|The Pageants||Helbard AlkhassAdeh|
|The Assyrians: Their Past & the Saga of their Continuity||Fred Aprim|
|Med School Professor Kidnapped and Killed in Mosul
News from Qaraqosh, North Iraq
81 Children Meet the Challenge of Their First Communion
|ADO Statement on Martyrs' Day 2005
AUA Letter to Iraqi Constitutional Committee
|Shabaks Stand with the Assyrians
There Were Always Jews in Palestine
|New Issue of Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies
Needed: Assistant/Associate Professor, Assyriology
|Is A Third World War Approaching?
Assyrian Concerns and the Iraqi Constitution
|Commemorating a Forgotten Holocaust||Honorable John Ryan|
A Guest Editorial
On April 23rd 2005 Iraq was represented by an Assyrian filmmaker and actor, Yasmine Hannaney, while a Korean won the crown in the recent Miss Asia-USA pageant held at the historical Alex Theater in Glendale California.
The prestigious pageant was a colorful mixture of many nationalities brought together by the opportunity to represent their nation. It was this spirit of goodwill and understanding that set this competition apart from the dozens of pageants held every year.
Yasmine of Detroit, Michigan, immediately stood out during the opening minutes of the program. Her bright green costume, elegant and vibrant was a fantastic way of kick starting the night.
The night was ornamented with great musicians, dancers and the glamour obligatory to all pageants. Unfortunately, I walked away from that stage wondering why the event had taken place. This opened a can of questions for me I felt needed to be faced by the Assyrian community. I was sent to this event by Zinda Magazine to document the contest with photographs and interviews. I spent several weeks after the event putting together my thoughts.
I want to begin with the pre-production of the event. The moments leading up to the pageant. It began several months back, on the Miss Asia-USA website. The images of last years contest littering the website. Surrounding the images of smiling, happy young women were the names of all the sponsors, florist, real estate agents, production companies and so on. I kept this collage in mind as I prepared for the pageant.
It was advertised in the local Glendale paper, online, even on craigslist.com. High schools posted the history of former students in their school paper, they were going to be representing their country, their city and every school they had attended in the past 18 years. The pressure was building. The clock was ticking. These women would soon grace the stage in a luxurious theater only a few miles away from the entertainment capitol of the world.
When I stepped up to the gates at the Alex Theater that afternoon I glanced through the black gates into the corridor leading to the front door and saw what seemed like the welcoming committee for the G-8 summit. United States Marines flanked the red carpet while several men in dark suits walked around talking into cell phones making final decisions before the curtain opened. Giant bouquets of exotic flowers occupied any available space. I walked in.
I started taking photographs of Yasmine, she was the real reason I was there. She looked beautiful. I spent several rolls of film on her and decided to walk around. Before I knew it, the lights dimmed and people rushed to their seats.
A packed house waited restlessly. Then, music, lights, applause. The program lasted about 3 hours. The women did everything possible on that stage to win. They walked as elegantly as they could, held their smiles as long as they could and answered questions as best they could. Other than the technical glitches (sound equipment went haywire a couple times and the ballots were being counted by only one person) the program went well. The women had their 15 minutes of fame and their shot at being Miss Asia-USA.
The sponsors I recognized from the web site made sure they appeared and had their names slathered across the giant screen above the Egyptian décor on the set (I know, Egypt is in Africa, not Asia).
The program climaxed with the Q & A portion. Answers were vague and cliché. Spreading peace across the planet and meeting Oprah Winfrey. I started feeling tired, I checked my watch a few times, hoping the program would end soon. When it did, I ran next door, grabbed an order of french fries, went back to my room and spent a few hours wondering why this pageant was even necessary? Why was Yasmine in this contest? What good would come out of it if she had won?
I took these questions to the Assyrian youth. The answers were loud and clear. They had all stopped watching beauty pageants. One young girl from Turlock, CA told me that every pageant she had entered was rigged. She found years later that the judges were being paid off by the fathers of the contestants. The support of contest based on looks and weight didn’t appeal to any person I spoke to.
Pageants succeeded in making its contestants inaccessible and fake. The personalities of the women and their abilities to interact with people and discuss important issues in the world, which is what a pageant should be about, is absent. Young Assyrian women emailed me stories of being denied employment because of their “Middle-Eastern” looks, yet we trot women on stage in swimsuits.
In 2003, hundreds of Muslim youths went on a rampage in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, after the announcement was made bringing the Miss World beauty contest to their country. Over 100 people were killed. India has banned beauty pageants in several territories claiming the contest to be “a strategy by the West to invade Indian culture”. Every year hundreds of protestors wait in front of Southern California theaters denouncing beauty pageants and attempting to stop what they believe is the systematic effort to make women a part of the commodity market.
Well the contest is over now and I went online to search for some post-show information and to my surprise, there was only one article about the winner. The article was in her former high school’s newspaper. As for the Miss Asia-USA contest’s web site, it has been offline for over a month.
I wish Yasmine Hannaney the best with her career in the entertainment industry. I also hope she understands that the young Assyrian women looking up to her will benefit from her actions, logic and success, not from any contest that will disappear as soon as it ends.
Mr. AlkhassAdeh is an accomplished photographer and musician (click here) and lives in Santa Cruz, California.
The Assyrians: Their Past & the Saga of their Continuity
The following is the full text of the speech given by Mr. Fred Aprim at the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco on Tuesday, August 9, 2005.
I want to thank Prof. Dwight Simpson and the Commonwealth Club for giving me this opportunity to talk about my book and I want to thank you all for coming.
Before I begin, let me give you two pieces of news, both good. First, I am not going to burden you with our 4000 years history; however, I will briefly give you my perspective on the Assyrian Odyssey as I presented it in my book. The second is that none of the bad news related to the Middle East could be blamed on Assyrians, since for the world Assyrians do not exist. Therefore, you should feel safe and relaxed.
In the first part of my presentation, I will give a brief description about the Assyrians, their homeland, language, and population. I will then talk a little about my book on the Assyrian continuity. Finally, I will address the present situation of the Assyrians and what the future may holds for them.
Who are the Assyrians?
The Assyrians are remnants of the people of the ancient Mesopotamia, succeeding the ancient Assyrians as one continuous civilization. They are among the first nations, outside of Palestine, who accepted Christianity. They belong to one of the following four churches: the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church, the Syrian Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East. Due to western missionary work in Assyrian regions in the 19th century, we now also have western-style Assyrian Protestant Churches as well. Assyrians are also known by their religious designations such as Nestorians, Chaldeans, and Jacobites or Suryan.
Where is Assyria?
Assyria includes the modern regions of northern Iraq, southeast Turkey, northeast Syria, and northwest Iran. The heartland of Assyria is its four capitals: Ashur, Dur Sharukin (Kalah), Nimrod (Khorsabad), and finally Nineveh in north of Iraq. After the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C., the Assyrians built new settlements on the opposite side of the Tigris River, which became today's Mosul. The name Mosul remains in use today. During the rule of the Ottoman Turks of today's region of Iraq, which began from around the 17th century and until World War I, north of Iraq was known as Mosul Province.
Today, the historic names of Assyria and Mosul are in the process of being transformed to Kurdistan, i.e. the land of the Kurds. In my book, I provide some figures that reflect the population of many predominantly Assyrian regions in northern Mesopotamia during the last 150 years. I show how Kurds have slowly moved and occupied these Christian dominated regions and how the populations of Kurds increased in cities like Diyar Bakir and Mardin in southeast Turkey and in Mosul, Iraq while that of the Assyrians decreased.
The Assyrians have contributed much to world civilizations. Allow me to give these few examples:
1. The Mesopotamian and Assyrian mythology gave much to Christianity. The Assyrian Christians of today are the same people who earlier worshiped the deity Ashur, the name of Assyrians' supreme god. If we study the Assyrian prophecy corpus, published first in 1875 by George Smith, we would see amazing parallels between the Old Testament prophecies and the ancient Assyrian prophecies.
It is just fitting to refer to oracle 3.3 that describes a scene reminiscent of Jesus' Last Supper. Ishtar invites the gods, her fathers, and brothers, to a covenant meal, in which she addresses them as such: "You will go to your cities and districts, eat bread and forget this covenant. But when you drink from this water, you will remember me and keep this covenant which I have made on behalf of Esarhaddon (the Assyrian King).
2. Moses lived in late 13th and early 12th century B.C. His story is mentioned in Exodus Chapter 2. The story explains how he was left in a basket by the Nile river's shore, then found by a daughter of Pharaoh and raised as royalty through his real mother. This story has similarities with the earlier story of King Sargon I of Akkad, which took place between 2371 B.C. and 2316 B.C.
3. We are aware of the story of Noah and the deluge (Flood) recorded in Genesis Chapter 7. However, there is another very similar version of the Flood that existed in Mesopotamia as early as 2000 B.C. The similarities between the later Biblical accounts and the earlier Assyrian/Babylonian accounts are very interesting.
The Assyrians of today use the Syriac language, which is in simple terms a mix of Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ, and ancient Assyrian Akkadian language.
The Assyrians of Iraq constitute the third largest ethnic group after the Arabs and the Kurds with an estimated population of 1,000,000. They live predominantly in Baghdad and in north of Iraq as they have done so for millennia. There are Assyrian communities in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Iran, Russia, and Armenia. Today they remain stateless and great numbers of them have settled in Western Europe, the United States, and Australia. The worldwide population of Assyrians is estimated between 2,500,000 to 3,000,000.
My book (click here)
What prompted me to write my book "Assyrians: The Continuous Saga"?
From my communications with fellow Assyrians worldwide, I came to realize that the majority of Assyrians were not aware of their history. This was because Assyrians have been brainwashed for generations as they attend Middle Eastern public schools. History curriculum in Middle East public schools is grossly manipulated and altered to suit Arabization, Turkification, and most recently Kurdification policies. As if this were not enough, some western historians and scholars have attempted to disassociate the modern Assyrians from the ancient ones. They did not stop there but went further to demonize ancient Assyrians and portray them as cruel people. Even today, schools in the United States reflect this distorted picture about ancient Assyrians; consequently, some Assyrian kids feel embarrassed and disassociate themselves from anything that has to do with the name Assyrian. Therefore, I felt it was necessary that many myths and misconceptions be addressed.
Quite a few myths and misconceptions about Assyrians linger. Here are few:
a. The present-day name Assyrian is of modern invention that was created by the western missionaries in the mid 19th century.
How did I deal with these myths in my book?
1. I list documents that show how Assyrians were mentioned throughout the history. Of course, it is not expected that Arabs, for example, refer to Assyrians by the English name Assyrian because they use the Arabic word Ashuri, the same with Persians. Meanwhile, the Armenians use the word Asori and the Turks use Asurlar. The West did not mention the Assyrians in their modern literature because the Assyrians lost connection with the West almost completely since the Roman-Persian wars of early Christianity as Assyrians lived predominantly in the Persian Empire and later in the Islamic territories.
However, the Assyrians' neighbors did mention them. The Tenth century scholar and bookseller Abu al-Faraj Muhammad ibn Ishaq al-Nadim was passionate about selling and cataloging books. In his index titled Fihrist al-Nadim, he gives a definition of the word Ashuriyun (Arabic for Assyrian) as such: “Their master and chief is named Ibn Siqtiri ibn Ashuri. They collect revenues and profits. In some things they agree with the Jews and about other things they disagree with them. They appear to be a sect of Jesus.”
Russian archives include a letter dated May 26, 1784. The letter is from Colonel Stepan D. Burnashev, who was in charge of the Russian troops in Tiflis, in modern Georgia. In the letter, Burnashev writes: "Ilia, the son of the former leader of the Assyrian people, who are currently living in the land of the Khan of Urumiye, is seeking to save his people from the yoke of the Muslims…He requests that Her Majesty, Empress Catherine, put his people under Her protection. There are 100 villages inhabited by Assyrians in the domain of the khan of Urumiye. In addition, some 20,000 families reside within the borders of Turkey.
Furthermore, I list historical accounts that prove the presence of Assyrian cities through the Christian and Islamic periods, cities that were presumably destroyed and wiped out. I provide documents showing how Assyrian cities and regions such as Nineveh, Athur, Adiabene (Arbil), etc. were remembered and mentioned by Assyrians throughout history. Bishop Toma bar Yacoub, better known as Thomas of Marga, was born in the Ninth century A.D. He documented the histories and stories of the holy men and monks. In his documentation, Thomas of Marga mentions of a most noble Mar Hasan, the governor of Adiabene and Athor (Arbil and Assyria). And in the biography of the Church of the East regarding Patriarch Yab-Alaha III (1282–1317), we read about a list of the bishops sees, which included the Bishop of Mosul and Athur.
3. For cultural continuity, language is a vital aspect. I show that the Assyrian Akkadian language for example remained in use centuries after the fall of the Assyrian Empire and into the Christian era. There are Assyrian cuneiform texts found in the third century A.D. Furthermore, I explain that when the Assyrians adopted Aramaic in the Eighth century B.C., it remained with them in one form or another to this date. I present many examples of typical ancient Assyrian terms that have survived and continued in use by Assyrians today. Look at names of the months: Kanunu (January), Nissanu (April), etc … On the other hand, we have numbers, such as: khamishtu (five); alapu (thousand), etc. Other examples include body parts such as: inu (eye); libbu (heart); etc. Additional Akkadian vocabularies in our modern language include nunu (fish); naru (river); etc. Therefore, Assyrian Akkadian language did not die out because Assyrians adopted Aramaic and our Syriac (neo-Aramaic) language, is a cognate of, or related to, the ancient Assyrian Akkadian language.
The transformation from Assyrian Akkadian to Syriac was gradual and the Assyrians adapted to the changes of times. It is like the transformation from Latin to modern Italian. Can we claim today that modern Italians are not descendents of the people of millennia earlier because they dropped Latin? Can anybody deny that at least part of modern Egyptians are descendents of ancient Egyptians? Can anybody deny this right simply because modern Egyptians, for example, write in Arabic and Coptic while those of ancient times used Hieroglyphic signs?
Furthermore, I show that Assyrians continued to give their children ancient Assyrian names such as Ashur and Sargon. Klaus Beyer in his German book "Aramaic Inscriptions in Ashur, Hatra, and other Mesopotamian Regions" published many Aramaic inscriptions dating between 44 B.C. and A.D. 238. Names such as Assor (Ashur), Assor(a)hedden (Assarhaddon), and Assor alaha (god Ashur) are repeatedly appearing in inscriptions dating even to the first quarters of the third century of the Christian era.
To prove the Assyrian continuity, we must consider many factors, including:
All these factors must be considered together when arguing continuity; we cannot talk about language and leave culture aside or address religion without addressing the geographical region in which the Assyrians occupied continuously for at least four millennia. And when we put all these attributes together, it becomes obvious that modern Assyrians are the descendents of ancient Assyrians.
Modern History and Future
As the western Christian missionaries were penetrating Assyrian lands, the Assyrians were being massacred by their Moslem neighbors in northern Mesopotamia. An estimated 20,000 Assyrians were killed in southeast Turkey by the Kurdish warlords headed by Bedr Khan Beg between 1843 and 1848. The destruction by Turks and Kurdish mercenaries continued in 1895 as thousands more were killed and their lands stolen. The situation reached a climax during World War I as the Turks and Kurds genocidal policy nearly annihilated the Assyrian and Armenian Christians of eastern Turkey as 2/3 of the Assyrian people, estimated at 750,000 lost their lives. Assyrians lost to Kurds and Turks their ancestral lands in southeast Turkey and parts of their lands in northwestern Iran during the Great War in what is better known as the Genocide of Armenians, Assyrians, and Pontic Greeks.
The 1920 Treaty of Sevres (article 62) guaranteed the protection of Assyrians (Assyro-Chaldeans) and their rights. However, the modified 1923 Treaty of Lausanne ignored to mention the Assyrians (Assyro-Chaldeans). Still, many articles, including 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, and 44 were dictated by the victorious Allies to protect the non-Turkish and non-Moslem minorities. None of these provisions were honored.
In 1933, and in Iraq's first military operation after its independence (1932), the Iraqi army massacred 3,000 Assyrian civilians, including old men, women, and children. The massacre was because: First, the Assyrians continued to pursue their demands for homogenous settlement and a national home. Second, the Iraqi army's repeated failure to suppress Shi'aa and Kurdish rebellious tribes and the fading popularity of pan-Arabist Gaylani's government searched for an escape goat to boost its image. The Assyrians were an easy prey. For further information, I encourage you to read Kanan Makiya's "Republic of Fear."
Immediately after the massacre of 1933, Patriarch of the Church of the East Mar Shimun, who was considered as the religious and political leader of the Assyrians, was deported and the Assyrians became politically inactive.
During the Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath regime (1968-2003), the Assyrians experienced the greatest damage to their national existence. While Christianity was protected and churches belonging to certain Christian denominations flourished, culture and nationalism suffered. Assyrian schools and clubs were nationalized and their names changed to reflect the on-going Arabization policy. Assyrian parents were forbidden to give their newborns typical Assyrian names and were forced to use instead Arabic names. During the last two Iraqi censuses of 1977 and 1987, Assyrians were forced again to register as Arabs or Kurds. In 1984, many Assyrians were imprisoned. The following year, three political activists were executed while others disappeared. During the infamous Anfal operations of 1988 in which chemical weapons were used in north of Iraq, hundreds of Assyrian villages and churches were destroyed. Assyrians were displaced from many regions in north of Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of Assyrians have left Iraq in the last 40 years due to oppression, persecution, fear, and the bleak picture of the future.
I need to emphasize here that the Arabization of Iraq began immediately after the creation of Iraq in 1921 when King Faisal brought pan-Arabist Sati' al-Husari from Syria and appointed him as director general of education. Saddam Hussein followed suit in the same path by employing people such as Ahmad Sousa, a Jew who converted to Islam, in order to Arabize the history of Mesopotamia and Assyria.
Lastly but not least, in 1991, during the first Gulf War, thousands of Assyrians fled Iraq as refugees to Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Jordan after the uprising called on by President Bush. However, world media emphasized only on the Kurdish refugees without mentioning thousands of Assyrian refugees.
The liberation of Iraq in 2003 brought hopes for democracy, equality, justice, and pluralism. There was an Assyrian in the Iraqi Governing Council and a minister in Iraq's first Cabinet led by former Prime Minister Ayad Alawi. There is another Assyrian minister in today's Ibrahim al-Ja'afari cabinet. There are two Christians in the Constitutional Commission writing a draft for the permanent constitution but they are both helpless facing the powerful Shi'aa and Islamist extremists who are determined to make Islam the official religion of Iraq and the Shari'aa as THE source and not A source for legislation and civil law. We may soon be looking at the creation of another Islamic Republic in Iraq, very much like that in neighboring Iran. Did we go to war and lose over 1,800 American lives so that an Islamic republic is established in Iraq?
Since the arrival of the Americans, religious persecution against Assyrian Christians has worsened. Reports indicate that 50,000 Christians have fled Iraq to neighboring Syria and Jordan because Islamists see the Christians of Iraq as collaborators with the "infidel" Americans. From August to October 2004, dozen of churches were bombed and burned in Baghdad and Mosul.
During the January 30, 2005 supposedly democratic elections, the Assyrians were systematically disenfranchised. The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which was responsible for the Out-Of-Country voting process, was bias in the way it selected the polling stations in the U.S. Meanwhile, in Iraq, the elections were manipulated and forged and nothing was done to rectify the situation. Over 100,000 Assyrians did not have the opportunity to vote in Nineveh Plain in north of Iraq, because ballot boxes were not delivered to their areas in timely manner or election officials did not report to their polling centers when the boxes arrived in later time.
More recent problems
Suggestions for Consideration
Due to continuous policy of undermining Assyrian existence by Kurds and Arabs and other serious problems arising after the U.S. occupation, Assyrian advocate groups, intellectuals, and civic and political organizations have presented specific demands. Here are some of those demands:
Assyrians are the indigenous people of Iraq; Arabs, Kurds, and every other group in Iraq arrived over millennia later. The Assyrians continue to practice linguistic and cultural attributes of their pre-Christian heritage. The Assyrians have been suffering genocide and massacre on two ends: First for being a Christian minority in a Moslem world and secondly for being ethnically Assyrian in a dominant Arab/Kurdish region. For Iraq to become a model state in the Middle East, the fundamentals of democracy must apply equally to all Iraqis. Shi'aa, Sunni, and Kurds alone must not dictate the wording of the constitution or dominate the policy making just because they make a majority and have military power through their militias. If Shari'a or the Islamic Law is adopted as main source of legislation, it will set back America's long-term strategy of strengthening moderate Muslim voices and signal a devastating defeat for President Bush's goals of fostering freedom and democracy in the Muslim world.
Democracy, in its basic form, becomes another form of autocracy if it stops at the limited definition of majority rule. While in a democratic society majority should rule; however, the minority must be protected. In my opinion, neither Shi'aa, Sunni, nor Kurds are ready to be part of a true democratic society or practice democracy without the presence of a reliable system of check and balance. If the Iraqi constitution is to be based solely on the Shi'aa and Kurdish aspirations and ideologies, the Assyrians, the native people of Iraq, will inevitably continue their mass exodus until extinction. The disappearance of the Assyrian Christians from Iraq will the greatest loss to Iraq's rich history.
Med School Professor Kidnapped and Killed in Mosul
(ZNDA: Mosul) Unconfirmed reports from Mosul indicate that Dr. Noel Patros Shammas Matti was kidnapped on 4 August 2005 by unidentified attackers. His body was found the next day.
Dr. Matti was an instructor at the Mosul University Medical School. He was born in the village of Bar-Tilla in 1962 and owned a pharmacy in Mosul. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
News from Qaraqosh, North Iraq
Special report by Mr. Fadi Butrus Habash from Iraq
(ZNDA: Baghdeda) On Thursday, 5 August, at the Mar Polous (St. Paul's) Church three young men were ordained as new priests in a special Mass. The Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Mar Basylious Jerjes Alkass-Mousa was accompanied by several priests from Qaraqosh (also known as Baghdeda), Iraq. The newly ordained priests are: Fr. Andrews Behnam Habash, Fr. Anwer Zumaya, and Fr. Bashar Yalda.
The ceremony was attended by a large number of nuns, monks and the faithful from various villages and cities in Iraq. Qaraqosh or Baghdeda is located southeast of Mosul in the Nineveh Plains.
On Monday, 8 August, a special ceremonial Mass to celebrate the foundation of the new Church of Mar Behnam and Mart Sarah in Qaraqosh. The cornerstone of this church was placed by the attending believers, nuns, priests, bishops from various Christian churches as well as the attending civilian and local government representatives. The occasion was presided by the Archbishop Basylious Jerjes Alkass-Mousa.
In Mosul 81 Children Meet the Challenge of Their First Communion
Courtesy of the AsiaNews
(ZNDA: Mosul) For two months, 81 children braved check points risking their lives as bombs exploded and clashes took place all around them on a daily basis. They made it though—they successfully received their First Communion at the Holy Spirit Church, not far from the Church of St Paul which, with four other Iraqi churches, was targeted on August 1 last year in a terrorist attack.
Their parish priest, Fr Ragheed Ganni, was proud of his little parishioners. “Given the exceptional circumstances, they had the courage to do things even better that they would have, if circumstances were normal,” he said.
He told AsiaNews how the children—aged 11 to 14—started preparing for the “great day” two months ago when school ended.
“Sometimes they found themselves caught in the midst of US troops; at other times, road blocks prevented them from reaching the church. Still, they accepted the challenge in spite of their fear and won,” he said.
When two mosques—one Sunni, one Shiite— were hit by attacks on July 12 and 16 respectively, they prayed in church for the victims. “Praying is a believer’s best weapon”.
What kept the kids going, overcoming discouragement, was keeping their eye on the prize, i.e. “closely knowing Jesus, being with him, no matter what, and at any price. Only Jesus is enough”.
Friday mass was celebrated by Mgr Paulos Faraj Rahho, Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul. During the function, the prelate urged the children taking the First Communion to “always remembers that there is no life without the Eucharist, no life without Jesus. We must always tell Jesus time and time again what he told the two disciples on the way to Emmaus: “Stay with us” (Lk: 24, 29).
But for one of the children, First Communion was also the first day without his mother, who passed away the day before. With her loss he was alone since his father died two years ago.
“The child’s relatives did not know what to do since local custom and traditions dictate a long period of mourning,” Father Ragheed said.
What is more, “many Iraqi Christians have lost the spiritual meaning of such an event and have only retained its social aspects. For years, we have tried to make them understand that some customs can be put aside in order to uphold the values of the Gospel,” he explained. “Thus, everyone took part in the ceremony, including the little orphan’s three cousins who also received their First Communion.”
ADO Statement on Martyrs' Day 2005
ADO Political Bureau
Statement on the Occasion of Martyrs Day of the 7th of August
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Our Chaldo-Assyrian-Syriac people have gone through very difficult times throughout their long bitter and turbulent history, as they have been subjected to powerful blows that weakened their demographic and social structure, due to the continuous oppressions, tyrannies and heinous genocides perpetrated against them aimed at uprooting and wiping out their national, cultural and religious presence in their homeland. This has cost us a much blood, the blood of our people who sacrificed their lives for the sake of their freedom and dignity . If some of us pretend to have forgotten or try to forget some painful events in our history, we can never forget the massacres perpetrated against us during the First World War , the Genocide of "Seyfo" and the atrocities that followed. Many survivors who have lived these painful historic events still keep vivid memories of what they saw, heard and felt .
The genocide, mainly against Armenian , Chaldo-Assyrians-Syriacs and the Greeks , premeditated and organized by the Turkish al-Ittihad wal-Taraki (Union and Progress) government with close collaboration with its allies in Germany and the Kurdish tribal leaders who answered their call for "Jihad" religious struggle against the infidels (al_kuffar) the Christians, cost our people more than half a million martyrs and led to the displacement of those who survived these atrocities .
On 7th of August 1933 , our people suffered yet another blow in the town of Simel in Iraq .Five thousand children, women, and elderly were cold bloodedly slaughtered in the hands of the regular Iraqi army led by commander of the Northern region, the criminal colonel Bakir Sudqi. As a matter of fact , this gruesome episode was another part of the tragic history of our people perpetrated by people of the same mentality as their Turkish predecessors .
These atrocities are political crimes par excellence, they are flagrant examples of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity .
Every year our people everywhere observe the 7th of August to commemorate the anniversary of the genocide and the martyrs who have fallen for the sake of their faith, nation and identity and to remember and rekindle a sense of responsibility towards such great symbols as patriarch Mar Benyiamen Shimon, Ashour Yousef Bashar Hemi Bouraji, Bishop Adi Bashir, Dr. Freydoun Atouraya , Francis Shabou and other martyrs of our people and the contemporary national movement, people without whose sacrifices we would not have been able to continue living with dignity and pride.
Our commemoration of the Martyrs' Day and the deep sorrow and strong condemnation we feel about what happened, is not aimed at filling our people with despair and frustration, neither harboring hatred or prejudice against the perpetrators; rather, it is a commitment and dedication to the memory of our martyrs, that those who died will never be forgotten, their memories and principles will for ever be kept alive in our hearts and minds. Moreover, that values of tolerance, justice and peace rather than those of intolerance, chauvinism and oppression should prevail amongst people, and finally that the international community should mount pressures on the Turkish government in order to admit its responsibility for the acts of genocide. Only by acknowledging the full scope of what took place in history, and by holding the governments accountable for the atrocities they commit it is possible to achieve reconciliation and prevent the recurrence of such heinous events .
This year's Martyrs' Day coincides with the grave political changes that are sweeping the area. These may carry with them great risks and hazards to our people especially that they are coming up to very important events in terms of consolidating our national and cultural presence, particularly in Iraq. Hence , we call the attention of all the institutions, (parties , churches ,organizations ..) of our people to the necessity of remembering the values and sacrifices of our martyrs, rising up to the significant forthcoming challenges, and finally leaving behind all the petty differences and narrow interests for the sake of the national cause that requires, at this juncture more than any other time, our unity, solidarity and consolidation.
All people of that region have suffered from injustice and oppression in the hands of the invaders, colonizers and the repressive regimes, and sometimes were involved in meaningless struggles and wars waged by outside powers seeking domination and hegemony. These wars have brought calamities to the countries of the region and have greatly impeded their progress and hindered the establishment of real democratic regimes based on the rights of diversity, equality and justice and have further harbored sectarian, religious and ethnic animosity amongst people that resulted in the rise of fundamentalism and terrorism in the area .
Dear Brothers and Sisters, our Chaldo-Assyrian-Syriac people who have been able to move past the tragedies suffered in the past with strong determination, faith and persistence are looking forward to building a democratic society via peaceful struggle and with cooperation with other patriotic national forces, a society that would provide justice and equality for all its sons and daughters. We further view the continuous denial and disregard for our people's national presence as indigenous in our homeland a flagrant violation of the international laws and human right declarations and a continuation of a chauvinistic and fanatic mentality which poses a great danger to all people in the area .
Great honor to the memory of our immortal martyrs and to the martyrs of all peace loving nations.
AUA Letter to Iraqi Constitutional Committee
Emanuel Kamber, Ph.D.
August 3, 2005
To: Al-Sheikh Dr. Humam Hammoudi
On behalf of the Assyrian Universal Alliance, an international alliance of various establishments of the Assyrian people throughout the world, I would like to thank you for your efforts to include Assyrian national rights in the constitution of Iraq and to thank the government of Iraq for its commitment, its leadership, and magnificent work in opening a new chapter in the history of modern Iraq. The Assyrian Universal Alliance supports the policies of the Iraqi government to fight terrorism and extremism and toward building a free and democratic Iraq. However, we would like to bring the following points, which are of our great concern, to your kind attention.
As you are well aware the Assyrians of Iraq are the indigenous people of Iraq. The 1.0 to 1.25 million Assyrians living in Iraq constitute the third largest demographic population of the country, known by various designations such as Chaldean, Nestorian (Church of the East) and Syriac. Since the establishment of the Iraqi state until now they have been deprived of their political, religious, cultural and human rights.
The constitution of Iraq, since its establishment until now, has not recognized the Assyrians as a nation equal to other fellow countrymen. This lack of recognition has once again been repeated in the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) and even now in the drafting of the final constitution (from what we have heard so far), the Assyrian nation is not going to be considered a Principal nation as the Arab and the Kurd nations have been.
We firmly believe that the Assyrian nation, according to all international law, has the right to claim and demand to be constitutionally accepted as one of the principal nations within the political framework of the republic of Iraq. The constitution should also provide for an autonomous region for the Assyrians on the land of their ancestors located between the Greater Zab and Tigris under jurisdiction of the central government of Iraq.
The modern history of Iraq has shown that the Assyrians have always supported and struggled for the establishment of a unified, democratic, secular, pluralistic and parliamentarian government in Iraq that will guarantee human rights and equal status for all citizens regardless of their ethnic background or religion; an Iraq that is based on the rule of law; an Iraq that enjoys full sovereignty and territorial integrity.
While we appreciate your efforts to include Assyrian national rights in the constitution, we believe that you are in a position to alleviate our great concern and by your positive efforts you will succeed to safeguard and guarantee the existence of the Assyrian nation within the great family of Iraq. We would be grateful if you could forward a copy of the attached concerns and demands of the Assyrian people to be included in the Iraqi constitution to your committee and the Iraqi National Assembly. Attached please find the declaration (in Arabic) of the 24th Worldwide Congress of the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA), which convened in London, England from July 7 to July 10, 2005.
The Assyrian nation is eagerly waiting to see an Iraqi constitution, which would be highly regarded by the international community.
Shabaks Stand with the Assyrians
Dr. Hunain Al-Qaddo
I am a member of the Constitution Committee and a member of the Iraqi National Assembly, representing the Shabaks who live peacefully with Assyrians in the Nineveh plain. I am also the Secretary General of the Democratic Shabak Assembly and the Chairman of the Iraqi Minorities Council.
I support your worldwide demonstration because what is happening in the Iraqi constitution is not meeting the demands of the regular Iraqi citizens.
Shabak inhabitants are under great pressure from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and others who confiscate their identity in order to Kurdify them. If that happens the whole area will lose its character and the City of Mosul will be divided into two parts.
It is very important to raise the voice of the Shabak through banners. Shabaks are completely different from Kurds in terms of their habits, norm,s religion, history and even clothing. Defending Shabaks is defending the existence of Assyrians in Bertallah, Qaraqoosh, Kermelis, Telkif and other villages.
There Were Always Jews in Palestine
Mr. Nardin Crisbi in his article "Judah & Ashur..." states among other things that: "It is funny, not one single Jew inhabited Israel when offered by UN". There are quite a few inaccuracies in Mr. Crisbi's article, but above mentioned
statement is totally wrong. The fact is that the United Nations on the 29 November 1947
voted that Palestine be partitioned into two states, one of them Jewish. At
that time the Jewish population in Palestine numbered 600,000 persons.
There was never a time in Palestine's history without Jewish communities.
New Issue of Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies
Beth Mardutho: The Syriac Institute
PISCATAWAY, NJ, August 8, 2005 — Beth Mardutho: The Syriac Institute published today a new issue of its peer-reviewed academic periodical Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies (Vol. 8, No. 2). The issue is available electronically on the Institute's home page, and will be available in print later this year. (Volume 5, 2002, is now available in printed form)
The issue contains the following:
Revisiting the Daughters of the Covenant: Women’s Choirs and Sacred Song in Ancient Syriac Christianity. Susan A. Harvey, Brown University
Septuaginta and Peshitta. Jacob of Edessa quoting the Old Testament in Ms BL Add 17134.
Nisibis as the background to the Life of Ephrem the Syrian.
Publications and Book Reviews
Emma Loosley. The Architecture and Literature of the Bema in Fourth- to Sixth-Century Syrian Churches. Marica Cassis, University of Toronto
Peter J. Williams, Early Syriac Translation Technique and the Textual Criticism of the Greek Gospels.
F. Briquel Chatonnet, M. Debié and A. Desreumaux, eds., Les inscriptions syriaques..
Pauline Allen and C. T. R. Hayward, Severus of Antioch.
Robert A. Kitchen and Martien F. G. Parmentier. The Book of Steps: The Syriac Liber Graduum.
Mar Aprem Mooken. The Assyrian Church of the East in the Twentieth Century.
Dorushe Conference on Syriac Pedagogy at CUA, February 3-5, 2006.
Hugoye is XHTML 1.0 compliant, using cascading style sheets. Readers using older browsers such as Netscape 4.0 or IE 4.0 may not see the formatting as intended. The Journal is hosted at The Catholic University of America and is available electronically from www.bethmardutho.org.
Employment Opportunity: Assistant/Associate Professor, Assyriology
Position Title/Rank: Assist/Assoc Professor
Job Description: Assyriology. The Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto seeks an Assistant Professor (tenure-track) or Associate Professor (tenured) commencing July 1, 2006. The candidate must have a PhD in Assyriology, with scholarly expertise in both Akkadian (Babylonian and Assyrian) and Sumerian, and ability to teach undergraduate and graduate courses in Mesopotamian history, religion, and literature. Placing the development of Sumerian and Akkadian within the historical and cultural context of the ancient Near East is highly desirable. The successful candidate will show demonstrated excellence in research and commitment to teaching. Rank and salary according to qualifications and experience. Send a curriculum vitae and three confidential letters of recommendation to Professor J. Reilly, Chair, Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations, 4 Bancroft Avenue, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont. M5S 1C1, Canada. Closing date for applications is October 31, 2005.
The University of Toronto offers the opportunity to teach, conduct research and live in one of the most diverse cities in the world. We offer opportunities to work in a range of collaborate programs including Aboriginal, Canadian, environmental, ethno- cultural, sexual diversity, gender and women's studies.
The University of Toronto is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from visible minority group members, women, Aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities, members of sexual minority groups, and others who may contribute to the further diversification of ideas.
All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however, Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority.
Is A Third World War Approaching?
A group of experts will soon put forth a draft of Iraq’s new constitution. According to the Arabic paper al-Sabah and several other mediums from the Middle East the draft is as good as finished. Using this document Iraq will become a new Iran. Yet another country’s ruling will be based on the rules of the Sharia – the Koran. The women will lose all their rights. The minorities will be forced to obey the majority. The Christians will be suppressed and become secondary citizens. While the work with the constitution is ongoing, the battle for Kirkuk is approaching.
Kirkuk - the Iraqi city whose oil wells stand for 40 percent of the world's supply. Everyone wants to go to Kirkuk. Everyone wants the control over Kirkuk. Kurds, Turks and Assyrians were forced to flee when Saddam arabized the city, but these ethnic groups have now returned. The Kurds are the majority and want to rule the city and tie it together with the present Kurdistan, three provinces in northern Iraq. The Kurdish flag is now hoisted in Kirkuk, a signal that the problems of uniting Iraq through peaceful means are heaping.
He who travels to Kurdistan can see that everything “Iraqi” has been exterminated while Kurdistan is still a part of Iraq. One of the major Kurdish leaders, Masoud Barzani, demands that the constitution confirm that Kurdistan, including Kirkuk, is recognized as an independent country within the next 8 years. If Barzani and those in his opinion get what they want it will be the greatest threat towards peace in the area.
Turkey threatens to intervene, which means it will attack, which means waging a war. Turkey doesn’t consider that the Kurds have a right to Kirkuk because other ethnic groups have lived in the area including the Turks and Assyrians. As protector of the Turks, Turkey is “obligated” to invade. But the real reason is that Turkey fears a strong Greater Kurdistan. They fear that the Kurds in eastern Turkey will unite with their ethnic brothers in Iraq. They fear that the Turkish Kurds will demand that the areas in Turkey, where they are a majority, will be connected to Kurdistan in northern Iraq. But it will not only be the Kurds in Turkey who will demand this. There are Kurds in Iran and Syria too. These countries are also preparing to stop the Kurds.
This will mean a civil war in four countries: Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. There are actually several reasons other than the threat of a Greater Kurdistan. There is something that is named duty. If there is to be a war between the Kurds in Iran and the Iranian government the majority of the Iraqis – the Shi'ai Moslems– who are allied with Iran dutifully will fight against the Kurds in Iraq. In Iran there are several other minorities and all of them have some other country that can help them wage war for autonomy and independence (i.e. the Azeries in northwestern Iran and the Baluchies in the south.)
We stand face to face with yet another Balkans. One new country or even several countries that are torn apart into smaller governments. We did nothing then. We’re doing nothing now. And this time it is so much bigger. Much more dangerous. A World War may be near. Wake up! The blood flowed in Yugoslavia, in Iraq there is also oil. It is not only the power in Iraq that tempts Bush and others. In Iraq it is also the capital.
Bush says that he can imagine attacking Iran if the country isn’t turned into a democracy, while he is contributing to creating a new Iran in Iraq. Bush says that he will turn dictatorships into democracies while he is contributing to dictatorships taking over the power in new smaller governments.
The people in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, are trying to live a norman life. They’re getting married. Having children. They let life go on as it should.
”But every morning in Baghdad is a lottery with life at stake. No one knows if he lives to see tomorrow or not,” says Sait Yildiz. He is an Assyrian from Sweden who is in Iraq to help the Assyrians (who also are called Syriani and Chaldean) fight for their rights in the so-called attempt to turn the country into a democracy. He tells us that the electricity in Baghdad works two hours before noon and 2 hours in the evening, not even that works sometimes. Written and unwritten rules don’t apply on the whole. You don’t even know who’s your friend and who’s your enemy. The ones who are called terrorist aren’t a sole group, or some cells connected to the sunny Moslems. The terrorists can be anyone, with any conviction, who see themselves as opposition. And terror strikes anywhere. “This is an inferno!”, Yildiz reports.
Most people are talking about the start of a civil war that can infect and end up in a Great War.
Assyrian Concerns and the Iraqi Constitution
The following are the concerns of the Assyrian people as issued by the Assyrian Universal Alliance on 9 August 2005 to the Iraqi Constitutional Committee. Please see News Digest for more information.
1. The constitution of Iraq must recognize and include the Assyrian Nation as a third principal nation within the political frame of the Republic of Iraq.
2. The constitution of Iraq must stress that Iraqi people be comprised of Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Turcomans and others.
3. The constitution of Iraq must include the political, cultural, and administrative rights of the Assyrians.
4. The constitution of Iraq must stress that the government of Iraq be a democratic, secular, pluralistic and parliamentarian government that will guarantee human rights and equality for all Iraqi citizens.
5. The constitution of Iraq must state an administrative region for the Assyrians on the land of their ancestors located between the Greater Zab and Tigris rivers under jurisdiction of the central government of Iraq.
6. The constitution of Iraq must state a quota for Assyrians based on the Iraqi census of 1957 guaranteeing their proper representation in the National Assembly and the government through representatives chosen by the Assyrians.
7. The constitution of Iraq must affirm full sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq.
8. The constitution of Iraq must ensure equal rights for women.
9. Rebuilding the Iraqi state institutions must be based on citizenship, efficiency, and integrity. (In other words, allegiance should be to the state and not to religion or ethnicity).
10. The government of Iraq must maintain a social security system and provide free health.
11. The government of Iraq must ensure free education and complete reform of the educational system.
12. The government of Iraq must take measures to restore and protect the Assyrian national identity in recognition of its historical significance to Iraq and the world civilization.
13. The government of Iraq must take measures to ensure restoration of Assyrian villages and churches.
14. The government of Iraq must take measures to ensure internally displaced Assyrians the right to return to their homes and lands.
15. To ensure the implementation of human rights, a special commission for human rights should be appointed with the authority to propose legislation. (Establish mechanisms for the protection of human rights by creating a human rights ombudsman to ensure legislative is not adopted that infringes upon basic human rights).
16. To safeguard the rights of national minorities (nationalities), a special commission must be established.
17. In case of federalism, the constitution of Iraq must allow a pluralistic executive for the federal units to protect language, culture and economic interests of all minorities in each region.
18. Establish an oil council to manage the allocation of oil revenue.
19. Articulate specific individual rights based on the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
20. Ensure the articulation of minority rights based on European Charter for Regional or minority Languages and Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.
21. Bill of Rights:
Civil and Political Rights:
- The right to life and be protected by law.
- The right of citizens to change their government.
Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights:
- The right of association and formation of trade unions.
- All nations and peoples have the right to self-determination, by virtue of which they have the right to whatever degree of autonomy or self-government they choose.
Commemorating a Forgotten Holocaust
A speech on Assyrian Martyrs Memorial Day, held at St Hurmizd's Cathedral, Greenfield Park, Sydney, Australia on 7 August 2005
Honorable John Ryan
Mr Younatan Afarin, President of the Assyrian Australian National Federation, Mr Hermiz Shahin Secretary Australian Chapter Assyrian Universal Alliance, Father Lazar, Councillor Albert Mooshi, Councillor Ninos Khoshaba and Councillor Emeritus Anwar Khoshaba. My Parliamentary colleagues the Honourable Charlie Lynn and the Honourable David Clarke. I am pleased today also to be joined by three senior members of the Liberal Party who I know are active in your community, Mr Andrew Rohan, Mr Paul Azzo and Mr Zaya Toma. Ladies and Gentlemen.
On 7 August 2005, by commemorating the horrific massacre of innocents at Simeleh we have an opportunity to reflect on and remember many sad events in the history of the Assyrian people, when numerous, almost uncountable efforts have been made to crush their language, culture and identity as the indigenous people of Iraq.
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