|The End of the Assyrian Democratic Movement?||Peter BetBasoo|
|Assyrian Youth Hold Seyfo Seminar in Sweden
Iraqis Residing Abroad Allowed to Participate in the Elections
Pope Meets Only Christian Member of Iraqi Cabinet
Bet-Kolia Congratulates Ayatollah Khamenei on Ramadan
Henry Saggs Dies at 84
Not Too Late For Zinda Editor to Repent
|Diyarbakir TurAbdin Assyrian Association
Conference: The Genocide in the Ottoman Empire 1915
|How will Iraq’s October 15 referendum work?
Nenif Matran Hariri
Chaldeans, Assyrians, Syrians
|Mermaids: Assyrian Myth||Ninos Isaac|
|Village of Urmia in Russia||Prof. Eugene Givargizov|
The End of the Assyrian Democratic Movement?
The Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) is now faced with the greatest crisis in its history, a crisis from which it may not survive if it fails to take bold action immediately. It is a crisis brought about by the completion of Iraq’s Draft Constitution (IDC), which is now awaiting ratification in a referendum vote by the Iraqi people on October 15.
The constitution states the following in Article 122:
This (constitution) guarantees the administrative, political, cultural, educational rights for the various ethnicities such as Turkomen, Chaldeans, Assyrians, and the other components, and this is regulated by law.
The language in this article legally divides the Assyrians into two ethnic groups: Chaldeans and Assyrians. This is an artificial distinction. The differences between “Chaldeans” and “Assyrians” are purely denominational, “Chaldeans” are of the Chaldean Church of Babylon (Roman Catholic Assyrians), “Assyrians” are of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Assyrian Church of the East (both Independent churches). Racially, linguistically, geographically and culturally these two groups are the same. Furthermore, “Assyrian” is the secular, national identity of the Syriac speaking people of the Middle East, who are composed of many other denominations, such as the Orthodox, Protestants, Evangelicals, Presbyterians, Lutherans and Chaldeans. To say “Chaldeans and Assyrians” is to erroneously equate a denominational designation with a national designation.
ADM achieved its greatest success in inserting language into the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) which used the term “ChaldoAssyrians” to refer to the Assyrians of Iraq. This result was a product of much work and cooperation between ADM and the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO), both of whom were the sponsors of the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Conference in Baghdad, in October of 2003, which put forth the resolution to use “ChaldoAssyrians” as the moniker for the Assyrian nation in Iraq.
The TAL was the putative model for the new Iraqi constitution, but along the way many changes were made, and the artificial separation of the Assyrians into two groups was inserted in article 122 of the IDC. It seems that the ADM was out-maneuvered by the Kurds as well Patriarchs Delly and Dinkha, who worked behind the scenes to insure the legal separation of their flocks was codified in the IDC.
One may or may not fault ADM for being hood-winked and out-maneuvered, but one can fault it for its reaction to the IDC, which has brought about a mortal crisis for the organization, a crisis of its own doing. In short, ADM has not rejected the constitution in clear, unambiguous and unequivocal terms. In its belated September 19 statement  on the IDC, coming fully 21 days after the draft of the constitution was completed, ADM states its two objections:
And in the final paragraph states:
Since the constitution draft is now in front of the nation to judge, it is our duty to clarify our stand and to have our people understand the whole picture. Our people shall have the final judgment on it.
And there it is: ADM does not actually reject the IDC. It falls back on the equivocal position of “Our people shall have the final judgment on it.” On the other hand, ADO rejected the constitution in no uncertain terms on August 31, only two days after it was completed. 
Article 122 of the IDC contradicts all that ADM stands for, all of its principles. Why this vacillation at this crucial juncture? How are our people to have the final judgment if the political leadership does not guide them clearly? What is holding ADM back? It should say “we reject a constitution that legally divides our people.” No more. No less. Failure to say this will lead people to believe one or all of the following:
All of these criticisms strike at the legitimacy of ADM, and without legitimacy ADM cannot represent Assyrians in Iraq.
It will be the end of ADM if it does not unambiguously reject the IDC. A political organization cannot survive if it fails to act on its founding principles, if it fails to address a threat to its very core and identity. It becomes a farce. ADM is in the real danger of losing its credibility and alienating its polity and the rest of Assyrians who have supported it if it fails to immediately reject the IDC. The very survival of the institution itself, the ADM, is at stake.
Assyrian Youth Hold Seyfo Seminar in Sweden
A special report from Sweden by Afram Barryakoub
(ZNDA: Stockholm) On 24 September a seminar on Seyfo, the Genocide of more than 3 million Assyrians, Armenians, and Greeks in 1915, was held by the Assyrian Youth federation of Sweden.
The well-organized seminar took place in the main lecture hall of Stockholm University. The aim of the seminar was to educate young Assyrians about the Genocide and highlight the fact that 2005 is the 90th anniversary of this event.
The youth federation had invited the Assyrian Seyfo specialist Sabri Atman from Holland, the Armenian scholar, Dr Ara Safarian from the United Kingdom; Mr Robert Alaux from France, the director of the documentary “the Last Assyrians”, and the Assyrian musician, David Yonan from the United States.
Mr. Sabri Atman remarked on the Turkish flag saying: "When we ask the Turks why the color of their flag is red they reply, 'it is the symbol of the martyrs'. Which martyrs are they refering to? Is it the over half a million Assyrian martyrs their fathers slaughtered?"
All invited guests held speeches on the subject and shared with the audience their thoughts. The seminar was well received.
In the end two Swedish parlimentarians, Ms. Cecilia Wikström from the Liberal Party and Ms. Kerstin Lundgren, from the Center Party discussed with the audience the prospects for democratisation of Turkey and the recognition of Seyfo.
The Assyrian musician, David Yonan, shared his beautiful music and thoughts on Seyfo. The audience loved him.
Afram Barryakoub is a member of the media committe of the Assyrian Youth Federation of Sweden and produced this special report for Zinda Magazine. Zinda will also be covering the next Seyfo Seminar to be held on 15 October in Sweden organized by the Assyrian Federation of Sweden.
Iraqis Residing Abroad Allowed to Participate in the Dec 15 Elections
(ZNDA: Baghdad) The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI) has made it clear that the Electoral Law allows Iraqis residing abroad to participate in the up-coming elections scheduled for 15 December 2005, but they will not be able to vote in the referendum on the constitution on 15 October 2005.
IEC has agreed to holdout-of-country (OCV) voting in 20 countries. Dr. Farid Ayar, the media
The IEC will handle the OCV program with the help of the UN and host countries Voting will be in-person only. Registration and voting will be on the same day, and there will be 5 days of voting before
Pope Meets Only Christian Member of Iraqi Cabinet
Courtesy of the Christian World News
(ZNDA: Rome) Pope Benedict XVI met briefly with the only Christian member of the Iraqi ruling cabinet after his public audience on Wednesday, October 5.
Ms. Basimah Yusuf Putros, Iraq's minister of science and technology, was in Rome for meetings with Italian officials. She was also due to participate in the formal opening of an information bureau which the Iraqi government is opening in Rome, with help from the Italian government.
In May 2005, when she took her oath of office, Putros was the only member of the Iraqi ruling team to swear on a Bible. All of her cabinet colleagues are Muslims.
Iraqi Christian leaders have expressed concerns about the country's proposed constitution, which will be the subject of a referendum vote on October 15. The Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly, among others, has focused his concern on the passage promising that Islam will be the main source of the country's law. Christians fear that the constitution could lead to a governmental system in which religious minorities do not have equal civil rights.
Pope Benedict raised those concerns during an August 26 meeting with Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari. During the meeting, the Pope spoke primarily about religious freedom and the legal rights of the Christian community in Iraq.
Bet-Kolia Congratulates Ayatollah Khamenei on Ramadan
Courtesy of the Islamic Republic News Agency
(ZNDA: Tehran) Mr. Yonatan Bet-Kolia, the representative of the Assyrians and Chaldeans in the Iranian parliament or Majlis, congratulated the supreme religious leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on the commencement of the holy month of Ramadan yesterday.
The message read in part, "On behalf of the Assyrian and Chaldean communities as well as the world community of Assyrians we sincerely congratulate the commencement of the holy month of Ramadan".
The message went on to say, "We wish well-being, success and prosperity for your excellency and the great Umma of the Islamic Iran".
Mr. Bet-Kolia is also the Assyrian Universal Alliance's Secretary of Asia.
Henry Saggs Dies at 84
Courtesy of the Guardian - London
Henry William Frederick Saggs, Assyriologist, born December 2 1920; died August 31 2005.
In 1952, Professor Harry Saggs was the epigraphist, or inscriptions expert, on the excavations at the Assyrian capital Nimrud, in present-day Iraq, being undertaken by the distinguished archaeologist, Max Mallowan. Saggs' work, which was mainly on the north-west palace, led to the discovery of royal archives, including the important (though difficult) original correspondence of the Assyrian kings Tiglath-pileser, Shalmaneser V and Sargon II. His first editions of the most significant of these Nimrud Letters, as they came to be known, were first published in the Journal of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq, and culminated in the definitive volume, The Nimrud Letters 1952, which appeared in 2001 with a total of 240 texts.
One of Britain's leading Assyriologists, Saggs was professor of semitic languages at University College, Cardiff, from 1966 until 1983, when he took slightly early retirement and returned to his native East Anglia.
He had been born into an Essex farming family and was educated at Clacton County high school. In 1939, he was accepted to read theology at King's College London, then evacuated to Bristol. He graduated in 1942, and chose to join the Fleet Air Arm, where he served as an aircraft navigator. He broke his back in a training accident near Invergordon, when his plane came down in the sea and the two other members of the crew were killed; but he continued to carry out ground duties.
Shortly afterwards, his knowledge of Hebrew led to his attachment to the police in British Mandate Palestine for 10 months, giving him his first acquaintance with the Near East. Upon returning to England at the end of 1947, he taught mathematics in a London school, and then - with a Scarbrough student- ship, provided by the government in support of oriental languages - he was able, in October 1948, to start an MTh at King's College, now back in the Strand.
During this time, Saggs began learning Akkadian (Assyrian and Babylonian) under the mentorship of Sidney Smith. He evidently found favour, since shortly afterwards he took up an appointment as lecturer in assyriology at the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas), and received his doctorate from there in 1953.
Although he always retained his interest in Old Testament studies (he became a lay reader at his village of Roydon, near Harlow), Saggs became an authority on ancient Assyria. Having acquired a deep affection for modern Iraq through his work at Nimrud, he went back in 1954, and, through the academic year 1956-57, taught at Baghdad University, accompanied by his wife and four daughters. His Iraqi students included Amir Suleiman, who later studied under Saggs at Soas for a doctorate in Assyriology, before returning to teach at Mosul University.
In 1965, Saggs went back to northern Iraq as epigraphist on David Oates' excavation at Tell al-Rimah, rapidly publishing the Middle Assyrian business archive which was discovered there. During his time at Cardiff, he maintained his strong links with Iraq and welcomed Iraqi graduate students. He visited, and, for a while, taught a master's course at Mosul University, publishing the Anzu tablet from Sherifkhan with the head of the arts department, his former student Amir Suleiman). On his last visit, in 1979, he and his wife travelled widely through the country.
Although, in addition to the Nimrud letters, he published specialist text editions of a wide variety of cuneiform texts, much of Saggs' creative effort went into works addressed to a wider audience, among them "The Greatness that was Babylon" (1962), and "Everyday Life in Babylonia and Assyria" (1965). His inaugural lecture at Cardiff was published in 1969 as Assyriology and the Study of the Old Testament, and in 1976 he was invited by Soas to give the Jordan lectures in Comparative Religion, published in 1978 as The Encounter with the Divine in Mesopotamia and Israel. One reviewer praised the book for its lucidity and incisiveness, and the author for his freshness and integrity.
After his retirement, Saggs remained academically active, producing "The Might that was Assyria" (1984), a revised edition of "The Greatness that was Babylon" (1988), "Civilisation before Greece and Rome" (1989) and "Babylonians" (1995). He was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and of the Royal Asiatic Society, and a regular member of the governing council of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq.
A devoted family man, he is survived by his wife Joan, whom he married in 1946, and four daughters.
Not Too Late For Zinda Editor to Repent
All I can say to you [Zinda Editor] and your group [Zinda Magazine] is that you should be ashamed. I am so saddened by how rotten you have turned out. There was so much potential for someone like you. Someone that knows our history and taught it to me as a child. Someone that was active, not stable, but still active in our community. Do not continue this terrible path you have taken. It is never too late to turn back. As His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV said regarding your dear friend, Mar Bawai Soro, if you apologize you will be forgiven. An apology and change of his wrongful ways can save Mar Bawai and they can save you too.
Until last Friday evening a sign - produced by a Zinda staff in California who immensely enjoyed reading this letter- was placed on the door of the Washington office where the Editor of this publication reviews readers' letters and edits staff reports. It read: "The occupant of this office has been declared unstable. Enter at your own risk." A little sense of humor goes a long way while working at Zinda Magazine.
Wow, what an issue. Keep up the faith!
Evil-Doers Divide our People
Mikhael K. Pius
It’s so sad to see our people in such turmoil. All of us Assyrians are proud of our national name, a name that is imbedded indelibly in the rocks of history. But since the major section of our people simply rejected it, what we needed most was political unity achieved through compromise to get us moving instead of endless name-calling and bickering as some deluded hot-heads have been stubbornly insisting on. Unity would have given us numbers and consequently voice and strength as a people.
What good is a name if we are not recognized as a national race and our rights are trampled? But it is apparent that those self-seeking elements among us, who have self-appointed themselves as the voice and arm of our people, are profiting from discord and dissention. And they are not even on the homeland ground either, where it matters. They are only pampered puppets set in their ivory towers abroad and manipulated by their puppeteers. They have sold their souls to the devil!
And look what is happening within the Church today! As if the existing divisions were not enough! Ator and Umta are useless without united struggle with a single-minded purpose. They will take us no further than chest-beating, fiery speech-making, poetry reciting--and day-dreaming about Bet-Nahrain and Nineveh. How hypocritical can we get?
The truth is that because of the selfish greed and ambitions of some of our so-called leaders, both political and religious, we have never been able to achieve unity, even among our “Nestorian” Assyrians. History is repeating itself! And I doubt very much if we ever will achieve unity. We are already a lost cause--and our people in the homeland are in for darker days!
Now the forces of evil have stretched their hand to destroy you too, Zinda, the true voice for unity of our people, the bold voice that keeps our people and the world informed, without fear or favor, of all that goes on around us.
But take heart, for the evil-doer is always defeated in the end.
An Attack on Voice of Truth & Unity
I was quite disgusted to learn about the cowardly attack on Zinda Magazine server, which I consider to be an attack on the Assyrian voice of Truth and Unity. However, when I read your last week's Editorial, I realised that such acts can only strengthen and motivate Zinda and its crew to deliver the best to their worldwide readers.
Keep up your outstanding efforts in professional and constructive journalism.
The World Knows
Greetings all you brave people,
Don't Give Up!
I came to learn a couple of days ago the vicious attack our estimable Zinda Magazine is subjected to.
First of all, as a regular reader of Zinda Magazine, I rigorously condemn the perpetrators of this vicious attack.
Deprived from any civilised feelings, these miserable, manservant spirits should not prevent you from continuing your way.
I expect with even a bigger enthusiasm the new issues of Zinde Magazine.
Don't give up!
Millions in the World
Just to let you know how much we appreciate your hard work in bringing Zinda Magazine to such excellent level.
Keep up the good job! You have millions of readers and supporters in the world.
Say NO to the Proposed Iraqi Constitution
The long awaited draft of the Iraqi Constitution was made public finally. The draft was disappointing for many ethnic/religious groups, such as Assyrians (known as ChaldoAssyrians in the 2003 Iraqi Transitional Administrative Law "TAL"), Turkomans, Yezidis, Shabak, Armenians, Mandeans, and Sunni Arabs. The Assyrians continue to stand in awe, anger, and dissatisfaction from the continuous interferences by Kurds in their internal affairs and the domination of Shi'aa Arabs and Kurds in the process of drafting the Constitution. Of course, the Kurds continue to marginalize and undermine the Assyrians - and Turkomans, Shabak, and Yezidis in northern Iraq - as the draft of the Northern Iraq Kurdish regional constitution was made public as well.
The two most prominent and powerful Assyrian political organizations in the Middle East, i.e., the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) and the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO), rejected certain articles in the Iraqi Constitution draft where it concerns our people. Both groups stressed that the draft preamble unjustifiably and/or intentionally neglected to refer to Iraq's indigenous civilizations of Assyria and Babylonia. The two groups rejected the article in which the draft refers to our people as two separate ethnic groups, i.e., Chaldeans and Assyrians, contrary to historical facts.
I call upon our people in Iraq to participate in the October 15, 2005 referendum, and vote NO on the proposed draft of the Iraq Constitution.
Ms. Helma Adde is the president of the Diyarbakir TurAbdin Assyrian Association in New York/New Jersey. Last month the organization formally publicized its inception at a dinner party where Ms. Adde presented the following speech:
About eight months ago, a group of about ten concerned Assyrians got together to discuss the notion of an Assyrian club in this tri-state area. We all recognized the cultural needs of our Assyrian community, but through our discussions that evening, and reflections on past organizations and influential Assyrians, we realized that we are not original in our thought. We are simply the descendants of the earliest Assyrian nationalists to establish themselves here in the united states, right here in New York actually. It was then that we realized the significance of the task ahead of us, and the shoes that we would be filling by formally renewing the mission that our forefathers designed and undertaking it as our own.
We are the children of Assyrians that have helped to shape the idea of Assyrian nationalism for the Assyrians in the west. Not only are we Assyrians, but we are living in New York or New Jersey, the states that were home to legends like Naoum Fayik, an accomplished writer and poet born in Diyarbakir who immigrated to New York in 1912 and settled in Western New York. Assyrian New Yorkers can date their history in this country to people like Joseph Durna, again born in Diyarbarkir, who settled in Newark in the early 1900s where he established himself as a well respected lawyer. Throughout his career, he was actively involved in the Assyrian cause and is remembered as a founding member of the Assyrian American Federation. We can also take pride in David Perley, well documented lawyer and Assyrian activist, George Mardinly, founder of the George Mardinly scholarship setting a standard of higher education and excellence among our youth, all pioneers, accredited with establishing themselves successfully in United States, and settling in this region where they planted the idea of Assyrian Nationalism and left it there to grow. We are here now, left to inherit this seed, that’s been waiting patiently, sometimes feeling neglected. Are we going to nurture it to maturation, or will we be charged with neglect and consequently its death?
We ARE going to nurture it! We have to nurture it, after all, we’re living in New York, center of the world. New York is home to the United Nations, a global association of governments that facilitates cooperation in international affairs, a resource that we must utilize to demand rights for all Assyrians in our Diaspora. New York is also home to several internationally recognized universities specializing in the study of middle eastern affairs and indigenous peoples, with whom we can create ties for the purpose of encouraging depth in the study of the current plight of Assyrians, as well as the historical contributions of Assyrians to society. New York houses institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of art, founded to maintain and educate the community through the artistic contributions of various cultures, recognizing and including that of Ancient Assyrians. New York is the “cradle” that promotes diversity and multiculturalism in an ever-changing, opportunist world. What better place to re-introduce the people of the ancient “cradle of civilization,” to the rest of the world, and shape the course of our destiny.
Why did we choose this name?
First, Our association was built on the solid foundation set by the vision of our earliest Assyrian pioneers in the New York/New Jersey area. We are very grateful for the stones they laid for us and we preserve their memory by acknowledging their geographic roots, as most of them immigrated from the Diyarbakir TurAbdin area.
Secondly, the Diyarbakir TurAbdin portion of our beloved “BethNahrin,” is an area that commonly goes unmentioned and is shadowed by the might and glory of other, more recognized Assyrian legends such as the great “Nineveh.” So by giving our association a more unique name, we are making an effort to educate the surrounding communities by introducing them to some of our other historically rich villages.
Thirdly the Diyarbakir and Tur Abdin regions in Turkey are currently being well documented by Turkish scholars. They are recognizing the rich culture and heritage and also outstanding achievements of our people from that area. By taking on this name, we would like to encourage further research and highlight the fact these cities are our pride and joy.
What is our mission and how will we achieve it?
“The Diyarbakir TurAbdin Assyrian Association exists to build continuing and mutually beneficial relationships between its executive board members, Assyrian institutions and the Assyrian community at large. To this end, the DTAA is devoted to promoting its cultural base within the Assyrian community through sponsorship of lecture, seminars, language classes, to offer assistance to the needy and destitute among our people, and to establish cultural, athletic and social clubs.”
In order to reach the goals we have set through our mission statement, we have begun to design projects and activities, both on a long term and short term basis. These are the activities we have arranged for the near future:
The following list outlines our long term goals :
If you would like more information about the Diyarbakir Tur Abdin Assyrian Association or information about becoming a member, please email us at: DTAssyrianAssociation@hotmail.com
Conference: The Genocide in the Ottoman Empire 1915
The Genocide in the Ottoman Empire 1915/16
Conference - 15th of November at ABF, Sveavägen 41, Stockholm, Sweden
Conference language : English.
The numbers of seats are limited.
The closing date for entries is the 21 October.
(Photos can be downloaded from www.levandehistoria.se after the conference is closed)
News agencies and journalists. Please contact press officer, Johan Perwe (email@example.com)
The Conference is arranged in cooperation between The Living History Forum, Södertörn University College , ABF - Workers' Educational Association, The Union of Armenian Associations in Sweden , The Assyrian Federation in Sweden , The Syriac Federation in Sweden , ACSA - The Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac Association
For any info about the Conference: Ozcan Kaldoyo, Yahkub Rohyo and Attiya Gamri.
How will Iraq’s October 15 referendum work?
On October 15, Iraqis go to the polls to vote in a referendum on the country’s draft constitution. The ballot will feature one question: “Do you approve the draft constitution of Iraq?” If a majority of Iraqis vote yes, or if two-thirds of the registered voters in three or more of Iraq’s eighteen governorates do not vote no, then the constitution will pass into law.
The referendum, if it passes, will conclude a turbulent process of political infighting that has revealed the deep schisms between Iraq’s Sunni Arab, Shiite, and Kurdish communities. Much of the wrangling has been over wording on sensitive issues like religion, federalism, and distribution of oil revenues. Sunni Arabs complained about being sidelined during the process and criticized the final draft of the document, which was never formally approved by Iraq’s National Assembly, for failing to address their concerns on federalism. Sunnis generally fear a federalized state will allocate too much power and wealth to Iraq’s oil-rich regions in the north and south.
Has the constitution been finalized?
In theory, yes. Five million copies of an early version of the draft constitution, after several delays, were distributed to Iraqis in early October along with their ration cards. However, the final text of the document is still a work in progress, says Nathan Brown, senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Zalmay Khalilzad , U.S. ambassador to Iraq, is reportedly still in negotiations with Sunni leaders over wording in the draft on Iraqi identity issues and may add addendums to the text before the October 15 referendum. Most of these changes, however, are not substantive, Brown says, but amount merely to “tinkering in symbolic areas or changing preambular language.”
Can the constitution, once passed, be amended?
Yes. Currently, any amendment must win approval by two-thirds of parliament and the Presidency Council, as well as pass a national referendum. One of the Sunnis’ chief concerns is that the constitutional amendment procedures in place are too lax and may allow the document to be easily amendable in the future by the Shiite majority, Brown says.
Who can vote on the referendum?
Any Iraqi citizen can vote who’s legally competent, over the age of eighteen, and registered to vote by the mid-September deadline. Of Iraq’s 27 million people, roughly 14.2 million are eligible to vote. Unlike the January 30 elections for the transitional National Assembly, none of the nearly two million eligible Iraqi nationals living outside of Iraq’s borders will be allowed to cast ballots.
Is voter turnout expected to be high?
It’s unclear. Fewer than 60 percent of all registered voters cast ballots in Iraq’s January elections. But experts expect this referendum’s voter turnout to be higher. Much of the turnout will hinge on whether Sunni Arabs boycott the vote, as they did during January’s election. Sunni Arabs, who comprise roughly 20 percent of Iraq’s population, form the majority in four of Iraq’s eighteen provinces, but they are overwhelmingly the majority in only two: Anbar province, a heavily Sunni area west of Baghdad that stretches to the Syrian border, and Salahuddin, a province north of Baghdad. High registration numbers—as high as 75 percent, Iraqi election officials say—in Anbar and Salahuddin suggest that Sunni Arabs may not boycott the election but will vote against the document. Only 10 percent of eligible Sunni Arabs voted in January’s parliamentary elections.
Experts expect a very high voter turnout among Kurds, who got most of what they wished for in the latest draft of the document—concessions on the issue of federalism, ambiguous wording on Iraq’s Arab identity, an expected resettlement of Kirkuk, the oil-rich city some Kurdish leaders call “our Jerusalem.” Shiites, who make up a majority of Iraqis, are also expected to vote in relatively high numbers. Much of their turnout, however, will depend on Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric, who has yet to formally declare his position on the constitution, says Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East specialist with the Congressional Research Service.
Aside from Sunni anger over the constitution’s wording, the biggest hindrance to a high voter turnout is security, experts say. Several Sunni-dominated areas, particularly along the Euphrates River valley in towns like Tal Afar or Sadah, were insurgent strongholds until recent sweeps by U.S.-Iraqi forces. The raids were part of U.S.-led efforts to secure these areas to allow Sunni Arabs to vote. However, in areas around the Sunni Triangle northwest of Baghdad, security remains inadequate less than two weeks before the referendum, experts say.
Is the constitution expected to pass?
Probably, experts say. Even if Sunni Arabs come out and vote against the document, experts say they would probably not make up the majority in enough provinces to derail the constitution. However, a recent rule change was overturned that would have required two-thirds of registered voters—versus just two-thirds of those who actually cast ballots—to vote “no” on the constitution in three of Iraq’s eighteen governorates for the document to fail. The rule was overturned after a loud protest from Sunni Arabs, who called it a “mockery of democracy,” as well as the United Nations and U.S. government. Given past elections’ low voter turnout in Iraq, if the rule change had stood in place, Brown says it would have made “it impossible for the constitution to fail.”
What happens if the constitution passes?
Once the votes are tallied, which will likely take a few days, the outcome of the referendum will be announced at a press conference by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI). If the referendum passes, the document will be ratified and passed into law. Elections for a permanent government will then be held December 15, and the new government will assume office no later than December 31.
What happens if the constitution fails?
According to the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL)—the interim constitution passed by Iraqis with U.S. oversight—if the constitution is rejected, the National Assembly must be dissolved and elections for a second transitional National Assembly must be held by December 15. Then the drafting process will start again—“a replay of this year basically,” Katzman says. A second draft must be completed by August 15, 2006, and a second referendum held by October 15, 2006. A six-month extension can be requested, pushing the final deadline for the second draft to February 15, 2007. The TAL does not indicate what should happen if the constitution fails a referendum a second time.
Will elections monitors be present?
Yes. Six international observer groups have accredited nearly 500 observers for the referendum, down from the 700 observers present during the January 30 election. Among those in Iraq monitoring the upcoming referendum are representatives from Arab nongovernmental organizations and the Arab League—a first for Iraq—as well as U.S.-based election watchdog groups like the National Democratic Institute. All observers must be approved by the IECI’s Board of Commissioners, which extended the monitors’ registration and accreditation deadline until October 10.
What role has the United States played in the constitution-drafting process?
The U.S. government has been heavily involved in the process. Some Sunni Arabs and Iraqi experts have complained that Washington put too much stock on meeting deadlines set by the TAL than on incorporating the Sunnis’ demands. The United States, in addition to providing election monitors and securing Sunni-dominant provinces, has also provided constitutional scholars to assist in the drafting of the document and urged Shiites to revise language on religion and federalism, in last-ditch efforts to appease Sunni leaders. The United States has also expressed dissatisfaction with the National Assembly’s recent rule change on what constitutes an actual “voter.”
Chaldeans, Assyrians, Syrians
Nenif Matran Hariri
Chaldeans Assyrians Syrians are the oldest inhabitants of modern Iraq; they have a rich history dating back to the ancient Assyrian Empire. How are they fairing in this new Iraq?
They hoisted their National flag on the wrong side of the Globe and refused to even visit the land they claimed. Their magnamanus and self-assured personas cracked and their true identity was revealed, their political punch seemed no more than shadow boxing, designed to fool their own kind.
The Iraqi CAS whose opinions have the greater effect on Iraqi politics (as opposed to the self-appointed ambassadors overseas) were largely ignored, left to their own devices and ill-equipped, they found the going tough. Their efforts were not helped by thoughtless, provocative and counter-productive verbal attacks by their overseas cousins on the very people they share the land with, ‘the Kurds’ (CAS’s only real allies in Iraq). They forgot that ‘minorities’ need to make friends not enemies.
Mr. Nenif Matran Hariri is the Advisor for Christian Affairs to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) headed by Masoud Barazani, the current president of the Kurdish Region in north Iraq. Mr Hariri is a member of the Assyrian Church of the East and is the grandson of Shlimon, the brother of Mar Yosip.
The Chariot is an engaging rendering of riveting and significant stories from Assyrian history presented in a cool, realistic context. Through the eyes of Tiglath-Ashur and Naramsin-Uballit, Mr. Ninos Isaac tells these stories. Ninos Isaac, originally from Nottingham, England and now in Modesto, California, is a keen student of Assyrian history.
Why should we read The Chariot? Well, think of The Chariot as a ‘highlight reel’ of the best bits from our history. Knowing the best bits of our history are important to cultivate a love for our nation. We must know the key parts of our history to truly know our nation and know ourselves. As one philosopher said, “to understand a man, you must know his history." The same is true of a nation. Another great Englishman said that it is “upon the education of the people of a country that the fate of a country depends.” It is a blessing to be an Assyrian because the history of the Assyrian nation is perhaps that of a great and significant nation. Now is the time to learn more about our rich and original history. Welcome back The Chariot!
Mermaids: Assyrian Myth
I am Naramsin Uballit, Ashipu and Royal Scribe for the great King Sharrukin, Sargon II, ruler of the 4 corners of the known world. I was with Sargon before he was called Sargon, before he was our legitimate King -- when he was simply the ambitious governor of Nineveh. I am still today his primary care physician and doctor, which is what an Ashipu is.
My history with Sargon is long. I was right there with the great Warrior-king when he came to the defense of the beleaguered citizens of Assur and Nineveh after the ridiculous King, Shalmaneser, had taxed them silly. I was with Sargon throughout the bloody civil war of Assyria, which split even the gods themselves. More on that amazing period of time another day, but today I want to record the origin of the mermaid legend. Why? Well, because today we are on our annual campaign to collect tribute and taxes from our allied provinces.
Collecting Taxes from Cyprus on the Shores of Lebanon
We have traveled to the shores of Lebanon and now we gaze on the western sea, the sea that they call the Mediterranean. We are here to meet the emissaries of the Phoenician navy, and through them collect tribute from our newly acquired province of Cyprus. 75% of the Cypriot tribute will be paid to Assyria in the form of precious copper, which we will use extensively in our armies, temples, and palaces. The Phoenician navy, our beloved allies, will conduct the exchange whereby we will send a Stele (statue) of Sargon to Cyprus to erect in the land as a symbol of Assyrian rule. I will record this in the royal writings. We do not intend to take our army to Cyprus, as part of our original agreement with the Cyprus. We agreed not to set foot on the island in exchange for a 15% surcharge in the annual tribute (which is based on population size). I won’t include that point in the royal documents since Sargon believes that such nit-picky transactional details ultimately serve little purpose and serve only to undermine authority. Smart man, that Sargon,
We spotted Dolphins!
Anyway, as we looked out on the waters, we spotted a group of dolphins. One turned towards us and raised its head out of the water as if to acknowledge our presence. The dolphin, the eagle and the lion are perhaps the most revered of creatures in Assyria. At this point, I insisted that we pay tribute to the proud, swift, intelligent creature. In doing so we also wanted to pay respect to the mother of Semiramis, the original Mermaid of the Sea, and the guardian of dolphins. We call the goddess who is half woman half dolphin, a Mermaid. For the past 100 years or so, mermaids have become all the rage in the cities of Assyria, especially with young teenage girls. Handbags, jewelry, and art are adorned with mermaids.
The Mermaid Legend
The first and only mermaid is Atoureta (or Atargatis), the mother of Shamiram (Semiramis). Atoureta (according to our Assyrian legends) loved a mortal shepherd, and while making love to him, accidentally killed him – just like the Black Widow spider does to her mate. Embarrassed by her own behavior, Atoureta jumped into the lake and took the form of a silver, round-nosed dolphin. The waters would not conceal her divine nature however, and so she took the form of a “mermaid”, meaning human above the waist and dolphin below the waist. Mermaids are uniquely Assyrian.
For this reason, it is forbidden among Assyrians, Phoenicians, and even Egyptians to kill or eat a dolphin. Assyrians of course have a list of protected animals. Private citizens of Assyria also cannot kill lions or eagles. The Assyrian king may kill (as part of a religious act) a lion or eagle, but when it comes to dolphins all bets are off! Even a King may not kill the dolphin. This is primarily out of respect for Atoureta, mother of Shamiram.
Now, as the sun sets, and with the leaping silver Assyrian dolphin before us, the generals, King Sargon and myself will pour a libation over a beach rock. This we do in honor of the great creature, and in honor of the Queen Mermaid, Atoureta – the guardian of the dolphin, and the legendary mother of the greatest Queen of Assyria.
Relevant Links & Information
Village of Urmia in Russia
Prof. Eugene Givargizov
Urmia, named after the Iranian city of the same name, is the only Assyrian village in Russia. It is located in the Krasnodar territory (aka Kuban) near the city of Armavir. It was founded in 1924 by the Assyrian refugees from the village of Arazdayan in Armenia, which in turn was founded in 1877 by the refugees of the village of Atlakandeh in the plains of Urmia, Iran. Later many Assyrian refugees from Iran and Turkey moved to the village of Urmia in Russia. Today there are not only Urmians (from Iran), but also Albaknai, Gawarnai, Deznai, and Assyrians from other Hakkiari tribes living together in this small village.
The village of Urmia for the last 80 years has been the cultural center of the Assyrian-Russian identity and received support from the Assyrian Russian Federation or “Khayadta” which existed in the Soviet period.
In 1927 a school was established in the village of Urmia, where Assyrian and Russian were taught in the curriculum. Subjects included literature, mathematics, geography, and history. Assyrian was taught using the textbooks that were published in Assyrian for the Assyrian children. The school still exists although the teaching in Assyrian was banned in 1938 when Stalin’s repressions began.
Today there are as many as 1000 people living in the village of Urmia, 80% of whom are Assyrian. There is only one school in Urmia, educating some 150 students. They study in classes ranging from first to the last year of high school and take courses in mathematics, computers, physics, chemistry, history, literature, Russian, English and others depending on their grade level. The school was remodeled this year in time for the first day of September - the official first day of all schools in Russia. This was made possible thanks to the private donations of a few Assyrians in Russia.
The biggest joy that the Assyrians of Urmia experienced this year was when the Assyrian language once again became one of the subjects of the official curriculum taught in their school.
Unfortunately the school cannot provide adequate preparation for its students to compete in the enterance examinations to the higher educational institutions of Russia due to the lack of textbooks, study materials and computer equipment. This is why the students from the village of Urmia continue to face difficulties in passing admission examinations to higher education institutions. The villagers are economically deprived, and the school purchases textbooks without the assistance of the local or federal Russian government.
The only way out of this difficult situation is to use Internet for these and other reasons as to give children a broader view to the world. The villagers wish
to purchase a satellite dish and begin a computer class with 12 seats. They also need internet network with the server for 12 computers and a printer. The estimated total to make this a reality is around two thousand dollars only.
To learn more about Urmia, its school, and how you can help the Assyrian students in this historic and promising village write to the Assyrian Association of the Krasnodar Territory at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Zinda Magazine, in its support of the Assyrian academic projects around the world, has pledged the donation of an HP laser printer to the school in Urmia. Zinda Magazine also continues to pay the entire salary of one Assyrian isntructor at this school who teaches Assyrian history and heritage. We urge our readers to contact the school and offer their financial support.
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