The Calm Before the Carnage
Raphael was born to a Polish-Jewish family on 24 June 1900 in a village in the Tsarist Russia, these days a district in Lithuania. His father, Joseph, was a farmer and his mother a painter and linguist. Raphael loved books. By the time he was a teen-ager he could speak nine languages, including French, Spanish, Hebrew, and Russian.
At the university he studied linguistics, but something else occupied his mind more so than the origins of the words. When he was 15, a horrible event happened in the land of the Sultans – in an Empire that fought bitterly against the Imperial Russia. Hundreds of thousands of Christians living in the Empire of the Ottomans were killed and more forced to leave their ancestral homes. Like most impressionable collegiate youth Raphael slowly found himself drowning in the sea of social consciousness: Why do people do this to other people? Why do Moslems hate Christians so much? Why do Christians in Europe hold so much prejudice against the Jews like himself? Most importantly, what could be done to deter or prevent these inhumane acts perpetrated by a people or nation-states?
Not surprisingly Raphael became more interested in criminology and in the causes of violence and hatred. He moved on to the University of Heidelberg in Germany to study philosophy, and in 1926 he returned to Poland to study law. He became a prosecutor in Warsaw. By this time the British and the French had carved the Ottoman Empire’s Syro-Mesopotamian area into the countries we now know as Iraq, Syria, and Jordan.
Seven years later in August of 1933 an army of Arab and Kurdish troops moved into the Assyrian villages in North Iraq and systematically began massacring the Assyrian population. The news of this massacre quickly reached Europe and America. Raphael became distressed, fearing that the events of 1915 could be once again repeated against the innocent Christians of the Middle East. He rushed to present a new proposal to save the world from another calamity like the First World War.
That same year, in Madrid, Raphael presented to the Legal Council of the League of Nations conference on international criminal law an essay on the Crime of Barbarity. He introduced an entirely new concept in which he explained that the Crime of Barbarity was a crime against international law. To evoke greater understanding of this new concept he referred to the experience of the Assyrians massacred in Iraq during the 1933 Simele massacre and the 1915 Genocide of the Assyrians, Armenians, and Greeks during World War I. He asked the nations of the world to ban what he called “barbarity” and “vandalism”. But his proposal failed and angered the Polish government that was trying to appease the aggressive behavior of Nazi Germany.
In 1934, under pressure from the Polish Foreign Minister for comments he made at the Madrid conference, Raphael was forced to become a private solicitor in Warsaw.
Then five years later, Germans attacked and occupied Poland. Jews like himself were forced into concentration camps and systematically killed. Raphael joined the Polish Army and was injured by a bullet to the hip while defending Warsaw. He was not captured by the Germans, but two million other Polish Jews experienced death and dying in Auschwitz, Treblinka, and five other camps.
In 1940 he went to Sweden and later fled to the United States. Raphael lost almost 50 members of his family to the Holocaust. Ironically, what he learned from the killing of the Assyrians and the Armenians in 1915 and again from the massacre of the Assyrians in 1933 could not help prevent the decimation of his own people – not even his own family.
In the United States Raphael taught at Duke University in North Carolina. In 1943 he became a special adviser on foreign affairs to the U.S. War Department and wrote a seminal work titled “Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation - Analysis of Government - Proposals for Redress” wherein he for the first time used the term “Genocide”. He coined the term “genocide” from genos (Greek for tribe or race) and –cide (Latin for killing). This time Raphael’s ideas were well received and his idea of the “genocide” became the legal bases of the Nuremberg Trials.
In 1945 Raphael proposed another ban on crimes against humanity during the Paris Peace Conference, but his proposal was rejected again. Fearing another 1915 Seyfo and another Holocaust, he became more determined to have the newly formed United Nations adopt a Convention against Genocide.
Finally, Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was formally presented and adopted on December 9, 1948. The convention states that the act of Genocide is committed when any of the following acts are perpetrated with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group:
(a) Killing members of the group;
Between 1951 and 1959 Raphael was nominated seven times for the Nobel Peace Prize, but he was never awarded. He died of a heart attack in New York City in 1959, at the age of 59.
The man who studied the killing of the Assyrians in 1915 and 1933 and in 1943, and coined the term “Genocide” is today known as a pioneer in the study of international criminal law and genocide studies. This was Dr. Raphael Lemkin.
Right now in Iraq, the people Raphael so closely observed and with whom sympathized, are experiencing the beginnings of what can be only interpreted as a genocide. Thanks to Dr. Lemkin we can now detect the instigation of such inhumanity before it reaches a critical mass and work toward its prevention.
Assyrians of Iraq may be subjected to the same calamities as are Sunnis under Shi’ai, Shi’ai in the Sunni areas, and other micro-ethnicities under the Kurds. Yet their situation is comparibly different. Assyrians are defenseless and they are not armed. Their numbers are low and do not enjoy the support of a major power beyond the borders of Iraq as are Iranians supporting the Shi’ai, Saudis cuddling the Sunnis, and Israel baby-sitting the Kurds. Even the United States is now turning its face away from the killings and violence in Dora and Mosul, in the Kurdish villages and Basra.
If a Polish man from a Jewish background expressed so much passion for the lives of the Assyrian children in Turkey and Iraq, how much more must we, Assyrians from around the world, heed the call for the salvation of our own nation.
Dr. Raphael Lemkin, much like the Assyrians he studied, had no funding, no office, no official representation. Even his funeral was attended by only seven people in New York. Yet he never stopped demanding justice for the innocent and the victims of barbarity. We must do no less. Every page of Zinda is filled with stories that should be read at your community meetings, church groups, for your friends, and at family events. Sunni’s kills Shi’ai and vice versa as acts of revenge for a foregone political system or a lost political seat in the parliament. Moslems kill Christians so that Christians will abandon the Middle East. None of us have the right to force any Christian to stay back in these conditions; but Assyrians should be allowed to leave of their own volition and not by force.
It is time to follow the way of Raphael Lemkin. Speak for yourself and for those who are forced to remain silent in Iraq. 1915 must never happen again; if it does the posterity and a Jewish man from Poland will have the right to judge us for our ignorance and apathy. We have a fundamental moral duty to educate ourselves and others about what is happening to the Assyrians and the Christians of Iraq and call attention to a possible genocide.
The time to act is now. Get involved and speak up!
By God: Six Days in Jordan
”We must go there. We must do something! We cannot just sit here and let them
suffer”, said Sister Hatune Dogan after my lecture in Germany on the 17 March
organized by the Mor Afrem foundation.
I stumbled across four big suitcases filled with medicines, clothes, toys and candy at the Frankfurt airport in Germany – Sister Hatune was prepared. She was determined to make every person she would meet happy during this Easter holiday. I was prevented from doing the same at the airport in Stockholm. My mother and other relatives had filled three big suitcases with clothes and other things for the children in Jordan. But the airline company stopped all that. I only had the right to bring with me 30 kilos of luggage. Sister Hatune did not face the same restrictions because she has a certificate, which proves she is an aid worker. Not much more for me to do other than to accept and help her carry.
Three enthusiastic Assyrians at the airport in Amman greeted us. Gabriel, Isa and Susan Al Tawil had no idea why Sister Hatune and I had travelled to Jordan but they showed us great hospitality and were willing to assist us in whatever we would possibly need during our stay in Amman. I asked them to drive to one of the churches.
The priest of this particular Syriac Orthodox Church is a friend of one of my friends.
Father Ammanuel Istifan Issa Al Bana was a bit confused when I entered his Church.
Sweden’s migration minister, Mr Tobias Billström, had visited the church and met
I met my friend Hanna Shamoun in the church a few minutes pass midnight and two
Early next morning we began our six hectic, incredibly interesting, mournful and gratifying days in Amman. Yet another Assyrian, a lawyer named Febroniya Atto from Holland, joined us on Thursday 4th of April. The three of us; one from Sweden, one from Germany and one from Holland, together with our helpful friends in Amman, experienced incredible events.
No one doubts that there are 750 000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan. No one knows how
many are of Assyrian origin. Estimations range from 30 000 to 150 000. The
organization Christian Solidarity International estimates the number of Assyrians to
be 100 000.
We also met with representatives from volunteer organizations, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR and Jordanian authorities.
The report you have in your hand gives an alarming description of the Iraq war and its
Prologue to the Report
Dr Samir Afram and Nuri Ayaz
It is time for governments all over the world to know what happened to the Assyrians in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
The Assyrians experienced persecution on ethnical grounds during the time of the dictator, but they were allowed to practise their religion freely as long as they changed their names to Arabic or Kurdish names and agreed to be designated only as Christians. A new systematic form of persecution started half a year after the American invasion, its only goal being the obliteration of Iraq’s indigenous population. Churches were bombed, priests were brutally killed, nuns were raped, children were kidnapped. And it is still going on. Not one day passes without reports about persecution of Christian Assyrians, who are also called Syriacs and Chaldeans.
Entire areas have now been emptied of Iraq’s indigenous population, the Assyrians.The Dora district in Baghdad is one example. It was a “Christian” paradise known for its vibrant culture but has now become a black district. Almost all Christians have either been killed or have fled from it.
Iraqi politicians feel hopeless because of the brain drain of Iraq. Assyrians happen to be the most well educated group in the country. Iraq cannot be rebuilt without individuals with the necessary competence. Many professional groups have almost entirely disappeared from the country. Doctors are one such example, as almost all of them are now to be found in the neighbouring countries of Syria, Jordan and Turkey.
Award winning filmmaker and freelance journalist Nuri Kino offered to travel to
Amman, the capital of Jordan, and meet Assyrian families from Iraq. His mission was
to penetrate deeper than daily articles and reports in order to hear the refugees’ own
stories. The report is written as a diary and it contains a lot of relevant facts about the
war, the persecution and the political complications. All Iraqi groups have suffered
from the war, but the consequences for the indigenous population are devastating and
To be a non-Muslim means a sure death in many places in today’s Iraq.
A Visit to Assyria
Afram Barryakoub, reporting from Sweden
(ZNDA: Stockholm) Two members of the Swedish committee for Assyrians travelled recently to Assyria in the north of Iraq. Their aim was to evaluate the situation before instigating an aid project which is to be supported financially by the Swedish government’s office for international aid.
Margareta Viklund, the legendary chairwoman of the committee and Dinkha Elia, the secretary, spent five days visiting Assyrian villages in northern Iraq. They both say they are very content with the visit and with the information they were able to collect.
“I saw great strength and will, but also sorrow. And I saw a tremendously strong will for union among the Assyrians”, says Margareta Viklund. She continues saying: “At the same time as they feel they want to leave the area they feel they must stay, because someone has to stay and guard the land and demand the rights of the Assyrians. Many of them see it as their mission to stay there and guard the land because they have a strong commitment and they know that the land belongs to them”, explains Viklund.
Except for a short visit in the towns of the Nineveh Plain, Margareta and Dinkha spent most days visiting the many Assyrian villages around the town of Nohadra (Dohuk).
“What surprised me in the Nohadra area is that there are so very many villages that are inhabited only by Assyrians. I never thought there were so many Assyrians before. The Assyrians are not such a small people after all,” says Margareta.
In the villages and towns Margareta and Dinkha encountered the work of the Assyrian Aid Society and the commitment of the named organization to build a future for Assyrians.
“The impression I got of them is that they are very good. They are obsessed by the idea of building schools and to have them functioning. They put much work into it and they sacrifice a lot in building these schools because they have faith that it is the younger generation and education that is the most important things. And I agree with them fully, they are doing a wonderful job and I was very impressed by their work," says Margareta.
Margareta is well informed about the Assyrians struggle to achieve some kind of autonomy in northern Iraq and she noticed that the people have high hopes.
“From what I understood they have a great hope for achieving autonomy; they have great expectations for the area and a burning desire that it will materialize. They want Assyrian autonomy because they long for security. They are convinced it will give them security”, says Margareta Viklund and points to the general fear among the Assyrians that others may be making themselves the spokesmen of the Assyrians against their own will: “I also felt that they are afraid that someone else will come and present themselves as the true voice of the Assyrians, that their true voice and true desire will be taken away from them”.
Dinkha Elia describes a scene in an Assyrian town that kept him wondering about the policies of Sargis Aghajan, an Assyrian member of the Kurdish KDP party who has been financing projects in the name of the Assyrians with funds who many say should have been distributed by the Assyrians themselves and not by a KDP member.
“In one place for example, we saw that Sargis Aghajan had financed a modern kindergarden just across the street from a kindergarden run by the Assyrian Aid Society. He could have built it in another neighbourhood where there is a need, but he chose to place it in front of the already existing one. Despite the fact that Aghajan's kindergarden is a better facility, the Assyrian mothers remain loyal to the Assyrian Aid Society and take their children to the AAS facility ”, says Dinkha.
Another controversial Kurdish policy was also noticed by the two visiting Swedes:
“The Kurds place guards in and around Assyrian towns although it is against the wishes of the residents. The residents want Assyrian guards because they can trust them and because local Assyrian guards recognize who is who and they know immediately if someone is not from the area”, explains Dinkha and continues with the following example:
“In Tellesqof, a town inhabited only by Assyrians, a bomb killed a dozen some weeks ago. The bomb was aimed at the facilities of the Kurdish KDP party stationed in the centre of the town, very close to a school. Innocent Assyrian school children were killed in the bombing just because of the Kurds. The people have protested against the Kurdish presence, but the Kurds have responded by increasing their headquarters now after the bombing.”
Many Assyrian villages have experienced Kurds settling in by force despite the protests of the Assyrians. The Kurdish parties present in northern Iraq are allowing the occupation to continue.
“Kurds continue to move into Assyrian villages or build houses on the outskirts of the Assyrian villages in a completely illegal fashion. They refuse to move despite that courts have ruled that what they are doing is illegal. And the Kurdish parties are not doing anything to stop it. The Assyrians there see it as a signal from the Kurdish leadership that it is okay for Kurds to occupy Assyrian villages”, says Dinkha.
Before returning home Margareta and Dinkha had the chance to see a water channel in the village of Sarsink which was financed by the Swedish Committee for Assyrians many years ago. They were happy to see that the water channel had helped the villagers to remain.
“They are totally dependent on water for agriculture and without this water channel we financed they would not have been able to stay”, says Margareta
The Swedish Committee for Assyrians will now work together with the Assyrian Aid Society to establish a help centre for Assyrian women in Assyria.
Muslims Burn Assyrian Church in Baghdad
Courtesy of the Assyrian International News Agecy
(ZNDA: Baghdad) According to the Assyrian website ankawa.com, a group of armed Muslims set fire to St. George Assyrian Church in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad. The group of men poured gasoline on the church and set it on fire. This is the same church that was bombed in the first of a wave of bombings of Assyrian churches. When St. George was bombed in 2004, the church Cross was not damaged; the bombers tore the cross down with their hands after the bombing.
In the past four weeks, the Assyrian (also known as Chaldean and Syriac) community in Baghdad's Dora neighborhood has been systematically targetted by Islamists, who have demanded that the Christian Assyrians pay the jizya, a "protection" tax demanded by the Koran, or convert within 24 hours or be killed. Assyrian families have sought refuge in Churches.
Told to Convert or Die, 21 Assyrian Families Seek Shelter in Baghdad Churches
Courtesy of the Assyrian International News Agecy
(ZNDA: Baghdad) The crisis for the Assyrian community in Baghdad's Dora neighborhood is deepening. Islamists are systematically targeting the Christian Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs), forcing them to pay the jizya, a "protection" tax demanded by the Koran, or convert within 24 hours or be killed. Dora is located 10 kilometers southwest of Baghdad.
Families are abandoning their homes and seeking refuge in Churches:
14 families have fled to the Al-So'ud Chaldean Church.
Islamic groups are preventing families from bringing any belongings as they flee their homes.
Hatem Al-Razaq, the sheik of the Al-Noor mosque in Dora, has toured Dora, visiting each Assyrian family and instructing them to pay 250,000 Iraqi dinars ($190), saying this sum is the jizya because "you are not Muslims." Families that cannot pay this sum are told to send one family member to the mosque on Friday to announce their conversion to Islam. Families who refuse to do this must leave their homes immediately and not take any of their belongings with them because "your properties belong to the mosque."
Families that do not leave and do not convert are threatened with death.
In a report by the Catholic News Agency, Mar Addai II, the Patriarch of the Ancient Assyrian Church of the East, says "Only the families that agree to give a daughter or sister in marriage to a Muslim can remain, which means that the entire nuclear family will progressively become Muslim." Also, Assyrian families are forced to turn over their homes as ransom for their kidnapped relatives.
Chaldean Priest Kidnapped in Baghdad
Courtesy of the AsiaNews
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Yet another Chaldean priest was kidnapped this morning in Baghdad. He is Fr. Nawzat P. Hanna, parish priest of Mar Pithion, from the Baladiyat quarter. Confirmation of the abduction reached AsiaNews, via Msgr. Shlemon Warduni, Chaldean auxiliary bishop in the capital, who has invited Catholics to “pray for Fr. Nawzat’s immediate release”. The abductors have already made contact with the Chaldean Patriarchate, but as of yet there is no further news.
The priest was leaving the house of an ill parishioner, when he was stopped by a group of persons who had been waiting for him, says the bishop. Msgr. Warduni is convinced that a motive for ransom is behind the abduction, but among Baghdad’s faithful the rumour has spread that this morning’s sequester is in response to the Patriarch and bishops recent denouncements of persecution against the Christian community there. “By kidnapping another priest – anonymous sources tell AsiaNews – the terrorists kill two birds with one stone: they get rich and at the same time force the Patriarch to transfer him abroad, thus giving the whole community a very strong message”.
In the meantime in the capital the witch-hunt against Christians continues. It has emerged, from what has been reported to AsiaNews, that the persecution is being carried out according to a well studied plan, quarter by quarter across the city. After Dora, Al-Baya’a, al-Thurat and al-Saydia, now it’s the turn of al-Habibia and al-Baladiyat. Those groups who subscribe to the “Islamic state in Iraq” are putting up posters which demand women wear the veil and distributing pamphlets imposing protection taxes on Christians. “They use the same technique on each and every quarter – locals tell – soon they will begin to call house to house to sequester all our possessions”. “The coalition and Iraqi forces are present on the round in these neighbourhoods – they lament – they can see what’s going on, but they refuse to get involved”. Thus many make the decision to leave their homes, packing their most precious belongings in cases and seeking refuge in those few Churches which are still open. But most are already full to capacity, forcing many families to live and sleep on the streets.
“We cannot go on living like this – affirms Msgr. Warduni – its inhuman, it’s humiliating”. And he adds “but we will not be bowed by fear, we will continue to make our voice heard and to denounce this tragedy which is the Iraqi people and above all the Iraqi Christian’s daily reality”.
50 Percent of Iraq's Christians May Have Left Country
Courtesy of the Associated Press
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Despite the chaos and sectarian violence raging across Baghdad, Farouq Mansour felt relatively safe as a Christian living in a multiethnic neighborhood in the capital.
Then, two months ago, al-Qaida gunmen kidnapped him and demanded that his family convert to Islam or pay a $30,000 ransom. Two weeks later, he paid up, was released and immediately fled to Syria, joining a mass exodus of Iraq's increasingly threatened Christian minority.
"There is no future for us in Iraq," Mansour said.
Although Islamic extremists have targeted Iraqi Christians before, bombing churches and threatening religious leaders, the latest attacks have taken on a far more personal tone. Many Christians are being expelled from their homes and forced to leave their possessions behind, police, human rights groups and residents said.
The Christian community here, about 3 percent of the country's 26 million people, has little political or military clout to defend itself, and some Islamic insurgents call Christians "crusaders" whose real loyalty lies with U.S. troops.
Many churches are now nearly empty, with many of their faithful either gone or too scared to attend. Only about 30 people attended this Sunday's mass at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in the relatively safe Baghdad neighborhood of Karradah, and only two dozen took communion in the barren St. Mary's Church in the northern city of Kirkuk on Sunday.
As many as 50 percent of Iraq's Christians may already have left the country, according to a report issued Wednesday by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal monitoring and advisory group in Washington D.C.
"These groups face widespread violence from Sunni insurgents and foreign jihadis, and they also suffer pervasive discrimination and marginalization at the hands of the national government, regional governments, and para-state militias," said the report.
Islamic extremists have also targeted liquor stores, hair salons and other Christian-owned businesses, saying they violate Islam, the report said.
"This is not the culture of Iraqis or the nature of Iraqis. We have lived during centuries together in a respectful attitude and friendship," said Luwis Zarco, the Catholic archbishop of Kirkuk.
In much of the Middle East, Christians are a largely tolerated minority that have achieved a measure of business and professional success, but they are sometimes viewed with suspicion by their Muslim neighbors.
In Saddam-era Iraq, the country's 800,000 Christians -- many of them Chaldean-Assyrians and Armenians, with small numbers of Roman Catholics -- were generally left alone. Many, such as Saddam Hussein's foreign minister and deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz, reached the highest levels of power.
But after U.S. forces toppled Saddam, insurgents launched a coordinated bombing campaign in the summer of 2004 against Baghdad churches, sending some Christians fleeing in fear.
A second wave of anti-Christian attacks hit last September after Pope Benedict XVI made comments perceived to be anti-Islam. Church bombings spiked and a priest in the northern city of Mosul was kidnapped and later found beheaded.
In the recent violence, residents of the Baghdad neighborhood of Dora said gunmen knocked on the doors of Christian families, demanding they either pay jizya -- a special tax traditionally levied on non-Muslims -- or leave. The jizya has not been imposed in Muslim nations in about 100 years.
One man, Arakan Admon, was wounded in a drive-by shooting last week when his family ignored the threats, relatives said.
In response to the threats, about 70 percent of Dora's Christians have fled, police said.
"The terrorists want to turn Dora into a base to attack other Baghdad neighborhoods," said Christian lawmaker Younadam Kana. "Criminal gangs made use of the situation and they started to kidnap Christians and demand ransom. It is a coalition between terrorists and criminals."
The southern neighborhood is a Sunni insurgent stronghold that has seen frequent U.S. shelling under a security crackdown against the sectarian violence.
In the northern city of Mosul, men began knocking on doors last month, demanding that Christian families pay a $3,000 tax that would be used to fight the U.S.-led forces, local residents said. Some paid; others fled.
Mansour, a 63-year-old retiree, said that while many other Christians left, he chose to stay in his Amariyah neighborhood in western Baghdad. He was hoping that the Baghdad security plan, which U.S.-led forces launched on Feb. 14, would improve the situation.
"But the opposite happened," he said.
Mansour was kidnapped March 11 by gunmen who identified themselves as al-Qaida. After 15 days in captivity, his family paid the ransom and fled the country, leaving their home and electric appliance store behind, Mansour said in a telephone interview from Syria.
Members of European Parliament Question Barazani Regarding the Assyrians
Assyrian Democratic Organization
9 May 2007
Mtakasto (ADO) – Brussels: The Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament met with Mr. Massoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, on Tuesday, 8 May, 2007, where views and opinions were exchanged regarding the Kurdish Region.
Mr. Ablahad Astepho, representative of the Assyrian Democratic Organization – European Office, also attended this meeting. Although only the members of the Foreign Affairs Committee had the right to question and participate in the debates and discussions, the Assyrian–European lobby, through the contacts, in particular of Assyrians from Holland, contributed to the forum by presenting prepared and written questions that were answered by Mr. Barazani.
After a general introduction on the situation of Iraq, twelve questions were posed to Mr. Barazani, five of which dealt with minority rights, especially those of the Assyrians and Turkmen under the control of the Autonomous Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq, and where these minorities fit into the planned referendum for the contested city of Kirkuk. These questions were asked by Jan Wiersma (PES, NL), Joost Lagendijk (Greens/EFA, NL), Cem Özdemir (Greens/EFA, DE), Nicholson of Winterbrourne (ALDE, UK), and Istvan Szeut-Ivanyi (ALDE, HU).
Mr. Barzani responded by stating that the new Kurdistan Regional Constitution will guarantee the rights of all groups living in Kurdistan and that all groups will be able to vote freely and according to their own conscience in the referendum for Kirkuk. Additionally, Mr. Barazani underlined that his “government was adamant to adhere to the unity of Iraq as long as every party respected the Iraqi Constitution” and argued that "separation of religion and state is necessary" for a functioning Iraqi state.
Iraqi Turkmen: The Human Rights Situation and Crisis in Kirkuk: An Assyrian View
Compete text of Mr. Ablahad Astepho's Speech presented at the Conference of the European Parliament on 26 – 27 March 2007
ADO Withdraws from Syria's Parliamentary Elections
Assyrian Democratic Movement
21 April 2007
Declaration on the withdrawal from parliamentary elections
The Assyrian Democratic Organization’s decision to participate in the elections of Syria’s People Assembly (Parliament) in its 9th legislatives session due to take place on 22 and 23 of this April , was based on a genuine desire on the part of the Organization to invest this election propaganda , with whatever small margin of freedom it afforded, in order to convey its message to its people and to the broadest segment of the Syrian society , and further to raise their democratic awareness through gatherings and various political activities , with an aim of consolidating its political participation in the political and national arena .
The electoral statement made by the Organization’s candidate came to expresses the aspirations of our Assyrian Chaldean Syrian people and the hopes of all Syrian citizens in the establishment of a genuine democracy in the society.
Nevertheless , being aware of the regime’s old tricks of vote rigging and attaching packaged shadow lists to the main official National Progressive Front’s list as was the case in the previous three successive election terms , especially as these elections are being conducted under the state of emergency and under undemocratic electoral law , the Organization had in mind withdrawal from the elections in the event of the emergence of such a list . Now , on the eve of the elections , and after it became quit clear to the Organization the emergence of the Shadow list it has decided to withdraw from the electoral process and boycott the ballot because of the futility of such participation.
On this occasion, as the Organization condemns and denounces the regime’s behavior in falsifying the elections with regards to the margin allocated to the independent candidates and usurping the will of the voters and preventing them from delivering their real representatives to the People’s Assembly , it wishes to deeply thank all those who have sympathized , supported and participated in its election campaign, pledging to its people and supporters to keep on the struggle , together with other patriotic forces in Syria , democratically and peacefully , with the same resolve and determination in order to achieve its national goals.
Mar Dinkha IV Joins in Patriach Delly’s Iraq Appeal
Courtesy of the AsiaNews
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Religious leaders have taken up the Chaldean Patriarch’s appeal to save persecuted Christians in Iraq, asking for protection from the authorities and respect for human rights. However, while condemning the untenable situation, they have not lost hope that the “flames in which all Iraqis are burning will be extinguished.” Yesterday, as reported on the website Ankawa.com – Mar Dinkha IV, Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, which has its headquarters in Chicago, reiterated the words spoken by Mar Emmanuel III Delly on 6 May in Arbil, reinforcing them with more appeals to Iraqi political and religious leaders. A “strong” reminder of the need to preserve the “social and religious mosaic” of Iraq also came from the Syrian-Orthodox Bishop of Aleppo, as reported by the website Baghdadhope. In his address, Mgr Gregotios Yohanna Ibrahim concentrated above all on the damage caused by the war in Iraq.
The Assyrian Patriarch of the East first drew attention to the tragedy facing the Christian community especially in “Mosul and Baghdad, where terrorists at work in Dora district are asking Christian families to convert to Islam or to pay a protection tax or to leave their homes and all their belongings.”
Mar Dinkha IV described as “inhuman” such acts perpetrated against Christians, “who have always respected the authorities”. For this reason, he continued, “we call on the government to extinguish the flames in which all Iraqis, without distinction, are burning.” And turning to the Iraqi premier, the Shiite Nouri Al Maliki: “Muslim parties and groups that are perpetrating violent acts against Christians are far from Islam; so we ask the prime minister and MPs to take the necessary steps to stop the violence that is affecting all the sons of Iraq.” There was also a call to the international community: “We ask the United Nations and human rights organizations to ensure respect for the rights of persecuted peoples and to help us stop this violence.”
A similar stand was taken by Mgr Gregotios Yohanna Ibrahim from Syria. “The words spoken by His Beatitude, the Chaldean Patriarch Mar Emmanuel III Delly, moved us,” he said. “The forced emigration of Christians is terrible and not accepted either by Islam or by Christianity, or by reasonable human beings.” The bishop, however, used even more forceful language to claim that “in Iraq, there are those who want to exploit this situation to change the social structure of the country, to implement a specific plan aimed at undermining the national unity of Iraq, the cultural, religious and ethnic mosaic made up of all its citizens.”
Mgr Ibrahim added: “As leaders and as men of faith, we have the duty to stand by the faithful, men of God, those who work for the good of the country. We must not be afraid even if the current situation appears to be like a black cloud to us, because the sun will shine again some day, and on that day we will feel that God is with us, with the entire country and with its people, Muslims and Christians.”
Professor Details 'Gruesome' Armenian-Assyrian Genocide
Courtesy of the Modesto Bee
(ZNDA: Modesto) When asked to describe genocide, most people probably would point to the Nazi concentration camps. Some might cite the more recent massacres in Rwanda.
Members of the local Assyrian and Armenian communities learned Sunday about another genocide. Professor David Gaunt spoke to more than 100 people about the massacre of Armenians and Assyrians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I.
The presentation was given at California State University, Stanislaus. It covered his research on documents from archives in Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey. A complete explanation of his findings is documented in his book "Massacres, Resistance, Protectors: Muslim-Christian Relations in Eastern Anatolia During World War I."
"These documents were a nightmare for me to go through," said Gaunt, who is a professor of history at Södertörn University College in Stockholm, Sweden. "Sometimes in their details, they were very, very gruesome."
Gaunt spoke for nearly an hour and a half, telling of entire towns and villages wiped out by soldiers and Kurdish "death squads." He showed telegrams and other correspondence between Turkish military officials calling for the destruction of Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Christian communities.
In the end, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were killed. The Turkish government has not recognized the genocide, citing many of the deaths as civil war casualties.
Gaunt also told of resistance by the persecuted population. Excrement often would be used to make gun powder, Gaunt said, and small children would search for spent ammunition that could be melted into bullets.
The San Joaquin Valley has one of the largest Assyrian populations in the United States. Some estimates show the population to be more than 15,000.
Elki Issa attended the talk with the Central Valley chapter of the Assyrian Aid Society of America, which helped organize the event. While the memories of the atrocities are very much alive in the stories of their parents and grandparents, Issa said, it is important for future generations to remember what happened.
That is why she brought her two children, Andrew and Arbella.
"If the outside world is not going to remember this, at least our children can remember it," Issa said.
Gaunt spoke at California State University, Fresno, on the following Tuesday.
To purchase a copy of Prof. David Gaunt's book, Massacres, Resistance, Protectors: Muslim-Christian Relations in Eastern Anatolia During World War I, click here. Zinda Magazine, a major financial supporter of Dr. Gaunt's book, urges its readers to own a copy and study this most important chapter of the modern Assyrian history.
Europe Has A New Syriac Orthodox Patriarchal Vicar
Courtesy of the Syriac Orthodox Christian Website
(ZNDA: Netherlands) On Sunday, 15 April the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East Moran Mor Ignatius Zaka I Iwas, ordained Raban Eugene a Metropolitan as POLYCARPUS at the St. Peter & St. Paul Cathedral in Maarat Saydnya, Damascus. H. E. Mor Polycarpus Aydin was appointed as the Patriarchal Vicar for the diocese of Netherlands (Holland). The headquarters of the new Metropolitan will be Dayro d-Mor Ephrem (Mor Aphrem Monastery) at Losser, Netherlands.
His Exellency Mor Polycarpus Eugene (Edip) Aydin is a native of Tur-Abdin, Turkey. He was born in 1971 in the village of Gundukshukro in the vicinity of Nisibin. After completing elementary education in the village, he entered Mor Gabriel's Seminary in 1982 where he received training in both Syriac language and literature as well as in traditional Syriac theology and liturgy.
Following his secondary education in Turkey, H.E. went to England to pursue his theological studies at Heythrop College, University of London, where he earned a Bachelor's Degree in Divinity in 1995. Next, he went to Oxford University as a Visiting Student and spent a year at the Oriental Institute where he followed the Master of Syriac Studies course under the supervision of the renowned Syriac scholar Dr. Sebastian Brock.
In August of 1997, he joined St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary at Crestwood, New York where he completed the three-year Master of Divinity program and graduated on May 20, 2000. The subject of his thesis was The History of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch in North America: Challenges and Opportunities.
On Sunday, October 7, 2001, he was tonsured as a monk (dayroyo) by His Holiness Mor Ignatius Zaka I Iwas, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East at St. Ephrem's Monastery in Damascus, Syria and given the name Eugene (Awgin), in honor of Mor Awgin of Tur Izlo.
On August 4, 2002 he was ordained to the priesthood at Mor Gabriel Monastery by His Eminence Archbishop Mor Timotheos Samuel Aktas of Tur `Abdin. He later had his Doctorate from the Princeton Theological Seminary in the field of Early Church History and Ecumenics under the supervision of Professor Kathleen McVeyFollowing the passing of the Archbishop of Netherlands Mor Julius Yeshu`Çiçek, the Holy Synod took the decision to ordain Raban Eugene Aydin as Metropolitan for the diocese.
Since 2002, H.E. Mor Polycarpus Eugene Aydin is one of the Executive Members of the most popular internet publication of the Church, the 'Syriac Orthodox Resources'.
Judge Jails Teen Killers of Assyrian Taxi Driver
Courtesy of the Fairfax Digital
Two teenage girls who boasted of killing a disabled Sydney taxi driver each have been jailed for at least three-and-a-half years.
Youbert Hormozi, 53, died of a heart attack after he was bashed by two 14-year-old girls on January 31 last year.
The cousins, who cannot be named, had been drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana before they caught Mr Hormozi's cab in south-west Sydney.
After refusing to pay the fare, they punched and kicked the father of two, whose left arm was paralysed by an earlier stroke.
The girls left him injured on a road in Canley Heights before stealing his taxi and crashing it some distance away.
Mr Hormozi died at the scene.
The girls were arrested the next day after one boasted: "I've been on the news. We killed the taxi driver."
The pair, now 15, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were sentenced today by Supreme Court Justice Peter McClellan.
The judge said they both came from violent families and had started consuming alcohol and cannabis at an early age.
However, he said: "Alcohol and drugs are not a licence for committing crime."
"The loss of Mr Hormozi is a tragedy for his family," Justice McClellan said.
He acknowledged that some members of the community and Mr Hormozi's family might consider the sentences too light but said it was important for both girls to have an opportunity for rehabilitation.
Justice McClellan sentenced both girls to a maximum jail term of six years and ordered they serve at least three-and-a-half years behind bars.
With time already served, the girls will be eligible for parole in August 2008.
Mr Hormozi's former wife Anna and his 22-year-old daughter Melina wept when hearing the sentences.
Outside court, Mrs Hormozi likened the girls to "violent little animals".
"They should be caged," she said.
Mrs Hormozi said no jail term would be harsh enough "to pay for what they've done and the profound tragic effects it had on our family".
But she questioned the sentence, saying: "Three-and-a-half years, six years, what's that going to do?
"How's it going to deter others? What sort of message is that going to send?"
Mrs Hormozi said the girls should not have been out alone in the middle of the night.
"They shouldn't have been out there at two o'clock in the morning and their parents should be right along there with them, serving their sentence with their kids."
Assyrian Real Estate Investor Eyes $2 Billion in Chicago
Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune
(ZNDA: Chicago) Los Angeles real estate investor Zaya Younan is unabashed about his recent role as an underdog bidder on some of Chicago’s best known office buildings, such as One Financial Place, Prudential Plaza and the John Hancock Center.
“Hold onto your seat, because soon you will hear some much larger transactions coming down the pipeline,” says Mr. Younan, chairman and CEO of Younan Properties Inc. “We are looking to buy $1 billion to $2 billion in the next 12 months in Chicago.”
That’s an ambitious plan for a former technology executive, 44, whose firm and real estate career are both barely five years old. His largest deal to date is the $280-million purchase in November of a seven-building, 2.1-million-square-foot portfolio of office properties in the Dallas and Chicago markets, including 200 N. LaSalle St., a nondescript North Loop building.
But that deal made Mr. Younan one of the larger Chicago-area office landlords, with nearly 2 million square feet of mostly suburban assets. The firm’s entire portfolio totals 8 million square feet, but doesn’t have the trophy tower that he covets.
“He’s a really driven guy, and very, very analytical,” says Jack McKinney, president of Chicago-based J. F. McKinney & Associates Ltd., which handles leasing for one of the suburban Chicago properties.
While ambition is hardly unusual in commercial real estate, Mr. Younan has followed a path that few in the industry can match. Born in Tehran, Iran, Mr. Younan came to the U.S. when he was 13 years old, settling with his parents in Arlington Heights.
Growing up, he was a sandy-haired member of an Assyrian Christian family in a predominantly Muslim country. In this country, he was a working-class immigrant challenged by a new language and culture.
“When you are different you are more sensitive to your environment, you are never complacent,” he says.
After graduating from St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights, he attended the University of Illinois, where he received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1984.
His first job was in the General Motors Electro-Motive Division plant in LaGrange. But he quickly moved to Southern California and eventually moved into a series of executive-level jobs with small high-tech startups that sold products ranging from automotive radar systems that warned of collisions to online gaming software.
He resigned from his last job in the industry, as division president of an electronics and telecom equipment manufacturer, after just two months, in February 2002.
“I couldn’t get my heart into it,” he says.
But now, when Mr. Younan talks about real estate, it’s like turning on a fire hose, as the words come pouring out in long and passionate sentences. His unique perspective, expressed in a slightly accented English, can produce some special sayings, or “Zaya-isms.”
About why real estate appealed to him: “I was always amazed and surprised at how inefficient this industry was, so I always wanted to experiment with this industry.”
About being a new investor in a city, he says it’s an advantage over longtime players who are too close to the market, he says. “The scars of the bad turn in the market are still on their faces.”
About an unsuccessful attempt last year to hire non-union janitors: “It was a muscle flexing to show we have a fiduciary responsibility to our investors,” he says.
About himself, he pauses, and then admits, “I am a little animated in personality.”
Popular Assyrian Football Coach Dies
Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune
(ZNDA: Chicago) During Alex Agase's last season playing professional football in 1953, a rumor spread through the Baltimore Colts locker room that the team was about to fold. That sent most worried players to the banks to cash their checks before they bounced.
"I grabbed the film projector," he once recalled.
Retired Tribune sportswriter Bill Jauss laughed Thursday night telling that story about Agase, the inimitable Northwestern head football coach from 1964-72.
"It just shows you how much he always thought about getting into the coaching profession," Jauss said.
The man born to coach died Thursday at a Florida hospital near his home, leaving a legacy that stretched well beyond the football field and known as someone more concerned with molding young men than winning games. He was 85.
"This loss runs deeper than just losing someone you played football for," said Mike Adamle, a Northwestern star who played for Agase and now works as a sportscaster for WMAQ-Ch. 5. "The real measure of a coach is not the won-loss record but how many players are standing outside his door [in retirement], and I can tell you there were a ton of guys for Ags."
Agase, who was the only player in college football history to earn All-America honors at two schools, Illinois and Purdue, encountered complications from surgery last week to clear blockages in his neck, according to family members.
Funeral arrangements are pending. He was living in Tarpon Springs, Fla., and felt spry enough in recent weeks to play enough golf to complain about his swing.
"That's how competitive he was," said Paul Agase, one of Agase's three sons and the vice president and general manager of WSCR-AM. "I told him he should just be happy he was playing. We'll remember him as being a great father and wonderful grandfather."
Agase lived what his son called "the great American story."
An Evanston native whose family of Assyrian descent emigrated from Iran, Agase starred as a guard for Illinois in 1941-42 before transferring to Purdue, where he could train for the Marines. World War II interrupted his college football career for two years, but Agase fought in battles at Okinawa and Iwo Jima before returning to Illinois for a senior season in which he won the Big Ten Most Valuable Player Award. Decades later Agase was selected to the Walter Camp Foundation's All-Century team.
A pro football career followed. Playing six seasons for four different teams, Agase won three world championships as a member of the Cleveland Browns. Tony Adamle, the late father of Mike, was a Browns teammate and one of Agase's best friends.
"All that meant was when I got to Northwestern he bent over backward to discipline me to make sure people didn't think I was there just because he was my dad's teammate," Adamle said. "I didn't even have dinner over at their house until after my senior year. He was a stern taskmaster but also a compassionate guy sensitive to his surroundings."
Adamle applauded the way Agase, a decorated Marine who was shot twice in World War II, showed tolerance for the anti-Vietnam War effort of the era. Northwestern players routinely had to cross student picket lines on the way to practice, but Agase made clear his locker room was no place for politics.
Once when a group of African-American players vowed to skip practice in protest of the war, instead of lashing out at them he heard them out and advised them to avoid arguments about religion, sex and politics.
Players appreciated the respect Agase showed them no matter how intense his demeanor could be. Jerry Brown, a Northwestern wide receiver and defensive back who is now the Wildcats' assistant head coach, recalled once as a naieve freshman having the temerity to second-guess Agase about his love for the quick kick on third downs.
"I said, 'Don't you think you might make a first down on third down once in a while?' " Brown said by phone. "He kind of looked at me. Then he said, 'You might be right.' I don't think he quick-kicked again. He was a point-blank guy, but he'd listen because he loved being around kids."
So passionate was Agase about coaching that his last stop came as a volunteer assistant from 1982-87 for Michigan as a favor to one of his best friends, Bo Schembechler. Brown remembered one Northwestern-Michigan game seeing Agase on the Wolverines' sideline.
"That felt and looked a little awkward," Brown said.
It probably felt a little awkward too for Agase, whose 17 years at Northwestern were the most meaningful of his career. He also served as Purdue's head coach from 1973-76 and as Eastern Michigan's athletic director from 1977-81. But he always believed he bled Northwestern purple.
A few years ago as he reflected on his legacy, Agase shared those feelings with longtime Northwestern administrator Ken Kraft.
"He said, 'You know, I've coached a lot of different places, but there's something special about Northwestern,' " Kraft said.
That special affection for the place helped persuade Ara Parseghian that Agase was the ideal person to succeed him when Parseghian left for Notre Dame in 1964. Parseghian vowed not to take the Notre Dame job until he received assurances from Northwestern that it would name his recommended successor, Agase.
"Ara knew Alex was an outstanding football coach who the players loved, and that was the proof in the pudding," said Tom Pagna, a former Northwestern assistant who followed Parseghian to Notre Dame.
Pagna said his close friend Parseghian, who was in Arizona for a fundraiser and unavailable, loved Agase "like a brother. I don't know of anybody else who had earned his respect more."
Agase not only maintained what Parseghian started in Evanston but enhanced it. After Northwestern went 6-1 in the Big Ten in 1970, the Football Writers Association of America named Agase national coach of the year, a rarity for a coach who hadn't won a league or national title.
Adamle contends that if Agase had the talent available to him that Woody Hayes did at Ohio State and Schembechler did at Michigan, "he would be held in that same regard. In those days there was only one guy in the Big Ten able to hold his own with Woody or Bo, and that was Ags. What made [Agase] different was he had compassion."
Agase might never have taken the Purple to Pasadena, as Gary Barnett did in 1995, but the Northwestern family believes the vision for the trip was formed during Agase's years in Evanston.
"Northwestern University is saddened to hear of the passing of Alex Agase, a tremendous college player and coach," said Mark Murphy, Northwestern's director of athletics. "He had one of the longest tenures of any Northwestern football coach. We extend our deepest sympathies to the Agase family."
As his family gathered in Florida to mourn, Paul Agase felt grateful he had made it down Wednesday in time to huddle one more time with his dad before he died.
"He loved college football till the end," Paul Agase said. "He was locked in until the last game was played; He probably even learned to appreciate the passing game."
Kennedy Bakircioglü to Play for Ajax
(ZNDA: Södertälje) On 5 May the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported that the Assyrian-Swedish soccer player, Kennedy Bakircioglü, will by playing for the Dutch football club, AFC Ajax.
Bakircioglü was born 2 November 1980 in Södertälje, Sweden. His family arrived in Sweden from Tur-Abdin in Turkey in 1972. His father, Benyamin, was a charter player for the now world-famous Assyriska Föreningen.
Bakircioglü began playing for Assyriska in 1999, and then went on to Hammarby IF for the next four years, where he led the team to its first championship in 2001. He is currently playing for Netherlands team FC Twente. He has also played for the Sweden national football team.
In 2005 Bakircioglü was elected Hammarby's forth greatest player of all time in an online poll held on the club's webpage.
ACSSU at McMaster University Participating in Pangaea 2007
Alhan Oraha (ACSSU- Public Relations) reporting from Ontario, Canada
(ZNDA: Hamilton) McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario) is culturally rich with students from various ethnic backgrounds. In celebration of its diversity, McMaster University held its 5th Annul Multicultural Show entitled Pangaea on March 11, 2007. The show consists of performances and pavilions showcasing different cultures represented by their clubs that are part of McMaster.
Pangaea refers to the landmass that existed when all continents were joined hundreds of millions of years ago where there were no borders and no countries. The name “Pangaea” is chosen for this event to highlight McMaster’s desire in living in a world similar to what once was Pangaea in an effort to promote harmony and unity in our communities.
The Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union of McMaster University (ACSSU @ MAC) has been participating in Pangaea for the past 4 years. This year, ten dedicated students volunteered their time to prepare for the show. Long hours were put into practice not only during school time but also during spring break. The utmost goal was to represent our unique culture in a beautiful and flawless manner.
Flying to different countries was the theme of the performance show. More than three hundred guests enjoyed the flight that landed in many countries to enjoy the traditional attire and dances of those countries, such as Croatia, India, Poland, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and many more. One of our stops was Assyria. Upon landing, guests were greeted by ACSSU @ MAC dancing group wearing the traditional clothes and dancing our beautiful cultural dances (Shekhane and Belati). The performance exceeded the audience expectations and left everyone with a lasting impression. The outcome was reflective of the impressive dedication and hard work of the group.
Participation in Pangaea is an important annual activity on ACSSU @ MAC’s agenda because it is a great chance to showcase our unique and rich culture to other cultures. Sharing our culture with others that didn’t even know we exist is what we enjoy the most in these events.
For more information about ACSSU please visit www.acssu.ca.
Good Morning, Chicago!
Courtesy of the AAS of America
(ZNDA: Chicago) The Chicago Chapter of the Assyrian Aid Society of America hosted a breakfast event called 'Breakfast of Champions" at the ChaldoAssyrian Center beginning the evening of Saturday, April 7th and well into the early hours of Sunday, April 8th.
In our endless efforts in looking for new ideas and creativity in supplementing our current programs and activities, we welcomed an idea provided by one of our supporters. Normally, our community goes to restaurants after the Midnight Mass (Shaharta) for breakfast. Instead of going to restaurants and spending their money there, we thought we can provide this service to them in a community building and have their donation go to a worthy cause in helping their brothers and sisters in the homeland.
As such, and with only four days of preparation, the AAS-A volunteers and supporters scrambled to get all the logistics in place. It was a wonderful breakfast menu of fresh eggs, sausages, bacon, and hash browns, as well as different cheeses, yogurt, fruits, etc.
For a first time event and with only four days of publicity, it was very successful with almost 300 people attending the breakfast. Our volunteers worked very hard to make this a successful event, some going home as late as 6:00 AM on Sunday. Net income from the event was a very gratifying $2100.
We are thinking of making this a yearly event.
We wish to thank the Assyrian radio stations such as the Mar Zaia Organization, Shutasa (Assyrian National Foundation), Mutwa (ANCI) and 'Night Stars' in providing the publicity for this event.
In Memory: Lillian Sargis Pera
Courtesy of the Hartford Courant
(ZNDA: New Britian) Born in Iran, Lillian Sargis Pera, a longtime resident of New Britain, was called home to heaven on Tuesday, May 1. She passed away in Florida. She was preceded in death by and awaiting a joyful reunion with her husband, Rev. Richard G. Pera, her parents, Jacob and Judith Sargis, a son and a grandson. Mourning her passing is her sister, Mrs. Rose Sargis Ernesto of New Britain.
She was a loving and devoted mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She leaves behind her brokenhearted children: daughter, Judith (Pera) and son-in-law David Giguere of Georgia, daughter Denise L.R. Pera of Florida, son Richard and daughter-in-law Mary Jo (Robinson) Pera of Washington, D.C.
She was very proud of and adored her three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, who will miss her greatly. Her family is comforted by her great and abiding faith in God and the sure knowledge that they will all be together again someday in heaven.
Mrs. Pera was a graduate of New Britain High School. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut at Storrs and her Masters Degree from Central Connecticut State College. She taught sixth grade for many years at McDonough Elementary School in Hartford. Teaching was a career and profession she loved. She valued education highly.
Funeral services were Saturday, (May 19, 2007) 11 AM at South Church, 90 Main Street, New Britain. No calling hours. Burial will be in Fairview Cemetery. Memorial donations may be made to South Church, 90 Main Street, New Britain, CT 06051 and designated for the "Assyrian Memorial Parlor Fund". The Carlson Funeral Home, New Britain, is assisting the family with arrangements. Please share a memory or note of sympathy (click here).
Nenif Matran Hariri and His Never-Ending Kurdish Propaganda
An interview with Nenif Matran Hariri, the Christian Advisor to the Politburo of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Masoud Barazani, published in the October 10, 2006 issue of The Kurdish Globe was brought to our attention lately. In that interview, Nenif continues to mislead the readers and spreads misconceptions, being the Kurdish propagandist that he is. The interview has some significant, as I will explain later.
Assyrians (also known as Nestorians, Chaldeans, Jacobites, and ChaldoAssyrians) understand who Nenif Hariri is and what he represents. What amazes me is how Nenif has the audacity to be so public about his questionable involvement in the political life of our people and how he indirectly declares his imprudent priorities as a servant of the Kurds and Kurdish plans in northern Iraq.
Nenif declares publicly that he supports handing the last Assyrian stronghold in northern Iraq, i.e., the Nineveh Plains, as a gift to the Kurds on a golden platter and he lies foolishly about how Kurdish leadership treats the Assyrians, not as a Christian group, but as an ethnic group in northern Iraq. Nenif states, quote: "The [Kurdistan] constitution refers to Christians living in their dominated areas of the Plain of Nineveh—west of Kurdistan Region—as part of Kurdistan itself, granting them their minority rights." End quote.
Nenif knows well that the northern Iraq Kurdish constitution does not recognize the national and ethnic rights of the Assyrian people. He understands very well that many of Kurdish writers and politicians, including Diayako Xarib, Fadhil Mirani, Mehrdad Izady and others that are officials or advisors in the Kurdish northern Iraq cabinet question the Assyrians' rights as indigenous people of the region. Many Kurdish nationalists and politicians refer to the Assyrians as Christian Kurds. Therefore, the Kurdish leadership and Pan-Kurds would be very happy to show their generosity to Christians in any way they could, but would undermine the Assyrians' national aspiration and question. This is the same exact policy practiced by Saddam Hussein. Furthermore, Nenif Hariri understands that the only reason why the Kurds are playing the tunes of democracy these days is because the world is watching and they need the assistance and support of the West. The Kurds will play this game of the good guardians until they establish the elusive Kurdistan, a political and national region that never existed in history. What would happen to the Assyrians after that illusive Kurdish region is created? What guarantees do Assyrians have? We should learn lessons from our past experiences. The Late Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimun pleaded with the Western powers and the League of Nations not to terminate the British mandate over Iraq and not admit Iraq into the League (planned for 1932) before receiving guarantees for the future security of the Assyrians. Such guarantees were not given. The League of Nations terminated its mandate over Iraq and Iraq became a sovereign state and a member in the League. Only months later, around 3,000 Assyrians were brutally massacred in August 1933 in northern Iraq by the Iraqi army led by Kurdish Bakir Sidqi and hundreds of Assyrian homes and villages were looted by Kurds and some Arab tribes. Assyrian villages, one after another, have been taken over by Kurds ever since.
Then Nenif Hariri states, quote: "I don't want to see Nineveh Plain an independent autonomy, nor do I want to see it being a part of the central [Iraqi] government." End quote.
Who is Nenif Hariri to decide for the Assyrian people of the Nineveh Plain? What is more significant here is this statement explains the reason why Iraqi Minister Fawzi Hariri, who was appointed by the KDP and Barazani to his Iraqi position, was directed to visit Congresswoman Anna Esho's office in Washington D.C. on January 17, 2007. We know that the congresswoman was planning to summit a resolution to U.S. Congress for the establishment of the Nineveh Plains administrative Area for the Assyrian (ChaldoAssyrian) Christians of Iraq and that the administrative region was to be linked to the Iraqi central government. Now, I hope that the significant of the interview is apparent to the readers. Minister Hariri asked from, or suggested to, the Congresswoman the same things Nenif has suggested or demanded in his interview. Remember, the visit of Minister Hariri came three months after the interview of Nenif. The two Hariri Kurdish officials, Fawzi and Nenif, are on the same wavelength. Surprised? Not really, because the KDP policy is clear and everyone who works for the KDP must follow its central policy.
Nenif Hariri continues with his autocratic and foolish demands and states, quote: "The first thing is to make the Nineveh Plain part of Kurdistan, then through negotiations with the government here we can have some form of self-rule like having our own police force and local administrators in our towns and villages." End quote.
I wonder, on what basis does Nenif want to make the Nineveh Plains part of the Kurdish region and most importantly, why? The current Kurdish region is part of Iraq. Why should Assyrians be part of a part? Why should we have our affairs and rights, including all financial matters, go through the Kurds? Furthermore, does Nenif really think that once the Nineveh Plain is part of the Kurdish region the Assyrians will have a better future in northern Iraq? We know for a fact that the KDP since 1992 has undermined the elected Assyrian representatives, marginalized the Assyrian national and ethnic rights, interfered in the internal affairs of the Assyrians, used clergymen to sabotage and undermine Assyrian political groups and divided the Assyrian people among many other things. Why should we believe or trust the KDP now? Assyrians, as the indigenous people of northern Iraq, must be granted the same treatment the Kurds received from the United States and the allies since 1992, i.e., self-rule, protection, support and financial assistance.
Lastly, but not least, Nenif foolishly and repeatedly plays isolationism and division, which weakens the Syriac-speaking Christian Assyrians in the Middle East. This weakness, of course, benefits the Kurds mainly. He ridicules the term "Chaldean Assyrian Suryani", suggests that the word Suryani be completely ignored and dropped, then, most dangerously, he demands that the Assyrians be separated from the Chaldeans. Such behavior reflects vividly the twisted and dangerous mentality of this religiously oriented, church driven and money hungry KDP slave. The Kurdish leadership will be thrilled to see the Assyrians divided, because controlling a divided group is the easiest thing to do.
Nenif Matran Hariri's statements speak volumes about what he stands for and about his goals and mission in life. The damage he continues to inflict on the Assyrian case is not any less from those inflicted by his mentor and idle deacon Shlimon Matran Hariri.
To Bob Griffin and Dean Kaliminou
Although I can't defend all of the points raised in the article I would like to respond to your origins of Easter letters and respond to the main hypothesis articulated in the article.
You are correct in stating that Venerable Bede was the first to mention the word Easter (Eostre) in his De temporum ratione where he wrote that the month Eostur-monath (April) was so named because of a goddess, Eostre, who had formerly been worshipped in that month. In recent years some scholars have suggested that a lack of supporting documentation for this Goddess might indicate that Bede assumed her existence based on the name of the month.
Those who question Bede's account of a goddess suggest that "the Anglo-Saxon Eostur-monath meant simply 'the month of opening' or 'the month of beginnings'."
Jakob Grimm took up the question of Eostre in his Deutsche Mythologie of 1835, noting that Ostara-manoth was etymologically related to Eostur-monath and writing of various landmarks and customs which he believed to be related to a putative goddess he named Ostara in Germany.
Also the giving of eggs at spring festivals was not restricted to Germanic peoples and could be found among the Persians, Romans, Jews and the Armenians. They were a widespread symbol of rebirth and resurrection and thus might have been adopted from any number of sources.
So although there is no current etymological relationship between Eostre and the Babylonian Goddess Ishtar there are numerous similarities that can lead one to conclude that they are one and the same.
There is another German tradition that claims that the Christmas tree first originated in Germany yet there is clear evidence in the Jewish Old Testament that the ancient Mesopotamians were celebrating the birth of the God Tammuz using a "tree of life" during the Winter Solstice (December 21-23) years before the birth of Jesus.
Jeremiah 10:2-4: "Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not." (KJV).
The myth of the fertility God dying in the Summer and being resurrected during the Spring and born during Winter may have been universal but the origin all points back to the ancient Ishtar and Tammuz myth first celebrated by the ancient Mesopotamians. The ancient Mesopotamian kings were considered divine – born of God – which is why they celebrated the Heiros Gamos during the Spring Equinox and gave birth during the Winter Solstice exactly 9 months later. The resurrected God symbolised by palm trees and the shepherd sacrificing himself for his people was a myth co-opted by the Romans after Jesus was crucified. This also explains why Christianity was “accepted” so readily by the people of the Middle East.
In response to Dean, there is no evidence that the ancient Assyrians practised Genocide and I challenge you or anyone else to provide it. Kings Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar may have had armies that were involved in isolated massacres during their long rule but the customary policy of resettlement of troublesome tribes, such as the ancient Jews, was the norm. This is unlike the Jews whose very own Holy Book the Old Testament documents the Genocide of the ancient Canaanites.
Samuel 15:3: "Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey."
 Hutton, Ronald (1996). Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. New York: Oxford Paperbacks. ISBN 0-19-285448-8.
An article titled "Reaction to Assyrian Origin of Easter" by Maggie Yonan that was previously inserted in this issue has been removed.
What is Going on in the Syriac Orthodox Church?
Said Saume Lahdo
Honourable Patriarch [Mor Ignatios Zakka I Iwas], we know each other more than well.
Recently all over the world our church celebrated your 25 years jubilee as the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox church. Just like me, lots of people do remember your promise, in which you wanted to realise democracy within the church and would revive the old glory of the Syriac language. Many people miss this in our church.
I was young then. Me and my friend were proud of our language and determined to serve our church enthusiastically during different church activities. You changed a lot within our church. ……. I won’t deny that. But if we look at the status of our church, and have a critical look the last years at the same time, than the following question rises with many of us:
What is going on in this church?
I hesitated for a long time whether to criticise the personal behaviour of a spiritual leader. Behaviour that does not suit his function nor his position. My hesitation comes from the fact that I have always been in the opinion that you should look at the positive side of a person and especially of that of a spiritual leader. But if this behaviour becomes a conspicuous phenomenon in our beloved church, then it becomes necessary to make this public and to criticize it. This criticism should of course be in the advantage of our church itself and of the Assyrians (Suryoye) in general. On the same hand, with this criticism I want to try to reduce the negative influence of this phenomenon on our church and people. I will not mention any names here, because everyone is already familiar with them. Besides they are not ashamed when they act in public en announce their statements at public places.
Below I will give a few examples:
- A few years ago, when one of our new bishops was at a condolence where accidentally I was also present, a co-operator of the intelligence service (Muchabaraat) with a low position came in. The bishop asked the co-operator to sit next to him. Through jokes and anecdotes the bishop gave this co-operator of the intelligence service all of his attention. Fifteen minutes later a high police officer came in and sat just between those present, without getting any attention of the bishop in spite of his high function. The same counts for the other present clergymen. They sat far away from the bishop and did not get any sort of attention of the bishop at all. This indicates how our church and bishops are influenced by the intelligence service, the “Muchabaraat”. This kind of behaviour and influence puts our church and people in a difficult situation.
- An other example of more recent date is one that has to do with you, our patriarch. At the funeral of His Eminence late bishop Julius Cicek, that took place 1,5 year ago in Holland, you invited the ambassador of Syria to sit next to you. The speakers also thanked this Syrian ambassador many times, but for what no one knows. During this stately occasion the Dutch cardinal of the catholic church got a seat far away from the patriarch. He was considered just an ordinary guest, in spite of his high spiritual function. Besides you, our patriarch, preached once again in Arabic in front of ten thousands of people audience and spectators of the live broadcast of the Dutch and Assyrian media. You knew very well that more than 90% of the listeners does not understand the Arabic language. You had your preach instead, clumsily, translated into Suryoyo. Why not directly in the mother tongue, everyone thought? That is yet the liturgical language of the church, isn’t it? It is besides the language of the people and even our Lord Jesus Christ made himself heard in this language during his life on earth.
Our patriarch promised us to bring back the glory of our language. With this action he broke his promise in advance. If he would have preached in English in this European country, out of respect for his international guests, then everyone would have had understanding and even respect for this. Or was according to him the judgement of the Muchabaraat (Syrian intelligence service), in this case the Syrian embassy, the most important? Unluckily this has become a tradition of His Holiness the Patriarch. A patriarch that speaks the language of the people but refuses to use this to speak to his people in, uses a translator to have his words translated from Arabic into the language of the people.
Is this patriarch, that is standing in front of us, the real leader of the Syriac Orthodox church, or are there things happening behind the scenes that we do not know of? Besides the patriarch said in an interview last year in a Lebanese newspaper (Annahar) that the Arabic blood is purely streaming through his veins. But in what laboratory he recovered this, he did not tell. This fact shocked our people, because this is against the desire of our Creator. We are created as Assyrians (Suryoye) and not otherwise, with all respect for all nations. Against what price he is making such statements, is not clear.
The so-called democracy he promised to give us back our church institutions, is used as freedom for the bishops to misuse their spiritual authority for non-religious purposes. The bishops take their decisions without consulting the church management en the priests. Many of these decisions are taken at the cost of our people and church.
An example of this: The affair of the disappeared million dollars, that were diverted by the bishops of The Netherlands and America to the mafia, is already familiar with everyone.
Until now the believers suffer from the negative consequences of this fraud. What is even more attracting attention is the creation of dioceses of which some of them don’t have more than one or two parishes. New bishops were inaugurated for this, one of them was even not able to celebrate a service.
Herewith we can thank God that we live in a time of TV channels and satellites that present us such events directly and make us a witness of the low level our beloved church has reached.
And if there is the rare event, as was the case in The Netherlands, that all the members of the community agree about the choice of the monk that would have to become their new bishop, than the patriarch immediately rejects this. Without giving a reason for his decision he starts one commission after the other ‘to expose the real choice of the people’. This choice was known already for a long time and had been announced to him more than once both scripturally and orally. This made the people sorrowful and it leaves many question marks in the heads of the believers.
In other places monks got even consecrated as bishops without consulting their respectively parishes. This brings us back to our question: “What is going on?”
One of these ‘very learned’ new bishops discovered a short time ago that the Turks are totally innocent of the genocide on our people in the year 1915 in Turkey. A genocide that was planned systematically by the government and by which hundreds of thousands Assyrians (Suryoye) got killed. Till the day of today there are countless families that still suffer from the consequences of this tragedy, ironically one of these families is the family of the just mentioned bishop himself!
Now this genocide matter is starting to get recognition within different European authorities, and the Turkish government is getting difficulties because of this in its relation with the Europeans, the bishop wants to state that the Turkish are innocent. He got this sudden clear insight immediately after he got consecrated and the Holy Spirit came down on him. This probably happened when he got invited for the well-known dinner by the Turkish ambassador in Brussels. After this dinner he started to state that the Turks were innocent.
This bishop is not ashamed of his words, which he repeated in his lecture that he organised himself and where he had invited a genocide researcher. But this researcher did not get any chance to say anything. He tried cleverly to misuse the presence and the reputation of this genocide researcher. What even drew more the attention was that the bishop had also invited people from the Turkish embassy for this meeting, so that they could be witnesses of his loyalty to the Turkish state.
Many of us wonder how this bishop can deny and repudiate the hundreds of thousands of Christian martyrs of our people. This behaviour arises by vile souls, where combined with the name of Jesus in order to be able to act with this name. Like this they betray Jesus even more than Judas has done. At the same time and in spite of his bad health, the patriarch was not far from the place where the lecture took place, relaxing from his long journey to Europe by which not is told for what he came, certainly not to come The Netherlands to have the consecration of the new bishop..?
The only explanation for this sudden European journey is, that he wanted to be sure of the discipline of his new bishops and to be able to see if the Turkish blood is really flowing through their veins, like through his the Arabic blood is flowing. His promise to let the glory of the Assyrians (Suryoye) revive is apparently becoming old goods and is not going well with our time. The influence of the intelligence services (Muchabaraat) of our original area and their politics have become a characteristic of our time. At least with some of our clergymen that have become really cheap.
Is this really what is happening in our Syriac Orthodox church?
Season in Urmia
Franz Liszt, the dashing Hungarian pianist and composer (1811-1886), generally wore the same type of clothing despite the weather. When asked the reason, he replied, “Why should I take notice of the weather if it insists upon disregarding me?”
So it is with life, I discovered long ago. Like it or not, life makes its own rules, changing the script as it pleases regardless of the actor’s wishes. And life changed my script, in 1953, despite my hopes and prayers, with the untimely death of my mother. She was only 35. I was 12.
My mother’s death left me lost and confused, as if trapped in a maze, or crawling in a cramped tunnel with the air being sucked out of me. Like a roulette wheel, time kept spinning me in different states of emotional conflict, from numbness to anger, guilt and, ultimately, defeat. For that reason, I think, that year the family sent me from Tehran, where we lived, to Urmia to spend the summer vacation with my grandmother.
I had been to Urmia numerous summers to visit her. Nana was born in Urmia, where she also married and raised her children. My visits, however, were always in the company of my brother and my parents. This time I was going there alone to be with my grandmother, just the two of us. I am grateful for that season in Urmia, not only for the immense love my grandmother gave me, but also for the wonderful memories the journey let me take away.
Nana was the perfect picture of an Assyrian grandmother, from her unbound capacity for love, patience and forgiveness to her remarkable sense of humor. Ask any Assyrian about his or her grandmother and you’ll probably get the same response, the same hearty nod. Assyrian grandmothers are a gift from God. That I like to think I was my grandmother’s favorite grandchild – despite a lighthearted disagreement from her other grandchildren – makes my bond with her even stronger and dearer long after her death.
Nana lived in Digala, a quaint little village east of the city of Urmia, about a 15 to 20-minute ride in a droshky. Her home was typical of the two-story mud structures in villages throughout Urmia, the area located in northwest Iran that at one time held a large Assyrian population. Lake Urmia, a relatively large body of saltwater prized for its mud baths, stretched across the eastern edge of the region.
Like many of the homes in the hundreds of villages dotting Urmia, from Gulistan on the south to Kuilasar on the north, Mar Nukha on the east to Chara on the west, at the time of my visit Nana’s home had no electricity or plumbing. Bathing was done in tubs indoors in the winter and out in the yard in the summer. The outhouse was placed on the far end of the yard, as far away from everything as possible.
“You mean living in Digala with Grandma Sona was like being on a permanent camping trip?” asked my daughter, Sadie, when very young. “Yes, I suppose that’s one way of putting it,” I said. “I wish I’d been there with you at Grandma Sona’s village,” added my older daughter, Sonja, “but I’m not sure about the outhouse.”
Nana’s was the last home at the end of a narrow block – the width of the typical alleyway in America – on the east end of Digala. It sat adjacent to a thick forest of tall trees and across from her small vineyard. The barn was located at the home’s entrance, and although it stood empty, at one time it had housed her cattle. But the strong aroma still lingered. It still does in my memory. When I pass a farm on my travels around America, I still get a powerful dose of that strong aroma, remembering it fondly as the sweet smell of Urmia.
The stone walkway, stretching from the front door to the house, split the large yard in the front in two sections. Fruit trees including cherry, apple and pear, plus patches of staples such as tomato, onion and herb always made me feel as if I were living in a garden paradise. Two large rooms took up the first floor, and two rooms the second floor, all modestly furnished. A spacious balcony led off from the upstairs landing. Ah, those cool nights of sleeping on that balcony under the magnificent sky brought me the sweetest dreams.
My favorite spot at Nana’s house, though, was the large stone terrace in the front, where she and I spent our afternoons having lavash and goat cheese, sometimes butter, honey or quince preserves, all washed down with countless glasses of tea from the samovar. The water for the tea came from the well a few feet away from the table. Memories of those blissful afternoons come back to whenever I stoke my samovar in the kitchen here in Wisconsin.
My Digala was long ago, I know, but somehow time loses its distance when I pour the first glass of tea. I am always transported back to that terrace under the shade of the big cherry tree, where the only thing that existed for me was the soft trill of the breeze in the trees and the warmth of my grandmother’s voice.
That summer, when Nana picked me up in the droshky from the bus depot in Urmia and we meandered through the city streets toward Digala, I tried to temper my anticipation of not only seeing my village friends, but also of having my afternoon snacks and tea on that cool and cozy terrace at her home. Which is how I remember my time with Nana that summer in Digala: as distinct images of everyday life, the mundane and the curious. From time to time, when the mood strikes, I will write about those memorable images in this column.
As I reflect on things, on the land that had felt the footprint, the heartbeat of our Assyrian ancestors, and on the years that somehow have sneaked by me, I look at that season in Urmia with Nana with profound happiness and longing. For me, it was the season of loss with the death of my mother, whom I mourn to this day, but it was also one of discovery. That season I would learn to dress as I pleased, despite the weather.
The Plight of the Iraqi Christians
Amidst the war torn Iraq, in a place where it may be easier to die than to live, overshadowed and virtually ignored, the world is witnessing with horror, yet in utter silence, the systematic religious and ethnic persecution and cleansing of the indigenous Christian Assyrian, also called Chaldean, Syriac population.
Church bombings, kidnappings, beheadings, crucifixion of children, rape, and forced taxation for being non-Muslims have forced hundreds of thousands of Christian Assyrians to abandon their ancestral land and flee to the neighboring countries of Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Lebanon for safety. Today, such unprecedented degree of hate and destructiveness has brought upon the eviction and uprooting of the last condensed pocket of Aramaic speaking people in the world.
The sectarian violence in Iraq is no longer limited between the Shia and the Sunni, for now the defenseless Iraqi Christian population, which numbered over a million at the beginning of the war, has been identified as the new "target" by the extremists and the insurgents.
In April 2007, Nuri Kino, the top award winning investigative reporter and film maker from Sweden spent six grueling days in Amman, Jordan recording and witnessing the dreadful plight of the Iraqi Christians. "By God - Six Days in Amman" is a grim and sobering report that will surely shed a new light on the truth and reality of what is taking place to the less known and less spoken victims of the war in Iraq, the Christians.
For additional information or to contact Nuri Kino for interviews, speeches, and television appearances, please contact:
A Mesopotamian Night Under the Stars in Modesto Hosted by Narsai David
For Immediate Release
MODESTO - As many as 400 guests are expected to attend the Assyrian Aid Society of America Central Valley Chapter's "Mesopotamian Night Under the Stars," an evening of Middle Eastern food and culture hosted by AAS-A President and KCBS Radio Food & Wine Editor Narsai David on June 30, 2007.
The dinner's Honorary Committee includes U.S. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, U.S. Congressman Dennis Cardoza, and Turlock Mayor John Lazar. The dinner of Mediterranean favorites will be prepared by Papapavlo's Mediterranean Bistro, as well as homemade foods contributed by local Assyrian women's groups. Gallo of Sonoma and the Narsai and Venus David Vineyards are providing wine.
Founding General Director Erik Buck Townsend and the Townsend Opera Players, celebrating their third decade of bringing quality opera and musical theater to the San Joaquin Valley, will perform selections from "Inanna: An Opera of Ancient Sumer" written by composer John Craton who is a native of Alabama currently residing in Bedford, Indiana. This opera is based on the Inanna poems, many of which are believed to have been written by High Priestess Enheduanna circa 3000 B.C., the opera weaves together three principal episodes from the narrative: the tale of the huluppu tree, the tale of the courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi, and the epic known today as "The Descent of Inanna."
Independent scholar Dr. Eden Naby of Brimfield, Massachusetts will offer a speech entitled, "Steps, Jumps, and Leaps: Assyrian Advances through Diversity and Unity."
Both live and silent auctions will be highlights of the evening.
This memorable event will take place at the estate home of Diane Pedota at 1409 Church Street in Modesto.
Individual ticket prices start at $125, ($85 tax deductible). Table sponsorships are available at $2000 for Inanna table and $1500 for UTU table. All proceeds from the dinner and auctions will benefit AAS-A humanitarian projects in Northern Iraq.
The Assyrian Aid Society of America is a charitable organization recognized by the State of California and the government of the United States of America, dedicated to assisting needy Assyrian Chaldean Syriac people in Northern Iraq and around the world. Over the past 15 years AAS-A has raised over $4.5 million to, with its sister organization, the Assyrian Aid Society – Iraq, build schools, staff and supply medical clinics, facilitate life-saving surgeries, rebuild homes, irrigate farmlands, bring electricity to villages, and implement a host of other vital programs and services.
Join ACSSU & Zinda Magazine in Supporting Mezaltaa
The Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union
In Iraq today, our people are faced with a daily struggle for survival in view of the hardships that challenge our very existence. At the very center of this crisis, however, are organizations that continue to offer hope; one such group is the ChaldoAssyrian Student and Youth Union of Iraq (referred to as “Khoyada” or Unity).
As one of the most prominent student groups in Iraq, Khoyada has defined itself as an organization that has proven its ability to unify our people at all levels. Khoyada’s membership includes students from all denominations across every major Iraqi region where our people reside, such as Baghdad, Mosul, Basra, Kirkuk, Arbil, Ainkawa, Shaqlawa, Dohuk, Sarsank, and all cities and villages in the Nineveh Plains. Khoyada has accomplished projects well beyond their economic means, and has rallied our youth to participate in many nationalistic events. Further, Khoyada is focused on helping our youth develop the appropriate character and leadership qualities needed to succeed in the new Iraq. For more on Khoyada please visit their website at www.khoyada.com.
As one of its projects, ACSSU of Canada is attempting to expand Mezaltaa and its publication capacity. In order to do so, the staff of Mezaltaa needs additional equipment, such as computers and memory devices, basic office furniture, and other necessary journalism tools that include digital cameras, voice-recorders, scanners, and office stationary. We believe this project deserves critical attention, and will help empower our youth to more closely share with each other ideas and thoughts that will promote our language, culture, and identity.
We urgently need your support. Our project goal is $6,000, and helping to sponsoring ACSSU in this project are Zinda Magazine and The Assyria Foundation. All contributions are tax-deductible, and can be made directly at The Assyria Foundation’s website (click here).
With your help, collectively, we all can make a difference.
As a major sponsor of this important free speech project in Iraq, Zinda Magazine urges its readers to make a donation, no matter how small. Do not allow the voices of the independent Assyrian students and activists be silenced. Please click here to make your donation today.
Assyria Foundation Volunteer Mentors
Are you getting ready to go to college soon? Are you in college now?
Do you find yourself having lots of questions about which classes are best to take, where you can get more financial aid, which school to go to, what on earth you want to major in?
Do your parents have any idea how to fill out a FAFSA?
For first generation Assyrian-American students, college can be an overwhelming experience, as we go through the university process in the United States without family experience to help us.
The Assyria Foundation has volunteer mentors from around the country, all Assyrian, and all who have graduated from American Universities, from many different academic backgrounds, from Biochemistry to Labor Union Studies, From Stanford University to Northeastern University in Boston, we have a mentor that can help you answer your questions.
Why is mentoring Assyrian youth so important? We can help with:
If you are an Assyrian student between the ages of 17-24, and are still attending an Undergraduate Institution or will be attending this Fall of 2007, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about our mentoring project, including the mentors and their areas of expertise/academic institutions, please click here.
Defenceless in Dora: the Latest Twist in Anti-Christian Violence in Iraq
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo
It was in 1999 that I first went to Dora, which for many centuries has been a strongly Christian area of Baghdad. Visiting a block of flats, I saw the appalling poverty of the Christian community. Like most of the Iraqi population they were suffering the effects of the UN sanctions, but in addition Christians had to cope with the hostility of Muslims who blamed the Christians for what were seen as "Western" sanctions and the intolerable deprivations which they created. The hostility was at this time kept in reasonable check by the tight security of Saddam's regime.
Take my last son away with you
In the company of a government interpreter I called on a Christian woman and her teenage son. Her living room had only a table and a few chairs - everything else had been sold to try to survive. When we entered she spoke to the interpreter and then started to cry. I learned that she was pleading for me to take her son back to Britain with me. "I had six sons," she explained. "The five eldest have all died fighting in Saddam’s wars [the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s and the Gulf War of 1990-1]. My husband also died in the military. Next year my youngest son will be old enough to be called up, and most likely he too will be killed."
I stood containing my emotion as this lady spoke with great courage, knowing what she said would be reported back by the interpreter to the intelligence service. I could do nothing to help her, for it was impossible for me to take her son away with me. What has become of her and her son, and of other Christians like them whom I came to know on my various visits to Iraq?
Pay, convert, leave or die
Since the war of 2003 the anti-Christian hostility in the country has increased immeasurably, and there is no longer the strong hand of Saddam to prevent the men of violence from doing as they please. In response to raging anti-Christian violence, huge numbers of Iraqi Christians have fled their homes. A few have chosen another option and converted to Islam. It is next to impossible to continue to live in Baghdad as a Christian.
Many Christians in Dora are now facing demands for the traditional Islamic tax on non-Muslim minorities, the jizya. This is not being imposed by the government, but by Islamist insurgents who are operating freely in Dora without any intervention by either Iraqi or American forces. In keeping with the teaching of shari'a (Islamic law), Christians are offered the choice of paying money (which will be used to fund the insurgent violence), converting to Islam, leaving the area, or being killed. The demands can come as written messages delivered to their home, or from militants knocking on the door. Sometimes the option of paying jizya is not offered - it is then a choice of convert to Islam, flee within 24 hours leaving their homes to be seized by the militants, or be killed.
Christians in Mosul have also been facing demands for jizya.
"We are not here to protect you" - American commander
A letter from an Iraqi Christian organization in the West addressed to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, dated 11th May 2007, urges Mr Ban to ask the US and Iraqi governments to protect the minorities in Iraq and work for peaceful coexistence.
It brings to mind a later visit I made to Baghdad, when I sat with a minister in his church in the central market place (an area which has since suffered dreadfully from bombing). He told me how the Christians were being systematically attacked and how he had visited the local American commander to beg for protection for Christians. The answer he got was, "We are not here to protect you." Together with other church leaders he visited the senior American general with the same request. But the general simply sent them back to the local commander who repeated his statement, "We are not here to protect you."
The Christian community in Iraq has been left unprotected and vulnerable. Last year I visited the American Congress and spoke with senior officials and also spoke with US military leaders in Iraq. I discussed the future of the Christian community in Iraq, a community which is facing genocide at the hands of Islamic militants determined to eliminate the Christian presence in Iraq. The same answer was given to me in each case: "We cannot protect the Christians."
If the coalition forces refuse to protect Christian communities, if they overthrow a dictator in order to bring democracy, if this democracy leads to the imposition of shari'a, to ethnic cleansing, to dispossession of property, and ultimately to genocide of a section of the community, then the coalition governments must bear the moral responsibility for a tragedy which they have allowed to happen.
Christians cannot stand by and allow this genocide to take place, as we did during the Armenian genocide of a century ago, and as we did during the Sudanese civil war which had killed two million mainly Christian Southerners by the time it ended in 2005. Christians cannot sacrifice their brothers and sisters in Iraq. Neither political expediency, nor support for our own governments "right or wrong", nor the goal of inter-faith relations with Islam can take precedence over the desperate needs of our fellow Christians. There comes a time when Christians must stand in solidarity with their brethren, must speak out for them and for justice and righteousness.
The Genocide of the Assyrians and Armenians
Presented to the Swedish Parliament on 31 January 2007
Prof. Ove Bring
In March 2003 the Swedish organisation “Levande historia” arranged a seminar in the town of Uppsala with the theme “The genocide on Armenians and other Christian groups in 1915”. I attended in my capacity as a legal expert on international law, but the two most important contributions were presented by two historians, Klas-Göran Karlsson from the university of Lund, and David Gaunt from the university college of Södertörn. They both confirmed that genocide, in a general sense, had taken place in the then Ottoman empire during the First World War.
The strange thing with this seminar in Uppsala was that Turkey’s embassy in Stockholm had sent a historian from Ankara to give a contrasting picture to the picture they suspected the seminar would confirm. The discussion between the historians reached a complete deadlock and the event was commented on later by Turkey’s largest newspaper, describing Swedish scientists with derisive words of abuse.
This controversy should never have taken place from a purely historical point of view because the scientific research done on this issue is relatively clear.
There are very many witnesses from 1915: missionaries who were there in the Christian areas; consuls from western countries who reported back to their embassies about what happened; German military attachés who reported in the same way; and the American ambassador Morgenthau in Constantinople who gave reports about his contacts with the government of the Young Turks, especially about a conversation with Turkish war minister Enver Pasha, in which the minister assured that what took place was ordered by the government.
A document was published already in 1916 entitled The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915-1916 by James Bryce, British expert in political science, and Arnold Toynbee, a historian. Bryce had previously been ambassador to the USA and had led an investigative commission during WWI about alleged war crimes in occupied Belgium. Toynbee was in the beginning of his career as a world famous historian.
Johannes Lepsius, a German missionary in Anatolia, was given a task by the authorities in Berlin during the same period of time. He was ordered to compile German diplomatic correspondence concerning Armenia. The documentation of Lepsius was published in 1919 in Potsdam. A number of scientific works published in modern times have completed the picture. Prof. David Gaunt published his book Massacres, Resistance, Protectors 2006. It covers the fate of all the Christian groups of eastern Anatolia during WWI.
It all started in Constantinople on 24 th April 1915 when several hundred leading Armenian intellectuals were arrested, deported and murdered. It was assumed that their Orthodox belief made them friends of the Russians and thus a security risk. Orders followed demanding cities and villages in the east to be emptied on their Christian population. The Armenians were to be removed southwards and death marches and massacres followed. The camps they were removed to in the Syrian desert were not any new settlements; they were an end station of starvation, assault and misery.
The western allies issued a proclamation on 24 th May 1915 in which they described what was going on as a”crime against humanity and civilisation”, announcing court proceedings against guilty individuals after the war. No such court proceedings, apart from a few exceptions, ever took place, but the expression “crime against humanity” was coined.
According to The United Nations Convention on Genocide ratified in 1948, the affected population must constitute an ethnically or religiously definable group in order for the term genocide to be applied to them. This criterion is fulfilled retroactively in the case of the Assyrians and Armenians.
It also requires an intention from the perpetuators to annihilate the group entirely or partly. This criteria of intention is the most difficult to prove. Yet I advocate that the research of history has been able to prove since long time ago such an underlying political purpose: to clear the Ottoman Empire from foreign elements and build a homogenous Muslim state.
The order of the regime of the Young Turks from April 1915 to clear cities and villages from Armenian elements is documented. The following order, on how to handle the people who are driven together and deported, is lost, probably destroyed in an early stage. But the certainty of the existence of such a brutal order, in practise an order for partial annihilation, is made clear from a later order by Talat Pasha, Minister of Interior, to the governor in Diyarbekir. It is made clear in a telegram from Constantinople from 12 th July 1915 that the regime needs to put itself in a more positive light because of the international protests. Talat Pasha issues directives saying that the killings which are lacking in discrimination against Christian groups (in general) must stop, i.e. the special treatment issued for the Armenians must not befall the Assyrians. This was the meaning of the telegram; the genocide committed against the Armenians was acknowledged, but it was not to spread to other Christian groups.
The Swedish word for genocide, folkmord, has been used by Hjalmar Branting (a famous Swedish prime minister) during an Armenia-meeting on 27 th March 1917. He said:
“We are not talking about minor assaults but about an organized and systematic genocide (folkmord), worse than we have ever witnessed in Europe. It has been about annihilating the population of the entire area, drive the survivors out in the desert with the expectation that they will not endure but that their bones will whiten in the desert sand. This genocide is unparalleled among all appalling acts of the war. Our hearts have ached when we have read about it.” (Socialdemokraten, the official publication of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, 28 th March 1917).
There was no juridical term for these events during WWI, but the term used by the allies “crime against humanity” was to gain political validity through the regulations of the Nuremberg trials in 1945. What a Swedish government, minister, parliament or parliamentarian committee could say about the Armenian and Assyrian tragedy is that it is about massacres that were described as a crime against humanity in 1915 and which could today, from a juridical point of view, be described as genocide. The current Turkish republic has no juridical responsibility for these events as it is a successor state of the Ottoman Empire, but today’s Turkey has a democratic identity to guard and it has a responsibility to make sure that freedom of speech is functioning. To be able to freely debate the past and sometimes take a moral responsibility for the damage inflicted on others is a feature of civil democratic societies.
An investigation was launched in 1997 in Sweden to find out about our trade revenue from Germany during the Second World War. A report named “The Nazi gold and the Bank of Sweden” (SOU 1998:96) established that gold ingots had been received from looted occupied countries and we had even possibly received gold taken from teeth from the death camps in the east. Sweden then gave around 40 million kronor to the Jewish centre in Stockholm as a form of moral compensation.
Swiss banks had enriched themselves in a corresponding way during the war. As the years passed the banks even incorporated the bank accounts of murdered Jews with their own funds. A storm of protests in the USA in 1998 led the Swiss banks to form a solidarity fund to be used for compensation of survivors. A court in New York announced later that one of the banks would pay compensation amounting to 1.25 billion dollars.
There are more examples of how a debate in democratic states has led to compensation. The money itself cannot compensate for lost lives, but the willingness to pay compensation marks guilt and responsibility and a will for reconciliation. The fact that one is recognized as a victim, as an object of a historical and massive injustice, gives a confirmation of ones identity from the perspective of the affected group.
It is obvious that an open discussion in Turkey about the events of 1915-1918, without any obstacles from article 301 of the Turkish penal code, would benefit Turkey’s application for EU membership.
Our politicians are eager to claim that the Assyrian and Armenian genocides are an issue for the historians. But the same thing is not claimed about the Holocaust. The fact that the events of 1940-45 are an issue for politicians and diplomats was recently confirmed by the United Nations General Assembly when it adopted a resolution condemning all denials of the Holocaust. But Seyfo, the year of the sword as it is called by Assyrians (1915), is considered immature for political judgements. I like to uphold that the historians have done their job and they have done it well when it comes to the genocides of 1915-18. They cannot point to documents from any Turkish equivalence to the Wannsee-conference, but they have collected enough material to show there was a deliberate intention to commit what we today call genocide. One cannot ask scientists to agree totally; they have not agreed totally regarding the Holocaust either. But the stage of knowledge about the Assyrian and Armenian genocides is not insufficient to the degree that allows timid politicians to hide behind arguments of claimed indistinctness.
With this said, I do not claim that now is the right occasion to mediate historical truths on the international stage. It might not be the correct time. But it is concurrently time for our politicians to inform themselves about the factual matter and handle it in a moral manner. What we today call genocide did really take place in the eastern part of the Ottoman Empire year in 1915 and even the years that followed. Furthermore, the affected were different Christian groups – Armenians and Assyrians. It is time for our politicians to acknowledge that serious historians have confirmed this historical writing and that there is no reason to question their conclusion.
Prof. Ove Bring is one of Sweden’s foremost legal experts on international law. He is a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and a member of the International Law Delegation of the Swedish Foreign Office . This speech was delivered by him during the conference on the Assyrian genocide in the Swedish parliament on 30 th January 2007.
Iraq: A New Age Of Genocide?
Amid daily media body counts and analyses of whether the “surge” is “working,” there is an even more horrific reality in Iraq, almost universally overlooked. The latest annual report by the London-based Minority Rights Group International, released earlier this year, places Iraq second as the country where minorities are most under threat—after Somalia. Sudan is third. More people may be dying in Darfur than Iraq, but Iraq's multiple micro-ethnicities—Turcomans, Assyrians, Mandeans, Yazidis—place it at the top of the list.
While the mutual slaughter of Shi’ite and Sunni makes world headlines, Iraq is home to numerous smaller faiths and peoples—now faced with actual extinction. Turcomans are the Turkic people of northern Iraq, caught in the middle of the Arab-Kurdish struggle over Kirkuk and its critical oilfields. Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, now targeted for attack, trace their origins in Mesopotamia to before the arrival of the Arabs in the seventh century. So do the Mandeans, followers of the world’s last surviving indigenous Gnostic faith—now also facing a campaign of threats, violence and kidnapping. The situation has recently escalated to outright massacre.
In late April, a grim story appeared on the wire services about another such small ethnic group in northern Iraq. Twenty-three textile factory workers from the Yazidi community were taken from a mini-bus in Mosul by unknown gunmen, placed against a wall and shot down execution-style. Three who survived were critically injured.
Yazidis, although linguistic Kurds, are followers of a pre-Islamic faith which holds that earth is ruled by a fallen angel. For this, they have been assailed by their Muslim neighbors as "devil-worshippers" and are often subject to persecution.
The wire accounts portrayed the attack as retaliation for the stoning death of a Yazidi woman who had eloped with a Muslim man and converted to Islam. After the killings, hundreds of Yazidis took to the streets of Bashika, their principal village in the Mosul area. Shops were shuttered and Muslim residents locked themselves in their homes, fearing reprisals.
Yazidis have often been the target of calumnies, and the stoning story may or may not be true. If it is, it says much about the condition of women in "liberated" Iraq, where "honor killings" witness a huge resurgence. In any case, it says much about the precarious situation of minorities in post-Saddam Iraq.
By eerie coincidence, April 24, the day the story of the massacre appeared on the wire agencies, also marked the 92nd anniversary of the start of the Armenian genocide, commemorated in solemn ceremony by Armenians worldwide. Following the mass arrests of that day in 1915, some 1.5 million met their deaths in massacres and forced deportations at the hands of Ottoman Turkish authorities. The Yazidis, whose territory straddles contemporary Turkey and Iraq, were targeted for extermination in the same campaign.
It is telling that the United States refuses to officially acknowledge the Armenian genocide, out of a need to appease NATO ally Turkey. More disturbingly, the United States is now presiding over the re-emergence of genocide in the same part of the planet.
The United States went into Iraq in 2003 to put an end to a regime that had committed genocide against the Kurds in 1988 (when, lest we forget, it was still being supported by Washington). Even if the aim was to control Iraq's oil under a stable, compliant regime, the result has been Yazidis massacred, Assyrian churches bombed, the majority of the Mandeans forced into exile in neighboring countries.
The armed insurgency and the forces collaborating with the occupation seem equally bent on exterminating perceived religious and ethnic enemies. In April 2004, the Badr Brigades of Shi’ite militant cleric Moqtada al-Sadr burned down the Roma (“Gypsy”) village of Qawliya, accused of “un-Islamic” behavior—like music and dance. Last year, the usually pacifistic Sufis, followers of Islam’s esoteric tradition, announced formation of a militia to defend against the Shi’ite supremacists in both opposition and collaboration. “We will not wait for the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigade to enter our houses,” read the statement from the Qadiri Sufis. “We will fight the Americans and the Shi’ites who are against [the United States].” Suicide bombers have also struck Sufi tekiyas (gathering places).
House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio recently stated without irony: “We can walk out of Iraq, just like we did in Lebanon, just like we did in Vietnam, just like we did in Somalia and we will leave chaos in our wake.” He may be right. But the alternative may be staying—presiding over, and fueling chaos. Boehner ignores the inescapable reality that United States intervention created the current chaos, now approaching the genocidal threshold. It has only escalated throughout the occupation.
This reality raises tough questions for those calling for military intervention in Darfur: will this end the genocide there—or inflame it? And the United States failure to even impose sanctions on Sudan, despite four years of threats, again points to oil and realpolitik as imperial motives, rather than humanitarian concerns. Even the renewed warfare in Somalia, topping the Minority Rights Group list, was sparked by the U.S.-backed Ethiopian intervention late last year.
There are secular progressive forces in Iraq who oppose both the occupation and the ethno-exterminators in collaboration and insurgency alike. These groups, such as the Iraq Freedom Congress and the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, support a multi-ethnic Iraq, and constitute a civil resistance. Their voices have been lost to the world media amid the spectacular violence.
Such voices may have little chance in the escalating crisis. But looking to the United States occupation as the guarantor of stability is at least equally deluded. Above all, Iraq’s minorities will likely be struggling for survival in the immediate future, whether the United States stays or goes. We owe them, at least, the solidarity of knowing about them.
The Assault on Assyrian Christians
Courtesy of the International Herald Tribune
A militant Islamic group in Iraq recently issued a fatwa, or religious edict, to the Assyrian Christian residents of the Baghdad suburb of Dora: Convert to Islam within 24 hours, or face death. At the same time, Muslim neighbors were instructed, over the loudspeakers of local mosques, to confiscate the property of Christians and enforce the edict.
The response was as swift: The majority of Assyrians remaining in Dora immediately gathered whatever they could carry and fled the city.
Iraq's Assyrian Christians know quite well that these latest threats are not empty promises. Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, over 25 churches across Iraq have been bombed, in highly symbolic and coordinated manners. The Islamic group claiming responsibility for the bombing of four churches in August 2004 issued a warning. "To the people of the crosses: Return to your senses and be aware that God's soldiers are ready for you. You wanted a crusade and these are its results."
Several priests have been abducted and beheaded, one in apparent retribution for the pope's public musings about Muhammed and the nature of Islam in October 2006. In March, two elderly nuns were reportedly stabbed to death in Kirkuk. Several Christian women have been beheaded or doused with chemicals for failing to wear the veil. And last October a 14-year-old Assyrian boy was crucified near Mosul.
For the Islamists, the violence has certainly had the desired effect: The massive exodus of Assyrian Christians from Iraq. The UN High Commission for Refugees estimates that as many as a third of the 1.8 million refugees now outside Iraq are Christian.
A similar percentage of the 1.6 million internally displaced within Iraq are likely Christian, many of whom have fled Baghdad, Basra and Mosul to the relatively stable Northern Iraq. The Catholic Bishop of Baghdad, Andreos Abouna, recently stated that as many as half of Iraqi Christians, perhaps half a million people, have fled the country since the 2003 invasion.
Assyrian Christians, the indigenous people of Iraq, the inheritors of the ancient Mesopotamian civilization and the world's earliest converts to Christianity, are at risk of being completely eradicated from their homeland.
In a case of tragic irony, the "liberating" international forces have done nothing to protect Iraq's Christians. Not wishing to admit the catastrophic security failure nor be seen as intervening on a religious basis, U.S. officials have simply stood aside and watched. The State Department's recent offering of 7,000 visas for refugees is not only woefully inadequate but will merely encourage the flight of Assyrians from Iraq.
The United States has been complicit with the destruction of an entire people and should be held liable for the rectification of this misfortune.
Many Assyrians have pled for the establishment of an autonomous region for Christians in Iraq. This zone would likely be situated around the Nineveh Plains, the Assyrians' ancestral homeland, where Christians still comprise the majority. Sargis Aghajan, the finance minister for the Kurdistan Regional Government and himself an Assyrian, has called for autonomy in the Nineveh Plains. He also has financed the construction of thousands of homes in the area and to the north, to prevent those Assyrians fleeing Baghdad and elsewhere from leaving the country altogether.
In March, I joined 1,200 Assyrian intellectuals and civic leaders, both from the diaspora and around Iraq, in attending a conference in Erbil which formalized Iraqi Christians' demand for autonomy. An autonomous region for Assyrians will convince those remaining in Iraq that their faith, language and way of life has a future in Iraq and persuade many of those who have fled to return.
The Bush administration and its Iraqi allies should support this development and ensure its realization. The fate of an entire people lies in the balance.
Iraq: Crosses Go or Christians Murdered
J. Grant Swank Jr.
Some zealot Muslims have climbed atop church roofs to rip off the crosses.
Christians have been threatened with their lives if they do not remove crosses from their churches.
Per AsiaNews: "’Get rid of the cross or we will burn your Churches’. This is the threat aimed at the Chaldean Church of Sts Peter and Paul, located in the ancient Christian quarter of Baghdad, Dora.
"Local sources say an unknown armed Islamic group is behind the threats which are inseminating terror in the capital. The Arab website Ankawa.com and Aina news agency speak of a campaign of persecution in act in the area. Even Mosul, a Sunni stronghold, the Christian presence is being gravely threatened.
"Msgr. Shlemon Warduni, Chaldean auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, tells AsiaNews ‘in the last 2 months many Churches have been forced to remove their crosses from their domes’.
"In the case of the Church of St. George, assira, Muslim extremists took the situation into their own hands: they climbed onto the roof and ripped out the cross.
"In the Chaldean Church of St John, in Dora, which has been without a pastor for months now, the parishioners themselves decided to move the cross to a safer place following repeated threats."
Christians in droves have fled Iraq. Many remaining there have been slain by zealot Muslims.
Christians are considered damned. They are the chief infidels and therefore, according to the Koran, must be eliminated from the planet. They deserve eternal fire, per Koran’s murder and maiming verses. Allah has spoken.
"The same threats which have arrived at the Church of Sts Peter and Paul, which has so far however withstood intimidation: the cross hasn’t been removed but the threats continue.
"’The Iraqi people are tired – says Warduni – we have been suffering for far too long the situation has become unsustainable; we ask God to give us peace. The Christians, just like the Muslims, want to rebuild Iraq, we don’t want to be forced to flee, because this is where we were born, this is where we have lived our lives’"
Yet Iraqi conflict will continue for decades. Muslim factions are in civil war while multinational troops are caught refereeing. Extremist Muslims are quite pleased with the multinational troops remaining for that gives them all the more the rationale for slaughtering Christians in particular.
Even if it means bombing their own neighborhoods, zealot Muslims will slay Muslims in order to slay one Christian or burn one church. This will not cease.
"The Islamic group active in Dora seems to have delivered an ultimatum to the Christian community there: convert to Islam or die; moreover reports say that they have delivered a Fatwa forbidding Christians to wear the cross or make any religious gesture. It also permits the confiscation of goods and properties belonging to the Christian families who find themselves forced to flee their homes for safety at short notice."
It is hoped that from this carnage will come truth. If truth comes to the fore for free nations’ attention, then hopefully those republics will set up forces by which to suppress, then eliminate extremist Islamic fanatics. Wherever such fanatics move, even in non-Muslim environs, they take with them their slaughtering-Christians agenda.
"Baghdad’s Christian community’s worries have been added to by the US military’s decision to forcibly occupy Babel College, property of the Chaldean Church. The Babel, the only faculty of theology in the country, houses on of the most ancient religious libraries in the region, full of priceless manuscripts.
"Because of the increased insecurity in the city and continual abductions of religious the faculty had transferred to Ankawa, in Kurdistan January last, leaving the building empty. The US military are now using it as an observation outpost.
"The building is located at a strategic crossroads: within a Sunni enclave, in front of a Shiite district. Leaders from the local Church are discussing the issue with military representatives. Apparently they have promised to abandon the structure in the coming weeks."
Is Barzani a Jew, As Some Turkish Newspapers Claim?
Courtesy of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
The war in Iraq has ended, and the Kurds in the country's north emerge as one of the war's great victors, liberating themselves from Saddam Hussein's oppressive rule and declaring an independent state.
To the world's surprise, it turns out that one of the Kurds' top leaders is actually Jewish and that, as a result, the nascent Kurdish country will forge a close alliance with Israel, giving the Jewish state another toehold in the Middle East and access to the oil riches of the Iraqi north.
A far-fetched fantasy? Perhaps, but in the last few weeks, a similar scenario similar has been discussed in various articles in the mainstream press in Turkey, a country watching developments in northern Iraq with great worry.
Turkey, which has a close strategic relationship with Israel, has a Kurdish minority estimated at more than 10 million and only a few years ago ended a decade's battle with Kurdish separatists in the country's southeast that claimed some 30,000 lives.
Turkish leaders fear that any move toward independence by Kurds in Iraq could lead to a revival of the separatist movement among Turkey's Kurds.
As a result, Turkey has been building up its military presence along the Iraqi border, ostensibly to stem a possible flood of refugees from Iraq -- but also to pressure the Iraqi Kurds to stay quiet.
In the weeks leading up to the war, the Turkish press was filled with various articles reporting, mostly with suspicion, about the Iraqi Kurds' postwar plans.
A Feb. 17 article in the respected daily newspaper Hurriyet offered an interesting take on the situation: Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party, one of two political factions that control the autonomous Kurdish area of northern Iraq, is Jewish and comes from a long line of Kurdish rabbis, the article claimed.
The article was based on information taken from "The Folk Literature of the Kurdistani Jews," a 1982 anthology that discusses a Kurdish rabbinic family named Barzani, and from work done by a Turkish researcher who found Ottoman documents that refer to a 19th-century Kurdish rabbi also named Barzani.
In the article, the researcher -- a history instructor named Ahmet Ucar -- said Barzani's "Jewish roots" should lead to a different understanding of the region and its history, since the Hebrew Bible states that the Jewish "Promised Land" stretches from the Nile to the Euphrates, an area that would include Kurdish territory in northern Iraq.
A series of articles and columns in the Haber Turk newspaper, printed after the Hurriyet story ran, took things even further.
"Brothers, we should quit the stories of Mosul and Kirkuk belonging to us," said one column, referring to two oil-rich northern Iraqi cities that some Turks believe were unfairly taken from Turkey when the Ottoman Empire was divided up after World War I. "The real owners have started to come out. I am sure you understand who they are.
"Turkey, don't be asleep!" the column warned.
Yona Sabar, a Kurdish Jewish professor of Hebrew and Aramaic at UCLA and author of "The Folk Literature of the Kurdistani Jews," said the articles are based on an inaccurate reading of Kurdish Jewish history.
According to Sabar, a 16th-century Kurdish rabbi named Shamuel Adoni also was given the name Barzani to signify that he came from the town of Barzan. He was followed by a string of well-known rabbis with the Barzani name, including Asenath Barzani, a woman who was ordained as a rabbi in the 17th century.
But Sabar said it is unlikely that Massoud Barzani is connected to that family.
"Barzan is a very well-known Kurdish tribe, and the Jews who lived in that area were very few," he said.
The Kurdish Jewish population in Iraq, Iran and Turkey probably reached 25,000 at its peak, though almost the entire community left for the Jewish state soon after Israel's 1948 War of Independence. There is no discernible Jewish community left in the area today.
Rifat Bali, a Jewish historian in Istanbul, said the Barzani story is part of a larger theory circulating for the past few years that has particularly strong popular support in Turkey's conservative nationalist and Islamist circles.
"Islamists here always say that Israel has a Kurdish card it wants to play -- that it has good relations with the Kurds and it wants to create a Jewish state from the Nile to the Euphrates, and that includes the Kurdish area," Bali said.
"It's fueled, first of all, by the obsession that Jews are behind everything, and that they use in front of them a crypto-Jew," Bali said. "There is also a Turkish fear that the world is looking from the outside and trying to divide Turkey up."
Indeed, a book titled "Israel's Kurdish Card,'' which describes the possibility of Israel expanding its borders through an alliance with the Kurds, has been sold in Turkey for the last few years.
Arabs, The Moslem Assyrians
Who or what is an Arab? It is very difficult but not impossible to define its ethnic terms. The Arabs might be a nation but in a legal sense they are not as yet a nationality. A person who claims is an Arab should describe her or himself in passport or other international corresponds as of Iraqi, Jordanian, Syrian, Lebanese, Yemeni, Saudi Arabian, Libyan, Kuwaitis, Sudanese, Tunisian, Algerian, Moroccan etc. There are Arab states, and indeed a league of Arab states, but as yet there is no single Arab state of which all Arabs are nationals. But if Arabism has no legal content, it is none the less real. The pride of the Arab in his Arabdom, his consciousness of the bonds that bind him or her to other Arabs past and present, are less intense. Is the unifying factor then one of language is an Arab simply one who speaks Arabic as his mother tongue? It is simple and at first sight a satisfying answer, yet there are difficulties. Is the Arabic speaking Assyrian of Iraq , Syria or Lebanon, Or the Arabic speaking Jew of Yemen an Arab? The enquirer could receive different answers amongst these people themselves and among their Muslim neighbours. Is even the Arabic speaking Muslim of Egypt an Arab? Many consider themselves such, but not all, and the term Arab is still used colloquially in both Egypt and Iraq to distinguish the Bedouin (the wonderer Assyrians after the fall of Assyria) of the surrounding deserts from the indigenous peasantry of the two great river valleys (Euphrates & Tigris). In some quarters the repellent word Arabophone is used to distinguish those who merely speak Arabic from those who are truly Arabs.
A gathering of Arab leaders some decades ago defined an Arab in these words “Whoever lives in our country, speaks our language, is brought up in our culture and takes pride in our glory is one of us.” We may compare with this a definition from a well qualified Western source, Professor Gibb of Harvard : “All those are Arabs for whom the central fact of history is the mission of Muhammad and the memory of the Arab Empire and who in addition cherish the Arabic tongue and its cultural heritage as their common possession”. Neither definition, it will be noted, is purely linguistic. Both add a cultural, one at least a religious, qualification. Both must be interpreted historically, for is only through the history of the people called Arab that we can hope to understand the meaning of the term from its primitive restricted use in ancient Assyria times to its vast but vaguely delimited extent of meaning today. As we shall see, through this long period the significance of the word Arab has been steadily changing, and as the change has been show, complex and extensive, we shall find that the term may be used in several different senses at one and the same time and that a standard general definition of its content has rarely been possible. Some historians because of their own personal feelings toward Assyria, claim the origin of the Arabs is still obscure, though Philologists have offered explanations of varying plausibility. For some, the word is derived from a Semitic root “West” and was first applied by the inhabitants of Bet-Nahrain (Mesopotamia) to the people to the west of the Euphrates valley. This etymology is questionable on purely linguistic grounds and is also open to the objection that the term was used by the Arabs themselves and that a people is not likely to describe itself by word indicating its position relative to another. More profitable are the attempts to link the word with the concept of nomadism. This has been done in various ways, by connecting it with the two ancient languages Aramaic or Hebrew “ Arabha”- dark land or steppe land, and with the Aramaic root “Abahar ” or Hebrew “Erebh” which in a sense they both mean to move or pass, from which the word “Abraham” or “ Avraham” is probably derived, since has been known which the Biblical figure Abraham got that name after he passed Bet-Nahrain (Mesopotamia) rivers. The association with nomadism is borne out by the fact that the Arabs themselves seem to have used the word at an earlier date to distinguish the Bedouin from the Arabic-speaking town and village dwellers and indeed continue to do so to some extent at the present day. The traditional Arab etymology deriving the name from a verb meaning “ to express” or “enunciate” is almost certainly a reversal of the historic process.
The word Arab makes its first appearance in an assyrian inscription of 853 b.c. In which king Shalmaneser III records the defeat by Assyrian forces of a conspiracy of rebellious princelings, one of them was “gindibu the aribi” who appropriately contributed 1,000 camels to the forces of the confederacy. From that time until the sixth century BC. There are frequent references in Assyrian and Babylonian inscriptions to Aribi, Arabu, and Urbi. These inscriptions record the receipt of tribute from Aribi rulers usually including camels and other items indicative of a desert origin, and occasionally tell of military expeditions into Aribi land. Some of the later inscriptions are accompanied by illustrations of Aribi and their camels. These campaigns against the Aribi were clearly not wars of conquest but punitive expeditions intend to recall the erring nomads to their duties as assyrian vassals. They served the general purpose of securing the assyrian borderlands and lines of communication.
Moslem Assyrian Contribution
Viewing the Moslem Assyrian epoch in retrospect, one is inclined to marvel at both the momentum and magnitude of scientific activity during that period “unparalleled in the history of the world”. The Moslem Empire was created with collaboration of orthodox Assyrians and Christian Assyrians, Copts, Magians and Sabeans. But this assistance does not wholly explain what might be called the miracle of Moslem Assyrianic science, using the word miracle as a symbol of our inability to explain achievements which were almost incredible. There is nothing like it in the whole history of the ancient history of the mankind, except in Babylon and Assyria.
The immenseness of the Moslem Assyrian contribution can best be realized by recapitulating of her activities, considering at the same time their impact on a Europe struggling upward through the barbarism of the Dark Ages.
Because the science of medicine is so important to human welfare, its advancement has been continuous from the Ancient Assyrian times to the present day, overcoming the barriers of race and religion which have sometimes impeded the progress of other sciences. Recognizing the importance of medical science, The Moslem Assyrians raised physicians to a high social rank and rewarded them with generous emoluments even the
non-converted ones, the Christians or orthodox Assyrians, such as “Bakhtishou”
or Bet-EEshoe. The science of medicine-allied in the Moslem Assyrians as in the Hellenistic world to the study of philosophy flourished in every caliphate and court of the Islamic Empire. The stimulated, the Moslem Assyrians scientists made significant advances in the art of healing, especially in the use of curative drugs. The world’s pharmacopoeia is the richer for these discoveries. They established hospitals far and wide, and even provided medical care in some prisons. They made careful clinic observations of diseases. They did creative work in the field of optics, and ophthalmology which was known since king Sargon II (721-705) who personally use to operate for cataract. (the Assyrian kings or elites children were trained physicians as well as Archery and other warfare, since their childhood.) The greatest contributions of the Islamic scientists to Europe of the Middle Ages, however were in the encyclopaedic field. Al Razi, known to Europe as Rhazes (865-925), Al Havi, later known to Europe in Latin translation as Continens, Ibn Sina, known to Europe as Avicenna (980-1037). Avicenna, one of the world’s great intellects, had an encyclopaedic mind and photographic memory. By the age of twenty one he had read and absorbed all the books in the royal library of the Sultan of Bukhara. He then set to work to systemize the knowledge of his time.
The medical doctrines of Galen, greatest of Greek physicians, as improved upon by the Moslem Assyrians, dominated Europe through her Middle Ages. As the Renaissance brought a new awakening of the human intellect, Europe which had been stimulated by its contacts with Moslem Assyrian culture, proceeded on its own energy and initiative toward those discoveries which have so greatly affected the health and longevity of man upon this planet.
The Moslem Assyrians, upon the conquest of Alexandria in 642 A. D., fell heir to all the science of ancient Babylon, Assyria and Egypt as developed and reconstructed by brilliant Hellenes of the Alexandrian period. The Moslem Assyrians, picking up this applied science from the Alexandrians, expanded it and handed it on to Europe under its Aramaic name “ Al- Kmayouta” or as pronounced by Moslem Assyrians “al-kemer or al- chemer” or Persian name “Kimia”, which it means rare, known to medievalists of Europe as alchemy. Up to the Renaissance alchemy and chemistry were synonymous, and the most important discoveries in the field of chemistry were those made by alchemist in his search for a formula which would convert metals into gold. In this search for the magical creation of gold, and in their researches in materials, Moslem Assyrian chemists developed formulas for making the three chief mineral acids used by the modern world-nitric acid, sulphuric acid and hydrochloric acid. They discovered the arts of distillation, oxidation and crystallization, also the making of alcohol. Europe was indebted for all of its beginnings in alchemy and chemistry to the chemical science of the Moslem Assyrians, which reached them through translation of Moslem Assyrianic works into Latin. In this science, as in other arts and sciences which they inherited from their ancient Assyrian ancestors and practiced, they developed an objective and experimental method as opposed to the purely speculative method of the Greeks. The father of chemistry and the greatest genius was Jebraiel, called Jabir, known to Europe as Geber. He made significant advances in the theory and practice of his science, developing new methods for evaporation, sublimation and perfecting the process of crystallization. His works, translated into Latin, exerted a tremendous influence in Europe until the beginning of modern chemistry.
Astronomy, Geography and Navigation
The Moslem Assyrians absorbed all the astronomical, geographical and navigational science and skill from their ancient Assyrian and Babylonian ancestors and set about formulating it into a practicable body of knowledge. Drawing heavily from Greek sources, they introduced the works of Ptolemy into the scholastic life of Europe.
Accepting the contention of Eristosthenes and other Greek geographers that the earth is round, The Moslem Assyrians established correctly its circumference and measured quite accurately the length of terrestrial degrees. They devised tables of latitude and longitude of places throughout the world, and worked out means of determining positions.
Navigation in the Mediterranean required only star lore. But for navigation in the Atlantis ocean something more was needed. This something more-the compass-was borrowed by Moslem Assyrians from Chinese, and from the Greeks they borrowed the astrolable- an instrument which was used by Phoenicians (Assyrian Navy Force) for mapping the position of stars for navigational use.
The Moslem Assyrians were expert navigators. For millenniums they had boldly traversed the Indian Ocean and boldly go where no man was gone before, in quest of trade with India and with the east cost of Africa. The Mediterranean they dominated for some five centuries, and they had anticipated Columbus in venturing into Atlantic, as far as perhaps as Azores. It was under the tutelage of these skilled Moslem Assyrian navigators that Prince Henry the Navigator trained his pilots, soon claiming for Portugal the best seamen and fastest ships in Europe. “ Portuguese pilots and navigators became the foremost masters of nautical science of their time, possessing the most exact instruments then known. It was in Portugal and on the newly won Portuguese islands of Madeira a and Azores that Columbus studied navigation. There the explorer sought information before setting out from Spain to find the seaway to India.”
It is safe to say that without these navigational skills Which these misunderstood Moslem Assyrians bequeathed him, and without the revival of the Greek concept of round earth which was known to Ancient Assyria and Babylon, which the Moslem Assyrians stored to Europe, Columbus would never have ventured forth over the Atlantis or even have conceived the idea of such a voyage, which ended up in discovery of America. It is so unfortunate a nation which gave so much to the world, now is struggling to have their own land back, The holiest of holies the Bet-Nahrain (Mesopotamia).
The Rise of the University
The Moslem Assyrians, as we have seen, began to found universities in the ninth century, first in Baghdad and soon in Cairo, Fez, Cordova and other Moslem cities. The El-Azhar university of Cairo boasts of being the oldest existing university in the world next to the Jondishapor university in Iran which was built during the Sasaanid Dynasty with the contribution of Christian Assyrian physicians like Bakhtishoe or Bet-Eshoe family which later a remnant from this family became Haroun-Al-Rashid’s personal physician.
El-Azhar was founded in the tenth century and has remained from that day the world’s leading Islamic theological center.
The universities of Cordova and Toledo were well known to Europeans, and their hospitals were frequented by Christian princes in need of medical care such as Christian Europe could not furnish. The first medical schools of Europe were the direct result of this Moorish [ The remnant of the Carthegians an Assyrian region in northern Africa ( the most famous Carthegian commander was Banipal, oops….Hanibal) ] influence, and of great importance to the development of the scientific spirit in medieval Europe. For scientific inquiry, as it had been developed by the Greeks and Moslem Assyrians, thus gained a foothold within the precincts of a Europe dominated by the Church, by theology, and by ecclesiastical culture.
The first university of Europe that of Salerno in Sicily had arisen just such medical foundations. The origins of this universities goes back to Jondishapour, Jondishavour or “Qendana-D-Shavour, (king Shapour or King Shavour’s work or Tug)” in Iran and organized by Christian Assyrian physicians as I mentioned them earlier. But unfortunately is reputed to have been founded in the ninth century by a Latin, a Greek, a Jew. Its textbooks were translated by Constantine the African (an important figure in the history of learning) Arabic (originally in Aramaic) works which were themselves partly original (Aramaic) and partly translated from Greek and Hellenes. Salerno was eclipsed by the establishment of the University of Naples in 1224 by Frederick II, who as have seen was a proponent of the Moslem Assyrians culture. Frederick had the works o Aristotle translated from Arabic language into Latin, as well as the works of Ibn Rusd (Averroes) The Moslem Assyrian Astronomer, Physician, Aristotelian commentator and greatest of the Moslem Assyrian philosophers.
During the early thirteenth century universities sprang up all over Europe. In these universities, and in others founded later, the men of Christian Europe studied for the first time subjects that were purely secular as Astronomy, Philosophy and Medicine, having at their disposal texts created by Greeks of classic and Hellenic days, and texts created by the Moslem Assyrians genius.
Machinery could be traced from its early and late inventions by the Ancient Assyrians and Babylonians to its current elaboration in our modern industrial age. They perfected the mechanism of the wheel which they inherited its technicality from their ancestors the Sumerians and discovered the principle of the lever, the pulley and the screw and demonstrated them successfully and used them to water the hanging gardens of Babylon.
(The Gardens, actually were not hanging but were built in a very high elevation, the- mistake is in translation, The Assyrians calls any personality in a high standard or any high ground “Ma Alia, like we call the Patriarchs Baba Ma Alia and so the fourth Moslem’s Caliphate was called Ali or “Alaya”. Which “Ma Alia” is equable to Arabic “Moalia “ or MoAlagh as they pronounce it, The Greek misunderstood it as Malagh in Arabic which is “Avizan” in Persian so it was translated Hanging Gardens, this is one of the many mistakes which the Greeks committed and it resulted in great damages to the glorious Assyrian history).
Nothing of importance was lacking for the creation of a machinery age except the will to produce it, which The Assyrians were naturally motivated people. When the Moslem Assyrians in 641 conquered Egypt and took possession of Alexandria, they fell heir to what remained of Greek captivity and creativity. They made translations of Hero’s Mechanics and applied its principles to two important Assyrian’s inventions, the water-mill and the windmill. Unfortunately some ignorant historians have traced it to Romans, Persians, and the Caliph Omar, it is my duty as a Hanief Assyrian (orthodox or a person who believes only in the monotheism of the Creator and the organized religions are not known to him, like The Assyrian kings and their subjects, the Biblical figures as Adam, Abraham and….)to challenge any such historians who are continuously repeating these nonsense, it is as simple as to say “ What would have become of the Jewish history if it was written by Hitler or the Iranian history by Sadaam Hussein, Who believed only two creatures shall seize to live, the flies and the Persians?”
In pursuit of these progressive goals the Moslem Assyrian scientists attained an experimental objectivity that the Greeks had disdained. They took a long step toward Bacon’s noble vision of modern science: “By experimentation to discover truth and by the application of this truth to advance human progress.”
This Assyrianic-Islamic science and technology, reaching Europe via Sicily and Spain, awoke her from the Dark Ages in which she was slumbering. The detailed elaboration of the actual routes by which this transference took place have only recently been outlined by historians. Over a hundred years ago a statement of the full influence of the Moslem Assyrian’s culture on Europe would have been incredible. But modern research has firmly established its incontestability.
The Oxford History of Technology sums it up as follows: “ There are few major technological innovations between 500 A.D. and 1500 that do not show some traces of the Islamic culture.”
Medicine in ancient Bet-Nahrain
Unfortunately, a huge number of cuneiform tablets did not get translated and are putrefying inside the dark basement corridors of European museums, some are sold to private collectors and some were destroyed, looted or stolen from Baghdad museum during the so called liberation. Since there is not much proves for the causes, we will rest the case and read from the ones which miraculously made their way to translation and are concerned with medical issues. Many of the tablets that do mention medical practices have survived from the library of Ashurbanipal, the last great king of Assyria. The library of Ashurbanipal was housed in the king’s palace at Nineveh, and when the palace was burned by invaders, around 30,000 clay tablets were baked and thereby preserved by the great fire. In the early 1920’s, only 660 medical tablets from the library of Ashurbanipal were published by Cambell Thompson. Recently over 400 tablets found from sites other than King Ashurbanipal’s library, including the library of a medical practitioner (an asipu in Sumerian vocabulary or an asia in Assyrian) from Neo-Assyrian, as well as Middle Assyrian and Middle Babylonian texts were translated. The vast majority of these tablets are prescriptions, but there are few series of tablets that contained entries that were directly related to one another, and these have been labelled “treatises.” The largest surviving such medical treatise from ancient Bet-Nahrain (Mesopotamia) is known as “Treatise of Medical Diagnosis and Prognoses.” The text of this treatise consists of 40 tablets collected and studied by French scholar R. Labat. Although the oldest surviving copy of this treatise dates to around 1600 B.C, the information contained in the text are mixtures of several centuries of Bet-Nahrain medical knowledge. The diagnostic treatise is organized in head to toe order with separate subsections covering convulsive disorders, gynaecology and paediatrics. It is unfortunate that the antiquated translations available at present to the non-specialist make ancient Bet-Nahrain medical texts sound like excerpts from a sorcerer’s hand book which in my opinion it’s a deliberate act to make Assyrians a subject for jokes by its specific and long term enemy, the Jews, for believing those fables and fairy tales written in the Bible. In fact, as recent research is showing, the descriptions of diseases contained in the diagnostic treatise demonstrate a keen ability to observe and are usually astute. Virtually all expected diseases can be found described in parts of the diagnostic treatise, when those parts are fully preserved, as they are for neurology, fevers, worms and flukes, Venereal diseases and skin lesions. The medical texts are, moreover, essentially rational, and some of treatments, as for example those designed for excessive bleeding ( where all the plants mentioned can be easily identified), are essentially the same modern treatments for the same condition.
The Ancient Bet-Nahrain Medical Practitioners
By examining the surviving medical tablets it is clear that there were two distinct types of professional medical practitioners in ancient Bet-Nahrain. The first type of practitioner was ashipu a spiritual healer, one of the most important roles of the ashipu was to diagnose the ailment. In the case of internal diseases, this most often meant that the ashipu determined which demon was causing the illness. The ashipu also attempted to determine if the diseases was the result of some error or sin on the part of the patient. The ashipu could also attempt to cure the patient by means of charms and spells that were designed to entice away or drive out the spirit causing the disease. The ashipu could also refer the patient to a different type of healer called an asu. (later on as the Assyrians improved in medicine, the asu was called asia) He was a specialist in herbal remedies and surgeries. The knowledge of the asu in making plasters is of particular interest. Many of the ancient plasters seem to have had some helpful benefits. For instance, some of the more complicated plasters called for the heating of plant resin or animal fat with alkali. This particular mixture when heated yields soap which would have helped to ward off bacterial infection. While the relationship between the ashipu and asu is not entirely clear, the two kinds of healers seemed to have worked together in order to obtain cures. The wealthiest patients probably sought medical attention from both an ashipu and an asu in order to cure an illness. It seems that the ashipu and the asu often worked in cooperation with each other in order to treat certain ailments. Beyond sharing patients, there seems to have been some overlap between the skills of the two types of healers: an ashipu might occasionally cast a spell and an asu might prescribe drugs. Evidence for this crossing of supposed occupational lines has been found in the library of an asu that contained pharmaceutical recipes. Another textual source of evidence concerning the skills of Bet-Nahrain physicians comes from the Law Code of Hammurabi.[Hammu or Khammu-Rabi,(means: the Concerned / Thoughtful Teacher) the first law giver in the history. It makes me wonder, why the Biblical writers chose only ten Hummurabi’s laws for Moses ten commands!] This collection was
not found written on a tablet, but was discovered on a large block of polished diorite. Several similar collections are known from other areas and periods, from different Assyrian kings and Babylonian rulers, Hammurabi’s cannot be taken as representative of all Bet-Nahrainian justice, in fact, it is outstanding for its application of the principle of an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth, while other codes allow monetary penalties. Among Hammurabi’s laws were several that pertained to the liability of physicians who performed surgery. These laws state that a doctor was to be held responsible for surgical errors and failures. Since the laws only mention liability in connection with “use of a knife,” it can be assumed that doctors in Hammurabi’s kingdom were not liable for any non-surgical mistakes or failed attempts to cure an ailment. It is also interesting to note that according to these laws, both the successful surgeon’s compensation and the failed the failed surgeon’s liability were determined by the status of his patient. Therefore, if a surgeon operated and saved the life of a person of high status, the patient was to pay ten sheckels of silver. If the surgeon saved the life of a slave, he only received two sheckels from his master. Regardless of the risks associated with performing surgery, at least four clay tablets have survived, that described a specific surgical procedure. Unfortunately, one of the four tablets is too fragmentary to be deciphered. Of the remaining three, one seems to describe a procedure in which the asu cuts into the chest of the patient in order to drain pus from the pleura. The other two surgical texts belong to the collection of tablets entitled “Prescriptions for Diseases of the Head.” One of the texts mentions the knife of asu scraping the skull of the patient. The final surgical tablet mentions the postoperative care of a surgical wound. This tablet recommends the application of dressing consisting mainly of sesame oil, which acted as an anti-bacterial agent. Another
Beyond the role of the ashipu and the asu, there were other means of procuring health care in ancient Bet-Nahrain. One of these alternative sources was Temple of Gula. Gula, often envisioned in canine form, was one of the more significant gods of healing. While excavation of temples dedicated to Gula have not revealed signs that patients were housed at the temple while they were treated. The primary center for health care was the home, as it was when the ashipu or asu were employed. The majority of health care
was provided at the patient’s own house, with family acting as care givers in whatever capacity their lay knowledge afforded them. Outside of the home, other important sites for religious healing were nearby rivers. The Bet-Nahrainian believed that rivers had the power to care away evil substances and forces that were causing the illness. Sometimes a small hut was set up for the afflicted person either near the home or the river to aid in the families centralization of home health care. [It seems nothing has been changed for some Christian Assyrians, more or less like their ancestors they believe in ashipu the spell doctor, before they go for a surgery or an operation they see their priest and ask for his prayers which later he is merited by the immediate relatives. After they are saved by the Surgeon or a Doctor and are released from hospital, the first thing they do is to donate some money to the church or chip in a “Shara” (a feast given to one of their so called saint, a clergy’s birthday or death day, who lived and died few centuries ago which is called “Doukhrana” Redemption. But they forget to send a simple thank you card to the Physician who is the one who saved their life.]
The Prophet Muhammad’s order to the followers of the Islam, Regarding the Christian Assyrians.
“God has told me in a vision what to do, and I confirm his command by giving my solemn promise to keep this agreement”.
The tribune paid by the Nazarenes shall be used to promote the teachings of Islam and shall be deposited at the treasury of Bet-Al-Mal. A common man shall pay one dinar, but the merchants and people who own mines of gold and silver and have taxes levied upon them. If a man inherits property he shall pay a settled sum to the Bet-Al-Mal treasury. The Nazarenes are not obliged to make war on the enemies of Islam, but if an enemy attacks the Nazarenes, the Muslims shall not deny their help, but give them horses and weapons, if they need them, and protect them from evils from outside and keep the peace with them. The Nazarenes are not obliged to turn Muslims, until God’s will makes them believers.
“The Muslims shall not force Christian women to accept Islam, but if they themselves wish to embrace it, The Muslims shall be kind to them.”
If a Christian woman is married to a Muslim and does not want to embrace Islam, she has liberty to worship at her own church according to her own religious belief, and her husband must not treat her unkindly on account of her religion. If any one disobeys this command, he disobeys God and his prophet and will be guilty of a great offence.
If the Nazarenes wish to build a church, their Muslim neighbours shall help them. This shall be done, because they have obeyed us and have come to us and pleaded for peace and mercy.
If any one is unjust and unkind to the Nazarenes he will be guilty of disobeying the Prophet of God.
“This document shall be entrusted to the Nazarenes chief and head of their church for safe keeping.”
Moon Over Assyria
I want to look up at the Heavens and see the moon over Assyria. Often, I have wondered what it would be like to be able to say, I come from Assyria. To hold an Assyrian passport. To know that there will always be a home to return to free of persecution and fear. What would it be like for the language of the country to be the language I freely speak at home? Assyrian. What would it be like for all the sounds and sights to be predominantly Assyrian? What would it be like to see the Assyrian flag everywhere in its natural habitat? What if the local post office and all postage stamps were Assyrian? What if all schools, businesses, government offices, courts, judges, barbers, grocers, teachers, mechanics, president, vice president…were Assyrian? What if I could go to church without the fear that it can blow up at any time? What if my nation would never be persecuted for its Christian faith? What if I was no longer the foreigner in a foreign land, but a native in my own land? Would the street signs be in Assyrian? Would the marquees above businesses and theatres be in Assyrian? Would job applications be in Assyrian? Would the operator answering the phone speak my language? Would the tourists carry an Assyrian phrase book? Would all the Assyrian artifacts and national treasures return home to their rightful heirs?
I don’t know if this will come to pass within my lifetime. But I can dream because I’m an artist and dreams are that with which artists sketch. I dream of looking up and seeing a moon over Assyria casting its light on a tired people finally able to lay their heads and sleep at home in peace. While I dream of the Assyria that can be, I remain the orphan living in foster care. I look to the compassion of humanity for a nod of acceptance knowing that I will always be the outsider…not just a foreigner, but the one without a country…the adopted child coping as best as she can with the throbbing desire to find her way back home.
For the time being, home is America where driving down any street, one is bound to run into an American flag or two on any given block. It’s nothing out of the ordinary. Many homeowners and businesses display the American flag. They multiply on the Fourth of July, Memorial Day or historically significant days. The stars and stripes wave from car antennas. They are on uniforms of all sorts. We are accustomed to the sightings. But in Diaspora, what we Assyrians are unaccustomed to is spotting the Assyrian flag in a public location that is not associated with anything Assyrian.
Woodbury University’s 22-acre campus nestled at the foot of the Verdugo Hills is a private four-year school, located in Burbank, California. Just twenty minutes north of Hollywood, it is a stone’s throw from the heart of the entertainment industry with nearby studios such as Disney, Universal, NBC, Warner Brothers and DreamWorks Pictures SKG. With about 1,500 students, the university offers degrees in its School of Architecture and Design, School of Business and Management, and School of Arts and Sciences.
Entering the tranquil setting of the campus through the massive ornate black iron gates just off Glenoaks Boulevard, an Assyrian flag proudly waves at the passersby, with the word “ ASSYRIA” boldly printed in black on the flag in block letters.
So why has this university permanently installed an Assyrian flag at its entrance?
Two years ago, a patriotic Assyrian by the name of Jean Kardously, established an annual “Assyrian Design Scholarship Competition” at Woodbury University. Pushing the envelope, on April 4, 2007, he insured that the Assyrian flag would be recognized and displayed on the Woodbury University campus.
To most, it may seem like a small gesture. After all, it’s just a flag. But for a nation that is struggling for recognition it is more than just a flag. It is a faint heartbeat. Until the resurrection of Assyria, we look to the kindness of strangers who welcome us in their midst and publicly acknowledge us by our name.
I look up at the Heavens tonight and see the moon over Assyria illuminating a humble Assyrian flag proudly posted in a foreign land waiting to return home.
Rosie Malek-Yonan is the author of The Crimson Field. ©2007 Rosie Malek-Yonan. All Rights Reserved. www.thecrimsonfield.com.
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