17 Khzeeran 6758
Volume XIV

Issue 6

6 June 2008

1- 8 6 6 - M Y  Z I N D A

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Click on Blue Links in the left column to jump to that section within this issue. Cover Design by Zinda Magazine's Farooq I.
Zinda SayZinda Says
  Attiya the Assyrian Wilfred Bet-Alkhas
  Zinda Magazine's Person of the Year: Attiya Gamri
Zinda Magazine's Event of the Year: Formation of the "711" Force
Zinda Special
  Assyrian Iraqi PM Meets UN and US Officials in Sweden
KRG Rejects Licensing of 2 New Assyrian Political Parties
  In Sweden, Asylum & Church Go Together For Christian Iraqis
Assyrian Woman from Iraq Has Heart Surgery in Arizona
Graduating Students Celebrate in Glendale, Arizona
  Person of the Year
Responses to Dr. Malik's Article

Click to Learn More :

  The Purple Scream Obelit Yadgar

A Mesopotamian Night: Celebrating Glorious Music From the Past
Seyfo Commemoration in Switzerland
Hugoye Paper Receives NAPS Best First Article Award
Zinda Recommendations from Gorgias Press

  na·tion·al·ism (n)
Joseph N. Hermiz

Zinda Says
An Editorial by Wilfred Bet-Alkhas


Attiya The Assyrian

I met Attiya years before she entered the arena of Dutch and European politics. Almost a decade later, Ms. Gamri has rightly so become the extraordinary voice of the Assyrian rights in Iraq and around the world. 

It was the Assyrian convention in Turlock, California.   Within minutes after our first encounter I knew this was no ordinary activist.  Sitting across from me, accompanied by two other activists from Europe, here was a passionate patriot - not a nationalist. She had already surpassed that intermediary stage between becoming a concerned Assyrian and the culmination of a freedom-fighter.  Through her work with the brave Assyrian patriots in Turkey and Iraq she had passed through the final deconstruction of her 'self' and was ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of her people.  The rest of us were merely too busy running the  annual conventions in California, Chicago, and the East Coast. That day, while a few Assyrian women were walking on the runway and presenting the latest Assyrian fashions from 2000 B.C., Attiya Gamri was outlining to me her ideas for increasing the political activities in Europe and the Mid-East. Attiya was years ahead of us then as she is today.

She spoke about the Assyrians fighting in "Othro" and the relentless inhumanity facing our people in "Assyria".  That was the first time I was hearing anyone openly speak about "Assyria" - not Bet-Nahrain, neither North Iraq, nor Mesopotamia.  She spoke about "Assyria" as if it were a UN-recognized territory in the Middle East.  This was no ordinary Assyrian.  Attiya had a vision and a plan to bring back her Othro.

In the next few years Attiya would travel to every country in the Middle East with a substantial population of Assyrians. She would challenge the Assyrian leaders, activists, foreign journalists, European diplomats and even the Middle Eastern heads of states.  She took observers from the European Union, the Dutch parliament, human rights organizations to see for themselves what it feels like to be Assyrian in a country beset by the majority Moslems, Arabs, and Kurds. Yet she challenged herself even further. Her political, academic, and social achievements are remarkable.  In our feature article we note only a few of these accomplishments.

But don't let her soft smile fool you.  The wonder woman of the Assyrian politics is a radical ideologue whose plans and determination have and will continue to turn the Assyrian politics upside down.  Unlike those of us in North America, born politically into our consensus-minded communities, Attiya is always unsettled with the stagnant politics of her day.  Instead of spending weeks and months delivering empty promises she travels to the trouble spots where Assyrians need someone to hear their grievances. For Attiya Gamri Assyrianism is not a part-time hobby or extra-professional activity.  I saw this on that magnificent day in Turlock and in every act she has embarked upon since then. She has successfully put the governments in the Middle East and the Kurdish Regional Government on the spot for their treatment of the Assyrians and is often accompanied by Dutch and European Union representatives on her trips to the Middle East to illustrate her points at the high-level meetings she holds with her European counterparts.

In recognition for her remarkable successes in meeting great challenges as an Assyrian activist, diplomat, and freedom-fighter, the Zinda Magazine Selection Team has selected Ms. Attiya Gamri as this year's Assyrian of the Year.

History will remember Attiya Gamri as the Assyrian Joan of Arc.  I am confident that she too heard voices in places she traveled, amidst the trees and hills of Urmia, the valleys of "Othro" or sitting alone under the shade of an old tree in a village in Syria.   She is now on a historic mission to save us from the yoke of self-denial and hopelessness - ready or not we have - contentedly- no choice but to follow the Lioness of Assyria.

The Lighthouse
Feature Article


Zinda Magazine's Assyrian of the Year
Attiya Gamri

Ms.  Gamri was born into the Beth Arsan tribe of the village of Arbo in south-east Turkey (North Assyria) in the region of Tur-Abdin or North Assyria.   She is the youngest daughter in a family of 4 sisters and 3 brothers.
Under the leadership of her uncle, Habsuno Beth Arsan, great grandfather Isa Beth Arsan (father of Gamri Beth Arsan) and Gallika (Gawriye) Beth Arsan her tribe played a leading role in the defense of the Beth-Rishe (Rayitte) region at Mount Izla (Tur Izlo) in 1915, when the Seyfo Genocide was devouring the Assyrian homeland. 

In the 1930’s the Turkish government began a forced Turkification policy on the non-Turkish minorities of Tur Abdin and forced Ms. Gamri's tribe to carry forth using two Turkish names instead - Tunc and Aslan. Even today her name is sometimes written as Attiya Gamri Tunc.

In 1988 Ms. Gamri became an active member of the Assyrian Mesopotamian Association of Enschede.  By now she was also active in the Assyrian Democratic Organization in Holland, the Assyrian Federation Tur Abdin, and began writing articles for the Shemsho Assyrian magazine.

She helped establish the Help Assyrian Christians Foundation in 1992, as the western media was slowly becoming aware of the plight of the Christians in north Iraq and Saddam Hussein's Anfal Campaign.  She began collecting money for the Assyrians as requested by the Assyrian Democratic Movement in North Iraq. 

By now it was clear to Ms. Gamri that Assyrian political leaders had failed to solve or even to offer effective solutions to the major problems in the Diaspora and in Assyria. It was time to turn the Assyrian Dilemma into a European Dilemma.

Attiya Gamri completed a B. S. in Social Sciences in Netherlands in 1995 and two years later at Sweden's Goteborg University she was conducting research on the psychology of women.  In the same year she ran a campaign and was elected on the Labor Party or PvdA ticket in Holland and appointed to the consulting committee of the city of Oldenzaal.

In Netherlands she had worked at the “House for Abused Women” in Zwolle, helping battered women who needed intensive therapy due to physical & psychological abuse.   She was also a team leader and youth social worker for the homeless youth in Hengelo, Enschede and Almelo – all three cities on the east side of Holland. Her political work gave her a new venue to help the women, the youth, and increase awareness about the Assyrians everywhere.

Between 1996 and 1998 she was preparing a variety of television documentaries and interviews, events and festivities for the Assyrians in Europe in the Western Assyrian language. 

In 1997 she traveled to Iran and spent a month among the Assyrians of Urmia and Tehran. Little did she know that this journey through the valleys of Lake Urmia was going to be a life-changing experience. 

She was taken to the historic locations where the Assyrian visionaries before her had faced difficult challenges as she and other Assyrian nationalists do today.  She walked along the roads and the hills of Urmia where men like Agha Petros led the Assyrian armies to victory and visited the grave site of the Assyrian patriarch – Mar Benyamin Shimmun – cowardly killed by the Kurdish chief, Semko.   These and other men like Dr. Fereidoun Atouraya had a vision for the Assyrian nation and believed in this nation they affectionately called “Assyrian”.

After visiting the site where Semko and his Kurdish troops killed the Assyrian Patriarch who had just minutes ago shaken his hands in the spirit of peace and understanding, Ms. Gamri understood the vision of the Assyrian leaders before her:  Assyrians need a free Assyria.   From that moment on she began working more diligently to regain the political and human rights of the Assyrians in Assyria.

Soon after her return from Iran she was coordinating programs and television shows in both Eastern and Western Syriac (Aramaic) in an effort to bridge the gap between the two Assyrian linguistic communities in Europe and elsewhere. 

The following year she found herself among the Assyrians in Syria and Lebanon.

In 2002 she began writing for the Nsibin newspaper. Ms Gamri earned a Masters Degree in Management in the Netherlands in 2003.  This was also the year when she visited the Syriac  Orthodox Churches in India and ran as a PvdA candidate and was elected to the state government of the Dutch province of Overijssel. 

The first of her three trips to the heart of Assyria took place in 2004 when she visited the Assyrians in north Iraq a year after the fall of Saddam Hussein.  

The Assyrians of Sao Paolo, Brazil greeted Attiya Gamri during her visit in 2005 – the year she also visited the Assyrian Monastery of Dair a-Suryan in Egypt.

In 2006 Ms. Gamri returned to Iraq, along with several other Assyrian observers from Europe and North America. 

In November 2007 Ms. Gamri helped found the Assyria Council of the European Union – a lobby group for the Assyrians in Europe.

In March of this year Ms. Gamri was re-elected to the state government of the Dutch province of Overijssel.   She ranks high among her colleagues in the Labor Party and enjoys a wide support of her constituency.

A month after this political victory she returned to Iraq on her third trip to Assyria’s heartland.  She met with Father Sanharib.   He found an attentive Assyrian politician in her and was obliged to give her his opinion: “There is a genocide going on, just like the one my father had experienced in Hakkari.  Every 100 years there is a genocide against the Assyrians. My daughter, you have to make the Assyrians in Iraq be aware of this, tell them the Muslims are killing us, we need a place to live, our own place without the Muslim Kurds and Muslim Arabs deciding our future, in the heart of Ashur. My son will never see this, but yours should .” 

Father Senharib was later killed in Baghdad.  His words reaffirmed what she had earlier understood as her objective in life, walking in the footsteps of the freedom fighters before her.

Attiya Gamri decries the current political stagnation in the diaspora and the political parties' contempt for what is being done by the independent groups in Iraq. Her collusion with the ruling political party in Iraq, the Assyrian Democratic Movement, is seen as dangerous, radical, and unprecedented from both North American and European Assyrian communities. Yet, she believes in working directly with the independent voices of Assyrians in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey.

Ms. Gamri is a leader of incomparable courage, vision and humanity. Today, she is the only Assyrian leader in the Diaspora who leads by example, helping the Assyrian refugees, needy, women and children, and most importantly brings the two linguistic communities closer together. Thousands of youth in Europe know her as their Assyrian idol and attend her speeches and lectures around the continent.

The higher purpose of her "historical" position in the Assyrian politics - the political advancement of women and the youth and giving a voice to the independent silent majority in Iraq - will propel Attiya Gamri to greater achievements in the future. She is bound to be the most powerful Assyrian woman politician in the Diaspora. Most observers of the current conditions would agree that the Assyrian nation could use someone like Gamri to help shake the old-boy Assyrian tribal politics before it is too late.

Zinda Magazine's Event of the Year
Formation of the "711" Security Force

Christians in Iraq are painfully aware of two grim facts about their country's liberation from Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime: 1) life is much harder now for Christians than it was before the Americans showed up in Baghdad in March 2003, 2) no matter who is in power in Baghdad or how the next U.S. Administration in Washington slices up the country, their situation will not improve. Proportionally, they have suffered the most during the unrests of the last 5 years, and sadly they believe that their suffering will go on.

There are over one million Christian refugees from Iraq stranded in Jordan and Syria. To the unnerving joy of the KRG in the North and the Sunni insurgents in the Nineveh Province, they continue to leave at a rate of hundreds of families per week. Those who cannot afford to escape are housed in inhumane conditions in the Kurdish-controlled areas or living with their families - often a dozen members or more in a single home. Christian families are reported to be living in the graveyards, even an entire family shacked in a single bathroom of a rented home or a building. In his cruelest moments, Saddam Hussein had not evoked so much suffering upon so many Iraqi Christians. If neither the Bush Administration nor the Iraqi government is willing to offer help then what must be done to protect the security of hundreds of thousands of Christians in Iraq?

Last year, through the efforts of the U.S. Congressional representatives, Mark Kirk and Frank Wolf, and the support of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and the incessant lobbying of the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project, led by Mr. Michael Youash, seven hundred and eleven Assyrians were selected from thousands of applicants to form the first Christian Police Force in the Nineveh Plains. The response from the Moslem groups and the Kurdish Regional Government was swift. The Police Force was immediately dubbed as the Christian militia and any one cooperating with the "711" and their command officers were to be reprimanded. The KRG tactics have fallen on deaf ears and the Assyrian "Kurdish Collaborators" - that include several priests and local civic leaders- are ignored and dismissed by the residents of the Nineveh Plains who have begun enjoying the increased security in their towns and villages.

So far there has been no infiltration by "Kurdish Collaborators" and the Christian Police Force is controlling the Christian areas. As the security level increases and the 30 million dollars earmarked for the reconstruction projects in the Nineveh Plains are delivered to the Christian areas, it would be possible to re-settle the Assyrian refugees in their ancestral lands in Iraq.

The not-so-distant goal of the Assyrian civic leaders in Iraq (those not enslaved by the KRG authorities) is realizing the day hundreds of convoys begin moving from Jordan and Syria through the border into the Nineveh Plains region, where crowded streets are lined with thousands of cheering Assyrians holding placards reading WELCOME HOME and IRAQ IS PROUD OF ASSYRIANS.

Watching the formation of the "711 Force" the architect of Kurdish penetration into the Christian areas, Mr. Sargin Aghajan, has now suffered "a crushing defeat" and is said to be losing favor in the Barzani administration. His spies roam the streets of Nineveh, Baghdede, Dohuk, Arbil looking for any signs of support for the "711".

And so it seems that a security force of 711 Assyrians have set in motion the dramatic and historic transition to the Kurdish-Free administrative region around Mosul, marking the beginning of serious discussions on the road to administrative autonomy under Baghdad. With violence now erupting everywhere in the "Other Iraq", Christian refugees and even more moderate Moslems are viewing the Christian-dominated areas as their best option for re-settlement.

The United States military and security forces in the Nineveh Province are monitoring the successes of the "711" and are considering increasing this number and expanding the Christian Security Force's jurisdiction in the Nineveh Province.

Aug 23 Event


Good Morning Assyria
News From the Homeland

Assyrian Iraqi PM Meets UN and US Officials in Sweden

Mr. Yonadam Kanna, Iraqi MP and Sec. Gen. of Assyrian Democratic Movement and UN Sec Gen, Mr. Ban Ki-moon in Sweden on May 29.

(ZNDA: Stockholm) World leaders were meeting in Sweden between 29-30 May to consider Iraq's progress on reconciliation and development.

Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon were among the leaders who address the one-day conference.

Delegates from over 90 countries reviewed progress on the country's reconciliation and nation-building.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Sweden's Prime Minister Frederick Reinfeldt also addressed the summit which was took place amid tight security.

The conference was a follow-up meeting to the so-called International Compact for Iraq launched a year ago at a summit in Egypt. Iraq and the UN hosted the meeting.

Mr. Yonadam Kanna and U.S. Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice in Sweden on May 29.

UN Secretary General has stressed that the UN is committed to supporting the Iraqi government and its people under Security Council Resolution 1770.

That resolution extended the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq and covers elections, reconciliation, the resolution of disputed boundaries, human rights and humanitarian concerns, as well as UN support for reconstruction and development.

Also attending this conference was the Honorable Member of the Iraqi Parliament, Mr. Yonadam Kanna, Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Movement.  

The Iraqi delegation was invited to a dinner where it was presented to His Excellency the King of Sweden, Sweden's prime minister and a number of Swedish ministers.

KRG Rejects Licensing of 2 New Assyrian Political Parties

(ZNDA:  Dohuk)  Zinda Magazine has learned that the Interior Ministry of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has denied licensing of over 20 new political parties, among which are 2 Assyrian groups.  These are:

  1. The Independent Syriani Movement
  2. Assyrian National Party

These and other rejected parties were notified of the decision and asked to close down their local offices and headquarters.

Critics of the KRG believe that there is a new unspoken policy followed in Arbil whereby no new political parties, especially Kurdish group that may challenge the ruling KDP and PUK, are recognized through denial of their license to operate. 

The General Director of the Office of Interior Ministry, Mr. Tariq Gardi, denies such assertions and says:  "There is no such decision, verbal or written.  The law is clear. The applications we receive are studied and if they meet legal conditions they would be referred to the Prime Minister.”

Currently there are four licensed Assyrian groups of which only the Assyrian Democratic Movement operates as an independent group. The other three parties have allied themselves with Mr. Masoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and in the past have run in the elections on a single ticket with the KDP.:

  1. Assyrian Democratic Movement (headed by Yonadam Kanna, MP)
  2. Beth-Nahrain Party (headed by Romeo Hakkari)
  3. Chaldean Democratic Union (headed by Ablahad Afram Sawa)
  4. Assyrian Patriotic Party (headed by Nemrud Baitu Youkhana)

News Digest
News From Around the World


In Sweden, Asylum & Church Go Together For Christian Iraqis

Assyrians demonstrators outside the Swedish government headquarters in Stockholm.

(ZNDA: Södertälje)  For many Christian Iraqis who have found a safe haven in Sweden, integrating into a strange new culture is a trying process. But their churches, present in Sweden for decades, play a big role in easing the way.

"When they come to Sweden, the first thing many Christian Iraqis do is go to the church. Some do it because they are strong believers, but also because they want to meet other people, get help in dealing with the Swedish administration, understand society, and find work," Isam Kalka, a 34-year-old Iraqi from the northern town of Arbil who arrived in Sweden in 1991.

Kalka, who runs a convenience store in central Stockholm, says the churches attended by Christian Iraqis play a crucial role in helping the newly-landed immigrants get their bearings in their new country.

"The church has a role to play beyond the spiritual one: to integrate people in society," he says.

Sweden is the European country that has taken in the most Christian Iraqis, who have been persecuted for the religious beliefs in their own homeland.

They number some 30,000 in Sweden and 70,000 in Europe, according to the European Syriac Union. Most of them arrived either during the first Gulf War in 1990-1991 or after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Some 97,500 Iraqis lived in Sweden in 2007, according to Statistics Sweden, with the country taking in more Iraqis last year than any other nation in Europe.

Isam Kalka is an active member of the Association of Young Chaldeans, which has ties to the Johannes Chaldean Church in Södertälje, a small town south of Stockholm with a large Christian Iraqi community.

In 2006 and 2007 some 4,000 Iraqi refugees, almost all of them Christians, arrived in Södertälje and the town expects about another 1,000 to arrive in 2008.

Kalka happily helps newly arrived immigrants who come to him asking for assistance in cutting through the web of red tape involved in moving to a new country.

The Johannes church has no formal program to help new refugees.

Instead, the support is informal and spontaneous, provided by the members of the community who feel a strong sense of solidarity and joint identity through their Christian roots, Kalka says.

Sweden's Prime Minister Frederick Reinfeldt (L) talks to Iraqi immigrants.

Sweden, known for its generous humanitarian aid and refugee policy, provides extensive assistance to immigrants, guaranteeing them housing, helping them find jobs and providing Swedish language classes.

But the churches pick up where the help from the state ends -- by providing a natural meeting place for people who have gone through the same experience.

When Christian Iraqis arrive in Sweden, the church "is the only thing they know," says Benyamin Atas, the Turkish archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Södertälje.

Refugees naturally turn first toward their family and relatives in Sweden when they arrive, but "when they need something, some advice, they turn to the church" where the doors are almost always open, he says.

For Nabil Radif, an Iraqi engineer in his 50s who has lived in Sweden since 1992, the church is a way to strengthen one's identity when you arrive in a new country.

It's also an opportunity to get together to talk about current events in Iraq, with many Iraqis concerned about the safety of their loved ones left behind in the war torn country.

"In most regions, Christians are told to convert to Islam or leave the country. They are subjected to threats, kidnappings and robberies," says Nabil Radif who regularly phones home to provide support.

Twenty-four-year-old Nawar, who arrived in Sweden from Baghdad in 2003, shares the same concerns as Radif.

"My family has the same problems as all Christians. They don't have a good life over there, they keep wondering when they're going to die," he says as he leaves a religious service at the Syriac Orthodox Sankt Mikael's Church in Södertälje.

Before the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Iraq's Christian community had more than 800,000 members, or about three percent of the population in the largely Muslim country. Many of those have since fled the country or moved to Iraqi Kurdistan.

Assyrian Woman from Iraq Has Heart Surgery in Arizona

Courtesy of the Arizona Republic
6 June 2008

It started with a letter from a 16-year-old hospital volunteer.

Sabrina Rustam, of Gilbert, Arizona, asked Mercy Gilbert Medical Center to help her dad's cause, the Assyrian Aid Society.

Now, a 57-year-old Assyrian woman from Baghdad who's had valve damage since she was about 14 will receive free heart surgery to correct the problem.

Laya Asrail will be the first to receive a free surgery through a partnership between the hospital and the Assyrian Aid Society.

Mercy Gilbert will pay for one surgery per year and the Assyrian group pays for travel and housing for that person.

The agreement came together thanks to the hospital's mission integration program.

Marty Breeden, the program's vice president, said Mercy Gilbert officials decided to provide the free service because of Sabrina's letter.

"She was just so sincere and caring. How could we refuse that?" he asked.

In March, Breeden met with Sabrina's father, Fred Rustam, who told of the Assyrian Aid Society's cause.

"I was really moved," Fred Rustam said.

Rustam, a civil engineer for the city of Mesa, has been an active in the organization since 2002.

The organization was formed in 1991 to help Assyrians in northern Iraq who were suffering under Saddam Hussein's policies.

Thousands of Assyrians have fled the country in the past few decades.

Rustam and his family moved to the states 28 years ago to escape political persecution.

All that matters for Asrail, whose daughter, a doctor, came along as her escort, is getting her heart valves replaced.

Despite the turbulent times in Baghdad, she is eager to get back to her husband and family.

She is grateful to the doctors and the society.

"I'm very happy to have this surgery done in this country," she said in her native Assyrian. "They value people here."

Graduating Students Celebrate in Glendale, Arizona

A report by Joseph Hermiz from Arizona


(ZNDA:  Glendale)  On May 23, 2008, the St. Peter the Apostle Parish, Assyrian Church of the East, Youth Ministry of Glendale, Arizona hosted a graduation ceremony for all members of the community graduating from elementary, junior high school, high school and college.

The keynote speakers of the event were Francis Murad, Ph.D., who sat as vice-president of a major Engineering Consultant Firm in Detroit, MI, and H.G. Mar Aprim Khamis who before becoming a bishop in the Assyrian Church of the East, was an elementary school teacher in Baghdad, Iraq.

Also in attendance was Cor-bishop Frederick S. Hermiz and other prelates of St. Peter the Apostle Parish.

Dr. Francis Murad spoke to the graduates of the “value of an education” and illustrated his struggle from washing dishes for $1.20 an hour to attending the University of Maryland to attain his Ph.D. in Engineering. He also stressed the importance of attaining a high school diploma and entering into the professional job field.

“The jobs that were once there are not there anymore due to advancements in technology. You are more expendable then ever before, thus, employers demand the highest level of education and training when entering the work place,” stated Dr. Murad.

H.G. Mar Aprim Khamis addressed the graduating youth of the “zeal and guts” that is needed to persevere and arrive at the level of “self-actualization” that we all stress to achieve. Bishop Khamis also asserted the importance of placing and living the word of Jesus Christ in ones life when venturing out into the world of academia.

“There was once a wise man who told a friend that he had read all the books of science and math that were necessary for an education. But still, that man felt empty. Why? As his friend so dearly pointed out, ‘because you have never read of the Book of Life.’ What is the Book of Life my beloved children? The teachings of Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Khamis.

Bishop Khamis thanked all of the graduates for all the work they have put in thus far and to continue to reach for higher levels in their studies.

“Never give up and always strive to be the best, for the sake of your Holy Church and your Holy Nation, Assyria,’ Bishop Khamis added, ‘trust me, do your best, and God will the do rest.”

St. Peter the Apostle Youth Ministry would like to congratulate all of our beloved graduates. Here’s to you Class of 2008:

Alan Awdisho
Mary Benyamin
Ashor Chamoun
Sargon Dawood
George Mamouk
Nahrain Slivo
James Anoid
Nenwae Benyamin
Miriam Daniel
Timothy Elias
Jessica Mirza
Katerina Warda
Nahran Anoid
Audrina Bet Zomayeh
Aded Daniel
Steven Gamo
Chris Murad
Nahrain Warda
Ninveh Anoid
Joulyana Binyamin
Albertine David
Odisho Hermiz
Nohra Murad
Sofia Warda
George Baba
Maria Chalabi
Anita David
DeeDee Krikorian
Youri Sayadian
Ramsen Yalda
George Benyamin
Michelle Chalabi
Chris Dawood
Nahrain Kando
Georgina Shamoun
Fallon Yaro


Surfs Up!
Your Letters to the Editor

Person of the Year

Joseph Hermiz

Mr. Nobody!

That is who we find as the 2008 Assyrian of the Year.

Published by Xlibris


1-888-795-4274 ext. 7876 or 7479

Order online: click here /  $15.99 per copy + S&H

Not to say that the works of those nominated have been in vain, but, they have not furthered our Assyrian agenda to the extent to which outsiders would consider acceptable. Most practically, the best the 2008 Assyrians attempted was to re-inform or re-edify the Assyrian people of our struggle. Can this truly be successful in attaining a nation 5 years into a war that is still in its birth? There was and still is a need to reach out to the legislative and legal arms of our communities throughout the world.

Unfortunately, 2008 was the year of big ideas, and little action.

We saw the emergence and progress of the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project (ISDP), but with it, we saw the same reviled interest groups assert their influence in promoting it. In example, it would be assumed that African-Americans wouldn't’t attend a Black Nationalist Conference, regardless of how proactive it might really be, if it is heavily endorsed by the KKK. We saw the tremendous work of Sabri Atman in exposing the past and continuous Turkish coercion of our people, but with it, we saw many Assyrian political and religious leaders run to garner the support of the Turkish government in advancing their own agenda. For the most part, there were inconsistencies throughout the Assyrian community. Perhaps, one pertinent goal for 2009 would be to create one universal Assyrian Human Rights Watch Organization to promote the Assyrian agenda throughout the world vis a vis the American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC). The organization or individuals, who could rally some type of universal movement such as this, would easily deserve the award in 2009.

However, what we came to see in 2008 was for the most part discouraging. Many of our religious and political leaders used 2008 as a year to advance their divisive and self-aggrandizing agendas. One of the more perplexing complexities in 2008 was once again our national representation. Rather then uniting as Assyrians, we united as Christians, eliminating our ethnic advantage in both Diaspora and in Iraq. You don’t have to look too far to see of clear evidence of that. Simply search ‘Iraqi Christians’ on the net and more often then not you won’t see a single reference to the origins of the ‘Christians’ of Iraq.

Our political representatives still employ unpopular and unsuccessful policies and practices throughout the world. Not to mention, other then the voices shared in places like Zinda, Assyrian media outlets have become nothing but channels for political and social propaganda helping poison the minds of younger Assyrians and stirring the emotions of the older generation. Furthermore, we have now seen how dissent and questioning is treated in the Assyrian community, by complete isolation and continuous torment and coercion from those that are questioned.

The question then comes to this writers mind, how are we any better then those marginalizing and cheat us, when we marginalize and cheat one another?

But, the Achilles heal of the Assyrian community is its blind judgment in laying its fate in the hands of the West when it comes to securing a homeland. If Assyrians haven’t learned one thing, it is most certainly the fact the West does not share the same sympathies with us as we do to it. Rather, the West is tediously working to build illegal Islamic states such Bosnia and Kosovo. We don’t have to look too far to see the injustice the West continues to lay upon on the East. Yugoslavia, an ally of the United States and Europe during World War II now sees the West meddling in its national affairs and forcibly cutting and dividing its nation just as it did the Middle East after the Great War. Assyrians continue to lack vision. We continue to see hope for ourselves coming from the West, because after all, “they are Christians like us.”

We have made our situation so difficult, it is almost impossible at this point to know who to support and who not too.

So, with that all said, was 2008 a lost cause? In all fairness, it was not really. Rather it was merely an experimentation that occurred for many organizations as they now begin to take the next incremental steps to changing and advancing the Assyrian agenda (hopefully for the better).

For the upset readers, try to understand it in this context; are Assyrians any closer to a homeland now, then when the Iraq War began in 2003?

Joseph N. Hermiz is an Assyrian-American writer and Assyrian political activist.

Responses to Dr. Malik's Article

Sargon B. Yalda

In response to Dr. Lincoln Malik's Zinda Magazine article "A Child of Unity Is Born Unto Us", although I do agree that we should let bygone be bygones and move forward, I shall not stand by and give those who repeatedly err and insult my Church and Nation another opportunity to set progress aback.

More appropriately, the article should have been labeled "An embezzlement scheme thwarted", because at the bottom of the whole conspiracy, were twenty Million dollars and an obdurate attempt to destroy the authority of the Assyrian Church of the East (ACOE).

Recently, a video production of ex-Bishop Soro's speeches has surfaced, in which he repeatedly denies some of the allegations and rumors surrounding his ultimate goal, and I quote; "I am trying to convert you people into Catholics" and "Make you 'papaye'". Hind sight it was all so comical.

As for Mar Sarhad Jammo; all one has to do is go into Zinda Magazine archives, and you shall see the hypocrisy for yourselves. Here are a few excerpts from those articles:

February 3, 2003: “Now it appears that after more than a decade, a bishop in the Diaspora and his Chaldean followers have found Moses' Stick, and by just one magical stroke are able to create a five thousand year old nation --"The Chaldean Nation"-- a nation separate from the Assyrians. The "Chaldean Renaissance" a novelty of Bishop Mar Sarhad Jammo is not only a historical sophism, but a flagrant contradiction with the facts and reality.”

May 12, 2003: “The man at the forefront of monitoring and confronting the Assyrian-Chaldean identity denial was none other than Mar Sarhad Jammo, the controversial Chaldean bishop whose signature at the bottom of the statement released on Saturday effectively annulled over twenty years of his dedication toward the unity of the Chaldean and non-Chaldean Assyrian people.”

October 13, 2003: “The new Chaldean Bishops' attempt to forge an ethnicity distinct from Assyrians and Syriacs has been championed primarily by Bishop Sarhad Jammo of the St. Peter the Apostle Chaldean Catholic Diocese in California. Upon his appointment as Bishop, Bishop Sarhad Jammo quickly embarked upon a separatist agenda. In a May 10 memorandum from San Diego, Bishop Sarhad along with Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim, the Bishop of Michigan, formally asserted a separate Chaldean ethnicity, rejecting a common political or nationalist purpose with Assyrians.”

September 28, 2004: “The Chaldean Catholic bishops in the United States, namely Mar Sarhad Jammo and Mar Ibrahim Ibrahim, were initially behind the de-Arabization of the Syriac-speaking Catholics in Iraq. They promoted the title of Chaldean as separate from the Assyrian in U.S. Census 2000. On September 3, 2003, 19 bishops from the Chaldean Catholic Church sent a letter to Ambassador Paul Bremer, Civil Administrator of Iraq at the time, demanding separate representation in Iraq.”

April 6, 2005: “Let us not be easily deceived: it is not an error, nor a misunderstanding. It is not the first time that Mar Sarhad Jammo tries to divide our people in several components. His conference of Chicago is only an additional drift.

April 13, 2005: “According to Zinda Magazine on.24 February 2005 Bishop Sarhad Jammo delivered a speech to his followers in San Diego perhaps a typical lecture by him and others intended to further alienate members of the Chaldean Church from their Assyrian heritage. Judging by the content of this speech it is no wonder that there is so much hostility by the member of the Chaldean Church toward their Assyrian ancestry and Assyrians in general.”

June 18, 2006: “After Mar Sarhad Jammo, the Chaldean Bishop from the U.S., who did everything to divide Assyro-Chaldeans with absurd arguments at various conferences in the United States, the Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Mar Emmanuel III Delly, is beginning to do his share of the "Chaldean" nationalist activism.”

And last from 2007, although not yet archived, how could anyone forget Mr. Wilfred Alkhas's article on the San Diego Assyrian AANF convention, when a group of organizers had asked Bishop Sarhad Jammo to bless the convention and his response was "Yours' is an Assyrian convention, you should ask an Assyrian Bishop to do that", as they were repelled.

Now, does Dr. Malik truthfully still believe that such a man is seeking “Unity”? I know he wrote that you would expect these arguments, attempting to pre-disqualify them, which by the way is like telling a boxer: “I will punch you in the face, but I don’t expect you to either protect yourself or punch back”, but coming from a 66 year old veteran politician, born and raised a Presbyterian, one has to question his authenticity and rationale for posting such an article.  Is he telling us that it took him 66 years that his was following the wrong denomination of Christianity? If he answers ‘yes’; then he would upset many other Assyrians including half of my own family who is Presbyterian.

It is not his religious propensity that troubles me, but rather his political title as the former director of ADM in North America. We must all learn to separate Church and State if we are ever to move forward. Indeed, what ever has happened in the Church is behind us, but please do not mix it with the notion of Assyrianism.

Dr. Malik and other political leaders like him owe it to themselves to work together towards a common goal that will benefit our Nation as one, because these are very vulnerable times for our people. All of our political parties should embark upon a new constructive dialogue through which we will portray our unity, and not through some religious means.

Personally, I feel that our leaders in the past have already neglected several opportunities for our nation to become an independent entity in this century; and I would hate to see another prospect wasted because of incompetent leadership and internal discord. I believe that all of our political forces should be working with each other; first to define their common objectives and then towards making them a reality.

We should also divest our organizations and political parties from unqualified and incompetent individuals, which I deem as the main cause of inept negligence and backwardness.

As for Church matters; for most of us, the Assyrian Church of the East, a 2000 year establishment, has been our nation's pillar for centuries. Therefore, when Dr. Malik writes "To those who say 'you became a Catholic,' I say yes we did, and why not,” I ask you:  "Who ever stopped him to begin with? In fact who ever stopped the ex-Bishop?" People leave and join the Assyrian Church of the East all the time, and I am happy to report to you sir, that ACOE today is the strongest it has ever been.

The 'Soro-schism' movement has all but expired now, it is only fueled nowadays by stubbornness and shotanayota, which has always plagued our nation and it is just a matter of time when everyone will come to their senses.

Dr. Malik also writes: "I am not naive to believe that there will not be obstacles along the way." Let me say this to Dr. Malik: the obstacles were erected by Mar Sarhad Jammo with the full knowledge of ex-Bishop Bawai, and only time will prove their real intentions behind this so-called "Catholicization" of a few rouge Assyrians.

Paul Isaac

In Response to Dr. Malik: A Dream or a Fantasy?

I have grown quite used to reading in these pages ridiculous revisions of history and willful ignorance of facts when discussing the former bishop of the Assyrian Church of the East, Ashur Soro.  However, Dr. Lincoln Malik’s incredible mental gymnastics around history and through the truth is nothing short of astonishing.  I chuckle to myself as I wonder if Dr. Malik actually has come to believe this conjectured fable. 

I do not wish to dwell on the many issues and betrayals which led to the schism.  I and others have discussed these in the past and the truth is out there for those who wish to know it.  Whatever justifications the former bishop and his followers felt they had, the facts are the following: the Synod of the Assyrian Church of the East (the “ACOE”), under the authority of its Patriarch and to whom the former bishop swore to obey, delivered a judgment in 2005.  This judgment found that the former bishop had violated his oath of allegiance and presented him with several options to remain inside the fold of the Church.  The former bishop rejected the ruling of the Synod.  If the former bishop felt such conviction to join the Roman Catholic Church and submit to the authority of the Vatican, and if this was truly Dr. Lincoln Malik’s “dream” that he had “long thought about”, why did they not spare this nation the agony and simply fulfill their dream in 2005?  Instead, the former bishop attempted to appropriate for himself substantial financial assets of the ACOE and force the Church to secure these properties for its sons and daughters through the court of law.  After much expense in dollars, time and energy, the ACOE was granted its properties in accordance with what any reasonable person could have foreseen three years prior.  Throughout the ordeal, the former bishop committed significant sums of money to promote, through radio and television programs, the defamation of ACOE bishops and the Patriarch himself.  And during the process, he promised his followers several times that he would not make them “Papayeh” or make them Catholic.  I also wonder if this “dream” was somehow a consolation prize, ranking behind entry into the Old Calendar Church, which was the former bishop’s preferred option until he was rejected by Mar Addai.  (I apologize to Dr. Malik for “dragging out” facts, especially ones that are as inconvenient for him as these).

And yet, for all of this anguish, I actually wish to thank Dr. Malik, the former bishop, and his remaining followers.  The end result of the pain that the former bishop inflicted on this Church and on this nation has resulted in two very positive outcomes:

  1. For the Assyrian Church of the East: A bishop with the previously hidden agenda to deliver the ACOE to Sarhad Jammo and to the Vatican was exposed and removed, preventing the potentially fatal damage he may have caused if allowed to remain. The great awakening caused by the former bishop’s asset and power grab has resulted in a Church-body that is more unified, committed and devoted to the ACOE, its Patriarch, its history, its name, its nationalism and its independence, than ever before.  Ironically, the entry of the former bishop and his “diocese” into the Roman Catholic Church may have the effect of forever preventing such an occurrence befalling the ACOE as a whole.  And for this, I am eternally grateful to the former bishop.
  1. For the entire Assyrian nation: A corrupt and ill-meaning political party in our nation, which thought it could use the former bishop as a vehicle to consolidate its stranglehold on political power, was exposed and isolated.  Before 2005, the Assyrian Democratic Movement (the “ADM”) may have thought that the former bishop, once Patriarch, would prove as pliable and deferential an ally as he had proven in the past, contributing funds to its sister organizations and promoting its re-branding of the Assyrian identity.  After all, the ADM had successfully employed this model previously, to its financial and political benefit, with other civic organizations in the Diaspora (and unfortunately the effects here still linger).  Following the schism, the ADM apparently thought the former bishop strong enough to shatter the ACOE and the authority of its Patriarch, His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV.  As the former bishop’s success seemed less and less likely, the ADM retreated into its tired official lines on “not getting involved” in Church affairs and “neutrality.” 

Now that the schism is complete, it is with more than a little vindication that I see the ADM and its chief leaders, such as Dr. Lincoln Malik himself and many others, publicly wrapping themselves so tightly under the cloth of the former bishop, without the slightest hesitation.  The ADM, hoping that it had found for itself a road to political dominance, created for itself instead a self-inflicted fiasco.  Indeed, it was the former bishops’ followers that had used the ADM (and the former bishop himself), as a vehicle for their hatred of the ACOE and its clergy.  As long as the ADM was willing to indulge them in the incessant and disgusting attacks on the Church, they were willing to indulge in a few purple flags.  But when push came to shove, the ADM was simply unable to abandon the former bishop – the power behind the ADM’s vestiges of support was with him, not the party.

And so, after this long and winding road, what is the ADM left with now?:  The supporters of the former bishop on one hand and the absolute distrust of the rest of the Assyrian nation on the other.  Hence, I wish to congratulate Dr. Malik and the former bishop’s “3,000” followers on the fulfillment of their dream, and I am equally happy that their dream does not involve me.  I only wish to inform Dr. Malik, the former bishop, and rest of the Assyrian Democratic Movement around the world: the votes of your purported 3,000 converts will not win you a seat in the next Iraqi parliamentary elections.

Musing with My Samovar
with Obelit Yadgar


The Purple Scream

Memories are like shafts of sunlight in a dense forest that, unlike the black and white keys of the piano, come at variable intervals. They are snapshots from the past that spit out stories and images like a series of posters. One thing leads to another and suddenly there’s a storm of them, impossible to stop. Sometimes there are surprises.

I was perusing through a large book on art in the bookstore near my home and came across a photograph of Edvard Munch’s masterpiece The Scream. I don’t know it well enough for a detailed discussion, but the painting is striking and intense in its themes spanning across emotional extremes from despair to loneliness and social alienation. The Scream demands more than just a cursory glance as if it were a scene passing by; it grabs the eye and holds on. It held me – again.

Yet I don’t know how long it was before I felt a small laugh crackling out of me. Soon it became louder and then I couldn't stop laughing. There is nothing humorous in Munch’s The Scream. But I was laughing. The fellow nearby in the isle shot a suspicious eye at me after realizing what I was looking at and slinked away, probably thinking I was a sadist getting my kicks from the pain that explodes from the canvas.

I shuffled to the café and sank in a chair with a cup of coffee. Memories of my Tehran of ago flooded me and again I found myself quietly laughing. I took out my pocket notebook and scribbled The Purple Scream. That was the curious title for one of the many stories with which Emad captivated us kids in the neighborhood. He spun everything from chillers to dramas and comedies, and despite coming around the neighborhood for only a short time, he left me with the impression of watching a master.

The Scream by Edvard Munch

I never knew Emad’s last name. Nor was I sure about his ethnic heritage, although I do have a vague recollection of something about his being half Assyrian or Armenian. He was a fair-haired teenager from a different neighborhood and knew one of the older boys on our block. Tall and willowy, he dressed in a suit and tie. His good looks and heroic swagger coupled with a hearty laugh and exaggerated physical movements flashed romantic images of Douglas Fairbanks in a silent swashbuckler, like the 1926 The Black Pirate.

As I ponder the Assyrian literary tradition through the centuries, I can only imagine how rich it must have been among the ancient Assyrian storytellers and poets who roamed the Mesopotamian cities – Nineveh, Nimrud, Assur, Babylon, Nippur, Uruk – and captivated young and old crowds. They would have been natural storytellers like Emad who performed on the world’s greatest stage – the neighborhood street corner.

My neighborhood in Tehran had two tiers of youngsters, those in high school and the younger ones, including me, who were in grammar school. Although girls and boys occasionally mingled, for the most part they kept their distance according to society’s rules at the time. All except Nina, a pretty Assyrian-Russian émigré teenager with the arms and shoulders of an Olympic shot-put champion. Nobody would mess with Nina after she wrestled an older boy onto the ground and stuffed his face into the snow bank. From what I recall, Nina was in the neighborhood for a short time, too, while she stayed with a relative.

When Emad told his stories, even some girls joined the circle of young listeners. He had a magical flair for storytelling, which a thousand years later I still envy. He told them visually, in detail, like a painter describing each brush stroke, color and pattern, and with a poet’s command of Farsi, he knew just how to drive his monologue with crisp strokes and pulsating rhythm. He fed tension into his dramas like Henry Layard, the 19th-Century British archeologist and adventurer, unearthing magnificent Assyrian relics in Mesopotamia. Often the stories were told in installments and, as in movie serials, each installment ended with a cliffhanger that left us hungering for more.  

The Purple Scream took two installments. Since there’s no way for me to retell the story in English in the same masterly way he told it in Farsi, I can only make a feeble attempt to recreate his verbal and storytelling style. In all likelihood I have also forgotten some of the story’s details. So for what it’s worth, here is The Purple Scream:

It was a long time ago and somewhere in the mountains there was a village that possessed an ominous reputation for dark and mysterious lore and legend. One such legend centered on a small but terrifying cave on the edge of the village, where at midnight a purple light would appear from its bowels and a horrifying scream shatter the silence. For as long as anyone in the village remembered, no one had dared to enter the cave alone at the fated hour of midnight. No one that is except for a young man who entered the cave on a dare – and never came out alive. A week after that tragic incident, a large group of villagers banded together and entered the cave in daylight, only to find the young man dead.

The locals delighted in sharing the story with curious travelers, but since it had been around so many years, the story had picked up a few barnacles. Since also no one really knew the truth, the story was open to different interpretations. Depending on who told it, and how much he had to drink, some versions were more colorful than others.

Already Emad had us in his grip as we bunched around the jube (a little creek that ran along some streets in Tehran) on our block. He stopped and produced a cigarette from a gold case and, with the mastery of an orchestra conductor, tapped one end on the cover and lit up with a gold lighter. He blew a long stream of smoke, as we watched and waited, and continued:

On a stormy night long ago the young men in the village bet on who was the bravest among them. Everyone claimed the honor. So what to do? Ideas flew back and forth, but nothing came of them. Time dragged on in the cold drizzle until finally one young man suggested the perfect test. Pointing to the cave on the edge of the village, he announced that anyone brave enough to enter the cave and drive a spike into its floor at the hour of midnight was the winner. To avoid fraud, anyone participating would have to swear on his mother’s head that he would follow the rules and actually walk to the end of the cave, drive in the spike and come out.  

Since no one took the challenge, the young man announced he would attempt it himself and emerge triumphant as the bravest in the village. His friends warned against the idea, suggesting the challenge was too risky, but he had made up his mind. He would walk to the end of the cave, drive a spike into the floor and walk out. Tightening his ankle-length overcoat around him, a lighted torch in one hand and a spike with hammer in the other, he set out for the cave. The wind turned the drizzle into ice pellets against his skin. His bones felt brittle from the damp cold. His heart beat a vicious rhythm.

Here Emad was a master of imagery and sound effects: Giant bats swooped like RAF fighters. Creeks and squeaks echoed through the young man’s spine. Things rattled. Crawled. Slithered. On and on. Outside the cave, the young man’s friends waited with anticipation, fearing for his life. Emad twirled sparks of sound and visual effects around them, too. Oh yes, he was having a time of his life scaring us to death. It was a warm summer night, but I found myself shivering with cold.

Fighting against all odds, surrounded by evil, the young man finally reached the end of the cave. He knew he had won the bet and that soon he would emerge with the title of the bravest young man in the village. So he put his torch down and knelt on the cave floor, his long overcoat draping on the ground around him like a carpet, and drove the spike into the ground. He had done it. He had conquered.

Emad stopped here and said he had to go home – something about a reception for his father’s colleagues. His father was a doctor. “What?” “Emad, come on – the story.” Some were ready to strangle him. Emad lit another cigarette, shrugging, and trundled off, leaving his audience befuddled. For the next few days there were more bets by the boys on how the story would end than there were among people betting on horses at the racetrack. Everybody had a different ending for The Purple Scream. A few days later Emad returned to the neighborhood. All the bets were down, the arguing and the cursing over with, and we sat around the jube again and waited. Emad reset the scene with the sound and visual effects. He was in great form.

So the young man began to drive the spike into the ground with his hammer. Each blow echoed through the cave like an exploding heart. The damp air chiseled his bones. Bugs and other creatures gnawed the exposed skin on the back of his neck. He didn’t care, because he was the bravest. Nothing would defeat him. He had won the bet. He had made it to the end of the cave and driven in the spike. Done. Finished. A hero. 

Emad stopped and lit another cigarette, exhaling a thick stream of smoke. He coughed. Scratched himself. Flipped his ashes. And we waited. It was getting dark and we knew sooner or later the parents would send an emissary to drag their respective children home. Emad took his sweet time. “Get on with the story, Emad!” He nodded.

Still kneeling on the ground, the young man waved the torch in the air. From where his friends had gathered, the light looked purple in the black of night. They thought nothing of it and began to cheer. It was then that the light disappeared and a terrifying scream echoed through the village like the chorus of the dead. Moments later the night grew silent except for the wind hissing through the trees and the drizzle tapping on dead leaves underfoot. Everyone stood in a daze wondering what had happened. One young man fought his fear momentarily and almost rushed into the cave, only to stop a few steps away, trembling. The crowd remained outside the cave all night and their friend failed to emerge. Soon word spread throughout the village that something had happened.

To this day no one knows exactly what, except that there was not a physical mark on the young man. No wounds, no blood, nothing. What was especially curious is that the spike had been driven into the ground through the bottom edge of his long overcoat, and he lay dead on the ground with his mouth frozen wide in a silent scream.

If I recall, not long after that story Emad stopped coming to the neighborhood. Years later I don’t know whether The Purple Scream was his own story or he had read it somewhere. For that matter, I wonder if all his other stories were original. He had said his family planned to send him to London to study medicine. Perhaps the other boys knew what happened to him, but then my family moved to another neighborhood and I lost track. Yet through the years I never stopped wondering about him.

Maybe Emad did go to London and became a doctor. Somehow I can’t help but wish he had defied his father and become a writer of stories. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt that all the stories were his creations, that he had not read them in some books and tried to pawn them off as his own. I want to believe that Emad wrote The Purple Scream. But I will never know. Sometimes I also tempt myself into thinking that perhaps he was a reincarnation of a storyteller who long ago had stood on the street corners of Bet Nahrain and captivated my Assyrians ancestors. It’s an intriguing thought. In the end, though, perhaps Emad’s is a story for me to write as fiction in which I can imagine his life the way I would want it.


Surfer's Corner
Community Events

A Mesopotamian Night:
Celebrating Glorious Music From the Past



Tony Khoshaba
Chapter President, AAS-A Central Valley
Modesto, California
(209) 606-5438

Assyrian Aid Society of America (AAS-A) – Central Valley Chapter – will present the second annual Mesopotamian Night concert at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 23rd, in the Rogers Theater of
the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto, California. The event is part of the AAS-A’s extensive fundraising activities to help Assyrians around the world, especially those facing hardship brought on by the Iraq war.

The evening’s entertainment will showcase an exciting program of Assyrian symphonic music, opera,
ballet, folk and popular songs with Lorraine Davis, soprano, Townsend Opera Players led by Erik Buck Townsend, and Central West Ballet Company. Assyrian pop music stars Walter Aziz and Ashur Bet Sargis along with a 22-piece band will rock the concert to romping close.

“The Star Spangled Banner,” American National Anthem, and “Roomrama,” Assyrian National will
start off the evening. Soloist Lorraine Davis and the orchestra will then turn to songs composed by the late William Daniel and arranged by the American composer John Craton. “Nineveh,” “Tears of the Beloved,” “The Memories of the Fatherland” and “Festival” are songs sure to fill Assyrian hearts with love for their national identity and a yearning for their ancient homeland in Mesopotamia.

Excerpts from the opera Gilgamesh, composed by Mr. Craton and sung in Aramaic from the
translation of the Mesopotamian epic poem by the Assyrian writer Addai Alkhas, will be the first performance in America of an opera in the language of the Assyrians. Gilgamesh is made possible by a generous grant from the AAS-A – Central Valley Chapter.

Selections from the opera of Inanna also by Mr. Craton will take the audience back to 3,000 B.C. to
the city of Ur in ancient Sumer. Set to Mr. Craton’s libretto, Inanna includes the ballet scene Haluppu Tree, choreographed and performed by Central West Ballet Company exclusively for the Assyrian Aid Society.

Assurhadoun Khofri will lead the 22-piece band that includes some of today’s leading Assyrian
musicians: Tiglat Issabey, piano; David Betsamo, keyboard; Ninos Kikho, guitar; Allen George, bass; Ronick Ital, percussion; Robert Noghli, drums; and music director Pierre Noghli, drums.

Assyrian writer and classical music radio personality Obelit (“Obie”) Yadgar will be master of
ceremonies, with a live auction conducted by Narsai David, AAS-A president. The event's Honorary Committee includes composer Nebu Issabey, Near Eastern scholar Dr. Arianne Ishaya, writer and philanthropist Dr. Rami Yelda, composer John Craton, music directors Erik Buck Townsend and Assurhadoun Khofri.

Wine and hors d'oeuvre will be served prior to performance and also during intermission. Tickets are
priced starting at $75, with exclusive box seats as well as sponsorship opportunities also available. All proceeds from the evening will benefit AAS-A humanitarian, medical and educational projects. Reservation forms are available at http://www.assyrianaid.org/modesto2008.htm. For information, call AAS-A at (209) 606-5438.

The Assyrian Aid Society of America is a charitable 501(c)(3) organization recognized by the State of
California and the government of the United States of America, dedicated to assisting needy
Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac people in northern Iraq and around the world. In the past 17 years AAS-A has raised more than $5 million to build schools, staff and supply medical clinics, facilitate life-saving surgeries, rebuild homes and villages, irrigate farmlands, bring electricity to villages, and implement a host of other vital programs and services.

Seyfo Commemoration in Switzerland

Seyfo Center
The Netherlands


We should never forget the memory of the innocent Assyrian (Suryoye) victims of 1915!

You are cordially invited to attend the commemoration of the Assyrian Genocide of 1915. This event will be held in Switzerland at the “Rigi Mountain” on Sunday, July 6, 2008.

The guest speakers will include Mr. Gabriel Afram, Mr Nuri Kino, Mr Feyyaz Kerimo, Sabri Atman and others.

Black balloons will be released in memory of those who lost their lives in 1915. We look forward to honoring this important date with you!

For further information please contact SEYFO CENTER.  +41 787767430    and    +31 622125003

Hugoye Paper Receives NAPS Best First Article Award

Beth Mardutho: The Syriac Institute, Piscataway May 27, 2008—In its meeting in Chicago last week, the North American Patristics Society awarded Kristi Upson-Saia (Duke University) the Best First Article award for her Hugoye paper Caught in a Compromising Position: The Biblical Exegesis and Characterization of Biblical Protagonists in the Syriac Dialogue Hymns.  NAPS annually awards a prize of $250 for the Best First Article published in the field of patristics by a NAPS member in a scholarly journal.  Members of the Editorial and Advisory Boards of the Journal of Early Christian Studies serve as judges.  The President of NAPS oversees submissions and judging.  Previous prize winners have been published in Harvard Theological Review, the Journal of Early Christian Studies, and now: Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies!

Kristi Upson-Saia is now Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

Established in 1992, Beth Mardutho seeks to promote the study and preservation of the Syriac heritage and language, and to facilitate opportunities for people to pursue the study of this ancient legacy globally. Published semiannually since 1988, Hugoye is a peer-reviewed academic journal that is dedicated entirely to the Syriac tradition. [www.bethmardutho.org]

Zinda Recommendations from Gorgias Press

For More Info
Treasure of the Syriac Language: A Dictionary of Classical Syriac

Thomas Audo (Mar Tooma Audo)


Book Description The undertaking of writing a dictionary in a language used by a relatively small group of people united by their religious faith is a labor of love. Audo’s Syriac dictionary is a reference tool coveted by all students of the Syriac language. As a language tool it represents the Syriac known and used in the nineteenth century in the Middle East. Seldom since the days of Johnson and Webster has such effort been put into a lexical project by an individual. Now available with an English introduction, Gorgias Press is making this historic contribution to the understanding of the Syriac language.

Thomas Audo (1855-1918) was a Chaldean Bishop of Urmia in what is now Iran. He became the victim of a series of attacks on the Assyrian population during the First World War, having died what is considered by many a martyr’s death. Another of his books is Kalila and Dimna: Fables of Bidpai, also available from Gorgias Press.

S. Ephraim's Prose Refutations of Mani, Marcion, and Bardaisan C. W. Mitchell

This two-volume set of St. Ephraim’s refutations of Mani, Marcion, and Bardaisan was a major undertaking by a gifted young scholar. Working from Syriac transcribed from the British Museum palimpsest Add. 14623, he translated the works of the saint into English. Published here in a bilingual edition, with the posthumous work being completed by A. A. Bevan and F. C. Burkitt, the resulting effort of these scholars has contributed greatly to the understanding of one of the patriarchs of Eastern Christianity in the western world. The first volume covers Ephraim’s prose discourses addressed to Hypatius and the second the discourse against Bardaisan’s Domnus, as well as three documents against Marcion, stanzas against Bardaisan, on virginity, and against Mani. This collection of the important prose works of the major figure of early Syrian Orthodoxy has been difficult to find. Now reprinted and available in English, this resource will be prized by scholars of Syriac and those interested in the controversies in the early church.

Charles Wand Mitchell (1878-1917) began his career at a lecturer at Bishop’s College University, Lennoxville, Quebec. He went on to Cambridge as Advanced Student and served as Hebrew Master at Merchant Taylor’s School, in London and was ordained to the priesthood. He was a chaplain in the military until he was killed in the First World War.

Catalogue of Syriac Printed Books and Related Literature in the British Museum Cyril Moss $294

An immensely important volume in Syriac studies, Moss’s Catalogue of Syriac Printed Books represents a first effort at providing a thorough, printed database of the disparate materials that make up the Syriac corpus. Specifically limiting himself to the collections of the British Museum, Moss set out to provide a complete manuscript list with brief descriptions of each document. Moving beyond previous efforts, he also included books and articles about the Syriac manuscripts, providing the world with an essential reference work. For the beginning student as well as the advanced scholar, Moss’s catalogue is the foundation for any serious undertaking in Syriac studies.

Cyril Moss (d. 1961) was Assistant Keeper in the Department of Oriental Printed Books and Manuscripts in the British Museum. He was awarded the honor of Order of the British Empire for his untiring efforts to bring the Museum’s treasures to the public.


Editor's Pick


na·tion·al·ism (n)

Joseph N. Hermiz

na·tion·al·ism (n)  1: loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially : a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups

The nationalist movement of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century has had an enormous and profound influence on Modern history. Historians have often used the term “nationalism” to refer to this societal transition and to the emergence and ascendance of the nationalist ideology.

In most cases, the Nationalist efforts have been plagued by both chauvinism and imperialism in which nationalist efforts have eventually propagated fascist and statist movements in the early part of twentieth century. Some contemporary nationalists reject the racist chauvinism of these groups, and remain confident that national identity supersedes biological attachment to an ethnic group.

Therein is the question; or perhaps in our case, the Assyrian Question. For the readers who are still unfamiliar with this political movement accompanied with its own unique ideology, the Assyrian Question supports the creation of an Assyrian homeland for the Assyrian people in Bet-Nahrain (Mesopotamia) or in what is today referred to as the Nineveh plains of Northern Iraq. The Assyrian Question is simply the issue of Assyrian independence which has been brought up many times throughout the annals of history, especially from the end of World War I to the present-day Iraq War.

The Assyrians, as they still are today, were marginalized in all peace talks and treaties during World War I and World War II. For example, the Treaty of Sèvres  of 1920 (one treaty in which Assyrians were not permitted participate in deliberations because the Assyrians were not seen as equals as the other participants) never went as far as securing the Assyrian people as the promises made to the indigenous peoples of that land. A year earlier, at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 three Assyrian delegations were scheduled to participate in the Peace Conference arguing for Assyrian demands from global community. However, Great Britain and the United States delegates denied the Assyrian petition, rationalizing that U.S. President Woodrow Wilson had “strong reservations” with any plan that intended to divide Turkey. Thus, the Assyrian delegations returned from the conference empty handed.

Now, has our national movement been beneficial to our nation? That is, have those we elected throughout the world served our community in its best interest? Though it would be difficult to simply say “yes” or “no,” it would be much easier to agree that we need to do a better job.

What is a better job? A better job, in this writer’s opinion, would be broken down into two points that all Assyrian political and social entities need to embrace and promote in and amongst them. Though they are brief, they can easily be expounded upon and understood by all members of our community.

Firstly, Assyrian political and social entities need to embrace pluralism with one another in order for the Assyrian people to present a stronger slate in upcoming and future Iraqi elections. Once Assyrian political entities can put stringent political stances and talking points to the side, and unite to seek an answer to the Assyrian Question – a strive for the Assyrian homeland – then we are open to debate politics once we are in the parliament. Currently, no major or reputable political or social entity is seeking singularity with others in their same arena; rather, intimidation and coercion is the current method in place which has driven out the intellectuals of our political community. This is arguably of grave importance to the Assyrian nation. The need to unite our political groups to provide a stronger slate in the Iraqi elections is pertinent to the survival of our people in the homeland.

Secondly, those that seek to work for the betterment of their nation must understand and comprehend the necessity to avoid direct involvement in the affairs of the churches. Regardless of religious affiliation, we all share a common bloodline, even the members of the church, that is much for feasible in uniting our people in these dire times. That is not to say that the political entities should not seek the blessing of respective religious leaders in the community, but there must be a line drawn as to what the responsibilities of the politicians and the responsibilities of the prelates are. As the Assyrian General Agha Petros once stated, “One fights with the Sword, and one fights with the Cross.” Once we realize the necessity to live up to those powerful words, Assyrians in the homeland and in Diaspora will realize the pertinence of working together as a people for their nation and its welfare.

Thus, our people need to fully comprehend the importance of unification in the political arena and the need to let religious leaders care for their own domain in its best interest. Perhaps when these small, but fundamental ideas are implemented into our political system, our leaders and our youth will awaken to lead this nation in a proactive and fair manner.

The following is a section from the Assyrian Manifesto by Ivan Kakovitch in which Mr. Kakovitch described the necessity for an Assyrian government:


“The problem of homelessness of an entire people must be solved” said recently a most prominent leader of the Arab World, in an international conference, Of Course, referring to the plight of Palestinian nation.

Thus, interpreting the above statement in view of its momentum, one deduces that when an entire nation loses its home, it thus becomes an international problem. 
Hence our task: 

  1. Let us not try to prove our nationhood, since we are one, but let us conduct ourselves like one. 
  2. We lost our homeland due to our inability of international conduct on one hand, and due to international intrigue and manipulations on the other. 
    Hence, we have to fill up the holes or our weakness, so that not to allow any more manipulations and generosities at our expense. 
  3. We are to deal with the governments of the world, then we ought to have one, since no agreement is worthwhile, unless It is signed at an international level, even if arbitrary. 
    Let us cooperate at least once in the period of 2,500 years on one issue.  We are asking for this mandate for the period of 6 years, during which we won't obtain independence, because we do not seek it; during which we will probably not attain Autonomy, which we are seeking; and during which, finally, we probably will have the Assyrian file reopened and the case of our plight heard on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly. 

Yes, we do not have to show the world we are Assyrians, since we know it.

Joseph N. Hermiz is an Assyrian-American writer and Assyrian political activist studying English and History at Arizona State University.

Thank You
The following individuals contributed to this issue:

Dr. Matay Beth Arsan Holland
Mazin Enwiya Chicago
Petr Kubálek Czech Republic

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