|The Dilemma of the Iraqi Draft Constitution & Looking Forward|
|United Christian Coalition Formed in Baghdad
Vote Figures for Crucial Province Don't Add Up
Iraqi Bishops May Turn to Pope for Help on Constitution
Chaldean Patriarch Says Nations Should Not Turn Away Iraqis
|The Assyrian Universal Alliance and the Iraqi Constitution
Constitution Vote Resonates with Arizona Iraqis
AJM Volleyball-Event 2005 Augsburg, Germany
Florence Alavardy (1914-2005)
Oh Assyria, Look What Your Own are Doing
Now Everyone Can Help Our People Back Home
|Conference in Poland: Non-Moslems in Iraq
St. Ephrem Ecumenical Research Institute (SEERI)
Fellowships at the National Endowment for Democracy
Gorgias Press 2006 Catalog
PowerPoints About Tur-Abdin & North Iraq For Sale
|The Syriac Alexander
Forgotten Victims-Iraqi Christians Speak Language of Jesus
Slaughtering of a Nation
Shmoel Noel Sargis
|Assyrian Students United - ASA Forms at UCLA||Lindsey Morgan|
The Dilemma of the Iraqi Draft Constitution
Finally, and as it was expected, it became official that the two Christians in the Constitutional Committee could not influence the other 75 members to formulate the draft in a manner where it reflects the real picture of this indigenous community and its rooted and significant place in the history of Iraq. The constitution draft was disappointing, unfair, and unjust to the Assyrians (known also as ChaldoAssyrians in TAL).
The Assyrian leaders living in Baghdad or Arbil fear retaliation and acts of vengeance against their people and not necessarily against themselves personally. Therefore, this leadership did not come out boldly and asked the people to vote NO in the October 15 referendum; however, many central committee members of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) issued statements to explain their grievances. There are many ways to say no to something without saying the actual word exactly, and that is what they did.
Here are few examples:
1. In an interview on Friday, October 14, 2005, posted on Zahrira, Ishmael Nanno, ADM Central Committee member, stated that despite certain adjustment, the draft did not point to what the ADM had requested, therefore, the ADM stand will not change and that there is the possibility if that continue that the ADM will ask the people to vote NO. It is important that we clarify our position in front of the people [click].
2. On October 12, 2005, Abd al-Khaliq Sultan, Radio Free Iraq correspondence in Dohuk, interviewed Mr. Yousif Esha, Head of Relations Committee in the ADM. Therefore, according to Abd al-Khaliq Sultan, the reasons mentioned by Mr. Esha will make the ADM to vote "NO" on the draft constitution [click].
3. According to al-Rafidayn, many political ChaldoAssyrian leaders presented their reservations from certain articles and hinted that they may ask the people to vote NO on the draft [click].
Few have suggested that Mr. Younadam Kanna should have withdrawn from the constitutional committee when he realized that what our people had wished for, and/or demanded, was not going to be included in the draft. The question is: what would the Assyrians (ChaldoAssyrians) have gained from the withdrawal besides a stand. While to have a stand is honorable and important, the question remains, what would be the final result of that stand? A Kurdish agent, with, of course, a Christian name, would have been selected to replace Mr. Kanna to sit in the constitutional committee, and this new person would have done what the Kurds wanted to do anyways.
I would have loved it seeing the ADM asking Assyrians (ChaldoAssyrians) explicitly to vote no on the draft, thus going against the powerful Shi'aa and empowered Kurds. The question here, is that politically smart?
We have a problem; this problem is centered on the fact that we are weak and have no power on the ground and that is because we chose to remain divided. Nothing will save us unless we unite genuinely, reflect a united voice, and support each other. That is the bottom line. We hear about certain gatherings in Iraq and abroad to form a central leadership and to enter the next elections under one slate. This information is deceptive and misleading in a way. Groups that are linked to the Kurds in the previous elections have obligations to the Kurdish slate, and will not be allowed to form a united slate with other Assyrians (ChaldoAssyrians). These moves are good news for the media and to hypnotize the people temporarily; however, these moves are not genuinely motivated. While the Kurdistani slate includes five Christians who won because of the Kurdish vote, reality is that only Mr. Kanna won by the vote of our own people. Now, the vote of Mr. Kanna in the Iraqi parliament (national assembly) could not win over the five other Christian votes that have association and obligation to Kurds. Something has to be done so that there is a balance. News leaked lately suggesting that Mr. Kanna is seeking an alliance with Shi'aa or Sunni Arab slates. Will these Shi'aa or the Sunni allow, for example, five members of the ChaldoAssyrian candidates to be part of their slate and get a favorite position in that slate to win automatically? Since the Kurdish slate has five Christians in it, why not have Christians in the Shi'aa or Sunni Arab slates in order to create some sort of a balance in parliament? What is the price that we have to pay in this case? What would the Shi'aa or the Sunni Arabs gain from such alliance, and why should they accept such unbalanced alliance?
If the security situation prevented many Assyrians from voting in the January 30, 2005 elections, or the Kurds prevented others from voting, and if the Assyrians in the Diaspora proved that they care less about the future of their people in Iraq by not being active or participating in the January 30, 2005 elections, shouldn't the Assyrian leadership in Iraq learn its lesson and do something in preparation for the next December 15 elections in order to gain some seats?
There is a misconception that President Harry Truman was a strong advocate and supporter for the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. In his memoir, President Truman tells us the contrary. President Truman, and the sentiment of the American government as a whole, was not in favor of establishing the state of Israel. He was advised repeatedly that the interest of the United States was with the Arabs, and that assisting in the creation of Israel was going to result a great loss for American interests in the Middle East. Experts issued statements that such state was not going to be able to survive and that the Arabs, with great numbers, would have attacked, and destroyed this new state, thus, a loss of many lives for nothing. After much pressure from the Jewish lobby and interest groups in the U.S. and around the world, the U.S. gave in; however, it did not take the issue seriously as it is obvious from the way President Truman recognized Israel initially.
What changed the attitude and position of President Truman and the U.S. Government so completely later? Well, the reason was the Arab-Israeli 1948 war itself that erupted as Israel was born. The war proved that the Jews had the will, desire, attitude, and power to sustain their new country and that was portrayed in the way they came out fighting; meanwhile, the Arabs showed much less interest despite sending their armies from certain states. The Arabs did not come out in the great numbers they were expected; in fact, the total number of the Arab soldiers did not match that of the Jews. Here, the United States realized that Israel could be an ally in the Middle East that it could rely on. In other words, the Jews dictated the U.S. new policy with what they proved on the ground.
A somewhat similar analogy could be drawn from the Kurds in Iraq. In today's world policy making, powerful countries pay little attention to history and more to reality on the ground. This, of course, should not mean that we forget about our history. People of will who desire and decide to make things happen, and who have history behind them, are very unlikely to be denied that will. If the Christians of Iraq will continue to fight among themselves, they will always be brushed off by the great nations. The U.S. is not going to back up one million Christians (living among 25 million Moslems), if these Christians chose to be divided into three or four camps, each with goals different from that of the others, and if they were not willing to cooperate with each other.
The ChaldoAssyrian compound title was a promising step towards unity, but we opted to destroy it. The Nestorian Assyrians with their numbers in Iraq will not be able to accomplish something of real interest, despite the fact that they have history behind them. The Chaldeans with their unproven past political and national background and with the absence of any solid history in northern Iraq (as ethnic Chaldeans, as few claim, and not Assyrians) have no chance to shake the Kurdish threat. The Suryan with their minimal numbers in Iraq have little chance to gain anything as well. The leadership of these three indigenous communities must put the well-being, prosperity, and most importantly, the survival of their communities ahead of everything else. If they do not, history will never forgive them. It is the existence of a nation that is at stake, and it is time that these leaders rise to the occasion, put their trivial differences aside, and work together genuinely under one leadership, one voice, and one goal to save our blessed land for future generations.
United Christian Coalition Formed in Baghdad
(ZNDA: Baghdad) At a meeting held in Baghdad's Babil Chaldean Club on 18 October, a coalition of Christian political parties was formed which includes the following groups:
The groups had once before met at the al-Mashriq Club in Baghdad on 11 October. The meeting included representatives from the Assyrian Democratic Movement or Zowaa also which is not represented in this coalition which plans to run on a single slate at the upcoming parliamentary elections on 15 December, 2005 in Iraq.
The draft of a working paper was proposed at the October 11th meeting. Four groups - the Assyrian Patriotic Party, Bet Nahrain Democratic Party, Assyrian Democratic Movement, and the General Assyrian Conference, opposed the first point noted in this working paper which calls for the formation of a"higher central authority" with powers and privileges to represent all Christians in all official communications. The other eight groups approved it.
The General Assyrian Conference issued a clarification rejecting any motion to represent the Christian people of Iraq as Christians only.
Point 2 of the working paper called for the formation of a coalition of political parties to run on a single ticket in the December 15th elections. The motion was agreed upon unanimously.
Vote Figures for Crucial Province Don't Add Up
Analysis by Gareth Porter
(ZNDA: Washington) The early vote totals from Nineveh province, which suggested an overwhelming majority in favour of Iraq's draft constitution that assured its passage by national referendum, now appear to have been highly misleading.
The final official figures for the province, obtained by IPS from a U.S. official in Mosul, actually have the constitution being rejected by a fairly wide margin, but less than the two-thirds majority required to defeat it outright.
Both the initial figures and the new vote totals raise serious questions about the credibility of the reported results in Nineveh. A leading Sunni political figure has already charged that the Nineveh vote totals have been altered.
According to the widely cited preliminary figures announced by the spokesman for the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI) in Nineveh, 326,000 people voted for the constitution and 90,000 against. Those figures were said to be based on results from more than 90 percent of the 300 polling stations in the province.
Relying on those "unofficial" figures, the media reported that the constitution appeared to have been passed -- on the assumption that the Sunnis had failed to muster the necessary two-thirds "no" vote in Nineveh. No further results have been released by the IECI since then, and the final tally from the national referendum is not expected until Friday at the earliest.
However, according to the U.S. military liaison with the IECI in Nineveh, Maj. Jeffrey Houston, the final totals for the province were 424,491 "no" votes and 353,348 "yes" votes. This means that the earlier figures actually represented only 54 percent of the official vote total -- not 90 percent, as the media had been led to believe. And the votes which had not been revealed earlier went against the constitution by a ratio more than 12 to 1.
These ballots could only have come from the Sunni sections of Mosul, a city of 1.7 million people. Although the votes from polling centres in those densely populated urban areas would take longer to count than those from more sparsely populated towns and cities outside Mosul, they should not have taken much longer than those for the Kurdish sections of Mosul.
Thus there seems to be no logistical reason for failing to announce the results for the 340,000 votes that went overwhelmingly against the constitution. Rather, the evidence suggests that it was a deliberate effort to mislead the media by Kurdish and Shiite political leaders who were intent on ensuring that the constitution would pass.
They knew that all eyes would be on Nineveh as the province where the referendum would be decided. By issuing figures that appeared to show that the vote in Nineveh was a runaway victory for the constitution, they not only shaped the main story line in the media that the constitution had already passed, but effectively discouraged any further media curiosity about the vote in that province.
The final figures revealed by the U.S. military liaison with the IECI suggest a voter turnout in Nineveh that strains credibility. On a day when Sunni turnout reached 88 percent in Salahuddin province and 90 percent in Fallujah, a total of only 778,000 votes -- about 60 percent of the eligible voters -- in Nineveh appears anomalous. Even if the turnout in the province had only been 70 percent, the total would have been 930,000.
The final vote totals suggest that the Sunnis, who clearly voted with near unanimity against the constitution, are a minority in the province. It is generally acknowledged that Sunnis constitute a hefty majority of the population of Nineveh, although Kurdish leaders have never conceded that fact.
A total of 350,000 votes for the constitution in the province is questionable based on the area's ethnic-religious composition. The final vote breakdown for the January election reveals that the Kurds and Shiites in Nineveh had mustered a combined total of only 130,000 votes for Kurdish and Shiite candidates, despite high rates of turnout for both groups.
To have amassed 350,000 votes for the constitution, they would have had to obtain overwhelming support from the non-Kurdish, non-Arab minorities in the province.
According to official census data, before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Assyrian Christians and Sunni Arabs accounted 46 percent of the more than 350,000 people on the Nineveh plain. Most of the others are Shabaks and Yezidis. Kurds represented just 6 percent of the population.
But the Kurds have asserted political control over the towns and villages of the plains, with a heavy Kurdish paramilitary and Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) presence. That Kurdish presence provoked widespread opposition and some public protests among non-Kurdish communities on the plains, especially Christians and Shabaks.
Assyrian Christians are particularly afraid the constitution's article 135, which divides the Christian community into Chaldeans and Assyrians, will be used by Kurds to expropriate their lands and villages in North Iraq.
Michael Youash, director of the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project in Washington, has spoken with Assyrian Christian leaders in two district towns, Bakhdeda and BarTilla, on the Nineveh plain where Christians represent roughly half the combined total population of more than 100,000 people.
He says Assyrian Christian political organisations mounted big demonstrations against the constitution in both towns, and that their local leaders are sure that very high percentages in both towns voted against the constitution.
In response to an e-mail query, Maj. Houston, the U.S. military liaison with the IECI, said, "It was my understanding that the Christian communities would be opposed to the constitution," but he dismissed the suspicions of vote fraud in the province.
Saleh al-Mutlek, one of the Sunni negotiators on the constitution last summer and now a leading opponent of the constitution, told reporters, "There is a scheme to alter the results" of the vote. He alleged that members of the Iraqi National Guard had seized ballot boxes from a polling station in Mosul and transferred them to a governorate office controlled by Kurds.
A former U.S. military liaison with the Nineveh province IECI has confirmed a similar incident of seizure of ballot boxes from a polling station during the January elections.
According to Maj. Anthony Cruz, Kurdish militiamen tried to bribe local electoral commission staff to accept ballots that had obviously been tampered with. Cruz also confirmed a much larger ballot-stuffing scheme by Kurdish officials in the province, as reported by IPS in September.
On Monday, the Electoral Commission announced that it would conduct an audit to examine the high "yes" vote, but it is not clear that it will include the results in Nineveh.
Gareth Porter is an historian and national security policy analyst. His latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in June.
Iraqi Bishops May Turn to Pope for Help on Constitution
Courtesy of Zenit News Agency
(ZNDA: Baghdad) In the wake of Saturday's referendum on Iraq's draft constitution, Church leaders remain fearful that the country is one step closer to becoming an Islamic state intolerant of non-Muslims.
Early results indicate that a majority of voters supported the draft constitution.
Last month, Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly of Baghdad met the president and prime minister of Iraq to spell out the bishops' opposition to key sections of the draft constitution, which they say "opens the door widely" to the possibility of new laws that are unjust toward non-Muslims.
In an interview Monday with the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Andraos Abouna said Iraq's leaders had ignored their concerns and that as a result the bishops were likely to call on Benedict XVI to intervene on their behalf.
"The bishops will probably have a meeting with the Pope and will ask him to call for democracy in Iraq," said Bishop Abouna.
He said a papal intervention would step up the pressure after the Holy Father met Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari in August and requested that the draft constitution respect religious rights.
"We are looking for freedom -- the government must listen," said Bishop Abouna, 62. "Otherwise the country will be like a dictatorship."
The prelate said the views reflected the widespread concerns of the faithful, many of whom, he said, were too afraid to take part in the referendum.
He added: "I am still hopeful that there will be a change to the constitution. What we have at present is a basic document, which has not been finalized."
At issue is a fundamental contradiction which -- according to the bishop -- lies at the heart of the constitution: Article 2.1 (b) and 2.2 defend freedom and religious rights, but Article 2.1 (a) states: "No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed laws of Islam."
Chaldean Patriarch Says Nations Should Not Turn Away Fleeing Iraqis
Courtesy of the Catholic News Service
(ZNDA: Rome) Iraqis fleeing violence and terrorism in their country should not be turned away by other nations and sent back to face an unfolding tragedy, said the leader of Iraq's Chaldean Catholics.
"I pray that Western governments, including the United States, take pity on these Iraqis and at least offer them a stay permit for those who are already there and, if possible, a visa" for those wishing to arrive legally, said Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad, Iraq.
He told Catholic News Service that it was extremely difficult for Iraqis wishing to leave the country to obtain visas. Many travel to Syria or Jordan with the hope of eventually joining relatives in the United States, Australia or Europe. But "the way out is blocked," he said, "with thousands of lies."
Patriarch Delly, who was in Rome for the Oct 2-23 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, said officials at foreign embassies in charge of issuing visas tell applicants "that the war is over, that Saddam (Hussein), the dictator, is finished, now Iraq has a democracy."
"What democracy" he asked, "when I can't leave my home and I'm afraid to leave my house," because of the daily violence and bloodshed?
The patriarch said he had no information about the final results of the Oct. 15 referendum to approve an Iraqi constitution. Although initial results indicated the constitution was approved, some areas, such as the city of Fallujah, recorded an overwhelming "no" vote.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Oct. 17 the constitutional referendum had not unified the country, and violence could be expected to continue.
Some Christian leaders estimate that that just in the period from August to October 2004 between 10,000 and 40,000 Christians left Iraq.
Patriarch Delly said he would love for the Iraqi people to be able to stay and live in their home country, "but when your children get kidnapped or killed, when there's no security, no peace, well, of course (people) will want to spend the 20 or 30 years they have left to live on this earth abroad."
"We pray that governments let those who are living in their countries -- to not send them back to Iraq and to have pity on them," he said.
The patriarch said he was enormously grateful for the solidarity shown by the Chaldean communities abroad who generously give aid to those in Iraq.
"If it weren't for our Chaldean immigrants in Detroit, in Chicago, California, and elsewhere, the situation for our faithful would be much worse than what it is now," he said.
People in Iraq are afraid to accept employment being offered because they are afraid they will look like they are "collaborating with the Americans, and they would be killed," he said.
"Relatives, parents -- they are the ones sending help through the church, through friends, to help these people live," he said.
Patriarch Delly also told CNS that he was concerned about what he suspected was a moneymaking venture undertaken by some evangelical groups.
He said there are new evangelical groups arriving from "Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, supported with American, English or German funding," and they begin operations in Baghdad.
He underlined that the Chaldean Catholic Church has always had good relations with evangelical groups that have established churches in Iraq. But he said these "new evangelicals" pouring in are engaged more in raising funds from foreign, rich donors than spreading the Gospel.
The groups first "give (Christians and Muslims) money, give them clothes, they promise them to find a way to get them a visa," he said.
Then the groups take pictures of the large numbers of people who flock to the centers and with the pictures the groups "write to their benefactors in Germany, France, America, saying 'look how many people'" they have helped and converted, he said.
Many of the Iraqis who go to these churches are poor and desperate for the money and only stay "'converted' for a year or two for as long as they" need the aid, he said.
Just in one small neighborhood in Baghdad there are at least 12 new evangelical centers "because anyone can open up a church now since it makes them money," he said.
"We ask (these groups), 'Are you missionaries for love of Christ or for love of money?'" he said. But he added that he hoped God would someday "show the light" to these new evangelical leaders "who are our brothers, and we want to collaborate in making Christ known to everyone."
"But here (in Iraq), Christ is already known. We have been Christian for 2,000 years; if they want to convert people (to Christ) they should go elsewhere" where Christ is not yet known, he said.
The Assyrian Universal Alliance and the Iraqi Constitution
An official statement of the AUA
Assyrian Universal Alliance
Iraq’s draft constitution is up for ratification through a national referendum on October 15. The draft guarantees a wide range of individual liberties and rights in accordance with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, it lays the foundation for building an Iraq based on the principles of democracy and human rights, and provides for an Iraq governed by the rule of law and independent judiciary. However, the draft does not meet the Assyrians’ (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs) ambitions as the indigenous people of Iraq, makes them into second-class citizens, and will affect the sovereignty of Iraq in the future. The Assyrian Universal Alliance, an international alliance of various establishments of the Assyrian people throughout the world, believes that the draft aborts the democratic process which Assyrians hoped for, and that our national rights are not completely recognized. Therefore, the Assyrian Universal Alliance rejects the draft constitution because several articles in the constitution are viewed negatively and lean toward ethnicity, religious and sectarian tendencies.
We had hoped for a democratic, pluralistic, secular and sovereign Iraq that will be constituted on principles of democracy, rule of law, and guarantee human rights and equality for all citizens irrespective of their ethnic background or religion. But the constitution prohibits the passage of any law that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam, without specifying these rules in order to avoid any misinterpretation by different judges in the courts of law, and does not mention other religions in Iraq. There is no need to emphasize and signify one religion over the others, even if that religion is that of the vast majority of the Iraqis. We think that human rights should not be linked to Islamic Sharia law at all.
Furthermore, the preamble of the draft ignores the Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian civilizations that reflect the rich history and culture of Iraq, which is known as the cradle of civilization. The draft refers only to the Islamic identity and history of Iraq. Another statement in the preamble reads “inspired by the suffering of Iraq’s martyrs- Sunni and Shiite, Arab, Kurd and Turkmen, and the remaining brethren in all communities,” the draft again fails to mention or name our martyrs. The Assyrian people have long suffered because of their religious and cultural identity. They have been deprived of their land and have been victim to several massacres and other kinds of oppression over the centuries. We reaffirm our conviction that rebuilding the Iraqi state institutions must be based on citizenship, efficiency, and integrity, and that allegiance should be to the state and not to religion or ethnicity.
The draft also ignores to mention or name all the national groups of Iraq, since the draft guarantees the administrative, political, cultural, and educational rights for various ethnicities and names a few of them only (Turkomen, Assyrians, and others) which still reflects that Iraq consists of mainly Arabs and Kurds and “other” minorities. The draft should stress that Iraqi people comprise many nationalities and recognize the legitimate national rights of all elements of its people and should be all mentioned in the same statement and category. In addition, the draft 1 2 divides our people into a variety of names contrary to the historical fact that all these names refer to one people. We are one people regardless of today’s different and commonly used names such as Chaldeans, Siryans, Atoureen, and the new constitution must recognize and include us, the people of Assyria, in the new Iraq.
Finally, Federalism should not be for one part of Iraq but not for the rest of the country and it should not be only for the Kurds and Shiite but also for the Assyrians, Sunnis, Turkomen, and other smaller minorities. As a security for the future of Assyrians, the Christian indigenous people of Iraq, we request that the government of Iraq grant to the Assyrians an Assyrian administrative region on the land of their ancestors, Ashur.
In conclusion, we emphasize that the vision of the Assyrian people in a post-dictatorship democratic Iraq among other things includes: equality, human rights, constitutional recognition, representation in a democratic, secular and multiethnic government, the right to return to their homes and to their lands, allowance to practice and preserve their language, culture, and customs, to be free of political and religious persecution, and guarantees of the same national rights of autonomy and self-determination afforded any minority or other group within Iraq.
Constitution Vote Resonates with Arizona Iraqis
Courtesy of the Arizona Republic
(ZNDA: Phoenix) Members of the Valley's sizable Iraqi community said Monday that they hope Iraq's new constitution passes as projected and believe it will mark another big step toward achieving independence and democracy in their homeland despite ongoing insurgent violence.
Many Iraqis living here are eager to return to their country, they said, either to visit relatives they haven't seen in years or to rebuild lives they left behind after fleeing persecution, torture and death under the regime of Saddam Hussein.
But even if the constitution passes, they said, it could be years before the freedoms and rights guaranteed in the new charter take root and Iraq is stable enough for them to return.
"It's going to mean that we the people have won and the insurgents and the ones who have fought to stifle democracy have lost," said Mona Oshana, 37, a Phoenix real estate agent born in Iraq. She is one of about 12,000 Iraqi Assyrian Christians living in the Valley.
Oshana was one of hundreds of Valley Iraqis who traveled to Southern California in January to take part in Iraq's landmark parliamentary elections, which set the stage for Saturday's referendum on a new charter.
The charter is intended to lead Iraq toward independence and pave the way for a new round of elections on Dec. 15 for a permanent government.
On Monday, election workers in Iraq still were counting ballots. A final result isn't expected for several days, but early projections showed the constitution had passed, despite heavy turnout by Sunnis opposed to the charter.
"It's a very positive step toward bringing democracy to Iraq," said Sam Darmo, 49, a Phoenix real estate agent born in Iraq. Darmo, who also is spokesman for the Assyrian Democratic Movement in Arizona, said that for the most part Assyrians support the new constitution but believe it failed to fully represent the political interests of Iraq's Assyrian Christian minority.
Phoenix resident Jabir Algarawi, 38, also said he hopes Iraq's apparent passage of a new constitution will lead to a democratic Iraq. He is one of about 3,000 Shiite refugees from Iraq who settled in the Valley after the first Gulf War in 1991.
"I talked to my family on Sunday," said Algarawi, who still has relatives in Iraq. "My mother couldn't sleep the night before the referendum. She was so anxious to get up in the morning and pass the vote."
AJM Volleyball-Event 2005 Augsburg/Germany
Report by M. Beth Arsan, M.D. in Holland
As per the request of the AJM Board, I wish to share with you a written impression of the past Volleyball Tournament, Hago Marduthonoyo (Cultural Party) and the General Meeting.
On the 1st of October, the Assyrian Youth Federation of Middle Europe (AJM) gathered about 18 teams from all over Europe in the southern German city of Augsburg. Mixed teams with ladies and gentlemen from all ages did their best to win the cup of this International Volleyball Tournament.
From several points of view this event was seen as a success. A whole bus of 50 persons from the region of Frankfurt/Wiesbaden attended. All of them Madenhoye (East Assyrians, belonging to the Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church). Another bus of 50 persons arrived from Gutersloh/Paderborn, this time Ma'erboye (West Assyrians, belonging to the Syriac Orthodox Church). Mesopotamia was alive in this gathering!
Besides these bigger groups we could enjoy the presence of the Assyrian youth from Vienna and surroundings in Austria, Switzerland and Holland. We were honoured to have Myaqarto Tibella Bar-Karmo and Mr Ninos Poli, delegates of the Assyrian Youth Federation of Sweden (AUF) among us. Ninos was ready to show some muscles with the Dutch Team.
The Augsburger Assyrian youth prepared this event weeks before. At the huge sport complex in Augsburg the combat started at about 10am. The teams registered under the most colourful names:
The most convincing team was, truly without any doubt, the Assyrians from Vienna (Austria). Elegantly they passed every test and won. Easily-feared by all the others.
The same evening we could drink away our pains and injuries from the games at the grand party. Singer Ninos Cacan, accompanied by DJ Mike T and Semir Beauty with Robert and Reemon, brought the atmosphere to steaming levels. One of my favourite moments was the Assyrian Folklore demonstration of the Assyrian Augsburger Youth. New moves on the typical Assyrian rhythms made the whole audience stand up to watch every step. Several dances were demonstrated by a mixed group of dancers from all ages. This group showed how vibrant the Bethnahrin Assyrian Association of Augsburg is. Bravo!
New contacts were made. Old friendships were celebrated. New dreams with old jokes were discussed until the morning. At about 5am the buses returned to their bases. The old Board of the Youth Federation prepared their Annual General Meeting. During this meeting our guests from Sweden could elaborate on their work and experiences in Scandinavia. During the discussions, all the experiences of the past years were shared. In this general meeting we could also witness changing’s of the board. The new board members were welcomed and the leaving ones were thanked for their work over the past years.
I have the honour to present you the new Board Members:
Mr. Aslan Yildiz, President
This weekend was thus marked as a successful Assyrian event in Germany.
For more photos click here.
Florence Alavardy (1914-2005)
Born in Iran on Apr. 11, 1914
(ZNDA: New Britain) Florence P. Alavardy, 91, of New Britain, beloved widow of Joseph Alavardy, died Saturday (8 October 2005) at John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington, Connecticut. Born in Iran, Florence moved to New Britain over 70 years ago. She was a member of St. Thomas Assyrian Church of the East and a member of the Women’s Guild at the church.
Surviving are two brothers, Billy and Nathan Pera, both of Philadelphia; several nieces and nephews. Besides her husband Joe, she was predeceased by a daughter Florence L. Alavardy in 1998 and a brother John Pera.
Funeral services were held Tuesday 1 PM at St. Thomas Assyrian Church of the East, 120 Cabot Street, New Britain, CT 06051. Burial was in St. Thomas Cemetery, New Britain. Calling hours were Monday evening 6 to 8 PM at Carlson Funeral Home, 45 Franklin Square, New Britain. Memorial donations may be made to St. Thomas Assyrian Church.
Bailis Yamlikha Shamun
The editorial "Eat, drink and Save a Heritage" by Wilfred Bet-Alkhas is an excellent piece of journalism and one of the best I have read in recent times (Issue 54, October 12, 2005). It details a practical and constructive plan, supported by facts, and in a smooth and fluent language. It should stir a reader with any sense of responsibility and compassion for his people to action. This is sound thinking and a suggestion for umtanayoota at its best.
Reading your article of "Eat, Drink and Save a Heritage" not only left me satisfied and speechless, I also could not find enough complimentary and appreciative words to express my feeling.
Oh Assyria, Look What Your Own are Doing
I read with both amusement and disgust the piece of Nenif Matran Hariri, aka Nenif d' Matran, in Zinda magazine issue dated October 8, 2005. It is not surprising to see the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) directing its agents in Northern Iraq to demoralize the Assyrians worldwide and ridicule their activities. Nenif's praise of the Kurds is not strange, since he is employed by the KDP as the advisor for Christian affairs. I just cannot understand how people could come out with such audacity to praise the KDP knowing that Barzani's armed militias were killing their own Kurdish people who supported the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and terrorizing other Kurdish leaders in Northern Iraq in order to gain sole supremacy in the region less than 15 years ago. Additionally, Nenif praises the KDP even when it has not taken any steps to incriminate those who committed crimes against Assyrians in Northern Iraq. The KDP and Kurds worked against Assyrians inside the constitutional committee deliberations during the writing of the Iraqi constitution and in the past elections. Nevertheless, what could we expect from someone who arrogantly dresses like a Kurd, as his photo reflected, and pretends to be defending Assyrians.
What do we expect from a Kurdish employee who undermines the population of his own people and puts it at a mere 1.1% of Iraqi population? What do we expect from Nenif d' Matran who flatly lies when he claims that not even a single penny has reached the Assyrians in Iraq since 1991? Nenif then ridicules the low turnout of the Diaspora Assyrians in the January 30, 2004 Iraqi elections. I agree with him here. I say to my fellow Assyrians, why do we allow such characters to slap us in the face this way. Why not prove to such people who we are and what we really are made of, and come out and vote in greater numbers in the December 2005 elections.
Nenif claims that the Assyrians, as a minority, forgot that they needed to make friends with the Kurds; however, he ignored to mention that the Kurds are a minority as well when put next to their fellow Iraqi Arabs and that the Kurds needed to make friends with the Arabs instead of fighting with them for 40 years. Then Nenif puts the blame for the Assyrians' failures on their inability to unite under one national name; however, he fails to refer to the fact that the empowered Kurds, the KDP in particular, have been instrumental in promoting division among the various Assyrian denominations by using their agents, who are very familiar to Nenif. Last but not least, Assyrians are well aware of the oppression, harassment, rape, abduction, and murder of Assyrians by the Kurds with the blessing of the KDP, especially in the last 14 years and since the creation of the No-Fly-Zone. All this and Mr. Hariri praises the Kurds.
Few people criticize Zinda for publishing such material; however, I see it differently. Such posts, in fact, are good to publish because they expose those who are writing them. Now we see clearly what such people stand for.
It is time that we care a bit; care and get involved for heaven's sake, and be part of the affairs of this small nation.
While Nenif d' Matran enjoy his comfortable office and position in Arbil near Barzani, he must understand that he is fooling nobody about what he stands for and what he represents.
Now Everyone Can Help Our People Back Home
For the first time, the Crusade of Mercy annual drive has made a special provision allowing corporate employees to help Special Organizations of their choice.
As many of you already know, the Assyrian Aid Society (AAS) has done an outstanding job helping our people back home during these turbulent times. Our people back home are in desperate need, and AAS has been the strongest mechanism in getting the funds needed to sustain the ongoing projects to support them.
It is our turn to help now, I urge you to complete the special form available at your Employee Relations Department for Special Organization (it is different from the standard form and you have to ask for it) showing AAS as your donation’s recipient, as shown here;
Organization Name: Assyrian Aid Society of America
Conference in Poland: Non-Moslem Minorities in Iraq
A three-day conference in Poland titled, "The Non-Moslem Minorities in Iraq: History, Civilization, and Survival Difficulties" is under preparation. The conference organized by the Department of Eastern Christians Studies at the University of Poznan is scheduled to take place on October 25-27, 2005.
The university sent invitations to 100 Polish and non-Polish scholars and writers. 33 responded and sent studies and papers on the non-Moslem minorities in Iraq: Assyrians, Mandeans, Yezidis, and Armenians. This field that was suppressed and ignored in the past is finding great interest with many Polish students today.
This, of course, is not the first of such interest. Earlier, and on June 9 (commemoration day of Saint Aprim, the Assyrian), in a Polish village, a conference titled " the First Syriac Studies in Poland" took place, which was publicized by Zinda magazine. Furthermore, and in the last few years, Polish scholars and writers published several academic books about the Christians in the Middle East. Such publications include:
1. The Food Heritage Among Assyrians Past and Present: A Study in the Civic and Cultural Circumstances.
Here is a selection of the papers and studies that will be presented at this upcoming conference:
2. About the Christians (session 1)
3. About the Yezidis
4. About the Jews
5. About the Christians (session 2)
6. About the Armenians
7. About the Christians (session 3)
8. About the Christians (session 4)
9. About the Mandeans (session 1)
10. About the Mandeans (session 2)
11. About the Christians (session 5)
For more information visit www.kenshrin.com.
St. Ephrem Ecumenical Research Institute (SEERI)
Baker Hill, Kottayam. 686001, Kerala, India.
Rev. Dr. Jacob Thekeparampil
1 October 2005
I wish to share with you the great happiness in the development of SEERI during the past years fulfilling its mission and vision! During the current year, though we had to face incidents like the sad demise of our dear friend Rev. Dr. David J. Lane (January 9th 2005) during his routine visit to SEERI, the retirement of Rev. Dr. Geevarghese Panicker from the active service (Dean of Studies) of SEERI and the absence of Professor Rev. Dr. Thomas Koonammakkal who is spending his Sabbatical year abroad, SEERI achieved remarkable developments viz.
(iv). During the year, we have been able to bring out a few more valuable numbers to our publications The Harp and Moran Etho:
(v). Volume XIX of The Harp and one more volume of Moran Etho series (Vol. 26 - Shirin: Christian Queen - Myth of Love, by DDr. Wilhem Baum) are getting ready for publication. These books will be published during the current year itself. We propose to bring out new series of books with the titles:
These books will be translations of Syriac works into English. ‘Awsar Slavot’o No.1 will be Book of Common Prayers (Ðhimo) containing both Syriac and its English translations.
(viii). SEERI is a Research Centre of M.G.University for research in Syriac language and literature. So far, 2 candidates (Dr. Mar Aprem and Rev. T.P. Elias) have secured Ph.D degrees through their research in SEERI. 14 more candidates are actively doing research here for their doctoral thesis. Their names and Titles are noted below.
The above accomplishments show that SEERI is truly in the direction of fulfilling its vision and mission. We thank all those who supported SEERI and made these accomplishments possible. We, the teachers, staff, and students here at SEERI, wish you a very prosperous period in the second half of the year!
Fellowships at the National Endowment for Democracy
Application Deadline: November 1, 2005
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) welcomes applications to its Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program for the 2006-2007 fellowship year.
Named in honor of the two principal founders of NED, former president Ronald Reagan and the late congressman Dante Fascell, the program enables democracy activists, practitioners, scholars, and journalists from around the world to deepen their understanding of democracy and enhance their ability to promote democratic change.
Established in 2001 to enable activists, scholars, and journalists from around the world to deepen their understanding of democracy and enhance their ability to promote democratic change, the fellowship program is based at NED's International Forum for Democratic Studies, in Washington, D.C.
The program offers two tracks: a practitioner track (typically three to five months) to improve strategies and techniques for building democracy abroad, and a scholarly track (typically five to ten months) to conduct original research for publication. Projects may focus on the political, social, economic, legal, and cultural aspects of democratic development and include a range of methodologies and approaches.
The Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program is intended primarily to support practitioners and scholars from new and aspiring democracies.
Distinguished scholars from the United States and other established democracies are also eligible to apply. Practitioners are expected to have substantial experience working to promote democracy. Scholars are expected to have a doctorate, or academic equivalent, at the time of application. The program is not designed to defray the cost of education for students working toward a degree. A working knowledge of English is an important prerequisite for participation in the program.
The fellowship year begins October 1 and runs through July 31, with major entry dates in October and March. All fellows receive a monthly stipend, health insurance, travel assistance, and research support Forum?(tm)s Democracy Resource Center and Reagan-Fascell Research Consultancy Program.
For further details and instructions on how to apply, please download the "Information and Application Forms" booklet available at www.ned.org/forum/R-FApplication.pdf or visit www.ned.org and follow the link to Fellowship Programs. Please note that all application materials must be type-written and in English.
Applications for fellowships in 2006-2007 must be received no later than November 1, 2005. Notification of the competition outcome is in April 2006.
For questions, please contact:
Program Assistant, Fellowship Programs
Please note the deadline of November 1, 2005. If interested please contact Zinda Magazine for assistance with your application. Our Assyrians readers in the Middle East are highly encouraged to apply.
Gorgias Press 2006 Catalog
Gorgias Press is pleased to make available for download (PDF, 1.8 MB) our new 2006 Catalog. The catalog contains:
* Collectors' Items (ideal for gifts)
To honor the ancient heritage of Iraq and the middle east, Gorgias Press has recently published several works for archaeology fans. Here is a select list of titles (click here to go the heritage page or click on each title to go to the respective book page):
Click here to download catalog (PDF, 1.8 MB)
PowerPoints About Tur-Abdin & North Iraq For Sale
Rev. Horst Oberkampf
If you wish to learn more about the situation of the Christians, living in north of Iraq and in Tur Abdin in the southeast part of Turkey, you may get more information now.
Two PowerPoint presentations were produced in July 2005 with the title: “About the Situation of the Christians in Northern Iraq Today” and “The Syrian Christians in Tur Abdin”.
Each presentation costs 12.- € (euros) plus the shipping/mailing cost. The proceeds from the sale of these presentations will to go to support humanitarian projects such as “Funds for Students” or our “Funds for Needy Families”.
Rev. Horst Oberkampf, living in Bad Saulgau, Germany, has published these presentations. He is one of the responsible person of the “Solidarity Group of Tur Abdin”. He visited North Iraq and Tur Abdin several times and has many contacts in these areas, where the Assyrians and Arameans are living today.
For many years he has been looking for these ethnic and religious minorities. In both presentations there are many photos and information; you can get an English or German version.
Please order at the following address:
The Syriac Alexander
For more than two thousand years the life and acts of Alexander the Great have captured the imagination of a multicultural gamut of authors, historians and poets. The story of the deeds and events of his life has been eagerly received by every nation it has reached so that Alexander’s fame has covered the entire world, creating various ‘claimants’ to his legacy. It is not, however, the literal facts of the credible history of Alexander that has captivated the middle-eastern peoples but rather, the semi-mythical and fabulous legendary history which has sprung up around them. Whereas we in the West read Arrian to appreciate the genius of Alexander, in the east, a different narrative applies.
Enter the history of pseudo-Callisthenes, attributed to Alexander’s companion of the same name. This is ancient history in true “choose your own adventure” style. The various versions of this history, appearing in Greek, Latin, Persian, Arabic, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Hebrew and Ethiopic all attribute various elements of Alexander to their own people. Thus for the Persians, he is through an intricate set of coincidences, a relative of Darius, shah of Persia whereas in the Latin version, he visits Rome and anachronistically protects Rome from the Carthaginians.
I came across the Syriac manuscript of pseudo-Callisthenes quite by accident. Of all the versions of this essentially romance of Alexander, the Syriac version is deemed by scholars to provide elements of the oldest, original Greek or Coptic version, said to have been written in Alexandria by Egyptians in 200AD and is used to reconstruct it. It is also the most fun and with the modern film-makers eye, the most amenable to mini-serialisation, as each chapter reads like a larger than life, grossly-exaggerated but thoroughly gripping action half-hour, much like “The Adventures of Hercules,” with Kevin Sorbo. Bad acting, bad plot, bad history but thoroughly engrossing.
The Syriac Alexander is not Greek. Rather he is the son of Olympias via the last Egyptian Pharaoh, Nectanebus, a magician who preserves Egypt from attack by burning the wax models of invading ships in effigy. He magically transforms himself into the God Ammon and commands Olympias to sleep with him in the form of a serpent. Casting aside modern legal issues of rape and bestiality aside, one can only smirk graciously at the way the Egyptians sought to capitalise on the fame of their illustrious ruler.
Growing up as a cuckoo in the Macedonian nest, though with the cognizance of Phillip, Alexander waxes supreme. He is also rather loony. In the tradition of ‘A Clockwork Orange’, he wantonly pushes his real father Nectanebus, living at the Macedonian Court in the guise of a magician into a pit and then learns of his real paternity. He doesn’t seem to bat an eyelid. Indeed what a little brat the Syriac Alexander has turned out to be can be evidenced by the fact that interposed between lengthy attestations as to Alexander’s superiority and nobility, is a lovely long letter written to his tutor Aristotle where he complains of the constraints of continued profligacy, complains that his parents are stingy and asks his tutor, who presumably had better things to do like create philosophy, to intercede with them on his behalf so that they could give him more money for him to go boozing. Timeless and priceless to boot.
For some reason the Syriac Alexander is not only a boozer but also loves to place a bet on the horses. We find him in Pisa racing chariots and killing his opponents after which time this super hero puts down a rebellion at Methone, tells Darius where to stick it when his messengers come demanding tribute, fights in Armenia and then returns to see Phillip murdered by a certain Theosidos. Then its off to Rome via Sicily, a quick dash down to Carthage to get its natives to obey Rome, a quick chat with the god Ammon in Libya who tells him where to found Alexandria, against the opposition of the unimaginative Aristotle and a quick pep-talk to the Egyptians to get them to rise against the Persians.
A quick trip to Athens sorts out any opposition that orator Demosthenes had to Alexander’s supreme rule. The conventional story of Alexander’s conquest of Persia is then related, with great embellishment and its all clash and bash until the Macedonians get to India. The main highlight of this section is how the writer, presumably an Assyrian monk known as Jacob of Serugh, has Darius say to Alexander as he dies “into thy hands I commend my spirit,” clearly inspired by the Gospel of Luke at chapter 23, verse 46.
The Syriac Alexander conquers India by using bronze heated robots to scare away Porus’ elephants. He then lands on islands that are actually giant whales that disappear under the waves (now you know from where the Arabs got the idea for Sinbad the sailor), encounters lion headed men, talking trees who prophesise his death, men with eyes and mouths in the breasts and the most disturbing ‘people whose feet are twisted.’ Alexander then arrives in China incognito, though he is discovered and he travels back to Babylon via the cave of Hercules (enter Kevin Sorbo, retired and now running a pub), a bad trip (he descends to the bottom of the sea in a glass cage. Groovy!) and what I assume to be the local brothel, euphemistically called: ‘a land of darkness where beautiful women lived.’ After the Assyrian monk kills off Alexander by having him poisoned through the artifices of cupbearer Iollas and Cassander, he is already thinking sequel.
The addendum to the manuscript then is the most fascinating of all as it is here that ancient Alexander is linked with the monk’s contemporary world and given an unlikely Christian identity. In this metrical discourse, Alexander marches through a land of darkness, somewhere in India. He arrives there after great difficulty, in search of the fountain of life, which he locates by throwing a salted trout into it, which comes to life. However, he is prevented from tasting the water. Instead, he moves beyond that land to the land of the Tubarliki, also known as the Hunaye, whose description is remarkably close to that of the Huns. These are apocalyptically referred to as the hordes of Gog and Magog who obey the Antichrist, who again, is remarkably reminiscent of Attila the Hun. The ensuing battle between Alexander aided by sixty-two kings and the king of the Tubarliki is a cross between Armaggedon and the Roman victory against the Huns at Chalons in 453 AD. Alexander then builds a great brass and iron door to keep Gog and Magog out. An angel appears to him and prophesises the coming of Christ and the end of days. The end shall draw near when the children of Gog and Magog break loose and overrun the earth. (Keanu Reeves where are you?).
The Syriac history of Alexander by pseudo-Callisthenes is an absolutely delightful precursor of the modern middle-eastern soap where anything can and usually does happen. My favourite element would have to be the exquisite mangling of Greek names, Kudkanor for Cynaegirus and Tirmastenis for Demosthenes to quote but a few. Ultimately, pseudo-Callisthenes is proof of how tremendous Alexander’s achievements were, that they lifted him in the minds of others, out of the bounds of reality and well into the ether of myth, where he became more relevant and contemporary to entire nations. We leave you with the final chapter in the Syriac saga for your amusement: “And Alexander went and worshipped in Jerusalem ands put ships to sea and went to Alexandria and when he died, he gave his royal throne of silver to be in Jerusalem.” So where is it? I can feel an Indiana Jones meets Lara Croft sequel coming on.
Forgotten Victims - Iraqi Christians who Speak the Language of Jesus
Courtesy of the Irish Times
In the first century AD, long before Islam spread in the seventh century, St Thomas the Apostle brought Christianity to the Chaldeans and the Assyrians of Mesopotamia. The Assyrians are to Iraq what the American Indians are to America.
The Assyrians and Chaldeans are some of the few remaining peoples who speak and worship in the original Aramaic language of Jesus Christ. They are the oldest continuous churches in the history of Christianity.
Prior to the 2003 invasion, the Christians of Iraq comprised approximately 3% of the larger population, and under the regime of Saddam Hussein they enjoyed relative religious freedom.
The Christian minority were traditionally respected for their education and entrepreneurial business skills.
I lived in Iraq during 2000-’01 and toured the country as part of my duties as a UN official.
I had the pleasure on several occasions of meeting the late Margaret Hassan, who at the time was the director of the NGO, Care. Margaret worked assiduously to have the UN sanctions lifted and was a great friend to the Iraqi people. Her life and work epitomized Iraqi society where Muslim and Christian lived side by side.
The church where I worshipped in Baghdad was bombed in 2003 and the hospital across the road run by Iraqi nuns was destroyed.
Since June last year, when the interim government took office, Christians have been leaving Iraq in their thousands. Christians living in cities have been targeted by gangs of fundamentalist thugs operating a policy of ‘ethnic cleansing’ under the eye of the occupation forces. Their homes have been burned, businesses looted, and the women and children subjected to intimidation, murder and rape.
In the northern city of Mosul (near the biblical city of Nineveh, where there is a shrine to Jonah), thousands of Christians have been forced out of their homes and their businesses looted.
In short, what is happening is a modern-day holocaust which is deliberately being under-reported in the interests of political agendas and the oxymoron known as the ‘war on terror’ while the world looks the other way.
In the words of one Iraqi Christian, the US and Britain have succeeded in replacing the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein with the dictatorship of Islam and paved the way for a possible civil war. They have succeeded in ridding Iraq of the very people who could help rebuild the country and have instead turned it over to fundamentalists. Over the past few months I have received several emails from former Iraqi colleagues, several of whom have emigrated to Jordan, Syria, the US and various countries in Europe seeking asylum. Christians fear for their safety and are quietly making arrangements to leave.
To leave Iraq, they must first apply for an exit permit which is issued only on the production of a baptismal certificate.
Those who cannot leave Iraq are forced to pay protection money.
What we are now witnessing, under the smokescreen known as ‘the spread of democracy,’ is not the establishment of democracy, but the birth of a new republic of anarchy that denies basic freedoms and equality to minorities.
The exodus from cities such as Baghdad and Babylon is another Dharfur, a silent holocaust outside the glitzy world of regular news reporting.
Living under fundamentalism is not fun. Readers will recall the situation in the mid 1990s in Yugoslavia when the world acted to defend the rights of Muslim minorities in that country.
The tables have now turned, yet no one speaks for the Iraqi Christians. It is time for people of goodwill everywhere to recognise what is really happening.
Silence is consent, and consent can quickly become licence.
As Christian people we must be held accountable ultimately for what is happening to our brothers in Iraq, the birthplace of Abraham (patriarch of the three great monotheistic world religions) and site of the Garden of Eden. If this were the Middle Ages, a crusade would be launched from Europe.
The sacrifice of an ancient Christian way of life in Iraq is an extremely large price to pay for democracy and cheaper world oil prices. You may not appreciate the significance of the UN’s recent objection to the new Iraqi constitution in which Article 7 enshrines Islam as the “official religion of the state”.
The UN was a single voice crying in the wilderness, a voice of hope and reason, a voice which recognises the territorial integrity of an ancient land, its culture and history, and a voice standing up for the rights of the minorities. In advocating caution, the UN was doing its duty to defend the true principles of democracy and human rights.
It is time for the US and Britain to leave Iraq and let the UN help the Iraqi people rebuild their country, just as they are doing in Afghanistan and Liberia.
It is time for Iraqi Christians forced into exile to return to their ancient homeland and help rebuild their country.
The Slaughtering of a Nation
Shmoel Noel Sargis
Setting: Constitution Draft Hall
With the fall of Baghdad and the collapse of the regime, the national parties (opposition groups) from the Diaspora returned and started opening their centers in our beloved capital. Our people and especially our Assyrian people became happy because they were hoping that their dreams are becoming a reality, but alas, the dream became only a dream. They were exposed and their attractive slogans were very beautiful on the outside but very ugly inside. The slogan were colorful and beautiful, but their meaning black and destructive. They were calling for the Assyrian nation, but in fact they planned for a ChaldoAshur … They were singing for Assyrian nation, but they were dancing to the tune of the Chaldeans and Suryani and Assyrians. Their centers became dens for scorpions and snakes. Their hearts were filled with poison and everyone tried to sting the other in order to clear the arena before them. The name of the nation became an incurable sickness that had to be eliminated, because the party leaders are suffering because of it!! And from the first scene it was clear that the real substance was bad.
After a long somber of hundreds of years of a lavish life and far from politics and its problems they don’t even know what is the meaning of the national politics which they belong to. They were busy with their own interests where they follow the winds – with the current. For instance today, if their interests want them to be Arabs, they deny their nationalism and become Arabs; and if tomorrow the circumstances change according to their interests and want them to be Kurds, they became Kurds!
Our political parties are fighting each other because the constitution was on the brinks of completion and misunderstanding is spreading like a cancer among our leaders. Their cards were revealed and the reality became clear that their personal interests were above the national interests and that our people are convinced that these leaders are mere bargainers of interest. Assyrianism will be changed to‘ ChaldoAshur ‘ to have a seat or to appear on the satellites shows. Assyrianism is slaughtered and shredded to be named as Chaldean, Surian and Assyrian, in order to be called a Secretary General of a certain party, a member in the Dohuk municipality or a servant in a court in the K---n province.
The clash between our political parties continues and everyone is stubborn with his/her ideas where there are no people who would judge them on their dictatorship. They couldn't’t reach a solution acceptable for the majority and thus their efforts and sacrifices were in vain in all those years and they lost the priceless opportunity which was our childhood and forefathers' dreams. All for a bunch of people who installed themselves leaders for a very ancient nation and sold the chance with a cheaper price and the constitution was written and we congratulated our leaders for the big gains which they got, but to you respected people they are the same which were granted to us by the regime of Saddam Hussein with a little difference that we were called as the Syriac speakers. In spite of that such a name didn’t divide us into two (or three) nations as you did.
The clergy are moving behind the scene for a big plot, a plot to divide our nation and by spreading the hatred and grudges among us instead of reconciling our people. It was not better to have a meeting between His Holinesses Mar Delli, Mar Dinkha and Mar Addai and establishing a permanent centre in Baghdad and in K---n and start to cooperate with each other in order to please our nation and by coordinating with the political parties in order to gain our sacred rights and to be inserted in the constitution and by pressing our people to return to their villages in order to rebuild as those in K ….n.
But in the scenario of the slaughtering of our nation there was not a single paragraph which could serve our nation, but only the one that will divide our nation. The new representatives function according to the will of the producer as if they were great actors who won the Oscar and they were considered to work very sincerely to serve their nation, and Almighty God blessed their efforts and they will be remembered in the history.
The Constitution Draft days were to end, and all of them like a cell of bees try to get their national rights and to be included in the constitution of the new Iraq… and the Arabs are not holding on to Islam, but they want to assert their Arabism, and to be part of the Arab nation…. And the K....s are not saying we are Muslim and they want to be known as K ….s in the constitution and the same for the Turkmen who want their human rights which should be granted to all nationalities in Iraq without any objection.
But for us, what happened and what will happen, our representatives in the national assembly and those who represent us in the committee of the writing of the constitution they don’t know what is going on and what is in the constitution because of their ignorance that they are running how to serve their personal interests and forgetting our nation and its destiny.
To our representatives: This is the constitution …. It is a national destiny and not a picnic in the ‘green zone ‘…This is the day which we waited for so long and our paht was rough and hard, filled with thorns … This is the day of - o’ masters of the day, recognizing our nation in the permanent constitution … wake up even though those moments of your slumber are of humiliation and with a loud and single voice say that we are one nation with many denominations and there is a big gap between nationalism and the denomination.
The scene of our secretaries of our national parties as they were very emotional with hallucination after their worst defeat, where one decides to have a big march to protest, sending a telegram protesting, and another in dismay for his bad luck knowing all these are merely a mockery and the nation is already slaughtered to be divided in two parts, to be included in the constitution. And for that we were granted a golden medal because we were the only ones who registered ourselves as two nations. We were able to make a mockery of the drafting committee as though we were winners over others who were known as one nation. But for us, we were known as two nations and this is a great success … let the efforts of our political parties be blessed for this great achievement, where you can’t find this anywhere else in the entire world… and let your struggle to destroy your nation be blessed. There is no pretext for us to say we were oppressed and Saddam Hussein drafted the constitution as he wanted.
And for more of our people in homeland and in Diaspora and those who finance our political parties because we are facing a long way toward more divisions, we are planning to be one hundred years ahead. Those years need a lot of financial help and probably in the hundred years ahead the current constitution will be omitted and a new one written so that our nation can be slaughtered for the second time. The motto of our political parties continues to be that we will not agree with each other but will continue to fight each other as long as we are faithful to our ideology which is based on hatred, grudges, selfishness , division and irresponsibility .
March forward our political national party leaders in order to spread awareness to our future youth on the same terms of ideology which are destructive. The future is waiting for your miracles in order to crush our beautiful dream .
Assyrian Students Unite
Assyrian Students Association is Formed at University of California, Los Angeles
When he tells people he is Assyrian, Paul Benjamin is no longer surprised by the often-confused looks he gets in return.
He has heard people say Assyrians are extinct, had others ask him if he means he's from Syria and has memorized an explanatory talk on his heritage.
The lack of awareness of the existence of Assyrian culture and ethnicity is something Benjamin, a second-year business economics student, and several of his peers hope to change.
With the aims of preserving their culture, meeting fellow students with similar backgrounds and educating the campus population, they recently formed the Assyrian Students Association.
At the moment, ASA has about 25 members on campus, said Kimona Issa, the group's president and a fourth-year physiological science student.
With a worldwide Assyrian population of five million or less, Issa said it was exciting to see so many Assyrians at UCLA.
"We're a pretty small minority in the world in general," he said.
At its peak in 650 B.C., the Assyrian Empire stretched as far east as the Persian Gulf, as far west as Egypt and as far north as present-day Turkey.
With a rough history in Iraq and Syria, the ability of Assyrians in the United States to come together and express their ethnic identity is special, said Michael Fishbein, a lecturer in the department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures.
In Syria and Saddam Hussein's Iraq, there was no tolerance for Assyrians attempting to maintain their own non-Arab identity and language, Fishbein said.
"In the United States, in some sense, one is free to express an ethnic identity without the political overtones," he said.
Members of the association are excited to express their identity and share the existence of their culture.
"We want to expand other people's knowledge of who we are," Benjamin said.
"When someone asks me what my ethnicity is, I tell them I'm Assyrian. Their first question is if I'm Persian, and then they're like, 'Oh, Syrian!'" Benjamin said.
"Then I have to go through this 20-minute spiel on what it means to be Assyrian."
Benjamin is not the only one with a spiel. Other Assyrian students have very similar experiences.
"You never really come across anyone who knows what Assyria is," said Holly Nabiey, a fourth-year Arabic and political science student and historian of ASA.
"We don't even exist to a lot of people."
The Assyrian population is a small one and many people don't know about it, agreed Fishbein.
Assyrians are people "whose ancestors came from one of the communities that preserved the modern Aramaic language in the Middle East. ... They have a good deal of folklore and music and art in common and a common ethnic identity," Fishbein said.
Modern day Assyrians speak various dialects of Aramaic, the prevalent language for most of the Middle Eastern population prior to the Islamic conquest, Fishbein said. The Islamic conquest took place in the mid-seventh century.
The dialects of Aramaic spoken by Assyrians are in danger of being lost for political reasons in the Middle East, as some governments attempt to rid themselves of local ethnic and minority identities which are seen as subversive, Fishbein said.
Assyrians are very aware of their identity, and many have moved to Iran and the United States in an attempt to preserve them, he said.
"They're conscious of being, by and large, Christians in an environment that has become overwhelmingly Muslim ... they're conscious of not being Arabs, and they think of themselves as the people who were there before," Fishbein said, noting that there are some Assyrians who are not Christian.
Those Assyrians who have moved to other countries live in tight-knit communities.
"All Assyrians pretty much know each other," Nabiey said.
Besides providing a place for Assyrian students to get together and spread knowledge about their ethnicity to other people, the association hopes to work with churches in the local area to help Assyrian kids go to college, Benjamin said.
For students like Benjamin and Nabiey, being Assyrian means being part of a larger, culturally-rich community deeply rooted in history.
"It's just pretty cool being part of something that you think has a lot of meaning," Nabiey said.
"To be part of something that's so ancient makes you think, 'Wow, my roots go so far back.'"
"The language that we speak is the one that Jesus used to speak," Nabiey said.
"I'm proud to be an Assyrian," Issa said.
"But at the moment it's kind of difficult because not many people know about Assyrian culture," he said.
As far as having Assyrians called an extinct people, Issa had one response.
"I'm Assyrian, and I'm alive," he said.
Zinda Magazine congratulates Mr. Paul Benjamin and fellow Assyrian students at UCLA and calls for the formation of similar university organizations on each campus around the world, where a minimum required number of students attend classes. The impact of organizing a national or even international intercolllegiate organization will be tremendous - an endeavor which will be fully supported by Zinda Magazine. To learn more about how Zinda Magazine can promote your school activities and help you form a university club contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ZINDA Magazine is published every Wednesday and Saturday. 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.
ZINDA means "Spark of Fire" in modern Syriac (Assyrian); Zinda's Red Swoosh is a rendering of the seventh letter in the Assyrian alphabet, letter ZEN, and the first letter in the word "Zinda". For more information about the Assyrian culture and heritage write to Zinda Magazine.
Zinda Magazine Copyright © Zinda Inc., 1994-2005 - All Rights Reserved - www.zindamagazine.com