Origins of Easter
Maggie Yonan & David Gavary
What does the word Easter mean? It is certainly not a Christian word or name. What does this word Easter have to do with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
Easter, like all Christian holidays and festivals, has its origins in the Assyrian religion, and the word comes from the name of the ancient Assyrian Mother-Goddess, Ishtar, who was also called Semiramis and Inanna. Ishtar is the female equal of Ashur, and at times Ishtar and Ashur are the same and equal in strength and in length, yet their distinction remains to the extent that Ashur is the Sun , (Bahra) and Ishtar the moon. Therefore, Easter is nothing more than ISHTAR, one of the titles of Beltis, the queen of heaven, whose name, as pronounced by the people of Nineveh, with that now in common use. That name, as found by Henry Layard on the Assyrian monuments is Ishtar, the Moon Goddess of love, fertility, and war.
In Assyria, the Spring Festival of Akitu, (the Assyrian New Year) celebrated around the Spring Equinox, (usually March 20 or 21) lasted 12 days and ushered in the Festival Of Ishtar, (today’s Easter.) celebrated on the first Sunday, after the first moon, after the vernal equinox. As the Akitu celebrates the resurrection of nature during spring-time, the Festival of Ishtar was the religious celebration of the fertility and pregnancy of the Mother-Goddess, who bore them all, as well as the resurrection of her Son/Husband, Tammuz, the “incarnated son of God.” The pre-Christian Assyrians at this time of year would be celebrating the increasing of the Sun following the spring (vernal) equinox. This is the time in which the amount of darkness and daylight are the same in duration. Following that day the amount of daylight would steadily increase, a little each day. This increase of daylight in the spring brings about summer and makes crops thrive, thus the association with fertility (eggs, rabbits, etc.). Hence the association is always to Sunday, to celebrate the increasing of the God of the Sun on the Sun Day.
The Assyrian Queen Semiramis, also called Ishtar, was known as the “Queen of Heaven” and this queen of heaven is mentioned in the Bible, (Jeremiah 7:18): "Ishtar,” which is pronounced "Easter" was a day that commemorated the resurrection of one of their gods that they called "Tammuz", who was believed to be the only begotten son of the moon-goddess, Ishtar.” This clearly indicates that the Assyrian trinity of Semiramis, Nimrod, and Ninos, became the new trinity of Assyria, also known as Ishtar, Baal, (also called Bel, Belus, Pelus, Pel and Beltis, and Nimrod) and Tammuz. In other words, depending on the times in which we lived as ancient Assyrians, the Assyrian trinity was Semiramis, Nimrod, and Ninos, and later they refer to this trinity as Ishtar, Baal, and Tammuz. Tammuz is the Akkadian equivalent of the Sumerian Dummuzi, Inanna’s husband.
From the stories of the flood, which have been left to us by the ancient Assyrians, we find that in those ancient times, there was a man named Nimrod, who was the grandson of one of Noah’s, (Utnapishtim) sons named Ham. The story tells us that Ham had a son named Cush who married a woman named Semiramis, (Z’emir amit-meaning the branch bearer). Cush and Semiramis then had a son and named him "Nimrod." When Nimrod died, he was resurrected as the son of God, Ninos, (which means “the son” also known by the title of Tammuz, the “savior”).
The Bible tells of this man, Nimrod, in Genesis 10:8-10 as follows: "And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Akkad, and Calha, in the land of Shinar."
Nimrod became a God-man to the people and Semiramis, his wife became the powerful Queen of ancient Assyria. Both were deified and became God and Goddess, as in the Eastern tradition of deification of any king and queen, who represented God on earth. Nimrod was eventually killed by an enemy, and his body was cut in pieces and sent to various parts of his kingdom. Semiramis had all of the parts gathered and told the people that Nimrod had ascended to the sun and was now to be called "Baal," the sun God, (a deity fashioned after Ashur).
Queen Semiramis also proclaimed that Baal would be present on earth in the form of a flame, whether candle or lamp, when used in worship. Semiramis claimed that she was immaculately conceived. She taught that the moon was a goddess that went through a 28-day cycle and ovulated when full. She further claimed that she came down from the moon in a giant moon egg that fell into the Euphrates River. This was to have happened at the time of the first full moon after the spring equinox. In other words, not only “God” was conceived during the Akitu, but the Mother-goddess, as well, and as we already stated in the article entitled Origins of Christmas, (Zinda Janucary 8, 2007 issue) Akitu means “building Life On Earth”. Thus, it is the Assyrian religion who transfers divinity to earth, building a life for Mankind in an earthly paradise.
Semiramis became known as "Ishtar" which is pronounced "Easter," and her moon egg became known as "Ishtar's" egg." The egg became a symbol of fertility and life for the ancient Assyrians, and spread throughout the world. The ancient Druids bore an egg as the sacred emblem of their order. In Greece, the egg was celebrated as part of the nocturnal ceremony consisting the consecration of Bachus, the same as it was in Assyria for Ninos/Tammuz. The Hindu fables celebrate their mundane egg as of a golden color. The people of Japan make their sacred egg to have been brazen. In China, even today, dyed or painted eggs are symbols of sacred festivals, the Persians use died eggs as of one of the 7 symbols in the Nawrooz celebration..
Since the “divine” kings and queens of Assyria had to be conceived on the Akitu, the Vernal Equinox, or first day of spring, there was a waiting period, (the 12 days of Akitu) plus one week, for the conception to be fertilized. This period would confirm the fertility and pregnancy of the mother-goddess. Thus, on the first day of the Festival of Ishtar, (Easter) the Assyrians hung dyed eggs from the temple walls, signifying the fertility of Ishtar. Similarly, in ancient times, eggs were used in religious rites of the Egyptians and were hung in their temples for mystic fertility purposes, as in the Assyrian tradition. From Egypt, these sacred eggs can be distinctly traced to the banks of the Euphrates. The classic poets are full of the fable of the mystic egg of Assyria, and thus its tales are told by Hyginus, the Egyptian, the learned keeper of the Palatine library at Rome, in the time of Augustus, and writes, “An egg of wondrous size is said to have fallen from heaven into the Euphrates. The fishes rolled it to the bank of the river, where the doves having settled upon it, and hatched it, out came Venus,” (who earlier was called the Assyrian Goddess Semiramis/Ishtar). Hence, the egg became one of the symbols of the Assyrian Goddess Semiramis/Ishtar, and Semiramis became known as the “dove” and her son Ninos/Tammuz became known as the “son of the dove.” This title transferred to Jesus, as well, and Jesus became known as “broona d’Yona.”
The meaning of this mystic egg of Ishtar in one of its aspects had reference to the ark during the time of the flood, (which is what Semiramis’ name means “the branch bearer” and because she was the first queen after the flood) in which the whole human race were contained, as the chick is enclosed in the egg before it is hatched. Thus, the egg of the Euphrates is the ark of humanity, through which Mankind is delivered to earth, through the mother-Goddess. The Assyrian name for egg is Baitha, which is also the word for house. The egg floating on the waters that contained the world, was the house floating on the waters of the deluge, with the elements of the new world contained in its bosom. The coming of the egg from heaven evidently refers to the preparation of the ark by express appointment of God, and the same thing is implied in the Egyptian version of the mundane egg, which was said to have come out of the mouth of God. The egg, in Assyria was seen to be connected to the Assyrian Goddess Ishtar, who bore them ALL, so the greatest blessing to the human race, which the ark contained in its bosom was Ishtar, who was the great civilizer and benefactor of the world. Eggs, then, are an obvious symbol of birth and rebirth. In the eyes and mind of men, they seem to be a miraculous springing forth of life from a cold and dead object. Mithras ( Persia), Tammuz, (Assyria), Re (Egypt), Brahma (India) and P'an Ku (China) all were said to have been born from eggs.
Another emblem of Easter, which was associated with the Assyrian Goddess, queen of heaven, was the Rimmon, (pomegranate) as Ishtar is also depicted holding an egg and at times a pomegranate. She is thus, frequently depicted in ancient medals, and the house of Rimmon, in which the king of Damascus, the Master of Naaman, the Syrian, worshipped, was in all likelihood the temple of Ishtar.
The pomegranate is a fruit that is full of seeds, and for that reason, it was seen by the Assyrians, as a vessel in which the germs of the new creation were preserved, when the flood had ravaged the earth. Rimmon, the “fruit of knowledge” and Ishtar the Goddess, were nearly synonymous, both of which were called IDA, (pronounced eeda). Now IDA, in ancient Assyrian language, had two meanings: 1) Festival, and 2) knowledge. To this day, the Assyrians call festivals Ida, which is also the word for knowledge, (Idaia). This is why Ishtar, to the Assyrians was the Mother of Knowledge, of “good and evil.” Consequently, the pomegranate was the original fruit of knowledge, not the apple. Ishtar, was not only worshipped as an incarnation of the Spirit of God, but was also the mother of Mankind.
It is to Ishtar, the mother of knowledge and Mankind, that the ancient people looked, and from whom they gained knowledge and blessings connected with that knowledge. Otherwise, Mankind might seek knowledge in vain, from HIM, who is the father of light, Ashur, from whom comes down every good and perfect gift. Thus, Ishtar is not only the “mother” who bore them all, and the mother who civilized the world, but the mother who mediates between Ashur and mankind, (their children).
As Semiramis claimed to have not only been conceived by Immaculate Conception, she claimed that even her son, the son of God, Ninos was also conceived by immaculate conception. When Semiramis was deified, she began to be called Ishtar, and her son Ninos became known as Tammuz, (called Dummuzi by the Sumerians). The story of Ishtar is the same story as of Semiramis. Ishtar, like Semiramis conceives on the spring equinox, and she proclaimed that it was the rays of the sun-god Baal, that caused her to conceive. The son that she brought forth was named Tammuz. Now Ninos became Tammuz.
Tammuz was noted to be especially fond of rabbits, and they became sacred in the ancient religion, because rabbits represent fertility, as well, and Tammuz was believed to be the “son of the Sun-God, Baal.” Tammuz/Ninos, like his supposed father, (Nimrod) became a mighty hunter. The day came when Tammuz was killed by a wild pig, on the summer solstice, in the month of Tammuz. Queen Semiramis/Ishtar told the people that Tammuz was now ascended to his father, Baal, and that the two of them would be with the worshippers in the sacred candle or lamp flame as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Semiramis/Ishtar, who was now worshipped as the "Mother of God and Queen of Heaven," continued to build her mystery religion through the ancient fables. The queen told the worshippers that when Tammuz was killed by the wild pig, some of his blood fell on the stump of an evergreen tree, and the stump grew into a full new tree overnight. This made the evergreen tree sacred by the blood of Tammuz, which is why an evergreen was carried inside every Assyrian household on December 25 th. On the winter solstice when the “Son of God” was born, and it is the same tradition we practice today, during the Christmas season, (please refer to the Origins of Christmas article in Zinda’s January 8, 2007 issue).
She also proclaimed a forty day period of time of sorrow each year prior to the anniversary of the death of Tammuz. During this time, no meat was to be eaten. Worshippers were to meditate upon the sacred mysteries of Baal and Tammuz, and to make the sign of the "T"(sign of the cross) in front of their hearts as they worshipped. They also ate sacred cakes with the marking of a "T" or cross on the top. Every year, on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, a celebration was made to honor the mother that bore the son of God, (Ishtar/Semiramis) and to commemorate the death/resurrection of her son, Ninos/Tammuz. It was Ishtar's Sunday and was celebrated with rabbits and eggs, the way we do Easter Sunday today. Ishtar also proclaimed that because Tammuz was killed by a pig, that a pig must be served on that Sunday. Many families bake hams at Easter time, even today.
Cakes bearing a cross-like symbol, representing the pair of bull-horns on the moon-goddess, Semiramis/Ishtar, were offered by ancient Assyrians on the Friday, (Good Friday) before the festival of Ishtar, and were called kha-bon. They have been mentioned in classic literature as early as the days of Cecrops, the founder of Athens, which was 1500 years before the Christian era, “One species of sacred bread,” says Bryant, “which used to be offered to the Gods, was of great antiquity, and called Boun.” Diogenes Laertius, speaking of this offering describes the chief ingredients from which they were composed, saying, “They offered one of the sacred cakes called Boun, which was made of fine flour and honey.”
The cakes which the Greeks offered to Astarte and other divinities were called boun, from which the word “bun” is derived. The so-called Prophet Jeremiah takes notice of this kind of offering when he says, “The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven.” The hot cross buns are no longer offered in Britain, but are eaten on the festival of Astarte. Jeremiah 44:19 confirms these Assyrian traditions, when he writes, “and when we burned incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings unto her.”
Since Semramis/Ishtar declared the worship of Baal and Tammuz was to be done by light, (candle or lamps) the Assyrians celebrated their Easter Festival with lamps and candles, paying tribute to the resurrected son of God, (the SUN) on Easter Sunday. This tradition carried into Catholicism, which is why the Madonna and child are set up in a niche, and they must have a lamp to burn before them, and if mass is to be celebrated, though in broad daylight, there must be wax-candles lighted on the altar. If a grand procession is to be formed, it cannot be thorough and complete without lighted tapers to grace them. The use of these lamps and tapers comes from the same source as all the rest of the Papal rites, Assyria.
That which caused the "Heart," when it became an emblem of the incarnate Son [Bel/Tammuz] to be represented as a heart on fire, required also that burning lamps and lighted candles should form a part of the worship of that Son/Sun. This tradition carried into Zoroasterian religion, as well as Egyptian. Every Egyptian on the same night was required to light a lamp in front of his house in the open air. This was an act of homage to the Sun that had veiled its glory by enshrouding itself in a human form. When the Yezidis of Assyria, to this day, once a year celebrate their festival of "burning lamps,” that, too, is to the honor of Sheikh Shems, or the Sun. Now, what on these high occasions was done on a grand scale was also done on a smaller scale, in the individual acts of worship to their God, (Ashur), by the lighting of lamps and tapers before the favorite divinity. In Babylon, this practice had been exceedingly prevalent, as we learn from the Apocryphal writer of the Book of Baruch (Chapter 6, verse 18). "They (the Babylonians)," he says, "light up lamps to their gods, and that in greater numbers, too, than they do for themselves.”
In the Catholic Bible, if we look in the 6th Chapter of Baruch, we will find confirmation that the Pre-Christian Assyrian practice was to light lamps or candles before their deified kings and queens. I would venture to say that if you enter virtually any Catholic Church, you will find statues of Mary, Jesus or various saints that have candles lit before them, as in the Assyrian tradition. This practice has no Christian or Jewish origin, it is strictly Assyrian, and honors Ashur, the sun and light of the world.
What do we make of the Catholic "blessing of the new fire" on the evening before Easter Sunday, from which so many candles are lit? Is it not obvious that its origin is in the Assyrian god of fire, and sun, whose emblem is a flaming heart, and whose titles are Baal or Tammuz? The "blessing of the new fire" is an adopted Pre-Christian practice that honors the new strength of the Sun as evidenced by the increasing daylight and lessening night after the Spring Equinox and this has been plainly admitted by Catholics.
In ancient times, fires were lit on top of mountains, (the way the Yezidis of Assyria still do to this day) and had to be kindled from new fire, drawn from wood by friction. The fire was then used to bake cakes in sacrifice to Semiramis, the “Queen of Heaven.” This practice , along with burning incense, was used in conjunction with baking the cakes and is mentioned specifically in the Bible, (1 Kings 11:8, 2 Kings 17: 7-16, 2 Kings 18: 4, 2 Kings 23:4-15, Isaiah17:8, Isaiah 27:9, Ezekiel 8:7-12, Jeremiah 7:16-19, Jeremiah 44:19, 25.
By now, the readers should have made the connection that the religions of the world are based on the ancient Assyrian religion, which has infiltrated the contemporary "Christian" churches, and further study indicates that the entire Roman Catholic System is based on the Assyrian belief system, most of all
The truth is that Easter has nothing whatsoever to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We also know that Easter can be as much as three weeks away from the Passover, because the Pre-Christian holiday is always set as the first Sunday after the first full moon, after the spring equinox. Some have wondered why the word "Easter" is in the King James Bible. It is because Acts, chapter 12, tells us that it was the so-called “evil” King Herod, who was planning to celebrate Easter, and not the Christians. Passover and Easter sometimes coincide, but in some years, they are a great distance apart. But the truth is that the forty days of Lent, eggs, rabbits, hot cross buns and the Easter ham have everything to do with the ancient Assyrian religion and nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity!
These customs of Easter honor the resurrected Tammuz, the son of Baal, who is Ashur reincarnated, and is still worshipped by the entire world as the "Rising Sun" and his house is the "House of the Rising Sun." How many churches have "sunrise services" on Ishtar's day and face the rising sun in the East? How many will use colored eggs and rabbit stories, as they did in ancient Assyria?
In the Assyrian tradition, the 'savior' Ninos/Tammuz and later Mithras by the Persians, was worshipped in spring with ancient rites, because he was conceived during the spring equinox. According to legend, Tammuz lived for forty years, and lent of 40 days was to honor each year of his life. Tammuz was killed by a wild boar, on the summer solstice, during the killing heat, signifying the death of nature. Semiramis/Ishtar, buried him in a cave, with a heavy rock so that no one was able to lift the rock. Three days later, she went to her son’s grave, but the heavy rock had lifted, and no one could find the savior. From this tradition we get the Easter Egg Hunt, where we are trying to gather eggs which are the symbol of fertility and birth and rebirth of Ninos/Tammuz. Each year, during the Ishtar Festival, six weeks of fasting “lent” was observed by the ancient Assyrians to honor the weeping of the mother of the savior, the son of Semiramis/Ishtar, who was Tammuz. He is dramatically resurrected on Easter Sunday. This mourning of Tammuz is specifically noted by Ezekiel in the Bible, (Ezekiel 8:13-15).
Many religious practices originated in Assyria with Semiramis and Nimrod. Many names were used for this deified god and goddess as people scattered from Babel, (Bab-El, the gate of God). Names for the "Mother Goddess" included: "ISHTAR" (where we get "EASTER"), Eostre, Cybele, Astarte, Ostera, Eastre, Wife of Baal, Ashtaroth, and Queen of Heaven. She was frequently worshipped as the goddess of fertility, a "Mother Nature," goddess of spring, sexuality and birth. She was also worshipped as a mediator between god and man.
There are several sources of evidence of Ishtar (Easter) and Tammuz worship in the Bible. Let us examine some of the quotes from the Tanakh (referred to as the "Old Testament" by most Christians) where the people of Judah and Jerusalem still worshipped Ishtar as the Queen of Heaven even during Jeremiah’s time, (much to his disgust): Yirmeyah (Jeremiah) 44:16-19, “As for the word you have just spoken to us in the name of ADONAI, we will not listen to you.17 Instead, we will certainly continue to fulfill every word our mouths have spoken: we will offer incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we have done, we and our ancestors, our kings and our leaders, in the cities of Y’hudah and the streets of Yerushalayim. For then we had plenty of food; everything was fine, we didn’t experience anything unpleasant. 18 But since we stopped offering to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything, and we have been destroyed by sword and famine.”19 (Then the wives added), “Are we the ones who offer incense to the queen of heaven? Do we pour out drink offerings to her? And did we make cakes marked with her image for her and pour out drink offerings to her without our husbands’ consent?”
The Bible is full of such tales about the worship of Semiramis/Ishtar, but she is mostly referred to as Queen of Heaven. In fact, the Bible tells us that even the people of Jerusalem, in Jeremiah’s time and Ezekiel’s time worshipped Tammuz, as stated above, where both of these so-called prophets write about Jewish women “weeping for Tammuz on the steps of the Jerusalem temple” (Ezekiel 16:14). In the same chapter, Ezekiel states, “women wept for Ishtar’s son, Tammuz.”
Did you ever wonder why Good Friday is recognized as the day Jesus died and Sunday as the day he arose but yet had trouble explaining how he could thus be buried for three days and three nights? (Matthew 12:40, Matthew 27:63, Mark 9:31, Mark 10:34.) The answer is simple: He didn't actually die on "Good Friday." The Assyrians offered cakes to Ishtar on the equivalent of the day we know as Good Friday. When the established church wanted to appease the ancient and Pre-Christian people in order to "convert" them to Christianity, they moved the dates accordingly. Jesus was said to have actually died on the day of Preparation of Passover Week, which that year occurred on Wednesday (John 19:14, 31-34). Thursday was the Sabbath of the Passover. Friday, Christ was still in the tomb. Saturday was the "regular" Sabbath. Jesus is claimed to have risen after the Saturday Sabbath was concluded, which was the first day of the week, the day we know as Sunday, (Mark 16:9, John 20:1). Moving the calendar is a trick practiced by most Christian churches.
Pascha is most commonly translated as Passover, and of the 29 times this word appears in the New Testament, only on this one occasion is it translated as Easter. Today, Easter is by far the most commonly used term for the day of the resurrection, but would the disciples have recognized the term and used it in connection with the resurrection of Christ?
The Feast of the Nativity of St. John is set down in the Papal calendar for the 24 th of June, or Mid-Summer Day. The very same period was equally memorable in the Assyrian calendar as that was the most celebrated festival of Tammuz. It was at Midsummer or the summer solstice that the month called in Assyria by the name of Tammuz began, and on the first day, June 24 th was particularly designated as the grand festival of Tammuz. Centuries later, when the Papacy sent its emissaries over to Europe, towards the end of the sixth century, to gather the “pagans” into its fold, this festival was found in high favor in many countries. What was to be done with it? They couldn’t have waged war against the non-Christians, as this would have been contrary to the famous advice of Pope Gregory I, who declared that the Christians should meet the “pagans’ half way, and to bring them into the Roman Church.” The Gregorian policy was carefully observed and so midsummer’s day, that had been hallowed by Pre-Christians to the worship of Tammuz, was incorporated as a sacred festival in the Roman calendar. However, the question still remained as to what to call this festival after it was admitted into the Roman Church. To call it by its old name of Bel or Tammuz would have been too bold. To call Easter by the name of Christ was also not possible, in as much as there was nothing of the sort in the history of Jesus. The Papacy decided to call it in the name of Christ’s forerunner, John the Baptist. John the Baptist was claimed to have been born six months before Jesus. When therefore, the festival of the winter solstice had already been consecrated as the birth of the “savior” it followed, as a matter of course, that if his forerunner was to have a festival at all, his festival must be at this very season, for between the 24 th of June and the 25 th of December, that is, between the summer and the winter solstice, there are just six months. For the purpose of the papacy, nothing could be more opportune than this, to the extent that one of the many sacred names by which Tammuz was called, when he was resurrected, after being slain, was Oannes. The name of John the Baptist, in the old language was Joannes. To make the festival on the 24 th of June, suit Christians as well as “pagans” alike, all was needed was just to call it Joannes, and the Christians would think they are honoring John the Baptist, while the “pagans” were still worshipping their old savior, Oannes or Tammuz
After Tammuz was killed, he takes refuge in the sea. When Tammuz reappears as part of the Assyrian trinity, he reappears as Oannes, the fish-God. Jesus was identified with the fish the same as the Greek God Bacchus, as was the ancient European God Dagon, and all those “Gods” who came after Tammuz.
The worship of Bel, (Baal) Tammuz, and Ishtar, (Beltis) was very early introduced into Britain, along with the Druids, “the Priests of the Groves.” Some have imagined that the Druidical worship was first introduced by the Phoenicians, ( Penighayeh or Peghayeh = Amphibious name given to the Assyrian Navy Force) centuries before the Christian era, traded to the tin mines of Cornwall. However, the unequivocal traces of that worship are found in regions of the British islands where the Phoenicians never penetrated, and which has left an indelible mark, which must have imprinted on the early British mind.
From Bel, the first of May is still called Beltane in the British Almanac, and the English have customs still lingering to this day, among which prove how exactly the worship of Bel or Moloch, (both are titles for the same God) had been observed even in the northern parts of the English Islands. Every year on Beltane, the first of May, a number of British men and women gather at an ancient Druidical circle of stones, near Crieff. They light a fire in the center, and each person puts a bit of oatcake in a bonnet. They all sit down and draw, blind-folded, a cake out of the bonnet. One piece has been previously blackened and whoever gets that piece has to jump through the new fire and pay a forfeit. This is in fact, part of the ancient worship of Baal. Baal and his consort Astarte were not only worshipped in Britain, but adored, and the April festivities of Easter are derived from the Assyrian ancient religion.
European households at Easter, fill their homes with lilies, which is the symbol of Ashera, (another name for Ishtar). Ishtar was frequently represented as a nude woman striding a lion, holding lilies (symbol of fertility) with one hand and with the other hand holding a snake, (symbol of fecundity). Henry Layard found another sculpture of a nude Ishtar, minus the lion. She holds in one hand a bunch of lilies, and the other hand a group of snakes.
The ancient Assyrians believed that wearing new garments on the Festival of Ishtar is a symbol for renewing their life, and this tradition brings good luck throughout the year, which is why we dress ourselves and our children in new clothing on Easter.
Spring has been, and is, the season for much merry-making and fun, with an emphasis on sexual fertility. New Orleans’ famous “Mardi Gras,” or Rio de Janeiro’s “Carnival”, or the Bahamian “Junkanoo” are examples of Spring Festivals. These festivals in the Christian world end at Lent, when forty days of penitential fasting ensue before Easter itself.
This fertility aspect of the season may be sublimated by the "Easter Dance" or "Spring Prom" found in many educational institutions of the English-speaking world. But many Christian Churches, in the early days of Christianity, could not agree on the date of Easter. This was the primary disagreement between the Celtic (Culdee) Church and Rome for many years, with the Celtic Church keeping the holiday on the fourteenth day after the paschal moon (according to the rule of the Council of Arles in 314 CE, and in spite of St. Augustine and the "Synod of the Oak") and the Roman observing it between the fifteenth and twenty-first. This was pretty much settled at the famous Council of Whitby in 664 CE, with Aldhelm, the Bishop of Sherborne, persuading the Celtic Christians in Cornwall to conform to the Roman usage in the early part of the eighth century CE.
The seven day week was developed in Assyria ca. 2300 BCE, and consisted of days to honor the five visible planets and the sun and moon. Their week consisted of: Shamash (Sun's day), Sin (Moon's day), Nebo (Mercury), Istar (Venus,) Nergal (Mars), Marduk (Jupiter) and Ninurta (Saturn.) The names we use today in the English language are borrowed from the Norse deities associated with the same planets: Sun's Day, (Sunday) Moon's Day, (Monday) Tiu's Day, (Tuesday) Wodin's Day, (Wednesday) Thor's Day, (Thursday) Freya's Day, (Friday) and Saturn's Day, (Saturday).
Achara S refers to Tammuz as the savior god worshipped in Jerusalem, as the “savior/fertility sun god who annually died and was resurrected” and uses words to hint that he is represented by the Apostle Thomas. She remarks, “it is said via the indication that Thomas preached to the Parthians and Persians, that this somehow conveys that these groups were followers of Tammuz. Walker’s Women’s Encyclopedia states that Tammuz was Adonis, and the following characters combine Jesus and Tammuz:
Tammuz’ identity as a shepherd, and his death and “raising” as Robert Price puts it in Deconstructing Jesus, (86). The god Tammuz was known as a Sumerian god of Fertility, (Dummzi) and of new life, (ImT, 28) earlier than 3000 B.C. He was indeed known by two of the names above: He was called a shepherd, (it is not surprising for any leading figure whether political or religious, to be called a “Shepherd”. Tammuz was also called a “healer” and regarded as a savior, but Langdon notes, (Lang TI, 34) those who referred to Tammuz by these names “do not have the spiritual doctrines which these words have in Christianity”.
Tammuz healed medically, but as Langdon reminds us, “every deity, male or female, possessed this power, “so Tammuz is no different, or unexpected for a God, true or false.” Tammuz saved but not from “sin”. He saved from starvation and physical death, when he came back to life every spring, and resurrected the crops.
This leads to the death and return to life of Tammuz, and there is indeed one, and it is called a “resurrection.” Smith, in the Origins of Biblical Monotheism (112) notes that the means of Tammuz’ return to life is unknown, but the description points to “his participation in a ritual in which the dead were invoked and then temporarily manifested.” The Tammuz cult was centered in his marriage to Ishtar/Inanna, and it was her lamenting of his early death that women imitated, (as in Ezekiel’s descriptions).
Scholars of religion and of Tammuz recognize that the biblical and the mythological stories, are all but one story: The description is always of God’s Conception, (the sacred marriage rite of the Akitu on the vernal Equinox) and God’s birth on the Winter Solstice which is nine months later on December 25, and his death on the Summer Solstice, in the dead of heat of Tammuz, and later resurrection as the son of god on Ishtar’s Day, the “Sun Day” of the vernal Equinox. Some cities in Assyria celebrated the Autumnal Equinox to complete the HOLY cycle of planting, reaping, feasting, rejoicing in the miracle of “BUILDING LIFE ON EARTH” which is what the Akitu is all about!
Tammuz’ death occurs at the end of spring, (on the Summer Solstice) and corresponds with the natural cycle of vegetation. In Deconstructing Jesus, Robert Price takes aim at Jonathan Z. Smith, the noted scholar of religion, for declaring Tammuz a non-parallel to Jesus, and it is at this point that he accuses Smith of “taking up the cause of Christian Apologists” .in order to discredit James Frazer. His argument implies the assertion that Tammuz is “good enough” to cite as parallel, because in his opinion, “it is “ and people like Smith are too blind to admit it.
Some religious scholars have also written that the mourning women of Judah and Jerusalem didn’t eat of grain because “it is the body of Tammuz.” We have also seen religion scholars make Tammuz symbolization with Tau, T, as a parallel to the cross, especially because the ancient Assyrians crossed their hearts to queen Shamiram/Ishtar and offered to her hot cross buns, marked with the sign of the cross, reserved for the mother of the “savior” “Queen of heaven,” Semiramis/Ishtar/Inanna).
The reference in Jerome about Tammuz and Jesus’ birth cave is equally remarkable. It is to be found in the Epistle of Paulinus 58:3 of Jerome’s letters, where Jerome says, “from the time of the Hadrian to the reign of Constantine, a period of about one hundred and eighty years the spot which had witnessed the resurrection was occupied by a figure of Jupiter, (Tammuz) while on the rock where the cross had stood, a marble statue of Venus, (Shamiram/Ishtar) was set-up by the heathen and become an object of worship. The original persecutors, indeed, supposed that by polluting our holy places, they would deprive us of our faith in the passion and resurrection. Even my own Bethlehem, as it is now, that most venerable spot in the whole world of which the psalmist sings. The truth had sprung out of the earth was overshadowed by a grove of Tammuz that this Adonis, and in the very cave, where the infant Christ had uttered his earliest cry lamentation was made for the paramour of Venus, (Shamiram/Ishtar).”
Tammuz is resurrected every year at this time, and it should remind everyone, not just the Assyrians, how lucky we are to be renewed every year, and to be part of these great cycle, (Gighla) contributing to the building of life on earth.
Happy Ishtar Sunday to all Assyrians around the world.
Forget 2007: for Iraqi Assyrians this is 6757
Courtesy of Agence France Press
(ZNDA: Arbil) Forget 2007 - this is 6757 for Assyrian Christians whose ancestors carved the cradle of civilisation, ruling the magnificent Assyrian and Babylonian empires before scattering into an ever-dwindling minority across the Middle East.
Flocking to the relative haven of Iraqi Kurdistan rather than the ancient capitals of Nineveh and Babylon, which are awash with violence in modern-day Iraq, Assyrians began the most important event in their calendar on April 1.
Wearing colourful traditional dress, men, women and children parade through the streets and dance, hailing the arrival of spring, budding trees and blossoming flowers in early seasonal warmth before the punishing heat of summer.
"We will celebrate for 12 days as we did in Babylon and Ashur," said Nissan Beghazi, chairman of the Assyrian Cultural Centre in the city of Dohuk, which is this year a focal point of celebrations for the first time.
Officially banned by successive regimes in Baghdad, including under the late Saddam Hussein, Assyrian Christians in northern Iraq have openly celebrated their new year in autonomous Kurdistan since the 1991 Gulf War.
"Celebrations are being held in Dohuk with people coming from Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk. For security reasons it was difficult to do that on the Nineveh plain," said Akad Murad, spokesman for the Assyrian Democratic Movement.
The festivities began on April 1 with a parade outside the Virgin Mary Church in Dohuk -- a far cry from the private and secretive manner in which Assyrians say greetings were exchanged under Saddam.
Holding flags and colourful feather plumes, men in black hats thronged the streets with women kitted out in traditional beaded headdress and flowered dresses, as onlookers and their children looked on.
The traditional line-up also includes parties and gathering to listen to poets who recite the story of creation.
Another custom still practised in Chaldean-Assyrian villages is planting wheat or barley seeds in vases some weeks before April, putting them on the window sill, and watching seedlings grow as a symbol of new life.
"After the March 1991 uprising, our people resumed celebrations on this historic day after years. In 1992, the Kurdish parliament decreed April 1 an official holiday, but it hasn't been implemented," said Berghazi.
But behind the festivities lie fears for the future in a country where mass emigration has badly hit the Christian minority that enjoyed a relatively protected status under Saddam.
"Our celebrations this year come with our people facing killings, kidnappings and displacement. Our cultured and skilled people are facing the brunt of this violence," said a statement from the so-called Mesopotamia Federation.
Mass emigration has seen Iraq's Christian community slump to around 600,000 out of a total population of 27 million.
The same Christian organisation also expressed hope that Christian migrants would return one day to live with the rest of their Iraqi brethren in peace.
Two elderly Christian women, one in her 80s and the other in her 60s, were shot dead when gunmen broke into their house in Kirkuk late last month in the restive northern oil capital.
Until the Assyrians converted to Christianity in the first century and accepted the Gregorian calendar, they celebrated on March 21 - a date still marked by Kurds and Arabs, and Iranians as new year or the start of spring.
The Christian Victims of Iraq
Courtesy of the Telegraph
(ZNDA: London) Holy Week is a time when Christians think of the crucifixion of Jesus. This year, they should also be meditating on another crucifixion: that of a 14-year-old boy, nailed to a cross by Islamists in Iraq.
Assyrian Christians, who belong to the Syrian Orthodox Church and a number of other small, ancient Churches, worship in (and sometimes speak) the mother tongue of Jesus, Aramaic. A few weeks ago, I had the honour of attending the liturgically rich and strange Syrian Orthodox Vespers in Westminster Cathedral.
I don't know if the Christian teenager who was crucified in Basra last October knew Jesus's language, but by the time the Islamists had finished with him he certainly knew a great deal about his suffering.
The West's lack of interest in the fate of the Assyrians is disgusting, as you can read in this brilliant article by Ed West in the Catholic Herald. Here is how the piece starts:
"When they cook a dish in the Middle East, it is traditional to put the meat on top of the rice when they serve it. They kidnapped a woman’s baby in Baghdad, a toddler, and because the mother was unable to pay the ransom, they returned her child – beheaded, roasted and served on a mound of rice.
"The infant’s crime was to be an Assyrian, but this story, reported by the Barnabus Fund, went unnoticed in the West, like so many other horrific accounts of Christian persecution in Iraq. Since the invasion of Iraq, Muslim militants have bombed 28 churches and murdered hundreds of Christians. Last October, Islamists beheaded a priest in Mosul in revenge for the Pope’s remarks about Islam at Regensburg."
The botched Allied intervention in Iraq has made the plight of the Assyrians infinitely worse - let us be in no doubt about that. But Western apologists for Saddam Hussein should note that it was his vile dictatorship that began the ethnic cleansing of Assyrians.
"Saddam destroyed over 200 of our towns and villages, but with our very limited resources, we have rebuilt hundreds of homes," says a spokesman for the Assyrian Aid Society.
But, unless the conscience of Western Christians is diverted from facile gestures such as apologising for the slave trade, the charity's efforts will be in vain.
Assyrian Engineer Kidnapped in Amiriyah
Courtesy of the EasternStar News Agency
(ZNDA: Baghdad) On Tuesday, 3 April at 1:30 pm, Fredrick John Shimshon Al-Bazi, an Assyrian engineer, and an expert in mineral resources was kidnapped by unknown armed militias as he was returning home from his office in Amiriya, Iraq.
Al-Bazi was born in 1943 and completed his postgraduate studies in civil engineering in the United Kingdom. He served his country since 1967 as an academic in Baghdad and Al-Mustansiriya Universities. He was an executive director of one of the main bureaus concerned with irrigation and reformation, and as deputy minister for Iraqi Mineral Resources.
According to eyewitness reports Al-Bazi was kidnapped by fully covered and armed individuals riding an Opal car. They also reported that he was beaten severely before he was taken away.
Kurdish Militia Abduct, Torture Assyrian Men in North Iraq
Courtesy of the Assyrian International News Agency
(ZNDA: Mosul) Based on reports by the Assyria National Assembly, in the early morning of March 22 a group of Kurdish soldiers abducted James Al-Bazi from his house in the Tel Keif district in North Iraq.
Mr. Al-Bazi, Assyrian, was blindfolded and severely beaten for 90 minutes. He was released later in the morning. No reason was given for his arrest.
Mr. Al-Bazi was involved in a minor scuffle with his friend, who some say reported the incident to the Peshmerga (the Kurdish militia). Community leaders have discounted this and say that the Peshmerga does not involve itself in the affairs of the Assyrian people in their villages and is not a police force. Assyrians point out the actions of the Peshmerga undermine the police force.
Three other Assyrians in Tel Keif and other Assyrian areas were also arrested and beaten, under pretense of not carrying their identity cards when standing next to their homes.
KRG Declares 3-Day Holiday for Easter
Courtesy of the ADN Kronos International
(ZNDA: Arbil) The Kurdish parliament in north Iraq proclaimed three days of official holidays for the Christian Easter celebrations. In an interview Romeo Hakkari, Secretary General of the Democratic Party of the House of the Two Rivers - a Chaldean-Assyrian-Syriac Christian party active in northern Iraq said he was thrilled. "It will be an occasion for Christians to visit their families" he said. Christians in the capital however are celebrating without outward display, for fear of attacks, and many churches have been closed.
As a politician, Hakkari said he was convinced that "there is a well prepared plan to force Christians out of Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Kirkuk and from other cities where the insurgents are operating."
He recalled the "attacks on churches, the restrictions imposed on Christians, the kidnapping of young girls, or their murder because they did not wear the veil."
The situation in the north, Hakkari said, is "completely different" and Christians are "safe in going about their lives normally."
"In Kurdistan our conditions are secure and we enjoy significant support from the Kurdish leadership. We do not face religious discrimination but we have requests as a religious community that we would like to see enshrined in the Kurdish constitution" Hakkari said.
Hakkari was optimistic that this could be achieved. "The Kurdish people who have suffered under racist regimes in the past will not oppress another people."
He criticised the new Iraqi constitution saying that it did not guarantee their rights sufficiently and "oppressed us more that Saddam Hussein did." He pointed out that "a grave error was made in the Iraqi constitution in that our people were divided into 'Chaldeans and Assyrians' while we represent a single Chaldean-Assyrian-Syriac people. This denomination represents the guarantee of our unity as a distinct national community" he added.
The vicar of the Chaldean patriarch in Iraq, Shilimon Warduni, said that "Christians in Iraq are in principle free to carry out their religious rights but they are living in an anomalous situation because of the escalation of violence and the lack of security."
"This means the celebrations must be squeezed into the morning and afternoon - not the evenings as is tradition - because of the curfew, " Warduni added, pointing out though that this is a problem shared by their Muslim brothers.
Many Christians started leaving Iraq in the 1990s when sanctions were imposed on the country. After the US invasion and the fall of Saddam that continued, Christians left for Syria, Jordan and Turkey as the country hurtled towards civil war.
The number of Christians who have remained in Iraq is unclear. The last Iraqi census in 1987 counted 1.4 million Christians - the current estimated are between 500,000 and 800,000.
Despite Gunfire & Bombs Christians Attend Mass in Mosul
Courtesy of the AsiaNews
(ZNDA: Mosul) Holy Week began with the sound of gunfire at Mosul’s Holy Spirit Parish Church. In this place, where religious services are held in an underground hall for security reasons because the church’s windows have all been blown out by bomb blasts and never replaced, the faithful pray and hope non-stop knowing that every time they attend mass could be their last one.
Last Sunday, Palm Sunday, three car bombs exploded during the afternoon Eucharistic celebration at a distance of about 1.5 kilometres but the blast was heard in a 35 kilometre radius.
“The building suffered no damage nor did any faithful get hurt. Everyone was scared but no one ran away. And the parish priest (Fr Ragheed Ganni) continued the mass in the underground,” said some of the parishioners.
Some 250 people had come for mass that day, some of whom after the car bombs went off.
At the same time a nearby police station came under attack just before the readings.
“Bullets were flying all over the place, but we remained claim. Fr Ragheed consoled us and urged us to place our trust in God and accept these difficulties as a test of our faith,” those present said.
“At this point, we felt like Jesus when he entered Jerusalem knowing that the Cross would be the consequence of His love for man,” Fr Ragheed said. “So we offered our own suffering as a token of love for Jesus.”
The police station is so close to the church that it represents a risk factor for the Chaldean community and all local residents. It is often threatened and targeted.
“Two weeks ago the Iraqi National Guard post had received threats, but the agents did nothing to prevent the attacks. It almost seems that they are using the church and civilians as a shield,” people say in town.
The area around the parish church, which was recently hit in other attacks, has become a no-go zone. On March 15 two bombs fell on the church during an attack against the police station; the same thing happened on March 30.
“We expect a final attack against the National Guard post any day,” Fr Ragheed said. “But we won’t stop celebrating mass even if we have to stay underground where it is safer. The strength my parishioners have shown has been a source of encouragement for me in making this decision.”
“It’s war, a real war but we hope to bear the Cross until the end with God’s grace,” said another Christian.
Finally, Fr. Ragheed on behalf of his parish sent ‘Easter Greetings’ to the rest of world, especially to the Pope, “who always holds the Iraqi people in his heart.”
We Must not Let This Ancient Church Slide into Oblivion
Courtesy of the Catholic Herald
Since the invasion of Iraq, Muslim militants have bombed 28 churches and murdered hundreds of Christians. Last October, Islamists beheaded a priest in Mosul in revenge for the Pope’s remarks about Islam at Regensburg. But never let it be said that jihadis do not have a sense of ironic humour: that same month they crucified a 14-year-old Christian boy in Basra.
The latest report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that two million Iraqis have fled since the invasion, and almost a third of these are Assyrian – who are down from 1.4 million in Saddam’s Iraq to fewer than 500,000 today.
The Assyrians are one of the world’s oldest civilisations. Their empire collapsed in 612 BC after four and a half millennia of civilisation; Rome was still a village and the Angles and Saxons were a thousand years away from forming a partnership. Now, while one of the world’s oldest Christian nations faces extinction at the hands of Islamic extremists, the West does nothing.
Albert Michael and Eva Shamouel are the British representatives of the Assyrian Aid Society (AAS). Both fled Baathist Iraq as children, joining Britain’s 8,000 strong Assyrian community based in west London. “I was brought up in an area of Baghdad called Dora before coming here when I was six,” says Albert. “Dora was entirely made up of Assyrian Christians, but then the Baath party came along, and Saddam moved Arabs in to break up the concentration.” Now the whole city, particularly Dora, is a no-go area.
The AAS was founded in 1991 after Saddam moved his troops into the region commonly known as Kurdistan, although it is also the historical homeland of the Assyrians. A few members of the Assyrian Democratic Movement formed an emergency relief group to help those most in need of food, water, medicine and blankets, the first humanitarian charity to reach those refugees. “Since then we have raised $4.2m [£2.1m] from our own efforts,” says Albert. Most comes from America, but the British branch has recently become more organised, receiving official charitable status last summer.
“I still remember this image of a woman holding a child fleeing for her life in 1991,” says Albert. “The BBC interviewed her, and she was referred to as a Kurd, even though she was speaking Aramaic. Everyone was labelled a Kurd.”
Aramaic is the language of the Assyrians, who are also referred to as Syriacs, Chaldeans or ChaldoAssyrians. “We have five different churches, several dialects, and three different names, but we are one people,” Albert stresses. Aramaic is also, of course, the language of Jesus and was spoken (with an American accent) in Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ.
Albert and Eva’s forefathers have been Christian since at least the second century, and helped to spread the Word as far as China. Their history has been one of struggle. They survived the Muslim Arab invasion of the seventh century, and centuries of Turkish rule, a period that culminated in the genocide of 1914-1918, known as the Sefyo (“sword”). While Turkey remains in a state of denial about the murder of one million Armenians, the rest of the world is largely unaware that as many as 750,000 Assyrians and 200,000 Greeks were also butchered on the orders of the Turks, largely aided by the Kurds.
Assyrian groups around the world recently wrote to Sylvester Stallone after it was announced that he is making a film about the Armenian Genocide. “We hope Sly doesn’t forget us,” Albert says.
After Iraq was created with the help of the Assyrians – nicknamed “Britain’s smallest ally” in the First World War – they suffered persecution at the hands of the Arabs, who accused them of being conspirators with their imperialist fellow Christians. The1933 massacre of 3,000 civilians in Dohuk, northern Iraq, inspired the Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin to coin the word “genocide”.
Now, Arab militants have almost cleansed southern Iraq of Assyrians, and in the north, Kurdish extremists are behind numerous unpublicised murders. “The Kurdish authorities don’t even want to recognise us – they call us ‘Christian Kurds’ ” – an irony that would not be lost on their compatriots over the border, officially labelled “Mountain Turks.”
The plight of Christian women is especially grim.
Eva points out: “A lot of women, both Christian and Muslim, are forced to cover their heads, whereas before you could go out without being intimidated, or having acid thrown on your face.”
Albert explains that it was unheard of for Christian women to turn to prostitution before. “But now there are numerous accounts in Jordan and Syria, and all out of desperation to feed their children.
Some are selling their body parts, kidneys, but the worst case I heard was a woman with two children who had given up hope of feeding them. She ended up selling her children to Muslims.”
The women – often widows – are not allowed to work, while the West refuses to shelter them, finding their existence an embarrassment to Britain and America.
The AAS raises the money in the West and hands it straight to compatriots in the Middle East, with minimal administration costs (readers will also be pleased to know they cannot afford “charity muggers”). The funds pay for schools, housing, medical clinics, farming machinery, irrigation projects and other vital basics. “Saddam destroyed over 200 of our towns and villages, but with our very limited resources, we have rebuilt hundreds of homes.”
But their main hope is for a Christian administrative area in the Nineveh Plains, once their ancient capital. Without this protection, their numbers will shrink until they will reach a tipping point.
Soon, Assyrian civilisation may only exist in the British Museum, where their monuments still draw tourists from around the world. In the year that Britain agonises over its past role in the slave trade, it is inaction – on the part of a nation that both created and destroyed Iraq – that now threatens to blacken our country’s name.
To help the Assyrian Aid Society, send cheques to Assyrian Aid Society, PO Box 2173, London, W5 1YU. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ancient Christian Community in Turkey Looks to the Future
Courtesy of the Turkish Daily News
(ZNDA: Midyat) The Syriacs in southeast Turkey are celebrating Easter, with high hopes for the future. There are approximately 2,000 Syriacs left in the hilly region around Mardin and Midyat in southeast Turkey, bound in by the Tigris to the north and east, and by the Syrian border to the south. Most villages of Tur Abdin are desolate and decayed. Approximately, 300 to 400,000 Syriacs from Turkey live in Europe.
The area is called Tur Abdin in the Syriac language (Aramaic). It is an ethnic and religious mosaic where four languages (Turkish, Arabic, Kurdish and Syriac) are spoken.
Syriacs are Christians whose gospels are written in Aramaic.
Troubled recent history
During the government's efforts to flush out the PKK from the area in the 1980s and 90s, many Syriacs were caught in the crossfire and forced to abandon their villages, seeking a better life in Europe and the United States. Many suffered direct intimidation and outright violence from Kurds who wanted to occupy their homes, they claim. Kurdish village guards, fighting alongside government forces against the PKK, were granted many abandoned houses, they say.
In 2004, under pressure from the European Union, Turkey conceded that the village of Sare should be vacated for returning Syriacs.
However, a Syriac businessman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that a further 70,000 euro liquidation from the owners had been demanded by the “lodgers.” Around fifty killings up to this day in the region remain unsolved, he claimed. Also, Syriacs who have lost their Turkish citizenship cannot register their land. “The Kurds have progressed immensely in the last ten years,” he added.
Some “Diaspora” Syriacs who made their fortunes abroad (mostly Sweden, Germany and Switzerland) have started returning. As conditions in the area improve, they are engaging in extensive building and restoration and re-settlement of abandoned villages.
The Syriac church has had a key role in maintaining the culture and language, which survives in the liturgy and is close to the spoken language (in Turkish, Süryanice).
God's own translators
Father Gabriel, a father of thirteen, runs the church in Mardin, and about five families live in the complex around it.
“During the Prince of Wales' visit here four years ago, one of his aides asked me whether on Judgment Day Jesus would charge people in his own language. I said that we would translate!
“A mullah from Diyarbakır came some weeks ago with some questions about the Syriac language, because 25 of the Prayers of Ali Jel Jelutiye, a Muslim holy book, have Aramaic words that he could not understand,” said Father Gabriel
Aramaic, a Semitic language, has a 60 percent compatibility with Hebrew, 50 percent with Arabic, and 70 percent with Sabi (Mendeyin), according to Father Gabriel. “I got him to accept that the language of angels is Aramaic, but he said he would have to see about the ‘Question of the Grave'.” The “Question of the Grave” is an Islamic belief whereby sinners will retain some consciousness in the grave, a sort of pre-hell limbo.
The behavior of sister churches in the West reverberates on the Syriacs of Mardin, said Father Gabriel. “The [Regensburg] message of the pope was not good for us here. The Muslims were very sad and angry, and we live among them,” he said. “We obey the country's laws and rulers, because they are the vicars of God on earth.”
Pope Benedict XVI, in his Sept. 12, 2006 lecture at the University of Regensburg in Germany, had quoted from the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palailogos, implying that the only thing new in Islam was “the command to spread by the sword the faith [Prophet Mohammad] preached.”
The Syriac Church was instrumental in preserving a great part of the ancient Greek heritage at a time when the Western church was banning it, passing it on to the Arabs, who in turn fed it back into Europe. Large chunks of the book of Ezra and Daniel in the Old Testament are written in Aramaic. Father Gabriel says that civilization is like a river. “Everybody siphons water off, but we must also put some in.”
A choral community
Music is an essential element in Syriac religious and communal life. “We teach the language so that we are able to pray. We cannot make a chorus without learning the language.” Saint Ephraim, in the fourth century, began to write hymns that are sung in Syriac churches by both women and men.
Syriac is not taught in schools, and the churches and monasteries fulfill important didactic functions.
“Mar Gabriel and Deyrulzafaran monasteries have been pillars of the Syriac cultural heritage from the 1960s to the present day,” says Bishop Saliba Özmen, bishop of Mardin and Dıyarbakır.
“Our aim is to build up our education situation, but we must have a place. We have established an association of 12 persons originally from Mardin who live in Istanbul, and have had very good projects approved by the Turkish authorities for the restoration.”
Due to emigration, the Istanbul Syriac community outnumbers the Syriacs in Mardin and Midyat. When Galatasaray won the UEFA cup in 2000, they offered a gift of their typical silverware, a traditional Syriac craft.
Since 1932, the population declined steadily, and the patriarchate moved to Syria.
In the early 70s, Syriacs from the region left for Europe and the United States.
“The most faithful preservers of tradition are in this area. We have preserved our Christianity here despite all difficulties. Unfortunately, periodic emigration left the place empty. The restoration of the monasteries must be the task of all Christendom because the monasteries and churches represent all Christianity.”
Saliba studied from 1999 to 2002 Syriology and Aramology at Oxford University before becoming bishop four years ago.
“We live in a very interesting and sometimes uncertain situation near the Middle East. We must keep this balance of ethnicity, language and so on,” he says. “Legally, there are no difficulties about property, but if you leave for 30 or 40 years and then decide to come back, you will find some difficulties. It is not dangerous to complain. We discuss it with the local government, but it is very difficult to achieve results. These difficulties can be got rid of, I think. The negotiation process of Turkey with the EU is very important. As a church and as a people we support this process and wish Turkey will work closely with Europe to solve these problems.”
Return to the villages
The attitude of local Syriacs differs starkly from that of the 30-odd families that have chosen to return to the area. Some Syriacs from Europe claim that lack of recognition as a minority and dwindling numbers have made local communities increasingly inward looking. Wealthier, better educated, and accustomed to the more dynamic societies of Northern Europe, many of them are keen to make a difference in this area, known in their language as Tur Abdin.
Others return out of nostalgia, uneasy with being considered Orientals in the West, and Westerners in the East, and faced with the loss of tradition. Others still are more secular.
Linda Gabriel, secretary of the Sweden-based Europena Syriac Union, pointed out the modernizing effects of the “Diaspora” at a conference in Midyat last week, organized by the Accessible Life Association, where a high-ranking EU officer was present. Divorces occurring between “Diaspora” Syriacs had galvanized the church to open a dialogue about this practice.
Syriac women in the Middle East, she said, are constricted between the family and the church, and unable to achieve economic and social independence. She cited Anna G. Eshoo, a Syriac member of the U.S: Congress, as a source of pride.
Swedish-based Suroyo TV broadcasts via satellite to the area, and Syriac-Swedish dictionaries have been printed. “Our language is older than Christianity,” Gabriel told the Turkish Daily News on the sidelines of the conference.
Some Syriacs denounce the ascetic and monastic tradition of the church, and seek to build an identity on the basis of an ancient Mesopotamian culture.
The sectarian bloodshed in Iraq after the demise of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party has brought up the question of the Christians, created threats and opportunities for inchoate nationalism.
A Syriac politician from Mardin commented on pan-Mesopotamian identity. “They are dreaming. Assyrians, Chaldeans and Iraqis do not care what happens to the people of Tur Abdin, but the people from Tur Abdin who migrated to Europe feel responsible for whatever happens to those people. They have been infected with philanthropy, that Western disease.”
The new Jerusalem?
Nothing can illustrate the difference in approach between locals and exiles than the construction style of the new houses.
The village of Enhill stands on a hill 20 minutes outside of Midyat, above a quarry. Only the rumble of a wheelbarrow and the scraping of a builder's float break the eerie silence of what appears to be a ghost town. Brand new “triplex” buildings dwarf the small municipal school.
The houses are impressive architectural achievements, built, with variants, in a uniform style: stone mansions combining neo-classical and Sumerian influences, they are both the product of civic competition and uniform design, and have something of the suburbs about them. They all stand near the church.
“The people who left here years ago see building bigger and better houses in their villages as a form of revenge,” says a local Syriac politician.
The Kurdish population is concentrated over at the other end of the town, once inhabited by Syriacs. Osman, a Kurdish village guard, who only gave his first name, has been living with his wife and four children there for fifteen years. The eldest is seriously disabled, and a younger boy lies in the sun, having apparently lost his appetite.
Osman still keeps the Kalashnikov he has been issued, owns a donkey, and receives YTL 500 per month from the government.
Somewhere in between these two sectors stands an unfinished gray cement construction. Nostalgia, not utopianism, drove its owner, who worked in construction in Germany, back to his village. The framework of his house is made of unadorned gray cement, and is not styled in the ambitious architecture of the houses near the church. Like some other families, he entertains civil relations with the village guards.
Communication between the settlers in the stone mansions and the Kurds, however, appears minimal, though the handiwork is mainly Kurdish.
A bomb attack on a Syriac's garden in the area was reported three weeks ago to the European Delegation to Turkey in Ankara.
A foreman of works from the next town, Kafra, spent a long time in Dortmund and speaks German. He is not keen on journalists. “Journalists only take pictures of the big houses, and never show the state of the roads and the infrastructure, which the government should repair,” he said. There are 18 houses that have been built already, and the total will be 24. Each house has a solar panel for hot water. There are also plans for cattle farming and fruit orchards in the area. “The whole project,” said the foreman, “could take up to four years, depending on the people.”
Focusing on these building projects might get Syriacs' refugee status in Europe revoked, said the foreman.
Assyrian Church Defaced with Graffiti in Michigan
Courtesy of the Detroit News
Vandals defaced the outside of the congregation's new church, at 4320 14 Mile, by spraying anti-Arab threats onto the building. The church is scheduled to host its first Mass May 6 after nearly 20 years at its location on Toepfer Road.
Construction crews discovered the vandalism Monday morning.
Among the messages left in blue and black paint were "1 God Jesus" and "Arabs Die." Most were left at the rear of the building.
"It's not so much anger I feel but more a sense of disappointment," said Ashurina Mirza, a 21-year-old member of the congregation whose father helped build the original church two decades ago.
"To know that the people in our church poured their hearts and souls into something and see someone try to destroy it it's disappointing."
The religious undertones of the messages left on the church suggested perpetrators who are anti-Muslim. But church members, as the name suggests, are Catholics.
And the number of crosses adorning the building, including a giant wooden cross over the western entrance, would seem to make it clear St. Mary's is a Christian church.
Inside the church's entryway are writings that may appear Arabic, but they are actually Aramaic.
The Michigan Department of Civil Rights is looking into the incident and plan to offer assistance to church members and the community at large.
"These kinds of things are generally not based on people airing legitimate concerns," said Harold Core, a department spokesman.
Warren Mayor Mark Steenbergh issued a statement Tuesday: "This kind of vandalism sickens me. People of all religions have the right to worship without having to put up with this kind of hatred. "
Warren Police Chief Jere Green said he will increase patrols around places of worship in the area. Anyone with information regarding the vandalism should call police at (586) 574-4776.
AAI Statement on Attack at Assyrian Church in Michigan
The Arab American Institute
The Arab American Institute (AAI) and Arab Americans across the country are deeply saddened by the hateful anti-Arab epithets that were spray painted on the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East in Warren, Mich., during what is the holiest week for the Christian community. This attack magnifies the divides, created by fear and ignorance, which still must be bridged.
It is distressing and an affront to our nation’s core values that these church members were targets of attack because of their Middle East heritage. News reports suggest that the church community may victimized because the perpetrators thought the house of worship was a Mosque – a notion that is equally troubling to the Arab American community.
AAI commends the Michigan Department of Civil Rights for swiftly implementing an investigation and offering its assistance to the church and the surrounding community. AAI also calls on the FBI to investigate the vandalism as a hate crime.
Founded in 1985, the Arab American Institute (AAI) is a nonprofit organization committed to the civic and political empowerment of Americans of Arab descent. AAI provides policy, research and public affairs services to support a broad range of community activities. For further reading on AAI in Zinda Magazine click here.
Accused Spy for Saddam Hussein on Trial
Courtesy of the Associated Press
(ZNDA: Chicago) The trial of an alleged "sleeper agent" for Saddam Hussein's intelligence service began Tuesday with a federal prosecutor accusing him of spying on Iraqi dissidents in the United States.Sami Latchin, a 59-year-old Iraqi-born U.S. citizen, is accused of spying on U.S.-based critics of the deposed Iraqi dictator, who was hanged Dec. 30.
"There is a spy in this room," Assistant U.S. Attorney James M. Conway told jurors in the courtroom of U.S. District.
Latchin is not accused of espionage — an offense that involves obtaining U.S. military secrets. Prosecutors say his spying was aimed only at Iraqi civilians in the United States.
The former airline employee was arrested in August 2004, when prosecutors unsealed an indictment charging him with making false statements to immigration authorities on a U.S. citizenship application.
Authorities claim he failed to disclose that he had been a member of the Baath Party and had served in Iraq's intelligence service. If convicted on all counts, Latchin could face a maximum of 25 years in prison.
Three former Iraqi intelligence officers are expected to testify against him. Defense attorney Mary Higgins Judge called them "professional, career, trained liars."
"By definition their job involves trickery, deceit and pretending," she said. "It is what they have done all their lives."
Two of the three former Iraqi intelligence officers are planning to testify under pseudonyms — "Mr. Khalil and Mr. Ali" — and in disguise out of concern about reprisals.
The third, Muhammad Al-Dani, used his real name during testimony later Tuesday but appeared in disguise. He wore thick glasses, a mustache and a mop of black hair that looked suspiciously like a toupee.
Al-Dani testified that he was once the Washington station chief of the intelligence service.
Conway led Al-Dani through a series of letters in which an Athens-based Iraqi agent named Sami Khoshaba recruited "collaborators" who would go from there to the United States and Canada and become informants.
Prosecutors claim that after his stint in Greece, Latchin moved to the United States, where he continued his work as an intelligence operative.
Khoshaba is Latchin's middle name and he once lived in Athens. Prosecutors say he is the person named in the letters. Defense attorneys admit the name similarity without agreeing to the rest of the allegation.
Latchin's attorney said Al-Dani had been paid "close to a million dollars" as a government witness and suggested he had to come up with testimony to justify the money. She called it his "million-dollar story." Conway said the amount was closer to $700,000 or $800,000.
Al-Dani testified that he was not required by his deal with the government when he defected from Iraq to testify at a criminal trial.
Chicago Assyrain Pleads Not Guilty to Killing 3 Relatives
Courtesy of the Associated Press
They were found February 17th in adjacent apartment buildings on Chicago's far North Side. Authorities say they were beaten with a three-pound hammer.
Prosecutors say Ebrahimi allegedly told police at the scene and hospital officials that he had killed the women because they had "disrespected" him and told him he was not a man.
Ebrahimi is being held without bond. He's next due in court for a status hearing on May 1.
Police say Ebrahimi, his wife and daughter, arrived in the United States on November 29th from Iran as refugees of Assyrian descent.
Woman Charged in Identity Theft of Supervisor
Courtesy of the Modesto Bee
(ZNDA: Modesto) A young woman who once worked for several prominent Republicans is accused of stealing the identity of Stanislaus County Supervisor Jim DeMartini and ringing up $10,000 in fraudulent charges.
DeMartini said he believed Essapour was a hard worker with a bright future, because she worked for state Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Merced, and had worked for Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian, R-Stockton.
He said he helped Essapour purchase a small white Honda by co-signing a loan and giving her $6,500, because she had wrecked her car and didn't seem to have anywhere else to turn.
He said Essapour used financial information from the loan application to obtain credit cards and make unauthorized purchases, ringing up a hefty bill in only a month's time.
"I don't know how she ever thought she was going to get away with this," DeMartini said.
The district attorney's office filed three charges against Essapour in October: false impersonation, misuse of personal identifying information and grand theft, all which are believed to have occurred from May 16 to June 16, 2006.
Each charge carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail or prison. She is free on $25,000 bail and is scheduled to return to court May 4.
Essapour's case had been moving quietly through Stanislaus County Superior Court until Geragos showed up last week to argue about a subpoena he sent, seeking copies of DeMartini's tax returns.
In legal papers, Geragos argued that he needs the tax records to impeach the credibility of DeMartini.
Geragos sought all tax documents related to the supervisor's personal finances and ranching business in 2005.
Geragos gets some records
DeMartini's attorney, Mary Lynn Belsher of Modesto, said the supervisor's involvement with Essapour was limited to the purchase of the car, making a fishing expedition through his tax records pointless.
In a declaration filed with the court, DeMartini said his business records don't contain any information about the car, adding that Essapour already has a copy of the check he wrote to cover her down payment.
After a closed-door session with Judge Loretta Murphy Begen, DeMartini was ordered to turn over two schedules from his 2005 tax return, which the judge reviewed and kept under seal.
Geragos said he got what he was looking for — and called DeMartini's version of events "inventive."
Geragos said he looks forward to hearing the supervisor explain the situation under oath.
Essapour could not be reached for comment. She works as a reporter at The Turlock Journal.
On Jan. 27, the newspaper published an opinion piece by Essapour, called "12 rules to deal with system," which argues that the authorities reinforce racial inequalities.
In her column, Essapour suggests that every young person should know a few simple rules for dealing with the authorities, including never admitting anything to the police and making the cost of prosecution as expensive as possible.
As she put it: "The rules fall into two categories: Stymie the cops, and get your rights — ALL your rights."
Journal Publisher Kim Jager-Queirolo could not be reached for comment. An editor confirmed that Essapour is employed as a staff writer.
DeMartini said he was alerted to trouble in June, when a credit card company called him to ask if he had applied for a card over the Internet.
He had not, so the card was not issued.
Next, DeMartini put a fraud alert on his accounts. A month later, he learned that two other credit cards had been issued with his information.
A detective from the Sheriff's Department followed a trail that led to Essapour.
DeMartini said Essapour used the fraudulently obtained credit cards to get cash out of ATM machines, and buy clothing and jewelry.
He said the authorities have a surveillance tape of Essapour using one of the credit cards at a convenience store, and a videotaped admission in which Essapour says she obtained the credit cards online.
DeMartini said he trusted Essapour because she was a field representative in Denham's office and did some contract work for the Republican Central Committee while she attended college.
He said the $6,500 down payment was a one-time gift, adding that he did not expect to see the money again, though she promised to repay him.
He said he never imagined that his generosity would be turned against him, making him the victim of identity theft.
"I don't know who's paying for her attorney," DeMartini said. "But I'm sure it's not her."
Brown Univ. Syriac Studies Prof. Awarded 2007 Guggenheim
(ZNDA: New York) Susan Harvey, a professor of religious studies at Brown University in Rhode Island, who specializes in late antique and Byzantine Christianity, focusing on Syriac studies, has been awarded a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship, the university announced on 6 April.
Prof. Harvey is widely published in the fields of asceticism, hagiography, women and gender, hymnography, homiletics, and piety in late antique Christianity.
Harvey will work on her current book project, “Teaching Women: Biblical Women and Women’s Choirs in Syriac Tradition.”
189 artists, scholars and scientists were selected, from nearly 2,800 applicants, to receive awards totaling $7.6 million in 2007.
British Museum's Assyrian Exhibtion Opens in Spain
The exhibition titled 'Art and Empire: Assyrian Treasures from the British Museum', is now open to public in Spain's Alicante Archaelogical Museum until September 30.
The British Museum is showing 230 Assyrian treasures dating from the 7-8th centuries B.C.
The exhibition has already been seen in New York, Mexico, Copenhagen and Shanghai.
Famous battles are shown in some of the best relieves on display, with most of the items actually belonging to Iraq.
Andrew Burnet, Deputy Director of the British Museum, described the show as ‘one of the best and best presented archaeological exhibitions produced by the British Museum, outside the circuit of the grand museums’.
Assyrian Celebrations in Australia
Courtesy of FairfieldDigital.com
(ZNDA: Sydney) Mr. Hermiz Shahen said efforts by Iraqis to wipe out the country's remaining Assyrian Christians as part of a jihad were never far from the thoughts of local Assyrian Iraqis especially on Sunday,1 April when more than 10,000 revellers celebrated the Assyrian New Year at Fairfield Showground.
''There is a lot of depression among our people, many of whom worry about their relatives,'' Mr Shahen said.
''There is a lot of depression among our people, many of whom worry about their relatives,'' Mr Shahen said.
''They are sending money back home in case their loved ones are forced to pay a ransom to insurgents who are kidnapping our children.''
Mr Shahen, of Bossley Park, is the secretary of the Assyrian Universal Alliance-Australia Chapter at Wetherill Park.
He said there were close to 30,000 Assyrians in the Fairfield area alone and that the Assyrian New Year was the biggest festival in the ancient Assyrian and Babylonian empires.
''Nowadays the Assyrian New Year falls close to the Easter holiday,'' Mr Shahen said.
''We therefore also remember the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, who spoke Aramaic, 'the Assyrian language', which ties in with the ancient, and contemporary of the Assyrian people.''
This year's Assyrian New Year was organised by the Assyrian Australian National Federation in Wetherill Park, in conjunction with Assyrian organisations and churches.
Organisers called on the Australian Government to support demands to have a protection-zone in northern Iraq, south of the Kurdish areas, where the majority of Assyrians live.
Bossley Park resident and secretary of the federation, Anabell St Vincent, said it was encouraging to see the large number of local, state and federal dignitaries in attendance.
''They showed a great understanding of the hardship and the challenges that the Assyrians face, both here and abroad, and have thrown their support behind our call to have a safe zone in northern Iraq,'' Ms St Vincent said.
She migrated to Australia from Iran in 1987 after living through the Iran-Iraq war and remembers wearing the hijab.
Chaldean Women Expand Culture with First Pageant
Courtesy of the Detroit News
(ZNDA: Detroit) Say what you will about beauty contests, it takes a whole lot of confidence and poise to walk down one of those runways and to impress the judges with one's thinking and talent.
But few young Chaldean women feel comfortable participating in that American cultural phenomenon. Montaha Polis wants to help change that.
Polis, 26, of Warren, Michigan was one of 13 contestants in the first Miss Chaldean Beauty Pageant at the Royal Oak Theater on 31 March. And she says that participating is not much about her at all.
"I've always wanted to be involved in my community and to reach out to young females out there who don't have the opportunity -- to be a mentor," said the Wayne State University graduate who works for Merck, the pharmaceutical company. "This is a different culture from what our older generation grew up in, in Iraq.
"Life is not only focused on growing up and getting married and having a family, here," Polis said. "There is more out there than that."
Chaldeans, a Catholic Semitic people, compose the largest portion of Metro Detroit residents of Iraqi descent. Community leaders say there are 90,000 to 120,000 Chaldeans here, compared to about 15,000 Iraqi Muslims.
Many local Chaldeans say their expectations of how women live are often socially conservative. And some local Chaldeans have long considered having a beauty pageant as a way of expanding their culture
"This is really more about our community assimilating," said Martin Manna, executive director of the Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce. "This is not something our community would even have considered doing 10 or 15 years ago. The culture we were a part of would not let women be exposed, in some ways."
But some young women began entering beauty contests on their own -- with concern from some corners of the community. They did well, making the finals of the Miss Michigan contest and winning Miss Teen Michigan.
"The Chaldean community is very, very strict on women -- very traditional," said Jason Kado, of Jado Productions, which is producing the event.
"Back home, we are Catholics in Iraq and mostly influenced by the Muslim upbringing around us, where ladies have to keep their skirts to their ankles. Coming to the United States, of course, we are more expressive, more relaxed and understanding of our freedom."
The contest includes a talent show, choreographed dances, a question-and-answer session with judges and an evening gown contest.
That's right. No swimsuits.
"As far as the swimsuit contest," Kado said, "we thought we'd wait a little bit, on that -- one step at a time."
Kado eventually hopes to have a swimsuit contest in the annual event -- and to make the winner a qualifier for the Miss Michigan pageant.
"A little bit of waiting on the swimsuits is how the community would react to it, for sure," Kado said. "But, also, the contestants. The first question they all said was: 'Please tell me there isn't a swimsuit portion!'
"If we had it, most of the girls would not have come out at all."
Arizona Assyrian Foundation Meets Qubad Talabani
Members of the Executive Committee of the Assyrian American Foundation of Arizona met with the Iraq's Northern Region Ambassador in Washington, Honorable Qubad Talabani, the son of President of Iraq Mr. Jalal Talabani on Saturday March 31st, 2007.
At this meeting, His Grace Mar Aprim Khamis and Dr. Francis Murad, Vice President of St. Peter Parish in Phoenix were also present.
Mr. Talabani was eager to meet with the Assyrian Community. He is a young and an open-minded individual that realizes the importance of both the Assyrians and the Kurds to be close and cooperative in order for both to survive in the new Iraq. He mentioned something of interest that we have to educate both the Assyrians and the Kurds to make them understand the danger we are facing in Iraq so we could both work together side by side as good neighbors.
The meeting lasted about an hour and both sides were very pleased. Mr. Talabani mentioned that he loves to meet with His Holiness Mar Dinkha, Patriarch of the Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East in his next visit to Chicago. He also mentioned the need for both communities in Phoenix to start working together.
Mr. Qubad Talabani has previously served as senior foreign relations officer for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and PUK's top liaison with the Coalition Provisional Authority and the U.S. military forces in Iraq. In 2005, Mr. Talabani married Sherri Kraham, a Jewish-American, in secrecy in Italy (click here).
A Realistic Agenda for a United Conclusion
Sargon E. Sapper
The recent Assyrian conferences in California and Ankawa served to prove that when Assyrians get together to talk through possibilities and share ideas, eventually they end on the same page.
In a peaceful and carefully planned manner, during the year 1971, Chaldeans, Syriacs, and Assyrians united to argue a case for an Assyrian autonomy in Iraq. Our goal was to provide to our people, helplessly scattered throughout Iraq, a territory to call their own; to establish a foundation upon which ours and future generations would have the power to govern and protect ourselves. We believed then, as I do now, that autonomy was and is the only everlasting answer to the Assyrian question in Iraq. Our concern was that without protection from the inhumane and unjust treatment we were consistently subjected to, Assyrians and Christians would be driven out of Iraq for good. Circumstances surrounding our people have not improved, making this belief as true now as it was 35 years ago.
I believe, now more than ever, that the time has come for Assyrians to be given back our rights, as well as our historic homeland. It is the only chance we have to finally return to living in peace and improving our economic conditions. Assyrians deserve the same national rights as other ethnic minorities in Iraq. With the cooperation of the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi Central Government, our people can once again have the ability to govern ourselves in the historic homeland of our forefathers. And like our forefathers, we will call this proud land "Assyria," taking back what has been rightfully ours since the beginning of time.
The center of the Assyrian autonomy should be in the very heartland of the region of Nineveh, encompassing what is commonly known as The Assyrian Triangle, or Mini-Assyrian; a portion of which lies in the Nineveh province, controlled by the Central Government, and the other in Dahok, connected to the KRG. By reestablishing this land as one administrative unit, and returning it to its indigenous ethnic citizens, Chaldeans, Syriacs, and Assyrians, we can make certain that future generations lead lives predominated by equality, security, and prosperity. Critics of our cause will undoubtedly point out that Assyrians no longer comprise the majority within this sacred region. True, but how could we? For decades our people have suffered massacres and looting, been subjected to oppression and intimidation, and basically forced out of the region. And although we can never forget the atrocities perpetrated upon us, we can forgive. For the time has come to step out of the shadows, return to our home, and rebuild our land and lives.
Let me remind you all that some thirty years ago autonomy was granted for the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Was the central government that existed at that time weak? Perhaps, but it was the Kurds taking destiny into their own hands that really made the difference. The Kurdish people were strong, their leadership was passionate, they believed their struggle was honorable, and they endured blood shed and sacrifice for the cause. Thus, it was their resolve that forced a weak Iraqi government to accept the reality, acknowledge their rights, and grant their autonomy. Today the political landscape has changed, and while Assyrians can learn from the plight of the Kurds, we need not create bloodshed to achieve our goal. Instead of war we can choose diplomacy, a mutual cooperation between Assyrian people and our government, a belief in a democratic system, justice and respect for human life.
The recent declaration by the Kurdistan Regional Government to establish constitutional autonomy to the Assyrian people in the Nineveh plains is, most certainly, one opportunity which can and must not be missed for the mere possibility that this time it may be true. It is a firm and legal plan toward establishing national rights in our historic homeland. Thus, the time has come for us to lead our people back to the peaceful environment, equality we all so richly deserve, and have struggled to achieve for far too long.
Today there has been a visible improvement in both the attitudes and actions of the Kurdistan Regional Government toward Assyrians in the region. Ideologies of hate and confrontation are steadily being replaced with tolerance and cooperation. The Kurdistan Regional Government seems more intent than ever on obtaining stability, security, and prosperity throughout the region and has undertaken several initiatives in this regard. While Assyrian Christians have long been a prime target for escalating violence of extremists in central and southern Iraq intended to drive them away from their homelands, the Kurdistan Regional Government now welcomes Christians fleeing religious persecution. And now, the KRG is pursuing an open policy toward ethnic minorities designed to share administrative responsibilities and establish autonomy. It seems as though the KRG has learned, from mistakes committed by other regimes, it is unwise to neglect the national rights of ethnic minorities in Iraq.
Hopefully, the declaration to establish constitutional autonomy for our nation will be followed by the required legislative law necessary to ascertain the exact boundary of the territory covered by the autonomy as well as the appointed date for its application. Indeed, in a recent news conference following a joint meeting of the KRG and KNA, Mr. Barzani and Mr. Mufti declared that the national rights of all ethnic minorities in the Kurdistan region are lawful, and that they were close to finding the right form for establishing autonomy for our people too. Although we should be tremendously grateful for opportunity to enjoy autonomy in the Nineveh plains, we should also stress the importance of sharing the responsibility of determining how the autonomy is recognized. Clearly, this challenge will take every bit of our collective effort to overcome. But, as I see it, there exists the rare chance to change the course of history for future generations of our people in Iraq, and to demonstrate to the world what it means to persevere.
The time has come, my friends, for us to dedicate ourselves to the unity of our nation. Unanimity of voice is our only hope of effectively condemning the politics of divisiveness and confrontation. So, I would like to propose following suggestions; my realistic agenda for a united conclusion:
1. Let us call upon the organizers of conferences recently convened in the Kurdistan region and abroad to join in a united national conference to be held in 2007. We are certain such a conference would serve as the largest gathering of our people and any conclusions which may be drawn from this conference would clearly reflect the opinions of the majority, as well as help form the basis upon which the autonomy should be created.
2. In the time leading up to the united national conference we should agree that any and all attacks and counter-attacks between Assyrian sectors, individuals, and organizations exchanged in the media cease and desist.
3. Propose a working plan to the UNC to include the following headings:
Thank you for your time and attention. God bless you, and God bless our united people!
New Book: Surma of the Assyro-Chaldeans (1883-1975)
With the American occupation of Iraq, appears again around Mosul, autonomy for Assyro-Chaldeans, a minority nearly forgotten.
A woman, Surma (1883-1975) defended and promoted this cause all her life. Daughter of Old Assyria, champion of the Nestorian Church of the East, belonging to patriarchal family, Surma was in the course of her life the light of her community.
During the First World War, the Assyro-Chaldeans, like Armenians, suffered in the hands of the Turkish troops and irregular Kurds and were victims of the Genocide in 1915.
Surma followed the massive exodus from Turkey to Persia and then to Iraq. In this country, she accepted the Regency of her nation. She met prominent leaders trying to protect her people, thus disturbing the great game of the British and Iraqi authorities. Then she was pushed out of the political scene and deported to Cyprus for more than 20 years. Her wandering, weaved with tragic threads, ended in Great Britain and finally in America, where she died in 1975.
This book tells her story, while interest is increasing for Iraq and oil which are again the Great Powers stakes.
ISBN : 978-2-296-02926-2 • April 2007 • 276 pages • Language: French
To order your copy click here.
About the author: Laboratory assistant, graduated in Human Rights, Claire Weibel Yacoub has commited herself in the Assyro-Chaldean Question. It has taken Ms. Yacoub ten years of research and investigation to complete this biography.
Surma l’Assyro-Chaldéenne (1883-1975)
Claire WEIBEL YACOUB
Avec l’occupation américaine de l’Irak, refait surface autour de Mossoul, l’autonomie des Assyro-Chaldéens, une minorité presque oubliée.
Une femme, Surma (1883-1975), plaida la cause de ce peuple sa vie durant. Fille de l’Assyrie ancienne, chantre de l’Eglise de l’Orient nestorienne, autrefois rayonnante, proche parente des patriarches de cette Eglise, Surma fut un temps la lumière de sa communauté. Lors de la Première Guerre mondiale les Assyro-Chaldéens, tout comme les Arméniens, subirent les assauts des troupes turques et des irréguliers kurdes et furent victimes d’un génocide en 1915. Pour fuir ces assaillants, Surma accompagna l’exode massif des siens de Turquie vers la Perse, puis vers l’Irak. A la table des Grands de ce monde, elle accepta la régence de son peuple pour le défendre. Troublant le jeu des autorités britanniques et irakiennes, elle fut écartée de la scène politique et exilée sur l’île de Chypre. Au terme d’une vie tissée des fils du tragique, son errance la mena jusqu’en Grande-Bretagne, et finalement aux Etats-Unis.
Ce livre narre son histoire et contribue à saisir un présent incertain.
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New Book: The Book of the Laws of the Countries
Gorgias Press would like to announce the following book: click here.
The Book of the Laws of the Countries deserves study as one of the oldest extant non-biblical texts in Syriac, dating to the late second or early third century A. D. (later than the Old Testament Peshitta, but earlier than Ephrem and Aphrahat). The philosopher Bardaisan (of the Edessa school) produced the work, which is a dialogue on free will versus fate between the teacher (Bardaisan) and his interlocutor Awida. Bardaisan argues that while a man’s natural constitution and “fate” influence him with regard to wealth and poverty, sickness and health, and whether or not he has children and how they look if he does, it is his liberty, his free will alone that causes him to sin and makes him guilty before God. Man’s liberty is demonstrated in the laws that men make in different countries of the world. These laws, some good and some evil, are the product of the free will given to man by God. It is free will and not “fate” that begets evil, according to Bardaisan. When one becomes a Christian, he obeys the laws of the Messiah over against the laws of his own country if those laws are mutually contradictory, an act of obedience that derives from free will. The key-word-in-context concordance will facilitate the study of this ancient Syriac text, which is now being republished by Gorgias Press. Verbs are listed by their roots, which has the advantage of readily distinguishing between geminate and final weak verbs. For the benefit of the user, there are separate concordances of Words, Personal Names, and Geographic Names.
Jerome Alan Lund studied Syriac at Los Angeles Baptist Theological Seminary (M. Div., 1973) and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (M.A., 1981; Ph. D., 1989). He worked as Senior Research Associate for the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon project at Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, from 1990-2006. In addition to numerous articles on Aramaic (including Syriac), Hebrew, and Bible, Dr. Lund has published The Old Syriac Gospel of the Distinct Evangelists, a Key-Word-in-Context Concordance, coauthored Aramaic Documents from Egypt, a Key-Word-in-Context Concordance, and collaborated on The Old Testament in Syriac according to the Peshitta Version, Part V, volume 1: Concordance to the Pentateuch.
Alqush Alqush! Bow Your Head in Shame Before Younis
On March 22, 2007 the Assyrian Ankawa.com website reported the KDP's celebration of the Persian New Year "Nurouz" in the Assyrian town of Alqush. The report stated:
"On the occasion of the feast of Nurouz the KDP branch of Alqush organized a march whereby tens of its members in Alqush and its surroundings participated. The procession started from Alqush to the Old Souk (old market) and returned back to light a fire on top of one of Alqush's hills to mark the happy occasion. Later on, the KDP handed out hundreds of plants to be planted in the region as a symbol for the celebrations "... The report ends here with couple of photos.
It's not surprising for Ankawa.com to rush into preparing such a report with its disappointing photos, as it's not shameful nor wrong for the Assyrians to congratulate their Kurdish neighbours for their occasions, but avoiding to celebrate the Assyrian New Year in an ancient Assyrian town known for its courage, while holding celebrations for a Persian occasion shows a political move with some serious consequences specially when this reckless conduct is repeated every year, while the "revolutionary intellectuals" remain silent in the town of Alqush known in history for its pride.
This ugly phenomenon is not confined to Alqush only, but also to many Assyrian villages and towns which have been kurdified geographically or intellectually. This is due to a direct kurdifying culture which the Kurds have been trying to impose since 1961 or the indirect kurdification represented in the silence of some Assyrian political groups for decades in order to have positions or financial gains, in what's known as a "political prostitution"; these groups and others still take pride in what they are doing calling it “strife” while competing for their loyalty to the kurdish master, specifically when we notice the increase in suspicious conferences and the emergence of new profiles on the scene who have started to play the same game of attracting voters: That is the train of names.
On the other hand, and away from dealing with the kurdifying parties under the Assyrian title, there are some Assyrians who have been blinded by the twisted revolutionary thought, that is the revolution without nationalism when Iraq was consumed with national racism whether it was tribal kurdification or Baathist Arabization, and the Assyrians contributed to the expansion and growth of the Communist ideology and strife in Iraq but that didn't bring them except calamities when Communism turned into a basis for the kurdish revolutionary nationalism and to the development of the kurdish parties structuring and their education, while the Assyrian communists remained till today as "Iraqi sheep" amidst the national conflicts throwing them with or without their consent from one position to the other without paying attention to their fate as a nationality which is subjected to obliteration, particularly in the so-called "new Iraq".
Anyway, the issue of the beloved Alqush doesn't differ much from what was presented in the disturbing introduction for some of Barzani's boys, even though Alqush has been throughout history the Assyrian lion's den, however, ignorance (not in medicine or engineering but rather the national ignorance) which was caused by history's events and the preaching of the clergy since the appointment of the first Catholic bishop in Iraq in 1845, all this has contributed to the development of a weak national thought which can be easily penetrated by any other national ideology whether kurdish or Arab.
The shameful report against the venerate Assyrian town of Alqush was supposed to move and enrage its honorable sons who claim to protect their Assyrian history and heritage, however, what's astonishing are the differences between the celebrations in Alqush in the past and present, its glorious past and degrading present, the Old Souk which is mentioned by Ankawa.com where the Alqush kurddifying parade passed through, is the same Souk which used to embrace the Assyrian New Year celebrations "Akitu" glorifying Ashur, Alqush's great god and "the greatest of gods and master of heavens and earth" as King Ashurnasirpal describes him in his prayers.
In this particular Souk (market) a few hours after the massacre of the Assyrians in the villages of Assyria, and in the noon of August 07th 1933, Younis * the son of Alqush, an owner of a modest store, stood in defiance to face his spiritual leader "sayedna * " who stood in the centre of Alqush calling upon the Assyrian refugees who came to town fleeing the massacres of Rashid Al-Kilani and his kurdish executioner Bakir Sidqui, when the spiritual leader read a letter which was thrown by British planes asking the refugees to gather near Alqush's mountain so that they would be slaughtered like sheep. Younis couldn't accept what he was hearing thus he pushed his way through the crowds facing "sayedna" cursing him, his companions, even the Church, the Vatican and the nuns who were accompanying him, thus the spiritual leader ran away like a terrified child.
When the spiritual leader fled, a huge crowd of Alqush residents had gathered in its centre which witnessed the massacres committed by Muhammad Pasha al-Rawanduzi (“Mirkur” the kurd) in 1832, Younis stood in their midst while the children of Jilu, Gawar, Nojiyya, Albaq, Sarra, Siweeni and other tribes were crying and repeating their mothers cries as they had heard what the spiritual leader read, and Younis called upon Alqush's men mentioning the hills where the kurdified people who were mentioned in Ankawa.com had gathered – Younis shouted: "O sons of Alqush... On the top of Mount Alqush there's a police station with seven soldiers, pick up your weapons and let's attack them immediately and once we control the mountain and surrounding hills then we will be able to resist the government for years, until we run out of ammunition and we would be killed in dignity with the refugees..."
With his few words, Younis was able to shut down the Souk (market) and town as the men left to prepare themselves to fight the government distributing weapons amongst themselves and to those who were able to fight among the refugees. Younis’ call was repeated in the surrounding villages mobilizing their men to fight, thus the Chaldean Church found itself obliged to appeal to its maker the Vatican asking it to intervene before the Iraqi government and its maker Britain in order to cancel the decree for the massacre avoiding the involvement of the Catholicized villages in the struggle with the government. The Vatican responded immediately with a telegram to the Iraqi government and the British mandate, thus the massacre decree was cancelled and in the same day Alqush was saved along with thousands of Assyrian refugees.
This is how we have known you Alqush, we always want you to be proud, throw away the f kurdification culture which was planted in you by the failed Iraqi Communism, relinquish and free yourself of what Catholicism ambassadors had planted against your Assyrian identity and come back to your Assyrian nationalism, slap your middle-aged man with the huge mustache who is proudly walking with his shame, teach your little daughter of Assyria who is Alqush's Issiga Elani * so that she may emulate her, and prepare your son who is walking bewildered and lost... Teach him Younis thought so that you may get rid of your twisted revolutionary thought, in order for you to be again "Alqush" in every sense of the word, the throbbing heart of Assyria, at the foot of Adhra Mountain.
* Younis's story: from the memory of the writer's grand-father who witnessed the Souk's event, and was a refugee at Younis's home with his only son who was eight at the time in August 1933.
* Sayedna : a title used to address a bishop or a Patriarch in the Arabic language.
* Isiga Elani: An Assyrian poet from Alqush, born in 1350, she was an Assyrian nationalist who spread national awareness in her town; she died in Sep/16/1459 (A documented research By Dr. Abdel Ahad Chalo – Germany).
Obie Yadgar's New Book: Obie's Opus
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Classical Radio Gems
Stories and anecdotes from behind the microphone
MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin– An aging actor called on Offenbach on the morning of October 5, 1880. “How is he?” he inquired. “Mr. Offenbach is dead,” replied the servant. “He died peacefully, without knowing anything about it.” The actor sighed and said, “Ah, he will be surprised when he finds out.”
This gem is one of hundreds of amusing little stories and anecdotes from the world of classical music appearing in Obie Yadgar’s new book Obie’s Opus (now available from obieyadgar.com; authorhouse.com; or by calling 888-280-7715). Obie, the veteran writer and classical music radio announcer, collected these tidbits in a radio career that spanned more than 30 years.
“Obie’s Opus is a glimpse of my life in classical music radio,” said Yadgar, “and the anecdotes illustrate some of my simple reflections on life sitting behind the microphone. The book is not only a good off-beat reference source for classical music lovers, but it’s also a good source for some laughter.”
Obie’s Opus is divided into 23 sections each packed with stories and anecdotes that reflect its subject. The sections have such titles as: “The most wasted day is that in which we have not laughed,” “When a guy gets stabbed in the back and instead of bleeding, he sings – or some of life’s ironies,” “Only a lunatic would dance when sober,” “Wait till you’re fifty and you’ll see – or trying to make sense out of life,” and “The importance of being useless as a critic.”
In 1896, a New Orleans newspaper called The Item had no available music critic to review Paderewski’s piano concert. So they sent the boxing editor instead. In his review, the editor wrote: “In my opinion, he is the best two-handed piano fighter that ever wore hair. If I were a piano, I wouldn’t travel as Paderewski’s sparring partner for two-thirds of the gross receipts.”
As an Assyrian growing up in Tehran, Iran, Obelit Yadgar (Obie) spent long hours listening to stations in distant lands on the family shortwave radio. It was only natural that years later, in American, he would drift into radio as announcer and music programmer. Working mostly in classical and jazz radio stations, he has had stints at KWMU, St. Louis; WFMR, Milwaukee; WUWM, Milwaukee; and the former WNIB, Chicago. “The stories in Obie’s Opus were always a sure fire on radio,” he said.
Obie, who has enjoyed a parallel career as writer, has written magazine and newspaper features, short stories, radio essays and video scripts. He spent a tour of duty in Vietnam as a U.S. Army combat correspondent. “Will’s Music,” his first novel, published in 2005, and is also available from obieyadgar.com; authorhouse.com; or by calling 888-280-7755. Obie is currently working on his second novel.
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