27 Ealool 6757
Volume XIII

Issue 15

17 September 2007

1- 8 6 6 - M Y  Z I N D A

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Assyrian Youth
Fight Back

Click on Blue Links in the left column to jump to that section within this issue.  Most blue links are hyperlinked to other sections or URLs.
  An Awakening in San Diego Wilfred Bet-Alkhas
  Toward A New Organizing Model Ramsin Canon
  Assyrian General Conference Statement of Denunciation
Number of Cholera Cases in Northern Iraq Doubles
Tens of Thousands of Iraqi Refugee Children Kick off School
Iraqis Prevented from Entering Syria by New Visa Rules
Pope Discusses Exodus of Christians with Syrian Leader
UN Asks Lebanon to Continue Protecting Iraqi Refugees
  U.N. Adopts Indigenous Rights Declaration
Assyrians in Gen. Patraeus Testimony Before U.S. Senate
Rep. Anna Eshoo's Letter to Washington Post
USCIRF Letter to Secretary Rice
U.S. Called to Secure Existence of Endangered Iraqis
Assyrians in Germany Demonstrate For Assyrians in Iraq
Iraqi Man Smuggled Across US Border Granted Asylum
Possible Assyrian-Iraqis Captured in Peru en Route to U.S. Hezekiah Inscription in Turkey to Return to Israel
Assessing the Wounds of an Ancient Assyrian Ruler
UAT Instructor Creates Cuneiform and Hieroglyphic Translator
Assyrian from Illinois Crafts Pentagon Memorial Components
First Assyrian Woman on Game Show, Wheel of Fortune
Join Our Free Email List
  KRG's Response to Nina Shae's Article
Aspirations Numb the Pain but Do Not Heal the Poke of Reality
Where Does Our National Interest Lie?
Habbaniya Union School Seventh Reunion
Gift of $5000 to Assyrian Patient Transportation Fund
Clueless about Assyrians

Click to Learn More :

  The Girl on the Mountain Obelit Yadgar
  Seeking Assyrian Lobbyist for Work in Brussels
Lecture in Australia: Forgotten Saviours
Wanted: Assistant Professor, Syriac Christianity at Princeton
Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies (Summer, 2007)
New Books from Gorgias Press
  Countdown to Extinction: Assyrians Marched To Zero
Who’s Missing in the Middle East?
Wedding celeb in Iraq has a Lot in common with American Event
  Assyrian Student Wins Gold in Science Fair Competition  

Zinda Says
An Editorial by Wilfred Bet-Alkhas


An Awakening in San Diego

In times of peace the genuine role of a nationalist is to promote the general welfare of his/her people and improve the status quo by enforcing rules and processes that enable a citizen to raise personal health, wealth, and education. In times of war the nationalist’s job description changes greatly. S/he now focuses away from the process of improvement to that of survival, for international concern over internal pomposity. Since March 2003 Assyria and the Assyrians around the world have been in a state of war. Their homeland is torn asunder and for the first time in their history there are more Assyrians seeking asylum than there are Assyrians living in peace. Two weeks ago in San Diego we had an opportunity to assemble a great number of activists from around the world to put forth an agenda of activism and grassroots campaign, coast to coast, urging everyone to help over one million Iraqi Christians, inside and outside of Iraq, to stay alive. Instead we were dressed up in color purple and voted out of a world organization. Promisingly there was a glimmer of hope felt in the lobby of that sweltering hotel during the four days of snobbishness in San Diego. Our youth has finally awakened.

Royal purple is the color of the Assyrian Democratic Movement’s emblem. From the first day, the conventioneers were garishly subjected to a series of purple treatments: purple wrist-bands, friendly staff wearing purple shirts, tables in the lobby displaying purple propaganda, and testosterone-filled members waving purple flags on the dance floor. Early on we got the point: the Assyrian American National Federation was no longer a non-profit organization established to promote social, cultural, and educational activities among the Assyrian-Americans. It now, unlawfully due to its special non-profit status, favors the outlook of one Assyrian political party over another. To make this worse, the purple leadership of this organization voted AANF out of the largely symbolic yet essential global awareness it helped found in the 1960’s - the greatest Assyrian political experiment we, Assyrians from four continents, conducted in the last 50 years – the Assyrian Universal Alliance.  The timing could not be worse:  just when the United Nations adopts a non-binding declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, the astute leadership of the AANF withdraws from the AUA, itself a member of the UNPO.

My utmost respect for the political experiences such as the Assyrian Democratic Organization, Assyrian Universal Alliance and the Assyrian Democratic Movement are hardly a secret. In the meantime I boldly scold inane acts of a few mindless leaders, self-appointed within these same organizations who have accepted the sacred responsibility of representing the will of the Assyrian people. For my daring acts of censuring these individuals– many of them my own personal friends – I and this publication are often the subject of legal maneuvers. Nevertheless, neither I nor this publication refrain from reprimanding the misguided. Associating the bad apples with the broken baskets of fruit – our political parties – is foolish. I still think the group of California gold-diggers that went to Iran last month – many of them again my personal friends - and sat down to chat with the mullahs in Tehran acted in folly. But they do not represent the Assyrian Universal Alliance that I know from my personal encounters with their former commanders. The same is true with the leadership of the ADM (Zowaa) in North America. Unjustly and unabashedly it is discounting the social fabric of the Assyrian society in America by siding with one religious leader over another, alienating itself from other political groups, and polarizing the civic groups within each community. Last week I could not even recognize the city of San Jose I left behind some four years ago.  The bad apples running the affairs of Zowaa in America – who now command the affairs of the Assyrian American National Federation – are certainly not representative of the Purple Warriors standing in our classrooms in Dohuk, our medical facilities in Arbil, and in the streets of Beghdede. Pity for our current political establishments which cannot at once stamp out these rotten apples and weave stronger baskets of Alliance, Movement, and hope.

As is true with all Assyrian conventions, it was not all bleak and worthless. The hosting association in San Diego worked very hard to please the thousands of “Assyrians” and a very few Chaldean-Assyrians from Detroit and even fewer from San Diego. Then again, how can you go wrong in a city like San Diego and in a hotel steps away from the splendid sandy beaches of the California coast? Most of us left the loud holler heard from the AANF meeting rooms and enjoyed the walk along the harbor, ate in the Gaslamp Quarter, and laughed about the t-shirts worn during the convention with such statements printed on the front: “Mar Dinkha + Mar Bawai = Mara d'Reesha” (Assyrian for headache) or this one:  “Assyrian / blah / blah” mocking the confused state of identity facing our people.

On Saturday evening I was told that the Bishop of the Chaldean Catholic Church in San Diego refused to come to the convention and to offer his blessings; he had told a group of AANF officials who went to his multi-million dollar residence in the hills of San Diego that this was an “Assyrian convention” and not “Chaldean”. I do not expect much from the likes of Mar Sarhad Jammo, but I am appalled at our civic leaders who continue to grovel before these religious heads whose only aim is to aggrandize their coffers and elevate their own positions. For heaven's sake, leave them alone and let them delete each other with their lawsuits and television shows. We have a nation dying in Jordan and Syria and you are seeking their blessings in San Diego and Chicago? Should these Graces and Holinesses not be walking in the streets of Amman and Damascus instead, assuaging our devastated people's pains, and not praying in El Cajon and Morton Grove?

Although there were not as many educational seminars and conferences as we are accustomed to, two presentations left an indelible impression on their audiences. Ms. Sharokin Betgevargiz spoke about the use of digital art to express the social attributes and emotional state of the Assyrian people in a series of posters she had designed for her Masters thesis. Watching the Assyrian letters, chasing each other, uniformly and conveying strong statements about our modern history in bits and bytes signified the emergence of a new way of thinking and demonstration. During another session a group of activists presented their case for the formation of a new organization – the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council of America (CASCA). CASCA is a coalition of the Assyrian American National Federation, the Chaldean Federation of America, the Assyrian Council of Illinois, and the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce. It appears that the main objective of this organization is to voice the concerns of the “Assyrians” and “Chaldeans” and “Syriacs” before the legislative offices in Washington in a more unified fashion. A splendid endeavor indeed. The stars of the show were two young men from Toronto and Detroit, Mr. Michael Youash and Mr. Martin Manna, who eloquently promulgated the importance of acting decisively in Washington, on spending money toward grassroots campaigns and lobbying, and presenting the case of the “Assyrian Chaldean Syriacs” before the decision makers in the U.S. Capitol.

Let’s talk a little about the name “Assyrian Chaldean Syriac”! This convention was supposed to be about “one-ness” of the three segments of the ____ nation.  I prefer to fill in the blank with the word Assyrian. In San Diego I discovered that I am not in the minority. Most of us at the convention called ourselves either Assyrian or Chaldean-Assyrian, which made sense to me if I were an Assyrian with affinity for the Chaldean Catholic Church.  On the other hand, a few individuals from Europe who were introduced as “Syriacs” vehemently opposed the name and even scolded the rest for calling them anything but Assyrian. One young man from Europe said the following to a group of compound name sympathizers: “For decades we have been fighting our Churches in Europe and the Middle East that have been tormenting and excommunicating us for using the name ‘Assyrian’ and here you are asking us to call ourselves ‘Syriac’ just so we can fit into your American game of identity politics?” I was humbled by this young man’s statement. In fact this opposition to compounding our identity crisis by using the compound name was resolutely demonstrated when the young members of the “Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Students Union” changed its name to the “Assyrian Youth Council of America”.

The Assyrian youth is clearly rebelling against the eccentric nature of our politics in America. They were openly mocking the battles between Mar Bawai and Mar Dinkha, Zowaa and AUA, AUA and AUA, Mar Zakka and the bishops in Europe, on and on. Their rebellion was written on their T-shirts, caps, spoken in heated discussions at the restaurants and by the water pools. One 17-year-old looked quite serious when she was shouting to an older boy: “How can you separate Babylon from Nineveh, dude. It’s like saying Washington and Sacramento belong to different people.” Music to my ears!

I was overjoyed when I discovered that at their meeting, the gathered Assyrian youth discussed a trip to Assyria's northern Iraq region.  They're calling it "Destination Assyria 2008".  What an incredible idea to have an exchange beetween the students from the lands of Khabour, Nineveh, Tur-Abdin, and Urmia with those in Europe, Australia, and North America.

In San Diego no stone was left unturned. Some even turned their wrist-bands inside out to protest imposition of the Zowaa branding at a general convention of the Assyrian people ( I was among them). I even heard one brilliant young Assyrian lady asking a fanatic religious person the following question: “What makes people like you think that your form of religion is better than what our ancestors followed before Christianity. Theirs at least lasted for 4700 years. Yours has already divided us four times in the last 500 years.” This time I was hearing angels singing in the background.

My wife and I walked out of the Sunday’s Banquet when the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project’s Michael Youash was called on to the stage as a “Zowaa Guard”. I admit that I’m getting tired of my walk-outs from the Banquets. At least this one was done after the serving of the dinner. The last time I attended the Banquet in Boston and walked out was when Mar Bawai Soro (this is before the infamous Synod decision) gave the main speech. I detest the inclusion of religious leaders in public affairs (surprised?) due to my strong conviction for the separation of Church and State. ISDP is not a tool of Zowaa, as the president of the AANF wants us to believe and Mr. Youash is not in Washington to enforce the Zowaa brand of politics. The AANF president, Mr. Aladin Khamis and his Chicago troop, mistake an “Iraq Project” with “Zowaa Project”. Iraq is not synonymous with Zowaa and the more our conventions, federations, bishops, and youth are draped in purple color, the more backlashes can be expected in the future.

On Sunday afternoon delegates from the more than 30 organizations representing the Federation in the U.S. were avidly discussing splitting off from the Federation and forming a new group. Organizations from the East and the West coast regions are rightfully weary of the Chicago-only politics of the AANF. The threats are serious, as I was told that as many as eight organizations had already expressed their desire to leave the AANF within the next few months. Sounds familiar? First the splitting of the Church of the East and now the break-up of the AANF. See any common pattern of mishap here? Maybe a shade of color between pink and blue?

I hate the Monday of the convention weekend. That’s when most of us begin the journey home. After four days of spending every hour of our time in close proximity to another Assyrian we had to return to our other identities, as Americans, Canadians, Swedes, Germans, etc. Some even change their flight to a later time or to Tuesday morning. This only prolongs the pain of departure.

We left San Diego without any firm decisions on what we ought to be doing for the one million displaced Assyrian-Iraqis. Much like the Assyrian artists – Ninos Chammo and Paul Batou – who were offhandedly placed with their masterpieces in the basement-floor of the convention hotel, the Assyrian refugee crisis was largely ignored. An issue too large to tackle by those of us too busy waving Zowaa signs and spending Adam Benjamin’s funds for something other than the education of our youth, the refugees crisis was tabled – yet again. I understand that Michael Youash was going to include this issue in his keynote speech at the Sunday Banquet, but his talk was canceled since the other petty speeches went on almost until midnight.

Had it not been for the energy of the youth at this convention I may have not even bothered with an editorial this week. But the youth has awakened. Other than a few bible-thumping and/or zowaa-crazed individuals the majority of our young minds is delightfully oblivious to these effervescent emotional trips of our days. They were discussing the importance of the writings of our early fathers of the Church, rather than wasting their precious time discussing Mar Dinkha vs Mar Bawai’s extravagant legal expenditures.  They pondered about the establishment of a lobby in Brussels, while their elders were removing themselves from a larger body of Assyrian alliance. They even discussed ways to tackle the refugee issues, teach Assyrian language using new technnologies, talked about the social concerns affecting their peers including drugs, juvenile crime, homosexuality, and the 2008 presidential elections.  These were not discussed in the meeting rooms, but next to the pool tables over glasses of Guinness and Cosmopolitans. I only wish that instead of more divisions and secessions, we could focus on our Under-35 generation and give them more space to run our affairs for us.  Let go of your miserable bickering and throw away the dinosaurs moving aimlessly in the hallways of the conventions. It’s humiliating to see so many ancient faces at the AANF meetings and hardly anyone in his or her 20’s.  The result of one such informative discussions is the brilliant article in this week's The Lighthouse by Mr. Ramsin Canon.

The “one-ness” we desire comes not from painting all of us with one color, rather respecting all colors individually and allowing them to flash separately. The key is to focus our attention on a common goal - the right to our self-determination envisioned in the formation of the Nineveh Plains in Iraq. 

Our religious and national leaders have failed us and the youth is rebelling more fervently than ever. As they should! This is a step forward and must be encouraged by dismissing the rotting apples and the fanatic few. The sooner we accomplish this task the quicker we reach consensus on adopting national plans for the fate of our refugees and their return to the Nineveh Plains, the welfare of our people living in the war zones of Iraq, and our own future away from the homeland.

Looking forward to the next convention!

The Lighthouse
Feature Article


Toward A New Organizing Model

Ramsin Canon

Maybe the only thing Assyrians enjoy more than forming new organizations is complaining about them. This is understandable. However, the purpose of organizations is to organize, and the purpose of organizing is power. There is nothing wrong with an organization, properly run, that wants power. And there’s nothing shameful in wanting power. We all want power in one way or another. The problem with so many organizations is that they long ago ceased to organize, preferring instead a so-called “service model” wherein they chose specific services to provide in exchange for resources they would disperse according to specific needs. Even where our organizations do choose to organize, they do so by trying to assume control of existing resources, rather than trying to build new avenues to greater resources. In other words, everybody bites at the same tiny little pie, instead of making sure there is a steady supply of ingredients to always increase the pie.

Put simply: we as a nation do not organize. Our self-hatred, apathy, and pettiness conspire to convince us, despite all reason (and no real evidence) that Assyrians are somehow uniquely “un-organizeable”. That is ludicrous.

To organize effectively, you cannot organize simply for political support, or to fight one issue. You have to start with a value. In our case, that is easy. There is essentially one central value:

“There exists a nation called “Assyrian” and this nation has an explicit right to self- determination.”

This is actually a specific application of a bigger value you must accept:

“Might does not make right: there are such things as inalienable rights for all people.”

If there exists a nation called Assyrians that has a right to self-determination, then we know, too, something else:

“Currently, Assyrians are denied that right.”

We now have a value, and a reality that conflicts with that value.

What is to be done?

Most basically, we can say:

Those individuals who make up the Assyrian Nation must protect that right to self- determination.

Which means, first, we need to attain it. Easier said than done. Of course it is difficult, but it is certainly not impossible. It isn’t impossible because the process of fighting to attain it—organizing—has its own value. So long as we organize, in other words, even if we lose a fight here or there, our strength grows; our social networks grow more resilient and versatile. Our ability to mobilize resources sharpens.

Organizing around a value, rather than an issue, personality, or party, guides your work. When a situation confronts an organization dedicated to organizing around values, you have only one question to ask: “Does this conform with our values?”

If the answer is yes, then you act on it. If not, you ignore it or in some cases oppose it.

Every indigenous group and human rights organization on Earth has a common value:

There is such a nation, X, and that nation has an explicit right of self-determination.

By making common cause with those groups, we are helping ourselves, because we advance this value among the general population. The current resistance of our leadership to engaging the public generally and other groups particularly stems as much from insecurity as a supposed belief that it is a waste of time. It isn’t a waste of time: by simply lending support—a statement, a delegate, a press release—we can amplify our own righteousness and seriousness, as well as increase our visibility and access to valuable governmental, political, financial, and other resources. Wherever minority rights are trampled, our values are implicitly attacked. Wherever violence is used indiscriminately to achieve political aims, our values are threatened. We do not exist in a vacuum, and are not fighting other “groups” but a broken international system that needs structural changes.

It’s very easy for the current generation in leadership to build organizations with aims to buttress political aspirations in our homeland, and it is easy for people to criticize them. Frankly, given that we exist in Diaspora, it’s a low-risk hobby. These low-risk debating clubs are reinforced by a mindset that is preoccupied with political machinations “back home.”

This is a betrayal of our brothers and sisters in the Assyrian Nation everywhere. As citizens of foreign nations—particularly in America, which has a foreign policy that affects the domestic policies of nearly every nation on Earth—we have a duty to raise our influences in our new countries. By simply wielding that influence, we make our entire Nation stronger. We are all co-equal in this Nation—Assyrians in the Nineveh Plains are not “more” Assyrian than Assyrians in Sweden, India, Australia, or America. The tendency to “rate” Assyrianness by geography is not only a betrayal of ourselves, but of each other: it makes it possible to alternately shrug off responsibility, or inflate self-importance. What is true is that those in the ancestral lands of Assyrians are on the front lines in our fight for survival. Our job is not to interfere, but to understand that by making the Nation strong in one place, our overall strength increases.

Even if we were successful in our efforts to interfere with politics in the homeland and Assyrians won some level of self-determination in Iraq, what would we do then? Retire? Stop? Is that what the Jews did after 1948? To the contrary: that when Diaspora political power became even more vital. Organizing is never finished, because you never have enough power.

There exists a Nation called Assyrian.

Meaning all Assyrians, everywhere. For those who deny their Assyrian-ness one of two things will happen: (a) they will shout loudly and watch as an organization builds power, or (b) they will be attracted to that power and success.

Those who are organizing believe in their values. Those who don’t share those values can be won over, but that is not our purpose; our purpose is to win power. Those deniers will come around, swayed by organizing successes. If they continue to deny even then, why worry about them? Let them wallow in their irrelevance.

People see strength, and make it power by supporting it. People see vacillation and mock it.

Break it down: organizing is the process of arranging like and unlike objects in a manner that allows them to act in concert for their shared interests and values. Again, the purpose of organizing is power; the purpose of power is to enact our values.

But what is the reality on the ground?

The reality is that current leadership, despite sincere best efforts, is outdated, generally ineffective, plagued with ancient and more recent schisms, biases, and positive-feedback models that discourage progress. Partially this is because they are constantly dealing with emergency situations. But the fundamental model—of service organizations attempting to build political power—is wrong.

The idea that high-level maneuvering, like lobbying activities, is sufficient to build power is also wrong. Although necessary for advancing our values, it is by no means sufficient. The Chiefs can agree and sign treaties, but if they don’t have the Indians behind them, it’s just paper.

Assyrians are one Nation with a right to self-determination. We have a duty to advance this value by organizing for political power, and the current organizations are too compromised to accomplish this, and are build around individuals, tribes, clans, and specific social networks. We have to always be organizing—wherever we are, and that process of taking power in the name of that value will naturally help Assyrians “back home”.

How do you organize?

Constantly. Everything must be seen as an opportunity to take power and grow stronger.

Without Dependence. This organization must be member-run and funded. This means dues-payers who power a fundraising operation.

Without Fear. People’s feelings will get hurt, and some people will fight you out of fear, jealously, or ignorance. Expect it. Is that a reason not to organize?

With Developed Leadership. Leadership is developed, not assigned or appointed. Leadership development is a process whereby individuals are challenged with tasks that require problem solving, cunning, hard work, and confrontation. Those who meet the challenges will naturally move into leadership roles. Those who don’t are still made better by the experience.

With Organizational Discipline. Organizations built around values can demand strict organizational discipline—or loyalty to the organization—because there is no cult of personality. Criticism and debate must be absolutely protected so long as it remains internal and open. The former keeps your enemies from exploiting rifts, and the latter keeps back biting and factionalism to a minimum.

Within a Larger Context. At their core, our values are universal. By isolating ourselves from other groups that share them, we only deny ourselves access to resources and exposure.

With Militancy. Believe in your values not because you should, but because you’ve considered them seriously. Accepting that, believe in yourself and your organization and never shrink from a fight or from a confrontation.

Without Entangling Alliances. In organizing, there are no permanent friends, only permanent issues. We may work with other groups, institutions, and parties around a specific issue when that cooperation advances our values. But no friend is more valuable than our values.

Perhaps it is impossible—maybe we are, in fact, unorganizeable. But even if that absurd statement is true, all we risk losing is our time. And if that’s too big a sacrifice, then perhaps you were never of use to your nation in the first place.

Ramsin Canon lives and works in Chicago as a political consultant and writer. His writing can be found at TimeOut Chicago, GapersBlock.com, among other publications. He can be reached at RC@gapersblock.com.  Another article by Mr. Canon appears in this issue of Zinda under the Literatus section.

Good Morning Assyria
News From the Homeland


Assyrian General Conference Statement of Denunciation

Media Center
Nineveh, Iraq

September 6, 2007

On 4 September 2007 a member of the Assyrian General Conference in the Nineveh Governorate was attacked by the Kurdish Peshmergas known as the GCC and supported by the occupying forces, near the Nineveh hotel in the region.  They beat, insulted, and took him to one of their centers near the hotel without any reason or motive.

We, at the Assyrian General Conference, condemn this cowardly attack and hold the Iraqi government responsible as a result of these actions by the militias, especially in the Nineveh Governorate under the guise of security forces. We also call upon the Iraqi government to purge of the Iraqi national security apparatus of these corrupt factions to better serve Iraq.

Glory and Eternity to our Martyrs
Long live united Iraq

Number of Cholera Cases in Northern Iraq Doubles

Courtesy of UN News Centre
12 September 2007

(ZNDA: Arbil)  The number of people struck by a cholera outbreak in Northern Iraq has doubled to 16,000 people but the death toll remains the same at 10, the United Nations health agency has reported.

“The good news was that, although the disease has spread, the number of deaths has remained the same,” UN World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Fadéla Chaib told a news briefing in Geneva.

That is an indication that the measures taken to deal with the outbreak are having an effect, she said.

WHO’s representative for Iraq, who is normally based in Amman, has made a number of trips to the north of Iraq as well as to Baghdad to talk to the authorities and coordinate with them on this issue.

WHO has also pre-positioned 10 Interagency Diarrhoeal Disease kits, each with the capacity to treat 100 severe cases, in order to ensure adequate supplies of essential drugs and other medical and laboratory supplies.

Between 23 August and 10 September, at least 6,000 people have been reported with diarrhoeal diseases in Sulemaniya province and almost 7,000 in Kirkuk province. Since 6 September the outbreak has spread to Erbil province, causing at least 3,000 cases. On Monday WHO put the number of infected at over 7,000 and said the epidemic put over 2.8 million people at risk from exposure to the infectious and sometimes fatal disease.

It is unclear what caused the outbreak, but initial investigation show some evidence that, in Sulemaniya, polluted water that residents were forced to rely on due to a shortage of drinking water may have been to blame. In Kirkuk, cracked water pipes allowed contamination by sewage, and because of the close geographic proximity the outbreak spread to Erbil.

The continuous movement of people and cargo, bad sanitary conditions and high temperatures may increase the possibility of spreading the disease rapidly to other areas such as Baghdad and the central provinces, health officials have warned.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It causes watery diarrhoea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given. About 80 to 90 per cent of cases are mild or moderate and are difficult to distinguish clinically from other types of acute diarrhoea. Less than 20 per cent of ill people develop typical cholera with signs of moderate or severe dehydration.

Iraqi Refugees

About 2 million Iraqis are displaced inside Iraq, and an estimated 2.2 million more have fled to Syria, Jordan and other neighboring countries, where they are straining local resources and threatening to destabilize host communities, the United Nations has reported. With 60,000 Iraqis fleeing their homes each month, Jordan largely closed its borders to Iraqis earlier this year, and Syria said yesterday that it will begin requiring visas for Iraqis at the conclusion of Ramadan next month, essentially closing off exit routes from the country.

In response, the U.S. government has provided more than $122 million in refugee aid to Iraq's neighbors this year, and U.S. allies are accepting tens of thousands of refugees. Washington also has expanded from 50 to 500 an annual quota on visas for Iraqis working as interpreters and translators for the U.S. Embassy and military, and in February it promised to process 7,000 refugees by Sept. 30, although U.S. officials later said they expected only 2,000 to be admitted to the United States by then.

According to the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan C. Crocker, it may take the U.S. government as long as two years to process and admit nearly 10,000 Iraqi refugees referred by the United Nations for resettlement to the United States, because of bureaucratic bottlenecks.  Following is a series of articles provided courtesy of the UN News Centre on the current state of the Iraqi refugees outside of their country.

Tens of Thousands of Iraqi Refugee Children Kick off School Year in Syria

12 September 2007

(ZNDA: Damascus)  As the new school year kicked off last week in Syria, tens of thousands of Iraqi refugee children started classes there with help from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Since early this year, Syria has been preparing to accommodate 100,000 Iraqi students in its schools during the 2007-2008 academic year, up from some 33,000 last year. UNHCR estimates that 1.4 million Iraqis – 250,000 of them of school age – who have fled the violence in their homeland are currently living in Syria.

Laurens Jolles, the agency’s representative in Syria, said the Iraqi children there are the future of their country. “Many have already missed out on a considerable amount of their education, both in Iraq and as refugees in Syria. It is one of our top priorities to support the Ministry of Education to accommodate the tens of thousands of Iraqi children who want to enroll in schools.”

UNHCR has several plans – such as transportation to other schools with space, temporary classrooms and providing extra funding to pay teachers’ salaries for school with double-shift systems – in place to aid schools overwhelmed by applications from Iraqi children.

With the support of the Syrian Red Crescent, UNHCR has distributed school uniforms to more than 11,000 school children in the past two weeks, and aims to supply another 9,000 more in the coming months.

“My dream in life is to be a doctor,” said 16-year-old Nada, who is attending school for the first time in two years. “I find it really hard to study in Syria – my whole life is disrupted. Although I wish I could return to my life in Iraq, I am grateful that I have the opportunity to study again.”

She graduated as one of the top 10 students in the Baghdad region in June 2005, but her family fled to Syria after the murders of three of her uncles and the kidnapping of another.

In July, UNHCR and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) issued a joint appeal for $129 million to support the education of Iraqi refugees in the region, and they have also established an Emergency Education Taskforce to tackle the issues preventing Iraqi refugees from receiving schooling. By the end of this year, UNHCR expects to have given more than $20 million to the Syrian Ministry of Education, with that figure to increase in 2008.

According to UNHCR's reports earlier this year, as many as 40 percent of the Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan are Christian Iraqis.

Iraqis Prevented from Entering Syria by New Visa Rules

11 September 2007

(ZNDA: Baghdad)  Many Iraqis fleeing violence in their home country have found their entry into Syria cut off because of new visa restrictions which went into effect yesterday, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

With the exception of certain professional categories – for commerce, science, transport and education – Iraqi refugees must apply for visas at the Syrian Embassy in Baghdad’s Al Mansour district, the scene of frequent sectarian violence. UNHCR has been told by Iraqis that traveling to the district to apply for visa poses great danger to them.

“The regulations effectively mean there is no longer a safe place outside for Iraqis fleeing persecutions and violence,” the agency’s spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva. “An estimated 2,000 Iraqis flee their homes daily inside the country, so we are increasingly concerned about their fate as their options for safety are reduced.”

The Government has not released the exact details of the new visa rules. Although UNHCR is appealing for Iraqi refugees to be granted a visa on humanitarian grounds, Mr. Redmond noted that it is too early to ascertain whether Syria is making exceptions to the new policy for people escaping violence and persecution.

The spokesman acknowledged that Syria “of course has been extremely generous in accepting some 1.4 million Iraqis with only limited international support,” adding that UNHCR has received assurances from Government sources that the country will not deport Iraqi refugees residing in Syria.

According to the agency, over 4.2 Iraqis have fled their homes, with 2 million in neighbouring countries and 2.2 million displaced within Iraq.

Meanwhile, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and Egyptian film star Adel Imam arrived today for a two-day mission in Syria to see first-hand the difficulties faced by the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi families uprooted by conflict.

He is scheduled to hold meetings today with the Syrian First Lady, Government officials and the head of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. Mr. Imam will also meet with Iraqi refugees at the UNHCR registration in Douma and at health clinics.

The Goodwill Ambassador’s visit is taking place just as the school year is kicking off in Syria, where the Government recently announced that it will allow Iraqi children to enroll in public schools.

In another development, UNHCR today welcomed Chile’s decision to receive 100 Palestinian refugees living in destitute conditions on Iraq’s border with Syria and Jordan for several years.

The agency has repeatedly called for a human solution for Palestinian refugees – some received preferential treatment under Saddam Hussein and have become targets for attack since his overthrow in 2003 – who fled to Iraq after the creation of Israel in 1948. Nearly 20,000 of them have already fled but an estimated 15,000 still remain in the country, mostly in Baghdad.

In July, Brazil announced it would resettle 117 Palestinian refugees, and this process will begin shortly. Nearly two dozen Latin American nations signed an agreement to resettle refugees, and the Palestinians are the first from outside the region to benefit from the programme.

Pope Discusses Exodus of Christians with Syrian Leader

Courtesy of the Catholic News Service
6 September 2007
By John Thavis

(ZNDA: Vatican)  Pope Benedict XVI met with Syria's vice president to discuss the exodus of Christian and other refugees from Iraq, many of whom have fled to Syria.

During private audience Sept. 5, Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa gave the pope a personal message from Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, the Vatican said in a statement.

Later, the Syrian vice president met for separate talks with Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican's top foreign affairs expert.

The Vatican said the discussions focused on Syria's efforts to host hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees and on Syria's requests for aid from international agencies.

Also on the agenda were the problems and conditions of Christians in Syria and what the Vatican termed the "decisive contribution that Syria can give in order to overcome the serious crises that afflict many populations of the Middle East."

Syria is now home to an estimated 1.5 million Iraqi refugees, and Syrian officials have said the international community has not helped the country to deal with the influx. With at least 30,000 new refugees arriving each month, Syria recently established visa restrictions to limit the number.

Many of those arriving in Syria have been Iraqi Christians who have fled their homeland because of increasing violence and religious discrimination. Humanitarian experts say as many as half of Iraq's Christians, believed to have once numbered more than 1 million, may have left the country since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.

The pope's meeting with the Syrian vice president came the day before he was scheduled to meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres for talks expected to touch on the Middle East conflicts and the financial and legal status of Catholic organizations in Israel.

UN Asks Lebanon to Continue Protecting Iraqi Refugees

7 September 2007

(ZNDA: Beirut)  A United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) official has asked Lebanon to continue protecting the 40,000 Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers who have fled their country.

Following a three-day visit to neighboring Syria, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller is in Lebanon to meet with authorities to raise the agency’s concern about the detention – especially prolonged and indefinite detention – of refugees and asylum seekers.

Ms. Feller has expressed appreciation for Lebanon’s flexible and humanitarian approach towards Iraqi refugees, in spite of the complexity of the Lebanese situation and in light of the country’s security concerns. She asked the Government to find a balance between Lebanon’s security needs and the refugees’ humanitarian concerns.

The Commissioner visited Roumieh Prison, the largest in the country, in which 400 people of concern to UNHCR, mostly Iraqis, are being detained mainly for illegal entry or stay. She met with Iraqis in their cells, where she witnessed their conditions first-hand and heard of their plights in fleeing their country.

“Of particular concern is the fact that many refugees suffer prolonged detention periods, even beyond the normal expiry of their sentence, with no prospect of release in sight unless they agree to return to Iraq,” UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva.

Of the countries in the region, Lebanon has the largest number of detained refugees and asylum seekers, he added. Only 7,878 of the estimated 40,000 Iraqis in the country have registered with UNHCR, although numbers have risen in recent months.

In Syria, the Commissioner met with Syrian authorities, UNCHR’s partners on the ground and Iraqi and Palestinian refugees. At Al Tanf camp, situated in the no-man’s land between Iraq and Syria which shelters 350 Palestinian refugees from Iraq stranded there since last April, refugees appealed for a solution to their plight. They told Ms. Feller that life in the camps is no longer sustainable and that they deserve to be treated like human beings.

On 6 September Ms. Feller stopped at Bint Jbeil, a village in Lebanon’s south which was severely damaged during last summer’s Israel-Hizbollah war, and she noted that the humanitarian consequences of the conflict were still very visible.

While in Bint Jbeil, she saw the progress made in implementing a UNHCR-run and European Commission-funded recovery project which aims to assist vulnerable displaced Lebanese and returnees.

Meanwhile, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro last night paid tribute to the work of UN peacekeepers serving with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

“The men and women of UNIFIL illustrate what is most noble about United Nations peacekeeping,” she said last night at the opening of an exhibition on the mission. “They come from every corner of the globe. They are united in their mission for peace. They display professionalism and courage under difficult and even dangerous circumstances.”

She noted how UNIFIL is crucial in supporting “Lebanon’s independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security, as well as stability in the wider region,” and also paid tribute to those who lost their lives in last year’s hostilities.

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U.N. Adopts Indigenous Rights Declaration

Courtesy of BBC
14 September 2007

(ZNDA: New York)  The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a non-binding declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples after 22 years of debate.

The document (click here) proposes protections for the human rights of native peoples, and for their land and resources.

It passed despite opposition from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. They said it was incompatible with their own laws.

There are estimated to be up to 370 million indigenous people in the world.

They include the Innu tribe in Canada, the Bushmen of Botswana and Australia's Aborigines.

Campaigners say they are under greater pressure than ever, as developers, loggers, farmers and mineral extractors move in on their land.

'Important symbol'

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples calls on countries to give more control to tribal peoples over the land and resources they traditionally possessed, and to return confiscated territory, or pay compensation.

The General Assembly passed it, with 143 countries voting in favour and 11 abstaining.

Four nations - Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States - each with large indigenous populations, voted against.

Australia said it could not allow tribes' customary law to be given precedence over national law.

"There should only be one law for all Australians and we should not enshrine in law practices that are not acceptable in the modern world," said Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough.

A leader of a group representing Canada's native communities criticised his government's decision to oppose the declaration.

"We're very disappointed... It's about the human rights of indigenous peoples throughout the world. It's an important symbol," said Phil Fontaine, leader of the Assembly of First Nations.

Assyrians are considered the indigenous people of Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Turkey - the four countries whose areas partially or totally encompass the lands were for centuries occupied by the ancient Assyrians.  All four countries were in favor of the Resolution signed on 13 September 2007.

Assyrians in Gen. Patraeus Testimony Before U.S. Senate

Following is a transcript of Nebraska's Senator Ben Nelson’s comments and questions during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. It includes comments from General David Patraeus and the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker:

BEN NELSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And let me add my appreciation, publicly, to you both for your service.

Before the surge in Baghdad, do we know what the mix was of residents of Sunnis, Shias and others, approximately?

PETRAEUS: What we have, Senator, is, literally, is a map that shows reasonably where there were predominantly Sunni, predominantly Shia, predominantly mixed.

PETRAEUS: And we have continued to track that. And tragically, one of the outcomes of the ethno-sectarian violence has been hardening of those certain areas into either more exclusively Shia or Sunni and the diminution of some of the mixed neighborhoods.

BEN NELSON: Well, in addition, has it resulted in a loss of Sunni residents in Baghdad, as well?

PETRAEUS: There has been displacement of Sunnis from Baghdad throughout the sectarian violence. And of course -- again, this is why we have focused on that subset that I mentioned, of overall deaths, the ethno-sectarian deaths, because that is the cancer that just keeps eating at the fabric of Iraqi society. And it won't stop if it is not stopped. It's not going to stop until something does, in fact, stop it. And in this case, it is coalition and Iraqi forces stabilizing those neighborhoods and then trying to achieve a sustainable situation for the way ahead.

BEN NELSON: Well, do we know what the percentage of loss of Sunnis is in the Baghdad area?

PETRAEUS: Sir, I don't have the...

BEN NELSON: 10 percent, 20 percent loss? PETRAEUS: I couldn't -- could not hazard a guess. They have -- there has been substantial Sunni Arab displacement from Baghdad. There has also been tragic displacement of Assyrian Christians from Baghdad. Those two, probably, most of all.

BEN NELSON: And out of the south. Out of the southern Shia region as well, it's my understanding. There's been an exodus of Christians from south. Were you aware of that?

PETRAEUS: Sir, I am less aware of that and more aware of the challenges to Assyrian Christians in Baghdad and also in some of their former areas in northern Iraq.

BEN NELSON: I've heard that there may have been displaced as many as 800,000 Christians in the Shia regions in southern Iraq. Ambassador Crocker, do you know anything about that?

CROCKER: No, sir, I don't. I'll certainly check into that. We are in regular touch with Christian representatives, and I am, myself. Their concerns have been focused on Baghdad and areas to the north. I never heard them raise a problem in the south.

BEN NELSON: It's my understanding that the problem is with the militias and the ethno-cleansing that is going on there as well.

PETRAEUS: Sir, I think, literally, it may be South Baghdad. There's one area, in particular, of Southeast Baghdad that was, in fact, the Dora area a -- in Assyrian Christian, or Christian, in general, enclave from which there has been tragic displacement.

BEN NELSON: I think they really had a reference to both, so if we would check, that would be helpful.

And you mentioned that when it comes to the south, that there have been loss of a couple of governors. A couple of governors sitting here thought that might be -- former governors sitting here thought that might be fairly significant.

PETRAEUS: It is very significant, sir.

Rep. Anna Eshoo's Letter to Washington Post

Following is the complete text of Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-California) printed in the Washington Post on 3 September 2007 titled "Mr. Bush Has Forsaken Iraq's Minorities":

Nina Shea's op-ed called attention to the important issue of protecting the diminishing number of religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq (click here). As a first-generation American whose Assyrian grandparents fled their ancestral homelands in what is now the northern border area between Iraq and Iran, I've worked with congressional colleagues for years to address the plight of Iraq's minority populations. Unfortunately, the Bush administration has ignored our bipartisan calls for action.

In 2005, I offered language, approved unanimously by the House, to encourage the State Department to direct its attention to the needs of Iraq's indigenous religious minorities. Nothing has happened since then.

Meanwhile, the exodus of Iraqi minorities has intensified. In June, 73 members of Congress joined me in writing to President Bush urging him to take seriously the grave warnings expressed to him by Pope Benedict XVI regarding Iraq's endangered Christian population. There has been no response. Again in June, the House passed the foreign operations appropriations bill with $10 million in aid to Iraqi minorities living in the Nineveh Plains. The administration has threatened a veto over unrelated concerns.

Iraq's minority communities have endured for more than 2,000 years, even under brutal despots. Under the United States' watch, the seeds of a diaspora have been sown, and these communities, cultures and historical legacies are on the brink of extinction.

It's time for the administration to abandon the policy of neglect and join with Congress to ensure that these communities have the assistance they need to persevere and flourish within Iraq for many generations to come

USCIRF to Secretary Rice: U.S. Must Address Threats to Religious Minorities in Iraq

The U.S. Must Take Action!!!!

September 7, 2007 — The U.S. Government needs to take action. That was the message from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent, bipartisan federal agency. In a letter from Chairman Michael Cromartie to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, he urges the U.S. government to address the severe threats to Iraq's smallest religious minorities.  

"We commend Mr. Cromartie on the letter and fully support his message," said Jackie Bejan with the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council of America (CASCA).

In the letter Cromartie writes, "While all Iraqis are threatened by violence, the non-Muslim minorities face particularized forms of harassment and abuse; what is more, these groups appear to suffer a degree of violent attacks and other human rights abuses disproportionate to their numbers."

The Commission urges the U.S. government to take more effective action to respond to the flood of refugees and internally displaced people—a crisis that has grown in part due to sectarian violence.  The Commission will hold the second of two public hearings on the situation in Iraq on Sept. 19.  This hearing will examine intra-Muslim sectarian violence, including what role, if any, the Iraqi government currently plays in that violence.  That hearing will also examine U.S. policy in relation to Iraq's refugee crisis. 

 In the letter, the Commission urges several steps the U.S. government and Iraqis can take to boost protection of Iraq's endangered religious minority communities, including police training and the U.S. government convening a symposium of minority representatives to examine ways to improve security.  It calls for increased humanitarian and development assistance and measures to ensure that aid reaches the intended beneficiaries.  The Commission also recommends increased U.S. support for international agencies working with displaced people. 

The Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council of America (CASCA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to matters of public policy and political purpose of the common benefit of the society of Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac people in Diaspora and those in the indigenous lands of Bet-Nahrain.

For additional information, please visit http://www.uscirf.gov  or contact Jackie Bejan at jbejan@casca.us

Following is the full text of Chairman Michael Cromartie to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:

The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
United States Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Rice:

On behalf of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, I strongly urge you to give the highest attention to the severe threat facing the smallest religious minorities in Iraq. During the Commission's meeting with you this past May, we expressed concern that the U.S. government was not taking adequate action to provide protection for these ancient communities, who include ChaldoAssyrian Christians, Sabean Mandaeans, Yazidis, and others, and that as a result of extremist violence and government harassment, they are facing extinction from lands they have occupied for over 2,000 years. While all Iraqis are threatened by violence, the non-Muslim minorities face particularized forms of harassment and abuse; what is more, these groups appear to suffer a degree of violent attacks and other human rights abuses disproportionate to their numbers. Indeed, last month's heinous attack deliberately targeting the Yazidi community was only the latest in a long line of similar attacks against similarly defenseless non-Muslim targets in Iraq.

As you know, the Commission has long been raising concern about the plight of Iraq's religious minorities with Administration officials. As far back as December 2004, the Commission wrote to President Bush regarding the escalation of violent attacks against members of these groups. Earlier this year, the Commission added Iraq to its Watch List due to the alarming and deteriorating religious freedom conditions for all Iraqis, including the religious minorities. In July, the Commission held a hearing on the threats these minority communities face. We received testimony of minority members viciously and deliberately victimized by militants—and, witnesses claimed, even members of the police and security forces—that included murder, torture, and abductions for ransom; of parishioners sleeping on the floors of churches to escape death squads and insurgents; of families being given just one hour to vacate their homes; of expropriated land, forced conversions and extortion in the form of taxes on non-Muslims.

On September 19, the Commission will hold a second public hearing on the grave situation in Iraq. This hearing will examine the causes, dimensions, and patterns of intra-Muslim sectarian violence, including the extent to which individual Muslims are being targeted

for killings and other violence on account of their religious identity and what role, if any, the Iraqi government currently plays in that violence. That hearing will also examine U.S. policy in relation to Iraq's refugee crisis, focusing on internal displacement and Iraqis sheltering in neighboring countries.

Grave Threat to Religious Minorities

Violence against members of Iraq's Christian community occurs throughout the country, and the Commission has raised particular concern about reports from Baghdad, Mosul, Basra, and the northern Kurdish regions. Other reported abuses include the assassination of Christian religious leaders, the bombing and destruction of churches, enforced conformity with strict Islamic dress and behavioral codes, and violent threats that have forced people from their homes. In some areas, ordinary Christians have reportedly stopped participating in public religious services for fear of inviting further violence. Though smaller in number, Sabean Mandaeans and Yazidis have suffered similar abuses, as has the dwindling Jewish community. Extremists view members of these groups as infidels or outsiders who must be eliminated. What is more, religious minority communities reportedly lack means of protection, including local militia structures that might otherwise provide security.

Faced with these harsh realities, thousands of members of Iraqi religious minorities have fled the country, seeking refuge in neighboring states and among growing diaspora communities in the West. According to some reports, nearly half of Iraq's indigenous Christian population is now living outside the country. Although comprising only 4-5 percent of Iraq's pre-war population, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that almost 40 percent of registered refugees are Christians. According to the Mandaean Society of America, approximately 85 percent of Iraqi Mandaeans have fled their country since 2003.

With almost 2.2 million persons displaced within Iraq, equaling the number of Iraqis who have fled the country, there will soon be more internally displaced Iraqis than Iraqi refugees. Those fleeing sectarian violence are moving from religious and ethnically mixed communities to homogeneous ones as they seek safety and protection. In the case of the non-Muslim groups, many are moving to the Nineveh Plains, an area located south of the Kurdish Regional Governorate and constituting a portion of the Nineveh Governorate.

Commission Recommendations

With the rising sectarian violence, the Iraqi internally displaced persons (IDP) and refugee crises require heightened attention and more effective action by the U.S. government. Given the urgency of their plight, it was proposed at our May meeting that the U.S. government hold a series of conferences, both in and outside Iraq, bringing together representatives of Iraq's non-Muslim minorities, particularly civic leaders, mayors, and other locally elected officials, to hear directly from them what the United States could do to ensure their protection—indeed, their very survival—in Iraq. We respectfully request that you instruct the Department of State to follow up on this proposal, as there is clearly a pressing need to safeguard the presence of these ancient communities on their ancestral lands.

In taking this and other actions to protect Iraq's endangered minority religious communities, the Commission respectfully proposes that the U.S. government should:

— Urgently convene, as discussed at our May 11 meeting, the symposium or summit of civic leaders, elected officials, and other representatives of Iraq's endangered religious minority communities to learn first-hand what actions could be taken to advance their security in Iraq. Among the actions that might be discussed at such a conference, in order to enforce protections for these minority communities, is the initiative to create an autonomous administrative district in the Nineveh Plains, as provided under article 125 of the Iraqi Constitution.

— Ensure that the U.S. government contributes promptly and sufficiently to UNHCR's revised appeal on Iraq to address the humanitarian concerns of Iraq's displaced population, encouraging other nations also to contribute to this appeal by our own example.

— Increase humanitarian assistance to Iraq, ensuring that non-Muslim minorities who, in the face of disproportionate levels of violence and fear of persecution, are fleeing to the Nineveh Plains, receive adequate aid; direct that that aid be distributed in coordination with local humanitarian and civil society organizations and international humanitarian agencies, as appropriate; and ensure that assistance reaches the intended beneficiaries.

— Support, working in consultation with civic leaders, elected officials , and other representatives of minority religious groups, basic infrastructure development projects, including water, electricity, and roads, in the largely undeveloped Nineveh Plains so that members of minority religious communities fleeing violence can resettle in a region that is the ancestral land for many of them, and seek international support for these and similar initiatives.

— Urge, at the highest levels, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) to respond to complaints that it is taking or encroaching on these ancestral lands and the other areas in the Nineveh Plains populated by members of Iraq's minority religious communities, and ensure that the KRG is not facilitating any form of encroachment; and urge the KRG to investigate and hold accountable any officials or others acting in the name of the KRG who have improperly exercised power to deprive local minority communities of their property, land, houses, or other items essential to their survival.

— Authorize U.S. police trainers to train local police forces in the Nineveh Plains from among the minority religious communities—most of whom are defenseless victims of various Sunni, Shi'a, or Kurdish militants—so that they can protect the security of their community members and themselves, and investigate any alleged abuse of power by KRG officials.

— Work promptly, both independently and with its allies, to facilitate family reunification abroad for the remaining—and reportedly highly vulnerable—small Jewish minority.

— Reexamine and subject to independent review U.S. government data collection procedures with regard to killings, abuses, and other atrocities in Iraq, particularly those collection procedures carried out by the Department of Defense, to ensure maximum reliability and accuracy, and add explicit data categories to record the killings and other abuses that specifically target religious minority communities there. Maintaining accurate data in this area is crucial, especially in light of the grave threat facing many of those ancient communities.

— Ensure the continuation of privately-run peace and reconciliation efforts among Iraq's various religious leaders and facilitate these exchanges, despite ongoing insecurity, by providing, as appropriate, for such sessions to be held outside Iraq.

After our next hearing, the Commission intends to issue additional recommendations on Iraq addressing the problem of the intra-Muslim sectarian violence and related religious freedom abuses, which we plan to forward to you at that time.

Madame Secretary, the situation for the non-Muslim minority communities in Iraq has gone beyond critical. As we said when we met with you, it is time for the U.S. government to act. Canon White told us at our July hearing that "We … need to face the fact that we in the coalition have seriously ignored and failed to deal with the plight of minorities. Therefore we must accept a considerable amount of responsibility for the present crisis." Clearly, given the U.S. government's role in the developments that have resulted in the dire situation currently facing the imperiled members of Iraq's religious minority communities, our country has a special obligation to provide them protection and thereby attempt to secure their continued existence in Iraq.


Michael Cromartie

cc: John D. Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State
R. Nicholas Burns, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs
Paula J. Dobriansky, Undersecretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs
Jonathan Farrar, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, &  Labor
John V. Hanford, III, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom
David Satterfield, Senior Adviser, Coordinator for Iraq
Stephen J. Hadley, National Security Advisor
Michael G. Kozak, Senior Director for Democracy, Human Rights and International    Organizations, National Security Council

U.S. Called to Secure Existence of Endangered Iraqis

Courtesy of the Christian Post
By Michelle Vu
11 September 2007

(ZNDA: Washington)  Politicians, pundits, and the media are in a frenzy this week over Iraq as the top U.S. commander in Iraq and the U.S. ambassador to the war-torn country testify before Congress.

Troop withdrawal, Iraq government progress or lack thereof, and Sunni-Shiite violence are highly popular topics of discussion. Very little, however, has been said about one of Iraq’s most endangered communities – the indigenous Christian population.

Since the 2003 U.S.-led offensive, nearly 2.2 million Iraqis have left the country. Christians, who account for only three percent of the Iraq’s population, are estimated to make up nearly half of all the refugees fleeing the country, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

“The situation is more than desperate,” said the Rev. Canon Andrew White, who leads one of the largest churches in Iraq, at a U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) hearing in July. “The Coalition has failed the Christians. We have done nothing to support the Christian community or the increase Christian suffering.”

White is vicar of the 1,300-membered St. George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad where he says the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, attends service.

In response to the growing refugee crisis, USCIRF wrote a letter last week to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging the U.S. government to address the serious threats to Iraq’s religious minorities.

“While all Iraqis are threatened by violence, the non-Muslim minorities face particularized forms of harassment and abuse; what is more, these groups appear to suffer a degree of violent attacks and other human rights abuses disproportionate to their numbers,” read the letter dated Sept. 5 and signed by Chairman Michael Cromartie on behalf of the Commission.

The letter specifically mentioned Chaldo-Assyrian Christians as one of the ancient communities facing intense persecution and possible “extinction” in Iraq. Assyrian Christians draw their lineage back to Babylonian times and are one of the oldest Christian communities in the world.

Reported abuses against Iraqi Christians include the assassinations of Christian religious leaders, bombings and destruction of churches, enforced conformity with strict Islamic dress and behavioral codes, and violent threats that have forced people from their homes, according to USCIRF.

“The situation for the non-Muslim minority communities in Iraq has gone beyond critical,” emphasized the federal government agency.

“Clearly, given the U.S. government’s role in the developments that have resulted in the dire situation currently facing the imperiled members of Iraq’s religious minority communities, our country has a special obligation to provide them protection and thereby attempt to secure their existence in Iraq.”

During his presentation to Congress, Patraeus said that the troop surge has been effective in helping to stabilize Iraq. He also said the 30,000 additional troops could come home by next July, but planning for further U.S. withdrawals would be “premature,” according to CNN.

The U.S. commander in Iraq has been praised by the Rev. White for doing an “incredible job” despite the difficulties he faces working with an unstable Iraqi government and overall environment.

Assyrians in Germany Demonstrate For Assyrians in Iraq

(ZNDA: Berlin)  On 7 September some 60 Assyrians held a protest in front of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin to protest the lack of attention for the Assyrians of Iraq and their aggravating conditions as internally displaced people and refugees in Syria and Jordan.

Participants in the protest included members of the Assyrian political parties and churches in Germany. 

Assyrians in Germany protest the treatment of their fellow Assyrians in Iraq in front of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin.
Photo courtesy of AJM-Online.

Iraqi Man Smuggled Across US Border Granted Asylum

Courtesy of the Associated Press
30 August 2007

(ZNDA: San Antonio)  An Iraqi Christian who used migrant smugglers to slip him into the United States after escaping persecution in his home country has been granted political asylum and will be allowed to stay.

An immigration judge granted [Amir Behnan Polous] Aamr Bahnan Boles' request on Wednesday after hearing testimony about brutality Boles could face if deported to Iraq. Prosecutors did not object to Boles' asylum request.

"I only asked you for your mercy," the 26-year-old Boles said. "And I thank you very much."

Boles escaped from Iraq and went to Syria, Russia, Cuba and then Guatemala before making his way through Mexico to the Texas border, where he was captured with two other young Iraqi men as they swam the Rio Grande in April 2006.

The trio claimed asylum on grounds they were subjected to brutality and threats in Iraq because of their faith.

Boles told the San Antonio Express-News that he hopes to use his new legal status to help his family escape Iraq.

Amir Polous' escape route from Iraq to Syria, Russia, Cuba, Central America, and then across the US-Mexico border into Texas.  Such escape routes from Iraq to the nearby Mid-East countries, to Russia or the Indian sub-continent and then to Central or South America on through Mexico and finally into U.S. are becoming familiar patterns of escape for desperate Assyrians of Iraq. With nearly one million Assyrian refugees in Jordan and Syria, the plight of the Iraqi Christians is expected to be the worst in modern history. The U.S. government and the Bush Administration continues to disregard any solutions within and outside the Iraqi borders for the Christians of Iraq.  (Map by Zinda Magazine)

Possible Assyrian-Iraqis Captured in Peru en Route to U.S.

Courtesy of the Washington Times
11 September 2007
By Kelly Hearn

One of the 10 Iraqis arrested in Peru was clutching this Assyrian flag. A Peruvian investigator dismissed the idea that they were Chaldean Christians seeking asylum in the U.S.

(ZNDA: Lima)  Ten Iraqi citizens with forged passports and documents are in a Peruvian prison after an apparent bid to enter the United States on a flight to Los Angeles, officials say.

An 11th Iraqi man thought to be part of the group is at large.

One of the men arrested is thought to have links to al Qaeda, said Peruvian National Police Col. Roberto Lujan, who is leading the investigation.

The capture of the 10 in this Andean nation raises the specter of a smuggling ring that could touch neighboring Ecuador.

The plot unfolded on June 21, when three Iraqis entered Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima attempting to board a flight to Los Angeles.

Airline officials alerted police after two of the men holding Dutch passports could not speak Dutch. Citizens of the Netherlands are not required to hold a visa to enter the United States.

Police detained the suspects and learned that another group of Iraqis had been en route to the airport.

"The others were slowed by traffic on their way to the airport," Col. Lujan said. "When they arrived, they apparently saw what was happening and left."

None of the three Iraqis arrested in the airport spoke Spanish. One gave police the name of a 40-year-old Spanish-speaking Iraqi citizen named Rafid Joboo Pati, the group"s reputed leader.

Police said the Iraqis entered Peru on May 11 and passed through the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Ecuador without authorities noticing that their documents were fake.

Peruvian intelligence units spent several days watching Mr. Pati, who was residing in the upscale Lima neighborhood Miraflores, Col. Lujan said. Others thought to be part of the smuggling ring also were watched.

On the night of July 17, police raided three apartments where the suspects were living and arrested seven persons, including Mr. Pati.

Mr. Pati confirmed that all of the suspects were Iraqis. Two had Dutch passports, two carried Ecuadoran identification and two held Iraqi passports, police said. Mr. Pati carried an Ecuadoran passport, Col. Lujan said.

Authorities found no weapons but seized a laptop computer and cell phones that they turned over to Interpol in France.

An 11th person was not in the apartment at the time of the raid and is at large, officials said.

Those detained are brothers Dane-K-Mansour, 26, and Nail Mansour, 29, Mushtaq-y-Hana, 24, Loayi-s-Elda, 29, Jaboo Pati-Rafid, 40, Adelmika Homow, 61, Salema Hazim, 53, Ala Tomina, 30, Istab Hekmat, 28, and Rafid Joboo Pati, 40.

"The Iraqis refused to give the name of the missing individual," Col. Lujan said.

Interpol advised Peruvian police that two of the Dutch passports were reported stolen last year.

"We have been told by Interpol sources in Lima that fingerprints of one of the men carrying a Dutch passport have been sent to Baghdad and is thought to have links to al Qaeda," Col. Lujan said, adding that he could not identify the man for security reasons.

All are detained at Lima"s Lurigancho prison. They are prohibited from giving interviews to the press.

The suspects were not employed during their stay in the high-end neighborhood, authorities said.

"Someone was funding them but we do not know who yet," Col. Lujan said, adding that his department is working on the investigation with U.S. officials and Interpol.

"We are very satisfied with how the Peruvian authorities are handling the matter," said Sam Wunder, a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Lima. "We are very interested in finding out more about these people."

U.S. officials in Washington would not comment on the investigation because it is continuing.

Col. Lujan rejected a theory that the men could be Chaldean Christians, a group said to frequently attempt entry to the United States on claims of religious persecution in Iraq.

"These people were not part of a group," he said. "Besides the brothers, they did not even know each other."

One man was arrested while clutching a flag of unknown origin. A photo shows the flag to have a white background with four squiggly blue and red lines converging onto a four-pointed light blue symbol that is similar to those found on Chaldean flags.

Officials said they do not know whether other Iraqi smuggling rings have operated in the country. One police official who declined to be identified said he doubted the ring was still operating in Peru.

"They might be in Ecuador because they know we are looking for them here," Col. Lujan said.

The detainees noted in the above article may indeed be Assyrians of Chaldean faith from Iraq, misidentified by the Peruvian authorities in Lima.  Zinda Magazine urges the Assyrian federations in the United States, Europe, and Australia to contact the Peruvian Embassies in their adopted countries at once and follow-up with the authorities in Lima.  The Peruvian Embassy in D.C. can be contacted at (202) 833-9860.  Fax: (202) 659-8124.

Hezekiah Inscription in Turkey to Return to Israel

Courtesy of the Washington Times
5 September 2007
By Jay Bushinsky

The Hezekiah Inscription (photo courtesy of the Washington Times)

(ZNDA: Jerusalem)  An ancient inscription memorializing Jerusalem's salvation from Assyrian invaders 2,700 years ago is to be returned to Israel from Turkey for study and public display.

Israel has been trying for about 20 years to recover the artifact, which marks one of the most important turning points in Hebrew history.

Assyrian forces under King Sennacherib controlled most of the Middle East in the early 8th century B.C. and were about to march on Jerusalem, where a defiant King Hezekiah ruled.

Anticipating a prolonged siege, Hezekiah ordered the construction of a tunnel connecting the city to the Gihon Spring outside its walls, ensuring a source of drinking water. The water collected inside the Judean capital at the Pool of Siloam, where centuries later Jesus is said in the Gospel of John to have cured a man who had been blind since birth.

An inscription inside the tunnel described the dramatic moment when stonecutters working from either end converged in the middle.

In 1880, a Jewish boy discovered the so-called Hezekiah Inscription, also known as the Siloam Inscription, engraved in ancient Hebrew letters in the tunnel's limestone wall.

"A segment of the tunnel wall's surface had been flattened and smoothed so that the inscription could be carved into the limestone," said Gabriel Barkay, a senior archaeology lecturer at the Bar-Ilan University.

Mr. Barkay said Conrad Schick, a German national who had been living in Jerusalem since 1846, publicized the find. He made a papier-mache likeness known as a gypsum plate copy and photographed the inscription.

The date of the inscription was determined on the basis of its contents and historical context.

A Greek antiquities dealer tried to remove it from the tunnel wall, but succeeded only in breaking it into several pieces.

Ottoman Turkish authorities who ruled Palestine at the time appropriated the inscription and shipped it to Istanbul — formerly Constantinople — for safekeeping. The artifact has been kept since then in the Museum of the Ancient East near the Topkapi Palace.

Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek made the first attempt to retrieve the inscription for contemporary Israel two decades ago. Last month, Mayor Uri Lupolianski asked for it again at a meeting with Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan. The ambassador said it would be returned in accordance with international law as a loan rather than a restitution.

A member of the Turkish Embassy's staff in Tel Aviv said the inscription could be deposited in Jerusalem "on a long-term basis" if some kind of reciprocity was made. Otherwise, it may stay at the Israel Museum for as little as three months.

Mr. Barkay suggested that the diplomat was hoping for a loan of items dating from the Ottoman Empire's 400-year-long rule over Palestine. Most of this material is stored in Israel's state archive, he said.

The inscription's text is dramatic and vivid. According to one translation, it states:

"While the excavators were still lifting up their picks, each toward his fellow, and while there were yet three cubits to excavate, there was heard the voice of one calling to another, for there was a crevice in the rock, on the right hand. And on the day they completed the boring, the stonecutters struck pick against pick, one against the other, and the water flowed from the spring to the pool."

The tunnel through solid rock — 1,750 feet long, 15 feet high and 29 feet wide — took four years to cut, Mr. Barkay said.

He said the Hezekiah Inscription "is corroborated perfectly" by Sennacherib's written account of his campaign to subjugate Judea and conquer Jerusalem.

Several original copies of Sennacherib's cuneiform text are displayed at the British Museum in London, the Museum of Chicago's Oriental Institute and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. His text contains a colorful comment about his dealings with King Hezekiah.

"Fear of my greatness terrified Hezekiah," it states. "He sent to me tribute: 30 talents of silver, precious stones, ivory and all sorts of gifts including women from his palace."

By then, Sennacherib had subjugated 46 other Judean cities and compelled them to pay him tribute. He said he "enclosed Hezekiah in his capital of Judea like a bird in a cage."

His father and predecessor, Sargon II, conquered the northern Kingdom of Israel and expelled the 10 tribes that inhabited it. One of the underlying causes of Sennacherib's invasion of Judea, Mr. Barkay said, was Hezekiah's formation of an anti-Assyrian coalition that included Egypt.

The prophet Isaiah opposed this policy vigorously and eloquently, speaking against tenuous alliances with unpredictable neighbors.

His condemnation is expressed in Isaiah 31:1: "Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because [they are] many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord!"

The Bible says the king then prayed to God that Jerusalem be spared from Assyrian attack. Sennacherib withdrew his forces shortly afterward.

Hezekiah's water-diversion project is cited in the Old Testament's II Chronicles 32:30: "It was Hezekiah who stopped up the spring of water of upper Gihon leading it downward west of the City of David," Jerusalem's ancient core.

Assessing the Wounds of an Ancient Assyrian Ruler

Courtesy of the New York Times
31 August 2007
By Wendy Moonan

(ZNDA: New York)  Archaeologists are all abuzz about some enormous, newly reinstalled ninth-century B.C. Assyrian sculptures at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, Me. They say they can’t wait until it reopens on Oct. 14, after a two-year, $20 million renovation and expansion, to see what curators discovered when they remounted five ancient bas reliefs from a royal compound at Nimrud in northern Iraq.

Detail of one of the five Assyrian reliefs in the Bowdoin College Museum of Art (courtesy of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art)

One in particular has elicited attention. Beautifully carved in gypsum and nearly six feet tall, it depicts in profile a regal figure walking to the viewer’s right. He can be identified as a king because he wears a tall, conical hat, a symbol of power and prestige. He wears a long embroidered cape, an elaborate earring, a necklace and a bracelet with a large rosette, and carries a dagger and whetstone. He raises his right arm in a gesture of acknowledgment or greeting. His left hand holds a bow, the symbol of his patroness, the goddess of war and love.

But something is very wrong here. The king has been disfigured. His bow is broken in the middle. His right wrist and his Achilles tendons have been brutally slashed. His nose and ears are damaged, and one eye has been chipped out. The bottom of his beard has been hacked away.

Amazingly, curators discovered these “injuries” only after the reliefs were moved to the museum’s new wing from the dark rotunda in the old landmark museum building, a magnificent Renaissance-style loggia that McKim Mead and White completed in 1894.

“After the reinstallation, when we could finally see the reliefs in daylight, some 19th-century repairs became very visible, particularly the plaster infill on the panel of the king with the bow,” said Katy Kline, the director of the Bowdoin museum. “Of course all our reliefs have been around for 2,500 years — they were all roughly treated — and we knew there were some repairs, but the damage to the others didn’t seem as deliberate as it did on the one of the king and bow. The more we studied the strategic location of the cuts on it, the more we got interested.”

The defaced king is Ashurnasirpal II, an ambitious ruler of Assyria from 883 to 859 B.C. In 879 he established a new capital for his empire in Kalhu, now called Nimrud, about 20 miles southeast of Mosul. He built a vast walled city, with a citadel, temples, royal palaces and residences for thousands of people he forcibly settled there. All of the reliefs at Bowdoin are from the northwest palace there, except the one with the disfigured king.

“It probably comes from a temple in the citadel,” said Barbara N. Porter, an independent scholar and research associate at the Harvard Semitic Museum. Ms. Porter, an authority on ancient Assyrian art, has written widely on Bowdoin’s reliefs.

This year, when curators identified the plaster restorations to the king, “we had to decide if we would leave the repairs or explore the apparent damaged parts to see if there was more to learn,” said James A. Higginbotham, associate curator for ancient art at the museum. They removed the plaster additions.

Assyrian relief detail showing disfigured face and slashed wrist (courtesy of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art)

They now conclude it was the Medes tribes from the east (currently Iran) who disfigured the relief when they conquered Kalhu in 612 B.C.

“The Medes were former vassals of the Assyrians, and while they may have had some help taking Kalhu, the circumstantial evidence for the mutilation points to them,” Mr. Higginbotham said. “What’s clear is that the people who occupied the palace purposefully went about defacing certain reliefs. They were very selective.

“They saw the images of the king as embodying the power itself.” Ms. Porter added: “It’s retaliation against the visual image of an Assyrian kingship, even though Ashurnasirpal II had been dead since the 800s, and Kalhu was no longer the center of the political empire. It could be seen as a magical attack as well as a symbolic disfiguration.”

Bowdoin’s other reliefs depict the king as warrior, priest and protector of Assyria. Each has a cuneiform text in Akkadian listing his many victories and accomplishments. Often the king is accompanied by protective deities — bird-headed supernatural guardians and winged human figures — and stylized representations of the tree of life.

At one time dozens of these larger-than-life figures on stone reliefs lined the king’s throne room. Originally painted in bright colors, they were meant to intimidate visitors. In the past 150 years they have also fascinated archaeologists.

The Assyrian Gallery as seen through the Museum's new glass curtain wall (courtesy of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art)

The excavation of ancient Kalhu began in the 1840s, when Austen Henry Layard, a 28-year-old British diplomat stationed in Baghdad, became convinced that a series of earth mounds along the Tigris River might be an ancient capital. He secretly hired Arab tribesmen to dig in the mounds and immediately found an ancient palace compound, complete with murals, ivories and wall carvings.

Assuming, wrongly, that it was the ancient Biblical city of Nineveh, he excavated several wall reliefs and sent them, via camel, river raft and ship, to the British Museum for safekeeping. Then he returned to England, where he was knighted for his discoveries.

“It’s possible the locals were not happy Layard was there,” Mr. Higginbotham said. “His tools were taken and he kidnapped a man to get them back. There was suspicion of foreigners.”

After Layard’s departure, archaeologists flocked to Kalhu and its extraordinary reliefs were scattered across the globe (to museums in Mumbai, Baghdad, London and New York). American missionaries in the Middle East were particularly anxious to claim them, because they thought they proved the veracity of the Bible. (Genesis 10:8-12, for example, discusses the “great city” of Calah — same as Kalhu — and how the “mighty hunter” Nimrod established the dynasty of the Assyrians.) Among those missionaries was Dr. Henri Byron Haskell, who sent five panels to his alma mater, Bowdoin, in the 1850s.

“It was the beginning of an awareness of the wider world of the Bible, a revolution really, because it confirmed the idea that the Bible was historically accurate,” Ms. Porter said. “These carvings were suddenly a blinding light on a world that up to then was essentially lost.”

The enormous carved reliefs can still evoke excitement. “We’re already planning a symposium to discuss our discoveries,” Mr. Higginbotham said.

UAT Instructor Creates Cuneiform and Hieroglyphic Translator

(ZNDA: Phoenix)  University of Advancing Technology (UAT) instructor and senior web developer Joe McCormack has completed work on a web-based application that translates English words into cuneiform script from the Assyrian, Babylonian, Sumerian and the hieroglyphic script of Egyptian. The tool may be seen here: virtualsecrets.com.

The translator works by converting cuneiform and hieroglyphs, both used in the earliest forms of writing, into English words. For example, typing "I am a father" into the Ancient Egyptian translator yields hieroglyphs that roughly translate to "I am" and "father." The translator has been featured on several museum websites around the world and websites specializing in resources for the ancient world.

McCormack, a UAT web developer by trade, worked more than 1,000 hours on researching the cuneiform and hieroglyphic and building the tool and its accompanying website. Inspiration for the project stemmed from his fascination with the science fiction television series "Stargate SG-1," which featured ancient Egyptian mythology and symbols as plot points. These caught McCormack's eye and lead to his research.

The website translator engine took approximately an hour to create, with the language database occupying two hundred hours to line up cuneiforms and hieroglyphics with text descriptors and make a hierarchy to prioritize the information.

"One of the reasons something as big as what I've done hasn't been done before is that there are thousands and thousands of symbols," said McCormack.

McCormack is talking with museums and institutions to garner further exposure. In particular, the Egyptian translator has been a hit; more than half of the 1,100 daily hits stem from the Egyptian hieroglyphic alone. More than 30 countries in six continents are using the website for translations.

The University of Advancing Technology is a unique, private college that serves its student body by fostering knowledge creation and academic excellence in an environment that embraces the young technophiles of the world. With three centers of research and a suite of technology-centered undergraduate and graduate degrees, the University is a recognized leader in technology education.

For more information, contact Alan Hromas at UAT: 602-383-8272  or send a message:  click here.

Assyrian from Illinois Crafts Pentagon Memorial Components

Courtesy of Washington Post
12 September 2007
By Nick Miroff

(ZNDA: Washington) They arrived in late August on a flatbed truck from Missouri. The three long, arcing, silvery shapes were rough to the touch, their sheen buried under a mottled layer of crusted, cooled steel.

Abe Yousif, owner of Bucthel Metal Finishing Corp, supervises the finishing of one of the 184 Pentagon 9/11 Memorial benches in Elk Grove Village, Ill., August 28, 2007. (By John Gress for The Washington Post)

Abe Yousif and his men quickly unloaded the strange cargo and began grinding into the metal with huge, clattering machines and hand tools. There was no time to lose. Over the next year, Yousif's small company, Bucthel Metal Finishing Corp., must custom-polish 184 of the 1,100-pound stainless steel castings, transforming them into perfectly uniform, flawlessly smooth memorial benches -- one for each of the victims who died at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

One year from today, the first Sept. 11 memorial for the nation will open on the grounds of the Pentagon on the spot where American Airlines Flight 77 tore into the building's western side. Workers across the country -- at a foundry in Missouri, at the Pentagon and at Yousif's shop outside Chicago -- are preparing for the occasion by piecing together what will become one of the nation's most emotional, sacred sites.

The cantilevered benches arriving at Bucthel will be the memorial's central feature. Each requires nearly 100 hours of grinding, welding and polishing. Once the benches are complete, Yousif and his men will affix each with an etched nameplate corresponding to one of the lives lost that day -- the moment, Yousif says, when the metal "comes alive."

The weight of this responsibility could not be clearer to him. The Iraq-born Yousif and his 20-odd employees -- all immigrants as well -- are facing their own memories of tragedy and loss as they bring the memorial into being.

Yousif left Baghdad in 1979 at age 24, and he hasn't been back. But his 88-year-old mother is there, along with a brother and sister. A Christian family of Assyrian descent, they live now under threat of Shiite militias who have ordered them to convert to Islam or leave, Yousif said.

Since the war began, Yousif's brother's party-supply business has collapsed -- "no one is having parties anymore," Yousif explained. His sister has stopped going to work. The family rarely ventures outside.

"Every phone call you get, you hope it's not from Iraq," Yousif said. "And you always wonder what is going to happen next."

That one of the most solemn, significant tasks of completing the Pentagon Memorial would fall to an Iraqi American might seem too unlikely to be a coincidence. But the Pentagon Memorial project did not pick Yousif because he was born in Iraq. In fact, it did not pick him at all.

One of the 184 Pentagon 9/11 Memorial benches as seen in Elk Grove Village, Ill., August 28, 2007. (By John Gress for The Washington Post)

Yousif is a longtime subcontractor for Metaltek International, the company producing the memorial benches in Missouri. And he is not unfamiliar with high-profile jobs. He has made custom handrails for Michael Jordan, statues for the Country Music Awards, even bunny icons for the Playboy mansion. His handiwork is all over the United States.

But the Pentagon Memorial job is unlike any other, Yousif said. If he can make the benches perfect, he believes he will help others to heal. If he can make the metal shine brilliantly, they will feel hope. He wants people to run their fingers along the steel and find, in its clean, immaculate smoothness, something affirming, redeeming even, on a site now scarred by murder and death.

"Being an Arab American, you feel so sorry," Yousif said, sitting in his small office adjacent to the shop, a dim, cavernous warehouse next to a soap factory. Airplanes landing nearby at O'Hare International Airport roared overhead every few minutes, adding to the din of the grinding machines. "It's a feeling like you can contribute something good to this horrible thing if you can make [the benches] look beautiful."

For Yousif and his employees, the project is a chance to create something permanent in the heart of an adopted country. But it is also a reminder of how they got here, and of places and people left behind.

"They remind me of my country," said Vujadin "Joe" Obradovic, a 24-year-old Serbian immigrant hired by Yousif to custom-build the wooden shipping crates that will protect the memorial benches en route to the Pentagon.

The crates resemble pine-box coffins Obradovic saw as a teenager that were used for hasty burials during the 1999 NATO bombing of his country. "Anytime I see a box like this, I see the people who died years ago, friends of mine and cousins who were killed," he said.

Iraq is also on the minds of others at work on the shop floor, where metal dust swirls in the air and blackens workers' arms and faces. Edgar Caiceros's younger brother left for Iraq in July, a 21-year-old Marine fresh into his first tour.

Caiceros, 23, had wanted to join the military, too, but he never finished high school, so he went to work for Yousif instead. "It's hard to have a brother over there and be doing this," he said, wiping flecks of metal from his face during a break. Caiceros and his uncle, Hector Mora, will be grinding the memorial benches for eight, 10, 12 hours a day for the next 10 months. Both were born in Mexico.

"I start thinking how if something happens to my brother, would I do one of these pieces in his name?" Caiceros said.

Each of the memorial benches is poured from $6,000 worth of premium-grade industrial stainless steel. The benches will be arranged at the Pentagon site according to victims' ages -- from 3-year-old Dana Falkenberg to 71-year-old John D. Yamnicky. There are 125 memorials for those who died in the building and 59 for those on Flight 77.

Every 14-foot-long bench will be attached to a one-ton cement base with its own shallow, circulating pool of water flowing underneath. The seat will be covered with a natural surface, and at night, the benches' stainless steel undersides will glow from light projected upward from inside the pools. The $23 million project is being funded by private donations to the Pentagon Memorial Fund, a group formed by victims' families, and it has raised $15 million so far.

But the work must go on. And with less than a year to complete the memorial, Yousif, like others involved in the project, is watching the calendar closely.

"He thinks about this Pentagon project day and night," said his wife, Angel Yousif, also an Iraqi-born Christian. Although the company is filling other orders, "we don't talk about anything else."

Tall and thin, Abe Yousif, 54, is perpetually in a hurry. His cell phone rings every few minutes, and he punctuates each sentence with "sir," as in "We'll finish them today, sir" or "I will fax you the invoice right away, sir."

The Iraq of car bombings and sectarian violence that Yousif sees on al-Jazeera and CNN each night is unrecognizable to him, he says. In the Iraq he remembers, "you didn't know if your neighbor was Sunni or Shiite -- we all lived together."

Born in northern Iraq, Yousif grew up not far from the Kurdish city of Dahuk. His father grew apples -- "Washington apples, from America," he proudly recalls -- on a five-acre plot.

Yousif studied economics at Baghdad University, and twice Saddam Hussein came to lecture the students. They were needed in the army, Saddam told Yousif and his classmates. Yousif served for 18 months after graduation, but he no longer imagined his future in Iraq. A few months before war broke out with Iran, Yousif and his first wife left for Jordan. Relatives living in Chicago helped them secure U.S. visas.

He arrived in Chicago and worked two jobs, making school supplies in a factory and parking cars as a valet downtown. He struggled with English and froze in the winters. He saved and saved.

In 1985, Yousif founded Bucthel, choosing the name because it sounded like "Bechtel," the huge American engineering and construction firm. "It sounded serious," Yousif said.

Over two decades, Yousif expanded the business by always saying yes, always aiming to please -- "The Iraqi way," he says. Customers began calling him "Mr. No Problem" because he responded to their requests and orders, no matter how difficult, with that eager assurance.

The company had more than 40 employees when the world changed on Sept. 11, 2001. It was a "deeply sorrowful" day for Yousif, but he did not expect it would lead to the invasion of Iraq. "When you look at September 11th, none of the people involved were Iraqi, so I thought, 'We're not part of this at all.' "

Still, when President Bush sent U.S. forces into Iraq in 2003, Yousif believed it would change his country for the better. He imagined Iraq transformed into Dubai, or Qatar, a place with skyscrapers and grand boulevards. "We thought they would get rid of Saddam, and everything would be easier for Iraqis," he said.

Yousif did not foresee the rise of the insurgency and the downward spiral of violence that followed.
The killing and the chaos have scattered his family even farther since the war began. Two sisters now live in the Kurdish-controlled north. Another is a refugee in Syria. The family survives mostly on money sent by Yousif and a brother who lives in Germany.

As for his mother and two remaining siblings in Baghdad, life has withdrawn indoors, where more often than not, there is no electricity or running water. "Everyone is afraid to go to school or to work," Yousif said. "When I see the destruction of Iraq, it hurts so bad."

Still, Yousif believes the persistent violence in Iraq will give way to an equally dogged determination to rebuild. "The Iraqis don't give up," he said.

And once the memorial is complete and the benches are in place, Yousif thinks it will finally be a good time to visit Iraq. He could meet his family in the north. Maybe it will even be safe enough to go to Baghdad by then.

"Right now," he said, "I'm busy with my life over here.

Surfs Up!
Your Letters to the Editor


KRG's Response to Nina Shea's Article

Qubad Talabani
Kurdistan Regional Government
Representation in the U.S.A.
1634 Eye St., NW, Suite 210
Washington, DC 20006

Regarding Nina Shea's Aug. 27 op-ed, "Iraq's Endangered Minorities":

The Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq (KRG) strongly condemned the bombings last month of two Yazidi villages. It is important to note, however, that these bombings took place in an area of the country administered by the central government of Iraq, not by the KRG.

Furthermore, the Kurdish leadership in Baghdad has long been a champion of the rights of non-Muslim minorities in Iraq. That is why that leadership ensured the protection of those rights in Iraq's permanent constitution.

However, as a result of religious persecution in many parts of Iraq, Christians have fled their homes and have sought safety in Iraq's Kurdistan region. Iraq's Christians deserve a secure home, which is why Kurds have opened their towns and cities to ensure their protection.

Moreover, the KRG, a pluralist government in which Christians head key ministries, does not oppose the creation of a "Nineveh province," as Ms. Shea claimed.

The KRG has a deep moral commitment to preventing a "cleansing campaign" against any Iraqis. Before Operation Iraqi Freedom, Kurds were victims of ethnic cleansing, a crime of genocide carried out by Saddam Hussein's regime with the awareness of the rest of the world.

Aspirations Numb the Pain but Do Not Heal the Poke of Reality

Ishmail Daniel
Translated from Arabic by Nabil Gabriel

The most compelling need for us as a People at this time is to start preparations to form a National Conference which shall enable us to evaluate the outcome of our policies in the years following the fall of Saddam regime; specifically the period following the Chaldo-Assyrian Syriac Conference held in Baghdad in the year 2003 which was followed by two national elections and to date.

It is of utmost importance for all participating parties in such a conference to foresee such expectations of political consequences that might occur "and affect us as one people" should the status quo remain as stagnant as it is today.

The mere call for such a conference might be a precedent and a step forward in facing the thorny and precarious political situation our people will be and are facing, i.e. to analyze the political situation in relation to the existing realities and possibilities of dealing with them and the proper steps to be taken to make a proper transition in our political position from one point to another; with emphasis on political; for the politician is the sole one to blame in case of a calamity.

A good example at hand here is ZOWAA for it is the only party to be repeatedly and negatively criticized for whatever our nation goes through, especially by those who want all rights but do not want to assume any responsibilities. Yes, we are in a dire need for a common meeting ground to act as a springboard for a major betterment of our Peoples' present and future. Having said that, this by no means is a precondition for painful and unnecessary concessions from any party, on the contrary this is a call for a frank and courageous stand that will enable us to pause and talk to each other, a serious and meaningful talk with open, warm, sincere hearts and cool heads; a talk that would not be based on who to blame for whatever we have been going through as a nation in the past five years; but rather to start bearing a shared responsibility towards building a prosperous future; and to build a meaningful coalition, one that would not be based upon the idea of segregating our people into good and evil, but upon collaborative participation from all of our parties which in return would protect our people from the horrors of uncalled for and needles rivalries.

But at the same time we must not allow ourselves to live in illusions and false aspirations for there are those that are stalking us in every step we take toward this honorable endeavor. It is a painful common knowledge how in the near past, almost all of our actions regarding the national issue were controlled by a mentality that saw any drawback and political loss on the part of any party as a victory or gain to the other parties.

This has been a case and issue that came into being as a result of making up such dead-end conflicts to pin us down and ending up in a deadlock situation, this was contrived by those (of our own people) who we erroneously allowed into our national house; which resulted in sustaining and fueling hatred and despair to be the prevailing factors that would control our relationships with one another. This in turn inflicted considerable damage to the efforts of those who were trying desperately to find a common ground that would accommodate all.

Yes, we are in need for a conference dedicated to the creation of a new and fresh national and political reality. A reality that would embrace the best interests for parties through active participation in carrying out the conference decisions and recommendations, and this could only be achieved by having the total and truthful understanding that settlement of differences should not be interpreted as a concession beyond past red lines that could not be crossed by such parties especially the ones that had earned the confidence and loyalty of our people in such milestones as previous elections which resulted in electing ZOWAA as a representative for our people; for if more concessions were to be made, ZOWAA's legitimacy would surly be undermined and would be subject to question and accountability which in turn would result in a sure retreat in our peoples' participation in future elections.

But at the same time we must also emphasize that it is not the right of any party, regardless of its legitimacy to dictate its policy and act as the sole spokesman for our people leaving others nothing to say.

This in my humble opinion can be achieved through putting all of our policies and their implementing mechanisms within a framework that would embody two important binding principals for all participants; a) free political will, b) national dignity.

The core issue of our national rights is in our ability to achieve the criteria of possessing the free political will for our people; thus any national conference or forum that cannot meet this criteria will pin us in a precarious position and have us reacting as human herds to merciless and damaging agendas dictated by wanton foreign decision and policy.

Another aspect to be scrutinized would be; the resolutions and recommendations of a such conference should be able to create a new understanding among our people based on the fact that human dignity is of paramount importance. For nowadays the new outlook on the international level scene faces another challenge; ((The Dignity Of Peoples)) which was referred to by Zbigniew Brzezinsiki in his book "Second Chance" that although the U.S. emphasized that what nations needed was democracy and wealth through adopting Free-Market Economies; but there is another factor that being Dignity; for there has been an international cry for human dignity as the major challenge in the ((Global Political Awaking)).

I hope I did not stray away from the main issue at hand; but I do believe that these words would shed some light on our aspirations and hopes in a life on our homeland; and especially our strategic choice to live in peace with our Kurdish brethren and securing the means to back this strategic choice through the preservation of our dignity as An Endogenous People that has THE historical right to live on this geographical spot of Iraq; again through strengthening the co-existing relationships based on the foundations and principals of Partnership-Justice- Equality and Democracy; putting an end to living off of the political leftovers of others, a phenomenon recently gaining popularity ((Alas)) amongst our people, decorating some with medals worthy only of the twenty-something year-olds whom to this moment are fending off the new era thieves and criminals from inflicting harm on our people.

Finally, what we lack as a people is managing our policies; especially those that translate our aspirations; for we still lack the sufficient expertise in dealing with this type of management. This conference I hope will provide a beginning that would unlikely solve all or our problems, but with sincere will from all, these problems would at least be identified and confronted. We hope this will take place before exhaustion takes hold of us; having said that we do know that aspirations and wishes do numb the pain but would not brush away the poke of reality.

Mr. Ishmail Daniel is an official of the Assyrian Democratic Movement in Canada.

Where Does Our National Interest Lie?

William Aprim

As the struggle for power between the Iraqi major political factions continue, each trying to gain more seats and influence in the Parliament, our Assyrian (Christian) Religious, and some Political Party leaders, are persistently engaged in promoting the Kurdification process in the Northern Region of Iraq, seemingly determined to surrender our land and compromise our destiny, in exchange for selfish personal fame - and lucrative life style.

The stigma of “Divide and Rule” policy is so deeply embedded in the mind of our so-called leaders, it becomes vividly impossible to step back and revisit the tragic impact of the situation they have created – thrusting the road for freedom and peace beyond reachable means. Ultimately, leading the people with no hope, except adding increased tension, hatred and mistrust.

The deteriorated political situation creates a dire need for an immediate interceding by those able and influential non-committed intellectuals, who have (unfortunately) chosen to remain isolated and watching from the distance, in anticipation of a miracle to unfold. Admittedly, in a crisis so immensely spread, it is very important to explore every wisdom in decision making process to remove the present impasse, and defuse the tension that is currently killing our rational thinking, and distracting us from persuading our national obligations.

Caution is the virtue - This message is for all those who are visibly confronting the National Progress. By degrading, attacking and isolating the position of our brave trusted sons/daughters currently embedded on the ground – who are fully prepared and willing to die in the service of our Nation. Turning your back at time of crisis, especially in today’s tragedy facing our people, will not only affect and slow “Zowaa” mission – but, such coward activities will absolutely diminish all what we stand for as a viable Nation. What we are facing today, collectively, is a tragic situation with extremely serious consequences, that “ONLY” blind people are unable to see and comprehend.

Therefore, let us not forget to learn from our past: When the Main Power is slowed and impaired, the remaining small units of energy will be shut off, forever. No one will help us, we should depend on ourselves. Unfortunately, by ignoring the reality, we are helping our own demise.

Conducting isolated Conferences worldwide will not solve our problems – but will increase the present division and mistrust. We need to review our conscience, trust and support our elected leaders voted for during the democratic elections of 2005, in Iraq. We need leaders who care about the suffering of our people, and feel their pains – we need leaders who respect the wish of their people – we need leaders with full respect to moral and family values – leaders who respect their pledge when taking a responsibility, especially, of major National importance. Last but not least, we need “Leaders” with proven ability of protecting our people during times of war for the past 30 years. We need leaders who will never compromise our National Cause – We need leaders who respect and maintain their loyalty to their “OATH” of allegiance to the land of “ASSYRIA”. Not forgetting the importance of restoring harmony, peace, love and unity between our people.

Finally, considering all the ongoing and unforeseen sabotaging evil activities against our suffering people, it is about time for our leaders to invest proper care to find out where our “National Interest” IS !!!

May God bless our people – and save our Nation from total extinction.

Habbaniya Union School Seventh Reunion

Sargon Levi Gabriel

Habbaniya Union School, Students’ Seventh Reunion was held at Assyrian Society of Canada in Samiramis Hall. From August 24th to August 27th, 2007.

On behalf of many friends and my wife Shamiram I want to salute and express our sincere appreciation to the efforts of the organizing committee of Canada namely John Aghajan, Charles Ganja, Joe Aslan, and the young lady Rita Aghajan who organized a great and memorable reunion for all that attended. Thank you for your hard and tiresome work.

We would like to express our deepest appreciation to the volunteers who worked so hard behind the curtain, namely Michael Aghajan, Lowas Aghajan, Doris. Ganja, Emily Aslan, and many others that I do not know their names but shared in making this reunion a memorable and successful one. It was full of fun extremely well organized, fantastic, and with lots of friends. Those that missed it really missed something great

We really had a ball and it was so wonderful to see so many of my old friends and former classmates and share some delightful memories and some laugh.

What a spectacular event it turned out to be and everyone looked wonderful. It was an acclaimed success. Everyone appreciated the planning committee’s hard work.

Many thanks to Arminac Gojo’s efforts for presenting those entire photos and especially of myself taken in 1958 at Fox Studio, Baghdad.

The Niagara Falls tour was full of fun with John Aghajan playing his accordion and Michael Aghajan, with Shamiram Gabriel singing on the bus. We had a magnificent time in Niagara Falls and especially myself that spent a wonderful and peaceful time with my friend Wilson Babakhanian chatting and watching the wonderful falls.

I take my hat off to the organizing committee of Canada, the volunteers and the attendants for such attention in detail event.

Thank you all.

Gift of $5000 to Assyrian Patient Transportation Fund

Albert Davidoo

To Mr. Pierre Toulakany, President of the Assyrian Aid Society in Los Angeles:

I have lost sleep these past few nights because of my excitement to have witnessed last weekends accomplishment at the 2007 Assyrian Convention. A star was born and a future destiny for our young generation has been established.

Pierre Toulakany, President of the Assyrian Aid Society - Los Angeles Chapter.

We will never forget that night, that was full of tears of joy and of happiness. The emotions in the room were soaring because, in unity, our dream has come true. We are finally able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Not only was there team work, dedication and support by many individuals, but it was cooperative energy that has finally established the prelude to our book of what we can do for many more individuals needing our help.

I am very grateful to the Assyrian Aid Society of America and its leadership to give me the opportunity to deliver a message back in February 2007 at the dinner hosted by the Los Angeles Chapter. Our mission was to deliver a message, an idea, a dream. But today I can say that reality has touched the life of one boy, our hearts, and the possibility of many more Assyrian children. A dream to help Assyrian kids with medical need. A dream to give reason for their smile, as we all witnessed Kirrilos portray this past weekend.

Last Sunday, we celebrated the arrival of our hero, Kirrilos. Although he is only a year old, his face will stand reflected in our hearts for many centuries. He was born in the land of our King Sargon and Ashurbanipal. He is brave and strong, like his ancestor. He is the leader of Babel and Nineveh. His bright and shinning eyes tell us stories of the greatest empire on the earth and in history. This child is our salvation and he is leading us to our future destiny of love, passion and support to our beloved nation. However, his eyes are also telling us not to stop here.

Twenty years ago, Pierre, at the Presidential Banquet at the Annual Convention of the American National Federation of America in Los Angeles, you started your speech by saying, “Because we are here, we are not there! And because they are there, they are not here!” Today, I am changing your words to say, “Because we are here, they are here in our hearts and souls, and because they are there we are there in their dreams and prayers”. My dream, your dream, and their dream is the same for the love, passion and support of our beloved people. Poverty, war and lack of resources have impacted our Nation and we must remind ourselves of what we can do for them.

I am now awake and my dream has come true. For a moment we thought that we have achieved what we were searching for. But, now we have more than just an idea or just a dream. This wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for your dedication and unconditional support and faith. Where there is a purpose to serve and help, you have always been there. I have the utmost respect for you, because I know you have the same goal in mind as I do and so as all those who donate their time and money into, all for charity and for human rights, and to live. Both you and Angie have impacted so many lives, but with the notion that you’ve impacted even one is enough to share my thoughts with you and commend you.

I am very grateful that Assyrian Aid Society of America has given me this honor and privilege for creating the Assyrian Patient Transportation Fund. I commend their leadership and charitable activity during this time of poverty and war, and where much of our history remains in the eyes of our children suffering.

Thank you for allowing me to establish a committee to assist and raise additional funds to bring more Assyrian patients like Kirrilos here.

As a token of appreciation, The Davidoo family, Maureen, Allen , Anita and I would like to donate in your honor and name $5,000 for the Assyrian Patient Transportation Fund.

With brotherly love.

Clueless about Assyrians

Nancy Khammo
United Kingdom

Last April I was invited to a meeting which was held in the ‘Chapel for Peace’ in Leeds, UK. A special event was set up dedicated to prayers for peace in Iraq. This event included mass and prayers and it was where English people could meet up and discuss the events which were happening back home and to give ordinary folks who do not know any Iraqis a chance to meet up with Iraqis who attended and to ask questions and open discussions etc. There was also a section for local artists to display their work relating to peace in Iraq. Art work included cultural aspects of Iraq. I came across an interesting display and I would like to share it with you – see attached pictures. The display was made by a local artist called Pippa Julings who wanted to introduce the Assyrian factor. Naturally she carried out her homework looking into Assyrian history and culture. Pippa was amazed to learn that she was talking to an Assyrian and to meet up with my family and Assyrian friends who also came along. I guess for her it was a first that she did not have to explain the origins of her work (depending where you are in the world, Assyrians are either known or not). I enclose her work to share with all. She will be setting up a larger (20 meters long) Assyrian display for a forthcoming event at Leeds Town Hall – UK.


I am sharing this work with you as I have to admit I was amazed to see someone who was not Assyrian and who actually made the effort to introduce the Assyrian element in relation to Iraq. I have only seen the Arab, Islamic or Kurdish elements when Iraq is ever discussed. Despite all the Assyrian information on the internet, satellite and media, many ordinary people have no clue about Assyrian – so all I can say well done Pippa Julings - carry on spreading knowledge of our presence.

Musing with My Samovar
with Obelit Yadgar


The Girl on the Mountain

Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime,
hours, age, months, which are the rags of time.

– John Donne

I fell in love, from a distance, more times in the early days than I can remember. And even though the love of my life now fills me with riches I never imagined, those distant loves stay with me like signposts along my life’s course. One such remarkable love especially floats in my thoughts whenever I replay images of the old times in Urmia.

That summer afternoon on that mountaintop in Urmia, I never met the girl, but the smile she flashed at me set my mind soaring with streams of beautiful images of her. One moment we embraced in the perfumed gardens of Nineveh and the next read love poems in the smoke-filled cafes of Paris. We traveled the ancient Silk Road to Tamerlane’s court in Samarkand, and we floated on the royal barge of Ramses along the Mighty Nile.

I was young and the books I read empowered me to imagine anything I wanted, go anywhere I wanted, and with whomever I wanted. That afternoon the girl on the mountain smiled at me and caused a flood of romantic dreams in my head. That’s what dreams are, after all, especially the dreams of the young, for youth can build oceans of dreams from droplets of ideas, and create towering peaks from piles of small rock. That’s what’s so lovely about youth.

How beautiful is youth! how bright it gleams
With its illusions, aspirations, dreams!

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The girl on the mountain that summer afternoon in Urmia painted romantic images in my mind as if on a dazzling canvas, and I took them for my magnificent journey of young love. Bashful to meet her, I dreamed about her instead. I saw a face cast in honeyed cream for Sargon’s marble palace, and eyes cut from soft ebony for the jewels in his crown. Her hair draped over her shoulders like a moment from midnight. I was in love and I knew my Assyrian beauty was in love with me. I hoped she was.

Oh, what a valiant faculty is hope,
that in a mortal subject, and in a moment,
makes nothing of usurping infinity, immensity,
eternity, and of supplying its master’s indigence,
at its pleasure, with all things he can imagine or

– Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

That afternoon I had accompanied my grandmother from her village of Digala, along with bus and truck loads of people from Gulpashan, Wazirawa, Karaghach and scores of other villages, on a pilgrimage to sacrifice a bull to the Assyrian Saint Mar Shalita. The specific religious and geographical details of that afternoon escape me after all the years, but I have managed to gather some things:

Shara D’ Mar Shalita, the Feast of Mar Shalita, was celebrated on the third Wednesday of September in Dizatakya, a village some 15 miles south of the city of Urmia in northwest Iran. Mar Shalita is believed to have been one of Christ’s 70 disciples. At one time Dizatakya had a large Assyrian population. Mar Shalita’s church there, dating from the 7 th Century A.D., later was moved atop a small mountain nearby.

It is the area around the little church on that mountain where my romantic adventure took place that memorable summer afternoon. From the base of the small mountain, a narrow trail snaked up to a plateau where the church was, and to the area nearby where the sacrifice was to be made.

Urmia is a treasure of Assyrian legend and lore. According to one legend, the wide cluster of the trees on the slope below the little church marked the individual spots where each Assyrian fighter had fallen in battle against the fanatics plundering villages and massacring Christians. And near the sacrifice sight, I was astonished to see spring water streaming from a round hole in the center of a massive rock. Assyrians considered the water holy. They also noted a legend that should a container of it be placed on the ground, the water would turn bitter. I never tested that out of respect for the occasion.

If I found the sight of the poor bull being sacrificed upsetting and could not eat the cooked meat served after the slaughter – since I make no room in my life and religion for such remnants of our pagan past – soon I forgot all about it and turned my thoughts to my Assyrian beauty. For her enchanting smile made my young and innocent heart throb with endless love poems:

Love rules the court, the camp, the grove,
men below, and saints above;
For love is heaven,
and heaven is love.

– Sir Walter Scott

I have heard it say that such a love by an impressionable young boy is just a flight of fancy, a bursting well of infatuation, especially since I chose to love my Assyrian beauty from a distance. But to me it was real, as real as Mar Shalita’s spirit speaking in the warm breeze. Some even question the logic of my young love. Who cares about logic when floating on a stream of romantic love? Do romantic love and logic even belong in the same sentence? You don’t fall in love with your head because it is the logical thing to do. The heart rules over that domain, and the heart speaks in its own voice.

Besides, I presumed any attempt to meet her – though my action was innocent and honorable with all the markings of storybook chivalry – might have been taken as an affront to her family honor. I could just see her father tossing me off the mountain by my tail. Perhaps I was being over dramatic and sketching a scenario from some of the books I had read. Yet, it was long ago and tradition along with other standards dictated the code of conduct, even for impressionable youngsters swooning to love poems.

Perhaps I should have tried to meet her. She might have surprised me and asked my name and village. Digala for the summer; Tehran was my home. No matter: she was my home, and the air I breathed and the food I ate. That afternoon, under Mar Shalita’s loving eye, I was in love with the girl on the mountain, and the sun shined over Urmia.

If only I had introduced myself. Yet I have no regret for choosing not to do so, for as I followed the path down that mountain later and stayed on it in the following years of my life, I knew that I could love as deeply as anyone, and as unconditionally. Looking back, I also know that should my life repeat, I will still want my distant love with the girl on the mountain just the way it was.

‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to
have loved at all.

– Lord Alfred Tennyson.

Surfer's Corner
Community Events


Seeking Assyrian Lobbyist for Work in Brussels

Assyria Foundation – Netherlands

"Assyria Foundation - Netherlands " is searching for an enthusiastic professional candidate for the position of an Assyrian Lobbyist in Europe's capital, Brussels (Belgium.

This diplomatic position is a part of a project serving the Assyrian communities in the Iraqi Assyria, similar to the ISDP project (click here) in Washington.

She or he will report directly to the Advisory Committee and will be responsible for preparing the reports and monthly analysis.

This highly visible position will require frequent contacts on all levels - including international, members of the European Parliament and the NGO’s.

In addition, he or she will assist the Advisory Committee in ad hoc issues and projects. This is a challenging opportunity for the right candidate to work in a dynamic international environment.

Tasks and responsibilities:

Responsible for preparing reports and monthly analysis
Responsible for maintaining contact with different political groups in the European Parliament
Provides assistance to the Advisory Committee with ad hoc issues, such as request for a self-administrative region in the Nineveh Plain for the Assyrians and the Refugee problem in the middle-eastern countries.

We offer a one year contract, 32 hours a week, to start as soon as possible. 

Salary will be discussed during personal interviews.

Profile of the suitable candidate:

Bachelor or Master degrees in Political Science.
Experience preferably in an international environment
Good knowledge of the Assyrian political spectrum and different Assyrian communities (such as the Syriac Orthodox, Chaldean Catholic, Syriac Catholic and Church of the East) is a must. Knowledge of at least one Assyrian dialect is a must: both Assyrian dialects (Surayt of Tur Abdin and Sureth of Northern Iraq and Urmia) is helpful.
Strong analytical and organizational skills
Good sense of perspective, flexibility, efficiency and organisation
Accurate and a team-player
Good communication skills
Ability to meet tight deadlines with accuracy
Fluent in both written and verbal English

Are you interested?

Please send a letter with a CV to: info@assyrie.nl

Lecture in Australia:  Forgotten Saviours, Australian Humanitarian Efforts in the Near East 1915-1932

What:  A Lecture illustrated by digital presentation, accompanied by exhibition of rare books and document as part of The 10th Annual Historyweek 2007, an initiative of the History Council of NSW.

Who: St Andrew’s Cathedral School.

Where:  The Chapter House, St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney Square, Sydney (nearest corner: George and Bathurst Street).

When:  7 pm on Wednesday 19 September.

The historic sandstone Chapter House of the Anglican Archdiocese of Sydney will serve as the fitting venue for an evening of historical exploration.

This event will provide a snapshot of the incredible efforts undertaken by the Australian people in aid of the destitute in Armenia, Greece and the Near East from 1915 to the late-1930s. Cash, food and clothing were donated in support of the survivors of the Armenian, Hellenic and Assyrian Genocides.

The venue of the Chapter House of St Andrew’s (Anglican) Cathedral is most fitting as it was the Anglican Church of Australia that was one of the driving forces of this unprecedented humanitarian response to an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe.

The keynote address by Dr Panayiotis Diamadis of St Andrew’s Cathedral School will be accompanied by a unique collection of historic documents, photographs and publications.

For further information about this event please contact Dr Panayiotis Diamadis  at pdiamadis@sacs.nsw.edu.au  or  click here.

Wanted: Assistant Professor, Syriac Christianity at Princeton

Institution: Princeton University
Location: New Jersey
Date posted: 9/3/2007

History: The Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University invites applications for a tenure-track position in the language, literature, history, and culture of Syriac Christianity in the Late Antiquity. The position is to begin September 1, 2008.

Rank: Assistant Professor. Ph.D. required. The ability to teach one or two other languages of Near Eastern Christianity is desirable.

Send letter of application, curriculum vitae, and two writing samples (articles or chapters), and have three referees write directly to: Syriac Search Committee Department of Near Eastern Studies, 110 Jones Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544.

The deadline for receipt of all materials is October 31, 2007.

Princeton University is an Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity Employer. For information about applying to Princeton and how to self identify click here.

Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies (Summer, 2007)

Beth Mardutho: The Syriac Institute (http://www.bethmardutho.org) has published a new issue of its peer-reviewed academic periodical Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies (Vol. 10, No. 2). The issue can be found here.

Subscription Information to the PRINTED EDITION: The Printed Edition of Hugoye is published by Gorgias Press. Subscription information can be found on http://www.gorgiaspress.com/bookshop/c-97-hugoye-journal-of-syriac-studies-issn-1937-318x.aspx. The Subscription rate is $58 per volume at the Gorgias BiblioPerks™ Price for individuals, and $82.86 for institutions. For further subscription information, write to Gorgias Press, 46 Orris Ave., Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA. Tel. +1 732-699-0343. Fax +1 732-699-0342. E-mail: orders@gorgiaspress.com.

The new issue contains two In Memoriam articles, three papers, one brief article, four book reviews, and four project and conference reports.

New Books from Gorgias Press

For More Info
Syriac Thesaurus
Robert Payne Smith
Bar Ali (Isho): The Syriac-Arabic Glosses
Richard J. H. Gottheil
Shmona, Guria and Habib Edessan Martyrs
F C Burkitt
Grammatik der neusyrische Sprache
Theodor Noldeke
Melodies Liturgiques:  Syriennes et Chaldéennes
Jules Cécilien Jeannin

Editor's Pick


Countdown to Extinction: Assyrians Marched To Zero

Courtesy of ChicagoLife & Daily Kos
14 September 2007

Ramsin Canon

I am an Assyrian American.  I was born at Edgewater Hospital in Chicago in September of 1981.  I was raised in Chicago and Des Plaines.  Eventually we moved further into the suburbs before I moved back to Chicago when I was 17.

My people, the Assyrians, one of the oldest ethnic groups in human history, is on a countdown to extinction.  Our numbers have dwindled to between four million and seven million worldwide, dispersed by geography, religion, and petty infighting.

As this very real genocide of indifference rages, those who have sworn to protect the oppressed willfully ignore our struggle, encouraged to do so by political expedience.  

The existence of my people on Earth is a trifling inconvenience for some considerably influential people.  Our very small numbers only hastens our imminent destruction.  While academics play semantics, we tear ourselves apart.  While religious leaders grab for power, we are rapidly approaching zero.

I came to DailyKos because it is where I have, over the last four years, found the most kindred spirits.  And as an American, it is where I see the best examples of Americanism.  Belief in justice, belief in the right of equality and self-determination all mankind is given as a birthright, and an activist mentality.

I will catalogue here this countdown to extinction as it proceeds.  I will catalogue it here because so many Assyrians refuse to engage the world around us out of insecurity, ignorance, or lack of political will.  Those who do make efforts to engage the larger world community are met with hostile reactions equally from the leaders of the genocide as from the supposed guardians of freedoms and basic human rights.  The program of deleting us from the planet is centered in Iraq, but its tentacles spread across the globe.

Do you have a minute to read about the extinction of the mothers and fathers of civilization?  The tillers of the Fertile Crescent?  The intellectual forbears of algebra, geometry, optics, agriculture, academia, imperialism and warfare?

Allow me to introduce you to my race.

I am not an "Iraqi Christian."  I am not an "Arab Christian" "Kurdish Christian" "Nestorian" "Syriac Speaker" or any of the other dozens of euphemisms that those who have butchered us for a millennia have applied to us—and that the Western Powers, and their allies in the Middle East, continue to apply to us as a political favor.  I am Assyrian.  I am not a Chaldean, Aramaean, Jacobite, or anything else.  These are various identities used by people who are Assyrian.  In the language we speak—what academics call "neo-Aramaic" but what is Assyrian—we call ourselves "Atoraya."  Arabs corrupted it to "Ashurie" and Greeks to "Assurie".  Assyrians are native to Mesopotamia, and have ancestral lands in pockets of what are now called "Iraq", "Iran", "Turkey", and "Syria."

Assyrians are, by cultural tradition and history, Christians.  We are proud that we are considered the first non-Jews to become Christian, in the time of Jesus.  The apostle called Thomas, or Doubting Thomas, whom we call Mar Toma, or Saint Thomas, was the father of our Church who later proselytized India.  

There are four primary churches in the Assyrian nation, which is the cause of no little infighting.  There is the ancient Holy Apostolic Church of the East, often mistakenly called the "Nestorian Church".  We call it the Eita d’Medinkha.  That means "Church of the East."  As we hurtle towards extinction, the patriarch of this Church, in which I was baptized—Mar Dinkha IV—is locked in a legal and moral struggle with one of his bishops, Mar Bawai Soro.  The rift developed when this Bishop expressed publicly his support for a political party, Zowaa Demokratiya Atoraya, the Assyrian Democratic Movement.  We call it Zowaa for short.  Zowaa is the primary Assyrian political player in Iraq, and its General Secretary, Yonadam Kanna, is the sole Assyrian Member of Parliament.  So within the "Church-of-the-East Assyrians" there is a rift, particularly in the American Diaspora, between "pro-Mar Dinkha" and "pro-Mar Bawai" factions.  This rift is essentially meaningless—a fight between the Chiefs, really, not the Indians—but it has made it impossible to unify political leadership.  For a glimpse into this petty and ridiculous fight, take a scan of this.  These "Eastern" Assyrians settled largely in Chicago, central California (Modesto and Turlock), Australia, Canada (Windsor and Toronto) and the UK.

A splinter from the Church of the East, that still uses the Julian calendar, has a sizable following.

There is a Catholic rite of Assyrians, called by Rome the Chaldean Church.  Chaldeans comprise a large majority of Assyrians, but often self-identify as Chaldeans rather than Assyrians—this is in large part due to the fealty of Roman Catholic Assyrians to their Church leaders, who for their own reasons, insist on a separate "Chaldean" identity, despite a clear and explicit common language, common traditions, common physical features, common names, etc.  This is troublesome because Chaldeans are a huge population—especially around Detroit and southern California.

There is a "Western" group of Assyrians, who are Orthodox—their church is Jacobite.  The Assyrian spoken by the Merawaio ("Western") Assyrians is closer to the Akkadian origins of the language and takes some listening to understand for Eastern Assyrians—imagine a workingclass Englishman landing in a Creole neighborhood, and you get the idea.  The Western Assyrians were hard hit by a series of massacres in Turkey in the early part of the 20th Century (what we refer to as "Seyfo").  They have resettled in the Eastern United States (Massachusetts and New Jersey primarily), the Netherlands, and Sweden, where they founded a successful soccer club ("Assyriska").  They often self-identify as "Suryoyo", with a similar rationalization as Chaldeans.

There are also segments of Assyrian dispersed across various Evangelical and Protestant sects.

There is a region in Iraq we call "Dishta d’Nineveh."  That means, "The Nineveh Plains."  It is located northwest of the city of Mosul, in what is unofficially referred to as Kurdistan.  Certainly, the Kurds in their own fight for self-determination are determined to Kurdify the area, buying up properties and ejecting Assyrians and otherwise terrorizing the Assyrian population—while, of course, building churches, to demonstrate to the international community that they are friendly to Christians.

Building churches is nice.  Building homes for our religious leaders and parading their handpicked Kurdish Democratic Party Assyrian houseboys—such as Sargis Aghajan, a KDP official of Assyrian extraction—is very nice, in a meaningless, public relations sense.  But it is part of an effort to stress our religion over our ethnicity, because the existence of a separate ethnic group in the Nineveh Plains is problematic for them.  They want the land, and so long as we are there our claim is superior to their own.

Despite the occasional mention in a speech—typically modified by "Christian" which is irrelevant—Assyrians, and our imminent destruction, has been left out of the conversation about Iraq.  Despite a mountain of evidence that the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has a policy of Kurdification, we are ignored by the media (who prefer a good "Muslims v. Christians" narrative), shrugged off by governments, and shunned by human rights groups.

The Kurds are a great ally to the West because they are well organized and can effectively govern their region.  The history of Assyrian and Kurdish relations is complex and varied.  They were alternately allied and at odds, and bloodshed common.  But their superior numbers meant that with the fall of Saddam, Assyrians would more or less be at their mercy, particularly due to their support from the West.  The Kurds true goal, of course, is a greater Kurdistan—but Turkey, a key NATO ally, will never stand for that, since much of what are considered by Kurds their ancestral lands are really in Turkey, not Iraq.  Is Turkey a natural ally for Assyrians?  You’d think so, except for the uncomfortable reality that that Armenian genocide they’re always denying?  Well, they also wiped out well over half of the Assyrians on Earth with that massacre.  

So the Kurds continue to "Kurdify" Assyrian lands, terrorizing Assyrian families while simultaneously passing nominally pro-"Christian" programs.  For every school or daycare built by truly Assyrian organization, the Kurds will build a competing one.  This is to ensure Assyrian dependence on Kurdish money.  Groups like the Assyrian Student Union (Khoyada d’Yolapeh Atorayeh) struggle to remain independent.  They recently had to discontinue their publication, Mezaltaa, for lack of funds.  The Assyria Foundation is collecting money to help them restart it: Assyria Foundation .  (Full disclosure: my sister founded and operates Assyria Foundation with some other Assyrians.  One hundred percent of donations go to Iraq).

Once we are completely obliterated from the lands of our ancestors, it is only a matter of time before the Diaspora swallows us completely.

I have a tattoo on my right arm.  It reads, in Assyrian script, "Atra."  That means "country."

We have none.  We are rootless.  I inked it into my flesh to make it real someplace on Earth.

Please come back and join me as the people of my flesh and blood are marched to zero.

More reading:

US Commission on International Religious Freedom (ugh) Letter to Condi Rice
http://aina.org/ (Assyrian International News Agency)
http://zindamagazine.com/ (Zinda Magazine – Zinda means "The Spark")
http://assyriafoundation.org/ (Assyria Foundation, still in development)

Who’s Missing in the Middle East?

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman
Courtesy of The Family Security Foundation, Inc.
14 September 2007

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman

A group of Swedish students spent their summer vacation in the Palestinian territory “bearing witness” against “Israeli oppression.” While they and so many other well-intentioned Leftists vent their indignation against Israel and embrace the poor Palestinian victims, other indignities are taking place without their notice. Christian Arabs (including Christian Palestinians) are vanishing. While all Palestinians (and their friends) believe that their enemy is Israel, they are like victims of Stockholm Syndrome, who identify with their actual tormentors.

In Iraq, where Christians (and formerly Jews) have lived for millennia, they are being driven out. The Jews, 750,000 of them, were expelled from the Arab world (and some lynched) in 1954. Now it is Christian Arabs – including Palestinians – who are being hunted down and either killed or driven out. Assyrian Christians in Iraq are being given four choices: change their religion, leave the country, pay the jeziya (a tax levied on non-Muslims), or line up and be shot.

The Christian population in Muslim lands has plunged from 12 million to 2 million in the past decade alone. Lebanon, once a majority Christian country, has become two-thirds Muslim. In Jerusalem, where only 12,000 Christians remain, is facing the possibility that there will be no Christians “in the homeland of Jesus Christ himself” according to the Greek Orthodox archbishop in Jerusalem. In Bethlehem, Christians were once 85%, down now to 20%. In Egypt, Christians were once 10% of the population; now they are 6%. “The flight of Christians out of these areas is similar to the hunt for Jews,” according to Egyptian author Magdi Allam.

The situation in Iraq is particularly painful. Before the war, there were Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, some Armenians, and Palestinians who were finding work there. They comprised 1.2 million of the country’s 25 million people. Now half of them have fled Iraq, and most of the rest have fled to Kurdistan or elsewhere in the country. The Roman Catholic relief organization claims that there are only 25,000 Christians left in Iraq, and over half of the 1.7 million Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria are Christian.

What is sad about this is that, in a way, the Christians, particularly the Palestinian Christians, have brought this on themselves. They have made common cause with their Muslim neighbors (and persecutors) and never acknowledged their persecution until European colonization unmasked the problem. Under European colonization and mandates, for the first time since the Muslim conquest, minorities were given status under the law that was not accorded them under sharia law. The very country of Lebanon was carved out specifically to give persecuted Christians a place of their own in the otherwise hostile Middle East.

Palestinians have permitted themselves to be pawns of Militant Islam – and now Muslim, Secular, and Christian Palestinians are all suffering. Palestinians who worked in Kuwait cheered when Saddam Hussein invaded that country – and were, of course, kicked out when Kuwait was restored. Now they are being kicked out of Iraq, where they went for refuge. It is a dirty little secret that other Muslim countries detest and mistreat Palestinians who go there for work. The Saudis have used and abused Palestinian talents and Egyptians are none too hospitable either. The only Arab country that has given refuge and citizenship to them is Jordan, and some Jordanians rue this decision.

When Pope Benedict noted a medieval scholar’s critical comments on the Prophet Muhammad, furious Palestinians went after the “usual suspects”: their Christian brothers. They torched at least six churches on the West Bank to show their displeasure. Perhaps 3,000 Christians remain in Gaza, and they are finding their Muslim brothers not very brotherly. Hamas is after them, and will not stop until they are dead or gone.

Despite what should be obvious to Christian Arabs that their existence in the Muslim world has always been either tenuous or downright dangerous, they still identify with their tormentors and condemn the usual Middle East demons, Israel and the U.S.

This whole issue is just a reminder that the Middle East was once Christian and Jewish – and that over time these populations dwindled to minorities. Did their ancestors convert out of love of Islam or out of fear of the consequences if they did not? And is it time for those who remain to know who is and has always been their enemy?

Editor Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author.  You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or www.globalthink.net.  This article first appeared in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Wedding celebration in Iraq has a Lot in common with American Event

Allan Collins
Courtesy of Muskogee Phoenix
5 September 2007

Mr. Allan Collins has worked in Iraq for the past three years. He is an independent contractor to the U.S. government, assisting the Iraqi government in Arbil.

Recently, we were invited to an Assyrian wedding being held locally.

Our only connection to the wedding party was the fact that the maintenance guy at our compound is related to the groom. Some of his relatives came to see him and asked if we’d be interested in coming to the wedding.

Since learning about the culture here interests me and we didn’t have anything else to do, I said sure, it sounds like fun.

I have been to a couple of Kurdish weddings, so I sort of knew what to expect.

Weddings here are very similar to what we do, with a few exceptions based on the religion.

At all of the weddings, the bride and groom have already been married earlier in the day in a private ceremony. The wedding is what we would call a reception. The differences are that alcohol may or may not be served, depending on how religious the families are. And the men and women dance with each other.

We went into the hall and right away everyone was looking at us. Our escort got us to the head table, which is always a little embarrassing to me. I told him before we went in that we didn’t need to be treated like royalty, and he was like, “Yeah, yeah, I hear you.”

And then we went straight to the head table where they had to make room for us.

Since this was an Assyrian wedding, alcohol was served. Almost as soon as we sat down, they started bringing out beer and whiskey. And then the music started, and most people got up and did a sort of line dance around the room.

I’ve tried this line dance at several functions we’ve been to, and I’m telling you, it’s hard.

It looks really simple and any idiot should be able to pick it up in about 10 seconds, but I’ve yet to get it.

Not to make excuses, but I’m reasonably sure the timing is just a little bit different than we’re used to. It’s really just a one, two, slide/step, three, four movement, but none of us have ever got it down.

But we always get lots of encouragement from the locals, and they are good sports about it.

Allan Collins

My guess is they are thinking, “What a bunch of idiots,” as we probably look like ostriches with broken legs flopping around.

While most of the people were dancing, we were “holding court” at the head table with all of the people who wanted to meet the Americans. We met many interesting people and had our pictures taken a couple of hundred times.

Most of the people were dressed in Assyrian wedding dress, which is quite colorful for both the men and women. Most of the women had lots of sequins on their dresses, and the men’s clothing was done in very bright shades of blue and red.

As with most wedding receptions, this one was just going good when we left at 1:30 a.m.

Our escort told us that this was only the beginning of three days worth of celebration. Both the bride and groom’s village will have two days of parties.

Some things are the same no matter where you go.

Assyrians at Their Best


Assyrian Student Wins Gold in Science Fair Competition

Rita Dawod-Younan

Rita Larsa Dawod-Younan, an Assyrian student attending Lincoln Hall Middle School in Lincolnwood, Illinois, won an invitation to the State of Illinois Science Fair for the second time this year.  

An eighth-grader she again for the second time won the Gold Award, competing not only with children her own age but high schoolers as well.  

Rita received the Gold Award and the honor of being selected “Best In Category” in the Environmental Science category.  Her category had one of the most participants in this year's competition. 

Rita beat out the best of the best Science enthusiasts in the state of Illinois and was one of only two students in her school (Lincoln Hall in Lincolnwood) to win the award.

One judge told Rita that her project would have qualified to compete in the international competition…but only high schoolers qualify.

Rita’s project: ‘Is Water Quality Affected by the Presence of Lily Pads? Environmental Science.’

First Assyrian Woman on Game Show, Wheel of Fortune

Lana Youash is a guest on Wheel of Fortune to be aired on 25 September.

(ZNDA: Los Angeles) Lana Youash, a 26 year-old entertainment lawyer, a graduate of Pepperdine University School of Law, has earned a spot on ABC Network’s game-show "Wheel of Fortune".  The segment which will include Ms. Youash will be aired on 25 September 2007.

Fans of Wheel of Fortune know the show as a game challenging people’s knowledge and wit in solving word puzzles and combining that with a solid dose of luck. What most people are unaware of is the grueling and extremely competitive process to be ultimately selected as a contestant. Lana Youash competed against 2,000 others for her spot, making her way through tough competition to get onto the show.

Lana, living in Los Angeles, is no stranger to competition and success. She works as an entertainment lawyer at a Beverly Hills law firm.

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

Fred Aprim California
Looking for info?  Use our simple search engine below
to find information within 3 popular Assyrian websites.
Jacklin Bejan California
Dr. Matay Beth Arsan Holland
Mazin Enwiya Chicago
Velma Toma California

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