A U.S. Army C-23 Sherpa aircraft flies over a ziggurat located in the town of Ur, 365 km (227 miles) south of Baghdad, in this military handout photo released July 25, 2005. Ziggurats were a form of temple common to the Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians. U.S. and Iraqi forces are assisting in the preservation and protection of the structure, built many centuries ago by a Sumerian king. REUTERS/US Army/Staff Sgt. Suzanne Day.
|Who Speaks For Assyrians Now?||Wilfred Bet-Alkhas|
|Another Look at the Myth of Gilgamesh||Pirayeh Yaghmaii|
|Iraqi Church Leaders Fear Imposition of Islamic Law
Iraq Constitution May Face Delays
Iraqi Kurds Call for Referendum on Independence
Kurds Offers Redrawn Map to Iraq Assembly
Drafters of Iraq's Constitution Grapple with Dual Citizenship
|House Amends Funding Bill to Help Iraqi Christians
Babylon's Dirty Secrets: No Tablet Left Unturned
Turlock’s Civic Club Honors Shamasha Albert Benjamin
|AUA's New Leadership, Baghdad Meetings and Next Steps
Thank You, Kakovitch!
Our Fascination with Semantics Hurts Our Ultimate Goal
Time to Pay Our Dues
Why Assyria and Assyrian and None Others
The Assyrian National Thought and the Nation’s Unity
To Mar Iwas I: Assyrians Are Not Arab !
Lighten Up Your Images
|Genocide Awareness Day in Canada|
A Sect Facing an Identity Crisis
|Syriological Conference in Poland
Who Speaks For Assyrians Now?
With the release of the draft copy of the Iraqi constitution in a recent edition of the al-Sabah newspaper in Iraq, our publication junked its policy of forbearance toward the U.S. government. Our patience is no longer productive as we are slowly witnessing the formation of an Islamic Republic in the Fertile Crescent.
Now we are demanding a series of global last-minute, pre-constitution ratification protests that can reverse the process of our people's separation into religious groups (not ethnicities or nationalities) and varied representation in the Iraqi government, which can lead to the disintegration of a politically able coalition in the parliament.
The majority of Assyrians supported the Gulf War and the occupation of Iraq by the U.S.-led Coalition forces in 2003. Since then a new period of persecution of the Iraqi Christians and Assyrians in particular began. Between 2 to 6 weeks before the final ratification of the new permanent constitution of Iraq, Assyrians remain uncertain if they are to become citizens of yet another Islamic Republic or worse yet, the unarmed victims of a disastrous civil war that could easily dwarf the calamities experienced in Lebanon.
The U.S government refuses to help the Assyrians directly and therefore no reconstruction funding is provided for the Assyrian villages. In the meantime, every village occupied by a majority of Kurdish population around the Assyrian towns are constantly receiving aid from the U.S. government. A quick trip to any Moslem village around Mosul will attest to this fact, consistently denied by the pencil pushers at the State Department and the USAID office in Washington.
Here are the facts:
Shall we go on with more examples of atrocities committed against the Assyrian people in Iraq since the liberation of that country from Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime?
So who speaks for the Assyrians in Iraq, for the children in Alqosh, Kirkuk, Baghdad, and Basra?
We do ! We in the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe, Russia, Armenia, Georgia, Iran, Lebanon, and wherever a heart beats for Nineveh and Babylon. We, who must separate the Church and State and seek unity in action. We, who must demand accountability from our federal governments whose armies and oil-drilling engineers are stationed in the land of Ashur and Marduk. We, who in less than a week will be commemorating the selfless sacrifices of our ancestors, the victims of the massacres, with our emotional speeches and spectacular audio-visual presentations.
Our empty words, these long-winded editorials, appearances on television programs will not improve the conditions of our people in Iraq. It is time to stop writing, talking, reading, and listening. It's time to get out and demonstrate our dissatisfaction with our adopted countries.
As the most powerful medium of exchange of information and news among all social, cultural, religious, and political segments of the greater Assyrian, Chaldean, and Syriac populations, Zinda Magazine calls for a worldwide demonstration of unity on August 7, 2005. Regardless of any religious or ethnic background, every Syriac/Aramaic speaking community around the world is called upon to join these public protests to demand the full and singular representation of the Syriac-speaking people of Iraq in its permanent constitution. A show of unity with Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Syriacs across the globe will demonstrate to the governments of the world that regardless of what Moslems may identify our nationality, we have always been and remain one united people.
Let us demonstrate to the policy makers in Washington and Baghdad that we will not tolerate any attempts to divide our identities and unlike the Kurds in the north and Shi'ai's in the south will continue to seek a unified and indivisible Iraq.
This is not the time to feel ineffectual as an individual. We are now facing an adversary that none of us a few years ago could envision. This creature is remorseless and lives to intimidate us in our ancestral homeland. Do not be misled; we are not remote. The enemy may be in Iraq, but he is listening and reading every editorial and letter.
Reading this editorial and not complaining more loudly will not help. Please, get out and boisterously shout. We have kept silent for too long. No more! Harass your local government and newspapers. If you are alone, both Washington and Baghdad, the Kurds and Shi'ai's will dismiss you. But when we come together in at least 20 cities around the world - no one in Arbil and Baghdad will have a restful sleep on the eve of August 15th.
Some may think that all is lost by now and since we kept silent for a long time, bearing a sense of futility, we should not expect much else but the leftovers from a feast for the victors from the War.
This is far from the truth and we must not lose heart. Pound on the doors of your government representative and demand redress. Demand your rights! The Kurds do and so do all other groups. The Kurds have even gone as far as demanding a larger Kurdish territory (a larger piece of the Assyrian territories that is).
Before the constitution of Iraq is ratified we should be heard and on August 7th we will be heard. The faceless Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac will now remind the masses in Iraq that for a true democracy to succeed the tyranny of the majority must be overcome with legitimate representation. Legitimacy is what Zinda Magazine asks you to demand on Sunday. Refuse to accept the status quo and what Kurds and Shi'ai's are calling a just legislation.
Our goal: Protests organized in 20 regions where larger concentration of Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac populations exist.
We will begin displaying the names of the participating organizations on Monday, 1 August.
1. Meet with your organization's executive committee, community group, church groups, friends and activists and plan a public demonstration during the weekend of August 5 through 7, 2005. August 7 is the Martyrs Remembrance Day.
2. Coordinate this public demonstration with other groups in your city or community. Call them and ask that all local groups join in this public demonstration.
3. Contact Zinda Magazine immediately. Your organization, contact information, and demonstration program will be published in a separate "Unity Day" page in Zinda Magazine. The list is expected to grow in the coming days.
4. Begin contacting your community churches and invite members from all Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac churches to join in the demonstration.
5. Call local newspapers and television stations and ask that reporters be present during the public rally and demonstration.
6. To demonstrate the unity among all groups, bring your political and cultural banners and flag to the demonstration site. Proudly demonstrate the co-existence of all churches, political groups, ideologies, and opinions under a single slogan: Assyrians-Chaldeans-Syriacs, One People For One Iraq.
7. Send pictures and reports to Zinda for full documentation and reporting by larger western media.
On August 15th, 2005, we will not be ignored.
Another Look at the Myth of Gilgamesh*
The myth of Gilgamesh, reportedly the most ancient one in record, is said to be around four thousand years old. It is the saga of the evolution of mankind and how he attains the heights of suffering and emptiness. The feature that makes this myth superior to, or at least distinct from others of its kind, is the more powerful philosophic tempo of the work that captures the soul with varying momentum, as each episode unfolds. Otherwise, the story flows with a simple texture and, in common with any other work of epic, tells the reader of extraordinary and incredible adventures of fantasy and heroism.
Gilgamesh is a man-god creation with two thirds created by God and one third by the human being. It could be claimed, consequently, that Gilgamesh is a medium, a bridge way, between God and man. This creature rules the land of Uruk with despotic cruelty, with an iron fist. Knowing nothing other than eating, drinking and indulging in sensual desire and acts of lust and savagery, he handpicks all the pleasant things exclusively for himself. He thus usurps girls and women from their fathers and spouses and brings chaos, doom and sorrow upon the families. His excesses drive the folk in Uruk to the verge of intolerance. So much so that they appear in God’s presence and plead with him to create another being that can protect them against Gilgamesh.
God concedes to the people’s wishes and brings into creation another human form called Enkidu and lands him upon Uruk. At first encounter, Gilgamesh and Enkidu engage in combat. The battle is mighty and fierce, but soon, the two shake hands and are bound in eternal friendship, never to part again. So, it happens that they merge in one another like one soul in two bodies.
With the passage of time, Gilgamesh influenced by Enkidu, that has a temperate passionate soul, discards his cruel stature and decides to embark on a fight, at the side of Enkidu, against a vicious monster named Humbaba who has long been plaguing the land and bringing terror and death upon the residents. On the way back after defeating and killing the monster, Enkidu gets sick through a curse placed upon him by Ishtar, a villain in the minor episodes. As a result of this malady, Enkidu dies, after a few days, at the height of great agony.
Following the death of Enkidu, the first experience in pain and agony for Gilgamesh, who has now acquired a human nature, the man-god becomes aware of the reality of mortality. He then turns eyes upon the pain and misery of the wise human being. Thus, while never unconscious of the pain brought about by the loss of his twin alter ego whom he laments and edifies in momentous sorrowful hymns, Gilgamesh sets out in search of immortality and eternal life. He embarks on numerous quests and reaches a variety of life forms whom he asks about the secret of immortality. He is told that death is the certain end to life and that, instead of his obsession with the prospect of such doom, he may as well seek joy and happiness in his remaining time while he still lives.
Impervious to all advice, Gilgamesh remains determined to press on in his quest. Eventually, guided by inspirations from an old sage, who is possessed of the secrets of immortality, he treks through the dreadful deadly marches across the waters of death and gets his hands, at the bottom of an ocean, on the plant that gives everlasting life. However, he does not consume the plant after he emerges from the abyss but decides to take it to Uruk and to share it with the people of his land. Unfortunately, a serpent, taking advantage of one moment of distraction on the part of the demigod, grabs at the herb and swallows it instantly. The serpent then sheds skin and becomes young. (Hence the reference, in folk cult, to the snake as the symbol of immortality.)
Exhausted, churning in the anguish of emptiness and replete with the pain in the aftermath of this futile expedition, Gilgamesh makes the trek back to Uruk. The demigod, disillusioned with the search for immortality and eternal suffering of life, has now found the truth. He then goes to the gatekeeper of the realm of death, the Netherworld, and asks for a look at Enkidu so he could ask the latter about the secrets of death, a destiny he has accepted and embraced as the ultimate truth. The gatekeeper shows him a ghost, a shadow of what was once Enkidu who then recounts to Gilgamesh, in an unintelligible language, the mortal nature of the human being and how he is destined to ultimately turn into dust. With this revelation and his own already complete inclination, the hero has now reached the acme of his emptiness and is ready to succumb to his fate. He lies down on the ground in the keep and hastens towards death.
The general consensus, among religious schools, psychologists and scholars of mythology, whose disciplines are, in a way, interconnected, is that the human form that first emerged from the wellsprings of life was hermaphrodite. Plato writes, in his “Symposium”:
God first created mankind in the form of a sphere where the feminine half was separated from the masculine hemisphere. That is why every individual is wandering in search of his or her missing half and as he or she is finally confronted by a man or a woman, he or she gets to entertain the belief that it is his or her missing half.
In Talmud of the Old Testament, it is implied that God created mankind with two faces in a formation where the man and woman were placed at the two ends of a spectrum. God then cut into halves this creation of His.
In ancient Iranian myth also, Man and Woman (Mashy and Mashyaneh) formed the root of a certain shrub. As the seed sprouted out of earth and grew tall, the stem branched into two similar ones, each representing one of the genders, Mashy and Mashyaneh.
Karl Gustav Jung, too, has hinted expressly, in his works on Psychology, at the hermaphrodite nature of the early human being. Even in prehistoric times, it was predominantly believed that the early human being was bisexual in build, both male and female.
In folk cult, the male psyche is called “Anima” while the female one is referred to as “Animus”.
In the final analysis, the kind of human being that can attain the height of humanity is the one whose Anima and Animus achieve perfect fusion and total merger.
Jung has called this phenomenon of the union between Anima and Animus the Magic Marriage
Enkidu, like a woman, is endowed with long tresses that, like those of Nisaba, goddess of corn, keep on rippling in the wind.
When Enkidu dresses himself for the first time, it is in a woman’s attire. (A female prostitute shares her clothes with Enkidu.)
Enkidu symbolically appears in Gilgamesh’s dream for two nights in succession, before the two meet for the first time. Gilgamesh consults his mother, who knows about the mysteries and secrets of dreams, about this happenstance. The mother, in her interpretations of the two dreams, then promises Gilgamesh of the advent of one who is faithful and whom Gilgamesh will adore like a woman.
In the first dream, Gilgamesh has seen that a star has descended upon him and he has felt he is attracted to the star, as he would be to a woman. The mother says, in interpretation, that someone will make his appearance in Gilgamesh’s life that he will adore as much as he would adore a woman. The second time, Gilgamesh dreams of an axe appearing on his lap. He tells his mother that he loved that object just as if he were a woman. The mother answers, “The axe that was so powerfully drawing you to itself represents an ally that will come to you and whom you will love like you would love a woman.”
After Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh covers him with a piece of lace cloth, the kind of lace that brides are clothed with.
The name “Enkidu” actually reflects this feature: it comprises three elements, En (meaning god), Ki (meaning earth) and Du (meaning creation of God). In reality, Enkidu symbolizes earth. In the lore of symbols, earth, because of its fertility, patience, fecundity, compassion and modesty, is the symbol of the woman. The sky, because of its thundering, pounding and indomitable power, has come to be regarded as the symbol of the man. Molana Jalal-al-Din (Rumi) has also made oblique reference to this in one of his poems:
Gilgamesh is an incomplete being before his encounter with Enkidu. After he has met Enkidu, he finds his missing half. The congruity between these two is so striking that, when the pair appears among the people in the cities of Uruk, even the common folk notice it and are astounded. They murmur among themselves, “What a perfect match those two make! Has Gilgamesh ultimately found his mate?”
After their furious combat, when Gilgamesh and Enkidu extend a hand of friendship towards one another, they are, in fact, the two halves born together, that have attained absolute unity. In the words of Jung, they are the Anima and the Animus that become one and the same and the magical marriage is thus consummated.
After this oneness, Gilgamesh ascends on the path towards human perfection and even achieves the stature that urges him on to go and fight, with aid from Enkidu, an abominable demon that he has known for years but has ignored its existence. This demon is simply his own other wicked inhuman side which he now rises to destroy. In fact, Gilgamesh revolts against himself and refines and cleanses that self of all wickedness and depravity.
It is at this time that Enkidu falls sick and Gilgamesh, now back to proper human stature, comes to understand the bitterness of human agony and the implacability of death.
Afraid of this knowledge, even hoping to deny it, Gilgamesh goes on a search for everlasting life.
The epic of Gilgamesh is the first recorded tragic saga, in spectacular proportions, of the humankind. It depicts the horrendous sorrow of man who is embroiled in a tangle of doubts, cynicism, bewilderment and earthly agony while, at the same time, he is paradoxically obsessed with the desire for lasting life. The human mind is incessantly wandering in the losing strife to achieve eternal goodness. Gilgamesh is the embodiment of total loneliness who, of his own free will, abandons his godly claims and pretenses and condescends to wander towards the ultimate in humanness and to the final destiny, death. In fact, Gilgamesh experiences the reality of emptiness and puts to test the philosophy of despair and hopelessness of mortal life long before Omar Khayyam, Albert Camus, Franz Kafka and many other philosophers recognized such a plight allotted to man and theorized on the pain and emptiness of existence.
*Like Alexander the Great, Gilgamesh had a dual personality, the mythical and the historical. The name is attributed to a king whose grave has been discovered in Iraq.
Ms. Pirayeh Yaghmaii's article was originally published in Farsi. The English version appearing in Zinda Magazine was prepared by Mr. Ghafour Memarzadeh, a retired bank director and one-time teacher of English now living in Teheran. Mr. Memarzadeh has an MBA from the University of Oklahoma and BA in English Literature. Because of his penchant for comparative literature since his early college days, Mr. Memarzadeh seems to have acquired just the right technical credentials to undertake this kind of translation.
Iraqi Church Leaders Fear Imposition of Islamic Law
Courtesy of the Christian Post
(ZNDA: Baghdad) As Shiite members of the committee drafting Iraq's new constitution push for a greater role for Islam in civil law, Iraqi Church leaders are petitioning for the new constitution to ensure the equality of all faiths in Iraq.
In a letter signed by leaders of nine Christian denominations, the Iraqi believers expressed their concerns over reports that the Shiite majority are pressing for Islamic law (Shari’a) to be enshrined in the constitution, according to the UK-based Barnabas Fund.
According to the Barnabas Fund, the church leaders are fearful that if Shari’a is given a position in the constitution, Christians and other non-Muslims will face the same kind of discrimination and second-class status which they experience in other countries where the law is based on Shari’a. There are also concerns that a greater role for Islam in civil law could also erode women's rights in such matters as marriage, divorce and inheritance.
Bishop Andreas Abouna, who presented the letter, said that a pro-Shari’a constitution would result in such a massive exodus of Christians from Iraq that the Christian presence could all but disappear.
However, some experts point out that Islamic law, like Jewish law and Christian canon law, means different things to different people in different times and places. In the hands of fundamentalists, it is legally binding on all people of the faith, and even on all people that come under their control. However, in the hands of moderates, the religious law can be moderate, even liberal.
Currently, Iraq is operating under a secular 1959 civil status law that treats every person according to the sect to which he or she belongs. According to the Associated Press, this law will still be in effect even after drafting of Iraq's new constitution - which Iraq said would be ready within two weeks, ahead of the Aug. 15 deadline.
Although the draft constitution has to be completed before the parliamentary deadline, the first two weeks of next month will be for the parliament to discuss the document before it goes to a referendum on Oct. 15.
Iraq Constitution May Face Delays
Courtesy of the Washington Post
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Drafters of Iraq's new constitution stated this weekend that they were considering a 30-day extension, in a potentially serious setback to a U.S. push to complete the charter on time.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had made a special trip to Baghdad on Wednesday to press for completion by an Aug. 15 deadline, tying it to Washington's hopes for significant spring troop withdrawals.
But Iraq's Shiite Arabs, Kurds and Sunni Arabs have been unable to reach agreement on topics including a Kurdish-led push for a regionally-driven system of federal government.
Bahaa Araji, a Shiite delegate, said constitutional committee members had decided to ask for a 30-day extension. Araji said the 30-day delay represented a compromise with delegates of the Kurdish minority, whom he said initially had demanded a six-month postponement.
"Tomorrow this request will be presented to the National Assembly, and we hope they approve it," Araji said. The Associated Press also quoted the committee chairman, Humam Hammoudi, as saying a 30-day extension would be sought. Hammoudi later denied making such a statement.
And Reuters news agency later quoted Araji as denying that an extension had been agreed upon. Delegates were still discussing it, Araji said.
Kurdish delegates also angrily denied pushing for the extension.
Saad Barazanchi, a Kurdish member of the constitution-drafting committee said, "The committee is still discussing the extension. We are supporting finishing the constitution on the deadline."
Rumsfeld and top U.S. commanders in Iraq have said Washington could make significant reductions to the 138,000-strong American force here if Iraq moves swiftly in completing its new national charter, electing a new government in December and rebuilding Iraqi security forces. During his one-day trip to Baghdad Wednesday, Rumsfeld urged the drafters of the constitution to make the compromises needed to meet the Aug. 15 deadline, which was set by Iraqis.
U.S. leaders also have said repeatedly that missing the government-building deadlines would cost Iraqis further momentum against the country's bloody insurgency.
Iraqi Kurds Call for Referendum on Independence
Courtesy of the Washington Post
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Kurdish leaders have requested that the new Iraqi constitution guarantee the Kurdish minority the right to vote on independence in eight years, a Kurdish member of the constitutional committee said Friday.
The call for a referendum on secession from Iraq is the Kurds' most overt push toward independence since the fall of president Saddam Hussein.
Saadi Barzanchani, a Kurdish member of the national committee drafting the constitution, said Kurds would probably vote to remain part of Iraq if the country became the democracy that Iraqi and U.S. leaders have promised. "Eight years will be sufficient time to see," he said in an interview.
Barzanchani said Kurdistan's regional parliament made the decision to push for a guaranteed right to vote in the new constitution, which the committee is trying to piece together by Aug. 15.
Many Sunni Arabs, a minority group that had ruled the country for eight decades, oppose Kurdish independence and a drive for autonomy by some Shiite Arabs in the southern part of the country. Shiites make up the majority of Iraq's population.
"Iraq is a united country. I call on patriots to stand against this brutal campaign and insist that Iraq should be one country, one land and one rule," Mahmoud Sumaidaie, a Sunni cleric, said in a sermon during Friday prayers at a mosque in Baghdad. "We don't want the separation. Iraq will be the homeland of the Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and other minorities."
Countries that border Iraq have long opposed statehood for the estimated 3.5 million Iraqi Kurds, who represent a fraction of the approximately 20 million Kurds living in a region that stretches from Turkey through the former Soviet Union to Iran. Iraq's neighbors fear that allowing independence for Iraqi Kurds would fuel separatist drives in their own countries.
U.S. officials have consistently opposed the secession hopes of their Iraqi Kurdish allies, saying a landlocked Kurdistan, surrounded by hostile neighbors, would not be viable.
Barzanchani said secession was "the legitimate right of each part of Iraq." He argued that granting all regions the right to break away if the central government neglected them was "one of the strongest guarantees of unity" for Iraq.
Kurds make up 15 to 20 percent of Iraq's population. In the 1980s, Hussein unleashed a campaign of violence against the Kurds that killed more than 100,000 in northern Iraq, according to international human rights groups. Hussein also crushed a Kurdish revolt following the Persian Gulf War. U.S. forces later enforced a no-fly zone that gave Kurds enough protection to declare autonomy.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, has said he wants the Kurdish region to remain part of Iraq. But separatist sentiment pervades his homeland.
More than 90 percent of voters questioned in Kurdistan during January's national elections said they wanted independence, according to a frequently cited survey conducted at polling places.
The debate over how much autonomy to give Kurds in the north, Shiites in the south, and Sunnis in the center and west of the country has become one of the most difficult issues to be settled before Iraq can draft a constitution.
Kurdish leaders have been audacious in pushing their claims. This week, they unveiled a map -- which they wanted appended to the new constitution -- that lays claim to hundreds of miles of territory extending south of Baghdad. The territory includes the disputed, oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
Another Kurdish official, Mullah Bakhtiyar, later told the Associated Press that the extended boundary was a "red line" for Kurds and that they were committed to it.
A Western diplomat on Friday urged members of the constitutional committee to maintain "flexibility and realism."
The diplomat, speaking to reporters in Baghdad under the agreement that he not be named, also appealed to the constitution's framers to stick to the Aug. 15 deadline for having a draft constitution approved by the National Assembly. The charter would then go before Iraqi voters.
"You kick this down the road six months, it's going to look like the whole process is blocked," the diplomat said.
The diplomat also said a draft he saw Friday had removed a stipulation that family matters such as divorce and inheritance be governed by the laws of an individual's religious sect. Some Iraqis had feared that religious law under the rule could be used to limit the rights of women. The official stressed, however, that the wording of the constitution was changing daily.
Work on the constitution continues despite the walkout of more than a dozen Sunni Arabs after the assassination Tuesday of a fellow Sunni member of the committee.
In attacks Friday, a roadside bomb killed a U.S. Marine west of Baghdad, and news agencies reported that gunmen wounded an Iraqi army captain and killed his 23-year-old wife. The couple had been married one day.
Kurds Offers Redrawn Map to Iraq Assembly
Courtesy of the Associated Press
(ZNDA: Kirkuk) Kurdish leaders have presented a redrawn map with a larger Kurdistan to the Iraqi National Assembly for consideration in the new constitution, a Kurdish party official said Thursday.
The map reflected long-standing Kurdish claims that stretches their territory south toward the capital of Baghdad - well beyond the boundaries of the current Kurdish autonomous area.
"The Kurdistan parliament and Kurdish parties have ratified and agreed on this map. We want this map to be part of the constitution," said Mullah Bakhtiyar, a senior official with the Kurdish Democratic Party, one of the two main Kurdish political parties.
The Kurdish demand was unlikely to be well-received by Sunnis and Shiites on the constitutional commission and could further complicate efforts to complete the draft charter by the Aug. 15 deadline.
The southern boundaries of the proposed Kurdish-controlled area would include the towns of Badra and Jassan, about 90 miles southeast of Baghdad.
"We need an official map that marks the boundaries of Kurdistan in the federal Iraq. This redrawn map is based on historical and geographical facts and we are determined to stick to this map," Bakhtiyar said.
"In any negotiations, we might be ready to seek compromises on some political privileges or ministerial posts, but the boundary of Kurdistan is a red line, and Kurdish leaders are committed to this," he said.
The northern Kurdish-ruled region has been autonomous since 1991, when the area enjoyed U.S. and British protection from Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. In the drafting of a new Iraqi constitution, Kurdish leaders have been pushing hard for a federalist system, which would have strong regional governments.
Bakhtiyar said some people in the committee - notably Sunni Arabs - oppose the idea of federalism because they are afraid that this would be a step toward dividing Iraq, but "they are wrong because federalism is the best guarantee for a united Iraq."
The Kurds, Washington's most reliable allies in Iraq, comprise 15 percent to 20 percent of Iraq's estimated 27 million people. Together with the Shiite majority, they had been oppressed for decades by the Sunni Arab minority.
Drafters of Iraq's Constitution Grapple with Dual Citizenship
Courtesy of the San Jose Mercury News
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Of the thorny issues that drafters of Iraq's permanent constitution tackled this week, one of the most fiercely debated is a tiny section that raises a big question: Who is an Iraqi citizen?
Prime Minister Ibrahim al Jaafari is a British national; so are at least five of his Cabinet members. One vice president is French, the other is said to be Saudi. The speaker of the National Assembly is American, his No. 2 is Canadian and several legislators use travel documents from neighboring Iran.
With former exiles in the most powerful seats in Iraq, dual citizenship has become a sensitive topic colored by passionate disputes over allegiance and identity.
Members of the drafting committee have locked horns over how the constitution should address the thousands of Iraqis who hold second or even third nationalities. Some members, particularly Sunni Arabs who stayed in Iraq under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, are concerned about divided loyalties and opportunistic exiles. Others, mainly Shiite Muslims and Kurds whose persecuted families fled Saddam's Iraq, say the constitution must enshrine citizenship as a right for all Iraqis.
"Most of the people ruling Iraq have dual citizenship," said Hajim al Hassani, who spent 25 years in Connecticut and California before becoming speaker of Iraq's parliament. "I am American. I am Iraqi. Of course, right now I live in Iraq and all my efforts are working toward rebuilding this country."
Under Saddam, Iraqis weren't allowed to hold other nationalities and those who opposed him or sought refuge abroad were stripped of citizenship. The interim law drawn up under the U.S.-led occupational authority allows for dual citizenship and restores Iraqi nationality to those who lost it under Saddam. Those laws, a starting point for the drafters, become null once a new constitution is adopted.
Some members of the drafting committee want to extend citizenship to children born to Iraqi mothers and foreign fathers, non-Iraqi women married to Iraqi men and generations of Iraqi refugees who live in Iran. (Citizenship in the Arab world generally conveys through men.) A compromise in the works Tuesday would grant those rights, as long as dual citizens in top government positions agreed to renounce their second nationalities.
"Those sensitive positions cannot go to people with dual citizenship, but at the same time we can't deprive those people of important positions," said Homam Hamoodi, a Shiite and chairman of the committee. He spent years of exile in Iran, but said he held only Iraqi citizenship.
Late Tuesday, members were still at an impasse on the emotionally charged issue. Dual citizenship is one of many controversial topics that have stalled talks and prompted worries that the committee won't make its mid-August deadline.
Caught between opponents and supporters of dual citizenship are Iraqis such as Yonadam Kanna, an Assyrian Christian legislator. Kanna said he understood that tyranny forced many into exile, but that he resented politicians who kept one foot in Iraq and one in their adoptive nations.
"Even at the top levels I think it's OK, as long as he moves to Iraq, invests in Iraq and doesn't keep his wife and children in another country," said Kanna, who never took a second nationality even though he fled Iraq after Saddam sentenced him to death.
The rivalry between exile and non-exile Iraqi politicians flourished long before the issue of dual citizenship arose. The Western-educated exile crowd, with overseas property and flawless English, typically have an easier time negotiating with American officials than those who waited out Saddam's reign with extended families in dusty hometowns. At state functions, exiles in dapper suits stand apart from tribesmen in flowing robes or bulky shoes from the local market.
Iraqis who lived under Saddam said they were wary of the exiles' foreign sensibilities and sometimes felt the exile circle regarded them as a city kid viewed a country cousin. Many ordinary Iraqis, even those who empathize with the persecution that drove opposition figures away, said the new leaders didn't represent them.
"Only the Iraqis who never left Iraq and faced all our problems and disasters deserve to run this country because only they know how much we've suffered," said Mohammed Hassan, a shopkeeper in Baghdad. "Now, when we have crises and the situation gets bad, most of the politicians leave very fast and take their families with them."
Iraqi political figures are often spotted on flights from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan, which many former exiles use as a connection to visit their families in Beirut, Dubai, New York and Riyadh. A British citizen on the Iraqi electoral commission once told a reporter he couldn't wait for the election season to end so he could retreat to his rose garden in London.
Saadoun al Zubeidi, one of the few Sunni Arabs on the drafting committee, said he preferred to leave dual citizenship out of the constitution rather than have the matter decided by "the people who are now enjoying the opportunity of having an impact on events, who have come from abroad either as exiles or expatriates."
He opposes dual nationality for high-ranking government officials whose jobs require tough talks with neighboring countries.
"In the case of negotiating for treaties between Iran and Iraq, how can we guarantee that he will put the interests of Iraq before his allegiance to Iran?" he asked.
Fauzi Hariri, a Kurdish adviser to Iraq's foreign minister, said the privileges afforded former exiles often were paid for with the blood of family members slain under Saddam. He thinks top officials should be allowed to keep their dual citizenship, saying former expatriates were exposed to democratic principles that weren't available under Saddam.
"The exiles who came back were able to follow in a much freer fashion the events taking place in Iraq," said Hariri, who holds dual British-Iraqi nationality. "That doesn't make them less Iraqi than those who stayed. They paid dearly for that exile. The vast number of people who were exiled lost everything."
U.S. House of Representatives Amends Funding Bill to Help Iraqi Christians
Courtesy of Associated Baptist Press
(ZNDA: Washington) The U.S. House of Representatives has amended a funding bill in an attempt to focus attention on the postwar plight of Iraqi Christians.
The amendment, which was added to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act on a voice vote, also asks the Bush administration to work with the United States Agency for International Development and use funding for welfare, education and resettlement of Iraq’s Christian minority.
The House then passed the bill, H.R. 2601.
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) offered the amendment. Eshoo is of Assyrian and Armenian descent and is the only Chaldo-Assyrian Christian in Congress. Iraqi Assyrian and Armenian minorities are two of several indigenous Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christian groups with long histories in Iraq—histories that, in many cases, predate the advent of Islam in the nation.
Estimates of the number of Christians in Iraq vary, but the nation has long had one of the largest Christian populations in the Middle East. Under Saddam Hussein’s regime, they enjoyed a relatively high level of religious freedom. However, the political instability that has engulfed Iraq since American forces deposed Hussein in 2003 has led to an increase in anti-Christian attacks. Christians in Iraq also have complained of being overlooked as U.S. officials attempt to rebuild the fractious nation and broker peace deals and power-sharing agreements among competing factions of Iraqi Muslims.
“If a fully functioning and sustainable democracy is to emerge in Iraq, the basic rights and needs of all minority groups must be safeguarded,” Eshoo said while offering the amendment.
Up to 80,000 Iraqi Christians have fled Iraq since Hussein’s fall. “This ongoing exodus is deeply disturbing, and unless action is taken now to address the pressing needs of these indigenous Christians, we may well witness the complete loss of the Iraqi indigenous Christian community,” Eshoo said.
A lack of Christian representation on the committees drafting Iraq’s new constitution has caused additional fears in the Christian communities there, she added.
Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.), who represents a large Assyrian community in central California, supported Eshoo’s amendment by saying he believes the United States has an obligation to “guarantee that the rights of all Iraqis, particularly women and Christians, are not overlooked in the constitutional process.”
“Throughout history, the Assyrian people have suffered greatly in their attempts to obtain greater freedom and recognition,” Cardoza said. “The Assyrians were essential partners in the Iraqi opposition movement, and paid dearly with the assassination of many political leaders under Saddam Hussein’s regime. We must make certain that the ethnic and religious groups that suffered and sacrificed under Saddam’s regime are afforded human-rights guarantees in the permanent constitution.”
Babylon's Dirty Secrets: No Tablet Left Unturned
Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune
(ZNDA: Chicago) Only 200 or so people in the world are fluent in the Akkadian language. Scattered across four continents, they get together only once a year.
So by the time the scholars arrived in Chicago this week for their annual meeting, they had stored up a lot of things to discuss--from the harems of Assyrian kings to rising housing prices in ancient Babylon.
But they can't talk about them in Akkadian, because nobody knows how to speak it anymore.
Scholars learned to read the language through hundreds of thousands of written documents left behind by the Mesopotamian people who spoke it for 2,000 years. The documents are clay tablets covered in cuneiform: little, wedge-shaped characters that represented Akkadian words.
A mixture of government and business records, personal correspondence and literary works, the tablets have allowed scholars to draw some surprisingly detailed pictures of life in Mesopotamia 2,500 to 4,500 years ago.
Through Saturday, about 350 scholars, archeologists and art historians of the period--called Assyriologists--have gathered at the Oriental Institute on the University of Chicago campus for the International Congress of Assyriology and Near Eastern Archaeology.
Those able to read the cuneiform tablets have spent the week telling everyone what they've been reading for the last year. It's a rare chance for them to talk face to face, because only so many universities and museums see a need for a staff Assyriologist, and only a few of those could afford to hire more than one.
Akkadian was one of the world's first written languages, evolving more than 4,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, the birthplace of human civilization between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in what is modern-day Iraq.
The Oriental Institute is one of the most influential centers for Akkadian studies, as many scholars of the language came here to learn to read it. The institute is about to complete the definitive, 24-volume dictionary of the language, 50 years after the first volume was published.
"In our field, Chicago is a very important center," said Dominique Charpin, an Assyriologist at the Sorbonne in Paris. "For us, it is our Mecca."
Charpin, 51, and his wife, Nele Ziegler, 37, have been going over nearly 20,000 clay tablets generated during the reign of Zimri-Lim between 1800 B.C. and 1760 B.C. in the city of Mari, a ruin in Syria near the Iraqi border. French archeologists in 1933 found the tablets in a library in the king's palace, where they lay protected under a collapsed wall for roughly 3,700 years, after Hammurabi, the great Babylonian king, destroyed the palace.
Charpin discovered a text indicating that during a stretch of hard times in the kingdom, the king's mother and a high priestess lent grain supplies to many people--a transaction expected to be paid back with interest at the next harvest.
"When people borrowed silver or something else of value, a clay tablet record was made of the loan, listing the name of the person getting the loan, the amount and date for repayment and the name of somebody serving as a witness to the loan," Charpin said.
The two women, evidently concerned that so many people stiffed them on the loans, asked a scribe to inventory their outstanding debts. He listed them with oldest debts first, some four years or more in arrears. Charpin found no evidence any of it was ever paid back.
Meanwhile, back at the harem
Ziegler has been looking at clay tablets recording business of the king's harem and palace musicians.
"When he came into power, he had 350 women in the harem, some princesses, some concubines, some servants," Ziegler said. "Five years later, there were 650 women in the harem."
About 200 of the women were trained as court musicians, she said, some serving the dual purpose of concubines to the king. "There were also young girls in the harem being trained for palace life, not to serve the king," she said, "but to be given as gifts to other kings."
Music was so important that the music director was a government minister, one of the king's 10 most powerful aides.
The tablets that the scholars study are single slabs of clay that were hardened by baking in ovens or in the sun after scribes pressed inscriptions into the surface. The smallest were about the size of a matchbook; the largest, usually about the size of a modern stenographer's notebook.Most surviving tablets are lists of commercial transactions such as purchases of animals or grain, or tax records and government reports. But there are also thousands of more literary texts, such as personal letters, poetry and diplomatic reports sent from abroad.
Often scholars choose to specialize in certain kinds of texts.
"It's not so different from the English language, where we see specialists devoted to reading and interpreting Shakespearean texts, and others who are experts in reading and interpreting Dow Jones stock tables," said Martha Roth, editor of the nearly completed dictionary and organizer of this year's Assyriology congress.
Heather Baker, 42, a British lecturer at the University of Vienna, has been looking at legal documents recording sales of houses and empty plots in Babylon between 700 B.C. and 500 B.C.
"We've known a lot about the temples and palaces of Babylon, many of which have been excavated," Baker said, "but we have very limited knowledge of residential and industrial neighborhoods."
Only about 40 residences in Babylon, most made of mud brick, have ever been excavated, she said, but the clay documents tell the story of thousands more, telling her "where housing was located, the size of them at the time of sale, the condition of the housing, who the neighbors were."
Real estate transactions were paid in silver, she said, with the more expensive houses being large dwellings up to 4,500 square feet and boasting two or three courtyards. The cheapest were 200-square-foot huts made of reed.
Location, location, location
Baker said that as population density increased in various parts of the city, land prices went up. Housing was a good investment, she said, as housing values steadily climbed over the 200 years she has been studying.
"You can see a lot of people were buying houses or parts of houses, then turning around and renting the units out for income generation," she said.
If the upwardly spiraling housing prices of Babylon ever turned into a burst real estate bubble, Baker can't tell, as the records she studies abruptly stop after 200 years.
Barbara Boeck, 37, a university researcher in Madrid, has inherited the work of her mentor and teacher in Germany, the late Franz Koecher, who translated pharmacological texts left by ancient physicians.
To the consternation of scholars, many of those recipes called for the excrement of animals--the droppings of dogs, pigs and other barnyard species--as key ingredients. Modern pharmacologists chalked it up to the ignorance of the ancients.
But Koecher found that the dung in the ointment--so to speak--actually was a clever ruse by the physicians.
"He discovered the physicians listed use of animal excrement simply as codes for actual secret plant ingredients that they didn't want their patients to know, so that the patients couldn't make their own medicine," Boeck said. "He discovered the equivalence lists, about 100 coded plant names.
Turlock’s Civic Club Honors Shamasha Albert Benjamin
Report for Zinda by Mikhael K. Pius in California
On Mother’s Day this year, the Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock chose Nardine Mansoor Mother of the Year for 2005 for her various works and achievements for many years, especially in the field of education. And on Father’s Day 2005 the choice went to Shamasha Albert Benjamin, an active member in both the social and religious life of the community of the Turlock-Modesto area for more than three decades.
In 1973 Albert, with his family and parents, left Iraq. He came to America seeking, as most immigrants, a better life for himself and his family. Albert rejoined an older brother, the late Yosip, in Bay Area. But soon after he settled in Modesto close to Turlock where his church (St. Thomas) and the Assyrian club (Civic Club) were situated and in both of which he became an active member in order to serve his community. Obtaining a job at Gallo Glass, he worked for many years to support his family and afford his children proper Catholic education.
During the last three decades he has served in various responsible positions for the welfare of his club and church, among them: member of Assyrian Welfare Committee to encourage group education and foster support to new Assyrian émigré families; Civic Club’s member of Executive Committee in 1975, TV Chairman for 1975-76 and Assyrian Secretary for 1982-83, and Club President for two terms (1978-79 and 1980-81); and twice as Chairman of St. Thomas Church twice, once for several years in the early 1990s and currently since 2003. His wife Gladis, a former seamstress, has also been very active in St. Thomas Church serving twice as head of the Women’s Auxiliary raising money for the church. And with her help, Albert boarded at his home and took care of his elderly parents devotedly until their last days.
A rather handsome man with grey green eyes, he is mild-mannered, pleasant and intelligent, with a special gift as a speaker. He is the person who is most called upon to narrate, in Assyrian, bio-obituaries and eulogize at community funerals and to act as MC at special functions and he is quite adept at it. He has a strong sense of right and wrong and is a dyed in the wool Catholic who stands firm in his belief. He has studied briefly in a Catholic seminary and was consecrated a deacon for the Church in 1977. Judging from his actions in the past, I believe his faith always comes first. Currently, he is the right-hand man of St. Thomas pastor, Fr. Kamal Bidawid, a resourceful priest who is generally loved by his congregation and who has a strong belief in his faith and in his Church, but is in a constant struggle walking a tight rope to keep a balance between his (90%) Assyrian congregation’s nationalistic feelings and the Chaldean Catholic Church’s incompatible stand in political nationalism.
The fourth of five children, Shamasha Albert was born to Eramia Shimoun Benyamin and Maria “Baaji” Gewargis Shallou on December 5, 1939 in Habbaniya, where his father worked as canteen manager for NAAFI and where Albert had his elementary schooling. In 1956 the family moved to Baghdad and five years later Albert graduated from high school. Having been born and raised a devoted Catholic he joined the Legion of Mary organization for which he served as president for six years. While he worked at the Central Bank of Iraq Albert also attended Baghdad University’s Institute of Accountancy and Business Administration, from which he graduated in 1963 with an academic degree in the subject. He served his two-year Iraqi Army conscription (1964-65) as reserve officer in Mosul. In June 1968 he was married to Gladis, daughter of Oshalim Sarkis of Baghdad. The couple was blessed with two children Ramina (in 1969) and Raman (in 1971). Ramina gladdened her parents’ hearts by presenting them in January 2004 with their first grandchild, Mary Elizabeth, after 12 years of marriage to George Silva.
AUA's New Leadership, Baghdad Meetings and Next Steps in Anticipation
What an issue! Let me first commend you Zinda on your last issue being so ‘full fat’ milk that it took me the whole week to digest and enjoy its sweet taste! Good job and work well-done Zinda.
Despite the blare that was made recently by our reverential clergies with respect to the public unwise and divisive calls in an unprecedented clear attempt to divide the nation as if being unsatisfied with our religious division that was accomplished with the split of the Church of The East three centuries back. They want now to split our people further and make them ethnically divorced once and for ever. But God has his own plans for us as well and these are the most glorious and most cheerful and most prosperous than any human made chaos!
AT such hard times and despite the dark clouds, it seems as if the sun is ever shining upon our nation and the Angels of Heaven are guarding our people to secure them, as they did for the past 2000 years, from the deeds of evil and bring them to the shore of hope and prosperity. I really hope that I am not dreaming when I read the articles of the Light House and elsewhere in your greatest ever last issue. The light of these articles disclosed indeed all the tiny doubts that anyone might have had for the last three years or so and brought hope and life to our dreams.
I only hope that this is the long awaited real dawn of our national reconciliation, forgiveness and reunion. What is more indicative to our advancement and louder than our unified rational voice than these two thrilling news that were mentioned in your last issue? I must first congratulate Dr. Kamber for assuming his new position and wish him all the best in his new and most challenging endeavor. However, I must admit that I only have little confusion that would have dissipated immediately with regards to the AUA elections of their new executive board had its members from Syria and Iraq not being missed.
The most encouraging and pleasing thing to hear beside the great news of AUA elections been accompanied by another crucial and historic series of meetings that were held between our leaders in Baghdad to bring the political parties they represent into one pot, one nation, one voice. Regardless the final results and despite the final decisions being still pending further discussions to reach the final conclusions, yet they were all part of the Light beam that exposed the good intentions and the great will that is still dwelling inside everyone of us.
Nevertheless the final words are being yet to be said, no one can argue with a single doubt of all of this exerting momentum not being the omen for new era and the sign of the positive move toward our long awaited and desperately needed coordination and teamwork. These huge steps are the correct move in the correct direction that would lead us to the correct results for reaching our ultimate goals. We must keep this dialogue live, positive and effective to see the fruit of the good work and to be the backbone for the resolve of the peacemakers!
Let us all pave the road for this new dawn and let us make the simplest effort we can to help the good will in our nation dominate and flourish. Let us try once to trust each other intentions just for the sake of our blessed nation. Let us once think and act as brothers seeking the good wealth for their own family. Let us open sincerely our hearts and minds to accept and appreciate each other efforts because they are all for our nation after all.
Thank You, Kakovitch!
I would like to congratulate Mr. Ivan Kakovitch for his very well done article"A Letter to the Members of U.S. Congress & Senate in Response to Rep. Anna Eshoo Amendment."
Our Fascination with Semantics Hurts Our Ultimate Goal
Had I read only Mr. Kakovitch’s letter to the Congress of the United States as a response to Representative Eshoo’s amendment to HR 2601 as published in July 23, 2005 of Zinda Magazine, I would have gathered that Ms. Eshoo had, on bad faith and for her selfish political gain, betrayed her nation by erroneously portraying her people in bad light causing division. But both Ms. Eshoo and I were lucky in that her (I assume verbatim) declaration to Congress and Mr. Kakovitch’s response were printed in the same issue of Zinda as comparative reading.
Some amongst us have lost sight of the ultimate goal of unity and have hung on to a fascination with semantics. The quarrel over what we call ourselves is an ongoing internal matter to be addressed and resolved by us and us only. While our religious and political leaders are busy trying hard to catalogue us into various nationality sects, we have no choice but to, at this critical time, introduce ourselves to the foreign powers in plurality by the only common denominator we have, namely, Assyrian/Chaldeans or Christians. This is precisely what Anna Eshoo has done and more.
If indeed Assyrians, Chaldeans, and other Christians in Iraq are of the same race and ethnicity, then to battle over names is to lose the war. The non-Christians in Iraq must be ecstatic over 750,000 and increasingly dwindling number of Iraqi Assyrians/Chaldeans’ temper tantrums about naming, renaming, hyphenating, or any combination thereof of a miniscule minority. On the other hand, the Westerners must b e confused while dealing with a serious matter of persecution and unjust treatment of Christians in Iraq, objections are raised by none other than one of our own over what we are named or of what religion affiliation we are. If the US Congress and Senate give any credence to Mr. Kakovitch’s letter, wouldn’t they question the validity of Ms. Eshoo’s urgent appeal? Consequently, wouldn’t they curtail the necessary follow up fund allocations and/or further legislation on our behalf? Would Mr. Kakovitch, under those circumstances, have fulfilled his goal of help for our people? I think not!
As an Assyrian nationalist, I was personally heartened with Anna Eshoo, a lone Assyrian congressional voice, to take positive steps towards educating our law makers as to the needs of our people. This is exactly why we need to rally around and support more Assyrian/Chaldean candidates in key political positions. Let us be wise in recognizing, distinguishing, and prioritizing our nation’s needs , wants, and wishes. Especially in our dealings with the West, our needs for safety and financial aid should be of paramount importance. If history has anything to offer is an opportunity to learn from it. In WWII, it was the cooperation of an unlikely ally, Stalin, that at the end of the day won the war.
All Iraqi Christians are light years closer to each other in kinship than Stalin and Churchill/Roosevelt ever were. Although, Mr. Kakovitch believes that a great many Assyrians are atheists or muslim converts, I have yet to witness or hear of an “Assyrian mosque” or a “Center for Assyrian Atheists ” erected anywhere in the world. The great Ronald Reagan’s philosophy that a republican should never talk bad behind another republican is deemed relevant here. I humbly advise Mr. Kakovitch that an Assyrian/Chaldean should never talk bad behind another Assyrian/Chaldean to others, because this further unifies the opposition force against us, disheartens the concerned third party helpers, and disenfranchises the people of Oomta.
Time to Pay Our Dues
Mark Jacob Thomas
I recently wrote about the problems of the Assyrian American National Federation in its affiliates not complying with membership dues of $150.00 per person to the Federation and of the administrations failure to enforce this rule. I did not mean to imply however, that the blame rests solely with the current administration of the AANF. It is also the problem of the affiliates who overwhelmingly voted for the new provisions of membership in the Constitution, had two years before they were to be implemented and then sit back and wait for the "other person" to do it first.
It is true that the administration is bound to follow its own Constitution and Bylaws and enforce them. It is also true that the affiliates are bound to follow these same rules.
In the course of conversing with several representatives of the various affiliates I have heard such comments as: What has the Federation done for us? I can't afford it. Nobody told me. When did we vote for these new rules? Without the affiliates what is the federation?
The converse of these questions can also be asked? What have you or your affiliate done for the Federation? How can you afford airfare, hotel bills, and spending money to attend a convention where the majority of money is made by the hotel, but not afford the dues to your own community. Rather than argue over an empty plate, argue and discuss how your money should be spent for the benefit of your people. The person who stated to me, "Nobody told me, himself made amendments to the proposed changes in 2003. To the last question, I respond, what is the affiliate, but a local club without a unifying national federation to allow them to interact with the diversity of our people on a national level.
Neither President Khamis, nor I, nor anyone else for that matter can be Abraham Lincoln and go to war to preserve the Union. However, it should be readily obvious to all that as a united body have more clout financially and politically when speaking with officials of our government and foreign governments. It should also be readily apparent to all that we, unlike the Armenians, or other ethnic communities, lack the few individuals with millions of dollars who form and fund organizations on their own. It is only collectively that we can take our fingers and thumb and form them into a fist for the benefit of our people.
I have dreamed of a day when this federation can be a $10,000,000 a year business providing works for the benefit of our people. I have envisioned that with 3000 members nationally we could generate a budget of $500,000 or more that would enable us to have a full time lobby in Washington or at the UN. I envisioned a program of an Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac Trust wherein we purchase land in the name of the corporation in Iraq and hold it in trust for the benefit of our people. To enable them to resettle the land and raise food and provide employment for their families. A Trust that will provide seed money for business ventures. A Trust with land ownership that will prevent our people being singled out individually and harassed and marauded by Kurds and others that covet our land and make living conditions miserable and force our people to sell or flee. A Trust that will hopefully be a first step to end the 100 year refugee orbit that continues to plague our people.
I also dreamed of this federation acting as a representative democracy. That is, where the larger affiliates with hundreds of members pay more and in return receive more votes at a convention. The State of California with its large population has more congressional representatives than Rhode Island because of its population. It also pays more taxes to the federal government because of its population than Rhode Island. I hoped that an affiliate like the Civic Club of Turlock or affiliates in San Jose or Los Angeles would see the benefit of paying their individual dues and seating (41) delegates at the convention (Turlock) or (nine) San Jose rather than the five they have. I hoped that Chicago would take a lead from this and understand that 14 organizations for one city is silly and that many of them should merge for their mutual benefit. The balance for the smaller affiliates would be the NEC which has two members from each affiliate like the US Senate.
The formation and continuation of the Federation as a national body for all Assyrians of whatever denomination is a necessity. Our founding fathers knew this nearly 100 years ago in the aftermath of WWI and the Simeli massacre. I hoped and prayed that this necessity would be readily apparent to those who now are members of affiliate organization of the federation.
Neither I nor President Khamis have the ability to stop the formation of many small clubs composed of 25 members to start and then dwindle to 17 to maintain membership. Being "Shotenaya" seems to be a way of life with we Assyrians. So, I thought it better to adapt a system to the people rather than a people to a system. However, since we continually chose to do this as a people then each person should pay his individual dues. It makes them accountable to then federation and to one another.
Under the system that operated prior to these changes everyone who wanted to hear himself/herself speak would get together with their family and start an organization. They would do nothing year round, but show up at a convention with five votes just like viable organizations that performed community services and boasted a diversity of members.
The Federation is a business. It is in the business of trying to deal with the problems that beset our people and provide aid to them in whatever manner it can. It is in the business of seeking to unite our people to common causes that afflict our people nationally and internationally. It is in the business of providing aid to our people who seek to better themselves through education and assistance to those in need. However, as everyone knows, a business requires capital to operate. It needs capital to provide for the very programs for which it is formed.
I hope and pray that our affiliates will see the light in the need for unity as an organized national body. I hope they see the light that when they need help their federation will be in a position to provide assistance. These individual membership dues and membership list provided to the federation will prevent an affiliate from having their cousins from Chicago visit relatives in Modesto just in time for the convention and serve as delegates from Modesto. It will prevent persons from serving as delegates from an affiliate who are not even members of that organization as happened last year. It will separate the wheat from the Chaff which is necessary for a strong national organization.
I may not like President Bush. However, I cannot quit America or refuse to pay my taxes because of this. Rather, I become involved through my elected representatives to try to get legislation passed that benefits my community and have a voice in government that advocates the needs of my community. I discuss with my elected representative and my President how my tax money should be allocated, not refuse to pay it.
President Khamis does not have an IRS in this Federation. The Federation cannot make anyone pay his individual dues. He can speak to them as will I to try and persuade them to see why this in to their mutual advantage as Assyrians. He can speak to them as will I and urge them to become responsible citizens who provide their dues because it benefits them and all of our people.
I am a citizen of the village of Glenview, Township of Northfield, County of Cook, State of Illinois, United States of America. To whom do I owe my allegiance and in what order. I know implicitly that it is America first. The others are secondary without the unity of the whole. They may exist, but are isolated and cannot have the strength of voice or resource without one another.
I thank you for your consideration and hope you too will urge the affiliates to pay their membership dues of $150.00 per person to the AANF Treasurer. A minimum of 17 persons from each affiliate must pay their dues $2550.00 plus $300.00 affiliate dues. The names of those paying their dues from the affiliate must match their membership list.
The deadline for payment is July 31, 2005. It is not too late. Only 25% of the affiliates must have paid their dues to constitute a quorum. Absent this, I fear, we will have a convention in Boston that will not be able to conduct business.
Why Assyria and Assyrian and None Others
To better clarify the current situation of our nation, an explanation as to why the names Assyria and Assyrian are so significant to be used in comparison to all other suggested names.
When speaking of Assyria, the name denotes a country and a geographical location. When speaking of Assyrian, the word denotes the citizens of Assyria.
Historically speaking, a major portion of the heartland of Assyria is located within the boarders of Iraq. Present day Assyrian nation at large, includes all those who share a common language (Assyrian, Syriac, Neo-Assyrian, Akkadian and Aramaic), a common heritage, a well documented history and predominantly can trace their roots to this region of the world, namely former Mesopotamia (Bet-Nahrain) and present day Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.
The Assyrian heritage and Assyrian identity are claimed by a fraction of the Assyrian nation at large who converted and accepted Christianity at its inception. A major portion of the Assyrian nation was lost due to conversion to other religions or numerous massacres faced by the Assyrian nation.
The present day Christian Assyrian nation enjoys various religious denominations. The fact is that the Assyrian nation enjoys various religious denominations and the fact is that historically the majority of Assyrians still live in the Middle eastern countries, where religion plays a major role in the social, political and cultural life of the people in the region. Assyrians by customs or simply due to acculturation have adopted similar traits by allowing religion to play a major role in their social and cultural behavior. This acculturation has manifested itself to the extent that religious denominations have taken precedents over the national identity of certain members of this nation. This lack of national awareness and the fact that members of this group have grown accustomed to self-identifying themselves more so with their religious denominations, than their true national identity.
The world events of the last century, namely; WWI, WWII, Genocide of the Christians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks and their allies during the years of 1914-1918, Massacres of Simele and other world events, have awoken the nationalistic aspirations of this nation by calling for the establishment of a self ruled and an independent state of their own.
Historically, Assyria's heartland has been the battlefield of many nations and people. Many nations and people have made the heartland of Assyria their own by applying numerous tactics against the Assyrians to leave their homeland so that they can occupy the Assyrian heartland. Massacres, political and religious discrimination, rape, forced conversion are only few methods used by the previous and present occupiers.
The Assyrians of today are no longer under the control or mercy of any one people or nation to be robbed of their birth and national rights. In the last century, Assyrians have become the citizens of the world and have acquired the skills required of them to demand what is rightfully theirs. Having declared their nationalistic stand, the current occupiers have acquired new tools and weapons to once again rob this nation of its birth right. The methods used are the same methods of divide and rule, which have been used by many.
The weapons currently being used by the enemies of our nation are not new ones that the Assyrian nation is not familiar with. They have been used in the past against it and some are still trying to use the same tools. The weapon of choice is inventing new names and new nations with no historical or geographical relation to Assyria and Assyrians.
Hence, the Assyrian nation, being aware of these old tactics, which can only benefit the interest of the occupiers of Assyria, must reject any and all names, which have no historical or geographical relationship to the land of Assur. Let it further be known that those co-nationals whom have grown accustomed to using their religious denominations to self identify themselves as a nation, are simply being used by the enemies of this nation to rob them of our shared heritage.
The Assyrians of today, are no longer willing to allow the enemies of this nation to take advantage of their nation or be robbed of what is rightfully theirs. The Assyrian nation at large must and will stand against all enemies, both internal and external and shall reject any and all names that have no national or historical ties to their ancestral land. Therefore, the name Assyria and Assyrian shall be the one and the only names by which all true sons and daughters of our nation shall be known by and it's hereby declare to the world community.
The Assyrian National Thought and the Nation’s Unity
The Assyrian national thought is that which seeks to realize the unity of the Assyrian nation, preserving its identity and formulating its revival project which would be qualified to release the abilities of the Assyrian individual bearing the message of the Assyrian nation which will enable it in the re-building of the new Iraq. We have made the history of Iraq and we shall contribute to its re-building.
In this sense, the Assyrian national thought is the one which unites and the one able to uncover the great laws of struggle which control history’s movement in the region, this is an ancient and continuous struggle between the powers, interests, and partisanship in relation to projects that would unite the nation or the plots aiming at crumbling it.
In the same manner the repetitive talk about the failure of the Assyrian national thought because of the many and diverse mistakes or transgressions committed by some regimes, organizations or individuals which ascribed themselves to the schools of that thought, are all included within the frame of that struggle movement aiming at demolishing the last strongholds of the nation to face the plots of separating and crumbling it.
Such a talk neglects that ideas may linger or recede but they never disappear, more specifically when they are connected to the identity of a nation, its revival tendency, the will of freedom and independence in addition to human dignity and basic rights, whether national or political.
What’s noticeable is that such a talk about the failure of the Assyrian national thought is coming at a time when all of Iraq is witnessing a tendency towards building large clusters in an indication to the impossibility of having small entities in today’s Iraq.
Another thing to be noticed is that the claim about the failure of the thought which can bring about unity, has connections to the enemies of Assyrian unity because those making such a claim or most of them are promoting Kurdish, international projects whether new or large which deal with the region in a strategic and political unit but at the same time endeavor to obliterate the Assyrian national identity, leaping over the historical facts in the interest of some simplified geographical and demographical implications through which it would be possible to merge the Kurdish entity within its composition.
History has taught us that the biggest mistake that some analytical thought, ideologies or movements fall in is that their behavior towards an actual moment would be as if that moment whether of victory or defeat is a permanent one, hence they build on such a perception their stands or observations specifically when the actual moment of failure was the basis of dangerous efforts, some internal and others external resulting in bringing the nation to the situation that it’s in now.
To Mar Iwas I: Assyrians Are Not Arab !
The following letter was presented by the Assyria Liberation Party (GFA) to His Holiness Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka Iwas I, Patriarch of Antioch and the whole East-Supreme Head of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Damascus, Syria.
GFA (Assyria Liberation Party)
His Holiness the Patriarch,
It came to our attention your article, which was published in An-Nahar newspaper (Beirut) on June 12, 2005 titled: “Islam and Christianity a historical completeness in building the Arab culture”.
We read the following: “Today as Muslims and Christians we need to spread national awareness, following in the footsteps of the blessed forefathers who shed their blood on the Arabian homeland’s soil when they liberated it from its usurpers, defending it over the generations when the Muslims and Christians were in the same trenches. They protected the civilization and handed it to us a trust to preserve, and their blood runs in our veins”… Then your Holiness continue: “ We are one Arab people, so let’s strengthen the patriotic unity allover the Arab world and let’s raise high the banner of Arabism”.
If what we have mentioned had been issued by an individual from our people, we wouldn’t have been amazed but for such a declaration to come from the highest religious authority, that is the supreme figure of the Syriac Orthodox Church in the world – Who had influenced in previous declarations some of the Bishops who desperately defended Arabism – These declarations stir the reservation and resentment of the believers in our Church allover the world.
We would like to remind Your Holiness that this declaration completely negates the one of 1994 which was published in the last issue of 1994 in the Patriarchal magazine, when in Athens and before thousands of the Greek Church believers, you had explained the source of the true name of our people. Each person has the right to express his opinions, feelings and identity. If you consider yourself an Arab, then that’s your choice and right which you can’t be stripped of by any one, but why then the generalizing and speaking on behalf of every one else and why are you retracing the Syriac Church believers to the Arabs!?
What is the meaning then of our own language, noble civilization and usurped homeland. We are an independent people with our own national, historical and human characteristics which are deeply rooted in our homeland for thousands of years, so with due respect to all the peoples of the universe whom we respect and appreciate, but it’s our right to demand that we be treated equally.
There’s an attempt in the published article to earn the sympathy of Arabism, favoritism and informal merging with Arabic speakers. Our forefathers paid a dire price for their beliefs, denominations and nation they willingly paid with their lives because of their faith in their Cause and belief… And they were forced many a time to accept Islam.
His Holiness the Patriarch, had we accepted to be called (Arabs) we would have spared ourselves lots of persecution and misery.
Isn’t it unjust to purposely attempt changing the knowledge and culture amassed and consequently melt them within Arabism- With all due respect to the Arab brothers and other peoples with whom we share living in our homeland- Your Holiness know more than any one else that we are a noble people, inheritors of a civilization whose roots go into history for more than 3000 years B.C., that our people speak the Assyrian language [Eastern and Western dialects] and that this language has its own distinctiveness and entity which are completely independent of the Arabic language.
Many of our people deserted their nationality and faded away with the peoples whom they shared living with in our occupied homeland (Ashur) because of repression, persecution, pressure and tyranny… Because of the violence, and oppression of tyrant rulers, because of the regimes cruelty and of the racial and religious discrimination, that is through the persecution of the majority against the minority… It’s very regrettable that as the world and the Middle East are passing through diverse circumstances where democratic powers, civil society organizations, opposition movements and secular powers are calling for the diminishing of the influence of dictatorship regimes, re-establishing democratic freedoms and recognizing national, political, cultural and religious plurality in the Arab arena… As all this is going on, some of our religious figures and political organizations are competing to deny our national identity and distinctiveness by dissolving, throwing themselves into the
Aren’t all the declarations made by such people and all that is happening, considered a stab in our nation’s honor, toying with its components, denying its rights and existence … By whom…!? When…!? And in what age…!?
At a period of national realizations and rapid changes which are overcoming the world…!? We are being Arabized, Kurdified, Turkified, and Persianized… when we are the most ancient people in the whole world…!? What’s more troubling of it all is that people such as those described above oblige and demand that every one else follow their suit… However, they forget that every person is free to choose where he belongs.
Statements such as these issued by Your Holiness and some Bishops are farther away from the mission which you have consecrated yourselves for, which we didn’t allow ourselves to interfere with its particularities, but we declare our complete rejection of such statements and our rejection of any political or religious authority that try to falsify our true history, identity, and nationality.
What our people need today are brave leaders capable of defending the basic values of our existence and demanding national rights for our Assyrian nation (all denominations) but we don’t need those who are endeavoring to falsify our history, obliterate our identity, and make us fade away within other peoples.
Lighten Up Your Images
I recommend you guys make the pictures you put in your issues lighter. For example, the picture of David Daryawish is 1.14 MB and it takes a lot of time to download. You guys probably have a really fast connection but most of us don't. I myself have a 512K connection which is fast but still it is not reasonable to put a picture this big if you are showing it in a small size. you can transform this 1.14 MB (1140 K) to a 150 K file with the same quality using a photo editor like Photoshop.
Anyway, this is just a suggestion.
We apologize for any inconvenience. Our spoiled staff working on a T-1 network in our offices in Washington and California often ignore the thousands of readers who may be still using slower modem speeds. Without sacrificing quality, we will attempt to reduce the size of our future images to enhance our readers' downloading time.
Genocide Awareness Day in Canada
Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Genocide Awareness Day
Sunday, August 7, 2005
Semiramis Banquet Hall
Promptly at 6:30 PM
A Sect Facing an Identity Crisis
Dr George Habash
Late Patriarch Rafael Bedawid was greater than the sum of his parts because he was a true man and a true churchman.
In a short video footage I saw the man declaring himself as Assyrian by nationality but Chaldean by church. This testimony for the head of the church is a living proof for the entire body of that church to follow the teaching of its elders.
For every Christian believer, the confession of the literal virgin birth and the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ and his vicarious sacrifice for the salvation of mankind are pre-requisite for any adherent of that faith. But there is more to that.
A Christian scholar recently pointed out that Christianity is Christ and he went further by saying that since Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life (Gospel of John) then every Christian must be the way, the truth and the life.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest imprisoned at the Auschwitz concentration camp by the Nazis is an example of a typical churchman. In 1941 he volunteered to die to save the life of another prisoner named Francis Gajowniczek who is still alive today to tell us about that sacrificial story for a priest of faith.
Jesus said if you would follow me you must deny yourself and carry your cross and follow me (Gospel of Luke). Maximilian Kolbe followed that path by carrying his cross and following his Great Master Jesus Christ.
Another giant Polish churchman is karol Wojtyla who later became the Bishop of Rome in 1978 with the name John Paul II.
During the Solidarity uprising in Poland in the early 1980s he warned the communist power of the day that if Poland is invaded in a manner similar to Czechoslovakia in 1968 he would abdicate his Papacy to join his Polish people to fight against the occupation.
Further in Christian teaching is the parable of the Good Samaritan (Gospel of Luke) where a priest walked past and then a Levite walked past to avoid looking for a needy fellow. Jesus warned us and His Church not to follow that path which is not his path.
So why do these dwarf bishops not adhere to the teaching of the Gospel but mingle themselves in political heresy by inventing non-existence church nationalism and try to construct a false fad?
Zinda magazine described one of the dwarfs’ thought as wicked by a holy man but in real life this can be rephrased as the wicked thought of an unholy man.
The dwarfs went further by ridiculing the world evangelization commanded to every Christian to go and preach in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Gospel of Matthew). Here the dwarfs make the work of the greatest evangelist in church history St Paul of Tarsus redundant.
The world has changed and in modern time we no longer accept to be huddled into our churches in fear but the time has come to take our faith to the entire world. In their living rooms and via satellites millions of Christians and non-Christians the world over are viewing God’s invitations made possible by Christ’s preachers. Christ is in every living room for whoever wants to touch his tunic’s hem.
To sum up, here is a sect facing an identity crisis that is torn apart by dwarf bishops, failed ex-Marxists and lost latter-day Kurdistanis.
Now, More Than Ever Before: Listen, Adopt, and Implement!
ARTICLE I of the proposed New Iraq Constitution states:
"The Federal Islamic Republic of Iraq is an independent and sovereign state. Its governing structure is a republic, democratic and federal."
Iraq is a Republic. In the absence of a Monarchy - absolute or constitutional - any nation can present itself as a Republic. These Republics could be autocratic, democratic, fascistic, oligarchic, people's, socialist, theocratic, or totalitarian. The prescribed constitution to be adopted by Iraq, shall definitely, and without the slightest of arguments, render that country -- both in theory and practice - as a Democratic Republic.
The case in point is that democracy is a byproduct of the wishes of the majority of the inhabitants of a State. No one can deny the fact, that given a free choice, the majority of Iraq population, being of Islamic faith, shall elect the conduit of an Islamic Rule, above all else. That is Democracy, and the verdict is a clear-cut fait accompli.
A Federal State is the one that has demarcated borderlines for each part of its various inhabitants. In most countries these boundaries are strictly geographical, since the inhabitants speak the same language, follow the same faith, and have a common interest. The only reason, they prefer, geographical subdivisions is, the advantages they can extract, are those of economics, taxation, judicial, local governing body, legislation and education. But, in some other countries, where the inhabitants happen to come from various ethnicities, and added to that, differing religious affiliations, the Federation is practiced under a totally different emblem.
Iraq falls under this latter category of nations. Iraq is composed of at least, four variant ethnicities: (a) the Arabs; (b) the Kurds; (c) the Assyrians; (d) The Turkomen. There are some other ethnicities, but they do not conform to the canapé of indigenous population of Iraq. These nationalities are the Armenians, the Persians, and Greeks.
Iraq also has a perplexed embodiment of ecclesiastic power. This power divides the Arabs into two branches, with the Shi'ai being in the majority, followed by the Sunni. On the other hand, the Assyrians, trying to outdo their millennia-old neighbors, the Arabs, have managed to subdivide themselves into various denominations, with each one vying for their own identity. Needless to state, that the Kurds have diligently outsmarted all the other sectors of Iraq inhabitants. Sunni, Shi'ai, atheist, or Christian, a Kurd is predominantly a Kurd first, and ecclesiastic or an ideologue, second.
The new Constitution is recommending - at press time - an Iraqi Federation of two separate entities: (a) The Kurdish Regional Government, and, (b) the Central Government, to be led as an Arab State. Obviously, it won't be long before the Shi'ai decide to preclude and to present their nine southern Provinces as a Federal Region, only to be followed by the Sunni, who will have the lion's share of the rest of the country. There goes the sovereignty of Iraq. A nation with tripartite combination of ethnic and religious divisions destined to cohabit together as a woven carpet of joy and success. Yugoslavia, with the same phenomena, lasted more than seven decades, due to its Absolute Monarchy first, and then, an autocratic regime, before its inhabitants went on a rampage of mayhem and massacre against each other, upon the collapse of dictatorship in favor of democracy. Would a Democratic Iraq fare better? Would a Democratic Iraq's tenure of a unified land outlast the former?
Democracy, its Pros and Cons
Just the word democracy, by itself, sounds angelic. Literally, and actually it is, since it is merely a belief that renders solace to the multitudes, rather than adorning all the tastes. In open societies, democracy never garners more than 55% of the vote, and if at that, a cause célèbre for denying, and sometimes, merely enthralling the voices of the other half of their brethren. The French Revolution crystallized the American Declaration of Independence into a single word, Liberty. Then Equality, and finally, Fraternity were added to the famous adage. Fraternity implies self-control. It is of the essence of successful democracy, the highest but the most difficult of all modes of government, since it demands most of the average citizen.
Just how is fraternity perceived for a non-Moslem, to enjoy the fruits of democracy of non-secular dogmatic Islamic Iraq?
From its inception, the war, with bloody outcome, its costly adventurism, both in human life and economically, its insatiable appetite to forge a free society of Iraq, has gone astray. Surely, there would be democracy imposed by the majority, but what about the minority rights? By all definitions, a democracy, even a theocratic one, is preferable to autocracy, but since that dogma is anathema to the culture, faith, wishes and desires of the non-Moslem indigenous minority of Iraq, it thus becomes a stark reminder that a rose is not a rose at all the times, anywhere, and for all the people.
The non-Moslem, namely the indigenous communities of ancient Assyria, must fervently, and without reservations, seek an Autonomous Region with demarcated borders. This is an absolute must, since it is tantamount to an international guarantee of their habitat in the future.
The malaise in pursuing such an agenda is in the weakness of Assyria in economics, population, military and political know-how. The causes for this ill-fated state of Assyria are numerous, but systematic massacres, emigration, discrimination and even incrimination are but a few of the ramifications of a milestone rejection of rightful citizenship due to external policies of the victors of World War I, namely Great Britain, when it abolished the Assyria Millet System in favor of an Arab State by the name of Iraq, thus rendering the whole nation of Assyria as homeless in its own home.
Hence, it is empirical for the communities of Assyria in the 42 countries of the world to assimilate their strength into a global network of operations, by binding themselves into the Government of Assyria.
This Government invites all the communities, including those of Iraq, to partake in its functions, to be duly conducted on international suffrage, locally first, then, regionally, nationally, and finally internationally.
The platform of operations has been written, published and presented to certain communities, including the Assyrian American National Federation (AANF), under The Charter of Interim Committee for the Government of Assyria (ICGA).
There is no other choice for Assyria, but to follow through with this Charter, study it, and commence its implementations in all corners of communities of Assyria of the world.
All discussion, amendments and assessments are to be considered upon functioning on the platform prescribed to initiate the movement.
Turkmen Position on the Democratization Effort in Iraq
The Turkmens, being one of the main nationalities of Iraq, have long suffered at the hands of the chauvinist regimes since the creation of the Iraqi state.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go as we wished. After the fall of Baghdad and despite all assurances, Kirkuk, Mosul and other Northern towns were overrun by Kurdish militias. They have been the de facto rulers of the North ever since.
All this was done under the watchful eyes and the approval of the U.S.
The Kurdish administrators’ greatest focus is to change the demography of Kirkuk and to include it in their dreamland “Kurdistan”. This desire is fiercely opposed by all Turkmens, Assyrians and Arabs.
Will Michael Shabaz Make us Proud or Shame Us as Andre Aghassi Did?
Mikhael K. Pius
It’s been a long time since we’ve heard of an outstanding Assyrian tennis player; half a century to be exact. Though not of world class, we had two stars that shone over Iraq sky—William Daniel and Andrew Simon, a pair who won many competitions, including Iraq’s singles and doubles championships. And here comes along young Michael Shabaz, just beginning to twinkle over the WORLD horizon. We take pride in him and it is our hope that in another few years he will be mesmerizing the tennis fans of the world.
Of course we thought we had Andre Aghassi, a top world class champion. But the way Andre behaved—or misbehaved—in his attitude as an Assyrian was a disgraceful disappointment to everyone of us. Mr. Martin Mirza’s run-down of Andre [ZINDA dated July 9, 2005] as an Assyrian was timely and to the point!
Ten years ago, Andre Aghassi staged a star-studded benefit concert and auction and raised one million dollars for five Las Vegas youth organizations, which is still his passion I believe. Illustrating the story was the picture of a beaming Aghassi Here’s what I wrote on the subject in the Modesto Bee of November 8, 1995:
Your story “Grand Slam Benefit” shows a big grin on Andre Aghassi’s face for raising $1 million for five Las Vegas youth organizations.
It certainly is something to smile about. But with the multi-millions the No.1 tennis player is making, surely he could put on a big Assyrian smile too for children of his flesh and blood in Iraq who are dying by the hundreds of malnutrition and lack of medical attention.
Aghassi has never declared himself Assyrian. He has been classified as an Iranian immigrant. Why? Is he ashamed of his origin? Or has he been warned to distance himself from his race for fear it might hinder his illustrious career? Or would the knowledge perhaps displease his movie-star [Brook Shields] girlfriend? I wonder.
Andre should have watched the ovation and pride the Assyrian youth showed for his father—an Assyrian and former boxer from Iran who participated in the 1952 Olympics—when Manuel Aghassi attended California’s “Assyrian Olympic Games” in San Jose last July. Perhaps he might have experienced the same emotions and sense of pride his father displayed—and said he felt—for his Assyrian people.
Bush’s Global War on Christians
... There is a belief, widespread among Christian conservatives, that the ‘War on Terror’ is really a ‘Clash of Civilizations.’ Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, although himself a conservative Jew, summed up the views of many Christian conservatives quite succinctly in one of his articles posted on the Internet. He wrote, "It is time that I said in print what I have long felt in my heart: I not only support President Bush, I revere him. At a time when so many other world leaders want to paint Sept. 11 as a terror attack, President Bush saw it for what it was: a clash of civilizations, a war to the death between two systems – one open, democratic and respectful of human life, the other oppressive, tyrannical and deeply contemptible of human life."
The ‘War on Terror’ then is not just about keeping the borders of the United States secure. It is not simply about preventing future terrorist attacks. Rather, the ‘War on Terror’ is the ultimate showdown of Christianity (and Judaism) versus Islam. It is a fight to the finish, and George W. Bush is our Richard the Lionhearted, leading the armies of the Cross, allied with those of the Star of David, to glorious victory.
In this apocalyptic setting, the vast majority of Christian conservatives are backing President George Bush because they sincerely believe that, "Something must be done about the Muslim threat!" To these religious conservatives, George Bush is willing to go on the offensive and strike back in the name of God and country. They fear that John Kerry will surrender to the Muslims, and allow Western Civilization to be overrun a la Constantinople in 1453.
"Forget all of Bush’s flaws," Christian conservatives bellow, "At least he’s willing to fight!"
So, is our glorious president leading the Christian World in a great struggle against the Muslim hordes? If he were, then a reasonable outcome of this ‘Clash’ would be that the position of Christian (and Jewish) populations worldwide would be in the process of becoming more secure.
This is, alas, absolutely not happening. In fact, the current policies of the Bush administration are threatening to absolutely devastate ancient and pious Christian communities whose blood will be on all our heads. To deal with the subject honestly, it must be acknowledged that it almost appears as if President George Walker Bush were waging a global war against Christians.
There are a tremendous number of facts that could be marshaled to support such a counterintuitive statement, and at least some will be surveyed in this article. However, the primary thrust of this article will be to analyze the policies of the Bush Administration that have placed us on the road to destroying one of the oldest Christian communities in the entire world – the Assyrians of Iraq.
Iraq – Before the Liberation
To understand the situation in Iraq today, in proper context, let’s first review some basic facts about Iraq as it was under Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Saddam Hussein was a bad Muslim, and everybody knew it. A secular dictator, he ruthlessly suppressed radical religious sentiment, and tried to build a modern state. Saddam was bitterly hated and reviled by Muslim radicals as diverse as Osama Bin Laden and the Shi’ite Ayatollahs of Iran. In a tape released by Osama bin Laden in February 2003, Saddam Hussein is referred to as an 'ignorant infidel.’ The Iranian clerics hated Saddam so much that they repeatedly spurned peace initiatives to end the Iran-Iraq War, in the hopes continued fighting could topple his government. They intended to replace it with a Shi’ite dominated state modeled after their own. Eventually, they got smart enough to hire Ahmed Chalabi to convince the U.S. to topple Saddam for them.
Saddam had inherited the Ba’ath Party ideology of secular pan-Arab socialism, and hewed to many of its tenets throughout his brutal rule. Iraqi women enjoyed more rights than women in the surrounding Arab countries. Women could hold jobs and attend higher education, all with uncovered faces. In fact, women comprised 20% of the professional workforce.
Under Saddam, alcohol merchants plied their wares freely in their shops. The lack of enforcement of the Sharia made Iraq the party spot of the region. David Younan Oro, a 70-year-old patriarch of a Christian family in Ramadi, ran casinos and nightclubs during the heyday of Saddam’s regime. He described the glory days like this, "They drink like donkeys here. Business was good. I had a lot of restaurants and shops." If you stayed out of politics, life and business were good.
Among the primary tenets of Ba’athist ideology was a dedication to religious tolerance. This is not surprising, since the intellectual father of Ba’athism was Michel Aflaq, himself an Orthodox Christian. In keeping with Ba’athist ideology, Saddam did not interfere with the rights of the Assyrian Christians in Iraq to practice their faith. Comprising somewhere between one and two million Iraqis, the Aramaic-speaking Assyrians are the original inhabitants of the modern-day state of Iraq.
The Assyrians did suffer repression under Saddam Hussein, who suppressed their ethnic and linguistic distinctiveness while trying to meld the hodgepodge of peoples in Iraq into a unified state. At no time, however, were the Assyrians ever denied the free practice of their religion, nor did they fear for their lives simply because of their faith.
One measure of the relative religious freedom of the Assyrians under Saddam was the exuberant and public celebration of Christmas. As one writer described it, "Christmas decorations, including nativity scenes, were seen in shops, restaurants and hotels. And Saddam reportedly sometimes attended services at Christian churches in Baghdad and even delivered an annual Christmas address."
As for the United States, Saddam seems to have pined for better relations. He had been a de-facto ally of the U.S. during his war against Iran, and appears to have wanted to recapture that status. According to the Duelfer Report, compiled by the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), beginning already in 1991, "very senior Iraqis close to the president made proposals through intermediaries for dialogue with Washington," even offering to be Washington's "best friend in the region bar none."
Apparently, Saddam never did understand why he couldn’t just work a deal with the U.S. In his befuddlement, Saddam is not alone. Many other observers of the region still can’t grasp why this secular dictator made it to the top of the U.S. hit list in a war supposedly directed at Muslim extremists.
Iraq – After the Liberation
To say the least, since being liberated from Saddam, things have gone badly for a great many Iraqis. However, the time has been especially harsh for the Assyrian Christians. Large areas of Iraq are now under the control of Muslim religious leaders whose militias have been enforcing Muslim law. Based on locally issued fatwas, these armed fanatics have killed Christians for engaging in prohibited businesses such as selling alcohol or other formerly legal products. Many Christian business men have seen their shops, restaurants, and other business either forcibly closed or confiscated.
David Younan Oro’s casino, the flagship of his family business, was taken over by armed men who converted it to a Mosque. "We had a very good situation until the fundamentalists began to appear and we were affected," said Roger William, Oro’s son-in-law. "Because America and Britain are Christian countries, they blame us for the war. We are terrified. We really don't know what the future will hold."
Even Christian homes and private land are being appropriated. The Kurds, America’s erstwhile allies, are among the worst offenders. Writing about the situation in Dara, his home village, an Assyrian Christian living in London reported that, "The Kurdish people are building homes on our village’s land, without our permission. It is sad to say, our own neighbors are stealing it from us."
Christians have reported rapes, kidnappings, and assaults. The situation is so bad, that Christian children have been gunned down in their own homes. This little girl, Raphid was gunned down in her home along with her sister in July. She was only six years old. Her sister, Raad, was only sixteen. They belonged to a well-known Assyrian Christian family that had been threatened. While the family was out, terrorists entered and shot the two children at point blank range.
These two little girls died simply because they were Christians in a country increasingly slipping into Muslim rule.
Armed groups of men have stopped cars on the street and harangued women whose heads are uncovered, accusing them of violating Islamic law. Even Christians have started wearing headscarves out of fear, something that never happened under Saddam Hussein’s regime.
As Christians have retreated into the shadows, the compromise Transitional Administrative Law in force in Iraq today has actually gone far towards officially establishing Islamic rule in what was once a secular country. Article 7 states, in part, that "Islam is the official religion of the State and is to be considered a source of legislation. No law that contradicts the universally agreed tenets of Islam, the principles of democracy, or the rights cited in Chapter Two of this Law may be enacted during the transitional period." It further complicates the problem for Christians in Iraq that they are under represented in the interim government when compared with their percentage of the population. It is almost as if the U.S. intentionally excluded them in the lead up to the ‘handover’ of power.
Nor do the promised elections in January appear likely to improve the situation. According to a recent poll released by the International Republican Institute (an organization allied with the U.S. Republican Party), the highest level of support among Iraqis for any politician belongs to Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The name of his organization probably speaks for itself.
It is bitterly ironic that far from bringing Western secularism, the U.S.-invasion has instead opened the door for an Islamic Republic. Out of fear, an estimated 40,000 to 45,000 Assyrians have already fled Iraq. Most have found shelter in Syria next door, a nation that the U.S. may be targeting next in its drive to spread ‘freedom’ in the Middle East. Had President George W. Bush set out with the intentional goal of destroying the Christian population in Iraq, it is hard to see how he could have been more effective than he has been to date.
More Fronts in the War
President Bush has continued the NATO occupation of Kosovo. Since the end of the war against Serbia, Kosovo has been the scene of anti-Christian ethnic cleansing on a massive scale. More than 120 churches have been destroyed, some dating to the 14th century. 240,000 Christian Serbs have fled the province. Periodic anti-Christian pogroms such as the one that erupted from March 17th – March 18th kill dozens, wound hundreds, and cause more Serbian Christians to flee for their lives. While the U.N. administers the province, NATO troops, some 60,000, are the actual force on the ground. This means that, ultimately, the Bush Administration bears the responsibility for failing to protect the Christians in Kosovo from Muslim fanatics.
Elsewhere in the Balkans, the Bush Administration has continued the status quo in Bosnia, which allows Muslim terrorists to use it as a safe-haven for recruiting and training. According to European intelligence sources, Bosnia has become a "one-stop shop" for Islamic militants heading from terrorist battlegrounds in Chechnya and Afghanistan to Iraq. In addition, the U.S. under Bush has continued to try and dismember the nation of Macedonia by forcing it to make ever larger concessions to its Muslim Albanian minority.
The Bush Administration has made Turkish entry into the European Union a number one priority on its international agenda. Despite Turkey’s horrendous record of mass murder and abuse of its Christian minorities, President Bush has been intervening personally to try and convince skeptical Europeans that, "Including Turkey in the EU would prove that Europe is not the exclusive club of a single religion, and it would expose the 'clash of civilizations' as a passing myth of history." President Bush’s single-minded determination to see Turkey in the EU even drove him to try and force a bad settlement of the Cyprus question on unwilling Greek Cypriots, who ultimately rejected it.
Ironically, even as his Christian supporters in the U.S. bemoan the increasing Islamization of Europe, President Bush is doing everything he can to make sure that 70 million more Turkish Muslims will have the opportunity to settle there. While the possibility that this massive migration could destroy the very heart of Christendom seems to be lost on President Bush, certain European leaders have become quite alarmed. Addressing the issue of Turkey joining the EU, former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing said, "In my opinion, it would be the end of Europe."
Both d’Estaing and Jacques Chirac, current president of France and a favorite target of American Christian conservatives, have positively emerged as defenders of the faith as they fight against Turkish accession to the EU. If only President Bush had as much dedication to Europe’s Christian heritage as the heroic French.
In Chechnya, a region much in the news since the Beslan massacres, the U.S. has inserted itself on the side of the Muslims opposed to Russian rule. Foremost among the American agitators against Russia is The American Committee for Peace in Chechnya, a front group of Bush-connected neoconservatives such as Richard Perle, James Woolsey, Michael Ledeen and Kenneth Adelman. The ACPC wants Putin to negotiate with the Chechens rebels, and favors a NATO presence in Chechnya along the lines of the NATO missions in Bosnia and Kosovo. President Putin seems to be relatively uninterested in listening to their ideas. If only the American president were half as wise.
Whatever President Bush and his coterie are doing globally, one thing is abundantly clear. They are not fighting a global war on any kind of Islam, radical or otherwise. On the other hand, they are making tremendous progress towards crippling or completely destroying large segments of the world’s Christian population. And in this slaughter, the American people have become his accomplices.
Despite all of the negative impacts of his foreign policy on Christians globally, the Christian conservatives in America have been deafeningly silent. Two reasons account for this. First is their overwhelming pre-occupation with Israel. The State of Israel and its security were mentioned by both presidential candidates in their debates. The need to protect Israel is the subject of daily articles in conservative publications, both online and dead tree. Pat Robertson even threatened to form a third party, if the Republicans ever waiver in their full-throated support of the State of Israel. Such concern for the plight of Christians abroad is non-existent.
Perhaps if the Assyrians and others renounced Christ and embraced the Talmud, American Christians would care what happens to them?
The second reason is the fear that criticizing Bush will hurt his chances of re-election. For this reason, many Christians have kept their silence, all the while knowing the truth of what is happening. This is not a Christian attitude. Christ stood for the truth at all times, not only when it was expedient. Standing silent in the face of suffering, simply to prevent inconvenience to a favored politician, is not following the way of Christ.
It is time for Christian conservatives to end the silence. We must speak out, and we must let the President, whether it be Bush or Kerry, know that a continuation of these disastrous policies will absolutely not be tolerated.
Glen Chancy [email] is a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Political Science, and a certificate in Eastern European Studies. A former University lecturer in Poland, he currently holds an MBA in Finance and works in Orlando, Florida as a business analyst for an international software developer.
Syriological Conference in Poland
The following speakers read papers at this conference:
Fr. Dr Jerzy Wozniak on the the Perspective of Syriological Studies in the World and the Polish Syriological Researches and the Directions of its Further Development
Dr Michael Abdalla on the Christians in Iraq
Dr Stanislaw Cinal of the Pedagogical University in Kielce on the Maronites in Lebanon
At present in Poland, there is a group of about 10 persons whose researches are focused on the Syriac language and literature.
The conference was accompanied by exhibition of Syriac books.
Dr Michael Abdalla is Assyrian, originally from Qamishly, Syria. He has authored several articles on the Assyrians and completed his PhD on the subject of the agricultural life of the Assyrians in Mesopotamia. He lives in Poznan, Poland.
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