27 Eelool 6754
Volume X

Issue 29

17 September 2004


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This Week in Zinda

Lord Stephen Pound's Speech at the British Parliament

Lord Stephen Pound

Nisan Shmoel of the Assyrian Patriotic Party Assassinated
Assyrian Girls Killed in Bartella
Beheading of Two Assyrians Not Reported
Assyrian Brothers Killed in Mosul
Assyrian Killed in Baghdad Bombing
Chaldean Assyrian from Canada Killed in Baghdad
Iraqi Christians Determined not to be Driven Away by Attacks
Assyrian Compound Attacked in Baghdad
Iraqi Christians Seek Sanctuary in Ancient Homeland
Chaldean Archbishop Says U.S., Allies Must Defend Christians


Assyrian Village in Tur Abdin Evacuated
Soener Oender After 13 years of Imprisonment Free!
AANF Elects New Executive Committee
AUA Delegation Meets with Australian PM
Iran Arrests 80 Evangelicals, New Crackdown on Christians
Alleged Saddam Agent Out on $250,000 Bond
Assyrian Youth from Turlock Dies of Unknown Causes
Gilgamesh Epic to be Filmed in Turkey
Diamanda Galas on Tour Performs from her Genocide Album
Kerry Promises to Recognize the Seyfo Genocide
Karl Suleman Talks About His Feelings For AUA Deputy

  Time to Embrace Iraqi Jews and Kurds
Look How Today Resembles Yesterday
Assyrian Representation in Iraq Reaching a Catastrophic End

Daniel Fullmer (Michigan)
Edward Baba (California)
Fred Aprim (California)

  Meet Samaria Kishto in San Jose

Ashur Radio

  The Fate of Iraq's Christians
Wave of Terrorism Hits Home for Iraqi Assyrians
Dr. Eden Naby
  Rasson Bet-Yonan's Website Kinara Productions


The Lighthouse
Feature Article(s)

Lord Stephen Pound's Speech at the British Parliament Regarding the Assyrians of Iraq

[Zinda:  The following speech was delivered on 6 July 2004 by Lord Stephen Pound who represents the North Ealing region of the United Kingdom in the British Parliament.  Lord Pound was elected as MP for Ealing North in May l997.  His main interest areas are housing, Europe, Ireland, transport and local government. To thank and/or comment on Lord Pound's speech and efforts in the British Parliament, send your email to stevepoundmp@parliament.uk .]

It is a pleasure and an honour to appear before you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and also a delight, as you are one of the few hon. Members who speak fluent demotic and classical Greek and, for all I know, Akkadian Aramaic, too. If I occasionally lapse into Aramaic, it is not as a result of watching Mel Gibson films, but a tribute to your learning, Sir.

One purpose of the debate is to place on the record some facts about the Assyrian community as it is now and will be in the future, and about its extraordinary past. It is not just as old as civilisation, it has measured civilisation. The Assyrian community may be known from the unfortunate Biblical reference to the Assyrian coming down like a wolf on the fold, but as we are in the year 6754 in the Assyrian calendar, it gives us some idea of its longevity.

Lord Stephen Pound

Who knows when the Assyrian civilisation began, but 2400 BC was the beginning of the first golden age of Assyria, which lasted until 612 BC, followed by a dark age from 612 BC to 33 AD, a second golden age from 33 AD to 1300, a second dark age from 1300 to 1918, and then the diaspora from 1918, which is why I have raised the matter today.

People in this country know little of Assyrian culture, language and history, although we may recognise the names Sargon II, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal, but are we aware that the Assyrian empire at its peak stretched from the Caspian to Cyprus, from Anatolia to Egypt? It was a vast civilisation, not just the cradle of the modern world and modern civilisation, but the exemplar of how a state and an empire could be run, with learning, culture and an indigenous language that survived the vicissitudes to which I have referred.

The early Assyrian civilisation gave us, today, in this country, an enormous number of gifts: its people invented locks, keys and the measurement of time—the sexagesimal system was an Assyrian invention. They were responsible for the first postal system, the first paved roads, the first use of iron, the magnifying glass, the first libraries and, more prosaically, but equally usefully, the first plumbing and flush toilets. They invented the first electric battery, the first guitars, the first aqueducts and the first arches, although they are perhaps best known for two of their most famous inventions, both of which have made a great difference to my life: the wheel and lager. Those are the extraordinary achievements of a group of people from a country that is recognised in the epic of Gilgamesh; it is the site of Noah's flood, and its civilisation is inextricably linked with our own.

For the purposes of this debate I want briefly to mention the defining moment in Assyrian history: 33 AD, when the apostle Thomas, with Thaddeus and Bartholomew, converted the Assyrian nation to Christianity; the Assyrian Church of the East is the first and oldest Christian Church. Many hundreds of years later, when Marco Polo arrived in China, he found Assyrian Christian missionaries, which had followed the silk road. The entire Assyrian nation converted to Christianity in 33 AD, held true to its tenets and beliefs, and suffered grievously for it.

At the height of the golden age from 33 AD to 1300, Assyrians founded the world's first university, with departments of theology, philosophy and medicine. The school of Nisibis became the model on which early Italian universities were founded.

Rather than go through Assyria's entire history, tempting thought that may be, I shall rush forward to 1918—the age of the diaspora. From 1300 to 1918, the Assyrian Christian community in Iraq, and those in Lebanon, Turkey, Syria and surrounding areas were viciously persecuted. Genocide was a regular feature. The Islamic conquerors of that part of the world imposed a tax, and many families had no alternative but to convert to Islam out of sheer financial necessity, regardless of their own theological beliefs.

The Assyrian diaspora has spread throughout the world. Switzerland was mentioned earlier; it has 10,000 Assyrians. There are 80,000 in Brazil, 100,000 in Lebanon, 50,000 in Iran, 23,000 in Canada, 20,000 in Holland, 2,000 in Mexico and 8,000 in Greece, which was the subject of the previous debate. Particularly dear to my heart and to the business of the House is the 8,000-strong Assyrian Christian community living in this country, many of whom I am privileged to welcome to my own community in west London. It is a long way from Nineveh to north-west London, but the Assyrian culture and the belief in the language have been constant throughout.

Earlier this year, I celebrated the Assyrian new year at the Assyrian centre in South Ealing road with one of the Minister's colleagues, who was extremely well received—he is always welcome, should he wish to return. We were delighted to see evidence of the strength of this community in our part of the world—a community that has thrived and given us a great deal.

One reason why the community is so well integrated in the UK is the long tradition of service for the British, predominantly in what we call modern Iraq. I am delighted that with us in Parliament today is Awiya Khamo, the son of Rab Emma Nimrud Khamo—Rab Emma is a title roughly translatable as flight lieutenant—who served in the Royal Air Force Levies in Habbaniyah. I could happily speak for hours on the history of the Levies' contribution and the Assyrians' participation, but I doubt whether people could happily listen for hours. I will say only that during the last war, 40,000 Assyrians fought in the Levies, and the Assyrian Parachute Regiment fought hand to hand with German forces in Crete, Greece, Albania and Italy.

I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Khabra), my constituency neighbour, in whose constituency the Assyrian centre is located, is here to support the debate. We speak as one on this matter. Although the centre is in his constituency, I do not begrudge him that; I welcome it.

Today, we have a desperately unhappy and tragic situation. I am referring specifically to the situation in Iraq, to which the title of this brief debate refers. Article 7 of the constitution of Iraq states that Islam shall be the official religion of the state. One consequence of that and of the large amount of Islamic cultural and social material that is played on radio stations and is in the newspapers has been a marginalisation of the Christian community. In addition—I do not say that this is a result of article 7, because it has lasted for many thousands of years—there is a campaign of murder and harassment against Christians in Iraq, which I deeply regret. An exodus on the scale of the 1918 diaspora is taking place. A recent message from a deacon at a church in Iraq states that its people are spending more time filling out the baptismal forms needed to leave the country than on arranging Christian services.

It is a desperately difficult situation, and harassment of Assyrians, principally—but not solely—by Muslims is now so serious that people are talking about whether article 54 of the transitional administrative law could include some sort of protected homeland for the Assyrian Christian minority. I shall mention that again in a moment.

Last month, two Assyrian sisters, Janet and Shatha, who were working for Bechtel, were killed just outside Basra in a drive-by shooting. They were identifiable Assyrian Christians, slaughtered for no discernible reason. Why would two young women be killed on the streets in that way? The family are quite convinced that the murder took place because of their religion. In the new year, several bombs exploded specifically in Christian areas.

The loss of Bashir Toma Elias, who was slaughtered on Christmas eve, just outside Basra, is a matter of grave concern to many people in the Christian community. Bombs exploded outside Christian churches and in the Christian district of Baghdad, and it is felt that some of the militia groups, who have names like "God's Vengeance", have stated that they will not rest until all Christians have left Basra or converted to Islam—that information comes from the well-authenticated and respected Barnabas Fund—and 2,000 Christian families have already fled.

On 7 June, four masked men drove into the Christian Assyrian quarter—Hay Al-Athuryeen—of the Dora district of Baghdad and opened fire on Assyrians on their way to work. Three men and one woman were killed immediately. It was a specifically targeted attack by masked gangsters on the Assyrian Christian community. We have now reached the stage where the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, in the form of the Diocesan Bishop of Europe, Mar Odisho Oraham, has actually written to the Foreign Office, calling attention to the present plight of the Assyrian Christians. With the charity for which he is known, he recognises that the previous dictatorial regime in Iraq has gone, but he asserts that security and stability have not yet been established.

For many Assyrian Christians, the UK is a country for which their fathers and their families have fought. It has welcomed them and seen them grow into a stable, hard-working, law-abiding community, which has made an enormous contribution. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall and I can point to many examples of the contribution that it has made locally. The concern is that many of the Assyrian Christian community who have followed a well-trodden path to the United Kingdom will be forcibly repatriated to Iraq without the specific pressures and the condition of the Christian community in Iraq being considered.

Mar Odisho Oraham has urged the Foreign Office, not to give a blanket exemption to all Assyrian Christian asylum seekers from Iraq from any repatriation—that would be unreasonable—but to take into account their specific circumstances. I ask for that today. When decisions are made, the long history of genocide against the Assyrian people—the continuing and contemporary slaughter of Assyrians for no other reason than their Christianity—should be taken into consideration. I have spoken this morning to one of the leading members of the community, Andy Darmoo, whose father served for 31 years in the RAF. Speaking for the Assyrian community in the UK, he lists a long, bloody and heartbreaking catalogue of murders, attacks, assaults, land confiscation and denial of human rights currently taking place.

Andy Darmoo said to me this morning that, in addition to the historical linkage between the Assyrian Christian community and the United Kingdom, there has been a long-lasting relationship of mutual respect and support. He referred to the participation of the British forces after the great war and how virtually everyone in the Assyrian centre has some relationship with the British armed forces. He also referred to the positive contribution that they have made to this country.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall can speak for himself, but I hope that he will allow me to say that he and I come from a part of north-west London that has many communities. Many different streams of people come together to make up what we relish and cherish as our multiracial and multicultural community. One cannot say that one community is better, stronger or weaker than another, but of all the dozens, if not scores, of communities among whom I live and work, few have made as great a contribution in such a positive, community-conscious and law-abiding way as the Assyrian Christian community. The fact that half the referees in the Middlesex FA are Assyrians is neither here nor there—I can forgive them for that. That community makes an enormous contribution.

I asked for this debate because I am concerned about the fear in the Iraqi Christian community of the consequences of article 7 of the constitution for the temporary administration in Iraq and of the possibility of forced repatriation, and about the effect that that is having on that community, which, to coin a phrase, has stood shoulder to shoulder with us for many centuries. While we cannot repay such loyalty, we can acknowledge and respect it.

I call on my hon. Friend the Minister, who is well known and widely respected in the Assyrian community, simply to accept the realities of life in Iraq when any decision is made. I am sure that he will do so. If I apologise for placing this matter on the record and for taking parliamentary time to do it, I do so in recognition of the fact that it is important that the voice of our Assyrian brothers and sisters is heard in this place, that some of their history is placed on the record and, more importantly, that their present and future are made safer and more secure by the actions of this House.

The Minister for Trade and Investment (Mr. Mike O'Brien) : I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) for raising this subject for debate today. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Khabra) for coming along to listen to the debate.

I begin by assuring my hon. Friends that the Government intend to take into account the circumstances of the Assyrian Christians in Iraq when we make asylum decisions. I shall pass on their concerns to the Home Office and the Foreign Office.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North is right to say that the roots of the Assyrian Christians in the region perhaps go deeper than those of any other community in the middle east. They are rightly proud of their history and culture. However, like all the people of Iraq, the latest chapter of their history has been one of misery. They have endured decades of oppression under Saddam's regime. Many were forced into exile, as were many others during the great Assyrian diaspora of decades before. I know that many Assyrians live in my hon. Friend's constituency and that he has worked hard during his years as a Member of this House to highlight their cause, and it is right that he should do so.

There are also thousands of internally displaced Assyrians still living in Iraq, driven from their homes during Saddam's "Arabisation" scheme. The forced movement of Kurds, Turkomans and Assyrians is one of the worst legacies of Saddam's regime. An Iraqi Property Claims Commission has been set up to deal with the way in which people were forced out of their homes and to examine whether the disputes over property can be resolved in a legal and controlled fashion. Offices are now open throughout Iraq, with particular emphasis on the Kirkuk district, which saw the worst cases of forced displacement.

The British Government have worked tirelessly over the past year to secure basic human rights for all of Iraq's minorities—rights that Saddam denied. Iraq now has human rights legislation encapsulated in chapter 2 of the transitional administrative law, agreed by the Iraqi governing council in March. This legislation provides a legal framework for Iraq during the transitional period. It states that all Iraqis are equal before the law and that discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, religion or gender is illegal. It states that torture in all its forms is prohibited under all circumstances and it guarantees the right of all Iraqis to educate their children in their mother tongue, including Syriac, the language of the Assyrian people.

It is the first time in Iraq's history that such an impressive package of human rights legislation has been passed, and Iraq's different communities have universally welcomed it. I know that the Assyrian community in particular were pleased with article 53 of the law, which guarantees their administrative, cultural and political rights, although of course they would have liked more.

The British Government will continue to keep in touch with the full spectrum of different ethnic, religious and tribal groups that make up Iraq's rich tapestry. Foreign Office officials regularly meet representatives from Iraq's Assyrian community, both in London and in Iraq. We will actively continue with such engagement. We are very aware of the Assyrians' unique place in Iraq's history. Appropriately, they have a representative in the new Iraqi Government, Ms Pascale Isho Warda, who is Minister for Displacement and Migration.

All indications from the new Iraqi Government are that they will continue to further minority rights. That is not surprising—after so many years of suffering the Iraqi people crave a Government who will further their collective and individual rights. Many individuals in the interim Government have personal and direct experience of human rights violations under the former regime.

Of course, the drafting of human rights legislation in Iraq is only part of the battle. Respect for human rights must be seen in action, too. We have a moral duty to support the Iraqis in the implementation of the laws that they have passed. As my hon. Friend said, there have been reports of attacks against the Christian community in Iraq, including kidnappings, assassinations and intimidation of practising Christians. It is not just Christians who are affected. Shias in Sunni areas, Sunnis in Shia areas, Kurds and Arabs—men and women—have all been affected by terrorist attacks. A small minority who aspire to provoke and exploit divisions between religions and ethnic communities carries out the attacks.

The British troops currently serving in Iraq are working with the Iraqi security forces to prevent those attacks and create stability in the country. It is only by building up the Iraqi security forces and ensuring that they enforce the human rights laws that their Government have decreed that we can create the conditions in which the most basic human rights—security, stability and democracy—can be implemented.

The handover of authority on 28 June was a milestone that has profound importance for the Iraqi people. It has been welcomed throughout Iraq, regionally, and worldwide. With the support of the United Nations, Iraqis are preparing for the next steps in the political transition—elections to a Transitional National Assembly and Transitional Government by the end of January, followed by the drafting of a permanent constitution, a referendum and then elections on the basis of the new constitution.

We hope that the elections will give Iraq's minority groups an opportunity to be represented at all levels of government in Iraq. Furthermore, it is the elected representatives to the Transitional National Assembly who will draft the permanent constitution in 2005, so all Iraqis, including the Assyrians, will be able to identify with the values and institutions enshrined in that new constitution.

There is a long way still to go. There are obviously difficulties in dealing with terrorism, reducing the level of violence, and ensuring proper respect for human rights. It is also clear that the hatred that is building up among some in Iraq is targeted not only at coalition forces but at various minority groups, including the Assyrians. We must ensure that the security forces are strong enough to deal with the problems, and that respect for human rights is embedded in a new Iraqi constitution so that the duly elected Government respect those rights. To some extent the coalition can help, but it is up to the Iraqi people how they vote in elections.

Mr. Piara S. Khabra (Ealing, Southall) (Lab): Under a constitution, or whatever political system is set up in a country, there is a guarantee of civil liberties and rights to the minorities. However, despite the fact that the law may not allow it, religious fundamentalists in many countries behave as they want to, as has been experienced by Christians in Pakistan. How can the difficult situation in Iraq be resolved if the authorities are unable to control the fanatics, who like to intimidate and persecute minorities in a country that is predominantly made up of one religion?

Mr. O'Brien : My hon. Friend is right: we have seen the growth of fanaticism in a number of countries in and beyond the middle east. There have been attacks based on religious hatred in Pakistan, India and many other countries. The Governments of those countries must deal with that level of fanaticism, the teaching of hatred and the fact that some people seem to think that they have a God-given right to murder others because of their different beliefs.

Iraq presents us with particular problems because of the aftermath of the war and the creation of the new Government. There has been a concerted attack not only by outside extremists—some no doubt influenced by al-Qaeda—but by those involved with Saddam Hussein in the past. Others, for various tribal and domestic reasons, have also become involved in terrorist action and violence. The religious hatreds that my hon. Friend identified have fed into that situation.

Over the coming months, we shall seek to embed the idea of respect for human and individual rights into the operation of the Iraqi Government. I repeat that it will be up to the Iraqis what sort of Government they create. We can help and encourage them, and show that we believe that respect for minority religions is enormously important. We will continue to lobby the Iraqi Government to implement human rights legislation and we will continue to provide troops for the multinational force in line with Prime Minister Allawi's request. We will also continue to lobby the new sovereign Iraqi Government after the implementation of the constitution to ensure that human rights are firmly anchored in their permanent way of dealing with people. We want to see a free, democratic, stable Iraq, at peace with herself and her neighbours, and with respect for all religious minorities, including the Assyrians.


Good Morning Assyria
News from Homeland

To comment on these news articles click on the image of the Ziggurat.

Nisan Shmoel of the Assyrian Patriotic Party Assassinated

(ZNDA: Mosul)  On 1 September 1, during a terrorist attack on the building of the Governorate of Nineveh, Mr. Nisan Sliyo Shmoel's shoulder was injured.  Mr. Shmoel was rushed to a local hospital where he was treated. Mr. Shmoel was then released from the hospital on that same day, only to accost his killers again awaiting his release.  Mr. Shmoel was targeted with a car not carrying plate numbers, used to drive him to the hospital. He died immediately after the second attack.

Martyr Nisan Sliyo Shmoel was 43 and is survived by his wife and 6 children (5 daughters and 1 son). The oldest of his children is 15.

Shortly after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, Nisan Sliyo Shmoel joined the Assyrian Patriotic Party (Gabba Atranaya Atouraya). Mr. Shmoel was also a private in the newly- formed Iraqi Army.

Assyrian Girls Killed in Bartella

(ZNDA: Mosul)  According to information posted on www.ankawa.com, on 31 August three Assyrian women - residents of the town of Bartella - were killed in Mosul.  

Tara Majeed Betros Al-Hadaya, Taghrid Abdul-Massih Ishaq Betros and her sister Hala Abdul-Massih Ishaq Betros, were were returning to their homes in Bartilla, from a hospital in Mosul where they worked, when their car was attacked by a group of terrorists who opened heavy fire.

The attack took place in the section between the "television area" and the Kokajli district on the main road between Mosul and Bartilla.

Also injured in the attack was another Assyrian woman, Amera Nouh Sha‘ana who was also returning home to Bartilla and another Assyrian driver, Naji Betros Ishaq.

The three female victims were in their twenties. The residents of Bartilla are followers of the Syriac Orthodox Church, and the town is the birth place of His Holiness Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox

Beheading of Two Assyrians Not Reported

(ZNDA: Mosul)  The residents of Mosul have complained in the past 3 weeks that a horrific act of the beheading of two Assyrians in that city was not reported by the western media. 

Last month, a group of terrorists left compact discs around the city which contained the filming of the beheading of two Assyrians to further intimidate the Christian population of that city - the ancient capital of the Assyrian empire. 

The western media has not made the beheading of the two Iraqi Christians public as of Zinda magazine's press time.

Assyrian Brothers Killed in Mosul

(ZNDA: Mosul)  Two Assyrian brothers, Khalid, 32, and Hani Boulos, 28, were murdered in Mosul in the Al-Sa‘a district on 2 September.  Both brothers were respected members of the Mosul Christian community and honored for defending and assisting other Assyrians.

According to eyewitnesses a car carrying a group of armed terrorists began firing at Khalid and Hani Boulos, killing them instantly.

Both brothers were employed by a foreign company in Mosul.

Attacks on Assyrian Christians in Iraq have intensified since the bombing of the five churches on 1 August.

Assyrian Killed in Baghdad Bombing

(ZNDA: Baghdad) On 1 September, Mr. Gewargis Youaresh Nisan, an Assyrian living in the affluent district of Karrada (Arkhita) of Baghdad, was killed when a a terrorist bomb exploded.

An Assyrian woman lights candles in front of a picture of the Virgin Mary before a ceremony for the Holy Cross Day at The Church of Saint Bahnam Sheik Matti, an Assyrian Orthodox Church in Baghdad. Photo by Allison Long / KRT.


Chaldean Assyrian from Canada Killed in Baghdad

Courtesy of the Globe and Mail
17 September 2004
by Orly Halpern & Joe Friesen

(ZNDA: Baghdad)  In the weeks before he died, Andrew Shmakov had been forced to stay behind closed doors for his own safety.

On Tuesday, when he finally accompanied his business partner Munir Toma to the office, the two were killed in an ambush on a Baghdad street.

The two Canadians were long-time friends, working as civilian contractors in Iraq.

But recently, Mr. Toma's family concluded that Mr. Shmakov's presence was putting them in danger, and they tried to keep him out of sight.

"We felt we were threatened from Andrew's presence," Munir's wife, Baydaa, said in an interview in Baghdad yesterday.

Their plans were to drive to northern Iraq and send Mr. Shmakov home to Canada through Turkey, but he wouldn't listen. "We asked him to go but he refused, and Munir felt embarrassed to tell him again," she said. "Even when his mother and father called him to come home, he would tell them no."

She said Mr. Shmakov, who stood out as a pale-skinned foreigner, had not been allowed to leave their compound for the past month.

"Since they started killing foreigners, Munir would go to work and come home but he kept Andrew here because he was scared for him," Baydaa said.

Mr. Shmakov and Mr. Toma were killed near their Baghdad office. According to Iraqi police, their black Mercedes-Benz was riddled with hundreds of rounds from an AK-47.

A pistol, some cash and a gold cross necklace were recovered from the car, as were their cellphones and a handgun.

"They didn't have time to shoot a shot," an Iraqi policeman said.

Mr. Shmakov moved to Iraq five months ago to work with his friend, who had returned to the country of his birth six years earlier.

Even their closest family members can't say what kind of work they were doing.

"No one really knows what kind of business he was doing in Iraq," said Mary, Mr. Toma's daughter. She confirmed he was a contractor who worked with the Americans. Her aunt, speaking from Mr. Toma's mother's house in Detroit, said Mr. Toma "was working to rebuild Iraq."

Mr. Toma, 40, came to Canada from Iraq in 1984. He had worked as a chef in the Iraqi embassy in Vienna, and after a brief stint in Italy he moved to Canada with his first wife. They settled in Scarborough, and later moved to Kitchener, Ont., where he opened a Dunkin' Donuts franchise.

"He had many businesses," Mary said. She and her two siblings live in Toronto with their mother. She said her father was wealthy and had enterprises in Germany and the United Arab Emirates as well as Iraq.

He often worked with Mr. Shmakov, whom he had met when he first arrived in Toronto.

It's unclear what role Mr. Shmakov played in the Iraqi venture. His fiancée Julie said she was too distraught to discuss the details of his life. Iraqi police say the two men were targeted because of their company's involvement with the Americans.

"I'm sure they were killed by the muqawma [resistance]," said Captain Amin, the police investigator. "They are Canadian and they are working with the Americans, so they were a target. The foreigners are all targets now."

Mr. Toma's sister, however, said they were targeted because they were Christian.

"They are killing Christians all the time in Iraq," she said.

Mr. Toma was a Chaldean Catholic. He married Baydaa, his cousin on both sides, in 1997.

They have one child.

Baydaa now fears for her life. She has never been to Canada, but says her husband made an application for Canadian citizenship on her behalf at the embassy in Jordan. She is now refusing to give up her husband's Canadian passport in the hope that it may help her get one of her own.

"They might come after me and my daughter now. We don't feel safe," Baydaa said.

Her sister-in-law Shary said the group responsible for killing the two Canadians is now patrolling the streets outside the family home in Baghdad.

She said the Canadian government has refused to help them get Baydaa and her child to Canada.

"I have a feeling in my heart that something terrible will happen to them very soon," she said.

Iraqi Christians Determined not to be Driven Away by Attacks

Courtesy of the Knight Ridder Newspapers
13 September 2004
By Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson

(ZNDA: Baghdad) Gewargis Radif is adamant that he won't be defeated by insurgents targeting Christians in Iraq.

So on Monday - Holy Cross Day for his Assyrian Orthodox sect - the retired defense industry worker lit a blue-bulb cross on his roof, then joined his wife and children on the street below to launch hand-held fireworks into the night sky.

He ignored the danger, of which there is plenty. Last month, a bombing outside a neighboring Roman Catholic seminary killed two family friends and shattered a dozen windows in his home. On Sunday night, an anonymous man phoned in a bomb threat to Radif's church a five-minute drive away.

Iraq's Christian minority has lived in relative peace with Muslim neighbors for centuries. Radif and many fellow Christians - though not all - are determined not to be intimidated or driven away by the current violence, which they're convinced has been launched by foreigners.

The violence sent Radif's Christian neighbor, wife and three kids packing to Syria. The 60 people who attended a holiday Mass at St. Bahnam and Sheik Matti Syriac Orthodox Church on Monday afternoon represented only half the number who attended the previous year, said Radif, who's a deacon there.

But Radif, like most Christian Iraqis in the capital, said Islamic extremists couldn't drive a wedge between them and their faith or their Muslim neighbors. "This is not persecution. These are not Iraqis doing this," said Radif, 55.

Shmael N. Benjamin, a leader of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, said the attacks were being orchestrated from outside Iraq in a bid to fracture their society and cause American efforts in Iraq to fail. The Assyrians are a minority Christian ethnic group in Iraq.

Iraqi Christians are easy targets because they don't have a tribal system that exacts revenge like many of their Arab Muslim counterparts, Benjamin added.

Layla Ayub Salman, a 47-year-old housewife, prays in the sunlight from stained glass during the ceremony for the Holy Cross Day at The Church of Saint Bahnam Sheik Matti, an Assyrian Orthodox Church in Baghdad. Photo by Allison Long / KRT

They're fiercely proud of their Iraqi heritage and with rare exceptions during the country's history have coexisted peacefully with Arabs, Kurds and other ethnic groups. Jews also lived peaceably in Baghdad before Israel was created in 1948, after which nearly all of them gradually emigrated.

The Radif family has spent the last 25 years in al Doura, a blended neighborhood of Christians and Shiite and Sunni Muslims who live comfortably amid one another's churches and mosques.

With the U.S.-led invasion and the chaos that ensued, Islamic extremists who were suddenly free of Saddam Hussein's grip turned their attention to eradicating Iraqis who didn't fit their ideal of a majority Muslim country.

Among the first targeted were Christians who sold alcohol. The government under Saddam gave liquor licenses only to non-Muslims. Eventually, churches came under attack, including four in Baghdad that were damaged in car bombings Aug. 1. A fifth church was targeted in Mosul on the same day. The blasts left 11 dead and scores more wounded.

Later that day, Radif's wife, Hayat, 50, said she ran out with several daughters to treat the injured who staggered past their door after a car bomb exploded in front of St. Peter's Seminary 300 yards away. Her husband and a close friend had been sitting in the living room watching the earlier church attacks on the Arabic-language TV station al Arabiya when the windows behind them shattered. Both escaped uninjured.

The blast killed another family friend and his fiancee.

"These are Duraid's and these are Yousef's pieces scattered everywhere," Hayat Radif wrote in a poem for the slain couple. "I ask you the saints of heaven carry these virtuous spirits."

The Radifs say their Muslim neighbors were as shocked as they were at the attacks and came to express their condolences. The prime minister's office extended official apologies and pledged money to repair the damage.

Muslim clerics, including the highest Shiite spiritual leader in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al Husseini al-Sistani, condemned the attacks.

Even now, as church elders in Baghdad install surveillance cameras, put up barricades around churches and send scouts to peruse the vicinity for suspicious people and vehicles before their services, the Christians here are firm in their desire to keep cordial relations with other Iraqis.

Other Christians have chosen to leave, with more than 4,000 families registering as refugees in neighboring Syria, according to U.N. estimates. Hundreds more are returning to their ancestral villages in northern Iraq, Christian officials say. Some church officials in Baghdad report that their printing presses are swamped with baptismal certificates for those leaving so they can join congregations in their new homes.

Iraq's minister for displacement and migration, Pascale Warda, said that as many as 750,000 Christian Iraqis now lived abroad, roughly mirroring the number still in Iraq. She added that the emigration has been gradual over decades and dismissed reports of any mass exodus in recent months.

So do Christian political and religious figures. When Christians leave, it's because of escalating violence affecting all Iraqis, not violence targeting them, said Assyrian Bishop Gewargis Sliwa.

At his St. George church compound, parishioners have blacked out spray-painted graffiti on the exterior walls, although the words "traitors," "America" and "Long live Iraq" still peek through.

Assyrian Compound Attacked in Baghdad

(ZNDA: Baghdad)  On 9 August, an Assyrian compound  located in Baghdad's Zayuna district was attacked by a series of mortar attacks.  The compound has a clinic, a woman's center and a computer lab. Rev. Ken Joseph of the AssyrianChristains.com explains that the Center also provides free telephone calls to all who need it and many other humanitarian relief activities.

The attack follows a series of attacks on five Assyrian-Chaldean and Assyrian-Syriac Churches on 1 August in Baghdad and Mosul.

Rev. Joseph adds:: "The anti-democratic forces in Iraq are trying to start sectarian 'warfare' by attacking the various Assyrian Christian offices because they have failed to generate support from the Iraqi public who have been sympathetic to the plight of the Christians."

"We are calling up on the democratic and Christian majority countries of the world to help us," said a man who identified himself as "Sargon Youkhana" but asked that his real name not be revealed.

"These attacks are simply one in a long string of acts of intimidation directed at our community to force us to leave. We will not be 'ethnically cleansed' - this is our country, and we will not be forced to leave," he continued.

The non-Muslim population of the Middle East, according to some estimates, has dropped from nearly 20 percent a generation ago to now less than 2 percent.

Assyrianchristians.com posts information on recent incidents involving the Assyrian Christians in Iraq.

Iraqi Christians Seek Sanctuary in Ancient Homeland

Courtesy of the Reuters
13 September 2004
By Tom Perry

(ZNDA: Baghdad)  Saddam Hussein uprooted Assyrian Christians from their ancient homeland in northern Iraq. Now militants in Baghdad are forcing some to flee again.

"Some Muslims see us as infidels. We are targets. They'll eat us alive," said one of dozens who are planning to move from Baghdad back to villages in the north as soon as possible.

Saddam moved the Assyrian Christians, as he did Shi'ites and Kurds, to break down any opposition to his rule. Fighting between Kurds and the Iraqi government in the north also uprooted members of the sect.

In the security vacuum that emerged from Saddam's downfall, a sporadic wave of Islamist violence has targeted Christians, putting them on the defensive again.

Synchronized bombings struck churches in Baghdad and Mosul last month. Officials blamed al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Another car bomb hit a Baghdad church Sept. 10.

Priest Yousef Adel reads from the Bible during the ceremony for the Holy Cross Day at The Church of Saint Bahnam Sheik Matti, an Assyrian Orthodox Church in Baghdad. Photo by Allison Long / KRT

Some Christians, like Iraqis of all faiths, have left for Syria and Jordan to escape the violence.

Others want to return to their ancestral homeland in the north, where they have homes and villages they want to rebuild.

"I want to practice my religion. Since they bombed the churches I haven't even driven past a church, let alone prayed in one," said one Christian, who like others was too scared of being targeted to give his name.

He wants to take his family to Sharanesh, one of more than 120 Christian villages needing reconstruction in the north.

"There's not a single Muslim living there," he added. The village nestles in a region where the ancient Assyrian civilization was centered.

Iraq's Assyrian Christians claim descent from the ancient Assyrians, whose capital Nineveh lies next to Mosul. Assyrians make up the majority of Iraqi Christians, speak Syriac and see themselves as a distinct ethnic group from Arabs and Kurds.

"When I move back to the village, there will be nobody living around me except my relatives. It's better than living among strangers," said another Christian, whose family was forced from Sharanesh to Baghdad in 1986.

He has already put his factory up for sale and is ready to move tomorrow. "We have lands. We'll farm them," he said.

Enemy's Aspirations

William Warda, information officer at the Assyrian Democratic Movement, said the church attacks had made many Christians more aware they were targets.

"The situation has become clear. Before, one Christian would be killed here, two there," he said. "The church explosions threw a lot of light on what is going on," he said.

Prior to the church bombs, which killed 11, violence against Christians had mainly comprised attacks on alcohol sellers and hairdressing salons.

"Many have preferred to go to more secure areas so they can practice their religion with more freedom," Warda said.

The Ministry of Displacement and Migration does not know how many have left Iraq, but says the figure is not significant.

Fear of attacks on Christians prompted one Baghdad television worker to move his entire family to Syria in June.

"The government has not established itself. It is not strong enough to protect the minorities," he said. He still works in Baghdad to support his wife, two sons and daughter.

"I rarely visit my family, once every one or two months. The conditions force you to protect your family," he added. He will decide next June on whether to bring his family back to Baghdad.

Christian leaders say most of the faith who have left Iraq in recent months have only traveled to avoid summer heat and frequent Baghdad power cuts. Most will come back after the summer, they say.

"There may be some who have left, but not that many. Never more than 100 families," said Yonadam Kanna, head of the Assyrian Democratic Movement. "There were a lot of rumors that people fled. Maybe that was the aspiration of our enemies.

"We are trying to encourage them to go back for their villages. It's their homeland. They can invest in their lands and have a good life there," he said, adding that finance was needed for reconstruction of the settlements.


Chaldean Archbishop Says U.S. and Allies Must Defend Christians

Courtesy of Zenit News
10 September 2004

(ZNDA: Baghdad)  Iraqi Christians are a key ingredient for the region's balance, says Archbishop Louis Sako of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Kirkuk who appealed to the Americans and allies to defend them from the attacks of foreign extremists.

This message was sent to a congress held in the Italian monastery of Camaldoli, at the initiative of Il Regno magazine.

After assessing the situation in Iraq, the prelate explained that "Christians are an indispensable elite for the region's balance, given their scientific and moral formation and their tolerance."

According to the Vatican, of the 25 million Iraqis, the Shiite Muslims constitute 62%, the Sunnis 34%, and the Christians 3% to 4%.

Christians "are an important element of that culture of dialogue and reconciliation that is a necessary premise of peace," Archbishop Sako said.

"Their presence is as important for our land as the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. This is the reason there are four Christians among the members of the National Assembly," he said.

"The attacks against the churches a few weeks ago had the objective of radicalizing the country's de-stabilization," the prelate continued. "To attain this objective, it is useful to explode a hospital in the air, to put a bomb in the market, or to organize an attack against a police station."

"It is a totally political confrontation, as the action undertaken by Muqtada Al Sadr was political," he said referring to the radical cleric.

"Perhaps, in the plan of some [non-Iraqi] extremists, there is the objective that Christians should leave the country so that it will be totally Muslim," the archbishop said.

"I think that the Americans and allies have the obvious responsibility to make every effort to put an end to this absurd situation, thus saving the democratic and representative model that allows Christians to dedicate themselves to the educational endeavor and to the formation of Iraqis in the culture of peace, dialogue and reciprocal respect," he said.

"If this objective is not achieved," he added, "I think that the Americans and allies would lose all respect and credibility in the world."


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Assyrian Village in Tur Abdin Evacuated

Janet Abraham
Society for Threatened People
Special to Zinda Magazine

(ZNDA: Berlin) After years of occupation by Kurdish village guards, the Governor of Sirnak peacefully evacuated the Assyrian village Sare /Sarikoey on Sunday September 12, 2004. Human Right organizations (among them Sign of Hope and Society for Threatened People) welcomed this development as a positive step in context of Turkeys effort to join the European Union.

About 30 families were living until 1994 in Sare; forced by the terror during the fights of the Turkish Military against the PKK they abandoned the village. The village guards took it over and used it as "small garrison" against the PKK. Over time they moved they families into the houses of the Christians and resisted to leave it as the Assyrians showed increased interest to move back to their houses, when the security situation improved in the region. A last ultimatum was issued by the Governor in July 2004 - which elapsed on July 14th without any reaction. Janet Abraham, member of the Board of the Society for Threatened People, accompanied recently a delegation which visited the Sare without being able to enter it and did meet with Governor Osman Guenes.

The Society for Threatened People highlighted the matter to the EU ambassador and the President of the Society wrote letters to the Turkish Ministers of Interior and Foreign Affairs. Also the EU envoy Guenther Verheugen, who last week visited Turkey to assess the situation of Turkey prior to the EU decision was informed specifically about Sare. The Society for Threatened People thanked Mr. Verheugen for the advocacy for the Christians in Turkey.

Soener Oender After 13 years of Imprisonment Free!

Janet Abraham
Society for Threatened People
Special to Zinda Magazine

(ZNDA: Berlin)  On June 22, 2004 Soener Oender left the high security prison of Tekirdag/Istanbul as a free man. He was welcomed by his mother and members of his family.

Soener was detained at the age of the 17 in December 1991, on his way home from the Christmas Mass of the Syriac Catholic Church in Istanbul. He was accused of being involved in a terror attack of the PKK in Istanbul which killed 12 people.

Being born a Christian and in Diyarbakir made him for the security forces an obvious suspect. Various human rights organizations spoke in favor of Soener during his detainment. In a special action in the 1990s for instance the Society for Threatened People handed over 40,000 signed postcards to the President of the German Parliament Rita Suessmuth demanding his release.

AANF Elects New Executive Committee

(ZNDA: San Jose) On Sunday, 3 September, during the meeting of the National Executive Committee with all affiliate delegations present at the Assyrian National Convention in San Jose, California, the new Executive Committee of the Assyrian American National Federation was elected for a new 2-year term.

The following are the members of the 2004-2006 NEC of the AANF:

Mr. Aladin Khamis President
Mr. Guilyana Younan Vice President
Mr. Hawell Hawell Assistant to the President
Mrs. Juliet Panno Secretary
Mrs. Sana Isho Treasurer
Mrs. Nardin Mansour Assyrian Secretary

AUA Delegation Meets with Australian MP

16 September 2004
Assyrian Universal Alliance
Hermiz Shahen
Australia Chapter

The Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) has determined that it must continue to do all it can to make the Assyrian voice been heard by the democratic governments and international organizations. This may involve direct dialogue with such governments or with relevant government agencies, organizations and representatives who have specific authority and knowledge of the situation and concerns of national minorities.

We are pleased to announce that an Assyrian delegation met with the Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, The Honourable Alexander Downer MP, on Wednesday 15 September 04, in a prescheduled one hour meeting. The delegate attended this meeting were:

• Hermiz Shahen, Secretary of the Assyrian Universal Alliance –Australian Chapter.
• Mr Younatan Afarin – President of the Assyrian Australian National Federation
• Mr Shamouel Warda, AUA adviser
• Mr Sam Shalalo, prominent Assyrian
• Mr Paul Azzo, prominent Assyrian, member of the governing Liberal Party

During the meeting the delegates expressed their sincere gratitude for the magnificent and tireless efforts by the Prime Minister of Australia, Honourable John Howard, for taking an active part in liberating the people of Iraq from the evil regime of Saddam and being part in the new chapter in the history of modern Iraq. In addition, the delegate stated that the Assyrian people supports Australian policy to fight terrorism and extremism in the world and particularly in the Middle East. In a lengthy one-hour discussion, the delegation briefed the Minister with the latest development in Iraq and the neglect of the Assyrian question after the liberation of Iraq, in which not much attention has been given to their demands.

The delegation debated other related issues and topics of importance and urgency for our people in Iraq, such as the newly adopted Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) of Iraq, also known as the Iraqi Fundamental Law, which recognizes Islam as the official religion of Iraq but does not mention other religions in Iraq. If Iraq is supposed to be a secular nation; there is no need to emphasize and signify one religion over the others, even if that religion is of the vast majority of the Iraqis. In addition, the TAL fails to mention or name the national groups (nationalities) of Iraq. The TAL should stress that Iraqi people comprise many nationalities including Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Turcomans and others. Recognition of the Assyrian people as a nation and not a community is very important since they are the indigenous people of Iraq and the most oppressed people because of their religion and cultural identity.

The Assyrian Universal Alliance presented the Minister with a submission included compiled report of recent oppression against the Assyrians in Iraq together with other important documents. The delegate appealed to the Australian Government to help our people in the rebuilding of their destroyed villages and the resettlement projects. They stressed about the importance of security to be provided for the Assyrians in a form of safe haven within a federal Iraqi state, in which they can administer themselves and live in peace as proud Iraqi citizens in the land of their forefathers. If this ancient indigenous people of Iraq are decimated, then all other remaining Christians in Iraq will immediately become vulnerable.

This meeting was the third of its kind in one year following the October 2003 visit of AUA delegation headed by the Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance, Senator John Nimrod and presented the honourable Foreign Minister at his office in the Parliament House-Canberra with a submission containing resolutions of the Amsterdam conference regarding the Assyrian demands in post Saddam Iraq. Also the Australian chapter successfully had a short meeting with the Prime Minister of Australia, Hon. John Howard MP, on 28 May 2004 before his June visit to the United State and presented him with a report and briefed him with dangerous situation facing our Assyrian nation in Iraq. The Prime Minister promised to bring this subject up with US secretary of state Colin Powel.

The Assyrian Universal Alliance would like to thank the Honourable Rose Cameron MP, member for Parramatta for his continued support and particularly in conducting this important meeting at his office in Parramatta. Also we would like to extend our special thanks and appreciation for all delegates particularly for our young Assyrian Liberal, Mr Paul Azzo who without his tireless efforts and devotion this meeting would not be possible.

Iran Arrests 80 Evangelicals, New Crackdown on Christians

Courtesy of the BosNewsLife / Compass
10 September 2004

(ZNDA: Tehran)  Iranian police invaded the annual conference of Iran’s Assemblies of God and arrested at least 80 church leaders at the church’s denominational center near Tehran as part of the worst crack down on evangelical believers in a decade..

Security forces raided the meeting "without warning" in Karaj, 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of the capital, after they surrounded the church’s garden property Thursday, September 9.

Assyrian Evangelical Church in Tehran

Eyewitnesses were quoted as saying that all men and women present at the first day of their annual meetings were detained. "The police came from everywhere," an Iranian Christian reportedly said. "There were a lot of them."

The Christian, whose name was not identified apparently for security reasons, claimed that "every single person present was put under arrest, blindfolded and taken in for interrogation."

The detained believers were driven around blindfolded for several hours so they would be unable to understand where they were being taken.

Each of them were reportedly questioned separately by security officials, and the questions revealed that authorities had very precise information about each person, including his or her activities, relatives and other personal data.

Although most of the evangelical leaders were released, ten male pastors were still in custody, and their whereabouts are unknown to their families, who have not been allowed to contact them.

"This is the biggest crisis for evangelical believers in the country since three Protestant pastors were murdered 10 years ago," another unidentified Iranian source commented.

Ordained Ministers

Six ordained ministers were named among the prisoners, identified by their given names of Vartan, Soren, Harmik, George, Omid and Farhad. Another two men serving as pastors and two church elders were identified as Neshan, Hamid, Henry and Robert. The pastors serve in congregations located in Tehran, Urmia, Rasht, Ahwaz, Boshahr and Karaj.

All the evangelicals released Thursday night were forbidden to attend church services Friday, the weekly day of rest in Iran when most churches meet for worship. "Anyway, all their pastors are now under arrest, so there will be no one to preach when the congregations gather for services," its source said.

As the world’s only theocracy, Iran has strictly proscribed the activities of its evangelical Christian citizens,
closing down their churches and arresting known converts to Christianity. Under Islamic law, apostates who leave Islam are subject to the death penalty.

Iranian officials have not commented on the case.

Alleged Saddam Agent Out on $250,000 Bond

Courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times
17 September 2004
By Natasha Korecki

(ZNDA: Chicago)  A Chicago Assyrian living in the Des Plaines suburbs who prosecutors say was an Iraqi spy was freed on $250,000 bond yesterday and ordered confined to his home as he awaits trial.

Sami Khoshaba Latchin, 57, was released after his wife and brother posted their homes as bond. U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer sternly warned Latchin that if he flees, he could face additional charges and more than the 10 years in prison he now faces.

"You understand if you flee these innocent people would lose their property?" Pallmeyer asked.

"Yes," Latchin said, speaking through an Assyrian interpreter.

Calling it an "important matter," Pallmeyer quickly scheduled a trial for Jan. 24.

Latchin, who will be placed on electronic monitoring, is charged with lying on his visa application by allegedly failing to disclose his association with the Mukhabbarat, the intelligence agency of the former Iraqi government.

Though prosecutors called him a "sleeper agent" sent by Saddam Hussein's regime to assimilate into U.S. culture, then gather intelligence when activated, he was only charged with visa fraud.

Latchin's attorney, Mary Judge, argued that charge is not enough to keep Latchin in federal prison until his trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Conway argued against releasing Latchin, saying he knows several languages, allowing him to easily flee elsewhere.

Latchin previously worked security and baggage detail at O'Hare Airport and his wife still works as an airport gate agent.

Assyrian Youth from Turlock Dies of Unknown Causes

Courtesy of the Modesto Bee
11 September 2004
By Melanie Turner

(ZNDA: Modesto)  John Tooma, a 22-year-old California State University at Stanislaus student, died early last Tuesday in Turlock after spending Labor Day skim-boarding in Santa Cruz with some of his university fraternity brothers.

The cause of his death is unknown, family and fraternity members said. His sister, Vicky Tooma, said he was healthy, did not take drugs and that an aneurysm has been ruled out.

He “passed out and didn’t wake up,” she said. “Everyone loved this guy, tremendously.”

Autopsy tests are not complete and the cause of death hasn’t been determined.

Tooma, a finance major, was president of the Theta Chi fraternity at Stanislaus and a graduate of Turlock High School. He landed an internship with Merrill Lynch in Modesto this summer and was set to graduate from Stanislaus State in the spring.

Fraternity members are wearing black last week, and a public fraternity ritual was set for 8 p.m. on 11 September on the quad at Stanislaus State. The public was invited.

Brian Rando, 21, is one of about 30 active members of the fraternity. He was Tooma’s roommate.

“He was just awesome, straightforward with everyone,” Rando said.

Another fraternity brother, 21-year-old Oscar Zagazeta of Delhi, said Tooma was never without a smile — except when he was sleeping, which he said he often did on friends’ couches.

Zagazeta was with him in Santa Cruz on Monday.

“He was having a great time. He was having a blast,” he said.

Later that night Tooma visited his girlfriend in Turlock. She was with him when he died, friends said.

When word of Tooma’s death spread, fraternity brothers gathered.

“There were a lot of guys who were crying,” Zagazeta said. “There were a lot of guys who were angry.”

Ninus Michael, 30, said he’s known Tooma since high school.

“He was the greatest guy you could ever meet. Always positive. Always assertive,” said Michael, an alumni of the fraternity who said he attended class for the first time last Thursday since hearing the news.

“He was the driving force behind this fraternity,” Michael said. “He was in the process of setting up his entire life. I just loved him so much and I’m going to miss him.”

Michael said he knew Tooma to be a great son and brother, too.

Tooma’s sister Micky Peters called her brother the most mature of the siblings, one who rose above “little trifles with family members,” never held grudges, and was a self-motivated, hard worker.

“He was an inspiration to all of us,” she said. “He kept everyone going. He could walk into a room and make everyone laugh.”

Tooma is survived by his parents, Khoshaba Tooma and Nami Tooma of Turlock; brother, Michael Tooma of Clovis; and sisters, Micky Peters and Vicky Tooma, both of Turlock.

A mass was held last Saturday at St. Thomas Assyrian Chaldean Catholic Church, with burial at Turlock Memorial Park.

Gilgamesh Epic to be Filmed in Turkey, Enkidu Played by a Turkish Actor

Courtesy of CASCFEN
16 September 2004

(ZNDA: Ankara)  The Sumerian epic poem "Gilgamesh" is to be filmed in Turkey by Hollywood director Roger Christian.

Turkish Actor, Kenan Imirzalioglu

Christian, speaking at a press conference at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Istanbul, said the original story took place around the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, and that after much research they had decided to film the movie in Turkey.

He said the movie would be filmed in Istanbul, Capadocia and Antalya, adding that he was very happy to have the chance of promoting Istanbul, which he described as a jewel.

The character Enkidu would be played by his good friend Kenan Imirzalioglu, he announced, adding that they were also looking for an actress to play Enkidu's love interest, Simba.

Christian said the movie would use special effects to show the great flood and the toppling of the Tower of Babel.

The movie's producer, Beni Atoori, also president of Stonelock Picture International, said they had found many things in Turkey that other countries lacked, adding that he was sure Hollywood would start filming many movies in Turkey after Gilgamesh.

Atoori said the Turkish government fully supported their project and was helping them in every possible way.

Filming will start in October and will last 10 to 11 weeks, said Atoori.

The movie, which has a budget of around $20 million, also features such distinguished actors as Omar Sheriff, Peter O'Toole, Leonor Varela and Max Ryan.

Diamanda Galas on Tour Performs from her Genocide Album

Courtesy of the Oregon Live
14 September 2004
By Scott D. Lewis

(ZNDA: Portland)  Diamanda Galas' two weekend shows as part of PICA's Time-Based Art Festival were a study in contrasts. The contrast between intense, and really intense, that is.

Friday night's show nearly filled the Newmark Theatre and was decidedly the more intense of her riveting performances, with Galas plowing through her recently released "DEFIXIONES: Will & Testament" double album. The piece, dedicated "to the forgotten and erased of the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek genocides that occurred in Asia Minor, Pontos and Thrace between 1914 and 1923," was performed with Galas clawing at a black grand piano, transfixed at two side pulpits or clenching her microphones and prowling on a runway toward the audience.

The stage was blackened, three candelabras glowed at the back, and Galas, cloaked in layered black gauze, appeared both bewitching and as though caught in a spell.

That spell, which proved itself to be more a case of passionate possession, quickly enveloped the theater's three levels and left nearly all in a sustained, cerebral trance.

Armed with a 31/2-octave vocal range, "six languages and gibberish" and methodically researched and dissected subject matter, Galas shrieked, screeched, growled, hissed and howled the cases of souls slaughtered and forgotten.

And even if her texts are foreign, her pieces are difficult, and her singular, dervish-banshee singing can be unsettling. When Galas performs, her intent is definite, and her delivery is inescapable and unforgettable.

Sunday's show was sold out -- and stunning.

Seated at the piano for the evening, Galas turned toward her dark bluesy side and paced through a gripping set of standards, murder ballads and original songs.

In Galas' hands and throat, the somewhat chipper "My World Is Empty Without You," became turbulent and tortured, sounding as if the world in question was really the underworld.

With her husky, seasoned voice, unique arrangements and absolute focus, Galas sounded like the vampiric lovechild of Tom Waits and Nina Simone, throwing in a few rounds of seizure-inducing screeching for good measure.

Her take on Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" could leave Elvis stirred and shaken, and her version of Shel Silverstein's "25 Minutes to Go" peeled back the campfire favorite to reveal the silly tune for what it really is -- the panic of a person on the way to be executed.

After multiple standing ovations and encores, Galas ended her stellar show with an otherworldly version of "Gloomy Sunday" and made her way to the lobby for a casual meet-and-greet with fans both old and certainly new.

Kerry Promises to Recognize the Seyfo Genocide

Courtesy of the Turkish Daily News
3 September 2004

(ZNDA: Ankara)  U.S. Democrat candidate for the upcoming presidential elections, John Kerry, has said his administration will label the 1915-1918 events as genocide of Armenians by Turks if he becomes U.S. president.

Other previous U.S. presidential candidates had made promises to recognize the alleged genocide, but what differs Kerry from other candidates is his active support in the U.S. Senate for the recognition of the alleged killings, a news report on the private NTV television Web site said yesterday.

Kerry sent a letter to a music festival in Massachusetts organized by an Armenian association in the United States, namely, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

"I assure you I will continue struggling against the denial of Armenian genocide as president. My administration will label April 24, 2005, as the 90th anniversary of this violent act, and will work for this crime against humanity to be used to prevent future genocides," the Web-site quoted the letter as saying.

Kerry's remarks caused uneasiness in Ankara, NTV said.

ANCA, known for its hard-line opposition of Turkey and staunch position for recognition of the so-called Armenian genocide, declared support for John Kerry at the beginning of this month.

"For Armenian-Americans the clear choice is John Kerry," said Ken Hachikian, chairman of the hard-line ANCA group. "Senator Kerry has been a friend of the Armenian-American community for over 20 years, with a proven track record of fighting hard for issues of concern to Armenian-Americans across the nation," he added.

Parliaments of 15 countries, including France, have labelled the 20th-century events as genocide, but the United States has so far refrained from doing so, thanks largely to past administrations' efforts. A resolution calling for the recognition of the alleged genocide was shelved at the last minute in 2000 after the then President Bill Clinton intervened.

Karl Suleman Talks About His Feelings For AUA Deputy Secretary

Courtesy of the Daily Telegraph
29 August 2004
By Peter Gosnell & Charles Miranda

He was a high-flyer with an empire worth $138 million, but today Karl Suleman is a convicted fraudster contemplating two fractured relationships with the women in his life.

Underneath the bright neon lights of a busy Kings Cross shopping strip, Karl Suleman seemed to be a man blessed with extraordinary vision and the means to ensure it became a reality.

He was, he said, in the market for a series of hamburger stores, all of which he planned to pay for in cash, before turning them into a popular chain called “WorldBurgers”.

At the time, Suleman’s persuasiveness, coupled with his business acumen, would understandably have impressed some listeners. But under the confident façade lurked a far more insidious reality.

The unglamorous truth was that by then Suleman was already broke – and spending other people’s money – having long since gambled away the fortune netted by the once lucrative Karl Suleman Enterprizes and the Froggy Group of companies.

Just four months later, he was facing a prison sentence for fraud. His $138 million business empire had collapsed. And he was about to go public with his feelings for his high-profile lawyer, Suzy David.

In Suleman’s first interview since being jailed for 21 months in April, the married bankrupt now claims he feels let down by the relationship. He claims he was in love with David but she says the love, if there was any, was purely one-way.

Suleman says his affections grew for the 44-year-old David who represented him in 2002 and 2003 during a series of examinations by liquidators appointed after the 2001 collapse of Karl Suleman Enterprizes and the Froggy Group of companies. He also claims that as a result of his feelings for David, his wife Vivian threw him out of their suburban home in Hinchinbrook.

David, who is single, denies a relationship but admits she did allow him to stay at her CBD penthouse “in his hour of need”.

“I was friends with Karl Suleman….I gave him all the moral support,” she says.

David has confirmed Suleman did visit and had stayed at the penthouse overlooking Hyde Park that she shares with her sister-in-law Sabrina Jajoo.

“He stayed in the apartment. We weren’t there….he was homeless,” she says.

“He was in a state of going from being a very high guru to a nobody and the people he was always with abandoned him.

“The people who never got anything out of him were the ones left to carry some of the burden.

“You just can’t leave someone totally stranded and abandoned when they are having problems at home.

“You just try to be a friend…..that doesn’t mean you are having an affair with them.”

Suleman made his claims to a Daily Telegraph reporter who visited him at the Kirkconnell Correctional Centre near Lithgow. Suleman claims he first became aware of his feelings for David in 1999 when she asked him to show her over his boat, which was moored at Birkenhead Point. “After that Suzy and I gradually started seeing each other,” he says.

“She used to call me and invite me to dinner and we’d go to the ANA hotel [now Shangri La], the Japanese restaurant there.” Suleman also claims: “I fell in love with her and my wife found out about it. That’s why my wife kicked me out of the house and I started living with Suzy in her apartment.”

Suleman claims the closeness of their relationship is supported by witness statements set to be tendered in forthcoming professional negligence claims against David and her brother Fred.

The Daily Telegraph understands the statements also contain statements that Suleman and David flew in his private plane to Hamilton Island and Melbourne where they stayed at the Crown Casino hotel, as well as references to “kissing” and “hugging.”

In addition to acting as his solicitor, David and her brother were both directors of Froggy Group companies.

Both are awaiting a judgment following a NSW Supreme Court hearing into whether they breached their duty of care when arranging for clients to invest in the Karl Suleman Enterprizes investment scheme, which has since been found to be illegal.

David did not represent Suleman at his criminal trial. Legal Service Commissioner Steve Marks says there is no prohibition on solicitors forming relationships with clients.

“It’s not encouraged, particularly in cases where there is a possible conflict of interest, but there is no rule preventing it,” he says.

Today, Suleman remains bitter about his relationship with David. Although now ended, they still share differing views to its strength of feeling.

Since his interview with the Daily Telegraph, he has been moved from Kirkconnell and is in Bathurst jail, receiving daily medication for depression.

In the meantime, liquidators from Horwath Accountants have successfully untangled his complex pyramid scheme, which left investors in Sydney, Melbourne and the US out of pocket.

From the $138 million involved in the scheme, $91 million was returned to investors, $5 million spent on property and luxury cars and other monies taken as cash and gambled.

But the Daily Telegraph has learned that $28 million originally thought lost in complex and dated banking transactions has almost all been found.

Paul Weston, a liquidator with Horwath Accountants, declined to reveal his next move but said the trail could lead to prosecutions and greater asset recoveries.

“We believe that this [$28 million find] is a significant piece of the puzzle which has been missing now for over a year,” he says.

“There’s still 200 missing cheques that account for a couple of million dollars…..but the Commonwealth bank has been able to locate the rest and they’ve sent them to us and we are filling in the gaps.”

Weston confirmed that he is also now battling the US Attorney’s Office in California, which wants the $US280,000 ($400,000) seized there to be paid to American creditors in Suleman’s scheme – not into a general pool..

Weston says investigators had found that Suleman lost millions of dollars gambling and “living a good life.”

“There’s no evidence that we have gathered that Suleman salted away lots of money. What we’ve established is that there are a lot of agents that received lots of money and we’ve taken action for recovery from those agents.” he says.

“But we have not been able to find hoards of cash salted away – only assets, such as property, homes, mortgages paid out and things of that nature paid out by agents and we have ASIC [the Australian Securities and Investment Commission] freezing orders over those pending recovery action being successful.”

The claims of the creditors, mostly from Sydney’s Assyrian community, are worth $48 million and they could expect to receive about 20 cents in the dollar after the conclusion of legal action. A dividend of 2.5 cents had already been paid. As they wait for their money, others are more circumspect.

Last December, when Suleman was spruiking his plans for a hamburger chain, his former employer, Italian-born businessman Joe Prestia, gave him $120,000 to settle on a couple of business purchases.

But Suleman was already in debt and being chased by the corporate cops, so he did what came naturally – he went to a Brisbane casino and began gambling the money away.

Horwath Accountants discovered the Brisbane bank account, owned by Prestia but operated by Suleman, and immediately froze it. Prestia says that all but $15,000 was recovered and he had written the money and the experience off.

And Prestia says that he had no knowledge of Suleman’s scheme when he gave him the $120,000.

He says had he known Suleman was a gambler he would not have employed him, but he believed that the Assyrian could help him acquire distressed businesses, including Sydney’s cafes, and make them profitable. Suleman in turn cling to his dream of a creating WorldBurgers. “It was just and idea the jailed Suleman now says.

He also wanted to start his own bank to provide quick loans to developers who were happy to pay the higher premiums for the easy cash access.

That idea, like the eateries, never came off.

[Zinda:  Ms. Suzy David remains the Deputy Secretary General, and second in command, of the Assyrian Universal Alliance.]

Surfs Up!
Letters to the Editor

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Time to Embrace Iraqi Jews and Kurds

Daniel Fullmer

It is a shame Iraqi Christians are unable to unite under a common theme. Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Latins, Orthodox, Protestant, the list goes on, cannot put aside their differences.

Look at Iraqi Kurds. They not only have seemed to put their differences behind them, they also have a very strong friend, Israel. It is refreshing to read in Kurdish papers the warm feelings Kurds have for Jews. Iraqi Christians are acting just like their Christians brothers in Lebanon did a few years ago and shunned Israel and Jews. Why can't Iraqi Christians unite with the Kurds and the Jews? Every time I bring this up to Iraqi Christians it is dismissed as "crazy talk."

There needs to be unity when fighting battles, Iraqi Christians cannot fight for their independence alone, as was seen after the first world war. It is time Iraqi Christians embrace Iraqi Jews and Iraqi Kurds as equals.

Look How Today Resembles Yesterday

Edward I. Baba

There is an old American saying, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” The Assyrian nation was seduced into a masquerade ball held by Rasputin, which has led our nation into decades of systematic destruction and fleeing of the homeland. Hitherto, our nation has fallen short of differentiating between religion and politics although both are like oil and water. Politics include various negative things for religion, like the use of deception, military actions, and dirty politics/affairs of the state. However, religion teaches mankind to become frank, make peace, and turn the other cheek. We have not learned from our clumsy mistakes. Take a look at some nations that have succeeded with the law of separation of church and state, like the United States of America, Armenia, Greece, Israel, etc. These nations prospered even more with this separation. The US would not have become a superpower if it did not enter World War II and retaliate against the bombings of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Time has come for the Assyrian nation to wake up and keep the religious leaders in check and show them where their boundaries lie. Let the politicians deal with politics and nurse after the Assyrian cause. You don’t see the Pope representing his country, you see him representing Catholicism. Let our churches complete their own assigned tasks, not those of others.

If the churches want to take responsibility over the nation, they shouldn’t prop up new churches, they should construct Assyrian schools. Living in the melting pot we proudly call America, Assyrian schools become a necessary commodity in our cultural existence for future generations. Unfortunately, they failed to meet the goals they presented themselves with and stranded the Assyrian nation. I always hear the funny sayings of “churches keep our language alive”! What absurd annotations! I take my two children to church to hear the priest recite passages from the Bible in Assyrian. My children hear the language, but there is nothing for them to read and fully become erudite of the Assyrian language. How is that keeping our language alive?

Recently, the big bishop was proudly declaring that he was not going to involve in political affairs on Sargon Dadeesho’s satellite channel. However, at the same time, his representative in Baghdad was pleading with the Iraqi authority to install a marionette to represent them in the future Iraqi Parliament. This is an insult to the Assyrian nation. You’re begging for a piece of your own cake. Is that not being involved in politics? I never knew religious issues also dealt with governmental affairs. Intervening in politics by religious figures causes pandemonium and wrecks the Assyrian case in Iraq. Leave the politics for politicians. Blood was shed by ADM for seats in the parliament, not like a vagrant in the streets of Baghdad.

The big bishop also proudly stated he was solely an Assyrian, inferring the fact that he does not advocate the unity between Chaldeans, Syriacs, and Assyrians. By permitting the destruction of unity, we are bequeathing met objectives for those against us. History is a lesson taught by repetition. Time has come for us to unite with our brothers, Chaldeans and Syriacs, and stand tall against our adversaries. Unity is power; division is destruction. We have to learn from our mistakes and work hard to prevent them from occurring once more.

Machiavelli once said, “Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.”

Assyrian Representation in Iraq Reaching a Catastrophic End

Fred Aprim

Latest reports from Iraq indicate that the permanent Iraqi Constitution will reflect two, three, or even four separate designations for the Assyrian people. These designations shall include Assyrians, Chaldeans, ChaldoAssyrians, and even Christians.

The Iraqi authorities have been bombarded with petitions by Abd al-Ahad Afram and few other Nestorian and Chaldean groups based in the United States, some backed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Barazani, to include Chaldeans as a separate designation in the coming Iraqi Permanent Constitution and have separate representation for Chaldeans in the parliament. Other Nestorian Assyrian groups have been pressing for a separate Assyrian designation rejecting the unifying "ChaldoAssyrian" title. While few others have brought up the purely "Christian" designation into the picture.

Assyrians (including Chaldeans and Suryan) stand to lose greatly if this materialized. Assyrians will fail to get any reasonable and effective place in parliament if this representation was based solely on population as a measure for electing such representation. This will greatly weaken Assyrians in north of Iraq and enforces Kurds domination.

If this was to take place, I am not sure how the Assyrian political groups will face the Assyrian people, since it is their irresponsible actions that have taken the Assyrian people to this point.

I believe that common Assyrians should seriously consider filing a lawsuit against every political group in the United States that claims to be representing Assyrians for being involved getting us here. We must force these groups in courts to prove how they got such authority when they do not have a base support from the people and have not undertaken any measures to put any important issues in front of the people to decide. We must pursue this issue once and for all and expose how organizations with ten, twenty or even one hundred supporters can speak on behalf of hundreds of thousands of people. If we do not clean our home from such groups and individuals, we will never get anywhere because these organizations and individuals are not representing the people under any capacity or consideration and are causing more problems than good for the Assyrian cause.


Surfer's Corner
Community Events

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Meet Samaria Kishto in San Jose

Ashur Radio Staff

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The Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa)-Santa Clara Valley Branch-invites you to a meeting with Mrs. Samaria Kishto, president of the Assyrian Women's Union of Iraq - Nohadra (Dohuk) Branch.

Mrs. Kishto is visiting the Assyrian communities in the United States after having attended seminars and training sessions organized by Women for a Free Democratic Iraq (WAFDI) in Washington D.C.

She will report on the current political climate in our Homeland, and discuss the Assyrian women's accomplishments in developing our national movement and their current involvement in Assyrian national affairs.

Don't miss this important gathering!

Date: Sunday September 19th, 2004
Time: 7:00 PM
Place: Assyrian Hall, 680 Minnesota Ave, San Jose, California.

Editor's Choice

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The Fate of Iraq's Christians

[Zinda:  The following guest editorial was solicited for Informed Comment, a widely read blog of Prof. Juan Cole of U of Michigan. Dr. Naby has often has often complained that the US Middle Eastern community ignores the situation of the Assyrians despite the coverage of the current disasters by the international press. The guest editorial was a partial concession to the complaint.]

Dr. Eden Naby

Just after celebration of the Festival of the Cross (Aida d-Sliwa) on Friday, 10 September, the village of Baghdeda, located southeast of Mosul, on the Nineveh Plains, in the Ninawa Governorate, came under mortar attack. Thus far a complete tally of the dead and injured in this village of 30,000 Christians has not been transmitted abroad. We know that the Sheeto family lost 13-year-old Mark Louis Sheeto and that his brother and sister were critically injured.

It is unusual for information from Christian villages to filter outside the area currently under military and political pressure from the Kurdish Democratic Party. Kurds are barring Western journalists from entering villages like Dayrabun ("Monastery of the Bishop") which are not in any danger zone, but are being denied resettlement by their Christian inhabitants (reported by Thiry August, a Belgian who tried to visit the Faysh Khabour area this summer). The KDP is determined to expand its control as far to the west and south as possible into areas now inhabited by ChaldoAssyrians. Under the Transitional Administrative Law, so favorable to Kurds, the objects of Western sympathy and funds, any territory in the three provinces adjoining Dohuk, Arbil and Sulaymaniya (Ninawa, Tamim [Kirkuk] and Diyala) that Kurds can show they controlled on March 19, 2003 (prior to the invasion), may become part of the Kurdish controlled region in northern Iraq (TAL, Article 53A).

This provision allows Kurds to create "facts on the ground" in the Mosul and Kirkuk areas in particular, at the expense of unarmed ethnic and religious minorities - to wit - the Christians of Iraq, the Yezidis, the Shabat, and the Turkomens. The advantages of controlling Kirkuk are well known. But the Mosul area, now the scene of fierce attacks on Christians and Turkomens, are less well recognized.

- The Nineveh Plains hold Iraq's largest and most fertile agricultural fields (barley, wheat and legumes). The ChaldoAssyrians had been farming these for millennia until the steady pressure of Kurdish population growth combined with Baathist village destruction forced many of them to be displaced. There is considerable evidence that Kurdish pastoralists have had a difficult time becoming productive farmers. (ASSYRIAN STAR, Spring 2004, "Helwa, the Forgotten Tragedy")

- The Nineveh Plains, through which passes the upper Tigris River and its tributaries, holds the main water source for central and south Iraq. Control of places like Faysh Khabour (to where thousands of Christian villagers are not being allowed to return [NYT Sept. 12, 2004 "Assyrians in Syria"]) lies at the juncture of both the Tigris as it enters Iraq from Turkey, and where the oil pipeline from the Kirkuk fields enters Turkey on its way to Ceyhan. The KDP, and its strategic allies, are grabbing control of Faysh Khabour and its environs, at the expense of the area's indigenous Christian inhabitants.

- The possibility of gas fields on the Nineveh Plains makes control of this region triply attractive for the Kurds. Barzani has already threatened war with regard to Kirkuk (http://nahrain.com/d/news/04/09/10/nhr0910f.html). [It is suspicious] that that the methodical killing of Turkomens and ChaldoAssyrian leaders by "unknown" assailants stands to profit the KDP, whether this organization acts as a Sunni Muslim force or a secular Kurdish one.

The attack on Baghdeda, also known as Qaraqosh, marks the long and largely ignored attacks on Iraq's Christians who, with the exception of some 10,000 Armenians, descendents of refugees from the atrocities of WWI, form the one million or more indigenous Christian population of Iraq. The term "Assyrian" by which this community has been known historically (always called so by their Armenian neighbors) includes several church communities of which the largest is the Chaldean Catholic. Also included are two branches of the Church of the East, and members of the Orthodox and Catholic Syrian churches, together with small Protestant and Seventh Day Adventist congregations.

Both the Baathists (in Iraq and in Syria) and the Kurds have attempted to divide this community along denominational lines for easier control. But at their own conference of Chaldeans, Syriacs and Assyrians, convened in Baghdad 22-24 October 2003, the unified, albeit artificial term, ChaldoAssyrian, was adopted to forestall Kurdish political manipulation, which nonetheless continues. This term appears in the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) signed on 8 March 2004 by the Governing Council. "Assyrian," dropped from Iraqi census since 1977 as punishment for opposition to the Baath regime, is widely used in the diaspora. But TAL recognition of this community marks a historic first in Iraqi law.

The ChaldoAssyrians form the world's last and largest compact community of Aramaic (Syriac) speakers, the oldest continuously written and spoken language of the Middle East, and after Chinese, the second oldest continuously written and spoken language of the world. This now endangered language will become extinct if the ChaldoAssyrians are forced into mass exodus from Iraq, a prospect activated by their inability to maintain a foothold, a safe haven, in northern Iraq. A combination of Kurdish chauvinism and fundamentalist terrorism (both Arab and Kurdish) has already driven large numbers, probably thousands, of ChaldoAssyrians out of the country. As Patrick Cockburn has reported recently with regard to the Turkomens, the US military is apparently being manipulated by the KDP in the attacks on Shiite Turkomens at Tel Afar, also in the path of KDP expansion (http://news.independent.co.uk/world/). Blind sympathy for Kurds is allowing the US to become complicit in the ethnic displacement of Christians as well as Turkomens. Specifically in the Christian case, the community is regularly denied funds for refugee resettlement and village reconstruction while Kurdish villagers settle on former Christian lands with US and international funding.

Priest Yohana Ayub (left) holds a cross for worshippers to kiss during the ceremony for the Holy Cross Day. Allison Long / KRT

The early evening mortar attack on the homes of Christians in Baghdeda comes in the wake of a bloody forty days for this community, highlighted by the 1 August simultaneous bombing of five churches, one in Mosul and the others in Baghdad. While it has been impossible to determine the instigators of violence against Christians in Basra and Baghdad, and no doubt some of the Baghdad kidnapping for ransom is the work of criminal gangs possibly allied to the insurgency, the upsurge in attacks on Christians in the north, on the Nineveh Plains especially, is widely believed to be the work of KDP agents. Kurdish attacks on Christians has a long history, stretching well before WWI and the Hamidiya units of Kurdish irregulars that were largely responsible for the Assyrian genocide in southeastern Turkey and northwest Iran. The current attacks appear to be targeted at Christians in the north of Iraq, on the Nineveh Plains, and the villages to which those fleeing Basra and Baghdad are hoping to return. These internally displaced persons (IDPs), as well as the refugees stranded in Jordan and Syria, need both resettlement funds and security from Kurdish attacks and pressure. Yet the community is currently only supported by funds collected from the diaspora - and in some cases - when the diaspora funds a project, such as electrical generators, Kurdish thugs blow them up. In other instances, the KDP has blockaded Assyrian villages and prevented delivery of food supplies (click here).

Over the past few days alone, a sharply increased pattern of attack on Christians in the north has emerged as gathered from websites (http://www.bethsuryoyo.com/). What is happening in the more isolated villages remaining in Berwari, Aqra and Zakho may be even more deadly.

1. Mosul, Nineveh Province. 8 Sept. Video of real or enacted beheading distributed in Mosul to frighten Assyrians into leaving the area.

"According to residents of Mosul, a group of Islamic terrorists has distributed in the past few days a video CD containing the beheading of two Assyrian Christians from Mosul. To date, the identity of the Assyrian victims is still unknown. Many residents have seen the video and claimed that it was very disturbing."

2. Mosul, Nineveh Province. 8 Sept. Assassination of three women, wounding of another and driver, as they traveled back to home village of Bartilla from Mosul.

"On Tuesday August 31, 2004, Tara Majeed Betros Al-Hadaya, Taghrid Abdul-Massih Ishaq Betros and her sister Hala Abdul-Massih Ishaq Betros, were murdered in Mosul. The three Assyrian victims were returning to their homes in Bartilla, from a hospital in Mosul, where they worked, when their car was attacked by a group of terrorists who opened heavy fire at the car.

The attack took place in the section between the Television area and the Kokajli area on the main road between Mosul and Bartilla. Also injured in the attack was another Assyrian woman, 'Amera Nouh Sha'ana who was also going home to Bartilla and the Assyrian driver, Naji Betros Ishaq. The three female victims were in their twenties.

The residents of Bartilla are followers of the Syriac Orthodox Church, and the town is the birthplace of His Holiness Mor Ignatius Yacoub III, the late Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church."

3. Mosul, Nineveh Province. 9 Sept. Two Assyrian brothers, both community leaders, are riddled with bullets. Community believes goal of intensified attacks is to terrorize them and force the indigenous people to leave, and thus stop disputing Kurdish claims to Mosul, now being vociferously put forward in Kurdish media.

"On Thursday September 2, 2004, Khaled Boulos (1972-2004) and his brother Hani Boulos (1976-2004), who are known as the sons of Hasina, were murdered in Mosul in the Al-Sa'a district. The deceased Assyrian brothers were known by many Assyrians for their honorable stands in Mosul in defending and assisting other Assyrians. According to eyewitnesses, on September 2, at noon (local Mosul time) in the Al-Mayasa (Al-Sa'a) district, a car carrying a group of armed terrorists pulled by Khaled and Hani Boulos, where the armed terrorists came out of the car and began firing heavily at the two Assyrians, killing them instantly. The two Assyrian brothers worked for a foreign company in Mosul, which the terrorists used as an excuse to murder them. However, the peaceful Assyrians of Mosul believe that the main goal of the intensified attacks on Assyrian Christians is to terrorize the indigenous Assyrians and force them to leave their homeland."

4. Mosul, Nineveh Province. 9 Sept. Assyrian political activist run over by car without plates as terrorists target Christians. Suspected terrorists are considered part of Kurdish plan to empty the region of Assyrians who dispute Kurdish claim to entire north.

"On Wednesday September 1, 2004, during a terrorist attack on the building of the Governorate of Ninawa, Nisan Sliyo Shmoel was injured in his shoulder. Mr. Shmoel was taken immediately to the hospital where he was treated. After treatment, he was released from the hospital that same day, but the terrorists were awaiting his release and targeted him with an unmarked car (not carrying plate numbers), which they used to drive him over in front of the hospital entrance. Mr. Shmoel died immediately.

Martyr Nisan Sliyo Shmoel was 43 years old. He is survived by his wife and 6 children (5 daughters and a son). The oldest of his children is 15 years old. Shortly after the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime, Nisan Sliyo Shmoel joined the Assyrian Patriotic Party (Gaba Atranaya Aturaya) to serve his Assyrian people. Mr. Shmoel was also a private in the newly formed Iraqi Army, which he had joined to serve his country."

Wave of Terrorism Hits Home for Iraqi Assyrians

Assyrian International News Agency
13 September 2004

The August 1 bombings of 5 churches in Baghdad and Mosul have now been followed by mortar attacks against the Assyrian town in Bakhdeda, northern Iraq. At 11:30 pm on September 10, an unspecified number of terrorists lobbed a series of mortar shells on civilian homes in Bakhdeda (also referred to as Qarqosh) in the Hamdaniya district of the Nineveh Governorate. The Assyrian (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs) Christian residents of Bakhdeda had just begun to retire from their religious celebrations of the Holy Cross (Aida d' Sliwa) when several mortar shells slammed down on several homes. Although a final casualty report is still pending, it has been confirmed by sources inside Bakhdeda that 13 year old Mark Louis Sheeto was killed in the attack while his mother Bushra Toma Sheeto and his 8 year old brother Bihnan Sheeto both sustained serious injuries and were listed in critical condition in a nearby hospital.

This most recent attack against Assyrian civilians follows a wave of escalating violence that culminated in the bombing of four Assyrian and one Armenian Churches on August 1. Because the attacks have all been directed against civilians, it is widely believed that the general purpose is to incite general panic in the unprotected Assyrian population. Neither the Church bombers nor the Bakhdeda attackers have been identified and no one has yet claimed responsibility. In the recent past, though, Assyrians have faced attacks by several elements within Iraqi society including by Kurds tied to strongman Masoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), former Baathist elements, and Islamic fundamentalists. The recent Bakhdeda attacks represent a fundamental shift and intensification of attacks against the very existence of Assyrians in Iraq as it signals the first major attack against Assyrians in the Nineveh Plains -- an area until now relatively quiet and secure.

Bakhdeda lies in north Iraq, near Nineveh, the former capital of Assyria, and in the ancestral Assyrian heartland. The city's 30,000 inhabitants, 98% of which are Assyrian Christians, regard Bakhdeda as a major religious and cultural center with numerous churches and monasteries dating as far back as the 3rd century A.D.

Several Middle East analysts suspect that the terrorists may have been encouraged by reports that up to 40,000 Assyrians may have fled Iraq following the August 1 Church bombings. The Church bombings had galvanized the Assyrian community and intensified calls for the establishment of an Assyrian protected area in the Nineveh Plains. To Assyrians, Iraq's Transitional Administrative Law (TAL, English, Arabic) that was signed by the Coalition Provisional Authority as well as the Iraqi's themselves before the turnover of sovereignty, recognized Assyrians' administrative rights in the Nineveh Plains, where a large number of nearly exclusively Assyrian towns and villages still remain. As one analyst noted "The Church bombings simply emphasized the need to establish a protected area in the Nineveh Plains in order to stem the tide of a still greater, more catastrophic mass exodus of Assyrians from Iraq to the West. In turn, the Bakhdeda shelling represents the terrorists' response to Assyrian calls for security and a protected area." The aim appears to be to underscore a lack of security and Assyrian vulnerability in order to encourage further flight.

Currently, the perpetrators remain unknown and at large. However, the tactic of midnight terror raids against Assyrian towns has directed suspicion first and foremost against Barzani's KDP. For years under the UN administered Safe Haven, KDP paramilitary forces besieged Assyrian towns (AINA, 10-16-1999, 11-30-1999), assassinated Assyrian leaders such as Mr. Francis Shabo, abducted and tortured Assyrian civilians (AINA 09-17-2001), kidnapped and raped Assyrian woman (AINA 09-28-1996, 06-19-1999), and forcibly expropriated dozens of Assyrian towns and villages (1, 2) with impunity. UN Oil for Food funds were monopolized by the KDP tribal elite in order to ensure Assyrian villages suffered for lack of basic infrastructure. As one Assyrian leader noted, "The KDP has drawn its map for their envisioned 'Kurdistan,' and it includes the Assyrian heartland -- the Nineveh Plains. Presumably, to KDP warlord Masoud Barzani, Assyrians have one of two choices -- either leave Nineveh or acknowledge his feudal lordship as obedient serfs. Moreover, a self-administered Assyrian Regional area akin to the Kurdistan Regional Government remains problematic to the ever expanding Kurdish map." Other groups in northern Iraq such as the Yezidis and Turkman face similar challenges.

The embattled fledgling Iraqi government has not responded well to the Assyrian crisis. Although Assyrians remain reluctant to criticize a nascent government struggling with its own uprising, Assyrians have been frustrated by a lack of focus given to Assyrian Christian security. After an initial refreshing outpouring of condemnation against the Church bombings from nearly all segments of Iraqi society, no effort has been subsequently made to make Assyrians more secure. Moreover, none of the Churches or homes destroyed in the bombings or shellings have been assisted by the government in stark contradistinction to Muslim areas such as Najaf that have been promised generous reconstruction assistance.

Assyrian frustration has begun to foment into outright anger against Coalition policies on account of the lack of security afforded Assyrians and the free reign granted the KDP. One observer asserted "While Washington continues to battle terrorist insurgents in Iraq, it ignores the excesses of its own terrorist allies -- the KDP. The US continues to allocate tens of millions of dollars to resettle Kurdish refugees while Assyrians displaced by Kurds are given nothing. While representative city councils are established throughout Iraq, Assyrians are denied fair participation in the KDP occupied cities of Dohuk and Arbil. While other militias are disarmed, the KDP's forces have become still better trained and armed. While the KDP extends its gains in the TAL, ChaldoAssyrians and Turkomen struggle to see any progress to the administrative rights promised them in the TAL."

Another Assyrian Christian leader inside Iraq lamented that "Americans in Iraq are bending over backwards to look like they're not helping us out of fear of an Islamic backlash." Another observer noted, "In the early days, we welcomed a strong US relationship with the KDP as a moderating source of influence on KDP aggression. Instead, we find as a result a better armed, better trained, more confident and brazen KDP hell bent on occupying the very last corner of our existence." With what was described as a "gradual, persistent ethnic cleansing of Assyrians continuing directly under US auspices," one activist noted that "unless the current US policy is changed and security provided to the Assyrians in a protected area in the Nineveh Plains, history will record that President George Bush's vision for Iraq succeeded in finally eliminating the 6700 year Assyrian existence in Mesopotamia."



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Assyrians at their Best

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Rasson Bet-Yonan's Website

Kinara Productions

The Renowned Assyrian composer, Rasson Bet-Yonan, has released an official website:  click here.

Poetry, music, and an analysis of Assyrian music through various articles can be accessed through the internet. Bet-Yonan through years of effort has collected and composed secular and sacred music of many different Assyrian localities and has created classical music that would be appreciated by all music lovers of every nationality. For more information please click on the link below to experience first hand the works of this renowned Assyrian composer.


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)

ZINDA Magazine is published every Tuesday and Friday.  Views expressed in ZINDA do not necessarily represent those of  the ZINDA editors, or any of our associated staff. This publication reserves the right, at its sole discretion, not to publish comments or articles previously printed in or submitted to other journals.  ZINDA reserves the right to publish and republish your submission in any form or medium.  All letters and messages  require the name(s) of sender and/or author.  All messages published in the SURFS UP! section must be in 500 words or less and bear the name of the author(s).    Distribution of material featured in ZINDA is not restricted, but permission from ZINDA is required. This service is meant for the exchange of information, analyses and news.  To subscribe, send e-mail to:  zcrew@zindamagazine.com.
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