|The Policy of Truth||Wilfred Bet-Alkhas|
|The Assyrian Nation: Scattered but Alive||Rabin Bet-Khoodoo|
|ADO on the Occasion of the Assyrian New Year 6755|
|In Response to the Statement of the KRG-Nordic Rep
What more Does Monsignor Jammo Want?
Pastoral Responsibility Reaches into Politics
Munich: 90th Commemoration of the Seyfo Genocide
|The Plight of Iraqi Christians
The Truth About the So-Called “ACSU” in Lebanon
|Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli
|The Epoch of Ideologies||Ivan Kakovitch|
The deconstruction of the Assyrian identity in the last three years has relaxed the binding force of Assyrian nationalism, a supreme ideal for which many were inspired to lay down their lives when necessary. The creation of a new identity, namely ChaldoAssyrian or Chaldo-Assyrian, was to bring the members of the Assyrian Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq closer in their ambition to obtain greater political and cultural rights in the post-Saddam Hussein era. The results of the January 30th election signified a different outcome.
On 30 January 2005 clearly, "Chaldeans" were not interested in the advancement of an "Assyrian" or "Chaldo-Assyrian" political force in the new Iraq. In San Diego, California, the controversial Bishop Mar Sarhad Jammo did not even vote. Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, Mr. Yonadam Kanna, was the only Christian who entered the interim Iraqi National Assembly without depending on the Kurdish or Shi'ai munificence. In the days before the election, his friends in the Chaldean National Congress abandoned him and their other Chaldo-Assyrian political colleagues and joined a different election ticket. Only two weeks after the announcement of the general elections in Iraq, Bishop Jammo once again began expressing his ideals of a "Chaldean" identity in a time when unity and common understanding were essential for healing the wounds of a defeated people.
The troubling question remains: "Do Chaldeans have the same political aspirations as their Assyrian counterparts? "Western" Assyrians, often referred to Suryoyo, Syriac, or even Jacobite, proved their mutual political ambitions by accepting the term "Assyrian" as a shared political identity at the October 2003 Baghdad Conference.
Since then, individuals such as myself, resorted to inoculating a feeling of belonging to this newly constructed identity in order to empower the Christians of Iraq. The Christians of Iraq remain powerless and the Chaldeans of Baghdad, Detroit, and San Diego hardly care for a collective political power in Iraq - unless it can empower their beloved Church and improve its ties with the Vatican.
The simple truth is that most Chaldeans do not have a desire to witness the formation of an administrative or autonomous region for Christians in Iraq. Neither do they desire possible breakdown of economic alliance with their Kurdish or Arab countrymen. But Chaldo-Assyrians do. These are the Assyrians who confess to a Roman Catholic theology and an Assyrian national identity. Some Chaldeans, under the leadership of Bishop Jammo, are fashioning a new political identity, and the remaining majority simply subscribe to an Iraqi-Christian identity under the supreme authority of their Church and Patriarch.
To achieve national homogeneity one must not dilute the existing construction by introducing a new element, unless a solemn and comprehensive acceptance of this new composite identity can be quickly and effectively achieved. Both Zinda Magazine and the Assyrian Democratic Movement failed in their attempt to congeal this new identity in time for the elections in January. The policy of "Numbers over Names" failed and the political aspirations of the Syriac-speaking Christians in Iraq remain voiceless.
There remain less than ten months before the real elections for the Iraqi National Assembly or Parliament. The permanent constitution of Iraq will also be drafted in the next few months. Is there adequate time to elevate the composite identity of "Chaldo-Assyrian" without jeopardizing thousands of "Assyrian" votes in North America and Europe which could bring greater representation in the parliament? Will Chaldeans abandon an Iraqi-Christian identity for a politically-charged Chaldo-Assyrian one before the year-end?
History shows the contrary to be true.
The year 6755 may indeed be the Year of the Policy of Truth and historical integrity. "Think Assyrian" could be replaced with "Think Assyria" and the ultimate aspiration of our people be directed toward a tangible purpose and not an erratic belief. What differentiates a Chaldean from a Chaldo-Assyrian or Assyrian is the former's lack of desire for the profound realization of an autonomous territory where the indigenous people of Mesopotamia can exercise their political, cultural, and religious rights apart from the watchful eyes of a non-Syriac speaking ethnicity. For an Assyrian in Iran or Chaldo-Assyrian in Mosul the road to salvation ends in Nineveh, whereas the basis for the collective identity of a Chaldean faithful is her Church and the Patriarchal See in Baghdad.
In the next few weeks let us examine the crucial steps that will lead to a victory in the political arenas of a free Iraq. What will be the immediate and long-term consequences of following a Policy of Truth? Are we ready for transforming our political ambitions toward a "Think Assyria" creed? Tough questions that require tough answers.
A good place to begin a thorough self-examination is the following excerpt from Dr. Peter Talia's book, "Between Hope & Hopelessness" -a personal favorite - which Zinda Magazine ran back in May 2000. In the next few issues other articles from contemporary authors and intellectual observers will shed light on various opinions on the matters discussed earlier and will hopefully heal our injured spirit:
My name is Rabin Bet-Khoodoo, an Assyrian from Iran who’s living now in Canada; I’m writing this article to tell you about my life in Iran and my Assyrian heritage.
I was born in Tehran city in 1979, with a physical disability that was a spastic quad cerebral palsy, and during my childhood, I couldn't go to school in Iran, because they didn't have schools for people with disabilities, that’s why I could never I couldn't communicate with people, even with my family. When I was 4 years old I watched a movie about a woman who did not have any arms. She used to do everything with her feet. That's when I got the idea to use my feet for some things. My parents used to yell at me "Don't use your feet! You have arms. Use them!" I didn't listen to my parents. I used my toe to type because it was very fast and comfortable for me.
My younger sister was able to study and go to school. I used to watch her doing her homework. One day, using my toes, I wrote the word “water” on the floor. My parents were very surprised and happy to see this, so my father decided to leave the country, he left his job as a mould maker, because he wanted to take me to any western country so I could have a better chance at an education, and so that I might get better physically. We moved to Turkey first and we thought we could go to the USA in three months. Unfortunately, we stayed in Turkey for two years because Turkey's government told us that USA didn't need any more people. We were very disappointed, after they told us that Canada wants people and we went to the hospital for a check-up. The nurse asked my parents, "How do you know that your son is smart?" My father told the nurse, "My son knows how to play dominoes." they asked him to bring the dominoes the next day so that they could see me play. They told us that if we could prove I could play the domino game that they would let us go to Canada but if I couldn't play then we couldn't go. We agreed. The next day we went to the hospital and brought the nurses and the doctors to watch us play. I played with all my heart and I was able to beat my father five times. They were all very pleased to see that I was capable of counting and thinking for myself. It was at that time that they approved us to move to Canada. We arrived here in July/1989.
I am so glad here in Canada to have the opportunity to communicate with my family and friends. I use a device called a Dynavox. This is a machine that I can use to speak by typing on it like a keyboard with my toe. The Dynavox has a voice that speaks what I type to the people that I am talking to. My Dynavox has 21 different files for different words that I use often, for example, my address is in one file. For a few months I was embarrassed because I used my foot to talk to people, especially when I went out to the mall. My teacher told me "don't be embarrassed." I finished high school and I got my diploma, unfortunately I’m still disabled physically but thank God I’m very able to serve my nation as much as I can.
Why This Article?
Just recently I went to camp to meet other Dynavox users as well as the people who make the device. I showed other people my Dynavox. Someone heard my parents talking to me and he asked: "What language do your parents speak?" I told him that my parents speak Assyrian Aramaic. He was surprised; he said that the Assyrian Aramaic language was dead and Assyrians don’t exist! … I was hurt; I said: “No, this language is still used by Assyrians in every corner of the world”. That’s when I got the idea to write a research about our history and customs, so that the next time no body will be surprised when I’ll say I’m Assyrian and my language is Assyrian Aramaic. And this article is dedicated mainly for the non Assyrian readers to, telling them that the Assyrian nation is scattered, but alive!
* * * * * *
Long before Jesus came, Assyrians built the first civilization in the history; invented many things for the humanity such as: first alphabets (Cuneiform), glass, calendars and time, mathematics, iron, wheels, ships, bitumen, tar, sewer pipes and much more. Also Assyrians had great respect for women, and many famous personalities were women, such as our great queen Shammiram (known by Greeks as “Semiramis”).
In 612 B.C was the falling of the Assyrian empire, many Assyrians fled the plains to the north of Assyria (Today's Turkey) and they kept their traditions but a considerable part stayed in Assyrian plains around the capital Nineveh, who are today known as "Chaldeans" after they joined Catholicism in the middle of 19th century, and also many in the south of Turkey who are known today as Syrian Orthodox.
After the coming of Jesus, the Assyrian nation was the first who adopted Christianity and Assyrians established universities in Nesibis and Edessa in today's Turkey. They taught philosophy for the Arabs, Greeks and Assyrians and many people from all nations, and translated the Greek philosophy and science to Arabic and passed it to the Arab caliphs during the Islam eras, in the 15th century the Ottoman empire was established on the Assyrian, Greek and Armenian land, and the Ottomans brought the Kurds from outside to help them fighting against Iran, Kurds stayed in the region and dominated the Assyrian homeland.
Assyrian Exodus: In the last century (20th or earlier) the Assyrians were forced by the Kurds and Turks to leave their homeland. A majority of these migrations took place in Assyrian mountains and surrounding areas where 2/3 of the Assyrian nation at that time (About 600.000 martyrs) was put to death during the First World War. And also our great hero the patriarch Mar Binyamin Shimon was killed by a Kurdish leader in 1918, who invited our patriarch for a peace agreement between Kurds and Assyrians.
During this war (1914-1918) the allies created a small Assyrian army to help them in the Caucasian region and also to help in protecting the Assyrians who lived in Turkey and Iran. Agha Petros, who was the counselor of Turkey in Iran, was appointed by the Mar Shimmon family to be a leader for this army beside David Bet-Mar Shimmon. After the end of the war the British never achieved their promise of delivering a homeland to the Assyrians and Agha Petros was sent to France where he died, he was a great Assyrian hero who fought for the name of Assyria.
Back to the plains: At the end of WW1 (1918), the Assyrian highlanders and the Assyrians of Iran came to the Assyrian plains (Today’s North Iraq), and they settled around their old capital Nineveh, but this disturbed the Muslims who attacked the Assyrian refugees camps in 1920 and many troubles began between Assyrians and Arabs and that ended with a massacre for the Assyrians in August -1933 when 4000 innocent Assyrians were killed in the poor villages in north Iraq and then a big part was exiled to the western Assyrian plains (Khabur in today’s Syria), where they are still.
World War II : A big part of the Assyrian nation stayed in Iraq, and Assyrians joined the allies for the 2nd time in WW2 and saved Iraq from the Nazis in 1941 when they battled with the Iraqi army under the leadership of Rashid Al-Guelani who massacred their compatriots in 1933, and who was dealing with the Germans to occupy Iraq, and by this Japan was getting ready to expand its military existence in the region and its fleet was distributed in the Indian Ocean to the borders of the Persian Gulf, but the Assyrian victory in that battle in Habbania and Ramadi and Falluja (the middle of Iraq) saved the middle east from the axis countries and by this, the Assyrians saved the WW2 for the allies, and this is attested by the British officers who served in the RAF in Iraq, and also this was discussed in the first conference of the UN in New York after a letter was sent by the late patriarch Mar Ishay Shimon (Mar Binyamin’s nephew) detailing the achievements of the Assyrian people in spite its long and long calamities, but later the case was abandoned by the UN, the most powerful international organization.
All this didn’t come with any benefit for the Assyrians, also the world did never care about the heavy burdens of the little Assyrian nation who faced the marginalization and the cultural and political persecution during the 60s and 70s in Iraq. Till the falling of the Baath regime in April-2003, for it was forbidden to the Assyrians to mention the term “Assyrian” because they were forced to Arabism, and later in 1990s they were marginalized and persecuted by the Kurds also.
Even after the English left Iraq, the Assyrians were forced to leave their homeland; a majority of these migrations took place during the 1st and 2nd and 3rd gulf wars. During these fights, the Assyrian people walked to different countries. They brought their children with them. The children were cold and hungry. Our people walked through the mountains, which were covered by snow. Some families didn't make it. Many went to Iran. Some went to Turkey and some others were lucky and went to Europe, America, Canada and Australia. We were spread all over the world, we learned their laws and language, but we still maintain our customs. Never have we forgotten our customs and our national Assyrian language.
But Assyrians are facing many difficult problems in unifying because they are divided to many religious sects, and the theological ideologies caused many disputes among our churches, that’s why we have a name problem while in fact we are many churches (Syrian, Chaldean, Church of The East) belonging to one Assyrian nation, and this name was given from God so no body can marginalize or minimize it…
Assyrian Political Parties
“The Assyrian Democratic Organization” (ADO), established in 1957 played a great role in awakening the Assyrian people for the nationalism and today it’s active in Syria and Europe.
“The Assyrian Universal Alliance” (AUA), established in 1968, started a considerable political activism, by putting the basics of the Assyrian nationalism which should be followed up, it announced the Assyrian national flag in its first conference in France, and also raised the most important national motto, “One Name, One Leadership, an Assyrian Homeland for Assyrians”, and it was supposed to be an umbrella organization for all our political, cultural and social organizations in order to group the scattered Assyrians around the world under one leadership, this project didn’t come true till today because of many problems between our parties.
In Iraq we have the “Assyrian Democratic Movement” (ADM) since 1979, this organization has sacrificed a lot during the rule of Saddam and even under the Kurdish domination in Assyria (north of Iraq), Kurds are changing the name of Assyria to “Kurdistan” and they killed too many members of this organization that have no power but to preserve its relations with Kurds and other Iraqi groups.
“The Assyrian National Assembly” (ANA) established in 2004 in Baghdad, is asking for the recognition of the Assyrian people as indigenous ethnicity of Iraq and to return back all the confiscated lands by the Kurds, and promoting the Assyrian cause in Iraq and abroad.
And also we have many other organizations that are working but not unified yet because of many problems, we are all hoping that soon they will join together in a national conference to unify their voice in order to introduce the Assyrian cause in the international arena.
The Assyrian Flag: The Assyrian flag was decided as a symbol of the Assyrian nation in 1968 during the 1st conference of the AUA. The center of the Assyrian flag is a golden circle to represent the sun. The sun gives heat and light to sustain earth and all its living things. The light blue, four pointed star that surrounds the golden circle, represents the land, the color stands for tranquility. There are wavy stripes the stream outward from the golden center to the four corners. These stripes represent three major rivers, the Euphrates, the Tigris and Zab Rivers. The dark blue representing Euphrates, which symbolizes abundance. The red stripes represent Tigris, the blood red color standing for courage, pride and glory. The white between the stripes represents Zab River, the white stands for peace. The image of the Assyrian god Ashur is located above the blue star; this stands for him guarding the country, the flag and the nation that the flag represents. – The Assyrian flag is taken form the “Shamash” sign (the Sun God).
The Assyrian Winged Bull: We have statues known as “Assyrian Winged Bull” but the right name is “Lamasu” which is the correct name in Acadian (Old Assyrian) which meant “The Perfect Guard” for it signifies the power and wisdom: the head of a man means wisdom, eagle wings depict the most powerful creature in the sky (the eagle) and the wings on the statue symbolize the glory, the body of the statues were either of a bull (most common) or of a lion, this shows the power and strength of Assyria. The statue also had five legs which when viewed from the front made it appear to stand firmly in place but when viewed from the side it appeared to be striding forward. We have many other monuments scattered just like their owners, and preserved by the world museums, and thousands of them have been stolen after the allied forces entered Baghdad in April/2003, someday we will get them back by any mean and we have all the right to ask for them, because we own them.
The Assyrian Martyrs Day: Assyrian people took pride in what they believed in. In recent years, we no longer have a country to call our own, but we do have our language and our traditions. At one time we were given a choice, change our Christian religion and Assyrian identity or die. Unfortunately many died. Mothers saw their children dying with their own eyes. We didn't give up our religion nor our culture and identity. Today we have Remembrance Day on August 7th which has been designated Memorial Day for Assyrian Martyrs through the history. Although this is a rather recent date, it is widely accepted among the Assyrian people. Every nation needs to have a day for the remembrance of those who gave their lives for their cultural and ethnic identity. This is especially important for Assyrians, as no other people have given so many martyrs in the defense of their religious and ethnic rights.
Each time an Assyrian man, woman, or child stood up against their enemies and refused to give up their religion or language, our nation as a whole was pulled back from extinction! Even if the consequences of their actions were death. Our martyrs are the essence of our history. They defended our existence, giving up their own lives, so that we would be encouraged to preserve our culture for future generations.
Remembrance Day was meant to honor the massacres of Assyrians through the centuries. We have realized that there have been many examples in our history, which equaled or surpassed the importance of that specific date. Therefore, the current practice of honoring all martyrs on the 7th of August is important and beneficial. Each of our churches has memorials for their own particular saints and martyrs. The 7th of August should be a Memorial Day for all of these martyrs, so that we can bring the children of this nation together to honor those people and events.
When we think of martyrs we often mourn them and the events of their lives. We feel bitterness, and despair at their suffering. In the light of their sacrifices, we must develop understanding and focus on preserving the values for which they gave their lives. The swords and guns of our oppressors cannot kill our culture or our love of our nation. Instead they strengthen our attachment. There is only one thing, which can destroy our cultural, and that is the division of our own people. We have always to dedicate ourselves to preserving our culture, language, and national feelings. And we must always honor our martyrs’ memory in the most suitable way by protecting the very values for which they sacrificed their souls. We will never forget them; they are our ultimate guide for our salvation.
The Assyrian New Year: “Neesan” is Assyrian New Year; before Christ it was celebrated on 19-21 March for 12 days. All Assyrians of Nineveh and Babylon used to come to their great cities and pray to the great God Marduk. That day is special to us and we still celebrate it every year in huge numbers.
The Assyrian year starts in the equinox day (The equinox is the date when the Day equals to the night, which means exactly 12 hours day, and 12 hours night), which is not stable because it comes between 19 and 21 of March. Assyrians were the only civilization who discovered this day (The Equinox) and they discovered that nature changes starting from that date, and that date was the beginning of spring we call it Neesan but later after Christianity the Romans changed the calendar and unfortunately all the world is following them including US the Assyrians.
And many other peoples neighboring the Assyrians took the Assyrian culture and religion for the oneness of God was taken from the Assyrians who worshipped the mighty God of today, who was known as “Ashur”, and “Mardukh” in Babylon.
The Bride of the Ascension: Assyrians have a special day called Kalu D’Sulaqa, which comes 40 days after the Easter; because Jesus remained for 40 days on earth and was seen by many people before He was taken back to his heavenly Kingdom to sit at the right hand of his father God. In the springs we have a celebration for the ascension of Jesus; People come from all around to picnic in a big park. Some families try to get there as early as 4 o'clock in the morning, so they can get the best place for themselves. People bring lots of food and games. Little girls wear brides’ dresses, and have a basket to go around the park so that people will give them candy. They have a band with drums and clarinets so that everyone can dance, everyone makes a tunnel with their hands and one by one they take turns dancing through it.
Nusardel Day: This day comes 59 days after “Sulaqa” this day is a remembrance of the Assyrian god “Dumuzi” when he rise up from the dead and people should accept him after washing themselves from sins, it’s a kind of baptism before the coming of Jesus. In this day people sprinkle each other by water; they bring spray guns and anything to throw water with. People come from all around to picnic in a big park. Some families try to get there as early as 4 o'clock in the morning, so they can get the best place for themselves. People bring lots of food and. They have a band with drums and clarinets so that everyone can dance, that day it doesn't matter if you are a stranger or not, they will get you wet!
Shara: Every saint has a special remembrance day called “Shara”, in Shara everyone enjoys praying, than eating and People brings the drum and clarinet so people can dance, they bring a lamb and make wishes and donations. People like mixing the soup when the soup is boiling so that their wishes will come true. When you go to Shara and eat the food “Doukhrana” (the remembrance of a saint), you will say to those people “Alaha Kabelleh”, which means “may God accept it”. This is a tradition that was started before Jesus was crucified for our sins. When they put Jesus on the cross and He died for our sins this Dukhrana was no longer practiced, but we still like to do this because we consider that the bodies of those Saints of the church of the East after Christ, were a sacrifice (Dukhrana) for the whole Christianity too.
Assyrian Traditional Clothes: Never have we forgotten our customs and our language. Here are some of them. Our clothing style has changed, but some aspects remain unchanged. At one time we all dressed in Julih d' Khomala. That means clothes for the dance troops celebrating weddings. Then we changed our clothing, but the Tyaraeh, one of the five largest Assyrian tribes still wear them at special events like weddings. Women wore thick dresses and the men wore lots of layers of cloth. This was because when there was war they wouldn't get cold. The women wore lots of jewels wrapped their heads in black fabric called Pusheeya. Before Julih d' Khomala we had different types of clothing but Julih d' Khomala is more popular and is still worn today in some Assyrian villages. We used the drum and clarinet. Today Assyrians have stereos and cassettes to use, but we still use the drums and clarinets for special days.
Wedding Tradition: We have special customs for weddings, Before a wedding, the guy tells his parents about the girl that he loves, his Parents would go to the girl's house to Notify her parents by saying: "please hold your daughter for our son". His mother gives the girl a necklace. Everybody takes a date and all the relatives go to her house, this day is important. His family will wear a girl with ornaments and sing special songs and everybody will have a turn with the girl wear with ornaments. The grooms' family comes and visits the bride and they bring gifts and sweets to her every Sunday. On the day of the wedding, the grooms' family comes to take the bride from her home. They bring a drum and clarinet players and gifts of flowers and sweets for the bride. The family of the groom taking an item from the bride's house is a very old Assyrian tradition and it is practiced only by Assyrians in the world, I think it symbolize the lose of their daughter that is being taken from the house. The groom’s people are taking this item because she will leave and go live with her husband they all dance and sing and then the groom gets to take his bride, but when he gets to the door, the brother of the bride is there and will not let his sister go without a gift of money or gold. It is to show respect and honor to the bride and her family. The story is told however, that the littlest child of the bride's family is the one that does not want to let his sister go, so to distract the little one they give him money to go buy candy or ice cream. We still do this tradition today, but you know it can sometimes cost a lot of money.
Some people wear Assyrian clothing. Everyone waits in the door for the groom and bride to enter the hall. Everyone dances and moves, they wave their hands and special decorated veils. They all make funny sounds with their mouths, and the groom sits with the bride while people dance the “Khigga Yaqura” (The heavy dance). They also start a chain of dancers that hold each others hands. The first person puts one of their hands behind their back and the person behind them holds onto it. We use a cane decorated with beads and flowers and dance around. Everyone moves their legs and shoulders up and down. We have many dances, Khigga d'Sharra is a dance that means war, and the symbols in it are fighting between Assyrians and the enemies.
Assyrians move their shoulders enthusiastically while dancing as a significance of the courage and readiness and ability to fight with the enemies at any time, another tradition at our weddings is for the guests to try to sit in the seat of the bride or groom, who should pay money to the person in their seat to get their seat back.
After a couple's honeymoon the both parts’ parents invite both the couple for a lunch, and sometimes the bride doesn’t eat lunch as a until the groom’s parents will give the couple a present as a welcoming, and then the bride start eating.
Christmas Fast: Twenty-five days before Christmas co then pay money to the person in their seat to get their seat back. Assyrian people fast, the only thing they eat are vegetarian food. On Christmas day, everyone goes to church. People go to the oldest family members’ house first. Everyday people go visit family and friends.
Epiphany Day (Bedennkha): In our culture, on the sixth day of January every year, we take the holy cross out of water. In Assyrian, we call it Eda-D'Bedenkha, and in English this day is called the Epiphany is for Jesus' baptism. This day people go to church. They write down their names and they give money to help the church. Then a child picks a name from the box and that person gets to take the Holy Cross home for one year. We believe this is a blessing. Then the next year we do it all over again and a new person gets to be the lucky one.
The Rogation of Ninevites: We have a special fast for 3 days, during this fast we don’t eat and drink anything, we even don’t drink water, as a remembrance to Jonah’s story according to the Old Testament, when he goes to the capital city of the Assyrians and preach there to make them return to God as mentioned, and finally they fasted for 3 days.
Good Friday and Easter: Good Friday is a sad day for Assyrians; People go to visit graves with flowers. This day we don't listen to music or watch television. Easter for our people is similar to our Christmas. We only eat vegetarian food for fifty days. People go to oldest families home, and everyone visits family and friends. Assyrian children take pretty eggs home. They have a game where people try to break each other’s eggs for fun; if your egg breaks I can take your eggs and eat them all. Assyrian people wait on Red Sunday for their happy Easter. Red Sunday is when Jesus rises up from the dead.
Gayyasa rituals: Every Monday following Easter, Assyrians use to remember their dead people and they named this day by “Gayyasa” (In Neo-Assyrian), which means “a bandit”, referring to the both bandits that were crucified with Jesus because the Jews and Romans wanted to insult our lord by punishing him with bad people. And before Jesus die, one of those “Gayyaseh” asked him to save him and his friend and himself if he is really the Christ (Lukas: 23:39), but the other bandit told him that they both (he and his friend) deserved the punishment unlike Jesus who is innocent (Lukas: 23:41), than he asked Jesus to accept him in his heavenly kingdom (Lukas: 23:42) so Jesus told him “Today you’ll be with me in Paradise” (Lukas: 23:43). And this bandit’s name was “Titus”. The Assyrians celebrate this in a symbolic method, considering that Jesus gave Titus a password to the heaven, and this password was “Cross”, so when Titus died, he was trying to enter the Paradise but the angel guard stopped him and asked about the password, so Titus said “Cross”, so the angel accepted him immediately, and that’s why Assyrians mention their dead people and act this story in the church praying for their dead people to enter the Paradise, just like Titus who was forgiven by Jesus.
The funeral in the Assyrian tradition defers than other people, and this ritual continues for 3 days as the following:
In the first day, the clergy prays to bless a water that the body should be washed by, and this pray is called “Burakh Miyya” (Water Blessing), then volunteers would take this water to the dead house and wash it’s body, and than the priest prays a special prayer from a book called “Taqsa D’Aannideh” (Prayers for the dead), and then the body would be taken to the church were special prayers and hymns will be recited, and then the body will be taken to the cemetery where the priest will pray the “Khutama” and will mark a cross on the cemetery, from up to down then left to right. Then everybody come back to the house of the dead and the priest again will pray on a water then this water will be sprinkled on the bed where that person died, and everybody washes his hands to get purified from the filthiness of death, then they eat something blessed by the priest as a holy Eucharist for the mercy to the dead person’s soul, and this Eucharist is known in Assyrian language as “Gulitha”.
The Second day, a prayer begins at noon (12:00 O’clock) and another Eucharist is done in the church hall or in the house of the dead person, today this day is celebrated only in the villages in the Assyrian homeland.
The Third Day, volunteers (only women) wake up early and take blessed water and incense and candles, and then they make fire near the cemetery and perfume it with incense, and then friends and parents go to the cemetery too and sprinkle the blessed water on the cemetery, and this act signifies the perfuming of Jesus’ cemetery by the Nard perfume after 3 days of his death, then the priest prays the final prayer, and this time he’ll mark a cross on the cemetery from Down to Up, then from Right to left, unlike he marked it in the first day (See above), and this means that the soul has ascended to the paradise, and finally all return to the church where they will make the last Eucharist and pray to the God to rest his soul in peace.
Today there are some Assyrians not practicing their rituals as before because they are scattered in Diaspora where they live in cities with foreign people and this influenced on the Assyrian culture, and today Assyrians have a well-established media and political organizations that are still trying to preserve the Assyrian existence in the homeland despite the spiteful surrounding societies.
So we still have hope and faith in God and the Assyrian nationalism as well, and as long as the national feeling exists, we still have hope that someday the Assyrian flag will flap in our homeland Assyria when we’ll get our self determination rights. We would give anything so that we could once again have a country to call our own and establish again the Assyrian state to share in building this wonderful world beside other nations, and it’s the world obligation to preserve this indigenous ethnicity from disappearing. The world should recognize and help us, we don't have a country but we have a name, an identity and a history that is “Assyrian”, we are proud being Assyrian.
Assyrian Democratic Organization
26 March 2005
Dear countrymen in the homeland and Diaspora,
It has become a tradition in the Diaspora and the homeland to celebrate annually our national day , the New Year , on the first day of Nissan (April), in various public celebrations that represent in their symbolism and meaning the victory over all forms of tyranny and oppression and the determination of our people to keep on living , drawing inspiration from the renewal of nature and rebirth of Tammuz , a new resurrection and potential to recreate and persist. The first of Nissan (April) and the celebration of our people in nature, come to confirm the continuity of our people’s contribution and creativity, its civilized national presence and adherence to its roots and homeland throughout ages from Sumer, Akkad, Assyria , Aram, Babylonia ending up with the Christian era.
Dear brothers and countrymen,
Pressures and threats are increasing on Syria these days , aiming at reconstructing the new Middle East to suit the US strategy as a sole superpower in the world , and further consolidating its hegemony on the area and imposing its agenda and vision, through breaking down all the strongholds and barriers of rejection to its policy . Now , all the indications show that Syria is the next target . No doubt, the ability to confront these threats is waning, with no change and reforms in the offing, especially that , these pressures are accompanied with winds of liberty and democracy that is sweeping the area and finding extremely enthusiastic and receptive reactions amongst all sectors of the Syrian society.
The decision by president Bashar al-Assad to pull out the Syrian troops from Lebanon in response to the UN resolution and the desire and interest of both Lebanese and Syrian people was a step in the right direction , that would strengthen the independence and sovereignty of the two countries , help establish best relations between them and further ease the pressures to a large extent, if not completely stop them.
As a matter of fact, the rehabilitation of the domestic internal situation and putting it in order would , no doubt , strengthen the country and make it immune to the threats and pressures, as well as would break its isolation , and help her restore its role as a member of the international community alongside the modern democratic developing countries . Thus , priority must be given now to the reform of the internal situation . Arrangements should be made for real general reconciliation in the country , far from demagogic calls for reform coming from outside .On top of these arrangements comes , an invitation for holding a broad-based national dialogue convention called and presided by the president of the country , that would involve all components of the political forces in Syrian society, aiming at debating the different issues with transparency , objectivity and high sense of responsibility and seeking to find the best means and ways to bring to life the ailing reform process , through a new reform policy that would consider the political reforms in the country as an introduction for general reforms in all sectors , and within a course that would lead to the renewal and revival of political life, through releasing general freedoms , broadening involvement in political life , issuing a modern democratic law for political parties that would take into consideration the political ethnic and religious diversity in Syria, as well as putting an end to political monopoly and further , consolidating the concept of citizenship and resolving the problem of ethnic diversity within the national framework, on the basis of real democratic principles via constitutionally recognizing our people alongside other ethnicities . Besides , the emergency law as well as all the exceptional courts and laws should be revoked . Political prisoners , amongst them our brothers , who have been arrested against the backdrop of Hassake's events should be released . These steps only ,when taken , national unity can be reinforced and a strong , stable and flourishing country capable of confronting the various challenges, can be built.
While in Iraq , our people like all others , has been through very difficult times owing to the loose security situation and the control of terrorists and killers on the streets of Iraq . Their churches and holy places have been targeted and attacked , many of them have been martyred and many others displaced with the aim of ethnic cleansing . Nevertheless , and in an admirable experiment , that expressed their thirst for freedom and democracy , millions of Iraqis challenged the forces of darkness and terror and participated in the first real parliamentary elections in Iraq’s history . In spite of that , the results of this election did not live up to the expectations and ambitions of our people and did not reflect its true representation because of the splits and divisions amongst them on one hand , and depriving many of them of the right to vote in many towns and villages of Nineva plain on the other, due to the partiality and one-sidedness of these elections and the agreement between the Election's High Commission and influential parties in the area to diminish and further eliminate the role and participation of our people . The democratic experience can not be corrected by diminishing the rights of minorities and depriving them of their rights , or by subjecting them to the will of the powerful parties . The best model of democracy is , that which guarantees the rights of minorities . Hence , the rights of our people and the other minorities must be safeguarded in the permanent constitution . We take the opportunity of our feast to call upon our people's various factions and institutions in Iraq, to draw lessons from previous experiences and to unify their forces and speech in preparation for the next elections, the most important of which are, the upcoming parliamentary elections and the permanent constitution drafting commission.
Whereas in Turkey and after long years of tyranny , oppression, ethnic and religious discrimination practiced against our people with the aim of displacing them from their historical towns and villages , the authorities, and in their endeavor to enter the EU , have permitted , our people for the first time , to celebrate their national day , the Assyrian New Year. The initiative to hold this celebration was taken by the community council of the Syriac church in Tur Abdin , this is considered an exemplary step reflecting the true conscience and feeling of our people . Our people everywhere is looking forward to generalizing this experiment so that churches everywhere would take part in one of our most important celebrations .
No doubt , the permission by Turkey to hold this celebration is a positive step , but not a sufficient one to atone for crimes committed against our people. Turkey must reconcile with its past at least its near past , and this can be done only through recognizing the genocide perpetrated by her against our people and the Armenians during the II world war, and further, by its acceptance of all the binding obligations according to the international law resulting from this acknowledgement , such as the right of return , reclaiming the possessions , compensations and legal and constitutional guaranties , in addition to a formal apology.
In Diaspora our people and institutions have shown great dynamism and vitality during the past year in defending and interacting with our various issues and were able to knock the door of international bodies to explain our cause to them , this was revealed through the institutional and political efforts as well as demonstrations and rallies and attempts to promote and build up better relations with governments , parliaments and international organizations and human right societies . As a matter of fact ,these accumulated experiences and remarkable connections are considered a great support for the cause of our people , if invested correctly .
The 1st of April is a festival of nature , a deep –rooted national feast . Our people is looking forward to considering this occasion , a national day for all components of our society .
Finally on this occasion we extend our warmest congratulations and best wishes to all our people in the homeland and Diaspora.
On March 16, 2005, the KRG-Nordic Representation issued a statement in connection with the many complains of Assyrian (ChaldoAssyrian) Christian groups in the Diaspora. The KRG statement condemned the attacks on Christians throughout Iraq and stressed that the Kurds have no control of what terrorists commit in regions beyond their northern Iraq authorities. The securing in central and southern Iraq is indeed a problem; however, north of Iraq has its own problems but these problems are suppressed and do not find their way into world media. This is a well planned policy by the United States to reflect a rosy image of the Kurdish authorities and the KRG.
Fact is that the acts of terror, political assassination, abduction, rape, forced evictions, and marginalizing against non-Kurdish groups in north of Iraq are well documented since 1992 as the local Kurdish government was created.
The statement of the KRG declares that in the 1992 elections for Kurdistan National Assembly five seats were allocated to the Christians of the region. I need to emphasize that the assignment of the five seats in north of Iraq regional government in 1992 was only to show to the West that the Kurds were treating the Assyrians fairly; it was good policy. However, the Kurds do not publicize how they manipulated the 1992 election to allow one of their puppets to win one of those five seats. They used that puppet ever since to undermine many issues presented by the other four representative Assyrians in the north of Iraq regional parliament. The acts of Kurdish leadership in north of Iraq (occupied Assyria) since 1992 have been anything but democratic. Christian officials or ministers like Sarkis Aghajan Mamendu and Yousif al-Qas Hanna are KDP members. They report to and work for the KDP and not for Assyrian concerns.
The statement mentions about the assistance of KRG in Syriac schooling expenses, which is a positive point; however, we know that this was not the whole picture. Assyrian schools had many problems in printing curriculum that were always delayed, providing school buses, and paying for all substitute teachers and other matters. Without legally instituting the rights of Assyrians as ethnic group and as the indigenous people of north of Iraq, schools alone prove very little as they could be closed prior to any notice. Furthermore, the renovation and restoration of churches in north of Iraq is another point brought up by the said statement. Fact is that a lot of money has been donated by Christian foreign aid to the Kurds and if Kurds were to renovate some churches, then that is the least they could do. For Kurdish leadership it is a good policy to pay some attention to churches in order to shine their image in front of Christian groups in Europe and the United States. Furthermore, Christianity was never a problem for Kurds. Assyrians are Christian Kurds after all as far as many Kurdish writers and intellectuals are concerned. These writers and intellectual are simply implementing the Kurdification of Assyria and Assyrians, which is a fundamental policy of the KDP and its leadership. What the Kurdish leadership is failing to do is protect the national rights of the ethnic Assyrians (ChaldoAssyrians).
In its statement, the KRG states: "The January 30 elections, three Christian political groups joined the Kurdistan Alliance List (Assyrian National Party, Chaldean Democratic Union and Bait Nahrain Democratic Party). Because of this inclusion in the Kurdistan coalition, Christian candidates managed to enter into the Iraq Transitional Assembly." Fact is that all the above mentioned groups were created by the KDP and are run indirectly by Mas'uad Barazani. The four Christians that won seats in Iraqi National Assembly due to this cooperation have obligations primarily to KDP and not to Assyrians (ChaldoAssyrians). Furthermore, it was the Kurdish involvement that prevented the ChaldoAssyrians in the Nineveh Plain from voting, thus, the Kurds made sure that the Assyrians (ChaldoAssyrians) of northern Iraq will have no say in the writing of the constitution. The KRG denial of Kurdish involvement is simply untrue. How could the KRG explain how neighboring Kurdish villages did not face the same problems?
The statement declares that the Kurds are cooperating with other groups to establish a democratic society. The Kurdish actions in north of Iraq (Assyria) are anything but democratic. Anyone who does not subscribe to the policies of the KDP has no chance to operate in north of Iraq. This is the simple reality in the region and everybody knows it.
I present the following facts:
The KRG is naturally defending itself and what it stands for. However, its statements are not truthful. The Assyrians living in regions controlled by the KDP are under complete threat. They fear, like everybody else in the region, the KDP's reprisal acts if they did speak out about Kurdish leadership oppression. It is for that reason that oppressive policies, atrocities, unfair treatment, rape, forced abduction of women, illegal confiscation of lands and other acts against the Assyrians are not introduced by the Assyrians in north of Iraq but are communicated to those in the Diaspora who are free to publish them.
What more Does Monsignor Jammo Want?
After reading the article, "What is Happening Between Chaldeans and Assyrians" in the last edition of Zinda, I was surprised to see that many facts were omitted from the article. Luigia Storti states that Mr. Yonadam Kanna’s "appointment soon created irritation, especially among members of the Chaldean Church, who, strong of their representing the majority, ask for their own representation in the governmental structure." It seems that one key point is missed here - the actual election that took place. We are all aware of the fact that their were voting irregularities in Iraq, although if members of the Chaldean Catholic Church were so "irritated" that Kanna was appointed then why didn’t they take part in the OCV election and elect someone from a Chaldean backed party? Well, the fact is that they didn’t and Mr. Yonadam Kanna was elected (democratically) to the Iraqi Parliament hence quashing the notion that the Chaldean’s were irritated.
Monsignor Jacques Isaac states that the Assyrian Church of the East does not recognize the Roman Pope. Perhaps the Monsignor has missed the fact that the Assyrian Church of the East does recognize the Pope and has in fact even set up a dialogue committee which meets every few years. The Assyrian Church of the East until now does not recognize the SUPREME authority of Pope John Paul because it doesn’t need to. It already has its own Patriarch, prelates and Church structure. When dialogue between the two churches has completed and broken the barriers that exist and the Roman Catholic Church decides that the two churches can come into full communion then yes, the Assyrian Church will recognize the Pope as supreme. Until that time there is frankly no need to.
When reading the comments of Monsignor Sarhad Jammo I found them to be rude, insulting and in fact strongly ignorant of the situation. Monsignor Jammo decides to ignore the historical fact - the name "Chaldean" was imposed on Assyrians converting to Catholicism by the Roman Catholic Church in order to “divide and conquer” the community and to distinguish Assyrians from the new word Chaldeans. This point was even recognized by the late Mar Bidaweed I who declared that he was an Assyrian from an ethnic point and a Chaldean from a religious one!!! Hence, what is the argument?
Monsignor Jammo is no more than an old fashioned “meddling” bishop who personally angers me greatly. What sort of a member of the Clergy creates division of a frankly trivial point; a name! The Assyrian community even gave in to an incorporated name "Chaldean" into their ethnicity. What more does Monsignor Jammo want? It is obvious that he only wants the word "Chaldean" to represent all people in Iraq. He should get off his “high horse” and accept that every body has to make concessions and that he must accept the term "Assyrian-Chaldean" and forgot this old rivalry that is so stuck to the minds of some of the Clergy.
The article states that Chaldeans outnumber Assyrians in Iraq although neglects to mention that Assyrians around the world greatly in some cases out number Chaldeans!
It is unfortunate that after the passing of great hearted and progressive Mar Bidaweed I the "meddling" bishop has jumped at the opportunity to criticize the Assyrians; the members of the oldest church in Iraq and in the world and the original inhabitants of Iraq and the Middle East. If the Assyrian Church of the East is willing to continue dialogue the Chaldean Church with or without the "meddler" Monsignor Jammo then the Chaldean Church should jump at the chance.
Further more, if Assyrians are willing to accept Assyrian-Chaldean then the Chaldean Church in particular Monsignor Jammo should accept it. We should all remember that nobody can get everything the way they like, sacrifices must be made. In this case; over the history and unity of the oldest churches in the world and the important remaining to Christianity in the Middle East and Iraq surly it is worth it!
Pastoral Responsibility Reaches into Politics
Happy Assyrian New Year to all of you. Around this time each year, the debate regarding the proper day to commemorate the new year always arises. First of all, it is undeniable that in the ancient Assyrian calendar, Neesan began on the first day of spring. Neesan does not mean April, but when we adopted the Christian calendar, we somehow decided to equate Neesan with April. If you ask any Assyrian today what the word Neesan means, he or she will most likely say that it means the month of April. The Assyrians of antiquity lived long before the emergence of Christianity, and so to suggest that the new year that they celebrated was on April 1st is incorrect. However, I really don't think this debate about the true Assyrian New Year is such an important issue. Some Assyrians chose to celebrate the new year on the first day of spring, while others choose to celebrate it on the 1st of April. I don't think this is such a pressing issue that will divide our people. Indeed, there are
For example, we the Assyrian people must come to terms with our ineffectual and disappointing role in the Iraqi elections of January 30th. We have only 1 representative from an Assyrian ticket, where we should really have at least five or six. Fortunately, these elections were for a transitional assembly, and so we have an opportunity to correct this error in December 2005. We must form a drive to mobilize as many Assyrians as we can to vote. Voting is more important than any financial donation we can make, or any prayer made in church, and so on.
Unfortunately, people won't listen to me, but they will listen to revered figures like Mar Dinkha and other bishops. Assyrians listen to religious figures before they will listen to anybody else. If a priest or bishop asks people to donate money for renovating a church parking lot, they'll oblige. When these religious figures say that they should not meddle in Assyrian politics, I only remind them that historically the cornerstone of our identity has been our religious faith. The Assyrian nationalist movement is currently still in its infancy, but the connection with religion that Assyrians have has been there for so long. Without a homeland with set boundaries, the Assyrians have turned to their religious leaders for guidance. The Shiites of Iraq are virtually identical to us in this respect -- do you think the January election would have been so successful had Ayatollah Sistani not encouraged the Shiites to vote??
In the United States, men of God like Pat Robertson, Jerry Fallwell, and Billy Graham have exerted powerful influence in the political spectrum. In the 2004 election, Christian leaders of all denominations encouraged people to vote for the candidate that is pro-life and anti-gay; and they did just that.
To all the bishops, I say this:
Your people need you. We have missed out on so many opportunities in the 20th century with regard to greater Assyrian representation. We may never again get the opportunity that we have now. It is time to take advantage of it. Help to mobilize our Assyrian people throughout the world. People will listen to you because your power in our community is undeniable. When any bishop comes to a church from overseas or across the country, people flock many miles to see him. Such courtesy is not extended to our political leaders, but that is just the reality. You have the power, and I beg of you to start using it. Get involved, or else we may never have a voice in the future of Iraq.
Munich: 90th Commemoration of the Seyfo Genocide
A joint invitation by the Pontic Greeks (Association of Greeks from Pontos) and Assyrians (Assyrian Democratic Organisation) has been issued on the occasion of the 90th Commemoration Day of the Genocide of the Christians in Turkey covering issues related to Armenians, Assyrians, Greek from Pontos from Minor Asia and Thrakia.
P R O G R A M
Saturday, 16 April 2005
Sunday, 17 April 2005
Memorial Service at the Greek-Orthodox Church,
After the Church the Munich city council member Theo Gavras will speak about the Genocide of the Pontic Greeks
Registration can be faxed to 089 - 48 95 13 39 or email here.
Lena Yakobova's Film at Columbia University
The documentary film made by the young PhD candidate, Ms. Lena Yakobova of Yerevan State University, called "Assyrians in Armenia," will be screened at the 10th Annual World Convention of the Association for the Study of Nationalities (ASN)
The ASN convention, held at Columbia University, runs from 14-15 April 2005. The topic this year is "Understanding Nationalism: Identity, Empire, Conflict."
The Assyrian documentary will be shown on April 16th at 2:45 pm followed by a Q &A discussion of the film led by Dr. Eden Naby.
For more information about the screening, purchase of the DVD, and information about this quiet but energetic young film-maker, click here.
Prof. Anahit Khosroeva Presents Findings in UCLA
After Nine Decades: the Enduring Legacy of the Armenian Genocide
University of California, Los Angeles
UCLA Campus, Moore Hall 100. Parking Structure 2 (Hilgard Avenue at Westholme)
Saturday, 2 April 2005
Panel Discussion: The Armenian Genocide in Comparative Perspective
Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli
The kidnapping of Archbishop Basil Georges Casmoussa on January 17, 2005 in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, and his subsequent release the following day, highlighted the plight of Iraqi Christians, like other Iraqi communities, facing threats from Islamist terrorists bent on plunging Iraq into ethnic conflict.
Deep Roots and Current Violence
The Iraqi daily Al-Mada recently carried a report about the ruins of what is believed to be the oldest Eastern Christian church, discovered in 1976 by an archeological team in the desert west of the holy Shi'ite city of Karbala. The church, known as Al-Qusair Church, was built in the 5th century, 120 years before the appearance of Islam and almost two centuries before the spread of Islam in what is known today as Iraq.
The church (53x13 feet) had fifteen arched doors. Inside archeologists found remnants of an altar and gammadion crosses. There were two small cemeteries, one within the church walls intended for the priests and one outside the walls for other church members.
During the Saddam regime, the eastern side of the church was converted into a training target for an artillery unit of the Iraqi army. A number of unexploded shells have been found within the church's perimeter. After the fall of Saddam, the tombs were desecrated by looters, who hoped to find gold buried with the dead. The Iraqi Department of Antiquities has recognized the historical significance of the church, and restoration and preservation are being considered.
The Iraqi Christians
Iraqi Christians represent three percent of the Iraqi population (which is estimated at 26 million). The overwhelming majority of Iraqi Christians belong to the Chaldean Catholic Church - the Iraqi branch of Roman Catholicism. Chaldean Catholics are also known as "Assyrians." The patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church has clarified that "Assyrian" is an ethnic identity and "Chaldean" is a religious one. There are other churches in Iraq, including the Roman Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, Nestorian and Armenian. However, the distinction between these churches is not really understood by most Iraqi Muslims, who look upon all Christians as "People of the Book," as they are referred to in the Koran.
Under the secular Ba'th regime, the Christians in Iraq, who presented no threat to Saddam, enjoyed considerable religious freedom. In an interview with the Arabic-language London daily Al-Hayat, the Latin Patriarch in Iraq, Jan Suleiman, said that whenever Saddam Hussein was approached regarding a problem affecting the Christian education system in Iraq, he would intervene to resolve it.
Violence Against Individuals
The high level of violence in Iraq has affected every sector of the Iraqi population, and Christians are no exception. Christians, however, have been specifically targeted by Islamists, who either accuse them of collaborating with the "invading crusading army" or label them infidels. As Islamist pressures mounted in Iraq, following its occupation, Christian businesses were destroyed, Christian university students were harassed and Christian women were forced to wear the veil. 
Suspected of Collaboration
Most Christian children attend Christian schools, where the teaching of a foreign language, primarily English, is a high priority in the curriculum. It is therefore understandable that the multinational forces have tapped the Christian community for office and translation work. However, the Christians are concerned that a prolonged occupation of Iraq by the multinational forces under the command of the United States will only heighten the accusations that they are collaborating with an occupation "originating from a Christian country."
Recently, the unidentified "Brigades for the Liquidation of Christian Agents and Spies" has threatened to liquidate those working with the multinational forces and to "pursue them in their homes and churches." In placards posted in Christian areas, the Brigades wrote:
"The Christian minority enjoys peace and security in the land of the Muslim and in our country in particular. Its members have held senior positions in the State. But their malevolence toward Muslims became evident when the occupier entered our country. He found great support among them in the form of translators and agents who acted as informers against Muslims. Their churches receive evangelist groups. They spread moral corruption and pornography in our streets. Muslims have been arrested, women raped and houses destroyed as a result of Christians being agents of the occupiers."
Violence Against Churches
In August 2004, five churches, one in Baghdad and four in Mosul, were hit in one day, in a coordinated attack that killed 12 people. In October, five churches in Baghdad were hit on the first day of the Muslim month of Ramadan. In November, eight people were killed in two church bombings. The August attack on churches was followed on September 10 by mortar attacks against the Assyrian town in Bakhdeda (also referred to as Qarqosh ) in the Ninevah Governorate in northern Iraq.
The Destruction of Businesses
With the public sector and the military all but closed to them, Christians have focused on the services sector of the economy and retail business. Because of Islamic restrictions on alcohol consumption, Iraqi governments have limited the liquor retail business to Christians, who, in turn, have been meeting an obviously high demand for alcoholic beverages among a large segment of the Iraqi Muslim population. In fact, a considerable amount of money under the "Oil for Food Program" was used by the Saddam regime for the import of the most expensive brands of alcoholic beverages for Saddam Hussein, his sons, and the high echelons of the secular Ba'th ruling party. At one time, the Coalition Provisional Authority was contemplating a public auction of high quality vintage wine and champagne found in the cellars of the palaces of Saddam, his sons, and their cronies.
Shortly after the fall of Saddam, Islamists, who took control of the streets of many Iraqi cities, began to target Christian owners of liquor stores. They first ordered the owners to close their businesses; if the owners failed to comply, the Islamists gutted the stores and often killed the owners. An example is liquor merchant Bashir Toma Alias, who was shot in the head in the center of a bazaar in Basra while on his way home to celebrate Christmas.
Writing about the "deplorable attack against Chaldean Christians in Iraq," the Chaldean New Agency wrote on October 7, 2004:
"Not only did those heinous crimes result in the loss of innocent lives, but worse, they have created tremendous hardships for those Chaldean families whose very livelihood were attacked. With a lack of alternative jobs, many of them are currently living off the charitable contributions of the local Chaldean churches."
The report goes on to warn that unless these "Islamic terrorists" are brought to justice, "Iraqi Chaldeans will continue to be an easy target for such criminals who are bent on imposing their distorted version of Islam by force."It was reported that in the southern city of Basra, the second largest city in Iraq, armed Shi'ite groups with names such as "The Revenge of Allah," "Hizbullah," and "The Organization of Islamic Doctrines," roam the streets to mete out "Islamic punishment" on traders and users of alcohol, as well as on prostitutes. Four hundred Christian stores were closed. According to Faysal Abdullah, the head of the Organization of Islamic Doctrines, Islam "rewards those who seek martyrdom and who were designated by Allah to uproot vice."
Often the police stand idly by in the face of crimes committed in their presence because they are afraid of the armed Islamists or because they sympathize with their aims.
The Christians complain that after they were driven out of the liquor business by Islamist groups, Muslims have taken over the business and continue to sell liquor publicly.
The Islamists have also targeted barber shops run by Christians because the Islamists object to haircuts and to shaving.
Harassment of Students
Christian students at Iraqi universities are also subjected to harassment and often to violence. At the University of Mosul, the second largest university in Iraq, 1,500 Christian students recently decided to suspend their studies because of threats to their lives by Islamists who have taken control of the university. Because many of these students traveled to campus in buses from outside the city, they were afraid that their transportation would be bombed if they persisted in attending the university.
A survey among Christian students carried out by the Iraqi daily Al-Mada has found similar sentiments among Christian students attending other institutions of higher learning in Iraq. They do not understand why they are being victimized. Anna Mirfit Boutrus, a 22-year-old student at the Technological University of Baghdad, expressed her distress:
"Why do the terrorists want to prevent us from performing our religious rites? Why do they bomb our churches? Why do they want to kill us… What have we done to them? We are citizens of this land. This is our country. We will not give it up and we will not replace it with another."
For female Christian students, there is incessant pressure to wear the veil or put their lives in jeopardy.
Christians celebrated Christmas in their homes, for fear of attacks. Most churches avoided the traditional midnight Mass or large gatherings of church goers. Indeed, the churches called upon their parishioners to avoid coming to churches on Christmas out of concern for their safety. Asked to comment on the situation on the eve of Christmas, Patriarch Emanuel III, the Patriarch of Babylon, responded:
"As leaders of the Christian communities in Iraq, we are pained by what has happened to our country. There is destruction of our people, resources, buildings and churches. We grieve the tragic death of many of our children and the injuries and psychological shocks suffered by others. Many of our citizens were subject to humiliating kidnapping, thefts, and expulsion."
Sister Warda of the Daughters of Mary Convent commented that the cancellation of Christmas celebrations must be viewed in perspective. She said: "We cannot celebrate in isolation of what our relatives and brothers are subjected to in our wounded country."
Conversion to Islam
Chaldeans also complain about pressures to convert to Islam. When a parent converts to Islam all minors in the family are forcefully converted regardless of the wishes of the other parent.
Leaving the Country
The plight of Iraqi Christians is part of a rapidly deteriorating situation that is forcing Christians throughout the Middle East to seek refuge in the West. A recent article by Majid Aziza in the Iraqi daily Al-Zaman, a newspaper with a long-standing liberal pedigree, highlights the plight of Christians in the Arab and Muslim world:
"Christian natives of Arab countries are escaping their countries of origin. Statistics show that a large number of them have emigrated to countries which offer them and their children greater security, such as the United States, Canada, Australia and some European countries. The reason is the harassment to which they are subjected in countries they have inhabited for thousands of years. Sometimes the harassment originates from the regime; at other times it comes from extremist groups."
Saddam and the Iraqi Christians
On the one hand, Saddam Hussein supported Christian education; on the other, he forced Christians out of their villages in the north as part of the Arabization of Kirkuk and its environs. Many other Christians opted to leave their villages in the north because of the unsettled conflict between the Kurds and Saddam's regime. Now harassment by Islamists is forcing these transplants to return to the villages of their ancestors in the north. In the words of one person who plans to relocate: "Some of the Muslims consider us infidels. We are being targeted. They will eat us alive." For Christians who have left Iraq, Syria remains the preferred country for temporary residence for two reasons: first, no visa is required and second, it provides security at a low cost of living. Jordan is another country populated by a large number of Iraqi Christians.
Voting in the Elections
In a meeting with a Christian delegation, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani denounced the attacks on the churches and called upon Christians to participate in the elections to ensure maximum participation. Al-Sistani has also been quoted as saying that he would have no objection for a Christian to be elected president of Iraq if he met the appropriate qualifications.
There were no fewer than eight Christian parties that competed in the January 30 elections. The Christians were determined to vote because they believed an elected government would provide them with a measure of security they now lacked. They also counted on massive participation of Iraqi Christians in the Diaspora to vote for their parties. The low rate of participation in the elections of Iraqis in exile must have been disappointing to the Christians.
In the elections, one Christian party, the National Rafidain, received approximately 37,000 votes, entitling it to one seat in the 275-seat assembly.
The low turnout of the Christian voters was involuntary. Many of the Christians live in Sunni provinces, particularly in Ninevah and Salahudin in the so-called Sunni triangle. Tens of thousands of Christians who intended to vote discovered on election day that the Independent Elections Committee did not provide ballot boxes in these two provinces because of security concerns. Christians complained that tens of thousands of their community were in essence disenfranchised, particularly in the city of Mosul, for no fault of their own. Many others may have sought the security of their homes rather than risk violence while going out to vote.
The Truth About the So-Called “ACSU” in Lebanon
Days ago, some media sources published about a commemoration held by a so-called “Assyrian Chaldean Syrian Union in Lebanon” (ACSU) in February/27/2005 for remembrance of some Assyrian nation’s martyrs, which ACSU considers to be a group of sects.
Regardless of the event’s significance and its noble meaning, however, it’s important to explain what’s going on behind the scenes, specially that this concerns the Assyrian people in Lebanon and abroad as well, and we have been used to for decades now when few parties take advantage of the martyrs’ blood for their propaganda interests.
The aforementioned commemoration was nothing but propaganda for the GHB (Bet Nahrain Freedom Party) and for the mockery of a name which is being used today under the false banner of “unity”, this was clearly obvious in cramming martyrs names of all denominations in one occasion so that they can use the trio name.
This commemoration was GHB propaganda for it didn’t take into consideration except its martyrs, forgetting other parties’ martyrs specially those of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, those who were killed by the Iraqi regime and the others who were treacherously killed while their files remain closed till this moment.
Thus the absence of The Church of The East from such a commemoration was due to the belief in the Assyrian identity realizing the meaning intended.
The so-called ACSU doesn’t exist and isn’t formally recognized so any one can sue the organizers for holding assemblies and issuing bulletins without authorization.
This union is actually an image for the GHB which has been trying since some time now to operate on the Lebanese arena, so when it didn’t find any institution to work through it purposely controlled the weakest link “The Assyrian Cultural Association in Lebanon” which was founded with the help of a handful of dedicated Assyrians lead by the late Dr. Hanna Salman.
The GHB took advantage of the internal and financial crisis of the Assyrian Cultural Association to persuade its former president, then the same party suggested to me personally, the removal of the Assyrian name and renaming the association as the “Bet Nahrain Cultural Association” (indirectly through the former president) but when I refused, the former president didn’t see any other way except to hold misleading elections, erasing in the process the names of senior members and believers in the Assyrian identity, he didn’t even notify them of the elections date while he resorted to some Lebanese teenagers secretly making them members when they barely knew who are the Assyrian people in Lebanon or what are their denominations, those teenagers didn’t even know that there was an Assyrian Cultural Association.
The new administrative committee was declared with half of the members being illiterate while the other half is farther to be from being Assyrian (then they called it a cultural association!!!) I was “appointed” as a secretary and accepted the results of the shameful elections in order to preserve the formal permit following a three year inactivity and as the former president had claimed that he was contacted by the ministry in charge giving him two days to elect a new committee, at the time he had told me that the elected committee was only to be a temporary one for few months to conduct business.
Six months passed… a year then two years during which I kept on asking for new elections to be held after rectifying the situation by re-instating the original members, thanking the foreigners who voted in order to “save” the association, and erasing their names since they didn’t have the right to vote in the first place … However, I was surprised at the end to find out that the headquarters of the Assyrian Cultural Association was turned into a GHB headquarters, and that it’s the same so-called “ACSU”, this is considered to be a treachery against an independent Assyrian institution.
In my capacity as the secretary of the confiscated association, I asked the appointed president (he was appointed by his party and his father the former president) to hand me the members log for consultation but he refused, he also refused to hand me the seal and if I had asked him for the P.O. Box key he would have refused as well, of course he has the right to do that since I didn’t join the GHB party!
Later, when I was blamed by many of the benevolent members who were excluded from the elections, I found myself obliged to file a complaint with the Ministry of Internal Affairs about these foolish acts, but at present the complaint is in suspension due to the resignation of the minister in charge. The purpose of the complaint is to be able to consult the members log available at the ministry, to contest the rigged elections which I had signed without being aware of the member names erasure (most of them refuse to play around with the Assyrian identity) and I shall continue to follow up on this complaint even if I would be obliged to pursue it before courts.
It would have been better for those who are un aware of their identity to have either established or confiscated another establishment leaving this outstanding association, otherwise let them accept the responsibility for their recklessness and let them realize that they are in Lebanon and that we have seen many of their kind…
I am responsible for all that I have published or will be publishing, as I accept the legal responsibility for signing on the elections in question even though I didn’t know that they were rigged, and I had brought this to the attention of both the elected committee as well as the concerned authorities.
I shall continue publishing these commentaries whenever I find an invitation for the so-called “ACSU” or even the “Assyrian Cultural Association” until the association’s internal situation is corrected.
On behalf of all the members who were excluded by the confiscating group, I call upon the Assyrian people and their institutions to boycott the aforementioned establishment which has turned into a source for destructive thoughts, until legal elections are held and announced.
The Epoch of Ideologies
Part i of iii
Ideas are concepts litigated by mankind. Conception of ideas is therefore, a dispute between the dissidence of the wits and their order of precedence. The wittiest attain a higher perversity of conceit. At a certain stage of time and space, such opinions reach the point of idolatry, thus, inviting an abyss, in their rush to extol their imagination.
Events and Their Chronometry
All events, it seems, are fathomed according to the tact and flair of the period. Wars, conquests, massacres, destructions, annihilations, inhumanity, ideological impositions, crusades, revolutions and security, translated into defense-offense maneuvering theory, are conducted systematically, and inherently whenever a force to reckon, or contemplates to be one, is at its height, militarily, politically and economically.
History records onslaughts for riches, land, food, livestock, domination, and sheer power. The prophetic wars were guided by religious creeds, inundating the brunt of the discontents, in their desire to see change. Yet, there exist the wars for bringing order and civilization. This latter phase has been most commonly fabricated adventure that a large portion of the world population assents and sometimes, even honors.
Towards the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries, we are witnessing the slogans under the creed of freedom and liberty, replacing all other categories of wars.
Beginning with the Perestroika, and the downfall of the centralized rule in the former Soviet Union, a single power, and a powerful one at that, has taken the lead to free the enslaved, re-educate the illiterate, enrich the poor, enthuse the enthralled, feed the hungry, and, to empower the voice of the inaudible.
Inhumanity went a mock throughout the world, and on all the continents. Even Australia had its murky prison cells for people that had fled their desperate habitats for a better life. Needless to talk about genocides in Rwanda and Burundi, that went on for years, at a toll of perhaps as many as 2 million ethnic inhabitants of both nations. Least we ought not to forget Cambodia, where more than 2 million perished at the hands of a maniacal ruling clan.
Stench of Hypocrisy
Words are supposed to be odorless, however, there is a stench of hypocrisy looming over most of the horizons, when speaking about human rights and all its deemed, dignified attributes.
Out of 25 nations of the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, only three (3) sanction, secular form of government, to a certain degree, that is. They are: Algeria, Turkey and Syria. The other 22 that also happen to be Islamic non-secular nations defy all international obligations for their religious minorities, in one way or the other. In some of these countries, no churches, synagogues or temples are to be erected. As a matter of fact there are instances that even a display of a religious icon publicly, might invite physical, state sanctioned punishment.
There are variations of dictatorships in the world: (1) inherent; (2) usurpers; (3) revolutionaries; (4) selected by ruling political party.
The Benevolent and The Malfeasant
Without exception, all those that transcend the policies of the United States and some of its allies are considered despots. On the other hand, all the others that kneel down and defend the U.S. policies are simply referred to as either Presidents or Premiers.
Presidents of Pakistan and Egypt are Generals Parvez Mosharraf and Hosni Mobarak, respectfully. China and Cuba are led by Secretary Generals of the Communist Party. The Chinese hierarchy is tolerated, and Cuban is constantly chastised. All others that do not covet the policies of the Foggy Bottom and the Whitehall are considered snobbish, murky and deemed to be removed from offices whenever the occasion arises, and whenever it is less costly.
Schools of Abhorrence
The breeding grounds of hate, despise and abhorrence are perpetually and publicly entrenched in at least a few of the non-secular and amicable regimes. These schools of the philosophy of intolerance are growing in multitude, and are sanctioned in Pakistan and in Saudi Arabia. A number of these schools are also advocating dogmatic theocracy of collusion, in other parts of the world, however they are working underground. This is despite the fact that their nests are well known to the government officials, who turn a blind eye on such misdeeds.
It is ironic that the United Nations, with all its hundreds of Committees dealing with such subjects as deciphering the sounds of the whales, or the mating habits of the sea horses, does not have a Committee to deal with this lop-sided fundamentalist horrifically alarming teaching material. And, it is more ironic that the world member nations do not profess their dexterity on these matters.
Wars of Ideology
>From 1917, ever since the Russian Revolution established a dogmatic ideology, the West has been on the warpath with it.
It was an ideological war against Communism and its attributes on any level, and in any country of the world.
In 1936, even the French Socialist Prime Minister, Leon Blum, declined to come to the aid of the nationalistic democratically elected government of Spain, because it included Communists in its ranks and file. The German Luftwaffe and the Italian Air Force turned the second largest city of Spain, Barcelona, into a no-man's land, with continuous aerial bombardment. More than 2 million Spaniards lost their lives by braving against this inhuman and oppressive onslaught.
Then, right after the end of World War II, The United States and Great Britain, along with most of the Western democracies and despotic regimes of Europe, North Africa, Middle East and Asia, joined a sustained military and intelligence apparatus to combat Communism, first in northern Province Azerbaijan, Iran, followed by Greece, Indochina, China, and Malaysia.
South and Central America would have to await, their turn until 1956, when the U.S. overthrew the popularly elected government of Arturo Arbenz of Guatemala, who came to power with the Communist and Socialist ballots. No effort, funds or military aid would be spared to combat Communism. No henchman would be blasphemed or chastised, as long he was anti-Communist. A slight dereliction would mean total removal, if not assassination, a case in point, is the government of President Sukarno of Indonesia, where no less than 500,000 Communists were lined up the highway leading to the airport, and executed, before his abdication in favor of General Suharto, who ruled his country with iron fists for almost three decades with the full support and military aid from Washington, D.C.
The same rule was applied and practiced in 1973, when a democratically elected President Salvador Allende, of Chile, is toppled, killed and replaced with an unspeakable Junta that kept shedding the blood of the young men and women for years, in the soccer stadiums, thus imitating the Romans with their gullible bloody gladiatorial displays in the Colosseums. The only difference being that these young men and women were not given weapons to fight against the onslaught of the machine guns of the army.
All in all, the Cold War continued on at least three Continents, namely, South America, Africa and Asia well until the fall of Communism in Russia.
Wars of Nationalism
The 21st century is witnessing a dangerously dreadful transition in international politics, and on international arenas. This deviation explicitly transcends from ideology to nationalism.
At the turn of the century, beginning with the former Yugoslavia, certain aspects of nationalism were victimized in favor of, and in tune with ideological patterns.
The rebellious forces were aided and abetted to demolish the centrism of the Yugoslav Republic in favor of no less than five independent Republics. What is ironic is that if Yugoslav Republic based on Federalism was not proper or just, how did the West base its policies on Bosnia-Herzegovina, where multi-ethnic, multi-religious entities were forced to maintain the rule of Federalism? Why was it that the Croats, Serbs, Slovenians, Montenegrans, Moslems and Christians should hold onto Federalism in Bosnia, but not in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia?
It is utterly irresponsible for Quebec to secede from Canada, Northern Ireland [Ulster], from Great Britain, the Basques from Spain, Corsicans from France, Northern Ossetia or Abkhazia, from Georgia, but it is fair and just for the Chechens to form their own Republic, just as much as it is for the Shi'as and the Kurds to form their own enclaves, on top of becoming the rulers of the non-Federal Iraq. The same fairness rule was applied to bomb Belgrade for a period of 80 days so that it would abandon its territory of the Province of Kosovo to a religious entity, under the guise of nationalism of ethnicity.
Abusus Non Tollit Usum (Wrong use does not preclude proper use.)
The criteria of combating nationalism, is anathema to ideology.
Abstention is not a maxim for inefficiency. One cannot turn an eye or two on the eventful teachings with the 21st century technology, that go on in many parts of the world. It is this trend that endangers all civil lives and their liberties. The skills to combat the elements of fundamentalists are not vivid when staged as a counterpoint. Those methods must be geared to meticulously eradicate the nests that procreate such elements.
It would not be a confutation to state that almost 100% of the international terrorists derive from friendly nations of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen, Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan. There is no record so far, of any terrorist groups fomented in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq or Iran, unleashing their mayhem against the world citizens.
Yet, nowadays, it seems that going to war against Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, and Syria is tantamount to war against terrorism.
No one is really that naïve. Even the countries that had sent tokens of military personnel, to Iraq, with forfeiture of expenses for such expeditions, coming from the U.S. Treasury, are rebuking such moves, and, at press time, no less than 22 out of 34 countries have removed their contingents, or have declared their intent to do so in the next few months.
(Next Week: Part II -- Iraq Insurgency)
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