killed at least 11 people and wounded 65 others.

"Christians and Muslims must stand together for the good of Iraq because we are one family," Mar Emmanuel Delly said.

His Beatitude said he would address the same appeal in a letter to the caretaker Iraqi government.

Mar Delly forgave the perpetrators of the attacks, for which no group has yet claimed responsibility.

"The Lord pardons them and illuminates their spirit for the good of the Christians and Muslims in Iraq," His Beatitude said.

Five car bombs exploded on Sunday outside churches in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul, killing at least 11 people, in a lethal, coordinated assault on Iraq's Christian minority, according to sources to Zinda Magazine on Monday.

Police and medics confirmed a death toll of 10, six of whom perished when one of the bombs exploded inside a huge church and seminary compound in southern Baghdad, causing massive damage. Assyrian sources to Zinda Magazine indicate that at least a dozen more people were killed on Sunday; however, the high death toll has not been confirmed by government authorities.

A rescue worker at the Al-Dura compound said he pulled out six dead women and two dead children from the debris.

Dozens of wounded were admitted into hospitals as the explosions unleashed chaos on the capital's streets at the end of evening mass in the first attacks targeting Christian places of worship in Iraq since the April 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein.

"I went in right after the explosion to help with the dead and injured. I pulled out three women who were dead, before Iraqi police chased me away," said witness Shaker Mahmud, 32.

Beige metal gates, just under two metres (seven feet) high and imprinted with two crosses, were open when the bomb went off. The force of the blast hurled parked cars into the compound, flipping them upside down, and shattered the windows of the church.

"Six women and two children were killed," said Alaa Andreas, a rescue volunteer.

Officials at the Ibn al-Nafeez hospital said 16 people had been admitted with injuries following the attacks. One of them later died, said Anas Edward, a doctor.

Six people with horrendous burns were treated at the Al-Kindi hospital and another six at the capital's neurosurgical hospital. The two hospitals each reported one person killed, officials said.

The Yarmuk hospital received six dead from Al-Dura, as well as five wounded, officials said.

Police reported a fourth explosion in Baghdad, outside a Chaldean Catholic church in the east of the city.

Nervous Iraqi police officers fired into the air around the sites of the explosions as US helicopters circled above and American soldiers deployed in force around the besieged churches.

"It's a crime. It's Sunday, we were at mass. There were a lot of women and children," said Bishop Raphael Kutami at the Syriac church.

"There are so many injured and we don't know how many. We were coming out of the church" when the bomb exploded, said another priest at the same church.

A US military spokesman confirmed "at least four explosions" went off in the central Baghdad area early Sunday evening.

In Mosul, 370 kilometres (230 miles) north of the capital, two car bombs exploded in the early evening outside the Mar Polis church in the central Mohandessin neighbourhood, said Major Mohammed Omar Taha.

Medics there said one person was killed and 15 were wounded in the bombings.

Another, detonated by remote control, exploded outside a police station in the northern Thaqafa neighbourhood, at 7:10 pm, but caused no casualties, police said.

In Kirkuk, police said an explosion went off at around 7:45 pm in a Christian neighbourhood, but said there were no casualties because most people were at church.

Attacks Shake Christians' Faith in Their Future in Iraq

Courtesy of the Financial Times
5 August 2004
By Nicolas Pelham and Mark Turner


(ZNDA: Baghdad) Baghdad's Christian minority has been under threat a number of times in the past 16 centuries - including a massacre of Assyrians in 1933 and a bloody raid by Baghdad's Caliph in 1014.

Sunday's bombing of five churches in Baghdad and Mosul, killing over a dozen, immediately drew comparisons with the attacks on Baghdad's synagogues in 1948, which triggered the flight of Iraq's 2,500-year-old Jewish community.

But nervous Christian leaders said on Wednesday that while the attacks were likely to speed emigration, they had not sounded the death-knell of the ancient Christian community.

Iraq's Christians had sided with their compatriots against western invaders since the Crusades, they said, and would continue to do so. "We are Iraqi people, one people. We don't distinguish between Christian and Muslim," said Father Luis Alshabi, a Rome-educated polyglot, in the Chaldean Christian St Joseph's church in the Baghdad suburb of Karada. "We have been living together for 16 centuries. [Sunday] was very sad for Muslims also."

Caretaker Yohanna Shaya swept up the stained glass in St Peter's seminary in the southern Baghdad suburb of Dora, vowing to get the rest of his family out of Iraq after local youths jibed that Christians had got what they deserved.

"The educated said the bombing was haram, or against Islam, and came to help, but the unemployed layabouts just drove past, cheering," said Yohanna Shanam Shaya, whose three eldest children have already settled in the US and Holland. "I've become a stranger in my own country."

Iraq's 650,000-strong Christian community is depleting fast. Most of the 3 million Christians of Iraqi origin now live abroad, mainly in the US and western Europe. Tens of thousands more have moved to Syria and Jordan, many crammed into tenement blocks, living on charity, banned from work and waiting for visas out of the Arab world.

Throughout 30 years of Ba'ath party rule, Christians had been treated as a privileged minority, favoured by Saddam Hussein who looked to non-Muslim minorities to buttress his regime against Islamist dissidents. A Chaldean Catholic, Tariq Aziz, was Mr Hussein's deputy prime minister and roving ambassador.

Few doubt that the rising tide of radical Islam in postwar Iraq has played a role in anti-Christian violence. Radical Muslim clerics routinely denounce not just western invaders but western influence, goading the faithful into attacks on Iraqis with western haircuts and liquor stores, which under Iraqi law were licensed to Christians only.

Samer Sorijan, a monk at Dora's Chaldean Catholic Monastery, said: "Sometimes we can't even buy our bread locally. Shopkeepers tell us to go and get it from khawalna, our cousins, the Americans."

Mainstream Muslim clerics have defended the Christians. As the interior ministry positioned police cars in church courtyards amid fears of more car-bombings, politicians and spiritual leaders, including the Shia's Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and the influential Association of Muslim Scholars, condemned the attacks.

"The militants tried to sow sectarian strife among Shias and Sunnis and failed. They will not succeed to spark a civil war with the Christians," said Wilad Atta, 22, a Baghdad University student sporting a crucifix and long hair, outside the entrance to St Peter's seminary.

All Sunday's attacks were against Catholic rather than eastern orthodox churches, suggesting that Christians who owed their allegiance to Rome had become targets in the anti-western campaign, Catholic clerics said.

"They know we are all Catholics and that we are closer to the west than the oriental Churches," said Father Sorijan.

Others doubted that the militants were students of such theological niceties. The violent fringe of puritanical Islam, known as Wahabism, entered Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland in the 1990s from Saudi Arabia, where all churches are banned.

Assyrian Christians - an orthodox sect - have also reported a rising rate of attacks against Christian targets. Last November, a bomb was uncovered at Mosul's mainly Christian school of St Thomas, named after the Apostle who lived in the city on his way to India. And in June militants flung a grenade at Mosul's Holy Spirit Chaldean Catholic Church.

Iraqi officials blamed the Jihadi network of Jordanian militant Abu Musab Zarqawi for Sunday's attacks. The Association of Muslim Scholars - widely considered to have close ties to local insurgent groups - called the attacks "a hopeless attempt by foreigners to make our people quarrel with each other. We live and work together".

 

News Digest
General News & Information


Australian Bishops on the Bombings in Iraq

(ZNDA: Sydney) The Council of Eastern Bishops in Australia has issued an appeal to the United Nations regarding the attacks on Churches in Iraq.

The Council of Eastern Bishops in Australia held an emergency session to discuss the dangerous developments compounding the situation in Iraq, manifested by the criminal attacks against the Churches in Baghdad and Mosul, which have reaped tens of innocent Christian citizens being killed or injured.

Their Eminences issued an urgent appeal to the United Nations and through it to World Leaders including the leaders of Australia and Iraq, in order to stop the violence and stressing the importance of protecting the Christian minorities in the East, and rejecting violence and terrorism coming from any side. Furthermore, they expressed their solidarity with the Church and the Christian people in Iraq.

The Declaration said:

1. We are grieved by the continuing cycle of violence in Iraq, which has lately turned to the adoption of methods of collective and free-for-all killing through car bombs aimed at five Christian Churches and establishments in Baghdad and Mosul. This dangerous escalation cannot be separated from the plans that are aimed at the coexistence in Iraq. The minorities, including the Christians, have proven throughout the centuries, their full loyalty to Iraq and their respect for its constitution. Like the rest of the Christians in Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Sudan and other Arab countries, have been in the forefront defending the right of the Arab homeland, and sacrificing for it with their blood, until it became a pressing need for the Islamic brethren who share the same destiny.

2. The Christians of Iraq and the Arab nation have always been a tool of interaction with their reality and environment, yet they have today become a target for violence that they do not deserve, and scattered corpses of good innocent people harvested by terrorism without a cause.

3. We have raised a voice in the near past, condemning and disapproving the fighting between the Islamic brethren in Iraq. Why then are our children today paying with their blood and martyrdom for no reason?

4. We beseech the World conscience through the United Nations reaching the World Leaders including those at the helm of Australia and Iraq to undertake an exceptional step to halt the designs against Christian minorities in Mesopotamia, and protect the unity of Iraq with all its fragments of Christian and Islamic religions, as a lead towards the restoration of the unity of the land of Iraq, and respecting its sovereignty and the resolution of its freedom and democracy loving people. Confirming that the sons and daughters of the Christian people in the Arab world are an essential part of its society’s fabric and are not foreign to it.

5. Christianity that believes in human rights, real coexistence and unity of destiny, is not a burden upon any society, but rather an essential need for all the factions. Its spiritual and laymen leaders through history along with its people have proven that they are an example of sacrifice and loyalty to their societies and their causes. It is a shame that their reward be assassination by car bombs and destruction of their Churches whose bells always toll for the sake of coexistence, forgiveness and for truth to prevail.

6. During World Wars, enemies avoided the destruction of religious temples by one side or the other. Why are we today witnessing aggression on Churches without any reason?

7. Expressions of condemnation and renouncing of violence and terrorism alone are not sufficient. What’s needed is a speedy intervention by the United Nations, and a plan commissioned by the Iraqi government to stop the attack on Churches and convents, and the protection of minorities; for by such protection, there will be a return to the spirit of coexistence, which has to prevail if we really want a unified Iraq and an Arab homeland in which the cross and the crescent truly embrace.

In conclusion, the Prelates offer their prayers and invocations for the sake of the martyrs’ souls and the recovery of the injured, wounded and all those affected by those events.

Declared in Sydney 3 August 2004.

The Eastern Bishops in Australia representing all the Eastern Churches in Australia and New Zealand:

  • Bishop Aghan Baliozian – Armenian Orthodox Church, Diocese of Australia and New Zealand.
  • Bishop Meelis Zaia – Assyrian Church of the East,
  • Diocese of Australia and New Zealand.
  • Bishop Issam Youhana Darwish – Malkite Catholic Church, Diocese of Australia and New Zealand.
  • Metropolitan Poulos Saliba – Antiochean Orthodox Church Diocese of Australia and New Zealand.
  • Anba Bishop Danial – Coptic Orthodox Church,
  • Diocese of Australia and New Zealand.
  • Bishop Malatios Malki Malki – Syrian Orthodox Church, Diocese of Australia.

Kurdish Moslems in Tennessee Remember Assyrians Killed in Iraq

Courtesy of the Tennesean
6 August 2004
By Anita Wadhwani

(ZNDA: Nashville) A minority in Christian Nashville, Kurdish Muslims today will honor the Christian minority in their native Iraq, where at least seven people have been killed recently in bloody attacks on churches.

About 150 regular worshippers at the Salahadeen Center will open their service to the public today to condemn the violence. The center is a Muslim mosque in south Nashville.

''These attacks are aimed at all Iraqis,'' said Muhammed Kokoy, a board member. ''The goal is to incite fighting between different sects, but Muslims and Christians are brothers in Iraq.''

Bombs exploded outside five churches Sunday in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul. They were timed to go off during busy evening services. Dozens of people suffered critical injuries.

A group calling themselves the Committee of Planning and Follow-up in Iraq took responsibility. It posted an Internet message saying, ''You wanted a crusade and this is a result.''

The bomb's aftershocks were immediately felt in Nashville, where the news was broadcast via Kurdish Satellite television to the homes of a large Kurdish community and through phone calls to Iraqi and Kurdish family members back home.

Phiez Solomon's family is among about six Iraqi Christian families living in Nashville.

Earlier this week, Solomon, 24, called northern Iraq to speak with his uncle, a priest with the Assyrian Orthodox Church, which is affiliated with one of the bombed churches. His uncle's church has now banned cars from the entrance and hired guards, a security measure unheard of in relatively peaceful northern Iraq.

''Whoever did this is not from Iraq, in my opinion,'' said Solomon, whose family here worships at a Greek Orthodox Church in south Nashville and owns a Kurdish restaurant and an auto shop. ''When I was back there, we did not have any trouble with Kurdish people or Muslims.''

Locally, Kurds want to get the message out to Nashville and elsewhere that that is still the case.

Earlier this week, Tahir Hussein, of the local nonprofit group the Kurdish Forum, issued a statement condemning the bombings to a visiting delegation of Kurdish journalists. The journalists, sponsored by the U.S. government, were in town to report on the views of ordinary Americans. ''I want to make sure that people back home also hear our voices as well,'' Hussein said. ''This never happened in Iraq before and this is not acceptable anywhere.''

Services begin at 1 p.m. at the Salahadeen Center at 364 Elysian Fields Court just off Nolensville Road.

New Iranian Book Condemns WWI Kurdish Attacks

Book reviwed by Dr. Eden Naby
Harvard University

(ZNDA: Tehran) A new book published in Tehran, in Persian, sheds some light on the events that led to the extension of the Ottoman/Turkish Genocide into northwest Iran. Namehha-ye Urumihey: Asnad u makatibat-e Mohammad Sadeq Mirza Ma'zaludduvleh - as hokumat-e Urumiyeh - Shawal 1333 ta Rabi' avval-e 1334 hijri qamari (Urmi Letters: Documents and Correspondence of Mohammad Sadeq (Mirza Ma'zaludduvleh - from the government of Urmi - August 1915 to January 1916) contains information important to the Assyrian Genocide scholarship.

It was largely this Ottoman induced genocide that destroyed the Assyrian presence in northwest Iran in 1918. But this book of documents for the earlier period (after the Kurdish predatory moves in the foothills around Margawar in 1914) casts light on why, within the city of Urmi, the situation became so violent beginning in 1915.

It is hard to overemphasize the importance of the documents (182) here edited by the late Kaveh Bayat and brought to press by the series editor, Iraj Afshar. These documents had remained in the family of Mohammad Sadeq's family until a short time ago.

For Assyrians, the five month period represented is of critical importance. Suffice it to quote a portion from the first paragraph of the first document: the trouble between Muslims and Christians began "when Kurds entered Urmi" and some began to pillage "the cattle and goods of the Christians" and in some areas they "abducted women and girls and forced them to become Muslims."

The continued publishing of such documents is critical to the understanding of events. The Iranian intellectuals, one hopes, will carry on an honest investigation when no other country in the area seems courageous enough to do right by the Assyrian people.


Soldiers Help Restore Cultural Treasures in Nineveh

Courtesy of the U.S. Army News Service
6 August 2004
By Sgt. 1st Class Julie Friedman

(ZNDA: Mosul) Two major historic sites in Mosul dating back to the 8th century B.C. are being restored with help from the 416th Civil Affairs Battalion.

Maj. Wayne Bowen, head of the 416th’s Higher Education and Antiquities Team, is working with Nineveh Director of Antiquities, Muzahim Mahmood, to facilitate restoration projects at the Nergal Gate and King Sennacheribe’s palace.

Local workers painstakingly recreate the ramp leading up to the Nergal Gate using the authentic Assyrian cobblestone pattern.

“The Nergal Gate is just one of 15 gates that surrounded the ancient Assyrian capitol of Nineveh, but we decided to focus on this one first because it was in the best condition,” Bowen explained.

The $22,000 project, funded by the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, includes repaving the ramp leading up to the gate using the authentic Assyrian cobblestone pattern, renovating the gate itself to provide museum displays in both wings and building roofs to protect the various statues and reliefs on the site.

Because most of the structure is still intact and there was historic documentation preserved over the years, the gate will soon look much as it did in ancient times.

“There are reliefs that show the gate at that time so they can fairly accurately recreate the site,” said Bowen.

The second project involves restoring the site of King Sennacheribe’s palace, which is strategically located high on a hill overlooking the Tigris River and was the seat of government in Nineveh during his reign in the early 8th century B.C.

According to Bowen, the site had remained relatively unchanged for nearly 3,000 years, but in April of 2003 it was extensively looted and damaged.

“It’s heartbreaking to see this palace,” Bowen said, “but the multinational forces are committed to working with the Iraqi government to restore the site and recover the artifacts that were stolen.”

Members of the 416th Civil Affairs Battalion tour the site of King Sennacheribes palace on a hill overlooking the Tigris River valley and the city of Mosul.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, known as UNESCO, had already certified the site as a cultural treasure prior to the war, and preliminary work such as building roofs over the reliefs and erecting a temporary fence has already been completed by UNESCO archaeologists. Security guards were also added for the first time in history.

The 416th is working with UNESCO to complete the second phase of the project, which will provide additional security with an improved fence and lighting, improve the road for better access and remove a large oil tank that was installed on the property during the Second World War.

Bowen hopes that once the site is restored and protected it will again be an important site for tourism, along with the renovated Nergal Gate.

“They are a part of the cultural heritage of Iraq and they belong to the people of Iraq, but they are also an essential part of the history of mankind,” he said. “So much of what we know about the beginnings of civilization, culture and technology came directly from this region of the world.”

Chaldean Wife Stabber to Get Retrial in Australia

Courtesy of the Herald Sun
6 August 2004

(ZNDA: Victoria) An Iraqi-Assyrian Chaldean man who stabbed his wife to death, saying she insulted him by spitting at him, has had his murder conviction quashed.

The Court of Appeal ordered a retrial after two of three judges ruled the jury should have been allowed to consider provocation as a defense.

Mazin Yasso stabbed Eman Hermiz 20 times at Meadow Heights shopping center, about 20 miles north of Melbourne, Australia, in May, 2001.

He claimed she spat at him during an argument, an action deemed an insult by their Chaldean Christian community.

Mr Yasso claimed he was humiliated by his estranged wife's relationship with a male friend and her refusal to hand his property to him.

Ms Hermiz withdrew her support for Mr Yasso's visa to stay in Australia and he was to be deported.

83-year-old Assyrian Loves His Job at County Fair

Courtesy of the Modesto Bee
6 August 2004
By Julissa McKinnion; photo by Ted Benson


(ZNDA: Turlock) Malcolm Eddy loves his ticket-selling job at the Stanislaus County Fair so much he never leaves his shady booth for lunch during his 11-hour shift.

At some point in the afternoon, Eddy wolfs down a homemade cheese and butter sandwich, rarely stopping his rhythm of counting change and cheerfully commanding all who enter: "Enjoy the fair."

The retired 83-year-old said he stays put because he loves his job.

He loves seeing his former math students from Turlock High School coming to the fair fully grown, with children of their own. He consoles the occasional senior citizen complaining about the yearly increase in the entry fee. He even sympathizes with parents who try -- to no avail -- passing off their teenagers as younger than 12, hoping to get them in at a lower rate.

Eddy even cherishes the smooth, earth-toned rock he uses to weigh down dollar bills, to keep them from flying away, as he counts back people's change.

His 8-year-old grandson, Danny, picked out the oblong sandstone from a neighbor's yard when the boy was just a toddler, Eddy recalled.

Sunday, Danny accidentally dropped and broke the rock in two. Eddy glued it back together.

Like the rock, Eddy relishes most everything about the ticket-selling job he's held for 25 years -- 19 at the same entrance on Soderquist Avenue, near the livestock area.

Wednesday night, Eddy was crowned an honorary Stanislaus County Fair Idol during the nightly singing competition.

The recognition came as a shock to Eddy, who was trying to figure out why his wife had insisted on taking him and the grandchildren to the fair. Eddy said he tried resisting, complaining that he was tired, but ended up begrudgingly accompanying his wife in his slippers. He also didn't understand why she wanted to sit in the front row.

But all became clear when the emcee announced his name before a full house and the fair board president escorted him onto the Casino Stage. There Eddy was graced with a gold crown and a basket brimming with fair souvenirs.

Pennie Rorex, the fair's lead spokeswoman, said the fair's financial supervisor recommended Eddy for the first-time award.

"He really is a role model for the 450 employees of the Stanislaus County Fair. Everything about him is exemplary," Rorex said. "He models great customer service, responsibility, reliability, kindness, the whole package."

And, she added, Eddy's cash drawer is always accurate -- to the penny.

Eddy said it took all his willpower to hold back tears during Wednesday night's ceremony.

"I don't know how I could stand it, but I didn't cry. I just said, 'Don't,'" Eddy recalled Thursday morning from atop his ticket stool. "I was not expecting this. I said (to fair board President Dale Butler Jr.), 'I am sorry I didn't know, I came in my slippers.' And he said, 'That's OK, we want you, not your shoes.'"

Eddy admitted that he gets emotional about a lot of things. He cries easily, and he's quick to laugh.

He let out several jolly chuckles Thursday morning as he patiently explained to a woman in his native Assyrian that, no, she couldn't pay with an ATM card and, no, she couldn't pay with a check, either. But he would gladly take her cash.

His fluency in Assyrian comes in handy since there are many Assyrians living in the region, Eddy said. Speaking his native language is one of his few remaining links with Iran -- the homeland he left for America in 1977.

Eddy jokes that his former job in Iran, working 35 years as an accountant for an oil company, provided him great experience for his ticket-selling post.

He can add and subtract with alacrity. That helps him count back precise change for several hundred tickets every day of the fair's 10-day run. Wednesday, he sold 529 adult tickets and 144 children's tickets -- a typical turnout for a weekday, he said.

As the fair continues, Eddy said he notices his mood improves with every passing day.

Right now, he's looking forward to the Saturday morning livestock auction. He gets a kick out of trying to decipher the auctioneer's rant and watching the parade of prized sheep, cows, chickens, rabbits and other animals.

"I hope I stay healthy so I can work next year, too," he said

 

Surfs Up!
Letters to the Editor


When Will This Hatred and Cold Murder End? When?

Joseph Haweil
Australia

Well one person I have lost complete faith in is the Mr. Yonadam Kanna. To put it simply, he is a liar!

I sat and watched him speak on all the American News Channels and I thought, yes I believe and trust this man. Oh, how my views have changed. He told the world community and his own people that Iraq was progressing well and everything was settling. He said re-building was happening and everybody was happy.

Mr. Kanna is blowing up Churches, progressing well? I hope to God it is not.

Well, Mr. Kanna what an obvious lie. I am sick of lies and deceit and I have come to my own conclusion. Assyrians will forever be persecuted in Iraq. I believe they should all leave Iraq. Why should they stay and be killed? Why should they have to face intimidation and constant threats? No person should have to live in fear. It is either immediate autonomy and UN assistance or leaving the country.

Are we Assyrians destined by God to have our own homeland? What do the readers of Zinda think?

The Old / New Victims – A Call for Peace

Alfred Alkhas
California

Here is history repeated again!

The Iraqi Christians are once again under vicious attack and once again are the victims of the current conflict between the Muslims and the west. This is a recurring pattern that we see whenever the Muslim world get involved in any war or conflict with the west; they immediately ‘remember’ their hatred to their very next-door brothers, neighbors and citizens (the peaceful Christians) to attack and take revenge.

I know that this subject is sensitive and might provoke other moderate Muslims who reject such argument, but they must think realistically and concur that this is the true picture of the Muslim world whether they like it or not and that is the only reason behind all these atrocities against the Christians in Iraq now.

The Muslim extremists and terrorists started their offensives by posting provocative signs on the Christians churches and sending provocative letters threatening the Christian families to follow Islamic rules or be executed. Then the offence turned to bloody cruelty by attacking liquor stores owners in the south (Basra), which spread quickly to all other major cities. All liquor stores owners are Christians because the Iraqi law and Muslim shari’a prohibits Muslims from manufacturing, selling or drinking liquor.

We immediately blamed our Christian brothers and some voices even asked them to quit the business of selling liquor even though it was their only resource for living and a flourishing business. In addition, the business of selling liquor was there for long decades without any problem of whatsoever and even the Muslims (all my Muslim friends, Arabs and Kurds without any exception, drink alcohol!) were glad to have such convenient stores and markets where they can by and drink the ‘prohibited’ liquor!

However, what can you tell the Iraqi Christians who were attending their Sunday prayers to do now? Do we ask them to leave their own country that they inhabited for thousands of years because the ‘wicked’ west attacked their Muslim country? Will not this be as negotiating and compromise to terrorists and if it is considered so; why then on earth should the world community justify and accept this concession for the Iraqi Christians victims and not accept it for all others who also suffer from extremists and terrorists?

We can hear load voices from all Muslim communities in Iraq and in the Muslim world criticizing and condemning these atrocities and we greatly appreciate their stand and their message. But unfortunately this is not enough and the stakes are much higher than pieces of paper or press releases because such declarations or condemnations will not stop the horrible acts of these terrorists and extremists.

We have heard in the past a lot of such condemnations on papers and in the news and we know very well as those who issue them know that they are futile.

The real answer is to have the Muslim clergies translate their condemnation into acts by preaching and teaching their congregations against these inhuman acts in every Friday prayer.

The real answer is to have the Muslim highest-ranking clergies issue clear and strong religious order ‘Fetwa’ that prohibits such viscous acts.

The real answer is to have the Iraqi government sign and apply strict law and start vigorous government campaign that would eventually prohibit such atrocities against the Iraqi Christians in the future.

It time for all Iraqis to take real actions and not words in order to convince the world that they are really working for a new Iraq of democracy and civil rights.

It is time for Iraqis to show they are serious in their change for equality, protection of the minorities' rights and freedom of religion.

The real move must come in actions not words and directly from the religious, governmental and civic authorities to stop these terrible acts.

Last but not least, it is time for the world community to assume its serious responsibilities to protect the Christians in Iraq.

Zinda Stands Corrected!

In our July 27th issue, under the article "27 Assyrian Organizations Demand Compound Title in Official Documents and Iraqi Census" we incorrectly included the name of the Assyrian Liberation Party (GFA) as a supporter of the compound name.


Surfer's Corner
Community Events


Martyrs Day Commemorations in Chicago

Joseph Tamraz
Midwest Regional Director
Assyrian American National Federation

The 7th of August is a designated Memorial Day for the Assyrian Martyrs who gave their lives in defense of our culture and ethnic identity. This day also commemorates the genocide of the Assyrian people throughout centuries, beginning with third century BC at the hands of the Sassanide Persians in Mesopotamia and the mid of nineteenth century at the hands of the Kurdish Leader Bader Khan Beg in Hakkari and during the turn of the twentieth century at the hands of the Ottoman Turks Turkey and Urmia/Salames - Persia, all the way to the massacre of the Assyrians in 1933 by the newly asserted state of Iraq, as well as the ethnic cleansing which was conducted against our people (Maronites) in mount of Lebanon 1975 & 1985.

However terrible and decimating those massacres were unable to destroy the living spirit of our nation and her thrust for freedom and persistent struggle for preserving our ethnic and cultural identity.

On Saturday August 7, 2004, at 7:00 PM a commemoration ceremony, with candlelight vigil, will be held by “The Assyrian Martyrs Monument” at the Montrose cemetery, 5400 North Pulaski, in Chicago. Following the ceremony a consecrated “DOUKHRANA” will be offered at Mar Odisho Church, 6201 north Pulaski, in Chicago.

We call upon our people, especially, our youth to observe this very special day and participate in this commemoration.

Protests in Arizona Against the Bombing of the Churches

Saint Abrahim Chaldean Church
Saint Peter Assyrian Church of the East
Saint George Ancient Church of the East
Assyrian Democratic Movement- AZ Chapter
Mar Zia Assyrian Organization
Assyrian American Association of Arizona
Assyrian Aid Society of America

Sunday, August 8, 2004
2 p.m. at Patriot Park
Phoenix, Arizona

The ChaldoAssyrian Christians of Iraq, the indigenous people of the land need your support.

Come all and raise your voice. Let our official hear our call. We no longer can sit quiet when our Churches are attacked and our people are killed while attending church services.

The terrorist wants to uproot Christianity from the cradle of the civilization. No Christian or any human being should allow this to continue

Bring your family and friends. The event will be covered by various news media.

Let's show support to our Christian brethren in Iraq.

 
Literatus
Editor's Choice


Iraq's Church Bombers vs. Muhammad

Courtesy of the United Press International
Christianity Today
6 August 2004
By Uwe Siemon-Netto

The lethal attacks on five churches in Iraq violated the stated will of the prophet Muhammad, who in the 7th century issued a Firman —or letter of protection — for Assyrian Christians.

Assyrians make up the majority of the 700,000 Christians in present-day Iraq. Muhammad was so impressed with their ancestors' knowledge of medicine and the sciences that he decreed for them to be left in peace, according to Albert Yelda, formerly the Christian representative in the leadership of the London-based Iraqi National Congress.

The Firman disappeared without trace in 1847, Yelda told United Press International. Assyrians believe that the then-Turkish rulers destroyed this document before setting out to kill 30,000 Christians.

Joseph Yacoub, a political science professor at the Catholic University of Lyon, France, fears that the coordinated car bombings of churches may accomplish what Muhammad had tried to prevent. "There exists a definite risk that the Christian presence will be reduced to a level of insignificance," he told the French newspaper, Le Figaro.

"So far there had just been attacks on Christian individuals," this leading expert on Middle Eastern Christianity continued. "But now the bombers have taken on the entire community. Their message is clear: This is Muslim territory; it does not belong to you."

Thus one of the most remarkable set of Christians is once again threatened with extinction. The Assyrians, of whom there are 1.5 million worldwide, are descendants of one of the oldest civilizations: Mesopotamia. Almost three millennia ago, they excelled in astronomy, jurisprudence, the arts, architecture, medicine, and the natural sciences.

Assyrians were the first nation to adopt Christianity as their state religion in A.D. 179, more than a century before Armenia. They claim to have been the first to build churches and to translate the New Testament from Greek into their vernacular — Aramaic, the language of Christ.

In the 8th century, not long after Muhammad's death, Assyrians were the first to send missionaries to China, Mongolia, and even Japan. They were Nestorians, heretics in the eyes of the rest of the church because they followed the teachings of Nestorius, a 5th-century bishop of Constantinople who taught that the Virgin Mary was not the theodokos, or mother of God, but simply the mother of Jesus Christ.

This fine point of theology has long ceased to stand in the way of Christian unity in Iraq. In the 16th century, a major segment of the Nestorian church united with Rome while retaining its ancient liturgy. They are now called the Chaldean Church, to which most Assyrian Christians belong.

The remaining Nestorians are on excellent of terms with the Chaldeans, while maintaining different traditions. Their liturgy is extremely "high;" yet their incense-filled sanctuaries appear as stark as synagogues or Reformed churches.

There is no iconostasis — a partition or screen decorated with icons separating the sanctuary from the rest of the church. There are no graven images. A simple cross above the altar is the only adornment of a Nestorian church. Nestorians call their priests "rabi;" like orthodox Jews they eschew mixed marriages.

While the Assyrians lived in peace for much of the first 11 centuries since the Muslim conquest of their homeland, martyrdom has been their fate for the past 150 years.

The massacre of 30,000 Christians in 1847 was succeeded by another in 1896. In 1915 the Turks slaughtered not only over one million Armenians but also 250,000 Assyrians, a fact seldom mentioned when the first holocaust of the 20th century is being discussed.

There are still some old men alive in Iraq who were forcible converted to Islam in their childhood but remained Christians in their hearts, fasting during Lent and making merry at Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.

During Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, the Assysians' persecution was in a sense more of a cultural than a religious nature. "Tyrants hate minorities," said Yelda. Hence Saddam had hundreds of Assyrian villages razed, including one 2nd-century church. He also banned the Assyrians' cultural clubs where they had kept their literary language alive.

But in Saddam's days, too, Muslim mobs terrorized Iraqi Christians, beheading on August 15, 2002, a Chaldean nun, Sister Cecilia Hanna, whose monastery they had stormed.

Like their cousins, the Jews, Assyrians are now scattered around the world. Almost 300,000 went to America, primarily the Chicago area. Others live in Jordan, Australia, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

It is with a heavy heart that Pope John Paul II reacted to the news of the murderous attacks on Iraq's churches by stressing his closeness to the marvelous and venerable Christian culture, which is at the point of oblivion.

[Zinda: Mr. Uwe Siemon-Netto is UPI's religious affairs editor.]

Is Iraq Another Yugoslavia?

Courtesy of Reality Macedonia
5 August 2004
By Sasha Uzunov

Churches belonging to the Christian Assyrians, one of Iraq's indigenous peoples, have become the latest target of terrorism in the strife-torn country. This conjures up disturbing parallels with the decade long religious and ethnic conflict in the Balkans.

Iraq reminds me of the former Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, both communist federations consisting of various competing ethnic groups. Both of these nations lasted about 70 years before fragmenting violently into a multitude of new nation states in the early 1990s.

Iraq is a hodge podge consisting of an ethnic Arab majority, many of whom are Shiite or Sunni Muslim. A very small number are Arab Christians. Add to this mixture, millions of Sunni Muslim Kurds and Turkmans in the north of the country. Kurds are non-Arabs, whilst the Turkmans are closely related to the Turks. Not forgetting the Assyrian Christians, who were the original inhabitants of Iraq before being swamped by an Islamic Arab invasion in 637 AD, more than 1300 years ago. There are also tiny numbers of ethnic Christian Armenians, and two little known sects, the Sabia, who worship water, and the Yazidi, mistakenly referred to as "devil worshipers."

The irony is that Iraq is one of the cradles of Western and Judeo-Christian civilization. Anyone who has studied ancient history at high school can recall the Sumerians, the Assyrians and the Babylonians, and the mighty Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Iraq has Yugoslavia written all over it. Can such a country survive intact? Can the west, in particular the United States-lead coalition of the willing, hold it all together?

The Kurds in the north have been fighting for their own homeland for decades. Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein brutally suppressed them by gassing and bombing them. He also brutally suppressed the Shiite Arab majority, located in the south, which have religious ties to neighbouring non-Arab state, Iran, the descendant of Ancient Persia.

Saddam, as a way of dividing the rival groups, appointed an Arab Christian, the bespectacled Tariq Aziz, as his Foreign Minister. Aziz, being a Christian had no hope of building an anti-Saddam conspiracy.

Northern neighbour Turkey is not comfortable with an independent Kurdistan arising from northern Iraq, as there are millions of Kurds within Turkish borders. Turkey has fought a 20-year Kurdish insurgency and is concerned about the plight of its Turkman kin.

Christian Assyrians also live in Syria and Iran. The father of famous American tennis player, Andre Agassi, is an Assyrian from Iran. These people are a small and persecuted minority in their own homelands. So it comes as no great surprise that a large ethnic Assyrian diaspora exists. In the next couple of months or years, don't be surprised if more of them try to flee to the west.

Another of those persecuted indigenous peoples we hardly hear about is the Christian Egyptian Copts, who have suffered at the hands of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism. The former Egyptian Foreign Minister and UN Secretary General, Boutros Boutros Ghali, is a Copt. Like the Assyrians, many Copts have made the west home.

Then there are the Berbers of Algeria. These people are the original nomads of North Africa, who were converted to Islam by invading Arab armies eons ago. A deadly rivalry still exists been Arabs and Berbers.

In Sudan, black African Christians in the Darfur region are being attacked by the Islamic Arabic controlled government and militias.

Can there ever be a peaceful solution to the Middle-East and North Africa?

[Zinda: Mr. Sasha Uzunov is a freelance journalist who has covered the Balkans region for almost a decade.]

Bet-Nahrain: the Beginning of the End?

Dean Kalimniou
Australia

Avid readers of this paper would recall last year that we politely pointed the 'liberating' forces of the US Army in Iraq in the direction of Xenophon's "Anabasis" in the hope that they would realize that which Xenophon's army came to find out at great cost and peril thousands of years earlier: that it is one thing to invade Mesopotamia and another thing to retain it.

The chaos ensuing from the invasion of Iraq has opened up a veritable can of worms in the region, pitting Arab against Kurd, Shi'ite against Sunni, Ba'athist against fundamentalist and Muslim against the West. Greek media coverage of the Iraq debacle has note worthily been more sensitive in pointing out the abuses and problems faced by the US-led occupation forces that its Australian counterparts who generally report only instances of Iraqi aggression. Interestingly, while analysts embroil themselves in Sunni, Shia and Kurdish politics, next to no-one has spared a thought for the ever diminishing and embattled native population of Iraq: the Assyrians.

The Assyrian people have lived in the Mesopotamia, referred to by them as Bet-Nahrain (the land between the Two Rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris) since before the Greeks descended into the Balkans. While their empire and domination of the Middle East before the rise of the Persians is generally well documented, reaching as far as Cyprus and Egypt, as is their influence on Greek science, it is commonly and wrongly assumed that after the fall of Nineveh, their great capital, that they became extinct. However, the Aramaic speaking peoples of Bet-Nahrain remained such a vital part of the Persian Empire that their language became the official language of correspondence in that empire.

For further information and to access the application form, all applicants are invited to refer to www.aanf.org.

The Assyrians were quickly Christianised, and this caused them to suffer great reprisals by the Persians who saw them as a potential fifth column of the Byzantine Empire. In this respect the Assyrians formed an uneasy buffer zone between two hostile civilizations, absorbing influences from both. Establishing a vital theology, the Assyrian Orthodox Church of the East embarked on a vast missionary feat that had it spread Orthodoxy as far as China and India.

Indeed, Marco Polo found Assyrian monasteries in Mongolia and the Mongolian Khans, rulers of the largest empire of the world, protected and were profoundly interested in Assyrian Orthodoxy. Today, though much diminished, the Orthodox Church in South India still looks to the Assyrian Patriarch for guidance. Assyrians also looked to the Greek world for theological and philosophical inspiration.

Many of the ancient Greek as well as ecclesiastical texts surviving today, are so extant because of the Aramaic translations and commentaries compiled by Assyrian scholars, while the Antioch school of theology that so influenced Byzantine thinking was mainly Aramaic speaking. Again it is through the medium of these scholars that Greek philosophy was able to be passed on to the Arabs and dispersed throughout the Middle East, while Assyrians take pride in the fact that their language, Aramaic, was the language spoken by Jesus Christ.

The rise of Islam has not been kind to the Assyrians, though they have tenaciously clung to their Christian heritage. Forced to retreat to their heartland among the mountains of northern Iraq and southern Turkey, their story is one of continuous persecution and massacres by their Muslim neighbours. This has been never more so this century when the Assyrians suffered genocide at the hands of the Ottomans and Kurds at the same time as the Armenians and Pontic Greeks were going through a similar tragedy. One of the world's better known Assyrians, Thea Halo, author of the book "Not Even My Name" who visited Melbourne last year, emphasizes the joint suffering as creating an unsunderable bond between our two peoples - that is, if the Greeks paid attention to the 5,000-strong refugee Assyrian community within its borders. It is worthwhile noting that an Assyrian regiment of the British army fought in defense of Crete in 1941.

Today, the once strong Assyrian community in Bet-Nahrain is slowly evacuating its ancient homeland. From an estimated two million Assyrians living in Iraq at the turn of last century, it is estimated that only 200,000 or so remain today. British promises of Assyrian independence caused thousands of Assyrians to enlist in British regiments, only to have their dreams snatched away from them and be left alone to face the mounting hostility and reprisals of Kurds and Arabs. The Ba'athist regime of Saddam Hussein encouraged further tension between Kurds and Assyrians, resulting in murders and internecine strife.

During Saddam's rule, 200 churches were destroyed and the archaeological finds attesting to the glories of Assyrian civilization were spirited away. Formal Assyrian language classes were banned and Assyrians were forced to give their children Arabic names in an effort to assimilate them. Saddam's son Uday would deliberately target Assyrian girls as his playthings, to be raped and then killed by his bodyguards or ripped apart by his menagerie of wild beasts while members of the Assyrian community in Melbourne tell stories of kidnappings, murders and mutilations that turn one's stomach.

All the time, in the interests of strategy and big petro-dollars, the west stood idly by and did nothing. Now, after the so-called 'liberation' of Iraq, it is noteworthy that while a fundamentalist and anti-Christian climate has been created, none of the 'protectors' of Iraq has seen fit to take steps to protect its most vulnerable and peace-loving people.

American soldiers permitted Iraqis to loot the Baghdad museum of all Assyrian antiquities, while imams actively encouraged looters to destroy artifacts that were not Islamic. The new Iraqi constitution studiously avoids any mention of the Assyrian minority and definitely does not provide any measures for the protection of its cultural heritage. In the meantime, the few Assyrians remaining in the zone controlled by the new government are subject to harassment and violence by their Muslim neighbours.

In the Kurdish controlled north, the traditional Assyrian heartland, thousands of Assyrian families are streaming across the border to Syria in fear of their lives. In towns such as Mosul and Arbil, the scene of Alexander the Great's great victory over the Persians, being towns that enjoy significant Assyrian minorities, Assyrian businesses are plundered and prominent members of the community are being assassinated. So much then for a pluralistic and tolerant Iraq and for the efforts of our Western bringers of light, or rather to use the Latin, lucifers.

An ancient people is through a situation caused by the West or at the least by deliberate neglect, being allowed to walk the slow, traumatic walk into the pages of extinction. A proud people, to whom the prophets of the Old Testament refer to as the rod of God's anger and who have contributed so much to world culture are doomed to revisit genocide and ethnic cleansing over and over again, victims of the machinations of 'greater Powers' and major historical bungling.

What a triumph of Western Civilisation the 'democratisation' of Iraq proved to be, especially for a Christian people. Now that, to quote the emperor Claudius in Robert Graves' Claudius the God, all the poisons that lurk in the mud have hatched out, let as pray that despite this further Western betrayal of them, the Assyrian people will find the strength to survive, albeit just.

[Zinda: Mr. Kalimniou's article about the Assyrians was published in the Greek language newspaper of Melbourne, Neos Kosmos, on Monday, 12 July 2004. With the permission of the author.]

Bravo
Assyrians at their Best

 

Assyrian Youth Meets U.S. Officials in Iraq

 

Mr. Steven Darmo, the Media Director for the ChaldoAssyrian Student Union in Kirkuk, was one of the eight Iraqi Youth to meet this week with the U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell (left) and John D. Negroponte, the new US Ambassador to Iraq (right).

 

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


Dr. Matay Arsan (Holland)
Moneer Cherie (Editorial photos)
David Chibo (Australia)
Sargon David (Canada)
Tomas Isik (Sweden)
Youkie.Khaninia (Arizona)
Petr Kubalek (Czech Republic)
Rev. Genard Lazar (Australia)
Fred Rustam (Arizona)


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