3 Khzeeran 6758
Volume XIV

Issue 5

23 May 2008

1- 8 6 6 - M Y  Z I N D A

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Samuel Hazo reciting his poetry at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. (Photo by Stan Shabaz)

     “Leaving a world too old to name
      and too undying to forsake
      I flew the cold, expensive sea
      toward Columbus’ mistake
      where life could never be the same."

                                         - Samuel Hazo

Zinda SayZinda Says
  Omta, NOT Millat ! Wilfred Bet-Alkhas
  Diaspora Waleeta Canon
  ADM Clarifies Position on Implementation of Article 140
Assyrians Sign-Up to Join the Nineveh Plain Police Force
Kurdish MPs’ Reject Dividing Kirkuk into 4 Constituencies
al-Qaeda Leader Receives Death Penalty for Killing of Rahho
Agreement Allows Assyrians to Cross Turkey-Syria Border
AAS Brings Assyrians, Children to U.S. for Medical Treatment
Mardin’s Bakok Mountain Draws Syriac Diaspora Back Home
  CASCA Advocacy Highlights Plight of Iraqi Refugees
CASCA Advocacy Continues to Gain Support on Capitol Hill
Assyrians Demonstrate in Brussels
EU Presidency Gives No priority for Christian Iraqi Refugees
Assyrian Poet and Translator, Denho Moqdassi Elias, Passed Away in Brazil
U.S. Religious Freedom Body Split Over Blacklisting Iraq
Assyrian Bishop Enters Communion with Chaldean Catholics
Covert Christian Converts Live With Secrecy and Fear in Iran
Assyrians Represented at the Iraqi Embassy's Open House
Harry Ransom Center Acquires Rare Plantin Polyglot Bible
Assyrian National Assoc. Embezzlement Case Continues
Odisho No Stranger to Big Fights
UC Berkeley Assyriologist Elected to American Philosophical Society
  A Child of Unity Is Born Unto Us
Is the Assyrian Language Destined to be Lost?

Click to Learn More :

  Sobre Las Olas Obelit Yadgar
  15th Annual Youth Excellence Contest
ARAM Conferences: Neo-Aramaic Dialects / The Mandaeans
Arbaa Greitteh Coming to Turlock and San Jose
New Book:  Ancient & Modern Assyrians
Zinda Recommendations from Gorgias Press

Samuel Hazo, State Poet Laureate of Pennsylvania
Plight of the Christians in North Iraq
Historical Background of Modern Assyrian Language
To the Assyrians in Sweden: No to the Kurdification of Nineveh!
Serious Facts on the Kurdish History
The Triumph of Israel in 1948, Assyria and Egypt Next

Stan Shabaz
Kenneth Timmerman
Dr. Geoffrey Khan
Ashur Giwargis
A. D. Omar Miran
Dr. George Habash
  David Abraham
Nahrain Kamber
Zinda Crew

Since Our Last Issue
A Chronology of Important Events

Friday, 18 April The European Union rejects Germany's calls for specific measures to help Christian refugees from Iraq insisting that decisions on asylum could not be based on religion.
Saturday, 19 April Nearly 4,000 people demonstrate in Brussels against violence perpetrated against Christians in Iraq.
Sunday, 20 April Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Council of America issues a statement addressed to the UN representative in Iraq, protesting their inability to meet the United Nations delegation, holding the Mayor of Telkaif responsible.
Tuesday, 22 April

Iraqi Kurdish lawmakers reject  Arab and Turkoman parliamentarians'  proposal  to divide Kirkuk into four constituencies - Arab, Turkoman, Kurdish, and Christian - in the provincial elections.

Hundreds of Assyrians begin signing up to Join the 711-man Nineveh Plain Police Force.   The KDP deputy governor of Nineveh Province, Khisro Goran, opposed to the creation of such a police force claims this would become “a Christian militia.”

Saturday, 26 April An agreement is signed between Turkey and Syria allowing the Assyrians living in Turkey to visit relatives during religious feasts.
Monday, 28 April Prof. Francesca Rochberg of UC Berkeley, an Assyriologist, is elected to the American Philosophical Society.
Tuesday, 29 April

The trial of Iraq's former deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, a Chaldean Christian, over the deaths of a group of merchants in 1992 opens in Baghdad.

The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin acquires a rare Plantin Polyglot Bible, containing parallel texts in Hebrew, Greek, Syriac and Aramaic with translations and commentary in Latin.

Thursday, 1 May Newsmax.com publishes an article by Kenneth Timmerman, exposing the activities of the KDP Christian minister, Sargis Aghajan and his maltreatment of the Christian population in the Kurdish region and in the Nineveh Plain.
Friday, 2 May Assyrian Poet and Translator, Denho Moqdassi Elias, passed Away in Brazil.
Monday, 5 May The 4-month-old Assyrian baby - Fadi Essam - is brought to Amman, Jordan where he undergoes cardiac operation. He was born with a hole in his heart. The operation is a success.
Tuesday, 6 May Assyrian Democratic Movement issues a statement clarifying its position regarding Article 140 and CASCA's letter of protest issued on 20 April.
Sunday, 11 May The Chaldean Catholic Church in California formally received Mar Bawai Soro, his clergy and faithful into communion.
Thursday, 15 May According to a CASCA statement:  the House of Representatives includes $10 million in the House version of the Supplemental Appropriations Bill of 2008.  This funding is in addition to the $10 million included in the Fiscal Year 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Act.
Saturday, 17 May

An Iraqi court imposes the death sentence on Ahmed Ali Ahmed, known as Abu Omar for the killing of the Chaldean Archbishop Rahho in April. The US embassy in Baghdad welcomes the verdict.

An article in Aljeeran.com reports that the al-Qaeda detainees in Mosul implicate Deputy Governor of Nineveh Province, Khisro Goran, linking him and the KDP to the planning and execution of several individuals in Iraq.

Assyrians in Washington DC organize an Information Table at the Iraqi Embassy, answering questions about Assyrians of Iraq and serve Assyrian dishes.

Thursday, 22 May

 The Shriners Hospitals for Children in Los Angeles agrees to treat three Assyrian brothers from Iraq who lost their hands and legs when a cluster bomb exploded next to them. The Assyrian Aid Society of America is to organize their trip from Iraq and pay for their transportation costs.

The felony embezzlement case of the former treasurer of the Assyrian National Association is continued to June 4 in Superior Court in New Britain, Connecticut.

Friday, 23 May

KRG Prime Minister, Mr. Nechirvan Barzani, meets with President Bush.  Earlier in the week he meets with a delegation of Assyrians from Chicago and Detroit in Washington.

The 42nd Annual Assyrian State Convention of California, organized by the United Organizations of California, begins in Turlock and Modesto.  The 4-day event attracts Assyrians from across the State of California and the United States.

Zinda Says
An Editorial by Wilfred Bet-Alkhas


Omta, NOT Millat

Do you consider yourself a “Millataya”?  If not, then do you know of any “Millatayeh”?  How about any “Omtanayeh”?   If you are a speaker of the modern Aramaic (Syriac) language, you may be using these terms interchangeably.  They both refer to the same person – a nationalist.  Right?  Wrong!

Assyrians have been “Millatayeh” for nearly 1600 years, but “Omtanayootah” after the fall of our last monarchy in Adiabene has existed only in the last 100 years.  There is a huge difference between a “Millataya” (fem. Millateta”) and “Omtanaya” (fem. Omtaneta).  The difference explains why today most Assyrians in their ways of political thinking are no different from a Shi’ai Sadrist or a Sunni tribal leader.  The only dissimilarity is that they are Moslem and Assyrians are Christian, yet both behave as though they prefer to live in a Millet System.

In the 5th century A.D. the Christians were recognized by the Persian Empire as a body united under their patriarchs.  The patriarch was responsible for the behavior of his people and for collecting taxes from us.  This body of Christians was later during the Islamic times called a millat.

Fast-forward to the period after the attack of the Mongols which left our churches in ruin.  The Ottoman Empire (1450’s-1918) was administered by officials who governed several large territories.  These were in turn divided into smaller territories inhabited by the Moslem and non-Moslem millats.  The Christians were divided into several millats (depending on the number of their patriarchs) and each patriarch governed over two or more maleks who in turn governed the affairs of his tribe.  Each malek had jurisdiction over a small territory comprised of many villages. Therefore, the subjects under each patriarch were given a different name and became a separate “millat”.  There were the Jocobite millat (what we call today the Syriacs), the Nestorian millat (today’s Church of the East), the Chaldean millat, and so on.  In other words, the word “millat” refers to a community of people, not the entire nation.

In areas outside of the Ottoman Empire and in large cities the delineations between the churches was not as clear as in the Hakkari mountains, and the clergy had less control.  These were territories either outside of the Ottoman Empire or in larger centers where the churches had less jurisdiction.  The church in the Baz and the Jilu territories for example (inside the Empire)  had more control over its subjects than it did in  Mosul (large city) or in Urmia (outside of the Empire).   The control of the clergy lessened further as the Assyrians began to move away from the Kurds and their mountainous isolation, and mingled more with the Arabs and the Persians.  Here in Damascus, Mosul, Urmia, and Beirut Assyrians met Europeans, either French Catholic, American Protestant, British Anglican or Russian Orthodox.  It was here where the Assyrians re-discovered the primacy of civil laws over religious edicts and their significance in transforming a feudal system like the “Millat” into a nation or “Omta”.

For 500 years Assyrians in Iraq and Turkey lived under the Millat System of the Ottoman sultans, calling themselves “soorayeh” and called their language “surith” or “sooraya”.   No wonder the scholars call our language "Syriac" or "Syrian" as opposed to Assyrian or Aramean.  The concept of “Assyrian” or “Assyrianism” was nearly nonexistent and acknowledged by those who dared to link themselves to the pre-Christian periods.

The Millat System prospers in an environment where the educated men and women do not take part in the affairs of the state and the public, where knowledge is limited to the clergy’s interpretations of law, and any dissent within the church is treated as heresy and punished quickly.  The governments in the Middle East – even today – recognize the authority of the patriarchs over any political leadership to perpetuate the Millat System and diffuse any political power sharing with the central government.

By 1912 the word “omta” was slowly replacing “millat”.  Intellectuals, educated by Europeans or in Europe and America, drafted constitutions and began using the word “Atouraya” or “Ashouraya” to introduce the concept of the separation of church and state.  In 1912 as in 2005, the churches vehemently opposed any “omta” movement.  Atouraya was said to be synonymous with paganism and anti-Christianity.

Then came the Genocide of 1915.  Two out of every three Assyrian of all millats (Nestorian, Chaldean, Orthodox) and by then Protestants residing within the territories of the Ottoman Empire and Urmia, were killed due to massacres, cold winters, hunger and exhaustion while traveling for hundreds of miles on foot.  Many ended up in cities like Baghdad, Mosul, Damascus, and even Beirut.  Some later found themselves in Europe, U.S., Canada, and South America.

After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, the power of the patriarchs declined and an enlightened public's want of civil law and the rule of law over the domination of the clergy energized the “Omtanayeh” who now openly used the term “Assyrian” – a term which stood head to head against the religious hierarchy and the feudal system the Moslem rulers and the patriarchs of the “sooreta millats” had devised for centuries.  For these early modern "Omtanayeh" to be an Assyrian meant to remove oneself away from the shackles of an ethno-religious identity and see oneself as the bearer of an ancient collective identity, bigger than that of a Church, a Millat, a Tribe, or even the Moslem country wherein one resided. 

The churches reacted swiftly.  Omtanayeh were excommunicated, turned in to the authorities as Communists or Anarchists.  The patriarch of the Jacobite Church replaced the name Assyrian with Syrian and called his church – the Syrian Orthodox Church.   The Church of the East came under a great deal of pressure from the intellectuals and political activists in the 1950’s.  It rejected the name “Nestorian” and finally in the 1960’s adopted the name “Assyrian” –  assuming an historic identity in an effort to appease its awakened members.  Yet, this also led to greater alienation of the other Assyrian churches as they saw the name “Assyrian” as a new label for the adherents of the Church of the East.  Soon the members of the Church of the East were referred to only as “Assyrians”, an act which diminished the encompassing strength of this powerfully historic identity and reduced it into an ethno-religious identity – similar to Chaldean and Syriac.   

Things have not changed much.  Today, we are still suffering  because of the ignorance of those who prefer the be represented by a patriarch or a bishop and claim their religious identity as superior over the other millats.  I shudder every time I hear a Nestorian claim that as a member of the Church of the East he is more of an Assyrian than a Chaldean or a Syriac (Jacobite).  He is the inheritor of the dark policies of the Moslem rulers in the Middle East and individuals like him act in the same manner as the followers of Moqtada al-Sadr do in Karbala or Hizbollah in Lebanon.  I call these blind followers of the Nestorian, Chaldean, and Orthodox millats - the “Assyrian Hizbollahs”.

How pervasive are these obsolete tendencies in our politics today, you ask?  Tell me which tribe you belong to and I will tell you which patriarch or bishop you support.  This pathetic, antiquated system of allegiance to a millat is the most important factor in the paralysis of our efforts in rebuilding our “Assyrian” nation since the Council of Seleucia in 410 A.D.

There are two types of "Millatayeh" running our political affairs today.   The first group - let's call them the "loyalists" are loyal only to their patriarch and his religious and temporal leadership.  They reject any independent political groups or institutions that do not consult with their patriarchs.   They also do not see equality among the "millats" which they simply refer to as a church (edta).  The second group - the "reformists" try to reconcile between the first group and the "Omtanayeh" by accepting the primacy of the political parties in the stately affairs of the Assyrian nation.  They do see all churches - or millats - as equal and they support any political party that brings the churches or millats together.

The Omtanayeh share a completely different view, different from both loyalist Millatayeh and the reformist Millatayeh.  They accept no higher power running the affairs of the Assyrian nation, but the secular political parties which they hope will come into an agreement to form an Assyrian Parliament or Government-in-exile.  They relentlessly challenge the power of the clergy and demand complete separation of the church and state.  Whereas to the Millatayeh Reformist "Assyrian millat" is equal to the "Chaldean millat" to a "Syriac millat" and each is accepted as an equal ethno-religious group - to Omtanayeh there is only one Omta (nation) and its churches are politically powerless and subject to the laws imposed by the highest political structure.  To prevent the formation of such a political structure or institution (an alliance, parliament or government-in-exile) the loyalist Millatayeh, their patriarchs and their bishops continue to marginalize any political movement that threatens their control of the masses and even demote the influence of the "reformists" within their churches.  A good example of such in-fighting was the case between the Mar Dinkha loyalists and the Mar Bawai reformists in California.

We are surrounded by Millatayeh in our federations, political parties, conferences, and congresses.  Their allegiance remains with their patriarchs, because of their tribal affiliation or proximity to Kurdish nationalism or dislike for other churches.   They claim to be “nationalists” yet they spend all their energy and finances to support one bishop against another, one patriarch over the next.  They have simply  adopted their religious identity as their ethnicity.   These social parasites speak of the ascendancy of a patriarch - namely Mar Dinkha IV or Mar Emanuel Delly - to the position of the supreme representative (s) of the Assyrians in north Iraq, for example.  We see their freeloading representatives, most of whom are "Kurdish collaborators" from north Iraq or business-owners from Detroit and Chicago, running like cockroaches from one basement office to another in Washington re-assuring the government officials of their masters' full intention to comply with the powers that be.  This year they even succeeded in arresting Omtanayeh in the Nineveh Plain and Syria who criticized the churches in their web blogs. 

To reach a 'oneness' necessary for the formation of a national identity or Hee-ya-yoota Omtaneta our "Millat" identities (Hee-ya-yoota Millateta) must give way to a more collective identity bereft of any religious character.  That is what the term “Assyrian” was meant to accomplish as it did before Christianity and Islam mangled our Mesopotamian uniqueness.  It was to be the end of Millat and the beginning of Omta R'eshta (the Awakened Nation). 

Under the social organization of the Millat System our political ambitions can never be realized.  The first step to attaining political power and leadership is to reject the powers of the clergy (who continue to assert that they possess no such power) and isolate them to a position of spiritual guides and narrators of their brand of the Judeo-Christian theology.  The only form of power sharing must be realized among the political parties, representing the Assyrians around the world (not churches), through institutions founded and nurtured by the rule of law, separated from the churches.   This power-sharing cannot be among the “millatayeh” loyal to this or that patriarch, rather “omtanayeh” loyal to the general good of Omta.

Today indeed, our national consciousness is wrapped in confusion created by our churches and our patriarchs.  They claim detachment from politics, yet they practice every facet of diplomacy with our Moslem neighbors to maintain their control over their millats.  What’s worse is that our active political parties are in essence extensions of these religious power players.  Who can repudiate the proximity of the Assyrian Universal Alliance to the patriarch of the Church of the East, ADM supporters to Mar Bawai Soro in the U.S.,  Aramean groups to Mar Zakka Iwas in Damascus, and anything attached to the name “Chaldean” to Mar Delly in Baghdad ?   In essence, our political parties have for the last 50 years perpetuated the Millat System, as they feared they may alienate the masses.

I liken the relationship between our distraught political parties and the patriarchs to the story of Zahhak in Ferdowsi's epic poem, Shahnameh.  Zahhak, much like our patriarchs is a clever king yet he is easily influenced by his evil advisers.  When a demonic being from the land of the enemies of Zahhak's country (I'll leave the likeness of this character to the imagination of my readers) kisses the shoulders of Zahhak, in place of his kiss two snakes grow, one from each shoulder.   The demon - Ahriman he is called in the story - leaves Zahhak but the snakes stay.  As soon as their heads are cut off, new snakes take their place.   Zahhak maintains a love-hate relationship with these snakes because they protect him from attackers, yet the only way he can keep them is let the snakes grow stronger and by feeding them the "brains" of the youth.  For centuries, every day two young men are killed and their brains fed to Zahhak's snakes.  Finally, the hero of the story - Fereydoun - battles the despot and succeeds in imprisoning him in a cave. How appropriate that the name of the first Assyrian nationalist and intellectual who defied the Zahhaks of our nation was Dr. Fereydoun Atouraya.  Sadly he was betrayed and handed over to the Bolshevik officials in Russia and finally killed in prison in 1924.

The transformation from the many  millats to one Omta is the beginning of the long process of nation-building.  Today, we are only an ineffective pool of tribes, deifying our patriarchs and bishops, who in turn lionize their Moslem sultans and emirs for the sake of their dwindling flocks in the Middle East.   We must resent the term “millat” and become enraged every time we find ourselves empowering the will of a bishop or clergy over the general will of our entire nation.   For there is no individual, power, identity, institution, church or patriarch higher than that of "Omta".  Acceptance and indeed returning to this fundamental postulate of nationalism is the first step to the ascendancy of a collective consciousness that promulgates the sacred precepts of  one name, one purpose, one leadership for one people.



The Lighthouse
Feature Article





Waleeta Canon
Washington, DC


There is a certain raw power that exists in Diaspora populations, especially when the Diaspora is focused on issues in their indigenous Homeland.


No one can deny the power of our Assyrian Genocide scholars, like Sabri Atman, who live in Western countries.  No one can deny the pressure exerted on the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) by the people behind the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project in Washington, D.C.  It is clear that the Assyria Council of Europe is making history in Brussels for the endangered Assyrian nation.  When the U.S. Appropriations Committee demands from the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq to secure safety for the Assyrians of the Nineveh Plains and the urgent need for money to the Christian refugees, we know it is the Diaspora who has pushed these issues.


Regardless of the petty arguments over intricate, meaningless details of this and that politician or religious figure going on in (mainly) the Assyrian Diaspora these days, a single fact remains:  the Diaspora remains a powerful tool which the Assyrians in Assyria (Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and Syria) did not have on such a massive scale even 20 years ago.  Today, the attention is focused on Iraq because it is thus far the first modern opportunity for real democracy presenting itself in one of the many countries in which Assyria was carved. 


The world is becoming well aware of the unspeakable atrocities happening against Assyrian Christians at the hands of terrorists in Iraq, causing their mass exodus.  But what about the slow exodus that is happening and will continue to happen should the Kurdish Regional authorities continue their policies against minorities in the North?   In other words, what, in reality, is the difference between the Arab Nationalist and the Kurdish Nationalist in their respective governments?  Each "elect" Presidents for Life; each are "religiously tolerant" and not “officially” Islamists; each have ensured the preservation of the Ottoman millet system by seeking Assyrian Patriarchs as legitimate representatives for the community, or using Assyrian Christians they have decided "will do" as representatives; each manage to convince a portion of the people that they are indeed "working for their interests", while in reality degrading and eroding their independence; each have a government in which only Party members can participate; each make arbitrary arrests against those who oppose their government.


Today, the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq is clearly interfering in minority affairs through the Ministry of Finance and through their own elected "representatives" of not only the Christian Assyrians, but also to Yezidis and Turkomen.  Brilliantly, they use members of the minority group to carry out divisive agendas, so their hands look clean: and the minority groups fight among themselves, pointing fingers at their own “traitors” rather than the puppet-masters.


As the KRG pretends to be democratizing they shut out independent political parties from attending meetings with international bodies, they build churches so that journalists coming from the West can take pictures of crosses in a Muslim country, while the lands of those Christians go un-returned.  They build houses for IDP's – returning to their indigenous villages and cities – which come with no land titles.  They threaten Assyrians from attending non-KDP affiliated Assyrian celebrations. 


Ultimately, is there a real qualitative difference as to why Assyrian Christians leave Iraq?  If the Assyrians are leaving the Middle East, and their indigenous lands, en masse, does it matter that that reason is either because of violence or economic oppression?  At the end, they are still being pushed out:  those who push Assyrians out violently are easily recognized as “terrorists”, while those who are pushing us out slowly are, instead, being called “heroes”.  An excerpt from the UNHCR website sounds eerily familiar:


“Although human rights reporting and country conditions experts on Iraq cite a wide range of problems for Christians, and non-Arabs in general, in Iraq, the occasional news report presents a dramatically different view. One article cites the Chaldean pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Baghdad as stating that ‘[t]here is no tension here in Iraq...; [u]nder this regime, this government, also this president, there is no discrimination’ (The Seattle Times 24 Dec. 1998). The article also notes that construction of new churches in Iraq is a suggestion that ‘the Christian community is vital’ though it states that because proselytizing of Muslims is prohibited, the Christian population must ‘rely on its youth to increase the fold’ (The Seattle Times 24 Dec. 1998). Another article cites ‘Christians in Baghdad [who] say their friends and family are leaving for a variety of [economic] reasons but insist Christians are not discriminated against in Iraq’” (Knight-Ridder Tribune News 18 Feb. 1998).


And yet, despite the churches built by the Ba’athist government, and the supposed “vitality” of the Christian community, Assyrian Christians fled Iraq at every opportunity they could throughout the last 30 years.  What we read here can easily be said of north Iraq today.  While the world is focused on the terrorism running rampant throughout Iraq, killing innocent civilians and specifically targeting Christians, they are not seeing the "forest for the trees":  the business-friendly, Christian-tolerant Kurds get a free ride where the details of their budding nation state – of which all signs point to culminating in an oppressive Nationalist State - are going ignored and "dismissed" as not important for the bigger picture.  Such is the continuing vicious cycle of irresponsible Western foreign policy in the Middle East.  When will the Assyrians stop having to “settle” for the lesser of two evils, or in this case – the continuation of the status quo?

While Iraq is struggling to keep Islamists from tearing the country apart, it is still technically a multi-ethnic, multi-religious state, with the constitutional framework to provide for "administrative" areas specifically to keep its multicultural fabric alive.  No such thing exists in the KRG legal framework, regardless how many times Kurdish spokespersons promise "autonomy" for Assyrians within the KRG. 

The main difference for the Assyrians between what is happening under the Nationalist Kurds and what happened to them under the Nationalist Arabs, however, lies in its Diaspora.  During Saddam Hussein's rule, there was no expectation of democracy, whereas now, there is.  There was also a Diaspora which feared for their families remaining in Iraq where Hussein's Ba’athist party was free to kill at will, with no repercussion, so they remained quiet; the Kurds, however, do not have the "luxury" of a frightened Diaspora, or an international world which will turn a blind eye: they can't even arrest an Assyrian blogger for writing against the KDP policies without a series of outcries from Europe, Australia, and the U.S (although they try). 


Indeed, their attempts to replicate the Ottoman “millet system” over the Assyrians and subsequent Arab Nationalist policies of “divide by religious designation and conquer” are incredibly transparent.  Today’s Assyrian, however, are reacting uniquely: Chaldean Catholic Assyrian nationalists are Mayors, Syriac Orthodox Assyrians, originally from Turkey, are becoming involved in the Iraqi Assyrian issue; and Assyrians from 4 continents are uniting by modern-day technological conveniences, like the internet, in order to coordinate rallies, awareness campaigns, fundraisers, and educate policy makers about the reality of our stolen homeland.  The “Assyrian Street” is becoming smaller. 

In other words, the KRG is trying to replicate policies in a “new and improved” Assyrian environment which dooms it to failure.

As long as there are Assyrians, there will be land disputes with the KRG.  As long as there are human rights abuses, the Diaspora will rail against them.  Today, Assyrians are well educated, well informed, have a large part of their population in the US, and are increasingly aware of what is due to them as human beings.  It is a different Assyrian population that the KRG is attempting to marginalize and manipulate.  And it won't end well for them should they continue to ignore the most vocal of all:  the nationalists.


If the previous generation had their Assyrian nationalists, the new generation has its angry revolutionaries:  those who will no longer stop at "being a part of a Kurdish controlled country".  The next generation no longer calls their homeland "Northern Iraq", but indeed, "Southern Assyria".  The next generation is seeking ways to build language schools in Diaspora, building networks with Americans and Europeans, and insists the language stays pure, free from Kurdish, Persian, or Arab influence.  The next generation is much fiercer, and in the last 100 years, this has been the trend.  Each generation becomes more committed to righting the wrongs of Genocides and Massacres which happened so long ago not even their parents were alive yet to witness them. 

Neither the Assyrians living in Iraq nor in the Diaspora want to be enemies with Kurds.  If there are problems, the desire should be to solve them.  Having to fight each other is not what Assyrians want, nor what the Kurds need.  There is a path to reconciliation, and to “calm the storm” brewing in the Assyrian Diaspora:  the KRG must cease exacerbating internal Assyrian differences, recognize Assyrian land rights (and indeed, return them), and treat the Assyrians as a nation, equal to any and all others on earth, with inherent rights as humans and as the indigenous people of what the Kurds are claiming as their own "homeland". 


The ultimate end of the roller coaster relationship with the Kurds is inevitable: even if they manage to oppress and push every last Assyrian out of the KRG, the Diaspora will forever be the Tibet to their China.  Until they begin treating Assyrians as a nation who has rights to claim their land and their freedom, rather than an inconsequential burden to be dealt with on the road to Greater Kurdistan.



Assyrian United Organizations of California
42nd Annual State Convention
May 23 - May 26, 2008


Good Morning Assyria
News From the Homeland


ADM Clarifies Position on Implementation of Article 140

Political Bureau
Assyrian Democratic Movement
Baghdad, Iraq
6 May 2008


On April 20th, 2008, a memorandum of protest was issued by a group of organizations working in the Kurdistan region.  The protest memorandum was issued by a group which is under the umbrella of the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Council, addressed to United Nations representative in Iraq, Mr. Steven De Mistura.  The Council was protesting their inability to meet the United Nations delegation, which was visiting the citizens of the Nineveh Plain for their viewpoint regarding article (140) implementation.  The memo holds Mr. Basem Bello, the Mayor of Telkaif and a member of the Assyrian Democratic Movement’s leadership, responsible for their inability to meet with the United Nation’s delegation.

The memorandum states that “it respects the right of Mr. Bello and the Assyrian Democratic Movement to express their opinion by rejecting the implementation of Article 140, and reject the demands of the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian people and other constituents of the autonomous Nineveh Plain,” and goes on to accuse the mayor of exploiting his position.

We, the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM), reject the use of the media for direct accusations against our national organizations, and we are confident that the facts are clear for people to see; however, publishing such lies and “distorted facts” on the websites is forcing us to clarify the following points:

1- Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution should be interpreted and read with Article 58 of the Transitional Administration Law.  The ADM representative, elected by the people to the Governing Council, participated in drafting this article in 2004.

Article 140 was based on the enforcement of truth and justice, and to remove the effects of the previous regime's chauvinist policies.  Article 140/TAL 58 has a strategic plan for normalization, census and then referendum. It doesn’t allow for intimidation, threats, or other unlawful means recently practiced by the aforementioned groups in order to force citizens to declare loyalty in advance (of such a referendum).  These tactics are not consistent with humanitarian values and constitutional principles.  Therefore, our movement rejects such practices, but does not reject the implementation of Article 140, we believe that article 140 should be applied in all areas, including areas in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

2- Regarding the allegations that the ADM rejected the demand for autonomy, we would like to clarify the following points: the "autonomy clause" is in the Iraqi constitution, specifically Article 125. This clause was requested by an elected ADM representative on the constitutional committee. The groups mentioned above did not have any role in achieving this constitutional gain for our people.  Moreover, the manner used in demands for autonomy is not a request from all our people nor the constituents in Nineveh Plain, as is being claimed by these groups. There has not been any transparent census in this regard thus far.

We affirm our commitment to implement Article 125 of the Iraqi constitution. This article respects the will of our people and the Nineveh Plain constituents. No one has the right to turn this matter into a bargaining issue for special interest, which degrades the will and rights of the people. The reality on the ground is far from what these groups are promoting - they are merely empty slogans.

3- The location, time, and selection of the candidates to meet the United Nations delegation is arranged by representatives of the United Nations (Constitutional Support Office in Baghdad) and Nineveh Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) which is tied to Multinational Forces.  Consequently, Mr. Bello was not in charge of arranging and coordinating the parties to meet, as stated in the memorandum.

A second memorandum has been issued by five parties:

  • Kurdistan Democratic Party Telkaif Chapter
  • Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Telkaif Committee
  • Chaldean Democratic Union Party Telkaif Chapter
  • Assyrian Patriotic Party Nineveh Branch
  • The Chaldean National Congress Batnaya Chapter

he memorandum accuses the Assyrian Democratic Movement's role in organizing the lists of applicants to enroll in the Iraqi National Police. Note, two years ago this attempt was adopted by the Assyrian Democratic Movement in coordination with federal authorities form Iraqi Interior Ministry to form a police force from the Nineveh Plain residents. However, some collaborators in Mosul worked indirectly and were able to foil this attempt.

The Assyrian Democratic Movement has continued its efforts to achieve balance in the current composition of the police service and security forces and to eradicate the injustice against our people, adhering to Iraqi Constitution article 9A.  We have finally achieved it officially.  Currently, this program is being implemented by the proper authorities in the Nineveh Governorate.  Interestingly, the aforementioned parties did not attempt (then or now) to present any initiatives to serve the interests of our people in the Nineveh Plain.

Assyrians Sign-Up to Join the Nineveh Plain Police Force

(ZNDA: Mosul) Immediately after the announcement of the Iraqi Interior Ministry's ordering of the creation of a 711-man local police force for the Assyrians to patrol the Christian villages in the Nineveh Plains, hundreds of Assyrian men lined up in front of Iraqi Police headquarters in Mosul to sign up and join.  According to reliable sources to Zinda Magazine the number of applications received far exceeded the required 711 candidates.

The $4 million measure is part of a $30 million emergency relief package for the predominantly Christian region submitted to Congress by Rep. Mark Kirk, Republic from Illinois, and Rep. Frank Wolf, Republican from Virginia.

The Paul Youhanian Scholarships

The Assyrian Association of Southern California is offering six
"Paul Youhanian Scholarships" for the academic year 2008 - 2009

  • 2 college students at $2,000. each
  • 4 graduating high school students at $500. each

Deadline:  1 July 2008


For more information & to apply please visit www.aaasc.com or
contact Rebecca Simon at 310-544-7307

The announcement of the creation of an Assyrian Police Force in the Nineveh Plains was made public on 10 April at a Congressional Hearing during the questioning of Ambassador Ryan Crocker (click here).  The photo below was shot on 28 April, which shows Assyrian men completing police force recruitment application in Mosul.

Back in February, Col. Michael Bills, the commander for U.S. forces in Mosul, ruled out using so-called Concerned Local Citizens (CLC), bands of irregulars working alongside American and Iraqi troops in Mosul.  Volunteers are paid about $300 per month by U.S. forces elsewhere in Iraq.  An estimated 9,000 Iraqi army troops are in Mosul working with some 1,400 American soldiers. Additionally, about 9,000 Iraqi police are in the city as well. 

According to a report in Newsmax.com (see Literatus) leading the charge against the local police force was the KDP deputy governor of Nineveh Province, Khisro Goran, who claimed the police would become “a Christian militia.”

On 17 May an article in Aljeeran.com reported that the al-Qaida detainees in Mosul have implicated Mr. Khisro Goran, linking him and the KDP to the planning and execution of several individuals in Iraq.

According to Dr. John Eibner, the CEO of Christian Solidarity International, Al-Qaida and the Kurdish peshmerga need each other: “Without al-Qaida, the United States wouldn’t support the peshmerga. Without the peshmerga, the locals wouldn’t support al-Qaida,” he said to Newsmax last month.

Unconfirmed reports to Zinda Magazine indicate that Mr. Khisro Goran may has already been fired because of the scandal in Mosul, days before Mr. Nechirvan Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdish Regional Government arrived in Washington.

The first recruitment campaing for the Assyrian Police Force lasted for three days with the aim of hiring recruits to safeguard the Christian neighborhoods in Mosul and the Assyrian villages.  Col Bills commented: "This will help strengthen the security effort."

According to Mr. Michael Youash of the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project, another 4000 policemen will be needed to fully secure the region.

Kurdish MPs’ Reject Dividing Kirkuk into 4 Constituencies

Courtesy of the Voice of Iraq
22 May 2008

(ZNDA: Baghdad)  Iraqi Kurdish lawmakers on 22 May rejected  Arab and Turkoman parliamentarians'  proposal  to divide Kirkuk into four constituencies in the provincial elections.

The proposal called for the city of Kirkuk to be divided into four constituencies among the Kurds, Arabs, Turkomans and Christians, according to MP Usama al-Nujaifi from the Iraqi National List (INL), which is led by the former Iraqi prime minister, Mr. Iyad Allawi.

According to this proposal each of the Arab, Kurdish, and Turkoman constituencies were to be given 32 percent voting power and only 4 percent were allocated to the Chaldean Assyrian block.

Mr. al-Nujaifi added “Arab and Turkoman lawmakers approved the proposal, yet Kurdish members rejected it”.

The proposal was considered by some MPs as “a political solution for resolving Kirkuk issue”.

Kirkuk, is one of the disputed areas whose fate was to be decided by the new constitution's Article 140, through normalising its ethnic structures and by holding a referendum to decide its status.   Kurds seek to include the city into the autonomous Kurdish region in the north, while Turcomans and Shiites oppose the incorporation. Article 140 stipulates that all Arabs in Kirkuk to return to their original residences in the southern and central Iraqi areas, and formerly displaced residents return to Kirkuk. The article also calls for conducting a census to be followed by a referendum to let the residents decide whether they choose for Kirkuk to be annexed to the autonomous Kurdish region.

Alla Talabani, a Kurdish MP, commented: “We categorically rejected the proposal and would ask the UN for interference to resolve the issue”

al-Qaida Leader Receives Death Penalty for Killing of Rahho

Courtesy of BBC
18 May 2008

The archbishop of the northern city of Mosul was kidnapped in February by gunmen who attacked his car, killing his driver and two bodyguards. His body was found in a shallow grave two weeks later.
Archbishop Rahho's body was found buried near Mosul.

The Iraqi government said the criminal court had imposed the death sentence on Ahmed Ali Ahmed, known as Abu Omar.   The US embassy in Baghdad welcomed the verdict.

"Reiterating our condolences to the archbishop's family and community, we commend the Iraqi authorities for bringing the perpetrator of this brutal crime to justice," a statement said.

In the past, the government of Nouri Maliki has been accused by Iraq's Christian minority of not doing enough to protect them from persecution, the BBC's Caroline Wyatt reports from Baghdad.

Churches, priests and businesses owned by Christians have been attacked repeatedly. Kidnappings by Sunni and Shia groups, as well as criminal gangs, have been common since the US-led invasion in 2003. Many Christians have fled abroad.

The archbishop, 65, was the latest in a long line of Chaldean clerics to be abducted in Iraq.

The Chaldeans are the largest sect within Iraq's Christian community, which was estimated at 800,000 before the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Agreement Allows Assyrians to Cross Turkey-Syria Border

Courtesy of Today's Zaman
26 April 2008

(ZNDA: Mardin)  An agreement has been made between Turkey and Syria, allowing the Assyrians living in Turkey to visit relatives during religious feasts.

Syriacs [as Assyrians are referred to in Turkey) are members of an ethnin group spread throughout Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq who speak a variant of Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. The signed agreement resembles one made between the two countries to allow Muslims with family on both sides of the border to visit one another during Eid al-Fitr (the holiday that follows the fasting month of Ramadan) and Eid al-Adha (the Feast of the Sacrifice). Efforts by Mehmet Kılıçlar, the governor of southeastern Mardin province bordering Syria, have led to the agreement that allows Syriacs in Turkey to be able to visit their relatives in Syria during their religious holidays. This decision comes as Syriacs prepare to celebrate Orthodox Easter this weekend.

"Turkish society will continue to hold on to its ethno-cultural diversity and richness. The atmosphere of tolerance between different religions and cultures in Mardin has always symbolized peace and love. This tolerance is a good example for the world. I want to wish my Syriac citizens a joyful Easter. I wish goodness, health, wealth, peace and happiness to all portions of society" Kılıçlar added. An estimated 25,000 Syriacs live in Turkey, while Syria boasts some 877,000. During the two annual Islamic religious festivals, Turkish and Syrian citizens who live near the border and wish to visit their relatives cross over to the other country. In the past this was prevented by political problems between Turkey and Syria stemming from Syria's support of the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK). However, after Syria expelled PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in 1999, following strong political and military pressure from Turkey, relations between the two countries normalized.

In 2000 the two countries signed an agreement and Turkish and Syrian citizens who live near the border were allowed to visit their relatives in the neighboring country for two days during religious festivals. Every year Syrian and Turkish citizens visit their relatives during Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr. In 2007, 70,000 people from Turkey crossed the border for this purpose and 50,000 people crossed the Turkish-Syrian border to visit their relatives in Turkey.

AAS Brings Assyrians, Children to U.S. for Medical Treatment

(ZNDA: San Francisco)  As more Iraqi civilians are killed or injured in a seemingly endless war and the sick find themselves unable to seek quality care, one Assyrian organization continues to provide care and comfort to the struggling families.  The Assyrian Aid Society of America continues to lead the humanitarian efforts provided to the Assyrian communities in Iraq.  Millions of dollars have been collected and distributed among the Assyrian families, supplying food, medicine, shelter, and other basic needs.

AAS - America is now moving aggressively in response to another type of urgent care - the sick Assyrian children in need of immediate medical help.  The AAS volunteers in Iraq have been assessing the needs of several such cases and bringing them to the attention of their sister chapters in the U.S.

Ms. Layla Younan Israel, an Assyrian attorney from Baghdad, needs a heart-valve replacement. The Chandler Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, upon the request of the AAS-Arizona Chapter, has agreed to accept Ms. Younan as a cardiac patient.   Ms. Younan, escorted by Dr. Nahrain Ilisha Yousif, is in Amman, Jordan waiting for her vista to arrive in Arizona.  Ms. Sabrina Rustam was the driving force behind Chandler Hospital's acceptance of Ms. Younan's case.

With the help of the volunteers at the AAS-America and its generous donors, hree Assyrian brothers, victims of a cluster bomb explosion in Iraq, will be brought to the U.S. for treatment at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Los Angeles.

On 5 May a 4-month-old Assyrian baby - Fadi Essam - was brought to Amman, Jordan where he underwent cardiac operation.  He was born with a hole in his heart.  With the support of the Children in Need International (CINI), the AAS volunteers were able to offer the best possible medical help for Baby Fadi.   The operation was a success and Baby Fadi is doing quite well.

On Saturday, 10 May, an Assyrian mother, Gladys Yousif Tamo (32) from Syria, delivers her baby, but dies during the delivery.  The hospital refuses to release her body until her bill is paid!   The Assyrian Aid Society - Arizona Chapter sent $1000.00 to her family in Syria to have her body removed and prepared for a proper burial.

Mrs. Gladys Toma dies in a Syrian hospital after the delivery of her baby.  The hospital refuses to release her body for 3 days until her bills were paid fully.

On 20 May, the AAS informed a number of concerned Assyrians and the media of the condition of three brothers - Devin (11), Ivan (15), Robin (17) from Arbil.  All three brothers sustained injuries when a cluster bomb exploded nearby.  Devin has lost both legs and one hand, Ivan lost one leg and one hand, and Robin has lost both legs and a few fingers.

Within 48 hours, AAS volunteers - including Dr. Samir Johna, Mr. Youkie Khanania, Mr. Albert Davidoo, were able to mobilize donors, equipment, and public relations channels to secure the support and assistance of the Shriners Hospital in Los Angeles and a dozen individual donors.  The Shriners Hospitals for Children will be providing state-of-the-art prosthesis and total rehabilitation, including design fabrications, and training in the use of the device, without any cost to the three brothers and their families.

The cost of the transportation of the three brothers was paid by the Assyrian Patient Transportation Fund, established by the AAS - America.  $12,780 were received from a dozen generous donors.

Two other medical cases processed by the Assyrian Aid Society of America are those of Yousif Petros Khoshaba, an 8-year-old boy from Amadia, Iraq, and Telma Zohair Hermis, a 17-year-old girl from Ankawa, Iraq. 

Both Yousif who has congenital bilateral club feet and Telma whose scalp was ripped off in a freak accident at a fun park have been accepted at the Shriners Hospitals in Los Angeles for treatment.

In some cases the United States may not be the destination of choice for treatment.  A 4-year-old Assyrian girl in Syria - Aradin Napolean - for example, will be treated in France.  The AAS paid for her and her mother's transportation and other needs.

All AAS assistance to these sick children across Iraq is free.  Such programs are made possible by financial gifts to the Assyrian Aid Society.  Donations made through the Assyrian Aid Society of America are tax deductible under the provisions of Internal Revenue Code Section 501 (c) (3).

There are many such cases of children in Iraq and elsewhere who need immediate medical attention.  Zinda Magazine urges financial support to the Assyrian Aid Society of America and its local chapters.  For more information please visit the AAS website (click here).


Mardin’s Bakok Mountain Draws Syriac Diaspora Back Home

Courtesy of Today's Zaman
24 May 2008
By Şehumus Edits & Tayfur Demir  

(ZNDA: Mardin)  The re-establishment of peace in Mardin (see Tur-Abdin area, map below) and the wind of change blowing through the town have kindled the fire of hope for those who abandoned this beautiful southeastern province years ago because of the twin scourges of terrorism and unemployment.

Today, many former Mardin residents, most of whom are Syriac Christians, are returning to the town of their birth after decades spent as émigrés. Recently 14 Syriac families quit their new homes in Europe for good and moved into newly constructed houses in villages of Mardin province.

One such village is Elbeğendi. When the unpredictable atmosphere that had prevailed in the region, preventing people from making long-term decisions, started to dissipate four years ago, a group of former fellow townsmen made a return to the Midyat district village -- long abandoned because of frequent Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) attacks and in a state of utter dilapidation -- and laid the foundation of 32 triplex luxury villas.
The construction of 32 triplex luxury villas on the skirts of Bakok Mountain is now more than half complete, as are facilities including a swimming pool and sports center.

The construction of over half of these villas, in what has become a “dream village” on the skirts of Bakok Mountain, once teeming with PKK terrorists, is complete as are facilities including a swimming pool and sports center. The damaged church has been repaired and the new buildings are equipped with all manner of technological devices, including Internet access.

When the dream village project sees completion, it will have cost a total of 5 million euros. The price of a villa is nearly 250,000 euros, and so far 14 Syriac families have moved in. Since the launch of this project in 2004, many other people from nearby villages have been inspired to realize similar schemes to replace and renovate the typical old village houses with brand-new developments.

Ultimately an estimated 5,000 Syriacs currently living across Europe are expected to return to Turkey and settle down over the next two years. At present regular tours to Elbeğendi are held for Syriacs, allowing them to see the villas for themselves and thus assist them in similar projects in their own villages scattered throughout Mardin. The province holds the largest Syriac population in the country.

Yakup Demir, president of the Elbeğendi Development and Rejuvenation Association, said that he was very happy to return to his hometown after living in Germany for 30 years. Noting that they will hopefully live the rest of their lives in Elbeğendi, Demir said: “In 2004, I began constructing a triplex villa on the foundation of my old house. It finished this year and I have moved in with all the members of my family. We are now leading a very happy life here. The villages have been designed to have many qualities such as that each villa has an indoor swimming pool. We are now planning to build a house for the infirm and create job opportunities for the young.”

Side Demir, a 75-year-old mother of six, is among those who have made a permanent return. She lived in Switzerland for years and said: “I lost my husband in Europe, so I have taken all my kids and returned to my village. Now I want to live the rest of my life here. This is my homeland and soil.”

Aziz Özdemir first came to Elbeğendi out of curiosity. “But I want to have a similar villa built in my village for my family. I have lived and worked in Germany for 40 years, and I think it’s now time to come back,” the 54-year-old pensioner said.

Yahko Demir, the architect of the project, lives in Switzerland and is a manager at a Mövenpick hotel. He said that Syriacs have been granted special permission to return to Turkey and that the villas have been constructed in line with this permission.

Inhabitants of Yemişli village, who left their village decades ago, are also returning after seeing the villas built in Elbeğendi. The Muslim mukhtar (village head), Şehmus Bilgiç, stated that former residents started to move back to the village three years ago and built luxury villas.

Governor Kılıçlar: All are equal, regardless of language and race

Mardin Governor Mehmet Kılıçlar stated that they were providing all the support they could for the Syriacs willing to come back and that they were doing their best to serve everybody regardless of language, race or faith. He asserted that the villas built in Elbeğendi were of so high a quality that they could be an example for the entire world. “After this village, seven other [projects] were begun in the vicinity of Bakok, building similar houses. This shows the level of peace and security our region has achieved,” he said.

Yusuf Beğtaş, a representative from the Syriac Turabdin Church in Midyat, said the region was one of the most interesting places in the world, with a social, cultural and historic wealth. Beğtaş noted that plans are also under way for the rejuvenation of the cultural aspects of the region with the aim of becoming a major tourist attraction. However, he added, “Syriacs have one aim, and that is being reunited with the land in which they were born.”

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CASCA Advocacy Highlights Plight of Iraqi Refugees

Contact Glynda Becker/Rick Desimone
16 May 2008
U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Recognizes Crisis in Middle East

(Washington, DC) – Showing their support for the plight of Iraqi Refugees, including the Chaldean/Assyiran Syriac Christian Minorities, the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services highlighted the plight of Iraqi ethno-religious minorities by including language in the report to accompany S. 3001, the Fiscal Year 2009 National Defense Authorization Bill.

Specifically the language said:

Refugee crisis in Iraq

The committee continues to monitor closely the ongoing refugee crisis in Iraq, a crisis resulting from the U.S. invasion of Iraq. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are approximately 2.8 million Iraqis displaced internally— 1.5 million of them after the Samarra bombings in February 2006, and two million more in neighboring states, particularly Jordan and Syria.

The committee notes that the continuing ethno-sectarian violence across Iraq is forcing thousands more to leave their homes every month. However, the committee notes that recent reports from UNHCR indicate that new displacement is continuing at a slower pace than in previous years. The slowdown is due to a number of factors including closed borders in the region and in provinces where internally displaced persons (IDPs) are not allowed to their territories. Other factors include the presence of more homogenous communities, districts, and neighborhoods; exhaustion of resources for many families; and a decrease in violence. Despite these improvements, given the U.S. role and stake in the conflict, the committee believes the United States must continue to play a significant role in addressing the plight of displaced Iraqis, particularly those highly vulnerable religious minorities. (Italics added)

In recent years, the National Defense Authorization Act has included legislation to permit the Department of Defense to assist those Iraqis who have helped the United States to sustain and manage its presence. In the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (Public Law 110–181), the committee included a provision expanding the Iraqi special immigrant visa program. The committee has noted that the special immigrant status provisions for certain Iraqis are first and foremost intended to help those Iraqis who have provided faithful and valuable service to the United States Government. The provisions are meant to help and reward those Iraqi workers for their assistance to the U.S. Government.

Under the special immigrant program, applicants are required to prove that they have experienced or are experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a result of their employment by the U.S. Government. There is strong evidence that Iraqis who have assisted the United States have experienced ongoing serious threats because of their service to the United States. Many have been killed, or have had family members killed. Others have been threatened. The committee expects that, absent unusual circumstances, Iraqis who have assisted the United States mission in Iraq will meet this statutory standard.

Joseph Kassab, a director from CASCA and the head of the refugee assistance and resettlement program at the Chaldean Federation of America hailed the Senate action, “The threat is serious and real to our people, specifically the Chaldean/Assyrian Christians who have aided Americans in Iraq and it is imperative that the United States Government recognize this threat. We are grateful for the work of the Senate Armed Services Committee and would like to acknowledge the support of both Chairman Carl Levin and Senator Ted Kennedy in recognizing the crisis that our people face in Iraq.”

Martin Manna, another director from CASCA added, “With the leadership of Chairman Carl Levin, our Chaldean/Assyrian community in Michigan and nationwide now know that the United States Senate has recognized and will continue to address the dire situation of our refugees and those who are internally displaced in Iraq.  We are grateful for his support and leadership.  We look forward to working with Senator Levin to ensure the House accepts the Senate’s language moving forward.”

S. 3001, the Fiscal Year 2009 National Defense Authorization Bill was passed unanimously by the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 30, 2008.  The Senate is expected to consider the legislation some time this summer.

CASCA was formed in 2007 to educate U.S. policymakers on the plight of Iraq’s Chaldean/Assyrian/Syriac Christian minorities and to advocate for policies that will support stability, security, aid, and reconstruction relief within Iraq and assistance and resettlement of the most vulnerable refugees of this fragile population outside Iraq.  CASCA was formed from the following four organizations: The Assyrian American National Federation, The Assyrian National Council of Illinois, The Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, and The Chaldean Federation of America.



CASCA Advocacy Continues to Gain Support on Capitol Hill

Contact Glynda Becker/Rick Desimone
15 May 2008

$10 million in 2008 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill

 (Washington, DC) – Once again the House of Representatives has shown its support for the plight of the Chaldean/Assyrian/Syriac people of Iraq by including $10 million in the House version of the Supplemental Appropriations Bill of 2008.  This funding is in addition to the $10 million included in the Fiscal Year 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Act.  With the House passage of this legislation, Iraq’s ethno-religious minorities are one step closer to benefiting from economic development programs and projects that are key to helping them stay and rebuild their future in Iraq.

Specifically, the Explanatory Statement accompanying the bill included the following language:

Provincial Economic Growth.-The amended bill includes $40,000,000 for provincial economic growth activities, of which $10,000,000 should be available for programs to assist vulnerable Iraqi minority groups, including Christians. The Secretary of State should designate staff at United States Embassy Baghdad to oversee and coordinate such assistance.

This is a tremendous victory for the advocacy efforts of the newly formed Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council of America (CASCA).  CASCA is grateful to the policy’s Congressional champions and co-chairs of the House Caucus on Religious Minorities in the Middle East Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and Congressman Frank Wolf along with Caucus Member Congressman Joe Knollenberg.

Representative Anna Eshoo, co-chair of the House Caucus said: “I’m pleased that the amendment contains $10 million for vulnerable Iraqi minorities.  The needs of the Assyrians could not be greater…These families desperately need security, housing, jobs, schools and the chance to live in a sustainable community where they can openly practice their faith.”

Representative Joe Knollenberg, Caucus Member and Member of the House Appropriations Committee said:  “I am proud to have helped deliver this needed assistance to our friends in Iraq.  Together with the Iraqi-American community, we're making an important difference in the lives of Iraqi minorities who need our help."

Jackie Bejan, the Executive Director of CASCA hailed the Congressional action, “Once again the under the leadership of our Congressional representatives, we have shined a light on the struggles of our people in Iraq.  Every step taken by Congress is raising awareness of the plight of Iraq’s ethno-religious minorities.  We are so grateful for the support of these Members and all of our elected officials who continue to fight for the protection of our people.”

 Martin Manna, another director from CASCA added, “Before this year, we had very little luck in getting the needs of the Chaldean/Assyrian/Syriac people recognized, much less addressed.  Over the past five months we have spent time raising this plight with key thought leaders in Washington, D.C. and we look forward to working with the Senate to get this language to the President for his signature.”

The United States House of Representatives passed the Fiscal Year 2008 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill on May 15, 2008.

CASCA was formed in 2007 to educate U.S. policymakers on the plight of Iraq’s Chaldean/Assyrian/Syriac Christian minorities and to advocate for policies that will support stability, security, aid, and reconstruction relief within Iraq and assistance and resettlement of the most vulnerable refugees of this fragile population outside Iraq.  CASCA was formed from the following four organizations: The Assyrian American National Federation, The Assyrian National Council of Illinois, The Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, and The Chaldean Federation of America.

Assyrians Demonstrate in Brussels

Courtesy of the AFP
19 April 2008

(ZNDA: Brussels)  Nearly 4,000 people demonstrated in Brussels on Saturday, 19 April, against violence perpetrated against Iraqi Christians in the strife-torn country.

Protestors, mainly Iraqi Christians, came from Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland to participate in the march through the heart of Brussels' EU quarter.

The demonstration was aimed at drawing attention to attacks on Christians in Iraq, said Fikri Aygur, vice chairman of the European Syriac Union, organisers of the march.

"We wanted to call on the US, the EU and the UN to find a solution for the Christians".

The march was supposed to start in front of the US embassy in Brussels, but police did not allow it because of the large numbers, Aygur said.

Iraq's Christians were said to total as many as 800,000 before the US-led invasion in 2003 but the number is now thought to be half that figure.

Widespread persecution including the bombing of churches and the murder of priests has forced hundreds of thousands to flee, mostly to neighbouring countries or to Kurdish northern Iraq.

On Friday in Luxembourg, the European Union's Slovenian presidency rejected a German proposal to offer preferential asylum treatment to Iraqi Christians.

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble wanted to persuade other EU countries to offer asylum to thousands of Iraq's minority Christians because of violence against them in majority-Muslim Iraq.

His plan was initially mooted by Germany's Catholic and Protestant churches who are powerful allies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party.

EU Presidency Gives No priority for Christian Iraqi Refugees

Courtesy of the Reuters
19 April 2008
By Ingrid Melander

A proposal by German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble (pictured) to offer asylum to Iraqi Christians in Europe was rebuffed by EU on 19 April.

(ZNDA: Luxembourg)  The European Union rebuffed Germany's call for specific measures to help Christian refugees from Iraq on Friday, 18 April, insisting that decisions on asylum could not be based on religion.

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble had urged European countries to provide shelter to Christians among the some two million refugees who have fled to Iraq's neighbors to avoid ethnic strife after the 2003 war.

Slovenia, which holds the rotating presidency of the 27-nation EU, insisted that religion could not be a precondition in asylum decisions.

"International standards are such that they do not permit differentiation on the basis of religions or race," Slovenian Interior Minister Dragutin Mate said after EU interior ministers discussed the issue at a meeting in Luxembourg.

"That is the basic reason why I am afraid it will be very hard to work in that way," he had said earlier in the day, when asked if Christian refugees should be given priority.

Maria Böhmer, Minister of State in the Federal Chancellery Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees, and Integration.

Mate said ministers had agreed to discuss at their next meeting in June how to help all minorities in Iraq, with no discrimination on the basis of religion or race.

Writing in Bild am Sonntag newspaper, Schaeuble, a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrat (CDU) party, raised specific concerns about the plight of Iraq's Christian refugees.

"We must help here and offer them a home in European countries until they can return to their home," Schaeuble wrote.  He said he would be happy to take in other religious minorities too, while stressing that most religious minorities in Iraq were Christians anyway.

"We all agree that regarding Iraq, religious minorities and Christians are 99 percent the same," he told reporters. "The situation of the religious minority (in Iraq) is dramatic."

German Integration Minister Maria Boehmer, also a CDU member, echoed his call, saying this week: "It is a human imperative that we quickly help the persecuted Christians (from Iraq) and take them in to Germany."

Assyrian Poet and Translator, Denho Moqdassi Elias, Passed Away in Brazil

One of the most prolific Assyrian writers and poet died last week in Sao Palo, Brazil.  Malfono Denho Moqdassi Elias is considered among the most influential translators of the European literature into Assyrian language whereby he introduced the Romantic movement in literature to Assyrian audiences.  Patriotism and revolution were the popular topics of Romantic writers who included Victor Hugo, Pushkin, and Herman Melville.

Malfono Dehno was born in Midyat, Turkey in 1911.  When he was 4, the Ottoman Turks began the killing of the Christians living in Anatolia (Seyfo Genocide).  He was rescued by his grandmother who fled Midyat for the town of Ain-Warda.   Somehow during the trip on foot, his grandmother left him on the side of the road, where he is picked up by others and brought to Ain-Warda, where his father was.  He never saw his grandmother again.

Denho Elias spent his early education at an Assyrian orphanage in Adana, Turkey (Ecole assyrienne d’Adana) under the direction of the Tau Meem Semkat Society between 1920 and 1922. Here, the Assyrian nationalist Bishop Yuhannon Dolabani (1885-1969) (see Zinda, 16 August 2007) taught his students Aramaic language and national anthems and songs.   During his years at Taw Mim Simkat as an orphin and student under the guidance of Bishop Yuhanon Dolabani, he was introduced to the magazine of " Beth-Nahreen" of Malfono Naum Faiq from New York. This magazine contained poetry on patriotism and love for the Assyrian language that inspired persons like Danho Elias to follow this path to revive an endangered language.

He continued studying Aramaic langauge as a student and teacher in Damascus, where he began writing poetry.   He lived in Aleppo between 1943 and 1947, where he put together the magazine "Sefro Suryoyutho" or Syriac Review.  It was here where he was introduced to the writings of the great Assyrian intellectual and nationalist, Malfono Naom Faiq (1868–1930).

His contemporary, Paulos Gabriel (1912-1971) was also a translator and together they collaborated on many works.  Denho Elias and Paulos Gabriel introduced the Romantic and Post-Romantic French schools to Assyrian readers, works which included the writings of Bernardin de Saint Pierre, Lamartine, Gauthier, and Duchosal.   Elias and Gabriel's translation of Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre's Paul et Virginie (or Paul and Virginia) in the late 1950's is by some considered the most important step in the modernization of the Assyrian Aramaic, a challenge met by introducing non-religious literary subjects and undertones.  Paul et Virginie was written on the eve of the French Revolution in 1789.

Malfono Denho Elias emigrated to São Paolo, Brazil in 1980 to live with his children.  He began writing again in Brazil and became a member of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Sao Palo.  He died on Friday, 2 May.  Malfono Ghatass (Denho) Moqdassi Eliasleft Turkey when he was 7, never to return again.

U.S. Religious Freedom Body Split Over Blacklisting Iraq

Courtesy of the Christian Post
4 May 2008
By Michelle Vu

(ZNDA: Washington)  Officials of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a U.S. religious freedom watchdog, said it is still deliberating whether to downgrade Iraq to the blacklist of violators during the release of its 2008 annual report on Friday.

USCIRF confided that its members are divided over keeping Iraq on its “watchlist” or moving it to the “Country of Particular Concern” blacklist.

Included on the CPC list are governments that have “engaged in or tolerated systematic and egregious” violations of religious freedom or belief, and includes countries such as North Korea and Iran.

If the State Department agrees with USCIRF and blacklists a country, it could result in Washington imposing sanctions on the religious freedom violator.

"There is some contention, the debate is whether it should go up or down," one official said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Unlike other CPC countries, the Iraq government is considered a Washington ally and putting it on the blacklist would be an embarrassment to the Bush administration.

In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, that accompanied the report, USCIRF wrote that it was “seriously concerned” about religious freedom in Iraq, where increased persecution of Christians has been reported.

The commission also told Rice that it would visit Iraq later this month to study the situation further, after which it will make an “appropriate designation.”

Currently, the 338-page report is missing the entire Iraq chapter.

Since 2004, some 40 Christian churches and institutions have been bombed, with about 10 of them bombed within a span of two weeks earlier this year, according to the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council of America (CASCA). Moreover, of the 45 Chaldean priests in Baghdad, less than half remain and the others have been killed, kidnapped or have fled the country.

"Just speaking for myself, I am particularly concerned by the fact that the religious minorities, the defenseless minorities – those without the militias – are being pushed out of Iraq," commissioner Nina Shea said.

According to estimates, Christians make up nearly 40 percent of the refugees fleeing Iraq, although they only make up three percent of the country’s population. There are now about 600,000 Iraqi Christians left in Iraq, down from 1.2 million before the U.S.-led offensive in 2003.

Besides the possibility of Iraq being named a CPC, the commission also recommended to Rice to return Vietnam to the blacklist, as well as Pakistan and Turkistan.

The State Department’s latest CPC list includes North Korea, China, Iran, Myanmar, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan.

The commission’s 2008 watchlist meanwhile includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia and Nigeria.

Assyrian Bishop Enters Communion with Chaldean Catholics

Courtesy of the California Catholic Daily
12 May 2008

(ZNDA: San Diego)  On 11 May, the day of Pentecost, leaders of the Chaldean Catholic Church in California formally received into communion a bishop of the Assyrian Apostolic Church of the East, his clergy and faithful. The bishop, Mar Bawai Soro, who presided over the western Assyrian diocese headquartered in San Jose, was disciplined by the Holy Synod of the Assyrian Apostolic Church in 2005 for publicly defending papal primacy.

The course of events that led the California-based Assyrian diocese into full communion with the Catholic Church began in November 2005, when Mar Bawai Soro presented a paper, The Position of the Church of the East Theological Tradition on the Questions of Church Unity and Full Communion, to the Holy Synod of the Assyrian Church. Five days after Mar Bawai delivered the paper, in which he argued for the necessity of papal primacy, he was suspended by the synod. Subsequently, with loyal clergy and faithful, Mar Bawai formed the Assyrian Catholic Apostolic Diocese.

The new diocese then began to draw closer to the El Cajon-based Chaldean Catholic Diocese of St. Peter the Apostle. On Jan. 17, 2008, the clergy of the Assyrian Catholic Apostolic Diocese, meeting in Dublin, unanimously adopted a “Declaration of Intention” to “enter full communion with the Catholic Church” and “resume church unity with the Chaldean Catholic Church.” On March 28, the Chaldean and Assyrian clergy met at the Cathedral of St. Peter in San Diego, where they recited a Catholic profession of faith before the altar.

The union, which brought the bishop, Mar Bawai, six priests, over 30 deacons and subdeacons, and about 3,000 faithful into full, Catholic communion, was solemnized May 10-11 at St. Thomas Church in Turlock and at St. Matthew Church in Ceres.

Covert Christian Converts Live With Secrecy and Fear in Iran

Courtesy of the Pulitzer Center
8 May 2008
By Anuj Chopra

(ZNDA: Tehran)  Illyas, 20, precariously straddles two worlds. At home with his family, he's a devout Christian who wears a silver cross around his neck, devotionally reads the Bible, and, on the Sabbath, hums hymns of praise to Jesus. Easter and Christmas are celebrated with homemade grape wine, even though alcohol is banned in Iran.

Publicly, though, Illyas is a devout Muslim. Before leaving home to attend university classes, he removes the cross. He falsely tells his teachers about reading the Koran regularly since, he says, expressing fealty to Islam is necessary to land a good job in Iran. And he regularly goes to Friday prayers at Tehran University, where, if necessary, he joins in chants of Marg-bar Amrika (Death to America)—although he says that he doesn't hate America and, in fact, hopes to move there someday.

Illyas and his mother and stepfather—for their safety, their family name cannot be revealed—had been Muslims (as are 98 percent of the nation's 66 million citizens). That changed a year ago, when they were drawn to a seductively passionate voice on a satellite TV channel imploring Iranians to embrace Christianity. On hearing the voice, Illyas's mother called the channel's hotline number. She prayed with the counselor on the phone, she says, making a personal commitment to Jesus as her savior. Later, Illyas and his stepfather did the same, as the counselor from California's Iran for Christ Ministries led them in prayer.

The counselor was able to put Illyas in touch with some local Iranians—also discreet believers—who could provide a copy of the Bible. "We were looking for a faith that offered the reassurance of freedom,'' says Illyas, who asked to be interviewed in a public restaurant in Tehran instead of his house.

Islam is the state religion of Iran, governing most aspects of life since the 1979 Islamic revolution. But, exasperated with the obsessive atmosphere of Islamic purity in Iran since the revolution and the subsequent curbing of social freedoms, Illyas says, his family felt compelled to look for other spiritual answers, even at considerable risk.

Leaving Islam for another religion, or apostasy, has long invited reprisals from the Iranian government, forcing the likes of Illyas and his family into absolute secrecy, practicing their new beliefs only in the privacy of their home. In Iran, Christians are prohibited from seeking Muslim converts, although there has been tolerance for those who are born into Christian families.

The government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has introduced legislation before the Iranian Majlis that would mandate the death penalty for apostates from Islam, a sign that it will brook no proselytizing in the country. "Life for so-called apostates in Iran has never been easy, but it could become literally impossible if Iran passes this new draft penal code," says Joseph Grieboski, the president of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy in Washington. "For anyone who dares question the regime's religious ideology, there could soon be no room to argue—only death.''

Grieboski points out that the text of the draft penal code uses the word hadd (prescribed punishment), which explicitly sets death as a fixed, irrevocable punishment. He worries that it could be applied to religious and ethnic minorities like Christians, Bahais, Jews, and Azeris by treating them as apostates.

Articles 225 to 227 of the draft penal code define two kinds of apostates: fetri, or an innate apostate—who has at least one Muslim parent, identifies as a Muslim after puberty, and later renounces Islam; and melli, or parental apostate—who is a non-Muslim at birth but later embraces Islam, only to renounce it again. The draft code says outright that punishment for an innate apostate is death. However, parental apostates have three days after their sentencing to recant their beliefs. If they don't, they will be executed according to their sentence. It isn't clear when this bill will be passed, though Grieboski says, "International pressure and attention—in large part due to our work—has significantly slowed the parliament's progress.''

In the past, apostasy could draw a range of punishments, from imprisonment to death, under legal practices that were more ambiguous than the draft statutes. In one instance that drew international attention, Mehdi Dibaj, an Iranian convert, was held in prison for his Christian beliefs for 10 years starting in 1984. He received the death sentence at the end of 1993. But he was released from prison in January 1994 after an international publicity campaign by Haik Hovsepian Mehr, a prominent Christian pastor in Iran. A few days after Dibaj's release, Hovsepian Mehr was abducted in Tehran, and his body, with 26 stab wounds, was found secretly buried in a Muslim graveyard. Six months later, Dibaj, freed but still under a pending death sentence, was abducted and murdered.

Considering the perils, Muslim Iranians turn to satellite television (though officially prohibited), radio, and the Internet to talk about faiths other than Islam. Some names include the Iranian Christian Television Channel, run by a registered charity based in the United Kingdom; Radio Mojdeh; and Iranian Christian Radio.

SAT-7 PARS, a Middle Eastern Christian satellite station headquartered in Cyprus, began broadcasting in Farsi to Iran in the fall of 2002, under the name of Iranian Christian Broadcasting. In late 2006, it launched the 24-hour Farsi-language satellite television channel. SAT-7 PARS says it receives hundreds of letters and E-mails every week from Iranian viewers—many of them young—expressing interest in Christianity. David Harder, the communications manager at SAT-7 in Cyprus, says the channel tries to answer all questions, but it is a nonproselytizing entity. "Iranian Christians themselves often have very little access to teaching materials that can help them in their spiritual growth," says Harder. "Satellite television provides a means through which Iranians, who have often never had the opportunity to enter a church or even to know a Christian, can learn more about this faith."

Despite the Koran's injunction that "there is no compulsion in religion," issues of religious freedom have persisted since the Islamic revolution of 1979, and that is driving the young away from Islam, says Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a reformist cleric and former vice president of Iran. "If you force religion down people's throats, it makes them less religious, not more." Another analyst based in Tehran agrees but senses a western conspiracy in proselytizing through mass media. He blames satellite television channels for emotionally manipulating Iranian viewers into changing their religion. "Iranians are looking for a balm, and proselytizers are taking advantage of that,'' he says. "There's a vicious western plot to foment a wider cultural East-West war and demonize Islam in the process.''

Ironically, these days, a recent Iranian film, Jesus, the Spirit of God, is being accused of demonizing Christianity. It's a new film on Jesus told from an Islamic perspective. Jesus, regarded as only a prophet, did not die on the cross and was not resurrected. The disciple Judas Iscariot is crucified in his place, according to the film. This premise is based on the teachings of the Koran and the Gospel of Barnabas, a book not included in the Christian Bible and in which the prophet Muhammad appears.

The $5 million film, funded by Iranian state broadcasting, is intended to promote a dialogue between Muslims and Christians, according to director Nader Talebzadeh. It received a tepid reception in theaters across Iran and will now be recycled as a 20-episode series on state-run national television this year.

Mona, a 24-year-old Assyrian Christian residing in more affluent northern Tehran, saw the film and said its "jaundiced'' interpretation made her cringe. She's not very religious, she says, though she acknowledges there is enough freedom to practice her faith because she was born into a Christian family. But she remains disillusioned with the fact that Islam pervades almost every aspect of normal life in Iran.

She says she was recently rejected for a job as a flight attendant with Air Iran, the state-run airline, because she hadn't ever read the Koran. "Religion without the freedom to reject it is not a true religion,'' she says in her living room, her head bereft of a scarf. "It makes life very claustrophobic.''

Assyrians Represented at the Iraqi Embassy's Open House

Headless statue of Entemena was on display at the Iraqi Embassy.

(ZNDA: Washington)  This year from May 3 through 17 Washington, DC's embassies opened their doors to the public during a two week event called Passport DC, a new annual celebration of international culture presented by Cultural Tourism DC. Passport DC showcased Washington DC’s embassies and cultural organizations with a wide range of performances, talks, and exhibits.

Assyrian Information Table at the Iraqi Embassy on 17 May.  Ms. Ashtar Marcus (by the window) and Ms. Anna George answering questions on the Assyrian history and culture.

Among the embassies participating was the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq.  On the last day of Passport DC, the Iraqi Embassy invited the public to a series of live performances and exhibited priceless Mesopotamian artifacts and modern artwork.  Among the artifacts was the famous headless stone statue of the Sumerian king Entemena of Lagash, looted in the ransacking of Iraq’s National Museum.

Iraqi Embassy had also invited the Iraqi community in Washington to participate at this event.  The Assyrian and the Kurdish groups responded to this invitation by presenting two information tables, delicious food and dance performances which delighted the public. 

Ms. Waleeta Canon at the Assyrian Information Table.  Ms. Canon's article appears in this week's The Lighthouse.

A dozen Assyrians participated at this event by presenting the history, language, and the culture of the Assyrians - while controlling the crowd.  The Assyrian Information Table was covered with books on history, religion, and language of Assyrians, statuettes of Assyrian kings and winged-bulls, Assyrian flags and food samples.  A monitor successively displayed DVD's of Assyrian history, dances, Akitu celebrations as the Assyrian music was playing in the background.

Assyrian artifacts, statuettes and books were provided by Zinda Magazine and Mr. Stan Shabas (see this week's Literatus section).  Delicious food was also prepared by Ms. Waleeta Canon and Mrs. Helen Enwiya.  The Assyrian Information Table crew included:  Ms. Anna George (who had flown from California to participate at this event), Ms. Ashtar Marcus, Ms. Babylonia Marcus, Ms. Waleeta Canon, Mr. Stan Shabaz, and Mr. Wilfred Bet-Alkhas.  The entire program was organized and coordinated by Ms. Natalie Gewargis, Iraqi Embassy's English Media Coordinator.

As souvenirs the guests' names were written in modern Assyrian language.  The evolution of the Aramaic alphabet from Akkadian symbols and its influence on the Latin alphabet was a favorite topic of discussion.  A majority of the guests were surprised to find speakers of the Assyrian (Syriac) language in Washington, DC.

Harry Ransom Center Acquires Rare Plantin Polyglot Bible

Courtesy of the University of Texas at Austin
29 April 2008

(ZNDA: Austin)  The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin has acquired a rare Plantin Polyglot Bible, containing parallel texts in Hebrew, Greek, Syriac and Aramaic with translations and commentary in Latin.

The acquisition of this eight-volume folio was made possible by a major gift from Margaret Hight and an important contribution from Lucy Ross. Additional support came from the Ransom Center's Carl H. Pforzheimer Endowment.

The Plantin Polyglot Bible will be displayed in the Ransom Center's lobby from Tuesday, April 29, through Sunday, May 4.

Arrival of the Plantin Polyglot Bible at the Harry Ransom Center.  Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.

"The Plantin Polyglot Bible is the Ransom Center's single most important rare book acquisition in the past two decades," said Ransom Center Director Thomas F. Staley. "Although the Bible is internationally valued as a rare book, we are just as delighted about its scholarly significance in multiple disciplines—and how it complements the Center's collections."

Printed in Antwerp between 1568 and 1572, Christopher Plantin's Polyglot Bible is recognized for its contributions to philological and Biblical scholarship and the printing arts.

The Plantin Polyglot Bible joins a sizable collection of Bibles at the Ransom Center, including one of the 48 surviving copies of the Gutenberg Bible, a 1476 Jenson illuminated Bible on vellum, several copies of the original King James Version of the Bible and two Coverdale Bibles, the first complete English translation of the Bible.

"The Plantin Polyglot Bible was the most notable gap in our collection of post-1500 Bibles," said Ransom Center Associate Director and Hobby Foundation Librarian Richard Oram. "We are extremely fortunate in being able to acquire a nearly complete set—lacking only the last volume of the apparatus—in an original binding. The condition of this Bible is extraordinary."

Printing the Plantin Polyglot Bible was an enormous undertaking, requiring impeccable scholarship, considerable financing and a publisher capable of negotiating the religious and political issues of Reformation Europe.

Plantin employed more than 40 printers to complete the Bible by 1572 and many of the original 1,200 copies were lost in a shipwreck enroute to Spain.

A handful of copies of the Plantin Polyglot Bible are found today in European and American libraries.

High-resolution press images of the Plantin Polyglot Bible are available.

Assyrian National Assoc. Embezzlement Case Continues

(ZNDA: New Britain)  The felony embezzlement case of the former treasurer of the Assyrian National Association was continued to June 4 in Superior Court in New Britain, Connecticut.

Edwin Hormoz, 38, of Bristol, Connecticut is charged with first-degree larceny and 19 counts of first-degree forgery for allegedly stealing $37,000 from the group during the 18 months that he was its treasurer, court records state.

Hormoz, treasurer from January 2006 until he was defeated in an election in June 2007, is accused of forging past presidents' names on numerous checks he made out for himself and one he made out to an oil company in Plainville, Connecticut, records state.

The group's building is heated with natural gas, not oil, according to the arrest affidavit.  Association officials said Hormoz also failed to pay more than $23,000 in water bills, taxes and other costs while in office.

Police began their investigation when the group's new president received a bill from the water department for $6,800 and learned that the water, property tax and other bills had not been paid for 18 months, police said.

Hormoz, who initially insisted that he had paid the bills, later told police he cashed the checks for himself because he had money problems, according to the court records. Checks made out to him range from $50 to $5,200, records state.

Hormoz is free on bond and is quoted in court records as saying he will try to reimburse the association, possibly by selling his house.

Odisho No Stranger to Big Fights

Courtesy of the Pioneer Local
24 April 2008
By Dan Long

(ZNDA: Chicago)  Pratt Odisho stood there, waiting for the bell to ring. The other guy stood in front of him, taller, stronger, ready to go.

Let's face it; Pratt was in for a fight. But then again, that was nothing new to him. He's been fighting all his life.

Fighting is nothing new to the 18-year-old from Northbrook, Illinois. At the age of 4 he was diagnosed with leukemia. He beat it. Next opponent. Well ... it came back again. Leukemia, Round 2. So what did he do? Nothing much. Just lived his life.

"I like to think that beating cancer is a lot of work," said the Glenbrook North senior. "Now that I am well, this is my way of making up. Maybe I will beat cancer. Even though I am in remission four years I could still get it. And chemotherapy is at least two years (of treatment). So I figure I gotta get something out of this, make my body strong, make my muscles strong."

Pratt Odisho (left) battles Eduardo Fernandez during their 106-pound Chicago Golden Gloves championship match last Thursday. The Northbrook native has had to fight his way through two bouts of leukemia. (Buzz Orr/Staff Photographer)

Well, boxing will help you that way. But it didn't start there. Odisho found himself on the mats earlier, but he started as a wrestler. The sport actually worked for him, considering his small stature.

"Before I even had leukemia and stuff I played soccer," he said. "I did that up until a couple years ago. But I like wrestling because it's more physical. You are able to get in there and find out how good you are."

Odisho was introduced to the world of boxing through his wrestling with the Gators Wrestling Club and coach Jim Ossey. Ossey had been training Odisho for a couple years and the two have grown close over through that time.

"He came to me as a freshman at about 80 pounds, and normally people are wrestling at the low weight at 95," Ossey said. "He was always the smallest and lightest guy. But he really took to it and got into it and worked really hard. After two years in the program he realized he wanted to try boxing, because he knew I was working with a lot of boxers.

"His mom wasn't so sure about it, but she was OK as long as he wasn't getting hit. She was OK with the training. But Pratt is small, kinda fragile, and you figure he can't punch his way out of a paper bag. But he truly enjoyed it and worked really hard at it. Once his mom let him compete, he just took off."

If you want to get out and compete, be physical, in great shape and show what you are made of, it's a harder row to hoe when you are looking up at 5 feet. But when you consider what this guy has been through, why would that matter?

"I always remember this quote from my coach my sophomore year," Odisho said. "He said, 'When Pratt looks in the mirror, he doesn't see a little guy. He sees a 6-foot-4 Brian Urlacher-kinda guy.' So I don't see myself as being little. I am just me."

It's that attitude, that determination that allowed him to get to where he is today. Think about it. OK, he's diagnosed with cancer. He got through that. And then it came back.

"The second time I found out (I had leukemia), it really was kind of a shock," he said. "My mom started crying, and I told her it was going to be OK. Because I'm just an 8-year-old. I kinda felt bad because I didn't want her to feel bad. I did it once (beat cancer). I knew I could beat it again."

And he's been beating the odds ever since. And there he was Thursday night, in the ring battling for the Novice Division title at the 2008 Chicago Golden Gloves tournament at St. Andrews High School. As usual, he fought a taller opponent in Eduardo Fernandez of the Gary Police Athletic Club.

After fighting two bouts of leukemia, Glenbrook North senior Pratt Odisho is ready to fight in a Golden Gloves match. (Buzz Orr/Staff Photographer)

The taller, rangier Fernandez cracked Odisho with his first punch, but that didn't really matter. Odisho was in the fight and found his rhythm.

"This was a little more different than my last fight," said Odisho. "There were a lot more flurries. You kinda just gotta go out there and feel the guy out, and he came out really strong."

Odisho took some heavy shots but he looked like he was on his way to victory late in the third round after rocking Fernandez. But he ran out of time. However, seeing his determination throughout the three rounds, you could see how the youngster felt at home in the ring.

"He's very dedicated; he's probably one of the most dedicated fighters I have ever worked with," Ossey said. "He's not as polished a fighter as the open division fighters, but he's worked as hard as anybody I have ever seen and he really worked the game plan."

Odisho's earlier forays into the ring during the tournament elicited a different response, according to Ossey. "When he first walked into the ring and stood next to the other fighter and looked so small, people literally were laughing," Ossey said. "But once he started fighting, and he kept coming, they were up and cheering him."

Which makes sense. Odisho is a fighter. Because Odisho doesn't know any other way. Fighting and -- to keep fighting -- is all he knows. His fighting spirit has always kept him moving forward, even when things weren't pointing in his direction when the disease hit him a second time.

"I can remember two accounts where I could have died," Odisho said. "One time I was in the hospital for over a month and all of a sudden I got bronchitis. That was like another injury on top of injury. But the fact I am still here pretty much says it all. I figured, throw whatever you've got at me and let's see what I can handle."

He's handled that, and he's not stopping now. Though he wants to continue wrestling and boxing, he's got his sights on college. He recently was accepted to Arizona State University, but that might not be his next stop for school. He is leaning toward going to college in Australia.

"I've been there twice and it's really nice there. My dad's side (of the family) is there and I don't get to see them much," he said. "I'm gonna do what my cousins are doing, and they are becoming lawyers, so I am going to major in political science."

Nothing is going to stop Pratt Odisho from getting to where he wants to go. None of us wants to go where he's been and he's been there twice already. So what kind of message does he have to impart to others?

"Don't give up. If someone says you can't do something, you go up to them and say 'Just watch me.'

"I've been in remission for five years, so it's not remission anymore; I am good to go. I'm cured, I guess. Cancer could come back. It did before. But I can do whatever I want now."

And he is.

To view a short film on Pratt Odisho click here. 

UC Berkeley Assyriologist Elected to American Philosophical Society

Courtesy of the Daily Californian
11 May 2008
By Valerie Woolard

(ZNDA: Berkeley)  A UC Berkeley professor of Assyriology has been elected to the American Philosophical Society.   Francesca Rochberg, a professor in the Near Eastern studies department, was selected late last month as member of the oldest learned society in the U.S. Rochberg said she was excited to be afforded such an honor. "I regard it as the highest of any and all academic honors," she said in an e-mail. "And to be in the company of people like Al Gore, Helen Suzman and other resident members is inspiring and humbling."

Rochberg is an Assyriologist, or an expert on Assyria, who has studied many aspects of divination and science in Babylonian society and is the author of several books on Babylonian astrology.

The society, which was founded by Benjamin Franklin, currently has 974 members. Up to 38 new members are elected each year.

New members are generally chosen for their preeminence in their respective fields and selected by existing members.

"The original idea was to bring together people who are the best in their field," said Nora Monroe, director of membership and prizes for the society.

The society hopes to foster fellowship and collaboration among members of different academic fields.

Previous members of the society include George Washington and Robert Frost. Filmmaker Martin Scorsese was also selected as a new member this year.

Rochberg said she was flattered and surprised to be in the company of such accomplished individuals.

"I do not know what accomplishments have earned me this incredible distinction," she said in an e-mail. "But I hope to continue my work as I have been doing and perhaps in time I will feel I have deserved a place alongside so many people I admire."

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A Child of Unity Is Born Unto Us

Dr. Lincoln Malik

Saturday, May 17, 2008, I lived a dream that I had long thought about, strived for and prayed for, but truth be said, I did not believe I would ever have the fortune of seeing or experiencing it.  On that blessed day, two holy men, their eminence Mar Sarhad Jammo and Mar Bawai Soro called upon those assembled at St. Thomas Chaldean and Assyrian Catholic Church in Turlock California to celebrate the ecclesial unity between their Chaldean and Assyrian flocks within the Catholic Diocese of St. Peter the Apostle for Chaldeans and Assyrians.  This unity was foremost a gift to our people from the Grace of God, and due to two decades of diligent efforts of these two holy men.  They toiled all those years because they believed that it was what our Lord Jesus asked of us when He prayed to God and asked “That they all be one” [John 17:21], and they also believed that unity is what we as a nation need in these difficult and tragic times.

As most of us, I learned in the lap of my mother to want unity for our people, to pray for it and to always strive for it. Yet, despite my full conviction that unity of our people is absolutely critical for our survival as a nation, I did not expect to see unity realized in my lifetime.  More than that, I was firmly convinced that unity would not come thru our churches, as I believed that the churches were a significant cause of our disunity.  I was convinced that our political and social organizations would be the vehicles for this most holy of our national aspirations.  Yet thru the Grace of God and the efforts of these two wise and holy men, I now know what unity of my people feels like, tastes like and smells like, and it is truly wonderful and heavenly.  For the first time in 180 years thousands of our people decided to reverse the hated tendency to foment split upon split, and instead began a process of reconciliation and unity.  For the first time in 180 years these two holy men showed us that the road to unity must be built on true Christian love, patience, and the humility to compromise as brother with brother.

I wish to tell those who were not in Turlock to share this wonderful occasion, there was a feeling of fulfillment, joy and comradeship among those in attendance, with a sober sense of anticipation of what the future might hold.  There were no negative feelings of moving away from something and the associated pain of separation, but rather positive feelings of the joy of reunification of our family.  Our family, whose sons and daughters have for too long been estranged from each other, and have been separated by ugly walls erected with our own hands and to our own determent.  On that day I truly felt that my forefathers and my people’s martyrs were smiling on us and sharing our joy and anticipation for a better future for our children and grandchildren.

To those who say “you became a Catholic,” I say yes we did, and why not.  How is it wrong to be in communion with the largest Christian Church in the world?  How is it a problem that we are one with the Catholic Chaldean Church, which is the largest Christian Church of our people, and a direct descendent of the venerable Church of the East established by our forefathers?  However, we all know what is really meant by this question.  There is the clear intimation that those of us who participated in this unity abandoned our true beliefs and submitted ourselves to the Catholic Church. In fact nothing could be farther from the truth.  Those who believe this do not seem to recognize the difference between reconciliation and submission.  We of all people know from our history that submission usually comes at the edge of a sword, or of forced necessity.  There was no sword here, and the truth be said, it would have been much easier for both Mar Sarhad and Mar Bawai to have stayed separated and in sole control of their flocks.  The road to reconciliation and unity is not easy, and it will not get easier with time.  It has been a difficult path, and building this unity will continue to be a difficult endeavor.  Both these two holy men know this, but they are committed to see it thru because they know it is the Christian and nationalist thing to do.

Many of our people seem to forget, or may not know, that the reconciliation that led to this unity is founded on the bedrock of the “Common Christological Declaration Between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East” signed November 11, 1994 by Pope John Paul II and Mar Dinkha IV.  This declaration came after many long years of discussions and discourse between the two ancient churches till agreement and reconciliation was achieved.  Mar Bawai Soro has been recognized by all involved to have been the “architect” of this declaration.  The importance of this declaration is where it states that

“…whatever our Christological divergences have been, we experience ourselves united today in the confession of the same faith...

After centuries of rejection of each other’s true faith, the two churches recognized that they in fact shared the same true orthodox faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Some may have forgotten the bitter battles over whether the Virgin Mary should be called “the mother of Christ” or “the mother of God.”  Yet the Christological Declaration states that both the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East

“…recognize the legitimacy and rightness of these expressions of the same faith and we both respect the preference of each Church in her liturgical Life and piety.” 

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Gone are the denunciations that “the mother of Christ” denies the divinity of Christ, or that “the mother of God” denies the humanity of Christ.  Discussions are now ongoing to resolve other centuries old disagreements relating to the faith of Mar Nestorius and Mar Theodore of Mopsuestia, both recognized as venerable Fathers of the Church of the East.  Here we must add that Mar Bawai is alone among our prelates to have taken the task of explaining and defending the orthodoxy and true meaning of the faith of these two venerable Church Fathers (see recently published Mar Bawai’s PhD dissertation, ‘The Church of the East, Apostolic and Orthodox’, 2007).  The Catholic Church has also accepted the orthodoxy and apostolicity of the Assyrian Church of the East.  When you couple this with the action of the Church of the East to remove the anathemata (khurma) against other Christians, we find that the poison darts (nejseh sammaneh) have been removed from relations between the two venerable churches.  The only issue left unresolved at that time, as mentioned in the Christological declaration, was “attainment of full communion between the Churches,” which was to be completed at a latter date. 

The unfortunate developments in the Assyrian Church of the East regarding Mar Bawai had a silver lining.  They removed the obstacles to continuing the reconciliation with the Catholic Church, and allowed us to move to establish full communion of the two Churches and recognize the primacy of the Bishop of Rome (i.e., the Pope).  Henceforth, there were no other issues of theology and faith to separate the two Churches.  The primacy of the Bishop of Rome is not new to the Church of the East.  In fact this has been the position of the Church of the East from its very beginning and thru most of its history.  Just recently, Mar Bawai has extensively lectured about the prominent role of the Bishop of Rome in the liturgy and theology of the Church of the East and as a consequent has helped many to understand this truth. Also, in the past few months there has been further reconciliation of ecclesial and liturgical issues between Mar Bawai and Mar Sarhad that will reflect in the future in more uniformity of the two sides in an attempt to bring back many of the traditions of the Church of the East that the two side have moved away from to one degree or another.  The question to ask now is what are the issues of faith that justify the separation between these two Churches?  Why should these Churches, which are descendants of the same ancient Church of the East of our forefathers, stay separated?  The clear answer for us who have reunited is that in fact there are no issues of faith left that justify our separation.

There is of course a nationalist dimension to this unity as well.  We all know that one of the unique characteristics of our nation is the existential union between our nationalism and our Christian faith.  No one will deny that any developments, good or bad, that befall our churches cast their shadow on our national life, and the opposite is also true.  Hence, this unity is not only an issue of theology and Christology, but also of nationalism.  On that wonderful Saturday, both holy men stood at the alter (Qantche) and declared in front of God and the believers

  1. that we are one nation (Kha Umta),
  2. that the Catholic Apostolic Church of the East is our shared patrimony,
  3. that our unity is to preserve and perpetuate the Church of our forefathers with its true Christian faith and holy traditions, in communion with the Catholic Church,
  4. that we shall always be faithful to the well being and progress of our one nation.

I expect that those who for whatever reason do not want this unity to persevere will now drag out their litany of “do you remember when Mar Sarhad said this, or when Mar Bawai said that.”  To those I say that I am not interested and not convinced.  I chose to hold to what they solemnly declared from the alter of God, and am absolutely certain that they meant every word they said.  More than that, they inculcated these truths into their followers, and together we shall cherish these declarations and march forward.

Finally, I am not naïve to believe that there will not be obstacles along the way.  This was not the celebration of the full unity of our people.  It was a small beginning with very rich symbolism and lessons for all true believers and nationalists.  It established that love, charity, spirit of reconciliation and humility are all requisites for unity of our churches, organizations and political parties.  More important, it established that unity is indeed possible.  This is very important for a nation that has seen nothing but splits and splits and more splits.  Unto us was born a child of unity, and as every child, it shall need the loving care and nurturing of all of us to see it grow and prosper.  That is our promise to our church and nation.  We are happy and proud of this achievement.  We hope it will grow and be emulated by others.  We will rejoice if others wish to join our united new diocese and we hope that they will.  However, we will be just as joyful if other sectors of our people begin to unite just as we have.  We will celebrate just as hard if some of our social and charitable organizations announce their unity.  We will celebrate if some of our political organizations decide to unite, or some of our churches who have no issues of faith separating them decide to unite.  As one who has experienced true unity on that blessed Saturday, let me tell you that it is as near heaven on earth as any nationalist can experience.  We pray to God that this is just the start of His Grace for this oppressed and persecuted nation of ours.  We pray that God will help us to unite our people and move to occupy our rightful place in the community of Christians and the community of nations.

Dr. Lincoln Malik is a long-time political activitst.  He is a former director of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa) in North America and a past member of the ADM Central Committee.  A structural engineer by profession, Dr. Malik lives with his family in northern California.

Is the Assyrian Language Destined to be Lost?

Y. P. Youkhanna

By all considerations, the Assyrian language, as spoken today by the Assyrians, should have been forgotten a long time ago.  Since the fall of Nineveh and Babylon, the Assyrians were taken as prisoners or slaves by conquering powers and dispersed throughout the Middle East.

And today the Assyrians are dispersed in the following countries and cities and it is reported that they still their language:  Iraq, Armenia.Australia,Austeria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Detroit, France, Cyprus, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iran, Italy. Syria,Lebanon. Netherlands,New Zealand, New York, Russia, Ukraine,Sydney, Melbourne, Sweden, Basra,Baghdad, Mosul, Nineveh Plains, Kirkuk, Arbil, Shaqlawa, Chicago, Modesto, Turlock, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Arizona, Washington, D.C. Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates.

In  ordinary conversation, between two persons, or a small group, no more than 200 or 250 words are spoken.  The vocabulary of Assyrians is quite limited.  In view of the fact that they are dispersed in so many countries, it was necessary to learn the language of the country the live in so that they can communicate with native people or find work. As a result when two or more Assyrians converse the conversation is mixed with some foreign words, English, Swedish, French, German, Finnish, Arabic, Kurdish, Farsi, etc.

Here in Linkoping (pronounced Linshoping), Sweden, three dedicated Assyrians are struggling at odds to keep the Assyrian language from getting lost.

They are:  Qasha Rev. Aprim, who teaches nine students in the church.

Moshi David,Teaches 60 students in six schools.

Yaku Chanku, teachs 35 hours per week in six schools.

The schools are Swedish where Assyrian students study other subjects.

Swedish education ministry permits and encourages teaching of Assyrians to Assyrians students.

The odds against the loss of the Assyrian language are many.  In Sweden it is compulsory for all immigrants to study Swedish in order that they can integrate with the Swedish people or find work.

Children, aged three to six learn Swedish rapidly in the kindergarten and schools.  For adults it takes three to six months or more to learn the language. Majority of Assyrians know two or three foreign languages.

During cultural sessions, Assyrian speak Assyrian but mixed with foreign words, Arabic or Swedish to explain to the audience what they are saying as most of the Assyrians have limited vocabulary of their language.

As students mix and play with Swedish students or other foreigners, they can only communicate in Swedish.  Even kindergarten children, speak and play in Swedish with other children with different nationalities.

Why this weakness in our language?  Apart from the fact that the Assyrians are scattered almost all over the world far from their roots, there are other factors.

The Jews were also dispersed around the world, despised, brutalized, under extreme persecutions, but they did not forget their language, Hebrew, and their holy books and religion of Judaism.

History tells us that most of the people of the Middle East, Arabs and Persians were Christians before the rise of Islam.  Unlike the Nestorian missionaries, the Arabs did not only spread Islam they also imposed their Arabic alphabet on the people they conquered.

The Assyrian Christian missionaries on their mission to spread the WORD quickly learned the native languages and taught principles of Christianity to the people.  From Baghdad the Nestorian Missionaries went throughout Asia, as far as China, Korea and Japan.

Instead of teaching them the Assyrian Aramaic alphabet, they invented alphabets for people who had no alphabet, like Koreans, and the Sanskrit alphabet.   The Missionaries, who traveled on foot, sandals on their feet, baskets on their backs, and in the baskets the Holy Scriptures and the Cross.  Were they  successful in their missionary work?  By ignoring their nation, the ancient Assyrians, experts on all arts, when  all the people around them trembled when they heard the very word ASHUR. These warlike and sturdy people were turned into submissive people at the altar of Jesus Christ and  were persecuted for their faith in Christ.

But despite the great obstacles the Assyrians are experiencing, the Assyrian language is still spoken and will continue to be spoken for another 1,000 years.

Musing with My Samovar
with Obelit Yadgar


Sobre Las Olas

Some things in life are worth the search no matter how long it takes. To find the title and the composer information for one of my late mother’s favorite tunes was such a case for me. It took me a long time. The tune is “Sobre las Olas” (“Over the Waves”), the lilting waltz written by Juventino Rosas (1868-1894). In America it’s better known as “The Loveliest Night of the Year,” sung by Mario Lanza, in the 1951 film “The Great Caruso,” to lyrics by Paul Francis Webster. My mother had always loved the tune. I loved it not only for the melody’s simple and lyrical beauty, but also for the additional thread of connection the waltz gave me to Mom.

Although I first heard “Sobre las Olas” in Iran as a child, I didn’t know the title or the composer’s name. Long after my life in Tehran, even when I heard the waltz, in its entirety or in snippets, somehow the information eluded me. That was before the Internet: now research on almost anything is a matter of a few taps on the computer keyboard. Not that finding the answer became an obsession. No, of course not. I mostly wanted to know, because the information also meant knowing one more thing about my mother.

Over the years I thought about the tune and wondered. I can’t imagine how many times I asked myself, “What was that piece?” Sometimes my mind would return to Iran and I find myself standing outside the kitchen and listening to Mom hum it, her tone warm and sweet. Reassuring. I loved being back with her, listening to her music, bathing in her aura. It was nice. And still the title and the composer eluded me even during much of the time I was host of my own daily classical music program on the radio.

Rosas, who composed “Sobre las Olas” in 1891, was a full-blooded Otomi Indian from Mexico. By age 15, having already played violin in his father’s traveling string band, he joined the pit orchestra of a touring opera company. Sometime later he returned to Mexico only to struggle making a living as composer and violinist. Finally, out of desperation, he hooked up with a road show that played throughout Latin America. When Rosas died from fever in Havana, he was only 26.

Sadly, my mother lived a short time, only 35 years, the same as Mozart, and that’s probably why I have a special affinity for his music. Looking back to the Assyrian Empire, I can’t help but wonder how many of our own songwriters and musicians lived into old age. I note this upon reflecting on our music, which is as much a part of me as anything else Assyrian. As much as it was part of my mother.

“A nation creates music – the composer arranges it,” said the Russian composer Mikhail Glinka. He was right. Yet, as much as I love traditional Assyrian music, I also hunger for new and original material from our contemporary composers. I want to hear music that reaches beyond the standard to reflect today’s Assyrian voice. Since I have limited access to new and serious Assyrian music, I search the Internet almost daily in hope of finding something. Occasionally I get lucky with music that dares to be original. I am also impressed with some arrangements of our old songs, and sometimes by the creative instrumentation of some pieces. I hope for more, because I know, down deep, that we have the talent. On the other hand, maybe there’s plenty of music out there and I am not aware of it. I would love to find out.

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We are a musical nation, and now it’s up to our composers to arrange that music.

From what I know, little or no study has been made on the history of Assyrian music. By this I mean a major study – and one that includes works by our contemporary composers. Yet I am inclined to think we had an abundance of music-making at one time, from court musicians and traveling bands to street musicians and amateurs who made it into a hobby. We’ve had art and literature in our history. I can’t believe that in our music nothing exists beyond the Sheikhani. Who knows, perhaps someday I will try to write a book on the history of Assyrian music myself, or perhaps one of our musical scholars and historians, someone far more knowledgeable than I, will create a definitive work on Assyrian music.

Our music is as much part of our identity as is anything else that drives us – and some things in life are, indeed, worth the search no matter how long it takes.

 Among many important questions, I would want to know if our people supported the nation’s serious composers and musicians? If they encouraged them. Gave them room to soar. I’d like to think so. I’d like to think our music makers – as all of our artists – enjoyed a semblance of prosperity. Even today, I’d like to think our people support writers, artists and composers. Our art is our nation’s soul – and who better to perpetuate it than our artists? Juventino Rosas made pittance from his music, including his famous waltz. I would hate to see our artists suffer the same bitter fate.

There’s a story that Rosas composed “Sobre las Olas” for a girl he was in love with. She, however, turned him down. The waltz was an instant hit in Mexico and later in America and other parts of the world. Scores of small and big ensembles played it in almost every conceivable musical genre, from Tejano to pop and jazz. Big bands, café orchestras and small combos made recordings of it. Carousels at carnivals throughout the world still play it. Along with Emil Waldteufel’s “The Skater’s Waltz,” Juventino Rosas’ “Sobre las Olas” fills many ice skating rinks.

“Sobre las Olas” was also popular in ballrooms under the title “The Moonshiner’s Dance.” For heaven’s sake, I can’t figure that one. I mean, how do you get “The Moonshiner’s Dance” from “Sobre las Olas”? But what do I know?

None of this I knew in the years I searched for “Sobre las Olas.” Then one day, by chance, there it was: I had my answer, and it had always been within my reach but somehow I had missed it. Close but not close enough. I had played Bach, Mozart, Brahms and scores of other composers on my radio program. There was a good share of the lighter stuff, too, which was a good change of pace and perfect for the morning hours. Strauss, Lehar, Millocker and other European composers of dance music brightened the air with delightful and sparkling tunes. Yet I never came across “Sobre las Olas,” mainly because I didn’t know the title or the composer. Without such information locating the waltz in the radio station music library would have been difficult, unless I played every compact disc of waltzes in the stacks.

With the program’s live newscasts and network feeds on the hour, plus music commentary and commercials throughout the hour, music timing was imperative. Problem arose when the timing was listed incorrectly on the recording, which meant scrambling to find the right fill-music to meet the hourly time constraints. Or to quickly replace the scheduled music with something shorter, or longer, depending. It was nothing unusual in radio. I am forever grateful it happened to me one fateful day.

That day I suddenly realized the playtime listed on the CD for a work by Dvorak I was playing on the air was off by eight minutes, which sent me scrambling to find a suitable seven-minute fill piece to finish the hour, leaving me one minute for talk. I reached into a small stack of CDs I kept close by for such emergencies and slipped a waltz of about seven minutes long into the player. “Sobre las Olas.” Yes, Mom’s favorite tune from long ago. I had found it. How ironic that I knew the tune so well and yet the title and the composer remained a mystery for me so many years. Especially since I worked with music.

As the waltz played and I sank in my seat behind the silent microphone listening to one of Mom’s favorite tunes, I had nothing but thanks for the bounty of treasures she left me, one of which was the deep love for music. I especially thanked her for leaving me “Sobre las Olas” by which to remember her. My mind returned to the sunny and warm July day when I left Iran for America. I remembered being sad for leaving behind everything I knew: family, friends, the streets I had wandered and the air breathed. Even the memories of a bittersweet childhood. I was a little scared, but also excited about what lay ahead in America.

Thomas Carlyle said, “Music is well said to be the speech of angels.” Yes, I believe it is, and I heard it for myself on the loudspeakers as I prepared to board the plane at the Tehran airport. It was the last piece of music I would hear in Iran. Yes, it was “Sobre las Olas,” and the strains resonated through me with my mother’s loving voice wishing me bon voyage.

Surfer's Corner
Community Events

15th Annual Youth Excellence Contest

National Convention Committee
Assyrian American National Federation

Some of the contestants at the Youth Excellence Contest held in 1998 in Connecticut.

The Assyrian American National Federation’s East Coast Region, is the hosting affiliate for the 75th National Convention to be held in Hartford, Connecticut during the labor day weekend, August 28th to September 1st , 2008. As part of the convention program the AANF Youth Initiative Program is organizing the Fifteenth “Assyrian Youth Excellence Contest”, a program to promote and reward education, talent, knowledge of the Assyrian language and history and good character among our youth.

The process of the program will be as follow:

a) An Assyrian organization, through a selection process will select and nominate a student and introduce them to the National Convention Committee.

b) The “Assyrian Youth Excellence Contest National Convention Committee”, in a special contest during the National Convention, and from the organizations’ nominees will select the Youth Excellence Contest winner, and two runner-ups, and will present them with awards and prizes.

c) The young Assyrian Youth of the year will be invited as guest of honor and acknowledged at the convention banquet, to be held on Sunday evening.

Visit the aanf.org site for the criteria required to participate in the above contest, the application form and the contest process. If you feel eligible to participate, we invite you to complete the Application Package and mail (or submit) it to us by August 1st , 2008.  This participation is open to all Assyrian students studying anywhere in the world. (Excluding previous 1st place winners)

If you have questions or need additional information, please call Zeena Tawfik-Yonkers, M.S. Youth initiative Program Director at 860-604-6498 or email at zeenatawfikyonkers@yahoo.com

ARAM Conferences: Neo-Aramaic Dialects / The Mandaeans

Dr. Shafiq Abouzayd

The ARAM Society for Syro-Mesopotamian Studies is organising its Twenty Seventh International Conference on the “Neo-Aramaic Dialects”, at the Oriental Institute (University of Oxford), 06-08 July 2009. And it will be followed immediately by the ARAM Twenty Eighth International Conference on “The Mandaeans”, at the Oriental Institute (University of Oxford), 09-11 July 2009.

If you wish to participate in the conference, please contact our Oxford address:
ARAM, the Oriental Institute, Oxford University, Pusey Lane, Oxford OX1 2LE, England.

Tel. ++1865-514041. Fax ++1865-516824.

E.Mail: aram@aramsociety.org

Arbaa Greitteh Coming to Turlock and San Jose

Monica Givargis
A.A.C.C.O.T  Education and Cultural Committee

The Assyrian Star Drama Group is bringing "Arbaa Ghreitteh" on stage to Turlock and San Jose, California between June 7 and 8, 2008.

The Assyrian Star Drama Group is proud to present “Arbaa Greitteh”, a play written and directed by Fred Youhaneh. Fred has been in theater for over forty years and have had many successful performances in Iran and here in California. The Drama group (Fred Youhaneh , Ramzieh Khenanisho, Serena Khenanisho, William Oshana, Daniel Benjamin, Tiglat Betyousef, and Arbella Orshan ) has entertained the Assyrian communities of Los Angeles, Turlock, and San Jose in the past and hopes to continue to do so.

“Arbaa Greitteh” is a comedic approach to promoting unity among the Assyrian nation regardless of Social, Political, or Religious differences. ‘Arbaa Greiteh” first took the stage on December 15, 2007 at the Assyrian American Association of Los Angeles. They had a very successful night and feel it is their duty to serve , enlighten, and entertain the Assyrian community not only in Los Angeles but in Turlock and San Jose as well.   The Assyrian Star Drama Group has set to take the stage for "Arbaa Greitteh" in Turlock on Sunday, June 8 at 4pm and in San Jose on June 7 also.

In Assyrian "ghirta or qirta" is the hard part of the hay that the sheep can not eat. It is often used to refer to annoying individuals or a rascal ( who cannot be easily accepted or understood).  Ghrieteh or Qreeteh is the plural form of qirta.

Dawla o'Zorna

MAY 31

201 S. Santa Fe Ave #207
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Assyrian Artist, Paul Batou, will be signing his book,
"My Last Thoughts About Iraq"

New Book:  Ancient & Modern Assyrians

By George V. Yana (Bebla)
Published by Xlibris
Orders@Xlibris.com / 1-888-795-4274 ext. 7876 or 7479
Order online: click here /  $15.99 per copy + S&H

Some scholars have doubted or denied the continuity of the Assyrian people from the times of empire to the present time. This work, based on a scientific analysis, sheds light on the subject, and demonstrates the continuous existence of the Assyrian people.

Assyria, (northern Iraq), was a state grouped about the heavily fortified city of Ashur, on the middle of the Tigris River. Assyrians had become civilized in the third millennium BC, under the impetus of Mesopotamian development. They created the first empire known to history that was run by an empire administration. The empire created by Sargon Sharukin, much earlier in the third millennium, did not have an administration to hold it together.

Toward the close of the Bronze Age (1700-1200 BC), Assyria had expanded westward to the middle of the Euphrates River, and in the south they held Babylon temporarily. Tiglat-Pileser I (1114-1076), extended Assyrian rule to the Mediterranean. But, Adadnirari II (911-891 BC) may be called the father of Assyrian imperial administration. Empire building was a necessity of economic development, which was based on the technological advances caused by the introduction of iron and the alphabet. International trade was necessary for the growth of industry and manufacture, and the Assyrians became the tools to carry out this historic economic necessity. The Assyrian army was the first army to use iron arms. The Assyrian Empire was defeated, in 612 BC, by an alliance of Medes (an Iranian people), Persians (Iran), Babylonians, and Cythians. Since then, Assyria has been governed by Persians, Greeks, Arabs and Turks.

The Assyrians were the first non-Jewish people to accept Christianity, and since then, Christianity has become their identity. They burned all their ancient books that reminded them of their pagan kings. Thus, with time, a dark cloud was cast over their memories that separated them from their glorious past. But, now and then, there were sparks from the remote past that testified to the persistence of memory. Only recently has the full national awareness been restored. There are, still, scholars who doubt or deny any link between the ancient and the Modern Assyrians. They argue that the Assyrians were all massacred during the destruction of their empire. This book sets out to demonstrate that the Assyrians were not all massacred during the destruction of their country in 612 BC, and that they emerged as a Christian people in Assyria (northern Iraq) and the neighboring countries.

George V. Yana (Bebla) was born in Paris, France. He first graduated in physics, and then decided to join the profession of civil engineering George has been a professional engineer (P.E.) in Pennsylvania and Florida. For the last eleven years, he has concentrated on studying the history of Assyria, Babylonia, and other major countries.

The present work has received the approval and praise of Dr. Simo Parpola, internationally renowned Assyriologist from the University of Helsinki, Finland. Some scholars have doubted or denied the continuity of the Assyrian people from the times of empire to the present time. This work, based on a scientific analysis, sheds light on the subject, and demonstrates the continuous existence of the Assyrian people.

Zinda Recommendations from Gorgias Press

For More Info
Neo-Aramaic Dialect Studies:  Proceedings of a Workshop on Neo-Aramaic held in Cambridge 2005
Geoffrey Khan

This volume contains a collection of papers 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 numerous hitherto undescribed dialects, including those of Tyare, Sat, Calla, Barwar, Karamlesh, Telkepe, Peshabur and those of the Aqra region. Some papers deal with diachronic issues and discuss the relationship of the modern dialects with earlier forms of Aramaic. Particular attention is given by some contributions to syntactic structure and function. The traditions of Neo-Aramaic Bible translation are studied in one paper.

Geoffrey Khan holds a Ph.D. in Semitic Languages, from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London (1984). He is currently Professor of Semitic Philology, at the University of Cambridge. In 1998, he was elected Fellow of the British Academy and in 2004 was awarded the Lidzbarski Gold Medal for Semitic Philology.  See this week's LITERATUS in this issue for an article by Professor Khan.

Syriac and Antiochian Exegesis and Biblical Theology for the 3rd Millennium Robert D. Miller

The observation that scholarly work on the Bible is of little use to theologians is the starting premise for this volume. As a possible solution to this impasse, the contributors explore the potential insights provided by a distinct tradition of biblical interpretation that has its roots in both the patristic School of Antioch and in the Syriac Fathers, such as Ephrem and Jacob of Sarug, and which has survived and developed in the Churches of the Antiochene Patrimony, such as the Maronite and Syriac. Some of the essays have a patristic focus, examining Aphrahat (Craig Morrison), Ephrem (Sidney Griffith), the 4th-century Book of Steps (Robert Kitchen), John Chrysostom (Paul Tarazi), and other Syriac fathers (Edward Mathews). Others engage with modern historical-critical method more directly (Angela Harkins, Stephen Ryan, Anthony Salim). Another still challenges the very assumption assumed by other contributors of an Antiochene “School” (John O’Keefe). The volume concludes with a series of responses from Paul Russell, Robert Miller, and Ronald Beshara, respectively, that consider the various essays from different angles. Here one of the key questions asked is whether biblical interpretation done “with Antioch” is relevant to the church today.

Lishan Didan, Targum Didan.



This study examines the language and translation technique used in a modern “targum” (interpretive translation) of the Bible. The targum – referred to as “Manuscript Barzani” (msB) – is a written preservation of a tradition of Jewish Neo-Aramaic Bible translation, originally transmitted in oral form among the religious leaders of a community in Iraqi Kurdistan. It represents a literary form of the Neo-Aramaic spoken by the Jews of the Rewanduz/Arbel region. Within their community, the targum was used in the schools to teach the language and text of the Hebrew Bible to the young men. This translation has parallels in the translation traditions and cultural contexts of other Jewish language communities. The translation technique used in all of these communities likewise demonstrates a continuity with Targum Onqelos and Jonathan. Part I is a description of the morphology of the literary language in which the text is written. Part II consists of an analysis of the translation technique used throughout msB, with reference to previous scholarship on ancient versions. In part III, the place of this specific translation language is considered within the larger context of Jewish languages, communities and Bible translations. The text of msB is compared directly with other Bible translations from within the Neo-Aramaic traditions, as well as from other Jewish language traditions. The role of translation in the history of Jewish education is also examined as a means of determining the relationship between form and function in this particular style of traditional Bible translation.

Margo Rees received her Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary-PSCE (Richmond) in 2002. She continued her research in Hebrew and Aramaic at the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Cambridge, where she received her PhD in 2006. She works with modern as well as classical Semitic languages and Bible translations, studying the history of biblical translation in Judaism.

Editor's Pick


Samuel Hazo, Lebanese-Assyrian &
State Poet Laureate of Pennsylvania

Stan Shabaz
Washington, DC

“My father’s father hunted porcupines

A rifleshot from Nineveh and Eden.” [1]


Samuel John Hazo is a prominent figure in contemporary American literature. He was chosen the first and only State Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by Governor Robert Casey in 1993, a position which he held until his resignation in 2003. He is the author of numerous novels, essays, plays and poems. He is also the director of the International Poetry Forum [2] in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Hazo is a native of Pittsburgh. His parents Sam Hazo and Lottie (Abdou) Hazo were of Assyrian (his father) and Lebanese (his mother) ancestry. In reviewing Hazo’s works, Mary Zoghby, writes that:

“Hazo’s Middle Eastern heritage is reflected in family poems: “A city Made Sacred Because Your Son’s Grandfather Died In It,” “Those Who Have Gone Before but Stay,”  “To My Mother,” and others. His ethnicity is evident in many of the poems."[3]

This is also seen in this extract from his poem “For Fawzi in Jerusalem” where he describes a journey familiar and relevant to many immigrants from the Near East:

“Leaving a world too old to name

and too undying to forsake

I flew the cold, expensive sea

toward Columbus’ mistake

where life could never be the same” [4]

The Hyphenated American

Yet Hazo himself cautions us against the concept of the hyphenated American and the potential that excessive ethnic identification might descend into chauvinism and polarization. [5] In his essay, “What Makes us American? We Must Rise above Hyphenations for a Mature Understanding”, he writes:

Who, for example, refers to Thomas Jefferson as our great Welsh-American president? Or to Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt as Dutch-American presidents? Or to Lincoln as our English-Scottish-and-possibly-American Indian president?

…Suffice it to say that ethnic and racial identities will continue to be part of the woof of American life, and, to the extent that they do not translate into chauvinism or mindless tribalism, this is to be expected.

Nonetheless, the only thing that can prevent ethnicity or race from chauvinism or tribalism is a transcendent political identity. In the United States, this has always been equated with constitutional allegiance.

…As much as ethnicity has contributed to the quilting of America and a unique and wholesome multiplicity of customs and cuisines that we can rightly enjoy and even brag about, it assumes, as does religion, a different character when it becomes politicized. It becomes estranged from its true nature.

When politicians and pollsters begin addressing themselves to blocs of voters defined only by heritage or race of whatever stripe, they are not doing the political process a favor. And voters who respond to such pandering merely aid and abet this regression.

…Archibald MacLeish once wrote that being an American is difficult, and he was right. Being an American is never equatable with George C. Scott as Gen. Patton hectoring in front of a flag the size of the Bronx. It implies a mature understanding of constitutional principles, the Bill of Rights and other charters upon which the civility of our public life is based. It implies a poetic vision like Whitman's or Hart Crane's or Robert Frost's of the country's real destiny.

These are not matters that can be reduced to cheerleading hyphenations of any kind. Nor can they flourish without being given our total attention and allegiance in theory and, above all, defiantly in practice. The office of citizen requires no less. [6]

Influence of his Family, Ancestry and Ethnicity

Despite this cautionary note, Hazo’s Lebanese and Assyrian ancestries have still made their way into his works. For example, in his poem, “Progenitor”, he writes about his Assyrian grandfather:

A stern, mustachioed Assyrian

Who stalked the animals that Adam named

And searched the desert where the chariots

And all the legions of Sennacherib

Advanced their blazonry toward the sea,

My father’s father hunted porcupines

A rifleshot from Nineveh and Eden.


I know him only from my father’s tales,

This Aramaic sire who brought his sons

Beyond the havoc of the scimitar

By mule from Mosul to Jerusalem

And somehow I lived a century and ten

Before he died and left his youngest son

This son to hymn his bones in Babylon. [7]

Likewise, he wrote this poem for his Lebanese grandfather, “For My Grandfather”:

Someone should speak a word for you

Who after all lived only long

Enough to teach us children’s songs

In Arabic remembered now


With times you strung your lute alone

And plucked it with an eagle’s plume

While we sat quiet, small and calm

And heard you sing of Lebanon


Until our days of roundelays

Turned brief as breathing, and the vengeance

Of cathedrals tolled to silence

All your love and all your minstrelsy.

Hazo’s mother died when he was very young and that loss greatly impacted his life. He wrote the poem “To My Mother”:

Had you survived that August Afternoon

Of sedatives, you would be sixty-three,

And I would not be rummaging for words

To plot or rhyme what I would speak to you.


Samuel Hazo

Tonight I found a diary you kept

In 1928, and while I read

Your script in English, Arabic, and Greek,

I grudged those perished years and nearly wept


And cursed whatever god I often curse

Because I scarcely knew one day with you

Or heard you sing or call me by my name.

I know you were a teacher and a nurse


And sang at all the summer festivals.

You made one scratched recording a song

I often play when no one else is home,

But that is all I have to keep you real.


The rest exists in fragile photographs,

A sudden memoir in my father’s eyes

And all the anecdotes of thirty years

Remembered like a portrait torn in half


And torn in half again until a word

Deciphered in a diary rejoins

These tatters in my mind to form your face

As magically as music overheard


Can summon and assemble everything

About a day we thought forever past.

For one recovered second you are near.

I almost hear you call to me and sing


Before the world recoils and returns …

I have no monuments, my beautiful,

To offer you except these patterned lines.

They cannot sound the silenceness that burns


And burns although I try to say at last

There lives beyond this treachery of words

Your life in me anew and in that peace

Where nothing is to come and nothing past.” [8]

Likewise in his poem “Ahead of Time” he describes finding a letter his mother once wrote:

“Her letter, mailed from Saranac,

Is dated 1926.

My mother’s

Writing to my aunt.

It’s two years since she told her father,

‘Dad, I’m marrying Sam

And not the man you had

In mind.’

That’s decades more

Than half a century ago.

My mother and my aunt are dead.

I’m well past sixty when I share

My mother’s letter with my wife.

It stills us like a resurrection.

…I realize my life’s already longer

Than my mother’s was by almost

Thirty years.” [9]

And in “The First Sam Hazo and the Last”, he movingly writes of the passing of his father and how the loss of his wife impacted his life:

“  ‘In bed you think of everything.’

He whispered with a shrug, ‘you think

Of all your life.’

I knew

He meant my mother.

Without her

He was never what he might have been,

And everyone who loved him knew it.” [10]

Politics: Left and Right

Samuel Hazo has always been politically outspoken. In his essay, “Far Left, Far Right, Far Wrong”, Hazo criticizes the political extremes of both the Left and Right. He criticizes the extreme Left in the following extract:

“In our country the machinations of the Left have burdened us with social engineering (busing of students at one point, whose only fruit was to make students commuters long before they had to be), multiculturalism,…or the polarization of the sexes…What finally happens with far Leftists is that human nature catches up with their unrealizable goals." [11]

As for the Right:

“To ultra-Rightists the “people” are not citizens to be governed. They are subjects who must be ruled. If they cannot be ruled by force, then they must be ruled by ruses and lies—or, in sanitized language, disinformation. Any social contract between the ruling right and the citizenry is totally missing since the people are regarded by their governors as enemies (or jerks), not partners.

Who knows what drives the politically ambitious to such superciliousness?...What…on the eve of the Gulf War made Secretary of Defense Cheney say, “The issues involved here are too complicated for the American people to understand.” In other words, let “us” order your sons into situations of maximum jeopardy that only “we” can understand while “you” the people… trust “us” blindly with their lives. This line is as old as Tennyson’s “Yours not to reason why,/Yours but to do and die.” Whether in prose or verse, this is bilge of the highest order.” [12]

This leads us to Hazo’s views of war in general and the American wars against Iraq in particular.

Wars against Iraq

Hazo was an officer in the US Marine Corps, so he is familiar with the realities of war and he has written of the tragedies of war and of the death of his comrades. Hazo criticizes war in general as follows:

“Lest we think that the white flashes over Hiroshima and Nagasaki were but isolated examples of technology as an all-purpose solution, we only have to consider its recent resurrection in what has come to be known as the Gulf War [of 1991]. Once the war began, the vocabulary of peace, which, though mouthed with total hypocrisy by many, did contain words like patience, innocent lives and creative diplomacy, became redundant. The lexicon of war took over completely. We did not have marines and infantrymen in a particular locale; we had assets. Iraq and Kuwait no longer existed as nations but as “target-rich environments.” Civilian deaths were translated euphemistically into “collateral damage.” And then, of course, there were “friendly casualties.” A commanding general, when asked what our strategy for winning the war was, responded, “We are going to surround it (the Republican Guard), and then we are going to kill it.” As necessary as this language must be for military planners, it serves technology totally by converting everything into the neuter gender. Men and women, friendly or otherwise, become so many “its” for battlefield purposes. Only later do human values reassert themselves when survivors or their kin speak after the dead and wounded are returned to their families." [13]

He was particularly critical of the “neo-conservative appointees and journalists whose philosophy of indefinite warfare (not for peace but for more war wherever) apparently is the core philosophy of the Bush administration” [14]:

 “A case has been made that those most outspoken in support of a go-it-alone war in Iraq are those who supported the Vietnam War but never served in it though they were of age to do so, i.e., Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Dick Cheney, et alia. When asked to explain this discrepancy, Vice President Cheney said, "We had other priorities." His statement not only gives the institution of "selective" service a new meaning in the history of evasion, but it also might explain why these militants are often at odds with their very generals, who know the human costs of what they might be ordered to do.” [15]

And in his important essay, “How much is enough?”, Hazo recently wrote:

“Albert Camus wrote that life is learning to live with one's wounds. That applies to nations as well as persons. From the latter part of the last century until now our nation has had a lot of wounds to live with, and we have survived to talk about it.

…We have survived the machinations of one Ollie North, who bypassed Congress to funnel aid to the Contras and got away with it. We have survived the deft maneuvers of Katherine Harris, James Baker, Jeb Bush and others to swing the election of 2000 to the Supreme Court and, predictably from there, to George W. Bush.

Then, under the mantra of revenge for Sept. 11, 2001, we illegally invaded and occupied Iraq. Now we are condoning a second invasion and demolition of Lebanon while being correctly identified by world opinion as complicit in Israeli policies. These inevitably provoke reprisals, and innocents on both sides die.

…. The question that begs to be answered as a result of all these debacles is not why we have survived, but what we have survived to be. Is our present government more deeply committed to constitutional principles than it was 50 years ago?

Anyone who answers yes has to square his answer with recent policies allowing institutionalized torture, imprisonment without charge or trial, surveillance without warrant, abrogation of certain privacy rights, carefully orchestrated attacks on freedom of the press and freedom of information, the subordination of U.S. foreign policy to the dictates of another country, and finally the option of the president to commit the country to a war of choice.

…Between a false triumphalism on the one hand and defeatism or despair on the other, living with one's wounds and dissenting from those whose policies inflicted them, is about as dignified an alternative as there is at the moment. Not much, but something.”

Adonis and Nadia Tuéni….and the Phoenix

Hazo’s interest in the Near East is not limited to just critiquing American policy in the region. Hazo has been instrumental in translating and popularizing the works of Syrian and Lebanese poets: in particular Nadia Tuéni and Adonis [16]. Hazo describes his work with these two poets as follows:

“In one of my ventures as a translator, I turned a selection of poems by the Damascene poet Adonis (Ali Ahmed Said) into English. Again, I worked with a linguist but with trepidation since Arabic at its poetic best tends to be an imagistic and aphoristic language.

…But with Adonis—and this was true before as well as after I met him—I felt I was with someone whose vision and way of thinking or feeling or felt-thinking…were akin to my own. When I tried my hand at translating his poems, the spirit of his poetry seemed almost to glide into English, as in the following entitled “The Days”:

My eyes are tired, tired of days,
tired regardless of days.
Still must I drill through wall
after wall of days to find another day?
Is there, is there another day?

The more I worked on Adonis’ poems, the more I discovered that the Arabic imagination does things to English that the Western imagination seems incapable of doing. Take, for example, these two words (literally translated) that describe the cramped and frenzied fluttering of a butterfly that is held captive within a cage of cupped fingers of two hands—“jailed astonishment.” How evocative, how daring, how simply different, and, finally how perfect.

…The next major effort I made in translation was a sequence of poems by Nadia Tuéni called “Lebanon: Twenty Poems for One Love.” These were poems written by Mrs. Tuéni in French…as a kind of poetic geography or map of Lebanon despite its gradual disintegration and destruction by feuding internal parties and the Israeli invasion. It is a testament not only of memory but of history itself. She lists twenty separate and uniquely Lebanese subjects or keystones: individual cities, towns and villages, the famous cedars of Lebanon, the women and men of the mountains and so forth.

After I worked over the versions that I made from the transliterations, I made arrangements to go over the poems with her husband, Ghassan Tuéni, the prominent editor, publisher, author and former ambassador from Lebanon to the United States (Mrs. Tuéni died in 1983). He is a man who is absolutely devoted to his wife’s memory and her poetry, and his wish to have a good version of the Lebanon poems in English… was just as intense as my own.

I thought and still think the poems beautiful, but Ambassador Tueini’s taste in poetry was more Tennysonian than mine, and we had a good many disagreements about how the poems would work best in English….Should it be “Byblos, my beloved” or “My beloved Byblos?”….The result of all this backing-and-forthing was uniquely satisfying to me, and all the efforts in retrospect were well worth it.” [17]

The poems of Nadia Tuéni [18], which Hazo translated, include homages to Beirut, Byblos, Tripoli, Balamand, Baalbeck, the mountains, the cedars, and the men and women of Lebanon. These poems are dedicated to Lebanon: its beauty, eternity and transcendence.

For example, she writes:

“My awakening country
Casts a shadow of its face on the land’s whiteness.
My country lasts because it must.
…My country, you are a journey between dreams and dawn” (from “My Country”) [19]

“Women of my country,
…you reassure mountains,
make men believe they are men
convince ashes of their own fertility
and tell the land that it will never pass away.

Women of my country,
Even in chaos you discover what endures.” (from “Women of My Country”) [20]

“Mountains, my mountains,
Let me love you
…on my knees as a farmer loves his land.” (from “Promenade”) [21]

Hazo is able to present these beautiful poems of Tuéni to the English speaking world. He does the same with the works of Adonis. Here are a few examples of Adonis’s poetry which Hazo has translated:

“Mount Suneen”:

From his room in the sky
My mountain
To the night
To the trees,
To all who cannot sleep—
His high sorrows [22]

And “Gilgamesh”:

Between myself and the road before me—
Did I die when my country began to shrink
And my desire overwhelmed me?
Were my words extinguished?
Shall I say now: “I am not myself.”
Shall I say: “I have created ashes.”[23]

Both Adonis and Tuéni evoke the eternity of geography set against the travails of history. Both poets also make references to ashes [24] and fertility, terms symbolically evoking the cyclical nature of the history of the Fertile Crescent and its people: eternally martyred yet eternally surviving. There is a cyclical nature to history in general, but it is most pronounced in the millennia lands of the Fertile Crescent, a fact even remarked upon by Gibran. [25]

As Tuéni beautifully wrote in her poem above, the women of her country “convince ashes of their own fertility and tell the land that it will never pass away… even in chaos you discover what endures.” Fertility out of ashes, endurance past chaos, resurrection after martyrdom: This eternal cycle of death and life finds its most succinct telling in the ancient Phoenician myth of the Phoenix: a bird which lives 500 years, then dies in a mighty burst of flames, only to be reborn and resurrected from its own ashes. [26]

This myth is an expression of our own historical experience: as a bastion of culture and civilization--surrounded by aggressive neighbors; as a region of fertile valleys, glorious mountain peaks and historic rivers--surrounded by harsh, barren lands. A history of survival against all odds and triumph over all hardships and persecutions: this Flickering Light of Asia, [27] no matter how buffeted, is never completely extinguished. Like the Phoenix, our eternal flame always survives, even out of its own ashes.

As a side note, it can be remarked that this ancient Phoenician myth of the Phoenix would continue to exert an influence even into our own day. Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau would create the philosophy of “Phoenixology”, based upon that mythos. Cocteau described this philosophy as “the science that allows one to die many times, only to be reborn” and used it as a prominent theme in many of his films. [28]

Role of poetry and the poet

Returning to Samuel Hazo, we should conclude our discussion of him by examining his views on the role of the poet in society. On this subject he has written:

 “From the time of the earliest cultures to the present, poets have been seen as the most reliable witnesses because they are not only veritable ‘seers’ of the exterior and interior world, but they are able to convey their experience of it to others in language.

….The greatest poets in history have endured because their expressed visions have helped us see and feel those things that are permanently true of the human condition.” [29]

And as for poetry, he has stated:

"If we live in a society, poetry (and literature generally) is the only language that tells us who we truly are. For a society to be and to remain truly human, it is essential that poetry be an accepted and expected part of public speech," [30]

He further states: “Poetry…introduces awe into our lives, and awe is the beginning of the wonder of wisdom, and wisdom inevitably returns us to our own humanity.” [31] And in a lecture to students Hazo said:

“I write poetry because I can’t stop. I started writing in the service in order to keep my sanity, and I still do it to keep my sanity” [32]

And as for his advice to the younger generation:

“Students are lucky. You have four years to decide what it is that you don’t want to do, and then what’s left is what you should do. Do what you love to do. If you’re doing something you don’t love to do because of security, I have news for you. There is no such thing as security. But when you do what you love to do and you’re good at it, you excel.” [33]

Hazo Family Connections: Brother and Son

On a final note, we should make mention of Samuel Hazo’s brother, the scholar Robert George Hazo, who passed away in 2006, as well as his son, Samuel Robert Hazo. Robert G. Hazo studied at Princeton, the Sorbonne and the American University of Beirut. In 1971, he founded the American Experience program at the University of Pittsburgh. The American Experience program sponsored lectures and debates by prominent speakers from the fields of politics, economics and journalism. Participants included Robert Novak, Sam Donaldson, Ted Turner, Janet Reno, Ralph Nader, William F. Buckley Jr. and Pat Buchanan, among many others. G. Alec Stewart, dean of the University Honors College had the following to say about Robert Hazo:

“He…was a remarkable character. He had the intellectual courage to say what was on his mind. This did not always endear him to the ‘higher-ups,’ but I had great admiration for that quality…Robert was a man of substance and style who understood the difference between celebrity and actually having something to say. He knew that visibility was not the same as wisdom. But underlying everything was his profound devotion to liberal education as a route to personal freedom and enlightenment.” [34]

Samuel Hazo was very close to his brother, Robert, as is evidenced by the following lines he wrote:

While other brothers meet and talk like foes

Or strangers or alumni—hostile, cool

Or banal--, brotherhood is still our binding.

…We…keep as one our vigor in the bond

Of blood where love is fierce but always fond. [35]

As for Samuel Hazo’s son, Samuel R. Hazo: he is a noted composer of concert band music. It is worth quoting a few lines from his biography:

“He has composed for the professional, university and public school levels in addition to writing original scores for television, radio and the stage. His original symphonic compositions include performances with actors Brooke Shields, James Earl Jones, David Conrad and Richard Kiley. He has also written symphonic arrangements for three-time Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter Lucinda Williams. Mr. Hazo’s compositions have been performed and recorded world-wide, including performances by the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra (national tour), the Birmingham Symphonic Winds (UK) and the Klavier Wind Project’s recordings with Eugene Migliaro Corporon. Additionally, his music is included in the series "Teaching Music Through Performance in Band." Mr. Hazo's works have been premiered and performed at the Music Educators’ National Conference, Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles Convention, National Honor Band of America, National Band Association/TBA Convention, College Band Directors’ National Association Convention and also aired in full-length programs on National Public Radio. …In 2004, Mr. Hazo's compositions were listed in a published national survey of the "Top Twenty Compositions of All Time" for wind band.

Mr. Hazo has been a music teacher at every educational grade level from kindergarten through college, including tenure as a high school and university director. Mr. Hazo was twice named “Teacher of Distinction” by the southwestern Pennsylvania Teachers’ Excellence Foundation.” [36]

Thus we see that the Hazo family is truly a very creative and active American family with a solid intellectual tradition, firmly anchored in their Pittsburgh environs, yet still honorably reflecting their Assyrian and Lebanese ancestry.

  1. Hazo, Samuel, “Once for the Last Bandit”, pg. 14, “Progenitor”.
  2. The International Poetry Forum was founded in 1966 by Samuel Hazo. The Forum’s vision is focused on the oral presentation of poetry and the enhancement of life through poetry.
  3. Zoghby, Mary D., MELUS, Vol. 23, No. 4, Theory, Culture and Criticism (Winter, 1998), pp. 230-233
  4. Hazo, Samuel, “Once for the Last Bandit”, pg. 91, “For Fawzi in Jerusalem”.
  5. I recognize that I violated this concept somewhat in the title of this essay by describing Samuel Hazo as a “Lebanese-Assyrian”; yet I do so only as way of introducing him to our reader base, so I hope I will be forgiven.
  6. Hazo, Samuel, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, November 20, 1999.  “What makes us Americans?”
  7. Hazo, Samuel, “Once for the Last Bandit”, pg. 14, “Progenitor”.
  8. Hazo, Samuel, “Thank a Bored Angel”, pgs. 4-5.
  9. Hazo, Samuel, “As they sail”, pg. 126.
  10. Hazo, Samuel, “As they sail”, pg. 104. Extract from “The First Sam Hazo and the Last” (Emphasis added.)
  11. Hazo, Samuel, “Spying for God: Essays on Poetry, Politics and Places”, pg. 88.
  12. Hazo, Samuel, “Spying for God: Essays on Poetry, Politics and Places”, pg. 89.
  13. Hazo, Samuel, “Spying for God: Essays on Poetry, Politics and Places”, pg. 20.
  14. Hazo, Samuel, “A Matter of Life and Death: The war rationalizing writers and policy makers are callous at best”, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, September 13, 2003.
  15. Hazo, Samuel, “Forum on Iraq: A Battle of Conscience: Those who are questioning America's march toward a pre-emptive war with Iraq are the real patriots”, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, December 15, 2002.
  16. The following books are Hazo’s translations of Adonis: “The Blood of Adonis” (1971), “Transformations of the Lover” (1983) and “The Pages of Day and Night” (2000). See this link (http://www.thepoetryforum.org/AdonisShaheen.m3u) hosted on Hazo’s International Poetry Forum Site for a beautiful recording of Samuel Hazo and Adonis reciting Adonis’s poems in both English and Arabic while Simon Shaheen plays oud in the background. You can also hear Hazo reciting many of his own works on the site at this link: ( http://www.thepoetryforum.org/poets.html ). Also included on that link are recitations by other noted poets who have performed at the International Poetry Forum events.
  17. Hazo, Samuel, “On Translating Adonis and Nadia Tueini: The Many Definitions of a Translator”, AlJadid, Vol. 5, No. 26., Winter, 1999.
  18. Tuéni, Nadia, “Lebanon: Poems of Love and War”, translated from the French by Sam Hazo and Paul B. Kelley. It should also be noted that in 1997, Voix de l’Orient and Fondation Nadia Tuéni  produced a beautiful CD recording of these French poems; it is called “Nadia Tuéni: Liban: 20 poèms pour un amour” (VDL CD 648).
  19. Ibid, pg. 7-9.
  20. Ibid, pg.  25 (Emphasis added.)
  21. Ibid, pg. 49.
  22. Adonis, “The Pages of Day and Night” translated from the Arabic by Samuel Hazo, pg. 23.
  23. Adonis, “The Pages of Day and Night” translated from the Arabic by Samuel Hazo, pg. 88.
  24. Nadia Tuéni wrote, “I survive my own ashes, and I know from memory the future of my time.” “Lebanon: Poems of Love and War”.  Adonis wrote, “A time between ashes and roses is coming When everything shall be extinguished When everything shall begin.”, Adonis, “An Introduction to the History of the Petty Kings” in “A Time Between Ashes and Roses”, pg.55.
  25. “History looked upon her as a loving father looks upon his child, and said, ‘Oh Syria, what I have taken from you were my own gifts. Know that you sister-nations are entitled to a part of the glory which was yours. I must give to them what I gave you. Your plight is like that of Egypt, Persia and Greece, for each one of them also has a lean flock and dry pasture. Oh Syria, that which you call degradation is an indispensable sleep from which you will draw strength. The flower does not return to life save through death, and love does not grow except after separation.’ ” Kahlil Gibran, “History and the Nation” in “Thoughts and Meditations”, pg. 76.
  26. On the Phoenix mythos, see “Phoenicians” by Sanford Holst, pgs.349-351.and “The Phoenician Solar Theology” by Joseph Azize, pgs. 197-205. On this topic Charles Corm has written the following “The Phoenix…who set himself ablaze with his own flames / Was born again from his ashes and triumphed over destiny, / Meant Eternal life to the soul / In defiance of death” Charles Corm, “The Tale of Recollection” in “The Sacred Mountain” (“La Montagne inspirée”), pg. 51. And Gibran has written: “reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction. Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion, that it may sing; and let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection, and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes.” Kahlil Gibran, “The Prophet”, pg. 50-51.
  27. The title of the classic book by the great Assyrian writer, Joel E. Werda.
  28. See, for example, Cocteau’s films in his Orphic Trilogy: “The Blood of a Poet” (“Le Sang d’un Poete”, 1930), “Orpheus” (“Orphée”, 1949), and “Testament of Orpheus” (“Le Testament d’Orphée”, 1959).
  29. Hazo, Samuel, “The Power of Less: Essays on Poetry and Public Speech”, pg. 9.
  30. Remarks written for the Butterfly Poetry Festival of 2006. symposium of Pennsylvania’s Poets Laureate.
  31. Hazo, Samuel, “The Power of Less: Essays on Poetry and Public Speech”, pg. 18.
  32. Hoover, Jessica, “Former Poet Laureate Gives Advice About Life”, “Eagle Eye”, November 2, 2005.
  33. Hoover, Jessica, “Former Poet Laureate Gives Advice About Life”, “Eagle Eye”, November 2, 2005.
  34. “University Times”, Volume 38, Number 10, January 19, 2006. “Obituary: Robert G. Hazo” Robert Hazo was also author of  “The Idea of Love”, in the Concepts in Western Thought Series under the General Editorship of Mortimer J. Adler.
  35. Hazo, Samuel, “Once for the Last Bandit”, pg. 9-10, “Postscript to Many Letters”.
  36. Extracted from the biography on his official website: http://www.samuelrhazo.com/ Some of Samuel R. Hazo’s compositions are on that site where they can be listened to.

Plight of the Christians in North Iraq

Two Articles by Kenneth Timmerman
Courtesy of NewsMax.com

Christians Want Police Protection in Iraq
Tuesday, 29 April 2008

For Christians living in the ancient sprawling town of Tel Kaif, just 10 minutes north of Mosul, geography is a curse. “We are sandwiched between the Arabs in Mosul, and the Kurds in Erbil,” says William Warda, 47, who grew up in this city in the 1960s and '70s.

Local leaders are hoping that a modest proposal, currently in committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, can bring dramatic changes to their everyday lives.

The $4 million measure will fund a 711-man local police force for the Nineveh Plain. It is part of a $30 million emergency relief package for the predominantly Christian region submitted to Congress last month by Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va.

“We need to have our own security force, our own police force,” Warda tells Newsmax. “But we want an official force, not a militia. It should be drawn from all the communities in the Nineveh Plain, not just Christians. And it should be part of the national police, reporting to Baghdad, not to Erbil or Mosul.”

With the collapse of central government services in the region because of terrorist incursion from Baghdad, fighters loyal to Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani have set up shop in Christian towns and villages, even though the Nineveh Plain lies outside KRG authority.

While the Kurdish fighters, known as peshmergas, provide much-needed security for the area, they also commit exactions, local leaders and residents tell Newsmax.

Sometimes, the harassment is banal. In the town of Hamdaniya, for example, Barzani’s men have taken over the town library and has refused to give it back.

“They have set up an intelligence headquarters there,” said Ehmad Behnam, a member of the Hamdaniya district council. “We have asked them many times to go someplace else, but they refuse to leave.”

In Tel Keif, students complain that they were barred from renting a hall for a high school graduation party last year by local militiamen working for the KRG Finance Minister Sarkis Aghajan, because they weren’t members of his party.

Mr. Aghajan, who is Christian, has become the public face of the KRG in the Ninevah Plain, where he has built an extensive patronage system by doling out cash through local churches.

But the repression also can get ugly.

In December 2005, during Iraq’s first parliamentary elections, Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) bused hundreds of peshmerga fighters and party loyalists to Christian villages on Election Day, where complacent officials opened the polls and allowed them to vote.

Once they had cast all the available ballots in one town, they would move on to the next village to vote again. “The image you see in America of people dipping their finger in purple ink after they voted was a joke here,” one local official told Newsmax.

“The KDP controlled the polling places, so for them the ink was no problem,” he said. “None of them was made to dip their finger in the ink.”

Dozens of local officials filed formal complaints of election fraud and ballot stuffing with the Mosul governor, the central government in Baghdad, the United Nations, and the U.S. embassy, but never received a reply.

“We must have international election monitors in all these places in time for the next parliamentary elections,” former Iraqi minister of migration, Pascale Warda, told Newsmax.

In Hamdaniya, the largest Christian district in the Nineveh Plain, Kurdish peshmergas simply stole the ballot boxes when local officials phoned the U.S. embassy in Baghdad to get them to send more ballots.

“Everyone in Hamdaniyah and the surrounding villages was deprived of their right to vote,” said Warda.

In the early evening, well after the polls had officially closed, district council member Louis Markus Yacoub was told that fresh ballots had finally arrived.

“I was the one selected to go pick up the ballots, but the Kurdish intelligence people arrested me on the way,” Yacoub said.

They yanked him out of the car in front of four policemen, and took him to the local peshmerga headquarters, where they beat him for three hours.

“They beat me in my back and my shoulders. They beat me in my face and my head. Seven people were beating me with their fists. They even broke my teeth,” he said.

Yacoub says the peshmerga told him outright that they had arrested him to prevent him for picking up the fresh ballots, because they knew they would lose the elections if the Christians were allowed to vote.

“We are asking for the militas to be banned from the next elections,’ said fellow council member Ehmad Ayad. “Next time, we would like the protection of the national army, with American help.”

The KDP hasn’t only targeted Christians. In Dohuk, teams of armed peshmerga fighters stormed the election offices of the opposition Kurdish Islamic Union, killing two party workers, including the leader of the KIU election list.

In Zakho, they killed two more KIU officials. “They were hoping to do worse, but I happened to be in Baghdad at the time and asked U.S. and British ambassadors for help,” says KIU general secretary, Salahuddin Bahauddin.

After several phone calls by the ambassadors to KRG President Barzani, the peshmerga stood down. “Their plan was to attack us in other regions as well,” Bahauddin told Newsmax in Erbil.

The KRG eventually agreed to pay Bahauddin’s party compensation for the damage done to their buildings. But KRG officials insist that the violence was the work of individuals, not the government militia.

Such explanations fool no one in the Nineveh Plain. “If the Kurds would just take their hand off this region, the future would be very bright,” said Tel Kaif Mayor Bassam Ballo.

Johnny Koshaba learned first-hand how brutal the peshmerga can be. The 34-year old Assyrian journalist was taken from his home in Tel Kaif last month and beaten after he wrote an article exposing the corruption of KRG Finance Minister Sarkis Aghajan.

“I found that the money Sarkis hands out was going to individuals who serve his policy and the Kurdish leaders’ policies to take over this land,” Koshaba said.

The peshmerga took him to a detention center in Sarseng — more than an hour’s drive away — and beat him for two days while they interrogated him.

On the third day, they presented him with a “confession” written in Kurdish and told him they would release him if he signed it.

“I don’t read or speak Kurdish, but I signed it anyway,’ Koshaba said. “They told me I was not allowed to talk about what happened to me during my detention.”

Warda, who runs the Hammurabi Organization for Human Rights and Democracy Monitoring, believes that the exactions of the peshmerga have driven Arabs in nearby Mosul into the hands of al-Qaida.

“An Arab tribal leader told me, ‘we can get rid of al-Qaida in one day, but we won’t, because we don’t want the peshmerga to fill the vacuum,’” he said.

Al-Qaida and the Kurdish peshmerga need each other, said Dr. John Eibner, the CEO of Christian Solidarity International, who toured the region last week as part of an aid mission.

“Without al-Qaida, the United States wouldn’t support the peshmerga. Without the peshmerga, the locals wouldn’t support al-Qaida,” he said.

It was never supposed to happen this way. Two years ago, the U.S. Army Joint Operation Center and the Iraqi Interior Ministry ordered the creation of a local police force for the Nineveh Plain, but it has twice been blocked by the officials from Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party.

Leading the charge against the local police force was the KDP deputy governor of Nineveh Province, Khisro Goran, who claimed the police would become “a Christian militia.”

The KDP’s motive is simple, says Michael Youash of the Iraqi Sustainable Democracy Project in Washington. “The KDP interests are outlined in a simple article of the KRG constitution that says the Nineveh Plain shall be absorbed into the Kurdistan Region in Iraq.”

Instead of allowing the creation of an authentic local police force, independent of the KDP, Barzani’s party has sought to buy patronage through Finance Minister Aghajan and a cadre of “KDP Christian loyalists,” Youash and others believe.

The $4 million legislative earmark being sponsored by Rep. Mark Kir and Rep. Frank Wolf is aimed at “removing the political bottlenecks” created by the KRG that have prevented the creation of a local police force for the Nineveh Plains until now.

Just last week, the initial complement of 711 policemen were called up and began training, Youash tells Newsmax. Another 4000 policemen will be needed to fully secure the region and establish checkpoints on all highways and roads leading into the villages.

“Standing up a local police force will help with economic development as well,” said Joseph Kassab, secretary general of the Chaldean Federal of America who toured the region last month.

Kurdistan Minister - Rich Star, or Pawn?
Thursday, May April 2008

Like the larger-than-life hero of the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel of the roaring 20s, Iraqi Kurdistan's mysterious Minister of Finance, Sarkis Aghajan, has star power.

He is reputed to be one of the richest men in Iraq. And yet, like the fictional Jay Gatsby, no one knows anything about the sources of his wealth, his early career, or his family origin.

"We have no official biography of Mr. Aghajan as far as I know," a senior U.S. official in the Kurdish capital, Erbil, told Newsmax. "How did he make his money – if indeed, he is personally wealthy? I haven't a clue."

Call him the Great Gatsby of Iraqi Kurdistan.

No one knows of any business experience or expertise that would explain Mr. Aghajan being given responsibility for Kurdistan's financial portfolio. What little is known of his family background suggests modest landholdings in northern Iraq and in Iran, but no vast family fortune that would explain his profligate spending.

And yet, according to confidants – including a U.S. consultant who began his career in northern Iraq as an evangelical missionary in the early 1990s – Mr. Aghajan has quietly disbursed tens of millions of dollars of his own money to help Iraq's embattled Christian population.

"Sarkis has been like a saint to Iraqi Christians," the consultant said. "He has housed 20,000 families who moved here from Baghdad at his own expense. He's built schools for them, and he did it all alone."

Set aside for the moment the exaggerations of a self-confessed recipient of Mr. Aghajan's favors. (Kurdish officials told Newsmax that 2,000 displaced Christian families have moved into the region, not 20,000).

The efforts by the consultant to sway reporters and other visitors, and by Mr. Aghajan himself through Ishtar TV – a well-funded satellite channel that Mr. Aghajan established to recount his good deeds to the world – amount to a very conscious attempt at myth-building.

Ishtar TV regularly broadcasts "celebrations" of Mr. Aghajan by "grateful" Iraqi Christians. Some sing his praises after moving into tiny prefab houses in reconstructed Christian villages in Kurdistan. Others parade about with huge photos of Mr. Aghajan at New Year's celebrations in Paris, à la Saddam Hussein.

"By providing housing and aid to displaced Christians, Sarkis wants to send a message to people who align with the KDP [Kurdish Democratic Party] that he can deliver," Dr. John Eibner, CEO of Christian Solidarity International, told Newsmax during a recent aid mission to northern Iraq.

"He is being positioned by the KDP to become the 'agha' of the Christians in Kurdistan and the Nineveh Plain," Dr. Eibner added, referring to a common term that blends the affection peasants might have for a benevolent landowner with the ruthlessness of a political overlord.

Mr. Aghajan would appear to owe his ascendancy within the KDP power structure to his personal relationship to Nichervan Barzani, the Kurdish prime minister.

His supporters say that as young men, the two were forced to flee Kurdistan with their families in 1975, after the United States withdrew support for the Barzani clan in its struggle for independence from Saddam, and grew up together on the Aghajan family estate in Iran.

Powerful, or Used?

"Some say Sarkis is using the Kurds to achieve the rights of the Christians. If that's true, I'll be the first to applaud," said William Warda, vice-president of the Hammurabi Human Rights organization, and an Assyrian nationalist. "But I don't think he's so powerful. I think the Kurds are using him,"

The KDP's political designs are transparent, says Salahuddin Bahauddin, secretary general of the opposition Kurdistan Islamic Union.

"Sarkis is being used against the Assyrian nationalist movement, which is seeking to get the Nineveh Plain region recognized as a self-governing province of Iraq, reporting directly to Baghdad," Mr. Bahauddin told Newsmax in an interview.

The Kurdish government is seeking to make Sarkis the "president of a Christian triangle" attached to the Kurdish region, the former member of the Iraqi Governing Council said.

"His role is to decorate the Kurdish Regional Government, to counter accusations of persecution against Christians by the KDP. He should be called the Minister of window-dressing," Mr. Bahauddin added.

At first glance, the image-building would appear to be a success. Wherever one travels in Christian areas in northern Iraq, Mr. Aghajan's name is on everyone's lips.

Within the Kurdish Regional Government area itself, he claims to have rebuilt 80 Christian villages destroyed by Saddam Hussein and made them available for refugees fleeing religious persecution in Baghdad and Mosul.

In Ainkawa, the Christian suburb of the Kurdish capital, Erbil, his supporters claim that he has handed out building lots, permits, and construction materials gratis to Christian refugees.

Not So Generous to Everyone

In more than a half dozen locations I visited in the Nineveh Plain, Mr. Sarkis has built tenements to house Christian refugees – at least those who profess to support his political party, the KDP. But he is quick to cut the salaries of local officials and aid payments to refugees who express hostility to his political designs.

In a trademark program, he has financed the building of lavish new churches and Christian cemeteries throughout the region, in an effort to win the support of church leaders for his political goal of integrating the Assyrian Christians into Kurdistan.

Some of the new churches have cost millions of dollars, according to local priests and government officials, And yet, for all of the spending, no one has a clue where the money originates.

Kurdish officials told Newsmax that Mr. Aghajan had been put in charge of funds provided by the Kurdish Regional Government to aid Christians fleeing persecution.

To dole out the aid, Mr. Aghajan has established a vast network of Christian aid committees, most of which operate through local churches, to provide welfare subsidies and other assistance to the refugees.

But recipients of the aid interviewed in several refugee complexes said that welfare payments from Mr. Aghajan's committees had been cut off last July, and that they were now required to pay rent at his housing projects.

Show Me the Money

"What benefits have we had from Sarkis Aghajan until now?" complained Jamal Dinha, mayor of Bartela, a prominent Christian town in the Nineveh Plain. "I'd like to see where this money he says he is spending is going. He says he is building churches – but most of the money disappears in corruption."

Mayor Dinha is a member of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM), a nationalist party that is seeking administrative autonomy for the Nineveh plain under the Iraqi national constitution.

Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, Mar Dinkha IV, awarding Mr. Sarkis Aghajan with a medal - one of the three he received from three Assyrian patriarchs.

"We have asked Sarkis to build schools, not churches," he added. "Here in our town, Sarkis bought land for a cemetery. We say that he pays more attention to the dead than to the living."

Mr. Aghajan is credited by his supporters with convincing KDP leaders to allow Christian Evangelical churches to preach the gospel to Muslims.

Since 1992, when the first Evangelicals came to Kurdistan, some 1000 Muslim-background believers have been baptized into the Christian faith, according to Pastor Aram Daoud, who works with the Christian affairs division of the Kurdish ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs.

And yet, despite Mr. Aghajan's patronage, evangelical churches continue to receive threats.

"We baptized thirteen new believers on February 1 of this year," Pastor Daoud said. "The very next day, we received a death threat – a fatwa – posted on the door of our church."

Pastor Daoud's supervisor at the ministry, Khaled Jamal Alber, was quick to interject. "In Kurdistan, there is freedom of religion. No one stops us from practicing our [Christian] faith. The threats come not from the government, but from individuals."

"Sarkis has done more for Christians than any man I have known in the world, and I have been in 50+ countries," an American supporter of the Kurdish finance minister said.

"He is very quiet and does not seek recognition or remuneration. He has received just about every award given to Christians from every major denomination in the world including the Knighthood of the Order of St. George from the Pope. The next step after that is canonization!"

And yet, Mr. Aghajan's critics say that he is using the church to build a system of patronage on behalf of the KDP, with the goal of convincing Christians in the Nineveh plain to join the Kurdish region.

Using Christianity

"Personally, he is a good man, a kind man," said Father Sabri al Maqdessy, a Chaldean priest in Ainkawa. "He's trying his best to do some kind of projects for the Christians. But they are using us for propaganda for themselves."

He pointed to the huge cross at Erbil international airport as an example. "That is the first thing Westerners see at the airport. It's a symbol for them. A lot of the [Kurdish government] politicians were educated in the West. They know the strength of that message, to see a cross in a Muslim country. They think it will send a message that they treat the Christians better.

"They do treat us better – while they take everything we have," he added. "In another ten years, we will have nothing. Christians will not own a centimeter of property. They will take it all."

Kurdish Islamic Union leader Salahuddin Bahauddin said that Mr. Aghajan and his masters in the Kurdish Democratic Party of president Massood Barzani were offered the Christians of the Nineveh plain a diabolical choice: enjoy the freedom to practice their faith as citizens of Kurdistan, but renounce their ethnic aspirations as Assyrians to an autonomous province under central government authority.

"We see Christians in the Kurdish parties, but they have been forced to give up their ethnic identity," Mr. Bahauddin told Newsmax. "We believe they should be able to keep it."

The political system established by the KDP is "autocratic and dictatorial," he added. "It's a one-party state, an adaptation of the Baath Party system of Saddam Hussein. If someone is close to the Party, he is welcome; if not, he's an outcast, even if he is a family member."

A former Iraqi aid worker in Hamdaniya, a district capital in the Nineveh Plain just outside of Mosul, told Newsmax that he had seen documents showing that Mr. Aghajan was spending U.S. aid money to help the refugees, all the while he pretended the money was his own.

"We know that this money comes from the United States," the former aid worker said. " The United States didn't want to pay the money to the central government in Baghdad. They preferred to pay it here. Since the minister of Finance is Christian they thought it would be spent in a good way to all the Christians. "

Instead, he claimed, nearly 90% of the money has disappeared into the pockets of Mr. Aghajan's cronies, with scarcely 10% reaching its intended recipients.

The aid worker insisted that Newsmax withhold his identity, for fear of reprisals from Kurdish officials.

No Contact

A U.S. official in Erbil acknowledged that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has spent approximately $31 million in the Nineveh Plain, but complained that the Kurdish regional government "lacked a transparent budget process" and had provided little or no accounting for how its funds were spent.

"Sarkis Aghajan is using this aid money for the political benefit of the KDP," said critic William Warda. "He should be telling them it's coming from the USA or from the evangelical church. But they don't say that. They say this is the KRG, and that they are doing this and that. They are cheating our people."

Newsmax made extensive efforts to contact Mr. Aghajan for comment on this article, starting with an official request for an interview through the Kurdish Regional Government office in Washington, DC.

Inquiries through the KRG in Erbil were politely rebuffed, as were efforts undertaken by a former Iraqi government minister, who personally asked Kurdish prime minister Barzani to arrange the interview.

Sources in Erbil identified a private office allegedly used by Mr. Aghajan to run his mysterious aid network. An aid at that office, who identified himself only by his first name, Gewargis, explained why efforts to contact Mr. Aghajan through his Ministry of Finance office had been unsuccessful.

"If you call those numbers, you will always get the same answer," he said. "Out of order, or turned off."

Gewargis had no explanation for why Mr. Aghajan kept four large floor safes in his personal office, which was filled with stacks of Christian books Gewargis said were being distributed by Mr. Aghajan's committees.

At the Ministry of Finance, an aid to Mr. Sarkis said he was "too busy" to receive foreign visitors. However, just minutes before Newsmax and former Iraqi government minister of Migration Pascale Warda arrived at the ministry, a team of Dutch parliamentarians were leaving after an appointment. They had come with offers of European Union aid for displaced Christians.

The criticisms of Mr. Aghajan by Christian refugees and others stemmed from a "classic gift horse in the mouth mentality," an American supporter of Mr. Aghajan told Newsmax.

"Give them a house – they want a better one. They complain about the lack of electricity, etc., etc. The answer for Christians in Kurdistan is not to complain about a man or the government but for the international Christian community to help fill the gaps. They have not."

Despite their positive comments, even Mr. Aghajan's supporters insisted that they not be identified by name because of ongoing business relationships with the Kurdish government.

Kenneth R. Timmerman was nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize along with John Bolton for his work on Iran. He is Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, and author of Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran (Crown Forum: 2005).

Historical Background of Modern Assyrian Language

Dr. Geoffrey Khan
University of Cambridge

Geoffrey Khan, Professor of Semitic Philology, University of Cambridge.

The spoken language of the Assyrian Christians has sometimes been considered to be a descendant of Syriac, the classical written language of the Christians of the Middle East. For this reason it has been referred to by some
scholars as ‘neo-Syriac’. In this paper I should like to present evidence that demonstrates that the modern spoken language of the Assyrians, although clearly related to Syriac, does not have such a direct linguistic relationship
with it.

The first point that should be made is that modern Assyrian exists in numerous dialects, which differ from one area to another, or indeed from one village to another. In the present study all the dialects spoken by Assyrian communities residing, or originally residing, East of the Tigris will be considered as belonging to the same dialect group.

Classical written Syriac, a form of Aramaic, is a single language that is uniform in its structure. It is unlikely that the large diversity of spoken dialects of the modern Assyrian language could all be the direct descendants of this one earlier language. Syriac remained remarkably uniform throughout its history, despite the fact that it was used by Christian communities across a wide geographical area in the Near East and over a long chronological period. The writers of Syriac clearly spoke a large variety of vernacular dialects and indeed languages, though all this diversity is concealed by the literary language. It is the nature of literary languages that they serve as a uniform system of written communication that can be used by a wide range of communities that are unified culturally, religiously or politically. Literary languages are usually based on the spoken language of one particular region, in the case of Syriac this is thought to have been that of Edessa.

To read the entire article click here...

To the Assyrians in Sweden and the world:
No to the Kurdification of Nineveh

Ashur Giwargis
Translated to English by Mary C.

The following article was written as a call against a demonstration which took place on 1 May 2008 in Jonkoping- Sweden, organized by the Assyrian organizations working to annex the “Nineveh Plain” under the Kurdish occupation. It was first published in Arabic in the Iraqi daily “Kitabat”, dated 28 April on the following link: click here.. 

On Thursday, 24 April 24 2008 ankawa.com published a call by some “Assyrians” supporting the so-called “Greater Ku---------an” project (click here).  The phrase “Self Rule” has a beautiful tone to it which stirs up the Assyrian people’s emotions who are longing for peace and security in surroundings polluted with Islamic extremism supported by some Muslim Clergy, and Kurdish chauvinism supported and implemented by the Kurdish Occupation authority.  How ugly it is when we know who and what is behind all this.

Four years have passed since the first formal insult was written by the sham Iraqi State following the fall of Saddam, titled the “Transitional Administrative Law” (TAL), whereby the Kurdo-Islamic documents (The TAL and the permanent Kurdo-Islamic constitution) are the ugliest manifestations of a degenerative mentality and demographic terrorism against one of the oldest peoples in the world.  That was what Mr. Yonadam Kanna held high above his head and signed it as he smiled before the media while the Assyrians looked at him in sorrow at the souls of the martyrs of the Assyrian Democratic Movement as well as hundreds of thousands of Assyrian martyrs who were killed under the banner or Islamization as Islam entered Iraq, Turkey and Iran, then under the slogan of Arabization when Baath took power in 1968 in Iraq, and under the banner of Kurdification since the time of the Baderkhan the criminal who killed tens of thousands of Mr. Kanna’s own tribe, nationality and religion, followed by the bandit Simko al-Shikaki who killed tens of thousands of Assyrians in WWI but who has become today a “hero prince” in the curriculum which is taught in the Assyrian schools in the Occupied Assyria (today’s North Iraq) under the administration of the Assyrian Democratic Movement. 

Taking advantage of the defeated attitude of the Assyrian Democratic Movement and in the presence of competitors to Mr. Kanna on positions in the Kurdish Occupation authority when he was expelled (for reasons which don’t concern nor are important to us), a new current appeared supporting the Kuridification project as per the article 53/A of TAL, and ignoring Occupied Assyrian lands since 1961 at the hands of Mustafa Barzani as per article 58 TAL. The permanent Kurdo-Islamic constitution confirmed in article 138 the annulment of the TAL except the above two articles and that also with an agreement from Mr. Kanna.

The Kurdish project which is paid for by the Kurdish Occupation authority and supported by parasites within the Assyrian politics consists of annexing the “Nineveh Plain” to the Kurdish Occupation authority under the banner of “self rule for our people”. This attractive title which deceives the Assyrian people living under the different degenerate Islamic currents outside the Kurdish Occupation area, thus those Assyrians see that placing them under the Kurdish occupation is better than staying under the mercy of terrorist currents who are wreaking havoc in one of the oldest cities in Iraq while the Iraqi sectarian government divided on itself watches silently. This option is further supported by Assyrians because the Assyrian Democratic Movement already proposed a silly aim (only in fundraising events in Chicago and California) under “administrative area in Nineveh Plain” which is supported by an imaginary explanation connected to article 125 of the permanent Kurdo-Islamic constitution, which states administrative “rights” and not administrative “area” further the Kurdo-Islamic constitution doesn’t allow the establishment of a region in a “part” of a governorate but it rather mentions joining of one or more “governorates” into a region, under impossible conditions (Article 115).

Hence, before this trivial proposal which doesn’t guarantee the Assyrian existence side by side the other factions in Iraq which wasn’t supported any how with a scientific explanation as to the implementation. Therefore, the first Kurdification proposal has greater support as follows:

First: Internal Support

1. The idea of the so-called “Nineveh Plain” was deduced from the trivial suggestion by the Assyrian Democratic Movement which began in the conference held in October 2003, which called for having an administrative area to the east of Nineveh governorate where there is a dense Assyrian population, however, it ignored Nohadra (Kurdified to “Dohuk”) thus the demand for land was separated and that (a political conclusion) became the first motive for the present Kurdification project especially that the above mentioned conference mentioned and for the first time in history the phrase “Nineveh Plain”. This draws a question mark as to the probability of the Assyrian Democratic Movement to join the Kurdification project as Mr. Kanna is pressed by elections when there are some “benevolent” Assyrians of Barzani’s boys who enjoy considerable popularity and may become probable candidates as the Movement failed in presenting any thing beneficial until now. Hence, doors remain wide open for all possibilities.

2. Taking advantage of the national disintegration of the Assyrians in the so-called “Nineveh Plain” where the majority is Assyrian Catholics led by the Chaldean Church which is against the Assyrian identity and the rights of Christians as an “Assyrian” nationality, supported by the Vatican which still believe in the mythical Torah which presents the Assyrian people as criminals and butchers because they took the Jews into captivity. Then there is the Evangelical church which follows the same path and the two churches are the European religious authorities. Also the dissention that was further ignited by Barzani’s party which established Chaldean “national” parties calling to consider the Assyrian Catholics as a “Chaldean” nationality and these parties are presided over by members of Barzani’s party (!)

3. Exploiting the “Chaldean” (Assyrian Catholics) society where prominent communist figures appeared, supporting the Kurdification movement since it began in 1961 under the banner of “opposing the dictatorship regime” as for those who didn’t’ support the Kurds, they were not “Assyrian nationalists” but rather “Iraqi patriots”, something that reflected negatively on the path of the Assyrian national movement in the presence of different currents (Kurdists and Islamists) which in turn caused the Iraqi opposition to lose its patriotic proposition to the advantage of the Kurdo-Islamic project which we are seeing being implemented as those figures are today ruling Iraq. We also add the Assyrian Democratic Movement which joined the so-called “Ku---------ani Front” which was established to Kurdify Assyria. The reason at the time for the Movement joining a hostile front was that the majority of Assyrians were geographically under Barzani’s control in addition to the weak political tie between Assyria and Diaspora and for reasons which we will not discuss here, but we are still suffering of that school of thought.                 

Second: External Support

1. Taking advantage of Kurdish financial support establishing Kurdish media outlets under Assyrian names (“Ishtar” satellite channel which was established and funded by Nechrvan Barzani as well as some internet websites carrying Assyrian names) for propaganda purposes both for the Occupation authority as well as the Kurdification of Nineveh. Financial support is also used to finance conferences and trips abroad in order to spurt forth poison within the Assyrian community in the Diaspora and especially in Europe, as propaganda is going on for the so-called “Nineveh Plain” project. Kurdish interest in this matter is the background strategy for a larger project, the so-called “Greater Ku---------an”, when Kurdish Occupation authority is seeking to annex the so-called “Nineveh Plain”, Tel-Afar, and Sinjar to their usurping entity reaching to the Syrian border and awaiting the realization of the Kurdish dream that the Syrian regime would fall so that they would establish the so-called “Syrian Ku---------an” then the two entities would be joined together.

For this purpose the Kurds in Syria have prepared themselves politically and propaganda wise by attracting “Kanna of Syria” (Mr. Bashir al-Saadi who is also supporting the annexation of the Nineveh Plain to Kurdish Occupation). Bashir al-Saadi also supported the Kurdish project under the slogan “Damascus Declaration” which demanded rights for Kurds in Syria without giving any clarification even though what the Kurds consider as “rights” in Syria is “Syrian Ku---------an” … Going back to Iraq, the Tarzani ** duo had suggested the annexation of “Nineveh governorate” to the usurping Kurdish entity and few agreed to it such as Mikhael Maqdisi, Alqush’s bishop and the Yizidi Emir Tahseen Beg, that was in spring of 2004.

2. Working within the official European circles which take into consideration the “religious” rather than the ethnic belonging of people, specifically countries like France, Germany and Sweden where the Kurdish lobby is present effectively and where there are the largest Assyrian communities in Europe, which can be lead as per the Kurds’ wishes and their supporters with the help of some weak-willed Assyrians under the banner of Islamic persecution in the areas outside Kurdish Occupation, which contributed to a (limited support as a start) for the “save the Christians” project supported in the first place by European “Christian” milieu specially that the Kurdish Occupation authority is a secular one.

Away from the silly non-proposed project of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, the Assyrians are faced with three fateful choices:

  1. Joining the Kurdish Occupation under the pretext of “Christian self-rule” completing the Kurdification process of the Assyrian land, people and culture.
  2. Migrating from Iraq, since the former opposition leaders during Saddam’s regime have turned the country into a political, administrative and patriotic pit of corruption.
  3. Demanding dignified equality, within a federalism as established in the Kurdo-Islamic constitution, in order to have an Assyrian region in equality with all others, after vacating the Occupied Assyrian lands in the area of Nohadra (Kurdified to Dohuk) to establish the Assyria region (The triangle between the Tigris and Great Zab rivers) in addition to the so-called “Nineveh Plain”.

Hence, I call upon the Assyrian people in Sweden to take a conscious stand vis a vis Barzani’s boys, by not participating in the aforementioned demonstration but I do urge them to throw tomatoes and spoiled eggs on all those who are (overtly and covertly) supporting the Kurdification project.

*     Note by the translator: The phrase “Kurdstan” is replaced by “Ku---------an” with the agreement of the writer.
**  “Tarzani”: A mocking term used by Iraqi writers meaning: Talabani & Barazani.

Serious Facts on the Kurdish History

A. D. Omar Miran
Courtesy of nirgalgate.com
Translation from Arabic by Ashur Beth-Shlimon

I find myself obliged to engage in this dark period of our nation’s   history in our beloved homeland Iraq.

Personally, I try to not drag myself to what is happening in our homeland, but I see myself at eighty years  old,  and as I said forced , because it is my duty to say even a little bit  about what  I believe in and think off which is a priority.

I am well aware that, there are many who will accuse me by variety of indictments which became a trade mark in this day and age. But, I don’t be afraid to say a word of fairness to an accuser or an outraged with grudge and ignorance.

I am not going to discuss any historical subjects as when I used to lecture the scientific historical subjects, but I will open the discussion in the simplest way in order to be understood by all.

At outset, I love to address all the Iraqis, that those who try to be called leaders of the Kurdish people; actually, they represent only themselves and their followers who are a minority in the Kurdish society as a whole. Furthermore, nobody will depend on them, but sorry to say, they are exploiting the weak points in our people by playing on the sensitive issues in order to gain special political profits and to satisfy their masters, i.e., the Americans.

The Kurds generally speaking are a very simple and primitive people in every sense of the word, which correspondence with its ethics, its treatments, its heritage, its history, its culture and etc. If we have a broader picture with a scrutiny of the Kurdish history, we will find that it is very simple and easy history. If we need to prepare any historical and scientific data, it needs only a few pages. Thus, by saying this is not a sham or degrading our Kurdish people, because it is the status of all the naive people in our contemporary known area’s history of the Middle East.

On the contrary, we could say that about the civilized and influenced  people with the rest of the world, and the other  nationalities and neighbors, a case in point , the Persians, the Arabs, the Turks , and if we go further a little bit to include the  Indians  and  the Chinese .

What we would like to say, is that our Kurdish people never possessed a direct or indirect influence on their surrounding people. And even on the other people and nationalities of the rest of the world. Which it is a fundamental criterion of a naive and isolated people, due to the hard geographical nature where they dwell.Thus should be clear enough that such hard and fortified geographical nature was going to be the first lines of defense of the civilization, if there were any  remaining traces of such civilization, i.e., buildings, culture or the folk heritage, furthermore, where the scientific facts must be laid down, because the Kurdish people never have anything to present to the neighboring nations. While  knowing that the traces/artifacts  of the Assyrian civilization ( which are present in the area ) still stand there where it was preserved from vanishing  by the nature, due to many reasons , the most importantly  the distance, and rugged area that is  not easy to be reached by the invaders through the ages . In addition of that, the dominant material in use was the stone and not the clay as it is the situation with some other ancient civilizations. Where we never have any traces of a Kurdish civilization per say and what I mean is about the situation before the arrival of Islam in the region.

There are some today who try to convince themselves with a fancy idea that there was a Kurdish civilization once upon a time under the Ayyubid state. The Ayyubid state was an Islamic and not a Kurdish state, but its leaders and founders were of the Kurdish ethnicity that functioned as Muslims only. Thus such factor could be added to Islam because it never discriminates between the Arabs and the other nationalities.

There is a very important and a sensitive point could do some nausea that there was many Kurdish families and tribes who were very influential in the Kurdish society, knowingly that these were from an Arab origin, a case in point the Talabanese and Barezendjis. But these tribes infiltrated the area for other purposes for instance for a religion advice and guidance , and by the  passing time such tribes were Kurdified , and if the Arabs and Muslims were discriminators and chauvinists , do you think they will permit these tribes to be Kurdified by changing their language and nationalism?

After the introduction of Islam into the area and by applying the language /writing, where it was very clear that the Kurds never had any writing script before, but there was only a spoken language and such is one quality/ criterion of the primitive and simplistic society.

Now on, the Kurds started learning the Arabic script and tried to implement it in writing their own language in order to preserve their heritage and this is one of the good deeds of the Islamic expansion in the region.

After that the Kurdish people started to blend with other people and started to be influenced by them – of course increased their influence as I said because it was a very naive society – then the Kurds started their incursion in the other Islamic regions with ease and freedom because they belong to the same Islamic nation .

The Kurds never experience any obstacles, because Islam as we said is a religion that doesn’t discriminate between nationalities. In spite of all of this, we never find or heard of any trace which we will be able as Kurds to claim to be a pure Kurdish civilized heritage.

This situation continued up to date, except some poetic verses that belong lately  to the Kurdish poets.
In conclusion, there is no a poetic distinguished pattern, also there is no any distinguished architect,  no complete language, and there is no any popular folklore which will  differentiate  the Kurdish people …. Etc.

What I am trying to convey now is, that the Kurds try to make the world aware that they are people of civilization, science, heritage, and all these claims that never existed historically and without a scientific proof. Here, I am not trying to degrade my people or myself, but a scientific researcher must be truthful and honest.

And what I am afraid off, is that they may transform the Kurdish people to the case of the JEWS in Palestine with a leadership that lead them to the abyss, and they will use the Kurdish people firstly to fight their enemy – I mean the Jewish and the American enemy – all that on the naive Kurdish sacrifices which they are forced to do.

Mr. Abdullah Ocalan once said, “A Kurdish state as that of Israel is refuted period “now, we could imagine why Mr. Ocalan is welcomed in a prison while others are received in the black house!!

We the scholars  and our educators’ colleagues- who are familiar with their hidden agenda – against their projects which are designed to tremble  the whole  region, as it is happening now in the Zionist entity where there are many Jewish people against the International  Zionism colonization and in support of the Palestinian people.

Now, there is another and a very important point that I would like to make it clear, that the term which they are using nowadays by calling the region as ‘Kurdistan’. Whenever it is used while I am the son of that area, I feel with disgust and nausea for what such term is referring to as a very hateful and discriminatory measure.

What made them to choose such name (Kurdistan) where by doing it; it means they are deleting the presence of many nationalities on the ground as the Assyrians, the Yezidis, the Chaldeans, the Arabs, the Turcoman/Turkomans and others. Is this a justification to deal with our people? And I would like to give a very simple example, if the state of Iraq’s name  was the Arab Iraq (as it is the case in Syria and Egypt and else where) do you think the Kurds will accept such name? I will answer on their behalf: No, and with a solid rejection.

Then, why we demand from the other nationalities which they share our inhabitant in the same region to accept something we rejected ourselves in the first place? And this is another element of similarity with the Zionist entity that created a prejudice state based on discrimination according to its name and its deeds.

Dr. Abdul Qadir Omar Miran was killed in mysterious circumstances in north Iraq in 2005. His family has accused the Kurdish regional government of the murder.  According to the family, Dr. Miran was in a car on his way from Arbil to Shaqlawa, followed by another car carrying his son and grandson. When they arrived to a mountainous and rugged area, two 4-wheel drive cars that are typically used by the Kurdish security forces approached them with sirens on. The two cars forced themselves between the two cars of the Miran family in order to separate them. Next, one of the two 4-wheeled cars began to drive slowly to slow down Abdul Qadir's car, meanwhile, the other 4-wheel car began to drive side by side with Omar's car and forced it to the edge of the road and plunged into the gorge where the Dr. Omar Miran and his passenger friend were killed. The two 4-wheeled cars escaped.

Dr. Miran was born in Shaqlawah in 1924.  He earned a B.Sc. in Law from Baghdad University in 1946, a doctorate degree from the Sorbonne University in 1952, where he specialized in the history of the people of the Middle East. He taught history in many universities around the world.

The Triumph of Israel in 1948, Assyria and Egypt Next

Dr. George Habash
United Kingdom


The Prophet Isaiah foretold a highway between Egypt, Assyria and Israel and since Isaiah lived in post Egypt and the last decades of Assyria zeniths, here the Prophet must have talked about the future, ahead of his time.

On 15 May 1948 and at 12 am, the Britannic Mandate for Palestine ended and hours before i.e. on 14 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion read the Declaration of Israel’s Independence signed by 37 notable Israelis representing the Provisional State Council. Among those signatories I am personally acquainted with two only, David Ben-Gurion the first Prime Minister and Golda Meir the “formidable” Israeli figure who was made Prime Minister in 1969.

It is now 60 years since that Declaration that ushered the founding of the modern state of Israel, the “Super Power” and the “Silicon Valley” of the Middle East. In that year God restored his ancient people to their Promised Land.

The recent history of Israel outside Biblical records is short, starts with the First Zionist Congress in Basle 29-31 August 1897 with the initiation of the four-point plan termed the Basle Programme. Zionism, the Jewish national movement aimed to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine.

That was followed by the Balfour Declaration on 2 November 1917 in which the Britannic Government looked “with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” with emphasis “and to facilitate the achievement of this object”.

 Following that the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine adopted on 24 June 1922 the principles of Balfour Declaration.

Finally, the general Assembly of the United Nations on 29 November 1947 adopted a Resolution requiring the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine but that was rejected by the Arabs [labelled partition]. The Following year the modern State of Israel was born.

The re-birth of Israel as a state promised by God (Ezekiel 36:24 & 37-21) and the progression of the State of Israel was not easy (it was a miracle as told by Nicolas Sarkozi, President of France) but for survival and perseverance it has adopted a strategy of “all the country-a front, all the people-an army”- the only strategy to survive in the Middle East. Israel has fought and won five major wars since independence (1948, 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982) and never been defeated.

The Arab’s wish was always to push Israel into the Mediterranean Sea but Israel wanted and still to live in peace with its neighbours. To impose peace on Arabs Israel demolished their myth and seized lands from the Suez Canal up to the Jordan River in the Six-Day war of 5 June 1967-pushing Arabs and adamantly refusing to be pushed. Its surface area trebled (Israel is a small country sized in 1949 to just 8,000 square miles (263m by 71m max and 7m min) conquering Sinai, the Golan and Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and Jerusalem re-united. It has won that war despite being flanked by a quarter million Arab soldiers.

In later years the only casualty of the 1967 war was Arab nationalism and this was superseded by Islamic militancy with the doctrine that Islam fares better in warfare than in peace. It advocates the return to the conquests mentality of the seventh century-march and conquest. This is also aided by the political correctness of world opinions even those close to the state of Israel.

Israel found itself surrounded by Islamists from all sides, rocketed at, and penetrated by youths with explosive belts around their waists. This new and unexpected phenomenon made the current President of Israel some time ago to say that the

1967 war was a mistake. But Israel has the will and determination to strike its enemies without mercy and will remain head and shoulder above until Christ returns.


The victors of the first global war 1914-1918 failed the Assyrians in establishing their national homeland in their heartland of northern Mesopotamia. Treaties such as Sykes-Pico (1916), Paris Peace Conference (1919), Sevres (1920) and Lausanne (1923) did not do favours to the Assyrians.

The assassination of the Assyrian Patriarch Binyamin Shimon in 1918, the succession of a youthful Patriarch and the murder of Agha Potrous contributed to the fracture of the Assyrian national cause.

In 1932 the sleeping Assyrian giant stood again and demanded national rights within the state of 1921, but the state of 1921 run by Ghazi Faisal, Rashid Ali and Bakr Sidqi launched a campaign of slaughter and destruction against peaceful Assyrians in the hot August 1933.

Relative peace in the following decades kept the Assyrians politically dormant but signs of dissention started to surface with the launch of the Kurdish revolt in 1961. The Assyrians partially joined that struggle and in 1968 the Assyrian Universal Alliance was formed mainly among ex-pat Assyrians championing for Assyrian national cause. And in 1979 the Assyrian Democratic Movement was also formed in the homeland championing the Assyrian national rights within the state of 1921. It nearly adopted the campaign of 1932.

Now there is a plethora of Assyrian movements around the globe leading the way for the establishment of the Assyrian national homeland in our today’s heartland of Mesopotamia-specifically the land between the Tigris and Upper Zab. Every Assyrian now advocates such principle with some international advocacy.


The Islamic Arab army invaded Egypt in 641 AD bringing the religion of Islam into Egypt and North Africa. By that time Christianity was well advanced under the Romans.

Egypt pride its branch of Christianity by being established by St Mark one of the four Evangelists (Gospelers) who wrote the four Gospels. St Mark was a youthful companion of some of the first disciples in their missions and reached Egypt in around 42AD and was martyred by the Romans at Easter feast 68AD.

Until a thousand years ago Egypt was still deep in Christian faith and the language of the nation was Coptic but with the arrival of the Turks marked the turning point of persecution and Islamisation of the Egyptian society that climaxed in 1856.

With the beginning of the twentieth century Copts started seeking their Coptic identity advocating cultural, lingual and ecclesiastical revival, and this continued until 1952. This was led by Coptic Nation Society.

The new Republican regime of 1952 adopted Pan Arab and Pan Islamic strategies which contradicted the Coptic hope for a Coptic Nation with neither of the former. A wave of nationalisation and ban on Political parties deprived the Copts from any influence in the new regime. This alienation caused Copts to seek alternative land- a refuge in western world.

Today there are about 12m Coptic Christians in Egypt but despite being the largest Christian presence in any Middle Eastern country (half of ME Christianity) this ethnic community faces institutionalised persecution. The state bars the community from building or renovating Churches, excludes the community from high public offices and encourages conversion of Christians to Islam.

The Zabbaleen City (Dustmen City) outside Cairo inhabits 100,000 Christians who clear and glean the waste of the city, is another example of the deprivation and alienation of the Copts.

The new wave of Islamic militancy started in 1970 and is continuing until recent time with more radicalisation and polarisation of the society. Clashes occur between time and time between Christians and Muslims and the odd thing is that Muslims and Christians mingle with each other throughout Egypt. Coptic Christians do not have a heartland within Egypt and this was caused by conversion to Islam and intermarriage.

The state system allows conversion to Islam but conversion from Islam is not tolerated and some poor Christians are lured by Muslim funds for conversion. And on average two virgin Christian girls are daily abducted by Muslims in forced marriage and conversion.

In Diaspora, Copts have some organisations like US Copts Association and Coptic Assembly of America but these have only a limited ambition by seeking equality with the Muslims, human rights and democracy which is short of final liberation.

Copts need more efforts and organisation to salvage their nation by either lobbying for partition or wait for massive conversion to Christianity. Some foreign preachers say there is a huge conversion to Christ in Egypt and perhaps by combining Coptic stern efforts and conversion to Christianity may turn Egypt as a nation foreseen by Isaiah.


 - Isaiah 19:23-25

In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together.  In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.

 - Ezekiel 36:24

For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.

 - Balfour Declaration was signed by Arthur James Balfour, the Britannic Foreign Secretary.

Assyrians at Their Best

David Abraham

Courtesy of the Emory University
Office of University Media Relations
Atlanta, Georgia

David Abraham

Emory University senior David Abraham has been named the first recipient of the Robert T. Jones Jr. Fellowship at Emory for fully funded graduate study at the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland. St. Andrews, founded in 1411, is Emory’s sister institution. Abraham, of Marietta, Ga., will begin his studies in fall 2008 in the School of Philosophy at St. Andrews.

The Robert T. Jones Jr. Fellowship is a new award established at Emory this year that covers tuition and provides a living stipend for one to four years of graduate work at St. Andrews. It is to be given each year to one graduating senior or graduate student with a record of intellectual excellence and academic interests that can be pursued at St. Andrews. Unlike the popular Robert T. Jones Scholarship awarded annually to four Emory students for a year of study at St. Andrews, the fellows are required to earn a graduate degree.

Abraham plans to seek a master's degree in philosophy at St. Andrews, a two-year degree program, and study Thomas Acquinas and medieval philosophy. At Emory, Abraham is a philosophy and history major who is completing an honors thesis on the history of Edmund Burke.

Abraham is the recipient of numerous academic honors:

• At the end of his freshman year, he was selected to receive the Goodrich C. White Scholarship;
• He was a SIRE (Scholarly Inqui ry and Research at Emory) scholar last summer;
• He is the recipient of the Charles Hartshorne Essay Prize in philosophy at Emory; and,
• He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and both the history and philosophy honor societies.

Abraham was selected by Emory as one of three finalists; the final selection was made by St. Andrews. The fellowship seeks to honor the late Robert T. Jones, Jr., an internationally renowned golfer and Emory Law School alumnus remembered by those who knew him as an extraordinary man of rare loyalty, compassion and integrity.

Emory University (www.emory.edu) is one of the nation’s leading private research universities and a member of the Association of American Universities. Known for its demanding academics, outstanding undergraduate college of arts and sciences, highly ranked professional schools and state-of-the-art research facilities, Emory is ranked as one of the country's top 20 national universities by U.S. News & World Report. In addition to its nine schools, the university encompasses The Carter Center, Yerkes National Primate Research Center and Emory Healthcare, the state's largest and most comprehensive health care system.

Nahrain Kamber

Congratulations to Nahrain Kamber of Michigan, a regular contributor of news and information to Zinda Magazine, who was listed last week as Fortune Magazine's Face of the Future.  Ms. Kamber completed a doctorate in Chemistry from Stanford University last year and is now working as a Senior Chemist at Dow Chemical, a company ranked 42 on Fortune Magazine's Fortune-500 list.  Ms. Kamber is the daughter of Dr. Emanuel Kamber, former Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance.

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

Fred Aprim California
Jacklin Bejan California
Alda Benjamin Canada
Dr. Matay Beth Arsan Holland
Ramin Daniels California
George Donabed Massachusetts
Mazin Enwiya Chicago
Petr Kubálek Czech Republic
Aryo Makko Sweden
Ashtar Marcus Chicago

Brian Khouri

Lema Yousif Canada

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