22 Adaar 6757
Volume XIV

Issue 2

12 March 2008

1- 8 6 6 - M Y  Z I N D A

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"You, O extremists, who are nourished by unfathomable ardors. Each time I raise my glass, it is your blood and tears that I am drinking."                                                                                                               -Khalil Gibran

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
  Schizophrenic Politics Waleeta Canon
  Assyria and Assyrians Since the 2003 US Occupation in Iraq Fred Aprim
  Archbishop of Mosul Abducted; Ransom Set at $US 2.5M
Jordanian Prince Condemns Kidnapping of Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul
Blogger Arrested in Syria for Criticizing Syrian Economy & Energy Policy

Seminar on Persecuted Christian Minorities at the European Parliament
Assyrian General Conference on Turkish Intervention in Northern Iraq
Assyrian General Conference Statement of Condemnation
Activities of the Assyrian General Conference in Canada
Iran's Non-Muslims Question U.S. Motives
Nine Assyrians from Iraq Arrive in Canada
Chicago Skies Spark as the Stars Come Out to Sing

  Dr. Matay Arsan’s ACSSU of Canada Lecture
Honoring Those Concerned For Our Welfare & Survival
A Time Bomb Primed to Explode in Kurdistan
Turkey's Dark Secret Resonating the Airwaves
Brendan Appel For Illinois State Senate - 9th District
Ben Yalda - The Incomparable

Click to Learn More :

  Gift of Friendship Obelit Yadgar
  Assyrian New Year Festival in Chicago
Assyrian New Year Festival in Sydney
Assyrian Aid Society of America Human Race Walkathon
Zinda Recommendations from Gorgias Press
  Khalil Gibran (part 1)
The Muslim Accomplishments That Weren’t
Georges Roux's "Ancient Iraq":  A Book Review
Stan Shabaz
Peter Betbasoo
Ann-Margret “Maggie” Yonan
  Michael Marogil Mammoo
Nahrain Aoudishow Hired to Oversee PI Emerging Markets
Helen Talia
Zinda Special

Since Our Last Issue
A Chronology of Important Events

Wednesday, 20 February 9 Assyrian refugees from Iraq arrive in Vancouver, Canada.
Wednesday, 27 February Edward Mousa is arrested in Hasake, Syria for protesting insufficient supply of electricity in Syria. He was released10 days later on 8 March.
Friday, 29 February Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Iraq's northern city of Mosul, Mar Polous Farraj Rahhu is kidnapped.  Three companions-- his driver and two bodyguards-- were shot and killed by the gunmen.
Sunday, 2 March A delegation of the Assyrian General Conference visits the Assyrian writer Dr. Hirmiz Abonna in Canada.  A political rally followed at 5 pm.
Thursday, 6 March A seminar is held at the European Parliament on the topic "Persecuted Christian Minorities" following a resolution by the Parliament asking governments of countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East to "improve the security situation of the Christian communities".
Saturday, 8 March Assyrians honor the Assyrian musician and songwriter, John Dashto at Chicago's Assyrian Social Club.
Sunday, 9 March Mr. Yonatan Betkolia in an interview published in the Washington Post says about the Assyrians in Iran whom he represents in the Iranian parliament: "We can drink, our boys and girls can mingle in our clubs freely and we can dance and sing.  Muslims are not allowed to do those things in here."

Zinda Says
An Editorial by Wilfred Bet-Alkhas


Schizophrenic Politics

A Guest Opinion

Waleeta Canon
Washington, DC

Maintaining Power Through the Details

Over the last several years, the Kurdish Regional Government has spent millions of dollars in lobbying and PR efforts to portray themselves as “A budding, free-market friendly, democracy”.  This betrays the very senses of those both living in the KRG and of those who understand the very fundamentals of what institutions need to be in place for democratization.  What is actually happening in the KRG is the process of delaying an ultimate revolution by Kurdish people themselves to overthrow the stranglehold that two very powerful political parties have on the political and economic institutions.

In the early 1980’s, Communist Poland saw a grassroots trade union begin a social movement in order to stand against the corrupt, Soviet-allied political structure.  They were known as the Solidarity Movement.  The movement grew so powerful, that eventually, the government was forced to negotiate with them.  By 1989, elections were held in the Communist country, and the pro-democratic Solidarity movement had taken back their country.  It was not an easy feat, and it took nearly a decade to reach this point.

As the KRG offers lip service regarding democratization, more and more investigative reports are surfacing regarding their mafia-style power structure.  One of the negative aspects of being a more “peaceful” region in Iraq is that you are subject to investigation and scrutiny by the international community, who ask questions.  The reality of North Iraq is looking more and more different from the commercials about the “other Iraq”[1], friendly to the West and investors.  Kurds are seeing that the decades of their sacrifices for their national aspirations have become a cash cow for two political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.  But there seems to be an undercurrent of grassroots reaction from the people – the Kurdish people – as they slowly realize they have merely traded one dictatorship for another.

As the Solidarity movement in Poland grew, the Communist government reacted, in an effort to stifle their popularity and regain control over their unopposed power.  In 1981, martial law was declared in Poland.  The Polish military arrested Solidarity leaders, among them, the founder, Lech Walesa.  They expanded censorship.  The military roamed through the streets, displaying the power of the government over the people.  Civil liberties were curbed.  Political power was consolidated.  The underground Solidarity movement began.

In the Kurdish north, Iraqi Kurds have begun the process of collecting 1 million signatures in order to dissolve the KRG government and implement early elections.  The failure of the KRG to provide basic services – while they have access to a large budget – is creating agitation throughout the population[2].  Business cannot be done unless the KDP or PUK directly benefit.  People are not allowed to criticize leadership.  High positions in government are reserved for family and friends of the Talabanis or Barzanis[3].  When closely examined, independent minority voices are stifled as the KDP buys off Assyrian and Yezidi politicians to stifle political parties and institutions not dependent on the KDP or PUK[4]. 

The people in Poland began to strike.  The country was being brought to its knees by the people’s refusal to participate in the economy and labor force.  The government cut phone lines to curb communication, and instructed the state-run media to mention “labor troubles” only in passing.  But eventually, they had no choice – with the international community aware of the popular movement, and with the power of the Polish people behind them, the Communist government had no choice but to concede to the pressure and negotiate with the Solidarity movement.  While democracy did not blossom the next day, they managed to introduce key pieces of policy which allowed them to slowly chip away at the Communist structure.

The redundant rhetoric of KRG apologists and defenders like Qubad Talabani that the “KRG is not a democracy, it is democratizing [5]” is being used as a stalling tactic rather than actually bearing any truth.  The KDP and PUK are consolidating control – apparently even traveling to Europe to stifle dissent and criticism[6].  All signs in the KRG Region of Iraq point to quite the opposite of “democratizing”.  Political parties are benefiting from investment with basic infrastructure failing, and the people not benefiting from the wealth of Iraq.  Is Mr. Talabani asking us to believe that the KDP and PUK are slowly making reforms which will ultimately push them out of complete power?  We see that the KRG is already signing oil-exploration contracts with companies while refusing to go through the capital of the country, Baghdad.  All of human senses and history tell us no one relinquishes control voluntarily:  power is always taken away rather than given away.

One of the secrets of the success of the Solidarity movement was the independent civil society institutions.  Millions joined the trade unions, associations, student groups, and other groups that were independent of the Communist party and linked to Solidarity.  Through these institutions the people were able to create a momentum which the government could not afford to ignore, especially due to the international pressure they now faced.  The Communist government stalled, issuing declarations and trying to regain ground.  It did not work.  The corruption of the Communist government, combined with the weakness of the economy from which Soviet-era Communist regimes suffered, eventually brought them to their knees, and Solidarity nearly swept the elections in 1989.

There is a state of confusion among Kurdish political parties.  They, when it suits them, strong-arm the Iraqi government in order to create policies which will ultimately ease their independence from Iraq, specifically concerning oil laws, the annexation of Kirkuk, and also the absorption of the remaining Assyrian lands lying outside the KRG in the Nineveh Plains, all of which will make secession from Iraq much easier.  At other times, they are Iraqis, the most recent example being when Turkey crossed into the Kurdish region, threatening their (illusion of) stability.  While Barzani makes symbolic gestures of independence (such as refusing to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in defiance of U.S. complacency for Turkish attacks against PKK rebel bases in the KRG Region), or having the KRG flag stitched into Iraqi National Guard uniforms[7], Talabani plays his role as an Iraqi politician well, and has even expressed his opinion that “Kurdistan is just a dream”, and not likely to happen.

The Polish people demanded their inherent right to participate in their own government, free from oppressive rule.  The Kurdish people – indeed all Iraqis – will eventually do the same.  It is the inevitable outcome when corruption overreaches, and the people are too smart to accept it.

The Minority Factor – Suffering in the Details

What makes the KRG issue important to the Assyrians (among the other ethnic and religious minorities of Iraq) is, of course, tied into almost 7,000 years of history.  The Assyrians, unfortunately, cannot battle; they must walk a line between Baghdad and Arbil to ensure they retain their highest political rights, and that Iraq, in the future, will be a stable, secular democracy, so that they too may finally enjoy their freedoms after centuries of oppression and Genocide.  Also, most of what the KRG now controls is actually Assyrian lands (if not all), but is now Kurdish due to Assyrians fleeing after decades of fighting between Kurds and the Iraqi government, and of course forced displacement by the previous Iraqi regime.

Assyrians are finding themselves marginalized politically and economically in North Iraq – stuck between the random violence of large cities like Baghdad for being Christian, and the controlled violence of the oppressive KRG for being Assyrian. 

As Kurds have internal dissention, so do the Assyrians.  The political realities in the KRG are dismissed by many Assyrians, who are either members of the KDP, or part of Assyrian political groups put into positions of influence and power by the KDP since 2003 (such as the Chaldean Democratic Union, the Assyrian Patriotic Party, or the Bet Nahrain Democratic Party).  To them, the above allegations of corruption - spoken by civilian Kurds or other international groups – is seen as mere “propaganda” when spoken by Assyrians; as mere illusions created by political parties such as the Assyrian Democratic Movement, in order to “woo” Assyrians away from the KRG.  

Prior to 2003, the Assyrian Democratic Movement was a large political entity in the KRG.  After 2003, they were awarded 2 out of 5 seats reserved for the Christian parties in the KRG Parliament:  enough to look “fair”, since they have the most widespread support, but not enough to be a majority of the 5 (although the ADM is the only Assyrian party with an MP in Baghdad).  The other seats are given to the Chaldean Democratic Union[8] and the Chaldean Cultural Association of Ankawa[9].  What this does, in essence, is block the ADM from holding a “majority opinion” in the KRG[10].  For example, while the ADM believes that Assyrians lands have been illegally confiscated, the other parties will not pursue such policies.  So returning indigenous lands to their rightful owners becomes a non-issue. 

It is a convenient way to further their appearance as “democratic” while brilliantly only creating the illusion.  After all, why would Baghdad or Washington care about these intricate details?  What does it matter that it is these very intricate details which are retarding the growth of not only Assyrian freedom, but also of Iraq itself as it tries to move towards democracy?  It is in the details which the Assyrians find themselves trying to survive in Iraq.  And it is in the details which they are quickly becoming forgotten.

The Assyrian people, the Kurdish people, Iraqis, and the U.S. soldiers who have given their lives deserve better than what “the other Iraq” is selling – corruption and nepotism, forsaking democracy in the long term to gain temporary power over the people. 


  1. http://www.theotheriraq.com
  2. Hama-Tahir, Wrya.  “Iraqi Kurds Frustrated With Own Leaders, Security Forces”.  Middle East Online, 02-17-2008
  3. Qadir, Kamal.  “Iraqi Kurdistan’s Downward Spiral”.  Middle East Quarterly.  Summer, 2007
  4. “US Indifference to Decisions of Legitimate Political Leadership”.  Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project.  http://www.iraqdemocracyproject.org/policy_brief5.html
  5. Audio Documentary, BBC News: “Kurdistan Corruption 02-05-2008”. http://www.mefeedia.com/entry/doc-assignment-kurdistan-corruption-05-feb-2008/6558219/
  6. “Barazani’s Son Arrested in Austria on Murder Attempt Charge”.  Uruknet.info.  02-20-2008
  7. Shadid, Anthony. Fainaru, Steve.  “Militias on the Rise Across Iraq”, Washington Post.  08-21-2005
  8. This political party was started by the KDP after 2003.  The Secretary General, Mullah Mustafa Barzani’s former driver, is still a KDP member.
  9. It is unclear why a “cultural association” has a seat in the KRG Parliament.
  10. Ultimately, this issue is not about the Assyrian Democratic Movement.  It is about how susceptible ethnic minorities, like the Assyrians, are in nationalist regimes such as the previous Ba’athist one and the current KRG.  The ADM represents what happens to ethnic minorities when they organize politically by their ethnic designation, especially when they have indigeneity in the land.  If the movement becomes strong, it will be silenced.  It will continue to happen to Assyrian nationalist entities until the Assyrians themselves organize and refuse external or religious interference in nationalist matters.  Otherwise, the People will always be susceptible when religious institutions battle, or when non-Assyrian groups offer great rewards to join them.  It never benefits Assyrian nationalist movements when they are divided by religious designation, known only by their Christian identities; however, there certainly are entities which benefit when this is the status quo.

The Lighthouse
Feature Article


Assyria and Assyrians Since the 2003 US Occupation of Iraq

Fred Aprim

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me if I was going to publish my fourth book and if so, he wondered about the subject of that book. He added that a book on Assyria and the Assyrian situation since the 2003 U.S. intervention in Iraq and the fall of Saddam Hussein would be of significant interest. Indeed, the last five years have been cluttered, chaotic and devastating for the Assyrian Christians (also known as Nestorians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Suryan and ChaldoAssyrians), but not without a dim hope. Considering the diminishing population of Assyrian in Iraq (and in other Middle Eastern countries) since 2003, their political groups were involved in countless political alliances and severances, announcements and official statements and congresses and conferences. However, most of these conferences, alliances and statements were and/are by insignificant groups designed for local consumption.

I told my friend that the book project was worthy, but I was not up to that task at this moment in time. Still, I felt that it would be beneficial to list and/or analyze few important topics and events related to the Assyrians and Assyria within that timetable. Such events included:

  1. The bombing of churches in Iraq continues since 2004 (visit www.fredaprim.com for detailed accounts). About 45 churches have been reportedly bombed since the U.S. intervention without a proper media coverage. Imagine the media frenzy if one mosque was bombed in any Christian country. The New York Times and CNN would rush to report it and even condemn it. While Islamists perpetrate most of these bombings, especially those in Baghdad, Mosul and Basra, some observers believe that the Kurdish political groups and their armed peshmergas might have been involved in certain bombings in Kirkuk and Mosul. It is obvious to observe that the most recent church bombings in Kirkuk and Mosul were not designed to kill per se, but to bring fear in the hearts and minds of the indigenous Assyrians and force them to leave the country altogether, seek Kurdish protection, or migrate to, or find refuge in, the Kurdish controlled region where they would be under a complete Kurdish submission and mercy. Thus, any independent Assyrian national activity could be suppressed easily and controlled. It is a win-win situation for the Kurds. Historically, most of the region of northern Iraq (Nineveh, Dohuk, Arbil and Kirkuk Governorates) is Assyrian. This region was later a strong Syriac-speaking Christian center of the Assyrians until the 14th Century invasion of the Mongols. In fact, most of today's Dohuk Governorate, which was detached from Nineveh (Mosul) Governorate by the Ba'ath regime and offered to the Kurds to secure the 1970 peace agreement, and certain parts of Arbil and Nineveh Governorates, were predominantly Assyrian even in the early 20th Century. The League of Nations (later United Nations) documents post WWI prove that most of today's Dohuk region was suppose to be the future home of the Assyrians (read also Article 62 of the 1920 Treaty of Sevres). If the indigenous Assyrians continue to flee the Nineveh Governorate, the Kurds are conveniently positioned to claim ownership, just as they did in Arbil and Dohuk. On the other hand, if the Assyrians migrate to the Kurdish controlled region in the north (Arbil and Dohuk in particular), the Kurds would look good in the eyes of the presumed "Christian" West as the protectors of Christians. Here, the process serves the Kurds in more ways particularly in their efforts to usurp the Nineveh Plains of the Nineveh Governorate (the last Assyrian stronghold) into the "relatively calm" Kurdish region. Of course, the Kurdish leaders are planning to usurp other regions within the Nineveh Governorate into the Kurdish region (taking advantage of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution) in order to get access to the Syrian borders, thus it would be easier in the future to join parts of northeastern Syria with those in northern Iraq and be a step closer to create that illusive "Greater Kurdistan."
  2. Targeting Assyrians through murder, assassination, harassment, rape, kidnapping, etc. intensified because Islamists and Jihadists see Assyrians, the Christians, as collaborators with what they portray as the "Modern Crusaders," i.e., the Americans. This, combined with the bombing of churches, led to the massive exodus of Assyrian Christians from Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians found themselves as refugees in Syria and Jordan. Over half of the Assyrian Christians have fled Iraq since the U.S. intervention. Many of these refugees are in dire need of assistance on every thinkable humanitarian level. Collective efforts on behalf of Assyrian institutions whether political, religious or civic to resolve this tragedy is minimal if not almost absent. This calamity happened while Iraq remains under the direct rule of the United States. Under the United Nations charters, the United States, as an occupying state, is legally responsible for the welfare of Iraq, the dwindling presence of the indigenous Assyrians and for their pathetic situation. We must return to WW I in order to witness a massive Assyrian exodus in such magnitude and effect. The Assyrians' exodus serves the Kurds foremost since the Assyrians alone have the legal claims to the lands in northern Iraq (Assyria) being the indigenous people of the region considering that they neither had handed those rights to Kurds nor sold those lands to them. The Kurds have taken position of northern Iraq by force, under threat or through various terror methods throughout the last three centuries.
  3. The influx of Kurds into what the Iraqi Constitution refers to as "disputed regions", such as Kirkuk and Mosul, rises. Reports indicate that certain Iraqi embassies around the world controlled by Kurdish officials, falsify documents in order to bring non-Iraqi Kurds originally from Syria, Turkey and Iran to northern Iraq. In addition, the Kurdish authorities in the north had done their part to provide for the newly arriving Kurds all necessary living conditions and any necessary documents. This is designed to boost the Kurdish population in the disputed northern Iraq regions in preparation for the census that has been postponed six to twelve months (originally set up for December 2007).
  4. The mess in the Assyrian Church of the East (known officially as the Church of the East before 1976) lingers and the negative ramifications get compounded daily. Meanwhile, the questionable actions of the five bishops of the Chaldean Catholic Church in northern Iraq raise many concerns. I will address these events in some details later in this article.
  5. Sargis Aghajan (L) and Fadhil Mirani of KDP (in dark glasses).
    The Chaldean Syriac Assyrian National Council (CSANC) that emerged from the March 12, 2007 Ankawa Conference of Sargis Aghajan, Minister of Finance in the Kurdish regional government (KRG), and supported and backed by the Kurdish authorities, moves aggressively forward. The group of five that work with the Kurdish leadership closely, including: Assyrian Patriotic Party (APP) of Nimrod Baito Youkhana, Bet Nahrain Democratic Party (BNDP) of Romeo Hakkari, Chaldean Democratic Forum (CDF) of Sa'eed Shamaya, Chaldean Cultural Center (CCC) of Poulus Shamoun and the Chaldo Ashur Section of the Communist Party have joined Aghajan abnd his council. They all have issued statements agreeing to usurp the Nineveh Plains region (part of Nineveh Governorate) into the Kurdish region. The CSANC is planning to overtake the leadership of the Assyrian people and decide their future according to the best interests of the Kurds. Aghajan, the longtime member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Barazani, is pushed forward by the Kurdish leadership to lead the Christians of Iraq. The empowered Kurdish leadership and others encouraged Assyrian religious leaders to praise Aghajan, glorify him and bestow medals upon him in order to boost his image and groom him for this leadership position. The photo below is for Aghajan in his early political life seen with Fadhil Mirani, a Pan-Kurdish chauvinist and the head of the KDP Political Bureau today flanking a Kurdish officer.
  6. Kurdish officials and writers continue to deny Assyrian historic rights and question Assyrian history in northern Iraq through their actions and/or writings. They continue to falsify the history of northern Iraq and claim it to be Kurdish. The Kurdish writers link their history to every single ancient group that existed in, or passed through, Mesopotamia in the ancient times, including the Sumerians, Halaf culture, Ubaid culture, Hurrians, Hittites, Medes, and the list gets longer every day. Kurdish writers and historians could not link their ambiguous history to any one specific group; thus, they carefully construct a mediocre history built around bizarre and peculiar links to many groups and then claim that they are a mix of all those groups. Archaeologists have struggled for a quarter of century to find any archaeological evidence that support Kurdish claims of Mesopotamian (Iraqi) connection or roots. The original home of the Kurds is the Zagros Mountains region of northwestern Iran. On the other hand, tons of archaeological artifacts, monuments, stele, Cuneiform tablets in the British, Louvre, Berlin and Iraq's museums, including numerous excavated ancient sites, prove fervently and beyond any reasonable doubt the Assyrian heritage of northern Iraq (Assyria). My articles concerning such Kurdish denial of Assyrian history and/or the corruption of that of the Kurds by Jalal Talabani, Mulla Bakhtiyar, Fadhil Mirani, Mehrdad Izady, Diayako Xarib, and others are posted on www.fredaprim.com.
  7. The Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM), the only serious Assyrian political group in Iraq, seems very passive, at least on the outside, since late 2006.

Considering all circumstances, it is unfortunate that many Assyrian politicians have not learned form the tragic experiences of the past. Furthermore, a segment within the society continues to find more satisfaction and comfort relating to church rather than facing the demands and the challenges of today's politically vicious and sophisticated world. That segment of society is influenced by the church to a large degree and is not fighting back for its national rights. This could be attributed to two reasons: First is internal, as some religious leaders do not like to see political organizations advancing, thus jeopardizing their own authority in society. The second reason is that international and regional powers do not see the Assyrians in the Middle East's bigger picture. The Assyrians might have justification for not fighting back because they know that they couldn't do it alone. The Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula did not fight alone against the Ottoman rule during WWI (1914-1918) while seeking independence. The British assisted them. The Jews were assisted (and still are) in many ways while planning to establish Israel in 1948. The Kurds had support from Russians, Iranians, Israel, and the United States at different stages (and were used sometimes). The Assyrians were betrayed by the British and have been left alone since WWI; thus, they sought (and continue to seek) comfort in exile as persecution against them mounted (and continues to mount). The Assyrians cherish the land of Mesopotamia, but even when they prove themselves patriots time and again, they are still reminded by Islamists and chauvinists that they are infidels and/or insignificant and not worthy to be treated in par with the larger Arabs, Turkish and Kurdish Muslim groups.

There is no better way to describe the Assyrians' situation today than reading "Auto Emancipation," a pamphlet by Leo Pinsker (1821-1891) who pleaded to fellow western European Jews to assist in establishing Jewish colonies in Palestine. Pinsker states: "When we are ill-used, robbed, plundered and dishonored, we dare not defend ourselves, and, worse still, we take it almost as a matter of course. When our face is slapped, we soothe our burning cheek with cold water; and when a bloody wound has been inflicted, we apply a bandage. When we are turned out of the house, which we ourselves built, we beg humbly for mercy, and when we fail to reach the heart of our oppressor we move on in search of another exile."

Assyrians are still in search of that one secular leader, one trusted independent national hero to follow or one militant organization capable of dealing with the traitors of the Assyrian nation; traitors who are non-elected, yet proclaim themselves Assyrian representatives and make unauthorized deals on behalf of the nation with the occupiers and oppressors of the Assyrian people, including questionable deals with the current chauvinistic Kurdish leadership.

The indigenous Assyrians of modern Iraq (ancient Mesopotamia) are overwhelmed by the events around and within them. They stumble, fumble and wander around searching for direction. Many have sunk so low that they become jubilant simply when any official pity them, mention them in passing or when they are handed few crumbs. As indigenous people of Mesopotamia, the Assyrians deserve (rightfully so under international laws) parts of their historic Assyria that they could call home.

Whereas, a Christian cannot live in dignity under the rule of Islam and Shari'aa (Islamic Law), because the teachings of the Koran are clear about that and since the pathetic history of the Christians in the Middle East proves it.

And, whereas, an Assyrian cannot live under the oppressive non-democratic behavior of Kurdish chauvinists and their backward tribal mentality or under the Pan-Arab policies,

Thereafter, there is no other way to save the Assyrian Christians (and all other non-Muslims, such as the Mandeans, Shabaks and Izidis or Yezidis) from future extinction unless these groups rule themselves within a true federal system.

The Assyrians are not less than Arabs, Jews or Kurds; they are looking to the Super Powers to assist them established their own home, just as the Arabs, Jews and others, such as the Muslim Albanian Kosovars more recently, were assisted. Many Assyrians understand what is at stake. They have taken the streets throughout the world to protest the treatment of the Assyrian Christians in Iraq and demand self-rule. They demonstrated, for example, on June 15, 2007 (San Diego, California), June 2007 (Stockholm, Sweden), June 16, 2007 (Gothenburg, Sweden), June 23, 2007 (Marcelle, France), June 27, 2007 (Modesto, California), June 28, 2007 (Chicago, Illinois), June 30, 2007 (Detroit, Michigan, Oslo, Norway, and Linkoping, Sweden), July 7, 2007 (Denmark), July 12, 2007 (Moscow, Russia), July 15, 2007 (Auckland, New Zealand and Athens, Greece), July 22, 2007 (Melbourne, Australia), July 25, 2007 (Los Angeles, California), July 26, 2007 (Stuttgart, Germany), July 28, 2007 (Wiesbaden, Germany), August 7, 2007 (Canberra, Australia) and on September 7, 2007 (Berlin, Germany).

However, certain events contribute adversely in achieving a national consensus that leads to the rebirth of Assyria and discourages the Super Powers from actively working towards that national ambition. I am going to categorize some of those events into two sections. The first is on the religious level and the second is on the national level. Furthermore, I will comment, add a few thoughts and analyze when necessary.

I. On the Religious Level

The controversies surrounding the affairs of the churches and their involvement in politics have for centuries kept the Assyrian nation and people moving one step forward, but two steps backwards, thus in almost a retreat or stationary mode. It is imperative to point to few of the latest controversies or events so that the reader would have a clearer picture and an idea about the complexity of the current situation. Notice that these events might appear religious in nature, but they are intertwined with national issues.

A) It goes beyond saying that the mess in the Assyrian Church of the East (ACOE) was avoidable if there was a genuine will to do so. The people did not need another division. Many educated Assyrians believe that the ACOE leadership should have handled the issue differently. The November 16, 2005 decision to suspend Bishop Mar Bawai Soro, who supported the ADM, was much profound than the initial reason (and I emphasize the initial reason) given by the ACOE Synod, i.e., writing two private letters to His Holiness Mar Dinkha, the patriarch of the ACOE. This action brought much superfluous mischief considering that the suspension decision came only weeks before the crucial Iraqi national elections of December 15, 2005. Many assert that the suspension was intended to cause damage to the ADM. Of course, the ACOE has opposed the ADM and has worked against it on various occasions. Consider the letter of Archbishop Mar Giwargis Sliwa, the representative of Patriarch Mar Dinkha in Iraq, to Fuoad Ma'soom, Head of the Preparatory Committee for the National Conference, dated August 12, 2004, in which the archbishop recommended George Yacoub Bakos (a non-ADM affiliate) for the new national assembly. The involvement of the ACOE in the political matters never stopped despite claims by clergymen in the contrary. On December 20, 2006, Archbishop Mar Giwargis sent a letter to Sheikh Hamam Hamoodi, Chairman of the Iraqi Constitution Review Committee, in which His Grace demanded that the name Assyrian be included in the constitution. Of course, the demand is honorable, but the letter was really intended to challenge the efforts of the ADM in using the compound title "ChaldoAssyrians" as a name promoting unity for all Syriac-speaking Christians in Iraq. This letter was to confirm yet another earlier letter dated July 26, 2005 from the Synod of the ACOE in regards to the same matter. Consider that the same church today supports Aghajan and his compound title "Chaldean Syriac Assyrian." These efforts, combined by actions and/or reactions by Chaldean Catholic Church leaders kept the two sides divided and prevented them from working together under one voice in these crucial times.  

In the earlier January 30, 2005 Iraqi national elections, the ADM's success was a surprise to many observers, considering that the elections were a new experience for the Assyrians on such an important level. The ADM won a seat in Iraqi Parliament despite efforts by the Kurdish leadership since 1992 to weaken and undermine the ADM by creating puppet and/or paper-like Assyrian and Chaldean groups to compete with the ADM, in addition to other obstacles such as lack of necessary funds and logistical issues. Many believe that this success alarmed the Kurdish leadership. In fact, relations between the Kurdish leadership and the ADM were strained since the October 23, 2003 Baghdad Conference because the Kurdish leadership detest any serious unity efforts among truly independent Assyrian civic, cultural and political groups from all Assyrian denominations. The Kurdish leadership did not favor the practical and achievable decisions/recommendations of the conference, especially those related to the future of the Nineveh Plains and the unified political title ChaldoAssyrians. The Kurdish leadership does not want to see a united independent Assyrian voice in Iraq. The Assyrians have a historic conflict with the Kurds. Since WWI, the Kurds have illegally occupied Assyrian lands, villages and towns in northern Iraq (and in northwestern Iran, northeastern Syria and southeastern Turkey). The Kurdish leadership continues to Kurdify other parts of northern Iraq at the expense of religious groups, such as the Izidis (Yazidis) and Shabaks. Of course, the Kurds have other problems in the city of Kirkuk, which had a Turkoman majority less than a century ago. Being united, the Assyrians would direct their emphasis and energy on land dispute cases with Kurds and their future as free people, instead of being preoccupied with useless internal conflicts.

Mar Bawai's suspension led to serious fractures and yet another division among the members of the ACOE. It injured many spirits and demoralized hopes. Many Assyrians contribute the anemic participation by Assyrians in the December 15, 2005 Iraqi national elections and the general negative state of mind to this division and to other actions or statements by various church leaders. Many were anticipating a stronger, more organized participation and yet better results than those of January 2005 elections since the Assyrians were supposed to have learned from the January elections experience. Some analysts expected that Assyrians (under the unified ChaldoAssyrian title) to win a minimum of five seats.  Of course, the Kurdish authorities played a sullied game in blocking some 150,000 Assyrians from voting in and around the Nineveh Plains near Mosul and intimidated many others throughout northern Iraq during the election process. Despite Kurdish interferences, the Assyrian votes were enough to win an independent Assyrian seat in the Iraqi parliament again. The Kurdish leadership realized that it needed to take stronger measures to face the ADM. Here came the rise of Sargis Aghajan, his Ankawa Conference and the carefully selected individuals of the CSANC.

Most recently, some Assyrians were shocked to read the newly published book "The Church of the East: An Illustrated History of Assyrian Christianity" by Christoph Baumer. In his book, Baumer addresses periods of trials and divisions in the Church of the East and how the various lines of patriarchs were established. On page 251 he states: "The surprising results of these complex unions and divisions consists in the fact that the Chaldean Catholic Church, led today by Patriarch Mar Emmanuel III Delly (in office since 2003), is the successor of the ancient catholicate of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, while the Assyrian Church of the East, led by Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV (in office since 1976), is descended from the formerly Catholic patriarchate of John Sulaqa." According to Baumer (see chart below), Mar Dinkha's line was created in February 15, 1553 when Sulaqa accepted the Catholic creed. It is puzzling for ACOE members because many references assert that their church was established during the time of the Apostles and later strictly structured and defined as an independent church when the bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon (today's al-Madaa-in near Baghdad) took the title "Catholicos" in the Synod of A.D. 410. What is even more puzzling is that Baumer included Mar Dinkha's foreword in his book. Patriarch Mar Dinkha writes in his foreword: "…As Catholicos Patriarch I offer deepest thanks for the interest shown in composing this exhaustive labor of love for The Holy Church which in earlier times covered the whole Eastern World from Seleucia-Ctesiphon to the Islands of Japan and to Java, present day Indonesia. I offer my prayers and blessings upon you, and upon all those who seek to enlighten their knowledge in the history of this ancient Semitic Church of our Lord." With this foreword, Patriarch Mar Dinkha endorsed and approved information that his own church and many scholars consider untruthful.

The chart from Dr. Baumer's book showing the two patriarchal lines of Seleucia-Ctesiphon and John Sulaqa.

Is the patriarch accustomed to making decisions or taking actions without examining the circumstances thoroughly, such as approving or endorsing a book that publishes false information about the history of ACOE?

On October 26, 2005, less than two months before the Iraqi national elections and few weeks before Mar Bawai's suspension, His Holiness Mar Dinkha met secretly with the KDP's leader Masoud Barazani who was visiting Washington (Zinda, October 29, 2005 issue). On September 17, 2006, His Holiness visited northern Iraq and met again with M. Barazani, Nechirvan Barazani and other Kurdish leaders and with Aghajan. On October 17, 2006, Mar Dinkha awarded Aghajan two special medals created specifically for him. On August 29, 2006, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI honored Aghajan by naming him a Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great. His Beatitude Cardinal Mar Emmanuel Delly did the honor of presenting Aghajan with another medal. His Holiness Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, patriarch of Antioch and all the East, the Head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in the world, issued on October 2, 2006 the medal of St. Ignatius Theophoros of the degree of Commander, the highest medal of his church to Aghajan. On July 4, 2007, His Holiness Mar Addai,II, patriarch of the Ancient Church of the East, awarded Aghajan the Sacred Cross medal, the highest of his church. Coptic and Armenian Church leaders did the same as well. 

While Mar Dinkha emphasizes the Assyrian heritage of his flock during his addresses in the Diaspora, this author failed to hear the word Assyrian being emphasized in many video-taped recordings of His Holiness' long visit to northern Iraq. Throughout the visit, Mar Dinkha tried to give the impression that Assyrians and Kurds shared friendly relations historically. He went out of his way to thank Barazani and Aghajan repeatedly (Example: His visit to Nahla region on October 3, 2006). He praised the progress and reconstruction made in what he referred to as "Kurdistan" (His visit to Adiabene Hall, Ankawa on October 17, 2006). Most peculiarly, the patriarch repeatedly asked his church members to take advantage of the good opportunities in the region and raise sheep, chickens and bees. While Iraq is being reshaped, the head of a church is asking his oppressed flock to raise sheep, chickens and bees. That is incomprehensible to this author. In fact, Mar Dinkha neglected to mention the word Assyrians, as people, in his letter dated May 9, 2007 to President George Bush. However, the name Assyrian appeared twice where the name of the church, i.e. Assyrian Church of the East, was mentioned. Mar Dinkha repeatedly emphasized on the situation of Christians (and not Assyrians) in Iraq. On May 10, 2007, His Holiness Mar Dinkha and His Beatitude Cardinal Mar Delly, patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, issued a joint statement in which they demanded from the Iraqi government the protection of, and again, the Christians from the Islamist militant groups that were responsible for most of the threat against the remaining Christians in Baghdad. They also asked the United Nations to interfere and protect the Christians.

One must admit that the timing of Mar Bawai's suspension (and we are not talking about whether it was right or wrong, which requires a separate research on its own) was detrimental. One cannot hide his/her head in the sand and choose to ignore recent mistakes that have been committed by other bishops within the ACOE only to receive a gentle slap on the hand at best and one cannot overlook the double standard policies of the church. The examples are plentiful and I am not going to repeat them, since most Assyrians are aware of them, but I am going to point to one that many are not aware about. Fact is that even Mar Dinkha has broken the Canon Law of the ACOE. Mar Dinkha, then a Bishop of Iran; Mar Narsai de Baz; Mar Aprim Khamis; Mar Youkhanna Philipos Aziz; Mar Youkhana Oraham; and Mar Daniel Yaqu convened in a council in Beirut, Lebanon in September 6-13, 1973, and illegally and against the Canon Law suspended and humiliated the patriarch at the time, His Holiness the Late Mar Eshai Shimun. The Canon Law of the ACOE is clear about this matter. The Synod of Mar Dadisho of A.D. 424 declares: "… by the ‘Word of the Trinity’ no one is allowed to convene a council against the catholicos or cause disputes, schisms, or divisions, or to send copies of written summaries to the dioceses as they sent out against Mar Papa, or to insinuate himself into houses for his wicked tale-bearing." Therefore, the six bishops broke the Canon Law of the ACOE by meeting illegally in Beirut and suspending their patriarch. 

Furthermore, Mar Dinkha, while a Bishop of Iran, wrote a letter dated June 24, 1975 to His Holiness the Late Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimun. In his letter, Mar Dinkha accused the patriarch of being stubborn and looking for excuses for not meeting with the bishops and that he was not willing to take one single step towards unity and peace. He questioned the patriarch for not fulfilling his religious duties towards his U.S. parishioners for two years. Furthermore, Mar Dinkha questioned his patriarch for suspending and/or excommunicating priests and bishops. He also accused him of not bringing love and peace to the Church of the East and stated that the patriarch was seeking revenge against church leaders. Most relevant, Mar Dinkha at the end of his letter criticized the patriarch for making a private letter from Bishop Mar Youkhana Oraham to the patriarch public. A fair question arises here:  If Mar Dinkha (as a bishop) thought that the Late Patriarch Mar Shimun should not have made a private letter from Bishop Youkhana public, why did he (Mar Dinkha) now as patriarch make the two private letters of Bishop Mar Bawai to him public, which led to the suspension of the latter bishop?

Letter of Mar Dinkha, then Bishop of the Assyrian Church of the East in Tehran, Iran to the Late-Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimmun.  Letter is dated 24 June 1975.

Assyrians must mature politically and nationally. They must be fair and reasonable when addressing and analyzing what happened/happens around and/or within them. Emotional outbursts or attacking those that simply point to facts solve nothing. Leaders, whether civic, political, or religious, are human beings and they make mistakes just as common people do. Leaders must set the example for the rest of us and because their mistakes have the tendency to affect the community at large they must watch every step they take. President Bush, the Pope, Mar Dinkha, Mar Delly, Mar Bawai and every human being on earth have made and will make mistakes. The important thing is do we correct ourselves when we realize the harmful consequences of our mistakes. Fact is that the suspension of Mar Bawai caused a division and unrest in the community that continues to linger. Just ask any Assyrian family from the ACOE around you. Why is the church allowing this division to persist?

The depressing saga continues. On November 20, 2007, a statement distressed many Assyrians. The Bet Nahrain Forum moderators posted that His Grace Mar Meelis Zaia, the Bishop of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand, and the Secretary of the ACOE Holy Synod, had made a speech at a private dinner with the Bet-Nahrain Inc. Board of Directors and AssyriaSat TV volunteer staff. In that speech, Mar Meelis (according to a post by the Bet Nahrain Forum moderators who attended the dinner) asked the members of the ACOE that supported the decision of the synod in essence to boycott any Assyrian, including business owners, who had supported Mar Bawai. Is this what the Bible teaches the faithful, i.e., boycott, hate and isolate sisters and brothers? The Bible (George Lamsa. Holy Bible: From the Ancient Eastern Text. The First Epistle General of John, Chapter 4, Verse 20) says: "If a man says, I love God, and yet hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?" Many within the Bet Nahrain Inc. and Bet Nahrain Democratic Party organizations (affiliated with Sargon Dadesho) cheered Mar Meelis' speech and even asked for harsher measures. How could these people claim to be Christians?

Why is His Holiness Mar Dinkha asking his flock to forgive, however, few of his bishops and priests continue to agitate the parishioners and incite hate? What does such behavior indicate? The suspension is going to cause yet further damage to the Assyrians' cause and future in Iraq, as the church keeps many Assyrians around the world busy with the church conflict, its continuous bitter and expensive U.S. courts lawsuits while the future of Iraq is being drawn.

The future of Bishop Mar Bawai in the post suspension from the ACOE was finally revealed in a "Declaration of Intent" that was issued on January 17, 2008. In the declaration, His Grace, priests and deacons announced the establishment of the Assyrian Catholic Apostolic Diocese (ACAD) and declared that they pursue full communion with the Vatican, which should lead to unity with the Chaldean Catholic Church. On February 10, 2008, His Grace Mar Sarhad Jammo, Bishop of the Chaldean Catholic Church St. Peter the Apostle in the Western United States, issued a statement in which he stated that it was his Episcopal duty to respond positively to the "Declaration of Intent" and to pursue the canonical process with the Holy See and the Chaldean Patriarchate and Synod, in order to formulate and enact a concrete model of ecclesial unity suitable for all concerned. On November 9, 2007, Mar Bawai sent a letter to His Holiness Mar Addai II, patriarch of the Ancient Church of the East. In the letter Mar Bawai suggested a union between the Chaldean Catholic Church, Ancient Church of the East and his newly established Diocese. On December 5, 2007, Patriarch Mar Addai II responded by stating that the kind of unity that Mar Bawai was seeking was not possible because the eastern church was never and will never be under the submission of the Pope and because the Chaldean Catholic Church will not free itself from such submission. The patriarch said that he informed Mar Bawai about his opinion during their get together in Mar Giwargis Church in Arizona on January 20, 2007 and on November 3, 2007 when they spoke on the phone while the patriarch was in Sydney, Australia. However, His Holiness welcomed any other issues that might be raised by His Grace and emphasized that there was enough love and closeness between the Assyrian and Chaldean churches to achieve more. (Read al-ufuq "Upqa" magazine, published by the Patriarchate of the Ancient Church of the East, Baghdad, No. 28, January-March 2008, pages 15-17)

B) In the Chaldean Catholic Church, the five bishops, whose jurisdictions are within the Kurdish regional government (KRG) in northern Iraq (Assyria) or within the area of Kurdish influence, continue to behave in a suspicious manner and challenge the authority of their patriarch in Baghdad, His Beatitude Cardinal Mar Delly. These bishops do not technically report directly to the Vatican, since their jurisdictions falls within the collapsed Ottoman Empire (partitioned post WWI), thus they report to the patriarch in Baghdad, unlike the Chaldean Catholic Church Dioceses of Eastern and Western United States for example that fell outside the Ottoman Empire jurisdictions, therefore, the bishops of Dioceses in Detroit and San Diego (Eastern and Western United States respectively) report to the Vatican directly, technically again. It is an intricate relationship.

Who are these five bishops?

  1. Bishop Petros Hanna Issa Al-Harboli (Zakho), ordained February 1, 2002
  2. Bishop Rabban Al-Qas (Amadiya) and Administrator of Arbil, ordained February 1, 2002
  3. Bishop Mikha Pola Maqdassi (Alqosh), ordained February 1, 2002
  4. Archbishop Louis Sako (Kirkuk), ordained November 14, 2003
  5. André Sana, Emeritus of Kirkuk (retired).

We could see that the first four active bishops were ordained in or after 2002. Meaning, either during the presence of the two Kurdish local governments in Arbil and Sulaimaniya (created in 1992) and about a year before the U.S. intervention in Iraq or after it. They are heavily influenced by the Kurdish leadership and they support Kurdish plans to usurp the historic Assyrian Nineveh Plains to the Kurdish region and the KRG. In an article on Asia News, Bishop Louis Sako rejects a Nineveh Plains Assyrian enclave (AsiaNews June 19, 2007). The latest remarks by Bishop Sako at a meeting in Germany (AsiaNews January 28, 2008) regarding the importance of negotiating with the KRG are just the latest of such propaganda. Of course, the concerns of Bishop Sako for the dire future of Christians in Iraq are genuine. In another news, Bishop Rabban Al-Qas is referred to as "Bishop of Kurdistan" (AsiaNews, April 24, 2007). Bishop Al-Qas comes out strong to condemn, what he refers to as the Turkish army incursion "against Kurdistan" (AsiaNews, February 23, 2008) even when Turkey is defending herself against PKK terrorist Kurdish armed guerrillas that are causing havoc in southeastern Turkey and were supported by Barazani for years. His Beatitude Cardinal Mar Delly has to walk a very thin line. His Church is spread in the Arab, Turkish, and Iranian Muslim world. The Arabs, Turks and Iranians look cautiously to all Kurdish movements, including partition from Iraq. In the eye of His Beatitude the Cardinal, supporting the Kurds publicly is not in the best interest of the Chaldean Catholic Church. It is a different case of course when it comes to bishops that are directly influenced by, or are under, the Kurdish control.

On May 7, 2006, His Beatitude Mar Delly stated: "Any Chaldean who calls himself Assyrian is a traitor, and so is every Assyrian who calls himself Chaldean." He made this statement in an interview on Ishtar Satellite TV. The interview was by George Mansour, the General Manager of Ishtar TV at the time and currently Minister of Civic Society in the KRG. Consider that His Beatitude participated in the October 23, 2003 ADM Baghdad Conference and had supported the term ChaldoAssyrians initially.

On June 1-5, 2007, the Chaldean Catholic Church Synod took place in Alqosh, northern Iraq, with eleven bishops attending, which made the forum complete and legal. The five bishops of northern Iraq did not attend the Synod. The future of this confrontation is yet to be seen.

Then there is the position of His Grace Mar Sarhad Jammo. His Grace is very concerned by the Arabization and Kurdification of his church in Iraq. Mar Sarhad wants to de-Arabize and de-Kurdify the church and has embarked on a campaign to emphasize on the Chaldeanism of the church since the 1990s and he was very vocal about that during the 2000 U.S. Census. However, His Grace does not support joining the Nineveh Plains to the Kurdish region.   

C) There are other events that twist many heads and keep many people baffled. For example, many ask: What is General Georges Sada, the President of the National Presbyterian Church in Baghdad and Chairman of the Assembly of Iraqi Evangelical Presbyterian Churches, a spokesman and advisor to the ex-Iraqi Prime Minister Dr. Ayad Allawi, doing as the Military Advisor to the KRG? In May 2006, Nechirvan Barzani, the Prime Minister of the KRG, met with Sada and Dr. Terry Law, president of World Compassion, a Christian relief organization based in Oklahoma, U.S. It is claimed that the prime minister vowed to protect the ancient Assyrian Christian community there as well as any new believers from persecution and violence. Nechirvan declared: "I would rather see a Muslim become a Christian than a radical Muslim." Sada reported on Kurds converting to Christianity by the hundreds and that a certain church had some 800 new Kurdish Christian converts. I just wonder, why does Sada think that this is something to propagate? Does he really believe that this nominal Kurdish Muslims conversion would help the indigenous Assyrian Christians of northern Iraq (historic Assyria)? The Kurdish support for Christians (and not Assyrians as an ethnic group) continues of course.

D) Many following the Assyrian affairs understand the influence of Masoud Barazani and the KDP on the patriarchs of the Syriac-speaking churches in Iraq, whether they reside in Iraq or outside. Many believe that perhaps it was Barazani's persuasion if not arm-twisting of those patriarchs to bestow on Aghajan medals of honors of all kinds and shapes to glorify and popularize him. Others believe that the mastermind of this drama is the United States. I want to pose this question: why would Vatican's Pope Benedict XVI, Alexandria's Coptic Pope Anba Shnoda III, and the Supreme Patriarch Karekin II of Armenians, for example, bestow on Aghajan medals of honor? It becomes very strange if we understand that there are perhaps some two-dozen Armenian families and perhaps less of the Copts living within the KRG. Since when were patriarchs of any group giving medals to government officials who took care of 100 or 200 members of their churches in certain countries? Has Pope Anba Shnoda III given a medal to any Sudanese official, because the government of Khartoum hosts some Egyptian Copts in Sudan? I could understand if the Pope decided to bestow a medal upon the Emir of Qatar for his approval to build the first ever Catholic Church in that Muslim country.    

Other Remarks

It seems to me that the presumed "Christian" West has finally decided to face the pathetic situation of the Christians of the Middle East and began to emphasize the importance of the survival of Christianity where it was born, i.e., the Middle East. It would be an understatement to declare that the maps of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran have been redrawn. One could conclude that the war on Islamic fundamentalism has begun under the pretext of the "War on Terrorism" and a new policy towards all the Christians of the Middle East is underway; thus, churches solidarity is shaping up and the Kurdish leadership might have been advised to play the role of protectors of Christians within their region. Thus, Aghajan's front face is of many advantages. First, he is a Christian, thus could be trusted by the naïve Christians. Second, he is a member of the KDP, thus he will ultimately continue to have the Kurdish goals as his primary goals, because, and as I stated in a previous article, Aghajan could not have a split and conflicting national loyalties: Assyrian and Kurdish, at the same time.

Most importantly, this fits well with the Kurdish plans to expand the Kurdish region by usurping the Nineveh Plains to the current Kurdish region under the pretext of protecting the religious minorities. Then came the October 17, 2007 declaration of Pope Benedict XVI who named His Beatitude Mar Emmanuel Delly a Cardinal, an honor that took place on November 24, 2007 Vatican's General Church Council meeting. With that came many statements by Vatican leaders, including the Pope, demanding protection of the Christians of Iraq.


More global concern for the indigenous Syriac-speaking Churches in the Middle East emerged and if that is the case, I just cannot comprehend any reasons behind the isolation policies that certain churches in Iraq continue to follow. The various Assyrian denominations, which claim to base themselves on the Word of God, are built on sand and the Bible as the Word of God has become obsolete. The churches have been politicized and each patriarch or church leader is searching for his own self-satisfaction and glory with lesser considerations to the future of the people on the whole. These patriarchs have been relying on Kurds and Arabs to save their churches and flocks when they should rely on their own power that comes from their unity.

II. On the National Level

On the national level, it is obvious that there is a great momentum behind Aghajan's Chaldean Syriac Assyrian National Council (CSANC). Much of this momentum is orchestrated through the Kurdish leadership in Iraq and through international sources in the back scene that might include the U.S. The CSANC continues to expand and it has opened offices in Europe, Chicago, Detroit and Canada.

Aghajan and CSANC claim that they are seeking self-rule of the "Chaldean Syriac Assyrian" people in the Nineveh Plains. They claim that they have requested that from the KRG and Kurdish leadership (consider the March 3, 2008 meeting of Jamil Zeto, the Head of the CSANC, and his delegation with KDP Political Bureau, headed by Fadhil Mirani). However, there are issues to consider here, because the current Kurdish constitution issued on August 22, 2006 contradicts that claim. Article II, Part 1 of the Kurdish constitution claims already that the Nineveh Plains region (Nineveh Governorate) is part of Kurdistan-Iraq (consisting officially from the three Dohuk, Arbil and Sulaimaniya Governorates only). Then in Article III, the said constitution states that it is not permitted to establish a new region within the borders of the existing Kurdistan-Iraq region. Aghajan and CSANC could claim that they are asking for self-rule, and perhaps they are, but the Kurdish constitution does not permit it. Meanwhile, the ADM has since 2003 demanded from the Iraqi authorities self-administration in the Nineveh Plains and the Iraqi Constitution (Article 125) allows the creation of such administrative area linked to the Central Government. Article 125 reads: “The Constitution shall guarantee the administrative, political, cultural, and educational rights of the various nationalities, such as Turkomen, Chaldeans, Assyrians, and all other constituents, and this shall be regulated by law.” Thus ADM's demands are achievable and legal through the Iraqi Constitution; however, Aghajan and CSANC's demands are prohibited categorically by the Kurdish constitution, unless Aghajan would succeed to convince the Kurdish leadership to amend Article III and other important articles of the KRG constitution and prove that the zone he is advocating is not strictly a Christian one. 

The wave of the CSANC that originated in the high seas must come to an end, either gracefully at a peaceful shore or breaks violently on a solid rock. How are we to deal with this wave?

The question that I want to ask is: If the CSANC was a legitimate Assyrian institution, would the KDP be its promoter? Why should individuals that have loyalties to Communists or KDP be part of its current leadership?

On February 23, 2008, CSANC-Germany branch, organized a seminar in Berlin. The seminar was about the demands of the Assyrian people. Among the participants was the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO). The APP (Nimrod Baito's group) participated as well and Terry Potros (APP) published an article on ankawa.com web site (click here) about the seminar and the position of the ADO. From Terry's article, one could conclude that the ADO presented different thoughts than what the organizers had wished and/or expected and those thoughts were basically against the recommendations of CSANC. Terry stated that the ADO conditioned that the self-ruled region be linked to central government in Baghdad and not to Kurdish region and that the ADO recommended a safe heaven region for our people instead of self-rule. It would be beneficiary if the ADO issued a clear statement about its participation in the Berlin seminar and where it stands officially.

Most importantly, are we questioning what Aghajan is really doing to deserve this attention? Aghajan is the Minister of Finance in the KRG. He spends money that is allocated to his ministry by the KRG or as much as he is authorized by other international institutions through donations. So why is Aghajan taking credit for the construction of churches, houses and mini-villages? Is the money used in the construction his own private money? The answer is no. It is Iraq Oil and U.S. aid monies. What I still want to know is: why are the homes built for Kurds in the Kurdish areas fenced and more spacious and attractive than those built for Assyrians in the Assyrian areas? Furthermore, many people are raising red flags in connection to the Grant Deeds of the houses that are being built in the Assyrian regions? The question is: Do the people that are granted these houses own the grant deeds of the "land and house" or only given the keys to the houses and asked to live in them and cultivate the land? The issue is of great importance, because the connection of these people is not to the land but to the house. It is as if these people are living in what the American Real Estate market refers to as condominiums or town houses. These people have no grant deeds to the land; therefore, they could loose these houses at any given time.

I will leave it to the readers to judge for themselves by examining a sample of photos provided below, which represent some of the houses built under the supervision of Aghajan. Here are four photos, two in the Kurdish villages of Brefka and Tarwanish and two of Assyrian houses built in the villages of Mayeh and Malakhtha. The Kurdish houses cost around $45,000; they are spacious and fenced, while the Assyrian houses are cramped, tiny and unfenced and cost around $10,000.

Kurdish village of Brefka in north Iraq.
Kurdish village of Tarwanish in north Iraq.
Assyrian village of Mayeh in north Iraq.
Assyrian village of Malakhta in north Iraq.


On the other hand, Aghajan is using his satellite television station Ishtar TV in a very irresponsible and foolish manner. While Iraq is suffering, Ishtar is broadcasting continuous images and clips of celebrations and parties and where Assyrian women are shown dancing and sometimes most inappropriately. Furthermore, Ishtar TV's propaganda for the Kurdish cause, language, and culture and for Barazani is noticeable. In reality, Ishtar TV is part of the Kurdification process of the Assyrian people.

In the middle of this, the ADM seems to be playing the wait and see game. It might be a smart step at this particular junction; however, many Assyrians are anxious to hear from the ADM. After all, the ADM is the most popular among Assyrians and is widely supported in Iraq and around the world and the two Iraqi national elections proved it as the ADM won 85% of the Assyrian votes in both elections. The ADM continues to follow the policy it drew at its 2003 Baghdad Conference. On November 2, 2006, for example, the ADM sent a memo to the KRG parliament regarding the 2006 Kurdish constitution. The ADM emphasized that the Nineveh Plains region has its own ethnic and religious uniqueness and could be administered and governed by the locals and that the Nineveh Plains should not be joined to Kurdish region before solving many problems according to article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution.

Worth mentioning that many of the members of the ADM Central Committee have stepped down during the June 28-30, 2007 ADM 5th General Congress (but have not abandoned the ADM of course) and many younger nationals have stepped in. Would these young nationals be successful in bringing and applying new thoughts and policies or would they be on a collision coarse with the policies of the Secretary General Younadam Kanna?

The Scrambling Direction

In early 2007, U.S. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo was planning to summit a resolution to U.S. Congress for the establishment of the Nineveh Plains Administrative Area for ChaldoAssyrian Christians of Iraq linked to Central government in Baghdad. This proposal was carefully initiated by Michael Youash, director of the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project (ISDP), and backed by other Assyrian and Chaldean groups. On Wednesday, January 17, 2007, Fawzi Hariri (KRG Minister) and his advisor Fraidon Darmo, Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) were summoned to Washington. They met with Congresswoman Eshoo's staff and claimed, among many things that Assyrians do not have the necessary numbers anywhere in Iraq even in Nineveh Plains to justify having a region of their own, that they do not have the resources and capability to administer themselves, that the establishment of an administrative region for the Assyrians would do more harms and damage than good and recommended that dealing with Aghajan was the right path to follow. 

Simultaneously with this visit, members/supporters of the AUA, few BNDP supporters along with clergyman from the ACOE in San Jose stormed the office of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo in Palo Alto, California, to express their opposition for the resolution. I don't know about you, but this I find very troubling and strange.

Meanwhile, Assyria National Assembly, through its website ANA Ashur seems to be the most visible group on the Internet, which continues to hammer at the Kurdish leadership chauvinistic plans and emphasizes on the unity of Iraq and the rights of Assyrians on their ancestral lands in northern Iraq (Assyria).

On March 10-12, 2007 the Assyrian General Conference of Ishaya Isho held its first congress in Istanbul, since many participants could not get visa to enter Iraq. The final statement emphasized the followings:

  1. An Assyrian federal region within Iraq.
  2. Kirkuk must be treated as a patriotic and Iraqi issue and should be treated as a little Iraq.
  3. Return all Assyrian lands and villages that were lost since the creation of Iraq.
  4. Undo the demographic change that befell the Assyrians in Dohuk.

On March 24, 2007, the Assyrian National Congress (ANC) headed by Sargon Dadesho opened its 8th congress in Ceres, California. Dadesho invited the AUA to attend the congress. This caused a rift in the AUA. Some executive members of the AUA agreed to attend while others opposed it. Dr. Emmanuel Kamber, the Secretary General of the AUA had taken up the leadership of the AUA in July 2005. The AUA needed an intellectual Iraqi born to head the organization at that time for the obvious reasons. Dr. Kamber faced friction with certain executive members from the beginning, which led to his resignation on February 22, 2007. Assyrian observers believe that the suspicious visit of Hariri and Darmo to Congresswoman Eshoo's office was behind the resignation. Darmo succeeded Dr. Kamber as the AUA Secretary General. Consider that Darmo is an advisor to Patriarch Mar Dinkha. Of course, the relationship between Mar Dinkha and the AUA goes back to the days when the patriarch was still the Bishop of Iran and the concept of the AUA was born among Assyrian intellectuals from Iran (officially founded in 1968). On March 1, 2007, Darmo, Acting Secretary General of the AUA, asked for an emergency AUA congress in California to take place prior to Dadesho's ANC congress, to discuss the AUA mess (as other executive members had sidelined their membership), elect a new secretary general and a new executive board. Most importantly, the AUA new congress was to discuss whether to attend Dadesho's congress or not. At the end, the AUA represented by Carlo Ganjeh, Yonatan Bet Kolia, and others attended the ANC congress. According to Odisho Malko, Dadesho and the 8th congress sent an official letter to the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian National Council (of Aghajan) asking them to meet as early as possible to unify the efforts, goals and demands. Of course, Aghajan is well respected and honored on the Bet Nahrain Forum and is referred to as "raabi." This supposedly nationalist institution, i.e., the ANC has yet to criticize the Kurdish leadership for any its unfair treatment of Assyrians, including undermining and marginalizing Assyrians in the Iraqi and KRG constitutions. The ANC and BNDP-Dadesho, through their Forum and AssyriaSat TV satellite station, have become the mouthpiece of the ACOE and have been concentrating mainly on religious affairs of the said church.

It is worth mentioning here that an AUA delegation from Iran under MP Yonatan Bet Kolia, the representative of the Assyrian and Chaldean Christian communities in the Iranian Parliament (Majlis) and the AUA Asia Chapter Secretary began a visit to the Kurdish region of northern Iraq from the second week of December 2007. Bet Kolia's statements have been anything but factual. On June 6, 2006 (PAYVAND), Bet Kolia said that the propaganda of the West on violation of the minorities' rights in Iran are illusive claims. He said that according to Constitution's Article 19, all Iranian people from various ethnic groups enjoy equal rights. The MP said that Iran is the only country where religious minorities coexist comfortably. On July 25, 2007 (MNA), he pointed to what he referred to as the proper living conditions of Assyrians in Iran, he said: “We are having equal rights with Muslims, my vote carries the same weight as that of a Muslim’s with the power to dismiss or appoint an official and this shows the respect Iran pays to the religious minority groups.” He lauded Iran’s policy of obligatory religious training at schools, adding that it is a unique initiative and “to the benefit of our children.” And on March 1, 2008 (PRESS TV) he returned to support his government after the Security Council imposed further sanctions on Iran and said that he and his co-religionists enjoyed freedom in Iran and were allowed to lead their lives in accordance with their religious teachings and traditions without any restrictions imposed by the government

I wonder, is this why the Assyrian population decreased from more than 50,000 in 1979 (before the Islamic Revolution) to about 10,000 in 2007 and during his leadership in the Majlis?

The efforts of the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project (ISDP) are to be closely monitored and encouraged as it lately secured a grant of $10 million for the Nineveh Plain region. Of course, this grant prompted Kurdish leadership to consult with its contacts in Washington in order to undermine it, since the Kurds do not want to see any rival group that could take away from the popularity of its popularized figure Aghajan. The success of ISDP prompted Assyrians in Europe to establish a similar Assyrian lobby group in Brussels to work closely and in similar manner with the European Union (EU). Other individual Assyrians in various government and civic institutions within and without the EU, especially in Sweden, The Netherlands and Australia have been working hard to win the support of their respective governments to guarantee the Assyrian rights in Iraq. On the other end, the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council of America (CASCA), not to be confused with Aghajan's CSANC, is working diligently to bring the various legitimate Diaspora groups together and work with the U.S. government on several fronts. CASCA comprises from these four organizations: Assyrian American National Federation (AANF), Assyrian National Council of Illinois (ANCI), Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce (CACC) and Chaldean Federation of America (CFA). Two of the most important issues that CASCA lobbies for are: Advocate Article 125 of the Iraqi Constitution and actively work on a proposal for establishing the administrative area in the Nineveh Plains, with direct ties to the Iraqi Central Government. This administrative area would be protected by an Iraqi security force comprised of local trained personnel and would provide immediate security to Christians and other minorities and may also provide an alternative to hundreds of thousands of internally and externally displaced minorities. In essence this seems more in line with what the ADM proposed in its 2003 Baghdad Conference. 

Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution

On January 23, 2008, the special committee that oversees applying article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution decided to form a sub-committee (headed by Ashur Yalda Benyamin) to travel to Telkaif, investigate and present its report by February 28, 2008. This took place due to a report by Abd al-Ahad Afram, Secretary General of the Chaldean Democratic Union Party, member of KDP, and member of Iraqi Parliament (won his seat by being on the Kurdish slate) who asked the special committee to look into the demographic changes that were inflicted on Telkaif and others, hinting to the Arabization of the town. I wonder, why isn't Abd al-Ahad Afram asking the special committee to look into all the demographic changes, specially those inflicted by Kurds over hundreds of Assyrian towns and villages in northern Iraq, including those in Dohuk Governorate? Why only address the Arabization of Telkaif, why not talk about Kurdification of Assyrian towns and villages.

In fact, if we try to compare between the Assyrian towns and villages that have been Arabized and Kurdified in the last three centuries, we would find the scale overwhelmingly tilted toward the Kurdification side. The Kurdish leadership policy of kurdification continues even this very moment. The Kurdish leadership takes advantage of every event to spread Kurdish propaganda. The curriculum in northern Iraq Kurdish region public schools indoctrinates the Assyrian youth and children. Not even clubs escape the Kurdish domination. I leave the photos below to speak for themselves. One photo is for an event in memory of the late Hurmiz Malek Chikko. See the size of the photos of Kurdish leader and Kurdish flags. Is this a Kurdish event or an Assyrian event? The other photo is for Akad Ankawa Club (see the domination of Kurdish flags in the background).

A sports event in the memory of the late Hurmiz Malek Chikko in north Iraq.
The Akad Club of Ankawa in north Iraq.


Harassment of the Assyrians Continues

Furthermore, harassment, imprisonment and assassination of Assyrian nationalists in northern Iraq continue. Most recently, on February 17, 2008 members of the KDP peshmerga of Barazani abducted writer Johnny Khoshaba from his home in Telkepe (Telkaif). Even though Telkepe is part of Nineveh Governorate and not part of the Kurdish region, Kurdish militants were involved in the abduction where they transferred Mr. Khoshaba to a high Kurdish security prison near Sarsink, north of Dohuk in the Kurdish region. He was charged with criticizing the Kurdish authorities and the KRG Minister Aghajan. He was also warned against writing about the corruption and other scandals by ACOE Bishop Ishaq Khamis and about the loyalty of the bishop to the Kurdish authorities. Mr. Khoshaba was released after four days on condition that he would not criticize the KRG or write about certain religious figures in the future. Mr. Khoshaba's life is still in danger, not without justification, if we recall what happened to other activists, Kurdish included, and more recently the attempted murder of Dr. Kamal Sayid Qadir in Austria by Kurdish Security personnel accompanying Masroor Barazani, the head of the Kurdish Intelligence. Dr. Qadir has criticized the Barazani regime in his writings repeatedly. He was imprisoned and sentenced for 20 years when he traveled to Arbil, but released after mounting pressure from international human rights institutions. Lastly but not least, Aprim Isaac (born 1982) from the region of Barwari Bala was murdered outside his village by Kurds a week before the kidnapping of the Chaldean Catholic Church Bishop Polous Faraj Rahho in Mosul on February 29, 2008. 

The "law of the jungle" and the concept that "might is above any law" have been unveiled as the true ideals of the Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq.  

Final Thoughts

The Assyrians have come a long way since their genocide during and post WWI and the massacre in Simele, northern Iraq, in 1933. It is unfortunate however that the complexity of the Assyrian society is allowing churches to meddle to a greater degree in the political matters and in the process transform the religious conflict and division that exists between the various churches to the national and political scene. The enemy of the Assyrian people and nation understands this weakness and is using the churches to continue with their struggle and division, thus undermine the national activism and efforts. I just cannot comprehend why one cares whether an Assyrian is a member of the ACOE, Chaldean Catholic Church, Ancient Church of the East, Assyrian Presbyterian Church, Syriac Orthodox and Catholic Churches, or any other church? How could those who claim to be the representatives of God on earth cause so much hatred and division among one people and nation?

Why are the various Assyrian churches working against each other? Is this what Christianity and Jesus Christ taught our church leaders, i.e., if one is not within your church then he/she is your enemy? On the other hand, why are most of our so-called political leaders and nationalists busy with church internal disputes? Why are certain forums, like that of Bet Nahrain Forum and AssyriaSat Satellite TV station preoccupied almost completely with church issues while ignoring the Assyrians in future Iraq and the Kurdish threats?

With the continuous attacks on churches, Ishtar TV aired an interview with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on February 29, 2008. The interview was posted later on www.ankawa.com. The following question and answer are of interest:

Ishtar TV:    Your Excellency Prime Minister, honestly, the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian people seek to gain self-rule on the lands where they existed historically. For this purpose, the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian National Council was established in order to gain this self-rule. What is your comment regarding this subject?

Nuri al-Maliki:   "I say, in all honesty, that the new Iraq is still in motion. The constitution organized the motions of the demands of the fraternal ethnic groups within the Iraqi society. Definitely, all [these demands] must be within the constitution, moving towards the unity of Iraq and the unity of Iraqis whether they acquire federal regions, self-rule, or in governorates not belonging to any region. In the final analysis, all these fit together to form the [Iraqi] national unity fabric. I, for a fact, with the framework of what is granted, and with the framework of the rights granted to other ethnic groups, this ethnic group, in particular, is entitled to demand, put questions, and work to organize such demands. I do not know how this will be from the geographical point of view, the place or the timing aspect of it; however, as a principle and according to the constitution, it is the entitlement of every component to demand its rights, the rights that are within the framework of the national unity and not the rights, which mean any stage of the separation stages. The self-rule, local administration … progress to the regional federations, these all, in our estimations are legitimate demands and the Chaldean Assyrian Christian people have the right to demand them just as the Turkomans are demanding now.  This is a legitimate right for all, but what remains is its formation, its ways and means, where and how and this matter is discussed within the constitution framework and within the [Iraqi] national unity."

If this is the case, what is preventing Iraqi governmental institutions from implementing and forming the Assyrian self-ruled region? Is it because no one is asking for it officially, as few claim?

I am asking all Assyrian politicians, nationalist or groups that are involved directly or indirectly via communications with Iraqi groups and/or government and with Kurdish groups and/or regional government (KRG) to issue a clear statement regarding their position with article 140 and the Arabized and Kurdified Assyrian towns and villages. The December 31, 2007 was the deadline to finalize the normalization of Kirkuk and all other disputed territories and have the census taken. That did not happen. A six-month extension has been issued. Are Assyrians achieving anything in that regard?

I am asking Younadam Kanna, Nimrod Baito Youkhana, Romeo Hakkari, Abd al-Ahad Afram, Sargis Aghajan, Ishaya Isho, Sargon Dadesho, Hikmat Hakim, Odisho Malko, Giwargis Sada, Fawzi Hariri, Sa'eed Shamaya, Fraydon Darmo, Younatan Bet Kolia, Gilyana Yonan, George Mansour, Poulus Shamoun, Nuri Mansour, Joseph Kassab, Bashir Sa'adi, etc., etc.: Where are you standing from applying article 140 to all the Arabized and Kurdified Assyrian towns and villages in Arbil, Dohuk and Nineveh Governorates? Have you submitted any reports/petitions regarding all the Arabized and Kurdified Assyrian towns and villages to the Iraqi special committee overseeing the implementation of article 140? Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution instituted addressing any forced demographic changes and then formed a special committee to do what is necessary to finalize the normalization of the situation. This did not pertain, or was relevant, to Kikruk alone, but also to any other disputed territories. Article 140 relies on Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL). Article 58 was not written for Kurdish claims only. Assyrians have many villages and towns in northern Iraq that have been Kurdified and Arabized, but mainly the former, thus, they are all considered Disputed Territories and the situation there must be normalized as well.

Furthermore, has any political group/individuals demanded officially a self-rule for the Assyrian Christian people within the framework of Iraqi Constitution and the one united Iraq? The Iraqi Constitution supports it and the Prime Minister al-Maliki made it clear that he supports it.

I ask every moment: When will Assyria give birth to a new leader who will personify the principles and courage of giants such as Ashur Yousuf, Na'om Faiq, Fraidon Atouraya, Yousif Malek, Farid Nuzha, Addai Alkhas, David Perley, Youbert Benyamin, Yousip Toma, Youkhanna Esho, Francis Shabo and other giant Assyrians? This nation is not futile, barren or ineffectual to accept living with the slaved and cowardly so-called leaders that are searching only for self-glory and satisfaction?


Arise thy savior of this nation…


Take the leadership realm of this nation from the ineffective and selfish leaders that are assembling meaninglessly with their own circle of relatives and friends in Chicago, Modesto, Detroit, Sydney, Tehran, Baghdad and Arbil.

This nation is desperately anticipating you to emerge…

Arise thy savior, because Assyria had enough of worthless self-appointed leaders that continue to claim leadership of this nation even when they failed miserably to prove in the last two Iraqi national elections that they represent the Assyrian people.

Arise, for Assyrians refuse to live as Kurdish slaves, third class citizens or as Dhimmi people under the rule of Islam on their own historic lands.

Arise thy savior and gather all the fragments of the Assyrian nation … teach them how to work together, in unison and with absolute devotion towards the one ultimate dream … Assyria.


Good Morning Assyria
News From the Homeland


Archbishop of Mosul Abducted; Ransom Set at $US 2.5M

Courtesy of the Compass
6 March 2008

Archbishop Paulus Faraj Rahho

(ZNDA: Istanbul)  On 28 February, the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, Mar Paulos Faraj Rahho, was abducted shortly after 5 PM pm while leaving the Holy Spirit parish in Mosul's al-Noor district.  His Grace was returning home from presiding over the "orkha d'sleeva" service with his congregation or "Stations of the Cross / Via Dolorosa".  The captors have not been identified at Zinda press time.  Armed kidnappers in four vehicles blocked His Grace's path, killed his two bodyguards and one driver, and took the Archbishop by force.

According to Archbishop of Kirkuk, Mar Luis Sako, the ransom was set by the kidnappers at 2.5 million dollars.  Church leaders in Iraq are not certain if Archbishop is still alive. His Grace, who is 67 years-old, takes medication for his heart and he did not have these with him at the time of his abduction.

The unidentified captors also added new conditions for the release of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, said Kirkuk Chaldean Archbishop Luis Sako. He declined to give further details in the interest of Rahho’s safety.

The kidnapping may have political motives to force mass fleeing of Christians from Mosul.

“He could easily be killed, and that would be really unfortunate,” Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, commander of U.S. forces in northern Iraq said. Hertling did not rule out that the kidnappers could be from Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has regrouped in Mosul after being pushed out of Baghdad and western Anbar province.

Maliki on Christians of Iraq

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on 4 March that securing Rahho’s release was a top priority.

"Christians in Iraq are an essential component of the Iraqi society and a part that cannot be separated from the Iraqi people and civilization. Any assault on the Christians is an assault on all Iraqis," the prime minister's statement said.

The U.S. military has said Iraqi and U.S. forces are searching for the kidnapped archbishop.

A number of Muslim religious have publicly condemned the kidnapping over the past days, Archbishop Sako said. The condemnations have been carried on local TV channels and Iraqi newspapers.

More than a dozen Christian clergymen in Iraq have been kidnapped, held for ransom or killed since July 2006.

Driver, Bodyguards Buried
A chaldean priest officiates at the funeral of the men killed when gunmen seized the Archbishop of Mosul.

The three Christians killed in Rahho’s abduction last week were buried last Saturday (March 1) in the village of Karamlis, 15 miles east of Mosul.

Driver Faris Gorgis Khoder and bodyguards Samir and Ramy left behind young wives and three children each, the oldest of whom are in their early teens, a priest close to the negotiations said.

“The church priests tried to help them with psychological [counseling],” the priest said. “But it’s not easy. What can we say to them?”

The cleric said that two of the families are now staying with relatives outside of Mosul, while the third family has returned to the city.
The wife and a daughter of one of the three men killed when gunmen kidnapped Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho cry during his funeral in Mosul, Iraq.

“The lone source of life by salary was from their husbands, the fathers who were killed,” the priest said. “So now maybe the parents or maybe the neighbors, they help them for a little bit, but not a long time because everybody is poor here.”

The biblical city of Nineveh has traditionally been home to Iraq’s indigenous Christian population. But in recent years it has gained a reputation as a hotbed for fanatic Islam.

Last June, a Chaldean priest and three deacons leaving Mosul’s Holy Spirit parish were gunned down after refusing to convert to Islam. Several Mosul churches were attacked in coordinated bomb blasts in January.

An Eastern rite denomination in communion with Rome, the Chaldean church is Iraq’s largest Christian community.


Pope's Appeal

Archbishop Rahho (left), Patriarch Mar Delly, and Pope Benedict.

Pope Benedict XVI on 9 March renewed his appeal for the release of Mosul's Chaldean archbishop, and said his thoughts were with "the large number of Iraqis who continue to suffer blind, absurd violence."

EU Condemns Kidnapping

The European Union's Slovenian presidency condemned last Sunday the kidnapping of Archbishop Rahho stating: "The [Slovenian] presidency strongly condemns (the) kidnapping ... and calls for his unconditional and immediate release.".

UN Calls for Protection of Iraq's Minorities

The UN Secretary General’s special representative to Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, denounced the continuous kidnapping, killing, and targeting of religious minorities. “It is appalling that these attacks on communities that have lived peacefully together in north Iraq for centuries, are continuing,” he said. He called on the Iraqi government to redouble its efforts to protect the country’s minorities, and preserve their human rights and the country’s diversity as entrenched in its constitution. It was the second time in a week that Mr de Mistura had made such a call.

Chemical Ali

On Friday, 29 February only hours before the abduction of the archbishop of Mosul, Iraq's presidential council endorsed the death sentence of Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known as "Chemical Ali" for his involvement in the gassing of thousands of Kurdish civilians and the destruction of Assyrian villages during the Anfal Campaign.  The city of Mosul is an urban stronghold of al-Qaida in Iraq.

Jordanian Prince Condemns Archbishop's Kidnapping

Courtesy of the Ecumenical News International
4 March 2008

Click photo to view short documentary titled
"Iraqi Christians in Peril"

Produced by the Chaldean Church in Beirut, Lebanon
USA distribution by:
Religious Freedom Coalition
PO Box 77511, Washington, DC 20013
(202) 742-8990

(ZNDA: Amman)  Jordanian Prince El Hassan bin Talal, who chairs the board of trustees of the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies, has condemned strongly the kidnapping of the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, and the killing of three of his companions.

"These criminal acts defy our principles of common humanity and offend our religious values and codes of conduct," the prince said in a statement from Amman on 3 March.

The prince, who is president emeritus of the World Conference on Religions for Peace, was on 27 February named as the 2008 winner of the Niwano Peace Prize for efforts at building peace with justice in the Middle East, especially with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"We condemn all acts of kidnapping and assassination as contrary to the basic precept of respect for human life and liberty. We are extremely saddened by the kidnapping of Archbishop Rahho and by any crimes committed against the Christian religious community in Iraq," said the Jordanian prince.

"The traditional Christian communities of this troubled country stand as a testament to the age-old respect for our brothers in faith, the people of the book, who have commanded our love and filial protection since the days of the Prophet [Muhammad]," said Hassan. "It shocks us greatly to learn of these crimes against those men and women who carry the Abrahamic message of love, peace and brotherhood. These holy men must not be made victims of conflict, nor should they pay a price for political quarrels under any circumstances."

Hassan called on Muslim believers and "the entire global community to join us in condemning this act and to take all possible measures to win the freedom of Archbishop Rahho and to help prevent such crimes being committed in the future". The prince said, "We must all stand firmly against these criminal acts and affirm to our communities that they are against all religious and human principles and values."

Blogger Arrested in Syria for Criticizing Syrian Economy & Energy Policy

(ZNDA: Hasake)  An Assyrian blogger was arrested by Syrian authorities on 27 February in Hasake, Syria.  According to reports from various Assyrian sources, Mr. Edward Mousa was arrested because of criticizing the Syrian government's handling of its economy and energy policies, with an emphasis on the distribution of electrical power.  The Assyrian Democratic Organization reported on 27 February that the Syrian security apparatuses arrested Mr. Moussa for posting an article on several websites calling for "replacing the Three No's of Khartoum with three new No's of 'We have no gas, no fuel oil, and no electricity'."

Adding electricity supply capacity is an important national priority for Syria.  It hopes to add 3,000 MW of power generating capacity by 2010, at a cost of around $2 billion.  Due to diminishing confidence in Syrian government's stability as the situation in Lebanon worsens and the U.S. continues its trade sanctions against Damascus, lack of investment capital has hindered the progress toward implementing these projects.  Any internal criticism of the government is quickly silenced to avoid further public unrest.

After a worldwide campaign prompted by various bloggers' groups defending the rights of the freedom of speech and blogging rights on the Internet, Mr. Edward Mousa's arrest received international condemnation from Internet sites and on 8 March he was released from prison.

News Digest
News From Around the World

Seminar on Persecuted Christian Minorities
at the European Parliament


European Parliament

6 March 2008

Alde MEPs Hannu Takkula and István Szent-Iványi yesterday hosted a seminar at the European Parliament on the topic "Persecuted Christian Minorities" following a resolution by the Parliament asking governments of countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East to "improve the security situation of the Christian communities". According to the Parliament there has been a proliferation of instances of repression towards Christian communities and this is a cause for worry.

MEP Takkula opened the event by saying that in his opinion myths needs to be dispelled because "disinformation leads to discrimination". He commented more widely on religious freedom in Europe, especially when connected to politics asking about limits of expressing one's religious background and remaining an eligible politician. In the past MEP Takkula himself has made parliamentrary questions asking for instance about the Palestinian Christians' situation and this remains a topic of personal interest to him.

A visiting Finnish gospel rock band, EXIT sang related songs and afterwards the lead singer Mr. Pekka Simojoki talked about personal his experiences of persecution around the world. He said that he was schocked to see in the web how much persecution is going on daily with no attention whatsoever from Western media.

Director Willy Fautre of Human Rights Without Frontiers gave a presentation on China. His final conclusion, which caused a lively debate, was that whereas China is trying to make an effort towards the international community to show a tolerant face especially ahead of the Olympics, there is in fact a lot of persecution, imprisonment and harassment of various religious groups going on. Mr. Fautre was not convinced that boycotting the Olympics would help in a significant way. 

Mr. Ninos Warda from the Assyria Council of Europe spoke about the current situation in Iraq. Not only have the Assyrians become refugees but they are also internally displaced following the chaos that currently takes place. Mr. Warda appealed to the Europeans to take action to ensure a fair distribution of resources and opportunities and to restore a sense of security to this community as financial aid alone will not work.

Dr. Susanna Kokkonen spoke about Palestinian Christians, almost completely ignored by the Western media. There are both specific instances of physical assault and harassment but also more systematic actions by security forces, especially against converts. Dr. Kokkonen emphasized that EU as a major donor has a specific responsibility to use its leverage to ensure fair treatment and protection of the Christian minority.

MEP István Szent-Iványi concluded by saying that many more countries could have been presented. The general conclusion was that the problem needs to be addressed urgently instead of being ignored, as has largely been the case. Persecution happens globally on a daily basis and more information has to be offered to the public and media. MEP István Szent-Iványi suggested organizing more events like this and, finally, asking for more accountability in terms of treatment of minorities where ever EU has financial leverage as a major donor.   

Assyrian General Conference on Turkish Intervention in Northern Iraq

Assyrian General Conference
24 February 2008

Due to the impact of a military operation by the Turkish forces, the Iraqi land is witnessing a dangerous regional development. The Turkish military entered Iraqi territory, in their campaign against terrorist elements headquarters in Northern Iraq. This was in response to the frequent attacks by the terrorist groups.

 At this dangerous stage, the Assyrian General Conference calls on the Iraqi government to assume its responsibilities through effective implementation of the Iraqi Constitution. The terrorist groups need to stop the use of Iraqi territory as springboard to threaten the security of neighboring countries. Article 7 -II of the Iraqi Constitution, clearly states, "It is the responsibility of the State to combat terrorism and prevent the use of Iraqi territory as headquarters, corridor, or an arena for activities." Article 8, emphasizes the principles of good relations with neighboring countries, and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. Moreover, the Iraqi government should seek to resolve disputes through peaceful means.

Through their cooperation with, and support of terrorist elements, the Kurdish leaders bear the bulk of the responsibility for exposing Iraq to such interventions and operations. They are not worried about the consequences of the actions of their separatist and racist agenda. This apathy threatens Iraq and its people. We demand the termination of the ongoing bargaining between the parties in control of the Iraqi political process. This breakdown is leading to silence on what has happened.  The Kurdish leaders need to stop their support of terrorist organizations that use Iraqi territory as their base. Supporting and aiding the terrorists is bringing duress to the whole area.

Furthermore, we call on the Turkish Government not to hold the Iraqi people responsible for the anomalous behavior of some of their leaders. Those leaders who do not see beyond their narrow interests are the source of Iraqi trouble.

Long Live Iraq, a United Land and People

Assyrian General Conference Statement of Condemnation

Assyrian General Conference
4 March 2008

In the midst of the daily suffering of the Iraqi people, a series of attacks against our Assyrian people have taken place. It seems that these attacks are an orderly and carefully planned scheme to empty Iraq of its indigenous people. Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of the Chaldean Church in Mosul was abducted on February 29, 2008 and three of his bodyguards were killed. Here again are the hands of treachery and betrayal carrying out heinous crimes against the Iraqi people. 

We in the Assyrian General Conference, condemn this heinous crime, and demand the release of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho immediately. We condemn these barbaric acts against our unarmed and peaceful Assyrian people. We hold the Iraqi government responsible for the crime that took place. It happened in the city centre, at a time when security forces were deployed in Mosul for the implementation of the new security plan to eradicate terrorism. We call on the Iraqi government and security forces to work fast, and not to only give promises and fancy slogans for the liberation of Archbishop Rahho. The government needs to act diligently to arrest the perpetrators of the crime and bring them to justice. Also, it is the responsibility of the Iraqi government to work hard to provide security, safety and livelihood for all citizens. Moreover, the government should make every effort to make the reconciliation among all sects of the Iraqi people a success, which will safeguard and stabilize Iraq.

At this difficult time, we offer our condolences to the martyr's families. May their souls rest in peace.

Glory and immortality to our martyrs

Long Live Iraq, a United Land and People

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Activities of the Assyrian General Conference in Canada

Assyrian General Conference
5 March 2008

Meeting with the Assyrian writer, Dr. Hirmiz Aboona

A delegation of the Assyrian General Conference, visited the Assyrian writer Dr. Hirmiz Aboona on Sunday, 2 March 2008. During the visit, the delegation discussed several issues, including the legitimate and historical right our Assyrian people claim to the province of Assyria, in the Northern part of our beloved Iraq. The delegation was comprised of Mr. Ishaia Isho head of the executive committee of the Conference, Mr. Namrood Shiba member of the executive committee, and Mr. Sargon Estephan the official representative of the Assyrian National Organization in America.

March 2nd Political Rally

The Assyrian General Conference members and supporters organized a political rally in Toronto, Canada on March, 2 2008 at 5:00 pm. The latest developments on the Iraqi and Assyrian arena and the draft of the Assyria province proposal were discussed.

AGC apologizes for not being able to broadcast the political rally on paltalk due to technical reasons beyond our control.

Mr. Ishaia Isho (L), Raabie Hirmiz Aboona, and Mr. Namrood Shiba at Mr. Aboona's home in Canada.

Iran's Non-Muslims Question U.S. Motives

 Courtesy of the Washington Post
9 March 2008
Thomas Erdbrink & Karin Brulliard

(ZNDA: Tehran)  For decades the United States has funded an effort intended to help Christians, Zoroastrians and Jews escape persecution in Iran. Now some of their leaders are questioning American motives as sects that have endured here for thousands of years dwindle rapidly as a result of the migration.

Since the late 1980s, the U.S. government has made it easier for certain foreigners fleeing religious oppression overseas, such as in the former Soviet Union or Indochina, to immigrate to America.

But leaders of Iran's non-Muslim religious minority groups say their communities are not mistreated by the Iranian government, whose actions are overseen by Shiite Muslim clerics. Instead, some Christian and Zoroastrian leaders say, their members are leaving mainly to take advantage of the program's offer of a streamlined path to legal residence in the United States for a fee of $3,000.

"Christians and Zoroastrians leave because of unemployment, the bad economy, but these problems affect all Iranians," said Yonatan Betkolia, an Assyrian Christian leader and member of Iran's parliament who holds the United States responsible for his community's decline. "They give all those green cards to our people. Their only goal is to propagate the idea that Iran is mistreating its minorities."

Fox News Reporter Searches
For Her Assyrian Past
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The program is coordinated by the New York-based Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, or HIAS, which traditionally has helped resettle Jews in the United States. It received about $3.4 million in U.S. government funding last year to help non-Muslim minorities leave Iran.

There are no reliable numbers on the sizes of those communities in Iran, a predominantly Shiite country of 65 million to 70 million that is also home to Muslim ethnic minorities, including Kurds, Arabs and Baluchis. According to a census taken in 1976, there were 420,000 non-Muslims in a population of nearly 34 million. Many non-Muslims fled the country after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Despite the Iranian government's bellicose approach to Israel, Jews in the country say they can practice their religion freely. More than 25,000 Jews remain in Iran, community leaders say, making it the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside Israel.

The State Department says 2,842 Jews have left Iran for the United States under the program in the past decade, compared with more than 18,000 members of other non-Muslim minority groups. More than 10,000 Iranians are waiting now to travel to Vienna, where HIAS facilitates their passage to the United States as refugees, according to a former U.S. official familiar with the program.

"The migration is a big, big problem for all non-Muslim minorities in Iran," said Kurosh Niknam, a parliament member representing Iran's Zoroastrians, adherents of the pre-Islamic national faith that he estimates has shrunk by half since the 1979 revolution. "I wish everybody would come back to Iran, but I guess they won't. It looks like there will be no Zoroastrians left in this country in 30 years."

HIAS was selected early this decade by the State Department to be the sole agency for processing Iranian minorities from Vienna, where it operates what it calls an "overseas processing entity." In 2004, Congress passed a law that made it easier for religious minorities from Iran to qualify as refugees.

U.S. funding for HIAS' work on behalf of Iranians has almost tripled, from $1.24 million in 2002 to $3.46 million in 2007, because of an increase in applications. The United States, which is at odds with Iran over its nuclear ambitions and role in the war in Iraq, classifies Iran as one of eight "countries of particular concern" because of what the State Department calls severe violations of religious freedom.

This designation "provides the substantive basis for running a refugee program for Iranian religious minorities," said Gideon Aronoff, chief executive of HIAS. "It speaks for itself that there are people who feel there is a need for this type of program to provide them with safety."

One Armenian Christian businessman in Tehran, who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardize his family's persecution-based application for legal U.S. residence, struggled to come up with a list of reasons to leave Iran. For more than a decade, he said, he had been looking for reasons to stay.

"One, our Iranian passports are useless; we need visas for every country. Two, the Iranian economy is destroyed. Three, my daughters are forced to wear the Islamic head scarf," he said. The 2005 election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the businessman continued, had increased the sense of uncertainty. "There are foreign threats, there might be a war. We feel pressure every day."

Sitting in his dining room, he took another sip of cognac, which like all other alcoholic drinks is illegal for Muslims to consume in Iran, and smiled wearily. "I guess our reasons for migrating are no different from other Iranians who want to go. But as Christians, it's so much easier for us to leave Iran."

Betkolia, the Assyrian Christian parliament member, said he and his co-religionists were "freer in Iran than our Muslim brothers." The politician sat in his large office in the Assyrian club in Tehran. "We can drink, our boys and girls can mingle in our clubs freely and we can dance and sing," he said. "Muslims are not allowed to do those things in here."

Members of the Bahai faith, however, face arrest and other forms of persecution, according to U.S. and other officials. Followers of Bahaism, which was founded in 19th century Persia and emphasizes religious unity and racial equality, are not allowed to practice their religion or study at universities. The government regards the faith as heretical, while Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians are respected as being members of traditional monotheistic religions.

The former U.S. official familiar with HIAS said persecution of non-Muslims continues. "The fact is that this regime treats religious minorities very poorly. It has acted viciously toward some of them," the former official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the program. "For Christians and others, it's a lower grade of persecution. They're treated like third-class citizens, day in and day out. If you are not a Shiite, you're going to face severe discrimination," he said.

"Maybe people grow accustomed to it and may learn to live with it," the former official said. "But to say they're living an OK life and they're just economic refugees is ridiculous."

The recent increase in applicants has caused a significant backlog, he said. "If the Iranians wanted to, they could stop cooperating and create trouble for the program."

But according to some Iranian authorities, that would not happen. "There is no way that the Iranian government would block members of religious minorities from leaving. This would cause an international outcry," said Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a former vice president and a Shiite cleric.

"If HIAS would open its doors for Muslims, lots of Iranians would leave for America. I guess the same would happen in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia," Abtahi said. "I am sad people of other faiths leave Iran. But for that to change, big problems which affect all Iranians need to be tackled."

Mr. Bet-Kolia is a candidate in this week's parliamentary elections in Tehran and his family including his wife and brother live in California.  Elections to the Islamic Consultative Assembly in the Islamic Republic of Iran are scheduled to take place on Friday, 14 March.


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Nine Assyrians from Iraq Arrive in Canada

Courtesy of the BC Catholic
3 March 2008
Laureen McMahon

(ZNDA: Vancouver)  A plane from London, England, touched down at Vancouver International Airport on 20 February carrying nine Iraqi Christians to freedom in Canada, thanks to St. George's Melkite-Greek Catholic Mission in Burnaby and St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Richmond.

Dozens of Iraqis from both parishes waited patiently for three hours while the immigrants passed through customs and immigration.

When they finally emerged, they were met with cheering and a profusion of hugs and kisses. Bouquets of brightly coloured flowers were thrust into their arms by excited relatives and friends.
Iraqi Christians Falah, Samiya, and Nahala are welcomed to Canada at Vancouver International Airport by children and adults from St. George's Melkite-Greek Mission. Among them is Fawzia Namrood, at right, who has been helping refugees for a decade.  Photo by McMahon.

Some had not seen each other for over a decade, explained Fawzia Namrood, a St. George's parishioner who has worked with refugee families for a decade.

"Welcome to Vancouver! We are so happy to see you," the tired but smiling newcomers heard over and over again as they were led to the parking lot for the final stage of a journey that for some had lasted years.

Kalys Younan, who immigrated to Vancouver two years ago with his younger brother and works as a painter, met his second cousins, Falah and his sisters Samiya and Nahala, and took them to his home. In less than a week Falah had lined up a roofing job.

In January, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops urged Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to provide more resources to the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration to expedite visa applications for church-sponsored Iraqi Christian families fleeing religious repression.

St. George's relocation program under Father Maximos Basha, OSBC, has successfully sponsored 92 Iraqi families.

"Since 1996, 279 people have come," said the pastor, who offers a Sunday Mass in Arabic at 1 p.m. in St. Francis de Sales Church. "Among them are Chaldeans, Syriacs, Armenians, Assyrians, and Palestinian Greek Orthodox. Sixty have since moved to eastern Canada, but the rest have joined our Christian Catholic eastern rite mission."

While the Middle East is today mostly Muslim Arabs, it was once the cradle of Christianity.

Iraqi Christians trace their ancestry to the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians. Today they are known by various names: there are Assyrians; those who belong to the Chaldean rite of the Catholic Church are often known as Chaldeans; and there are Syriacs, members of the Syrian Orthodox Church.

Christians in the area have endured suffering for centuries. In recent times Saddam Hussein's wars with the Kurds destroyed hundreds of Assyrian villages and scattered the inhabitants. Bombs were dropped on dozens of historic Christian churches, turning them into rubble. The fall of Hussein, which it was hoped would bring peace, has unleashed new religious violence against Christians.

Sponsored by a group of five Canadians, Fawzia Namrood and her husband left Iraq in 1993 when she was just 17, two years after the launch of the first U.S.-led Gulf War in 1991.

"It was horrendous, crazy.  We knew we had to try to get out. We made it into Jordan, and then got a visa for Turkey, but at the end of three months we had to go into hiding for almost two and a half years until our papers were processed to come to Canada," comments Fawzia.

They arrived in Vancouver with a 45-day-old baby daughter and began immediately to work as many jobs as possible so that they could afford to bring their families.

"After meeting Father Basha, I went back to Iraq in 1997 to help my parents escape to Lebanon, when he sponsored them with my sisters, my brother, and his wife. We are very lucky because our family is now all here."

Returning to Iraq was scary, said Namrood. She had a close call when she was detained for hours by authorities, and they wouldn't let her small child use the bathroom.

Namrood is usually one of the first faces immigrants see at YVR when they arrive, exhausted by days and nights of travelling from parts of the Middle East and Europe.

Her time apart from work and raising her daughter is spent advocating for the sponsorship program. She is so good at the job she wants to train as an immigration officer. With her experience, drive, and fluency in four languages, realizing her dream is just a matter of time.

Father Basha even calls her "Fadwa" instead of "Fawzia."

"Fawzia means winner," Namrood explained with a smile, "but Fadwa means `giver,' so he jokes that it is my name!"

Namrood works nights to be free in the daytime to help smooth the process for newly-arrived families.

"We at least have a couch for them to sleep on the first night, then we move them into accommodation, find them a doctor, and get the children into school," she said.

The adults, Namrood explained, enrol in ESL classes, apply for social insurance numbers so they can start jobs as soon as possible and get health insurance, open bank accounts, and learn to use buses and other transportation.

Most immigrants, Namrood said, get jobs very quickly, and she credits business owners who are parishioners at St. George's and St. Francis de Sales with offering employment.

Namrood is sometimes called into a school by a teacher concerned that a young refugee is having trouble settling in.

"The child may have seen relatives killed, and other tragedies. They may have lived in refugee camps and become traumatized, which affects their learning," she explained.

Like other St. George's parishioners, Namrood often has relatives staying with her; her 62-year-old aunt has just arrived with some health problems.

"Our community bands together, which often means helping financially," she said. "It is a very expensive process to provide the documentation, which has to be faxed everywhere. Desperate calls come day and night, so my phone is always on.

"However the reward is to see the refugees leave fear behind and rebuild their lives. I am so proud of how our community supports their families. Some have even bought apartments or houses in a short time because they work so hard.

"They are dedicated to raising their families and staying close to the Church and making room for the next ones to come."

"We cannot thank Father Basha and the parish enough for the chance for a new life with new hope."

Chicago Skies Spark as the Stars Come Out to Sing

Chicago Honors John Dashto

Report by Helen Talia from Chicago

A typical Saturday evening in Chicago ~ busy traffic, circling the long city blocks to find parking space, running in high heels, compromising a seat in a sold-out event as Chicago rolled out the red carpet for its stars in one big ensemble featuring singers, musicians, lyricists and audience that cheered to more than twenty talents that took stage at Eden’s Banquet, a.k.a. the Assyrian Social Club this weekend. 

Despite the winter blues, the Chicago Assyrian community did not deter from celebrating the musical career of its own, the legendary John Dashto, marking thirty years of stardom in his hometown.  Chicago, the city of immigrants, politics, and showbiz has birthed the most successful Assyrian artists, and cradled the longest recording and performing careers of many talented pop and folklore genres.  It is the spice, jewel, and talk-of-the-town where dreams do turn into realities.

Singer, song writer, and musician John Dashto was born in the historic city of Nineveh, and raised in Kirkuk, where he pursued his formal musical education.  In spite of having a very young career in his birth country Iraq, John took center stage alongside Ashur Bet-Sargis at the Assyrian Youth Association only weeks after arriving in Chicago in 1978.


Assyrians of Chicago celebrate John Dashto's life and achievements.  He appears in the above photo second from the right.

Since then, he has recorded four albums and served on musical panel (Assyrian Superstar).  A singer, musician, and song writer, his contributions include to the likes of Sargon Gabriel, George Gindo, Janan Sawa, Juliana Jendo, Malik Merza, and Ewan Shamdinany, to name a few.  John’s own creation has been the daring infuse of “Hewa,” Southern Iraqi folklore music, into modern Assyrian sounds.  He is most well known in galoota (Assyrian, diaspora) at the height of his career in Chicago in the 1980‘s, where he enchanted his audience at the original Assyrian Social Club and Assyrian American Association as crowds gathered to hear his earlier recordings, “Min Nagestan,” “Awara,” “Gasheq, Gasheq Biyee,” and “Lewat Bas Aten.”

For die-hard John fans, history was revisited as the stage was opened by welcoming speeches from Mr. Hirmis Tairo who delivered John’s biography.  Mr. Ninos Nirari’s speech included John’s symbolism as an artist, and the memoir of the two, a poet (Ninos), and an artist (John) for 35 years.  Likewise, Mr. Ishaq Ishaq from Iraq spoke on the importance of the morphing power behind an artist’s role within a nation.  As the crowd sat back, taking in everything in a single breath, Sargon Gabriel hosted the striking musical montage, while Venus (Agnes Youkhanna) graced the stage, followed by Sargon Youkhanna, Lazar Malko, Odisho Odisho, Shabeh Lawando, David “chaplaya” (Assyrian, lefty) Simon, Wisam Zaia (Al Iraqi), Zander David, Salim Sefo, Raad Zaia, Sargon Rasho, Fatin Shabo, Enwiya ‘Banipal’ Giwargis, Avadis Sarkissian, Johnny Youkhanna, George Gindo, and Livon from Holland.  Among other singers who attended the event were Elizabeth Oshana, Isabell Ishtar, Joe Eivanoff, Dr. Roney Pera, Melis Eshaya, Steve Jallo, and Albert Oscar.

But it was the belting of Dashto’s “Shqolee o’Pareqlee,” dubbed by Youel Odisho “Touwee,” penned by the late Warda Khnanisho that brought the stage to life, backed by music legends ~ base guitarist Raymond Jammo “Nee Nee,” guitarist Johnny “Guitar,” and drummer Pani.

In an exclusive interview with John Dashto, his words were: “No matter what I say, it is not enough.  Every person that has attended tonight’s event is because they care, and I have a lot of respect for that.  With an open heart, we welcome back people into our lives whom we have not seen in years.” 

The event was hosted by Chicago Assyrian singers and musicians.  As for John Dashto, he has opted to remain in the meezalta (Assyrian, parade), singing for his people.  Clue: never underestimate the power of Chicagoans.  John, we love you.


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Dr. Matay Arsan’s ACSSU of Canada Lecture

Sargon J. David
ACSSU of Canada
Public Relations

ACSSU’s Lecture Series for 2008 was marshaled by the distinguished Co-Founder of The Assyria Foundation of the Netherlands: Dr. Matay Arsan.  Providing us with the first lecture for 2008, Dr. Arsan set the stage for a year of innovative and diverse topics that we hope will both illuminate and foster a needed awareness of our people’s rich and continuous uniqueness to the fabric of our global society.

Dr. Matay Arsan before the audience in Toronto, Canada on 10 February 2008.

Originally from Tur Abdin (Turkey), Dr. Arsan provided an exclusive and first-hand analysis to our Assyrian community here in Toronto on February 10th, 2008 at 5:00 pm at the Assyrian Society of Canada.  His lecture was entitled: “The Syriac Orthodox Community in Tur-Abdin and Europe”.  This was a highly anticipated opportunity as the overwhelming majority of Assyrians in Toronto are not from Turkey and it provided us with insight and affirmation of a large sector of our people.  Employing a detailed and comprehensive slideshow of information and first-hand commentary, Dr. Arsan was able to delicately and effectively explore both past and present dynamics in an engaging format.  His lecture was a chronological plenary that explored topics such as the early church, genocides and massacres, surviving villages and monasteries, the Assyrian Diaspora in Europe, notable and high-ranking Assyrian politicians, professors, clergy, artists and exacting statistical data, maps, photos and flowcharts.  The amount of background information was very helpful and his ability to bridge time and space served the audience well.  Each topic flowed in a systematic format that garnered many eager questions from the attendees.  There was a zeal of interest and even the most well-read person was provided with fresh insights that assisted us in our ongoing pursuit of Assyrian-specific knowledge.

ACSSU’s student core was very impressed with the 8 day summer camp Dr. Arsan discussed.  This is a highly-structured seasonal event that is attended by the Assyrian youth in Europe with a mixed gender pool of students between the ages of 13-16 and 17-25.  Being a speaker of the Western Syriac dialect, Dr. Arsan explained that it was there that he was taught the Eastern dialect.  I have yet to hear of this occurring anywhere else in the Diaspora on such a well orchestrated and panoptic manner.

Our sports enthusiasts also had cause to celebrate when Dr. Arsan discussed the world renowned Assyrian Swedish football club Assyriska.  Being established by Assyrians originally from Turkey, it now proudly serves as our people’s surrogate national team.

Standing from Left to Right: Dano (Our male MC), Alhan, Lema, Alda, Ashorina (Our President), Dr. Matay Arsan, Sargon, Ashur and Matthew. Seated from Left to Right: Sandy (Our female MC), Nahrain and Renya.

The students and Toronto community were especially privileged that evening and are extremely thankful that Dr. Arsan’s travels brought him to Canada.  Our next lecture series will feature Dr. Hormiz Aboona on Sunday Mrach 16th, 2008.  His lecture topic is “The Early Demographic Changes of Northern Iraq”.  Please keep a look out for this lecture and others that ACSSU will be hosting in the coming months and visit our website to stay updated at www.acssu.ca.

Honoring Those Concerned For Our Welfare & Survival

Anthony T. Nasseri

Shei-khani and other patriotic songs, along with our singers, have long been the  features of union and the pleasure of the Assyrian life. Why is it, an effective work associated with good deeds of an Assyrian patriot or a nationalistic association has always been subject to the criticism of  our people. For example. We have a dedicated Assyrian, who is engaged in a noble task at present in revitalizing all the Christian  communities in northern Iraq particularly, those domicile in the unspoiled simplicity of Nineveh plains. All I know of this man, is being called Sarkis M. Aghajan. I have not had the pleasure of meeting with him. If the occasion arises, he will receive a big “Assyrian Hug with Brotherly Love.”

I saw a vastly superior constructional work conducted by this noble Assyrian, through T.V. broadcasting of “ISHTAR” program for which I was flabbergasted. It was heartening to observe a new Assyrian village sprung to existence from the up-right of a low-level mountain in its isolated valley. It was significant achievement seeing, my people walking around with a smile on their face. Busy with their daily chores. Listening to the mothers, yelling loudly for their children playing in the streets: Sabrina come home for lunch. It was a quiet place for domicile and serenely beautiful. This proud Assyrian broadcaster was  elaborating in details of the new School and Church building, showing  a cross on its tower, being the insignia of a Christian community. I was captivated by the enormous program being undertaken in all parts of the Assyrian communities. Nineveh, Dohuk, Arbil etc...Chebo-Elokh.

Then I heard derogatory comments on the project, typical of an Assyrian nagging and misconception of those who are not in the picture, yet create gossip on the say so of those who expected but not selected to undertake this tremendous undertaking. As an Assyrian, I don’t care who pays for the job. I don’t care who make few measly dollars out of procurement process of the job and who is the contractor. All I care to see my people being recognized for once in their life, being part of society attracting an outside consideration for their safety and comfortable livelihood. Mr. Sarkis at the age of eighty-two I am your servant.

After my retirement from working in California, for the past fifteen years, I have selected my forefathers village of Moushawa, to be my temporary domicile in the province of Urmia to spend my summer season. Where I do my research, and writing. For the past three years, I have been watching “Ishtar Assyrian T.V. Station. Broadcasting from northern Iraq. Initial programs were primitive and boring, They are broadcasting at present beautiful social, educational and nationalistic programs with appropriate  nationalistic propaganda. This is another mark of the Assyrian innovative genius, derived from our forefathers natural wisdom. Our Assyrian engineers never had an opportunity to exercise their talent and capability in the modern communication and broadcasting industry. For start, thy are awarding  a wonderful service to our people. “Chebo-Elokhon Akhonvati”.

“ISHTAR” has commenced broadcasting programs, which reflects the real image of our people. Undoubtedly, their creative propaganda incorporated in their gradual improved programs, will soon attracts new talents, from the hidden sources of writers, and intellectual backing. We have to support “ISHTAR” which is an essential tool to reach and  to awaken  our people to the real need for their union in these opportune times. There will come a day, when our educate Assyrians will show their  real talents and capabilities in the revival of our nationalistic aspirations which will serve useful in achieving our potential aims and aspiration. May the Star Ashur and the name of “ISHTAR”, being the symbol of your communication identity continue to shine and illuminate on future educated generation being the hope of our nationalistic and political survival.
May God bless you for your tireless efforts on behalf of our people. You young Assyrians deserve added encouragement. I sincerely hope more Assyrian will follow this limited write-up an show their appreciation for the splendid work you conduct.

A Time Bomb Primed to Explode in Kurdistan

Dr Awshalim Lazar Khammo
United Kingdom

After the fall of the Iraqi dictatorship in April 2003, Christianity in Kurdistan started to flourish there was construction of new houses, schools, churches, church halls and road works.  Many families moved from troubled areas such as Basrah and Dora (Baghdad) to settle in Kurdistan with both financial and social help approved by the Kurdish authority.  Furthermore, some Christian families from diaspora started to think about moving back after so many years in foreign lands to live in the Kurdish territory.  Ishtar satellite TV is doing a great job to highlight the progress - well done Ishtar!!!

From the surface the picture looks encouraging and the Kurdish authority have had no problem with the Christian community.  But if we look at the political landscape and just scratch the surface, we can notice and feel the trouble brewing*.  As we all are aware, the Kurdish authority have a dream of ‘Independent Kurdistan’ which is to include Kirkuk and its oil fields to the west, Mousul area to the north west and part of Kut in the south  East.  This expansion is bound to create even greater friction and resentment from the locals besides the age-old ill feeling towards the Kurds, especially around Mousul and Kirkuk.

It is a well known fact the Kirkuk was a little Iraq, this was thanks to Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) - a British creation.  Iraqis from all walks of life came to work and live in Kirkuk with the majority of jobs centred around the oil company.  People were happy to live together in harmony.  When I was a lecturer at the University of Sulaymanya during the seventies, I had memories from the time I spent in Baba IPC, spending memorable weekends and holidays with my brother-in-law who was a senior personnel officer in the oil company.  Sadly today all that has gone only to be replaced by guns and bombs and people being blown up in Kirkuk and Mousul area. 

The local people reject the Kurdish imposed demand that Kirkuk and parts of Mousul are within Kurdistan border.  The more the Kurdish authority pushes forward their dream towards reality, the more enemies they create, both inside Iraq and around the border territories of Iran, Turkey and Syria.  The outsiders worry about their Kurdish population which is treated as second class citizens or terrorists.  The PKK is a case in point.  As regards within Iraq, to some Arab nationalists, independent Kurdistan is a second state of Israel, created to destroy the Arab unity.  One of the reasons to push the Kurdish Authority towards Independent Kurdistan, is the fact that some Arab nationalists consider the Kurds and all the other non-Arab Iraqis as minorities and outsiders.  If that is the case, then the Kurds and all other non-Arabs have the right to demand their national rights.  As a result, there is the miss-trust between the Iraqi missionaries and Arab nationalism.

The Christian community is based within Iraqi-Kurdistan.  Old and new enemies of the Kurds consider the Christian community as a soft target, hence will follow the same aggression against them as that taken on a daily basis against Israel.  The Arabs in both Kirkuk and Mousul will consider the Kurds as occupiers who must be kicked out if not killed.

At present the Kurdish authority and the US forces are responsible for the security in Kurdistan.  In the near future when the US forces eventually leave Iraq ‘if they ever leave’ then the Kurdish forces will be thin on the ground, who will protect the vulnerable non-Kurdish.  What happened to the Yazidis in Tell-Afar during 2007 should be a wake-up call to all other minorities in Iraqi Kurdistan.  To the Arab extremists any non-Arab is a soft target.  Bombing of the churches up and down Iraq was another wake up call.

Who will protect the minorities in Kurdistan?  Would each minority start its own militia or demand UN protection?  The Christians live by the principle of ‘love thy enemy’ but I am afraid the enemy will not love us because we are part of the problem in Iraqi Kurdistan created by the Kurdish authority.

The Kurdish leadership is pushing the dream of Independent Kurdistan forward to the detriment of the Iraqis.  There are many Kurds inside and outside Iraq who do not want independent Kurdistan at the least not just yet and keep the dream and hope to some distant future on the basis of democracy.  At present, all the countries in the area claim to follow some form of democracy but in reality it is anything but democracy.  More a ‘machine gun rule’ or ‘machine gun democracy’.  In the United Kingdom Mr Tony Blair was the leader of the labour party and the prime minister for many years.  The people did not want the country to follow Mr George Bush and go to war against Iraq; as Tony Blair ignored the majority, followed Mr G. Bush to war resulting in his down fall.  The people were not happy with so he has left the political stage for good - ‘Democracy rule’

Obviously we cannot compare the democracy in the UK with that of any country in the Middle East.  The people in the UK told Tony Blair to go so he did.  None of the leaders in the Middle East will go just because the people want them to.  The only way they go is in a box, six feet under.  The situation in Lebanon is a case in point.  Machine gun rules – a very sad situation as Lebanon was the only democratic country in the Middle East – emphasis on was.

The Christian communities in the Middle East in general and particularly in Iraq have suffered enough since World War I up until today.  At present the only safe heaven is Kurdistan.  All we can do is hope and pray it will go on from strength to strength so this community can contribute towards the reconstruction of Iraq, both physically and spiritually.  Finally it is high time that common sense and logic prevails over machine gun diplomacy and mistrust between Iraqis.  Once this begins and only then, will the road to peace evolve.  The Christian community in Iraqi Kurdistan is in a very difficult situation as they have to follow the policy of the Kurdish authority.  If they reject that policy, the Iraqi central government cannot protect them.  So it can be said that the Christian community is in a hostage situation ‘dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t’.  We are still hoping that a courageous leader will emerge with power of compromise to de-fuse this primed time bomb and save Iraq and the whole area from more blood-shed. 

God bless Iraq.

*The trouble brewing can even be felt in the UK.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of young illegal Kurdish refugees can be found doing labour work such as washing cars or other manual jobs.  Kurdistan is loosing its young generation.  I spoke to some Kurdish youth in some Yorkshire (UK) cities – they openly proclaim the hardship in Kurdistan, it is only good for a few Kurds.  If Kurdistan was in prosperity they would not need to leave.

Turkey's Dark Secret Resonating the Airwaves
Turkish Hackers’ Retaliation

Rosie Malek-Yonan

With the world’s attention focused on the battlegrounds of Belgium and France, under the protective mask of WWI, the systematic extermination of Assyrians, Pontic Greeks and Armenians in Ottoman Turkey was carried out by Sultan Abdul-Hamid II, and the Young Turks, Enver Pasha, Talaat Pasha, and Djemal Pasha, the hallmark of the first Genocide of the 20th century.

Today in Turkey, openly discussing or writing about genocide and holocaust carries a heavy punishment including imprisonment. The fear instilled in Turkish society is implemented in an effort to conceal a nearly century-old dark chapter in its Ottoman past.

While freedom of speech and uncensored dialog about these genocides are heavily suppressed, the dialog is now slowly unfolding elsewhere in the democratic free world and the west.  Just last week one such dialog was broadcast via the airwaves of Australia’s National Radio.

I was invited by a producer of Turkish descent to speak about the Assyrians and the Assyrian Genocide on the program Triple J, the National Youth Network of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

As an Assyrian, I found it very encouraging to have received an invitation from a Turkish producer to speak about a subject that is virtually taboo and unlawful in her own country.

But as I suspected, in no time the inevitable occurred.

In what is becoming a predictable and common behavior, Turkish hackers once again attacked my book’s website.  This latest incident trailed on the heels of last week’s radio broadcast.  This is the fifth such attack on the website of The Crimson Field, a book I wrote about the Assyrian Genocide.

If the string of assaults in the past several months by Turkish hackers against Assyrian websites, including that of the Assyrian Academic Society, is meant to intimidate Assyrians from speaking about the Genocide, obviously, these tactics on the part of the hackers are futile.

Today’s Assyrians still carry with them memories and the wounds of those losses.  And yet they are expected to remain quiet.  When that expectation is not met, they encounter aggressive demands and intimidation to keep silent.  The Assyrian nation will never remain silent.

Terrorization and bullying will not keep a nation silent when two out of every three Assyrians were murdered in the genocide and mass ethnic cleansing orchestrated by the Ottoman government in the early part of the 20th century.

What I find inexcusable is when decent members of society, irrespective of ethnicity, remain complacent with a do-nothing attitude, contributing to the cycle of fanaticism and odium in regards to the question of the Assyrian Genocides of not only last century, but also the ongoing violence towards that nation particularly in Iraq since the beginning of the 2003 war.

Rosie Malek-Yonan [www.rosiemalek-yonan.com], Assyrian activist, actor and author of The Crimson Field, is an outspoken advocate of issues concerning her nation, in particular bringing attention to the Assyrian Genocide as well as the plight of today's Assyrians in the Middle-East since the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States and its Coalition Forces.  A tour-de-force, The Crimson Field [www.thecrimsonfield] is a brilliant and gritty literary and historical novel with enormous implications.  Uncompromising and unflinching, it is based on real events and true family chronicles set to the backdrop of the Assyrian Genocide of 1914-1918.   For more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with Rosie Malek-Yonan, please contact Monica at 818.249.2242 or email her at monica@thecrimsonfield.com .

Brendan Appel For Illinois State Senate - 9th District

Friends of Brendan Appel

Having never sought public office before, Brendan is not a professional politician.  He's a local family man and small business owner who is fed up with the disaster in Springfield and politics as unusual, and he's decided to do something about it.

Brendan is 33 years old and was born and raised in Glenview.   After being educated in Glenview’s excellent public schools and graduating from Glenbrook South High School, Brendan went on to obtain his undergraduate degree in political science at Loyola University Chicago.  He then earned his law degree, with honors, at DePaul University College of Law where he served on both the DePaul Law Review and the Moot Court Appellate Team.

Brendan is an entrepreneur, operating his own law firm since 2003.  He represents individuals, families and small businesses in corporate, litigation and real estate matters.  Brendan has also worked with the pro bono agency “The Center for Disability and Elder Law” since 2000 and he continues to represent needy and elderly clients on a pro bono basis.

Brendan has been married to his high-school sweetheart since 1996 and has two daughters, ages 5 and 3.  Brendan is a parishioner at OLPH Church in Glenview, where he and his children were all baptized.  Brendan is the oldest of three children.  His brother is a police officer in Wheeling, Illinois and his sister is a missionary in New Zealand.  His father, an Army veteran, and his mother, an Assyrian immigrant, also live in Glenview and just celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary.

To learn more click here.

Ben Yalda - The Incomparable

Youel Yacoub Serkis
One of the Founders, Assyrian Sports Club, Baghdad
President, United Nations Association, Toronto, Canada

A gifted and talented man will always stay Triumphant. My question is, how did a person like you become larger than life, and so adored by so many friends and the Assyrians in general.

You and I go back a long way; to Habbaniya days and in Kirkuk too. I remember clearly the day I came to Kirkuk with the Government License for the opening of the Assyrian Sporting Club (Kirkuk Branch). I was so proud to see you and your team working so hard to build the Club.  

I also remember after you moved to Baghdad with your family and after you joined our Assyrian Sporting Club (Main Baghdad Branch) and the ideas you brought with you, especially the ways and means of raising funds for the Club, the Dance parties, Fun Fairs and games that we were able to raise a huge amount of money that enabled us to pay the building rent, saving our Club from being closed.

During a visit to our Club by the Minister of Youth and Sports (Mr. Shafiq Al-Kamaly) he congratulated us and said that he had seen our Financial Report for the year and that we have raised a huge amount of money from the Fun Fairs we have arranged. He then went on to say that the main purpose of his visit is to ask us to “help your brothers in Aadhimiya Sports Club to also raise some money as they are financially in a poor situation”. He further said “If you do this for them, then you will have a big gift from me”.

Ben, we followed your instructions in fund raising for Aadhamiya Sports Club, putting all your ideas into action, including the same fun-fair games you taught us. The money that was raised by the other five clubs was only 15% of what Aadhimiya Club raised.  The following day, the Minister of Youth and Sport, accompanied by the Executive Committee of the Aadhamiya Club, visited us and presented our Club with a large Electric Wall Clock from the Aadhamiya Executive Committee.  The Minister’s gift to our Club was, a plot of land, 10,000 square meters in size. We then built our Club on this large plot of land, under the name of Tamoos Sports Club. In 1988, when I was elected a president for this Club, I managed to change the Tamoos name to the original name of Assyrian Sports Club.

Ben, you are truly outstanding; and your biography should include words like “Gifted”, “Talented”, “Skillful” and “Remarkable”. Please find it in your heart to disregard the vindictive words of others. Nobody listens to them, believe me.  When someone like me, having involved, all his life, in sports, social and civic matters, such as one of a founder of our Assyrian Sports Club in 1955, later a president of the Assyrian Society of Canada in 1999-2000 and now President, United Nations Association in Toronto, Canada since 2006, to say that your record is nothing less than impressive, if not magnificent, then you are.

God bless you and good luck in all your future endeavors.

Musing with My Samovar
with Obelit Yadgar


Gift of Friendship

Assyrians have a saying that money is like dirt on the hand (shekhta d’eeta), that it comes and goes, whereas good friends are priceless. How true, indeed, when I consider my long friendship with Wally. It’s been one of the greatest gifts of my life. We met when I was in my twenties and he in his fifties. Good friends defy the boundaries of age. Considering also that some friendships take years to develop, Wally’s took only a moment. The first handshake was like an explosion that creates new landscape, like a bright light that opens up space. We chatted as if picking up from where we had left off.

Wally was not only a fine playwright and a painter, but also a puppeteer and puppet maker: an honest, kind and principled artist who was generous toward other artists. While pained by ignorance and arrogance, he soared in his willingness to consider every genuine thought, whether he agreed with it or not. I liked that a lot about him.  

Our friendship remained strong through the years I was away working in radio. We never spoke on the telephone that I recall, not because of long distance expense, because we were both writers who also liked to see the shapes of words on paper. We thought the written word was an art onto itself. For me, and maybe for Wally, too, writing our thoughts also kept us closer. We wrote many letters. He would talk about an opera he had seen, a ballet, a play, and I would do the same, adding my excitement with an interview I might have conducted on my radio program with an arts celebrity.

And that’s how we passed the years as good friends: miles apart, but as close as paragraphs on paper.

As an Assyrian, I am tempted to look for a parallel in the epic friendship of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, in ancient Mesopotamian mythology, but floating among demigods is reaching a bit too far. Instead, I settle for imagining strong friendships formed at every level of mortal life back then. Assyrian farmers were friends, and artisans, and scribes, and merchants, and soldiers, and noblemen. Everything spun through the wheel of imagination has a life. If for nothing else, any backward glance at ancient Assyria is affirmation of who I am and where I come from. That domain I hold dear to my heart, for not only does it identify me to others, but it also keeps me company through my life’s journey.

I don’t know if I ever shared such musings with my good friend Wally, although we did speak in general about my ethnic heritage. If I remember, when we met, he was curious about it. I said I was a full-blooded Assyrian. He nodded, pleased. Of course, he knew about the Assyrians. “Like in the opera Semiramide, by Rossini,” he said.

Click book cover to learn more.

We talked about the opera, and about a lot of other things through the years. There was always something to talk about. Just a stroll down the street opened countless subjects. Those were the San Francisco days of the 1960s, when the Vietnam conflict rippled through every life like a bad dream. Art, music and literature so reflected what was going on. World War II was Wally’s war. Vietnam was mine. Wally and his fellow GIs came home to cheers. Vietnam veterans came home to scorn. “You ended up in the wrong war,” he once told me. 

Back then in San Francisco, you could spend hours in cafes over cheap cups of coffee and smoke cigarettes, while recordings by Bach, Coltrane and the Grateful Dead played in the background. Wally and I spent many hours in coffee shops, and we took long walks around the city. That is, provided Wally had time off from his work for the U.S. Customs Service. I was a college dropout working as a messenger for a shipping company in downtown San Francisco.

It was one of the best jobs a struggling writer could have had, especially with the specter of Military Draft and Vietnam hanging over his head. I suppose the smart thing would have been to stay in school, since I opposed the war, if only to maintain a deferment from the military, but I was too restless and couldn’t wait to explore life on the streets. Walking all over downtown was a priceless education. It gave me a treasure of story material. Dialogue poured out of the streets and the offices. I met people and made friends. I met Wally while waiting at the U.S. Customs window as he stamped my shipping documents. We became lifetime friends.

As a soldier, Wally had spent WWII in London doing something in communications, and where he had managed to get involved in entertaining the troops, which had led to writing plays and working with puppets. I forget the details of his life in London except that there he met Rhona Martin, who wrote historical novels, and they kept up a correspondence after the war. I regret not starting a correspondence with Martin myself, since Wally would have provided an introduction. Perhaps I would have struck up a good friendship with Martin, too, in addition to looking to her for inspiration. Who knows? I know Wally was an immense source of inspiration and encouragement to me. He had genuine interest in my work.

“What are you writing?” he said whenever we got together.

“Bunch of things and it’s all crap,” I said.

“Nothing is crap as long as you put effort in it,” he said. “Bring me something.”

I did. He read. “Keep working at it,” he said. “You have it in you.”

“You’re not just saying that because we’re friends,” I said.

“That’s precisely why I’m saying it.” He thought a moment. “There’s truth in friendship.” He thought again. “You should also write about your people – the Assyrians.”

“I will,” I said. “I will someday when I’ve grown up and have a clearer view of the road that’s brought us here.”

I know he saw something in my work and realized that it needed patience in order to grow. In the years I was away from San Francisco and working in radio he never heard me on the air. I wish he had. He might have been pleased. He always asked how I did, though, and I bombarded him with the goings on in my professional life. I’m not sure whether he would have preferred I spend all of my time writing. He never said so. Perhaps he saw no need for it, because Wally himself used his talent in different directions. Besides, I think he accepted my work in radio as part of my growth. I do, too. 

Whether he published any of his plays I don’t know. I though his plays were good. Neither do I know if he sold any of his paintings. I have one of them, which was a birthday gift. He wrote me about a puppet performance or two he mounted in San Francisco at friends’ homes. I wish I had been there. I saw some of the puppets he made and thought they were well done pieces of art. I doubt he exhibited them anywhere. The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that Wally was more interested in writing his plays than making productions of them.

I think what mattered most to Wally was creating the work. Anything beyond that was of little consequence. My wife and I once took him to see Marcel Marceau. What a dazzling performance. What drew Wally to mime and puppetry in the first place will always remain a mystery to me. If I asked him, I don’t recall his answer. That night I would look over at him occasionally and find him in a daze. He sat in a cocoon. He may have been sitting there next to us, but I doubt he was there with us. I don’t know where he was other than on a journey in a different realm. Where that was I will never know. Only Wally knew. That’s how it is with some journeys: to be taken alone.

As an Assyrian, I can’t help but see parallels of Wally’s personal journey that night in that of my own people. We Assyrians have been on that journey a long, long time. I don’t know where it leads, and how long it will take. I do know, however, that whatever the place might be, the best way for us to get there is on a shared path. Wally would understand.

Wally is gone now – but he really isn’t. Good friends remain a part of us by the treasured memories they leave behind. Wally left me with more riches than I imagine. I especially think about him when whiling the time away in a café. The gourmet coffee costs a fortune, and God forbid you should light up a cigarette. Not that I smoke cigarettes any longer. Ah well, times change, some for the better and some not. That’s how it is. Some things, though, never change, like the gift of friendship. I know that to be true.

Surfer's Corner
Community Events


Assyrian New Year Festival in Chicago

Martin Youmaran
Midwest Regional Director
Assyrian American National Federation

The Kha’B Nissan festivities are fast approaching and, as customary, everyone is invited to attend.  Nevertheless, I wanted to take this opportunity to personally invite you to this year’s Festivities. This year’s events will be co-sponsored by the Assyrian American National Federation and the Assyrian National Council of Illinois. These events are very important to our people and we must all unite and celebrate.

All around the world our people are enduring daily hardships, especially our people in Iraq, who are struggling to stay alive in our war torn country.  Similarly, our brethren in Jordan and Syria are also living in a state of instability and poverty.  We must all come together to show that we are united and we are proud to be Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs.   We have been in existence for 6758 years, and today in our homeland, our existence is being threatened. The current situation for our people in Iraq, Jordan and Syria needs to be addressed.  By coming out in large numbers and participating in the festivities, we can show the world that we are united in the fight to save our people and our nation!

 We are expecting media coverage, not only from our own media outlets, but also the mainstream media.  This way, our people all over the world will see that they are not alone in their struggles, and that we stand as one people, one nation.  For ease of reference the event dates are:

Event Dates

Party:  March 29th, 2008 At Hanging Gardens Banquets

Parade:  March 30th, 2008 in Skokie, IL

Parade route Oakton and Crawford to Oakton Park ( Skokie blvd)

Post Parade Party: March 30th, 2008 at the Chaldo-Assyrian Center

9131 Niles Center Rd, Skokie, IL

I look forward to seeing everyone at the events.

Assyrian New Year Festival in Sydney

Anabell St Vincent
AANF Secretary
+61 414 30 80 22

The Assyrian Australian National Federation (AANF) is holding the Assyrian New Year Festival on Sunday 30th March 2008 at Fairfield Showground in Sydney Australia.

The Festival is an all day event commencing from 10:00am through to 10:00pm.  There will be various Assyrian singers, Assyrian dancers, various food and product stalls, rides and games.  There will be fireworks at 8:00pm.
We suggest for everyone to be there at 1:00 pm to witness a fabulous surprise that has been organised for our Assyrian people.

The official opening ceremony will be held at 2:30pm and we are honoured by the presence of members of the local, state and federal government and representatives from Assyrian organisations.

There will be prizes for the best dressed female and male in Assyrian clothing.  The best dressed will be judged by the closest design of the ancient Assyrian clothing and the colours that were used in those days.

Come and join us celebrate the transition to 6758 Assyrian New Year!!

Further information and/or queries can be obtained via aanf.org@gmail.com. 



Assyrian Aid Society of America Human Race Walkathon

AAS-Santa Clara Valley Chapter
369 Madison Drive
San Jose, CA 95123

The Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the Assyrian Aid Society of America is once again participating in the Human Race Walkathon.  This is a benefit event where thousands of people gather every year to support charity organizations of their choice.  Through the wonderful support of the Assyrian community in the Bay Area, last year we had over two hundred and fifty people who either participated or gave donations, enabling our chapter to raise a total of $16,500.  This money provided for food, housing, medical and educational needs of the Assyrian people in our Homeland.  With your help we can make this year's Walkathon another successful and fun event.

You can participate in this great cause by either walking 5K on behalf of the AAS or making a pledge to sponsor our participants.  National Semiconductor is again sponsoring our chapter this year and will match your donations.  The Walkathon will start at 8:30 am on Saturday May 10th, 2008 at the beautiful Shoreline Park located on 1450 Amphitheater Parkway in Mountain View.  Your support is crucial in assisting our nation and preserving our cultural heritage in our beloved Bet-Nahrain.

If you would like to sponsor this event, please make your check payable to the Human Race and mail it to the address below by April 18th, 2008.  Your donation is tax deductible.  For more information regarding the registration or making pledges, please contact Ramin Daniels at (408) 425-2147 (rdaniels@mtrinc.com), or Sargon Vardeh at (408) 768-0605.

The Assyrian Aid Society of America (www.asssyrianaid.org) is a non-profit, 501 (c) (3) charitable organization. Federal ID # 94-3147517.  All contributions are tax deductible.

Zinda Recommendations from Gorgias Press

For More Info
The Palestinan Syriac Lectionary of the Gospels
Margaret Gibson and Agnes Lewis
$ 142

The work of the remarkable sisters Agnes Smith Lewis and Margaret Dunlop Gibson, this lectionary of what is now known as Christian Palestinian Aramaic, was re-edited in the light of two manuscripts from the Sinai, which they recovered, and from Paul de Lagarde’s Evangeliarium Hierosolymitanum. Noting that copies of the Palestinian Syriac Lectionary were already available, Lewis and Gibson believed that the discovery of the Sinai manuscripts would shed new light on the already revered document. Based on the Vatican manuscript discovered by Stephen Evodius and Joseph Assemani, this historic lectionary was initially written in Antioch around 1030. An important document for the textual criticism of the New Testament as well as for the early practice of the church, Lewis and Dunlap added to its value by composing this light “critical edition.” Presented in Syriac with English annotations to the Greek text of the Gospels, this useful study will be welcome by New Testament scholars and Syriac scholars alike.

Agnes Smith Lewis (1843-1926) and Margaret Dunlop Gibson (1843-1920) were truly remarkable scholars. Twin sisters well versed in ancient languages, they traveled intrepidly during “the age of men.” In addition to discovering the Sinaitic Palimpsest, they also translated it for the general public. Between them they had expertise in twelve languages.

Neo-Aramaic Dialect Studies: Proceedings of a Workshop on Neo-Aramaic held in Cambridge 2005 Geoffrey Khan
$ 115

This volume contains a collection of papers presented at the workshop on various aspects of the grammar of Neo-Aramaic, with special attention to the North Eastern Neo-Aramaic dialect group. The papers include descriptions of several hitherto undescribed dialects together with sample texts and also studies of various aspects of phonology, morphology and syntax of the dialects.


Editor's Pick


Khalil Gibran

Stan Shabaz
Washington, DC

“No matter what happens in Paris, I … shall go on fighting for my country.
Perhaps the best form of fighting is in painting pictures and writing poetry.”

                                                                                                                             - Kahlil Gibran, February 1919

This January 6 marked the 125th anniversary of the birth of Kahlil Gibran (Gibran Khalil Gibran, 1883-1931).[2] This year also marks the 85th anniversary of the publication of his most famous work, “The Prophet”, first published in 1923. He has been described in many ways: “melancholic romantic”, “existentialist of the right wing”[3], Nietzschean rebel, revolutionary, renegade, poet-philosopher, “the William Blake of the twentieth century”[4], the “Lebanese prophet of New York”[5], a “burning genius”[6], etc. But who was he really?  

Family Background

Gibran’s nephew, godson and namesake, the Boston-based sculpture Kahlil Gibran[7], wrote a detailed biography[8] of his famous uncle. This work, which he wrote along with his wife, Jean, is a fascinating look into the background, life and times of Kahlil Gibran. The book describes the early origins of the Gibran family as follows:

“The few scanty records mentioning the Gibrans indicate that they arrived at Besharri toward the end of the seventeenth century. Where they came from, no one knows for sure. A family myth links them to Chaldean sources […] A more plausible story relates that the men named Gibran came from Syria in the sixteenth century, settling on a farm near Baalbeck and moving to Bash’elah in 1672.”[9]

In his work on Gibran, Khalil Hawi writes that “the origin of his family […] is not certain; the story that it was Chaldean in origin is as hypothetical as the story that it was Ghassanied.”[10] But whatever the case of the Gibran family’s remote origins, we do know that Kahlil Gibran was born in Bsharri in 1883.

His mother Kamila Rahme, is described as:

“graceful, pretty, and strong willed…the youngest and favorite daughter of Istifan Abd-al-Qadir Rahme. The story that is told of Kamila’s father’s origins emphasizes the intermingling of religions that was so typical of Christians and Muslims in the nineteenth century before the disputes that led to massacres beginning in 1860.”[11]

Kamila came from a large family, “steeped in the Maronite tradition”[12], which included many Maronite priests, including her father, Istifan. Khalil Hawi reports that Gibran’s mother “is described as thin, graceful, brown-complexioned… and a shade of melancholy in her eyes….In contrast with her husband, she was responsible, capable of self-sacrifice, indulgent to her children and ambitious for their future.”[13] It was this concern for her children’s future which led her to emigrate with them to America in 1895. She sacrificed everything for her children, whom she fiercely protected. Gibran was very close to his mother, and she would have a tremendous influence on his life. On the concept on motherhood, Gibran once wrote:

“The most beautiful word on the lips of mankind is the word ‘Mother,’ and the most beautiful call is the call of ‘My Mother.’ It is a word full of hope and love, a sweet and kind word coming from the depths of the heart. The mother is every thing—she is our consolation in sorrow, our hope in misery, and our strength in weakness. She is the source of love, mercy, sympathy and forgiveness. He who loses his mother loses a pure soul who blesses and guards him constantly….Every thing in nature bespeaks the mother…And the mother, the prototype of all existence, is the eternal spirit, full of beauty and love…. The word mother is hidden in our hearts, and it comes upon our lips in hours of sorrow and happiness as the perfume comes from the heart of the rose and mingles with clear and cloudy air.”[14]

And of his mother, he wrote:

“Ninety per cent of my character and inclinations were inherited from my mother (not that I can match her sweetness, gentleness and magnanimity).”[15]

Gibran once drew a beautiful portrait of his mother standing in front of the famous Assyrian sculptural relief of the wounded lioness. That portrait symbolizes the strength and beauty of the Near Eastern woman; it captures her essence as strong, loyal and fiercely protective like the lioness, yet forced to endure the sufferings and injustices imposed upon her by the outmoded traditions of a feudal and patriarchal society.

“This is a portrait of my mother’s soul…The soul is there, the simple majesty”[16]     - Kahlil Gibran.
Note the famous Assyrian relief of the wounded lioness in the background. The relief is from the palace of Nineveh.

More Influences: the Syriac Language and Christ … and Nietzsche

Gibran studied both the Syriac and Arabic languages in Lebanon. He is well known for his writings in both in Arabic and English. Yet his early knowledge and connection to Syriac would always remain with him. He once said that “the Bible is Syriac literature” and that “Chaldo-Syriac is the most beautiful language that man has made.”[17]

The Lebanese artist Yusuf Huwayyik wrote a memoir of his days studying with Gibran in Paris. In that memoir he includes a chapter entitled, “The Syriac Language”, in which he describes an interesting incident. Huwayyik and Gibran had a circle of friends, one of whom was a Dr. Casper, as well as a group of beautiful young women. The women were very interested in Gibran’s homeland and were fascinated with its connections to Jesus Christ, the Bible and the early Christian Church. They would always ask the young Lebanese artists to talk about the Holy Land and Christianity. They placed much stock in their religious opinions, seeing that they were both born so close to the places where Christ lived and taught.

This much chagrined Dr. Casper, who preferred that these lovely young women were directed to more secular interests. Anyway, one day an archeological scholar came upon their group and was very excited when he found that Gibran and Yusuf were from Lebanon. He asked them about the Syriac language and when Yusuf spoke some sentences in that language the scholar immediately began to tear up. The scholar was overwhelmed to hear the language spoken by Christ and explained that there is a theory that Adam and Eve and even God spoke Syriac. Dr. Casper then wryly commented, “Ah! Now I understand why you support God and preach His existence to young women. You are related to Him.”[18]

In his book “Prophet: The Life and Times of Kahlil Gibran”, Robin Waterfield reports that Gibran “used to claim affinity with Christ through their shared knowledge of Syriac.”[19] Others also noted this affinity as the following story describes:

“One night at dinner … the maids failed to bring one of the courses, and after a considerable wait and several bell ringings, Mrs. Ford [the hostess] rose and went to the pantry. There, behind a screen, stood two maids. When reprimanded, one of them explained, ‘But Mrs. Ford, how can we go about our business when Mr. Gibran is talking? He sounds like Jesus.’ And he did.”[20]

Gibran himself is reported to have said the following about of Christ:

“He spoke Chaldo-Syriac…There was a great mixture of blood in that upcountry where Christ came from, too. Chaldean and Greek and other strains. I don’t doubt that all these mixed elements in the life about him had a tremendous influence on him”[21]

And later in the same book Gibran said:

“He died, that the Kingdom of Heaven might be preached, that man might attain that consciousness of beauty and goodness and reality within himself. Jesus was the most powerful personality in history.”[22]

In an essay he composed on Good Friday entitled “The Crucified”, he states

“The Nazarene was not weak! He was strong and is strong! But the people refuse to heed the true meaning of strength. Jesus never lived a life of fear, nor did He die suffering or complaining….He lived as a leader; He was crucified as a crusader; He died with a heroism that frightened His killers and tormentors. Jesus was not a bird with broken wings; He was a raging tempest who broke all crooked wings…..He came to make the human heart a temple, and the soul an altar, and the mind a priest.

These were the missions of Jesus the Nazarene, and these are the teachings for which He was crucified. And if Humanity were wise, she would stand today and sing in strength the song of conquest and the hymn of triumph.”[23]

And in the essay, “I am Not a Moderate”, he writes:

“I love him who was crucified by the moderates. When he bent his head and closed his eyes, certain among them said, as though comforted: ‘At last this dangerous extremist is no more.’ Ah, if they knew that at this moment his victorious spirit was soaring over the nations and spreading out from generations to generations.

And I love those who have been sacrificed by fire, executed by the guillotine for a thought that invaded their heads and inflamed their hearts.

I love you, O extremists, who are nourished by unfathomable ardors. Each time I raise my glass, it is your blood and tears that I am drinking

…And when a storm rises, it is your singing and your praises that I hear.”[24]

The tone of these essays shows clearly that Gibran was not some meek and mild poet, extolling the so-called virtues of humility and humbleness.[25] Rather, as Gibran himself says, “it is the mighty hunter I would preach, and the mountainous spirit unconquerable.”[26] In this respect, he evokes the spirit of Friedrich Nietzsche. This is not a coincidence, for Gibran was deeply influence by Nietzsche. Suheil Bushrui, the great Gibran scholar, wrote that:

“Gibran found in Friedrich Nietzsche, this ‘sober Dionysus,’ a lightning erudition capable of demolishing–-with one searing flash–-the ancient habits of thought, and moral prejudices; a writer whose breathless blasphemy and ecstatic prose--‘Write with blood: and you will discover that blood is spirit’--matched his own deepest needs for artistic authenticity.”[27]

Gibran himself said about Nietzsche:

“What a man! What a man! Alone he fought the whole world in the name of his Superman; and though the world forced him out of his reason in the end, yet did he whip it well. He died a Superman among pygmies, a sane madman in the midst of a world too decorously insane to be mad.”[28]

Likewise in regards to Nietzsche’s famous book, Gibran wrote:

“Yes, Nietzsche is a great giant--and the more you read him the more you will love him. He is perhaps the greatest spirit in modern times, and his work will outlive many of the things we consider great. Please, p-l-e-a-s-e, read ‘Thus Spake Zarathurtra’ as soon as possible for it is--to me--one of the greatest works of all times.”[29]

Thus we see that Gibran was a man with very strongly held beliefs and he was adamant in his defense of these beliefs. His was a life of revolt against both East and West:

“He declared his revolt against the West by means of the spirit of the East, just as before he had declared his revolt against the backwardness of the East, drawing his inspiration from what is pure in the spirit of the Western renaissance.”[30]

Let’s look at some of these beliefs in more detail.

Struggle against the evils of Political-Clericism, Sectarianism and Feudalism

We have seen that Christ was clearly an important influence in Gibran’s life. Yet at the same time he was very critical of the clerical establishment of his day. He wrote several essays vehemently criticizing the clergy and the extent to which he thought they deviated away from the original teachings of Christ. In essays such as “The Bride’s Bed”, “The Broken Wings”, “Spirits Rebellious” and many others, he attacked what he saw as the materialism, selfishness and worldliness of some clergymen and their alliance with feudal lords in order to oppress the impoverished working people, and especially the women, of his homeland; denying them their freedom and condemning them to a life of subservience.

He would often distinguish between the teaching of Christ and the actions of the modern day clerical establishment:

“O Living Jesus, if only you could return to chase the merchants of Faith out of your sacred temple! For they made it into a dark cavern where the vipers of hypocrisy and trickery crawl in their thousands.”[31]

In his efforts to draw a distinction between the holy message of Christ and the political and economic machinations of the modern day church, he would sometimes connect Christ with the ancient myths and beliefs of his homeland. As in the chapter of “The Broken Wings” entitled “Between Ishtar and Christ” and in his book “Jesus the Son of Man” in which he wrote:

“I charge ye, daughters of Ashtarte, and all ye lovers of Tamouz,
Bare your breasts and weep and comfort me,
For Jesus of Nazareth is dead.”[32]

In addition to his stiff opposition to the political intrigues of the clergy, he also took a strong stand against sectarianism, seeing it as the most dangerous threat to his nation’s freedom and independence. He was strongly opposed to sectarianism, both because he believed in the unity of God and all faiths, but also because he knew that his country would never be free and prosperous so long as it was divided against itself on the basis of sectarian affiliation. He knew that sectarian mistrust and strife was used by the Ottomans and other world powers in order to keep their hold on the Levant. He vehemently criticized the way imperial powers were flaming sectarian tensions by “sponsoring” or influencing different sects and setting one against the other, “whereby the Druze adhered to England, the Orthodox to Russia, and the Maronites to France.”[33] 

In order to overcome these sectarian rifts he would attempt to connect the religions of Christianity and Islam, stating that he: “harbored Jesus in one half of his heart and Muhammad in the other.”[34] Elsewhere he wrote:

“I love you, my brother, whoever you are
Whether you worship in your church,
Kneel in your temple, or pray in your mosque.
You and I are all children of one faith,
For the diverse paths of religion are
Fingers of the loving hand of one Supreme Being
A hand extended to all”[35]

So we see that Gibran worked for social and economic justice, women’s rights, and for an enlightened spiritualism[36] which transcended sectarian prejudices. Yet Gibran was also a nationalist who worked tirelessly for the liberation of his homeland from the Ottoman occupation.

Gibran: The Nationalist

Gibran was proud of his national heritage and stressed the importance of national independence of thought and spirit:

 “The Spirit of the West is our friend if we accept him, but our enemy if we are possessed by him; our friend if we open our hearts to him, our enemy if we yield him our hearts; our friend if we take from that which suits us, our enemy if we let ourselves be used to suit him.”[37]

He was adamant in his nationalist passions and wary of the path of compromise and patience when it came to defending the national cause:

“I have made up my mind to be alone. I can’t agree with anyone on anything unless I swallow nine tenths of my thoughts—and just now I am not in the mood of swallowing anything. In order to work in harmony with those men, one must be as patient as they are—and patience… has been, and is now the curse of all the Oriental races. Oriental people in general are fatalists—they believe in an inevitable necessity overruling their fortune and their misfortune…. They resist passion and think by resisting passion they become victorious over themselves. And they do become victorious over themselves—not over the others! Passion… is the only thing that creates a nation.”[38] 

An example of his fierce resistance to the Ottoman Empire can be found in an essay called “Open Letter from a Christian Poet to the Moslems” In this very important letter he writes:

“I am Lebanese and proud to be so. I am not Turkish, and I am proud not to be.
I belong to a nation whose splendors I praise,
but there is no state to which I might belong or where I might find refuge.
I am a Christian and proud to be so.
But I love the Arab prophet and I appeal to the greatness of his name;
I cherish the glory of Islam and fear lest it decay.
I am a Levantine, and although in exile I remain Levantine by temperament,
Syrian by inclination and Lebanese by feeling.
I am oriental, and the Orient has an ancient civilization of magical beauty and of fragrant and exquisite taste.
Although I admire the present state of Western civilization and the high degree of development and progress it has attained, the East will remain the country of my dreams and the setting for my desires and longings.
… Some of you treat me as a renegade; for I hate the Ottoman state and hope it will disappear.
To those amongst you Gibran answers: ‘I hate the Ottoman state, for I love Islam, and I hope that Islam will once again find its splendor.’
…What is it in the Ottoman state that so attracts you, since it has destroyed the edifices of your glory?
... Did Islamic civilization not die with the start of the Ottoman conquests?
…Has the green flag not been hidden in the fog since the red flag appeared over a mass of skulls?
As a Christian, as one who has harbored Jesus in one half of his heart and Mohammed in the other, I promise you that if Islam does not succeed in defeating the Ottoman state the nations of Europe will dominate Islam.
If no one among you rises up against the enemy within, before the end of this generation the Levant will be in the hands of those whose skins are white and whose eyes are blue.”[39]

During World War I, he organized the Syrian-Mount Lebanon Relief Committee[40] and served as its secretary. The Committee worked to raise funds to ease the Turkish imposed famine in Syria and especially Mount Lebanon. It is estimated that over 120,000 people died of starvation in Lebanon alone.[41] He worked strenuously in that organization and in that regard he wrote “I can’t get away from Syria, I never shall, I am a Syrian—and yet this work is almost more than I can bear.”[42]

Gibran would also take every opportunity to support various countries and movements fighting against the Ottoman Empire. For example, he supported Italy against the Turks in 1911; dedicated a poem in support of the Serbians in Kosovo; and encouraged Arab uprisings in Yemen and Hejaz. Yet his first and foremost love and patriotism was for his own homeland. Mikhail Naimy relates this feeling in the following quote:

“Gibran was not so much concerned with the sands of the desert, as much as he was concerned with the soil of the cedars, the Valley of Qadisha and the mountain of Sunnin.”[43]

In a similar vein, Suheil Bushrui writes of the importance of Lebanon to Gibran:

“Much of what he gave to the world he owed to his homeland. Perhaps most of all he was indebted to Lebanon for his awareness of the inestimable blessings that flow from the harmonious coexistence of differing peoples and faiths, as well as his vivid apprehension of the catastrophes that must inevitably result from the breakdown of such coexistence….Gibran’s constancy in proclaiming his views… surely foreshadowed the resilience and fortitude displayed by his countrymen half a century after his death; a people who…continued to proclaim his message, the message of Lebanon, to an unheeding world.”[44]

And Gibran was also concerned for his countrymen living in the United States. For his people in America he wrote a classic essay, “To Young Americans of Syrian Origin, I Believe in You”. In this essay he encouraged them to take pride in their noble ancestry:

“I believe that you can say to the founders of this great nation, ‘Here I am, a youth, a young tree whose roots were plucked from the hills of Lebanon, yet I am deeply rooted here, and I would be fruitful.’
And I believe that you can say to Abraham Lincoln, the blessed, ‘Jesus of Nazareth touched your lips when you spoke, and guided your hand when you wrote; and I shall uphold all that you have said and all that you have written.’
I believe that even as your fathers came to this land to produce riches,
you were born to produce riches by intelligence and labor.
I believe that it is in you to be good citizens. 
And what is it to be a good citizen?
It is to acknowledge the other person's rights before asserting your own,
but always to be conscious of your own.
It is to be free in word and deed,
but it is also to know that your freedom is subject to the other person's freedom.
It is to produce by labor and only by labor, and to spend less than you have produced that your children may not be dependent upon the state for support when you are no more.
It is to stand before the towers of New York and Washington, Chicago and San Francisco saying in your hearts, ‘I am the descendent of a people that built Damascus and Byblos, and Tyre and Sidon and Antioch[45], and I am here to build with you, and with a will.’
It is to be proud of being an American,
but it is also to be proud that your fathers and mothers came from a land upon which God laid His gracious hand and raised His messengers.”[46]

Next Issue: Conclusion

In the next issue of Zinda, I will conclude this essay by examining some of the criticisms which Gibran faced during his lifetime. It is not by coincidence that he entitled two of his most famous essays “Yuhanna the Madman” and “Khalil the Heretic”; for “madman” and “heretic” were indeed two of the very epithets his critics hurled against him. I will describe how Gibran responded to these critics and I will also examine the latter part of his life, as well as his final return to his beloved Lebanese homeland after his untimely death in New York. I shall also discuss Gibran’s legacy and continuing influence. An example of this continuing influence was recently exhibited at an international conference on Gibran’s thought, which I was fortunate enough to attend; details of which I shall share in the next issue of Zinda.


  1. Gibran, Kahlil and Jean Gibran. “Kahlil Gibran: His Life and World” pg. 369.
  2. Some sources have placed the date of his birth in December, but most agree on January 6, 1883.
  3. Ghougassian, Joseph P. “Kahlil Gibran: Wings of Thought”, pg. 3.
  4. This was allegedly first said by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin, although that claim is believed to be apocryphal. Yet the comparison to William Blake is still valid nevertheless.
  5. The title from “The Lebanese Prophets of New York” by Nadeem Naimy.
  6. Jayyusi, Salma, “Trends and Movements in Modern Arabic Poetry”,  pg. 99.
  7. The younger Kahlil Gibran, was the son of Noula Gibran, who was Kahlil Gibran’s first cousin.
  8. Gibran, Kahlil and Jean Gibran. “Kahlil Gibran: His Life and World”, New York: Interlink Books, 1991.
  9. Gibran, Kahlil and Jean Gibran. “Kahlil Gibran: His Life and World”, pg. 10.
  10. Hawi, Khalil, “Kahlil Gibran: His Background, Character and Works”, pg. 82.
  11. Gibran, Kahlil and Jean Gibran. “Kahlil Gibran: His Life and World”, pg. 11.
  12. Bushrui, Suheil, “Kahlil Gibran: Man and Poet”, pg. 25.
  13. Hawi, Khalil. “Kahlil Gibran: His Background, Character and Works”, pg. 83.
  14. Gibran, Kahlil, “The Broken Wings”, pg. 92-93.
  15. Bushrui, Suheil and Salma Haffar al-Kuzbari, “Gibran: Love Letters”, “Letter to Mai Ziadeh, January 28, 1920” pg. 30.
  16. Hilu, Virginia, “Beloved Prophet”, pg. 190-193.
  17. Gibran, Kahlil and Jean Gibran. “Kahlil Gibran: His Life and World” pg. 313. (Emphasis added.)
  18. Huwayyik, Yusuf, “Gibran in Paris”, pg. 86. (Emphasis added.) Dr. Casper would later state: “You Easterners have bequeathed to the world beliefs which mislead sound minds…And you have mislead Mademoiselle Martine by telling her that God exists.” Pg.106.
  19. Waterfield, Robin, “Prophet: The Life and Times of Kahlil Gibran”, pg. 340.
  20. Waterfield, Robin, “Prophet: The Life and Times of Kahlil Gibran”, pg. 178-179.
  21. Hilu, Virginia, “Beloved Prophet”, pg. 294.
  22. Hilu, Virginia, “Beloved Prophet”, pg. 363
  23. Gibran, Kahlil, “Secrets of the Heart”, pg. 214-215.
  24. Gibran, Kahlil, “The Eye of the Prophet”, pg. 16-17.   
  25. Gibran has stated: “Lowliness is something I detest; while meekness to me is but a phase of weakness.” See Mikhail Naimy’s “Kahlil Gibran: His Life and Works”, pg. 208. Likewise in “Jesus: The Son of Man” Gibran wrote “I am sickened and the bowels within me stir and rise when I hear the faint-hearted call Jesus humble and meek, that they may justify their own faint-heartedness; and when the downtrodden, for comfort and companionship, speak of Jesus as a worm shining by their side. Yea, my heart is sickened by such men.” pg. 60.
  26. Gibran, Kahlil, “Jesus: The Son of Man”, pg. 60.
  27. Bushrui, Suheil, “Kahlil Gibran: Man and Poet”, pg. 4-5.
  28. Naimy, Mikhail, “Kahlil Gibran: His Life and Works”, pg. 119.
  29. Naimy, Mikhail, “Kahlil Gibran: His Life and Works”, pg. 124.
  30. Hawi, Khalil. “Kahlil Gibran: His Background, Character and Works”, pg 111.
  31. Gibran, Kahlil, “The Eye of the Prophet”, pg. 116.
  32. Gibran, Kahlil, “Jesus The Son of Man”, pg. 206. Likewise in that book, Gibran has a chapter, subtitled “Jesus the Stoic” comparing Christ to the great Phoenician philosopher of Citium, Cyprus: Zeno the Stoic (333 BC- 261 BC). His “doctrine of a universal natural law of justice were among the most impressive contributions made to the western mind by the Stoics. The injection of their themes were to have a decisive impact, particularly upon the development of Christian philosophy.” See “al-Riwak”, issue 1/65 (November, 1996), pg. 11. Zeno was considered “the noblest man of his age” and the decree of honour given to him by Athens after his death stated “He made his life a pattern to all, for he followed his own teaching”; his Phoenician ancestry was emphasized on his sepulcher :

    “And if thy native country was Phoenicia,
    What need to slight thee? Came not Cadmus thence,
    Who gave to Greece her books and art of writing?”

    See Philip Hitti’s “History of Syria, Including Lebanon and Palestine” pg. 255.

  33. Bushrui, Suheil, “Kahlil Gibran: Man and Poet”, pg. 6. In addition to England, Russia and France other imperial powers also attempted to sponsor and/or influence sects; for example, Austria in the case of the Greek Catholics, etc.
  34. Bushrui, Suheil, “Kahlil Gibran: Man and Poet”, pg. 6.
  35. Gibran, Kahlil, “The Voice of the Master”, pg.69.
  36. Despite his spiritual outlook, he didn’t promote excessive spiritualism to the neglect of the material. He believed in the unity of the spiritual and material aspects of life. He has stated that “The material and the spiritual are one and not contradictory.” See Yusuf Huwayyik’s “Gibran in Paris”, pg. 40.
  37. Gibran, Kahlil, “Spiritual Sayings of Kahlil Gibran”, pg. 47.
  38. Gibran, Kahlil and Jean Gibran. “Kahlil Gibran: His Life and World” pg. 289-290. (Emphasis added.)
  39. Gibran, Kahlil, “Visions of the Prophet”, pg. 54-55. This “Open Letter to Islam” was published in al-Funoon in 1913. Regarding the letter, Gibran stated: “My ‘Open Letter to Islam’ created the feeling which I wanted to create. It was that short letter which I kept in my pocket for two years before publishing it. But there are some friends in the East who think that in publishing that two page letter I have signed my death warrant with my own hand! I do not care!” see “Kahlil Gibran: His Life and World”, pg. 290.
  40. He also organized the Syria-Mount Lebanon League of Liberation; its slogan was: “No People must be forced under sovereignty under which it does not wish to live.” Its program was “to seek through France and her allies the liberation of Syria and Mt. Lebanon from Turkish rule and Turkish sovereignty, real or nominal.”
  41. Gibran and the National Idea” by Adel Beshara, in “Middle East Quarterly”, Autumn 1994. pg. 32.
  42. Gibran, Kahlil and Jean Gibran. “Kahlil Gibran: His Life and World” pg. 293.
  43. Bushrui, Suheil, “Kahlil Gibran Man and Poet”, pg. 194.
  44. Bushrui, Suheil, “Kahlil Gibran of Lebanon”, pg. 82-83.
  45. Interestingly, Said Aql similarly grouped together the four cities of Sidon, Jerusalem, Antioch and Damascus together as representing the “four nodes of mental convergence” in the 1937 introduction to his epic “Qadmus” and stressed the importance of these cities to mankind. The bequest of these cities to mankind in terms of philosophy, economics, law, politics, religion, spirituality, Christianity, culture and civilization is immense.
  46. Gibran, Kahlil, “To Young Americans of Syrian Origin”, “The Syrian World”, vol. 1, no. 1 (July 1926), pg. 5. This essay was later printed up as posters and was to be found framed and displayed in the homes of many families from Lebanon and Syria residing in America.

The Muslim Accomplishments That Weren’t

A FrontPage Magazine Interview with AINA Co-Founder, Peter BetBasoo

Courtesy of the FrontPage Magazine
27 February 2008
By Jamie Glazov

Peter BetBasoo, co-founder and director of the Assyrian International News Agency (www.aina.org). was born in Baghdad in 1963 and emigrated to the U.S. in 1974. He obtained a B.S. in Geology at the University of Illinois Chicago (1980-1985) and a minor in Philosophy. In 2002, he worked in the State Department's Future of Iraq Project, in the Water, Agriculture and Environment group. In 2007, he authored the report, Incipient Genocide: The Ethnic Cleansing of the Assyrians of Iraq.
Peter BetBasoo

FP: Peter BetBasoo, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

BetBasoo: Thank you very much, Jamie, I am honored to be here.

FP: Tell us your thoughts on Muslim claims of accomplishments, revisionism and the expropriation of cultures and ideas.

BetBasoo: Let me preface my remarks by saying that I do not claim that Muslims have made no accomplishments. Individual Muslims have been successful in the full range of the human scientific and artistic endeavor. But a closer examination of these successes reveals that they came about because these individuals stepped outside of the Muslim realm. For example, today Muslim scientists and scholars are trained in the West. I claim that Islam is not conducive to the pursuit of rational inquiry, and when Islam asserts itself, it borrows, co-opts and ultimately, when time has passed and memory forgotten, claims that these borrowed and co-opted things were originated by Muslims, not by the native cultures that preceded the Muslims.

If something cannot be so expropriated, it is often destroyed. The most recent example was the Taliban's destruction of the 2500 year-old Buddhist statues in Afghanistan . In Iran , the UNESCO world heritage sites, Pasargadae and Persepolis , are threatened by the construction of the Sivand dam, and the Mullahs simply don't care, though they claim the water line will be below these cities, which date back to 560 B.C..

In Iraq , history text books teach that the Sumerians, Assyrians, Babylonians were in fact Arabs -- never mind that these civilizationsexisted a good 5600 years before Arabs/Muslims came into Mesopotamia.

In the Middle East it is nearly impossible to separate Islam from Arabs, they are two sides of the same coin. Hence, if you are an Arab, you must surely be a Muslim, and your accomplishments as well. If you are not a Muslim, then you need to be.

In India , over 3500 Hindu temples have been occupied and converted to Mosques, the most famous being the Taj Mahal. In Kosovo, under the auspices of the UN "peace" keeping force, over 600 Serbian churches and monasteries have been occupied or destroyed by the Muslim Kosovars. Kosovo is the most important religious center for the Serbians.

FP: So how about Muslim claims of accomplishment that aren’t real?

BetBasoo: Muslims claim many, many accomplishments we know they had nothing to do with. Arabic numerals? From India . The concept of zero? From Babylonia . Parabolic arches? From Assyria . The much ballyhooed claim of translating the Greek corpus of knowledge into Arabic? It was the Christian Assyrians, who first translated to Syriac, then to Arabic. The first University? Not Al-Azhar in Cairo (988 A.D.), but the School of Nisibis of the Church of the East (350 A.D.), which had three departments: Theology, Philosophy and Medicine. Al-Azhar only teaches Theology.

Speaking of medicine, Muslims will claim that medicine during the Golden Age of Islam, the Abbasid period, was the most advanced in the world. That is correct. But what they don't say is that the medical practitioners were exclusively Christians. The most famous medical family, the Bakhtishu family, Assyrians of the Church of the East, produced seven generations of doctors, who were the official physicians to the Caliphs of Baghdad for nearly 200 years.

There are many more examples, but I think these are enough to make the point.

Zinda Magazine is a proud and major financial supporter of the educational assistance programs of the Assyrian American Association of San Jose.

To learn more click here.

FP: Why, in your view, does Islam fail in producing scholars and thinkers?

BetBasoo: It is a bold assertion to say that Islam fails in producing thinkers. Yet one is lead to this conclusion by a historical examination of Islamic civilizations. The putative "Golden Age of Islam", the Abbasid period, has been shown to be not the product of Muslims, but of their Christian subjects. In his book How Greek Science Passed to the Arabs, O'Leary's lists 22 scholars and translators during the Golden Age of Islam; 20 were Christians, 1 was a Persian, and 1 was a Muslim. This covers about a 250 year period. This "Golden Age", incidentally, came to an end after the Caliphs had forcefully converted enough Christians to Muslims (through the Jizya) that the Christian numbers fell below the critical threshold needed for sustaining the intellectual enterprise.

Given that this intellectual enterprise during the Abbasid period was the product of Christians, we ask the question: has there ever been an Islamic golden age? There was none during the rule of the Mamluks, who overthrew the Abbasids. Can we say the Ottomans, who followed the Mamluks, ever had a golden age?

In his book Religion of Peace, Robert Spencer has offered a penetrating and incisive analysis of why Islam fails to produce thinkers. His explanation is theological and theoretical. I will summarize it now and then give my own complimentary explanation, which is practical.

According to Robert Spencer, the Muslim god, Allah, is capricious. He is not subject to any laws and can, in fact, change laws arbitrarily without restraint. Quoting the Pope, Spencer says:

“for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality.”

Spencer continues:

"the Pope was not so much saying that in the Islamic view Allah would command his people to do evil, but that he might change the content of the concepts of good and evil. In other words, Allah would always enjoin “justice and kindness,” but what constitutes “justice and kindness,” just as what constitutes “innocent blood,” might change."


"He [Allah] was thus not bound to govern the universe according to consistent and observable laws. 'He cannot be questioned concerning what He does'" (Qur’an 21:23 ).


"Accordingly, there was no point to observing the workings of the physical world; there was no reason to expect that any pattern to its workings would be consistent, or even discernable. If Allah could not be counted on to be consistent, why waste time observing the order of things? It could change tomorrow. Stanley Jaki, a Catholic priest and physicist, explains that it was al-Ghazali, the philosopher that the authors of the Open Letter recommend to the Pope, who 'denounced natural laws, the very objective of science, as a blasphemous constraint upon the free will of Allah.' He adds that 'Muslim mystics decried the notion of scientific law (as formulated by Aristotle) as blasphemous and irrational, depriving as it does the Creator of his freedom.' Social scientist Rodney Stark adds that 'it would seem that Islam has a conception of God appropriate to underwrite the rise of science. Not so. Allah is not presented as a lawful creator but is conceived of as an extremely active God who intrudes in the world as he deems it appropriate. This prompted the formation of a major theological bloc within Islam that condemns all efforts to formulate natural laws as blasphemy in that they deny Allah’s freedom to act.'"

Thus there is no incentive for Muslims to pursue rational inquiry, since any results obtained can be invalidated by Allah at his whim.

FP: And Christianity?

BetBasoo: In contrast, Christianity derives from the Bible the notion that God works and is subject to natural and predictable laws, which a rational inquiry into would be a fruitful undertaking. This notion is the fundamental basis of the scientific method, which is a Christian invention.

That is the theological/theoretical explanation of Islam's failure to produce thinkers. There is a practical one as well. Allow me to illustrate it by contrast.

There are two aspects of Christianity that every Christian must contend with. The first is the Trinity, the second is the literary style of the Bible.

In the Trinity there is a Mystery that must be understood. Just exactly who is the Father? Who is the Son? What is the Holy Spirit? How do these relate? How does the Holy Spirit interact with the corporeal? Where does it reside? In the heart? the liver? the brain? Does it exist separate from the human nature in the body (hence the Diophysites -- Roman Catholics, Protestants, Assyrian Church of the East) or is it inseparably fused and intertwined with the human nature in the body (hence the Monophysites -- the Eastern Orthodox Churches)?

The New Testament is written in parables. Seldom is the point of the story expressed directly. The reader is asked to read a parable and figure out what it means. Reading the New Testament requires analysis, it engages the critical thought processes of interpretation and deduction.

The effort at understanding the Mystery of the Trinity and of unraveling the meaning of parables exercises the mind and engages the Christian not only on a spiritual level, but an intellectual level as well. To wit, it teaches a Christian to think.

In contrast, the Koran is written in a prescriptive style. There are no parables. The Muslim is summarily told what to do, most of the time without explanation. The Muslim needs to read just enough to get the prescription. It's like the directions on your drug prescription: take two pills every eight hours. Period. No further explanation.

Thus on a practical level, the act of exercising these religions produces two different thought processes. Christianity asks the believer to think and analyze, to interpret and deduce. Islam asks the believer to obey blindly and without question. Indeed, the Koran says "...follow not that of which you have not the knowledge" (Children of Israel, 17.36).

FP: Peter BetBasoo, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.

BetBasoo: Thank you for having me.

Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's managing editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. He is also the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left and the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union (McGill-Queens University Press, 2002) and 15 Tips on How to be a Good Leftist. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here.

Georges Roux's "Ancient Iraq":  A Book Review

Ann-Margret “Maggie” Yonan

Georges Roux
Ancient Iraq
Third Edition 1992.  
Penguin Books,  England.

Georges Roux, in this third edition, conveys that this book was published to update some of the information he provided in his previous two editions, first published in 1966 and republished in 1980.   Roux uses new archaeological evidence with which to discuss the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, in order to give a more complete picture of the many strata that formulated the Mesopotamian culture, history and civilization, spanning a period of three thousand years.

In his foreword to the third edition, Roux admits that Mesopotamian studies have made tremendous strides, since he wrote the first and second editions, and many international “rescue excavations” have been carried out in some 140 tells, prompted by the building of three main dams on the Euphrates and the Tigris, radically changing our evaluation of some of the prehistoric periods.     He affirms that through Assyriologists’ decipherment of some of these new finds and the revision of  some of the published data, our knowledge of the political, socio-economic, and cultural history of ancient Mesopotamia has improved over the last few years.

In his introduction, Roux writes, “This new version, the series of articles which appeared between September 1956 and  January 1960 in Iraq Petroleum, the now defunct magazine of the Iraq Petroleum Company, under the title The  Story of Ancient Iraq.  

Written in Basrah, with no other source of documentation than my own personal library. These articles suffered from many serious defects and were far from even approaching the standards required from a work of this nature.” (xvii).   This book is in fact a more complete and accurate study of the history of Mesopotamia, in which Roux redeems himself for many of the mistakes he made earlier in his writings.    It provides many answers to important questions that have remained unanswered for long periods of time, and it is one of the few books available that is dedicated exclusively to ancient Iraq, as opposed to the greater ancient Near East.
The first sixty pages of this book are dedicated to Mesopotamia’s proto-history in which Roux posits that excavations in ancient Iraq had provided enough evidence for historians to build-up a sequence of five proto-historic cultures which explained the early stages of the Sumero-Akkadian civilization in about 3000 B.C., but that all these cultures belonged to the late Neolithic and to the Chalcolithic ages, which at the most, covered 2000 B.C.   Hence, the Stone-Age of Iraq was practically unknown.   All this changed however, when in 1954, the University of Chicago began to excavate the Zab river basin in northern Iraq, and Dr. Ralph Solecki discovered the caves of Shanidar and Homo Sapiens’s earliest material culture.    According to Roux, these discoveries have vastly contributed to our understanding of the Stone Age period, which he divides into three subdivisions, (the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic) and which reveal the story of the passage from Neolithic to History, from the formation of the first primitive villages in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains to the relatively large and highly civilized Sumerian cities of the lower Tigris-Euphrates valley.

This book, according to Roux, is a more complete study of the history of Mesopotamia, beginning with the first human presence during Paleolithic times, and ending with the collapse of  the Sumero-Akkadian civilization, followed by the emergence of the Christian era and its affects on the Mesopotamian civilization.  

However, Roux does not delve into the Christian era to discuss how this phenomenon began to spread to Mesopotamia or what particular events prompted it, much less how this region was Christianized and by whom.

Roux describes ancient Mesopotamia and its inhabitants as one unified culture, divided into different city-states, which fought one another for dominance and rule of the Sumero-Akkadian civilization.    To demonstrate this, Roux writes, “Surprising as it may seem, the ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia had no name covering the totality of the country in which they lived, and the terms they used were either too vague, (“the Land”) or too precise, (“Sumer”, “Akkad”, “Assur”, “Babylon”).   So deeply imbedded in their minds were the concepts of city-states and of narrow politico-religious divisions that they apparently failed to recognize the existence of a territorial unity which to us is obvious.” (3).

Roux emphasizes that “the only obvious difference between the Akkadians and the Sumerians is a linguistic one; in all other respects these two ethnic groups are indistinguishable.” (151).   Roux’s opinion is that the Sumerian and the Akkadian languages are unrelated to one another so far as the information available to us.   But he reiterates many times that Sumerians borrowed many Akkadian words, as Sumer lost its glory and power when it was succeeded by other dynastic periods.

Roux argues that the Uruk culture appears as the development of conditions that existed during the Ubaid period, and that the Sumerians were the product of that culture, hence indigenous to Iraq.    From there on, Roux divides the book into historical periods that span three thousand years, beginning with the Sumerians, followed by the Akkadians, the Amorites, the “new people,” (Hurians and Kassites) all the way to the rise of the Assyrian empire, which was finally succeeded by the Babylonian dynasty.  

Roux’s description of each dynasty is illuminating, to the extent he uses new archaeological evidence to shed light on some of the misinformation with which  traditional historians have plagued us.   His description of the Arameans is particularly enlightening in the way he uses Assyrian inscriptions to clarify some of the misconceptions regarding the Arameans.   For example, Roux states that the Arameans made their first appearance in texts of the Akkadians, Ur II and Old Babylonian periods, where occasional mention is made of the city of  Arami and of individuals by the name of Aramu.   He suggests that this may be no more than a phonetic resemblance, hence we must consider only two dates: the fourteenth or the twelfth century, depending on the acceptance of some kind of relationship between Arameans and the Ahlamu.   The Ahlamu, according to Roux, “are first mentioned in a mutilated el-Amarna letter, alluding to the king of Babylon, during the same period their presence is attested to in Assyria, at Nippur and even Dilmun, (Bahrain).” (274).     Roux, in an earlier chapter of his book, had asserted that Shalmaneser I defeated the Hurrians and their Hittite Ahlamu allies in Jezira, and that in the following century, a road was cut from Babylon to Hattusas, and Tikulti-Ninurta I (1244-1208) claims that he conquered Mari, Hana, and Rapiqum on the Euphrates and the mountains of the Ahlamu.   He maintains, that this gives the indication that the Arameans were troublesome mountain tribes active in the Syrian desert, along the Euphrates and the Persian Gulf, at least from the fourteenth century B.C.   Roux cites an inscription of Tiglath Pileser I (1115-1077 B.C.) in which the Assyrian king, mentions for the first time, the “Ahlamu-Arameans” (Ahlame-Aramaia).   Roux further states that from then on, the Ahlamu rapidly disappear from Assyrian annals to be replaced by the Aramaeans, (Aramu-Arimi) and that the word Aramaia is “gentilic” adjective and could be translated as (Those of) the Ahlamu (who are) Aramaean, in which case is an indication that the Aramaeans were the highlander tribes of the Ahlamu.   This would make perfect sense, considering that in our language “Ramaya” means high, or in this case highlander.   To the Assyrians, it is obvious that if the word “Aramaya” is a gentilic adjective, and has always been used to describe someone living above, (Ramaya) as in rumyateh, then the Arameans were nothing more than people of the mountains, or highlanders.

One of the most important discussions in this book is how the Aramaic language came to be in use.    Roux states that “barbaric Aramaeans” contributed nothing to Mesopotamian culture, but upon these “savages” fell the privilege  of imposing their language on the entire Middle East.   To a large part, this was due to their sheer numbers, and partly because they dropped the Akkadian and adopted the Phoenician alphabet, which was much simpler than Akkadian.   As early as the eighth century, Aramaic began to compete with Akkadian, and around 500 B.C. when the Achaemenian monarchs, who had conquered Mesopotamia, were looking for a language that could be understood by all their subjects, they chose Aramaic.   From there on, Aramaic became the lingua franca of their vast empire.

Another interesting comment Roux makes is in relation to the Akkadian Period, in which Sargon I unifies Mesopotamia for the first time since the prehistoric Ubaid Period, extending it from the Taurus to the “lower sea” and from the Zagros to the Mediterranean.   This expansion and unification, according to Roux “became the dream of every subsequent monarch, and from the middle of the third millennium until the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C. the history of ancient Iraq consists of their attempts, their success, and their failures to achieve this goal.” (147).

Roux’s humanistic approach to the Assyrian empire is quite different from most historians, who have nearly always depicted the Assyrians as genocidal jihadists, hell-bent on liquidating their non-Assyrian neighbors for the sake of their God, Ashur, and their land Assur.   According to Roux, the Assyrians, like any other nationality in Mesopotamia, did commit atrocities in war time, but Roux adds the following remarks: 

“It must be noted, however, that these atrocities were usually reserved for those local princes and their nobles who had revolted and that in contrast with the Israelites, for instance, who exterminated the Amalekites for purely ethno-cultural reasons, the Assyrians never indulged in systematic genocides.” (291).

Having used the first four hundred pages of this book to describe how the Mesopotamian civilization was born, discussing the splendor of Assyria and Babylon in full detail, Roux uses the last 23 pages to describe how it died.    Roux divides the time between the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C. to 227 A.D in three periods:   1) the Achaemenian period (539-331 B.C.), 2) the Hellenistic period (331-126 B.C.) and finally 3) the Parthian period (126 B.C.-A.D. 227).    Each of these periods had dramatic affects on the Mesopotamians and their country, but Roux emphasizes that it was during the Achaemenian period, that Mesopotamia, without her own rulers, became paralyzed.   Her buildings left unattended would crumble, her canals neglected would become silted-up and part of the land would revert to desert once more, and Mesopotamia would be buried under a blanket of earth.   Having remained under the earth so long, humanity forgot the Mesopotamian contributions to science, astronomy, law, government, libraries, art, medicine, agriculture, and all the things modern man has attributed to the Hellenestic and Parthian civilization.

In an attempt to be more exacting, Roux injects some fairly recent geo-political changes that have affected Iraq’s topography.   For example, he substitutes the word “Kurdistan,” for many of the ancient northern Iraqi sites familiar by geography and history.   This is confusing, especially when Roux fails to identify the “Kurdistan” region, even on the maps he provides in this book, and falsely assumes the average reader will comprehend this transformation.  By not using the traditional names of ancient northern Iraqi cities, some of Roux’s cultural and geographic  discussions in relation to ancient people, become mired in recent geopolitical events affecting the “new Iraq,” which is in contradiction to the title of his book, “Ancient Iraq.”   To that extent, it is not only difficult to visualize some of the areas described by Roux, but the historical and geographical realities are simply not there when we think of ancient Mesopotamia in relation to Kurds, whose origins can be traced to the ancient city of Kurdo-Khoi in Iran, not ancient Iraq.

This book accomplishes two important goals for Roux:    The first is that Roux wants to redeem himself for the first and second editions, which were admittedly not up to the standards required from a historian.   The second is to uncover the glory of Mesopotamia, so long remained hidden and unknown to the modern world, in an attempt to “do justice to the importance assumed by the Sumero-Akkadian civilization in the history of mankind.” (425).

Assyrians at Their Best

Michael Marogil Mammoo

Helen Talia

Michael Mammoo

For the past nine years, UNESCO has observed The International Mother Language Day, with an objective to promote the “dissemination of mother tongues that will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education, but also to develop a fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.”

With languages being at the very heart of UNESCO's objectives, the International Mother Language Day has been observed every year in its member states and headquarters.  Sweden’s five-hour ceremony was held in Malmö, the city’s second year. 

On 21 February 2007, Assyrian Michael Mammoo, whose efforts have contributed to Sweden’s education system, was awarded the Instructor of The Year award for the mother languages of Assyrian and Arabic.   In Sweden, over 200 native ‘mother tongue’ languages exist.  The Assyrian (Syriac) and Arabic languages, taught officially by the Board of Education, won finals, with Michael Mammo triumphantly claiming the well-deserved award, having thirty years of service under his belt in Sweden’s education system.


The 1960’s – Michael Mammoo began his journalism career writing short stories at the age of sixteen.  A trained teacher, he entered Basra’s Law College, where he supervised the publication of the university’s “Al Jamiaa” (Arabic, The University) pages, within “Aljunoub” (Arabic, The South), a local newspaper in Basra, Iraq.

The early 1970’s – In the following years, Michael Mammoo’s award winning personality, background and education contributed to the social progression of the Assyrian community in Iraq, becoming steadfastly active in the development and prosperity of countless social Assyrian organizations, making editorial headlines and weekly television and radio “Mawhawta” (Assyrian, Hobby) program appearances.

He was one of the founders of the Assyrian Union of Writers, where he served as the secretary and executive committee member, the latter since its foundation until his remaining years in Iraq.  Collectively, the union published its first book “Neesan d’ Khouyada Atouraya” (Assyrian, The Spring of Assyrian Unity), with the word Atouraya camouflaged just a tinge to allow for its publication.  Later, he published his first solo book on behalf of the union, titled, “In the Garden of Lyrics.”  

The Assyrian Culture Club (Arabic, Nadi Al Thaqafi Al Athouree) in Baghdad, held record for having the largest membership body, was founded on educational grounds, and published “Murdinna Atouraya” (Assyrian, The Educated Assyrian).  Mammoo served the organization’s executive committee and publication secretary – writing, editing, publishing, and circulating its magazine.

Similarly, in Dora, Baghdad, Mammoo served the executive committee of “Nadee Al Mujtamai Al Athouree” (Arabic, Assyrian Society Club).  Outside of the Assyrian community, he was contributing editorial columns under Assyrian pages in “Al ta ‘akhee” (Arabic, Brotherhood) newspaper, and teaching Arabic language.

Operation Exodus ~ Iraq’s best of educators, doctors, Ph.D.s, attorneys, engineers, scholars, and others found themselves politically challenged to escape their cradle of birth, leaving behind everything, including a dream to contribute to Iraq’s prosperity.  That dream never came to realization as the Baathist regime swiftly removed the highest layer of Iraq’s educated class through calculated operations, one that calls to mind “Abu Tubar.”  Michael was not a stranger to harassments, interrogations, and sudden disappearances.  Sadly, he left Iraq.  But his past would find him in 1995 on the pages of the late Udai’s (the late Saddam Hussein’s son) most wanted list to receive death penalty if he, along with thousands of Iraqi writers and artists, did not return to Iraq.  The late Sargon Poules, a close friend of Michael Mammoo, also made the same list.

The late 1970’s – Upon his arrival to Jönköping, Sweden in 1977, where he currently resides with his family, Michael Mammoo has earned the equivalency of a Masters degree in Literature.  Since then, he has been very active teaching Assyrian and Arabic languages, organizing Assyrian language courses at the Babel Assyrian Club, where he has served as the president of the organization for twenty-six years.  He prepares textbooks in the Assyrian language and teaches Arabic to Swedes, along with bi-lingual core courses in Swedish to Assyrian and Arab refugee students at the Swedish Foreign Languages Institute. Mr. Mammo is the representative of foreign languages teachers at the Jönköping branch of the Swedish Federation of Teachers,” where in 2006 the state’s capital (Assyrian, hooparkeya) presented him with a personalized gold watch for 25 years of academic services in Sweden.


Mr. Michael Mammoo has been the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Hujådå magazine for nearly thirty years.  He is one of the founders of the magazine who has helped land the Assyrian (Eastern Syriac) language on the pages of Hujådå sometime between 1979 and 1980.  “Hujådå magazine has a circulation of 2,000 copies and subscribers from 35 countries. The magazine is published in Swedish, Syriac, Assyrian, Arabic, Turkish, and recently in English.”  In 2005, the Assyrian Federation of Sweden, a parent organization of Hujådå magazine, honored him for 25 years of service.

Books written by Michael Mammo:

Published Books

  1. What is Research and How Do You Write It? (1968, Baghdad)
  2. In the Garden of Lyrics (part 1): Translated poems from Assyrian to Arabic with the biographies of the poets (1975, Baghdad)
  3. The Village Guard:  A short story for children, [translated from Arabic to Assyrian and Swedish], (1981, Sweden)
  4. Salomon You Live in Our Memories [Assyrian-Arabic and Swedish; the book is about the poet Salomon Mammoo who died in Sweden in 1984 at the age of 27.]
  5. Sawra d'Sahde (Martyrs Hope): Articles and poems in the memory of the Assyrians martyrs [Assyrian], (1985, Sweden)
  6. Lishani (My language) part 1 & 2. Teaching modern Assyrian language. Published by the Board of Education in Sweden (1986, Sweden)
  7. Short stories from Sweden [Short stories written and translated by the author's students in Sweden. Collected and published by the writer],  (1986, Sweden).
  8. Dashna d`Eida (A Christmas Present): A short story for children in Assyrian and Swedish (1987, Sweden)
  9. Lishani (My Language:  Part 3). A teaching book in Assyrian language, (1988, Sweden)
  10. Ninos o Lishana d`Yemma (Ninos and the Mother Tongue): a short story for children in Assyrian and Swedish, (1989, Sweden)
  11. Lishani (My Language:  Part 4). A teaching book in Assyrian language, (2001, Sweden)
  12. Exercise book for 'My Language', part 1, 2006
  13. Booklet “Also You, The River,” poem by George Issa Giwargis, translated from Assyrian to Arabic.  (2007,Arabic)
  14. Children’s story, entitled “The clever Alfons Oberg” by Swedish author Gunilla Bergstrom from Swedish to Assyrian.  (2006,Arabic)

Unpublished Books

  1. Assyrians and the Two World Wars by Malik Yako Malik Ismail (translated from Assyrian to Arabic)
  2. In the Garden of Poems (part 2)
  3. Words to the Future’s Memory, articles in Arabic
  4. Short ideas, articles in Assyrian
  5. Collection of poems in Arabic
  6. Collection of poems in Assyrian
  7. Collection of poems in Swedish
  8. Short stories for children
  9. Acceptance, a drama by T. Williams translated from Arabic to Assyrian
  10. Seventy Thousand Assyrians, by William Saroyan, translation and analysis in Assyrian
  11. Can the Jönköpings residents speak with 50 languages? Yes. (An academic research in Swedish, 1995)
  12. Articles published in Assyrian and Arabic in Hujådå magazine.
  13. Arabic for Beginners (lectures written for Swedish students in the Employment Institute TBV)
  14. My language, part 4, a teaching book in Assyrian
  15. Exercise book for 'My Language', part 2
  16. The History of the Assyrian literature, 1998
  17. Arabic language between Standard and Slang, 1999
  18. Various educational research methodologies addressing methods in teaching difficulties. (Arabic, 2005)
  19. Where are We in the Assyrian Children’s Literature? (Arabic, 2007)


Michael’s first poem was “My Flowers,” written in 1963 at the age of fifteen.  His first article “Khatira” (Arabic, Dangerous), was written in 1964.  His first published poem “Hal Eiman” (Until When?), was published in 1965 in Lebanon, and his first interview with Shidrak Yousep (famous Assyrian soccer player) took place in 1965.


“Mr. Michael Mammo is fluent in Syryoyo (Western Syriac).  He has participated in several Assyrian conferences in Germany, Holland, Denmark, Poland, Russia, and United States.”  In Greece, he has been inducted into the Assyrian Society of Greece as an honorary member.  Today, he shares his wealth of knowledge with his comrades in the fields of education, publication, and literature (saprayouta). 


In September 2007, the Union of Assyrian Writers, a branch of the Union of Iraqi Writers, held its fourth annual congress at the University of Dohuk, Iraq.  Michael Mammoo’s “Children’s Literature” was one of the five finalists, worldwide.  His status within the international community is one of honor, prominence, and professionalism, ever to deserve praise.


In the year 2000, he won the award “FreeTeet,“ Swedish, for youth education.  He has served board membership for two years in The Union of Assyrian Teachers of Sweden, presented symposiums for Assyrian teachers in Sweden, arranged publications, served presidency for the Union of Iraqi Writers in Sweden.  In 2004, he won best writer – 1st place Assyrian language, and 2nd place Arabic language in Ankawa.com’s website poll.   In 2007, he was offered inclusion in an Egyptian published book about Arabic language writers living in diaspora.


Sharing in congratulating Mr. Michael Mammoo from the Chicago Assyrian community is Dr. Edward Odisho, Linguist Professor at Northeastern Illinois University, and an international icon in linguistic studies.  The Chicago Assyrian community sends its congratulations and well wishes to Mr. Mammoo.  He has graced our Assyrian nation and the Iraqi community with his dedication to academia.  May these flickering moments give us hope when all hope seems to be silenced, and teach us endurance in the darkest hours of our nation’s life.  Thank you.



Nahrain Aoudishow Hired to Oversee PI Emerging Markets

(ZNDA: London)  Perfect Information (PI), a provider of global financial information, on 4 March announced that it has increased its coverage of the emerging markets, in particular, the Middle-East. This growth is a direct response to the increased demand for financial information from the emerging markets. The increase applies to the number of public companies covered within PI Filings. All large market-cap companies’ filings from IPOs to quarterly interims are available to download.

Included in the comprehensive emerging markets collection are filings from: Bahrain; Egypt; Jordan; Israel; Kuwait; Lebanon; Morocco; Oman; Palestine; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; and UAE. Other regions included in the recent increase in coverage, include: South America; Africa; Cayman Islands; Bermuda; British Virgin Islands; and Canada.

Nahrain Aoudishow has been hired as Emerging Markets Document Manager to oversee the emerging markets sector at PI.  Prior to her role at PI, Nahrain worked at QAS in IT software/address management solutions.  Before QAS, her focus was in recruitment and resourcing. In addition, Nahrain spent several years in the retail banking sector. She is also fluent is both Assyrian and Arabic.

“Foreign Direct Investment in the emerging markets sector has significantly grown,” said Greg Simidian, Managing Director, PI. “We have witnessed a direct correlation between investment growth and an increase in emerging markets documents usage, in particular, the Middle-East. Our emerging markets documents usage has in fact grown 68% year-on-year, we are therefore responding to the changing market conditions by increasing our coverage to meet this rising demand.”

In further developments to PI Filings, PI can also announce that is has a seven month archive of global IPO documents now available in Word. This represents a considerable saving in time spent navigating through huge pdf filings, as it enables analysts and researchers to easily download and cut and paste from such documents.

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

Linda Badalof California
Dr. Matay Beth Arsan Holland
Ramin Daniels California
Francis Dinkha California
Mazin Enwiya Chicago
Dr Erica C D Hunter Great Britain
James Y. Rayis Georgia
Joseph Tamraz Chicago
Rochelle Yousefian California

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