1 Adaar 6754
19 February 2005
Z I N D A M A G A Z I N E
al-Yousifi Pleads for His Life
|A Clear Agenda for 2005||Wilfred Bet-Alkhas|
|Survival of the Assyrians From the Fall of Nineveh to Present||William Warda|
Abducted Assyrian Politician Pleads for Life in Video
|Iranian Christian Convert Faces Death Penalty|
A Question of Protocol
|A Cry of the Wild is for the Errant Assyrians||Ivan Kakovitch|
With only one Assyrian official elected into the Iraqi national parliament, detached from misters Talabani and Barazani's favoritism, many observers speculate the beginning of the end of democracy in Iraq. This cannot be any further from the truth. Iraq is on its way toward a democracy unseen in the Middle East, even if a slim majority of the elected members of the parliament are Shi’ai. Citizens of Iraq courageously displayed their dissatisfaction with the fundamentalist Islamist terrorists and tyranny brought upon by Saddam Hussein’s Baathist movement. The most important lesson learned by the officials in Iraq and in Washington is that the power of the Assyrian communities in the Diaspora cannot be disregarded. If properly organized the political voice of the Assyrians in Iraq can be amplified ten times more in the 2006 elections.
Seat allocations for Iraq's 275-member National Assembly were calculated as follows:
Any list with less votes than the initial quota was excluded.
There were 14.2 million eligible voters in Iraq. Of these sixty percent poured into the streets of Iraq and voted to begin a new political life in their country.
How did the Assyrian voters fare compared to the rest of Iraq?
Slate 204, led by Yonadam Kanna, received one vote, as did Adnan Pachachi’s. The Turkomen received 3 seats, and even president Yawar gained only 5 seats. Had the Shi’ai and Kurdish parties not united and formed two slates representing tens of warring Kurdish and Shi’ai factions, many other high-profile candidates would have enjoyed only one seat or no seat, falling behind the Assyrians. The strategy of combining political parties into one slate did pay off for the Kurdish and Shi’ai groups. But would it have mattered if all Assyrians had voted for the same slate?
The total counts for the three major Assyrian slates show the following distribution:
Since the final quota was calculated at 29,133, even with all three parties combined a second seat would have not been allocated to the Assyrian candidates.
Only 47,515 votes from nearly half a million eligible voters which could provide 10 seats for the candidates of slates 204, 139, and 148? Not quite! Perhaps as many as 200,000 ChaldoAssyrians were prevented from voting on 30 January in major districts around Mosul. The six ChaldoAssyrian towns of Baghdeda, Bartilla, Karemlesh, Shekhan, Ain Sifne, and Bahzan were systematically denied the right to vote. Had this injustice taken place in Karbala or Sulaimania, tens of UN watchdogs and Washington lobby groups would have joined forces to stop the elections. But the victims were Christian, Shabaks, and Yezidis.
What happens next?
The 275-member parliament will ratify a permanent constitution which will hopefully guarantee the civic and human rights of every Iraqi citizen regardless of his or her ethnic or religious identity. In the next ten to twelve months Mr. Kanna will be facing the challenge of encouraging harmony among like-minded groups concerned with the future of non-Kurdish and non-Arab groups in Iraq. These include the Assyrians, Chaldean-Assyrians, Syriac-Assyrians, Yezidis, Turkomans, Sabeans, & Shabaks. He will also have to persuade the Kurdish and Shi’ai power players in ratifying civic and human rights for the Assyrians and other smaller ethnic and religious groups in the new Iraqi constitution.
Kanna is not the only Christian member of the parliament. There are five other Assyrians who were voted in by including their names on the Kurdish slate 130 and Mr. Allawi’s slate 285. They are:
It’s hard to imagine that any of these four PMs on the List #130 will stand up against the will of Barazani and favor an Assyrian view.
Should the Kurdish officials put into practice what they have been openly preaching about the formation of a new Kurdish state in the Assyrian areas in the north, then the second complicated challenge for Mr. Kanna will be the immediate implementation of the Assyrian Regional Administration in the Mosul Plains.
The Kurdish regional government, which so detests Iraqi nationalism and illegally continues to occupy Assyrian territories in the north demonstrated its affinity for democratic values last month by preventing Assyrians from voting for their candidates. Life under Saddam was much more pleasant and tolerable than what one might imagine under Barazani and his ruffians in an independent Kurdish state. Establishing closer ties between Assyrian leadership and Ankara, Tehran, and Damascus in the next few months cannot be ignored.
Incidentally, five Assyrians were also elected (thanks to Barazani again) to the Kurdish Regional Parliament:
Other local election results for the Governarate Councils were as follow:
Should Assyrians co-exist with the Kurds in the north or demand a safe-haven?
Since there is little chance of a formidable Sunni Arab majority in Iraq, life under either Kurdish or Shi’ai authority for Assyrians is not an option. Short of a full implementation of a protected zone in Iraq for the welfare of its Christian inhabitants, the mass exodus of the Assyrians (including Chaldeans and Syriacs) will arrive on the scene of the early days of a post-Saddam constitutional government. The Shi’ais in Iran succeeded in driving out over 90% of their Christian and Jewish citizens in less than two decades after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Barazani’s men, on the other hand, have seized Assyrian properties and when necessary assassinated Assyrian political and civic leaders. Perhaps these criminal acts will one day be brought to justice in the new Iraq.
The Kurdish leadership is already re-writing the history book. Not long ago an essay was brought to the attention of this publication in which the Abgarid kings were referred to as Christian Kurds (did you know that it was a Kurdish king, not Assyrian, who wrote to Jesus?). The ancient Assyrian cities of Kirkuk, Mosul, and Arbil are now referred to as historical Kurdish metropolises. Within a few months Hammurabi and Ashurbanipal would also be taught in schools as the brave Kurdish leaders who just happened to write in the ancient Kurdish language of Akkurdian.
The January elections in Iraq paved the way toward the establishment of a new Kurdish state tucked between Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq, covering the heartland of Assyria.
Given a choice between Massoud Barazani, the Arab insurgents, & Shi’ai fundamentalists, Assyrians in Iraq are facing a future as heartening as that of the Assyrians in Iran after the coming of the Islamic Revolution.
The tyranny of the majority in a democratically elected government is no less painful than the oppression of the minority in a dictatorship. This is why democracy cannot survive in a nation state that does not live under the rule of law, protecting the rights of every citizen.
Our agenda for the next few months is clear: ensuring the administrative, religious, and cultural rights of the Assyrians in the permanent constitution, mobilization of grassroots units to increase voter registrations outside of Iraq prior to next year’s elections, demand for the establishment of a safe-haven in response to a call for a sovereign Kurdish or Shi’ai state, and push for greater allocation of funds for construction projects in the Assyrian territories.
Survival of the Assyrians from the Fall of Nineveh to Present
After reading Mr. Frederick Aprim’s newly published book “Assyrians; The Continuous Saga” I was compelled to write this commentary.
At times western writers with limited knowledge about the history of Syriac speaking inhabitants of Mesopotamia have vigorously questioned their descendance from the ancient Assyrians. Though they have not said so some have imply that the ancient Assyrians were defeated into extinction by the Chaldeans and the Medes in 612 B.C. and the name Assyrian was forgotten until Layard discovered their ancient ruins in mid 19th century. These claims betray lack of a well rounded historical knowledge and can be traced to the influence of the Old testament and its portrayal of the ancient Assyrians as the enemies of God therefore destroyed by him. Such long held prejudices and assumptions are difficult to undo especially when they are believed as a matter of faith.
Up to the recent centuries the most popular image in the west representing the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians was the picture of the half ruined mythical Tower of Babel destroyed by God when allegedly mankind rose to challenge his authority. Poets such as Byron wrote poetry about: 'Assyrian coming down like the wolf on the fold, And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold'. The artists were busy painting pictures showing how the angels of God killed 85,000 Assyrians overnight when King Sennacherib in 701 B.C. dared to attack Jerusalem. As one writer put it ‘Over the centuries, Assyrians have suffered from a "bad press."’ often portrayed as Barbarians who deserved to be destroyed.
But as more ancient records are examined we come to realize that most of what people learned in the past about the Assyrians was biased and exaggerated. The Assyrialogist Dr. Saggs, Professor of Semitic Languages, and author of many works, in his ‘The Might that was Assyria’ writes: 'I actually like the Assyrians, warts and all: I make no apology for this. Though the Assyrians, like the people of every other nation ancient and modern, were sometimes less than kind to their fellow humans, I feel no compulsion to be continually advertising my own right mindedness by offering judgment upon their every action or attitude in terms of current liberal orthodoxy....Assyrians have been maligned. Certainly they could be rough and tough to maintain order, but they were defenders of civilization, not barbarian destroyers.'
It was primarily the Old Testament influence which had convinced even the well educated that Assyrians had long ceased to exist. Confronted with the Christian Assyrians who claimed to be the descendant of the ancient nation some went out of their way to deny such a kinship. It became a common refrain to assert that “Nestorians, Jacobites never called themselves by that name” and that 'the name Assyrian was given to them in mid 19th century by the Anglican missionaries.' While such claims fooled the unsuspecting readers for those who were willing to do further research it became obvious that they were contrary to the facts. If such was the case then one should not find any references to the Assyrians as an existing people between 612 B.C. until mid 19th century AD.
Was Tatian in the 2nd Century A.D. an Anglican missionary when he identified himself as Assyrian? Were the early Syriac documents describing the beginning of Christianity in Assyria and among the Assyrians forged by the Anglican missionaries? Was the Fast of the Ninevites observed since the early christianity by the Syriac Speaking Christians of Mesopotamia an Anglican conspiracy? Why did Syriac speaking christians who lived in Nineveh and even further away considered it an important aspect of their identity while the rest of the world believed that it was destroyed in 612 B.C. and never resettled? The evidences supporting the kinship of the contemporary Assyrians including members of the Chaldean Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church to the ancient Assyrians is so overwhelming that no amount of misinterpretation or semantic gymnastics can brush it aside.
Frederick Aprim has systematically gathered impressive amount of information attesting to the continuous survival of the Assyrians from the fall of Nineveh to the present. His book “Assyrians: The continuing Saga” contains one documented reference after another showing that Assyrians lived in the land of their forefathers and were recognized as Assyrians during all centuries. The turns and twists of history have changed the demography of their homeland and has made it difficult to imagine that before the Arab conquest the dominant culture of Iraq and part of Turkey was Assyrian. The Assyrian legacy in the two regions before and during the early centuries of the Arab Conquest remains buried under an Arab and Islamic veneer superimposed over it, but with little digging it becomes obvious. The Nabi Yunus mosque of Nineveh was once a Christian Assyrian church before being confiscated by the Arabs. Some Islamic sources contend that the name of the city of Karbela may have been Goorb-al-ala [meaning near God]. A Conclusion which is further strengthened by the presences of a town of 'Ninwa' in its vicinity which is mentioned together with Karbela in elegies to Al-Hussein before the region became Islamized.
Somewhere about the end of his book Frederick aptly includes a quote by Dr. Arian Ishaya who exposes the political games played by some who consider it a sport to question the identity of the contemporary Assyrians. She writes:
Throughout his book over and over again Frederick has proved the presence of the Assyrians in the land of their ancient forefathers. They identified their homeland as Attur or Ashur, referred to themselves as Assuraye, Atturaye, Atturoye, Suryaye and Suryoye which are varied forms of Assyrian.
Every Assyrian needs to read this book and have it in his/her home for the youngsters to read and learn about their historic roots. Unless books like this are bought and read the time and money spent on researching, writing and publishing them is wasted, consequently no one will dare to do it again. Since most of our organizations have as their goal the advancement of our culture and heritage it is their duty and moral responsibility to take active interest in distributing books written by and about Assyrians.
Abducted Assyrian Politician Pleads for Life in Video
Courtesy of Christian Today & the Local (Sweden)
A video of the Assyrian politician who was kidnapped in Iraq three weeks ago was released by his captors on Thursday. With a machine gun to his head, Minas Ibrahim al-Yousifi appealed to the international community to help free him.
"I beg everyone to do their utmost to free me," he said on the film, which lasted for just over two minutes.
Mr al-Yousifi and his family fled Iraq in 1984 and settled in Jönköping. After the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime he returned to Iraq to establish and lead a new Christian Democratic party.
The party was not taking part in the election on January 30th, but on January 28th he was travelling from Mosul to Baghdad when he was taken by the Martyr al-Isawy Brigades, a hitherto unknown rebel group (see previous issue).
"I appeal to His Majesty Carl XVI Gustav, Sweden's king, and Queen Silvia, Pope John Paul, the international federation of Christian parties, the Muslim clerics in Iraq and Iraq's constitutional assembly to work for my freedom," he said.
His captors are the extremist group called Martyr al-Isawy Brigades or "Iraqi Vengeance Batallion", whose name was on a black banner behind him in the video.
On Saturday Mr al-Yousifi made a telephone call to his family in which he explained the kidnappers' demands. The captors have requested around 28 million Swedish crowns (4 million dollars) and for US troops to be replaced by UN troops in the Iraq. Mr al-Yousifi said the kidnappers were threatening to behead him if the family contacted any security organisations.
The fact that the hostage was allowed to call home is unusual, as is the fact that the financial demands were made before the political demands. Magnus Norell, a terrorism expert at Sweden's Defense Research Institute, told the paper that this indicated that the motivation for the kidnap was more likely to be criminal.
"I want to emphasize that we don't know, but if the main point was political they would hardly say [they wanted money], even if they wouldn't say no to a few million dollars," he said.
On Thursday Mr al-Yousifi's children met the leader of Sweden's Christian Democratic party, Göran Hägglund, in an attempt to raise the profile of their father's case in the Swedish media.
"If Minas had been called Kalle Svensson then this would have been front page news a long time ago," said Hägglund.
"I have no reason at the moment to criticize the authorities but it is very important that they do their utmost," he added.
However, Mr al-Yousifi's son said that he hoped the release of the video would bring about more action from the Swedish authorities.
"I hope that this will put pressure on the foreign office," said Avin al-Yousifi. "Now they have to take it seriously - earlier they haven't worked as they should have."
Avin al-Yousifi described his father as "an incredibly committed man who is burning for a democratic Iraq".
"That's why he went back after Saddam's fall, despite the fact that we all warned him about how dangerous it is," he told Stockholm City.
"Now all that remains is to hope and wait," said Avin al-Yousifi. "Our mother is already with relative in northern Iraq to be able to welcome dad when he is freed."
The video brought a mixed response from the Swedish media. Both DN and Aftonbladet declined to show it on their web sites and chose instead to show still pictures.
"This film is a propaganda tool and we do not want to be of service to the kidnappers," said Pia Skagermark, the managing editor at DN.
Expressen took a different approach, offering various methods of viewing the video through their web site.
According to Aftonbladet, Mr al-Yousifi's children watched the film on Thursday evening.
"It feels even worse when you see it with your own eyes," said the hostage's daughter, Nalin.
"It's shocking. Nobody wants to see their father in such a situation."
Yousifi was an asylum seeker in Sweden 20 years ago to escape persecution under Saddam Hussein. He returned to Iraq two years ago to re-establish the Christian Democratic Party. Sweden is home to about 60,000 Iraqis.
[Zinda: To view the video in MS Windows Media Player click here.]
Expatriates Vote Assyrian Christian Candidate to Iraqi Assembly
Courtesy of Christian Today
(ZNDA: Baghdad) The National Two Rivers slate that represents the Chaldo-Assyrians, a small Christian minority in Iraq have won a seat in the new Iraqi National Assembly due to the high number of votes of Iraqi expatriates in the US.
Led by Yonadam Kanna, the slate received 18,538 votes from expatriates from places such as Detroit and San Jose, California in the 30th January election. Kanna's slate would have been about 12,000 votes short of the number required to secure a seat in the assembly without their support, reports revealed.
Kanna said that in fact the slate was expecting to win 10 or 12 seats, however, there were too many voting irregularities everywhere. Many complaints were received from expatriates saying that the polling stations were too far from their homes, some even had to travel a day to cast their ballots.
A similar case was seen among local Christians in the Ninevah province where the Chaldo-Assyrian community is strongest, some polling stations were never even opened, and in other cases the ballot boxes were not delivered.
Despite the backlash behind the election, for Assyrian Christians who have been marginalised for such a long period, this one seat represents that the democratic process has begun and has brought great joy to them.
Recalling the tragic history of Iraqi Christians under Saddam’s rule, Kanna recounted stories of family members killed, Christian churches and monasteries burned and villages destroyed during Saddam's "faith campaign" in the 1990s.
After the victory, Kanna wishes to protect the Chaldo-Assyrian Christian community by working with the new opposition led by interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi to block a constitution based on Islamic law.
Currently, a slate backed by conservative Shiite Muslim clerics took the most seats, about 140, in the new National Iraqi Assembly. However, it is not big enough in the 275-seat assembly to form a religious-based government.
According to a leader of the Chaldean Christian community in the United States, Iraqi Christians are both excited and nervous following the release of the results.
"We are extending our hands to our brother Shiites, and Sunnis in Iraq, to work together to have a...better, democratic Iraq," said Joseph Kassab, president of the US branch of the Chaldean National Congress.
Courtesy of Christian Today & AsiaNews/Compass
No more court martial for Protestant clergyman who converted from Islam
(ZNDA: Tehran) Military espionage charges are dropped but apostasy and proselytizing still hang over his head. Pastor is still liable for the death penalty.
Hamid Pourmand, an Iranian Protestant clergyman, is no longer accused of espionage and will soon be able to leave the military prison where he has spent the last three months. However, he will now have to face charges of apostasy and proselytizing. His trial will thus be exclusively based on the intolerance Iran’s religious theocracy has towards the country’s religious minorities.
Arrested five months ago, Rev. Pourmand went on trial last week before a military court in Tehran, charged with deceiving the Iranian armed forces about his religion.
Born a Muslim, Rev. Pourmand converted to Christianity 25 years ago.
An army man, the lay pastor rose through the ranks and is now a colonel in the Iranian army stationed in Bandar-i Bushehr.
He was arrested on 9 September 2004, in Karaj (30 km west of Tehran), when the police raided a meeting of the Assemblies of God.
The decision to move him to a military prison in the capital gave his fate an even more ominous twist. The court martial could add military espionage to his list of charges. In Iran, military espionage carries the death penalty.
In his court martial last week, judges decided that although he was not guilty of espionage he would still have to return to Bandar-i Bushehr (south of Tehran) to face apostasy and proselytizing charges.
During the hearing, court officials declared that for many years Pourmand had belonged to an ‘underground’ church through which “many Muslims” had deserted Islam and become Christians.
“Either he will be forced to return to Islam,” one Iranian Christian source noted, “or he will face a very big problem now.”
After he joined the army Pourmand became an officer even though Iranian law passed shortly after the Islamic revolution prohibits non-Muslims from serving as military officers.
Pourmand reportedly declared in court last week that he had documented proof, in the form of a letter, that the army knew he had become a Christian before he was ever given officer rank.
According to his family and Christian acquaintances, Pourmand had never concealed his religious conversion.
The Iranian government considers “foreign religions” a threat to national security.
Since 1990, several ex-Muslims who converted to Christianity have been either assassinated or executed by court order, under the guise of accusations of spying for foreign countries.
Under Iranian law, apostasy is listed along with murder, armed robbery, rape and serious drug trafficking as a capital offence.
Back in November 2004, the European Union sent an official note to the Iranian government calling for the release of Rev Pourmand and for the respect of religious freedom in the country.
Many Iranians find the religious-political situation in Iran today stifling, repressive and depressing, according to the religious liberty commission of a global network representing some 150 million Christians in 115 countries.
"There is no freedom of speech or of religion. Violence against women, suicide, drug use and prostitution are endemic and AIDS is increasing," the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Religious Liberty Commission (RLC) reported last Wednesday.
"Many Iranians long for openness and liberty, but under Islamic law Christian witness to Muslims is banned and renouncing Islam is a capital offence," the RLC added.
The statement by the RLC came ahead of the 26th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, which deposed the Iranian monarchy and set up an Islamic republic. 26 years ago, on 10 February, the secular state was replaced with "a quasi-theocracy where the government is subservient to, and hamstrung by, the Council of Guardians, comprised of fundamentalist Shia clerics and judges," according to the RLC. Now, despite its ancient history in the region, Christianity is treated as a foreign religion and a threat to national security.
Since the government-ordered execution of convert pastor Hussein Soodmand in Mashhad in December 1990, the Islamic Republic of Iran has enacted a harsh crackdown against the country’s evangelical churches and various house-church movements accused of evangelizing Muslims.
Under Iran’s constitution, Islam is declared the official religion of the nation, and the doctrine followed is that of Ja'fari (Twelver) Shi'ism.
In April 2004, one Shiite cleric in the Ministry of Education declared publicly that an average of 50 Iranian young people were known to “convert secretly to Christian denominations” every day.
Dozens of evangelical Christians were arrested in a crackdown against house churches in the provinces of northern Iran in May, including one pastor detained with his wife and children. After several weeks of harsh mistreatment and interrogations, all were eventually released after being ordered to stop evangelizing and meeting for worship. They reportedly remain under close police surveillance.
The Patriarch Mar Denkha IV Meetings with the Board of Directors of the Assyrian Associations in California
There are numerous Assyrian Associations in Northern California. Among them, The San Jose Assyrian American Association, The Bet-Nahrain, Inc., The Turlock Civic Club, and a couple others.
For the past three weeks that His Holiness has been in California, only two associations extended him invitations to meet with their Board of Directors: (1) The Turlock Civic Club and (2) Bet-Nahrain, Inc.
Let it be known that no other association or organization, nor any TV Station has invited the Patriarch to be interviewed on the air, with the exception of AssyriaSat, and a Modesto Assyrian Association had extended an invitation to interview the Patriarch and to air the tape at a delayed date.
The Patriarch, not to alienate any officials and their members, declined to be interviewed live on both, AssyriaSat, and Modesto Association. However, he had accepted to meet for a tea with the Board of Bet-Nahrain, Inc., parent of AssyriaSat, just as much as had earlier met with the Board of Directors of the Turlock Civic Club.
Hoping this shall put an end to the innuendo hearsay, I shall re-emphasize that these are the only two (2) associations that had invited The Patriarch to meet with their Boards, and no others have done so.
Driven by Ill Feelings and Refusing to Argue Based on Historical References
This article is in response to Mr. Filham (Fil) Isaac's piece titled "The Continuous & Boring Saga of Divisiveness" published in Zinda, 16 February 2005 issue.
Allow me to begin by stating that a nation that does not know its past mistakes is destined to repeat them in the future. Assyrians must never forget and must become fully aware of what happened to them during those early years of the establishment of the Kingdom of Iraq in 1921. That period is very important because it shaped the realities of the future Assyrians in Iraq and how they were recognized and treated.
Now to the statements of Mr. Filham who did not leave any chance without reflecting his deep hatred toward this writer even in choosing the title of his piece. One can only look at the title of my new book "Assyrians: The Continuous Saga" that came out a few weeks ago and the title of Mr. Filham's piece.
I am not going to be involved in some mud slinging with Mr. Fil Isaac, as he claims. What I am going to say though is that one needs to challenge historical references, as he should do so by bringing his own references. By putting the two sets of references side by side, the reader can examine them both and have an opportunity to analyze and decide.
Where are Mr. Filham's references? I provided seven references about Khoshaba and his son, Yousip, in my article about these two men (Read Zinda magazine, December 15, 2003 issue). If he does not object to something that is supported by solid documents as he claimed, why is he then doing so on shear personal views? How many references did he provide in his personal piece posted last Wednesday? Do I hear zero?
Please visit Zinda magazine, December 15, 2003 issue and check the seven references provided by this writer on malik Khoshaba and his son Yousip "Yusuf".
Mr. Filham states: "This man [referring to malik Khoshaba] emerged as a leader of a most courageous band of fighters."
Nobody is questioning the courage of Khoshaba. He was courageous indeed, but also a questionable man when it comes to his mental status. He was a man of uncontrolled temper; otherwise, he would not have killed his own wife and children in a moment of anger and escape to Hakkari, Turkey. Albeit, the subject here is not about that; it is about his stand from his people when it was most necessary.
It is an undisputed fact that in 1932, malik Khoshaba met in an assembly of the Assyrian leaders before Mar Shimun was to be sent to Geneva to fight for the Assyrians' rights. He approved the agenda of how to proceed; however, he came out from that meeting, contacted the government, and switched sides. He denounced the patriarch, rejected his leadership, and proclaimed that the Assyrians were happy in Iraq. This is history. Were the Assyrians really happy in Iraq? How much of this division caused by Khoshaba and his group led to the Simele massacre is yet to be determined.
Mr. Filham states: "In national matters, solid and undisputable proof is mandatory." Then he continues to state: "Anything based on personal opinions is to be taken with a grain of salt and a person(s) propagating this kind of information are not to be trusted in reciting our history."
Well, what is it that Mr. Filham wants? I presented to Mr. Filham seven references about the topic (and added another later), yet he returns here to state: "I can hardly call it an article in that it was nothing more than cuts and pastes from the various books."
I am puzzled! Is Mr. Filham asking for historical references or evaluating my ability to write? Whether the references I provided were cut and paste or not does not change the fact that those writers have described Khoshaba and his son as people who destroyed this nation. That is the message in those cut and paste references. The references were by Assyrian and non-Assyrian authors. Additionally, they were by Assyrians from different churches and different tribes as well. Those were not my words or my personal opinion; they were the conclusion of those writers. I need to remind Mr. Filham that those writers lived in the era of Khoshaba and Yousip.
Next, Mr. Filham states: "Now to his son the late malik Yousip. This man never believed nor officially acted as the leaders of all Assyrians in Iraq."
This is absolutely false.
The biography of Yousip Khoshaba was published in Nineveh magazine (third Qtr., Vol. 23, No. 3, 2000). The biography, which praised Yousip and depicted him as a hero, states that in 1964, Yousip Khoshaba was elected by heads of the Church and the tribes as “archana d’ Atourayeh” and then as the official head of the Assyrians after the death of his father Malik Khoshaba.
Every Assyrian who lived during that time in Iraq knows that Yousip Khoshaba was acting as the head of the Assyrians in Iraq; however, it was not because Assyrians chose him, rather the government picked him for that position. The biography claimed that: "Yousip was elected around 1999 as president of the ‘Assyrian Supreme Committee’ by the 'Assyrian Preparatory Committee in the Diaspora' to demand national rights for the Assyrians in Iraq …"
Mr. Filham states: "Since the early 1980s there were many other political parties that emerged and became the guardians of the Assyrian affairs. Did he [Yousip Khoshaba] ever object to that?"
This is strange. Would Mr. Filham name one Assyrian political party that was established in regions under the Ba'ath government control? No Assyrian political group dared to operate in Iraq openly unless it was under the control of the government. The Assyrian groups that were established in this period were either underground, unknown to the public, or in north of Iraq, far away from the reach of the Ba'ath. So, what is Mr. Filham talking about? How could Yousip Khoshaba object to something that officially did not exist?
Mr. Filham next argues that Yousip Khoshaba did not split the Church of the East and that "It was the Church that split itself."
Let me say that adopting December 25 as Christmas Day instead of January 7 sparked a problem indeed. This is a well-known fact. However, the issue remained under control to some degree until Yousip Khoshaba inflamed the issue further when he initiated the process of brining the suspended Archbishop Toma Darmo from India to Iraq on September 7, 1968. On October 11, 1968, the suspended Archbishop Toma Darmo was appointed as the Patriarch of a new Church whose followers did not approve the celebration of Christmas on December 25 with the rest of the western world, thus splitting the Church officially into two separate Churches (i.e. Ancient Church of the East of 'the Old Calendar' and the Church of the East of the 'New Calendar').
Next, it was Yousip Khoshaba and the Iraqi government that closed all churches in Iraq under the exiled Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimun and delivered their keys to this new appointed Patriarch (read Mar Aprem Moken's The Assyrian Church of the East in the Twentieth Century. 2003).
Yousip Khoshaba was behind the imprisonment of a dozen of clergy and laity Assyrians in 1969. Of course, there was a short period of change in the Ba'ath policy from 1970 to 1975 towards Assyrians, Kurds, and Turkomans. That was not long lived as we know. Yousip Khoshaba resumed his authority and his evil ways after that and continued to foster that division until his death in 2000.
It is obvious that Mr. Filham is driven by ill feelings towards this writer and that is unfortunate. Fact is that we cannot satisfy the minds of everybody out there. There will always be those who will not agree no matter what a person says and no matter how many references one brings forth when making a point.
You Shouldn't Have Started This!
One thing we should all agree on is that we lost in the Iraqi Elections. Winning one seat is not winning at all, it’s actually a statement from the Assyrian and Chaldean people, saying that we need people that we trust, people that work for the unity of our nation, and for preserving the Assyrian Heritage, and the Assyrian name.
I regret very much hearing from people...suggesting that everything that goes wrong with Assyrian politics is AssyriaSat’s fault, and every thing good is a credit to ADM. I am not a follower of AssyriaSat or ADM, however I am a follower of truth, weather that comes from Mr. Kanna or Mr. Dadesho. I just wish that you guys were the followers of truth instead of so one sided and so biased.
If you think that AssyriaSat with their campaign were able to discourage people from voting and turn the people against Mr. Kanna and slate 204, don’t you think they would’ve been successful in getting more votes for 139 slate ?? Enough of this non-logical interpretation of the election results. And plus, if you think that ADM can loose so easily by TV campaign against them, then I guess they are not as popular as we’ve been hearing. Because if they had accomplishments as much we’ve been hearing for years, and if the people in Bet-Nahrain have seen the good work that ADM has done for decades, then votes would’be been there for them no matter what a US based TV station or anyone says. The fact of the matter is that yes we lost a lot of votes in the Nineveh plains, but we also lost a lot of votes because the Assyrian Nation did not vote period, and my guess is because there was no one worth voting for, or no one popular enough so people can bet on.
This is my observation. Few years ago, you ask any Assyrian about his “millat” and he or she would say “there is no difference, we are all Assyrians”. Few years ago you ask any Chaldean, they would say “doen’t matter, we are all ‘suraye’”. Which, pretty much, sounded like people were feeling like one nation, from different Church backgrounds. However, today we have Chaldeans insisting on a new “Chaldean nation” and we have the old “die hart” Assyrians who would not give up the only name they ever knew, “Assyrian”, and we have a new group that are trying to cater to all groups by sticking names together thinking this would solve the problem.
A lot of the new-name backers say enough talking about the name issue. Well, I have few words for the creators and backers of the “sticked-together-new-name”: you started the name issue, so don’t run away from it. If you can’t take the heat then you shouldn’t have started this, or even better, just backup from it for God’s sake, and let us be the Assyrians that we’ve always been, and let my Chaldean brother be as Chaldean or Assyrian as they want to be, and let the history and the future determine the name.
For now, let the politicians and leaders, even if they are self appointed, do what they have to do, because their fruits will determine who stays and who goes. As for the results of the elections, the message was “no one was worthy of winning”. That’s just my opinion.
The Man We will Continuously Pray for & Support
Mona K Oshana
In the face of the bitter sweet victory that we, the Assyrians are experiencing, we must not be disheartened by the results. We must turn to our heavenly guide (the Bible) for reassurance to be reminded as Christians the story of our salvation. I congratulate Raabi Yonadam Kanna , whom we will continuously pray for and continue to support as he carries our nation's voice to the world. True he is but one man, but let God show his Glory through this one man. As the Bible states in Romans, "Sin entered the world through one man Adam, But grace and salvation came through the one man Jesus."
Raabi Yonadam Kanna through ZOWAA has been and will be our champion!
I leave you with these passages from the Holy Bible from the book of Romans.
Chapter 5: "
Death through Adam, life through Christ. Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death
through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned-for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken
into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the
time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by
breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the
trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that
came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The
judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed
many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of
one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who
Who Would be Our ‘Braveheart’?
This nation, with all its denominations and with no exceptions, is facing its most dangerous struggle of its all times. This nation has suffered enough from its enemies and from its own sons! This nation is loosing its grounds in its own homeland and our people are fleeing to safe shores abroad. This nation is divided and torn into of all types of ugly and insignificant pieces same as those you see when you break a piece of art and nothing of the original beauty is left in any of them.
This nation must wake up and confront the danger facing its very existence today or would be vanished for ever.
We all know that we have ‘leaders’ in our nation. We all agree that they are below our expectations. We all agree that we need a miracle or may be more!
Everyone is calling for unity and everyone is calling for a national reconciliation and everyone is calling for immediate national conference but in vain.
Who is preventing all this from happening, why, for what reason and on what cost?
All nations have faced such hard times in its history and we are not different. What we need is a brave man, a woman, or a child with brave heart. That’s all what other nations had to have. We are not different than those nations and we need no more than a braveheart to take this nation to shore of peace and prosperity.
Who would raise the voice of peace to bring all these rivals to one table?
That voice I would make my all time song!
I am sure you are there somewhere and I want to tell you that we are all ready for you. Just march on and you will see the flood behind you. March on and you will see the world shaken under your feet. March on and you will see this blessed nation marching behind you for its salvation.
Just march on!
A Cry of the Wild is for the Errant Assyrians
"In republican governments, men are all equal; equal they are also in despotic governments: in the former, because they are everything, in the latter, because they are nothing." [Montesquieu]
The embryonic rise of nationalistic fervor in Iraq, after an eight-decade long dormancy, ever since its appearance on the world scene, has to pay a high price for its evolution of resurgence.
Iraq, while facing three variations of discordance is headed for decimation at best, and civil disorders at worst.
The first discord is that between the faith of two branches of Islam, the Shi'a and the Sunni.
Although they lived side by side for the past thirteen centuries, with no major conflict in the last twelve, except for some tribal skirmishes, these two ecclesiastic branches seem to be headed on the course of some sort of vendetta at press time. Long ostracized from influence in the government circles, the Shi'a branch is bent on usurping all it can from the hands of the Sunni, who have been ruling this country ever since its inception, in the late 1920s.
The second discord is between the Arabs and the Kurds.
Rejected, dejected, chased, chastised, murdered, assassinated, imprisoned and mistreated by the Central Iraq Authorities at practically all the times, with the exception of the short-lived rule by Abdolkarim Ghassem [1958-1963], the Kurds have turned all the chips around and have become the power brokers, thanks to the Gulf War, when the No-Fly Zone, encompassing all the areas the Kurds dwelled in, was declared by the Allies of the Iraq invasion. That empowered the Kurds to seek retribution and recognition for its long neglected nationalistic aspirations.
Today, the Kurds control close to the third  Parliamentary seats, and a formidable Iraq real estate, and as perceived and precipitated in earlier discourses, (see 'Theocracy vs. Democracy' in Zinda Archives, by this author), no force on earth can reclaim that territory.
"Le plus fort absorbe le plus faible, et il est le droit". (The might is right). [Guizot]
The third discord is that of the rights of nationalism for the second and the third minorities of Iraq, namely, the Assyrians and the Turkmen.
In view of the fact that the Kurds are in control of lion's share of the land, and are on the verge of placing one of their leading figures as a President of Iraq, the Assyrians, being indigenous inhabitants for millennia seek retribution and recognition, just as much as the Kurds. This opens the door for Turkmen, who, although, being new to the area, by Mesopotamia standards are also jumping on the bandwagon of perceived and distinguished nationalism.
Faced with divisive faiths and nationalistic fervors, Iraq is facing the direst consequences of an emerging democracy.
Submission to the Kurdish territorial entanglements, and the Shi'a sectarianism over another huge chunk of Iraq, is subservient to democratic ideals, on one hand, and ignoring the plight of the rights of the Assyrians and the Turkmen, on the other, thus hinges on another set of regulatory authority for Iraq.
"The claim of nationality is to the right of a local group of men to pursue happiness together, with their own ways of control to secure equality among them. Fraternal feeling is not easy of attainment unless you have been brought up together hence the part played by history in the national sentiment." [Mackinder]
o Can a true democracy shut the venues for group of men to pursue their happiness together?
o Can a true democracy disembody the essence of fraternity among its nationals at a cost of a harmonious rule?
o Can a true democracy renege on the most pre-eminent element in its theory to broaden the scope of equality?
o Can a true democracy shut the doors on the national sentiments?
The most pre-eminent steps in politics tend to become the pages of history, or historical facts, for that matter. Since history is coil-less and devout of compassion of any sort, it thus equates and parallels itself with the politics.
"…A historian, [politician] shall describe without indignation the most brutal atrocities, speak without love about the highest virtues and with his glacial eye see in social life only the manifestation of irresistible laws due to which every phenomenon occurs exactly as it inevitably had to occur." [Chateaubriand]
A sparse and often neglected inference has been in the shadows of the politicians, for a very long time. They have ignored the fact that there are variations of politics, and not necessarily all are ironed out on the same table, and with the same heat.
In Iraq these sectors of politics are viably relevant. There are nation's [pluralism] politicians, and there are national [ethnic/sectarian] politicians.
The pluralism politicians are those that covet the positions in the government that is to rule Iraq.
The ethnic/sectarian politicians are those that foment movements on behalf of their own nationalities, within the framework of Iraq.
On the surface, all politically inclined individuals are pluralists. However, the sectarians -- Sunni and Shi'a -- are vying for their own denominations on one hand, and the Kurds are vehemently nationalists first, and pluralistic second.
Where do the Assyrians and the Turkmen fit?
The Turkmen, although perhaps as numerable as the Assyrians, have two elements working against them. The first is that they are only concentrated in and around Kirkuk area. And the second is that they are referred to as being the fifth column for Turkey in general, and genealogically Turkic, in particular.
There are seven (7) areas to which they are ascribed: (1) Turkey proper; (2) Turkmenistan; (3) the three Azerbaijans of former Soviet Union: (a) Azerbaijan proper; (b) Nagorno Karabakh; and (c) Nakhijavan. There are two additional Azerbaijans: Eastern and Western Azerbaijans, both of Iran. The Turkmen of Iraq are privileged to be close cousins to all Turkic speaking inhabitants of Middle East and Asia. Culturally and linguistically, they are inseparable from all of the above.
The Assyrians, however, are not privileged with either religious or cultural regions, not only in Iraq, but, in the whole world. The only people the Assyrians tend to assimilate with are the Chaldeans, the Jacobites, the Catholic Assyrians, the Orthodox, the Syriacs, and to a certain extent the Maronites. But this last one is way out in Lebanon, and does not ascribe itself to tightly neat association with the Assyrians.
Hence, the Assyrians although national politicians at heart, have to preserve their own destiny, and their own livelihood by intermingling with other nationalities and other faiths, to reach a certain level of prominence.
Observing the simulated votes cast by the Assyrians and their co-nationals, there were about 16,000 ballots cast in the whole of Iraq for Assyrian inclined representations. No one is naïve enough to justify that only this meager number of Assyrians and their co-nationals ventured out to cast their ballots in the whole of Iraq. All results shall remain enigmatic, but one can easily assess that perhaps as many as 300,000-400,000, or more, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs and Jacobites registered and voted in January 30, 2005 election of Iraq. Where did their votes go? Obviously they cast their ballots for the Kurd, the Sunni and the Shi'a candidates.
Would any of us have enacted differently? I dare anyone to come forward and to affirm.
Assyrian politicians in Iraq are due numerous merits and accreditations. They have to walk a tightrope without a safety net. They are trying to play both, national and nation's politics. That is an impossible task even for the most astute politician to undertake.
The first set of elections [selection is more apt] is over and the governing body is going to take shape. Obviously, as envisaged long ago, the Assyrians shall have one Representative, at least, in the governing and selecting body, and with all probability, unless some drastic measures emerge, there shall be one Assyrian with a Ministerial Portfolio in the Government of Iraq. This is despite the fact that more than half of the 36,000 ballots cast for that Representative derived from overseas. Needless to say that even if there were only 1,000 votes cast, the Assyrian Representative would still have been elected [selected] for the Assyrian representation in the new Parliament of Iraq.
This is a political trend, and in a way a pay-off for goodness of the country, overall. Otherwise, how could the US and the new Iraq government claim that democracy in Iraq works, if the second largest minority, namely the Assyrians and their co-faithfuls were totally ignored in the framework of the government. The pundits of democracy, even in Washington would be obfuscated by such an event.
With pleasure and without elegy, we ought to congratulate the Assyrian politicians in Iraq, that despite all the odds, they have succeeded to portray themselves as part of their country elite.
Above all else, we ought to assess personal priorities of these Assyrian individuals. We ought not to inject our feelings upon them for opting to run as individuals, or as ideologues, instead of nationalists on all fronts of their campaigns.
They are young, talented, well educated, ardent and dedicated individuals. They have the right to chose their paths and their lives, just as much as we chose ours elsewhere.
If their preference is that of holding a title within the Government supersedes that of their national ambition, it is their right.
We have no right to judge their egocentric affiliations, unless of course, they keep hammering that their efforts are strictly nationalistic, above all else.
We have politicians of the same level in Syria, Russia, Sweden, Netherlands, Australia, in the United States, and perhaps in some other parts of the world. The only country where an Assyrian represents his nation is in Iran. Iran is the only country that recognizes Assyrians and Chaldeans as Iranian national minorities.
Our congratulations to all the Assyrian men and women, without exception, that won their seats in this election, for all the offices, and under any political ideology.
Heartiest congratulations to: Mikhail, Zumaia, Khamis, Kanna, Savadeh [Afram Sawa], Shaba, Giwargis, Hakiari, Ilya, Fello, Youkhanna, Khani, Zarro and Nasser.
As Assyrians we extend our arms to work with them, since we are willing to work for all the Assyrians and Syro-co-nationals and coreligionists of the world.
Our expectations are not that whatever occurs in Iraq is to be absorbed totally by all of the Assyrians.
Even the seats of prominence for the Assyrians on the governmental level are not a passport for Assyrian rights, plights, recognition and geographically territorial integrity and security.
In retrospect, visualizing the emblematic prominence of some Assyrians among the Iraq hierarchy as a total achievement, is vituperating their stands, as well as their deeds in a society they dwell. It would be tantamount to 'The Cry of the Wild'.
In the United States, back in the early seventies, one of the most prominent Assyrians (D-IN), served as Chairman, Congressional Commerce Committee. This was one of the highest positions anyone in the U.S. Congress could attain. He never raised a hand for Assyrian nationalism, either here, in the USA or abroad. Even today, we have a respectful and highly viable and visible (D-CA), with the Assyrian roots in the U.S. Congress. We do not, nor should we expect her to renege on her promise to work for her constituents. (See Article posted on the Assyrian Forum of November-December 2004, titled 'The Two Eshos', by this author).
There were, and are many Afro-Americans in the USA with utmost prominence in the U.S. Government. They are noted in The Supreme Court, The State Department, HEW, and in other Departments of the US Government. However, it is the NAACP that is burgeoned with the plights and the rights of all the Afro-Americans. It is just as well that the second largest minority in the USA, namely the Hispanic origin inhabitants, do not expect that the appointment of the first Hispanic Attorney General in the USA would be to their merit above all others.
NAACP is a National Lobby in the USA for the Afro-Americans, and it is duly recognized internationally, as one of the most advanced institutions in the world, and one of its late leaders, Martin Luther King was a Nobel Laureate.
Our tasks overseas are not over. They are just beginning. We must extend our invitation to Iraq Assyrians to join us, so that we can work together, as equals. We must, at all cost, convene and foment an International Lobby for Assyrians and their respected co-nationals and coreligionists, as well as Assyria.
(NEXT WEEK: 'Assyria Politics in America')
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