13 Adaar 6756
Volume XIII

Issue 2

4 March 2007

1- 8 6 6 - M Y  Z I N D A

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His Holiness Mar Benyamin Shimoun was assassinated by Kurdish warlord, Simko, on 3 March 1918 in the Urmia region of Iran.

"Woe to the Oppressors that Paid their Neighbours Back in Evil."

Naum Faik - 3 Days after the Assassination of His Holiness

Click on Blue Links in the left column to jump to that section within this issue.  Most blue links are hyperlinked to other sections or URLs.
Zinda SayZinda Says
  "My Native Land" Wilfred Bet-Alkhas
  Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq’s minority communities MRG International Report
  A Rose By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet Mariam S. Shimoun
  Australia's MP Delivers Speech on Behalf of Assyrians
Return to Anatolia Conference Report
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  Mass-grave in Mardin, Turkey
European Parliament Conference: Assyrian Seyfo
Rev. Yosip Qelaita's Assyrian School of Mosul Project

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  Jozef Essavi : Candidate for the LACC District Board of Trustee
Hanna Hajjar : Candidate for the LACC District Board of Trustee
International Women's Day
Lamassu Productions Launches "Assyrian Identity Tour"
Call for Architectural Sketches for Assyrian Genocide Monument
NOC Iraq is Looking for Athletes
  Missed Opportunities Obelit Yadgar
  The Stump
The Assassination of Mar Shimoun Catholicos of the East
The Dementia of Our Kurdish Neighbours
Ashurnasirpal II Describes Fighting & Feasting of His Days
In Search of Gilgamesh (A Book Report)
Frederick P. Isaac
Nineb Lamassu (translation)
Dr. George Habash
David Gavary
Michael Derida
  Zinda Reporter Awarded Excellence in Multicultural Affairs  

Zinda Says
An Editorial by Wilfred Bet-Alkhas

"My Native Land"

Lucian of Samasota

In the A.D. Second Century a Roman citizen of the city of Samasota (Aramaic Shimsheta or Of the Sun) in southeastern Turkey, wrote satires about the lives of his contemporaries and the politics of his day.  He was called Lucian and often referred to himself as the Assyrian.  Although he spoke Aramaic, Lucian wrote mainly in Greek and his Trips to the Moon are said to be the earliest writings on space travel and science fiction.  Lucian lived between A.D. 120 and A.D. 192 - eight hundred years after the Fall of Nineveh - and miraculously more than 80 pieces of his works have survived to this day. 

Rome was in those days much like today's United States, a hegemon, at times irritated and even defeated by the Persian rulers.  During Lucian's life, Emperors like Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius expanded Roman dominance over far reaches of Europe, into Britain, and north Africa.  As the power of Rome grew, so did the discontent of its colonized subjects.  When Lucian was a young boy, Jews in Palestine rose against the Romans under Bar Khokhva.  When he died, Romans had been defeated in Scotland.  Not long after his death Persians took his city from the Romans.

Lucian wrote "My Native Land" 1800 years ago about his homeland of Assyria, as the Romans and the Persians took turn in plundering its towns and metropolises.  The raids and pillages of Assyria have never stopped and yet every day we "yearn and pray to end our life" on the banks of its twin rivers.  It is this yearning that compels us to survive, adapt, and excel everywhere and in everything we do.

"My Native Land" by Lucian the Assyrian
circa A.D. 170

"Nothing sweeter than one's native land" is already a commonplace. If nothing is sweeter, then is anything more holy or divine? Truly of all that men count holy and divine their native land is cause and teacher, in that she bears, nurtures and educates them. To be sure, many admire cities for their size, their splendour and the magnificence of their public works, but everyone loves his own country; and even among men completely overmastered by the lust of the eye, no one is so misguided as to be forgetful of it because of the greater of the number of wonders in other countries. Therefore a man who prides himself on being citizen of a prosperous state does not know, it seems to me, what sort of honour one should pay his native land, and such an one would clearly take it ill if his lot had fallen in a less pretentious place. For my part I prefer to honour the mere name of native land. In attempting to compare states, it is proper, of course, to investigate their size and beauty and the abundance of their supplies; but when it is a question of choosing between them, nobody would choose the more splendid and give up her own. He would pray that it too might be as prosperous as any, but would choose it, no matter what it was. Upright children and good fathers do just the same thing. A lad of birth and breeding would not honour anyone else above his father, and a father would not neglect his son and cherish some other lad. In fact, fathers, influenced by their affection, give their sons so much more than their due that they think them the best-looking, the tallest and the most accomplished in every way. One who does not judge his son in this spirit does not seem to me to have a father's eyes.

In the first place, then, the name of fatherland is closer to one's heart than all else, for there is nothing closer than a father. If one pays his father proper honour, as law and nature direct, then one should honour his fatherland still more, for his father himself belonged to it and his father's father and all their forebears, and the name of father goes back until it reaches the father-gods. Even the gods have countries that they rejoice in, and although they watch over all the abodes of man, deeming that every land and every sea is theirs, nevertheless each honours the place in which he was born above all other states. Cities are holier when they are homes of the gods, and islands are more divine if legends are toldof the birth of gods in them. Indeed, sacrifices are accounted pleasing to the gods when one goes to their native places to perform the ceremony. If, then, the name of native land is in honour with the gods, should it not be far more so with mankind? Each of us had his first sight of the sun from his native land, and so that god, universal though he be, is nevertheless accounted by everyone a home-god, because of the place from which he saw him first. Moreover, each of us began to speak there, learning first to talk his native dialect, and came to know the gods there. If a man's lot has been cast in such a land that he required another for his higher education, he should still be thankful for these early teachings, for he would not have known even the meaning of "state" if his country had not taught him that there was such a thing.

The reason, I take it, for which men amass education and learning is that they may thereby make themselves more useful to their native land, and they likewise acquire riches out of ambition to contribute to its common funds. With reason, I think: for men should not be ungrateful when they have received the greatest favours. On the contrary, if a man returns thanks to individuals, as is right, when he has been well treated by them, much more should he requite his country with its due. To wrong one's parents is against the law of different states; but counting our native land the common mother of us all, we should give her thank-offerings for our nurture and for our knowledge of the law itself.

No one was ever known to be so forgetful of his country as to care nothing for it when he was in another state. No, those who get on badly in foreign parts continually cry out that one's own country is the greatest of all blessings, while those who get on well, however successful they may be in all else, think that they lack one thing at least, a thing of the greatest importance, in that they do not live in their own country but sojourn in a strange land; for thus to sojourn is a reproach! And men who during their years abroad have become illustrious through acquirement of wealth, through renown from office-holding, through testimony to their culture, or through praise of their bravery, can be seen hurrying one and all to their native land, as if they thought they could not anywhere else find better people before whom to display the evidences of their success. The more a man is esteemed elsewhere, the more eager is he to regain his own country.

Even the young love their native land; but aged men, being wiser, love it more. In fact, every aged man yearns and prays to end his life in it, that there in the place where he began to live he may deposit his body in the earth which nurtured him and may share the graves of his fathers. He thinks it a calamity to be guilty of being an alien even after death, through lying buried in a strange land.

How much affection real, true citizens have for their native land can be learned only among a people sprung from the soil. Newcomers, being brut bastard children, as it were, transfer their allegiance easily, since they neither know nor love the name of native land, but expect to be well provided with the necessities of life wherever they may be, measuring happiness by their appetites! On the other hand, those who have a real mother-country love the soil on which they were born and bred, even if they own but little of it, and that be rough and thin. Though they be hard put to it to praise the soil, they will not lack words to extol their country. Indeed, when they see others priding themselves on their open plains and prairies diversified with all manner of growing things, they themselves do not forget the merits of their own country, and pass over its fitness for breeding horses to praise its fitness for breeding men. One hastens to his native land though he be an islander, and though he could lead a life of ease elsewhere. If immortality be offered him he will not accept it, preferring a grave in his native land, and the smoke thereof is brighter to his eyes than fire elsewhere.

To such an extent do all men seem to prize their own country that lawgivers everywhere, as one may note, have prescribed exile as the severest penalty for the greatest transgressions. And it cannot be said that in this view lawgivers differ from commanders. On the contrary, in battle no other exhortation of the marshalled men is so effective as "You are fighting for your native land!" No man who hears this is willing to be a coward, for the name of native land makes even the dastard brave.


The Lighthouse
Feature Article


Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq’s minority communities since 2003

Report of the Minorities Rights Group International

The following are excerpts from the report published by the Minority Rights Group International (MRG).  The excerpts selected pertain to Assyrians in Iraq.  The author, Preti Taneja, is a journalist specializing in human rights. She is a regular contributor to a range of international print, web-based and audio media. As a filmmaker she has produced and directed a number of human rights documentaries. She holds a degree in Theology and Religious Studies from the University of Cambridge.

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non-governmental organization (NGO) working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide, and to promote cooperation and understanding between communities. MRG's activities are focused on international advocacy, training, publishing and outreach. It is guided by the needs expressed by its worldwide partner network of organizations, which represent minority and indigenous peoples.  MRG works with over 150 organizations in nearly 50 countries. Our governing Council, which meets twice a year, has members from 10 different countries. MRG has consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and observer status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). MRG is registered as a charity and a company limited by guarantee under English law. Registered charity no. 282305, limited company no. 1544957.

Preti Taneja

Evidence of violence against minorities:  Christians

The Chaldo-Assyrian and Syriac Christians see Iraq as their ‘mother country’, ‘the centre of their historical cultural and demographic weight’.   They live mainly in Kirkuk, Basra, Baghdad, Mosul and on the plains of Nineveh. Both communities speak Syriac, which is derived from Aramaic, the language of the New Testament, one of the oldest continually written and spoken languages in the
world. These communities are descendants of the earliest civilisations of Mesopotamia, but while the Chaldeans follow the Roman Catholic faith, Assyrians do not. In terms of ethnicity, though some Chaldeans and Assyrians consider themselves Arab, others dispute this. The majority and the government consider both groups as ethnically distinct from Arabs and Kurds.

The ethnic and linguistic Armenian minority also settled in Iraq before the birth of Christ, later worshipping as Christians and building churches. After the Armenian genocide committed by Ottoman Turks in 1915, more Armenians settled in Iraq. Education for Armenian children in their own language and religion is considered vital, and Armenian churches and schools are built side by side. They exist in Basra, Baghdad, Kirkuk, Mosul and Zakho. Like other minorities, Armenians have suffered killings, abductions, torture and threats. Underpinning this is the resulting poverty and displacement many face; in 2006, the Armenian Diocese estimated that the number of destitute Armenian Christians had grown by 50 per cent since 2003.

While Islam considers Chaldo-Assyrian and Syriac Christians to be Ahl al Kitab (‘People of the Book’) and therefore to be respected, in reality this has offered them little protection from the increasing violence perpetrated in the name of Islamic fundamentalism in Iraq.

Attacks against businesses

Attacks against Christian business owners have taken place systematically over the last three years. Because Christianity does not prohibit drinking alcohol, and under Saddam Hussein’s government only Christians and Yazidis were permitted to sell liquor, off-licence owners in Iraq are easily identified as being from minority groups.

Shops selling alcohol in Baghdad, Mosul and Basra have been bombed, looted and defaced. According to the Christian and Other Religions Endowment Bureau in Iraq, approximately 95 per cent of alcohol shops have closed following threats by Islamic extremists. Traditionally, the Christian minority also own businesses such as gymnasiums, beauty parlours, CD and DVD shops and recording studios, again making them obvious targets.

In May 2003, Sheikh Mohammed al Fartousi, a member of al-Sadr, issued a fatwa banning alcohol, commanding women to wear the veil and ordering cinemas to close. In a sermon at Muslim weekly prayers at Al-Mohsen mosque in Baghdad’s Shia suburbs of Sadr City, he told ‘several thousand’ Muslims:

‘The cinemas in Al-Saadun Street show indecent films. I warn them: if in a week they do not change, we will act differently with them. We warn women and the go-betweens who take them to the Americans: If in a week from now they do not change their attitude, the murder of these women is sanctioned [by Islam]. This warning also goes out to sellers of alcohol, radios and televisions.’

According to another report, al Fartousi also said: ‘Our fatwa is for all the people. Alcohol is banned under every religion’. He claimed to have up to 1,000 armed former soldiers under his control. Several alcohol factories were attacked just hours after the fatwa was issued.

Roger William, whose father-in-law owned a casino and a dancehall before a fatwa in 2003 declared that no one should trade in alcohol on pain of death, said: ‘We had a very good situation until the fundamentalists began to appear, and we were affected … They changed the idea of Christians among the people and from then on we have suffered. Because America and Britain are Christian countries, the [fundamentalists] blame us for the war. We are terrified. We really don’t know what the future will

In April 2004, off-licence owner Sabah Sadiq’s brother was kidnapped. Sadiq was shot on his way to pay the ransom.

This is not a unique occurrence. In June, armed intruders broke into Sami Tammu’s off-licence in Baghdad and shot him when he tried to escape. In August 2004, reports told of masked gunmen shooting Sabah Macardige in Baghdad in broad daylight. According to witnesses, Macardige had received warnings to stop selling alcohol.

In July 2005, the Internet news message board Iraq4all reported the murder of a Christian owner of an off-licence in Baghdad who was shot at work. The gun was fired from a car parked outside the shop. Assad Aziz, a Chaldean Catholic, bought an off-licence in 2003 in a mostly Shia neighbourhood in Baghdad. The shop was bombed and its owner hospitalised for a month. The business reopened in a mostly Christian area but was later ‘riddled with bullets’.

Religious buildings and congregations

A pattern of churches and Christian-owned buildings such as schools being targeted has also been noted throughout this period. Reports of casualties show that the attacks are planned for maximum impact when ser-vices are taking place. 2003 saw a rocket attack on a convent in Mosul, explosions in two Christian schools in Baghdad and Mosul, and an explosion in a church in Baghdad on Christmas Eve. A bomb was found and defused in a monastery in Mosul.

On Sunday, 1 August 2004, almost simultaneous attacks on four Christian churches in Baghdad and one in Mosul killed at least 11 people and injured dozens more.

The day after the August 2004 church bombings, a previously unknown group calling itself the ‘Committee of Planning and Follow-up in Iraq’ reportedly claimed responsibility on a website, saying ‘you wanted a crusade, and these are its results’. The statement read:

‘A Declaration from the Committee of Planning and Follow-up in Iraq

In the name of God the most merciful, ... America didn’t only occupy and invade militarily the Islamic lands but they also founded hundreds of Christianizing establishments, printing false deviated books and distributing them amongst the Muslims in an effort to strip them away of their religion and Christianize them. The Crusaders are one nation even if they differed in their ideas. The American forces and their intelligence systems have found a safe haven and refuge amongst their brethren the grandchildren of monkeys and swine in Iraq. The graceful God has enabled us on Sunday, 1 August 2004, to aim several painful blows at their dens, the dens of wickedness, corruption and Christianizing. Your striving brethren were able to blow up four cars aimed at the churches in Karrada, Baghdad, Jadida and Dora while another group of mujahedeen hit the churches in Mosul. As we announce our responsibility for the bombings we tell you, the people of the crosses: return to your senses and be aware that God’s soldiers are ready for you. You wanted a crusade and these are its results. God is great and glory be to God and his messenger. He who has warned is excused.

Prayers and peace be upon our prophet Muhammad, his kin and companions.

The Committee of Planning and Follow-Up in Iraq
14/Jamadi I/1425 – August 1, 2004
International Islamic Information Center’



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In October 2004, more attacks on churches across Baghdad left at least one person dead and nine injured. Some of the churches were severely damaged and the Roman Catholic Church of St George, which was constructed of wood, burned down. The attacks occurred on the second day of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting.

In November 2004, car bombs exploded in front of the Church of St George (Syrian Orthodox) and the Church of St Matthias (Assyrian Church of the East), both in Baghdad, killing at least eight people and wounding more. On 7 December, explosions took place in two churches in Mosul. The new Armenian Orthodox church in the Al Wihda quarter, which had not yet opened, was attacked in the afternoon, injuring three. The Chaldean Al Tahira Church and Archdiocese in the Alshafa quarter was attacked later the same day. Armed men cleared the church of believers before they detonated
their explosives.

2006 began with more attacks on churches in January. Six synchronised car bombs exploded outside
churches in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk during mass. One Assyrian Christian and a Muslim couple living close to one of the churches were killed; nine others were injured.

The same day, a car bomb exploded outside the residence of the Apostolic Nuncio (also referred to as the Vatican Embassy).

On 24 September, two bomb attacks were made on the Old Oriental Orthodox Maria Cathedral in the ar-Riad quarter of Baghdad and two Christians were killed. Political and religious leaders in Iraq have consistently condemned the bombing of churches and persecution of Christians. These include moderate Sunni groups, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the senior Shia cleric in Iraq, Moktada al-Sadr, the Shia cleric whose militia is thought to be responsible for many of the attacks on alcohol sell-ers,
the American forces and the Iraqi government. Iraq’s National Security Adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, said both the nature of the attacks and evidence collected from the bomb sites pointed firmly to al-Qaeda leader Zarqawi, possibly working in cooperation with supporters of Saddam Hussein.

Abductions for the purpose of forced conversion have also been reported. As Islamic laws place restrictions on inheritance, marriage and re-conversion, the implications of conversion impact over generations and affect the individual’s civil rights and those of their family, as well as their faith.

Christian areas and associations with MNF-I

People have been abducted or killed in attacks simply because they are in targeted Christian areas, work for foreign companies, or hold official or professional positions. These include civil servants, medical personnel and civic and religious leaders. Such attacks strike directly at the social infrastructure of communities, leaving a void of fear and disabling those who are left from carrying on their everyday lives. On 7 June 2004, four masked men drove into the Christian Assyrian quarter of Hay Al-Athuryee in the Dora district of Baghdad and opened fire on Assyrians on their way to work. Three men and one woman were killed instantly.

In January 2005, the head of the Christian Democratic Party in Iraq, Minas Al-Yousifi, and the Syrian Catholic archbishop of Mosul, Basile Georges Casmoussa, were kidnapped.

A February 2005 report from UNHCR told of a Christian nurse who was beheaded by her kidnappers, and Ansar Al-Sunna, a Sunni extremist group which mainly operates in northern Iraq, announced on its website the killing of a Christian general of the Iraqi Army.

Two members of the Assyrian Democratic movement, a Christian political party, were killed and two
others wounded in November 2005 when gunmen opened fire in Mosul, according to a hospital official.
CNN reported they were posting flyers for forthcoming regional parliamentary elections.

In January 2006, the Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV) reported that ‘dozens’ of Christian students of the Technical University of Baghdad were victims of violent attacks by their Islamist fellow students. ‘They were beaten and abused as infidels and as American agents,’ the report said.

In October 2006, the same NGO reported that the Syrian Orthodox priest Paul Alexander (Paulos Iskander) was found beheaded in Mosul following his kidnapping. According to news reports the kidnappers demanded $40,000, but added another stipulation; that the priest’s church must publicly repudiate Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks about Islam (see below). On the same day a 55- year-old cleric, Dr Joseph Fridon Petros, was attacked in Baghdad by Islamists and murdered. Attacks were carried out in the district of Camp Sara, which is inhabited mainly by Christians. Nine Assyrian Christians lost their lives.

Minorities who work with people in high-profile positions and with the international community are also at risk.

The Assyrian internet magazine Zinda reported that on 19 August 2003, Nadan Yonadam was killed in an ambush while working with the US Army as a civilian translator.

On 22 September 2005, gunmen opened fire on a Nissan pickup truck carrying six Assyrian security guards assigned to protect Pascale Warda, an Assyrian activist and the former Iraqi Minister of Migration and Displacement. Four out of the six were killed.

In January 2006, American Christian Science Monitor journalist Jill Carroll was abducted in Baghdad. The body of her Assyrian interpreter, Allan Enwiya, was later found in the same neighbourhood.  Carroll was released physically unharmed on 30 March.

Hate speech

World events in the ‘war on terror’ and reports of abuse of (often Muslim) detainees in American jails in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere fuel the violence against the Christian minority in Iraq. In September 2006, Pope Benedict made a speech referring to the 14th-century Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Palaeologos: ‘The Emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war,’ the
Pope said. ‘He said, I quote, “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will
find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”.’

In a note to MRG, Yonadam Kanna, secretary general of the Assyrian Democratic Movement in Iraq and member of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, wrote:

‘We are sorry to inform you that we expect more hate and violence in coming days because of the Pope’s latest lecture in Germany. We expect some positive and
serious steps from all peace and freedom supporters to contain and avoid any new crises that may occur in the Middle East, especially in Iraq, which is already suffering from security vacuum.’

In the days following the Pope’s speech, militant Islamist websites reportedly posted messages threatening reprisals against ‘worshippers of the cross’.

Sunni and Shia clerics in Iraq united in condemnation of the Pope’s comments, calling them an insult to Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. After the speech, the New York Times reported that in Baghdad, many churches had cancelled their services and have not opened since. Reverend Zayya Edward Khoshaba, pastor of the Church of the Virgin Mary in Baghdad, said, ‘The actions of fanatics have increased against Christians.’ The same article reported that a Christian teenage girl had been kid-napped, and her captors had initially demanded a ransom. Later, they said the Pope was the only one who could release her, and she was eventually killed.

Communities are further destabilised as technology allows the violation to be replayed over and over again – it is filmed, then a video is distributed as a threat and a warning. Ankawa.com, an Arabic language news website, gained one such video. According to the Assyrian information website Christians of Iraq, the film shows a group named ‘The Brigades of Salaheddin Al-Eyobe the armed
faction’ beheading three men after making them state their names. The victims were two Christians from Mosul, Reemon Farouq Sha’aoun and Feeras Moufaq Potros, whose university identity cards were reportedly shown on screen, and a third, unidentified man.

Whether such films are real or enacted, the dissemination of this material heightens fear, provokes flight and renders the community unsustainable.

Intimidation and threats

Christians have also reported receiving threats of violence at the neighbourhood level through leafleting, text messages to mobile phones and one-on-one intimidation.

A spokesman for the IMC said: ‘Muslim preachers in Mosul have told people to buy the assets of Christians, because Christians will be leaving Iraq just as Jews did in the past. They throw leaflets into the shops and houses, threatening businesses such as liquor stores. It is only certain shops and businesses that have been targeted.’

Christians are threatened with death if they do not conform to Islamic dress codes; women are forced to wear the hijab in public and men to grow Islamic-style beards, convert to Islam or leave the area altogether. The situation of Iraq’s Christians as a people under threat is backed by reports compiled by Christian sup-porters around the world. These show the brutality and level of attacks that occur when people are going about their everyday lives – out shopping, running businesses, going to college. Again, while all Iraqis live under threat of violence, evidence supports the belief that attacks are
targeted against people because of a difference in faith, creating a culture of distrust and fear between peoples of different communities. In July 2004, this example was given to the UK government: ‘Last month, two Assyrian sisters who were working for Bechtel, were killed just outside Basra in a drive-by shooting. They were identifiable Assyrian Christians, slaughtered for no discernible reason. The family are quite convinced that the murder took place because of their religion.’

Minorities in disputed territories in northern Iraq

Many minority rights violations perpetrated in Iraq today form part of an ongoing cycle of violence and injustice that goes back to the government of Saddam Hussein.
Nowhere is this truer than in the north of the country.

From the western city of Sinjar on the Syria/Iraq border to Khanaquin on the Iran/Iraq border in the east, including Mosul, Erbil, Kirkuk, Diyala, Dohuk and Suleymaniyah, hundreds of thousands of Kurds, Faili Kurds, Shabaks, Turkomans, Mandaeans, Assyrians and Yazidis were affected by Saddam Hussein’s genocide or Anfal campaign.

Launched in 1988, the campaign resulted in the death or forced disappearance of some 100 000 people – mostly Kurds, but including many thousands of people from different minorities – and the policy of ‘Arabisation’ that continued until 2003.

The right to return and how this is effected has therefore become a crucial issue since 2003, one which, given the competing tensions in this traumatised area of the country, has been fraught with difficulties. The question of just redress for the Kurds, who now wield significant political and military power and who seek to ensure that they will not be vulnerable in the future, as well as what
happens to the Arabs who have lived in the ‘Arabised’ areas for up to three decades, is in the process of being resolved, by legal and non-legal means. For Arabs and Kurds, justice on this issue is proving difficult – for minorities, it is almost impossible.

As well as disappearances and murder, the Arabisation policy officially forced minorities to change their ethnic identity. The 1987 and 1997 national censuses obliged all Assyrians to choose between an Arab or Kurdish nationality; those who insisted on identifying as Assyrian were struck off the list or arbitrarily registered as Arab or Kurd.

In 2001, decree 199 proclaimed the ‘right’ of every Iraqi to change their ethnic identity and to choose an Arab one. Hundreds of thousands were also forcibly displaced, particularly in the economically significant region around Kirkuk.

Under considerable pressure from the US, the Kurdish authorities have consented not to press by immediate force their claims for restitution of Kurdish land and property in the Kirkuk area. The Kurdish policy is now to promote ‘normalisation’, or the return of communities displaced from Kirkuk and the restitution of their property, followed by a census of the population and the referendum on the status of the city, due to take place in 2007 (see below).

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But statements from various minority representatives interviewed by MRG emphasise the direct violence and intimidation they are experiencing at the hands of the Kurds, particularly on the Nineveh plains and in Kirkuk. There are reports that minorities are being pressured to support Kurdish political parties or to state their identity as Kurdish, which will strengthen Kurdish claims to the land. In return they are offered protection.

MRG interviews with representatives from minority ethnic communities repeatedly reported such actions taken by Kurds. In one interview, an IMC spokesman said: ‘The Kurds are causing rifts between minority groups for their own purposes. They treat Christians better than Arabs. Kurds are financing churches in order to corrupt priests, and are also corrupting through charity work. They are buying people and doing the same thing to Yazidis and Shabaks.’

According to UNAMI, allegations that security elements associated with the Ministry of the Interior and Peshmerga (Kurdish) militias have been involved in illegal policing outside the KRG, notably in Kirkuk and Nineveh, have continued to emerge. Riots in Kirkuk in the days following the US-led invasion of Iraq gave rise to reports of Kurdish militia taking over public buildings. Statements by
Arabs and Turkomans told of being forced out of their homes as Kurds displaced under Saddam Hussein returned (see a more complete discussion of this below).

Like all Iraqi citizens, minorities in northern Iraq are caught up in sectarian violence between majority groups. But if the prospect of a political settlement over Kirkuk continues to recede, the threat of renewed inter-ethnic violence and forced displacements perpetrated by different factions or militias will increase. Minority communities will be among the most vulnerable should this occur.

Chaldo-Assyrian Christians

Chaldo-Assyrians in Kirkuk are caught up in violence between larger ethnic groups. Their numbers, however, are much smaller – an estimated 12,000 in 2006.

The Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration has reported on the serious difficulties Christians face as they attempt to reclaim their properties in northern Iraq. Speaking in 2004 in the House of Commons, Stephen Pound MP said: ‘At least 58 Chaldo-Assyrian villages have been partially or fully occupied by Kurds: eight are completely occupied and 50 partly occupied. All are in Dohuk province and in areas controlled by the KDP.’ He added: ‘Instead of returning the land to its rightful Chaldo-Assyrian owners, the current Minister of Defence, Hazim al-Shaalan, has sent a letter to the Minister
of Municipalities to instruct the Minister of the Mosul governorate to distribute Chaldo-Assyrian land to Iraqi military and intelligence service personnel – a continuance of the policy of the previous Ba’athist regime.

The lands in question are in the following Chaldo-Assyrian districts of the Nineveh plains: Telkepeh,
Baghdede – a name later changed to Qaraqosh, then to Hamdaniya – Karamles, Bertallah, Botany Telesqof, Alqush, Bashiqa-Bahzani and Shaikhan.’

The International Religious Freedom Report (2006) stated: ‘Christians living north of Mosul claimed that the KRG confiscated their property without compensation and began building settlements on their land. Assyrian Christians also alleged that the KDP-dominated judiciary routinely discriminated against non-Muslims and failed to enforce judgments in their favour.’

In a research mission to northern Iraq, including the Nineveh plains, in May 2006, MRG found relations between resident Chaldo-Assyrians and the Kurdish parties presented a complex picture. Some Chaldo-Assyrian leaders complained of attempts to ‘Kurdify’ some of the villages on the plains, including altering place names, and of making resources for development conditional on support
for the KDP. However, other Chaldo-Assyrians spoke positively of Kurdish support for reconstruction, development and the settlement in Nineveh of Chaldo-Assyrians displaced from other parts of Iraq, particularly Mosul and Baghdad. Christian guards are now prominent outside the churches and at checkpoints, and have received support channelled from the KRG. In an interview with MRG, the KRG Minister of Finance and then Deputy Prime Minister, Sarkis Aghajan, described how 30 Christian villages had been restored in the Nineveh plains and some 3500 families resettled from Mosul and Baghdad.

The Washington-based Assyrian organisation the Iraq Sustainable Development Project (ISDP) conducted a field trip to northern Iraq in early 2006. It reported extensive land seizure by the KDP with no recompense for minorities, and threats and coercion for minorities to assimilate. (However, church leaders who become members receive reconstruction funds for their churches and homes). One priest has been identified as informing the Kurdish authorities of Assyrians who oppose KDP control of the Nineveh plains. ISDP also reported that in order to get and keep jobs, minorities are forced to become members of the KDP. ISDP alleges that all Chaldo-Assyrians applying to work at the Sheraton hotel in Erbil were required to become members of the KDP; those who refused had their job offers withdrawn.

Political Participation

Where territory is disputed, minorities can also experience violations to their right to participation and political representation. The fierce fight for control of Kirkuk and the border areas around the KRG has a specific political impact on minority communities where votes will make a difference to the outcome of elections. In the January 2005 elections, non-Muslim minorities (and non-Kurds)
reported being prevented from voting. According to AINA, only 93 of the 330 polling stations in the Nineveh governorate opened, ballot boxes were not delivered, and incidents of voter fraud and intimidation occurred. The International Religious Freedom Report 2005 said:

‘This resulted from administrative breakdowns on election day and the refusal of Kurdish security forces to allow ballot boxes to pass to predominantly Christian villages, denying as many as 100,000 Assyrian Christians and smaller numbers of Sabians (Mandaeans) of their right to vote in the elections. After an investigation of these allegations, the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI) acknowledged that the voting facilities in Nineveh were inadequate. The IECI claimed that these irregularities were a manifestation of the poor security situation in Nineveh, Anbar, and other regions and not a problem that exclusively affected a particular segment of the population.’

After the elections, the UN news agency IRIN reported that a crowd of mostly Turkomans and Christians numbering approximately ‘300 ... protested outside the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, unhappy about alleged irregularities on election day, especially in Kirkuk, where witnesses accused Kurdish parties of entering polling stations, breaking ballot boxes open and stealing ballot papers.’
An IMC spokesman said: ‘The Iraqi people weren’t given access to voting, the government opened posts for the Kurds but not for the Christians, and that is corruption.’

Though minority communities therefore have a potential protection in the Kurdish region, in reality they are caught between the two majority ethnic sides. Human Rights Without Frontiers gives this account, the timing of which is noteworthy:

‘On 10 April 2003, the day after “the liberation” [sic], Hazim Petrus Damman, an Assyrian-Chaldean, was driving home in a company car from the Kirkuk oil company he was working for when he fell into an ambush laid by Peshmergas who were obviously waiting for him on his usual way back home. After shooting him down, they simply dragged his corpse out of the car and drove off in his vehicle, leaving him excruciatingly bleeding ... Due to the massive anarchy and chaos in the streets of Kirkuk in the following days, it took his traumatized family ten days to discover his whereabouts. His brother Ghanim, a doctor, finally managed to find the hospital he had been taken to and discovered his body in the hospital morgue ...Some eye-witnesses think the Peshmerga intelligence had successfully targeted Hazim as a Chaldean-Assyrian, someone who would soon be an obstacle in their way towards reclaiming their “hometown”, and had therefore been tracing his daily route from work to home in the previous days.’

Whether the last assertion is true or not, it demonstrates the level of suspicion between the groups that flared almost immediately in 2003.

To read the entire report in PDF format and view the sources and bibliographies please click here.

The Assyria Advocate
with Mariam S. Shimoun


A Rose By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

“The thing I hate about an argument is that it always interrupts a discussion.”

G.K. Chesterton, English author

When I was very young, I reviled Assyrian parties. Being a little girl, the music was always too loud for my small ears, the dance lines that snaked around the ballroom always got in my way when I wanted to run around and play, and the food was never appetizing.  The best part of the night was when the clock rolled past my bedtime hour, and my mother sat me on her lap so I could sleep.  Amongst the ruckus and the laughter and the celebration around me, I had one ear pressed against my mother's perfumed chest, where her heartbeat rocked me to sleep.  The other ear was turned outward, and the sound of the Assyrian language being spoken and sung was a familiar sound. Falling asleep was never a problem then.

I never knew, as a little girl, that the safe Assyrian world around me was a mirage.  It was a temporary reality, one that would fall away, ironically, with Saddam Hussein's demise.  The new, much anticipated Saddam-free Iraq brought with it a split in my reality, in my people, in my safe world that gently rocked me to sleep. As the Assyrian nation struggles to define itself, out of frustration they turn against each other, their backs to their enemies.  It never occurred to them that a house divided, falls. Or, even if it did occur to some, it became easier to simply blame everyone else as responsible for internal division, rather than to work to restore unity.

There are some very fundamental concepts that are shattering Assyrians to their core, and without addressing them, Assyrians are left vulnerable, destined to a future disconnected from each other.  Maybe we don't see it now, but hindsight is always 20/20 - unlike the ancient Chaldeans - we have no power to see into our future, read our dreams or our destiny in the night stars. 

I have faith in Assyrians left in the Homeland – they seem to grasp what is happening around them at an alarmingly more efficient rate than us “Westernized” Assyrians. It is us, in the Diaspora – those who have left and either never been, or haven’t been in decades – that worry me.

Francesco Clemente, Untitled

The Assyrian nation is so unique, we find it difficult to search for answers to our various problems in comparative studies, history, sociology, or any other social science – we have a collective identity, while refusing to use a singular name. We have several groups which come from the same geographic area, speak the same language, identify with each other as one (“soorayeh”) yet differentiate from each other according to which Patriarch rules over their denomination. We cling to the same millennia-old history, yet look at each other and say “we are different from each other now”. I invite sociologists to study the Assyrian nation – we were the first civilization, we were pioneers on this earth in every way – and we are re-defining identity and nationalism as we live and breathe. Our religious institutions have both saved us and condemned us to “different-ness”.

It is an interesting concept Assyrians must learn to grasp – as right as 2 and 2 are 4, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Aramaens, and all other Assyrian-speaking folk are, indeed, Assyrians. To divide these people into a dozen different ethnic groups is an exercise in politics, not historical integrity. But as right as the name Assyrian is, I cannot call anyone by a name they do not choose. Anyone who thinks otherwise is illogical or stubborn. Anyone who says “who cares and to hell with them” is not a nationalist – he is exclusionary, and a nationalist does not exclude portions of his people. Being right, but being a stubborn bully, does not make a righteous guardian of an identity. We must, must, must accept it: Assyrian is the right name, but not all Assyrian people are ready for it. One cannot force a square peg into a round hole. If Assyrian nationalism will be borne into Syrian Orthodox and Chaldean Catholics, it must start with the people of the Syrian Orthodox and Chaldean Catholic Church. Not by political parties who believe the “other” identities are inferior. Much like the U.S. cannot force democracy on Iraq – so must identity be homegrown.

The question becomes, do we, who use the name Assyrian proudly, believe that those who call themselves by our Christian denominations are also Assyrians? I do. I believe they are all, every last one of them, Assyrians from the very center of what was Assyria. I cannot say “to hell with them”, because they refuse the name Assyrian. I cannot – not because it is cruel or wrong, but because regardless of their sentiments, I still believe we are one people. And I cannot tell my people they don’t matter. And no nationalist could.

There is a difference, a deep difference, between accepting Chaldean, “Syriani”, (and even the very recently invented “Aramaen”), and accepting “Arab” or “Kurdish” Christian. Arab and Kurdish are not our names. Those are distinct ethnic identities, a people with a different tongue, ancestry, history (although the Kurdish one is mostly unknown, a seeming conglomerate of Persian, Turkish, and some tribes, even Assyrian). Chaldean is our name. Syriani is our name. Whether true or false, they belong to us and no other. I don’t think the conversation regarding our national identity should stop – in fact, it needs to continue. It is difficult to have a nation torn. But the course of the conversation needs to change. In the U.S., the largest Assyrian and Chaldean Catholic organizations have united to work towards the goal of the Nineveh Plains for Assyrians in Iraq. Regardless of what they think of the Assyrian name, identity, and our churches, they are working together for a common goal.

This whole concept takes discipline, modesty, and true nationalism. Many of us love the Assyrian name and everything it means and is, and anger at the fact that we have to constantly fight for it. And it’s unfortunate. But it’s our reality as Assyrians. It won’t last forever – nothing does. In the meantime, let’s stop the arguments, so we can continue in our discussions.


News Digest
News From Around the World


Australia's MP Delivers Speech on Behalf of Assyrians

(ZNDA: Sydney)  The following is the complete speech by the Member of Australia's Parliament, the Honorable Chris Bowen, delivered on 26 February in the House of Representatives with reference to the untenable position of the Assyrian people.

The Labor MP., Mr. Chris Bowen is the Chairman of the Assyrian Parliamentary Friendship Group together with Liberal MP. the Hon. Bruice Baird:

Mr. Bowen:  I want to commence my remarks in this grievance debate with a quote. It is from one of Australia’s most respected diplomats, the former ambassador to the United Nations, a former secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and a former special envoy for this Prime Minister, Richard Woolcott. He said:

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The United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, having made such a catastrophic foreign and security policy blunder, are now trapped in a dilemma of their own making.

The starting point now must be to acknowledge the original and present errors and to decide on the most appropriate exit strategy from the appalling situating in which we chose to involve ourselves.

My grievance tonight is this government’s foreign policy failings, particularly in relation to Iraq. I raise this issue as a member of parliament who represents more present and former Iraqi citizens than any other member—a member of parliament who, on a daily basis, in my electorate office hears stories of murder, rape and the loss of human rights of citizens in Iraq.

We justified the invasion of Iraq on the basis of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction—weapons which failed to materialise. Then the government justified it by bringing democracy and freedom and prosperity to Iraq. And, as I said, every day in my electorate office I hear tales of people fleeing Iraq—fleeing persecution, fleeing a murderous regime and fleeing intolerance. The reality is, as hard as it is to believe, that these people tell me that the situation was better for them under Hussein’s brutal regime.

This was also the conclusion of the National Intelligence Estimate on the United States, which represents the conclusions of the United States’ 16 different intelligence bodies. They found that the war was clearly creating more terrorists than it was destroying. And it is the view of the United Kingdom’s Chief of the General Staff, Sir Richard Dannatt, who recently said, ‘We should get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems.’ Hugh White, the respected strategic analyst, said:

… don’t pay attention to what the Government says about what is happening in Iraq. When John Howard talks about how vital Iraq is in the war on terrorism, he is simply saying what needs to be said to support … Bush, and to justify the choices he has made to back … Bush’s policies over the past five years.

The reality is that the coalition forces were welcomed when they arrived, but they have worn out their welcome. Despite the arrogant and condescending lectures we get in this House every day from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the lectures that the Australian people receive, this is as big a foreign policy blunder as Australia has ever been involved in. Having made this blunder, the government ask us to take them on trust that they are the only ones who can fix it. The Australian people have woken up to this deception by the government. This was a policy which was based on fallacies. There was never any evidence that Hussein’s regime was linked to the September 11 atrocities, and we now know that the evidence of weapons of mass destruction was indeed scant. It is a policy, the implementation of which has been botched. Greg Sheridan has written tellingly about this:  ‘Too many civil servants were sacked. The Iraqi army should never have been disbanded and the provisional administration should have been established much quicker. And, most fundamentally, there was little contribution to the rebuilding of infrastructure in Iraq.’ As former US Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has been quoted, or paraphrased, as saying, ‘We do demolition; we don’t do reconstruction.’ The former citizens of Iraq whom I see in my electorate office on a daily basis and the authors of the letters and the heartfelt emails I receive would find that comment disgusting. The Canadian Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence recently recommended a 42 per cent increase in Canada’s military budget but a 100 per cent increase in their aid budget.

The coalition of the willing now faces a choice. We can continue on the path we are on, which will require a massive escalation of troops which, frankly, is beyond the capacity of the United States and certainly beyond the capacity of Australia and is reminiscent of the views of the Vietnam War that all that is needed is one more heave, one more push and victory will be ours. Or we can help Iraq on its way—we can help them establish an administration which protects the rights of minorities: the Assyrians, Mandaeans and Chaldeans. But the government is unlikely to go down this road because it has invested too much political capital, and a military withdrawal now would be seen as a political retreat by this Prime Minister.


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After your loan has closed I will donate $200 to the charity of your choice on your behalf. By improving your own financial position you are helping Assyrian people as well.


The Prime Minister talks about cutting and running. Last week the Prime Minister of Britain announced that 1,500 troops would be withdrawn in a matter of weeks and a further 1,500 by the end of the year. Prime Minister Howard says this is just a drawdown. Currently, Australia has 1,450 personnel deployed in support of Operation Catalyst, and some of these are used in support of Operation Slipper in Afghanistan. The best estimate is that there are 900 personnel inside Iraq. So at least double and possibly three times the number of Australian personnel in Iraq will be withdrawn by the British government by the end of the year. The Prime Minister says that this is okay but, if Australia were to withdraw our troops, it would be a disaster.

The government’s policy is fundamentally flawed. The government have created the situation where the Christian citizens of Iraq are blamed by some fundamentalist groups for the invasion. As the United States intelligence estimate stated, ‘This war has created more terrorists than it is destroying.’ It would not be so bad if the invasion had not made us less safe, if it had made the world a safer place, but it has not. A fundamentally flawed invasion has been botched, and the government have refused to use their influence to ensure that the situation is improved.

An article by Nicholas Stuart appeared in the Canberra Times last year on 17 October, which I endorse. It said this: ‘If Australia is really interested in helping the Iraqi people rather than just providing the terrorists with targets, it is time our Prime Minister started articulating a strategy for leaving Iraq.’

Last week we saw the amazing spectacle of the Minister for Defence comparing the Iraqi invasion with the Kokoda battle. Frankly, the less said about that the better. I think it was an insult to not only the veterans of Kokoda but also the fine Australian service men and women fighting in Iraq. Each month thousands of Iraqi citizens die in bloody fighting. There are half a million internal refugees. Many more have fled to Syria and Jordan. Basic infrastructure, including schools, has been destroyed. The Johns Hopkins University estimates that 650,000 Iraqis have died since the invasion. Some people question that figure, and I understand there is a debate. But, on any analysis, many more thousands of Iraqis have died than should have and, as I have said, particularly members of minority faiths, such as Christians and Mandaeans, have suffered.

This government has been negligent; however, I acknowledge the support and interest of some of the members opposite. The member for Cook and Senator Payne have been particularly vocal in their support for the cause of the Assyrian community, but the minister has refused to use the government’s influence to do anything about the plight of the Assyrians and others in Iraq.

I was drawn to the findings of a Canadian Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence which say that the war on terror in Iraq seems to have ‘inspired radicalism within the Muslim community, in places where it was not evident before’. Again, members of my community and their relatives are bearing the brunt of this war. The fact is that there are no signs that this situation is getting better.

There is no monopoly on who is suffering in Iraq. There are Shiites suffering, there are Shiahs suffering, there are Christians suffering, there are Mandaeans suffering and there are people of no faith suffering—there are thousands of people suffering. The war in Iraq is making the world less safe rather than more safe. It is making the people of Iraq less safe rather than more safe. It is time that this government recognised this fact, recognised this reality and articulated an exit strategy for the war in Iraq.

Return to Anatolia Conference Report

Report by Dean Kalimniou from Australia

(ZNDA: Melbourne)   The inaugural “Return to Anatolia” Conference held on 3 March 2007 at the Cyprus Community of Melbourne and Victoria was a great success. The conference marks the first effort of the Greek and Assyrian communities to hold joint functions that celebrate their joint heritage and commemorate and showcase their history. The importance of this ground-breaking conference as a landmark in the history of multiculturalism was underlain by the attendance, not only by the Consul-General of Greece in Melbourne Christos Salamanis and the High Commissioner of Cyprus Mr Achilleas Antoniadis but also by members of the Victorian Parliament including Judy Maddigan MP, Lili D’ Ambrosio MP, Nazih Elasmar MLC and Jenny Mikakos MLC, all of who expressed profound interest in the cultures and histories of the Christian peoples of Anatolia. The presence of Assyrian and Greek community presidents and representatives notable Assyrian Universal Alliance Australian Chapter President, Hermiz Shahin, and Assyrian Australian Arts and Literature Foundation Chairperson, Jacob Haweil, was also noteworthy.

Lectures to a packed auditorium by Aziz Mourad and Dean Kalimniou on historical perspectives of the Assyrian and Pontian sojourns in Anatolia respectively were both informative and entertaining, as was National Centre for Hellenic Studies at Latrobe University member Stavros Stavridis’ overview of the Assyrian and Armenian genocides. Dr Panayiotis Diamandis’ presentation of his research on Australian efforts to aid Armenian, Greek and Assyrian victims of the Christian Genocide, as well as his examination of the Genocide through contemporary accounts by Australian Prisoners of War enthralled the audience. As an epilogue to the conference, Neos Kosmos senior journalist Kostas Nikolopoulos provided a sophisticated analysis of the role of ethnic media in assisting the placing of ‘national issues’ in their proper perspective, coining the unforgettable phrase: “To lobby is not a hobby.”

The presentation of Assyrian and Pontian folkloric costumes, songs, poems and musical instruments did much to augment the participants’ conception of the Christian peoples of Anatolia as partakers of a unique cultural synthesis. Conference Orgnaising Committee Chairperson, Ms Sofia Kotanidis, echoed the sentiments expressed by Cyprus High Commissioner Mr Antioniadis, by announcing to enthusiastic acclaim, her committee’s intention to convene this historic event on an annual basis, in order to bring the peoples of Anatolia closer together.

Surfs Up!
Your Letters to the Editor


Mass-grave in Mardin, Turkey

Prof David Gaunt

Two weeks ago Prof. Dr. Yusuf Halaçoglu, head of the Turkish Historical Society, challenged me in Turkish media to give him an answer about a joint investigation of the mass-grave found last October in Mardin province. I answered him immediately proposing the period of 23-25 April as a possible date for a preliminary meeting and first site inspection. This was not intended as a provocation, but I made this time slot by canceling some lecture invitations to which I had already agreed.

Since then, I have not heard a word from Prof. Halaçoglu. I have written to him privately, faxed and e-mailed, but with no result. This unnatural silence leads to the conclusion that he no longer is interested in making a truly scientific investigation of the mass-grave find. What could be the reason?

In order to give this investigation some scientific legitimacy, I had suggested that an impartial international group of crime scene investigators be the first to inspect the cave in order to ascertain whether the bodies had been manipulated in any way and whether the site was intact. Only if and when they would give a clear signal would any other investigators enter. Are we forced to conclude that the site has indeed already been prepared, and that trained persons would easily discover the manipulation? In that case it would be reasonable for Prof. Halaçoglu to want to forget his invitation. At present there are few alternative interpretations to his behaviour other than that he regrets the publicity he has given this matter.

Prof. Gaunt is the author of the highly acclaimed work on the Seyfo Genocide: "Massacres, Resistance, Protectors: Muslim-Christian Relations in Eastern Anatolia During World War I" published by Gorgias Press (click here).

European Parliament Conference:  Assyrian Seyfo

Sabri Atman
Seyfo Centre
The Netherlands
19 February 2007

We are happy to announce that the GUE/NGL, European United Left/Nordic Green Left together with the SEYFO CENTER are hosting a conference about the Assyrian Genocide of 1915.

We will be discussing various topics including the perspective of Turkey joining the EU.

We would like to cordially invite you and the representatives of your organization to attend our conference in the European Parliament at Rue Wiertz in Brussels, room P7C050 on Monday 26 March 2007 at 15:00 until 17:00.

We have a limited place in the conference room and would appreciate your response to our invitation no later than three weeks before the event. We require the participants full names for booking and security requirements.

At the conference, three languages, English, German and France will be used and with the stimulant method you will chose the language you want. We don’t promise but we try to arrange Assyrian as well.

We wait with anticipation to your early response.  For more information write to info@seyfo.com.


Rev. Yosip Qelaita's Assyrian School of Mosul Project

Rev. Yosip Qelaita's Assyrian school in Mosul operated from 1920-1945; it was a remarkable school that produced the next generation of Assyrian leaders and intellectuals.

The following information was obtained from Shamasha Yosip Zia (#42), who attended the school from 1920-1923.

The school year began on November 1st and ended on May 30th. The school was co-ed, with boys and girls attending classes (in the photograph there is only one girl shown, #132); Shamasha Zia says there were many many girls in the school, but few made it to the advanced classes.

In 1921 a disagreement between Benyamin Arsanis and Qasha Yosip Qelaita arose, regarding the curriculum. Benyamin Arsanis wanted to stress history and science, particularly Assyrian history, and wanted a more secular curriculum, while Qasha Qelaita wanted a more religious curriculum. The Mar Shimoun sided with Qasha Qelaita and Benyamin Arsanis was forced to leave the school.

This photograph was taken in 1922 and shows 129 students and 5 instructors. Rev. Qelaita, a deacon (Shamasha) at the time, is the white-bearded man seated in the middle (#114).

Some of the names of these students are known, others are not. We wish to identify each student in this photograph. We also would like to compile a list of all the students that attended the Assyrian School of Mosul. If you recognize anyone in this photograph or know of anyone who attended this school, click below to send us this information.

click here to identify or add a person.  At press time 16 teachers and students have been identified.

Surfer's Corner
Community Events

Zinda Magazine asks its readers in Southern California, eligible to vote for candidates running for the Los Angeles Community College District's Board of Trustee, to show their support for two Assyrian candidates who are running for two different seats:  Number Three and Number Five.  The candidates are Mr. Jozef Essavi and Mr. Hanna Hajjar, both endorsed by Zinda Magazine for their professionalism and community services rendered in the last few years, as Assyrian activists and community leaders.  Please do not forget to vote tomorrow.

Jozef Essavi : Candidate for the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustee, Seat # 3

Jozef Thomas Essavi was elected to the Winnetka Neighborhood Council in 2005. He serves as Winnetka Senator to Los Angeles Congress of Neighborhood Councils. Jozef is a product of Los Angeles Valley College and was elected and re-elected as the ASB Union Treasurer in the 90's and was unanimously nominated from LAVC to become LACCD Student Trustee. He was able to keep student learning center open even after all the funds had been exhausted. Jozef knows the inner workings of LACCD, its flaws and positive aspects and has worked with faculty, staff and administrators in a fair and balanced fashion. He went on to receive his BA from UCR and MA from Cal State Northridge and currently is working on his PhD. He is committed to the district's taxpayers and Proposition 13 and to accountability and responsibility. He is committed to full student access to education, lower unit fees, and expanded scholarship programs. He is committed to teacher tenure rather than shuttling between campuses. He is committed to giving independence to each of the nine campuses and their administrators.

Jozef Thomas Essavi will be “a Trustee for all of us”.  Please help by voting or donating to his campaign and by visiting his website (click here).

To view Mr. Essavi's Campaign Video click here.

Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees is the largest college district in the nation with over 120,000 students, 6,000 teachers, 842 square miles of territory and $650 million dollar annual budget.

Hanna Hajjar: Candidate for the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustee, Seat # 5

The "Da Mariachi" video, Mr. Hajjar's campaign video, was featured by the YouTube Editors in their Film & Animation Category.

Press Release
1 March 2007
From the office of: Hanna Hajjar

It is my pleasure to introduce myself as one of the candidates running for the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD), Board of Trustee, Seat #5. Please view LA's certified candidates list, page #2 at the following link: click here.

I take this opportunity to invite you to visit my website (click here), as my approach to campaigning is completely different. In my website you will find something different, unique, and creative. I am an engineer, inventor, entrepreneur, artist, and the president of my Alumni, a very rare combination.

I am pioneering in a new type of online election campaigning, thought the use of online video clips; I believe that this new idea would be of interest to you. You can view my clips at www.YouTube.com at the following links:

Video Clip #1: click here          Title: Da Mariachi  (with 8360 hits at press time)
Video Clip #2: click here          Title: LACCD
Video Clip #3: click here          Title: A Quote *

Looking forward to hearing from you soon. I can be reached at: hh@hanna4trustee.com or by phone at: 818-300-4734.

International Women's Day

Shoshan Lamassu
United Not Divided Committee
London, UK

We - a network of Iraqi women’s rights organisations based in Iraq and the UK – want to draw attention to the plight of Iraqi women. We the London based, Marem Reshakh: Assyrian Women’s Human Rights are one of the catalysts behind this event, which will of course highlight the suffering of the Assyrian women along with the Iraqi women in general.

We have come together to organise an event to mark the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, 8th March 2007. In the context of what Iraqi women are experiencing in their everyday life in Iraq, we hope that this celebration of universal rights, freedom and equality, for which Iraqi women is continuing to struggle to voice their opinion courageously will be a historic event.

Since the invasion and beginning of the occupation of Iraq in 2003, our society has been driven into a state of instability, chaos and anarchy. At times like this, everyone suffers, but it is the women who are the first victims. Lack of adequate health care, clean water and electricity, unemployment, abductions, rape, sex trafficking, rise of politicized, religion, ethic, honour killings, violence at the hands of occupation forces, Islamist militias and insurgents, criminal gangs and families, as well as sectarian killings and targeted assassinations terrorise the lives of thousands of women.

In mounting this event, we want to draw attention to the outrageous situation in which Iraqi women are having to live, work and raise their families, and we also want to celebrate their extraordinary resilience and ability to go on fighting for their rights. We want to say ‘no’ to being divided along sectarian and ethnic lines and ‘no’ to the violation of women’s rights in Iraq under occupation.

Lamassu Productions Launches "Assyrian Identity – Sponsorship Tour"

André N. Anton
Producer, Lamassu Productions
Assyrian – The Struggle for Identity

By: Wisam Naoum

Real Estate-Relocation-Investment
Broker / Owner
Certified Commercial Sales Specialist
Babylon Realty
Glendale, Arizona 85310
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DETROIT, MI, Feb 14, 2007 /Lamassu Productions/ -- On Saturday, February 10th, 2007, Lamassu Productions kicked off their "Assyrian Identity – Sponsorship Tour," in Connecticut. The tour marks a significant date in the progress for the upcoming film, Assyrian – The Struggle for Identity. This process marks the transition from conceptualization to the pre-production phase. The film deals with the struggles of the Assyrian people, a people that have been subjected to various forms of discrimination and persecution since the fall of the Assyrian Empire approximately 2600 years ago, linking the cultural, historical, and political aspects of the Assyrian identity in a way to preserve and uphold an ancient civilization on the brink of extinction.

During their visit to Connecticut, producers André N. Anton and Feras Majid Shammami attended the Assyrian-American National Federation's (AANF) national meeting to promote the film project. This particular visit stands as a powerful message in regards to its symbolic nature. The AANF was founded in the early 1930s in Connecticut in response to atrocities and slaughters committed against Assyrian communities in Iraq. As being one of the first Assyrian groups founded in America, the launching of the tour at the AANF's national meeting serves as a representation of a new beginning, the formidable spirit of Assyrian perseverance and will to survive. According to Shammami, the presentation was a success:

“André and I launched our tour with tempered expectations and they were more than exceeded. The presentation led to a discussion and a truly humbling show of support. This is more evidence of the hunger that Assyrians have for exactly this type of project. Assyrian – The Struggle For Identity is truly more than a movie and we are starting to witness that in the reactions we are receiving. I believe a young man at the meeting, Ninos, put it best: 'This movie is our movement.'"

The next stop on the tour travels to the Detroit area, as the tour meets with several community organizations and media outlets. In addition to sponsorship for the movie, Lamassu Productions is reaching out to unite the Chaldean, Syriac, and Assyrian communities and to bridge the gap between the young and the old. But no matter what ethnic or religious backgrounds reside in a person, compassion and humanity must prevail to help those that are suffering.

To schedule a tour of the presentation and/or receive a sponsorship package, contact Lamassu Productions via e-mail: sponsorship@assyriandoc.com.

Call for Architectural Sketches for Assyrian Genocide Monument in Yerevan, Armenia

The Assyrian Organization of Armenia

The Assyrians of Armenia have been provided with an opportunity to erect a monument in Yerevan (the capital city of Armenia) commemorating the victims of the 1915 Assyrian Genocide. The proposed site is the lower corner of the Chamber Music Hall Park (intersection of Nalbandian and Moskovian).

Assyrian architects, artists, and other talented individuals are requested to submit ideas and concepts in the form of architectural sketches for the subject monument. The space allocated for this monument is 3 meters in width, 4 meters in length, and 3 meters in height.

All efforts have been made to create this 17-page self explanatory document to clearly define the environment where the monument will erected. If any further clarification is required, please contact us.

To view the PDF document (4 MB) click here.

NOC Iraq is Looking for Athletes

National Olympic Committee of Iraq
Director General
Tiras Odisho Anwaya PhD

The National Olympic Committee of Iraq is calling all Iraqi athletes residing outside Iraq or who are citizens of said countries to send a resume of their performance as listed bellow.

The NOC of Iraq is looking for high performance athletes to represent Iraqi National Teams in International championships and be a part of the Iraqi teams taking part in Arab, Asian, and Olympic Games.

At the moment, one male swimmer and one female swimmer are needed to represent Iraq in the World Swimming Championship and then the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008. Athletes with competition experience in the winter games are also needed.

1- Must have competitive experience in his/her sport and still in training.
2- Willing to represent Iraq in competition.
3- Has an Iraqi passport or Iraqi documents.
4- In case he/she does not have the above documents, the parents should have them.
5- NOCI will facilitate the issue of a passport.
6- A resume of his / her training experience and a list of the most recent competitions.
7- Photos of activity and any publications about his/her performance.

Contact Information:
Mobile Phone: + (964) 7903921115 / + (964) 7701954434
Telfax: (964) 15373218
E-mail: tirask@yahoo.co.uk

To read more about Mr. Tiras Odisho Anwaya click here.


Musing With My Samovar
with Obelit Yadgar


Missed Opportunities

What drew my attention was his beautiful fountain pen: black, sleek, a gold band on the cap. As we waited for our individual flights at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, I felt a kindred spirit with him because of my great love for fountain pens.

He was well dressed, in a distinct European way, and sitting across from him, occasionally I got a whiff of English lavender. It looked to me he was writing a letter. From time to time he stopped and gazed into the distance. I saw longing in his eyes.

He wrote many pages. Time passed. My flight was delayed. I stayed glued to my seat. Finally he capped the fountain pen and studied what he had written. Then he straightened the pages together and ripped them into strips, methodically, as if in slow motion. I saw dew in his eyes, but I could have been wrong.

He sat there for a long time afterward and stared into space, until his flight was called. Then he was gone, leaving me to ponder my failure to begin a conversation with him. Why didn’t I do it? I would have liked to know about him. Even found out about the letter. To whom was he writing? What was he writing? And why tear it up in the end? That picture still haunts me.

Life is a stream of missed opportunities that, unlike a roll of dice, will never again create the same combination. I think of another missed opportunity, perhaps the most profound in my life. It was not getting to know my great uncle, the writer and historian Binyamin Arsanis. We called him Mom Yameh. When I was a little boy, he was a giant. Looking back now, I wish I had been old enough to know him better. To converse with him as a mature person. Assyrian to Assyrian. Artist to artist. He could have told me so much about being an Assyrian. About being a writer.

I remember Uncle Binyamin was always hunched over a manuscript at his writing table under a big tree in his yard, fountain pen in hand. This is in Tehran, Iran, where I lived my early years. I grew up learning to read and write Farsi, whereas he wrote in our own language: Assyrian. Perhaps he could also have taught me to try my hand at writing in Assyrian. What a gift that would have been for me.

Unable to read or write Assyrian, although I speak it, I have never read what he wrote, though I remember as a youngster being taken to a performance of one of his plays. I don’t recall the play, but an image plays in my head of the curtain falling and the theatre exploding with cheers and applause as the audience shot to its feet. It must have been a good play. I want to think it was a great play.

My Uncle Binyamin was a towering figure, with a swagger reminiscent of a French Legionnaire. Yet he spoke in an easy manner, with a ready smile that softened the air around him. I think of him as the gentle warrior who rejected the sword and instead lived his life through the power of his pen. I find that to be noble.

He smelled of tarragon and basil, and of the yard where he spent so much of his time on warm days, writing, always writing. Most of all, he smelled of ink, the ink from the fountain pen that spotted his hands. Now every time I refill my fountain pen from the bottle, I can’t help but long for those times I spent with him.

Sometimes I would sit on his knee, hearing clusters of words float through him. I also heard the warm breezes that played through the flowers and the tree in the yard that he loved so much.

He would ask me things, and he would listen to what I said, nodding, as if what he heard was important. That much I do remember, especially the smile in his eyes as he regarded everything I said. Looking back, that smile told me what people say is important. What I said was important – to him. Since then I have always listened to what people say with interest and curiosity. With respect. A writer must also be a good listener. What a profound lesson to learn from Mom Yameh so early in my life.

I wonder what Uncle Binyamin and I would have talked about had I been much older at the time? Had I been a writer back then. I know I would have asked him why he suggested my name to my parents. I was named after the Assyrian king Ashur Uballit I (1354-1326 B.C.), during whose reign Assyria emerged as a powerful empire.

I am honored, of course, but I still would like to have known why name me after Ashur Uballit I? I like my name. Always have. But then why not name me after, say, Sargon II,or Shalmanaser I,or Ashurbanipal, or maybe even Tiglath Pileser? Well, on second thought, maybe not Tiglath Pileser. With America’s penchant for shortening names, I can just hear people calling me Tig for short. I’d sound like a bug. Obelit (from Uballit) was already a nightmare to pronounce for my high school teachers and classmates in Chicago, so much so that they started calling me Obie.

I know my Uncle Binyamin and I would have talked about the writer’s life, the joys and the sorrows, the dedication, the discipline, the tenacity, but most of all, the passion of putting words on paper and watching them bloom into stories.

We would have also talked about books. I don’t know what he read. Did he read Shakespeare and Goethe? Firdausi and Balzac? Rumi and Saadi? Cervantes and Dante? Did he read Flaubert, Rimbaud, and Henry James? He spoke several languages, so perhaps he did read them. My Uncle Binyamin could have told me so much more about these great writers. And about many of our own Assyrian writers.

And so it is, this lost opportunity in my life. Every time I think of it now, I also see the image of the man with the fountain pen walking away.

Editor's Pick


The Stump

Frederick P. Isaac

The Stump is the biblical term for Assyria. The Stump represents the Assyrian Nation. Assyria shall remain standing, holding fast to its original roots, awaiting rejuvenation, according to God’s will.

Creation of the compound name was brought about by imposition rather than choice.  It has widened the gap of disunity, hampering the progress of our march as one Assyrian people of different segments. As when the tree is felled, the (derivatives of the compound name) branches wither and die out.

Those who foster Assyria as the name of their fatherland, cherish it as the national name of their nation. They proudly identify themselves with the Assyrian name as their national identity, and shall continue to do so, as I do. So, help me God. You cannot serve two masters, let alone three.

Genuine derivative names come about and grow as branches from the Stump itself. As the Stump revives and grows, branches will steadily sprout and flourish. Yet, for such a Stump to rejuvenate itself and become a healthy tree, it needs the combined efforts of all the segments to bring the thriving tree to fruition. Assyria would be the fruit of all our labour, and its branches the pride of the whole tree – Stump, trunk, branches and all.

Stories of Recollections from Bet-Nahrain

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Whether on the ground, in north of Iraq,or in diaspora, the fact remains that Assyrian representatives in any government are bound, by pledge, to observe government rules and guidelines. They are required to act in accordance with the prescribed protocol of their status. On their part, helping the Assyrians is limited to the Iraqi constitution, which when compared to our natural rights, is negligible. Outside the constitution, promise of help and support by such Assyrian representatives is no more than lip service. It is rhetorical, without any substance, failing to produce any meaningful results.

Such representatives are restricted in expressing their personal views freely. Being Assyrian, does not entitle such officials to publicly supporter promote aspirations of the Assyrian populace, be it at home or abroad. This has been the case for generations. It is a fact we should accept. Other new avenues and more effective methods should be sought to improve rapprochement and unity of our move and solidarity of our combined action.

Because of the above restrictive procedures, efforts to revive the stump seem to continue to bog down, due to some hapless infantile and pretenders. They are shackled by foreign elements and influenced by their masters’ distorted teachings. Such antiquated and fabricated names of non-existent nation- status are no more than a facade or a mere medium at best.

Launching Consolidated campaigns under the historical name, give the Assyrian movement impetus and a better chance of achieving a more favorable outcome than acting under different specious names.

Brethren, wake up and sober up. You identify your nationalities with derivatives relating to Assyria, knowingly or not. Yet, when the crunch comes, you distance yourselves from the Stump – the primal name of Assyria. Such unpatriotic behaviour of withdrawal are carried out by the derivative groups, at the behest of your sectarian leaders, causing confusion, deliberately hampering the progress of the Assyrian struggle. Notwithstanding, it was on you persistent demand and willingness that you joined in, considering the Assyrian as (Akhounwathan Athurnayi) your brothers.

All Assyrians that cherish the name of Assyria as the name of their fatherland are sincere in their arduous quest for restoration of Assyria. Although their approach and method of regaining their traditional rights may vary, their ultimate objective never changes. It remains the same – i.e., restoration of Assyria to its former political status, on its soil, as it had been in the past, until Post WWI. Though under the Islamic millet provision of the Dhimmitude, the Assyrians were internally independent and recognized as such by the Ottoman Turkish Rule.

It is traditional and common knowledge to demand your rights from your usurper. In recent times, more venues have become available through which Assyrians could engage in dialogue to reach resolution of their case. No matter which method the above Assyrian organizations and parties (Shutasi and Gabbi) they pursue, or whom they negotiate with, they shall remain loyal to their main goal, as they have always been and continue to be.

They will not sway from their Assyrian objective. They will not compromise their Assyrian national name for any other unwarranted and fictitious substitutes. Assyrian we are and Assyrian we shall remain in nationality and national identity

The prominent Assyrian Universal Alliance Organization (AUA), Bet Nahrain Political Party, and the rest of the Assyrian establishments (Gabbi W-Shutasi Athurayi) of whatever persuasion they might be, are intrinsically sincere Assyrians. They are dedicated to the promotion of the Assyrian cause.

Any individual or quarter that accuses them of treachery and betrayal is a loser. He goads himself to blame his own failure on others. By behaving in this manner, the accuser is only goading himself. (Mkhaita D-Gucha Al-Urutkha Khaz-dakta Dgana eila) Goading one’s hand causes self-harm.). Nothing good comes out of inflicting undue pain, except perhaps regret for making false accusation and misbehavior.

The Assyrian organizations and national parties have been serving the Assyrian nation for the last three to four decades with sincerity, dedication and fortitude. They have served the Assyrians of all segments, irrespective of their ethnic background. They continue to do so, considering them as one people of the same ancestry of Mesopotamia. In our books, they are Assyrians.

Just because such Assyrian organizations and political parties do not support the compound name, proponents of the compound name should not look at the Assyrians as their enemy and accuse their leaders of betrayal and treachery.

The Assyrian stance of the genuine Assyrian Organizations and political parties stand firm in their stand in protecting the unitary name of Assyria. There is no need for those in disagreement to be so irritable, unless they have convincingly accepted the compound name and changed sides, for their own ambiguous reasons. We wish them luck.

Affinity to Assyria Remains at its Paramount. Assyrians welcome and support any other Assyrian segment or section that believes in the concept of Assyria as his/her national identity. If you accept being genetically, historically, by heredity, and by phratry part of Assyria, then remember that when the stump is watered and tended with care, it will revive, sprout, grow branches and thrive.    To regenerate itself, the stump needs to be brought back to life. Thus, by feeding it and nourishing it, the stump would come to life again, grow and the tree flourishes.  The stump - Assyria - of which you claim it to be no more than a mere branch, is a deliberate act of treachery, on your part, in a desperate attempt to relegate the primal name of Assyria to an epithet.

The stump needs your contribution; in alliance with the Primal name Assyria. By so doing, you are assisting in brining the Assyrian nation to reality.  Without the stump, there would be no branches. The whole lot would be gone and lost in the fold of history – stump, branches and all. It would be your end too.

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Compounding the Assyrian name will not change the fact that Assyria is a nation in its own right. I have also recently noticed the name of Assyria demoted to a third place, attaching it to the end of the compound name. By doing so, supporters of the compound name try to delude others that Assyrians proper are a mere small minority. They understate Assyria’s growing population, describing it as insignificant and unworthy of the recognition it deserves as a distinct nation.

Look at the nomad Kurds; they are in millions, made up of various ethnic groups. They do not have a script and language of their own. They speak four different dialects, foreign and incomprehensible to one another. They   never had national state-status. Yet, for fear of disintegration, they obligingly, out of necessity, cluster together, calling themselves, collectively, Kurds. They continue arrogating other peoples’ land under the fictitious name “ Kurdistan” to give their fraudulent name the impression of legitimacy in order to survive their ordeal. Their unity under one name has saved them from disintegration. It is one of the highest acts of deception that needs to be exposed and addressed, internationally.

Our brethren Catholics, on the other hand, similar to the Kurds, continue living a pretentious life, a life based on deception of being direct descendants of the ancient Chaldean rulers of old. They find it hard to swallow their pride and admit that distortion does not help and faking it does not sell.

“Chaldean?” Only recently, all the Catholic Churches, whose congregations are of the Middle East origin, existing overseas, were instructed (in about 2004 AD), to add “Chaldean” to their Church name. Was it a slip,or just a minor inadvertent mistake of memory lapse, waking up to it after centuries of neglect and carelessness? Or was it a deliberate act, of a slow process of a prolonged term of fusing all the Christians of the Middle East into the Roman Catholic crucible melting pot? In either case, our Catholic brethren, concentrated in North of Iraq, that were labeled “Chaldean” by Rome in about mid-16 th century, are genuine Assyrian in national identity. Assyrians are blood brothers and sisters of the Catholics branded “Chaldean” by the Catholic Church of Rome.

Assyrians recognize and respect all Christian denominations without exception. Yet, as Christian, Assyrians have the right to disagree with certain denominations on national identity and doctrinal grounds. To excommunicate them, as Rome has done, and deny their Catholic brethren their Assyrian national identity, is unchristian and sinful.

Both of the above mentioned fraudulent nations may try to turn the hands of the clock backwards, but they would surely bounce back.

To help resolve the outstanding name issue, cut yourselves away from old foreign entanglements, and discard them.   Though hard, accept the truth and join in, in support of the primal name Assyria.  Your “Chaldeans” are our blood brothers and sisters. We would love to see you all return to the fold in celebration of the unity of the Assyrian Nation in all sincerity.

Assyria is our name; Assyria is part of us; Assyria is with us in body and soul. A branch or a derivative does not have bearing to claim preeminence. Assyria's enemies will fail and be crushed under its voluminous history.

Solution to our problem is accepting & recognizing our Assyrian national name as the preeminent. The problem with the Assyrians is that they are embroiled in factionalism, causing disunity. In addition, Assyria lacks official recognition by the big powers and the world body of the United Nations. Recognizing our national Assyrian Identity is the solution to our outstanding problem.

The sad thing about Assyria’s misfortune is that both sides of the warring nations of World War I colluded with the Turks and Arabs, against the then non-Moslem colonized nations of Israel, Assyria and Christian Lebanon and other Christians (known as Syrianis) of the Middle East and Christian Copts of Egypt.

Deportation, nullification, deracination, were enforced on them, considering the native inhabitants of the above states as extinct, nonexistent Arab. They used the League of Nations as an authoritative and effective instrument in wiping them off the map and deracinating their native inhabitants. In the process, the warring nations changed the names of the four non-Moslem states and denied them their traditional rights.

The Allies, being members of the League of Nations and the Ottoman Turks and Arabs later joining in, schemed on annulling the existence of all the above four non-Moslem nationalities. The two sides of the warring nations concluded treaties, through the League of Nations, agreeing to uproot the non-Moslem surviving nations from their native land. Through the League, they described them as remnants of ancient kingdoms that had long been vanquished. The whole lot was handed back to the Moslems.

They were forcibly ejected from their homeland and dispersed, with a view to their gradual assimilation with the Turkish and Arab Moslem invaders and occupiers. Meanwhile, the roaming Kurds were allowed to seize Assyrian land and settle on them with the intention of urbanizing them as Moslem settlers in place of the Assyrian Christians. The Kurds being Moslem in religion, the neighbouring countries considered them as an asset.

The main objective of the two warring sides was to rob the Assyrians of their native land. They dispersed them and created new Islamic states, with a view to the gradual assimilation of the ousted Assyrians with the Islamic majority of their crucible melting pot.  

Islamic governments of the newly created countries, in the Middle East, described the internally displaced Christian indigenous people that had survived WWI, as Arab Christians. They were given specious names of denominational description such as Nestorian, Moroni, and ‘Chaldean’, Arab Orthodox etc., to minimize their number. In the process, Islamic states, in agreement with the League, annulled the national identity of the Assyrians. The Assyrians were hence described as a diminishing minority, heading towards total extinction.

Thus, newly created Arab/Islamic kingdoms and states absorbed the indigenous and original dwellers of the Middle East colonized countries. The Warring Nations established Syria (Name derived from Assyria); Iraq (from Uruk - South of Mesopotamia); and ‘Arab Palestine’, (segmented from the Biblical Land of Israel Proper).

Modern Turkey, was supposed to have been reduced to its initial size of the 1300 AD. Its original landmass was not much larger than the present State of Kuwait. It ended up being the winner, by retaining extensive territories at the expense of the non-Moslem colonized states.

The Assyrians were denied the right to their native land. They were deported with humiliation and left to fend on their own, without food, shelter or protection. They were left in a hostile environment, at the mercy of their traditional enemies.

The Assyrian tragedy of the early 20th century, perpetrated by the warring nations of Islam and so-called “Christian” Europe, was no more than a sinister ploy to eradicate the non-Moslem colonized states in the Middle East. Their objective was to destroy Israel and its Judaic religion, wipe Assyria off the map, destroy the Assyrian Church of the East, and derogate its surviving people to a diminishing minority. As for the Christian Lebanese, Syrians and Copts, they already had been categorised as Arab by adopting the Arabic language in their liturgy, custom and apparel. 

Now it is the turn of the Kurds, who have swarmed the Middle East, the Near East ( Turkey), Syria and several other neighbouring countries. Alternatively, it is too late to rein in 30 to 40 million roving Kurds, some of whom are well trained and heavily armed. The world had let loose the Kurds, while the Turks and Arabs were busy enjoying the loot, celebrating their triumph over the infidel (Kafir) Christian. Similarly, Europe was busy, heavily engaged in rebuilding its ruined economy and replenishing its empty coffers, because of the prolonged war. In addition, more concernedly was the growing danger from communism, causing political instability and threat to world democracy.

Now matters have come to a head. It is over. The honeymoon of the Turks and Arabs has now ended.  Wow to the looter, be it Turk, Arab or Kurd.  Everything has its price.  If we have to observe the old saying: "What goes up, comes down”, then it is obvious that someone has to pay for the mess caused by the culprits.

People’s rights cannot be denied forever.  There comes a time when the circle makes its full round turn and closes on those who had been acting as god and be brought to justice, whether in person or their succeeding governments.

Many aggrieved nations have been living under constant suppression and denial of their basic human rights. It has become habitual for oppressive governments to look at world’s dire condition, violence and unhappy events as normal.  Humans are behaving like brute animals.  They are losing their noble attributes, turning into savage, cruel and merciless species. I have seen animals that have more feelings for their kind than humans towards their own species do.

Deception, manipulation and bigotry seem to have taken hold of human behaviour, replacing the old noble attributes of honesty and good manners. How could a democratic country as Belgium, with its famous capital city Brussels, accept to put its name on an evil political borderline and name it - The Brussels Borderline? During ejection from their native land, the Assyrians were treated worse than cattle. It must have been a miracle than human effort to survive their ordeal. Their loss in human life was very high. Their material losses were in toto! They were left in a miserable state, with nothing except the clothes on their back.

The Allies ridiculed democracy and made a mockery of it. They decimated a nation that had lived on its soil, in present-day northern Iraq and neighbouring states of Iran, Turkey and Syria, for over seven millennia - since the dawn of history. Yet, Europe still brags of its exemplary leadership of democracy. “Amazing Grace How Great Thou Art…” for holding Your wrath against such injustices.

Assyrians often thought that Europe, mainly France and England, were the birthplace and upbringing of democracy, and as its hub, the West. I had always been of the opinion that Europe would reconsider and reach out for the aggrieved natives of the Middle East, in general and the Assyrians, in particular.  My trust in the European justice has now diminished and so has my faith in their philanthropy.  I have lost complete faith in European leadership, beginning with the Vatican Papacy in Rome to the last scoundrel leader of the European borders of Russia. 

When it comes to the Assyrian issue, they duck, bury their heads in the sand, pretending not to hear or see, about the atrocities committed against the non-Moslem nations of the Middle East.

They are still feigning ignorance of the crimes against humanity. Uprooting a whole nation from their native land of the Hakkari and Urmia regions of Assyria is an ugly crime that will remain an indelible black mark on the forehead of Europe for bringing such a tragedy on the Assyrians. 

It seems that Cain is still on the loose, running away from himself after he committed the crime of killing his brother. In the case of Cain, it was of jealousy. In the case of the side of the Warring Nations, it was purely greed.

Let us hope that the international community will reconsider our dire situation and come to our rescue. Otherwise, the whole Middle East will turn into an inferno should conditions not improve, and very soon, and remain on this scale of madness.

Europe and Islam seem to be gripped with Assyro-phobia. They have been so cruel in their treatment of the Assyrians that they shy away, and like the ostrich bury their heads in the sand. It is time they stood up and faced the reality of the situation, accepting responsibilities, and acting as responsible leaders.

Solution to the Assyrian problem is simple and straightforward. To resolve the outstanding problem, the United Nations Organization, needs to recognize the Assyrian national identity as the only historical name of the builders, owners and survivors of the capital city Nineveh of the land of Assyria.

To distort history and paly god to satisfy their ego is manifesting itself in several parts of the Globe. North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Middle East and in certain newly emerging states in Europe and South America are nearing the passing point-of-no-return to open confrontation. Some of these belligerent states are already showing symptoms of hostility, by displaying their arsenal in a show of defiance.

All Assyrians of the Middle East are historically Mesopotamian. Invaders and occupiers have turned the Middle East, in particular Assyria, as cross road to consolidate their strategic position and hold. Such intruders come to destroy rather than build. They are parasites and spongers. Since their early occupation of the Middle East in the early past century, and earlier times, they have not contributed anything noteworthy to the Middle East civilization to be worthy of praise.

Their intention was and still is to destroy Assyria rather than restore it. Labeling Assyria with obnoxious foreign names such as “ Kurdistan”or so-called “ Chaldea” with its capital Hawlair or (Baghdeide) Qaraqosh is an insult to human dignity and world historians.

Assyrians, in their various capacities have the right to negotiate with any of their adversaries to reach a resolution to the satisfaction of their outstanding issue. Other segments are more than welcome to enter negotiations and do likewise – on the principle and understanding that, being part of the Assyrian populace, their negotiations should be in consultation and agreement with the Assyrian objective. Assyria being the primal name should remain as the pre-eminent and at the paramount of all other derivatives, regardless of their place of residence location.

Assyria with its capital name Nineveh shall stand and remain so. For thus it has been written and mentioned by its Heavenly Creator in the Holy Books of our Judeo-Christian faith. Our Assyrian name is our salvation. Assyria is the crown of those who cherish the national name of Assyria.

All other segments of the Assyrian compound name are welcome to accept Assyria as the name of their fatherland. In other words, the stump remains; branches do not. Identifying one’s self with the fatherland guarantees continuance of his/her survival and existence.

Heed the Mongol Turks; they are everywhere, and no one can sway or stray them from their Mongol base root.

Assyrians, return to your root, cluster together and unite under the coalition of the Assyrian leadership. It is the way to salvation and triumph. The Kurds have done it. The Mongol Turks have also done it. Could the Assyrians do it – unite and live under one name too?

Author, Ren Hakim, is Chaldean-Assyrian and lives in Michigan.  Click image for more info.

News Too Grievous: The Assassination of Mar Shimun Catholicos of the East [1]

Translated from Assyrian by Nineb Lamassu
United Kingdom

Naum Faik

The harsh war that has been brought on to the entire world by the offspring of iniquity brings us bitter and sad news everyday. All of American newspapers write and report on the assassination of Mar Shimun Catholicos of the East and the Patriarch of the Assyrians in Persia, by the savage Kurds whose hands are weltered in innocent Assyrian blood.

He, his late Grace was assassinated whilst struggling like a brave warrior against the Kurds. The telegram of this account that is full of grief which came from the American Dr. Wineman [2] informs us the following:

“There is no news from Urmi and Salamas for a few weeks now: and other accounts that we received inform us that there is a great famine in Urmi. It is not possible to send food relief. Mar Shimun has been assassinated, and the Assyrians are still, until now, in war”.

This news which reached our ears truly distresses us because his grace Mar Shimun was the hope for all of Assyrianity. Mr. Poulos Shimun, the representative of Mar Shimun [3] , copied us on the telegram and called us to a remembrance which took place in Yonkers city.

Together with our Chorepiscopus reverend Youkhanan, we went and organised a remembrance for him according to the rights of our church. This service took place in ( St. Johns) the big Episcopal Church in Yonkers. There were more than two hundred Assyrian people from different places present, and the service commenced by a song from the people. After that Fr. Iskhaq Youkhanan rose and presented his speech, and spoke on the assassination of Mar Shimun. And then our priest, Chorepiscopus Yuhanin, together with the editor (Naum Faik), conducted a service in the Old Language [4] and after the conclusion of the service, Chorepiscopus Yuhanin gave a sad speech on the life of Mar Shimun and he based his speech on the words of the holy bible, and then the editor read a short and mournful lamentation [5] on the Assassination of Mar Shimun.

After we finished this service, Dr. Youkhanin Abraham rose and read a sorrowful and well articulated speech on the life of the late Patriarch. Then Poulos Shimun rose and spoke on the conducts of the deceased in well composed words. After that Prof. Jackson, that friend of the Assyrians, spoke words of consolation and shared this sadness with us. Thereafter the people were released and the hearts of all were full of lament and grief over this great strike that has smitten the Assyrian people.

Also on that same day there was another good remembrance on the soul of the Patriarch Mar Shimun in the Hungarian Presbytery church of Yonkers by Mr. Abraham Shlimon, and he spoke sufficiently and lengthily on the life of the deceased.

We ask God to rest the soul of Mar Shimun, that good shepherd who entrusted his life as a sacrifice for the liberation of his people. And we ask God to replace him with a very wise leader, like Solomon, to lead his people in these hard times of war. And grant peace to the world and speed the liberation of our people from the hands of their merciless plunderers, murderers, and oppressors.

The editor of Beth Nahrain issue number 6, March 1918 [6] .

Lamentation on the Assassination of Mar Shimun the Patriarch.

Read during the service organised on the soul of Mar Shimun in Yonkers city. Naum Faik, the editor wrote this poem on the departed soul of Mar Shimun and read it himself in the church.

Today a mighty worrier fell among the Assyrians
On the sadness of his fall the earth laments
With immeasurable tears in the eyes, and grief in the hearts
For the offspring of iniquity betrayed Mar Shimun the Catholicos.

What is this grievous news that has fallen upon our ears?
That the devils have assassinated our praised father in treachery
Is this a hallucination sent upon us?
Or is it a dream that troubles our eased mind?

Yes we read in the Newspapers that the Kurds assassinated Mar Shimun
Our eyes dimmed, our emotions moved and we were shocked greatly.
Woe to the oppressors that paid their neighbours back in evil.
Instead of tranquillity and in exchange of our goodwill, they faced us with the Sword.

The Shepherd was smitten the flock too was scattered
Our mind was paralysed due to this news full of tragedy.
The earth quaked and heavens quivered because of this account
Today the head of the church was assassinated by the worst of savages.

A valiant man, a warrior and a good shepherd
Sacrificed his life for the sake of his flock with a rejoicing heart
Manifested himself as a hero in this war
It is an astonishing affair; he mocked death for the sake of his nation.

For his country he offered himself as a perfect sacrifice
He became an example for martyrdom and fashioned its form
For him lament all that are in heavens and earth
Because Mar Shimun was assassinated by the treachery and ill-will of the unfaithful.

Lament and cry O Assyrians for our leader has fallen
And in the darkness of Kurdishness our sun has set
Until when will these savages trudge on our sanctuaries?
And increase our pain and add more torment on our suffering.

O Assyrians shed tears for our crown has fallen
Our light dimmed our dawn dusked and our torch extinguished
By his assassination the wormwood was prepared and our aspiration turned bitter
Again our people are oppressed and our fence destroyed, pillaged and ruined.

Grief prevails over the world today due to the news of your death
Your memory shall never depart from among us
Sadness and grief surround us because of your separation
Forever your memory will be praised in our hearts

Because of your death Assyrianity is covered in mourning
Because to us, your Assassination is an incurable wound
If Kurdishness rejoices today over your death
Our lord is ready to revenge your blood in justice tomorrow.



  1. Translated from “Beth Nahrain” magazine’s issue 6 March 1918. The magazine was edited and published by the late Malphono Naum Faik. The news also accompanies a poem also written by the late Malphono Naum Faik.
  2. The translator is not quite sure as how to transcribe the name of this doctor back into English. This is closest transcription the translator could render from the name as it appears in Assyrian.
  3. It is noteworthy to mention that this can not be Mar Benyamin Shimun’s brother who later became the Patriarch. Because Malphono Naum Faik is referring to him only as the representative of Mar Shimun and not his brother or his successor, and the other factor is that the article later goes on to state that this same Mr. Poulos Shimun attended the service which took place in America only two days after the Assassination of Mar Shimun.
  4. Here the editor is of course referring to the Edessan Assyrian the liturgical language of all the Assyrian churches.
  5. Poem
  6. The publication date of this article further confirms the fallacy of most western scholars and unfortunately that of most of Church of the East dioceses and our media outlets that followed suite in commemorating Mar Shimun’s assassination on the 16 th of March every year rather than 3 rd of March, the actual date of his assassination.

To learn more about this matter read: Lamassu, N. “The Martyrdom of Mar Shimun and other Matters” (click here).

The Dementia of Our Kurdish Neighbours

Dr George Habash
United Kingdom

The Assyrians and the Kurds, nearly, shared the same status under all the regimes that ruled in Baghdad especially those with Arab revolutionary tones that erupted in 1963 and continued to erupt until the demise of Baghdad’s version of the Third Reich in April 2003.

During my secondary school years and up to university years the Assyrians and the Kurds seemed to have a sort of undeclared empathy resulting from inner feeling that we both are the underdogs in a society that is devoid of justice, abhors equality and shuns citizenship.

The Assyrian uprising of 1933 that demanded our national rights was brutally crushed by Arab zealots still fresh in power and resulted in the massacre of thousands of Assyrians in the Simele region in August 1933. The rout of peaceful Assyrians lasted nearly one week causing destruction and exodus for no reason other than demanding our rights. With no outside assistance or even sympathy the uprising had no chance to succeed.

The Kurds launched their revolt against Republican Baghdad on first of September 1961 demanding the Kurdish national rights based on autonomy in Kurdish-populated areas. The Kurds fought the central regimes and made packs with them in cyclic pattern from 1963 until the liberation and fall of Baghdad in April 2003.

With the formation of the ‘no-fly zone’ in the north in April 1991 and the facilitation of the safe haven in Dohuk, Arbil and Sulaimaniya the Kurds assumed a sort of unrecognized autonomy that would turn into self-run region after 9 April 2003.

I would remind the reader that the districts of Dohuk, Zakho and Amadiya were parts of the province of Mosul (later renamed Nineveh) until 1969 when the crawling Baghdadi regime sliced them and bestowed to the Kurds as a new province of Dohuk in a bid to ease the Kurdish dissent and win their hearts at least tactically.

The current Dohuk province forms a geographic continuation from the plain of Nineveh and with the two combined they make the heartland of the present time Assyrian nationhood. Many people said it before and I said it myself and recently was declared by the Stockholm Conference that the present Assyrian nationhood lies between the Tigris and Upper Zab rivers and up to the Syrian and Turkish borders. No one can bargain on that and no one can change and no can utter otherwise. The Assyrian Universal Alliance in more than one statement pledged their support and approval for such a territorial demand.

Between 1992 and up to April 2003 our Kurdish neighbours seemed to have matured by the experience of their long struggle against the central regimes and have offered recognition and participation of other ethnic and ethno-religious groups in the strata of the day to day running of the affairs of the protected zone but all that illusion and decoy started to unravel once the central regime change had taken place on 9 April 2003.

All of the sudden the Kurdish ego rose miles high and the other ethnic groups in the north started to fear the sweeping Kurdish onslaught with slogans such as the southern Kurdistan running from the Syrian borders up to the Iranian borders and down to Diyala province. This is deemed a political fallacy and nothing is deemed as a Real Politick.

Moreover talks are unabated elsewhere by the proponents of a further northern, eastern and western Kurdistan which meant carving out four giant states to create a Kurdish super state from nowhere and from no historical birthrights.

Recently there appeared a debate of never existence of a Kurdish history which meant the never existence of Kurdish museums and Kurdish historical artefacts.

To start my thesis I would go to Tuesday 16 January 2007 when hundreds of Shabaks defined as ‘Shabak Kurds’ demonstrated in Arbil in front of the ‘Kurdish Parliament’ demanding to include their regions into the existing Kurdish region. The speaker of the Parliament told the rallying Shabaks that ‘the Shabaks are a principal part of Kurdistan’s people, historically, and from thousands of years and will remain so.’ This is a Kurdish political dementia.

The Shabaks are of a Persian descent who settled in the Assyrian heartland some 150-250 years ago as followers of more than one invading Shah Bek and the word Shabak never existed before and it is a new combination. The Kurds themselves appeared as mobile tribes from the time of the early Crusades. Remember the Muslim Arabs who conquered and occupied our land have only a history of 1370 years; they conquered southern Mesopotamia in 636 AD and the Holy Land in 638 AD and Egypt in 641 AD. Further examples are Arbil which fell in 1310 and Constantinople in 1453.
There are no thousands of years of history for the Arabs or for the Kurds let alone the Shabaks. This is a mere hallucination.

Prior to that demo in Arbil some Shabaks affiliated with the Kurds met Mansoor the Kurdish puppet showing their will to be part of the Kurdish region. Some Yezidis affiliated with Kurds also approve the Kurdish region and have disapproved the Nineveh plain project for the Assyrians.

Some Assyrians like Aghajan, Hariri, Hariri, Baito, Hakkari, Mansoor, Afram, Hadaya and recently Bashir Ishaq Saadi appear to be more Kurd than the Kurds themselves and advocate merger with the Kurdish region in quid pro quo, in return the Kurds will grant them government posts and lavish life styles. All these schemes are done behind the back door in order to assail the Assyrian national aspiration for our autonomous rule in the land between the Tigris and Upper Zab.

There are three types of Assyrians, genuine, enemy within or the fifth column and the apostate. The genuine Assyrians are those like you and me, the majority, who advocate the Assyrian national rights with autonomous rule in the land between the Tigris and Upper Zab rivers. The enemy within or the fifth column Assyrians are those who threw themselves on the laps of the Kurdish masters in return for posts in the Kurdish administration like Aghajan and company supported by the political theorists like Qasha and Potrous. They advocate a union with the Kurds.

The dilemma is with the third type of Assyrians, the apostates who despite being the largest group on the ground and holding an official office they simply remain ambiguous about our rights and the suffering of our people in the last four years. They speak about the ‘Administrative’ unit or area and this they argue is only two districts and one borough which meant a chunk of land from Alqosh to Bakhdida and this they suggest be tied to current Nineveh Province of Mosul run by central Baghdad. This stand is a treachery one because it denies our towns and villages in the Dohuk province and nearly means the status quo as most our towns now are run by ourselves.

This type of Assyrians is keen on 7 August every year to praise our martyrs and is ready to give more martyrs but does nothing to preserve those who are alive this generation and the generations to come.
The problem for us genuine Assyrians we cannot muster the power on the ground apart from media and lobbying but the other two groups have the support of regional Kurds and central Baghdad but once the matter of the self-rule is settled these two groups will be pushed aside by their controllers and die out. Their present role is to counter the Assyrian national tide and prevent its success.

Recently there appeared a debate about the difference in our demands whether meant Administrative Area, Province or Autonomous region. The Administrative Area does not match the Assyrian aspiration because it represents the status quo with a spin. The province should be adopted as a first stage then transformed into autonomous region in a couple of years and the central government has to alter its books to make such thing to be implemented. Why all grab but we just look, we are the indigenous people of the land

We opt for this because the development in the country in the last four years and the Middle East in the last 2-3 decades urge that. The intolerance, marginalisation and the Islamisation of the society reached alarming level that we have to administer our affairs ourselves according to our culture.
We should not bother about a central country when our people are targeted, killed and forced to leave and we should not join the Kurds who do have a noxious history and they may turn Islamists in the near future.

Recent development in Shaykhan (a district in Nineveh plain) in February 2007 is a reminder when Islamist Kurds went rampaging Yezides for a trivial reason of romance between a Muslim girl and a Yezidi.
The Kurds are obliged to live amicably with their neighbours and it will be beneficial for the Kurds to have Assyrians on their neighbourhood and the two can live together in peace and harmony for the Assyrians will not resort to aggression which is common among all Middle Eastern countries. The Kurds who loathed the past regime have to learn the lesson not to be loathed by smaller ethnic and ethno-religious groups in the region.

Ashurnasirpal II Describes Fighting & Feasting of His Days

David Gavary

The proud and sonorous words of an ancient king, echoing across 3,000 years of time from the inscribed surface of a sandstone slab, have given archaeologists a vivid, detailed picture of life in the once-great Assyrian empire. Written by King Ashur-nasir-pal II in the Ninth Century B.C., this document in stone is a priceless legacy to scholars accustomed to piece together the pattern of the past from lifeless relics. Here, in boastful phrases that might have been spoken by a modern-day king, great events are described by the man who made them happen.

The city of Nimrud ( the Biblical Calah), where the inscription lay buried, is a low mound near the Tigris River In Bet-Nahrain (today’s Iraq). For many years diggers have Probed its ruins to learn of the high civilization that once flourished there. But many fascinating details of that civilization remained unknown until early 1950s, when an expedition from Iraq’s British School of Archaeology and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art found the stone inscription. Translated by D. J. Wiseman of the British Museum, it proved to be a narrative by Ashur-nasir-pal himself of how he triumphed in the field, rebuild his city and summoned guests to a fabulous feast in his honour.
Transposed into colloquial English by M. E. L. Mallowan, the expedition’s leader, the king’s own words are published for the first time.

The King’s own Narrative

“I Am Fearless In Battle” he wrote. 

This is the Palace of Ashur-nasir-pal, the high priest of Ashur and King of Assyria, favourite of high Ashur and beloved by him.

My father and my grandfather were Kings of Assyria before me and were powerful in their time. I trust in Ashur my god, there is no prince that can match me in strength and wisdom. I am the shepherded of my people, Fearless in battle, faire in judgment and generous in wealth. In Battle I am like unto a great flood that none can withstand.

With the help of my god Ashur, I established my power in the plains and in the hills. I received tribute, took hostages and established my authority from the river Tigris to the mountains of Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea. The north countries as far as Armenia is submitted to me, I control the eastern passes as far as their horizons, I control my southern frontier I annexed a number of Babylonian fortresses. Wisdom has been granted me in good measure no less than the glory of power, for the god Ea who is lord of the waters that flow under the earth, has endowed me with understanding. Thus it came to pass that I changed the face of the ancient mound of Nimrud and gave it a new lease on life. I dug down to water level and laid the foundations for my new buildings, which I set up on a solid platform 120 courses of brickwork in depth.

To establish a dwelling in which my royalty might take pleasure, I built an eight-winged palace and adorned it with various kind of costly wood: box, cedar, cypress, pistachio, tamarisk and other varieties….I covered the woodwork with bronze and fitted bronze bolts and hinges on the doors. Over the doors I set sky-blue glazed bricks which depicted the mountain and seas that I had crossed, and the booty I had won in war by the glorious might of my arms.

I took a multitude of persons whom I had captured during my campaigns in the mountains to east and north of Assyria, and together with a host of men from Hittite country west of the Euphrates I settled them in Nimrud.

I dug a canal which ran from the banks of the river Zab into my city, and to do this I had to cut through sheer rock.

I named it ‘Canal of Abundance.’ I planted gardens in the meadows which I had irrigated between it and the river Tigris. I dedicated the city to my god Ashur, in the temples made offerings of all kinds of fruits and vines. From the strange lands in which I had traveled, up hill and down dale, I gathered trees and seeds wherever I saw them. Here is the list thereof: cedar, cypress, box, pine, physician’s ointment, juniper, several kinds of oak and willow, date palm, tamarisk, laurel, polar, Amongst the fruit trees: date palm, mulberry, bitter almond, pistachio, pomegranate, loquat, pear, quince, plum and vines. There was lilac, aloe, castor-oil plant and frankincense of the southern deserts. The flowers were like the stars of heaven in a garden of delight. In Nimrud, my royal capital, I not only endowed the gods with temples where none had been before, but also redounded and Re-established many others…. And set up gleaming bronze statues at the gates, and decorated them with red gold and precious stones.

I inlaid the shrine of my lord god Ninurta with gold, and to right left of it set up Lapis Lazuli tablets beneath which were golden images of terrible snakes. I appointed festivals in honour of the god during the months of February and September , for these occasions I ordained brilliant pageants, plenteous offerings, libation and incense.

In this temple I dedicated to the god a statue was fashioned of red gold and precious stones.  I restored the neglected cities which had fallen into decay….and resettled them with many peoples. I built massive storehouses at the borders of my empire. I ordered provisions to be kept in them to meet military and civil needs. Ninurta and palil, gods of the chase to whom I am endeared because I am their priest, gave me authority over the beasts of the field and urged me the hunt. I slew 450 mighty lions and in my hunting chariots ran down 390 wild bulls and 200 ostriches as easily as if they had been caged. Amongst the animals that I succeeded in capturing alive were 30 noble elephants. 50 wild bulls, 140 ostriches and 20 lions. From two of my governors in Syria I received five wild elephants as tribute and took them along with me as I marched. I collected herds of bulls, lions ostriches and apes, male and female of the species, in order that they multiply in the land of Assyria and yield increase like unto the people that I had gathered there.

When I declared open the palace of Nimrud, I invited into it Ashur, god of gods, and all the gods in the land. The palace with its adornments was the joy of my heart, for embodied within it was all the skill of Nimrud.

(then follows a long list of food and drink which were offered on that occasion)

1,000 head of barely-fed oxen, 1,000 young cattle and home-grown sheep, 14,000 head of common-stock sheep, 200 head of oxen and 1,000 fat sheep from the herds of the goddess Ishtar, and 1,000 lambs. 500 head of deer and 500 gazelles. 500 geese, 500 fowls and two other varieties of game in quantities of 1,000 apiece. 10,000 pigeons, quail and sand grouse. 10,000 fishes. 10,000 eggs. 10,000 loaves of bread. 10,000 measures of best quality mixed beer, pomegranate juice and grapes.

(After this comes a list of garden produce, fruits and condiments. There then follows of census of the city and the number of men and women invited to the feast.)

47,074 able-bodied men and women. 5,000 high officials from abroad including men from Syria and Ethiopia. Also Hittites, Armenians, men of Tyre, Sidon and others. 16,000 slaves from Nimrud. 1,500 high officials engaged in the administration of my palaces.

For 10 days I feasted these happy peoples of all the lands together with the people of Nimrud. I wined, bathed, anointed and honoured them and thereafter sped them to their homes in peace and joy.

In Search of Gilgamesh

Book Review:  "The Buried Book:  The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh" By David Damrosc

Courtesy of the Wahshington Post
4 March 2007
By Michael Dirda

(ZNDA: Washington)  The oldest surviving fragments of the Babylonian epic we now call Gilgamesh date back to the 18th century -- the 18th century before the Christian era, that is, more than 3,700 years ago. Etched in the wedge-shaped letters known as cuneiform on clay tablets, Gilgamesh stands as the earliest classic of world literature. Surprisingly, it is a classic still in the making, for scholars continue to discover and piece together shards -- in Akkadian, Sumerian, Hittite and other ancient languages -- that occasionally add a few more lines to this story of an ancient Middle Eastern king's quest for immortality and his coming to terms with the inevitability of death.

In The Buried Book, David Damrosch, a Columbia professor of comparative literature, organizes his text as an archaeological dig, opening with a prefatory account of Austen Henry Layard's discovery and excavation of the ruins of Nineveh in the 1840s, then gradually working his way back from the Victorian era into ancient times. His first and second chapters describe the career of George Smith, a self-taught Assyriologist, who one momentous afternoon in 1872 was working at the British Museum, going through a pile of Layard's clay tablets. Suddenly, Smith realized that he was reading about "a flood storm, a ship caught on a mountain, and a bird sent out in search of dry land."

The discovery of this "Chaldean account of the Deluge" so electrified the young scholar that he danced around the museum and actually began to "undress himself." (No one is quite sure if that meant anything more than loosening his collar.) Smith had stumbled across an episode (in Akkadian) from Gilgamesh, becoming the first person to read a portion of the epic in more than 2,000 years. But stumbled is hardly the word, for Smith was nothing less than a linguistic genius, the unexpected man in the right place. As Damrosch writes:

"He became the world's leading expert in the ancient Akkadian language and its fiendishly difficult script, wrote the first true history of the long-lost Assyrian Empire, and published pathbreaking translations of the major Babylonian literary texts, in between expeditions to find more tablets in Iraq. Though this would have been the lifework of an eminent scholar at Oxford or the Sorbonne, Smith's active career instead lasted barely ten years, from his mid-twenties to his mid-thirties. Far from holding a distinguished professorship, he had never been to high school, much less college. His formal education had ended at age fourteen."

Smith's career -- cut short by his death in the Middle East from dysentery -- was heroic, but so was that of his older colleague Henry Rawlinson (to whom Smith dedicated his 1875 book The Chaldean Account of Genesis). Rawlinson was a figure in the classic Victorian mold -- a military officer in India and Persia with a flair for languages, possessed of exceptional courage and stamina, both physical (he once rode 750 miles on horseback in 150 consecutive hours) and scholarly: He spent 15 years patiently working out the meaning of Akkadian cuneiform, then later produced one of those daunting monuments of Victorian scholarship, the five-volume Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia.

The third great figure in Damrosch's story of the rediscovery of Gilgamesh is Hormuzd Rassam, a Chaldean Christian who served as Layard's second-in-command, attended Oxford and later headed up archaeological expeditions for the British Museum. According to Andrew George, a leading modern figure in Babylonian studies, Rassam is "an unsung hero of Assyriology." Why unsung? Damrosch -- no doubt rightly, if somewhat tendentiously -- points to racial, i.e. "Orientalist," prejudice as the reason for his neglect. Rassam wasn't really, you know, quite the right sort, even though he grew to be more English than the English, serving in the diplomatic corps and living long enough to see his daughter become a star of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. But Damrosch makes clear that the man's wide-ranging archaeological discoveries were consistently undervalued or callously ascribed to others. At the end of his life, Rassam was even compelled to bring a suit against the Egyptologist E.A. Wallis Budge, who falsely accused him of selling artifacts.

At this point in his book, Damrosch turns to the excavation of the library of Ashurbanipal, an Assyrian king of the 7th century B.C. who valued poetry as well as power. Here, we are introduced to the court life of ancient Mesopotamia, in particular the priests, sorcerers and secret agents who formed the inner circle of such rulers as Sargon II, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal himself. Damrosch neatly conveys the immense antiquity of the Gilgamesh epic by noting that the poem "was already ancient in Ashurbanipal's day, copied and recopied for more than a thousand years before the young crown prince studied it in the Temple of Nabu."

In the last third of The Buried Book, Damrosch zeroes in on the poem itself, noting that " Gilgamesh is often read today as an existential tale of the fear of death and the quest for immortality, but the epic is equally a tale of tyranny and its consequences." It also reflects on "the limits of culture . . . presented in contrast to the world of nature." This is its plot:

The young Gilgamesh is a "wild bull" of a man, restless of heart, full of unfocused energy. He conducts his life with seigniorial abandon, abusing his subjects and even flagrantly exercising his right to sleep with girls on their wedding nights. The women of his capital city of Uruk complain to the gods, who decide to fashion Enkidu, a true wild man, to defeat Gilgamesh in combat. At first the hairy Enkidu lives in a state of nature, literally running with the gazelles, until he is sexually initiated by a temple prostitute, after which the animals of the forest will have nothing to do with him. When he eventually confronts Gilgamesh, en route to deflower another virgin, the pair wrestle and nearly demolish the surrounding buildings, before becoming fast friends (and even perhaps lovers).

In due course, accompanied by his new buddy, the restless Gilgamesh goes adventuring, defeats an ogre who guards a sacred cedar wood, spurns the sexual invitations of the goddess Ishtar and kills the monstrous bull she then sends to avenge her honor. But Gilgamesh and Enkidu have now deeply angered the gods, and one of them must pay with his life. After Enkidu suffers a series of dream visions of the nether world, he finally dies, as Gilgamesh is racked with both grief and the fearful knowledge that the same end waits for him. Can nothing be done? He resolves to journey to the ends of the earth to confront Uta-napishtim, a Noah-like figure who alone of mankind survived the great Deluge and has been given the gift of immortality. In due course, Gilgamesh crosses the Ocean of Death but learns that no one can alter his mortal destiny. Nonetheless, a fragment -- outside the so-called "standard" version of the epic -- informs us that Gilgamesh is ultimately allowed to become the godlike judge of the underworld.

In his last chapter, Damrosch discusses some later uses of the Gilgamesh story, focusing on Philip Roth's The Great American Novel (in which a major character is a baseball pitcher named Gil Gamesh) and Saddam Hussein's novel Zabibah wal-Malik, a kind of love story-cum-allegory of the first Gulf War. In particular, the comparatist Damrosch urges his readers to understand that they are part of an "Islamo-Christian civilization." " Gilgamesh and The Iliad, the Bible and the Qur'an were not products of isolated, eternally opposed civilizations; they are mutually related outgrowths of the rich cultural matrix of western Asia and the eastern Mediterranean world. Isaac and Ishmael are half brothers, and Uta-napishtiM and Noah are closer still: they are two versions of one and the same character."

Though useful, entertaining and informative, The Buried Book may bother some readers with its lack of a strong narrative line, its tendency to overemphasize irrelevant details (why include so many pages on Rassam's diplomatic mission in Abyssinia?) and its well-meaning political correctness: Damrosch can sometimes seem as condescending to the narrow-minded Victorians as they so often were to "Orientals." Despite these blemishes, The Buried Book should help introduce new readers to an ancient classic that has really come into its own in the 21st century. Whether enjoyed in the brilliant (but very loose) version of David Ferry or the scholarly transcription of Andrew George, this Babylonian epic remains a very human story about wisdom painfully acquired. Appropriately, its hero is called, in the memorable first line, "He who saw the Deep." And what does Gilgamesh learn? Before the end that awaits each of us -- "a man's life is snapped off like a reed in a canebrake" -- we should perform good deeds, love our families and enjoy simple pleasures. As Uta-napishtim says, in Andrew George's translation:

But you, Gilgamesh, let your belly be full,
Enjoy yourself always by day and by night!
Make merry each day,
Dance and play day and night!
Let your clothes be clean,
Let your head be washed, may you bathe in water!
Gaze on the child who holds your hand,
Let your wife enjoy your repeated embrace!
For such is the destiny [of mortal men].


Assyrians at Their Best

Zinda Reporter Awarded Excellence in Multicultural Affairs

(ZNDA: Sydney)  The Bracks Government has recognised over 160 individuals and organisations from across metropolitan and regional Victoria [Australia] for outstanding service to the state’s multicultural community at Government House.

The event, hosted by Professor David de Kretser, Governor of Victoria, was attended by more than 500 members of Victoria’s multicultural and multifaith community.

George Lekakis, VMC Chairperson was once again pleased to welcome all of the recipients and their guests to the ceremony.

“I commend the recipients here tonight. They have shown dedication and worked hard to welcome newcomers to our community that strengthens our reputation for being a harmonious, inclusive and tolerant society,” Mr Lekakis said.

The VMC established the Excellence Awards in 2002 to recognise and reward the contributions of individuals and organisations that promote the social, political, economic and cultural benefits of Victoria's multicultural community.

Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs, Mr Telmo Languiller , Minister for Local Government, Richard Wynne, and Victorian Chief Commissioner of Police, Christine Nixon joined Mr Andrews and the Governor in presenting awards.

Zinda Magazine reporter, David Chibo, was presented the ‘Award for Meritorious Service in the Community’ which recognises the outstanding achievement of an individual or community group that have demonstrated an exemplary commitment to the service of Victoria's multicultural community. The award was for his 4 month of volunteer work conducted in Iraq as well as exemplary journalism for Assyrian publications including Zinda Magazine.

Further information about the awards can be found on the VMC’s website (click here) or by phone at (03) 9208 3184.

Thank You
The following individuals contributed to the publication of this issue:

Broula Adde New Jersey
Dr. Matay Beth Arsan Holland
Alda Benjamen Canada
James Daniel Canada
Mazin Enwiya Chicago
Marcel Josephson California
Ramsen Odisho United Kingdom
Stan Shabaz Washington, DC
Hermiz Shahen Australia
Benyamin E. Yalda Chicago
William Warda California

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