29 Kanoon II 6754
Z I N D A M A G A Z I N E
Bishop Paul Karatas, who passed away this week in Istanbul is shown here (right) standing next to Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim (left), Chaldean Catholic bishop in the U.S.
|Calculators Don't Lie||Wilfred Bet-Alkhas|
|Epiphany: “Feast of Lights” or an “Auction/Raffle for Profit”?||Shamasha Dan Daniel|
|Syrian Catholic Bishop Kidnapped & Later Freed
Mgr. Paul Karatas, Bishop of Amidya Dies at 71
Kurdish Attacks on Assyrians in Iraq Intensify As Election Nears
U.S. & Polish Forces Have Damaged Ancient City of Babylon
|What's New on Slates 204 & 139 in the Iraqi Elections
California Iraqis Make Long Journey
Limited Registration Sites in California Angers Iraqi Citizens
Saddam Spy Sami Khoshaba Targeted Chicago Assyrian
Chaldean Man Charged in Oil-For-Food Probe
Assyrians in Australia Praise Zinda for Investigative Report
Invitation to Brussels Meeting on Iraqi Elections
|Chaldeans of Today & Iraqi Elections||David Oraha|
|CSI Founder Welcomes Release of Kidnapped Archbishop||Dr. Keith Roderick|
Assyrians within and outside of Iraq, eligible to vote in this month’s Iraqi national elections, are grappling with the decision to choose one of the four possible certified election slates representing the “Assyrian” or “ChaldoAssyrian” groups. The three major coalitions are numbered as election tickets 139, 148 & 204.
In the elections, numbers are what matter. In a purely number game the formation of coalitions, new political parties, slates, and candidates are only political maneuvers to skew the numbers in favor of one or more groups or reduce the chances of a strong contender.
Get your calculators out and let’s do some simple math!
Number of votes needed to win a seat to the Iraqi National Assembly (INA) is calculated by dividing the total number of voters by the total number of seats:
15,000,000 voters (divided by) 275 (seats in the INA) = 54,545
Hence, for every seat in the INA any Assyrian candidate or coalition needs 54,545 votes to secure a position, assuming all eligible voters do show up at the polls on January 30. This threshold may be as low as 30,000 as more insurgents attack people and places between now and January 30th.
Since there are at least half a million eligible--over the age of 18-- Christian Iraqi voters, one can safely assume that as many as 10 seats should go to the Assyrians, Chaldeans, ChaldoAssyrians, or whatever name fancies the voters these days.
In order to obtain six or more seats in the INA, there are only two possible strategies to insure a majority victory for any Assyrian candidate:
1. To obtain the votes of 180,000 – 500,000 Iraqis.
To secure as many as 180,000 votes or more any candidate needs the support of all Assyrians within the three major churches (East, Chaldean, & Syrian). The Assyrian Democratic Party adopted this strategy last month and joined an enormous Chaldean coalition known as the al-Rafidayn National Coalition. The list has been certified as Election Ticket # 204. Mr. Yonadam Kanna, Secretary General of the ADM, holds the first position on this list. The most popular Assyrian political party in Iraq, the Assyrian Democratic Movement, is in the running for as many available seats in the INA as can be grabbed on January 30th.
The second strategy is used by several political parties in North Iraq. These include Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party (BNDP) under Mr. Romeo Hakkari, Assyrian Patriotic Party (APP) under Mr. Nimrod Baito, the Chaldean Democratic Union Party under Mr. Abd al-Ahad Afram. All three are sponging off of the Kurds since they have included their names with Masoud Barazani and Jalal Talabani’s combined ticket. In effect these three groups do not depend on any Assyrian voters as every Kurdish vote can bring them closer to a place in the Iraqi National Assembly.
So far we have reviewed the “Winning Strategies” in the January elections. But as we said earlier, elections are also a game of numbers and political maneuvers to reduce chances of another group’s popularity.
The inclusion of the BNDP, APP, and CDUP under the Kurdish ticket may actually help bring greater attention to election slate #204. Therefore, to reduce the chances of ADM’s victory another strategy had to be put into effect, one resembling Ralph Nader’s back in the U.S. 2000 presidential elections which took away many of Democratic Party’s votes without jeopardizing the Republicans’ standing at the polls that year.
Enter Sargon Dadesho, the nemesis of Yonadam Kanna, and his mouthpiece, the AssyriaSat television program!
Election Ticket # 139 is called the Assyrian National Assembly. Its candidates are still unknown, but the groups running under this ticket have been identified at press time as the:
• Assyrian United Front
In short, Election Ticket #139 is a coalition of Sargon Dadesho followers whose only purpose is to shrink the number of votes cast for the popular Assyrian Democratic Movement in Iraq and increase the chances of other “Christian” groups including those associated with the Kurds, Communists, and independent candidates.
The ten groups noted above, which incidentally include a television station and the misleading name of the Assyrian Democratic Movement –country line, are listed on the assyrianassembly.org website. A little investigation reveals that the website is registered to Mr. Ninous Bebla, a technical director at Sargon Dadesho’s AssyriaSat studios in California.
Since there is very little chance that Ticket 139 can capture a substantial number of voters in the diaspora, to disassociate oneself from Sargon Dadesho this late in the game is an impossible task for Mr. Odisho Malko Giwargis, the chief nominee on Election Ticket #139. It would be in his group’s best interest to align himself either with #204 or a non-Assyrian coalition similar to what was done by Sargon Dadesho’s protégé, Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party (BNDP)’s Romeo Hakkari.
Election Ticket #148 is carried by the Bet-Nahrain Democratic Coalition (I'itilaf al-Rafidayn al-Demoqrati) and includes two political parties: the Coalition of Patriotic Bet-Nahrain and the Independent Syriac Movement Coalition ( Harakat al-Tajammo' al-Suryan al-Mustaqil). The Coalition has presented 12 candidates. There is not much known about the individual make up of this group. In a recent internet posting the mission of this group was described as "recognizing our people's national idenity in the Iraqi Constitution and to go beyond the religious factions that separate our peole." The group also wishes to support clergymen from all sects and encourage them to unite all churches.
A few Assyrians hold disaffection with the Assyrian Democratic Party combined with the visceral dislike of Mr. Yonadam Kanna – sentiments indoctrinated by the AssyriaSat programming and Mr. Dadesho’s anti-ADM propaganda. These voters may wish to effectuate a change by casting their vote for an alternative to status quo in Iraq. The truth is that none of the election slates, especially #139, can guarantee the rights of the Assyrian people unless a majority of 10 seats are won by a single group or coalition.
To have Kurdish-friendly or Dadesho mouthpieces in power and in charge in the Iraqi National Assembly is a truly frightening prospect for anyone entrenched in the Assyrian activism.
In Iraq the Assyrian Democratic Movement has proven itself as a progressive, open-minded defender of the unity of all Assyrian people mostly divided along the lines of the Chaldean Church, Syrian Churches, and the two Churches of the East. Its humanitarian efforts have benefited the health and education of the Assyrian population in the north, and it is a vocal guardian of the women’s rights in Iraq.
Zowaa, as with any other political party, has in the past and will in the future be held accountable for one or more unfair political decisions. But it should be applauded for providing the Assyrians a center of gravity upon which they safely survived the transformation from a Baathist regime to freedom. Other groups, on the other hand, have thrown their hats in with the non-Assyrian Moslem neighbors. They are willing to align themselves with anyone as long as they threaten the Assyrian-Chaldean unity under the false pretense of promoting the Assyrian identity.
I, too, may at times be influenced by emotional appeals of one or more candidates or coalitions, but I am certain that the calculator in my hand does not lie. A majority of the ten seats must be won by a single group with proven experience.
I stand today among many Assyrians who have a burning desire to play an important part in this and any other elections taking place in the Assyrian homeland. Although on the tombs of my grandparents in Iran is inscribed the name of the town of Alqosh, neither I nor my father were born in Iraq, so I must stand aside and only watch the outcome of these votes from afar. I have questioned ADM’s leadership on many occasions in this column and will continue to do so in the future. Nevertheless, on January 30th if I could vote for the future of the Assyrian people in Iraq and the unity of all Syriac-speaking people in Bet-Nahrain, I will have proudly given a chance for the ADM to represent me with a minimum of 10 seats in the Iraqi National Assembly by casting my ballot for Election Ticket #204.
Epiphany: “Feast of Lights” or an “Auction/Raffle for Profit”?
Shamasha (Deacon) Dan Daniel,
Most likely Epiphany began in the Middle East churches and probably influenced by the Gospel of John, Who proclaimed of Jesus Christ: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
I visited Kusadasi, in Turkey and noticed this pool located at the site were St. Mary is buried (according to the local tradition). This pool was used to baptize great number of people on the day of Epiphany. People will be waiting their turn to step down, some five steps, into the water and be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Holding burning torches in their hands, men and women of various streams and walks of life were together. Their figures were illuminated from within, from their sense of right and wrong, after their training in knowing the true God and practicing their faith in worshiping Him and helping their brothers in His name. They were commemorating THE EVENT of the Baptism of Jesus Christ and the appearance of the Holy Trinity, as they are recorded in the Bible, were held with reverence and admiration over the period of the years.
It has been mentioned that in the Church there was great abundance of light on this feast day because the Christian carried lighted candles. The same is mention by Ephraim in his hymn of Epiphany (Sunday Morning - Sloota d’sapra – Nohra Dnakh). Because of this abundance of light, the feast of Epiphany became known as “The Feast of Lights”. Ephraim also relates that the faithful, before the baptism of the “One who is being taught the principles of Christianity”, received some of the sanctified water which they took to their homes. This service took place on the evening or, rather, at about midnight, of January 5th. And until today the Eastern Church retains this “very similar” service with the Blessing of the Waters, which, however, is performed on the morning of January 5th.
The Greek Orthodox Church organize this ceremony which is attended by city Mayors, the Bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church and other dignitaries. After a morning service the party parade with music down to shores where the blessing takes place and a cross is thrown into the sea, lakes or rivers and retrieved by swimmer who is then entitled to good luck; similar to the one Assyrian Church calls Kharewa d’Msheekha. He is the one who had raised the Dollar bid or won the raffle and acquired the cross. Assyrian version of this ceremony is to place the cross in a tub of water and raffle His name. Parishioners are coerced to donate their hard earned dollars to the church. In some churches an auction is setup and the auctioneer start the bidding at a certain dollar amount.
WHAT MEANING does the annual repetition of Epiphany have for our faith and for our Christian life? If we repeat the "Feast of Lights" for mere fund raising activities, surely we betray and cheapen the treasure of this great observance. The feast of Epiphany is not held only as a commemoration of a historical event in the life of Jesus. The recurrent celebration of Epiphany has a great spiritual significance far beyond. It is not the mere commemoration of a historical event because in the Christian faith everything is present, here and now, for our Lord Jesus Christ is with us, our indivisible Comforter. The historical event is, for the Person of Christ is ever present, and His Grace is not merely a memory of history. Believers should not walk away from this Raffle/Auction meeting with the notation that he/she purchased his/her own closeness to Christ; since our Lord is always with us and his Grace is not purchasable, and His divine love and protection is bestowed freely on His people.
It is rather the Feast of The Light. "I am the Light", Jesus said. He did not say: "I will explain the light to you", but "I am the Light." This is mainly the knowledge of the true God which makes life as it is stated in the prayer of our Lord to His Heavenly Father, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3).
[Shamasha Dan Daniel is a deacon of the Church of the East and resides in Los Angeles, California.]
(ZNDA: Mosul) The archbishop of the Syrian Catholic Church in Mosul, Iraq was kidnapped on Monday and then released on Tuesday in Mosul. Archbishop Mar Basil Georges Casmoussa, 66, was was walking in front of his church in Mosul's eastern neighborhood of Muhandeseen when he was abducted.
"The Holy See deplores in the firmest way such a terrorist act," a Vatican statement said, demanding that he be freed immediately on Monday.
The reason for the kidnapping was unclear, but hundreds of thousands of Christians live in and around Mosul and have been subjected to attacks in the past.
"As soon as they found out I was a bishop, their attitude changed ... I think that my abduction was a coincidence. In recent times, there have been numerous kidnappings around here," said Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa, who was believed to have been the highest-ranking Catholic prelate to be abducted in Iraq.
The Vatican also confirmed that no ransom had been paid despite earlier reports of a $200,000 ransom demand.
The Syriac Catholic Church observes the Liturgy of St James (Mar Yacoub), performed in Syriac, though certain readings are in Arabic. Its followers are mostly in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. It has been in communion with the Roman Catholic church since the 17th century.
Mgr. Paul Karatas, Bishop of Amidya Dies at 71
(ZNDA: Paris) His Grace Mgr. Paul Karatas, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Amidya, Diarbekir, Turkey, passed on to eternity on 16 January at 5 a.m.. His Grace was 71 and had been fighting an illness for a long time until his death in Istanbul where he had been hospitalized for several weeks.
Mgr. Paul Karatas was born on 29 July 1934 in Harbol, a village located in southeast Turkey's Tur-Abdin region, bordering Iraq. He was ordained a priest the on 29 June 1968, and the bishop of Amidya on 3 July 1977 by His Holiness Mar Paul II Cheikho.
The funerals of His Grace Mar Paul Karatas will take place on Friday, 21 January at 10:00 am at the Church of Saint Spirit in the district of Harbiye in Istanbul, Turkey. The services will be conducted by Mgr Petrus Harbolaya, the Chaldean Catholic bishop of Zakho (Iraq).
Hundreds of civil and religious personalities are expected at this funeral service. The Assyro-Chaldean community of France (16,000 people), for example, is mainly from the same region in Turkey and has close ties with the diocese on Amidya (Diyarbakir). Tens of members of this community will travel to Istanbul to pay their final respects to Mgr. Paul Karatas.
[Zinda: Special thanks to Mr. Antoni Yalap in France.]
Kurdish Attacks on Assyrians in Iraq Intensify As Election Nears
Courtesy of the Assyrian International News Agency
In a January 13, 2005 report from Al-Hamdaniya (Bakhdeda), a strategic district capital located between the Kurdish controlled city of Arbil and the Iraqi controlled Mosul in North Iraq, and one of the largest, most homogenous Assyrian towns in the world, Assyrian (also known as Chaldean and Syriac) sources have detailed an intensified wave of attacks by Kurdish paramilitaries tied to Kurdish warlord Masoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The heightened terror wave is widely believed timed to coincide with the upcoming Iraqi National Assembly elections on January 30.
U.S. & Polish Forces Damage Ancient City of Babylon
Courtesy of the Reuters
Babylon, home to one of the seven wonders of the world, will remain closed until experts determine how much damage foreign forces had done to the site, Iraq's culture minister said today.
A British Museum report published at the weekend said US and Polish troops had damaged the ancient city, fabled home of the Hanging Gardens, by setting up a military base among the ruins in April 2003 after the invasion of Iraq.
"We want to know the full facts about Babylon's condition," Culture Minister Mofeed al-Jazaeri told a news conference. "Babylon will stay closed until an international team is formed to determine the damage, document it and recommend what should be done to restore the city." The Americans occupied the base for five months before handing it over to a Polish-led division, which moved out at the weekend after about 16 months there.
Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said that contrary to the British Museum report, the presence of foreign troops in Babylon had saved it. "If it wasn't for the Americans, Babylon would have been looted like all other museums in Iraq ... and we would now be buying back Babylon artifacts on bazaars and markets," he said.
Szmajdzinski told public radio Jedynka local authorities and archaeologists were consulted over all decisions affecting ancient sites at the base. "Surely mistakes were made at the beginning, but nobody knows what Babylon was like before the Americans took over. Since arriving, we have carried out full documentation of the site," he said.
The Polish Culture Ministry will soon issue a 500-page report on Babylon, he added.
The British Museum report said US and Polish military vehicles had crushed 2,600-year-old pavements in the city. Archaeological fragments were used to fill sandbags, it said. "Babylon is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world and the damage caused by the military camp is a further blow for the cultural heritage of Iraq," John Curtis, keeper of the museum's Ancient and Near East department, said in the report.
Curtis, invited to visit Babylon by Iraqi antiquities experts, said he had found cracks and gaps made by people who had apparently tried to gouge out the decorated bricks forming the famous dragons of the city's Ishtar Gate. Babylon, where King Nebuchadnezzar II built the Hanging Gardens, was the capital of Babylonia, which existed from about 1800 to 600 BC. Major archaeological work was carried out at Babylon in the 19th and 20th centuries, and Saddam Hussein reconstructed parts of the site.
(ZNDA: San Francisco) The following is an update on the two popular election slates, 204 and 139, prepared by Mr. Fred Aprim for Zinda Magazine:
Chaldean National Congress (CNC) Withdraws from Slate 204
Slate 204 initially included the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM), The Chaldean National Congress (CNC), ChaldoAssyrian National Council, and other ChaldoAssyrians from throughout Iraq.
The Chaldean National Congress (CNC) withdrew from 204 according to a letter dated 15 January signed by Mr. Ghassab Hanna Shathaya, Mr. Fu'ad Bodagh (CNC representative in Iraq), and few others addressing both the Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission and to the Assyrian Democratic Movement (view letter here).
Mr. Yonadam Kanna holds the first slot on slate 204. In 2nd slot is Mr. Behnam Zaia Polous (a former minister in the Iraqi government from 2003 to 2004 whose family has close ties with the leadership of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq). In the 3rd slot is, Fatin Bidawid, a lawyer and woman, as required by the election rules.
The CNC in its letter has asked that the Chaldeans vote for the Chaldean Democratic Union Party (of Mr. Abd al-Ahad Afram) running under a Kurdish ticket. According to this statement, the CNC describes the Chaldean Democratic Union Party as the other promoter of the Chaldean national movement and the defender of the Chaldean political and national rights.
Mr. Abd al-Ahad Afram's position within the Kurdish slate is in the 44th slot. The closest Assyrian (ChaldoAssyrian) on the same list, that includes 165 candidates, is Mr. Goriel Esho Khamis, a member of the ChaldoAshur Organization, a part of the Kurdistan Communist Party. He holds the 41st slot. Mr. Salim Potros Elias who held the 43rd slot on this list, withdrew himself from the Kurdish slate. He has noted an obscure reason for withdrawing from the Kurdish slate as a protest against the attack of the American forces on Arbil. No Kurdish candidate has withdrawn from this ticket yet.
The Assyrian National Assembly (ANA)'s List (Slate 139)
ANA's Slate 139 has yet to officially publish the list of its candidates. A list of 13 names was posted on an Assyrian internet forum on 16 January; however on the next day, the spokesman of the ANA declared the list as false. The list did not include the necessary number of women mandated by the Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission (i.e. every third, sixth, ninth, so on). The list had only two women on the third and sixth slots.
With less than two weeks to go to before the vote, scheduled for Jan. 30, guerrillas have stepped up their attacks and driven most candidates deep indoors, and on Saturday, the authorities said they would restrict traffic and set up cordons around polling places on election day.
Many candidates are often too terrified to say their names. Instead of holding rallies, they meet voters in secret, if they meet them at all. Instead of canvassing for votes, they fend off death threats.
Of the 7,471 people who have filed to run, only a handful outside the relatively safe Kurdish and Shi'ai areas have publicly identified themselves. The locations for the 5,776 polling places have not been announced, lest they become targets for attacks.
In the case of Slate 139 Assyrian observers explain that they are not much bothered by the candidates' lack of visibility; they point out that Assyrians will be voting for the group's mission and not individual candidates. In a statement released last week the Slate 139 candidates affirmed their mission as upholding the "Assyrian" identity and protecting the rights of "Assyrians" in Iraq.
California Iraqis Make Long Journey
Courtesy of the San Francisco Examiner
In fact, Bay Area Iraqis looking to participate in the fledging democratic experiment in the war-torn country must travel twice to Irvine, once this week to register and again at the end of the month to actually vote.
Monday, one Iraqi-American voter, Ashur Yoseph, set off for Los Angeles with his 71-year-old father, George. Seven hours later they were still en route to the polling place, stuck in "horrendous traffic," Yoseph said by phone.
"Tomorrow morning, we'll get up, go register to vote and then head home. In two weeks we'll do it all over again," said Yoseph, Mayor Gavin Newsom's point person for redevelopment at the Hunters Point shipyard. "I've got a lot of work to do. I'm not happy about it, but you've got to do what you've got to do."
Yoseph and other critics charge that the polling places for the Iraqi elections discriminate against Christian Assyrians, Chaldeans and Syriacs, the indigenous people of Iraq who make up just 3 percent of the country's population, but about 80 percent of Iraqis living in California.
Out of the five polling places set up to handle the 240,000 Iraqi expatriates in the United States, the Irvine office is the only one west of the Mississippi.
"There was clearly a decision not to open offices where there is a majority of Iraqi Christians," said Wilfred Bet-Alkhas, a San Jose-based magazine editor.
"I would be very, very surprised if 10 percent get to vote," he said.
There are approximately 50,000 Iraqi Christians in California, half spread across the Bay Area and Central Valley, and half in San Diego, according to San Jose resident Jackie Bejan, spokeswoman for the ChaldoAssyrian Advocacy Council. Nashville, Tenn., one of the five cities with a voting office, has just 4,000 Iraqis, nearly all of them Kurds.
Limited Registration Sites in California Angers Iraqi Citizens
Courtesy of the National Public Radio
Scott Horsley: For Iraqi exile Shock Hanish(ph), this month's election is a historic opportunity, one that's been many years in the making.
Mr. Shock Hanish (Iraqi Exile): To me it was like dream coming true because I lived all my life to see the day that Iraqi people would choose their own and truly representative.
Horsley: But Hanish's good feelings turned to anger when he learned there would be no polling place here in San Diego, his home for the last 24 years and home to the nation's third-largest Iraqi immigrant population. Adults living in the US can vote in the upcoming election if they or their fathers were born in Iraq, but first they have to register. Hanish complains for would-be voters in San Diego, that means two round trips to a distant polling place in less than a month, traveling some 100 miles each way.
Mr. Hanish: I will go to vote, but a great majority will not bother, probably, to go for different reason--business, work and other issues.
Horsley: Hanish and other San Diego Iraqis called a news conference last week to protest the citing of the West Coast polling place, originally advertised as Los Angeles. Tinu Shad(ph), who represents a Kurdish group, complains San Diego's Iraqi community is 10 times the size of LA's.
Mr. Tinue Shad (Represents San Diego Kurdish Group): Thirty thousand persons in San Diego to be sacrificed for the sake of 3,000 in LA. That is not justice.
Horsley: Altogether, there are five Iraqi voting centers in the US. The others are in Detroit and Chicago, which have the nation's two-biggest Iraqi communities, and in Nashville and Washington, DC. After last week's protest, California's polling place was shifted to Orange County, slightly closer to San Diego, but not enough to satisfy some local Iraqis. Stephen Lennon(ph), a spokesman for the Swiss-Face Group(ph) that's running the election, says the location has to serve Iraqis up and down the West Coast.
Mr. Stephen Lennon (Spokesman, Swiss-Face Group): There's a large concentration of Iraqi citizens in San Francisco also who have a further distance to travel than those in San Diego. Indeed, the San Diegan population is closer to a polling site than many, many groups of Iraqis in the United States.
Horsley: Still, the lack of a polling place in San Diego has fed Middle Eastern style suspicion among some people here. Most Iraqis in San Diego are Kurds or Chaldeans, minorities in their home country. Shock Hanish wonders if election organizers are deliberately trying to exclude them for partisan reasons.
Mr. Hanish: Chaldeans are Christian. No matter for whom they are voting, they will vote for secular democratic forces or parties or coalitions.
Horsley: Chaldeans also dominate the Iraqi community around Detroit where there is a local polling place. Last week, a dozen members of Congress from California wrote to election organizers urging them to add two new polling places in San Diego and north central California. But registration beginning today, organizers say that's impossible. Organizers echo the Bush administration in saying the US portion of the election will go forward as planned, even if it's less than perfect.
Saddam Spy Sami Khoshaba Targeted Chicago Assyrian
Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune
(ZNDA: Chicago) Sami Khoshaba Latchin now sits under house arrest in Des Plaines (near Chicago) for being an alleged Iraqi agent, ratted out by documents found in a Baghdad apartment and the accusations of admitted spies abroad.
Informants who pointed out Latchin for American investigators say he was put in a program that spread sleeper agents for Saddam Hussein. He was told to become a U.S. citizen, to spend years hiding in Chicago until summoned to begin spying.
In the meantime, he spent. Then he went bankrupt.
He has tens of thousands of dollars in bills on a dozen credit cards, according to his 2003 bankruptcy. His bank wants thousands more before granting title to his car, a used Cadillac Escalade too expensive for a man who worked as a gate agent and then a hotel desk clerk.
As the case against Latchin unfolds, a portrait of Latchin's life--and perhaps even of an unraveling foreign intelligence plot--has emerged from his 2003 bankruptcy filing, his 2001 car loan application, housing records, federal court papers and other documents.
A whispering cast of anonymous characters--Individuals A through J, most admitted former Iraqi agents--is introduced in bullet-point form in an FBI affidavit used for an August search warrant.
"We have to look at the whole story," Bill Theis, one of Latchin's appointed federal defenders, told a judge last month questioning the government's reasons for bringing the case. . "And from the government, I don't think we've gotten it."
Because the Latchin case relies so heavily on the testimony of admitted spies, it also sheds light on the secretive world of the old Iraqi regime, whose tendrils reached into the United States not to spy on government, but on Hussein's Iraqi enemies in exile here.
His alleged target: Assyrian dissidents in Chicago.
After the FBI arrested Latchin in August, it accused him of failing to mention an alleged past in the Mukhabbarat, Hussein's spy service, when he applied for citizenship in 1998. On Dec. 1, charges against Latchin were upgraded, accusing him of conspiring with others to act as a secret agent.
Neighbors, fellow workers and former employers said Latchin, 57, worked as an American Airlines gate agent at O'Hare International Airport from 1995 until 2000, then as a desk clerk at two nearby hotels.
He once told a co-worker he left Iraq because he didn't like the government there but later professed loyalty to Hussein and Hussein's Baath Party in an FBI interview, according to court documents.
His voice is quiet but steady, his handshake firm without a tight grip, and he politely declined comment for this report at the front door of his condominium in Des Plaines.
Iraqi intelligence informants allege that before working at O'Hare, he had used an Iraqi Airways job as cover for spy work in Athens in the 1980s and then worked at the Baghdad headquarters of the Mukhabbarat from 1987 until 1991, when the first Gulf War erupted.
His passport and immigration papers show he arrived in the U.S. on May 27, 1993, became a permanent resident and waited to apply for citizenship.
From then on, the government says, he was supposed to spy on Assyrians.
Residents of northern Iraq since before the time of Christ, Assyrians poured into the United States in the 1970s. Many settled in Chicago, still a center of the Assyrian population in America. Various estimates put the number of Assyrians in Chicago at about 80,000.
After years in the Iraqi intelligence service, Latchin was sent to penetrate the Assyrian community here under the guidance of an alleged Iraqi spymaster, the government alleges.
Individual C--Latchin's alleged longtime handler-turned-informant--told investigators he persuaded Latchin to work undercover in the United States, gave him a code name, prepared him and paid him.
He was one of at least six former Iraqi intelligence officers said to have known Latchin for more than 15 years, FBI agent Amy Beuschlein disclosed in an Aug. 27, 2004, affidavit.
Other informants in the affidavit filled in more of Latchin's alleged past:
He joined the intelligence service in the late-1970s after graduating from Al-Mustansiriya University, they told authorities. After years of spy work in Athens and at headquarters in Baghdad, informants said, he was to move to the United States and disappear.
For at least the next nine years, he blended in perfectly. A new used car every few years. A condo. Three jobs.
Tim Kinsley and his wife, Claudia Flam, hired him in the mid-1990s at Service Service Inc., a private firm that ran American Airlines' O'Hare ticket counter until 1997.
Records show Latchin was hired in 1995, by which time he had lived at two addresses within blocks of each other in the Assyrian neighborhood near Devon and Western Avenues.
Latchin stayed at Service Service after it was sold to Huntleigh USA in 1997, but in 2000 he moved to a job at the front desk at the Travelodge O'Hare.
About the same time, Latchin also began working at the Mt. Prospect Ramada Inn.
"He was not exceptionally outgoing, he was not exceptionally quiet," said general manager Shaukat Sindhu.
What stuck out was that Latchin spent most of a year holding down two jobs, days at the Travelodge and nights at the Ramada, Sindhu said.
"It seemed when he was here, he was working here for the money," Sindhu said. "I thought spies were supposed to be rich--rich like James Bond."
In fact, Latchin was bankrupt, or on the way.
He bought the condominium where he still lives from his brother in early 1998 and almost immediately started a series of frequent refinances and home-equity loans that continued until his 2003 filing for bankruptcy.
An alleged Iraqi co-conspirator and college friend said Latchin called him all the time, "often complaining about his financial situation in the United States," said a Dec. 17 federal court filing.
Phone records appear to confirm at least part of that account. The month he bought the Escalade in 2001, phone records show, he called his alleged handler in Baghdad 30 times.
He had made 13 calls to his alleged handlers in the previous 3 1/2 years, court records state.
Though the FBI said it had interviewed Latchin in Chicago as early as 2002, the beginning of Latchin's real troubles came after American troops poured into Baghdad in the spring of 2003.
Unable to destroy documents quickly enough to keep them out of American hands, Iraqi intelligence officials rushed sensitive papers into homes throughout Baghdad, informants later told U.S. investigators.
Iraqi army officers found such a stash in April 2003 stacked in the living room of House 10, Street 13, District 904, Baghdad.
Dates on the pages ran from 1984 until 1990, a period when, government informants allege, Latchin had worked at Mukhabbarat headquarters in Baghdad.
One of them, an April 9, 1990, cover letter signed by a member of the Mukhabbarat's Secret Service Directorate, advertised the "original findings by Mr. Sami Khoshaba Latchin."
The Mukhabbarat "were very ruthless people," said Judith Yaphe, whose 20 years at the CIA included work on Iraq and terrorism. But she questioned the conditions under which any document from the former Iraqi intelligence agency was produced. "Based on their past performance, you can make some fairly safe judgments," she said.
"But that doesn't get you any closer to the truth about who this guy is," she said.
Chaldean Man Charged in Oil-For-Food Probe
Courtesy of the Associated Press
(ZNDA: New York) An Iraqi-American conspired to act as an agent for Saddam Hussein by accepting millions of dollars in compensation and negotiating with U.N. officials to let Iraq sell oil despite international sanctions, authorities said Tuesday.
The charges were the first to be revealed in the probe of allegations that administrators in the United Nations oil-for-food program took bribes and let the ousted Iraqi dictator skim money from the program.
Samir A. Vincent was charged in a criminal information in U.S. District Court, where a grand jury has been looking into the program. In announcing the charges, prosecutors said Saddam's government demanded secret surcharges worth several hundred million dollars as it managed the program with the help of the United Nations.
The $60 billion oil-for-food effort was created as a humanitarian exemption to sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which led to the first Gulf War. Beginning in 1996, it let Saddam's government sell oil and use the proceeds to buy food, medicine and other items.
According to court papers against Vincent that were signed by U.S. Attorney David N. Kelley, the Iraqi government from at least 2000 and until March 2003 conditioned the distribution of allocations of oil under the program on the recipients' willingness to pay a secret surcharge to the Iraqi government.
Under the program, Saddam's government alone had the power to select the companies and individuals who received the rights to purchase Iraqi oil, the court papers said.
Officials at the highest levels of the Iraqi government selected a group of companies and individuals to receive the rights to buy Iraqi oil.
The court papers portrayed the program as a money machine for Saddam's regime, which allegedly stashed the cash in various Middle East countries and elsewhere.
The court papers said Vincent was born in Iraq in 1940 and later became a U.S. citizen.
They said he was never a duly accredited diplomatic or consular officer of a foreign government.
Yet, according to the court papers, between 1993 and January 2003 Vincent consulted with and repeatedly received direction from Saddam's government to lobby officials of the U.S. government and the United Nations to repeal sanctions against Iraq.
They further alleged that Vincent between 1992 and early 1996 met in Manhattan with U.N. officials and others to secure terms favorable to the government of Iraq to sell Iraqi oil.
In February 1996, Vincent went to Baghdad and helped draft agreements with Iraqi government officials that guaranteed millions of dollars in compensation for himself and others once an agreement to sell Iraqi oil was obtained, the papers said.
Between February 1996 and July 1997, the government or Iraq delivered millions of dollars in cash to Vincent and others, prosecutors alleged.
The court papers alleged as well that Vincent followed the direction of Iraq between 1998 and January 2003 when he lobbied former officials of the U.S. government in an unsuccessful effort to persuade the United States to support a repeal of sanctions against Iraq.
For his efforts, Vincent and a company under his control were awarded the rights to buy about 9 million barrels of oil under the oil-for-food program, the court papers said.
They added that Vincent "reaped millions of dollars of profits by selling to an oil company the rights to purchase that Iraqi oil."
According to a Boston College athletics website, Mr. Vincent, a 1962 graduate was a superb superb athlete who competed in high jump, long jump, triple jump, hurdles, discus, and javelin. He was also instrumental to Boston College's 1962 New England championship, the Eagles' first-ever regional title. Vincent was also Eastern collegiate triple jump champion in 1962 and third in NCAA championships, earning All-America honors.
Samir Vincent represented Iraq in the 1964 Olympics and was inducted into the Boston College Varsity Club Athletic Hall
of Fame in 1990.
I am still dumbstruck by the entire story. I mean it read like a Grisham novel. It had everything, powerful and corrupt religious and political leaders like Suzy David and Mar Melis, the Jewish involvement and the fraud of over 2,000 Assyrian investors in Sydney. The only thing missing was the car chase at the end.
I had to pinch myself to remind me that everything you guys said was absolutely true and casts a light on the dark forces and leaders running our community.
I didn't personally invest but am astounded by the lack of support Zinda has received in challenging this issue. If this issue had been made open and if the criminals had been exposed earlier on perhaps incidents like the Daniloos in California would not have occurred.
We all love you Zinda please continue to expose these villains and help bring them to justice.
Just want to congratulate you on the investigative report that appeared in the last issue of Zinda, discussing the role of Bishop Melis Zaia and Suzie David in the Karl Suleman Enterprizes Scheme.
I read with admiration and disgust your article titled 'The Hood, the Bad & the Ugly, published on 11th January. Admiration for the professional, detailed and methodical approach that Zinda used in revealing the truth about some of our leaders. Disgust at the way we were all used and manipulated by Bishop Mar Melis, Susie David and the Jews.
I was one of the people who invested and I lost my money at the hands of these people but there are many more pensioners who staked their entire savings and mortgaged their homes to invest in this scheme believing in the word of Mar Melis and Susie.
I'm young and can easily get over it. My heart breaks for the 2,000 investors many who were pensioners. For the unemployed newly arrived migrants who have to start from scratch and for the homeless Assyrians many with children that these people created all in the name of greed.
I look forward to seeing all these criminals in court where God will see that they join their criminal friend Karl Suleman behind bars.
I personally don't want any of the money recovered by the liquidators returned to me. I'd rather not see a cent provided the liquidators pursue these criminals through the courts and bring them to justice.
Please continue to post these court examinations of Susie David and Mar Melis as their court cases develop.
[Zinda: In a quick response to Zinda Magazine ’s investigative report titled "The Good, the Bad & the Holy" - published on the 11 January - the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) contacted this publication on 15 January and informed Zinda Magazine that in light of the extensive details of Ms. Suzy David's involvement with convicted fraudster Karl Suleman and the Ponzi scheme initiated on Australia's Assyrian community, the AUA executive board has officially removed Ms. David from her position as the Deputy Secretary General of the AUA. Both Suzy David and her brother, Fred David, are currently awaiting a judgment following a New South Wales Supreme Court hearing into whether they breached their duty of care when arranging for clients to invest in Karl Suleman Enterprizes (KSE) investment scheme, which has since been found to be illegal. Zinda will continue to update its readers on the upcoming trials of Suzy and Fred David in the months to come.]
Bet Nahrain Inc.: A Stunt Trip to Los Angeles to Vote
AssyriaSat satellite television announced this week that Bet Nahrain Inc. and/or Bet Nahrain Democratic Party – California branch, is organizing a trip to Los Angeles to provide the Iraqi Assyrian residents of Stanislaus County (Modesto/Turlock/Ceres) means to register and vote. Many Assyrians have criticized this move as yet another media stunt by the Bet Nahrain group.
It would have been more powerful message to the world to boycott the elections by the Assyrians of the San Jose/San Francisco Bay Area and Stanislaus County than having a couple of hundred (out of thousands living in those two areas) of Assyrians showing up to vote.
Bet Nahrain again proves that it is more interested in pulling a stunt and gaining some media publicity through this bus trip to Los Angeles than a real recognition for the injustice caused by not having polling centers in these Assyrian localities.
What to Do After the Elections
I suggested the following to as many of the promoters of the Assyrian?Chaldean?Syriac slates and many of the leaders of these slates and none showed any disagreement, and all have said it is a good idea. Therefore I ask you to think and do what you can to spread the following message to our brethren wherever they are and ask that they support and ask the members of the different slates to implement it, that is if you yourself agree.
The message: It is not as important who secures the seats in the Iraqi parliament as much as what must be done after the elections. What is important that the following steps to be taken following the elections:
Some suggestions as to what the message of our nation should be in the Iraqi parliament are:
Let us unite by thinking alike and working together for the benefit of our nation.
Little Too Late
Your efforts in this regard are truly appreciated but, with all due respect and with all these futile letters, it was little too late!
The matter of the fact is that we have now only what we got from IOM OCV team and thanks to our ‘perfect’ coordination and ‘well’ organized campaign that resulted in forcing thousands of voters to travel 200-400 miles (at least) four times to register and vote should they opt to do so.
I only hope that we can someday and sometime turn into proactive nation with more diligent people and better organized efforts.
Zinda Magazine & Iraqi Elections
As an Assyrian living in Australia I have read with interest and unfortunately anger at the inadequate placing of polling centres in America, disadvantaging Assyrians from voting. I thank with all my heart from the important yet noble work you are doing. Your decision to lend a helping hand to the historic and important Assyrian community is a wonderful decision. Obviously the magazine is not only a representative of Assyrians but obviously a magazine which believes in equal rights and in this case equal rights so everyone Iraqi is able to fairly give their vote. Well done Zmagazine!
Iraqi Elections Support Committee
At the initiative of the Assyrian Democratic Organisation (ADO - Belgium) with the cooperation of the Chaldo-Assyro-Syriac associations you are invited to the general meeting on the January Iraqi elections:
Meeting Place: Salle paroissiale _ Nothomb street 50A - Etterbeek1040 – Brussels
Date: Thursday, January 20 19:00 (5 pm)
For more information in Arabic clich here.
Announcing New Scholarly Periodical: Eastern Christian Art
Over the past years, the scholarly interest in the Christian art of the Middle East has considerably increased. A major problem to students focusing on this subject is the absence of a periodical specialized in oriental Christian art. A few years ago, Leiden University initiated the Essays on Christian Art and Culture in the Middle East (ECACME), which was a low budget journal, produced as a part of the university’s educative and scholarly projects executed in Egypt and Syria. Since this periodical also attracted international scholarly attention, we decided to attempt to raise its level accordingly.
We envisaged a successor of high quality, called Eastern Christian Art in its Late Antique and Islamic Context (ECA), to fulfil the growing needs of a specialized scholarly platform. We discussed this matter with Peeters Publishers in Leuven, and we are pleased to inform you that they are willing to publish ECA on annual basis. It will be a full colour journal (size 27 x 19.4 cm). We estimate the number of pages for the first years at 140-160 pp.
Eastern Christian Art is devoted to studies in Christian art and archaeology in the Middle East, in English, French and German. Its aim is to present studies about the Christian material culture in countries of the Middle East within a broad, interdisciplinary context, including Late Antique, Byzantine, Islamic, and crusader elements.
Authors are invited to contribute to Eastern Christian Art. The deadline for the second volume 1 January 2005.
Instructions to Authors
Click here to view Author’s Instructions.
Dr. Bas ter Haar Romeny | Dr. Mat Immerzeel | Dr. Karel C. Innemée | Magda Laptas M.A. | Dr. Gertrud J.M. van Loon | Sofia Schaten M.A. | Bas Snelders M.A.
Prof. Averil Cameron |
Prof. Claudine Chavannes-Mazel |
Prof. Erica Cruikshank Dodd |
Dr. Peter Grossmann
All correspondence concerning editorial matters, manuscripts
and books for review should be sent to:
Eastern Christian Art available online at http://poj.peeters-leuven.be
British Museum's Coming Lectures on Topics in Assyriology
London Centre for the Ancient Near East
Saturday, 22 January
Wednesday, 26 January
Thursday, 10 March
The Chaldeans of today participating in the new Iraqi elections fall under one of the following categories:
How will their vote effect the future of the Chaldean people as a whole, in the new Iraqi elections?
1. Catholic Assyrian: The Assyrian name is historically recognized and well documented in the archives of the world museums and all the universities of the world. It is a well known name in present day Iraq and most Iraqis are aware of this name, as being part of their history. A great numbers of Assyrian are members of the Chaldean church. The followers of the Chaldean church, consider their national affiliation as Assyrian, but their religious denomination as Chaldeans. Chaldeans voting under this category will have no hesitation to cast their votes to their respective slates running under the Assyrian name.
2. Chaldean Nation: The proponent of this group, which the initial concept originated in Diaspora, are trying their best to create such a nation. The efforts, while it should be commended, It lacks many factors which it's proponents can legitimately prove or accomplish their claim. The present day Chaldeans have no historical connection to the Chaldeans of antiquity. Historically, geographically or linguistically. The efforts of this faction has created a division amongst the same people who share similar; language, history, land and religion. This grouping while claiming Chaldean nationalism is still at it's infancy and may prove to be more of a divisive force than an effective political movement. Members of this group, enjoyed a short marriage of convenience with their co-nationals the Assyrians. However, as stated above, and due to their separatists nature and their quest for the establishment of their own national identity, this marriage of convenience resulted in separation.
3. Christian Arab: Due to absence of Chaldean or Assyrian nationalism, amongst many of the followers of this group, and due to years of the Arabization policies of the former regime, many members of this group adopted Arabic names, use Arabic language to conduct their religious services and are frequent user of the Arabic language in their daily lives, both at home and at work. The effect of such policies has effected a large portion of the Chaldean community which lacks any national aspirations as either Chaldean or Assyrian. They are more keen to self identify themselves as Arabs as well as adopting the Arab culture. A large segment of this group established various; social, political, charitable and professional organizations, bearing the Arabic names and they more closely self identify themselves as part of the Arab community.
4. Christian Kurds: Those members living in the northern part of Iraq in towns and villages where the majority are of Kurdish origin, and again due to their lack of any national aspiration or ties to their co-nationals, the Assyrian or Chaldeans, they self identify themselves or by their neighbors as Kurdish Christian.
5. The Independents: The fifth category, which mainly consists of the members of the Chaldean intellectuals, lacking any nationalistic attachment to either the Assyrian or the Chaldeans, were instrumental in the establishment of the Iraqi Communists party and still are part of this movement in Iraq and outside the country. To this grouping, the ideology of communism supercedes that of their ethnic or national affiliation. A member of this class of our co-national is currently seeking representation as an independent without any ties or connections to either the Assyrian or Chaldean names.
In consideration of the above, one can easily conclude that a major portion of the Assyrian community of Iraq, mainly the followers of the Catholic denomination, will be ineffective in their votes as to either a religious, an ethnic, or a political entity.
Certain Assyrian political movements, in their quest to position the various components of our nation into a viable voting block, made certain concessions in their national agenda to remedy the situation. Not realizing the division existing amongst this segment of our nation , as stated above. They too became victims to their own wrong political standing. This wrong political decision by the current leadership of ADM, Assyrian Democratic Movement, eroded the vast support they once enjoyed by their main body of supporters, Namely those that consider themselves under their true national name of our people " Assyrians".
Realizing this lack of support once enjoyed by ADM and the void it created by their actions at a historical moment in the history of our people and nation, this void had to be filled by none other than those which believe in our true and correct national name; Ashuriyeen (Assyrian). Therefore, a group of our most dedicated filled the void. The outcome was the establishment of the Assyrian National Gathering (Assembly). The sole purpose of this Gathering is to represent and to demand that the legal rights of our people and nation, known by many names, should be legally and constitution protected in the new constitution of Iraq. The representatives of this gathering enjoys a divers participation of all the components of the Assyrian nation. The name of Assyrian National Gathering (Assembly) was adopted by them, since this is the only legal name by which all the components of our nation can legally be represented and their national, ethnic, religious, social and cultural rights as the most indigenous people of the land can be claimed.
To all our co-nationals under any name you choose to be known or called. This is the moment in the history of our people and nation which we must act and act intelligently. We ask of you to set aside all your differences to a later time. Now it is incumbent upon each and everyone of us, with all of our diversities to unite behind the only viable slate, the Assyrian national Gathering (Assembly) to secure our rights in the land of our forefathers.
Vote 139 for this is the only logical choice we currently have!
Dr. Keith Roderick
Joining Vatican officials and other religious leaders in condemning the kidnapping of Archbishop Basile Gorges Casmoussa of the Syrian Catholic Church in Mosul, Iraq, Rev. Hans Stukelberger, president and founder of Christian Solidarity International (CSI) greeted the release of the Archbishop today with thanksgiving, and called the kidnapping "an appalling act of barbarity."
"This act of terrorism has capped a long and increasing series of attacks on Christians and other groups in the last several months," Stuckelberger said.
The Assyrian Christians, Chaldean and Syriac, are the indigenous people of Iraq. Increasingly they are being forced from their homeland as the result of attacks by Kurdish paramilitaries and Islamic extremists. According to reports received by CSI from Al-Hamdaniya (Bakhdeda), a strategic district capital in northern Iraq, an armed group of the Kurdistan Democratic Party recently attacked St. John's Church in Bakhdeda during Christmas mass. Churches in other parts of Iraq have also suffered attacks during the past several months.
U. S. Representative Anna Eshoo of California and twelve other members of Congress petitioned the Iraq Out of Country Voting Program Director, Peter Erben, to open more voting locations to accommodate nearly 100,000 for the upcoming elections on January 30. The letter argued that the process threatens to disfranchise Iraqi Christians who comprise between 85 -90% on Iraqis living in the United States.
"It is becoming increasingly clear that the survival of the ChaldoAssyrian Christian community in Iraq is dependent upon the implementation of a self-administered district under the terms of Article 53 d or the Transitional Administrative Law," said Rev. Stuckelburger. "We will not stand by and watch this ancient Christian community disappear as a result of the competing political pressures in the new Iraq." CSI also seeks to highlight the continued neglect of the Christian communities in regards to international assistance.
CSI also urges reconsideration of the decision by the Iraqi government to prohibit voting by up to 90,000 Jewish-Iraqi exiles who reside in Israel. The independent electoral commission noted that the new Iraqi government does not recognize the state of Israel and will therefore not allow voters from that country to participate in the January 30 elections.
The following individuals contributed in the preparation of this week's issue:
|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. Any material published in Zinda Magazine will not be removed later at the request of the sender. For free subscription to Zinda Magazine, send e-mail with your name, address, telephone number to: email@example.com.|
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