Think of What You Read Today
To put an end to the most horrific acts against humanity one must begin with the complex process of understanding the evil behind these acts. Ignoring this evil only perpetuates further violence and atrocities.
Every year, shortly after the celebration of the New Year, Assyrians commemorate the loss of two out of every three Assyrians between the years 1915 and 1923. They remember the atrocities committed by the Turks, Kurds, and Arabs against a powerless and unarmed nation. They recall the voices of the fleeing thousands from Urmia, the Hakkari mountains, the villages in Tur-Abdin, and the sounds of the machine guns, the blood-stained swords (Seyfo) cutting down men, women, and children. Assyrians remember the stench of the rotten bodies of tens of thousands of dead men and women lying along the roads from Hamadan to Baquba camp, the smell of the burning bodies of the priests and bishops of the Assyrian churches in Mosul and Salamas.
These sights, odors, and our tears – the same ones that are running down your cheeks now as you read this editorial and the same ones wetting my shaking hands on the keyboard – remind us of a pain that may never be soothed. Who will allay our pain when our sorrow is denied and our tears ignored.
Not long ago America celebrated the birth of the 300 millionth person born in the United States. Now imagine if during a short period of 8 years, some 200 million of the US population dying due to war, famine, hunger, and cold. Unbelievable as it may seem, this is exactly what happened to the Assyrian nation between 1915 and 1923. The reason behind the Genocide that even the United States Congress continues to ignore was no different from the atrocities our people experience today in Iraq: the total extermination of the Christians from the Middle East. The U.S. ignores us because it does not want the war in Iraq to be deemed a struggle between the Christians and the Moslems. The British and the French used a similar asinine excuse to ignore the death and dying of the Christians at the turn of the last century.
The Congresses, Parliaments, Leaders, and Unions of the World may wish to ignore us for ever, but there is an earthly force much more powerful that all these combined. The power of the public opinion.
It is for this reason that every year at this time we read books and articles on the Genocide of Assyrians, run in a marathon in Holland, chain our bodies to buildings in Belgium, write novels in California, compose music in Sweden, paint the pains of a dying mother and child in Germany, and sing the song of a dying Patriarch of our Church.
This year Zinda Magazine invites you to attend a community event organized by your church or civic organization in the next few weeks. In California, Dr. David Gaunt will be lecturing on the Assyrian Genocide, a talk based on his very important book: Massacres, Resistance, Protectors: Muslim-Christian Relations in Eastern Anatolia During World War I . Zinda Magazine is a major sponsor of the publication of this book and urges its readers to attend Dr. Gaunt’s lectures.
Educate yourself about the most important chapter in the modern history of our people. A genocide is about to take place in Mesopotamia and it is up to us to prevent it and save the lives of thousands of Christian children. Every child rescued is a generation saved.
Investigation of the Mass Grave Unearthed In A Cave In Nusaybin (Nisibin), Mardin, Turkey
The October 19th, 2006 issue of the daily Kurdish newspaper, Ülkede Özgür Gündem, reported the accidental discovery of a mass grave site containing human skeletons and bone fragments in a cave. Villagers from Xirabebaba (Kuru) - an Armenian village prior to 1915 - unearthed a cave containing about 40 skulls and numerous human bones while digging a grave for a departed relative. Upon the discovery of this mass burial site, the villagers informed the nearby Turkish authorities in Akarsu in hopes of a formal public inquiry. Military officers advised the villagers not to inform anyone about their discovery and stated that a formal investigation would follow. Gündem reports that the villagers believe the remains found in the caves belong to the 300 Armenians in that region said to have been massacred during the Armenian Genocide. The villagers also reported discovering a stone water pitcher and half-meter deep cavities in the walls of the cave, in addition to the human bone fragments and skulls.
"Found by villagers, covered up by the military" was the headline for the news report that appeared on the October 22nd issue of Gündem, again about the mass burial graveyard discovered by villagers in a cave in Nusaybin. According to this news report, soldiers arrived at the grave site, took photos and sealed off the entrance. Any media members seeking more information about the mass grave were denied access to the cave. Gündem further reports that as of 5 days after the villagers’ report to the authorities of their discovery, no investigation had yet been officially launched by the public prosecutor’s office. According to Gündem’s report, military officials even pressured the villagers to reveal the source who leaked the discovery of the mass grave to Gündem. In addition, the military further claimed that the news regarding the cave reported by Roj TV (a Kurdish news channel) and Ülkede Özgür Gündem newspaper were false allegations.
A recent book by Professor David Gaunt of Södertörn University in Sweden, Massacres, Resistance, Protectors: Muslim-Christian Relations in Eastern Anatolia during World War I(Gorgias Press, 2006), has been getting a lot of press regarding his research into the tragic events termed Seyfo by the Syriac-speaking Christians of the region. His particular focus on the provinces of Mardin and Diyarbakir has led to the first-ever extensive and documented study of the 1915 Seyfo that the Turkish republic does not recognize. His research, based on official Russian, European, and Ottoman military archives as well as oral history, reveals actual Ottoman military directives in telegrams. Furthermore, he focused his research on the often-neglected Eastern Christians such as the various Assyrian- and Syriac-speaking communities, as well as Armenian Catholics. When consulted about the mass burial site, he explained that the nearby town of Dara – close to the location of the mass burial cave - once housed Armenian and Syriac Catholic households. In Massacres, Resistance, Protectors, based on the oral history provided by a surviving witness of Seyfo, Gaunt reports a mass killing of 150 Armenian and Syriac Catholic heads of households from Dara (now Oguz) on June 14, 1915. According to the oral witness, the victims were marched out of Dara and killed. Their bodies were placed in a well. According to Gaunt’s research, the perpetrators were likely the death squad based in Mardin, acting on the orders of Halil Adib (Mardin's local CUP leader and criminal court judge) who was then the acting mutasarrif in Mardin. Gaunt believes that “the mass burial in this cave suggests that two groups could have been killed in separate places and that the Armenians were put into this cave while the Syriacs were put in a well.”
Discovery of the mass grave not surprisingly has caught the interest of international historians, whose conjecture is that they may contain the remains of victims of the 1915 massacres perpetuated against the Christian minorities. Negotiations over the examination of remains from the mass graves in Turkey seem to be heading rapidly toward the controversial, given the exchanges between associated parties and the negative press Gaunt received in the Turkish media.
As the area where the mass grave lies is on a line of ancient defense works and underground storage rooms dating back to Roman times, there is some speculation by Turkish officials that the remains are from Roman times. This theory has been put forward by Professor Yusuf Halaçoğlu, head of the Turkish Historical Society (TKK). Halaçoğlu has been corresponding with Gaunt, who has requested a joint investigation of the site with a Swedish delegation working with the TKK (whose track record on Armenian-Turkish issues is, according to Gaunt, "abysmal"). His concerns are that a thorough, substantive investigation should be done via collaboration and not by the TKK alone, and that such an investigation should include the cooperation of local universities and DNA testing among people whose ancestors may be in the grave. Halaçoğlu states that all interested parties are invited to come to Turkey and participate together in the opening of the grave site Gaunt and Halaçoglu have negotiated April 23-24, 2007 as the date for the Turkish Historical Society and the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation (of which Prof. Gaunt is the project director) to initiate discussions about a possible investigation of the mass grave. The proposed investigation will seek to clarify conflicting claims about the origins of the mass grave through a forensic and historical investigation that will continue until the autumn of 2007 when a joint expert opinion will be issued. The initial meeting in Mardin will include an inspection of the mass grave site The aim of this visit is to make a preliminary survey to establish whether the site is suitable for a future interdisciplinary investigation by forensic medical experts, archaeologists, physical anthropologists and historians. If such a determination is made, forensic experts will be engaged to assist the Turkish Historical Society and the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation in their work.
Gaunt hopes that his book on the massacres can be used as a reference tool for any active groups lobbying for Turkey to recognize the massacres. While the discovery of the burial site could provide long sought-after answers with the aid of modern forensic analysis, reaching a resolution of the long-standing controversy of what the Assyrians of the region call Seyfocould only be achieved on the international and political front via open dialogue with cooperation from Turkish academics such as Prof. Halaçoğlu.
Suicide Bombing Kills 10 in Assyrian Town of Tel-Osqof
(ZNDA: Baghdad) On Monday, April 23rd, around 9:30 in the morning, a suicide car bomb attack occurred near the northern city of Mosul at 10:10 a.m. when a suicide attacker detonated his car and at least 10 people were killed and 20 wounded in the attack in Tel-Osquf, a town 9 miles north of Mosul.
The car bomb exploded in the middle of the village market, in front of the social club near an elementary school.
Tel-Osquf is a predominantly Christian town. This was the first terrorist attack in this tight-knit community since the Iraq war started.
The injured victims were transported to hospitals in the neighboring towns and cities including Tel-Kef, Sheikhan and Dohuk.
Christians in Baghdad Under Pressure to Convert to Islam
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Zinda sources close to the churches in Baghdad indicated on Tuesday that "certain faction of Moslems" have begun forcing the Assyrians living in the Christian neighborhoods of Baghdad to either convert to Islam or leave within 24 hours.
In other news, a few neighborhoods have been visited by other Moslem groups demanding a "protection tax" better known as the jizya in accordance to the Islamic law.
According to similar reports from the Assyrian International News Agency in Hay al-Mechaneek in the Dora district of Baghdad, Christians have been ordered to uninstall their satellite dishes. Assyrians in the districts of Hay al-Mualimeen (the Teachers' Quarter) and the Hay al-Athoreen (the Assyrians Quarter) have been warned to either convert to Islam or leave immediately.
On Friday, 13 April, an Islamic group issued an ultimatum to the Assyrian families in Baghdad, ordering them to convert to Islam within 24 hours or risk death. The Islamic fatwa issued also included total confiscation of all Christian properties, veiling of the Assyrian women in accordance to the Islamic laws, and the making of the sign of the cross or wearing of a cross in public.
The Crosses from the Churches of St. John and St. George have already been removed by the members of these militant Islamic groups and the Assyrian monastery of Rabban Hormuz in north Iraq is now occupied by militant Islamists.
Some families arriving recently in Syria from Baghdad have confirmed this information and describe the situation as "impossible to tolerate."
US Troops Occupy Babel College in Baghdad
Courtesy of the Catholic World News
(ZNDA: Baghdad) American troops have occupied Babel College, a Chaldean Catholic theological faculty in Baghdad, raising concerns that the college could become the target of attacks.
Because of repeated attacks on Christians in Baghdad, and threats against the faculty of Babel College, Chaldean Church officials chose to move teachers and students to a relatively safe location in Ankawa, in northern Iraq, early this year. US troops set up a base in the empty facility.
Babel College is the only Catholic theological faculty in Iraq, and the college library is one of the oldest in the country, boasting a rich religious collection and some rare ancient manuscripts. Chaldean Church officials are worried about the safety of the collection.
Bishop Shlemon Warduni, an auxiliary of the Chaldean patriarchate in Baghdad, has opened talks with US military officials about the future of Babel College, the Italian SIR news agency reports. American officers have reportedly said that the army will vacate the facility soon.
Assyrian Village in North Iraq Terrorized By Kurds
Report by the Assyrian International News Agency
On Monday, March 03, 2007 at 14:00 a Kurd accompanied by an Assyrian from Shayeez entered the Assyrian village of Kora Gavan and began assaulting some of the inhabitants. Local residents rounded up the two invaders and beat them. In response to this Shimmal Ammadi, the Kurdish mayor of the district of Zaweeta, and Sarwan Trawanshi, a three star general of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) security, warned the Assyrian residents of the village not to attack Kurds again even in self defense.
The residents of the village filed several complains with the Governor and the Assyrian vice Governor of Dohuk, both of whom were unresponsive and took no action in the matter.
The Kurdish intention is to chase the Assyrians out of their village so they can complete its annexation into Kurdish territory. The KRG has illegally rebuilt more than 600 homes for Kurds over Assyrian lands in this village.
Before the Assyrian massacre of 1933, approximately 300 families lived in Kora Gavan in 100 homes. Since 1963 Kora Gavana was continuously persecuted at the hands of the Iraqi authorities and its Kurdish supporters. This ill treatment forced many of its residents to leave and dwell in other villages and cities. Some of its original residents returned when conditions improved.
In 1976 Saddam's Ba'ath government and its Kurdish supporters began encroaching upon the village. By 1980 the Iraqi government had built a residential compound of 500 homes to settle the Kurds who had been forced out of their villages and who in turn forced the Assyrians out. After 1991 Kurds form other villages, mainly from Zawita, also began squatting on on Kora Gavana's lands. When the number of Kurdish settlers surpassed those of its Assyrian inhabitants, their assault on the Assyrians resumed, only this time worse than before.
These assaults ranged from bullying and harassment to criminal acts such as life threatening beatings and vandalizing and destroying crops. The assaults and harassment escalated on a daily bases, which made the lives of the Assyrians in Kora Gavana intolerable. The assaults and brutal attacks were so excessive and damaging to the livelihood of the Assyrians that most of them who cultivated and made their living from farming in Kora Gavana were forced to leave their land and migrate to other villages and cities looking for employment and source of income. This exodus greatly reduced the number of Assyrians living in Kora Gavana, to a mere 5 families.
Today, as the acts of war terror escalate in cities such as Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk, many Assyrians who fled Kora Gavana in late 1970s and settled in these cities find themselves in a quandary yet again. The predicament is whether to stay in these cities and risk death daily, or take shelter in Kora Gavana. The problem, however, is that if they go back to the village they have to confront the atrocities that continue to take place on a daily basis at the hands of the Kurds and their Assyrian supporters.
Bishops Appeal: Save Iraq’s Christians!
Courtesy of the Asia News
(ZNDA: Kirkuk) As churches close their doors, car bombs explode, forced conversions and kidnappings take place in Baghdad but also in Nineveh, the Bishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako appeals to the world to do something for Iraq’s Christians, who have been a part of the country’s mosaic since time immemorial.
“In Iraq Christians are dying, the Church is disappearing under continued persecution, threats and violence carried out by extremists who are leaving us no choice: conversion or exile”. This is the urgent appeal sent by msgr. Louis Sako, Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk, while reports arrive of car bombs and the death of Christians in the Kurdish area, until now untouched by the confessional violence.
The bishop who is president of Iraq’s Council of Catholic Churches’ Committee for inter religious dialogue , signed a declaration regarding the “tragic situation of Baghdadis Christians”, denouncing militant groups which under the threat of armed violence ask Christians to convert immediately to Islam or to consign their property and leave the country. The same thing happens in Mosul, but with a different “choice”: pay a monetary tribute to the Jihad if they want to avoid their death.
The Iraqi Christian community, at home and abroad, has long urged the local Church to take a stand against the forced evacuation, rape, kidnap, paying a ransom, blackmail, scarring and killing they suffer and the complete lack of protection from the local government and coalition forces. And in the last two days, as the controversial plan to install a secure zone for Christians in the Nineveh Plain begins to take shape, the terrorists have begun targeting the zoned area. “It’s almost a political gesture – observes msgr Sako – as if to say: “we can hit anywhere, nowhere is safe”.
The confessional based attacks are no longer just restricted to Baghdad and Mosul, but now target small centres in the North. Yesterday a group of fundamentalists executed 23 Yizidi on the road linking Mosul to Ba’ashika, a majority Christian village: they stopped a bus and after having made Arabs and Christians alight they killed the faithful of this ancient religion, based on the strong Good-Evil dualism. Today a car bomb close to a school in Tel-Osqof, a Christian village, and 9 people died including 2 children; 60 were wounded. A convent of Dominican nuns, which is nearby, was badly damaged in the blast.
“We can no longer be silent –explains Msgr. Sako by phone to AsiaNews – we have to remind the world of the importance of the Christian presence in Iraq, for the good of Iraq”. “Christians are one of the oldest constituents of the Iraqi people –he explains in his statement– Since the beginning they have incorporated with its other constituents like the Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Sabean, and Yezidis; playing a pioneering role in the building of the civilization of Iraq. In addition they defended their adherence to the soil and integrity of Iraq courageously and together with their Moslems brothers. Everybody witnesses their loyalty, honesty, wisdom and their desire to live in peace and brotherhood with others. Christians have long lived with Moslems whether Sunnis or Shi'ais in mutual respect and shared the good and the bad days together with them. They have been part of the Islamic culture for the last 14 centuries, by large without problems. Today they want to continue this existence in the spirit of love and under the charter of human rights”.
However in the current situation Christians are targeted as chief conspirators to be exploited or eliminated. They cannot openly profess their faith, the veil is imposed on the women and the crosses are taken down from their churches, threats of kidnappings and extortion weigh heavily over all of them. Msgr Sako lists the violence to which they are submitted on a daily basis: “now a days Christians are suffering in certain areas and cities in Iraq from forced evacuation, rape, kidnap, blackmail, scarring and killing. This unfamiliar behaviour contradicts the Iraqi humanitarian and Islamic morals. Let everybody realize that emptying Iraq of Christians will be disastrous not only for the Christians but for all Iraqis!... Forcing Christians to leave their homes indicates deterioration in the concept of conviviality and furthermore it destroys the cultural, civil and religious mosaic of which Iraq is considered to be the very cradle”.
The appeal signed by Msgr. Sako urges all of the political, religious and cultural communities of Iraq to remain united, because “there is no salvation without our unity. Let the outsider whoever is he, leave and stay away so that the danger of death and the risk of division disappear and vanish and thus permitting life to return to what it once was; a river which flowed in harmony, a river of brotherhood and close unity”.
Turkey Eliminates Evidence of Seyfo
Courtesy of the Eastern Star News Agency
(ZNDA: Ankara) The mass grave found on 17 October 2006 outside the village of Dara in southeastern Turkey has been emptied of all bone remains. When the mass grave was found the news agency DIHA took many pictures which showed a heap of skeletons in the grave.
On 21 April 2007 the state-controlled Anadolu Ajansi news agency showed pictures of the grave site completely empty of the skeletons.
Professor David Gaunt from Södertörn University (Sweden) is at the moment in Turkey to examine the grave site. The Turkish authority responsible for the handling of the mass grave issue, was unwilling to allow David Gaunt to visit the location of the mass grave As soon as the news of the discovery of the mass grave received attention in both the media and the Swedish parliament, the Turkish authority allow a visit to the grave.
According to the villagers and the mayor of the village where the grave site was found, a great deal of labor was performed lately, in a frantic manner, in and around the mass grave
Mass Grave Investigation in Mardin Province
Professor Yusuf Halaçoðlu
Professor David Gaunt
Between April 23-24, 2007, the Turkish Historical Society and the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation will initiate discussions about a possible investigation of a mass grave in the Mardin Province. The proposed investigation will seek to clarify conflicting claims about the origins of the mass grave through a forensic and historical investigation that will continue until the autumn of 2007 when a joint expert opinion will be issued.
Background: In October 2006 villagers in Kuru village of Nusaybin district, in southeastern Turkey’s Mardin province disclosed that they had found a mass grave in a cave near their village. Some local reporters published articles including photographs of the site stating that the grave contained remains of Armenians, and was similar to other grave sites from this era. The authorities of the Mardin province launched their own investigation and concluded that the remains were from Roman times. The new investigation by the Turkish Historical Society and the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation will seek to clarify these conflicting claims through a collaborative investigation.
This proposed joint investigation of the Mardin mass grave will be led by Professor Yusuf Halaçoðlu, president of the Turkish Historical Society, and Professor David Gaunt of Södertörn University College in Sweden who is the project director for the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation at the Salzburg Seminar.
The initial meeting in Mardin on April 23-24, 2007 will include an inspection of the mass grave site in Kuru village of Nusaybin district. The aim of this visit is to make a preliminary survey to establish whether the site is suitable for a future interdisciplinary investigation by forensic medical experts, archaeologists, physical anthropologists and historians. If such a determination is made, forensic experts will be engaged to assist the Turkish Historical Society and the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation in their work
Assyrian Youth Run for the Recognition of Seyfo
A report prepared by the Seyfo Center in Holland
On the morning of 22nd of April, and in an atmosphere full of defiance and conscious Assyrian youth, Sabri Atman gave a brief speech and prepared the 92 youths on the difficulty of running a marathon for the full recognition of Seyfo: the Assyrian genocide.
Atman drew the parallel of running this marathon with the ongoing battle for Seyfo’s international recognition. He said both are difficult and full of pains and perils but we, the children of the Seyfo victims, have now begun our marathon and have no means of returning back, and are fully resolved to reach the finishing line; we will not settle for anything less than Turkey’s official recognition of the crimes of Seyfo.
All the participating youths successfully completed the marathon and they were cheered and supported by a substantial number of Assyrian spectators who cheered and encouraged the youth to finish the marathon.
The Assyrian participation in this annual marathon was organized primarily by Seyfo Centre, The Assyrian Youth Federation of Netherlands, and supported by Firodil Institute. Various media outlets were also present at the event.
AUA at the UNHCR Conference
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Assyrian Universal Alliance delegates, Ms. Mary Younan (Executive Secretary) and Mr. Carlo Ganjeh (Americas Chapter Secretary), were pleased to participate in the Conference on Addressing the Humanitarian Needs of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons inside Iraq and in Neighbouring Countries held by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on 17-18 April 2007.
Many governments have pledged financial support to the UNHCR and we welcome their commitment and assistance for the humanitarian needs of refugees and internally displaced persons in Iraq.
The Iraqi Government should negotiate with hosting countries in providing food, educational and healthcare facilities, and legal documentation to displaced Iraqis in order to improve their living condition.
The Iraqi Government, along with the international community, should provide financial assistance to internally and externally displaced persons to facilitate their safe return to Iraq.
In order to preserve the Assyrians in their homeland, the Assyrian Universal Alliance believes in the designation of a geographically viable autonomous region in Northern Iraq as the Assyria autonomous region, encompassing the Assyrian triangle between the Great Zab and Tigris Rivers; with the support of the Iraqi government, as well as the international community, particularly the United Nations.
In conclusion, we call upon the Assyrian nation worldwide to support and promote the Assyrian cause in their respective governments in order to resolve this lamentable humanitarian disaster, the largest Assyrian population displacement since World War I.
AUA's Condemnation of the Tel-Osquf Killings
FOR IMMIDIATE RELEASE
24 April 2007
The Assyrian Universal Alliance condemns in the strongest terms possible the vicious and cowardly act of terrorism perpetrated on Monday 23 April 2007, against innocent civilians of Tel-Osquf village in Nineveh plains-Northern Iraq, in which many innocent civilians were victimized, this act of genocidal barbarism is inexcusable. Our sympathies and prayers are with the victims, their families and friends. We extend our gratitude to the emergency services that rushed to help the victims and their bereaved families.
Recent escalations of vicious acts of terrorism that are specifically targeting innocent civilians, especially the Assyrian Christians, are clearly genocidal - stark violation against humanity.
We, the Assyrians in diaspora, strongly condemn these heinous acts. We call upon the world body of nations to do likewise and condemn them.
May God rest victim’s souls in peace and reward them with eternal paradise.
ADM Statement on the Occasion of 28th Inception Anniversary
Assyrian Democratic Movement
Today, on 12 April 2007, members and supporters of our Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa) are celebrating the 28th anniversary of its inception. On this occasion, we renew our promise to move on the path of the Movement’s martyrs, which was purified by the blood of its martyrs sacrificing their precious lives for the just and legitimate cause of our ChaldoAssyrian Syriac people. We salute their souls and we salute those who struggle and who carry their blood in their hands, marching at the same path of the martyrs.
The struggle of our movement continues due to our faith in the fair cause of our ChaldoAssyrian Syriac people, and out of belief in the principles of partnership, fraternity and religions coexisting with our brothers - the Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and other nationalities in Iraq.
While celebrating this anniversary, we share with our Iraqi people the pains, wounds and numerous crises in the shadow of terrorism, violence and the deteriorating security situation and poor basic services, which is causing continued migration, especially to the neighboring countries, or, for those who stay in the country, who shoulder these burdens and risks. Here we call upon all those proud Iraqi people and its political, intellectual, social and religious powers to stand together for the salvation and the renunciation of violence and terrorism and to build a new Iraq. We seek a democratic and free Iraq under a parliamentary, federal, and pluralistic system. We seek an Iraq ruled by the concepts of justice, equality and partnership, that brings security and civic peace and the rule of law and to work to restore a civilization through a comprehensive national reconciliation and to embrace all benevolent Iraqi forces and allow everyone to participate in national decision making, and to lay the foundations for building a new Iraq.
Oh masses of our struggling people,
As we recall the twenty-eight years of the life of our movement Zowaa, we pay homage to the souls of the martyrs and bow in respect to the sincere and loyal masses that supported our movement since the days of the armed struggle through the uprising in March 1991 and in all political and electoral processes and ending in the liberation of Iraq and the regime change. This support confirms the integrity of our movement and the right approach and the justice of our cause. This approach is based on the tireless struggle for the establishment of the unity of our people, and respects the will of the people and refusal of any guardianship by others. The support of the masses for our movement continued despite the diversity and escalation of tactics against our movement and the unity of our people. The purple march on the first of April of this year, and the celebrations that followed, only underline the determination of our people to achieve their legitimate national rights and enjoyment of their own free will and independent decision. Thus we value the stand of our proud people, which empower us with resolve and determination. We promise our masses and our immortal martyrs that we will continue the march and remain committed to the covenant.
Salute to the martyrs of Iraq
Assyria National Assembly Communiqué 3
Assyria National Assembly
To our Assyrian Nation
As Iraq lives the state of violence and disorder new terms emerge from time to time on the Iraqi arena. The terms to call for false unity and contain the true meaning of division followed not for so long by Kurdish politicians. Their notions change with every woeful day livid by Iraqis, yet their aspiration to division expands the very next day. Through the federalism Kurds have succeeded to pass their scheme of what so called Kurdish territory, hence they will try to put the corner stone to establish their state on the account of the Assyrian people the true owner of the land and history.
We promise our people to preserve our genuine Assyrian stands and join our brothers in their struggle to protect our identity from any form of Arabization or Kurdification. We fully stand by every person, who calls for unity and independence of Iraq.
We on the other hand announce to the Assyrian people our strict stand from all the faulty denominations that try to eradicate our sacred name, yet we denounce the behavior of some who are considered subservient to our Assyrian Nation working for organizations that take the Assyrian denomination to conceal and mislead the facts or members in parties that oppose our nation. We fully denounce and condemn any action taken by such parties, for they do not relate or express our Assyrian Nation. The hostile stands of these parties towards other parties and organizations that diligently defended and preserved the Assyrian National Movement have become evident.
We at the Assyria National Assembly call upon all the Iraqi factions (Arabs, Turkmen, Kurds and Assyrians) to frequently use the term North of Iraq instead of what so called Kurdish territory and to avoid using any chauvinist name that harm the Iraqi unity.
We also fully reinforce the effort of any Iraqi organization towards the unity and absolutely reject all the attempts of marginalization adopted by some groups against the others.
Assyria our identity. Iraq our umbrella.
Alleged Saddam ‘Sleeper Agent’ Convicted
Courtesy of the Associated Press
(ZNDA: Chicago) An alleged Iraqi "sleeper agent" sent by Saddam Hussein to spy on his enemies in the United States was convicted Monday of lying about his ties to the former Baghdad regime.
Sami Latchin, a 59-year-old Assyrian, was taken into custody minutes after the federal jury verdict, which could send him to prison for up to 40 years. Prosecutors warned that Latchin would be a flight risk if allowed to stay free until sentencing.
"He'll take that bracelet off (his ankle), and he's going to run," Assistant U.S. Attorney James M. Conway told Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer.Jurors deliberated about three hours on evidence that included testimony from three former Iraqi intelligence officers, two of whom took the stand under aliases, saying they were concerned about reprisals.
The evidence also included documents slipped to an FBI agent by Iraqi dissidents after U.S. tanks rolled into Baghdad. Prosecutors said the Arabic documents showed that Latchin was an agent for Iraqi intelligence.
Latchin, wearing headphones to hear an Arabic translation of the proceedings, showed no emotion when the verdict was announced, convicting him of all five charges against him.
The indictment charged him with lying on his U.S. citizenship application, acting as an unregistered foreign agent and conspiring to do so, lying to an FBI agent, and violating U.S. sanctions against Iraq.
“ Iraq, Oh Iraq: A Night of Iraqi Cultural Performances”
By Stan Shahbaz, reporting from Washington, DC
On March 23, the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University hosted “ Iraq, Oh Iraq: A Night of Iraqi Cultural Performances.” The event included presentations of Iraqi-themed theatrical performances, folkloric music, poetry and art. Three of the main performers were Heather Raffo, Sinan Antoon and Amir ElSaffar.
Heather Raffo performed passages from her one-woman play, “9 Parts of Desire” Heather first performed “9 Parts of Desire” in August 2003 at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. It later moved to the Bush Theatre in London's Off-West End, where critics hailed it as one of the five best plays in London in late 2003. Its New York premiere took place in the fall of 2004 at the Manhattan Ensemble Theater, where the show ran for nine sold out months. In 2005 the play began touring the U.S. Heather has stated that she “intended to write a piece about the Iraqi psyche, something that would inform and enlighten the images we see on TV. However, the play is equally about the American psyche. It is a dialogue between east and west. The characters are deeply engaged in circumstances unique to them as Iraqis and yet through their passions seem to answer the concerns of the west. The audience plays a vital role in the show with each Iraqi character speaking directly to them in English as if they were a trusted western friend. I wanted the audience to see these women not as the ‘other’ but much more like themselves than they would have initially thought.”
Heather is the recipient of a Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Special Commendation and the Marian Seldes-Garson Kanin Fellowship for “9 Parts of Desire.” Most recently she has received a 2005 Lucille Lortel award for Best Solo show as well as an Outer Critics Circle Nomination and a Drama League nomination for Outstanding Performance. Heather's other recent acting credits include: Sarah Woodruff in the world premiere of
“The French Lieutenant's Woman,” Fulton Opera House. Off-Broadway: Over The River and Through the Woods, the Off Broadway/National Tour of Macbeth (Lady Macbeth), The Merry Wives of Windsor (Mistress Page) and The Rivals all with The Acting Company. Othello (dir. Jack O'Brien), Romeo and Juliet (dir. Daniel Sullivan), As You Like It (dir. Stephen Wadsworth), Macbeth (dir. Nicholas Martin), and Comedy of Errors (dir. John Rando) all with The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. Heather received her BA from the University of Michigan, her MFA from the University of San Diego and studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London.
Also performing at the event was Sinan Antoon, who recited some of his poetry. Sinan is a poet, novelist, and translator. He studied English literature at Baghdad University before moving to the United States after the 1991 Gulf War. He did his graduate studies at Georgetown, where he earned an MA in Arab Studies, and Harvard where he earned a Ph.D in Arabic Literature in 2006. His poems and essays (in Arabic and English) have appeared in various journals and publications in the Arab world, including as-Safir, an-Nahar, al-Adab, and Masharef, as well as The Nation, Middle East Report, al-Ahram Weekly, Banipal and the Journal of Palestine Studies. He has published a collection of poems, Mawshur Muballal bil-Huroob (A Prism; Wet with Wars, Cairo 2003) and a novel I`jaam: an Iraqi Rhapsody, which was published in March 2007. He has recited his poetry in Baghdad, Beirut, Berlin, London, New York and Seville. His co-translation of Mahmud Darwish's poetry was nominated for the PEN Prize for translation in 2004. He returned to his native Baghdad in 2003 as a member of InCounter Productions to co-produce the film “About Baghdad”, which documented the lives of Iraqis during the post-invasion occupation. He is also a senior editor of the Arab Studies Journal, a member of PEN America, a contributing editor to Banipal, and a member of the editorial committee of Middle East Report.
The musical component was provided by Amir ElSaffar. Amir was born and raised in Chicago and has had a keen interest in music since he was a child. He was influenced by a variety of musical styles, including Classical, Rock, Jazz and Chicago-style Blues. He attended DePaul University in Chicago, where he earned a Bachelor's degree in Classical Trumpet in 1999. After he won an international jazz trumpet competition he decided to use the prize money to travel to his father’s homeland of Iraq. He wanted to study the ancestral and folk musical traditions of Iraq. He became fascinated with Iraqi maqam and started to study that musical tradition under the foremost masters located in Iraq and in Europe. Amir feels that “there couldn't be a better expression of what the soul of the Iraqi people is than the Iraqi maqam. Particularly in the way that melodies are put together. There's a Bedouin melody next to a Turkish melody next to a melody from Mosul next to a melody from the south of Iraq. And they sort of all fit together in this very harmonious way without a sense of division in it. It's that sense of unity and diversity that I think is very powerful.” Even UNESCO has identified Iraqi maqam as an "intangible heritage of humanity" and plans to encourage performances and training. A recent UNESCO proclamation regarding Iraqi maqam states that “with a repertory rooted in classical or colloquial Arabic poetry and distinctive vocal and instrumental timbres, the Maqam is the musical form most revered by the country’s musicians, intellectuals, literary and musical scholars as well as by a wide cross-section of the Iraqi population. Thanks to its rich repertory and distinctive interpretive style, this expression embodies the Iraqis’ collective musical and literary heritage.”
Amir recently released his first CD of Iraqi maqam, and has been performing the music in the United States for audiences that include a lot of Iraqi expatriates. Amir has been amazed at the emotional response the music can generate. “I've seen people get teary-eyed,” he says. “I've seen people cry at performances. People come up to me and say it's brought them back to Baghdad. They can just feel the energy of the place again.” That exact reaction was on display at the Georgetown performance. Many Iraqi families were on hand to share in a beautiful nostalgia for fond memories of old Baghdad; memories which Amir’s music helped to evoke. Also performing with Amir was his sister Dena El Saffar. Dena is the founder of the Middle Eastern musical ensemble Salaam. The goal of Salaam is to introduce American audiences to the beauty of the Middle Eastern musical heritage.
After each artist performed their craft individually, all of them returned to the stage as a group to present a final simultaneous rendition of their respective genres. Poetry, theatre and music melded together in a harmonious and fascinating synthesis. It was an inspiring finale and a fitting artistic tribute to Iraq.
In addition to the performances, some paintings of Lavon Ammori were on display. Lavon Ammori is a first generation Chaldean-American living in the Metro-Detroit area. She earned a Bachelors in English Literature and a Bachelors of Fine Arts at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor with several honors including a Heers Memorial Scholarship Prize. She is a painter and printmaker, having shown work in local exhibits and interned at Exit Art, a non-profit contemporary art gallery in New York City.
Lavon is a member of the Chaldean Cultural Center of America (CCCA) and Art Director of the Mesopotamia Learning Studio & Art Gallery. She is currently producing a book to be entitled “Contemporary Chaldean Art: Pioneer to Present Day.” The book focuses on artists from the time of Iraq’s independence in the 1930s to the present day. She has stated that “the book will discuss artists such as Issa Hanna Dabish, who was among a few founders of the modern Iraqi art movement, and Faraj Abbo, who was an instructor of art at Baghdad’s Academy of Fine Arts for several decades”. Lavon further says that “we need to preserve and share this history with our children and future generations. We should remember that Iraq was a vibrant center, full of creativity, music, art, and life. Hopefully, our children will not only think of Iraq in terms of the images of war they see on the TV news, but also in terms of the beauty that comes from its people.”
His Excellency Samir Shakir Sumaida’ie, Iraq’s ambassador to the US, was on hand for the event. At the end of the performance the ambassador took the stage to say a few words of congratulations and thanks to the artists and organizers of the evening’s beautiful cultural event. He was most impressed with the talents of this generation of Iraqi-American artists and activists. The audience thoroughly enjoyed the performances which brought back fond memories of bygone days and sincere hopes for a better tomorrow.
Truth, Strength, & National Pride
Thank you for publishing that beautiful article entitled "Alqush, Alqush" written by our most honorable Assyrian son and great writer, Ashur Gewargis. I enjoyed reading it tremendously, and learned about a piece of Assyrian history long lost to us, thanks to his late grandfather. I hope Ashur writes more of such stories, left to him by his father and grandfather, as they are lost Assyrian treasures that we need to archive.
The Feast of Resurrection
Some years ago I was listening to a lecturer argue that Easter should not be celebrated by Christians. He claimed that it derived from the worship of Ishtar, and so it was a pagan festival. To this day, both Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists hold to this belief.
In order to check out his claims, which included claims that the Roman Catholic Church had instituted this pagan practice, I checked for the terminology involving Easter. First, I discovered that the term ‘Easter’ comes from Anglo-Saxon, and is mentioned by the Venerable Bede in De Tempore Ratione:
The Brothers Grimm, in their search of Germanic traditions, found information about a Germanic goddess Ostara, who seems to have corresponded with the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre. So, the English term ‘Easter’ seems to be related to a Germanic goddess. What then about the Christian holy day?
For the ancient Aramaic-speaking Christians of the Holy Land, it was Peskha. For the Greeks it is Paskha (also written ‘Pascha’). For French Christians it is Paque, for the Spanish it is Pascua, for Filipinos it is Pasko. When I looked up the term in an Assyrian dictionary written in the early 20th century, the translations I found were ‘Ida dQyamta’ and ‘Ida Gyura’. Nowhere was I able to find reference to Ishtar or to Tammuz. Everything seems to refer to Pesach (the Jewish Feast on the 14th of Nissan), to the resurrection, or to the importance of the day (Ida Gyura as opposed to Ida Z’ura). Only in the countries speaking Germanic languages did I find terms like ‘Easter’. The Seventh Day Adventists of course won’t believe this. Nor will the Jehovah’s Witnesses. As to the Assyrians, search it out for yourselves. Rene Labat’s “Manuel d’Epigraphie Akkadienne” can be used to look up Akitu (I’ve done this), and if you live near a major university, they may have a copy in the library. (By the way, some Celto-Pagans are now claiming Easter as an old Celto-pagan feast day, and Eostre as a Celtic goddess).
Also, while Beta (House) is spelled Bet Yud Taw, Beta (Egg) is spelled Bet Yud Tet. The Hebrew word Beytsa and the Arabic Beyd (spelled with Dad and not Dal) are both related to this word
So, following in the footsteps of Mar Aprim I celebrate the Great Feast, the Feast of the Resurrection, the Pascha.
Easter Has No Connection to Ishtar
I wish to make reference to the highly spurious article by Maggie Younan and David Gavary in which it is cclaimed that the word Easter is derived from the name of the Assyrian goddess Ishtar. The only evidence that the authors seem to provide for this highly unlikely etymology is that both words seem somehow to sound the same.
The actual word Easter, is an Indo-Aryan word derived from the Germanic Eostre, the spring goddess. If the authors of the article postulate some sort of connection between the ancient Assyrian and the pre-Christian Germans, who antedated them by thousands of years, they have not advanced it.
In truth, the authors' argument is rendered ever the more so unscholarly when it is considered that the vast majority of Christian peoples around the world do NOT use the word Easter to describe the resurrection. The Greeks, Italians and French for example, all use derivations of the Hebrew word "pesach' meaning passover, whereas the Slavic peoples use Velikonoc (Great Night) or Uskrs (Resurrection).
The authors then go on to befuddle the various creation myths, confusing semi-histroical personages such as Semiramis with Ishtar and making incorrect claims such as that the ancient Greeks worshipped Astarte. All authorities agree that Astarte was not one of the goddesses of the Olympian Pantheon and it is unclear why such a claim would be made.
Further, it appears that the authors have confused the meaning of Easter with the customs associated with Easter when they make the ridiculous claim that: "Easter has nothing whatsoever to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ." Had they attended church at Easter, they would soon realise that the Resurrection of Christ is ALL that Easter is about. While the customs associated with Easter may hearken back to times predating that festival, this does not signify a negation of the actual event of Christ's resurrection.
Even when dealing with customs associated with Easter, the authors automatically asume that customs such as "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." The truth is that most Middle Eastern Christians do not have a tradition of hot-cross buns, rabbits and Easter ham. Instead, these are Western traditions. Are we seriously to be.leve that these so-called Assyrian traditions magically jumped over the entire Middle East only to find themselves in Western Europe? I have yet to see the presence of rabbits and hot cross buns at an Assyrian Easter celebration.
No evidence of the Assyrian origin of any 'customs' is provided in the article. Instead, the authors make a long list of hypotheses and conjecture about the Bible, uselessly quoting Old Testament tracts that pre-date Easter and making absurd claims about the day of Good Friday that thjey do not back up with any sources. These seem to serve no other purpose than to besmirch the most important event in the Christian religion. Quite apart from balking at publishing such an unscholarly and amateurish article Zinda should have had the sensitivity not to publish such an offensive piece during the celebration of Christ's resurrection.
Conspiracy theories about nations providing the entire world with their culture are prominent in almost every single nation around the world. It serves no purpose other than to boost the low self esteem of those who have an inferiority complex to assert exclusive origins to a feast which is shared by thousands of peoples throughout the world. Are we to assume therefore that organised genocide as practised by Senaccherib and Nebuchadnezzar was also invented by Assyrians?
This year, the persecuted but courageous Assyrians who steadfastly remain in Bet-Nahrain in the face of terrible persecution braved danger to themselves in order to go to church and celebrate Christ's resurrection, as they have done for 2,000 years. This article, written by persons who can comfortably insult these stoic people's beliefs in safety and security, miles away from danger, scorns not only those valiant Assyrians of Bet-Nahrain but also 2,000 years of tradition. It also provides the religious enemies of the Assyrian people with much to rejoice in. Regardless of such scorn, those heroic Assyrians remain steadfast in the knowledge that along with the Resurrection of the Lord, the resurrection of their people will come.
Wilfred Bet-Alkhas is NOT for Sale
Mr. Bet-Alkhas, you had me worried when I read your article/editorial in 11th of September 2006 Zinda Magazine. I must agree with you, when one sees injustice one must speak out, however, this editorial was uncharacteristically harsh, particularly to those other than the target of your article, so please excuse me for thinking that KDP wasp tentacles may have reached you too.
Let me explain to the northern hemisphere residents about this water creature that lives in Australian waters. Its body is jelly-like material and attached to it are many long string like extensions known as the tentacles. The creature is called by many names, but for our purpose I will use the Sea Wasp.
The Sea Wasp's tentacles float aimlessly in the water. When someone is in close proximity, these tentacles will attach themselves to the prey and poison is injected through their suction cups with which it attaches itself to its victim. There are two types of this creature. If attacked by the warm water variety which is found in tropics, far north of Australia, the victim has 20 seconds before the nervous system is thrown into state of confusion. If someone is not careful and gets caught in the tentacle of the cooler water variety which lives in southern waters, it may suffer extreme pain for some days.
Sargis Akhajan (the KDP wasp) has his tentacles spread all around where Assyrians live in the hope he can find some prey in sensitive places like the media outlets, churches, political parties and organizations. He uses his cold water variety on the victims: if they respond he then uses the warm water variety injecting the mighty ‘green backs’ into his prey, the end result are these victims are declared brain dead and they then follow his orders without question.
Recently out of desperation: the KDP wasp has been going for individuals as it was evident in the Ankawa Conference. Established parties and institutions avoided this conference; they could see it was a sham.
Excuse me for assuming the the KDP Wasp that got you was the cold water variety and your editorial/article in the 21s t of March 2007 Zinda Magazine shows the poison is completely worn off.
Our people and the cause simply couldn’t afford to lose your even-handed approach; even worse to switch to KDP wasp and his victims’ side.
The truth of the matter may well be you were doing the honorable thing in standing beside the church leadership and defending them be it indirectly. Majority of our people feel that way and would like to be able to stand with them and defend them. Unfortunately the church leadership makes it hard by not standing with their own people. Indeed quite the opposite, they are undermining the good work being done by decent honorable leaders of our communities.
What is Being Assyrian About?
Many of us from time to time have referred to ourselves as being part of the oldest civilization in the world, the Assyrians. We have called our selves Assyrians, the great people of Mesopotamia. We have included ourselves with Ancient royalty and have even referred to ourselves as the chosen people of Christ. There is more to being an Assyrian though. I have come to think of this often and have wondered what really makes me who I am today. As an Assyrian born in America I have wondered what I have to offer my people. What is my role as an Assyrian? Am I supposed to speak Assyrian and follow the rituals of my fathers before me? Where do I take my ancestry and what should I do with it?
I have finally come to know what I need to do to really and truly be Assyrian. I need to teach the world about who Assyrians are. Not just tell them about who we were once and what our ancestors once accomplished but also tell them about all the wonderful things that Assyrians do today. What do we have to offer right now and how we will contribute to the future are key to making people understand that we are here to stay. We will have a voice and we will be recognized for our great accomplishments of yesterday and today.
One of the crusaders for Assyrians today is Zinda Magazine and all the contributors to the magazine. Through Zinda we speak to the world and let everyone know where we are today and what we are doing. We let people know how we are accomplishing great things and how we are still struggling to survive. We also let the world know that we are not going to give up and we will always express ourselves.
One of my dear cousins came to visit me for the weekend and our entire visit revolved around being Assyrian. My cousin, Shemara, is half Assyrian but I have never met someone so dedicated to being full Assyrian in my life. She thrives on the existence of who we are and what we have done in the world. She lives to know more and be able to voice who she is to the whole world.
During our visit I kept thinking, isn’t it funny how someone who can be part of two different ethnicities would choose to be more Assyrian then anything else? It makes you think that if those of us that are full blooded Assyrian could have just half of that passion for our heritage what amazing things we could accomplish. She made a great impression on what I want to do help the world know who we are.
It has always been a great passion to teach about Assyrians and fortunately for me I teach sixth grade where I can apply my heritage to helping educate students about Mesopotamia and its people. Thanks to Zinda my job has become easier because of their generosity and help in getting material that is perfect for students. As for my cousin I have made it a mission to help her be the Assyrian that she has always wanted to be. To help educate the world and to help each other become stronger, this should be what being Assyrian is all about.
Journalistic Conglomeration that is Zinda!
Mikhael K. Pius
Congratulations are in order to Zinda on its 13th Anniversary (sorry, somewhat belatedly!) and all good wishes on Kha B’Neesan Assyrian New Year 6757 as well as on the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
By Zinda I mean the Editor & Publisher Mr. Wilfred Bet-Alkhas and his Crew and all his free-lance contributors, for the great work they all have been doing.
Greetings also to Zinda’s tens of thousands of readers the world over, who are given free reign to express themselves, even when in a strongly opposing voice, when hardly any other sources of Assyrian media allow it.
In my opinion Zinda is the most democratic and influential source of Assyrian journalism, with truth and equal opportunity as its target. It is also a conglomeration of writers as well as topics brought up in every issue to the attention of a good chunk of the mainstream reading public and freely discussed. And isn’t it amazing how many educated writers of professional standards grace its pages and who tell us of fellow Assyrians that are making, or have made, a mark for themselves in today’s world as well as are making a difference. Personalities such as, for instance, Professor John Joseph of Franklin & Marshall College of Maryland, even though many of his learned readers don’t agree with some of his academic statements on today’s Assyrian identity?
As if all this wasn’t enough, we see Zinda is coming up with a Russian edition on May 1, an Assyrian edition on June 22 and an Arabic edition later on. Wow! To use the jargon of today’s youth, this is real cool!
Wilfred’s absorbing editorials are almost always topical and to the point. Notwithstanding the discouraging effect of turmoil, persecution, treachery and disunity our nation is experiencing and despite the apparently unending conflict and division among our people of various political and religious colors and shades, each pulling in a different direction, like horses gone wild, Wilfred has always a note of hope to cheer and inspire unity, like a rainbow at the end of a rainy day; like the return of Tammuz from the hells of the Netherworld and his reunion with Ishtar and the beginning of fertility and new life in the blossoming of spring.
Some of the features in Zinda stand out like beacons in a troubled sea. Just to name a few specimens: Michael Youash’s “What Does an Administrative Area Mean?” is an eye opener for those who sit in front of a camera in their ivory towers and create an Assyria of their own on the air. Nuri Kino’s constant challenging journalistic struggle to have our countless dead recognized by their executioners is a feat to be envied, while Fred Aprim’s “Hypocrisy of our Political and Religious Leaders”—not to mention his regular string of other articles—is a pot shot exposé of our self-created shame. Jennifer and Jolene Will’s cries for fair play against those Assyrians who persecute their Assyrian mother and ridicule their Scottish half, coupled with their earnest pleas to let them belong to their Assyrian half, are voices that condemn racial bigotry among us, especially among the hypocrites who boast of nationalism, love and unity. Reading of the current horrific persecution, in the Middle East in general, of the minute community of our Mandaean countrymen somehow makes our own people’s trials and tribulations seem a little less severe and painful.
We also applaud Rosie Malek-Yonan for her bravado and leadership and her eloquent rhetoric and literature. An accomplished TV and movie star she apparently switched the focus of her pursuit from glamour and fame to the lowly duty of dressing the throbbing wounds of her own people. The lament and appeal in her testimony on the Capitol Hill on the plight of Assyrians in Iraq was brilliant and which no doubt moved and softened many a stony heart. And her meanderings on the unveiling of Rev. Gewargis Rasho’s Assyrian National Memorial Wall at his church in Granada, California, were poetry in prose.
And the priest’s sentimentally nationalistic project is noble and is something to be noticed. But in my humble opinion there was no dire need for it, or other similar monumental projects, at this time as, for instance, there was a definite need for the Assyrian American School in Los Angeles, which he initiated earlier and was received with open arms by all segments of our people. My belief is that we should let our dead bask in the sacred glory of their martyrdom, while we tend to our destitute living. Though I’m sure Rev. Rasho has a compassionate heart and charitable hand, I feel that money from charity spent on massaging our ego could be better spent in feeding our hungry and homeless brothers in the twilight zone.
And last, but certainly not the least, are Mr. Obelit Yadgar’s series of “Musing with My Samovar” in the three issues of March Zinda under the sub-titles “Missed Opportunities,” Radio Memories,” and “My Father’s Apple.”
Boy that is some prose! It runs like poetry and washes the sensitive reader in nostalgia about people and things of the past. I’m sure many of us can identify with the memories he describes. Nostalgia is certainly my favorite cake and Obelit’s poetic prose is the icing on top. You can almost see and smell his Mam Benyamin Arsanis, the great Assyrian writer and historian, with the black and sleek fountain pen with gold-banded cap between his fingers as he works on his manuscripts under the tree; or listen to Obelit’s old Philips radio that transports him, as a boy, to concert halls and exotic places and converts him into a prince or movie star, or to his transistor radio in the killing fields of Vietnam that “ helped me escape to corners far away from the war’s cruelty and stupidity, ugliness and waste, death and destruction”; or see and feel the apple in his father’s hand and hear the crunch as he digs his teeth into it, as well as vicariously savor its delicious taste and sweet juice that oozes and runs down his whiskered chin. Magnificent description that connects one to his nostalgic past, especially that of earlier years!
Mr. Yadgar is, of course, a well-known, seasoned professional writer and long-time classical music radio commentator. We look forward to reading many more episodes of “Samovar” from the pen of this sensitive writer.
Finally, for readers of former Habbaniya origin Zinda also has nostalgic memories, in both text and pictures, in HUSCA [Habbaniya Union School & Community Association] MAGAZINE. The last HUSCA recently loaded was Issue #8—which is in F U L L C O L O R! To download, click on the deep-pink square link in April 8 issue or on the word “Publications” on Zinda home page and then go to the proper link below the word “Community,” which carries ALL EIGHT issues of the magazine published to date.
Dr. David Gaunt's Lectures in California
Dr. David Gaunt, Professor of History at Södertörn University College, Stockholm, Sweden, will give a series of lectures in California entitled "Massacres and Resistance: The Genocide of the Armenians and Assyrians Based on New Evidence from the Archives" from May 3 through 11, 2007.
These lectures will be based on Dr. Gaunt's recently published book Massacres, Resistance, Protectors: Muslim-Christian Relations in Eastern Anatolia during World War I (Gorgias Press, 2006), which will be on sale and available for signing by the author.
Dr. Gaunt will detail how the persecution of Armenian and Assyrian Christian minorities was organized on the national and local levels in places where Armenian and Assyrian populations overlap. Case studies involve the Turkish occupation of Urmia and its surrounding villages, the Assyrian tribes in Hakkari, the massacres of Armenians in Diyarbekir and Mardin, the massacres of Syriacs in the hundreds of villages in Tur Abdin, the successful armed resistance mounted by the villagers of Azakh and Ayn Wardo, and the victory of Antranik’s Armenian and Assyrian
Gaunt’s work is based on unique access to hundreds of documents in the archives of Istanbul and Ankara, as well as documents of Iranian, Russian, Arabic, Armenian, Assyrian, French, and German origin. Most of these documents have never been published before. In addition, nearly forty persons were interviewed about their experiences of the war period. The Turkish documents confirm events and decisions of what was believed to have happened, but for which evidence has been lacking. In some ways, the new documents fill in the blank spaces in the history of genocide.
David Gaunt was born in London, grew up in New Jersey, and moved to Sweden in 1968. He received a Ph.D. from Uppsala University. He is currently Professor of History at Södertörn University College in Stockholm, which is situated in one of Europe’s largest concentrations of the Assyrian Diaspora. He has previously taught at the universities of Uppsala and Umeå. He has published ten books and over one hundred articles, mostly on Swedish social history. In the field of genocide research, he has edited Collaboration and Resistance during the Holocaust: Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania (2004) and authored “At Death’s End: the Genocide in Diyarbekir Province” in Armenian Tigranakert/ Diyarbekir and Edessa/Urfa (Richard G. Hovannisian, ed.), as well as articles in the journals The Assyrian Star and Hujådå.
In addition to the primary-organizing sponsors, the Assyrian American National Federation and National Association for Armenian Studies and Research, the lectures are being presented through an unprecedented collaboration with the following Assyrian and Armenian organizations: (Listed in alphabetical order).
The following is the complete list of Dr. Gaunt's appearances in California. As more dates are added, Zinda will continue to update this list. Admission to all lecture is free.
For more information about this lecture tour, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, (408) 482-1949, or Marc Mamigonian at email@example.com, (617) 489-1610.
Zinda Magazine is a proud sponsor of Dr. Gaunt's lectures in the United States and a sponsor of the publication of his seminal book: "Massacres and Resistance: The Genocide of the Armenians and Assyrians Based on New Evidence from the Archives".
Dr. David Gaunt's Lectures at Stanford University
Assyrian American Association of San Jose
The Assyrian American Association of San Jose in affiliation with the Assyrian American National Federation invites you to attend “ Massacres, Resistance and Protectors: The Genocide of the Armenians and Assyrians based on New Evidence from the Archives”
LECTURE SERIES BY
DR. DAVID GAUNT
Thursday May 3, at 7:30 PM at Stanford University
459 Lagunita Drive, Stanford, CA 94305 Tresidder Union, Cypress Room, 2nd floor
Friday May 4, at 7:00 PM at University of California, Berkeley
Your support and participation in these important lectures will be a show of strength to the unheard voice of hundreds of thousands of innocent victims of the Assyrian, Armenian, and Greek Genocide of 1915 .
Assyrian nation deserves recognition for the Massacre of two third of its population in the first Christian Holocaust of 20th century during World War 1.
Dr. David Gaunt is providing the academic proof of this forgotten history.
Assyrian American Association of San Jose is also proud to host “Meet the Author”
An afternoon of speech and appreciation for Dr. David Gaunt along with wine and cheese reception
On Saturday May 5, at 3:30 to 6:00 PM
at the Adobe Hall of Assyrian American Association of San Jose
For more information or if you are in need of transportation to attend the Lecture series in Stanford and Berkeley for Thursday May 3rd, and Friday May 4th, please call the Association at (408) 519-5010 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Assyrian State Convention of California 2007
Location: Soccer field at the Assyrian Civic Club of Turlock
The Opening Night Dance Party and Ceremony
Entertainment: Outstanding performances by Albert Mansoor, Lida Lawando and the Nineveh Band. Our great DJ will join in to relieve the singers.
Entertainment: The wonderful, Edmond and The Haroot Band, and Teresa will join us for a special appearance, with the DJ sharing International music to keep us dancing throughout the night.
Annual State Picnic
Planting the Seed
Babylonia Marcus '02 used her talents in international trade, economics, and biology to assist Afghanistan's agricultural sector.
Courtesy of Illinois Wesleyan (University Magazine)
When Babylonia Marcus told her parents that her employer was sending her to Afghanistan, their response wasn’t what you’d expect.
They wanted to know why she wasn’t going to Iraq.
It makes more sense if you know their background. Marcus’s parents are Iraqi immigrants, part of the Assyrian minority of that country. She was being sent to Afghanistan to help rebuild its infrastructure and boost its economy. Iraq, they thought, needed her help more than Afghanistan, which had faded in the news by the time she packed for Kabul in the summer of 2005.
“They wanted to know why I would go out of my way when it’s my country of ancestry that needs help,” says Marcus, 26, a 2002 graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University.
But Iraq, for now, will have to wait.
When she called her parents in the summer of 2005, Marcus was working for Chemonics International, a Washington, D.C.-based company that carried out a $145 million U.S. government contract to breathe life back into Afghanistan’s economy, or what passed for an economy.
The landlocked country has suffered from decades of drought and war. Afghanistan’s best and brightest fled the country during the 1980s while the Afghans fought the Soviets, and later, after the Taliban took over in 1996. By the time those radicals were driven from power by the U.S. military in 2001, the land was broken, the infrastructure was in tatters, and commodities trading was nearly nonexistent.Enter RAMP, or the Rebuilding Afghanistan Markets Program, run by Chemonics. When the three-year program was completed in September 2006, the company — with the help of Marcus, the Afghanistan government, expatriates, and local Afghan workers — took that $145 million of seed money and ballooned it into $1.6 billion worth of good for the country.
And to think economics was Marcus’ minor. Imagine if she’d majored in it.
Home on the range
Marcus, a Golf, Ill., native who now lives in Washington, D.C., went to Illinois Wesleyan University with plans of becoming a doctor. Biology was a passion, so it became her major.
She stuck with it, quickly taking a shine to behavioral ecology, a kind of mix between science and sociology, with a dash of chaos theory.
Her example: “If the wind blows in a certain way in a certain time of year and there’s a decrease in the population of wolves, what’s going to happen to the rabbits?”
During her junior year, the wind blew her first to D.C., then to South Africa, where, during the spring semester of 2001, she found herself working on a corporate cattle ranch in KwaZulu-Natal, formerly the Northern Province. The trip was supposed to be about science, with a focus on ecology, but economics kept creeping in.
At the ranch, cattle from low altitudes were being bred with ones from high altitudes so that their hybrid offspring could graze in more places. “I was thinking, ‘This is where I’ll see science put to use,’” Marcus says. Instead, her work was “all economics and trade-based.” She helped with feedings and upkeep of the ranch, but most of her work involved bookkeeping tasks, such as keeping track of grain consumption.
This focus on economics also crept up during the Washington, D.C., portion of her semester. While working on the U.S. Senate Committee for Environment and Public Works, she thought she’d be seeing debates on global warming. Instead, the focus of the committee at that time was on how the environment affected business and economics.She caught two bugs from the experience: one from the tick-bite fever she contracted in South Africa (it was caught before it did much damage), and the other that showed her how biology could be parlayed into the realm of international trade.
Later that fall, while she was beginning her senior year at Illinois Wesleyan, terrorists’ planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. No one woke up on September 12 unchanged, but for Marcus, an Iraqi-American, it crystallized her interest in biology, human behavior, trade, and her knowledge of developing countries.
The international affairs arena was calling, and it was time to move to Washington.
On to Kabul
After graduating from IWU in August 2003, Marcus began graduate school at George Washington University, working toward a master’s degree in international economics. She also completed an internship at the State Department.
From there, she was hired by the Office of Press and Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. As a desk officer, she worked as a liaison between the State Department in the U.S. and the embassies in North Africa.
It was more diplomacy than science, but the training she received while working toward her master’s degree and with the State Department helped build her Middle Eastern bona fides. She studied Arabic at the American University in Beirut, Lebanon, and later passed a fluency exam. Marcus also worked in the U.S. Embassy in Rabat, Morocco.
In January 2005, she started working at Chemonics, which, simply put, “gets contracts to fix the world,” Marcus says.
Despite the fact that it didn’t involve Iraq, the job with RAMP had it all: Middle Eastern experience, economics and international trade, and biology.
The job was based in Washington but it meant travel to Afghanistan. For Marcus, that meant a three-month stint in RAMP’s Kabul office from July to September 2005.
She wasn’t too worried for her safety, since “you didn’t see Afghanistan in the news too much. There weren’t suicide bombings or anything. It had calmed down.”
The goal of RAMP, which was paid for by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), was to focus on reconstruction and rehabilitation, rural finance and agricultural production. The main commodities the United States and Afghans were concerned with were livestock, poultry, dried vegetables and fruit, and grapes. This not only helped the economy but provided an alternative to illegal poppy farming in rural areas.
The idea was to get these areas up and running, and bring Afghanistan that much closer to taking care of itself.
Beyond that, the USAID’s work became one of the top non-military priorities in the war on terrorism, according to a Sept. 22, 2005, article in Parameters, a publication put out by the U.S. Army War College.
“USAID is on the front lines of the dominating news stories of the day, whether engaging in reconstruction work in Afghanistan or providing tsunami relief in South Asia. This renewed prominence is not an accident,” wrote Andrew S. Natsios. “On the contrary, President George W. Bush’s administration has made development work a national security priority.”
For Marcus, it meant “keeping the books,” much like she did in South Africa. Except this time, it was out of an office in Kabul, which had some 200 workers who were Americans, Afghans, exiles who had come back home, and members of the country’s agriculture ministry.
Bookkeeping was crucial as the company doled out subcontracts to local farmers and workers. For starters, they needed to ensure they weren’t dealing with frauds, while also providing crystal-clear reports to people back home to show the money was being spent the right way.
The day-to-day work wasn’t much different than any other office Marcus had been in. The same went for her home life, which was in a walled-off residence where she lived with three or four people at any given time.The commute, however, was different. No one walked. No one traveled alone in cars. Trips from home to work and back again were taken in convoys of armored vehicles. Traffic jams — where anyone might have a car bomb — were unnerving. And the landscape Marcus saw on the other side of the protected glass was bullet-ridden and broken.
Her time there included a stay in “lockdown,” which took place during elections. It meant four days staying in a safehouse with other workers, and a good bit of boredom.
“You’re on the Internet a lot. You watch a lot of DVDs. You play ping-pong,” she says. “There’s a lot of camaraderie behind it.”
She compared it to living on an island, and in a strange way, to living at IWU. Her apartment and office building in Kabul were isolated by war and devastation; Bloomington is isolated by corn. In the center is a small, pleasant community, where everyone knows everyone.
Because of her college experience, she says, “it was easier to adapt to Kabul than anywhere else I lived. They were very similar.”
After returning from Afghanistan, she continued her work helping rebuild the country’s agricultural markets from Washington. She is now working for the International Resource Group, a D.C.-based firm that manages complex environmental, energy, and reconstruction projects for public- and private-sector clients.
She’s also waiting for her chance to go to Iraq, waiting for stability to take hold in the region so she can go to her family’s home and do some good.
It just can’t happen now.
“It’s been frustrating. The preparation in Arabic, living in a conflict zone, the experience with the State Department and the Hill, the degree in international studies — (going to Iraq) would be the next obvious step,” she says. “But it’s hell there. It would be futile.”
With special thanks to Mr. Tim Obermiller, Illinois Wesleyan magazine editor and the IW staff for accommodating our request to reprint this article. Illinois Wesleyan, founded in 1850, is a private co-educational university with an enrollment of 2,100 and a student/faculty ratio of 12 to 1. The University consists of the College of Liberal Arts, with 17 academic departments; the College of Fine Arts, comprising professional Schools of Art, Music, and Theatre Arts; and the School of Nursing. For more information about Illinois Wesleyan University click here.
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