|A Picture Worth A Thousand Words||Wilfred Bet-Alkhas|
|A Brief Survey on the New Beth Nahreen Magazine||Aprim Shapera (UK)|
|Body of Kidnapped Assyrian Student Found in a Cemetery
Kurdish Gunmen Attack Shabak Demonstrators in North Iraq
|Assyrian Pianist Takes First Place at International Contest
Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Council of Australia
Chaldean Chamber of Commerce Visits Washington
Mar Aprem Metropolitcan Presenting Paper in New York
From Babylon to Boronia, Mathematics has Long Tried Us
It's Time to Form Our Own Think Tank
Posting A Murderer's Photo Not of Good Taste
The name"Assyria" will Stay For Ever
Raabi Yacoub Bet-Yacoub and His Schools
|Assyrian Media Conference to be Held in Sydney, Australia
Diamanda Galás: Defixiones, Orders from the Dead
|A Thousand and One Chalabis||Malcolm Laguache (U.S.)|
|Walter Aziz Releases "Akitu"|
A Picture Worth A Thousand Words
A Brief Survey on the New Beth Nahreen Magazine (1947)
Nearly a decade ago, while I was searching for rare books, documents and occasional references on Assyrians in the British Museum & Library (in the Last couple of year sthe British Library separated from the British Museum and located in a new building) – most of which unknown to the new generation and inaccessible to many of us, I found a few references of interest. Among them was a single copy of the New Beth – Nahreen Bi – Monthly magazine issue no. VIII, March – April 1947.
The magazine’s contents are very impressive. As usual, I rushed taking notes, scribbling comments and copying the most interesting pages, expecting these to be supportive for my future writings. A few years later, I recognized that there were some additional pages that needed to be copied form the magazine. I went to the new building of the British Library looking for the same magazine. Unfortunately, my attempt was without success because that unique single copy has disappeared from the British Library’s shelves. Recently, I tried once more through the Internet and the answer I received was “Unfortunately we do not hold this title in our stock. Our apologies”.
I tried to figure out the reasons behind this disappearance, but I could not reach any conclusion apart from the following:
1- This A5 copy magazine could be rolled up by a “very interested gentleman” in Assyrianism, put in his pocket and stolen it from the British Library.. Personally, I witnessed similar behavior when I saw some interesting books on Assyrian modern history. Some of the important pages and unique pictures were torn up and taken form the book. Missing books and documents was a major problem facing the British Library in the old building. This “civilized” behavior is reminds me of similar behavior happened at the Public Library of Ealing Borough in London. At the insistent demand of few Assyrian intellectuals, the Library purchased several interesting and valuable books on Assyrians. However, it was only a matter of time before all of these books were missing from the shelves. The same happened at The Assyrian Cultural Centre in Ealing. Many of its books, which were donated by Assyrians to its library, where stolen and offered for sale at the Second Hand Bookshops across from the British Museum.
2- In 1995 when I checked out the magazine, the lending card revealed that since 1947, the date of publication, not a single person had borrowed it, suggesting a low level of interest by users of the British Library. This could have led to the British Library a policy whereby low-use materials are deleted from its holdings.
Whatever scenario one chooses, this is the cultural aspect of our national tragedy. However, the pages in my hand are still enough to provide a glimpse into the magazine and some of its interesting articles.
Hints on The Magazine
The Assyrian New Beth – Nahreen Association published the magazine in English in 1947. Mr. Samuel J. Shamsey was President and Ms. Rose S.J. Shamsey Managing Director. The Associate Editors were Noorei Koorie, Emanuel Perch, Esehack Darakjy, Simon M. Karkenny, Hanna Salman (Beirut) and Mrs. Babagian (nee) Sadie Chavoor. It is remarkable that all these individuals are adherents of the Syriac Orthodox Church and none appears to be from the Nestorian or Chaldean Churches.
Publication and General Business Office was located at:
The price of the magazine was 50c per copy. Yearly subscription was $.2.00 yearly and US, $ 3.00 outside USA.
The front page of the magazine featured a photo of Professor Naum Palack (Faik) [1869 – 1930], while the back cover offered the following comment from its editor:
It is worth mentioning that Kuyunjik is not an ancient name. It is a Turkish word, which means pastureland. The site of the ancient Nineveh remained as a green and grassy land, which was used by the locals to graze their sheep. Arabs and Muslims never inhabited this site and certainly not the place of palace location because they believed that Nineveh monuments belonged to Nimrod, the Gigantic Satan. On the contrary, when Henry Layard employed Assyrians from Hakkari and Nineveh plain villages in his excavations, they rushed to work with him in enthusiasm because they believed that these monuments were their ancestors.
From the scrambled copies of some pages available in my hand, I can quote the following titles:
PETITION IN BEHALF OF IRAN ASSYRIANS:
This article is a petition submitted by Mar Shimon, the Patriarch of the East to the United Nation on the Assyrian massacre in Azerbaijan and Ridhaiyah (Ormi) in the year 1947. This massacre was committed by the Iranian government, and it took place following the collapsed of the Kurdish Mahabad Republic. The article is a documentarily petition, including the chronicle of no less than 11 massacres occurring in the period 1914 - 1947.
CHALDEAN COMMUNITIES IN KURDISTAN:
This article first appeared in the Royal Central Asian Journal of Jan. 1947, Vol. 34, Part 1, written by A.H. Gransden and reissued in the Magazine. It is a standard informative subject on Chaldean. In which it is stated that:
In his conclusion the writer offers a very surprising figure on Chaldean population saying that “The only available figures for the number of Chaldean communicants are those of the Vatican for 1932, but considerable changes have been taken place since then, and the following are based purely on estimation”.
Approximate figures for:
This is an article written by Dr. David B. Perley criticizing the above article and declaring emphatically:
The Militant Language of a Militant Religion
This is a commentary on George Lamsa’s book “New Testament Origin” published by Aiff-Davis Publishing Co., New Your & Chicago in 1947”. The author of the remarks, anonymous according to my notes, initiated his remarks by saying:
Reflections on Church Unity
This is the most exciting article in the Magazine; as such, I am obliged to quote whole contents of the available pages:
(Editor’s Note: The following article contains some moving reflections on our editorial of last issue, contributed by a reader interested in Church and National Unity. We urge our readers to express their views on this burning problem)
Unfortunately page no. 27 is not available and consequently we missed the rest of the article and the author’s name, if a name was given.
Before I close, allow me to mention the following points:
Body of Kidnapped Assyrian Student Found in a Cemetery
(ZNDA: Mosul) According to a report published on ankawa.com, on 8 August the body of Anita Theodoros Harjo, 20 , a student at the Nineveh Art Academy, was found in the Akkab Cemetery in Mosul.
Anita was kidnapped in al-Zohoor quarters while on her way to an Internet Café.
In Mosul, armed men kidnapped pharmacist Noel Potrus (born 1963) and his brother Amar and an Arab who worked in the pharmacy on 6 August 6.
Noel's body and that of the Arab were found thrown on the a roadside north of Mosul. Amar was released after paying $50,000 ransom.
In Baghdad, Dura quarters (al-Mekanik), Sargon Esho (born 1983) was shot and killed on 9 August near Mar Zaia Church.
Another Assyrian, Mr. Ayad Dawood Gergis was driving his car to work last week when he was attacked in Baghdad and killed by unknown gunmen.
Kurdish Gunmen Attack Shabak Demonstrators in North Iraq
A report by the Assyrian International News Agency
(ZNDA: Nineveh) A group of Shabak demonstrators was fired upon by Kurdish gunmen in the morning of August 15.
A demonstration organized by the Democratic Shabak Coalition was held to demand separate representation for the Shabak community. Demonstrators held signs which read "We are the Shabak, NOT Kurds and NOT Arabs" and "We ask the national Assembly to recognize the rights of the Shabak." A group of KDP gunmen (of the Kurdistan Democratic Party militia) approached the crowd and opened fire on the demonstrators, injuring several of them.
The demonstrators re-iterated their dissatisfaction and anger for being blocked -- along with ChaldoAssyrians, Yezidis, and Turkoman -- in last January's national elections. Many demonstrators were certain that members of this same KDP militia had a hand in delaying the ballot boxes in the January national elections.
Dr. Haneen Al-Qado, The Shabak representative in the Iraq National Assembly and the constitution committee, said "The public demonstration was planned by the peaceful community of Bartilla (near Mosul), 5 days ago on Wednesday and proper approval was obtained from District Mayor Abdil-Amir and from the coalition forces. The demonstration was a result of the Shabak people's awareness of the fact that the Kurds were against having the Shabak being recognized as a unique ethnic people separate from Kurds and their attempt to Kurdify the Shabaks. This is something we the Shabaks are absolutely against"
One demonstrator said "they [KDP militia gunmen] are non-governmental and have no business being here. They are not part of the Iraq military nor the security forces in charge in this area of Nineveh".
The Shabaks make up a substantial portion of the Nineveh plains population, residing in 35 villages as well as in Mosul. Evidence of Shabaks in the region exist from the 16th century and their religious beliefs contain mostly Sunni, Shiite, and some Christian elements. The Shabak's maintain close ties with the Yazidi community and many make pilgrimages to Yazidi shrines. They also have a sacred book called the "Byruk" which is written in Turkoman. Census figures do not exist for the Shabak as the previous regimes Arabization campaign did not allow it to be recognized officially.
Assyrian Pianist Takes First Place at International Contest
(ZNDA: Krasnodar) Ms. Elena Akopova "Yacoub", an Assyrian from Krasnodar, Russia and a fourth-year student at the Kuban Music Conservatory took the first place at the International Piano Contest in Helsinki, Finland.
The event was dubbed the “Musical Performance and Pedagogics”.
The Contest took place between June 7-19, in the small town of Jyvaskyla, located 60 kilometers from Stockholm, Sweden. Lena’s performance conquered jury’s and audience’s hearts. She played two musical compositions: Frank's “Preludes, chorals and fugue” and Ravel's “The Game of Water”.
The contestants also performed and gave master-classes in Stockholm on 16-18 June. Elena is a student at the Department of Piano at Kuban Conservatory studying under Professor Nelly Mezhlumova.
At press time Ms. Akopova is in flight to San Jose, California where she will be spending a year of sabbatical from her studies.
The Assyrian Association of Krasnodar “Khaydta” on behalf of the Assyrians of Krasnodar would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Elena and wish her a successful career in music.
Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Council of Australia Reuniting Three Groups of the Same Nation
Courtesy of the Fairfield Advance
A Council representing three cultural groups in Fairfield has been formed.
"The aim of the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Council of Australia is to bring all three different groups together, work together, form different committees and help the people here," prepatory committee member, Sam Shalalo said.
"And to correspond with all the people back in our homeland, in Iraq mostly."
Fellow prepatory committee member Soro Soro said the three names identified in the council's title were "sacred names of one nation".
"Through this Council we want to bring these three names together - to indicate it is one people, one nation, one identity. That's extremely important to us," he said. Committee member Edward Rowell said the Council was a "noble cause".
"It's to promote the bond of unity between these three - Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac," he said. "That is a very very important element in our task."
Organizations participating in the Council include the Assyrian Australian Association, the Chaldean National Congress and the Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party.
Chaldean Chamber of Commerce Visits Washington
(ZNDA: Washington) On 16 August the office of Public Diplomacy for Middle Eastern and MEPI Affairs received members of the board of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, headed by its Chairman Sabah Hermiz and its Executive Director Martin Manna. They were briefed by USAID officials on the USAID programs in Iraq.
The Chaldean Chamber of Commerce is organizing a one-day conference on the rebuilding of Iraq in Detroit, Michigan. The conference is scheduled for September 9, 2005, where Administrator Andrew Natsios will be the keynote speaker at the luncheon. For more information on the conference, please visit the Chamber’s website (click here).
Mar Aprem Metropolitcan Presenting Paper in New York
(ZNDA: Trichur) His Excellency Dr. Mar Aprem, Metropolitan of the Assyrian Church of the East in India, will be presenting a paper on the history of the Nestorian Church in India until the Synod of Diamper in 1599 A.D. at the First International Conference on the History of Early Christianity in India. This is the first time such a conference is being held outside of India.
His Excellency will be meeting other participants in the Concordia College in Bronxville, New York, from12 to 17 September.
His Excellency is also planning to hold a Holy Qurbana in Yonkers, New York and later on the 21st in New Britain, Connecticut.
From Babylon to Boronia, Mathematics has Long Tried Us
Courtesy of the Age
The way mathematics professor Bill Casselman explains it, there are things about the ancient Babylonian civilisation that are not too different from ours.
Take spreadsheets. These days we run them on computer programs, but rewind to about 3000BC and inscriptions on clay tablets formed a similar function.
"It's kind of like a spreadsheet," Professor Casselman said, pointing to a tablet inscribed with symbols representing numbers of sheep and lambs. "You have rows and you have numbers … it's like a receipt, or it may be just a temple record."
The visiting Canadian professor, from the University of British Columbia, says that like modern students, not all Babylonian scholars finished their studies.
One tablet he refers to in a prepared lecture shows a maths exercise that a student was meant to complete — determining the area of a trapezoid.
On the reverse of the tablet is the space for the student's answer, left blank. "He doesn't quite get it," he said.
Professor Casselman's talk about the history of mathematics, titled "From Babylon to Silicon Valley", will be presented tonight at the Monash University Science Centre.
He is in Melbourne as a guest of the International Centre of Excellence for Education in Mathematics and the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute.
Professor Casselman uses images of items from about 3400BC to the present day to illustrate his theme. The pictures range from ancient Mesopotamian clay tablets to medieval manuscripts and computer animations.
"The idea that I'm trying to convey … is that math is really a part of human culture, despite everybody's perception," he said.
"My feeling is that most people can enjoy math if it is presented to them carefully, but somehow it's hard to present it in a school context, when people have to do homework."
Professor Casselman, who is also the graphics editor of the Notices journal of the American Mathematical Society, says "everybody should know some math".
He recalls a recent trip to a Sydney cafe where a broken cash register forced an employee to puzzle over the correct change. "He took five minutes to subtract two numbers," he said.
But Professor Casselman does recognise that maths can be agonising. "I think young people should be encouraged to do so (study maths), but for some kids it's so painful they really shouldn't have to face it."
In a time and world where everything seems so fast paced and almost all political reporting by the media seems so altered and biased, it is nice to have such a straight-forward and wonderful magazine such as Zinda.
I have come across many articles that have been published in Zinda that have taught me a great deal about my Assyrian heritage and, that have at the same time, intrigued me.
In my political studies I have referenced many articles that have been published in Zinda and I am very grateful for such an informative and well thought out magazine.
Keep up the excellent work.
It's Time to Form Our Own Think Tank
It has been sometime since I have taken the time to express my gratitude to your hard work and dedication in the service of our nation. Although I do promote Zinda on a regular basis in Paltalk where a cross section of our ChaldoAssyrians from around the globe gather on a regular basis.
The media, in all its forms has become an ocean of information requiring full time analysts to gather the the necessary information and digest it to produce a foresight into the future, which is required in order for any Nation to be able to take the necessary steps to advance its political and economic security.
It's only a suggestion, yet I feel it must be a requirement. I am speaking of a full time, paid professionals from amongst our Nationalists who have the intellectual capabilities, proven by past performance and academic related qualifications to be the analysts, feeding our political and religious leaderships with direction based on the aforementioned "political and socio-economic analysis based on current events".
To name a few, in my opinion, is a duty and an obligation of each of us and to support this project if acceptable by more than one person.
I for one am suggesting the following persons to be amongst a group of 12:
1. Dr. Ashur Moradkhan
I am certain there are at least 1000 intellectuals in our nation and to attract 12 from amongst them as full time political and socio-economic analysts for the task will be an achievable and needed element in our national struggle.
Again my congradulations to you Z-Staff.
Posting A Murderer's Photo Not of Good Taste
I was troubled to observe in your last publication the photo of the conference in Iraq, including in that photo the picture of the murderer of the late Mar Eshai Shimmun XXIII, who was seated first row, second from right, next to a priest.
I thought it was published in a poor taste. At least Zinda could have refrained from publishing the photo out of respect to the family of the late Patriarch, and respect to the Church and to the 60 years of firm and dedicated service to the Lord and His nation. The murder is still fresh in our mind and His blood stains are still not dry on the pages of our History.
We are not in business of judging people, for "judgment and vengeance is His", but we as Christians and Assyrians do not want the representations of a murderer of an innocent holy man, either publicly or privately. I must add (for the records) that HH Mar Dinkha initiated this man's acceptance in public with honor, by inviting him to the head table in one of His Holiness' events in Chicago.
The name"Assyria" will Stay For Ever
Eddie Shamasha Gewargis Beth Benyamin
I was born and lived in Nineveh for 18 years. Geographically speaking; Tigris River splits the northern Iraqi metropolitan city of Mosul into two sections almost equal in area and population. The Southern section is called Mosul, and the Northern section is called Nineveh. These names were called by its inhabitants for centuries. In the Northern section, the tomb of Prophet Jonah (785 BC) up on a Nineveh hill is well preserved, behind it there are well kept remnants of King Sennacharib’s palace. Next to it is his son, King Essarhaddon’s palace. A few blocks to the west are the ruins of King Ashur Banipal’s palace, King Essarhaddon’s son. A few kilometers northwest of that area, we will find the ruins of King Sargon II’s palace, Dur Sharooken (house of Sargon). Father of King Sennacharib, the most favorable and the main tourist attraction in that area, close to it is centuries old great monastery of Mar Gewargis (Nabi Jargees), which is also visited by a multitutude of Christians and non Christians year round, especially the monastery’s old library.
I can assure all Zinda readers and my fellow Assyrians, the name “Nineveh, Assyria, Jonah "co exists with each other, all will stay forever as long as it is written in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and in the Qur’an al kareem, chapter 37. All that land, which covers 32,308 square kilometers from town of Semel to the north, to the district of Nimrod and town of Ashura to the south, is called “Nineveh province”. Regardless of any circumstances, the name “Nineveh” will prevail, along with “Assyria” and “Mosul”.
A few weeks ago, Kurdish legislators of the city of Arbil (Arba’ Ello), Northern Iraq, Tried to change the name of “Arbil” to “Hawlair,” but they failed.
Eddie is sitting next to dusty car with “Nineveh 8853” license plate in central Iraqi hot desert last year.
Raabi Yacoub Bet-Yacoub and His Schools
Mikhael K. Pius
I’m afraid I can’t let Raabi Eddie Shamasha Gewargis Bet Benyamin’s rebuttal of my claim that the late Raabi Yacoub Bet-Yacoub was founder and headmaster of three Assyrian schools go unchallenged. (See ZINDA issues dated July 13 and July 23, 2005.)
Raabi Eddie, Raabi Yacoub DID found and teach school (or classes) for some 150 Assyrian pupils, mostly Sarranayeh, in a tent in Baquba Camp #1 in 1919 for two years, [or (my words) till the closure of the refugee camps at the end of 1920 when most of the refugees were moved up north to Mandan Camps near Nineveh for several months before those camps were also broken up.]
This fact is mentioned in Raabi Yacoub’s short biography by the late Julius N. Shabbas, former Nineveh Magazine Editor for 20 years. If your late father mentions in his book a Raabi Youkhanan De Baz teaching in Baquba, Raabi Youkhanan must have been teaching in another section of the Camp, for the huge Camp contained more then 45 thousand refugees, with probably many of the more than ten thousand children needing schooling.
Raabi Yacoub also DID found a school in Kota Camp at RAF Station Hinaidi, in 1924 which lasted till 1937 when the RAF evacuated Hinaidi base and relocated to a newly-constructed air base at Habbaniya. This school lasted from 1937 through 1944, when the school was nationalized and taken over by the Iraqi Ministry of Education.
True, these schools were under the administration of the British, but it was Raabi Yacoub who founded them and headed a score of school faculty staff for a total of more than two decades. To put it in your exaggerated terms, it was Raabi Yacoub who founded and administered these schools with his “sweat, tears, and hard work.” much more so than you did “to establish the school [or was it just teaching one or more Assyrian classes?] at Mar Sargis Church” (presumably for a few years) for which you picked up a bunch of your half-frozen Assyrian pupils from the street in your “large Cadillac Sedan de Ville.”
As British Brig-Gen. H.H. Austin, the late Baquba Camp Commandant, writes in his 1920 book “The Baqubah Refugee Camp,” “Up to the time I left Mesopotamia, our policy seemed to be to placate the Kurd [who, incidentally, is once again the darling of the British (and the American) authorities] at the expense of the Christians—those who had fought against us rather than those who fought for us and had lost their all in so doing. To me this attitude looked so unjust and incomprehensible that on several occasions I put forward protests; and tried to awaken the authorities that they were ‘backing the wrong horse,’ and that they would probably realize this before long.”
There you have it in a nutshell—a guilty conscience of an honorable man for a wrong done our people being set at ease on behalf of His Britannic Majesty’s Government!
Every sincere Assyrian concerned with the progress of his nation, is grateful to and proud of all the names you mentioned who founded, or taught in, Assyrian schools, for their dedication and work. But did anyone of them found and establish a school on his own, using his own economic or financial resources?
Didn’t Qasha Khando Yonan do it with financial help from his congregation and students as well as with charity from the American Missionaries? What about your father’s cousin Qasha Odisho Beth Benyamin, or Qasha Eskhaq Rehana, or His Holiness Mar Dinkha, or Zowaa, or His Grace Mar Melis, or Qasha Gewargis Bet-Rasho, and even Qasha Yosip Kelaita? Weren’t they all supported and helped by their congregations, communities, Assyrians in general, or one source or the other, just as Raabi Yacoub was helped, to some extent, by the British and parents of his student body?
I do appreciate that these educators used their initiative and educational resources and hard work to teach or establish schools to help our people educate themselves. And this, I am sure, is appreciated by all Assyrians. But if they did this by “hard work, sweat and tears,” so did Raabi Yacoub!
I have taken note of the praise Mr. Shlimoon Youkhanna has heaped upon you. Before I investigated, I thought you deserved the accolades because I assumed that he knew you better than I did. But it turned out that Shlimoon doesn’t know you well enough, but “it was just a simple expression of encouragement of a young kid for the work--however trifle --he did at Mar Sargis Church to teach a few students.”
I have also noted your email picture in which you are posing, with a big smile, with General Abi Zaid, the commander-in-chief of the American forces in Iraq. I know other Assyrians have had their picture taken with big personalities, such as generals, UN Secretary-General, Pres. George Bush, etc. It is very impressive for an Assyrian to pose with such high-ranking persons, though you don’t tell me the occasion and the reason for the honorable privilege. And I understand that you have taught (presumably in the church school), but I’m not so sure what classes and for how long. From what I have learned, I am afraid I need convincing that you ARE a school founder.
Raabi Eddie, I had the honor of meeting your late father only once, oh, maybe in the late sixties or early seventies in Baghdad when I had something to consult him about. I really can’t remember what it was about. Most of us Assyrians have a great deal of respect for him and his educational background and literary work (may God reward him in His Kingdom) as we have for some other members of your family, who likewise are learned and well-known active Assyrians. But excuse me in saying that I don’t think your late father was “Father of all Teachers.” He WAS one of the top Assyrian literary figures and teachers, but he was a teacher for the school of “The Father of all Assyrian Teachers,” who was the late Qasha Yosip Kelaita.
As far as Assyrian language was concerned, many of those who had schooled under Qasha Yosip turned out to be Assyrian literary scholars like your father, as well as gained a sound base of the English language. There is no doubt about it. But if you take those educators who have served one section of our nation’s youth (including some Armenians) in general education, and culture, and served them well for a long time with an Assyrian patriotic dedication I would probably place Raabi Yacoub above Qasha Yosip Kelaita too.
A fact that is not known to many Assyrians, and Armenians, is that Raabi Yacoub was born of an ARMENIAN father (who died three months before Raabi Yacoub was born) and an Assyrian mother who raised her orphaned son in her father’s Assyrian home. His name Yacoub is the equivalent of his father’s Armenian name “Hacob.” Although he spoke and wrote Armenian, was married to an Armenian widow since Baquba days, and had always a great deal of affinity to his father’s race, he always identified himself as Assyrian rather than Armenian and was a passionate Assyrian patriot with a very sound knowledge of both Assyrian, Armenian and Turkish as well as English languages, along with a spattering of French, Farsi and, I believe, Arabic. Raabi Yacoub served under General Agha Petros and Agha Mirza in the Assyrian artillery division in 1918 and was involved in the battle of Ushnuk Saboulach. Even at the expense of taking up a little more space, let me cite some of Raabi Yacoub’s qualifications as an Assyrian educator and artistic man of letters: Raabi Yacoub was not only the founder and headmaster of three combined Assyrian and Armenian schools, but was a writer, orator, and according to the late Raabi Nanajan Youkhanna (one of his early teaching staff) a composer of Assyrian poems and national songs, a musician (violin, banjo and mandolin) and music composer. He was also an actor, a playwright and had translated several of Shakespeare’s plays into Assyrian, plays such as Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Merchant of Venice, and few others, three or four of which were staged in Hinaidi and Habbaniya, costume-designed, directed, and staged by him and played mostly by his students and community members, with himself in a couple of lead roles. Raabi Yacoub’s pep-talk morning speeches to the assembled student body were a source of ringing inspiration in attentive ears and his annual school graduation and commencement exercises were the pride of both his students and parents alike and his sports fields were the training cradles that produced sports champions among them soccer national stars like Aram Karam, Youra Eshaya, Ammo Baba, Youel Gewargis, Edison Eshay David, Sargis Shallou and several others as well as other champions in other fields.
But perhaps another important, if not the most important, aspect of his achievements was the establishment in 1939 of the Habbaniya Boy Scout and Girl Guide movement, with assistance from some RAF former Scouters. The movement was placed under the Scoutmastership of his eldest son, the late Raabi Ammanuel Jacob, from 1939 through 1943. Following the nationalization of the school in 1944, when Raabi Yacoub left the teaching profession, the movement was transferred to the supervision of RAF British Scouters. During the next ten years the movement developed and grew, independently, to be the finest of its kind in the world—and certainly the best in the Assyrian world! During the forties, contingents of Habbaniya Boy Scouts and Girl Guides were invited to Qasha Khando’s school, to the British Institute in Baghdad as well as to various Iraqi school national jamborees in Baghdad and Dulaim Liwa to give demonstrations of their knowledge and skill in their field and to train and teach their Iraqi counterparts. Above all, Raabi Yacoub was an efficient administrator and a teacher who inspired and goaded his students to greater achievement for two decades.
Of course, like most of us, Raabi Yacoub was not without his faults and foibles. But though small in stature (5’ 1”) he was a giant of a man. He had an aura of awe about him that commanded attention, respect and admiration—and even reverence.
How many of the Assyrian school founders have so many talents and capabilities and how can you dare discredit a man like that?
Assyrian Media Conference to be Held in Sydney, Australia
Our Media: Television, Radio & Internet
The Youth Association of the Assyrian Church of the East Diocese of Australia &
The conference will be inaugurated by Mr. Wilson Younan, the organizer and announcer of the Assyrian Program, SBS Radio. A number of announcers of various Assyrian Radio and TV will be present.
The conference will be held at the Edessa Hall at 6:00 pm. Following the conference entertainment will be provided by various Assyrian Artists.
Diamanda Galás: Defixiones, Orders from the Dead
A New York Premiere
For immediate release:
Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the 2005 What Comes After: Cities, Art and Recovery International Summit present: Diamanda Galás: Defixiones, Orders from the Dead, A New York Premiere
A haunting work of mourning and catharsis, excavating the memory of the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek genocides
September 8 & 10, 2005 @ Michael Schimmel Center For the Arts, Pace University
Vocalist, pianist, composer, performance artist and diva sine qua non Diamanda Galás makes a special two-night appearance in New York with the East Coast premiere of her latest and most ambitious work to date—Defixiones, Orders from the Dead. Presented by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council as part of its 2005 What Comes After: Cities, Art and Recovery International Summit, this sacred operatic mass is a sweeping work of historical memory that excavates the so-called “minor holocaust” of Asia Minor—namely the Armenian, Assyrian, Anatolian and Pontic Greek genocides that occurred between 1914 and 1923—long buried and denied by the Turkish government to this day. Five years in the making, Defixiones was released on a double CD by MUTE Records (2004, North America), and has already been performed to sold out houses and critical acclaim at London’s Royal Festival Hall, Sidney Opera House, Athens National Opera, Moscow’s Gogol Theater, and Mexico City’s Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana (during the Day of the Dead), among others. John Payne of the Los Angeles Weekly writes about Defixiones: “To have any performer deal articulately with topical monstrosities is rare: to have such a badass musician saying it is a gift from God. We know Galás reigns as the queen of extended vocal technique… She has also become one of the greatest, most original piano players on Earth...”
Diamanda Galás’s Defixiones, Orders from the Dead premieres in New York City September 8 (Thursday) and 10 (Saturday) at 8pm. The performances will take place at Pace University’s Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts (3 Spruce St., across from City Hall). Tickets can be purchased after July 15, 2005 at www.ticketcentral.com or by telephone at 212-279-4200 (between 12 -8 pm., 7 days a week). $15-35. (Transportation: SUBWAY: #1 or # 2 to Park Place; 4 or 5 or 6 to Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall; A or C to Broadway / Nassau Street; N or R to City Hall ; J or Z or M to Chambers Street. PARKING: Outdoor Hospital parking lot, entrance on Beekman St. at William St.).
A 75-minute, highly theatrical spectacle scored for voice, piano and tape, Defixiones draws its name from the small lead charms engraved with curses and placed by relatives on graves throughout the Eastern Mediterranean to discourage desecration. Concerned with the poet/author living in exile—away from their homeland or within it—the work speaks for individuals who were treated and lived as outlaws. Mostly composed by Galás herself, who drew from a wide range of sources, Defixiones is rooted in the rich musical worlds of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. It includes texts by Armenian poet/soldier Siamanto, Syrian/Lebanese poet Adonis, Assyrian poet-martyr Dr. Freidoun Bet-Oraham, the Anatolian Greek Amanedhes—and most recently, compositions based on the texts of Yiorgos Seferis, Yannis Ritsos, Nikos Kazantzakis, Jose-Maria Cuellar, and on the Turkish poem, Hatred, published by Hurriyet, on the eve of the 1974 invasion of Cyprus.
Armed with a 3 1/2 octave range, a virtuosic piano technique, eight languages, and methodically researched and dissected material, Galás has created a work as immediate and prescient as her landmark Plague Mass that confronted the AIDS epidemic in a way no one else dared. With Defixiones, the performance artist directly engages her heritage, drawing from the disaster that informed her childhood and was passed down like a bloody relic from her grandfather to her father to her. “You don’t hear these stories for 20 years and then forget about them,” says Galás. Taking the role of the Eumenides, the mythological creatures charged with administrating justice, Galás seeks to pursue the criminals with the memory of their crimes, and lends her piercingly beautiful voice to the nameless victims of this ethnic cleansing, creating a shattering work of mourning and catharsis.
“In an era of increasing Imperial dominance—its every move informed by the ancient hatreds of cultural and religious fundamentalisms—Defixiones could not be more timely. Or timeless. It is at once an interrogation and an edict. It furthers Galás’ reputation as the most gifted, vital, and visionary musician of our time. Singer and pianist, poet and composer, emissary and philosopher, Diamanda reminds us the voice is an instrument that needs to be more than just something finely honed and rigorously developed; it is the blade that cuts us all to the heart.”—Approaching Necropolis, Richard Morrison (2003).
Raised in San Diego, California, Diamanda Galás was born to Greek Orthodox parents, who always encouraged her gift for piano. She studied a wide range of musical forms, as well as visual-art performance, before moving to Europe. There she made her performance debut at the Festival d'Avignon in France in 1979, performing the lead in the opera, "Un Jour Comme un Autre," by composer Vinko Globokar, based upon the Amnesty International documentation of the arrest and torture of a Turkish woman for alleged treason. Galás released her first recorded work in 1982, and her numerous musical and theatrical works have since included the pivotal Plague Mass (1990), the haunting mass for People with AIDS, Vena Cava (1992), the solo voice and electronic work concerning AIDS dementia and clinical depression, Schrei 27 (1996), which deals with torture in isolation, the concerts/recordings of Malediction and Prayer (1998), Judgment Day, Concert for the Damned, The Masque of the Red Death (1984 - 1988), and most recently, La Serpenta Canta (2004), a greatest-hits collection from Hank Williams to Ornette Coleman, and Defixiones, Will and Testament (2004). Diamanda Gálas’s music can also be heard in two new movies—in the Japanese director Hideo Nakata’s Ring Two, released in March 2005, and in the Spanish/Nicaraguan filmmaker Mercedes Moncada Rodriguez’s El Immortal (The Immortal), produced in Mexico, Nicaragua, Spain, and New York and at the Sundance Institute. Galás is currently working on the composition and commissioning of the opera, Nekropolis; and she has just appeared at the prestigious Milanesiana 2005 (Italy), where she performed Songs of Exile with poet Adonis.
What Comes After: Cities, Art and Recovery convenes internationally renowned artists, architects and writers, and leading cultural and community leaders from several regions of the world that have experienced and been transformed by catastrophic violence. This is a major opportunity for international conversation and cooperation — an opportunity to learn how others have recovered from tragedy and how arts and culture help rebuild cities. What Comes After: Cities, Art and Recovery is generously supported by Altria Group, Inc., Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and the Trust for Mutual Understanding.
Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) is the leading voice for arts and culture in downtown New York City, producing cultural events and promoting the arts through grants, services, advocacy, and cultural development programs.
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A Thousand & One Chalabis
Ahmed Chalabi is again looking good. He was the chosen one for the U.S. to replace Saddam Hussein. However, he fell out of favor and about a year ago was a non-entity in Iraq.
But, Chalabi is like the proverbial cat with nine lives, except he outdoes our feline friend many times over. Six months ago, without fanfare, Chalabi was named the Oil Minister of Iraq. He had his hands near the cookie jar. About two months ago, a new ministry was created and he was named its chief; the Ministry of Energy. His hands are now firmly inside the cookie jar.
I have known of Ahmed Chalabi for about a decade. His organization (started and funded by the Clinton administration), the Iraqi National Congress (INC), has followers in the city of El Cajon, California, a metropolis of more than 100,000 inhabitants located just outside San Diego. El Cajon, with surrounding towns, is home to almost 30,000 Iraqi expatriates, mostly Chaldeans, Iraqi Christians.
Before I go into the aspects of the Iraqi community in El Cajon, let me give you a little background of the city.
El Cajon, like many American cities, is now experiencing the plight of having a decayed downtown with expanding suburbs. Much of the old city center is now being torn down and replaced with coffee shops and antique markets. Right in the middle is a four-story jailhouse, of which the city administration is so proud that the city’s official postcard depicts the correctional institute. I know of no other city that showcases its jail as representing the city: no flowers or scenic views on the postcard; just a brick four-story jail.
The mayor and city council consist of conservative Republicans who usually try to sneak items on the agenda that would incorporate religion (the Christian version) into government. A vigilant ACLU and Malcom Lagauche, along with concerned citizens, have thwarted some of the stealth items.
The Congressman for El Cajon is Duncan Hunter, now the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Hunter, on October 10, 1990, went on nationwide television and became the first person to tell the fabricated story of the Iraqi soldiers killing babies in Kuwait. That story went a long way in convincing the American public that war against Iraq was necessary. After it was exposed as a lie, Hunter has never apologized to the public for his deceit. In addition, Hunter, since 1991, has been an advocate of "nuking" Iraq to make the problem go away once and for all.
A few days ago, because I live in his jurisdiction (the 52nd Congressional District) I received Hunter’s monthly newsletter. He told of a recent trip to Iraq and extolled the virtues of a now "free Iraq." The irony is that if he visited Iraq under the dastardly dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, he would have been able to check into a hotel and then go anywhere in the city of Baghdad without being accosted. He could have eaten at any restaurant and visited any museum without fear of bodily harm. Now, his life expectancy would be measured in minutes if he walked down any Baghdad street in the "free and democratic Iraq" that he helped engineer. His recent visit, of course, only consisted of him visiting the heavily-guarded "Green Zone," the area of Baghdad that is surrounded by concrete walls, U.S. tanks, and many soldiers, with helicopters flying overhead.
The County Supervisor for El Cajon is Dianne Jacob, another conservative Republican known for her racist and homophobic views. A few years ago, she and Hunter, in front of an audience of 700 rabid cheering people, received an award from the Boy Scouts of America for their anti-homosexual and anti-atheist views.
In the 1990s, I became involved with some of the politics of El Cajon. While I was the editor of a weekly newspaper in 1992, I received an anonymous telephone call about a reporter who was fired by the El Cajon newspaper, The Daily Californian. I followed up and discovered that a reporter from the paper ran a feature article about homeless kids, some as young as 12 years old, living in the sewers of El Cajon. It was a brilliant piece of investigative journalism.
When the article appeared, then El Cajon Mayor Joan Shoemaker was irate and she called the paper’s publisher in upstate New York and demanded he fire the reporter. The publisher, who called the reporter when the story emerged and commended him on the piece, then called him again to fire him.
I ran a feature story on the affair. I called Shoemaker’s office to get her comments. When her assistant asked me why I wanted to talk to the mayor, I told her the subject. I was told, "Hold on for a moment please." The assistant did not know that she had not pushed the correct button on her telephone to put me on hold, so I heard her talk to Shoemaker and tell her about my call. Shoemaker then said, "Tell him I’m not here." When the assistant gave me the message, I thanked her.
My story was a blockbuster. The media in San Diego County picked it up and ran with it. I included the part about Shoemaker being there and telling her assistant that she was not. Her statement became a cause celebre in the media. Not only had I uncovered her plot to have a person fired, but I also chronicled her deceit in not wanting to talk about it. I used up a few minutes of my allocated 15 minutes of fame.
Shortly after, an acquaintance who worked for the City of El Cajon called me to tell that there was an internal announcement to city employees not to talk to me in the future. I was proud of such a proclamation.
A few years later, I did battle with Shoemaker again. She wrote an article in which she advocated a national law requiring every worker in every workplace in the United States to recite the Lord’s Prayer before work began. I wrote counter articles and she was exposed for her bigoted self.
I thought that longwinded introduction was necessary for the meat of this story: the Iraqi involvement in El Cajon.
From the 1960s until today, El Cajon has been the chosen area for many Iraqi Chaldean immigrants. Over the years, similar to today, they kind of keep to themselves. They mingle with outsiders during the day while running their businesses, but, after hours, mostly attend their own social functions at the St. Peter’s Chaldean Church or one of the various Iraqi social clubs in town.
The Chaldean community specializes in running small businesses. The prime one is that of liquor stores. According to the San Diego Union Tribune, 96% of independent liquor stores in San Diego County are owned and run by Chaldeans. In addition, they also play a major role in the owning of produce shops, electrical shops, and auto mechanic shops in the area.
During the 1990s, I became involved with the Iraqi-American community because of my involvement in attempting to have the disastrous embargo against Iraq lifted. What I discovered was an Iraq in miniature in the areas of politics.
There were anti-Saddam groups within the community and pro-Saddam factions. Each had its own monthly publication.
The Chaldean-Assyrian Federation was a leading anti-Saddam group. It wanted 60% of a post-Saddam Iraq, even though it only represented about 2% of the population. Many of its members worshipped Ahmed Chalabi. In fact, some had visited him and the group was aligned with the INC. Chalabi’s politics and his personality were blatantly evident at the Chaldean-Assyrian Federation.
In 1994, a San Diego sportscaster made racist remarks against Arabs and Iraqis. I began to form a coalition of Arabs and concerned people not of Arabic derivation to attend a demonstration against the bigot, so I approached the Chaldean-Assyrian Federation. The father of a good friend of mine was the president. He and his father differed on the subject of Iraq, but these differences should not have come into play when the subject was one of anti-Arab discrimination.
On the evening I was to address the Federation and explain the demonstration, there was security fit for a king at the building. When I arrived, I was taken to another building and kept in a small room for about a half hour. I asked what was going on and I was told that they were having a special meeting to vote on whether I should be allowed in or not. Some members thought I was a spy.
After the half-hour wait, I was escorted by two guards into Federation’s headquarters. After a few minutes of explaining that I had no agenda other than announcing the demonstration and inviting the group to attend, I gave my blurb. It took about two minutes. Then I left.
Almost an hour was spent on James Bond-like activities for me to give an invitation to an anti-discrimination demonstration. I found out that this was common fare for the group. By the way, none of its members showed up to the successful demonstration that was covered by radio and television in the San Diego area.
For the next couple of years, I encountered more of the INC people in El Cajon. They exhibited the same paranoid and deceitful traits that have come to represent those of Ahmed Chalabi.
I realized their goal was to oust Saddam Hussein. When I asked their view of a new Iraq, not one could tell me anything. It was just, "Get rid of Saddam." I found it quite puzzling that they had no agenda for a post-Saddam Iraq. And, most, similar to Chalabi, had either never lived in Iraq, or they had only lived there for a few years.
Things have changed since April 2003, but prior to that time, the social clubs were inhabited by both pro and anti-Saddam factions. Each would sit opposite of each other and play dominoes and drink alcoholic beverages. My previously-mentioned Iraqi friend, an atheist, would go to the clubs and lambaste both sides for their unquestioning affinity to Christianity.
The events of April 2003 brought the anti-Saddam Chaldeans to the forefront. The pro-Saddamers kept a low profile.
However, many outsiders now came forward and embraced the Chaldean community because of its support of the war against Iraq. These are the same people who, prior to March 2003, would have called the Chaldeans "camel jockeys" or "sand niggers." Duncan Hunter and Dianne Jacob gave speech after speech praising the anti-Saddam Chaldeans for their bravery. Until 2003, both officials ignored the Chaldean community unless there was an issue they could use to further their own agendas.
The picture at the top of this article was taken on April 13, 2003. It was from a pro-war demonstration in El Cajon in which a substantial number of Chaldeans participated. The non-Chaldeans were praising war and denigrating anti-war people. They were thrilled that the war was "over" and few Americans lost their lives. The Chaldeans were thrilled because Saddam was gone. A good time was had by all.
Today, that parade looks like it was premature. Since then, more than 2,000 Americans have been killed in Iraq and thousands more have been seriously wounded. Saddam’s followers in Iraq did not take kindly to the new imperialists and instituted a "Rope-a-Bush" resistance. I doubt that many of the flag-waving participants in the parade would feel the same way today if another celebration were scheduled.
How about the Chaldeans? They are more subdued today than in April 2003. After the ouster of the Ba’ath regime, I asked a few what they thought. Most were thrilled. When I asked one (who never lived in Iraq) the reason for his views, he said, "Saddam stole gold from women." I then asked him if he ever saw documentation of this or if he knew someone who had gold stolen by Saddam Hussein, and he replied, "no." When I asked him how he could make that statement without proof, he just scratched his head and was mute.
Over the years, I had no problem with Iraqi-Americans being either anti or pro-Saddam. What bothered me was the lack of concern by the anti-Saddam people about the devastating embargo in place against Iraq. To me, a so-called patriot of any country should be against such an inhumane instrument, no matter who is in power. The anti-Saddamers were so selfish they did not care about the people whom they said they wanted to free. One can not be free if he/she starves to death or dies because of lack of medical treatment: conditions imposed from outside the country.
The Chaldean community in El Cajon is close to its church. Ironically, in 1980, the Ba’ath government sent the El Cajon Chaldeans $250,000 to start the construction of the St. Peter’s Church. This was common in those days because the government considered all Iraqi expatriates to be Iraqis and it gave much in financial support to Iraqi expatriate organizations in the U.S. The Gulf War and the ensuing embargo halted all that.
The anti-Saddam Chaldeans have kept their selfish attitudes. When the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal erupted, I asked a few what they thought. I pondered that maybe now they would see the global aspect of U.S. imperialism and would begin to consider the overall look at the subject. No, their statements to me were basically, "Fuck ‘em. They’re Muslims and they deserve it."
Finally, something happened that has made a few Chaldeans in El Cajon question the overall picture: four churches were blown up in Iraq. The community is aghast. How dare someone blow up churches. For 14 years, the entire country of Iraq has been blown up, bombed, attacked by missiles and destroyed twice over. Hardly a peep from the Chaldean community. Now, four churches were blown up and it’s an international tragedy.
There have been meetings and discussions in the Chaldean community about the recent church destruction. Some community members are even questioning the U.S. presence in Iraq. And, a once-unheard statement is being whispered: "This never happened under Saddam."
The Chaldean community is back to where it was a few years ago. The politicians who used the Chaldeans in 2002 and 2003 to further their war agenda, are again absent in the community. The Chalabi clones are still in denial about U.S. intentions and they think that the current rift between their mentor and the U.S. government may abate. They fail to realize the real purpose of the alliance and the overall picture of U.S.-Iraq relations. The clubs are still full at night time and the rumors still prevail "Saddam’s daughter committed suicide," "Saddam’s dead. He had a heart attack and we saw a double on TV in the court room." "This is all a plot. Saddam and the CIA are working together." Each day brings new rumors.
There is one aspect to the Chaldean community in El Cajon that is extremely positive — food. Iraqi cuisine is fabulous. In El Cajon, several Iraqi restaurants have sprung up in the past couple of years that offer incredible food at reasonable prices. Some are run by pro-Saddam proprietors, while others are headed by anti-Saddam owners. Some have no political opinions.
I have tried those run by all the factions and I must admit that they all are great. For less than 10 bucks (including tip) one can munch on a feast of over 20 dishes: various meats, chicken, fish, rice, humus, vegetables and more.
About once every other month, I and a dozen or so comrades (atheists, political radicals, and an occasional normal person) of various races and ethnic backgrounds, trek to one of these eating establishments for an afternoon of great food and discussion. On Labor Day (September 5), about 20 of us will make the trip to a newly-opened restaurant, Sinbad’s, on Main Street in El Cajon. Anybody who is interested is invited to attend.
Walter Aziz Releases "Akitu"
"This has been the biggest project of my career so far," he explains.
Big is an understatement. Speaking about his full-length Assyrian album "Akitu", Walter Aziz offers his fans 14 tracks, recorded in five different places across the globe. Sessions took place in Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Germany, and Istanbul, Turkey. There is also a blend of world musicians and instruments on this album. The LP will feature producers and musicians of Assyrian, American, Canadian, Egyptian, Lebanese, German, Mexican, and Turkish descent.
Walter's goal with this album is to help develop Assyrian music as an industry, culture, artform, and message. "This is the time for Assyrians to show themselves, and with music we can express ourselves and our purpose in the world. I collaberate with musicians around the world to introduce our music to many different types of people and hopefully to influence them, as world music influences me. I'm going all the way on this project. It's different from what I've ever done."
"Akitu" stays true to the music and the emotions of the artist. While featuring several prominent Assyrian writers such as Ninos Aho, Macksud Eshaya, and Dawoud Barkho, Walter also took on a more prominent role in writing on this album more than any other in his career. "Writing is a way for me to escape and express myself through music, which is the easiest way for me to communicate. I wanted it to come from the heart. This is probably my most personal album ever."
Walter seems ready to take his music and career to the next level with the release of his new album. He feels the need to provide for his people. "It is the duty of every Assyrian to advertise themsleves to the world. We are the indigenous people of Iraq and this planet, and we need our voices to be heard. I want every Assyrian to be proud of this album since it aims to help get the Assyrian name out there to the world.
The album will be released on August 30, 2005. For more information click here.
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