15 Shvadt 6757
Volume XIII

Issue 20

4 February 2008

1- 8 6 6 - M Y  Z I N D A

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Click on Blue Links in the left column to jump to that section within this issue.  Most blue links are hyperlinked to other sections or URLs.
Zinda SayZinda Says
  Our Language is Dying ! Wilfred Bet-Alkhas
  My Art, My People Paul Batou
  Christian Churches Attacked in Mosul and Kirkuk
Imams Condemn Bombings of Iraqi Churches
Assyrian Revival Stirs in Turkey
Iraqi Refugees in Turkey Seek Move to US
Mess O’Potamian Art
Ancient Church Awaits Restoration in Iraq Desert
  Police in Sweden Arrests Suspect in Killing of Prof Fuat Deniz
Situation of Iraqi Assyrian Christians Discussed in Nürnberg
Assyria Council of Europe Condemns Iraq Church Bombings
Executive Board Elected by Assoc. Assyrophile de France
Trial Goes on Against Accused Assyrian-Iraqi Spy
Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks Commemorate Dink & Deniz
Assyrian General Conference Statement on New Iraqi Flag
ACAD Declaration of Intention
Baghdad Museum Unveils 2 Restored Halls
When There’s Persecution, What Can You Do?
Assyrians Threatened in Their Homeland
Diqlat School to Return to Fairfield, Australia
Assyrian Civic Club Lawsuit Resolved
Assyrian-American FBI Agent Subject of "60-Minute" Segment
Assyrian Student Ranks 16th in Australia's Mathletics Competition
Assyrian Doctor Noted for Primary Care Practice in Turlock
  When Are We Going to Learn Our Lesson from the Past?
Take the Power Back!
Romeo Hakkari's Statement on AKI
Our Letter to U.S. Reps for Supporting Efforts in Washington
On Mikhael K. Pius letter to Zinda
ACSSU’s Third Annual Christmas Dinner
ARAM Conference on Mandeans in September in London

Click to Learn More :

  Backgammon Obelit Yadgar
  Raabi Koorosh's Assyrian Language Book goes Online
San Jose's Atour TV Viewable on the Internet
Qenneshrin Party in Södertälje
Assyrian Youth Federation Volleyball Tournament in Holland
Want to Be in Azadoota's New Video?
Zinda Recommendations from Gorgias Press

Sinan Antoon
A Genuine Consent to Pride
Is Iraqi Kurdistan a Good Ally?
Chaldean Immigrants, Asset to [Detroit] Metropolitan Area
Chaldeans and Assyrians: Reading the Compass

Nuri Kino
Stan Shabaz
Shamirum Benjamin
Michael Rubin
The Oakland Press
Bishop Sarhad Yawsip Jammo
  Assyrians Without Borders
AAS of Iraq Distributes Assistance to Assyrian Villages in Iraq
Afram Barryakoub
Napoleon G. Patto

Since Our Last Issue
A Chronology of Important Events

Sunday, 6 January Three churches, a Dominican nuns' monastery and a Chaldean nun's orphanage in Mosul are targeted by militants using explosive devices.  In Baghdad, 2 churches and a convent are bombed.
Tuesday, 8 January

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told the Vatican's ambassador that his government was doing its best to protect Iraq's Christians and that all Iraq's religious sects were equally affected by violence.

The number of Iraqis fleeing their homeland has declined in recent months, primarily because neighboring countries refuse to let them enter, the U.N. refugee agency said.  An estimated 2 million Iraqis are living outside their country, most of them having left since the U.S.-led invasion nearly five years ago, according to UNHCR.

Wednesday, 9 January

Six churches are bombed in Kirkuk, Iraq.

U.S. Major General Mark P. Hertling says that in his area of control - Diyala, Salahuddin, Kirkuk and Nineveh provinces - 24,000 American soldiers, 50,000 members of the Iraq army and 80,000 Iraqi police are taking part in the offensive against al Qaeda in Iraq.

Friday, 11 January

For the first time in decades, snow falls across Baghdad and other parts of Iraq.  The public calls this a "sign from Heaven for the bombing of Christian churches".

Imams in the city of Kirkuk condemn the bombing of the Christian churches.

Saturday, 12 January The renovation of the Assyrian Hall of the Baghdad National Museum is completed.
Wednesday, 16 January The Diqlat School in Fairfield announces its re-opening after 15 years of silence in the next academic school year.
Thursday, 17 January

The Assyrian Catholic Apostolic Diocese, led by Mar Bawai Soro, declares its intention to “enter full communion with the Catholic Church” and “to resume church unity with the Chaldean Catholic Church.”

A Chaldean church is bombed in Mosul.

Friday, 18 January

A 42-year-old cousin of Prof Fuat Deniz admits to stabbing him on 11 December 2007 in Orbero, Sweden.

A 2-day conference organized by the Solidarity Group for Tur Abdin & North Iraq begins in Nürnberg, Germany on the plight of Iraqi Christians and the challenges faced by the international community.

Sunday, 27 January FBI Special Agent George Piro, an Assyrian-American, is featured in the news program "60 Minutes" about his 7-month interrogation of Saddam Hussein (click here- PDF). 
Wednesday, 30 January

A former Iraqi intelligence officer substantiated documents accusing William Shaoul Benjamin of spying on the Assyrians in the United States for the former Baathist government of Saddam Hussein.

A 5-year lawsuit by a former president of the Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock, Mr. Ramin Odisho, against 8 other officers came to an end with an undisclosed settlement.

Zinda Says
An Editorial by Wilfred Bet-Alkhas


Our Language is Dying!

Declaring War on the Extinction of Our Most Precious National Treasure

When you speak with your parents, husband, wife, children, brothers or sisters in what language do you express your deepest, most personal thoughts? German? English? Russian? Arabic?  Do you find it difficult to express yourself in your mother tongue?  What is your mother tongue?

I begin the first issue in 2008 not discussing the war in Iraq, the refugees in Syria and Jordan, or any of a dozen other similar politico-economic issues facing our people today.  Instead I want to focus on a topic quite dear to my heart - the subject of our language and its slow extinction due to disuse and misuse.

Can you speak a modern form of the Aramaic language fluently?  Can you read its script?  Which form - Eastern or Western? or Both?  There are no statistics (other than this week's unscientific Zinda poll) that show the percentage of speakers of Aramaic language.  But I can assure our readers that the percentage of those who fluently speak, read, and write a form of Aramaic language is less than 10 percent of our population.  Worse yet, those of us who speak and read in both Eastern and Western Aramaic most likely make up less than two percent of our population - worldwide.

Our language is dying!

Aramaic language is the second oldest continuously spoken and written language of the world after Chinese. It was the lingua franca of the Middle East for centuries.  But today, for every 500 speakers of Chinese language there is only 1 Aramaic speaker. Aramaic has come dangerously close to extinction as a living spoken and written language. 

Aramaic contributed to world culture from Mongolia to Egypt.  It provided the basis for alphabetic writing in much of Asia at various historical periods. Adaptation of the Aramaic alphabet made possible the writing of vernacular languages among people of China, Mongolia, the Indian subcontinent and the Iranian cultural area.  The Achamenid kings of Persia adopted Aramaic as the language of their empire.  In fact, the word "Hakham-Anesh" referring to the dynasty of Kings Cyrus, Darius and Xerxes, is the Aramaic word for "Wise Men".

Aramaic was the crucial transition from the Akkadian cuneiform to the alphabetic writing that ultimately culminated in the writing systems of Syriac, Arabic, and Hebrew.  These languages were the basis of spiritual, historical, medicinal, and scientific knowledge in western Asia, Europe, and beyond.

Today Aramaic as a living language is on the verge of collapse. Ten years ago, for example, the last speaker of Mlahsô, Ibrahim Hanna, died in 1998 in the Syrian city of Qamishli. Mlahsô was a dialect of the western Syriac language.  Other dialects of Syriac (both eastern and western) will slowly disappear if nothing is done in the near future.

Scholars refer to our form of the Aramaic language as Syriac or leshana soryaya (for eastern speakers in Iraq and Iran) and leshono soryoyo (for western speakers in Turkey and Syria).  Not to confuse this with the language of "Syria", most Assyrians call this language leshana Atoraya/Atoroyo or Ashuraya/Ashuroyo.

Even in Iraq, its historic home region, the past two decades, and especially the period since 2003, have seen the scattering and diminishing of the compact Assyrian population (including church communities Chaldean, Syriac and Church of the East) that supports the maintenance of the language.

A resolution was recently adopted by the Foundation for Endangered Languages at its Kuala Lumpur conference which convened at the University of Malaya.  The resolution was presented by Dr. Eden Naby, a name familiar to the scholars in the modern Assyrian studies and the readers of Zinda. The Resolution distills the paper she presented at the conference (click here for full text in PDF).

The Resolution on Aramaic as a Heritage Language as adopted at the XIth international conference of the Foundation for Endangered Languages – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – on 28 October 2007 reads as follows:

Whereas ..

  1. Aramaic is one of the very oldest continuously written and spoken languages of the world,
  2. Aramaic has historically contributed greatly to the civilizations of the Near and Middle East,
  3. Aramaic is still a living language in several countries but now seriously endangered,
  4. Conditions in the present and recent past make international support necessary for the future vitality of Aramaic,

It is hereby resolved that Aramaic  be recommended as a World Heritage Language.

With the threat of greater dispersion of the once concentrated Aramaic-speaking communities from the Middle East, it is imperative that serious, large-scale initiatives be studied and implemented to widen the use of the Aramaic language as a living ethnic, religious, and world cultural identity.

This requires a world-wide effort, promulgated by the centers of higher learning and the governments in whose territories live Aramaic-speaking populations.  However, the greatest impetus to this global effort must come from the Assyrians, who use Aramaic in their daily conversations, sacred texts and liturgies, and nowadays on the Internet.

Groups such as the Education Committee of the Assyrian American Association of San Jose (see SURFERS CORNER) are working on small, but effective, projects to re-print instructional books in the Assyrian (Neo-Aramaic) language. Last month Ms. Carmen Lazar, the principal of the Diqlat Assyrian School announced that her school will return to teaching students after 15 years of absence.

In the last few years the greatest corporate contribution to the emergence of the Aramaic as a literary and scholarly language has been made by the Gorgias Press in New Jersey.  Hundreds of rare and extremely old Aramaic books and manuscripts have already been re-printed and sold to the universities, scholars, and linguists.  Just last week I began reading "The Book of Ethics of Bar Hebraeus (Bar Avraya)" by Paul Bejan, recently published by Gorgias Press.  This book, entirely in Aramaic, was first written in 1898 - exactly 110 years ago.

In France, two gentlemen - Mr. Jean-Paul Sliva and Mr. Olivier Lauffenburger, have set up an online dictionary to collect Aramaic words and their definitions by volunteers - like yourself - from around the world (click here).

Thousands of Assyrian students in north Iraq everyday attend classes in mathematics, sciences, literature, history, and geography completely taught in Syriac, Arabic, and Kurdish.

In December Zinda Magazine received copies of two fine publications from Ankawa, North Iraq:  "Targmana" published in Dohuk by the Oriental Cultural Center and "Simtha", a quarterly journal dealing with the Syriac language and literature.  For a "Assyrian language buff" like myself such books and publications are the ornaments of soul.

Interest among the youth in the Aramaic language is demonstrated in various forms of pop culture:  Aramaic alphabet characters, words, phrases, and prayers tattooed on arms, neck, back, and feet, jewelry designed in the form of Aramaic letters , and digital posters of the Aramaic letters adorning exhibition halls.   The Assyrian Preservation Society sends daily text-messages with the "Assyrian Word of the Day".  There are websites that teach our language and sites that allow free download of Syriac fonts for your word processor There are websites dedicated to the teaching of the Aramaic language (click here).

These efforts are significant, but isolated and disconnected. Preservation of the Aramaic language requires huge funding, long-term planning, concerted international effort among the institutions of higher learning and governments, scholars and hundreds of volunteers around the world.

Today there are 6700 living languages.  Of these only 78 are literary languages.  Our language of Aramaic (Syriac or Neo-Aramaic, which I personally prefer to simply call Assyrian) is one of these 78 literary languages.  In just a few minutes even I , with a non-collegiate education in our language, can demonstrate the structural strength and literary beauty of our language to any one familiar with the grammatical nuances of another literal language.  It would be a calamity if such a magnificent invention of the oldest civilization in the world be lost to the pages of history.

I remind my students of the Assyrian language that Aramaic is more than a language - it is an experience stretching more than 5000 thousand years, vocalized in the form of words and phrases.   Simply put, it is what differentiates us - the Assyrians - from everyone else.  It is indeed our most precious national treasure.

The "War Against Extinction" begins at home and with ourselves.  With every new word learned, a new full sentence spoken in our own language with our family members and friends, and every sentence read in a book or magazine we move our language one step away from extinction.  Please become active in preserving our language today!  Organize Aramaic language classes at home, in your church, and in your civic clubs.  Buy books and CDs that are written and performed in Aramaic - even if you cannot read or understand the language.

On a larger scale, our national heritage will forever disappear if we do not build schools in the Diaspora:  at least one in every city.  We can rebuild (and we will) our destroyed towns, villages, and churches; however, bringing back a language after its extinction is nearly impossible.   These days even our church hymns are re-written in English, Turkish, and Arabic for the convenience of the church parishioners unable to read Aramaic.  With one school in Sydney and another in Los Angeles we cannot prevent the extinction of the Aramaic language.   Despite what the priests tell us, Aramaic is not just the language of the scriptures; it is the language of love, music, science, philosophy, political discourse, plays, musicals, love songs, and thousands of pre-Christian hymns.  Before Jesus Christ spoke Aramaic, our kings declared wars and enacted laws in Aramaic.  Before Mar Aprim wrote his prayers in Aramaic, Mesopotamian children sang lyrics adoring the Assyrian and Babylonian gods and goddesses in Aramaic.

Team up in your city and begin projects to finance the construction of non-denominational Assyrian schools for grades pre-school to 6 or 12.   This may take 1, 2, 5 or 10 years; but let our generation take this first important step.  Let us build tens of schools for every school or church destroyed in our homeland.

Today, the Internet is our best weapon to wage war against extinction.  Here are a few projects to contemplate:

  1. Teaching of Aramaic language from basic lessons to complex grammatical discourses
  2. Recording of our stories and oral history in various dialects from hundreds of villages and speakers in the Diaspora.
  3. Online software for children to learn Aramaic
  4. An online university teaching language, history, theology, music and arts in Aramaic
  5. Digitizing personal letters or family documents and placing them online for research and further investigation
  6. Designing borders for personal and work documents using Aramaic letters
  7. Online forums to discuss Aramaic language, its development, grammar, and use

In the coming weeks Zinda will announce the launch of several projects, in collaboration with other institutions and companies, in pushing forward with the War Against Extinction of the Aramaic Langauge.   If you as an individual, company, church, club, or a group of concerned individuals are interested in joining this effort, contact zCrew in thte coming weeks.  Our language is incredibly beautiful, rich, colorful, flexible, precise, scalable, and romantic (yes, romantic).  Use it - every day!  Let our generation be the one that not only saved our language from extinction, rather revived it to its past glory - one speaker at a time.

The Lighthouse
Feature Article


My Art, My People

Paul Batou

Assyrian artist, Paul Batou sitting before his artwork in California.

My journey as an artist began during my academic study in pharmacy school. At that time, religion, the gypsy culture, writing poems, painting, and playing classical guitar become my passions and my escape from the radical society. Those hobbies provided me with the ideals that I live by and the freedom to express my self among people who fear God and pray all day.

The turning point in my search for that freedom was when I started reading and painting the Epic of Gilgamesh. That story had a major impact in my thinking as a human and as an artist. Gilgamesh, and his long journey and search for life, love, and freedom opened my mind and caused me to look back to my roots as a Mesopotamian. I became more determine to love my land and my people, and to fully understand that this is my Iraq, not owned by Shiites, Sunnis, or Kurds.

After my graduation from pharmacy school, I was drafted into the army for five years in the Iran–Iraq War. During that time, I started reading the Bible, searching for any answer to the human suffering. I wanted to further understand God, whom I felt had abandoned me and my people after all the prayers, fasting, and sacrifice. Many times I would see his image or hear his voice through the crying of wounded soldiers, or over the sky when I looked up while returning home. I realized that he never left me alone, but I did not fully understand him. He empowered me with all the knowledge to survive, it is my decision to start and end the war, to be rich or poor, free or captive.

In my view, God is not always generous. I can think, my eyes can see and analyze, and my hand can produce. I stopped looking to the sky asking for help. Instead, I am now searching within me and around the big universe. I feel that I have a duty to protect the air I breath, a duty to keep the water clear and pure, a duty to plant trees, flowers, and grass in a rich soil to create beauty on earth. I must love the birds in the sky, and the animals in the wilderness. I wish to gain power and knowledge to share with all humans so they can live in peace.

Assyrian Celebration  by Paul Batou.  "On my canvas, the black, red and white are in harmony just like my soul."

Freedom was the driving force for my decision to leave Iraq. In 1989 I moved with my family to Athens, Greece and eventually the United States. In the States I noticed that our people are shattered between Chaldean, Assyrian, Syriac, Orthodox, and Catholic. I asked myself, were do I belong? My father only told me,“ Iraq is your homeland; it was called Mesopotamia before, BET NAHRIN!” Since childhood, this phrase still rings in my ear.

The current war in Iraq added more pressure for the native Iraqi-Christians to reclaim their ethnic group. I found myself attempting to unite all the Christians of Iraq as one, the same way I would mix different colors to create one desire for my paintings. This was not easy at all. One day I looked at my colors in their different tubes and I told myself, “Why bother? Let them be like that, they are different like my colors. They are beautiful separately, but I also understand that by mixing I will create a new, beautiful and unique color.”

I am one artist among many. I am Sumerian when I read the Epic of Gilgamesh, I am Chaldean and Babylonian when I look at the Gate of Ishtar, I am Assyrian when I think of Ashur and listen to Evin Aghasi, I am Syriac when remembering the stories of the Genocide, and I am a Catholic or Orthodox when I read Jesus’ teachings of love.

My colors are united in one art piece reflecting the tone of the Earth, the language of the universe, the cries and pain of the oppressed people. On my canvas, the black, red and white are in harmony just like my soul. I would love my people to achieve that kind of unity.

Celebrate the art.

Good Morning Assyria
News From the Homeland


Christian Churches Attacked in Mosul and Kirkuk

Courtesy of the AsiaNews (9 Jan) &Church Times (11 Jan)

(ZNDA: Kirkuk)  The Eastern Orthodox Christmas, celebrated by Assyrians who follow the Julian Calendar (Ancient Assyrian Church of the East and those living in Russia) witnessed a number of coordinated attacks on church property in Baghdad and Mosul.

6 January

On Sunday, 6 January, three churches and a Dominican nuns' monastery and a Chaldean nun's orphanage in Mosul were targeted by militants using explosive devices.  Bombs exploded at the Chaldean Churches of Mar Polous (St. Paul), the Chaldean Church of the Holy Spirit, and the Assyrian Church of Mart Maryam (St. Mary the Virgin).  Six people were injured.

A man looking at an automobile destroyed in a car bomb attack on a nearby church in Kirkuk.

In Baghdad, a small bomb damaged a doorway to Mar Giwargis (St George’s) Chaldean Church in Qadir, a mortar bomb damaged a Greek Orthodox Church in Saha Al Taharriyat, and a bomb was targeted at a Chaldean convent in the Zafaraniyeh neighborhood.

Iraqi leaders, both Muslim and Christian, condemned the attacks.

The Vice-President, Tariq al-Hashemi, said they had “changed [Christians’] joy to sadness and anxiety”.

The attacks in Mosul were confirmed by Chaldean Archbishop, Faraj Raho on Sunday.

9 January

On Wednesday, 9 January, six Christian churches were bombed in Kirkuk, Iraq.  Each of the 3 attacks was timed 2 minutes AND 10 minutes apart.  Car bombs exploded near the Chaldean Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, the Syrian Catholic Church of Mar Aprim (St. Ephrem), and another church.

The explosions occurred around 4 pm local time in Kirkuk.  This was the first time Kirkuk’s Christian community experiences this kind of violence.  Several buildings, homes, and automobiles were also damaged during these attacks.

17 January

On 17 January, a car bomb exploded outside a church in Mosul slightly injuring two people, police said.

The booby-trapped car was discovered parked outside the Al Tahira Chaldean church in the Al Shiffa district of the city and detonated as security personnel evacuated the area.

A police officer and a little girl were wounded in the blast.  No worshippers were in the church at the time of the explosion.  The blast caused material damage to the external wall of the church and smashed its windows and doors.  This church was before targeted by attacks in 2004.

According to the Assyrian International News Agency some 40 churches in Iraq have been bombed since 26 June, 2004 (click here).

Imams Condemn Bombings of Iraqi Churches

Courtesy of the Catholic World News
11 January 2008

(ZNDA: Kirkuk)  Iraqi Muslim leaders in the city of Kirkuk have condemned the car-bombing of Christian churches, saying that an attack on Christians is an offense against Islam.

During Friday prayer services in Kirkuk, imams condemned the January 9 attacks that had struck the city's Chaldean Catholic cathedral and a Syrian Orthodox Church. The blasts-- which came as a shock to Christians, who had not previously been the targets of violence in the northern city-- were "contrary to Islam," the Muslim leaders said.

Acknowledging the friendship that has marked Christian-Muslim relations in the city, the mosque officials said that "attacks of this nature are alien to region." Several Muslim leaders made personal visits to Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk to express their concern and their solidarity.

Imams in Kirkuk, visiting the residence of Mar Louis Sako,the Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk, strongly condemned the bombings of the Christian churches on 9 January.

Some Muslim religious leaders, “shocked and saddened” by the event, recalled the “positive role” carried out by the Chaldean archdiocese in promoting and maintaining dialogue between the city’s diverse ethnic groups and the “respect” which Christians show them during the holy month of Ramadan.

The Imam’s underlined with great force that “attacks of this nature are alien to religion” moreover they do “grave damage to Islam itself”.

Wednesday’s car bombs caused only material damage, which has already been repaired. Four private homes were also damaged in the explosions, all belonging to Muslim families. The Archdiocese contributed to their restoration.

On this same day it was snowing in Iraq, an event that the public believes is a "sign from Heaven for the bombings of the Christian churches".  Others called it an omen of peace.  This was the first snow in Baghdad in any living person's memory.

Assyrian Revival Stirs in Turkey

Courtesy of BBC News
28 December 2007
By Sarah Rainsford

Aziz and Semso Demir dreamed of returning from Europe.

(ZNDA: Tur-Abdin)  At an early morning Sunday church service, chanting in Aramaic fills the air together with the sweet scent of incense.

Men pray standing, their palms open to heaven. Most of the women are behind a wooden lattice at the back, their heads covered in scarves.

These people are Assyrians and the region they know as Tur Abdin - in south-eastern Turkey, close to the border with Syria - was once the heartland of their ancient Christian church.

At the turn of the last century an estimated 200,000 Assyrians still lived here. Today there are fewer than 3,000 left.

But recently, there have been signs of a possible revival.

The church in Elbeyendi is covered in graffiti left by Turkish soldiers.

In the nearby village of Elbeyendi, Aziz Demir contemplates what remains of his home - just the walls and a jumble of loose rocks.

Two decades ago, the Assyrians were caught up in the Kurdish conflict here.

Unwilling to side with the insurgents or Turkish troops, Aziz, his neighbours and thousands like them fled to Europe.

Their abandoned homes crumbled to ruin.

It was just the latest Assyrian exodus from the region. Many had fled nationalist oppression before or left to seek economic opportunity.

But now Aziz and 10 other families have come back.

"It was our dream to return to the land of our ancestors. We had so many comforts in Europe but something was always missing," Aziz says.

"We also want to prove to other Assyrians that it is possible to return and be settled here."


What the families found in Elbeyendi though was utter destruction.
Aziz return to find his home had been reduced to ruins.

Just behind Aziz's old house is the village church, thought to date to the 4th Century.

It is still standing, just, but unsafe.

Inside, the walls are covered in graffiti left by soldiers who fought here: pictures of snakes and daggers, and a skull and crossed-bones.

Outside, family graves have been opened over the years and robbed.

"It is hard to express our feelings when we arrived from Europe and saw what had happened. We just asked, 'Why?'," says Aziz's wife, Semso, standing in front of the ruins of the house where she got married.

"But the situation is better now. We are trying to look forward without forgetting what happened in the past," she adds.

On the edge of the old village, the beginnings of a new one has sprung up.

The community has built 17 enormous stone villas so far and a new church will open next year.

The Kurdish conflict has not ended but this area is safe now.

Looking ahead

The Assyrians say Turkey's accession talks with the EU also convinced them to return.

"We lived through many difficulties here but Turkey is more concerned with human rights now - it is more democratic," believes Yakup Demir.

The community in Elbeyendi has built 17 new villas.

"That is why we came back, because we believe the future here will be better."

But if this return is to prove enduring, the next generation has to be equally convinced - and they have spent their entire lives until now in Europe.

"There is nothing here, just a pile of rocks," complains 17-year-old Ishok, who was brought up in Switzerland and speaks no Turkish.

He has no plans to stay here.

"There is no internet here, I have no real friends. It is boring," he shrugs.

A short drive from Elbeyendi though, there are further tentative signs of renewal.

Dayrul Zafaran monastery, the Saffron Monastery, was the seat of the Syriac Orthodox church in the days when tens of thousands of Assyrians lived here.

Today, EU cash is helping fund restoration work on the 5th Century, honey-coloured brickwork and a new archbishop has re-invigorated the spiritual side of life.

Twenty local boys are being schooled in the monastery in the hope some may become the next generation of much-needed Syriac priests.

There is a constant flow of visitors through the gates, many of them curious Turks.

It is hoped the younger generation will stay and carry on traditions.

Christians have recently become the targets of a surge of nationalist feeling in Turkey.

Three missionaries were murdered this year, two priests were attacked and one Syriac monk was even kidnapped.

But the mood at the monastery is determinedly optimistic.

"We believe the project of the EU means democracy, human rights and tolerance," says Archbishop Saliba Ozmen.

"We believe that through this project our community too will be more tolerated. We will be happier people as Turkish citizens," he says.

With such a turbulent history, the relative stability in this region now has encouraged the Assyrians' positive outlook.

It has also prompted some community members living abroad to send money to help protect what's left of their heritage here.

For now though, only a handful have chosen to return to Turkey themselves.

The hope of those pioneers is that - eventually - others may follow.

Iraqi Refugees in Turkey Seek Move to US

Courtesy of the Associated Press
6 January 2008
By Omar Sinan

(ZNDA: Istanbul)  Sinan Mirogi is tired of waiting. The 25-year-old Iraqi refugee's money is running out. He lives in a tiny, shared studio — sleeping on the sofa, jobless and isolated in a country where he can't speak the language, hoping the United States will let him in.

But just thinking of getting to the States makes his face light up. He adds — with big smile — that he's staying single so "I'll be available for American women as soon as I get there."

It's when he thinks about his current life that that Mirogi, who fled Iraq after working for a U.S. contractor, gets dejected. He turns to his guitar — his "companion in loneliness," he calls it — and strums a sad Iraqi folk tune.

"We are supposed to knock on the (U.S.) embassy's doors, instead of the U.N.'s," he said, referring to his repeated interviews with the U.N. refugee agency, the first stop for Iraqis seeking resettlement in the United States. "Time is running out, as well as my money. I cannot work or ask for help from my parents, because I should be helping them, not the other way around."

The United States has been painfully slow in its promises to resettle thousands of Iraqis driven from their homeland by war — and it's only getting slower. For the third straight month, the number admitted in December declined amid bureaucratic infighting in Washington, despite repeated promises to speed it up.

Just 245 Iraqi refugees were admitted in December — far short of the administration's goal of 1,000 per month.

The holdup is frustrating for Iraqis in Turkey, many of whom chose to flee here believing they had a better chance of making it to the United States.

"We came here hoping to get resettled faster to the States. In other countries, there is a long line of people waiting, here fewer numbers have applied," said Methaq Hermiz, Marogi's apartment mate and fellow refugee. Hermiz, who fled to Turkey in August, occupies the tiny apartment's bedroom, along with his wife and their 4-month-old daughter.

Only around 10,000 Iraqis are believed to be in Turkey, compared with 1.5 million in Syria and 750,000 in Jordan — out of a wave of more than 2 million Iraqis who have fled the turmoil since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Some have returned to Iraq as the violence dropped in their homeland, but the bulk of the Iraqi refugees are still too nervous to venture back or want to resume their lives elsewhere.

In Turkey, Iraqis face numerous obstacles on top of those faced by their fellow refugees in Arab countries. High among them, the language difference — few Iraqis speak Turkish, making finding even informal jobs difficult and further isolating refugees. Prices, which are on a European level, are higher than in Arab countries. The Turkish government requires many refugees to live in areas distant from the main cities, breaking their support networks.

But so far they do appear to have gotten to the U.S. in a faster proportion than elsewhere, given their numbers. So far, 939 Iraqis in Turkey have been resettled to the U.S. and 37 more have been accepted and are expected to go soon, according to Metin Corbatir, the spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR in Ankara.

That is out of a total 2,665 that the United States has taken in — a number that is far lower than Washington has promised. To meet its goal of 12,000 resettled in fiscal year 2008, some 1,215 Iraqis a month would have to arrive in the U.S.

Corbatir would not say whether resettlement was faster from Turkey, but he acknowledged they may appear so because the Turkish office has longer experience with resettlement to the United States.

Refugee advocates have criticized the process, saying the United States has a moral responsibility to take in Iraqis quickly, particularly those who risked their lives working for the U.S. military or contractors in Iraq.

Marogi and Hermiz — who both worked as engineers for the Texas-based construction firm Tetra Technologies Inc. — are bitter over the slow pace. Marogi said U.S. officials "were not doing enough to help out" despite the risks he ran working for the Americans.

Marogi fled Iraq after one of his neighbors in the northern city of Kirkuk who had been working for the Americans was kidnapped and killed by insurgents. Marogi's terrified parents made him quit his job and flee the country.

He came to Turkey because his friend and fellow Christian, Hermiz, also planned to come here, after militants sent a death threat to his home in the northern city of Mosul, denouncing "traitors who work for the American infidel occupiers."

They and Hermiz's wife Reema now share the $900-a-month apartment. All are jobless, unable to get work permits.

"In the beginning I was happy to come here, then I realized that we will never survive in such an expensive place for a long time," said the 27-year-old Reema. "I cry every day thinking that soon we will run out of money and be unable to buy milk for the baby."

Christians make up 39 percent of the Iraqi refugee community in Turkey, with another 28 percent Muslim Arabs and 23 percent ethnic Turkomans, who are related to Turks and speak a similar language.  Another 7 percent are Kurds.

In Kurtulus, a southern district of Istanbul where many of the refugees have found homes, Iraqis were seen shopping in the markets, negotiating in English with Turkish shopkeepers over vegetables. Only a few, have picked up informal jobs in local textile workshops or, for the lucky ones with a smattering of Turkish, in restaurants as waiters or cooks.

Bassel Gorial used to run three shops in Baghdad, earning about a $1,000 a month. Since arriving Turkey over two years ago, he has been working to pick up Turkish and got a job washing dishes at a restaurant for about $500 a month.

"My job can barely help me with the bills," said the 39-year-old Gorial. "It is not enough for the $400 rent, or for my three children."

"I cannot find any more patience, I have been waiting for a long time and no one cares," he said.

Turkish law forbids refugees from living for an extended period in the big cities, so up to 60 percent have been forced to move to provincial cities in central Turkey, fragmenting the community and distancing them from wider job opportunities.

Nezar Gerges was forced to leave Istanbul to Konya province, about 270 miles southeast of the capital Ankara. The 28-year-old accountant sneaks into Istanbul every 15 days to work for a week as a laborer.

But a worse blow was that his resettlement request to America was rejected.

"I am in desperate need for any help," said Gerges. "They (Americans) invaded us, caused all that chaos in our country and now they have forsaken us.

Mess O’Potamian Art

Courtesy of the Newsweek Magazine
February 11, 2008 Issue
By Larry Kaplow and Cathleen McGuigan

In the renovated Assyrian gallery of Baghdad's Iraq Museum, archeologist Amira Edan al-Dahab was doing what she likes best: explaining the priceless treasures in her care. Stately 3,000-year-old statues of royalty—a couple lost their heads during the museum's looting in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion—have been restored and are presiding over the vast space. Ancient stone reliefs line the walls, with intricate carving depicting the rituals of early civilization. In one panel, an Assyrian and a Babylonian king are posed shaking hands to seal a treaty, not unlike a diplomatic photo op today. But in another relief, victorious soldiers are piling up their enemies' severed heads as a tribute to a monarch in a chariot. Al-Dahab, the museum's temporary director, shakes her head. "You can see the violence all through history," she says. "This one was always ugly to me, but now it's even more so."

With the terror of the insurgency, sectarian attacks and suicide bombings, the devastation of Iraq's museums and archeological sites has become a footnote in the ongoing violence and political crises. In 2006, after a mass kidnapping near the museum, the director, Donny George, sealed much of the complex in a concrete tomb and, like many of Iraq's professionals, left the country. But now, with the U.S. troop surge, Baghdad is calmer. Last summer the concrete was replaced with an iron security door. Inside the museum now, nearly 300 workers and scholars are repairing and renovating the interiors and cataloging and restoring artifacts—not only those damaged in the rampage but also those stolen from archeological sites and turned in to the authorities. Though there are no plans to let the public into the museum—"I cannot risk opening this to anyone," says al-Dahab—NEWSWEEK was invited to survey the ongoing work.

Despite the visible progress, the situation for Iraq's lost heritage is still grim. Of about 14,000 objects looted from the museum in 2003, fewer than half have been located, many of only negligible value. A few of the most precious works have come back, including the Warka vase from 3200 B.C., on which is inscribed one of the earliest known narrative illustrations. In 2006 the United States returned the headless statue of Entemena, from 2400 B.C., to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki when he visited Washington. It had been seized by U.S. Customs officials. Jordan and Syria have also managed to stem some of the smuggling out of Iraq, but scholars despair over the laxity of law enforcement worldwide. Numerous Web sites advertise supposedly Mesopotamian artifacts from Iraq. But some of the most prized treasures, like so many of the hallmarks of civilization in this proud country, have vanished. Among the most notable: an eighth-century B.C. ivory relief of a lioness attacking a Nubian man. It was one of a pair; the other is in the British Museum.

Standing Tall Again: Fewer than half of 14,000 looted museum pieces have been located so far.  Photo by Karim Sahib / AFP-Getty Images.

There are bright spots. When the violence eased in southern Iraq last year, archeologists began "rescue excavations" at 11 key historical sites that were being systematically looted. The newly unearthed finds, sent to the Baghdad museum, included a stone relief dedicated to the "god Shuda," a deity new to scholars. Iraq is pocked with 12,000 registered archeological sites, but there are fewer than 2,000 guards to protect them all. The war, a weak Iraqi government and the thievery that continues to flourish have been devastating to future scholarship. "Many of these sites are so damaged I don't know if any archeologists are going to go back to them," says McGuire Gibson, president of the American Academic Research Institute in Iraq. "It'll be like trying to dig up lace."

Why should we care about a bunch of broken artifacts? Because Iraq may be the richest repository of information about our beginnings as civilized people. The great early epic "Gilgamesh" was pieced together from shards found by archeologists there; the ground is full of such clay tablets incised with cuneiform, the first writing. When sites are crushed by bulldozers or tanks—or when looters trash broken bits as worthless—who knows what other epics are lost? Or even little non-epics. Al-Dahab was thrilled to come across a small tablet incised with cuneiform describing a Babylonian wife furious with her husband for taking off with the kids. But her scholarly work takes a back seat to the basics: running water and air conditioning—the place has neither—and security, such as bomb-screening machines, should the building open to the public. What she hopes most is that George, the director in exile, will return. But George, now at Stony Brook University in New York, has no plans to do so, though he keeps in touch. "I'm very sorry to say this, but it's a kind of chaos," he says. "It's just a very, very hard situation." And once again, the evils of modernity have become the enemies of history, too.

Ancient Church Awaits Restoration in Iraq Desert

Courtesy of the AFP
26 December 2007
By Jacques Charmelot

(ZNDA: Baghdad)  No-one celebrated Christmas in Al-Aqiser church, for what many consider to be the oldest eastern Christian house of worship lies in ruins in a windswept Iraqi desert.

Armed bandits and looters rule in the region and no one can visit the southern desert around Ain Tamur unescorted, local officials say.

But 1,500 years ago, the first eastern Christians knelt and prayed in this barren land, their faces turned towards Jerusalem.

A general view shows the ruins of a church at the Iraqi Al-Aqiser archaeological site, 70 kilometers southwest of the shrine city of Karbala, central Iraq, 11 December 2007. The church of Al-Aqiser is thought to be the oldest eastern church in history and according to studies, it was built in the middle of the fifth century, 120 years before Islam.  Photo by Mohammed Sawaf for AFP.

The remains of Al-Aqiser church lie in the windswept sand dunes of Ain Tamur, around 70 kilometres (40 miles) southwest of the Shiite shrine city of Karbala, forgotten by most.

But some Iraqis are determined to restore the ancient edifice -- which some say preceded Islam in the region -- to its past glory.

"It is a place of worship, a church, and without doubt, the oldest church of the East," said Hussein Yasser, the head of the antiquities department of the province of Karbala.

"According to our research, it was build 120 years before the emergence of Islam in the region," Yasser said.

Islam emerged in the Arabian peninsula in 622, or, by Yasser's account, 15 years after Al-Aqiser was built in a region teeming with Christian tribes.

In time, Karbala overshadowed it and became a key Muslim Shiite pilgrimage destination, while across the region Christian communities began to recede.

Deserted by its worshippers, Al-Aqiser slowly sank into the sands and would have been totally forgotten had it not been for a team of Iraqi archeologists who stumbled on its ruins in the 1970s.

The foundations of the church jut out of the desert, forming a perfect rectangle 75 metres (yards) long by 15 metres wide.

The nave is clearly visible as well as the central part around the altar where masses were celebrated.

"The church was built facing Jerusalem," said Yasser, who has been struggling since 1993 to attract funds and interest to restore the church and carry out excavations in the area.

His efforts were briefly rewarded some years ago when the authorities agreed to finance a brief excavation that lasted six months.

The work revealed an archway which he believes probably belonged to an underground crypt, bearing inscriptions in Syriac -- the language spoken by the first Christians.

"I am sure there is a city underneath the sand," said Yasser, a Shiite Muslim.

"Even then the city was known as Ain Tamur and stood at a major trading junction between Persia, the Arabian peninsula and the Roman empire," he added.

"There used to be a vast lake. People made their livelihood from fishing," he said, adding that the site was more archeologically, than religiously, significant.

A sand embankment indicates the location of the outer walls that protected the church, and Yasser is convinced that the uneven terrain that surrounds the church hides a wealth of archeological evidence.

"There are certainly houses beneath it all, and inside I am sure we can find cooking utensils, inscriptions," he said.

In the past Catholic Chaldeans, the largest single Christian denomination in Iraq who follow an eastern rite but recognise the Pope in Rome, used to pray in Al-Aqiser on Christmas Day but the faithful have not returned in a long time.

According to official figures, the Christian community in Iraq has slumped from around 800,000 in the 1990s to between 400,000 and 600,000 now.

The church "is part of out country's memory, part of the great civilisation that the Iraqis have built and it must be saved," said Yasser.

Ain Tamur police chief Mahfoud al-Tamimi said he agreed that Al-Aqiser must be saved.

"The church does not belong to the Christians only or to the Muslims. It belongs to the world," Tamimi said.

"The world must help us save it," he said, calling for the church to be added to UNESCO's world heritage site list.

News Digest
News From Around the World


Police in Sweden Arrests Suspect in Killing of Prof Fuat Deniz

Courtesy of the Local (Swedish News Magazine)
17 January 2008

(ZNDA: Stockholm)  Earlier this month the police in Örebro, Sweden arrested a 42-year old man who is said to be a first-cousin of Prof Fuat Deniz and has now admitted to stabbing Prof Deniz on 11 December, 2007.     The victim was stabbed on campus at Örebro University in central Sweden.

The suspect has no former criminal record.

According to the Örebro police, an old feud between the two family members constituted the most likely motive for the killing and there was no political motive behind the murder.

Situation of Iraqi Assyrian Christians Discussed in Nürnberg

Assyria Council of Europe

22 January 2008
For Immediate Release

Brussels – On Friday 18th and Saturday 19th January 2008 the Solidarity Group for Tur Abdin & North Iraq organized a conference in Nürnberg, Germany on the plight of Iraqi Christians and the challenges faced by the international community. The Assyria Council of Europe (ACE) was represented in this conference by Ms. Attiya Gamri who gave a presentation about the situation of Assyrians in Iraq and what is needed to alleviate their situation. In her speech, Ms. Gamri made it clear that Assyrians in Iraq are entitled to the same rights and duties as other Iraqi citizens and that if they are not granted these rights then Iraq and especially the Nineveh Plains area will lose its native Assyrian population as has occurred in places such as Tur Abdin. Mr. Ninos Warda also gave a talk on behalf of ACE and discussed the lobbying process within the EU and ACE’s role in it and the importance of action taken by the EU and its member states. Mr. Warda emphasized that the situation of the Assyrians in Iraq requires a professional lobby to be instituted in Brussels so that awareness of this issue is raised at the EU level so that the EU can be in a better and informed position to help ensure that the rights of all peoples in Iraq are effectively protected as according to the Iraqi constitution.

Father Horst Oberkampf of Bad Saulgau gave a fascinating presentation with pictures from his visit to North Iraq in September/October 2007 and touched upon the distressing conditions that the Christians were living in. Furthermore, Mr. Shlemon Yonan from Berlin, head of the Central Union of the Assyrians, also gave a talk explaining what he saw about the situation of Iraqi refugees in Syria from his recent visit there. In addition, Father Thomas Prieto Peral from Munich also talked about his recent visit to Tur Abdin and presented some wonderful pictures of the small Assyrian community there.

There was general consensus throughout the conference that the situation of Iraqi Christians is regrettably dire and that steps must be taken to try and alleviate their situation. In a phrase that could adequately sum up the feeling throughout the conference, His Eminence Mor F. Saliba Özmen, Syriac Orthodox Bishop of Mardin and Diyarbekir stated that “We are the Assyrian Christians of Iraq and the Christians of Iraq are us.” Similarly, His Eminence Mor P. Augin Aydin, Syriac Orthodox Bishop for the Netherlands also emphasized that although suffering and persecution is regrettable it strengthens a community’s faith, national unity and resolve.

Other people who participated in the conference were Father Ernst Ludwig Vatter of Stuttgart and Father Emmanuel Yukhanna of the Church of the East in Wiesbaden.

Members of the Solidarity Group for Tur Abdin & North Iraq, the organizers of this event, include Ms. Janet Abraham from Munich, Dr. Shabo Talay of Erlangen, Father Thomas Prieto Peral of Munich and Father Horst Oberkampf from Bad Saulgau.

* The Assyrians are also commonly known as ChaldoAssyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs or Mandeans.

Assyria Council of Europe Condemns Iraq Church Bombings

Assyria Council of Europe

9 January 2008
For Immediate Release

Brussels – Reports have confirmed that on Sunday 6th of January seven churches and monasteries in Iraq were bombed. There are reports that the targets were three Christian churches and three convents belonging to religious orders. Furthermore, it has been reported that four of the churches bombed were located in the city of Mosul, capital of the Nineveh province. Ninos Warda, ACE Project Director states that:

“The Assyrian community in Europe is shocked and appalled by the recent church bombings in Iraq but unfortunately this is not the first time that churches in Iraq have been targeted and if something is not done in the immediate future it may not be the last time either. It is clear that the aim of such attacks is to intimidate and undermine the Assyrian Christian community in Iraq so as to lead to a mass exodus from their ancestral lands. This is affirmed in the recent European Parliament resolution of 15th November 2007 on Christian Communities whereby the Parliament admitted of the fact that to take just one example, in recent years hundreds of Assyrian Christian families from Dora, a neighbourhood in Baghdad, have left the city as a result of intimidation, threats and violence. Such a status quo cannot be maintained and the Assyria Council of Europe has made some recommendations as to what steps the EU can and should take to alleviate the situation in Iraq.”

The Assyria Council of Europe strongly condemns these recent church bombings and calls upon the European Union to act immediately by:

1. Issuing a joint declaration signed by the European Commission, Council of the European Union and the European Parliament strongly and vehemently condemning these recent church bombings and urging the government of Iraq to take adequate and immediate measures to protect the dwindling Assyrian Christian community in Iraq by preventing such events from recurring.

2. Setting up a delegation or commission whose role is purely to promote inter-faith dialogue within Iraq so that through dialogue and understanding such atrocious events can be prevented in the future.

3. Following the example set by five members of the Dutch Parliament who addressed pertinent and important questions regarding this issue to the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maxime Verhagen, urging all national parliaments within the European Union to take similar action so that awareness of this recent tragedy can be increased and tangible action can be taken to remedy its unfortunate affects to the Iraqi community as a whole.

As the Assyrian International News Agency has reported (click here), since June 26, 2004, forty Assyrian churches* in Iraq have now been the targets of bombings. It is clear that the aim of such bombings is the intimidation and eventual cleansing of the indigenous Assyrian community in Iraq. Action must be taken by the international community immediately to put an end to such intimidation and harassment.

For more information on the recent bombings please visit www.aina.org, www.ankawa.com, www.asianews.it or www.esna.se.

*It should be noted that the Assyrian community in Iraq is made up of various denominations including the Syriac and Chaldean Catholic churches, the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East, the Syriac Orthodox Church and also Protestant churches.

Executive Board Elected by Assoc. Assyrophile de France

(ZNDA: Paris) Last month a new Executive Board was elected to run the affairs of the Association Assyrophile de France.  The new officers are:

Chairman : Alain Darmo
Secretary : Jean-Paul Sliva
Treasurer : Virginie Darmo

Trial Goes on Against Accused Assyrian-Iraqi Spy

Courtesy of the Associated Press
30 January 2008
By Greg Risling

(ZNDA: Los Angeles)  A former Iraqi intelligence officer identified documents in federal court on 30 January bearing the name of an Iraqi-born American citizen accused of working in the United States as a spy for former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Referred to only as "Mr. Sargon" to protect his identity, the witness said he recognized documents belonging to the Iraqi Intelligence Service that were signed by defendant William Shaoul Benjamin, 67, of Los Angeles.

The testimony came in Benjamin's trial on charges of conspiracy, failing to register as an agent of a foreign government and making false statements. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Judith Heinz said Tuesday during opening statements that Benjamin was a paid informant for the Iraqi Intelligence Service, the foreign intelligence arm of the Iraqi government, after coming to the United States in 1992.

Benjamin was to "penetrate and monitor" expatriate Assyrian Christians, a minority group in Iraq, Heinz said.

Among the documents shown in court to "Mr. Sargon" was a receipt of Benjamin receiving $2,000 in 1994 from Iraqi officials and a memo to the accounting department in the Iraqi intelligence division seeking approval to pay Benjamin.

When asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Janet Hudson whose name appeared on the files, the witness responded through an interpreter: "According to the documents I have, Mr. William Shaoul."

Benjamin's attorney, James Blatt, deferred his opening statement until later.

In initial testimony Tuesday, "Mr. Sargon" said he had been an intelligence officer in Iraq from July 1979 until April 2003, when Saddam's government was toppled by the U.S.-led invasion.

He said Saddam's government had a unit, "M-40," known as the Department of Enemy Activities, that investigated anti-Iraqi groups outside of the country, including Assyrians.

Benjamin, who wore headphones to listen to an interpreter, was born in Iraq and is Assyrian Christian. Prosecutors portray Benjamin in court documents as a traitor to his own community by first working for Iraqi intelligence while in Iraq and then serving as a paid informant between 1993 and 2001. Code-named "9211," Benjamin traveled to Iraq to train with intelligence officers, authorities said.

As compensation, Benjamin received separate payments of $2,000, $2,500 and $4,000 between 1994 and 1996, as well as two bottles of whiskey from Iraqi intelligence officers, court documents show.

FBI agent Ted Oehniger testified he recovered Iraqi files from an opposition group known as the Assyrian Democratic Movement in 2003 that showed Benjamin worked for the Iraqi intelligence while living in the United States.

Oehniger recognized Benjamin's picture in one of the files because he had interviewed him in 1999 after receiving an anonymous letter accusing Benjamin of being part of a terrorist organization.

The allegations were never substantiated, Oehniger said, adding that Benjamin was cooperative and became a source for the FBI for a short time.

Prosecutors also accused Benjamin of failing to provide details about working for Saddam's government when he applied for U.S. citizenship in 2001, and falsely declared that he had renounced allegiance to Iraq.

Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks Commemorate Dink & Deniz

Courtesy of the Pan Armenian Net
22 January 2008

(ZNDA: Moscow)  Events in commemoration of the Agos editor, Hrant Dink, were held in Moscow on 19 January by the Youth Union of the Armenian Apostolic Church and a number of other youth organizations (click here for YouTube video).

A liturgy in memory of the Christians slaughtered in Turkey was chanted in Surb Harutyun Church.

A demonstration was organized by the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek communities of Moscow in front of the Turkish Embassy in Moscow. The demonstrators lit candles next to the portraits of the Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink and the Assyrian Professor, Fuad Deniz, who was killed last December in Sweden.

During a round table discussion the youth organizations adopted a resolution calling on Turkey to repeal article 301 and drop prosecution of the publisher, Ragip Zakaroglu. The resolution also calls on the U.S. Congress to recognize the Armenian Genocide as a precondition for Turkey’s accession to the EU and condemn the genocide of Armenians, Assyrians, Jews and other national minorities in the Ottoman Empire to prevent future crimes against humanity.

SAF Release on Church Bombing in Iraq

Press Release
Save Assyria Front
9 January 2008

Once again, Assyrians turn to a scapegoat in the racial conflict going on in Iraq, where on 07 2008 targeting its centers of the various religious sects, and this is not the first time nor will be the last as long as the back warded currents are still trying to meddle with the security of Iraq and its people, who suffer debilitating of killings and displacement in various regions and from various religious and national affiliations, and what is happening to the Assyrians in Iraq comes in this context out of the ambitions of some power to their land. Assyrians are witnessing these practices in order to be obliged to accept some chauvinist projects that destroy its identity and land, and the unity of Iraq land and people as well.

Obviously the assaults against the Assyrian religious centers since the fall of Saddam weren’t suicide, and never made to kill considerable numbers of innocent, but only vocal bombs or explosion out of the targeted buildings be it in Mosul, Baghdad or any region in Iraq, which means that these attacks were not according to an ideological (Jihadist) believe, but they were according to a strategic-political motive that in order to sow terror in the Assyrian community in all parts of Iraq to be compelled to demand annexation of its historic homeland in Nineveh plains to the Kurdish occupation, with accompanying massive media campaigns abroad (Europe - the United States - Arab satellite channels) showing in the Kurdish occupation areas as a safe haven for the oppressed groups, without taking into consideration that the Kurdish entity without equal federalism in Iraq, will be a holocaust of all nationalities, especially Assyrians. And what supports the development of these campaigns is the failure of the central government in enforcing security in other parts of Iraq because of the backwarded religious conflict within its institutions, something that made the government lose its credibility before the Iraqi people and world public opinion, while unable to remove the causes of displacement of about two million Iraqis whose quarter are Christians (different Assyrian denominations). Not to forget the calls from different Islamic figures, belonging to ruling currents, to Christians to practice the Islamic life either through loudspeakers of mosques or through the text of the Iraqi constitution.

On the other hand, the idea of founding the awakening boards in Mosul led to resentment of the terrorists, and the resentment of Kurdish militias that control the Nineveh province in the scheme of attaching it to the Kurdish entity in the future – this is certified by the protest of the Kurdish leaders to the Iraqi government regarding the awakening boards, which began replacing Kurdish militias and the rest of the gangs in the province, and the objections of members of parliament representatives from the Iraqi province of Nineveh against Kurdish dominance to maintain keen isn’t but a patriot sign of their Iraqi believe towards Nineveh province.

We, Save Assyria Front denounce these cowardly acts against all Iraqis, whatever group against any other group, and in particular against the group that never agreed to divide and crumble Iraq, and which do not have the necessary military capabilities (militia) and political (representatives) to defend itself, we also warn our persecuted brothers; Arabs and Turkmen and Isidyans and Shabaks of similar attacks in the future in all parts of Iraq, particularly the provinces of Kirkuk and Nineveh, as a pressure in the midst of the conflict on the application of Article / 140 / of the Iraqi Constitution, and we call them to join the capabilities and unite as “Iraqis”, to confront this chauvinist wave feed from outside and inside, on the culture of racism and terrorist.

Long live the Iraqi nation
Long live the Assyrian nationality

Assyrian General Conference Statement on New Iraqi Flag

Press Release
Assyrian General Conference
25 January 2008

Despite the political crisis that threatens the fate of Iraq and its unity, we find the Iraqi Parliament lacks priorities, and is being dragged behind campaigns that seek to undermine matters affecting the Iraqi state.

The Iraqi parliamentary endorsement of the flag change, came about to appease certain parties by diverting attention from what is happening in Iraqi. It was designed to undermine national unity and the foundations of state affairs, such as the plunder of oil by some parties in power.

It is regrettable to see the Iraqi parliament yield to pressure from few parties that associate themselves to Iraq to implement their agenda. These parties have no Real allegiance to the devastated Iraqi nation. This reflects how fragile a link those forces have to Iraq, its civilization, and its people.

We in the Assyrian General Conference believe that changing the Iraqi flag was yet another attempt to escalate the stormy political crisis that is being exploited by some parties to pass their expansionist and partition intentions at the expense of the unity of Iraq's land and people.

We call on all Iraqi national parties to review their positions on partisan, sectarian, and ethnic attitudes when bargaining and take effective measures to save Iraq from attempts to partition it.

Long Live Iraq, a United Land and People.


Zinda:  From Wikipedia -  Following Abdul Karim Qassim’s 1958 revolution that deposed the monarchy, on 14 July 1959 Iraq adopted (Law 102 of 1959) a new flag that consisted black-white-green vertical tricolour with, in the middle of the white band, a red eight-pointed star with a yellow circle at its centre. The black and green represented pan-Arabism, the yellow sun representing the Kurdish minority, while the red star (Star of Ishtar) represented the Assyrian minority.

ACAD Declaration of Intention

Assyrian Catholic Apostolic Diocese (ACAD)
Press Release
17 January 2008

On Thursday; January 17, 2008, the “Day of Thanksgiving” of the Rogation of the Ninevites, for which day the Gospel says, “On that day you will not question me about anything. Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you” (John 16:23), the Clergy Conference of the Assyrian Catholic Apostolic Diocese (ACAD) met in Dublin, California, to discuss the current situation and consider future plans for reestablishing communion with other Christians, in order to end their ecclesial isolation.

After praying to the Father and reflecting on the Scriptures and Tradition, the attendees unanimously adopted a “Declaration of Intention” in which they state their resolution “to enter full communion with the Catholic Church” and “to resume church unity with the Chaldean Catholic Church.”

As a result, they foresee that this declaration will initiate a process of negotiation with respective Church authorities to define a concrete model of this union, in which the particularity of our apostolic tradition is preserved.

Present at this Clergy Conference were H.G. Bishop Mar Bawai Soro, four priests and sixteen deacons. Two more priests and fourteen other deacons of ACAD have also sent in advance their signed proxies in support of this Declaration. The gathered members ask all their brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for this noble intention so that each and every effort will contribute to the glory of God and the fulfillment of Christ’s prayer for His Holy Church “That they all may be one”. (John 17:21)

Baghdad Museum Unveils 2 Restored Halls

Courtesy of the AFP
12 January 2008

Assyrian statues on display at the Baghdad National Museum.

(ZNDA: Baghdad)  The Baghdad National Museum has completed the renovation of two exhibition halls closed after looting following the US-led invasion of 2003, Iraqi antiquities and heritage chief Eedan al-Thahabi said.

The Islamic and Assyrian halls have been completely restored but will not be opened to the public until security measures can be put in place to prevent a repeat of the looting in which around 15,000 items were stolen.

Only 4,000 artefacts have been recovered despite the introduction of a reward system offering up to 3,000 dollars to those handing in stolen items.

"Eleven Iraqi search teams started to look for antiquities in some cities after a five year gap. What the museum is receiving now is part of what they have been able to recover," Thahabi said.

The newly refurbished halls, which are among 14 that had been closed due to damage, are now home to a host of spectacular ancient treasures including a huge stone slab featuring the Assyrian god of water, Aya, found in the palace of Sargon II, king of Assyria from 721 to 705 BC.

Around 32,000 artefacts were looted from 12,000 archaeological sites around Iraq during the chaos which followed the US-led invasion.

The museum also has a laboratory to maintain and repair damaged artefacts which is supported by UNESCO and several European countries.

When There’s Persecution, What Can You Do?

Courtesy of the California Catholic Daily
24 January 2008

“Operation Iraqi Freedom,” the moniker for the United States’ war in Iraq, has spelled, not so much freedom, but exile and dispersion for one of the oldest Christian peoples in the world – the Assyrians.

The Central Valley town of Turlock has an ethnic club that, for over 60 years, has served as a cultural center for the small but ancient Assyrian nation. Beginning with Turkish massacres during World War I, the Christian Assyrians, centered in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq), have been coming to California. These were joined by other Assyrians who fled Iran after the revolution that overthrew the Shah in 1979. But the flight of refugees after the Gulf War and the current Iraq war threaten to end the existence of the Assyrians as a distinct ethnic group, said a Jan. 5 Associated Press story.

The Assyrian Church, which dates back to the earliest days of the Christian faith, eventually came to embrace the teachings of the fifth century archbishop of Constantinople, Nestorius, condemned by the Council of Ephesus in 431. Since then, the Assyrian Church has been separated from the Catholic and Orthodox churches – though a large number of Nestorian Assyrians came into union with Rome, beginning in the 16th century, forming the Chaldean Catholic Church – which today is larger than the Assyrian Church.

The Oct. 23, 2006 Intelligencer reported United Nations survey, saying that over 200,000 Assyrian Christians fled Iraq after the U.S. invasion of 2003. The number of refugees increased in 2004 on account of terrorist bombings of Christian churches, as well as kidnappings and assassinations, in Iraq. By 2006, only 20,000 Assyrians remained in Iraq, according to the U.S. State Department. Though many refugees came to the U.S., others have gone to Canada and Europe.

Isaac Samow, an Assyrian Christian who lives in Modesto, told Associated Press, "My children speak my language, but what about my grandchildren? If there are no Assyrians left in Mesopotamia, how will our culture live?" Samow, with his wife and seven children, fled Iran after the ’79 revolution.

The Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock, with similar clubs in California and elsewhere, works to keep Assyrian culture alive with festivals as well as a radio station that carries Assyrian music and news. The club raises money to help Assyrians in Iraq. An Iranian-Assyrian, Fred Betmaleck, however, told Associated Press that the club encourages Assyrians not to leave Iraq. “But, he said, “when there’s persecution, what can you do?”

One reason Assyrians are persecuted by Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds is that they are perceived as being pro-American. Many speak English along with their Assyrian language and so work as translators.

According to the web site, christiansofiraq.com, Assyrians suffered during Saddam Hussein’s wars with the Kurds with the destruction of Assyrian churches, villages, and the driving of Assyrians from their homeland. They were forced to give their children Arabic names.

“The fall of Saddam which was hoped to bring peace to Iraq has unleashed religious violence against the Christian community in Iraq,” says the web site. “Unless special attention is given to their plight by the US and the Iraqi government this ancient people will continue to suffer grievously as they have in the past.”

Assyrians Threatened in Their Homeland

Courtesy of the Associated Press
4 January 2008
by Juliana Barbassa

(ZNDA: Modesto)  Isaac Samow's Assyrian Christian ancestors have occupied Mesopotamia for millennia, surviving innumerable conquests and massacres.

Now war is again threatening Assyrian culture and language in its native land.

Thousands of Assyrians have fled Iraq since the U.S. invasion. Samow's relatives are scattered through Canada, Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, Greece, Holland, England, Sweden and Germany. Other Assyrians are refugees in Syria, Jordan, and inside Iraq, not knowing whether they can return to cities and towns carved into Sunni or Shiite enclaves.

"My children speak my language, but what about my grandchildren?" said Samow from his home in Modesto. "If there are no Assyrians left in Mesopotamia, how will our culture live?"

An Iraqi places a national flag on the coffin of an Assyrian relative, Mr. Naed Toma, killed in a suicide bombing in Baghdad.  Photo by Wissam Al-Ikaili for AFP.

Successive waves of Assyrians have landed here in California's Central Valley, beginning with those who fled a massacre by Turks near the end of World War I.

They were joined by families who escaped Iran when an Islamic revolution overthrew the monarchy in 1979, then by new arrivals escaping the first Gulf War, when Samow, whose hometown is near Mosul, Iraq, came here with his family. An Assyrian community also thrives in Chicago.

But with their numbers now dangerously low in the region where Iran, Iraq and Turkey meet, Assyrians here fear the current wave of migration could mark their end. Community leaders in the United States are working to support Assyrians back home.

The Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock is housed in a fortress-like hall decorated with winged bulls that have human heads—a traditional Assyrian protective figure known as a lamassus. An old map on the wall shows population centers that no longer exist.

"Once, most villages in that area were Assyrian," said the club's president, Fred Betmaleck, who is Iranian-Assyrian. "Now there are very few left."

The club works to keep Assyrian culture alive by hosting a radio station that plays Assyrian music and carries community news, and holds festivals, such as the Assyrian New Year's celebration known as Kha-b-Nissan, in the spring.

Members also raised money through dances and raffles to help Assyrians who remain in Iraq.

"We try to help them stay there as much as possible, because when you leave, you never go back," said Betmaleck. "We encourage them not to come, but when there's persecution, what can you do?"

For Isaac Samow, staying was too risky.

He and his wife took their seven children—the youngest a 1-year-old whom Samow strapped to his back—on a dangerous hike across the rugged snow-covered mountains between Iraq and Turkey.

He spent all the money he'd saved from his job as a construction contractor to smuggle his family to the dirt-floor tents of a Turkish refugee camp, then to Istanbul. They spent a year and a half in Greece until they applied for asylum with Red Cross help and were accepted into the United States in December 1992.

Now, 15 years and another Iraq invasion later, the family is safe, but they worry about relatives back home, and about the Assyrian future.
Assyrian American Civic Club of Chicago Report Card 2007

"We feel this could be the end of a people who have survived since Babylonian times," said Zack Samow, 34, Isaac's oldest son. "This could be the wave that pushes Assyrians out of their homeland for good."

As cities and towns are reshaped at gunpoint into homogenized Sunni, Shia or Kurdish territory, groups without their own militias or political power are left vulnerable to attacks, said Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom and a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The priest in Samow's hometown of Telkaif disconnected his phone to stop the barrage of threats, the family said.

Assyrian Christians—among the first converts to Christianity—and other ethnic and religious minorities have been particularly hard-hit by the sectarian violence, she said. Among those leaving are Jews; Sabean-Mandeans, who follow John the Baptist; Yazidis, ethnic Kurds whose religion precedes Christianity and Islam; Baha'i and Iraqi Turkmen, Shea said.

They might dress differently from their Muslim neighbors, speak other languages and pursue businesses that make them stand out—selling liquor, for example. In addition to a construction business, Samow ran three eating and drinking establishments in Iraq.

Many speak English, and work as translators means they're also often seen as siding with the United States, said Bill Frelick, refugee policy director for Human Rights Watch.

"They're not just being hunted down because of their religious identity," Frelick said. "Many of them are regarded as being pro-Western."

Their absence could allow the region to become less tolerant as it loses the diversity that has characterized it for centuries. And that could have long-term geopolitical consequences, Shea said.

"It's a profound loss," Shea said. "These populations have lived together for a long time, but if this continues, it will not be a plural society any more. It'll be devoid of non-Muslims."                        

Diqlat School to Return to Fairfield, Australia

Courtesy of the Fairfield City Champion
16 January 2008

Assyrian Diqlat School principal Carmen Lazar and teacher Atour Joseph are getting ready for a new school year. The 2006 Australia Bureau of Statistics census showed Assyrian as the fourth most spoken language in Fairfield homes. Picture: Elliott Housego.
The Assyrian Diqlat School is set to return to Fairfield, Australia next month after a 15-year absence.

The school, which was established in 1974 in Edensor Park, has run at various locations, including its current classes at St Johns Park High School.

Principal Carmen Lazar said the expansion to Fairfield High School would take in the "many" Assyrian-Australians who live in the Fairfield area but don't have transport.

"There's probably about 40 percent of the Fairfield High School students who are Assyrian and there are a lot of cultural differences," Ms Lazar said.

"It's an excuse for me to teach the language and it's also about adopting a good culture in the area."

The classes are for anyone over the age of four interested in learning the language.

There are currently students aged from five to 75 years old.

"We've got all different levels and it's not just language that we teach," she said.

"I've got religion and cultural activities as well."

Enrolments for the Assyrian Diqlat School are being taken on February 2 at Fairfield High School, The Horsley Drive, Fairfield and St Johns Park High School, Mimosa Road, Greenfield Park, 10am-2pm.

Assyrian Civic Club Lawsuit Resolved

Courtesy of the Modesto Bee
31 January 2008
By Susan Herendeen

(ZNDA: Turlock)  After five years of litigation over who said what to whom at Turlock's Assyrian American Civic Club, there was silence, with Judge William Mayhew dismissing a defamation lawsuit on Wednesday, 30 January.

Later, former club President Ramin Odisho, who had sued eight club members, declared victory over rumor and innuendo, even as he declined to discuss the details of a confidential settlement lodged with Stanislaus County Superior Court.

Odisho said his critics falsely had accused him of stealing $800,000 from the club because his job procuring high-end automobiles for car dealers around the region gave him a flashy lifestyle that included expensive suits and a steady stream of fancy rides.

An investigation by Turlock police and the district attorney's office came up empty, though Odisho admits that he broke club bylaws when he used bingo proceeds to cash a $3,186 check to pay club expenses for security guards and electrical work.

"They couldn't find anything because it was all based on hearsay, jealousy," said Odisho, 38, of Turlock.

The dust-up that began in 2000 prompted 21 articles in The Modesto Bee and The Turlock Journal newspapers and eventually produced four volumes of legal documents as attorneys filed claims and counterclaims.

The club temporarily lost its bingo license over questions about its nonprofit status.

But Odisho was not deterred, even when some club members asked him to resign his presidency. He finished his second term in January 2002 and later became the western regional representative for the Assyrian American National Federation.

Turlock has more than 12,000 residents of Assyrian descent, according to the lawsuit, and the club at 2618 N. Golden State Blvd. has more than 1,000 members.

As the battle was waged, Odisho penned a series of letters to club members, in one instance claiming that his critics were "no different than the Osama bin Laden people."

A year after his term ended, Odisho and Therese Lazar, a former club member who headed an internal audit committee during Odisho's presidency, filed a lawsuit against the club, saying they had been humiliated by false accusations that led to searches of their homes and offices in 2001.

Later, Odisho and Lazar dismissed the club from the lawsuit, focusing on eight members: Fred Adams, Cyrus Amirfar, Sam B'Racho, William Jacobs, Simon Mirza, Emanuel Oushana, Julie Sleeper and Orahim Yacoub.

Settlement includes gag order

In legal papers, the eight defendants said they merely were exercising their free-speech rights. Odisho and Lazar collected depositions from witnesses who said they heard the defendants refer to Odisho as a thief who stole money to buy new cars.

The eight club members went through a series of lawyers before the case landed on the desk of attorney Dave Wallis of Sacramento, who settled the matter a few weeks ago as a two- to three-week trial approached.

Legal papers mention Odisho and Lazar's demands for $75,000 each, as well as a counteroffer of $2,500 for Odisho and $10,000 for Lazar.

The final outcome remains confidential because the settlement includes a gag order.

"The less said about it, the better, so they can move on," Wallis said.

Assyrian-American FBI Agent Subject of "60-Minute" Segment

Courtesy of the Modesto Bee
31 January 2008
By Jeff Jardine

(ZNDA: Modesto)  When George Piro asked fellow FBI agent Todd Irinaga to join him for a special mission in the spring of 2004, Irinaga thought his longtime friend was just kidding.

After all, Irinaga -- who heads the FBI's Modesto office -- had tested Piro's sense of humor on occasion while recruiting him to the agency in 1999. So when Piro called, but couldn't immediately give details, Irinaga suspected he might be in line for a little payback.

FBI Agent George Piro talking on "60 Minutes"

"He thought I was playing a joke on him," Piro said.

Some joke. Irinaga soon found himself on a plane bound for Baghdad for perhaps the most important and certainly the most interesting four months of his FBI career. He joined Piro as a member of the Saddam Interrogation Unit -- a group of FBI and CIA agents who spent seven months picking Saddam Hussein's brain.

In a lengthy "60 Minutes" segment Sunday evening (click here), Piro detailed his conversations with the deposed Iraqi dictator before the trial that led to Saddam's execution.

A former Ceres police officer and Stanislaus County district attorney's investigator, Piro headed the team even though he had been with the FBI only five years. His ability to speak Assyrian and Arabic made him the prime-time player in this high-stakes information game with the notorious "Butcher of Baghdad."

Piro, 40, was born in Lebanon in 1967. He was 12 when his family came to the United States and the Northern San Joaquin Valley, with its large Assyrian population. He joined the Ceres police force in September 1989, and his constant smile puzzled some folks in town.

"We'd get calls from people who complained, thinking he wasn't taking their matter seriously," Ceres Deputy Chief Mike Borges said. "That's just the way he was."

They clearly misread Piro, Borges said.

"He was an excellent investigator," Borges said. "He was always tactically minded. George was a member of one of our SWAT teams, and a team leader in 1990."

Irinaga, meanwhile, was assigned to the Modesto FBI office in 1991 and met Piro three years later, when they teamed up to investigate a bank robbery in Ceres.

"George expressed an interest in working for a federal law enforcement agency," Irinaga said.

In March 1997, Piro became an investigator for the Stanislaus County district attorney's office. His language and investigative skills helped prosecutors win a death penalty conviction against Michael Bell, who murdered Semon Francis, an Assyrian, at a convenience store in Turlock in 1997. Many witnesses spoke no English.

"I worked with his (Francis') family, and targeted the gang Michael Bell had started in Turlock," Piro said.

Before Bell's trial began in 1999, though, Piro left the district attorney's office to join the FBI and Irinaga.

"Todd's really the reason I joined the FBI," Piro said.

When Saddam was pulled out of a vermin-filled hole and captured in December 2003, the FBI took control of his interrogation because it is a law enforcement agency. The CIA is, well, a spy organization.

"The U.S. government had to keep in mind he was going to be prosecuted," Piro said.

Only a handful of FBI agents spoke Arabic, Piro among them. He arrived in Baghdad in January 2004 and found himself face to face with Saddam almost immediately.

Irinaga arrived in April 2004. By then, Piro had developed a solid rapport with Saddam, gaining his trust. While "60 Minutes" focused solely on Piro's role, he and Irinaga were partners in the interrogations.

It was no vacation. They seldom left Baghdad International Airport -- formerly Saddam International. They interrogated him in a small room near his cell in the airport facility. Saddam told them, among other things, that although U.N. inspectors had destroyed some of his weapons of mass destruction, and that he had eliminated the rest, he fully intended to rearm had he remained in power.

They worked 12 to 16 hours a day, writing lengthy reports after interrogation sessions. They also interviewed other members of Saddam's inner circle, including secretary Adib Hamid Mamoud and Tariq Aziz, the man whom Americans came to hate as the face of Iraq during Desert Storm in 1991.

"Later, you'd find out that these were the same guys sitting with General Norman Schwarzkopf in 1991 at the surrender," Irinaga said.

Now, after Saddam died in December 2006 at the end of a hangman's noose, Piro and Irinaga can step back and reflect on the importance of the job they did.

"You can't minimize the significance of this," Piro said. "I'm very proud of what we accomplished."

"If not the top, it's at the very top," Irinaga said, on where the case rates on his list of career achievements. "I think about that experience daily."

And that's no joke.

Assyrian Student Ranks 16th in Australia's Mathletics Competition

Courtesy of the Fairfield City Champion
30 January 2008

Maths whiz: St Hurmizd Assyrian school student Anthony Makko is congratulated by principal John Haskal for excelling in the international Mathletics program. Mathletics is used worldwide to help students improve and enjoy mathematics.
(ZNDA: Sydney)  St. Hurmizd Assyrian Primary School student Anthony Makko was ranked 16th in Australia in the Mathletics competition.

Mathletics is a mathematics computer program for students in kindergarten to year 12 (click here).

Principal John Haskal, a teacher of more than 30 years, said the Mathletics program was one of the best for teaching mathematics fundamentals.

"The wonderful thing about Mathletics is that it teaches the students to competitively take part and learn while they have fun," Mr Haskal said.

"As a school community we at St Hurmizd Assyrian Primary School are very proud of Anthony.

"He represents only the tip of the

iceberg. We have so many students excelling and competing outstandingly not only in

mathematics but in other disciplines also.

"The mathletics program has become very popular with our students.

"Many spend time at home on their computers working at a level of their choice and at the same time they are competing with other students all over Australia."

Assyrian Doctor Noted for Primary Care Practice in Turlock

Courtesy of the Modesto Bee
29 January 2008
By Ken Carlson

(ZNDA: Turlock)  Turlock always has had a shortage of doctors, and the demand for physicians only intensified as its population swelled from 42,200 in 1990 to 69,300 last year.

Officials at Emanuel Medical Center say as many as 40 percent of the patients who come to the hospital's emergency room don't have a primary care physician, and most have conditions that could be treated in a doctor's office.

In October, the hospital opened the Emanuel Physician Center in an effort to start filling the need, and it has plans to operate more primary care centers in Turlock and other communities within 20 miles.

Dr. Edmond Ghahramani examines Raymond Khubiar at Turlock's Emanuel Physician Center. 'He speaks Assyrian, and I speak Assyrian,' Khubiar said of Ghahramani. 'He understands me.'

The first physician center, at 2121 Colorado Ave., next to Emanuel, is not owned by a medical group but is an outpatient department of the hospital, officials said. As of this week, the center was serving 15 to 17 patients per day, from infants to seniors. By summer, it could be serving twice as many.

Joani Griggs, director of the physician center program, said some of the patients hadn't seen a family doctor for years. Others couldn't find doctors who would take their insurance or were waiting weeks, or months, for appointments.

The primary care office accepts patients by appointment. It takes most private insurance and accepts patients enrolled in government programs such as Medicare and Medi-Cal.

Griggs said a consultant has given Emanuel advice on where to operate additional centers based on need.

A second center could be opened on Geer Road near California State University, Stanislaus. Other communities being considered for physician centers are Hughson, Patterson and Atwater, she said.

The hospital is shooting to open a new physician center every year. To do that, it will recruit 14 physicians in the next five years. A 2004 survey identified a need for 20 primary care physicians in the area served by Emanuel.

Specialists in demand

Emanuel already recognizes a need to recruit an obstetrician-gynecologist to provide care for expectant mothers at the Colorado Avenue center. It also plans to staff the offices with family practice doctors, internal medicine physicians and pediatricians.

Dr. Edmond Ghahramani, the program's first physician, came equipped to communicate with some of the ethnic residents living in Turlock. The native of Iran speaks Assyrian, Persian, Turkish and English.

He served as a doctor for the World Health Organization in Iran, overseeing a medical assistance operation and giving medical treatment to Kurdish refugees near the border with Iraq.

To practice medicine in the United States, he completed a family practice residency at Emanuel's sister hospital in Chicago and passed the board exams. He has been an assistant research physician for Cook County Hospital in Chicago, for Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, Mich., and for Western Michigan University.

Raymond Khubiar, a patient from Turlock, said that he's glad finally to have a doctor who speaks his language. He parted ways with his English-speaking doctor of 14 years to become a patient at the Emanuel center.

"He speaks Assyrian, and I speak Assyrian," Khubiar said of Ghahramani. "He understands me, and I understand him."

Ghahramani said some patients he has seen at the Turlock center are refugees who fled the war in Iraq and are now living in Turlock.

Other patients are Californians who recently relocated from the Bay Area or Los Angeles. The doctor said some adult patients who had not received regular checkups have come in with untreated diabetes or hypertension, he said.

"We have a lot of patients with medical needs," Ghahramani said. "It gives you a good feeling when you are taking care of them."

Emanuel Physician Center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 2121 Colorado Ave. For appointments, call 664-5175.

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Your Letters to the Editor


When Are We Going to Learn Our Lesson from the Past?

Anthony T. Nasseri

To answer such a question depends upon ourselves. Upon every Assyrian regardless of its varied domain in this planet.  We are the remnants of ancient people of  our  planet. When our ancestors were created, they received an ample share of natural wisdom to sustain themselves. Through wisdom, they made enormous progress in the establishment of the human initial civilization. That natural wisdom of our ancestors, is the only inheritance that has remained in the consciousness of  their Assyrian  descendents to this date.

As we move forward in life, we share the opportunities and benefit  from the current civilization that  the world  is offering  in every era. We consider ourselves civilized people in this modern times. Men with education and high ethics are striving to refine their conduct. Increase their intellectual outlook. Spiritualize their faith with normality. Conserve and utilize the available economic means in investing and educating their future generations in order to achieve their aspirations.

For the past two thousand six hundred years, from the fall of our last king Ashur-Uballit II in 606 BC, we have been engaged in a struggle for survival with no apparent progress or any foreseen hopes for self governing. Our nationalistic struggle has been dominated by the confusion as to which segment of our aspirations to follow. Religion or nationalistic survival. This state of affairs has contributed to our inability to have an effective and impartial leadership for our nation. No nation can succeed in its nationalistic endeavors without a capable and devoted leadership to achieve the aspiration of its people. Let us face it; So far we can not live in harmony with each-other. We can not live without each-other. Because, we lack proper understanding of our priorities in achieving our aims and aspiration. If however, we do not conceive the extent of the grievance of our present situation to find a collective means to resolve our predicament at hand, I assure you we are doomed to perish.

Be a witness to the extinction of the final flames in  the life of our  noble heritage. Some might say; Though the work of our hands may turn eventually to dust or rubbish. Yet the work of our minds and our souls shall not vanish. It will remain in the consciousness of our descendants so long as human memories lasts. But I say that is not an ethical decision for a noble nation the remnants from  tenacious  people of an ancient Empire. We have to awaken to the mischievous acts with the fruitless results by our self-selected leaders who are constantly  striving to lead our people toward the state of despondency and despair.

History without accomplishing historical events in the life of its nation is not a history. We the Assyrian of this modern era, never had any perceptible accomplishments nor have built any discernible monuments to display for our people. In other-words we do not have any tangible or intangible accomplishments to brag about. Consequently, every Assyrian scholar when attempting to communicate with his people or advance his ideals to others, is compelled to revert back to the historic accomplishments of his ancestors. Repetition for reverting back to our ancestors achievements has becomes a necessity, in order to awaken our present day giants with exceptional competency from their state of hibernation. Repetition has become essential to awaken our highly educated and capable Assyrians from their indifference to our struggle for survival.

We should not be deceived by the apparent confidence and precise explanation that have been offered for our current political affairs. To some a word of explanation with confidence may seem appropriate. Knowing my past history well, having benefited from the studying the details of our past historical betrayals, I have been confronted with great deal of variation between promises and a firm commitment toward accomplishments. If we continue to follow the same pattern of nationalistic labor and stay with the same mode of action with incapable people running our social, political affairs, I foresee no hope for our salvation.

During the recent history our educated people have been impartial to our nationalistic survival. Our religious  leaders seeing this window of opportunity, while professing to our nationalistic needs, yet they have been prioritizing their religion and promoting their religious goals. Let us be true to our convictions. No nation has been derived from the functions of the religion. Christianity was derived from the Jewish community on the day of Pentecost.  Initially it expanded in all communities of Middle-East, Asia, Europe and beyond. Since the inception of Christianity to this date in each case the church of Christ was derived from among the people of society, a nation or a country. Catholicism during the later part of medieval Era of European history tried with its might at hand to permanently impose its will upon the European people and dominate their social, economic and political endeavors, but did not succeed. Though the religion of Christianity was a factor in the upsurge of European success, European people succeeded through their nationalistic labor to up-grade their social, economic and political  status, which became  the pillars of their present civilization. 

It is unconceivable to understand as to why our capable and highly educated people are so inattentive to our nationalistic cause and impartial to our struggle for survival. The knights searching for the holy grail were questing vision and wisdom. Ponce de Leon discovered Florida in his quest for fountain of youth. You prominent and highly educated Assyrians - what is your mission in this fruitless voyage of your people’s life? The man of today is succeeding in his quest to reach the stars. What is your quest and crusade? Continue to be inattentive, impartial to the struggle of your people?

It is time to realize that we have become permanent people of the Diaspora.  It is time we all attest to our mischievous conduct. It is time that we create a capable leadership for our people. We have the ability, intelligence and know-how among our highly educated Assyrians whom are the sole advocates to  our salvation. The present political responsibilities are yours to tackle and tomorrows challenges for our salvation are yours to handle. The fruits of your precious labor has benefited other nations. It is high time that you dedicate some of your capabilities to the ideals of your own people who have become the people of Diaspora and the wanderers of history.

Mr. Nasseri is a former officer and advisor of the Assyrian Universal Alliance and the Assyrian American National Federation.  Mr. Nasseri's acclaimed story written for Zinda, "Angel of Nineveh", appeared on 21 January 2006 (click here).

Take the Power Back!

Edward I. Baba

A new year often means new beginnings. Keeping that in mind, we must refresh and cleanse ourselves of our past mistakes and misfortunes and start with a fresh slate. With that said, we must begin to pinpoint our problems in order to better understand the necessary steps we must take to obtain a solution.

With the continuous disruption of our political needs, I have witnessed the “leaders” of our religious groups assist in the crumbling of our successes bringing us one giant step back instead of one step closer to our solution.

As a contractor for the US Government stationed in Iraq, I have seen firsthand the atrocities and the hardships faced amongst our community in Iraq as a whole (housing, churches, etc.). I have seen the rape, the oppression, the persecution, and the constant states of fear. I have seen the tattered homes, the emaciated bodies, the orphan children suffering, and the women weeping with the uncertainty of life for the husbands, their sons, their daughters, their mothers and their fathers.

I am utterly disgusted. Disgusted at how some of these religious leaders observe with tinted eyes, blinded by the fortunes obtained through the division of our nation.

On June 8th, 2007, one of the most prominent religious figures, Pope Benedict XVI, held a meeting with the President of the United States, George W. Bush. During this meeting, the two renowned leaders discussed the current situation of Iraq as well as our humble Assyrian minority in Iraq in regards to the Nineveh Plains region. The pope asserted that the scattered Assyrian communities in Iraq are content with their situation and do not wish to be relocated. Content? Has he not seen or heard of the bloodshed and the persecution of the Assyrian Christians in Iraq? Has he not seen or heard of the destruction of the churches? With all due respect to the pope, but he is not a representative of our people in Iraq and therefore, cannot speak for them. Furthermore, I believe that the pope has already caused us enough brutality with his offenses towards the Muslim community when speaking of the prophet Mohammad. The consequences of his slandering words hit us the hardest with the rapid bombings of our churches in Iraq following his speech. Many of our people suffered as scapegoats for the pope (click here).

Following this, a closer religious figure to our nation, Mar Delly of the Chaldean church in Baghdad, held a meeting on December 18, 2007 in Baghdad to discuss, amongst other things, the Nineveh Plains with Christian clergymen. A few hours later, a conclusion arrived that the administrative region is not crucial for the Assyrian people in Iraq.

So, I must ask: Did we lose our religious institutions or did our religious institutions lose us? For centuries we have entrusted our churches with power over our nation, yet all we seem to see is the asphyxiating of the truth and the hope that we had within us for our rights and our freedoms throughout the globe.

The Simplest Solution:  A famous band, Rage Against the Machine, sang, “We need a movement with a quickness, you are the witness of change and to counteract, we gotta take the power back!...

…With lecture I puncture the structure of lies installed in our minds and attempting to hold us back, we've got to take it back. Holes in our spirit causin' tears and fears. One-sided stories for years and years and years. I'm inferior? Who's inferior? Yeah, we need to check the interior of the system that cares about only one culture. And that is why we gotta take the power back.”

We put these figures where they are now and we have to keep them in check. We employ them, and thus, they work for us. We are their employers, not their employees. Hence, we must not allow them to dictate our life, but restrict them on their religious teachings, for that is what they are employed to do.

George Carlin once said, “I'm completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death.”

Romeo Hakkari's Statement on AKI

Fred Aprim

In a news piece published on 14 January 2008 in AKI/Arabic (the Italian News agency: click here), Romeo Hakkari, the Secretary General of the Bet Nahrain Democratic Party in Iraq, is referred to as a "Chaldo Assyrian leader" and "head of the Chaldo Assyrian Bet Nahrain Party".

Did Hakkari present himself as such or did the reporter do this? If so, why? And if not, compare this with other incidents in the past when reporters presented ADM leaders as Christians, for example, and those on the Modesto-based Bet Nahrain Forum jumped up and down and made a great fuss about why the ADM leaders said so and did not mention "Assyrian".   Lets see what they will say now. I guess nothing as usual since the issue does not relate to something they could use against the ADM.

Hakkari is also presented by AKI as "Member of Kurdistani Parliament from the Christian slate".

Hakkari did not run for the Kurdish parliament on a strictly Christian slate to present himself as such. He was under the purely and strictly Kurdistani slate. So that is a lie on his part and a pure misrepresentation of what he represents in the northern Iraq Kurdish parliament. Let us be frank, he ran on the Kurdistani slate, thus, he represents the Kurdistani people.

According to AKI, Hakkari stated: "About six months ago, we gathered more than 600 signatures from the sons and daughters of the sect and attached that to a memorandum to the Kurdistani parliament to assemble a special session to address the situation of the Christians in Iraq generally."

Are 600 signatures all that Hakkari could gather? That should tell us how much support the Bet Nahrain Democratic Party has among the Assyrian Christians in northern Iraq, assuming that all the 600 were Assyrian Christians to start with (he could have had some Kurdish Christian signatures). Secondly, why is he referring to the Assyrian Christians as "sons and daughters of the sect"? Are the Assyrians a sect according to Hakkari? Why not say signatures from the Assyrian Christian people? There are times that certain individuals or groups tell us on their own what they are worth, how they lie about their position and what and how they see themselves. The above tells us a lot.

Finally, according to AKI, Hakkari criticizes Kirkuk's authorities for not providing protection to the most recent [January 9, 2008] bombed churches in Kirkuk.

Did Hakkari criticize the authorities in Kirkuk when the churches there were bombed in 2005 and 2006? Why do you think that Hakkari has a green light from his superior, M. Barazani, to critisize the authorities in Kirkuk today, but did not do that with the earlier attacks on the churches in Kirkuk? Think about the vulnerable Kurdish position in Kirkuk today and compare it to their almost untouchable position in 2005 and 2006.

Our Letter to U.S. Reps for Supporting Efforts in Washington

Joseph Odishoo, Atouraya Younadam, Danny Khaninia, Alan Awdisho
United States

The following is a copy of the letter submitted to 6 U.S. Congressional representatives in response to their support of the Assyrian activities in Washington, D.C. :

To Representative Anna G. Eshoo of California
To Representative Mark Steven Kirk of Illinois
To Representative Joe Knollenberg of Michigan
To Representative Nita M. Lowey of New York
To Representative Frank R. Wolf of Virginia
To Senator Carl Levin of Michigan

Thank You. Thank You very much. As pre-eminent people maybe you don't hear that regularly, but Thank You. Maybe people surmise and expect favors from you and people tantamount to you. But we deem incongruously, because we believe that if you deserve something and work hard towards it, then and only then should you obtain it, for example the likes of CASCA (Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council of America) and the Assyrian Aid Society of America. The people that you embraced and choose to help deserve it. We do not need to remind you of the oppression our people have endured for the last thousand years.

As a blessed American, Many have devotedly enamored the opportunities given to me by our great Forefathers. The chance to be educated without limitation, the chance to work without prejudice of my color, race or religion, the flexibility to live the way we embrace, and the greatest gift of all, which is our privilege of freedom. Yes, FREEDOM is a not a right, it is a perquisite and privilege. Many Americans, included ourselves take this fringe benefit for granted. But what privilege do the indigenous people of Iraq have ? What right do they wake up with every morning and have to sleep with every night ? What will happen to the cradle of civilization, to people who will celebrate 6758 on April 1st , 2008 and also be in a state of bereavement the same year on August 7th for our Assyrian Genocide. Without the continuing help and support from you and your colleagues nothing will happen. So we thank you again and again for all that you have done to help, to better and improve a Nation of people without a Nation to call home.

Sincerely, Indebted and Thankful.

On Mikhael K. Pius letter to Zinda

Solomon (Sawa) Solomon

Recently I picked up a late issue of the HUSCA magazine and while going through the pages I was amazed at the overall quality of the publication; it was easily equal to the best issues of Nineveh and the Assyrian Star magazines during their heyday; from the editorship to the photo layout, to the articles. It was a very fine Assyrian publication. The magazine also served as a vehicle to share rare photos in the possession of one person with everybody else, or a unique story known but to a few people, with hundreds of other Assyrians.

The editor of HUSCA magazine, Mikhael (Minashi) K. Pius, stopped producing the publication sometime ago, citing inappropriate conduct by the Administrative Manager Benyamin Yalda, from mismanaged financial practices, to the use of the magazine to create for himself a cult of personality. Pius made these accusations in a series of long letters or short notes to the Assyrian media.  Here, let us see what Minashi has written in the past about Ben Yalda:

Writing in HUSCA in the Spring-Summer 2003 Issue: "Ben has been doing a great job with administration aspects of the Newsletter … for Ben has proven himself."

In the very first issue, which came out in the Spring-Summer 2002, he says: "Ben has given me a very warm helping hand and despite his incredibly busy schedule in regard to the upcoming reunion."

In the fall-winter 2002 issue, Pius writes: "On Ben Yalda’s suggestion, Basil (Wiska) Pius has agreed to join HUSCA as Consultant and Contributing Editor. (Basil, a retired College Professor from Montana, is Minashi’s brother)."

Minashi, a regular contributor to Nineveh magazine, writes in that magazine 4th Quarter 1991 Issue:  "Ben Yalda was made in 1946 one of two Senior Scout Section Masters; and prior to that, he received the Air Officer Commanding Scout Badge.  In the same issue Pius writes to the editor of Nineveh, …. But it was our friend Ben Yalda who, by chance, pushed the idea (meaning about writing an article about the Habbaniya Scouting Movement.) To the forefront when he sent you some Scouting photos .., and I began a correspondence with Ben .. That enabled me to compile the article in question; Ben Yalda was, therefore, the motivator and part moderator of the research program."

In the Nineveh issue of 4th Quarter, 1992, Pius writes: "The reunion was the product of the imagination and hard work of four member Organizing Committee composed of Ben Yalda … the party itself was well organize in regard to both place and grace; Ben Yalda asked me in advance to speak at the reunion."

HUSCA magazine was more than just a very fine Assyrian publication; it was something that made us feel good, like it was a fun experience; everybody rejoiced when it arrived in the mail, and while the going was good for the duration, I wish that we had enjoyed it for a few more years. Habbaniya will always be part of the collective identity of the Assyrian people. God bless Ben Yalda for all that he has done for the Assyrians; the record shows half a century of impeccable service.  The best way to describe Ben is that his heart is pure, and his work is good.

ACSSU’s Third Annual Christmas Dinner

Alhan Orah
Public Relations
ACSSU of Canada

On 27 December 2007 more than 45 members of the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union (ACSSU) of Canada gathered at Akkad Restaurant for ACSSU’s third annual Christmas Dinner. The event commenced with a short welcoming speech by Ashorina Shamoun, ACSSU of Canada’s president, in English, followed by Renya Benjamen, ACSSU of Canada’s vice president, in Assyrian.

The presidents of the three ACSSU branches (Lema Yousif, ACSSU @ the University of Toronto, Allena Slevo, ACSSU @ McMaster University, Daniel Oraha, ACSSU @ York University) also introduced themselves and gave a short overview of the activities at their branches. 

Guests enjoyed the great food and hospitality while socializing with each other. Gifts brought by guests were randomly numbered and distributed among those opting to take part in our “Secret Santa” to enjoy the giving spirit of Christmas in an entertaining way.

The event was a great opportunity for ACSSU’s members to spend some time together during the Christmas break. The great turnout emphasized the continuous interest of our students and alumni in staying connected through such events.

ACSSU of Canada wishes everyone, and especially our people back home, a merry Christmas and a Happy and peaceful 2008.  

Members of ACCSU enjoy their 3rd annual Christmas Dinner on 27 December.  ACSSU has branches in 3 Greater Toronto universities.

ARAM Conference on Mandeans in September in London

Dr. Shafiq Abouzayd
Aram Society for Syro-Mesopotamian Society
The Oriental Institute University of Oxford
Pusey Lane Oxford OX1 2LE – UKý
Tel: +1865-514041ý
Fax: +1865-516824ý

ARAM Society for Syro-Mesopotamian Studies is organising its Twenty Sixth International Conference on the theme of The Mandaeans, to held at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, 08-10 September 2008.

The conference aims to study Mandaeism and its relationship to Near Eastern religions and gnostic movements, and it will start on Monday 08 September at 9am, finishing on Wednesday 10 September at 6pm. Each speaker’s paper is limited to 30 minutes, with an additional 10 minutes for discussion.

If you wish to participate in the conference, please send your answer to my email address before March 2008 (click here). If you know of colleagues who might like to contribute to the conference, please forward this message to them or send us their names and email addresses. Yet, we would like to remind our colleagues that only academics are allowed to present a paper at an ARAM conference.

The conference will start on Monday 8 September at 9am, finishing on Wednesday 10 September at 6pm. Each speaker’s paper is limited to 30 minutes, with an additional 10 minutes for discussion. All papers given at the conference will be considered for publication in a future edition of the ARAM Periodical, subject to editorial review.

If you wish to know more about our ARAM Society and its academic activities, please open our website: www.aramsociety.org.  If you have any questions or comments at any time, I am always happy to receive them.

Musing with My Samovar
with Obelit Yadgar



That summer in the third grade Anna often charged into the house like Ashurbanipal’s cavalry, slamming doors and trampling over everything. She then mounted the stairs to her room, as if scaling Elamite fortifications at Susa, and I heard objects crashing and chairs flying. There could only be one reason for the explosion, I surmised, and his name was Daniel, the boy next door, who turned Anna into a dragon.

Every neighborhood has a Daniel, a little wart of an irritant who drives everybody crazy, especially moms. I was one of those moms. I remember years earlier, when I was growing up in an Assyrian neighborhood in Chicago, we had a she-devil on the block my girlfriends and I named Tavertah (translation: Cow). Tavertah’s mother said she loved the child, but God help her if she knew what to do with her. Daniel’s mother said she loved her boy, but he was impossible. She moaned he was the biggest egg she laid, that and taking up with his worthless father, who was away for months on end. The family came from Iraq, and rumor was that the husband worked as a spy in Iraq for the CIA. Maybe he was a spy, I don’t know. I mean I wouldn’t know a spy from a pot of dolma.

Daniel had a way of suckering the neighborhood kids into a game of backgammon and, teaching them only enough to lose, proceed to clobber them while he howled like a conqueror. “Why do you play with that sawed off heathen?” I once asked Anna. “We have other kids in the neighborhood.”

“Because,” she whimpered.

“Couldn’t you kids maybe play another game, like something you’re all good at?”

She held back her tears. “Backgammon’s all he wants to play, Mommy.”

Of course. That way Daniel ruled his evil kingdom unchallenged. Boy, oh boy, this was going to be a long summer.

“I wish I knew how to play good,” Anna said, and slumped on the edge of her bed like an orphan.

Well,” I corrected her, and sank next to her. “I wish I knew how to play well.” So I’m an English teacher.

Anna shot a critical look at me, as if to say she didn’t need a lesson in English grammar now. “I’d beat his brains out if I knew how to play,” she said.

I wouldn’t be that graphic, I thought, but a mild variation of it might do the job. It did with Tavertah. Oh, yes, we made her pay for all her sins. A whole bunch of us high school girls got into a water balloon fight in the gymnasium locker room, except the balloons we threw at her were filled with a nauseating mustered-green paint from my father’s workroom. Afterward Tavertah ran home bawling. I would, too, if I looked like a slimy monster from the Nineveh sewers. It was a delicious sight, though, and from that day on Tavertah was our friend and bodyguard.

“If you really want to,” I suggested to Anna, “you can learn to play the game well enough to beat that little creep Daniel.”

“Will you teach me, Mommy?” she said.

“Oh, honey, I don’t know the first thing about backgammon,” I confessed. “Now, your father is a master player and I bet he’d love to teach you.” I said this forgetting what backgammon had meant to Victor before he gave it up, completely, after his grandfather Jacob’s death. It was as if he had never played the game.

“Daddy doesn’t do things with me,” Anna pouted. “He’s always busy.”

That was true to a point. Yes, Victor’s work as a political writer did demand much of his time. More importantly, though, I thought there was something missing in the bond between father and daughter. Even though Victor had tried to break the barrier between them, most of the time she clung to me.

“Your Daddy’s trying,” I said, “but you have to let him.”

She nodded.

“Try him when he comes home tonight,” I suggested. “You’ll be surprised what daddies can do if you give them a big hug and a kiss.”

She thought a moment. “But we don’t have a backgammon set.”

“Oh, yes, we do.”


“In the attic.”

She shot up from the bed. “Can I see it? Oh, please, Mommy, can I?”

“You have to be careful with it,” I said, “because it’s very special to your father.”

“Oh, I promise, Mommy,” she declared. “I’ll give Daddy a giant hug and a kiss.”

How Victor had come into possession of that ornate backgammon set was a bit of family history I had not shared with Anna. Neither had he. Some things Victor preferred not to talk about and that was one. As we unwrapped the dusty cloth cover and opened the set, as if holding Sennacherib’s treasure, I thought it better if Victor told her the story of it. Also, I had hopes the backgammon experience would strengthen the bond between them. They were alike in many ways, those two: their temper, drive and creative energy. Anna was Victor’s daughter in every way.

“This is almost older than the universe,” I teased, tracing a hand over the delicate ivory inlay in the rich brown wood. “It belonged to your great grandfather Jacob and before that to someone else.”

“How did Daddy get it?” Her little hand followed mine on the board.

“That’s something else you can ask him,” I said. “He and his grandfather Jacob won it on a bet. He was a wonderful man, Grandfather Jacob, and your father was crazy about him.” I kissed her forehead. “Now you run along and play while I make dinner. Stay away from Daniel for a while.”

I placed the backgammon set on the coffee table in the living room and returned to the kitchen. I turned on the radio. Opera music by Rossini was playing. Jacob loved opera. He likened it to backgammon, believing once it seeped into the blood, it would be there for life. So it remained for him until the end.

By the time I came into the family, Victor and Jacob had been playing for years. I remember watching grandfather and grandson playing backgammon on the floor, sitting cross-legged like monks, and drinking tea from glasses with ornate holders. Both smoked pipes of sweet tobacco that filled the house with the bouquet of raisins and plums, Jacob looking like Mark Twain with his full head of white hair and generous white mustache, and Victor a younger version of him. They played for hours while listening to recordings of operas by Verdi, Bellini, Puccini – Jacob knew them all, and in time so did Victor.

“How those two play that silly game and listen to all that warbling,” Grandmother Mariam would complain. One day she said, “I don’t know what you see in that boy?”

“The same thing you see in his grandfather,” I replied.

She nodded, beaming, and took my hand. “Then you will have the best of all lives,” she said.

Grandfather Jacob had learned backgammon from his father, the village mayor in the old country. By the time he came to America in his 20s, he had beaten the best players in the village. His love for opera began with the Enrico Caruso recordings he heard in his neighborhood in Chicago. He loved to sing himself, especially Italian opera. Listening to his honey-coarse basso, his Assyrian cronies at the little café on Lincoln Avenue sometimes grumbled that God had put sweetness in his throat so that he would sing in his mother tongue, not in some foreign language that sounded like Assyrian spoken backward, which no one understood.

Grandfather Jacob would relent and sing a tender and sentimental Assyrian song. But once he started to play backgammon, it was back to Italian opera. America had twisted his brain, his cronies complained, but he slapped a knee and laughed. “If you donkeys would read books and listen to opera,” he boomed, “you might become half the cultured man Jacob is.”

Sometimes he would take Victor to the café with him, which displeased Grandmother Mariam. Snapping hands to her hips, she would bark, “Jacob, you old fool, you’re going teach that boy all of your crazy habits.” Jacob would growl back and say, “Bah, woman, it’s about time my grandson experienced the old country of his ancestors.” It happened every time.

I once asked Victor if his grandparents had been in love as we were. He laughed and said, “After fifty years of marriage their love is like a jewel on the crown of Assyria.”

In the old country, Jacob and Mariam came from different villages. On one occasion, while traveling to Mariam’s village (Victor told me the reason why Jacob was going there, but now I don’t remember) the young Jacob stopped at the river to water his horse. Soon he heard a scream from around the bend and galloped his horse to see what it was, only to discover two brigands attempting to rape a young Assyrian girl. That year Assyrian villages throughout the province had come under occasional attacks by anti-Christian forces.

Exploding with rage, Jacob yelled for them to stop, but they drew their sabers and charged at him. That was a big mistake. The battle lasted long enough for the unarmed Jacob to take the saber away from one of them, while the other fled in a cloud of dust, cursing Jacob’s ancestors. The one whose saber Jacob now had in hand fell to his knees and begged for mercy. Jacob held the saber against the man’s throat and demanded, “How would you feel if someone tried to rape your mother, sister, wife or daughter – the same vicious act you tried to commit against this girl?” The man broke into tears.

“So what happened?” I asked Victor. “Oh, God, Jacob didn’t kill him, did he?”

Victor shook his head no. “Jacob was a tough fighter and he had the battle scars to show for it, but he was also chivalrous and noble. He lowered the saber. ‘I will not chop your head off even though you deserve it,’ he told him. ‘But I want you to remember till the day you die that it was an Assyrian who gave you back your miserable life.’ ”

Later that day Jacob entered the village like Shalmaneser’s general, the saber tucked in his belt and the girl he had rescued mounted behind him on the horse. It was the perfect beginning for a romance novel, and the perfect beginning for them. Soon Jacob and Mariam were married, and a year or so after that he brought her to America.

Marduk, the son of a wealthy village merchant who had always eyed Mariam for a future bride, never forgave Jacob for stealing her away from him. He held that grudge even after he himself came to America. Years later, in the café on Lincoln Avenue, he finally gathered nerve enough to challenge his old rival to a game of backgammon. He bet Jacob’s saber against the elegant backgammon set that had been in his family for years. Jacob took the bet, adding, “But you will play my grandson.”

“Man, what are you saying?” hollered Marduk, throwing up his hands. “I will not be insulted by playing a fifteen-year-old boy over a big bet like that.”

“The boy is of my blood,” shouted Jacob, pounding a fist on the table. “When you play my grandson, you play me. Put up or admit you’re a coward.”

“What if you had lost to Marduk?” I asked Victor when he told me the story. “Wasn’t the saber the symbol of love between Jacob and Mariam?”

“Of course,” he said, “but Grandfather was gutsy and he had his own way of doing things. In his mind, he was showing me family pride and reliance. Besides, the old fox knew he had done a masterful job of teaching me how to play.”

The next morning Marduk delivered the prize to Grandfather’s house, but Jacob refused it, noting the wager was not important enough to deprive a family of such a treasured possession. Being a man of honor, Marduk would not have it. The match had been fair and square, he declared, and that he had lost honorably. “Then here is your winner,” Jacob said with his arm around Victor. Marduk nodded with a grandfatherly smile and said, “By God, I can think of no worthier opponent than your grandson, Jacob.”

I was still ruminating in the kitchen when I heard Victor and Anna in the living room. She was jabbering away and Victor, I assume, trying to get a word in. I stayed in the kitchen. After a while, I heard music and shuffled out. Victor and Anna were on the floor, sitting cross-legged, and Victor was explaining the rudiments of playing backgammon. That heathen Daniel was in for the shock of his life, I thought to myself. “What are you two characters up to?” I said.

“Hello, my beauty,” announced Victor, and blew me a kiss.

I sent one back.

“Daddy’s teaching me backgammon and we’re listening to opera,” bubbled Anna.

It was good to hear Victor’s opera in the house again after all the years of silence. I gave him a gratifying look. He furrowed his brow and said, “It’s about time my daughter experienced the old country of her ancestors.” I smiled and returned to the kitchen. Dinner could wait a little longer.

Surfer's Corner
Community Events


Raabi Koorosh's Assyrian Language Book goes Online

To download a free copy click on the Assyrian text above.

Alphonse Odisho
Assyrian American Association of San Jose
P.O. Box 41311
San Jose, CA 95160

Around the world, there is a great demand for course material for teaching the Assyrian language. Some of the most popular and highly demanded Assyrian language course books are the works of the late Raabi Kourosh Benyamin.

It is now with great pleasure to present on behalf of the Education Committee of the Assyrian American association of San Jose a soft copy of the beginners’ level Assyrian language course book to students and teachers of the Assyrians language (click here). This book covers the first three volumes of the late Raabi Kourosh Benyamin’s popular course books. We are grateful
to the late Raabi’s family members for granting us permission to use the contents of the mentioned course books in this volume. The cover of the book is attached to this letter for your review.

This book cannot be produced for the purpose of revenue. It is not to be sold. It is only to be used for educational purposes. It is our hope that our civic and church organizations around the world will produce this book at their expenses and will distribute it to Assyrians in their local communities at no cost. As a man who greatly devoted his life to promoting the Assyrian
language, Raabi Kourosh would have been proud to see the sons and daughters of Assyria around the world have access to his works without having to pay any cost.

We are requesting that you include the link below in your organization’s website and/or e-mail the link to your member/subscribers so that our fellow Assyrians who might be in search for such material would benefit from this publication.

We are pleased to also advise that we are in the process of creating an intermediate level Assyrian language course book. We are planning on publishing a soft copy of the latter book by the end of June, 2008.

San Jose's Atour TV Viewable on the Internet

(ZNDA: San Jose)  The Assyrian American Association of San Jose's weekly television program, ATOUR-TV, may now be viewed online, simultaneously at 9:30 PM (Pacific Standard Time - California Time) and any time after the broadcast.

To view the next or past programs, go to www.sleeng.com and search for Atour TV.

Qenneshrin Party in Södertälje

Editorial Office Qenneshrin
Qenneshrin Newspaper
Viksängsvägen 15, 152 57
Södertälje, Sweden

We hereby invite you to a party for our newspaper, Qenneshrin, to take place in Södertälje, Sweden on 16 February 2008.

We will have music by the well-known singers Aboud Zazi and Suaad Elias. There will be poems and presentation video of Qenneshrin. Suryoyo TV will also attend our party and broadcast it later.   There is also plenty of different cultural meals.   Together, we will remember Naum Faik and our first newpaper, Zahrire d’Bahra, that started 159 years ago.

Qenneshrin is a newspaper for the Syriacs, which is released monthly throughout the world. It was founded in April 2005 and the articles in the magazine are written in five different languages: Swedish, German, Turkish, Arabic and Syriac-Aramaic. These articles contain political, cultural and social topics.

We would be pleased to see you in our party.

Date:             16 February 2008
Time:             9 p.m.
Address:        Viksängsvägen 15
                    15 157 Södertälje

Contact Person:  Nisha Rohyo       + 46 (0) 73 763 08 43  
                                   Qenneshrin          + 46 (0) 8 550 65 030


Assyrian Youth Federation Volleyball Tournament in Holland

Assyrian Youth Federation
Assyrische Jongeren Federatie Nederland

On February 23rd the Assyrian Youth Federation (AJF) of Holland will organize an indoor international volleyball tournament to celebrate the 5th anniversary of their federation.

The highlight of this sporting event will be the party later on the evening with our big star: Habib Mousa, accompanied by Nawfal Chamoun and George Abdo.

Both the tournament and the party will take place on the 23 February 2008.
The tournament starts at 10 am till 4 am (10.00 till 16:00) and the party will be from 7.00 pm till 02.00 am ( 19.00 till 02.00).

For playing at the volleyball tournament it is necessary to register in advance, so we can bear in mind how many teams we get so we can make arrangements for the draw. We are asking a fee of 20 euros per team. The teams must consist of 6 players with minimally 2 ladies in the team.
Applying is possible till the 18th of February.

Below you find more details about the program on Saturday 28 February 2008:

Volleyball tournament
10.00 tot 18.00 uur

Veilingstraat 20
7542 LZ Enschede
Hago witht Habib Mousa, Nawfal en George Abdo 19:00 uur tot 2:00 uur

Beckum Palace
Haaksbergerstraat 166-i
7554 PB Hengelo

We are  looking forward to seeing you on Saturday 23 February 2008.

If you want to register or you want to have more information, you can call or email us:

Jacob Yousef            0646298846        jacob_yousef@hotmail.com

Want to Be in Azadoota's New Video?

Shout-out to all music-lovers who want to shake their groove thang in front of the camera!

Azadoota will be filming a music video for the first single from our forthcoming album. The song is also called

"Azadoota", and the theme of the video will be "different cultures celebrating together".

We're looking for people of all nationalities to participate in the party scene. You'll just need to dance along to the song, first in a group of people from the same culture and then together with everyone. (It will be easy because it's a really danceable song).

Shoot date is Sunday 10th February.

Location is Waterloo (Sydney).

Catering will be provided.

If you are interested in participating, please email us with your name, culture, and mobile number and we will contact you with further details. Click here to proceed.

Zinda Recommendations from Gorgias Press

For More Info
The Correspondence of Severus and Sergius
Iain Torrance

Exploring the world of sixth-century Miaphysitism, Torrance here provides translations of the letters between two Miaphysites of differing outlooks. Severus of Antioch was the Patriarch of Antioch and a moderate Miaphysite whose doctrine differed from Catholic teaching primarily in terminological divergences. Sergius the Grammarian is a lesser-known figure, but the content of his letters demonstrates that he was a more extreme Miaphysite. The correspondence between the two consists of three letters of Sergius and the three replies by Severus. An additional apology by Sergius rounds out the collection. Made available in the original Syriac along with Torrance’s translation, these letters are an important part of the working out of concerns associated with the context of the Council of Chalecedon. Presented here with a new introduction by the translator, the letters are available to readers interested in this fascinating and involved period of church history.

Iain R. Torrance earned his D. Phil. at Oxford University and is the President of Princeton Theological Seminary. He has written widely on many current issues in theology and is a respected scholar of Eastern Christianity.

The Syriac Book of Steps Robert Kitchen

The Book of Steps is a collection of 30 sermons and Biblical interpretation by an anonymous author living in the Persian Empire (modern Iraq) during the late 300's. One of the largest examples of early Syriac literature, the Book of Steps describes the struggle of a Christian community prior to the advent of monasticism to live a faithful, committed life in the pursuit of perfection. The author details the aspirations and standards of the two ranks of Christians in his community: the Upright ones—married lay people who work in the world and perform the various acts of Christian charity—and the Perfect ones who are celibate, do not work, but live a life of prayer, while wandering through the region teaching and mediating conflicts. The Book of Steps is a unique work because it presents a living portrait of an actual religious community, not an idealized one, in the midst of a hostile culture. While the author advocates an ascetical lifestyle, this community does not practice the extreme physical asceticism so often associated with the Syriac church during this period. Unlike many works on the spiritual life, the author gradually seems to withdraw his praise for the higher rank, the Perfect, and begin to encourage, if not favor, the lower rank, the Upright.

Robert A. Kitchen is the Minister of Knox-Metropolitan United Church, Regina, Saskatchewan. He holds a D.Phil in Syriac Language and Literature from the University of Oxford. Along with Martien F. G. Parmentier he has translated the Book of Steps for Cistercian Publications.

Reliquary of Ancient Ecclesiastical Laws Paul de Lagarde

A notable resource for both church historians and linguists, this work of Lagarde contains both Syriac and Greek materials concerning ancient ecclesiastical laws. A number of ancient documents are cited in this unusual collection. Half of this collection is presented in the original Syriac and half in the original Greek. All introductions and notes are written in Latin. A noteworthy source that comprises part of the volume is the Testamentum Domini, extracts of which Lagarde included in his collection. Intended for the serious linguist and church historian, this work requires language skills to unravel. As a collection of materials that had been inaccessible up to Lagarde’s time, this volume also serves as a period piece containing a fresh view of writings that helped inform the growth of canon law.

Paul Anton de Lagarde (1827-1891) was a biblical scholar and student of ancient languages. Having studied at Berlin, Halle, London, and Paris, he had a wide exposure to international thought. He eventually taught at Göttingen. Despite his participation in the anti-Semitism of his day, he was a gifted student of Semitic languages. His voluminous linguistic works are still recognized for their insights into oriental languages. He made important contributions to the study of Syriac, Aramaic, Arabic, Hebrew, and Coptic, as well as Greek and Latin.

Editor's Pick



Nuri Kino

Suroyo TV is currently running a series titled Dore u yawmotho, which loosely means ‘From Generation to Generation’. Its subject is towns and villages in Mesopotamia (Bethnahrin) and in every episode guests are invited to the studio, ranging from historians, craftsman, priests and former inhabitants.   This past Sunday’s episode was about the village of Kerburan, where my mother was born. As small children my sister and I were brought up there by relatives as my mother left us to work in West Germany to put money aside for the family.

The program started with a beautiful, strong, rewarding and moving report regarding the town’s history, environment and architecture. Kerburan was beautifully surrounded with valleys and bodies of water, known for its figs, melons and grapes.  Indeed my maternal grandmother’s father had one of the biggest vineyards. The town was also famous for its water, said to cure among other ailments, rheumatism. A town thousands of years old, is now empty of its original inhabitants, totally empty of Assyrians, also called Syriacs and Chaldeans.

The green dot shows the approximate location of the town of Kerburon in southeast Turkey, the Tur-Abdin portion of the Assyrian territories in Mesopotamia.

The TV studio was filled with faces I recognised, both from my childhood trips to Västerås, where a large portion of those from Kerburon live and from West Germany, where we, as children eventually joined our parents and had several neighbours who also came from the town of Kerburon

Josef Özer, who competed in the Swedish Eurovision Song Contest two years ago, has his origins in Kerburon too and has performed a song on the show which he dedicated to Kerburon

One of the program directors for Dore u yawmotho, Denho Özmen, is a resident of Södertälje. He is also the chairman for the educational society of Edessa. A few years ago I was employed by the society as one of two travel leaders for a group of youngsters from Sweden who wanted to learn about their roots.  One of the youngsters was from Kerburon and we travelled there together. We first travelled to her family’s former home and later to my maternal grandmother’s as well as others we knew. All of the houses were now occupied by Kurds. Most of them treated us with respect, we were ‘children of Kerburon’ but some of them were cold and skeptical; were we there to try and take back our land?

The biggest tragedy however, was the two churches, for both these holy buildings which had earlier been filled with happiness, love and wise words, were now used as stables. I can remember even today how the tears fell at seeing them.

When we were about to leave a group of curious Kurdish children gathered around us. The girl who originally came from Kerburon spoke a little Kurdish and could communicate with them. This made the children very happy, as we were exotic tourists, another culture, and another religion, on a trip in their hometown. She hugged them, gave out sweets and answered their questions politely.

The other members of the group had returned to the bus and the girl from Kerburon and I were the last to get on. Just as I was about to close the door to the bus a woman took my hand.

“I’m one of you”, she said with a lump in her throat. She was dressed as the other women, she looked like them, but she spoke our language.

When she was fourteen years old she had been kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam. She wanted to touch our hands, hold us and asked us to talk about her to her relatives in other parts of southeast Turkey. Kerburon wasn’t totally cleaned out; there was one of us still remaining, one who had been kidnapped, forced to covert her religion and marry one of theirs.

It was difficult not to feel anger when I, on Sunday’s program heard how everyone from Kerburon had suffered at the hands of their Moslem neighbours. I ignored the feelings and let sense take over, so that I could learn more about the fantastic historical town which my maternal grandmother was born in, where I, as a child, was taken to by my mother’s cousin, Mehbuba.

But then the feelings returned in the form of irritation. Denho Özmen asked Cemil Demir, also from Södertälje, why the Christians didn’t remain: “Why did they give up?”

“Due to the murders, one after another was killed. The last murder, that which became the final nail in the coffin, took place in 1978”, answered Demir.

I asked my parents if it was true, that I remember a memorial service for Endrawus Demir in Ronna. They answered that it was true and that his murder terrified us even here in Sweden.

It is possible to send an SMS to Suryoyo TV, which is then shown in a bar at the bottom of the screen. Fuat Deniz, a relative of Endrawus Demir, murdered in Örebro a month ago, was also from Kerburon and many honour his memory. He was also mentioned in the program as one of the most well known exiles from Kerburon. It is difficult to hold back tears.

Singer Tomas Demir interrupted me in my dark thoughts. He is a divine singer and can make one forget their thoughts and immerse themselves in the music.

A very rewarding and important program finished with both program leaders and guests urging the older generation from Kerburon to teach the town’s history, culture and traditions for the next generation.

Nuri Kino is an accomplished investigative journalist and film-maker, and Zinda Magazine's Person of the Year in 2006.

Sinan Antoon

Stan Shabaz
Washington D.C.

The novelist and poet, Sinan Antoon [1] recently visited Washington, D.C. to discuss his novel, “I’jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody”. This highly acclaimed novel revolves around a fictional manuscript found in the files of an Iraqi prison. The genre of the “found” manuscript has a notable history in modern Near Eastern literature. Some examples include Ameen Rihani’s “The Book of Khalid” as well as Mikhail Naimy’s novels “The Book of Mirdad” and “Memoirs of a Vagrant Soul”. In “The Book of Khalid” the fictional manuscript which formed the basis of that book was “discovered” in the Khedivial Library of Cairo. In “Memoirs of a Vagrant Soul” the manuscript in question was a notebook found in a Syrian coffeehouse, while “The Book of Mirdad” was based around a manuscript discovered in a fictitious mountain-top monastery.

In the case of Antoon’s “I’jaam” the manuscript which forms the basis of the novel was said to be found in the files of the General Security Headquarters in Baghdad. It was written by a fictitious prisoner named Furat. It contains the thoughts and recollections of Furat, which he wrote while he was held prisoner during the late 1980s. It was written without any dots, in an attempt to make it less readable to his captors. Hence when it is discovered, the security official in charge sends it to a subordinate to render it legible. The novel is thus presented as this subordinate’s rendering of the manuscript.

Furat’s manuscript contains his recollections of his carefree pre-incarceration life as well as details of some of the gorier aspects of his captivity. Both past and present are woven together in a seamless way, incorporating remembrances of love and joy along with descriptions of torture and pain. Mixed in for good measure are hallucinations and nightmares produced by long periods of isolation interspersed with brutal interrogation sessions.

The manuscript describes the two most important people in Furat’s life: his grandmother and his girlfriend Areej. His grandmother, a devoutly religious woman, would go to church to pray everyday:

The history of the country lumbered forward while my grandmother attended church. When King Ghazi was killed, she was in Our Lady of Sorrows—because my grandfather’s house was in the Christian quarter at that time—and during the movement of Rashid ‘Ali al-Gaylani she was in Sacred Heart, and when the Ba’thists took power she was in Karradat Maryam. I used to tell her that she should go to church once a week on Sundays, like everyone else, and not every day. But the seven weekly meetings continued, leaving a clear mark in her white hair and weak constitution. [2]

In addition to being deeply religious, his grandmother was also very proud of her ancestry:

My grandmother always took pride in our Chaldean origins, and would get angry when I would try to convince her that, culturally, we were Arabs—or Arabized, at least, and not a separate ethnicity like the Armenians or Assyrians. Or when I would say that all that is left of Chaldea is the language used in Mass—the one she speaks with relatives of her generation or with me when she is angry—and even that is dying out. She would always refuse to discuss the subject and accuse me of abandoning my heritage.

“Shut your mouth! Now you’re not making any sense! How can you forget your roots?” [3]

Many readers would take issue with some of these ideas of Furat, but we should remember that Furat was someone who always spoke his mind, sometimes without thinking things through. Even his grandmother had to rebuke him here. In contrast to Furat’s youthful arrogance, the wisdom of his aged grandmother shines through in her simple admonition: “How can you forget your roots?”
She would also critique his skeptical view of religion:

‘Why don’t you come with me to church? Maybe God will enlighten you.’

‘I don’t want to be enlightened, bibi. I’m looking forward to hell. Leave me alone, please.” [4]

Novelist Sinan Antoon signing his latest book in Washington, D.C. (photo by Stan Shabaz)

When a Ba’thi youth came to her home asking if there were Party members in her household she replied “I’m an old woman. […] do you mean to tell me that I should spend my last years going to meetings?” When the Ba’thi teenager said “Auntie, your people need to put a brick in this country’s edifice”, the grandmother aptly replies: “We’ve been in this country for thousands of years. Why should we have to put up a brick?” [5]

Furat’s grandmother was proud of her ancestry, her people, and her Christian faith. She lived a long life and learned much which she tried to impart to her headstrong grandson. She worried about him, for she knew he could be very stubborn and very outspoken on matters political. Her views on politics are best summarized in the following sentiment she expressed to Furat: “You think whoever comes next will be any better? These people need to be ruled with an iron hand.” [6]

Furat’s girlfriend, Areej, is the other major person in his life. She is a very sympathetic character. Their budding courtship and romance is told in fragments throughout the manuscript. Furat would always indulge Areej with his jokes making fun of the Party and the “great Leader”.  He trusts her completely, and that somewhat disturbs her. In an effort to dissuade him from his impertinence she would tell him: “Be careful not to trust me too much. I am trouble.” [7] She felt that he was too outspoken for his own good. Areej, much like Furat’s grandmother, felt that his bluntness, stubbornness and irreverent attitude would one day get him into trouble. Well, eventually he did say the wrong thing to the wrong person, though he never does quite figure out what exactly he did wrong. Whatever the offending action or remark, it was enough to lead him to the General Security Headquarters where he is left to rot. The monotony and isolation of his imprisonment relieved only when he is given paper and pen to write with by a (sympathetic?) guard. It is through these writings that we are given a glimpse into Furat’s life: his thoughts, his memories, his dreams as well as his nightmares. “I’jaam” is an extremely well written and captivating book and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the modern literature of the region.

The Baghdad Blues

Antoon is also the author of a book of poetry, “The Baghdad Blues”. It is a book of war poetry reminiscent of the war-literature of the World War I era. These poems reveal the horrors and tragedies unleashed by wars and sanctions of unimagined scope and brutality. The poems in this book are full of imageries of death and devastation. Take for example this extract from “When I was torn by war”:

I took a brush
Immersed in death
And drew a window
On war’s wall
I opened it
For something
I saw another war
And a mother
Weaving a shroud
For the dead man
Still in her womb [8]

A similar tone is also exhibited in this extract from “Wrinkles; on the Wind’s Forehead”

The child plays
In time’s garden
But war calls upon her
From inside:
Come on in!

The grave is a mirror
Into which the child looks
And dreams:
When will I grow up
And be like my father

The Tigris and Euphrates
Are two strings
In death’s lute
And we are songs
Or fingers strumming [9]

Yet even in this book of war poetry Antoon is still able to include some poems about love. For example in “Delving” he writes:

The sea is a lexicon
Of blueness
Assiduously read
By the sun
Your body, too
Is a lexicon
Of my desires
Its first letter will take a lifetime! [10]

It is noteworthy that in both books Antoon includes narratives and imageries of love, mixed in with the horrors of torture, imprisonment and war. I don’t think this is just a coincidence, for even in the darkest of circumstances, love is the eternal symbol of hope and life. And what our people need now, more than ever, is hope.


  1. Sinan Antoon is a poet, novelist and translator. He studied English literature at Baghdad University. He was co-producer of the 2003 documentary film “About Baghdad” and is contributing editor to Banipal magazine. He currently teaches Arabic literature and culture at New York University. Most recently he has contributed an essay on the work of poet Mahmoud Darwish in the newly published anthology “Mahmoud Darwish, Exile’s Poet: Critical Essays” edited by Hala Khamis Nassar and Najat Rahman.
  2. Antoon, Sinan. I’jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2007, Sinan Antoon, pg. 76-77.
  3. Ibid. pg. 52.
  4. Ibid. pg. 51.
  5. Ibid. pg. 52.
  6. Ibid. pg. 77.
  7. Ibid. pg. 86.
  8. “When I was Torn by War” in “The Baghdad Blues”, pg 7.
  9. “Wrinkles; on the wind’s forehead” in “The Baghdad Blues”, pg. 26-27.
  10. “Delving” in “The Baghdad Blues”, pg. 13

A Genuine Consent to Pride

Shamirum Benjamin

With every day of every month of every year of my life until this very moment, I have been learning. I may not remember everything I’ve “learned,” but knowledge does grow, and it grows within me. When I was quite young, I adored learning about my people’s history. With a name like “Shamirum,” and countless children and adults mispronouncing it and asking its meaning (not to mention mocking it), you will become prone to wanting to know the story behind the name. With parents like mine, you will have no choice but to know this story from beginning to end. And, due to my own inquisitiveness (which is natural to most children), at probably four years old, I learned the derivation of my given name. Through knowledge of my name came knowledge of my own origins: that of my parents and that of my ancestors; that of every single person, on this planet, who has ever been so blessed and so cursed to have been called “Assyrian.”

At five or six, I opened a book that described historical and geographical details of the Assyrian Empire; it included a map of the extensive reaches of the once powerful state. I had already been exposed to current maps of the world and I looked at the old maps and instinctively compared, present to past, and I cried. I cried, like a child who too quickly realized that dreams and reality are not one in the same, for a legend, for a people who were once great and shone like stars, and for the story of how they lost it all and plummeted toward darkness, a moonless sky. This was not the first sad story I had heard at that age, no, but it was the first one that belonged to me, was about me. I mourned a loss that I did not at that time understand, and still do not completely understand, but that I felt and continue to feel. This feeling only grows stronger and it heavies my already burdened heart. I feel that loss and all other Assyrian losses with every fiber of my being; I feel these losses as if they are traveling along with the blood in my veins. I was born with heartache for my people and I will die with it.

As a young girl embarking on her teenage years, I rebelled against the nationalism that was probably engrained in my DNA, because I began to feel uncomfortable with it; I felt guilt. I denied my pride because I began to see it as an insult to the rest of the human race. I considered myself a “citizen of the world,” a human being no better and no worse than any other human being. I still consider myself as such today, but since then, I have fortunately come to the realization that pride for your heritage and people doesn’t necessarily equate to an egotistical frame of mind. I am no longer rebelling or in denial, because I learned that true Assyrian pride equals true Assyrian love.

Is it wrong to love one human being more than another? Is it wrong of me to love my Assyrian brothers and sisters more than all of my other human relatives around the globe? I don’t think so. It’s natural to love your immediate family more than your distant family. No one, without being a hypocrite, could tell you that loving your sister more than your distant cousin (whom you’ve never met by the way) is a sin. We all have this amazingly human ability to love some more than others, and it’s actually a part of what has helped us survive on this planet for as long as we have. I’m not a goddess, I’m not all-encompassing and all-knowing, and so I am not equal and complete with my love, as might be expected of a god. My people encompass me most and I know them the best, those are facts I can’t and no longer wish to ignore. I eventually defied the once-enjoyed oblivion I had toward my own people, and so I don’t feel the need to justify, to myself, why I love them more.

I believe that love is unending and that it can never be depleted. But, in tune with my previous analogy: Assyrians are my immediate family and the rest of the world’s people are my distant cousins, while I love them all, Assyrians are my people in a way others are not, and so they are my responsibility. I must essentially love them completely, flaws and all, to feel such an obligation toward helping them. I will always value, and subsequently love, every person in this world, good or evil, ugly or beautiful, friend or foe, but I am not accountable to all of them, I simply can’t be without having some sort of hidden reserve of supernatural power (and we already talked about how I’m not a god). So, who holds me most accountable? The very same people who share my history, who have suffered my pain as I have suffered theirs, they all hold me accountable. I could not call myself an Assyrian without them; my identity would be meaningless and with no true anchor in this world. I am only Assyrian because they are Assyrian, too. Who else would recognize me and accept me as such? Only them. Only those who are proud enough to share this beautiful and glowing name with me: my beloved Assyrians.

With honest and sincere pride comes a love that is true and straight, and with love comes hope, but hope is not infinite and everlasting like love. Hope is dependent, and it survives only through perseverance, through our insistence that it continues to exist. Hope for our people, quite literally, depends on me and you. When I realized that hope was somehow born within me, and that I can keep it alive through my words and actions, I finally encountered a pride that was guiltless. I seized the happiness that comes from shamelessly cherishing your culture and heritage. It’s my heritage after all, and once I fully accepted it, nothing could break the pride that came with it, not even my own thinking and previous doubts, not even the voice that used to tell me that having pride was egocentric and arrogant … because that voice no longer speaks. Upon my shoulders I carry the weight of debt and duty for my Assyrian family, and it has stifled the sound of any insecurity that came with my young pride. Like mothers and fathers who will protect their children from harm, who will sacrifice themselves for their progeny before sacrificing themselves for others, my nation is my progeny, it is my family, it is my blood. Without defending it and caring for it, I myself can not live as who I claim to be, I lose the privilege that comes with my name. Consenting to my own pride was like me ultimately giving myself permission to love … me. When I nurture my people, I inevitably nurture myself, and that has to be one of the most beautifully selfish and, at the same time, unequivocally selfless things one can do.

Is Iraqi Kurdistan a Good Ally?

Michael Rubin
American Enterprise Institute
Washington, DC

On a strictly emotional level, U.S. support for Iraqi Kurdistan makes sense.[1] In the wake of World War I, the Kurds missed their opportunity for statehood when other peoples gained their independence. Today, they remain the largest ethnic group without a country. They have suffered greatly at the hands of others. But while Iraqi Kurdistan has come far, the unreliability of its leadership makes any long-term U.S.-Kurdish alliance unwise. Rather than become a beacon for democracy, the current Iraqi Kurdish leadership appears intent on replicating more autocratic models. Rather than become a regional Nelson Mandela, Iraqi Kurdish president Masud Barzani now charts a course to become a new Yasser Arafat. Despite lofty rhetoric about its suitability as an ally, Iraqi Kurdistan's actions suggest that it is far from trustworthy.

Iraqi Kurdistan has been, perhaps, the greatest beneficiary of Iraq's liberation. Today, Iraqi Kurds enjoy the country's highest living standard, level of foreign investment, and security. International isolation has ended. European air carriers bring travelers and even tourists from Munich and Vienna directly to Sulaymaniyah and Erbil. Multinational troops enjoy rest and relaxation in Duhok hotels and Dokan resorts. Oil executives from the United States and Europe jostle for Kurdish attention. Peter Galbraith, a Clinton-era ambassador retained by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) to lobby on their behalf, even suggests constructing a U.S. military base in the region.[2]

Just five years ago, the situation was far different. While Iraqi Kurds have enjoyed de facto autonomy since 1991, uncertainty overshadowed their daily life. Among Iraqi Kurds, confidence was low that the United States or the United Nations (UN) would do more than condemn Baghdad or ratchet up sanctions should the Iraqi army move north. In 1975, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger sacrificed Iraqi Kurds to a realpolitik deal with Baghdad, already dominated by then-deputy president Saddam Hussein. The international community remained largely silent when the Iraqi government used chemical weapons to massacre Kurdish civilians in 1988. U.S. forces did little when Saddam ordered the Republican Guard to occupy Erbil in 1996. While the Clinton administration condemned the move, both allies and adversaries alike saw how muted the U.S. response was, even as the Guard detained, lined up, and summarily executed Iraqi oppositionists working with Washington. In 2000, Iraqi forces suffered little consequence when they crossed the thirty-sixth parallel to probe Kurdish defenses around the village of Baadre.[3]

Western states and international human rights organizations largely ignored the only relatively free area of Iraq as it suffered not only under UN sanctions but also under a separate embargo imposed by Saddam's regime in Baghdad, which UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali empowered to allocate food and medicine to Iraqi Kurdistan under the UN Oil-for-Food Programme.[4] As late as 2001, the State Department maintained that it was illegal for U.S. citizens to travel to Iraqi Kurdistan on U.S. passports under terms of U.S. and UN sanctions.

Iraqi Kurdistan's Opportunity

The March 1, 2003, Turkish decision not to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom gave the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) an unexpected strategic boost. While U.S. Special Forces and intelligence had partnered with the Kurdish peshmerga militia and the Kurdish political leadership in the months prior to the outbreak of hostilities, U.S. military planners had envisioned a far more robust partnership with Turkey. In February 2003, U.S. and Turkish diplomats and military officials hammered out an extensive memorandum of understanding outlining U.S.-Turkish cooperation in Iraq. So convinced were Iraqi Kurdish officials that the Turkish relationship with Washington would take precedence over their own concerns that they scrambled not to prevent Turkish involvement but to win an agreement that, first, the Pentagon would limit the Turkish presence in Iraq to certain supply corridors in northern Iraq, and, second, that any more substantive Turkish contingent would operate only in areas south or east of Tikrit--areas of operation that Erbil deemed to limit Turkish influence in the disputed city of Kirkuk.

The Turkish parliament's refusal to join the U.S.-led coalition certainly undercut Turkish strategic leverage and bolstered the strategic importance of Iraqi Kurdish forces to U.S. goals. Rather than transit Turkey, U.S. forces parachuted into the Harir airfield, north of Erbil. The peshmerga may have done more looting than fighting in the first weeks of the war, but, symbolically, their participation cemented an enhanced relationship with a skeptical U.S. Central Command, more accustomed to the worldview of Arab leaders and their relatives among the general staffs than to Kurdish concerns. Romanticism also bolstered the U.S.-Kurdish relationship. It was hard for many in the U.S. military not to be sympathetic to the Iraqi Kurds: many had their first experience with Iraqi Kurds in 1991 when they helped stem mass migration and mass starvation with Operation Provide Comfort. Returning twelve years later, they found the region transformed, despite many obstacles, because of Kurdish leadership.

Local Kurdish culture also facilitated a relationship with the United States. Both Turkish diplomats and military officers often stand on ceremony, and rigid adherence to protocol undercuts rather than facilitates their relations.[5] Few American diplomats like their Turkish interlocutors. The Iraqi Kurds, in contrast, shower visiting U.S. officials with hospitality, arranging lavish banquets and, in a few cases, even facilitating liaisons with women. The KDP puts U.S. officials in its own guesthouse and offers both military and State Department officials gifts ranging from silk carpets to gold jewelry. While most U.S. officials refuse to take such gifts, during the Coalition Provisional Authority period, some U.S. civilian officials and military officers accepted them.

Also enhancing Kurdish influence in Washington has been the KRG's hiring of former U.S. military and political officials to represent them. The Kurdish leadership, for example, engaged a lobbying firm run by Robert D. Blackwill, a former deputy national security adviser, to represent Kurdish interests in Washington and to arrange meetings with administration officials.[6] Harry Schute, former commander of the 404th Civil Affairs Battalion stationed in Erbil, resigned his military commission to become a paid consultant to Kurdistan prime minister Nechervan Barzani. Both General Jay Garner (Ret.) and Colonel Dick Naab (Ret.), who led the postwar civilian administrations in Baghdad and Erbil, respectively, have returned to Iraqi Kurdistan in pursuit of contracts. Qubad Talabani, the son of the PUK leader, asked Kurds and friends of Iraqi Kurds to donate to the election campaigns of U.S. congressmen sympathetic to Kurdish independence.

The Kurdish participation alongside U.S. troops in Iraq's liberation, especially in contrast to Turkish actions, has led the Iraqi Kurdish leadership to express a sense of entitlement. In response to a 2003 interview question about what rewards Iraqi Kurds expected from their support of U.S. aims, Masud Barzani said, "Our basic demand from the United States and Britain . . . is support for our struggle to achieve our national rights."[7] In a 2005 essay making the same argument, Barzani pointed out, "After the U.S. armed forces, our peshmerga was the second-largest member of the coalition."[8]

A Beacon for Democracy?

The Bush Doctrine makes an alliance with Iraqi Kurdistan seem natural. Transformative diplomacy and democratization have been at the forefront, at least rhetorically, of White House policy. Here, Iraqi Kurdistan might seem a model. Two years before Saddam's fall, Carole O'Leary, a scholar in residence at the American University Center for Global Peace, described Iraqi Kurdistan as a "crucible for democracy and a model for post-Saddam Iraq."[9] Sverker Oredsson and Olle Schmidt, respectively a Lund University historian and a Swedish politician, called the Iraqi Kurdistan region "a Democratic beacon in the Middle East."[10] In 2006, the KRG-run Kurdistan Development Corporation aired television advertisements in the United States describing Iraqi Kurdistan as a "practicing democracy for over a decade."[11] While an exaggeration--neither the KDP nor the PUK allow any serious electoral challenge--relative to Saddam's rule in the rest of the country, the three provinces controlled by Masud Barzani and PUK leader Jalal Talabani were far freer.

But neither Barzani nor Talabani are democrats. During the 1994-97 intra-Kurdish civil war, both Kurdish leaders grossly violated human rights: opponents disappeared and Barzani and Talabani ordered the summary execution of prisoners. Today, Iraqi Kurdish activists in territories controlled by both political leaders estimate that three thousand Kurdish prisoners remain unaccounted for,[12] but regional human rights organizations say that the political leadership bans any advocacy on behalf of the missing families. During Saddam's 2006 trial, many Kurdish intellectuals in the region's universities and cafes noted with irony that the Iraqi Kurdish leadership had committed many of the same crimes--albeit without the scale or the use of chemicals--for which Saddam was tried.

Iraq has changed, but Iraqi Kurdistan has not. After Saddam's fall, many Iraqi Kurds expected that their region would liberalize and democratize. Rather than reform, however, regional politics have ossified. Barzani retains dictatorial control over the Duhok and Erbil governorates, and Talabani likewise dominates Sulaymaniyah. While it is inaccurate to describe the Kurdish leadership--at least the PUK half--as tribal, both parties rely on family members for control. Barzani appointed his nephew prime minister and assigned his thirty-five-year-old son to run the local intelligence service. Other relatives control the regional telephone company, newspapers, and media.

Talabani's wife, Hero Khan, likewise, runs the local satellite station. One son manages the PUK's intelligence operation, while the other represents the KRG in Washington. When it came time to divvy up ministerial portfolios in Baghdad, both Kurdish leaders turned to their families: Barzani gave his uncle the Foreign Ministry portfolio, while Talabani gave one brother-in-law the Ministry of Water Resources and his wife's brother-in-law the ambassadorship to China. To Talabani's credit, both men are professionally qualified.

Anti-Americanism has taken hold within Iraqi Kurdistan. Not recognizing it now and taking measures to correct it will negatively impact U.S. strategic opportunities down the line.

Both Barzani and Talabani control holding companies, some attached to relatives and others to their political parties. Talabani, in his capacity as PUK head, has transferred government land to relatives to develop at a profit. In one ongoing case, he has used Nokan, his party's business conglomerate, as the intermediary to evict refugees from land his party wishes to develop for the patronage of its members. Because both the KDP and the PUK control judicial appointments, refugees and ordinary citizens without high-level contacts lack any real recourse for appeal. During routine prison visits, independent human rights monitors have discovered businessmen imprisoned without charge who say they were imprisoned on the order of one of Barzani's sons after spurning silent partnerships with Barzani family businessmen.

While in office, both Barzani and Talabani have amassed fortunes in excess of $2 billion and $400 million, respectively.[13] Whereas the Kurdish political leadership once squabbled over custom posts' revenue, today they conflate the regional treasury with party slush funds and personal pocketbooks. There is, in practice, little differentiation between the property of Barzani and Talabani as individuals and the holdings of their political parties and the KRG as a whole. Barzani transformed a public resort on Sari Rash into a personal compound, and his family members and ministers have built palatial houses on nearby public land.

Recent oil negotiations demonstrate the continued blurring of the Kurdish political and commercial spheres. To win oil exploration concessions and development contracts in Erbil and Duhok, companies must partner silently with a Barzani-appointed associate. Several officials close to various oil negotiations say Barzani's associates have requested that up to 10 percent of future revenue go to Barzani personally and an equal amount to Barzani's political party. The KRG's public treasury is a secondary concern, even if the oil, in theory, is a resource for the entire Kurdistan region, if not Iraq. Such conflicts of interest are not new. Documents seized after Saddam's fall discuss business dealings between Nechervan Barzani and Saddam's sons. Corruption increasingly filters downward. According to a local nongovernmental organization (NGO) in Halabja, in 2006, a suspicious fire destroyed the archives of the PUK's teachers' union after an audit was ordered concerning embezzlement of union funds. However, many Iraqi Kurds say they had hoped the U.S. presence would catalyze reform, transparency, and accountability.

Mechanisms of Control

Political control runs deep. In the case of a victim learning from his tormentor, both parties have replicated Baath Party mechanisms of control. Both the KDP and the PUK deputize representatives not only to college classes but also to high schools. In some cases, these student representatives who act as political commissars are fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds: they compile reports about both classroom and private discussions, which KDP and PUK intelligence collate. The intelligence apparatus runs deep, and torture is common.[14] Both Kurdish parties model themselves after the Baath Party. While neither party adheres to its founding ideologies (few PUK Politburo members, for example, take seriously the beliefs of the Socialist International, even though the PUK is a member organization), ambitious members still get ahead by informing on colleagues. Kurds treat foreigners well, but regard them with suspicion: taxi drivers stationed outside Sulaymaniyah hotels report to PUK intelligence. The KDP often houses foreigners in its Salahuddin guesthouse. While comfortable, the arrangement forces them to rely on party drivers (ordinary taxi drivers cannot approach the facility). KDP intelligence will often order taxi drivers not to transport Westerners who have not secured permission from the KDP intelligence chief to move between towns.

Staff in the leading Erbil, Duhok, and Sulaymaniyah hotels must be party members; many are affiliated with intelligence services and compile dossiers on guests and those with whom they meet. Duhok University has installed keystroke tracking software on computers used by foreign staff; it is likely that other regional colleges and universities do so as well.

The consequences of not towing the party line run deep: students who speak critically against either party or its leadership are blacklisted for employment and educational opportunities. At Salahuddin University, for example, students who have superior grades but are not affiliated with the KDP may see themselves disqualified from valedictorian status.

Barzani and Talabani enjoy other mechanisms of control. The peshmerga--literally, those who face death--serve less as an army for Iraqi Kurdistan than as a militia to enforce the wishes of the political party leaders. Tellingly, despite the nominal unification between the two Kurdish leaders' administrations, both parties' security services and militias remain distinct. Travelers arriving in Kuysanjaq, the first major town in PUK territory after leaving KDP territory, are questioned by PUK peshmerga and, on occasion, its intelligence service as well.

Peshmerga members are often above the law. In one recent case, a KDP peshmerga member shot a police officer during a routine traffic stop. The suspect's colleagues removed him from police custody in order to prevent the prosecutor's attempts to pursue charges against him.[15]

There are no checks and balances. Press freedom in Iraqi Kurdistan is in decline, even as it expands in non-Kurdish regions. Talabani's wife uses her control of both the local satellite station and a local magazine to target critics.

Although there are two independent newspapers in Iraqi Kurdistan--Awene and Hawlati--they are increasingly constrained. Both parties use their control over law courts to intimidate, bankrupt, and even imprison journalists who criticize ruling parties and officials. The PUK, for example, prosecuted Hawlati editors after the paper accused the PUK prime minister of abuse of power.[16] Nechervan Barzani's office has even threatened frivolous lawsuits against foreign writers and analysts who fail to adhere to his party's line.

Those who refuse to be co-opted or at least be silent face the Kurdish security services. In October 2006, the KDP's secret service abducted Austrian-Kurdish journalist Kamal Said Qadir after he wrote articles questioning corruption within the ruling Barzani clan and published documents demonstrating links between Mulla Mustafa Barzani--an important nationalist leader and Masud Barzani's father--and the Soviet KGB.[17] After a fifteen-minute trial, the KDP judge sentenced Kamal to thirty years in prison--a sentence commuted only after a campaign by international NGOs and condemnation from the State Department.[18]

The Kurdish administrations appear determined to retain tight political control over the press. Iraqi Kurdish law remains based on Iraqi law. Article 433 of the Iraqi Criminal Code--enacted by the Baath Party--equates almost all criticism with criminal defamation. Local journalist unions that have sought to change this artifact have faced Barzani's ire. On December 20, 2007, Barzani told the Kurdistan parliament to reconsider legislation that would overturn the Baath-era press law and legalize criticism of his government.[19]

Nor are NGOs an independent check. Most Kurdish NGOs operate under the patronage of the Kurdish political leadership. Kurdistan Save the Children, for example, relies upon the patronage of Talabani's wife and largely operates to further party aims. Foreign aid workers say that both the KDP and the PUK have insisted that they hire party members if they wish to operate in coordination with the local government. When independent Kurdish employees operating with the U.S. Agency for International Development refused to obey PUK instructions, PUK security officials filed reports about them and alleged security concerns with agency administrators, who promptly fired the independents and hired PUK apparatchiks. With very few exceptions, local human rights organizations--and a government-controlled Ministry of Human Rights--focus on atrocities committed against Kurds by Saddam's regime, rather than abuses by the current political leadership.

As the distance between the Kurdish leadership and the people they claim to represent grows deeper, antagonism grows. Many Kurds feel helpless. There is no accountability, even when the government makes such arrogant decisions as to provide twenty-four-hour electricity to light up the grave of Ibrahim Ahmad, Talabani's father-in-law, while cutting electricity to Kurdish refugees. The PUK and the KDP's decision to run on the same election list in public and divvy up positions in private has effectively disenfranchised the local population. When the Kurdistan Islamic Union--the nonviolent Muslim Brotherhood affiliate--began to make inroads, KDP-sponsored youth mobs set party headquarters on fire in several towns and murdered the party chief in Duhok.[20]

Even after they arranged to avoid competition, both U.S. diplomats and the Independent Election Commission of Iraq fingered the KDP as committing the most flagrant election fraud in the entire country, using the peshmerga to block voters and party supervisors to stuff ballot boxes. The fraud was pointless, given that without it the party machinery and resources were such to guarantee victory, even if not on the scale of regional dictators like Hosni Mubarak or Bashar al-Assad.

Rationalizing Kurdish Behavior

Iraqi Kurdistan may not be the beacon for democracy that its representatives claim, but realists within the U.S. foreign policy establishment may argue that its practices toward its population are immaterial to U.S. interests, especially given the Kurdistan region's continued pro-Americanism.

Such a calculation is shortsighted. Because the U.S. government has subsidized both Kurdish leaders, Kurds generally associate their leaders' misbehavior with U.S. policy. Murmurs of discontent grow when Kurds attribute the abuses by their leaders to U.S. interests: in 2006, for example, when the U.S. government requested space for offices in Sulaymaniyah, Talabani evicted a technical college without advance notice, let alone due process, angering a broad swath of the population. Kurds also accuse U.S. officials of complicity in torture at what they suspect is a center for rendition at a Saddam-era facility between Tasluja and Paramagrun. While Kurdish officials trumpet their public's pro-American outlook, such an orientation is fading fast. Anti-Americanism has taken hold within Iraqi Kurdistan. Not recognizing it now and taking measures to correct it will negatively impact U.S. strategic opportunities down the line.

Perhaps U.S. strategists might forgive this if the Iraqi Kurds demonstrated that they would advance U.S. regional interests. Unfortunately, they have not. While Iraqi Kurdistan did allow U.S. forces to assemble and joined the drive southward in April 2003, filling the vacuum left by the collapsing Iraqi army, subsequent Kurdish behavior leaves large questions about the reliability of Iraqi Kurdistan as a U.S. ally.

Barzani has, in effect, replicated the late Palestinian chairman Yasser Arafat's strategy: he denies complicity in terrorism but nevertheless seeks to leverage it into diplomatic gain.

During the first week in July 2003, an American military unit patrolling the mountains of northeastern Iraq approximately thirty miles from the Iranian border came across an unauthorized KDP checkpoint from which they confiscated a cache of Iranian passports and money. KDP officials had used the checkpoint to facilitate Iranian infiltration--allowing Iranian operatives to swap Iranian passports for local Kurdish identity papers--in exchange for cash. Kurdish officials privately acknowledge that this case was not unique. At the beginning of the Iraqi insurgency in April 2004, Iraqi Kurdistan became a transit point for Ansar al-Sunna: its members entered Iraqi Kurdistan from Iran and received safe passage to Mosul in exchange for an agreement not to conduct operations in the three northern governorates--and perhaps payment as well.

Kurdish double dealing with Iran continues to the present. On January 11, 2007, and on September 20, 2007, U.S. forces raided facilities in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, detaining six Iranian intelligence operatives. In each case, Kurdish officials protested the arrests. After the first episode, Barzani's office released a statement saying, "It is better to inform the Kurdistan government before taking actions against anybody;"[21] in the later case, the KRG called the arrest "illegitimate" and said that "actions like these serve no one."[22] The decision not to warn the Kurdish authorities was not diplomatic ineptitude but was the result of experience--U.S. policymakers no longer trust Iraqi Kurdish authorities not to reveal sensitive, operational information. Whether the Kurdish leadership or their subordinates in the peshmerga and security services do this to ingratiate themselves to regional powers or for reasons of personal enrichment is immaterial. The Kurdish authorities' subsequent refusal--both on the part of the KRG and Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's foreign minister and both Barzani's uncle and appointee--to supply U.S. officials with a diplomatic list undercut the Multinational Forces' confidence in the Kurdish leadership. Such a list, over which there is no reason for secrecy, would enable U.S. authorities to determine diplomatic status prior to operations. The Kurdish refusal demonstrates unwillingness to assist U.S. efforts to counter Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps infiltration.

Playing the Terror Card

Barzani's antagonism to Turkey also undercuts any possibility of a U.S. alliance. Many Kurdish officials look at U.S.-Turkish relations as a zero-sum game: either Washington pursues friendship with Erbil or allies itself with Ankara. Most Kurdish officials do not understand that the two relationships need not be mutually exclusive. Too often, Kurdish authorities tell visiting American officials that Iraqi Kurdistan would be a much better ally than Turkey. They understand neither the breadth of the U.S.-Turkish relationship nor how poorly received are Kurdish demands that Washington filter its alliances through the interests of any other state. Both Saudi Arabia and Israel, for example, may wish that Washington would scale back its relations with the other, but both accept that this will not happen. Barzani has no such sophistication and appears intent on forcing the White House to choose between Ankara and Erbil. Should it do so, the Iraqi Kurdish leadership will be disappointed.

There is absolutely no reason why Barzani should not advocate for Iraqi Kurdish interests, but his rhetoric often devolves into threats. In December 2005, for example, he declared that if the oil-rich city of Kirkuk did not join his administration by December 2007, he might spark civil war throughout Iraq.[23] Then, in April 2007, he threatened to sponsor insurgency in Turkey if Ankara did not comply with his demands over Kirkuk.[24] Media controlled by his party engages in the same types of incitement against Turkey that Palestinian media does against Israel. Maps sold in the shadow of the KRG parliament show a greater Kurdistan region stretching well into Turkey. Kurdish newspapers refer to Iraqi Kurdistan as South Kurdistan, implicitly laying claim to southeastern Turkey as North Kurdistan. Much as occurred with the Palestinian Authority, it is this tendency to exert populist claims across borders that makes Iraqi Kurdistan a force for instability, not an anchor for security.

It is in this context that Barzani's relations with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) become so problematic. Barzani may be a nationalist, but he is also a realist. He dislikes a powerful PKK, not because its terrorism sullies the Kurdish nationalist cause but because it provides an alternative. Abdullah Öcalan, the group's leader, sought primacy over his Iraqi Kurdish competitors. "Barzani and Talabani are like feet or arms, but I am the main head or mind," Öcalan explained in a 1998 interview.[25] During the 1990s, both Barzani and Talabani ordered their respective peshmerga units to fight the PKK whenever they tried to establish a toehold in their territories. At the time, Barzani asked the Turkish government to subsidize his peshmerga and its fight against the terrorist group according to several Turkish diplomatic and intelligence officials. Barzani recognized that any PKK safe haven would be anathema to his interests and moved to prevent it. But with Öcalan in prison and the PKK no threat to his political supremacy, Barzani adopted the group to use as a lever against Turkey.

After the Turkish parliament's March 1, 2003, decision not to join the U.S.-led coalition against Saddam, Barzani grew overconfident in his assessment of Washington's friendship and took a hard line against Ankara. He welcomed PKK leaders to his territory--especially in the "triangle border" region of Iran, Iraq, and Turkey. While Barzani and KRG spokesmen have repeatedly promised to crack down, Barzani has, in effect, replicated the late Palestinian chairman Yasser Arafat's strategy: he denies complicity in terrorism but nevertheless seeks to leverage it into diplomatic gain.

He tells U.S. diplomats that the PKK threat would disappear if only Ankara offered greater concessions in terms of amnesty, broadcasting, and constitutional reforms, while at the same time encouraging PKK leaders to continue their attacks and, indeed, facilitating their terrorism.

Turkish authorities say they have photographs of senior PKK commanders receiving medical treatment in Erbil hospitals and meeting with Barzani allies in nearby restaurants. By selling food and supplies, Barzani turned a handsome profit, one to which family members involved in the trade have become addicted. Turkish officials suspect Barzani's son of selling weapons to the PKK. It is this knowledge that has forced Ankara to take such a hard line against Kurdistan and has convinced U.S. officials to support Ankara, even as Turkish warplanes bomb Iraqi Kurdish targets.

The Future of U.S.-Kurdish Relations

Iraqi Kurdistan is living in the past, coasting on a false reputation and insulated from reality by the praise of lobbyists and consultants. Both Talabani and Barzani have reason to be proud: throughout the late 1990s and prior to Saddam's overthrow, Iraqi Kurdistan was a success story, relatively democratic and thriving even under sanctions. Kurds might excuse their leaders' faults because of the larger crisis, but they had hope for the future.

The history of the Barzani family's relationship to the population it seeks to lead parallels the generational evolution of Saud rule in Saudi Arabia. Every generation grew more isolated and corrupt.

Freed from the shadow of Saddam, however, Iraqi Kurdistan has slid backward. With the lifting of sanctions, corruption has grown rife. The history of the Barzani family's relationship to the population it seeks to lead parallels the generational evolution of Saud rule in Saudi Arabia: both Mullah Mustafa Barzani (1903-79) and King Abdul Aziz bin Saud (1876-1953) remained close to the tribal values of their society and were genuinely revered. Every generation, however, grew more isolated and corrupt.

While Barzani tells investors of his plans to transform the region into a new Dubai, he does not understand that his administration's corruption will retard such success. As the gap between the rich and poor increases, and as Barzani and Talabani use mechanisms of control to stifle dissent, Islamist parties will grow more popular--they have already made inroads, if not because of their religious views then because Kurds consider them the only "clean" alternative to the KDP and PUK's corruption. Many Kurds shy away from the Kurdistan Islamic Union's religious conservatism, but as the party becomes more popular, its heavy criticism of U.S. policy and its conspiracy theories about U.S. intentions will take deeper root.

Many Iraqi Kurdish officials and some U.S. commentators suggest that Iraqi Kurdistan could host a long-term U.S. military presence, which would enable U.S. forces to withdraw from the rest of Iraq, where they are less welcome. This may have once been an option, but Barzani's behavior has made it unwise. While a base in Iraqi Kurdistan might, on paper, appear to be a strategic asset for the Pentagon, in reality it would be a liability. Because Barzani enables--if not sponsors--PKK terrorism against Turkey, any U.S. presence would shield Iraqi Kurdistan from accountability. Barzani wants a U.S. base in his territory because it would immunize him from Turkish retaliation. Indeed, the establishment of any U.S. base in Iraqi Kurdistan, so long as Barzani remains in power, may lead to greater conflict. Barzani is not altruistic: hiding behind a permanent phalanx of U.S. troops would, in effect, grant him the immunity he wants. If the Pentagon were to establish a base in Iraqi Kurdistan, it must expect both the PKK problem and Barzani's provocation of neighboring states to increase. Barzani wants American forces stationed in his territory for the same reason Hamas and Fatah demand European monitors along Gaza's frontier with Israel, and Hezbollah embraces a UN Interim Force in Lebanon presence in southern Lebanon. Far from enabling a U.S. withdrawal, any base in Iraqi Kurdistan in the present circumstances guarantees an expansion of conflict. Regional dictators--especially those who refuse to divorce themselves from terrorism--make poor allies.

If Iraqi Kurdistan is to be a good ally, a force for stability, and a hedge against the corrosive ideologies of both Arab nationalism and Islamism, U.S. strategy must focus on long-term interests. Iraqi Kurdistan is strategically important. Federalism is the future of Iraq. While many pundits and, indeed, many Iraqis say they long for the return of the strongman, centralized model of government for Iraq, such a system never worked: Iraq was in a state of near-constant civil war between 1961 and 2003, as Iraqis resisted Baghdad's attempts to impose its dictatorial will. Strong leadership sounds good, but Iraq remains a country with one hundred prospective generals to each private.

Washington should take a zero tolerance approach to terrorism. Iraqi Kurdistan has made great strides--but Barzani risks everything Iraqi Kurds have gained by involving himself with the PKK. Both the KDP and the PUK have betrayed Washington's confidence in their dealings with Iran. While it is natural that both parties would have relations with their neighbors, selling information or facilitating infiltration is an unacceptable means of ingratiating themselves to a neighbor.

The responsibility of leadership is not optional. A responsible Iraqi Kurdish leadership would end incitement. Demagoguery may make good politics and may distract from issues of corruption and accountability that Barzani wishes to avoid, but incitement backfires. The Kurdish language broadcasts that the ruling parties control often inflame nationalist sentiment. By dedicating twenty-five minutes of a thirty-minute newscast to popular demands for independence--for example, interviewing school children and having them recite nationalist demands--Barzani brings himself and his region closer to conflict with his neighbors. The State Department ignored similar incitement in the early years of the Palestinian Authority only to have that entity disintegrate into chaos; it should not make the same mistake with what, for all practical purposes, is the Kurdistan Authority.

As Turkish warplanes bomb terrorist bases in Iraqi Kurdistan, it is time for both Washington and Erbil to reassess their policies. Washington has many cards to play. Sympathy to Kurdistan is understandable but is increasingly based on a myth. U.S. good will should never be an entitlement; Barzani may remain an ally, but he has disqualified himself from any substantive partnership. It is time to take a tough love approach to Iraqi Kurdistan. There should be no aid and no diplomatic legitimacy so long as Iraqi Kurdistan remains a PKK safe haven, sells U.S. security to the highest bidder, and leaves democratic reform stagnant.


  1. For the best example of this argument, see Michael J. Totten, "No Friends But the Mountains," Azure 5768, no. 30 (Autumn 2007), available at www.azure.org.il/magazine/magazine.asp?id-407 (accessed January 2, 2008).
  2. Peter W. Galbraith, "Iraq: The Way to Go," The New York Review of Books 54, no. 13 (August 16, 2007), available at www.nybooks.com/articles/20470 (accessed January 2, 2008); and Al Kamen, "Kurdish Connection?" Washington Post, January 15, 2007.
  3. David Nissman, "Iraqi Troops Cross 36th Parallel," Iraq Report 3, no. 41 (December 8, 2000), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, available at www.rferl.org/reports/iraq-report/2000/12/41-081200.asp (accessed January 2, 2008).
  4. United Nations Treaty Series, no. 32851, "Memorandum of Understanding between the Secretariat of the United Nations and the Government of Iraq on the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 986 (1995)," May 20, 1996, available at http://untreaty.un.org/unts/120001_144071/25/7/00020981.pdf (accessed January 3, 2008).
  5. Ilter Türkmen, "Protocol and Foreign Policy," Turkish Daily News, November 17, 2007.
  6. U.S. Department of Justice, Report of the Attorney General to the Congress of the United States on the Administration of the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as Amended, for the Six Months Ending June 30, 2006, June 6, 2007, 101, available at www.usdoj.gov/criminal/fara/reports/June30-2006.pdf (accessed January 2, 2008).
  7. "Barzani: Mosul and Kirkuk Are Kurdish Lands," Asharq Al-Awsat (London), April 7, 2003.
  8. Masud Barzani, "A Kurdish Vision of Iraq," Gulf News (Dubai), October 30, 2005.
  9. Carole O'Leary (presentation, Kuwait Information Office, July 6, 2001).
  10. Sverker Oredsson and Olle Schmidt, "Kurdistan--A Democratic Beacon in the Middle East," Kurdistan Development Corporation, December 2004.
  11. The Other Iraq Television Spots (script, "U.S. Spot #2: The Other Iraq"), available at http://theotheriraq.com/images/Advert2.pdf (accessed January 3, 2008).
  12. UN General Assembly, Fifty-first Session, Agenda Item 110, Human Rights Questions: Human Rights Situations and Reports of Special Rapporteurs and Representatives--Situation of Human Rights in Iraq, prepared by Max van der Stoel, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights, in accordance with Economic and Social Council decision 1996/277, A/51/496, October 15, 1996, par. 96, available at http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N96/277/88/PDF/N9627788.pdf?OpenElement (accessed January 3, 2008); and Patrick Cockburn, "Kurdish Chief's Death Brings Civil War Nearer," Independent (London), July 6, 1996.
  13. For background, see Michael Rubin, "The Middle East's Real Bane: Corruption," Daily Star (Beirut), November 15, 2005.
  14. Human Rights Watch, Caught in the Whirlwind: Torture and Denial of Due Process by the Kurdistan Security Forces (July 2007), available at http://hrw.org/reports/2007/kurdistan0707/ (accessed January 3, 2008).
  15. Kamal Said Qadir, "Iraqi Kurdistan's Downward Spiral," Middle East Quarterly 14, no. 3 (Summer 2007), available at www.meforum.org/article/1703 (accessed January 3, 2008).
  16. Committee to Protect Journalists, "Iraq: Journalists from Kurdish Weekly Face Arrest, Trial," news alert, May 2, 2006, available at www.cpj.org/news/2006/mideast/iraq02may06na.html (accessed January 3, 2008).
  17. Declassified Soviet papers document Barzani's interaction with the KGB. See, for example, Peter Ivashutin to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, September 27, 1961, as quoted in Kamal Said Qadir, "The Barzani Chameleon," Middle East Quarterly 14, no. 2 (Spring 2007), available at www.meforum.org/article/1681 (accessed January 3, 2008). \
  18. See, for example, Cathy McCann, "Iraq: Writer Kamal Sayid Qadir Detained Incommunicado," International PEN, December 16, 2005; Reporters without Borders, "Cyberdissident Still in Prison despite Release Announcement," news release, February 2, 2006, available at www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=16104 (accessed January 3, 2008); and Kamal Said Qadir, "Iraqi Kurdistan's Downward Spiral."
  19. Kurdistan Regional Government, "President Barzani to Ask Parliament to Reconsider Media Law," news release, December 20, 2007, available at www.krg.org/articles/detail.asp?lngnr=12&smap=02010100&rnr=223&anr=22047 (accessed January 3, 2008).
  20. "Kurdistan Islamic Union Attacked," Reuters, December 6, 2005.
  21. James Glanz, "G.I.'s in Iraq Raid Iranians' Offices," New York Times, January 12, 2007.
  22. Jay Price and Yaseen Taha, "Kurds Denounce U.S. Detention of Iranians," McClatchy-Tribune News Service, September 20, 2007.
  23. "Barzani: Kirkuk to Join Kurdistan," Turkish Daily News, December 2, 2005.
  24. Masud Barzani, interview by Elie Nakuzi, Frankly Speaking, Al Arabiya TV, April 6, 2007.
  25. Abdullah Öcalan, "We Are Fighting Turks Everywhere," Middle East Quarterly 5, no. 2 (June 1998), available at www.meforum.org/article/399 (accessed January 3, 2008).

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC.   AEI editorial assistant Christy Hall Robinson worked with Mr. Rubin to edit and produce this Middle Eastern Outlook, published on 7 January 2008.  To view more of AEI articles visit AEI Middle Eastern Outlook.

Chaldean Immigrants, Asset to [Detroit] Metropolitan Area

An Opinion of the Oakland Press
20 January 2009

An estimated 12,000 Chaldeans are expected to immigrate to Southeast Michigan this year.

e should welcome them with open arms.

The Catholic ethnic group, primarily from Iraq, has had more than its share of persecution thanks to the conflict in that nation.

And the group's members, who stress that they are not Arabs, have established strong ties to Oakland County and the metro area.

Most Chaldeans attend Eastern Rite Catholic churches. In the region, churches can be found in Troy, West Bloomfield Township, Oak Park, Southfield and Detroit. The St. George Catholic Chaldean Church in Shelby Township calls itself the "largest Chaldean church in the world."

In 2008, the cultural center on Walnut Lake Road east of Drake Road in West Bloomfield will be completely refurbished.

Chaldean spokesmen note, "We have been Christians since the first century," and that the group traditionally speaks Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus.

An estimated 60,000 Chaldeans live in Oakland County out of between 120,000 and 150,000 in the metro area. It's considered the largest concentration of Chaldeans in the United States.

Both the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, formed in 2003, and the Chaldean Federation of America are based in Farmington Hills. The chamber attempts to strengthen Chaldean members' businesses, increase job opportunities, encourage expansion and promote Chaldean business and culture.

The federation was created to help refugees assimilate into America, yet be able to retain their cultural identity, according to Joseph T. Kassab, executive director of the federation.

The group's business acumen is unequaled. One published report said Chaldeans own 90 percent of Detroit's 600 party stores.

Chaldeans came to the Detroit area in the early part of the 20th century after hearing there was work in the auto factories and because a Lebanese Catholic church was here. Their culture originated some 4,000 years ago.

The Chaldean community says it will announce results of a demographic survey in February to have a more complete picture of the group's presence in the metro area.

Members of the Chaldean Federation recently have been devoting time to assisting the many Iraqis displaced by the Iraq war. But they also say they are willing to accommodate anyone who wishes to learn more about Chaldeans.

They have suffered from oppression. Kassab reports that 90 percent of Chaldeans in Iraq are victims of religious persecution, 40 percent have had a family member kidnapped for ransom or killed and 60 percent have been forced out of their homes. Those wishing to stay in Iraq must pay tribute to Sunni or Shiite militia.

As a group, Chaldeans are a close-knit, hardworking people. They have proved to be industrious entrepreneurs and an asset to any community in which they reside.

They are known to be very family-oriented and take care of their own. They would be model citizens and could provide a needed population shot in the arm for Southeast Michigan and the state.

The immigrants should be a welcome addition to any city in the region.

Chaldeans and Assyrians: Reading the Compass

Bishop Sarhad Yawsip Jammo
St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Diocese for
Chaldeans and Assyrians

For Chaldeans and Assyrians, it is imperative that the year 2008 be a time for decisive orientation. These are the uncharted waters engulfing them:

An Apostolic Church Sailing through the Tempest

The results of the protracted agony of the Church in Iraq and the massive and continuous exodus of Christians for the last two decades have left their marks on all levels of ecclesiastic life: diocesan, parochial, monastic, educational, social,
economic…etc. The impact is so overwhelming that the survival of Christianity in the Arabic part of Iraq is a real issue for the whole civilized world to consider. 

Is the ongoing persecution of Christians in most of Iraq--outside Kurdistan--a momentary outburst of fanatic fundamentalists, or is it a policy that the ruling forces of the New Iraq are adopting, or, at least, accepting implicitly? Despite the heroic attitude of the Chaldean Patriarch and of many of the Church hierarchs, who remain in their seats and continue to be faithful to their pastoral duties, their flocks, in massive numbers, have had no choice but to leave, with bitterness, their homes and country.

After years of wandering in adjacent countries, or running from land to land in search of settlement, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians are now torn between going back to Iraq, hoping against hope for a tolerable future, and giving up definitely on the expectation of equal rights and decent life in their ancestral land, then proceeding though deeply wounded and empty-handed, towards the unknown. Visas, since the end of 2007, to some European countries and to the United States have alleviated the pains of many, but legions more are still waiting in desolated conditions.

Facing Destiny: Fragmented or Together?

The tempest has been fully raging for some decades now; its destructive force remains an ongoing tragedy. At this junction of history, it is incumbent on Chaldeans and Assyrians to face it and deal with it, on ecclesial terms as well as on civil ones - i.e. as a people with specific ethnicity and culture, and as a Church with its particular heritage, but most of all as leaders of both communities, they have two options: shall they face their destiny separately or together?

Deciding for a unified Church and people is a choice that entails challenging consequences on each sector of the matter, and triggers a movement on a course that Chaldeans & Assyrians must outline and tackle together. Throughout our history we have lost so many opportunities; will we now rise up to the challenge? Time, here, is of the essence.

Assyrians at Their Best

Assyrians Without Borders

A report by Afram Barryakoub from Sweden

What started out as a regular youth trip last summer to northern Assyria has bloomed into a full fledged aid organization named Assyrians Without Borders. It’s not only the name that alludes to such esteemed organizations as "Doctors without Borders" but the aspirations are also set to match a standard of operation seldom seen among Assyrian organizations.

Food packages are prepared for 200 refugee families in Damascus.

Upon their return to Sweden from the youth trip in Assyria a couple of the young Assyrians who had witnessed the poor living condition in Tur-Abdin agreed they must do something. They soon established a board and applied with Swedish authorities to have an “aid account”.

Organizations with an aid account undergo continues scrutiny by a state agency in order to make sure aid money is spent properly.  Assyrians Without Borders is the first Assyrian organization in Sweden to have attained such an account.

This organization in its infancy has already accomplished several inspiring projects. School packages were delivered to the children of the village of Bsorino in Tur-Abdin, consisting of schoolbags, books, pencils etc.   On 23 December food packages were distributed to 200 Assyrian families in Damascus in cooperation with the Swedish chapter of the Assyrian Aid Society. Both organizations also paid costs for medical care for 18 Assyrian refugees who could not afford to pay a visit to the doctor or buy necessary medicine.

Assyrian refugee families in Damascus sign-up to receive assistance from Assyrians Without Borders in cooperation with the Assyrian Aid Society of Syria.

In their latest press release Assyrians Without Borders praised the cooperation with Assyrian Aid Society of Sweden and have vowed to continue to support any Assyrian individual in need.

AAS of Iraq Distributes Assistance to Assyrian Villages in Iraq

Napoleon G. Patto
AAS-Iraq President

The Assyrian Aid Society of Iraq, in cooperation with SALT Foundation, has distributed assistance to the villages of Beidaro (89 families) and Sharanish (100 families) and 44 families in the Zakho district.

The distribution process was attended by the representative of the SALT Foundation, Mr. Gerry, and the staff of the Relief Department of the AAS-I.

In the future, such provisions will be distributed to many other areas inhabited by our people in addition to the displaced families coming to the Dohuk Governorate.

It is worth mentioning that this is the second Relief Program implemented through the collaboration of the Assyrian Aid Society and the SALT Foundation.




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

Mazin Enwiya Chicago
Melody Ghahramani Canada
Petr Kubálek Czech Republic
Ashur E. Peyour California
Joseph Tamraz Chicago
Ninos Warda Brussels
Danny Youmara Chicago
Atouraya Younadam Chicago

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