|The Politics of Detachment||Wilfred Bet-Alkhas (Editor)|
|Measuring the Arab World: Check the Christian Barometer|
|BNDP Congratulates PUK's 30th Anniversary
APP Splits in Iraq
A Week to Celebrate the Year of the Eucharist in Mosul
|H.E. Markose Mor Koorilos Passes Away
Ishtar Satellite TV to Begin Broadcasting from North Iraq
Picnic an Assyrian family reunion
Two Assosiations Unite in Sweden
Tooma Hermiz Al'Zebarie
|Assyrians of Russia in World War II||Vasili Shoumanov|
|Hannibal Alkhas Paintings on Display in Tehran|
The Politics of Detachment
Very few occasions elicit so much interest and response from our readers as does the topic of the Assyrian Church of the East Patriarch’s involvement in politics or in most cases, the lack of it. The status of the Assyrian patriarchs has been historically held in high regard and with the martyrdom of Mar Benyamin Shimmun in 1918 the position of the patriarch of the Church of the East suddenly transformed to an absolute Assyrian patriot.
In the first three quarters of the 20th century the Assyrian nation witnessed a remarkable level of political contribution from the office of the Assyrian patriarchs. In 1919, the Syrian Orthodox Church bishop of Syria, Mor Aphrem Barsoum who later became Patriarch Barsoum I, attended the Paris Peace Conference along with other Assyrian dignitaries. For six decades until his death in 1975, Mar Eshai Shimmun, patriarch of the Church of the East fought tirelessly for the rights of the Assyrians. On the opposite end, the politically-detached current patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, continues to anger many who expect greater involvement from his high-powered position. Yet it is His Holiness’ silence that speaks volumes for the triumph of the Assyrian nationalist movement.
The consecration of Mar Dinkha IV in 1976 began a new phase in the advancement of the Assyrian nationalist movement, triggered by the assassination of Mar Eshai Shimmun in 1975 in San Jose, California. Until this point, the Assyrian political activities were fully overshadowed by the decisions promulgated by the office of the patriarchs of the Church of the East. The Assyrian Universal Alliance, then the most active and powerful Assyrian political forum, working from its offices in Iran, often found itself in the same predicament as General Agha Petros de Baz did in the First World War and shortly after in dealing with Mar Benyamin Shimmun and his sister, Surmi Khanom. Then as may still be true today, the people backed their patriarch against the will of the nationalists who sought the unity of all religious groups for the common good of the Assyrian people.
Mar Dinkha IV was consecrated in London in a time when our political circumstances had heightened our sense of uncertainty and apprehension. One year earlier our patriarch was brutally shot and killed by an Assyrian man, the Shah of Iran gave up his support for the Assyrian and Kurdish fighters in north Iraq, and the Baathists in Baghdad rescinded their benign posture toward cultural rights for the Assyrians in Iraq.
During these confusing times Mar Dinkha was serving his Church as a bishop in Tehran. Whether the Assyrian Universal Alliance had a direct hand in the selection of Mar Dinkha in 1976 is a fascinating postulate worth further research. What is important to note is that the new Patriarch initiated a new political recourse by taking a passive role in politics and active role in promoting religious unity. In essence, His Holiness helped promote the separation of church and politics, while helping encourage unity among the different branches of the Assyrian Christian identities. The agreements signed with the Roman Catholic Church and the Chaldean Catholic Church in the 1980’s and 1990’s are the direct results of this new enterprise.
The other political party that has indirectly benefited from His Holiness’ implicit detachment from politics is the Assyrian Democratic Movement. To firmly establish itself as a representative of the Assyrian people in Iraq it was necessary for the ADM to prevent any direct contact between the Patriarch and the people of Iraq. Whether this was accomplished by a direct request of the ADM leadership is yet to be known. What is known is that His Holiness’ trip to Iraq during which time he did not visit the Assyrian schools and establishments constructed by the ADM created enormous controversy in the late 1990’s and pushed ADM’s popularity further than expected. Mar Dinkha’s recent trip to Iran and visiting the churches in Iran, while avoiding the people and parishes in Iraq, once again assures greater popularity for the ADM officials in Iraq.
In reality, every speech delivered, journey traveled, and letter written to the head of a nation-state is a political act in itself. The Christian patriarchs in the Middle East assume great powers over their followers; it is the proper use of this power that merits the attention of the political spin doctors in Baghdad and Washington.
Mar Dinkha IV recognizes the importance of the separation of Church and State and does not exploit religion for non-religious purposes. Therefore, we no longer live under the thumb of a Patriarch-Politician who denies the presence of non-religious political entities. A politically-detached patriarch allows greater freedom for our political groups and provides them more space for growth.
It must also be said that this brilliant achievement is unique to the Church of the East as the patriarchs of the other Assyrian churches, namely the Chaldean Catholic Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church continue to affirm a more primitive state of affairs. It is no wonder that a Chaldean bishop in San Diego and the Chaldean patriarch in Baghdad remain the most vocal political components of the Chaldean constituency, while the civic and political leaders in Detroit, Europe, Mosul, and Baghdad linger on as their obedient servants.
In time the patriarch of the Church of the East shall visit his people in Iraq, where his church was founded twenty centuries ago. As the head of an Assyrian church, His Holiness ought to expect the highest respect for his position from a government that expelled his predecessor in the most dishonorable manner. It is fitting that the current government in Baghdad extend an official invitation to His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV to come and visit his war-torn people and the entire people of Iraq, and to pray for the future of a nation that is in dire need of spiritual inspiration. An official trip to Iraq will then commence the next phase in the Assyrian nationalist movement – one in which the Church takes on a direct role in the human rights of its believers, an enterprise shared by the western churches evangelizing Christianity to Assyrians in the Middle East.
Measuring the Arab World: Check the Christian Barometer
Leon T. Hadar
Even those who have celebrated the recent election in Iraq are concerned that it could give birth to a government dominated by Shiite fundamentalist parties that have little respect for the rights of women and minorities.
But even those observers worried about the outcome in Iraq take some comfort in the prospect that the liberalization of state-controlled economies and the adoption of free-market reforms signals positive change by Middle Eastern governments.
That hope is primarily rooted in the East Asian experience, where economic liberalization has helped expand the middle class and empower its members to press for political reforms.
But as China's experience demonstrates, there could be a long time delay between the launching of free market reforms and the creation of democratic institutions in the Middle East.
Thinking outside the box
No matter how one approaches the issue, assessing movement towards reform in the Middle East by considering just free elections, market reforms or even the adoption of constitutions and bills of rights does not provide a full picture. After all, these steps amount mostly to political and legal arrangements — and could be swiftly reversed by a new government.
So here is my idea: Why don't we measure progress towards freedom in the Middle East focusing on the status of an integral element of the region's political and social-demographic environment — its large Christian minorities?
The Christian litmus test
Most of these people are highly educated and multilingual, have studied and worked in the Europe and North America — where they also have a large diaspora. The Christians of the Middle East also tend to be more secular and liberal than the surrounding Muslim majority.
To put it differently, common sense — backed by statistical and anecdotal evidence — provides you with this surprising but dependable rule of thumb.
As the Middle East becomes more free and prosperous, linked to the west and hospitable to minorities and women, the higher is the probability that the Christians will continue to live in and even return from abroad to countries like Lebanon, Egypt or Syria.
And vice versa, if the Christians sense that things are getting worse, that the Arab country they live in is losing its commitment to political, economic and religious freedom, they would tend emigrate from the Middle East.
Call it the Middle East's "Christian barometer," which provides the world with a more accurate measurement of the political temperature in the Middle East than even the most sophisticated social scientific model.
Although no precise figures are available, most experts estimate that Christians make up between seven and ten percent of the total population of the Arab world, which translates to between 21 and 30 million Christians living there.
Persecution and exodus
Some of the numerically significant Christian minority groups include the Copts of Egypt, the Maronites of Lebanon, the Assyrians of Iraq and Greek Orthodox and diaspora Armenians of Syria and the tribal members of southern Sudan.
The Maronites have been the leading force in the rise of a Lebanese identity, and individual Christians have played an important role in the secular Arab nationalist movement and in Arab cultural life.
But the Copts and the Assyrians have declined into politically marginal minorities as the Muslim-dominated government in Khartoum, Sudan's capital, has been trying to assimilate the Christian (and animist) South.
At the same time, since the U.S. invasion of Iraq the condition of the more than one million Christians in that country — Chaldeans, Syrian, Latin and Armenian Catholics — has deteriorated. Churches in Iraq have burned, while scores of Christians have been killed. According to press reports, 200,000 Iraqi Christians have left for Syria — and perhaps as many have left the region.
Radicalism on the rise
True enough, Saddam Hussein tried to suppress the religious identity of the Christians as part of the effort to create a secular Iraqi identity.
But now, in the aftermath of the American invasion, the Christians sense the rise of radical Islamic tendencies in both the ruling Shiite majority and the Sunni minority.
So the Christians in Iraq are trying to leave the country — as opposed to taking part in building a new liberal democracy. Joining them in emigrating from the Middle East are the Christians in the Holy Land. Many western-educated Palestinian Christian professionals had actually returned to the West Bank in during the Oslo peace process.
But after the start of the Second Intifadah, and with signs that Islamic radicals are strengthening their power, they are moving back to North and South America, Europe and Australia.
Even in Lebanon, which was established by the French to provide autonomy to the Maronites, the number of Christians has been dwindling.
No census has been conducted among the population in that country, but the best guess is that the Maronites constitute around 25%, including many who hold dual citizenship and spend most of the year abroad.
A bleak outlook
All which is only adding to a very depressing picture as the number of Christians in the Middle East continues to shrink. The Arab world is losing some of its best and brightest who could have played a major role in an authentic — not choreographed — reform process in the region.
So pay attention to the "Christian Barometer." Only if and when the Christians in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and elsewhere become more bullish can we be confident that the region is becoming more open, free, pluralistic and prosperous.
Zinda: Mr. Leon Hader is a research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, where he analyzes international politics and economics with a special focus on the Middle East and East Asia. Hadar is the former United Nations bureau chief for the Jerusalem Post and is currently the Washington correspondent for the Singapore Business Times. In addition to writing for many newspapers and magazines from around the world, Dr. Hadar has taught at American University and Mount Vernon College — where he served as director of international studies. Mr. Hadar has also been affiliated with think tanks such as the Institute on East-West Security Studies in New York and the Center for International Development and Conflict Management at the University of Maryland, College Park. Together with other U.S. policy analysts and academics, he has helped launched the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy — aimed at countering the neoconservative imperial agenda. Hadar is a graduate of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He earned his MA degrees from the schools of journalism and international affairs and the Middle East Institute at Columbia University, and his Ph.D. in international relations from American University. He is the author of "Quagmire: America in the Middle East" (Cato Institute, 1992).
BNDP Congratulates PUK's 30th Anniversary
(ZNDA: Baghdad) On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Iraqi president Jalal Talabani's political party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the Bet Nahrain Democratic Party (BNDP) recently sent a letter of congratulations to the Iraqi president.
According to a message posted in Arabic on Ankawa.com the letter stated that the PUK was established when the Kurdish liberation movement was passing through crucial times and that its establishment "was a victory for the Kurdistani nation".
The letter goes on to say that the PUK has defended the rights of the Assyrians and has sought to safeguard the unity of the Assyrian people, according to the message posted.
The letter concluded by stating that the current events in Iraq and the region dictates that "we put our personal and organizational differences aside in order to achieve the aspirations of the Kurdistani people, convene the parliament, and form an inclusive and united government that includes all parties."
APP Splits in Iraq
(ZNDA: Baghdad) According to unconfirmed reports from north Iraq, certain faction from the Assyrian Patriotic Party have left this political party and have formed a new group called the National Stream of the Assyrian Patriotic Party.
In a statement issued on 28 May the leadership of the new group explains that the APP "has deviated from its original path set in its agenda and by-laws."
The statement also explains that APP's current leadership "is not fit to lead the Party or represent it since it began to enter into questionable deals and alliances to gain a seat in the Iraqi parliament."
A Week to Celebrate the Year of the Eucharist in Mosul Diocese
Courtesy of the AsiaNews
(ZNDA: Mosul) The Chaldean diocese of Mosul is celebrating the Year of the Eucharist from the Feast of the Corpus Domini (May 26) to that of the Holy Heart (June 3), focusing on a theme chosen by Bishop Paulos Faraj Rahho: “The Eucharist, a Meeting with the Risen Christ”.
Every day, moments of reflections on the value of the Eucharist are held on a rotating basis in the different religious centres and parishes of the city. On each occasion, the Most Holy sacrament is exhibited and taken in procession.
“The purpose of the initiative,” the Bishop explained, “is not theological”. For Bishop Rahho, the strongest need people have is “to see the signs of the living presence of Jesus in their daily lives, to see—as the Pope said yesterday—how He wishes to share our fate to the point of being one of us”.
The meetings organized this week by priests, monks and nuns focus on the search for signs of a “God [who is] close to us”
Bishop Rahho himself will preside over the celebrations at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. On that occasion, he will reflect upon the “centrality” of the Sunday service and the “need for the Christian presence”.
“Sunday is a source of strength for Christians, but it is necessary that once the mass is over we commit that strength to our fellow human beings”
So far, the faithful have come to such meetings in great numbers. The last meeting is scheduled to take place in the St George Monastery which is “bigger and safer”.
The Chaldean diocese of Mosul has over 25,000 faithful divided in 9 parishes. They are served by 11 diocesan priests, 8 men religious and 20 women religious.
The small towns of Talkef and Karamles also fall under the jurisdiction of Mosul.
Courtesy of the Malankara Voice & the Syrian Orthodox Christian Digest
(ZNDA: Kerala) H.E. Markose Mor Koorilos, the Metropolitan of Niranam and Trivandrum dioceses of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church passed away at 9.45 am IST, on 30 May. He was the former head of the Dept. of Syriac at the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Theological Seminary, Mulanthuruthy. The Metropolitan was 59 at the time of his death. He was suffering from lung related disease for quite some time. The mortal remains will be laid to rest at the St. Mary’s Church, Pangada, Kottayam.
The late Metropolitan Markose Mor Koorilos was born in the Ramanthara family of Nattassery, Kottayam on 6th October 1946. He completed his B.A Degree from C.M.S College, Kottayam and G.S.T from M.D.Seminary, Kottayam. Late Mor Gregorios Geevarghese ordained him Priest. He served as the vicar of the churches in Kurichy, Pangada, Bahrain, Roorkela and Bhilai. He was also the Head of the Dept. of Syriac at the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Theological Seminary, Mulanthuruthy and Chief Editor of the Journal of the Kottayam Diocese. He was ordained Ramban on 6th August 2000 at the St.George Simhasana Church, Perumpally. On 14th January 2001, H.H the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas ordained him Metropolitan by name Mor Koorilos, at the Patriarchal Cathedral in Ma'arat Saydnaya, Damascus, Syria. Mor Ivanios Mathews, the Metropolitan of the diocese of Kandanad was also ordained along with him.
The Jacobite Syrian Christian Association meeting held at Puthencuriz on 6 July 2002 which approved the present constitution of the Church was convened and presided by H.E. Markose Mor Kurillos Metropolitan. It was this historic association which elected the present head of the Indian Church Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas I, as the Catholicos and Metropolitan Trustee.
Most of the young priests of the Malankara Church are students of the late Metropolitan. H.E. has also served as the Metropolitan of Kollam and Thumpamon dioceses for almost two years from 2001 to 2003. The funeral of Mor Koorilos which is to be held at the church at Pangada where he served for many years, will be presided over by H.B. Catholicose of India Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas I and the Metropolitans of the Church.
Ishtar Satellite TV to Begin Broadcasting from North Iraq
(ZNDA: Baghdad) A new satellite television program will soon broadcast from North Iraq in Syriac, Arabic, and Kurdish languages. The question raised is whether Ishtar TV is an independent media or a propaganda machine of the ruling Kurdish parties in the north.
In a recent interview with Ankawa.com, Mr. George Mansour, the general manager of Ishtar Television Production Company, emphasized the objectivity and autonomy of his television programs and its complete bias to the aspirations of the Assyrian people inside and outside of Iraq.
The station, Mr. Mansour added, will work "for the sake of our people's unity with all our branches. It will work as well to spread the spirit of forgiveness and brotherhood with great transparency between our Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac people" and other Iraqi groups including the Kurds, Arabs, Turkomans, Yezidis, Mandeans (Subbiyyen), Shabak, Armenians and others.
Mr. Mansour also stated that Ishtar TV enjoys the financial support of "a few of our good people who believe that it is necessary to have a democratic and objective dialogue based on the people's legal right to disagree." He continued: "We believe that the station is an obligation towards our country and people and that it is going to be distant from everything that obstructs our work that is moving towards the unity of our great nation."
When asked if he had any final remarks, Mr. Mansour stated that Ishtar Satellite TV is looking optimistically to the future and "calls upon our people to unite their efforts and reconsider some of the stands that do not serve our people's cause and its unity."
Mr. Mansour then expressed his great gratitude and ample appreciation to Prime Minister in the Kurdistan Regional Government, Mr. Nejervan Barazani, for the letter he sent to him. In his letter Mr. Barazani emphasized the importance of "the establishment of a satellite TV that takes an interest in the Chaldean Assyrian Suryani affairs, and to the brotherly relations between these and our Kurdish people in particular and Iraqi people in general."
In his letter, Mr. Barazani continued to state: "While I thank you for this marvelous step, I stress on this civilized endeavor, which is going to have, undoubtedly, a positive impact in the spread of brotherly spirit, forgiveness, and peaceful coexistence between all the fabrics and components of the Iraqi people. This I say especially when the establishment of the intended station is completely independent from the political tendencies, narrow sectarian, ethnic, religious inclination. We are ready completely to provide all necessary conveniences and needed moral support to ensure the success of this ambitious project."
Zinda Magazine has learned that the staff of Ishtar TV was trained in Amman, Jordan where earlier this year some 150 Iraqi television directors, cameramen, graphic designers, sound and lighting engineers, editors, reporters and photographers were taught picture editing, camera and sound recording skills, non-linear editing, creating graphics, lighting and safety, broadcast technology and recording equipment maintenance. The intensive training program was also sponsored by the British Broadcast Company and took place between 15 February to 31 March 2005.
The training program also involved a two-week study tour in the United Kingdom for 20 senior Iraqi media managers, editors and journalists.
Other Assyrian radio and television staff who received this training included Shrara Radio and Ashur TV.
Picnic an Assyrian family reunion
Courtesy of the Modesto Bee
(ZNDA: Modesto) Old friends greeting each other with a kiss on each cheek. Women picking grape leaves off the banks of the river. Men playing backgammon.
All of these activities are characteristic of the Assyrian culture. And they are just some of what could be found Monday at an all-day picnic at Modesto's Tuolumne River Regional Park.
The picnic, which draws Assyrians from across the country and beyond, each year marks the finale to an annual four-day Assyrian State Convention, with events in Turlock and Modesto.
In its 39th year, the event is something of a family reunion for many of the more than 1,000 who were expected to gather in the park Monday.
Lenard Isaac, 42, has attended the picnic each of the past 24 years he's lived in Turlock.
About a dozen of his first cousins showed up from Los Angeles, he said. There are 32 people in his immediate family alone — brothers and sisters and their children.
"So anytime you throw a party, there's 32 people at least," said Isaac.
Family is a central part of the Assyrian culture. The annual picnic is a way to help families stay tight, even in the United States where people often live fast-paced lives miles apart.
Robert Avanes, in town from Dallas, said he comes every year to see his parents and other relatives.
"I like to hang out with my own community because I believe in my culture and its values," he said. "They mean something."
He proudly showed off his mother's homemade dolma (meat, rice and spices wrapped in grape leaves) and a rice and berries dish, as well as her homemade sugar cubes, which Assyrians suck on while drinking hot tea.
"Homemade is the best," said 22-year-old Richard Avanes, Robert's brother.
The Assyrian family from Modesto also had relatives in from San Jose, Los Angeles and Holland.
Robert Avanes was proud that his 14-year-old cousin, Aldrin Yousefian, purchased a T-shirt decorated with the Assyrian flag.
"I adore that," he said, hugging Yousefian. "This is excellent."
Yousefian admitted he's not fluent in the Aramaic language that his elders speak, but he's working on it.
Proud of Their Heritage
Across the park, 21-year-old Linet Thomas of Turlock, who was helping sell the T-shirts, said they are hoping that the shirts encourage young people to be proud of their heritage, and others to ask questions.
"Not a lot of people know about (the Assyrian culture)," she said.
Besides keeping the culture going, Assyrians know if they show up to the Memorial Day event there's a good chance they'll bump into an old friend or relative, or meet someone who knows a family member.
"We just met and we already found out that he speaks to my mom's uncle," said Thomas, who was helping Marodeen Ebrahimzadeh of Los Angeles sell Assyrian artifacts and T-shirts.
It's also a time for Assyrians to catch up.
"We take notes on who's getting fatter, who's losing more hair," Ebrahimzadeh said. "It's kind of fun. Plus we see the next generation."
Assyrians reflected Monday on where the culture has been, and where it's going.
Keeping Their Culture Alive
The good news, Ebrahimzadeh said, is that the Assyrian people have kept their language and culture for close to 7,000 years, despite scattering the globe since the Assyrian empire fell in 612 B.C. The Assyrians say their nation's ancestral homeland included northern Iraq, northern Iran, south-eastern Turkey and southern Syria.
Assyrians, who are Christian, say that religion-based conflicts over the decades have kept them on the move.
"We are survivors," Ebrahimzadeh said.
While Assyrians are safe in America, he said, they also fear that their culture could be disappearing here.
"Our kids are not speaking the language any more," he said. "Once you lose the language, you lose the culture."
Still, the United States provides Assyrians with jobs and the opportunity for a higher education.
Thomas said she graduated from California State University, Stanislaus, a year ago at age 20. She said her parents fled Iran because children were being kidnapped to become soldiers there.
"We knew we wanted to come to America," she said. "The land of freedom and opportunity."
Two Assosiations Unite in Sweden
(ZNDA: Jenkoping) On 28 May, during an entertainment party celebrating Woman's Day in Jenkoping, Sweden, it was announced that the Akkad and Ashur Societies had united to form one society, now called Ishtar.
400 members from both organizations attended the event. Mr. Jacob Chanko, on behalf of the Church of the East welcomed the celebrants and recited a poem glorifying the Chaldean and Assyrian women for their steadfastness and sacrifices in keeping and raising their families. Mr. Wilson Eshai from Australia and the keyboardist, Eshu Praidun George, provided the entertainment. Singing and dancing continued until midnight. Gifts were presented by the Assyrian Church of the East Ladies' Auxiliary to 80 married women. The party ended at 4:30 a.m.
There were many tearful eyes at the Mesopotamian Hall when the unity of the two associations was announced. Only 140 members were expected to attend and over 400 guests arrived, many waiting for over an hour to be seated.
One man , with tears in his eyes, commented that he had never seen such a happy day. Another member said: "It is a glorious and memorable day for me."
Zinda: Report compiled by Y. P. Youkhanna in Sweden. Photo by Y.P. Youkhana.
Tooma Hermiz Al'Zebarie
With great sadness, we heard the news of Tooma Hermiz Al’Zebarie's passing. An Assyrian known for his enormous integrity, honesty, great love and devotion for his Assyrian nation and tirelessly working towards bringing the community together, Tooma strived to achieve community spirit and openness for our national rights,
I always remember his sense of humor combined with such an interest in Iraqi politics, when we used to gather around him in his house in Kirkuk during the 1970’s. He never hesitated to speak his mind, even under severe life threatening conditions. His love for our nation was above everything else in life. He taught us from the days of youth how to respect our values and how to keep our honour and pride by defending our national rights. He was a gifted communicator, kind, and thoughtful and inspirational man, equally open and lively to intellectual and political debate.
We were fortunate to have known Tooma and to learn lessons of Martyrdom from his son “ Martyr Yousif Tooma”, who was executed along with Martyrs Youkhana Esho Shlimon and Youbert Benyamin on 6 February 6 1985 for defending our national rights to preserve our identity, heritage and culture.
On behalf of the Assyrian Universal Alliance in Australia, we would like to pass on our condolences to his family, relatives and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with them! May God help them find peace in these times of grief.
May God rest his soul in peace and reward him with eternal paradise.
Assyrians of Russia in World War II
May 9th is the most important holiday for Russians. It is both an occasion for joy and sorrow. World War II, one the darkest periods in the history of the world and Russia in particular, raged from 1939 to 1945.
The greatest land war in recorded history began at 3:30 a.m. on 22 June 1941, the day after the 129th anniversary of Napoleon's attack on Russia in 1842. Soviet forces came to fight a war of scorched earth, withdrawing into the steppe of Russia to acquire time and stretch the German army. Industries were dismantled and withdrawn to the Ural mountains and Soviet Asia for reassembly. German armies pursued a three-pronged advance against Leningrad, Moscow, and the Caucasus.
More then 6 thousand Assyrians (from Moscow, Kiev, Tbilisi, Yerevan, Urmia village (Krasnodarskiy region), Assyrian villages of Armenia and Georgia and others) were mobilized for the military service. For the Assyrians of Russia it was additional tragic time because just 4 years earlier most of them were arrested (as Turkish and English spies) and murdered in Russian prisons. There were enough crimes against Assyrian people committed during the Stalin years – political repression, the deportation of Assyrians in Siberia and Kazakhstan. Nevertheless, Assyrians not only suffered but showed extraordinary heroism in World War II actions.
Siege of Leningrad (former Russian capital) was certainly the most tragic period in the history of this city. Leningrad was a particularly cosmopolitan city in which the arts flourished, despite Soviet rule. It had a long and glorious history which went back to the Tsars, when it was called, St. Petersburg, but after the October Revolution it was renamed Leningrad, after Lenin, one of the founders of the communist movement.
The siege lasted for about 900 days, from September 8, 1941 until January 27, 1944. The city, whose population then was nearly three million, was completely cut off from the rest of the country, and it was Hitler’s intention to literally starve the city into submission.
Food and fuel stocks were very limited (1-2 months only). All the public transport stopped. By the winter of 1941-42 there was no heating, no water supply, almost no electricity and very little food. In January 1942, in the depths of an unusually cold winter, the lowest food rations in the city were only 125 grams (about 1/4 of a pound) of bread per day.
Hundreds of Assyrians died in Leningrad of cold and starvation. Many of them were evacuated to Urmia and Armavir (Krasnodarskiy region), Penza, Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Ukraine and some of them remained there until the end of the war. It was full of suffering and heroism. For everyone who lives in St. Petersburg the Blokada (the Siege) of Leningrad is an important part of their heritage and for the older generations it brings the memories that they will never forget.
The Battle of Stalingrad (August 1942 - February 1943) was the decisive Soviet victory that stopped the German southern advance and turned the tide of the war. At Stalingrad Soviet armies began the series of offensives that were to take them to Berlin.
Two Assyrians - Lado Davidov and Sarkhoshev became a National Heroes of World War II, and hundreds received high level medals. We are very proud of our Assyrian soldiers who served in World War II.
Hannibal Alkhas Paintings on Display at Homa Gallery in Tehran
Courtesy of the Tehran Times
(ZNDA: Tehran) An retrospective of the Assyrian-Iranian painter Hannibal Alkhas' works opened on Friday at the Homa Gallery in Tehran.
"The display focuses on my works created during the past 20 years. Man and his various characteristics were the major theme of my works in this period of time. In fact, I didn't limit myself to the physical shape of man," Alkhas commented.
"I never worked in a purely abstract style, but with alternation in the style and other methods I tried to enjoy my innovative styles," he added.
"The retrospective has put on display the works that are of my interest, yet, I wouldn't like to sell them," Alkhas noted.
The son of Assyrian writer Raabi Adai Alkhas, Hannibal was born in 1930 in Kermanshah, Iran, and spent his youth in the Iranian cities of Kermanshah, Ahwaz, and Tehran.
In 1951, Hannibal moved to the United States, where he studied philosophy for three years at Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois.
From 1953 to 1959, he attended the Art Institute of Chicago, where he earned Bachelor and Master's degrees in Fine Art.
In 1959, after the death of his father, Hannibal returned to Iran. He taught at the Tehran School of Fine Arts for nearly four years. During that time, he also established the successful Gilgamesh Gallery, the first modern art gallery in Iran, which inspired many young artists.
In 1963, he returned to the U.S. and taught art at Monticello College in Illinois, where he became the Chairman of the Arts Department.
In 1969 he came back to Iran and taught at Tehran University for eleven years. In 1980, Hannibal spent twelve years teaching art at the Assyrian Civic Club of Turlock, the University of California at Berkeley, and a number of private schools.
In 1992 he began teaching at the Islamic Azad University in Tehran.
The Iran Chamber Society writes about Hannibal Alkhas:
Hannibal Alkhas is also an accomplished Assyrian poet and author of children's books in Assyrian. During his brief visits to the U.S. he is often asked to recite from his works at the Assyrian cultural gatherings.
Recently Alkhas completed the daunting task of the translation of certain prose by the Persian poet Haafiz into modern Eastern Syriac. The publication of this book is expected in the near future.
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