|Freedom and Iraq’s Political Transition: Perm. Constitution||U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom|
|U.S. Investigating Fate of Chicago Assyrian Missing in Iraq
Australia's Parliament Endorses Petition
Fleeing Iraqi Christians on Road to Damascus
Virgin Mary Church Opens Doors After 25 Years in Turkey
Assyrian Youth Society Organizes Election Campaigns
Solace for U.S. Soldiers in a Mosul Monastery
U.S. Soldiers Find Faith in the Face of Fire
|Mar Emmanuel Delly in the U.S.
UC Berkeley Students Display Assyrian Pride at Cal Day
Assyrian Youth Charged with Murder in Australia
Sargon Dadesho: For Better or Worse
AAASC Students Kick Off Meeting
|ADO Speech at
Constructive Co-Working vs. Criticism
Saddam Hussein's Rights?
Judaism's Worst Enemy is Within!
The Christian Post
Rev. Ken Joseph Jr.
|Samuel Shimon's "An Iraqi in Paris"||Ivan Kakovitch|
|Samuel Shimon's "An Iraqi in Paris"||Kaelen Wilson-Goldie
From the Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
From the TAL to Elections
Developing a robust understanding of freedom of religion or belief is particularly
important in Iraq, a country with diverse and complex religious and ethnic identities. During the
months before the adoption of the TAL, the Commission persistently engaged senior
Administration officials, Members of Congress, and others on the need for the interim
constitution to ensure explicit guarantees of the right to freedom of religion or belief for each
individual, fully consistent with international standards. Following weeks of intensive
negotiations between the Coalition Provision Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council, the
Although the TAL enshrines human rights, including the right to freedom of religion or belief, for every Iraqi, continuing developments on the ground underscore the urgent need to further safeguard these rights in the country’s permanent constitution. Throughout the past year, a number of religiously motivated attacks specifically targeted Iraq’s religious communities:
The escalation of religious terror has had a particularly devastating effect on Iraq’s non-
Muslim minorities, including the ChaldoAssyrians, Mandaeans, and Yezidis. This has caused a
push from some leaders of the ChaldoAssyrian community to establish a separate governorate in
the Nineveh Province. In addition, the kidnapping epidemic in Iraq has disproportionately
targeted Iraqi Christians. According to the Department of State, more than 30,000 Christian
According to the Commission’s letter, “The TAL provides a common touchstone for all Iraqis to uphold religious tolerance and coexistence; its public reaffirmation by the Interim Government would serve a stabilizing function and lend Iraqis committed to building a democratic society the confidence they need to bring this vision closer to reality.”
In addition to the threat posed by the insurgency, Iraqis also are being forced to contend with the unlawful imposition of Islamic laws and principles by grassroots vigilante groups, as well as the operation of extra-judicial Islamic courts that seek to impose an extremist version of Islamic law on all Iraqis, regardless of their beliefs. According to the Department of State 2004 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, “There were numerous incidents of violence against the Christian community…ranging from individual killings to intimidation and assaults on women for not wearing a headscarf (hijab).”
Media sources have further reported several cases where personal choices are being imposed forcibly based on a particular interpretation of Islam.
Some of these cases include university campuses imposing separate entrances, classrooms, and campuses for women; barbershops being forcibly shut down for offering to shave beards or provide modern haircuts; and teachers and schoolchildren being threatened with beheading if they observed the Interim Government’s decision to extend the Friday weekend to include Saturday, a day associated by Islamic militants with the Jewish day of rest.
During this period, the Commission received reports that reconstruction funds from the United States earmarked for the governorate level were not reaching ChaldoAssyrian villages.
Given the lack of input by ChaldoAssyrian civic administrators and other appropriate bodies into the use of reconstruction funds, Christian communities have been uniquely unable to rebuild basic infrastructure in their villages, including water and electrical systems, school facilities, and housing.
In the face of these alarming and unlawful activities, the Commission, in a December
2004 letter to President George W. Bush, pointed to the fact that “Without the right to religious
freedom, guaranteed in law and observed in fact, Iraqi non-Muslim minorities will be persecuted
and driven out, and Iraqi Muslims, particularly women and dissident reformers, will be stifled
Efforts to Promote Freedom of Religion or Belief in Iraq’s Permanent Constitution Developments in Iraq underscore the critical need to ensure that the right of every Iraqi to freedom of religion or belief, regardless of religious affiliation, is guaranteed in the country’s permanent constitution. Throughout the past year, the Commission has continued to engage Administration officials, non-governmental organizations, and legal experts to ensure that this priority is understood and advanced at all levels. It should be noted that this effort does not reflect a desire to impose American values on the Iraqi people, since this right is recognized and entrenched in international law and moreover, is similarly provided for in several other constitutions in the Muslim and Arab world.
Accordingly, at this critical juncture, the United States should not take a hands-off policy
approach to Iraq’s permanent constitution. Rather, universal human rights standards should
continually be invoked as a basis for dialogue and engagement with Iraqis, as a fundamental
aspect of any constitution-related assistance programs, and finally, as a yardstick for measuring
the success of Iraq’s constitutional process. Significantly, this message recently has been
reflected in the statements of top U.S. officials. In March 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice publicly affirmed that “In places where religion has been used to separate people—places
like Lebanon or places like Iraq—it is especially important that…the constitution recognize that
the right to individual conscience is the key to democracy. Because people will never be truly
The need for effective guarantees in the permanent constitution of the right of every
person to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief is not merely a theoretical
concern, but the sine qua non of genuine democracy and peace. These guarantees protect those
who question prevailing orthodoxies and seek to debate key issues facing their societies,
Undoubtedly, the incorporation of individual human rights guarantees in Iraq’s permanent constitution, and especially the right to freedom of religion or belief, is critical. Such guarantees can serve to:
In addition to meetings with the President and senior U.S. officials, the Commission has worked to develop and publish information useful to policymakers, experts, and others involved in Iraq’s constitutional process. In March 2005, the Commission released a comparative survey of the constitutions of predominantly Muslim countries, examining provisions relating to the role of Islam and guarantees of religious freedom and related human rights. This 100-page document, entitled The Religion-State Relationship and the Right to Freedom of Religion or Belief: A Comparative Textual Analysis of the Constitutions of Predominantly Muslim Countries, sets out the international human rights standards associated with freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief alongside the relevant constitutional provisions of 44 Muslim countries.
The survey found that no single model exists in Muslim countries, which range from declared
Islamic states to declared secular states. Moreover, several countries examined, including those
where Islam is the declared religion of the state, have constitutional provisions that favorably
reflect a state’s international human rights obligations.
Constitutional text alone may not necessarily reflect what is done in practice, especially with
regard to human rights. That said, a constitution remains important as an aspirational document
and a statement of national principles. It can also provide the foundation for political, social, and
legal reconstruction. Even if not fully implemented, constitutional text remains fixed as
Concerning the Permanent Constitution
In light of the current situation in Iraq, the Commission recommends that the U.S. government:
- direct all U.S. efforts to encourage the inclusion of human rights guarantees in the permanent constitution that are consistent with the obligations set forth in international instruments to which Iraq is a party, including the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); Iraq’s permanent constitution should include explicit guarantees that:
Guarantees of this kind form the basis of minimum human rights protections recognized under international law, and are found in the constitutions of other predominantly Muslim countries, as well as in Iraq’s TAL.
In addition, the Commission recommends that the U.S. government:
- urge Iraq’s transitional government and national assembly to include underrepresented religious minorities, i.e. Christians and Sunnis, in the constitutional drafting body;
- call on the United Nations and other allies to support actively and publicly the incorporation of individual human rights in line with international standards in Iraq’s permanent constitution;
- appoint a high-level U.S. human rights envoy to Iraq, reporting directly to the U.S.
ambassador, to encourage the incorporation of human rights principles in Iraq’s permanent
constitution, to serve as the point of contact for Iraqi human rights institutions and assist
these institutions in consolidating their roles within the emerging political structure, to
- fund workshops and training sessions on religion/state issues for Iraqi officials, policymakers, legal professionals, representatives of non-governmental organizations, religious leaders, and other members of key sectors of society who will have input on the permanent constitution.
Concerning Reconstruction Efforts
With regard to reconstruction efforts in Iraq, the Commission recommends that the U.S. government:
- promote and prioritize, in all reconstruction programs for Iraq and in contacts with Iraqis,
coalition partners, and other potential donors including the United Nations, an Iraqi political
system that respects freedom of religion and belief, endorses equality for women, and
guarantees the universal human rights of all Iraqis, including members of religious minorities
- ensure that U.S. funding and other forms of support are not going to Iraqi political parties
- publicly express at the highest level support for political parties and other Iraqi groups that
demonstrate a genuine commitment to international human rights, including freedom of
religion, and give clear directives to American officials and recipients of U.S. democracy building
grants to assign priority to projects that seek to encourage the inclusion of effective
- declare a proportional allocation of funds for ChaldoAssyrian communities, ensure that the use of these funds are determined by independent ChaldoAssyrian national and town representatives, and establish direct lines of input by such independent ChaldoAssyrian structures into the allocation process of the Iraqi central government in Baghdad, separate from the Kurdish Regional Government;
- support efforts to establish official Iraqi institutions, including the national human rights commission provided for in the TAL, that meet international standards and have the resources and mandates necessary to monitor, investigate, and take action to remedy human rights abuses, and that encourage Iraq’s judicial and human rights institutions to operate in accordance with international standards; and
- establish an Iraqi visitors program through the State Department to focus on exchange and education opportunities in the United States related to freedom of religion and religious tolerance.
Concerning Ongoing Abuses of Freedom of Religion
With regard to ongoing religious freedom abuses, the Commission recommends that the U.S. government:
- speak out at the highest level against violence against women and unlawful efforts to impose
- in cooperation with Iraqi law enforcement, prioritize locating and shutting down extrajudicial
- raise with the regional Kurdish authorities the issue of reports that ChaldoAssyrian property
U.S. Investigating Fate of Chicago Assyrian Missing in Iraq
Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune
(ZNDA: Chicago) More than a week after an Iraqi-American businessman from Skokie (suburb of Chicago) disappeared in Baghdad, the U.S. State Department is still trying to find out whether he was executed or taken hostage, an official said Wednesday.
Neenus Y. Khoshaba, 56, an American citizen, was reported missing in Baghdad on May 17 after he left for what was described as a business meeting that may have been a trap, family members said.
Iraq's al-Qaida frontman Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed his group executed an American pilot, but personal ID posted on the Internet indicates the terrorists may have mistaken a frequent-flier card for a flying license, according to an intelligence analyst.
The statement on the jihadi site, posted along with photos of the personal documents, showed the purported victim, Neenus Y. Khoshaba, is a U.S. national born in 1948, said Laura Mansfield of the Northeast Intelligence Network.
The terrorists' statement said: "Your brothers in al-Qaida in the Land of Two Rivers got their hands on a U.S. pilot who turned out to have bombarded several mosques and the Sheraton Hotel in Baghdad during the invasion of Iraq, as well as several civilian homes."
The identity cards shown were an Illinois driver's license, a health insurance card, a frequent-guest card for a hotel chain and a membership card for the Executive Club of British Airways, a frequent-flier program.
"Apparently the jihadis interpreted the frequent-flier card and the British Airways Club card as evidence that the hostage was a pilot," said Mansfield.
The Baghdad Bazaar website describes Khoshaba's company as "active in Wood Household Furniture, Upholstered; Hardwood Veneer And Plywood."
A high-ranking official with Iraq's Assyrian Democratic Movement told Agence France-Presse that Khoshaba is a U.S.-Iraqi businessman from an Assyrian family who was kidnapped last Wednesday.
"I can't confirm his death but I can identify the hostage," the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official said Khoshaba was based in Chicago and moved back to Iraq in 2003.
"He was apparently tricked by a group of people posing as representatives from the oil ministry, who told him that they were looking for someone with a dual nationality and had business opportunities to offer him," the official said. "There had been no word from him since."
"The thing is we keep seeing a whole bunch of different reports that claim that he was killed, and other reports from other news media that he was being held hostage," said Steve Pike, a spokesman for the State Department in Washington. "But it's all very vague."
Officials have been unable to confirm the authenticity of a report posted on the Internet by a group claiming it kidnapped and executed Khoshaba for being a U.S. military pilot who helped bomb mosques and a Baghdad hotel. The group reportedly said it was Al Qaeda.
The State Department is working with Iraqi officials and with Khoshaba's family to find out what happened to the computer engineer, Pike said.
"He's not military," said Aladin Khamis, who spoke on behalf of a Chicago family describing themselves as third cousins of Khoshaba. "There's no way he would fly a plane."
Khamis said that Khoshaba, 56, actually was a consultant in the construction industry in Saudi Arabia who often traveled between there and the United States.
Khamis, who is president of the Assyrian American National Federation Inc., said he does not know if Khoshaba is alive.
At a gathering in a home on the 6400 block of North Artesian Avenue, Khamis said he got a phone call a week ago that Khoshaba had been kidnapped.
Khoshaba's brother-in-law, Calvin Albazi, said Khoshaba "went to a business meeting and never came back."
Khoshaba, who spent most of the last 20 years working in Saudi Arabia, still considered the Chicago area his home, relatives said.
Alexander Abraham, 69, a first cousin from Glenview, held out hope that the report of Khoshaba's death was false.
Abraham said that a group claiming to have kidnapped Khoshaba contacted Khoshaba's brother in Baghdad three times in the last week. "The group ... has not specified what they want," Abraham said.
There has been a rash of kidnappings in Iraq in the last year, sometimes for political reasons, but also for ransom.
Abraham said Khoshaba's brother also told him that two men Khoshaba was with the day he disappeared also are missing. One was a Muslim business partner, the other the brother of the Assyrian Christian bishop from Kirkuk, Abraham said.
The office of U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) has asked the State Department to investigate, according to a statement. Khoshaba's family are also Christian Assyrians, a religious minority in Iraq.
Khoshaba immigrated to the United States from Iraq when he was 18 and got a degree in computer engineering, relatives said.
His wife, Moona, to whom he was married for 21 years, was a Chicago native who died of leukemia two years ago.
Though he considered the Chicago area his home, Khoshaba has worked for a string of Saudi Arabian engineering companies for the last 20 years, relatives said. His wife was a successful interior designer in Saudi Arabia.
They would both spend most of each year in Saudi Arabia but return to Chicago for several months in the summer, where the sociable couple frequented Rush Street restaurants. Khoshaba liked a good cigar and following the Cubs and Bears.
When the Iraq war ended and the rebuilding began, he was a natural to help with the vast amount of engineering work that needed to be done, his relatives said, because he grew up in Baghdad and spoke both English and Arabic fluently, as well as Assyrian. He was staying with his older brother, Bolus, and their mother in Baghdad, but his family had expressed concern about him coming to work in the city because he was an American now.
"They didn't want him to be there because it is dangerous," said Calvin Albazi's brother, Martin, 51, also of Skokie. "But when you're Americanized, you think it won't happen to you."
Australia's Parliament Endorses Petition for Assyrian Administrative Area in Iraq
(ZNDA: Sydney) On Monday, 23 May, Mr. Chris Bowen, a Labor party member in the Australian parliament moved a motion before the House of Representatives, circulated by the Australian Chapter of the Assyrian Universal Alliance. The petition calls on the Australian government to urge the Iraqi government to create a "‘protected administrative area for the Assyrians‘.
Immediately after the reading of the petition the following statement was released by the AUA to the offices of Zinda Magazine:
A delegation representing the Assyrian Australian National Federation, the Assyrian Universal Alliance, and other prominent Assyrians were at the house during the debate. The delegation visited Mr. Chris Bowen, MP, in his Parliament office, to congratulate and thank him for his stand in defending the Human Rights of the Assyrian people of Iraq. The delegation also met with Ms Maria Vamvakinou, MP, Australian Labor Party in Victoria, representing the Assyrian community in her electorate of Calwell in Melbourne, who seconded the motion and spoke in its support, and with Mr. Kevin Rudd, MP, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs & International Security. The Assyrian delegation also had an opportunity to meet for 10 minutes with The Hon Kim Beazley, MP, Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, and with many other Senators.
Mr. Hemiz Shahen, AUA Secretary in Australia told Zinda Magazine: "The next stage will be harder and will require much more effort toward implementing this motion and the suggestions that were raised from both the Labor MP’s and the Government representative.
The office of Mr. Chris Bowen M.P., Federal Member for Prospect, also released the following statement on 24 May:
Fleeing Iraqi Christians on Road to Damascus
Courtesy of the St. Petersburg Times
(ZNDA: Damascus) When President Bush, a born-again Christian, launched the 2003 war against Iraq, he probably didn't expect one result - that Iraq, once a secular nation, would become especially dangerous for Christians.
Islamic extremists have bombed churches. They have burned liquor stores and killed their Christian owners. They harass Christian women who don't shroud themselves in black.
The president probably didn't expect another result - that Iraqi Christians would find refuge in Syria, a country that he often criticizes but that has a strong record of religious tolerance. In the past two years, Syria has taken in as many as 20,000 Christians fleeing violence and persecution in their native land.
Among them: Sabah Guryal.
"Christians in Iraq paid twice after coalition forces entered," says Guryal, until recently an executive of the Middle East Council of Churches in the northern city of Mosul.
"First, the Iraqi Muslims accused the Christians of supporting the coalition because we are Christians like the American soldiers. This is why they insult us, because we are "unbelievers.' And we pay the second time because the American forces consider us all Arabs, not Christians."
Anonymous callers warned Guryal to stop working for the council or he would be killed. His 22-year-old son, an interpreter for coalition troops, twice escaped kidnapping by men with guns.
"There are hundreds of stories like this," Guryal says. "Hundreds of families have been threatened."
By last summer, he had enough. With nothing but their clothes, he, his wife and their four children took a taxi to Damascus, where they share two rooms in a modest area of the city that has become home to many other Iraqi Christians. Left behind: A car. A spacious house. A lifetime of achievement.
"We leave everything," Guryal says, "just to be alive."
Christians from Iraq have gone to other countries, but most choose Syria because of cultural similarities and ease of entry.
Unique in the region, Syria allows any citizen of an Arab nation to enter for up to six months without a visa. President Bush says this "porous" border makes it easy for insurgents to cross into Iraq from Syria, but it also makes it possible for Christians to flee the dangers that have swept their country since the United States occupied it.
"From the time of independence in 1946, Syria has always opened its doors for every refugee who comes - Armenians, Palestinians, Sudanese and now Iraqis," says Archbishop Isidore Battikha, patriarch of the Greek Catholic Church in Damascus.
"They are all welcome in Syria, and the government asks us to help them - we open our churches, our meeting rooms, our schools, and help by money or finding money."
Christians also feel more comfortable in Syria than in Iraq's other neighbors, the overwhelmingly Muslim countries of Jordan, Iran, Turkey, Kuwait and especially Saudi Arabia. There, "religious freedom does not exist," the U.S. State Department says.
By contrast, about 10 percent of Syria's 18-million people are Christians, who worship freely in an atmosphere rich in history and tolerance.
It was on the road to Damascus that St. Paul converted after his vision of Christ. It was in Syria that disciples were first called Christians. And it was here on a recent Sunday morning, not far from the magnificent Omayyad Mosque, that hundreds prayed for their new pope, Benedict XVI, under the soaring stone arches of a Greek Catholic church.
"Christians and Muslims have lived in this country for 1,500 years," says Father Toufic Eid. "Relations are very good in that people are used to living together."
As tourism grows, Syria proudly notes its wealth of Christian shrines, including St. Serge Church, site of the world's oldest altar in continuous use (more than 1,000 years); and St. Teckla's Monastery, named for one of the earliest saints. Both are in predominantly Christian villages in the mountains north of Damascus, where 18,000 people still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
"We did not realize there were so many Christian places here," says Jamila, an engineer from Mosul who was visiting St. Teckla's grave, in a rocky grotto high on a mountainside.
She and her sister, an engineer, have remained in Iraq only because of their jobs. Last year, their brother Abdel, manager of a TV station, moved his family to Damascus after several churches were bombed in Mosul and Baghdad.
"Iraq is dangerous for Christians," says Abdel, who did not want his last name used because he fears for his relatives there. "Here, there is security and freedom."
Syria's constitution requires a Muslim to be president, but the ruling Baath Party was founded by a Christian who believed in secular government. Christians also benefit from the fact that Syria's most recent leaders, members of the minority Alawite sect, have embraced other minorities as a way of strengthening their power.
A similar situation existed in Iraq, where the Baath Party ruled until 2003. As a Baathist and a member of the Sunni minority, Saddam Hussein had a secular government that included Christians - among his best-known advisers was the Christian deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz.
Like all Iraqis, the million or so Christians suffered under Hussein's tyrannical rule. They were forced to give their children Arab names. Spies attended church to see if priests were sermonizing against the regime. But Christians were generally tolerated and allowed to worship freely.
That changed after the invasion as the insurgency flared and Islamic fundamentalism grew stronger. Once unthinkable events became routine. A bishop in Mosul was held two days before his church paid a $40,000 ransom. A Christian woman had to disguise herself in black cloak and veil so she could safely flee the country after kidnappers killed her husband.
Iraq now has a democratic government, but Christians often feel like outcasts. The Kurds - America's closest Iraqi allies - are denying jobs to Christians unless they join a Kurdish party, according to Father Arkan Yako.
An Assyrian Christian, Yako recently gave an interview on CNN in which he complained that even under current Iraqi law, the sons of Christian women married to Muslim men automatically become Muslims themselves. His comments led to death threats that prompted Yako to temporarily leave Iraq; he is now in Damascus.
"We are third- or fourth-class citizens in our own country," he says.
Life in Syria is by no means idyllic for Iraq's self-exiled Christians. This is a poor nation with high unemployment. As "visitors," the Iraqis are not legally allowed to work here, though some find jobs in the underground economy as laborers and shop clerks.
Jalila, a small woman in black whose face looks forever drained of happiness, is one of many Iraqi Christians who regard Syria as a way station, hoping they can one day move to a country in the West.
Shortly after U.S. forces entered Baghdad in April 2003, Jalila's husband, a salesman, was killed by an unknown gunman. Two weeks ago, her brother was struck in the heart when he got caught in a crossfire between insurgents and soldiers.
Jalila blames both deaths on terrorists, not the Americans. She has adult children in many places - California, Turkey and Holland - and has applied for visas for her and her 19-year-old son to move to Australia.
Never again will she live in Iraq: "I'd like to go to any country, just as long as it's outside our country."
Iraq is not the only area of the Middle East where the Christian population is dwindling. Thousands left Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, during years of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Tens of thousands more fled Lebanon during its 15-year civil war.
Battikha, the Greek Catholic archbishop, says Christians are increasingly divided about their future in this troubled part of the world.
Some feel that "God put us here; this is our land, and we have to continue our mission. Others feel they have only one time to live, so why lose their lives living with problems. They prefer to go where there is more dignity, more peace, more freedom, more opportunities."
Battikha understands the latter view but is saddened by the number of Iraqi Christians in Syria who want to move on. After 15 years in Rome, he realized that he felt happiest here, in the land of his birth.
Rome "didn't offer the kind of warm relationships between persons, so I don't accept it when somebody asks me for help to get a visa to go outside. I know we have economic and social problems, but we have a lifetime of experience between Islam and Christianity. I think the whole world needs this kind of experience."
Zinda: Susan Taylor Martin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. We urge our readers to write directly to the western journalists and thank them for their courageous reporting of the Assyrian events, social and political dilemmas, and cultural heritage.
Courtesy of the Turkish Daily News
(ZNDA: Diyarbakir) The 1,700-year-old Virgin Mary Assyrian Church in Diyarbakır, Turkey has reopened its doors after a major restoration.
Assyrians nationwide gathered for the first ceremony to be held in the church in 25 years, many of them weeping from the emotion.
Metropolitan Samuel Aktaş and Diyarbakır Deputy Governor Canan Hançer Baştürk officiated at the ceremony. Other attendees were Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir, Sur Mayor Abdullah Demirbaş, Kayapınar Mayor Zülküf Karatekin, Dicle University Theology Faculty Dean Abdülkerim Ünalan, Diyarbakır Mufti Muhittin Sarıkaya and nearly 250 Assyrians.
Baydemir delivered a speech and said his administration is ready to help migrant families return to their homelands in southeastern Anatolia.
Betül Hiçbezmez, who migrated from Diyarbakır 25 years ago, cried and said her father had served the church. "My childhood was here. I tried finding some neighbors and relatives but couldn't. I miss it here so much."
The participants enjoyed breakfast in the church garden.
Assyrian Youth Society Organizes Election Campaigns in Lebanon
(ZNDA: Beirut) Candidates loyal to Lebanon's assassinated former prime minister have posted giant campaign billboards bearing his picture, hoping a wave of sympathy will bring them to power in Lebanon's first elections in decades that are free from Syrian domination.
The elections will take place in four stages beginning tomorrow (Sunday). Hariri's killing, which sparked mass protests that ultimately forced Syria to withdraw from Lebanon, appears to be the driving force in the vote.
Groups united in the vocal opposition to Syrian control seen after Hariri's killing in February are widely expected to win a majority in the next parliament. Syria was accused by the opposition of having a hand in the assassination, a charge Damascus has denied.
The Assyrian Youth Society in al-Suryan Quarters of Beirut, Lebanon's Ashrafiyya district, are organized a political rally for the four candidates on the slate of Rafiq al-Hariri in the Lebanese elections
A large crowd welcomed the four candidates who will represent the first circuit in the Lebanese elections. The four candidates are Solanje al-Jmaiel, Mishal Fir'aon, Jibran Twayni, and Nabeel de Frej.
Mr. Ibrahim Saliba, President of the Assyrian Youth Society, welcomed the four candidates for the first circuit and praised their unity to save Lebanon. Ms. al-Jmaiel stated in her speech that "the al-Suryan Quarters is the quarter of love, resistance, and harmony."
Mr. Twayni saluted the community that did not withhold "when time for sacrifice and Lebanese resistance called upon them to protect Lebanon and keep it proud." He added: "We must vote so we could prove that we exist in al-Suryan quarters and in Beirut."
Mr. Fir'aon described the people of the al-Suryan Quarters as the "beating heart of al-Ashrafiyya" and "have sacrificed much of blood for Lebanon." He added that these elections are a gesture of loyalty to the late Prime Minister al-Hariri and another slain prime minister, Mr. Bashir al-Jmaiel.
Hariri loyalists are determined to carry out his agenda of opposing extremism and rebuilding the country. They also want to ensure a thorough investigation of his killing.
The former prime minister's son, Saad Hariri, 35, is leading a 19-member list of candidates named after his father in Beirut's three districts.
In urging Beirut's more than 400,000 eligible voters to turn out to show loyalty to his father, Saad Hariri billed the Beirut election as "the day of safeguarding Rafik Hariri's course (and) Rafik Hariri's blood."
Nine of his candidates have won uncontested seats and 10 others, including Saad Hariri, are competing for the remaining 10 seats in the capital. The competition is so lopsided that people are being urged to vote anyway if only to show Hariri's numerical dominance.
The election will be the first without foreign forces since the pre-civil war parliament was elected in 1972, three years before the 15-year conflict erupted.
Lebanon's democratic tradition, although manipulated during civil war and 29 years of Syrian control, dates back to the Arab country's independence from France in 1943 and sets the country apart from the rest of the mostly autocratic Arab world.
But unlike Western democracies, the issues in Lebanon have focused on the interests of the 18 diverse Muslim and Christian sects and how much each can carve for its own in attempts to protect its identity. Loyalties are to families, clans, the sect and - less often - to a political party.
Although the country is shackled by high debt, the economy barely swings the vote.
Outside Beirut, there is a wider array of candidates and alliances competing for the 128 legislative seats that are split equally between Muslims and Christians.
Even within the opposition, there are sharp differences as the factions forge electoral alliances.
Christian leader Michel Aoun split with Hariri and Druse leader Walid Jumblatt. Aoun, a staunch anti-Syrian who returned from 14 years' exile May 7, is joining pro-Syrians in some districts. The Hariri-Jumblatt ticket is also allied in Beirut with Hezbollah, the pro-Syrian Shiite Muslim militant guerrilla group.
Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, is expected to be the leading politician in the Sunni community countrywide. Jumblatt is expected to dominate his small Druse sect. Christians are splintered into several factions.
Hezbollah and the pro-Syrian Amal, Shiite rivals who have joined hands, expect to scoop the seats in their strongholds in southern and eastern Lebanon.
More than 100 foreign observers from the European Union and the United Nations will be watching the vote for irregularities, the first time Lebanon has permitted foreign scrutiny.
Solace for U.S. Soldiers in a Mosul Monastery
Courtesy of the News Tribune
(ZNDA: Mosul) When Spc. Jennifer Guay and Sgt. Noribelle Starck decided to re-enlist for five more years in the Army, they wanted to hold the ceremony in a special place – a location with some good karma.
The two Stryker Brigade medics chose the courtyard of a 1,400-year-old Christian monastery that lies on the south end of Forward Operating Base Marez.
“It’s a powerful spot, and doing it here shows respect for the country where we are serving,” said Guay, surrounded by fellow soldiers from the 25th Brigade Support Battalion on Sunday.
The Monastery of St. Elia is an architectural treasure that survives across the road from a graveyard of Saddam-era tanks, overlooking rolling hills where U.S. forces are slowly blowing up decades worth of unstable Iraqi Army explosives. It’s set apart from the developed part of the base, so soldiers and other visitors have to drive or hike to get here.
Capt. James Pennington, the chaplain of the support battalion, helped lead an Easter sunrise service here this year that drew nearly 200 people.
Pennington has researched the domed structure with crumbling outer walls and learned that it was founded by a Chaldean Christian monk during the reign of a Persian king in the late 6th century. It remained a thriving monastic community until the 18th century, when its inhabitants were wiped out by a Muslim warlord, he said.
Some restoration work was done in the last 100 years, including marble framing attached to the doorways of some of the inner chambers.
The presence of coalition forces has kept the compound free of looting and vandalism, except for a Screaming Eagle emblem that someone from the 101st Airborne Division painted when the unit took control of Mosul after the 2003 invasion. The wall has been sandblasted, but a discoloration remains.
Mosul is predominantly Muslim and Kurdish, but it also is the most Christian of Iraq’s large cities. That’s what makes the ancient monastery so meaningful to Pennington, a Southern Baptist preacher.
“To me, it’s a wonderful piece of history,” he said. “As Americans, we don’t think of this as a Christian part of the world, but it is. It predates Islam.
“It also reminds us how blessed we are as Americans to live in a place where we don’t have to fortify our churches.”
Zinda Magazine contacted Mr. Misterek on the historical accuracy of the point made regarding the 6th century Chaldean monks. The Chaldean Catholic Church was formed in the second half of the 16th century. The author graciously acknowledged the error.
U.S. Soldiers Find Faith in the Face of Fire
Courtesy of the News Tribune
(ZNDA: Mosul) Gathered together in the renovated shell of an old Iraqi Army pistol range, a few dozen Fort Lewis soldiers and civilian military workers joined in singing Hymn No. 212 from the Baptist Hymnal.
He will lift you by his love, out of the angry waves.
Love lifted me, love lifted me
When nothing else could help, love lifted me.”
It was a declaration of religious faith and an acknowledgement that they can’t go it alone. And on a day when they would learn two of their Stryker Brigade comrades had been killed overnight, they could use the lift they get each week at Transformation Chapel.
Sitting in church on Sunday morning provides a spiritual sanctuary but not a physical one for these men and women who deployed from Tacoma in October. Twice last fall, enemy mortar rounds struck near the chapel during services, peppering the side of the building with shrapnel and breaking eight window panes. Sheets of plywood with cutout crosses now cover those gaps.
Sgt. Anita Shaw is still amazed that no glass shards fell on worshippers inside. She says it was “God’s way of showing off.”
“You know he’s here to protect you,” said Shaw, who works in the 25th Brigade Support Battalion’s supply shop. “Even though you always have your buddy on your left and your buddy on your right, God gives you overall protection.”
Transformation is one of four chapels operated by Stryker Brigade ministry teams at Forward Operating Base Marez, the most populous U.S. installation in northern Iraq. Army chaplains and lay religious leaders seek to give comfort and spiritual counsel to soldiers, many of them young and confronting questions of life and death for the first time.
The 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment – the unit known as “The Bobcats” – has many soldiers who identify themselves as Christians. There are also two Jews, two Muslims and a handful of Wiccans among the battalion’s 700-some infantrymen. Then there is the vast middle ground.
“A huge chunk is ‘no preference’ – I’d say about 30 percent – which is what you’d expect with 18- to 20-year-olds who haven’t worked out their religious life yet,” said Capt. Donald Carrothers, the chaplain for the 1-5.
“I call them the superstitious ones,” he added. “They’ll come by and ask me for Celtic-style crosses. Some of the Stryker drivers really like carrying those. But you won’t see them at chapel.”
Officials with the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division – Fort Lewis’ second Stryker brigade – have taken steps to accommodate the religious needs of soldiers outside of the mainline Protestant denominations.
A Catholic priest roves among the U.S. bases in Mosul and celebrates Mass at Marez on Saturdays and Sundays. A reconciliation booth, or confessional, is set up at Transformation Chapel, behind the stage where a contemporary praise band plays.
A group of Mormons meets on Sunday afternoons. And the support battalion recently converted a building into a place for Muslim soldiers to practice their beliefs, complete with prayer rugs.
Even so, Carrothers conceded that resources for many religions are lacking, and Islamic and Jewish faith leaders only pass through a few times a year.
“There are only about 5 or 6 Muslim chaplains in the whole Army,” said Carrothers, whose background is Southern Baptist. “The same with rabbis; they are in very short supply.”
Saihou Jobe, a 22-year-old Stryker mechanic, is believed to be the only devout Muslim in the 1-5 Infantry. He said that his superiors in the vehicle shop have been good about giving him the time he needs for his five-times-a-day prayers. In fact, sometimes they remind him to pray.
Jobe’s unit took part in the coalition offensive in Fallujah last fall, which coincided with the holy month of Ramadan. His bosses offered to give him downtime in his tent during the day so that he could observe the pre-sundown fast, but he chose to keep working because his colleagues needed him.
“I would wake up in the middle of the night to eat just so I would be strong the next day,” said Jobe, who was raised in the African nation of Gambia, where his grandfather was an imam.
Jobe carries his red prayer rug – the same one he’s had since basic training – in his CamelBak backpack. His Holy Quran is stored safely in a black zippered bag.
“This is where I go for answers,” he said, holding the book gently in the break room of the Stryker shop. “This is my guide.”
Many Christians on base are equally committed to practicing their beliefs in a combat zone. Spc. Edwin Gonzalez, 28, a supply specialist from Puerto Rico, even waited to come to Iraq to be baptized. Outside Transformation Chapel last fall, he and three other soldiers were immersed in a 3,000-gallon canvas bag used for storing water.
“I just have this feeling that Jesus walked somewhere around this part of the world,” Gonzalez explained Sunday morning, after packing up the bass guitar he plays in the praise band.
And with that, he put on his armor vest, picked up his rifle from the chapel gun rack and walked out into the morning sun.
Mar Emmanuel Delly in the U.S.
(ZNDA: Detroit) His Beatitude Mar Emmanuel Delly, Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church is currently traveling Europe and the United States and will be visiting the Chaldean parishes in Detroit and Chicago in the next few weeks. His Beatitude arrived in the U.S. last Tuesday and will be in Michigan and Chicago until 17 June. No travel plans to California were provided to Zinda Magazine at press time.
Last week in Paris the head of Iraq's largest Christian community denounced American evangelical missionaries in his country on Thursday for what he said were attempts to convert poor Muslims by flashing money and smart cars.
The patriarch, who vigorously opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and met French President Jacques Chirac -- who also opposed it -- on Wednesday, declined to comment on Washington's policy there or whether he had contacts with U.S. authorities.
The following is a complete travel itinerary of His Beatitude in the U.S. courtesy of Our Lady of Chaldeans Cathedral in Southfield, Michigan and Father Manuel Boji :
UC Berkeley Students Display Assyrian Pride at Cal Day
[I've reattached the two photos of our display that Mr. Daniels shared with you. I've also attached two pictures of the dancers that performed at the Spring Festival. All of us, with the exception of Sam who just graduated from San Jose State University, are Cal students and alums. The names are (top to bottom, left to right): Ramond Takhsh, Samson Khoubier, Hala Samow, Brateil Badal, Arbella Malik, and Linda Hormozi (picture 1). Here is, as requested, a short report on the event.]
(ZNDA: San Francisco) Every year on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley (a city to the east of San Francisco) on Cal Day, the International House at UC Berkeley celebrates cultures at its Spring Festival. Cultures from around the world come together to display their traditions, foods, and festivities. The Assyrian Student Alliance (ASA), a group of eight current students and about 10 alumni, has been a participant in the festivities in the last four years.
This year, the ASA members home-cooked great-tasting, authentic food, like Dolma‘d Tarpeh (grape leaves), Qatleteh, and Kubeh. For dessert, they served baklavah, which everyone enjoyed tasting.
ASA presented two posterboards that informed the visitors about Assyrian history, demographics, and traditions. On exhibit were two maps of North Iraq and Northwest Iran, showing the detail and location of all the Assyrian villages. The Kha b' Neesan (Assyrian New Year) tradition and the Assyrian alphabet were also portrayed. Art and artifacts, the 'Lamasu' (Assyrian Winged-Bull) and the Assyrian flag were on display at the table.
For the first time this year, ASA also performed Assyrian dances. For weeks, six members had practiced a choreographed dance routine to a melody of four Assyrian dances—chobieh, tolamah, balati, and sheykhani. All dancers were dressed in traditional customs and performed an entertaining and energetic piece.
In the audience were also parents, grandparents, siblings, ASA alumni, and friends who were cheering on the dancers, shouting “Khayeetoon Atoorayeh!”.
The dance performance brought many to the ASA table asking about the Assyrian culture and people. Mr. Ramin Daniels, of the Assyrian Aid Society and Mr. Fred Aprim, author of "Assyrians - the Continuous Saga" were on hand to answer any questions.
UC, Berkeley ranks first nationally in the number of graduate programs in the top 10 in their fields. Last year 97% of Berkeley's programs made the top 10 list. Berkeley ranks first nationally in the number of "distinguished" programs for the scholarship of the faculty [32 programs]. 17 UC-Berkeley's professors and researchers have to date received Nobel Prizes in sciences, economics, and medicine. 7 of them are current instructors.
Among the world's distinguished Assyriologists and Near Eastern scholars currently teaching at UC-Berkeley are the following:
Zinda: Special thanks to Ms. Brateil Badal, ASA president & Mr. Ramin Daniels, Assyrian Aid Society - Santa Clara chapter Director.
Assyrian Youth Charged with Murder in Australia
Courtesy of the Herald Sun
(ZNDA: Melbourne) Distraught friends of Parvieez Shaik, 24, say he was stabbed when he came to the aid of friends allegedly being attacked by several men.
Police has charged a 16-year-old youth with one count of murder and one of intentionally causing serious injury and assault.
He was expected to appear in a Children's Court last Monday.
The dead man's friend is not expected to regain full feeling in his left hand after he was allegedly stabbed with a 25cm blade.
The Herald Sun has been told the men yelled racial profanities before the attack.
Witnesses claimed that the attackers yelled, "You Aussie wankers", or words to that effect.
Witnesses told police the attack lasted 30 seconds before the attackers fled in several cars outside the fast food store in Somerton Rd, Roxburgh Park, about 10pm last Thursday.
Mr Shaik, an office furniture removalist who lived with his parents in Glenroy, was stabbed in the stomach and leg.
The injured man said Mr Shaik, who was planning his first trip overseas next month, had no enemies.
"He was an all-round nice guy," the man, from Gladstone Park, said from his hospital bed.
"He was everybody's friend, had no enemies."
"He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
A witness said he was walking along Somerton Rd when he saw a car pull into McDonald's.
"Three or four men converged on it and a fight broke out," the witness said.
"It went for about 30 seconds.
"People jumped in their cars and drove away, and then all of a sudden this bloke's just hit the deck."
The witness said a male and female customer from McDonald's performed CPR on Mr Shaik as he lay bleeding and fading in and out of consciousness.
Paramedics resuscitated him twice in their desperate fight to save his life but Mr Shaik died in hospital.
The injured man, soon to become a father, said he did not know the men and denied he and his friends were part of a gang.
"It's got nothing to do with gangs," he said.
Homicide squad detectives are continuing their investigations.
They are keen to speak to the driver of a 1980s model white Holden Commodore station wagon seen in the car park around the time of the incident.
Zinda Magazine has learned that t he 16-year-old charged with the alleged murder is an Assyrian youth from Melbourne, Australia. Zinda is saddened by the news of our youth in Australia involved in gang and criminal activities. We hope that the Assyrian community leaders in Australia and throughout the Western world will promptly address the neglection of our youth and act as worthy role models.
I am very sorry for your choice because this man has destroyed our political aim and he is an Assyrian enemy.
Zinda: Mr. Khenanshoo is the former representative of the Assyrians and Chaldeans in the Iranian Majlis (parliament). Mr. Khenanshoo recently met with His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV in Iran and accompanied by several other Assyrian dignitaries requested from His Holiness to assist in greater cooperation among all Assyrian churches, Chaldean Catholic and Syrian Orthodox in particular.
Including Sargon Dadeesho in the list of the man of the year was not appropriate. Also it was not in style of Zinda Magazine. Please do not bring down the level of Zinda magazine to tabloids. We respect this magazine.
Why does Zinda Magazine promote Sargon Dadesho as person of the year? Sargon Dadesho has done the worst for our Nation. Why doesn't Zinda Magazine promote the better like the ADM Ashur TV in Baghdad and San Jose. ADM Zowaa is the only hope for our ChaldoAssyrian people in Iraq. So why doesn't Zinda Magazine look at the political view of the ADM, the ADM progress in maintain freedom and recognition for ChaldoAssyrians in Iraq.
I was very disappointed of Zinda for such a poor taste of selecting the person of 6754.
Will you cancel my subscription to your magazine as a protest for your decision to announce that the separatist Sargaon Dadeesho is the Assyrian of the Year. I strongly believe that he is making more damage to our Oumta [nation] than serving it by attacking Chaldeans and Zawaa [Assyrian Democratic Movement] without any real grounds.
Still I wish you all the best to serve our Oumta in a uniting direction that will benefit everyone.
You might want to have another survey, as to who is the most effective person of the year in terms of destruction of the Assyrians and Chaldean/Christian UNITY in last January Iraqi elections.
Please Remove me from your mailing list.
This is to express my disappointment with your choice for Person of the Year.
Dr. Younathan Youash
I used to think that Zinda was neutral and not politically oriented. I was wrong.
It is your decision.
I am very disappointed of your choice for the person of the year. Person of the year must be a good example for our nation.
I have observed that there is a flaw in your voting software which makes it possible to vote more than once for Zinda’s weekly polls. I believe Sargon Dadesho’s cronies took advantage of this software flaw and performed multiple-votings to get their “Assyrian King in Diaspora” anointed as the person of the year.
An inquiry into “Dr.” Sargon Dadesho’s activities by the authorities is long overdue. A serious investigation by the Attorney General into the affairs of this charlatan and his dubious organizations will no doubt land him in jail for many years to come.
But then again, it might be that the feds are financing him to sow discord and confusion amongst us to render us dispirited and ineffective. You never know who your friends or foes are these days!
I was quite pleased to read your divulging article “6754 Person of the Year – Sargon Dadesho”. It’s not hidden that Mr. Dadesho is one of many reasons behind our nation’s division, which in turn is the main cause for its weakness. He must understand that, whether he likes it or not, Mr. Yonadam Kanna is the legitimate representative of our people in the Iraqi parliament just because our people voted for him!!
Mr. Dadesho’s bad-mannered statements, false accusations and deception neither serve his narrow-minded ambition nor do they unite our nation.
Thank you Zinda for continuing to stay our preferred magazine, which is devoted to our nation’s best interest.
Jonathan S. Davidson, M.D
This is a rebuttal to the Zinda editorial of May 21, 2005.
It has been the incompetence of Assyrian organizations in general which has produced the phenomenon that is Dadesho. Failure of Assyrian organizations over several decades to create meaningful educational programs for Assyrians allowed Dadesho to initially succeed with his Radio and TV programs.
Bet Nahrain Inc. has over the years distinguished itself as a true educational and patriotic organization. While the neighboring club invested in vacant land and a motel which is allegedly used by prostitutes, Bet Nahrain, Inc. invested over $150,000 of it’s own money in a transmitter for a TV station, later known as KBSV.
The Assyrian National Congress has sought to reverse the ‘slashes’ in the 2000 census by taking legal action against the Commerce Department of US Government. This action put their Bingo and TV license and perhaps their livelihood at risk. This selfless act in itself qualifies the leadership of The Assyrian National Congress as ‘patriots’.
Further growth of the TV station has been achieved through creation of Assyria Sat, as described by Zinda : Assyria Sat now reaches Assyrian villages as far as Iran and Iraq.”
The Assyrian referendum created by Bet Nahrain, Inc is a direct response to the apathy of Assyrians in the last Iraqi election. The referendum will hopefully energize voters to vote and influence the Iraqi Government to sponsor additional voting sites for Assyrians in Diaspora.
The recent escalating attacks against Dadesho are in response to his increasing acceptance by Assyrians at an international level. Again Dadesho and his group fill the void of incompetence that is demonstrated by Assyrian national and international organization. Failure of the ‘union of our thirty or so organizations’ to create a program for voter registration in anticipation of the upcoming Iraqi election has allowed Dadesho to Check and Mate these organizations.
There is only one meaningful criticism of Dadesho that needs to be addressed. The programs that are cited for Anti Iranian propaganda are likely to have been imposed by powers that control the legal continuity Bet Nahrain, Inc. and cannot be opposed by Dadesho. Dadesho himself has exhibited dissatisfaction with the impact of these programs.
Zinda: According to our reader the word parasite refers to TV personalities who engage in irrational attacks.
IRI Survey Says Most Iraqies Want Assembly Seats for Minority Groups
The International Republican Institute (IRI) conducted a survey of Iraqi public opinion in April 11 -20, 2005. The results show that 66.80% of Iraqis think that Iraq is heading in the right direction; 47.30% think they are strongly identified by country rather than religion or ethnicity; 37.30% think that the new Iraqi transitional government is representative of the Iraqi people; 38.60% think the primary purpose of the constitution is to define and protect the rights of the people; 75.60% intend to vote in the constitutional referendum scheduled for October, 2005; 33.30% think that the mixed parliamentary / Presidential system would be the most appropriate for a future Iraqi government; 71.70% think that a national central government is best suited for Iraq; 45.90% think that religion and government should respect one another by not impeding on the rights; roles and responsibilities of the other.
On gender and minorities, 51.60% think that the 25 percent quota for women in the National Assembly should be kept in the new constitution; 62% think that the new constitution should reserve national assembly seats for Iraq’s minority group; and 44.30% think that Iraq’s minorities should be given the constitutional rights to reject certain legislation. For more information on the survey, you can contact IRI directly.
Mar Delly, Be Fair!
This letter to ZindaMagazine is in response to the recent statement by Mar Delly the Chaldean patriarch in regards to the presence of American Evangelical missions in Iraq. Mar Delly decries these missionaries as intruders in a land which is not their and as unwanted missionaries. He states that not only are they worsening the tension between Muslims and Christians, but they are also directly effecting the institutionalized Christian churches were already exist in Iraq. Mar Delly further decries these missionaries just for the mere fact that they are Americans, and it is well known that Delly was against the last US military intervention in Iraq.
As an Assyrian Presbyterian, I think that it is high time to denounce such two-facedness on the part of the Chaldean patriarch. He believes that these missionaries are entering in upon ‘territory’ claimed by the mainstream churches in Iraq—among them Assyrian, Chaldean and Syrian—and that there is no room for Evangelical and/or Baptist missionaries and their form of Christianity in Iraq. I can proudly say that although I am presently Presbyterian, in fact since my great grandparents converted to this church in Urmia in the early part of the twentieth century, my forefathers were undoubtedly members of the Church of the East. The circumstances of time and history caused them to pass over to the Presbyterian Church, as well as hundreds of other Nestorian Assyrian Christians during the period, but nevertheless I—and all of us Assyrian protestants—know very well what our roots are.
The fact that amazes me, and in fact disgusts me, is that the Chaldean patriarch does not mention the history of the Catholic missionaries among the so-called ‘Nestorian’ Christians in Iraq and Iran, which caused them not only to submit to the sovereignty of the pope but to change their own ethnic and national identity of their being Assyrians! The protestant Assyrians have sure changed their church affiliation, but by no means do we deny that we are Assyrians by blood and race. I think that Mar Delly is twisting history, indeed outright denying it, by decrying these missionaries. Are they not preaching the same Christ that the Catholic missionaries came to preach among the Assyrian Christians in order to convert them to popism (papayoota)? At least these missionaries in Iraq are not preaching to the Christians, rather they are braving the dangers of the present state of the country and are approaching Muslims in order to introduce them to Jesus Christ and eternal Salvati on.
I think that patriarch Delly needs to be fair and face the facts of history that the Catholic missionaries did much more damage to the Church of the East and the Assyrians in general than the Protestant missionaries did! For the Catholic missionaries, the most important thing was to accept the pope’s position of supremacy. The Protestants, however, preached the supremacy of Christ and his Gospel—what a far-reaching difference. Just listen to the latest words of bishop Jammo who says that the Assyrians of Iran should not mix themselves in the affairs of the Iraqi Assyrians because they are of a totally different cultural milieu. I think that bishop Jammo should really be ashamed of himself, and those Assyrian that blindly follow him should be ashamed all the more!!!
I call upon patriarch Delly to retract his words against the American missionaries in Iraq and to apologize for being so biased and deliberately twisting history. You should face the facts and admit that the Catholic church and missionaries have done much damage to the ancient church of our forefathers and our nation to the point that their followers have changed their very national identity and name. Shame on you patriarch Delly, and all those who have changed their identity and roots to follow the pope. At least if you would have done it for Christ rather than the pope, one might find some logic to your claims!
Chicago Suntimes Stands Corrected!
In today's edition of the Suntimes newspaper, there is an article on Neenos Khoshaba's murder. There is a very large error in this article they call Mr. Khoshaba "an Iraqi man of Syrian descent" as we all know, he was Assyrian and not from Syria he was from Nematha. I have already written to the Suntimes about their mistake. However, I feel that others should write to the paper as well so that they not only correct the mistake but make sure not to make it again in the future. Please write or e-mail a letter to the editor of the Suntimes so that we can make a difference.
Zinda: The Chicago Suntimes and most other media outlets have since corrected their initial misinformation regarding the identity of Mr. Khoshaba, thanks to our readers' immediate response. Thank you!
Linda George's New Music Demonstrates the Strengths of Our Multi-Talented Assyrian Artists
A series of outlandish remarks have been brought to the attention of Linda George Management Team in the United States about our beloved Assyrian artist's latest hit single, "Ana Hurra". It is appropriate that we take a few moments to clarify this misinformation and enlighten the readers of Zinda Magazine and Linda George's worldwide fans of such inaccuracies.
We suspect that the poignant rumors are not coming from Assyrians, as Ms. Linda George continues to enjoy a huge following among the Assyrian people who admire her music everywhere.
Ms. George began singing in her native language in the Church and at the Assyrian events. Through years she has written some of the most patriotic Assyrian songs, and was one of the first singers to write a song about Zowaa back in 1990, titled "Akhnan Ewakh Atorayee".
The only time Ms. George has performed in Atra (homeland) was at the invitation of the Assyrian Democratic Movement to celebrate Kha b'Neesan Assyrian New Year festivities in Atra. A portion of this performance is captured in the new documentary by the French director, Robert Alaux, titled "The Last Assyrians". Mr. Alaux selected Ms. George's performance to represent the best of the Assyrian artists. Furthermore, Ms. George did not perform for the Kurdish groups, neither was she invited by the Kurdish parties to Iraq. In fact, Ms. George and her management team categorically deny that Ms. George has ever used the phrase "Khaya Kurdistan" (Long Live Kurdistan) in private or during her public performances.
The song "Ana Hura" (I am Free!) is quickly becoming one of the most requested songs on the Arabic-language television channels around the world. It was aired for the first time on Ashur TV as a gift from Linda George Enterprise to our brothers and sisters in the homeland of Iraq. Ashur TV broadcast from Iraq is the most watched local channel in Baghdad. Ashur TV in Baghdad informed Linda George Management that their office had never received as many phone calls as they did the day "Ana Hurra" aired. The song, Ashur TV commented, had exalted our Assyrian Name among fellow Iraqis.
"Ana Hurra" has been performed live three times only in the past three
months, in Toronto for the Valentine's day, in Arizona for Zowaa's
Anniversary and in Sweden for Easter.
Linda George was also interviewed by Reuters TV at Beverly Hills Hilton in Los Angeles last week and this interview will soon be made available to the major news channels in the world.
"Ana Hurra" is indeed about hope and unity for and among all Iraqi factions and it is an honor for all of us to have our Assyrian name and an Assyrian artist and entertainer recognized by so many around the world.
Linda George is and will always remain a legendary Assyrian singer. Only
now she is also skillfully demonstrating the inherent ability of the
Assyrian entertainers to adeptly perform songs in their native and
Assyrian American Students Association of Southern California Kick Off Meeting
The Assyrian American Association of Southern California (AAASC) is encouraging participation of all the students of higher education either current or graduates to attend this kick off meeting to be held on June 12, 2005 at 2:00 PM at the AAASC Facility located at 5901 Cahuenga Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91501.
It is with the intention of establishing or re-establishing an Assyrian student association that the AAASC is sponsoring this kick off meeting. It is imperative that the Assyrian students in this state establish themselves as a recognizable academic entity with a strong voice in the higher educations academic community benefiting all present and future generations of Assyrian students.
An organized voice(s) is never silenced or ignored but rather heard and listened to. The recognition received by academic student associations are far reaching and the benefits harvested from their existence and functions plentiful. This country offers endless opportunities for the students. As an academic organization, the Assyrian Student Association can and should utilize all of these benefits currently enjoyed by other Student organizations. A highly educated Assyrian Community is a long quest of a goal ensuring economic wealth and political clout.
Please make a serious effort to attend by calling Miss Arbella Orshan @ (818) 506-7577 for further details.
The First Family Conference of Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church in Europe
Fr Dr. Biji Chirathilattu (Austria)
Theme: “So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:5)
It is indeed very happy to announce that the first family conference of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church in Europe will be held at St. Mary’s Syrian Orthodox Church Lainzerstr.153A. 1130 Vienna and at the Hotel “Am Spiegeln”, Johann-Hörbigerstr.30, 1230 Vienna(Austria) on 10th, 11th and 12th June 2005. The members who live across Europe, especially from England, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland and Austria will participate in this “Family Sangamam”. The Arch-Bishop, His Eminence Dr. Kuriakose Mor Theophilos and all the Vicars of our parishes will lead the conference. There will be class and group discussions, presentations and debate on this year’s theme “So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Rom 12:5) by the participants. There is no doubt that the Sunday school children’s competition and various cultural programmes will highlight and make this as an enjoyable event. A guided tour also has been arranged for the delegates to see the city and suburbs of Vienna during the conference. On the last day of the conference at 11:00am, His Eminence Dr. Mor Theophilose will lead the celebration of the festive Holy Qurbana at the three altars in the St. Mary’s Syrian Orthodox Church, Vienna at 11:00am which is followed by the “Family Feast”. The leaders from sister churches, the ecumenical movements and social leaders will felicitate the public meeting in the afternoon. The conference will be concluded with the annual General Body Meeting of the delegates from all the parishes in Europe. We heartily welcome all the members and friends to this family conference.
Yours in Christ.
Zinda: For Registration contact the Vicar of your Parish and for more details of the program visit: www.msoceurope.com.
The Assyrian Democratic Organization's Speech Delivered by Mr.
Bashir Al-Saadi at the Gathering Held In
In the beginning I would like to thank “the patriotic committee” in Deir Azzor for holding this important meeting in this very sensitive period of our country’s history and Seikh Nawaf Ragheb AlBashir for hosting this meeting at his home.
The impasse that the country is in today is the natural offspring of the totalitarian regime itself, which has ruled Syria since Al-Baath party took over the power, and even before that since the union between Syria and Egypt, this monopoly by al-Baath party was shared since 1972 by some other nationalist and Marxist parties with the same totalitarian ideologies within the framework of a canned Front that has become a part and parcel of the regime. Hence the fault lies in these regimes themselves not only in people in power .This was the case with all the totalitarian regimes that have ruled more than half of the countries of this globe for about half a century .These regimes, some international some national others religious, have failed to achieve freedom, prosperity, justice and equality for their people ,they have produced only replicas of themselves, generated corruption everywhere and dehumanized the people. So we think, whichever totalitarian party ruled Syria in this period we would have got this same result. The crux of the matter is in the ideology of the ruling party and the form of the regime itself, whether totalitarian or democratic.
In our opinion, the responsibility for the political dilemma in Syria does not lie only in the regime but in some opposition parties as well that still hold romantic totalitarian ideologies that go beyond the boundaries of the homeland. Some of these are Arab nationalists others Syrian nationalists some Marxists, religious and even minority nationalist parties, each one of these has his own program that transcends the country’s boundaries and views Syria as a transitory phase in his broader national or religious dream. Some of them even know much more details about his dream -project than about the governorates of his country Syria. This is one of the reasons of our present crisis of loss and dispersion of forces. We further think, that all the patriotic forces should draw lessons from our past experiences and bitter failures. Syria is the first and the last home for its sons.
As regards the points of discussion, we see the following:
A- On the National level
We think that all the political forces should break relation with their dream-project that lies beyond the borders for the sake of the real homeland with the present boundaries, and further, consider this homeland as a permanent home for its sons with all their religious and ethnic diversities living under the umbrella of one equal, Syrian, national identity, an identity that would include the cultural and national diversity of all the civilizations that have prevailed on this land. Our Organization views this as a fundamental point that should be given due consideration in our debate.
B- On Democracy
We think that adopting democracy by the national parties is considered a prerequisite for the completion of the democratic process, and here we don’t mean by democracy as a means to an end, namely, seizing power through ballot boxes then reversing the process. Our own concept of democracy is a clear cut one, we believe in the same democracy now applied in the Northern hemisphere, we see in it the system that guarantees rotation of power peacefully according to the will of people and the ballot boxes. We see in it the separation of authorities, the supremacy of law, the neutrality of army, the separation between religion and politics not society, and further, we see in it a rejection of wars and a peaceful coexistence among all people in the area and a full and positive involvement in the international community, as Syria’s role had always been throughout its long history.
C- On Human Rights
We believe that the principles and values of human rights and that of democracy are closely related and – inseparable. Thus, any democratic regime that does not adopt the principles and values of human rights has no credibility. This is the criteria for any party desiring to become democratic. By the way, we would like to say her to those who argue that these values are alien to our culture and society, that our ancestors were the first who enacted laws for human rights and the famous Hamu Rabi Code is the clearest example of that.
D- Means of Reform and Confronting Outside Threats
We think that playing at the outside threat is a bit exaggeration, but this does not mean that it does not exist. Besides, linking between the American threat and the Israeli one is not very accurate, this is actually the outcome of the rotting conspiracy theory so common in our societies. As a matter of fact, we lack the courage to discuss these matters openly and realistically, hence accusing others of treason is a ready-made charge in our society. Nevertheless, what interests us in this regard is how to reinforce the country against all kinds of threats. We believe this can not be achieved unless we build a strong coherent society, strong economically, culturally and above all in terms of a national unity based on justice and equality, and this can only be done through the process of reform towards democracy. Therefore, we see that the best option for the opposition to pressure for reforms is, continuing the political struggle, besides, we still consider that the safest mechanism for this change is through convening a national convention for dialogue and reconciliation involving all the national forces without distinction with an aim of reaching a comprehensive vision for reforms and working out a workable phased timetable for implementing them. We think that the opportunity is still there, and how nice it would be if the president himself took this initiative, this is the best option and it would ward off much losses and failures. On the other hand, the opposition is required to reorganize their forces and fit tightly together and put forward their political programs.
Finally, we believe that the real introduction to the supposed reform process should be based on the following :
National Democratic Committee
On 20 May, 2005 a gathering of the national dialogue was convened in Deir Azzor, Syria on the invitation of Sheikh Nawaf Ragheb Al-Bashir, a member of the National Democratic Committee, attended by representatives of the following parties and civil society organizations:
The participants discussed a working paper and agreed upon the following:
A- On National Level
1- The participants have confirmed the importance of unity, sovereignty, and independence of the country and have further stressed that this sovereignty and unity can not be completed without full and complete citizenship that would restore the affiliation of Syrians to their country and would put an end to their alienation and give back citizenship to those who have been striped of it, the Kurds and others, and further, provide equal civil, political and cultural rights for all the citizens and solve the question of the Kurds and Assyrians democratically within the framework of national Syrian identity .
2- The participants stress on the national unity for all Syrians, but the Unity they mean here is unlike the one forced on them forcible by the regime, the unity here is a voluntary one based on diversity and variety and positive participation in social life .
B- On Democracy
1-The participants see that the most important thing in this regard is elimination of regime's monopoly of power and putting an end to repression and the state of security and further establishment of a democratic, national system based on law and democracy
2-The transition from the totalitarian regime to a free and democratic society could be achieved through peaceful political and civil struggle
C- On Human Rights
1-The participants express their commitment to the human rights as these are natural civil, political and social rights to man as proclaimed in the declaration of human rights and other conventions.
2-The participants express their solidarity with all the political detainees in Syria and with all prisoners of conscious, furthermore they call for their immediate release, closure of the file of political detention and the return of all their rights.
D - On Practical Procedures
1-The participants see that the establishment of a comprehensive dialogue among all the political forces and civil personalities is essential for creating an active opposition force in the country .
2-To commission a follow-up committee in order to activate the political role and performance of the opposition in preparation for a comprehensive convention.
3-The necessity of forming democratic national committees in the governorates and further establishing communications among them.
Zinda: On 23 May Syria "severed all links" with the U.S. military and CIA because the Bush administration decided "to escalate the situation with Syria" despite Syria's cooperation against Iraqi insurgents, Syria's ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, said. Moustapha said continued U.S. pressure after Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon and the February return of Saddam Hussein's half-brother, the one-time head of an Iraqi security agency, prompted the Syrians to re-evaluate their continued cooperation with the United States.
On 24 May all eight members of the only remaining active political forum in Syria, the Al-Atassi Forum for National Dialogue, were arrested. Syrian President Bashar al Assad had allowed the forum to continue despite the crackdown on all other forums.
U.S. Representative Christopher Shays, R-Conn., said last week that the renewed sanctions on Syria by the United States "are one step below military confrontation." Shays, in a panel discussion at the World Economic Summit in Jordan, cited "huge problems" with Syria, including failure to stop the flow of fighters into Iraq. He said Israel is the top commitment in the region and that the United States is not "neutral."
Constructive Co-Working vs. Criticism
A Christian Post Editorial
Last week, the head of Iraq’s largest Christian community denounced American evangelical missionaries in his county for what he said were attempts to convert poor Muslims by flashing money and smart cars.
Delly also stated that the evangelical missionaries were not real missionaries, claiming that they attracted poor youths with displays of money and taking them "out riding in cars to have fun."
"Then they take photos and send them here, to Germany, to the United States and say 'look how many Muslims have become Christian,’" he said.
While Delly’s over-generalized claims can neither be validated nor discredited, they are certainly unnecessary and unconstructive.
In a country where believers make up around three percent of Iraq’s population of 26 million, incoming missionaries should be more helpful than harmful. Just the very presence of another believer should become an added support to the fellow brothers and sisters in Christ of the predominantly Muslim nation. However, if there is a problem with the method by which Western missionaries share their faith, it is just that—a problem with the method, not necessarily with the motive.
Western culture is very different from the Middle Eastern culture. What may be viewed as generosity and fellowship in the West may be perceived as a lures in the Middle East.
So what is needed? Not criticism, but co-working.
Missionaries from the West do not go out with the intention of invading other regions with Western culture. It is to bring with them a life that reveals the culture of Christ. Western culture is just a secondary flavor. If the actions of missionaries are misunderstood, they should be informed and instructed, not judged and ejected—especially not to the media.
They are not there to serve the United States, but to serve Christ and God’s children—and not as citizens of another country, but as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Saddam`s Human Rights?
Rev. Ken Joseph Jr.
It was with incredulity and then anger that I happened to see the news of Saddam Hussein`s lawyer preparing to sue the US Government over the violation of Saddam Hussein's human rights over pictures of his imprisonment.
Judaism's Worst Enemy is Within!
God told Isaiah:"O my people! they who guide you lead you astray." (Isaiah 3:12)
In almost every age, false Jewish leadership has led the average Jew into bondage, Persecution and exile and our church has stripped us of nationalism! The ancient Pharisees epitomized such "blind guides," provoking the Romans to destroy Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
So it is today. Evil Jewish political, religious and cultural leadership continues to stimulate a backlash of anti-Jewish feeling. Many resent creation of "anti-hate" laws worldwide by the Jewish Anti-Defamation League of B'NaiB'Rith.
Most powerfully, anti-Jewish feeling has been stimulated by false Zionist leadership in the Middle East. Such leadership disobeyed God's instruction to his people that they live in contentment among the nations until the second coming of Christ. Only then,when a remnant of Jews will believe on their rejected Messiah(Meshiakh in Hebrew)Jesus, will Israel at last enjoy divine endorsement to re-occupy God's holy land, a land strictly reserved for Jews who are obedient. Only then a wealth of Old Testament scriptures prophesying national restoration to Palestine be fulfilled.
Instead, a century ago,false Zionist leadership convinced the Jewish people that they could escape persecution,re-occupy the promise land,and fulfill scripture without obedience to their true Messiah. Most evangelical Christians agreed with their unbiblical claims. The result has not been an end of persecution for Jews. Instead, the world has endured a century of strife and hatred against Jews by the Arab World, a strife exploding into international Arab terrorism financed and supported by some under-world fanatic christians.Far from becoming a land of refuge,Israel is the most dangerous place a Jew can live.
"There is no peace to the wicked." (Isa.48:22)
If such leadership is not restrained (as Christ did to the Pharsees), even more waves of anti-semitism will sweep the world.God's destiny for remnant of believing Jews will be imperiled.
If such a backlash emerges, it will not be the Jewish Rabbis,financiers,and media moguls who will suffer most.It will be the Jewish people or better say the Hebrews the God's chosen people. This is what happened in Weimar Germany in 1939 when Jewish shopkeepers had their windows smashed to atone for the sins of Jewish financiers,money changers and usurper.(During the money changers and usury from the temple of solomon was the one and only one time that Jesus used force or direct action during his ministry.Why? What was so important about their activities? After Christ's death, the church maintained an anti-usury policy for hundreds of years.the Catholic Encyclopedia, stated that usury is to be condemned by all honest men...)
Ultimately,We believe, such biblically oriented, fearless truth telling will prove more of a blessing to Jews than the traditional military and moral approve of Israel,which is knee-jerkingly given by evangelicals. Such has only encouraged Zionist warlords, Such as Begin,Shamir,and Sharon,to further antagonize the Arab community. As consequence, America has now been drawn into Middle East for one colossal,unnecessary purpose: to make the Middle East safe for Israel. Result: the world draws closer daily to a Middle East nuclear Armageddon.
The last but not the least, the newly released DVD "The last temptation of Jesus Christ" An unnecessary disaster in Chritian-Jewish relation.
The movie was the most savage, attack on Jesus that ever came out of Hollywood.Church leaders were angry after previewing the movie. Jesus was portrayed as charlatan, a lecher, a fool.
Yet Hollywood was promising more,another film spectacular was in the works that was touted to be extreme, shattering all is sacred concerning Jesus Christ.
Dr. Jerry Falwell, at height of national prestige during the late 80's, made a very well publicized threat to Hollywood film moguls. he said, in effect, that if they continued to distribute the movie, it could mean a disaster for Jewish-Christian relation.Why Jewish-Christian relations? Because Dr.Falwell was broadly hinting that MCA, producer of the film, was Jewish owned and controlled.
MCA was undaunted. Yet what could he does, Where hundreds of public protests, ten of thousands of letters to Hollywood failed to stop this anti-Christ juggernaut?
Dr.Ted Pike one the most evangelical reverend of the century, wrote a brochure, "The real reason behind the last temptation of Christ." He named the owners and directors of MCA, identifying them as Jewish. Further, he pointed out the central, blasphemous theme of the movie precisely reflected the blasphemy against Christ within the greatest spiritual and legal authority of Judaism,The Talmud written by pharisees, the same evil Jewish leaders who had Christ crucified, remains the greatest spiritual authority for religious Jews, far surpassing the Old Testament. Here from his brochure, is how "The Last Temptation of Christ" compares with the Talmud.
JESUS: "All my life I have been followed by voices I am ashamed when I think of all the mistakes I have made-all the wrong ways I have looked for God." He was a fool and we do not pay attention to what fools do. [Sanhedrin 67a (uncensored version)]
Jesus a Traitor, Deceiver
Jesus, a carpenter, is in business making crosses for the Romans. He assists in crucifying Jewish freedom fighters.
Jesus An Apostate
Jesus:"I never tell the truth..I don't have the courage. I want to rebel against...God, Lucifer is inside me." This movie repeatedly suggests Christ does miracles through Satan. Jesus, practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to postasy. [Sanhedrin 43a]
Jesus Immoral, Blasphemous
In the movie, Jesus watches Mary Magdalene all day as she has sex with many customers. Mary Magdalene says: "You are pitiful. I hate you!" Jesus says, "I am the saint of blasphemy!" Jesus was excommunicated for the the thought of seducing a woman. In his ensuing grief he fell down and worshiped a brick. [Sanhedrin 106a (uncensored version)]
Jesus Not God, Messiah
"The Last Temptation of Christ" lends credence to the traditional rabbinic view that Christ was not God incarnate. He was not divinely conceived but was an imposter, a misfit to his people and tradition.
Jesus:"How could I be Messiah? I wanted to kill the people stoning Mary!"
"I am a man like everyone else!" Jesus was born out of wedlock, Mary, who was descendant of princes and governors,played the harlot with carpenters. [Sanherin 106b]
Jesus was killed by...stoning, burning
decapitation,and stragling...he met his
death at age of 33...he had no portion in
Several years ago, a prominent national Jewish leader said that "The Last Temptation of Christ" was the biggest public relations disaster in Jewish-Christian relations during the last century . I never intended my expose to cause a disaster between Christians and the Jewish people. Yet, tragically, evil Zionist leaders had made it such by basing their film on blasphemies from the Talmud. This caused untold Christian Christian Americans to throw the blame on "the Jews," just as the German people did before WWII.
The Zionist owners of MCA had not counted on anyone having the courage to specifically blame false Jewish leadership. They knew most Christian/conservative leaders (even knowing of the Jewish origins of the film) would never point the finger beyond such obscure terminology as "Hollywood Moguls" or "secular humanist media."
Yet due to the outspokenness of Dr. Jerry Falwell and Dr. Ted Pyke the mega blasphemous follow up movie was never made.
Do you want to know how to save America? Have the courage to get specific concerning false Jewish leadership and Zionists behind the media. If you do not, the Zionist media will continue to trample on everything that is sacred to American's faith and liberty.
Christianity will suffer. And also the Jewish people.
At the end I am hoping my Jewish friends,and instructors from the school of Hebrew studies and Hebrew language who put a real effort to my tuition in the vast knowledge of Judaism, will not take it personal for writing this article, since they were the first who read it as a hard writing. After all the hard headed Christian Assyrians will be always forgiven.
God Bless America and God bless Assyria and the Assyrians who are working hard for Assyrian cause.
Samuel Shimon's "An Iraqi in Paris"
About five pages into Samuel Shimon's rollicking autobiographical novel "An Iraqi in Paris," a taxi skids into Beirut from Damascus and drops Shimon on Martyrs' Square. He books a room at the Alexandra Hotel, ducks into a shop for a notebook and pen, and sets off walking. The year is 1979, however, and Shimon never makes it back to the hotel. Under an explosion of rockets, he's abducted by a jeep full of Phalangist militiamen. Convinced he's some sort of spy, a fighter named Tony walks Shimon down to the sea in what seems like an inevitable sequence leading toward summary execution.
Shimon begs for his life, telling Tony that all he wants is to make movies. Tony hesitates and then lowers his gun from Shimon's temple.
"Do you know Godard?" Tony asks. "Do you know someone called Jean-Luc Godard?"
"No," Shimon says. After a beat, he shouts out a desperate litany of names: John Ford, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Gary Cooper, Katherine Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe, and many more. By the time he's done, Tony's splitting his sides with laughter.
He spares Shimon with the sympathetic condescension of a cineaste to the unenlightened. "Listen cowboy," he says. "Let it be known that Hollywood cinema is weak compared with the films of the Nouvelle Vague."
"The anecdote," insists Shimon, on the line from London where he now lives and works, "is absolutely true."
"An Iraqi in Paris" traces Shimon's adventures from the small Iraqi village of Al-Habbaniyyah, where he was born to an Assyrian family, to Damascus, Beirut, Nicosia, Tunis, and finally Paris, where he lives for years, literally hand-to-mouth, on the streets and off the generosity of friends and strangers.
He encounters traumas and tragedies. He gets detained, interrogated, and beaten. He gets drunk, enraptured with women, entertained by a community of literary colleagues, and entangled in raunchy sexual escapades. He gets hassled, numerous times, for the quizzical nature of his name (which yes, sounds Jewish and no, is not). He also gets harangued, in at least as many instances, by Arab writers in Paris who tell him not to hang around with other Arab writers in Paris.
But throughout this careening, fast-paced, episodic narrative, Shimon never loses his poignant touch for humor. As in the anecdote with Tony and Godard in Beirut, Shimon consistently folds the absurdity of political violence into the intimacy of human relations.
As a character, Shimon leaves home on the hunt for Hollywood - loud, brash and brazen, gunning for the big time. As a novelist, Shimon embarks on a far more nimble and nuanced journey, quietly winding his way back home, to his village, his family, and most trenchantly his deaf-dumb father Kika. (After 17 energetic chapters, the book ends with a pensive, 100-page novella entitled "The Street Boy and the Cinema: A Story of Childhood, in Homage to John Ford," which represents the film script he struggles to write - with Robert De Niro in mind for the lead, no less - throughout the period that precedes it.)
The cover of "An Iraqi in Paris" boasts a photograph of a funerary statue in Paris's Pere Lachaise cemetery of George Melies. Melies was a pioneer of early cinema who championed fantasy in contrast to (and in competition with) his contemporaries, the Lumiere brothers, who put their faith in the medium's ability to capture the world through realism.
That apt image of Melies sets up the vivid, visual element of Shimon's book, which unfolds - to the extent that any written text can - as a series of intensely cinematic scenes.
"I always saw the book as a film," says Shimon. "Many of my readers have said that they almost 'watch' the novel like a movie. There is a lot of literature in the book, but it is particularly easy to visualize. Don't forget," he adds. "I always wanted, and still hope, to make movies!"
But if "An Iraqi in Paris" opens as a Hollywood-style thriller, it ends more artfully. One of the most striking sequences in the book, repeated to varying degrees throughout the final novella, captures the way Shimon speaks with his father through a silent and invented system of sign language. ("Touching my chest with the fingers of both hands, running my index fingers together, and striking my open left palm with my right index finger ... )"
"The gestures were very difficult to describe in words," says Shimon. "I used to stop typing and act out the gestures to bring back the memory of them. At the time there was no official sign language - in my region at least - so my father had to teach us his 'language' and we had, each of us, to mentally store a sort of 'dictionary' of his language."
The result is that as a reader, you too must act out the gestures and in so doing the meaning of Shimon's relationship with his father hits you with a kind of tactile, nonverbal, nonvisual tenderness.
Shimon insists that "An Iraqi in Paris" is entirely autobiographical. He has changed a few names, such that the poet Adonis becomes the otherwise unmistakable poet Adams.
"In one or two parts I have slightly changed the order of events so that the narrative flows more easily," he adds. "I was obliged to recount my life. [But] I postponed some scandalous stories for the next volume."
That raises an interesting point. A reviewer for The Independent in London tagged "An Iraqi in Paris" as the Arabic answer to Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer." There's less cruelty and less depravity to Shimon's style, but does the comparison otherwise hold?
"Henry Miller is a great writer for me and for most Arab intellectuals, so naturally I'm proud of the comparison," says Shimon. Still, "I want to tell you that I received three or four anonymous e-mails warning me, in so many words: 'Don't take this comparison seriously, you idiot! Don't believe that you are like Miller because an English journalist says so.' This is an example not only of professional jealousy but of just how important a writer Henry Miller is for Arab intellectuals."
Shimon first wrote the script for "The Street Boy and the Cinema" in Arabic in 1985. Friends tried to convince him to publish it as a novel at the time but Shimon refused. "I was thinking differently. Those childhood stories needed to be told by a broken man who had failed in his life," he says.
He did publish the story in parts and in various Arabic newspapers and magazines, which meant he had to piece everything back together again in order to fuse everything back into a proper novel.
It seems to highlight the cracks in the cultural edifice that is Arabic literature, however, that Shimon's full-bodied novel came out first in English (an Arabic edition of "An Iraqi in Paris" is due out in October from the German publishing house Kamel Verlag, which will also release Shimon's translation of poems by American actor Michael Madsen, whom Dennis Hopper dubs to be "better than Kerouac").
At the same time, though, it illustrates the little-engine strength of a London-based literary journal called Banipal, which published "An Iraqi in Paris" in March under the banner of Banipal Books.
Shimon co-founded Banipal seven years ago with Margaret Obank, an editor and intellect who is among other things married to Shimon. Devoted to contemporary Arab literature in translation, the magazine is published three times a year and provides one of the very few channels of consistent diffusion for cultural production in and from the Arab world. That it is fueled by public funds from the U.K. rather than from any Arab states or organizations says a lot.
Shimon is hoping "An Iraqi in Paris" will also be translated to French. In the meantime, he says, "I am working on two other novels, one is again autobiographical about an Iraqi man spending his summers camping in Cannes, and from time to time recalling his life in Beirut during the civil war, his youth in Baghdad and [his] time as a soldier in the Iraqi Army during the civil war in the north of Iraq. The other novel is called 'The Five Mohammads.' It is about five beautiful Moroccan writers and artists who all died from cancer."
How far along is he in the writing? "I'm like a bedouin," he says. "All my references, ideas, and images are in my head although I have a laptop. In other words, I write the story completely, every last word and comma, in my head. Then I type it up later."
Samuel Shimon's "An Iraqi in Paris" is out now published by Banipal Books. For more information on the novel, along with the magazine, check out www.banipal.co.uk or www.inpressbooks.co.uk.
Book Reviews of Samuel Shimon's "An Iraqi in Paris"
It’s January 1979 and young Samuel Shimon is leaving Iraq for Hollywood, the place he’s been dreaming of since he was a child. He silently wakes up, says goodbye to his family and leaves. First he goes to Syria, then Lebanon and Jordan. In all these countries he is jailed, tortured and thrown out. His dreams about reaching Hollywood to become a director start fading, but the dream of making a film still haunts his mind. He eventually reaches Paris where he starts a new life, mostly spent on the street as a homeless refugee, a writer and a wanna-be director. This is the plot of Samuel Shimon’s first novel, An Iraqi in Paris. Shimon’s Paris is intoxicating, beautiful, but painful: he meets talented writers and charming women; wanders in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris among the graves of poets, writers and friends; sees Samuel Beckett in a café; talks to Marcello Mastroianni and is mistaken for actor Aldo Maccione; at the same time he is perennially skint and sometimes struggles to survive the French capital. There is only one thing that seems to keep him alive and that’s the project of a film about his father, a deaf-mute baker in love with England and with its Queen. Robert DeNiro would be perfect in such a part, he reckons, but Shimon never manages to write the film, and eventually starts a novel.
An Iraqi in Paris is a bit like a “Left Bank” novel, the Arabic answer to Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, but it’s unique in the way it’s written: Shimon can be funny, comical, tragic and depressed at the same time. His experiences are also told in a cinematographic style while the novel respects the traditional Arab style of storytelling: one adventure follows the other continuously and relentlessly.
The volume also contains a tender novella, “The Street Boy and the Cinema”, an homage to John Ford (the text is interspersed with Ford’s film titles), in which Shimon writes about his obsession for cinema when he was a child living in al-Habbaniyah with his family, an obsession that he transmitted to his father and to many of his childhood friends.
Shimon’s best friend is Kiryakos, who teaches him titles of American films and predicts to the boy, “Sam, you will be a great actor in Hollywood some day." The novella has got comic tones when it describes the relationship between the protagonist’s parents. When a man goes to Shimon’s mother to ask for her young daughter’s hand and reminds her that she had married when she was only thirteen, Shimon writes, “My mother smiled in a way that indicated she was cursing the day she had done so.” There’s an episode of “The Street Boy…” that in a way becomes a prophecy for the author: Shimon and his dad find near the river an old Carpenter typewriter that will turn into the object of desire for the young protagonist, almost symbolizing what his final career will be.
Shimon has worked as journalist for various Arab newspapers and magazines and has also edited and written anthologies of poems. He co-founded in 1998 Banipal, a magazine of modern Arab literature in English translation and is its assistant editor. He has also recently launched an Arabic literary site www.kikah.com, named after his deaf-dumb father.
“To you, everything is like cinema,” somebody remarks to Shimon in An Iraqi in Paris when he announces he’s going to the north of Lebanon. There have been no movies so far in Shimon’s life: chances are that somebody will turn his books or his life into films one day.
I think it was in 1992 that I had in my hand a draft of a certain text, to check if it was good enough to appear in an Arab literary magazine published in Germany. The text was a part of an unfinished novel entitled Nostalgia to the English Time, written by an Iraqi called Samuel Shimon. I knew many Arab and Iraqi writers and had read most of them, but who was this Samuel Shimon who lived in Paris and wrote with such a distinctive voice?
Not only was the theme of his text amazing, but also his unique and simple style that mixed intellect with humour. There was also another reason why I felt his story was so familiar to me: the similarity between al-Habbaniyah, where the author spent his childhood, and Kirkuk, my own city. Both are multi-cultural and multi-linguistic. Many nationalities have lived there for centuries in peace together.
Falling in love with the Queen of England
The draft I was reading had been written in so simple a way that it gripped the reader, stimulating his or her imagination: an Assyrian boy of ten years and his deaf-mute father, returning home late one night from the bar. It is not only the father's favourite game of "peeing as they walk along" that reveals the true bond between the drunk father and his son, but also their way of communicating with each other without words.
In the tales of his childhood, Samuel Shimon recounts a world full of passions and tiny pleasures. The family is poor like all other families in the neighbourhood, but no one complains about his lot; the father often looks without success for any job to earn some money to support his large family, but he doesn't stop loving the Queen of England. And we hear the mother saying sarcastically: "Mad, this man is in love with a woman who wouldn't employ him as a toilet cleaner."
We feel the social misery everywhere, but it is always a silent misery. We see the whole scene through the eyes of a child who thinks the whole world is a film and he is only acting his role in it. This film has, of course, its director – God.
An Iraqi on his way to Hollywood stardom
Samuel's guide in the jungle of this world-film is Kiryakos, his master. Like Virgil in The Divine Comedy, who led Dante through hell to paradise and taught him what he didn't know, Kiryakos taught Sam the titles of all the American films and gave him what would brand his life forever with the stamp of fantasy – arriving in Hollywood to be one of its stars.
Following his dream, he wakes up early one morning, while his father and mother, his five brothers and sisters are still sleeping. He goes to his mother and tells her that he is going away and that she may never see him again.
"Where are you travelling, son?"
Twenty five years later he will meet his mother again, not in al-Habbaniyah, but in America itself, and she will say to him: "Well, I arrived before you in America" and ask him: "Where have you been all these years, son?"
The prodigal son, who long ago reached the point of no return, stays silent. To tell the story of his life (remembering the teachings of his master Kiryakos), he has to record it first as a scenario and see it as a film.
An Iraqi in Paris (the title reminds us, of course, of a Hollywood film) is, perhaps unconsciously, the author's long-dreamed of but unaccomplished film, some kind of compensation or attempt to arrive at his dreamland, even by other means of transportation. It is once more the prophecy of Kiryakos: "Sam, you will be a great actor in Hollywood some day."
Going to California via various Middle East prison cells
Throughout the book Samuel sees himself as a hero in a film. The book begins with his long journey to the great and unknown world to reach his beloved Hollywood; like Odysseus "the man of twists and turns" on his way to Penelope, and like him also, Samuel will "turn, driven time and again off course".
In Damascus, in Beirut, in Amman, he will be arrested, interrogated and beaten for days, almost without reason, paying the price of his innocence and good faith. But he never considers what happens with him as tragedy, he never even cries. He takes his fate as a joke and has always, as a cunning young devil, his tricks to defend himself.
In Beirut, accused of being a Syrian informer sent to spy on the Phalangists and with a gun at his head about to shoot him dead, he defends himself: "I want to make movies! I'm not a spy. . . I'm not like you and your friends, killing and smoking Gitanes." Here, he falls in a trap when the hit-man asks him about the Nouvelle Vague of French cinema; he knows nothing about it, as Kiryakos never mentioned it. But our hero will not accept defeat and shouts out name after name of Hollywood stars. When he stops, the hit-man is laughing and calling him "Cowboy". Death is averted.
The traditional Arab style of storytelling
An Iraqi in Paris is not only an autobiographical novel, but also a book of tales. The form of the book reminds us of the traditional Arab style of storytelling: no central plot, no psychoanalytical conflicts or approaches to the characters. The narrator, Samuel himself, does not stop in his telling of one tale after another, like Scheherazade in the Thousand and One Nights. What is important here is the adventure of the journey alone.
We never see the hero of An Iraqi in Paris sitting in a corner contemplating the events of his life. He is always in a hurry, as if the whole world is waiting for him, moving from this café to that bar and from that bar to another café, hoping to find a friend who will invite him for a drink or perhaps to find a shelter with him even for one night.
Samuel spent ten or more years on the streets of Paris and learned how to survive. He finds himself among vagabonds, but he never loses his aristocratic inclination for luxury. He knows the best sorts of French wine and smokes only a certain brand of expensive cigarettes. His friends are not only the Iraqi and Arab writers in Paris, but also the barkeepers, the Moroccan and Algerian prostitutes and the Turkish restaurant workers.
To secure his daily bread, his wine and cigarettes, he has to share with them their lives, their romances and often their madness.
Samuel Shimon derives his knowledge not from the books, but from life, a life which Kiryakos showed him to be a thrilling film, full of love and humour, kindness and humanity, dreams and illusions, a film now written as an autobiographical novel which we will read with delight and admiration.
Zinda: Fadhil al-Azzawi is one Iraq's renowned authors.
"An Iraqi in Paris", an autobiographical novel by Samuel Shimon, Translated from the Arabic by Samira Kawar, Paul Starkey, Issa J Boullata, Christina Phillips, Shakir Mustafa, Fiona Collins; Banipal Books, London 2005, £11.99, 252pp.
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