20 Tishrin I 6758
Volume XIV

Issue 7

10 November 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 designed by Farooq I.
Zinda SayZinda Says
  Obama & the Politics of the Nineveh Plains Wilfred Bet-Alkhas
  Mesopotamian Night:  Melodies from the East Natalie Babella

Christians Flee Northern Iraq City of Mosul
Some Displaced Iraqi Christians Ponder Kurds' Role
Protestors in Nohadra Demand Self-Administration, Return of Article 50
Yonatan Bet-Kolia Elected AUA Secretary General
AUA Secretary General Letter to Iraqi President on Mosul Massacres
Declaration of AUA's 25th World Congress
ADM Calls For Assyrian Administered Area in North Iraq
In pictures: Turkey's Assyrian wine-makers


A statement from the National Council of Churches in Australia
Statement by UNPO General Secretary Mr. Marino Busdachin
Los Angeles Assyrians Protest Iraq Election Law
U.S. Senators Voice Concern Over Mistreatment of Assyrians
Assyrian Church of the East Patriarch Calls for an Administrative Unit in North Iraq
AANC Congratulates New AANF Officers
Assyrian Medical Society Formed, Independent of AAS
International Partnership for Iraq Heritage
$1.6 Million Shipment of Medicines Delivered to AAS-Iraq
Michigan No Longer Land of Promise for Iraqi Refugees
Christian Iraqi Refugees Settle in Turlock
Hollywood Produces Films that Undermine Assyrians
Ancient Assyrian Treasures at the Boston MFA
Archaeologists Uncover Ancient Governor's Palace In Turkey
Assyrian Artifact Finds New Home at Cal State University Stanislaus
Digitizing Syriac in Kerala, India
Pazuzu Atop London's Institute of Contemporary Arts


From Alap to My Taw

Obelit Yadgar

Genocide Awareness Day 2008- Canada
4th Annual ACCSU of Canada General Body Meeting

Click to Learn More :

The Gilgamesh Games Interview
Iraqi Parliament Removes Article 50 from the Provincial Elections Law, Marginalizes Assyrians
Martyrs in Iraq
We Must Protect Iraq's Christians
Obama can Revive U.S. Soft Power by Protecting Iraqi Christians
The Assyrian National Cause Entering a Cul-de-Sac
Autonomy: The Only Hope for Assyrians to Have Peace in Iraq

Ken Timmerman
Tariq Alhomayed
Geoffrey P. Johnton
Dr George Habash
Sargon E. Sapper

Hannibal Alkhas Honored in Tehran
Paul Alex Youhanian Scholarship News

Tehran Times
Rebecca Simon

Since Our Last Issue
A Chronology of Important Events

Wednesday, 3 September 25th Congress of AUA begins in Sweden.  Mr. Yonatan Bet-Kolia is elected as the next Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance.
Tuesday, 9 September Reports from Nineveh Plains:  The peshmerga provide Kalashnikov rifles and radios to 200 Christian militiamen who receive around $200 a month from the Sarkis Aghajan's office in Arbil to protect the 8,000 inhabitants of the village of Tel-Asqof.
Sunday, 14 September A joint prayer service, presided by His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV of the Assyrian Church of the East and Bishop Hazail Soumi of the Syriac Orthodox Church was held at the Syriac Orthodox Parish in Brussels, Belgium.  Mar Dinkha took this opportunity to call for support for the Assyrian-administered Nineveh Plains region.
Monday, 15 September Kurdish soldiers begin a search and destroy operation in Mosul - especially in the al-Sakr and al-Bakr neighborhoods - targeting Christian homes and confiscating weapons used for protection from anti-Christian attackers.
Wednesday, 24 September

Iraq's 275-member parliament passes the law by which a key clause - Article 50 - is scrapped, one that would have reserved seats on provincial councils for Christians and other minorities.

Friday, 26 September A rubbing reproduction of the "Nestorian Monument" found in China is donated by Mr. Samuel Ayoubkhani to California State University-Stanislaus, in Turlock.
Thursday, 2 October

UN special representative Staffan de Mistura criticized MPs for dropping Article 50, the clause reserving council seats for Iraq's minority communities. He calls for the clause to be reinstated by October 15.

More than 10,000 Assyrians protest the repeal of Article 50 in Nohadra (Dohuk), north Iraq.

U.S. State Department announces that it will indefinitely send Iraqi refugees to regions other than Michigan as the economy in that state continues to worsen.

Friday, 3 October

Iraq's three-member presidency council approves the provincial election law, passed by the Iraqi parliament on 24 September.

Sunday, 5 October Some 400 Assyrians in Los Angeles protest the removal of Article 50 by demonstrating in front of the Federal Building.
Tuesday, 7 October Attackers begin to carry out attacks against the Christians of Mosul. An Assyrian man and his father are shot and killed.
Thursday, 9 October Christian in Nohadra (Dohuk) are told that the massacre of Christians may soon be carried in their city.
Friday, 10 October Kurdish authorities in Nohadra (Dohuk) block the supporters of the Assyrian Democratic Movement from demonstrating against the decision to remove the seats guaranteed for the minorities in the provincial elections.
Friday, 12 October

1,000 Iraqi police are deployed in the Christian areas of Mosul.  Two brigades are sent to set up checkpoints at churches and patrol the streets in the city's four Christian districts.

Monday, 13 October

The presidency of the Council of the European Union condemns the attacks and killings of the Christians in Mosul.

Synod of the Chaldean Catholic bishops is held in Rome.

Wednesday, 15 October The Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Bakir al-Nassiri issues a decree stating the Christians of Mosul should be provided aid and support and calls on the Iraqi government to take all the necessary measures to protect them.
Thursday, 16 October

As many as 12 Assyrians are killed in Mosul during attacks that began on 7 October and many homes destroyed - often bombed or burned down.

In a ceremony at the Iraqi Embassy in Washington the American First Lady, Mrs. Laura Bush announced the launching of the “International Partnership for Iraq Heritage”, a project to be lead by the Department of State, represented at the ceremony by Assistant Secretary of State for Cultural Affairs, Ms. Goli Ameri.

Friday, 17 October

Six men suspected of perpetrating attacks on the Christians in Mosul are captured by Iraqi government authorities. They are said to be affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (headed by Massoud Barzani) in northern Iraq, as indicated by their ID cards. American forces in Mosul declined to comment on the arrests.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin sends a letter of concern to the U.S. Secretary of State, Condolezza Rice, pointing to the recent attacks on Christians in Mosul.

Saturday, 18 October As many as 15,000 Christians are driven out of Mosul since 7 October, many of whom leave for the Nineveh Plains.
Sunday, 19 October

Yonadam Kanna, the Assyrian member of the Iraqi Parliament, says that a majority of the attacks against Christians occur in the areas under the control of the Second Army Unit in Mosul, mainly composed of the Kurds. He asks that the unit be immediately replaced.

Assyrian painter, Hannibal Alkhas, is honored at the opening ceremony of his painting exhibition at Tehran’s Ishtar Gallery.

Monday, 20 October

American and Iraqi officials begin a two-year, $14 million plan to help preserve Iraq’s cultural heritage, which includes a frieze with an Assyrian king. The State Department grant will create a conservation and historic preservation institute in Arbil, help refurbish the Iraqi National Museum and train museum employees.  Goli Ameri, the assistant United States secretary of state for education and cultural affairs, unveiled the program at the Iraqi National Museum, which she said “will remain closed in the near term.” Thousands of cultural artifacts were stolen from Iraq after the war began in 2003. At least 15,000 items were taken from National Museum and about 6,000 have since been recovered.

Tuesday, 22 October The Archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Scandinavia, His eminence Gallo Shabo, condemns the killing of Christians in Mosul and calls for the establishment of an administrative unit for the non-Muslim Iraqi minorities in the Nineveh Plains, east of Mosul.
Wednesday, 29 October

According to Osama Al Nojaifi, a deputy in the Iraqi parliament, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki says to a group of Iraqi lawmakers: "Investigations have been completed and proved the involvement of Kurdish militias in the displacement and killing of Christians."

Thursday, 30 October

The United States condemns the sentencing of 12 members of the Damascus Declaration National Council to two and a half years in prison.

In Enschede, Holland, a "Silent March" was organized by the Assyrian organizations and the Syriac Orthodox Church to bring awareness to the Dutch government and public on the suffering of the Assyrian Christians in Iraq after the recent killings in Mosul.

Monday, 3 November

Headquarters of the Assyrian Democratic Movement in the town of Bashiqa in the Nineveh Plain, outside Mosul, is attacked by masked gunmen. There are no reports of injury.

Zinda Says
An Editorial by Wilfred Bet-Alkhas


Obama & the Politics of the Nineveh Plains

It is over! 

The nightmare called the Bush Administration - responsible for the worst cultural, human rights, and political violations against the Assyrians of Iraq in the last 50 years is no more.  In less than two months from today the so-called "Christian President" whose policies ironically caused more death and destruction for the Christians of Iraq than all of three decades of Baathism combined will leave the White House.  Unfortunately, his successor - Barack Obama - is expected to execute the plan of the balkanization of Iraq (The Biden-Gelb Plan) and hammer the last Kurdish nail in the coffin of Assyria - unless we in the U.S.  do something in the first 100 days of his presidency.

When our homes, churches were confiscated and destroyed; when our priests and children were kidnapped and beheaded; when thousands of our families were forced to leave by the same people Bush calls the "Sons of Iraq" and "Partners in Progress", Bush did nothing.  He turned his face away from the oldest Christians - indeed the oldest civilization - of the world and let Assyria bleed.  And Assyria has been bleeding since March 2003.

Today there are more Assyrians in the Middle East refugee camps than there are Assyrians outside of the Middle East.   Bush took Iraq from a secular dictatorship and gave it to a religious dictatorship.  In the process he helped unravel the strong fibers of the Assyrian identity in Mesopotamia, allowing the Barzani and Talabani thugs to continue what started during Clinton Administration whereby our lands were confiscated, and after the war a new autonomous region was erected over the ancient ruins of Assyria, which they now call "Kurdistan".  The Shia'ai mullahs in Basra, Karbala, and Baghdad took this golden opportunity to drive away hundreds of thousands of Christians from southern Iraq and the Sunni tribesmen attacked and massacred what was left of the Christian communities in Mosul and the Nineveh Province.  Since the 2003 US occupation more than 200 Christians have been killed, including Mosul archbishop Paul Faraj Rahho, and between a third and a half of the 1.5 million Christians living in Iraq before the war have fled the country.  President Bush will leave office in January with the blood and tears of thousands of Assyrians on his hand.

Bush's Legacy:  Face of a free and democratic Iraq.

Betrayed by the Americans, Assyrians either escaped their homeland or sought refuge in the territories controlled by the Kurds.  Mr. Sarkis Aghajan quickly became the "Messiah of Iraqi Christians" and began promising milk and honey for a people begging for the most basic of human needs. 

Yet the "pink homes" built by the KRG puppet - Sarkis Aghajan - will not bring back our dignity and freedom.  If he is truly a "Son of Assyria" as our bishops and patriarchs on his payroll claim - then let him help us establish a free and democratic Nineveh Plains - free of any Kurdish control.  He cannot, because he has sold his soul to the devil in Arbil for a fist full of oil dollars.  It is up to those of us - not accepting any Kurdish dinars here in the U.S. and out there in Iraq - to unleash the greatest opposition against our internal foes (the Kurdish collaborators) and the governments in the Middle East working to annihilate every trace of Christianity in Mesopotamia. 

These are harsh words that no magazine editor would ever wish to convey to anyone in power. Yet these are harsher times for a people whose only sin is to have been born a Christian in predominantly Moslem countries, and an Assyrian among the Kurds, Turks, and Arabs.  I am certain that as I write these words an Assyrian girl or mother is prostituting herself in the slums of Damascus so that she can provide for her family.  Enemies of Assyrians - both within and outside of our circles - deserve to hear the harsh truth.

With the election of Barack Obama I welcome the coming of a new period in American foreign policy and international relations.  President-elect Obama has already commented several times on the dire condition of Iraq's Assyrians.  President Bush only reacted when prompted by the Pope in Vatican.  Illinois, where Obama is from, is home to a hundred thousand Assyrians and His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV.

We are ready in Washington.  With the help of thousands of supporters like you from Boston to San Diego, Chicago to Phoenix - students, professionals, business owners, artists, old and young, we are prepared to meet the challenges facing us in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.

The Kurdish Regional Government's agents - Assyrian and non-Assyrian - continue to convince us that the road to freedom begins and ends in Arbil (Arbella).  They want us to shut up.  We simply ignore their offers of riches and prosperity here and in Assyria.   Three years ago most of Zinda readers and not a single western media had heard of the "Nineveh Plains".  Today, "Nineveh Plains" is everywhere.  We will not shut up!

In Washington we are a small army of selfless fighters battling a well-fed and equipped army of the agents of doom and destruction.  We believe that at the end we will prevail.  Our families will return home to Nineveh, our language will be spoken in the streets of our cities and towns, our history will belong to us, and new churches will be built on the same spots where our priests were martyred.  In the name of every Assyrian school child raped or killed we will build a school and university where we will teach the language of Jesus Christ and teach the 7000-year-old continuous history of Ashur. 

The Bush Era is over, but things will not get any easier.  Obama's proximity to the Jewish lobby and the Democratic party's patronage of the Kurdish independence will present incredible new challenges for us.  We're ready to tackle these challenges in Washington.  It is not Iraq, but also Turkey and Iran that will deserve our greatest attention next year. 

Living under Kurdish rule is no better than living under the Baathists or Islam's Sharia rule.  Today's secular-minded Kurds may not be there tomorrow.  The Shah of Iran was easily replaced with the Turbin-wearing Mullah from Qom; Saddam and his powerful circle of untouchables were taken over by Sadrists from Najaf and Karbala, and the Sunni beduins living in tents from al-Anbar.  No one can convince me that the Barzani and Talabani rule is more stable and powerful than that of the Shah of Iran and Saddam of Tikrit.

Our message to President Obama will be this:  Assyrians must live in a protected and self-administered region in Bet-Nahrain where they first built the temple of Ashur; where they first accepted the Gospels; where they fell in love with Ishtar and Tammuz; where they first heard the stories of Enuma Elish; where they were defeated by the Medes and later the Romans and Persians.  Nineveh Plains is where we belong - it is where our identity was born and will continue to live until the last of us is gone.  We will tell Mr. Obama that we are not looking for autonomy; instead a stronger and more united Iraq.  We simply want to live free of any Kurdish or Arab domination - much like how the Kurds live in north Iraq and Shi'ai in the south.  We did not demonstrate in the streets of America and Europe for the liberation of Iraq so that Saddam's Baathism be traded for Kurdish Baathism and Shi'ai Sharia'ism.  A multi-ethnic, free, and genuinely democratic Iraq is the hope of every Assyrian.  This is why the formation of Nineveh Plains in the heart of Iraq must be supported by the West to show how a pluralistic society can exist in the Middle East.

None of this will be possible if the Assyrians in the United States and elsewhere in the West do not become involved in the politics of the Nineveh Plains.  Educate yourself about the NP!  Find out where it's located, where its borders meet, what ancient Assyrian cities and towns are within this region.  Why is NP so crucial to the future of a free and democratic Iraq?  Why is it that Assyrians want a truly federal Iraq and oppose any disintegration of a pre-2003 Iraq?  When did Assyrians begin speaking about the Nineveh Plains?  What do different political parties say about the politics of NP? Who among us is on the side of a Kurdish hegemony in the north and who's against it and why?

An educated population is alive and aware.  This awareness will help us speak about NP to one another as informed citizens of a united nation, bring awareness to our government representatives, and hold our federations and political parties and especially those of us in Washington accountable for all that is to come.  Expect more from your national leaders and from us in Washington.  In return, we expect more of you in San Jose, Turlock, Chicago, Toronto, Södertälje, Moscow, and Sydney.

The eyes of the world are upon us.  Will we be the generation that allows the 7000 years of existence end in Iraq?  Will the language of Inanna, Ashurbanipal, Jesus, and Bardaisan be forgotten with the last Assyrian leaving Bet-Nahrain?

Get involved!  Educate yourself!  Talk about Nineveh Plains! Establish discussion groups in your cities to stimulate public debate and discuss the future of the oldest and the greatest civilization that ever lived on earth.  Most of all, don't let down your brothers and sisters in Bet-Nahrain.  They need us today - not tomorrow, not next year.  They need us tonight. Support them so they are encouraged and empowered to go on.

In the next few issues we will come to your homes with our visions of freedom, a "Kurdish-Free" Nineveh Plains and a new Assyrianism.   You will learn about our accomplishments in Washington, Europe, and Iraq.  None of us can rest until Assyria is no longer a dream, but a reality.   We may not rule the world as we did before, but we cannot allow the world to forget us and crush us so unjustly.  That day will never come as long as we are one with one another, with our past, and the ground beneath Nineveh Plains.  The road to freedom does not begin in Arbil.   For Assyria and Iraq it has and will always begin and end in Nineveh. 


Click poster to view the YouTube video.


The Lighthouse
Feature Article


Mesopotamian Night:  Melodies from the East

Natalie Babella

On Saturday, August 23, 2008, one of the most memorable nights of our lifetime revived music within our souls and hearts forever. The second annual Mesopotamian Night: Melodies from the East has instituted a new platform for our neglected and often forgotten music. An Assyrian Aid Society of America-Central Valley Chapter production like this has proved another successful event, yet again, that stands as a testament of true charitable work for our beloved nation in our ancestral Homeland, Beth-Nahrain.

Let me take you to the night of August 23rd. More than six hundred people in the Gallo Center for the Arts (Modesto, CA) come together to enjoy a night of friendship, Assyrian cuisine, wine, music, and to simply share a picture perfect moment in our magical music history that is being written today. We have united in celebrating the Assyrian classical and modern music-the music that we have drifted away from all these years. Needless to say, we are here for the principal duty of AAS-A of helping those in need. The ChaldoAssyrian Student and Youth Council of America (CASYCA) –Bay Area and Central Valley Chapters commence their first project as newly established branches of CASYCA in collaboration with the AAS-A. There could be no better way to start helping than with the AAS-A, which has proved their perseverance time and time again. An event like tonight is a tribute not only to what we speak and write about AAS-A but also what we believe they are capable of pursuing. That is why the students of CASYCA support and assist the AAS-A Central Valley Chapter Committee in their charitable events and especially throughout this spectacular night.

The first act opens with a welcoming speech by the Master of Ceremonies, Mr. Obelit Yadgar, renowned Assyrian writer, radio broadcaster, and voice talent. The classical concert now begins with the conductor, singers, and musicians from the Townsend Opera Players. I hear the Star-Spangled Banner and Roomrama (Assyrian National Anthem written by Rabi Nebu Issabey) and other orchestrated songs of the late Rabi William Daniel-famous Assyrian writer, poet, and music composer. We now begin to hear the first Assyrian opera Gilgamish, with guest singer Lorraine Davis, once written in Sumerian around 2,000 B.C. and today composed in Aramaic. Mr. John Craton orchestrated and arranged Rabi William Daniel’s songs and created a scene from Gilgamish. After hearing just one scene from the Gilgamish opera, the show moves on to Inanna (Queen of Heaven). This story dates back to 3,000 B.C. in ancient Sumer. Many of you may recognize her story if I tell you that she was also known as “Ishtar,” the goddess of love, fertility, and war. A beautiful ballet (Central West Ballet Company) depicts the story for the audience while the opera plays. What an enchanting way to start the evening!

A short intermission for dessert and we head back to our seats to welcome and hear the famous singer and songwriter, Walter Aziz, perform like never before. He has evidently worked with international musicians while introducing Assyrian music to the world and better yet, launching Assyrian pop music for the youth of today. This is what Walter had to tell me, “If you trace my career you will know how much I care about the Assyrian youth; most of my music in the recent years was driven towards them. The new generation has attended my parties for years because I customized my music for them.” A choice of ten beautiful Walter Aziz songs enlivens the crowd and brings a smile to everyone’s face.

Now it is time for the auction.  The AAS-A auctions six valuable items and there is the silent auction taking place in the lobby. The proceeds of these auctions will fund educational and medical needs in Atra. Mr. Obelit Yadgar now introduces our legendary singer and songwriter, Ashur Bet-Sargis. He sings nine eminent songs that everyone can’t help but sing along with. His love for music and poetry is manifested in the depth of his voice and meaning of his songs that will live among our people forever.

Now, that wraps up the whole night and you have just experienced the concert through my words but do you believe this is it? No matter how much I write about this Mesopotamian Night, no one will sense the whole gamut of emotions I felt while listening to my music, seeing my culture, and revisiting the art my forefathers lay. I can only say that my dream of seeing our beloved singers on stage come true. Moreover, I experienced two Assyrian operas that I never thought I would see. One cannot comprehend why music touches us this way but for those who feel something special inside know the sensation I am trying to convey.

I am speechless when I try to reveal the beauty of the program and the gifted individuals who coordinated this concert. Mr. Narsai David, President of the AAS-A was so pleased with the concert turnout and applauded the Central Valley Chapter for their ambition to make this night happen, “You have set a new standard for all of us in the Assyrian Aid Society, in combining the arts and culture of the Assyrians with contemporary composers and designers of the West.” The support for this Mesopotamian Night was Mrs. Mona Malik, member of the AAS-A Executive Committee and a Chapter Liaison. She says, “We were elated at the turnout and the attendees’ positive reaction during and after the performances. It set a higher standard for our future events, one that will be challenging to meet.” Mrs. Malik adds, “Last year’s Mesopotamian Night proceeds helped to build a clinic next to an existing pharmacy as well as supplement the monthly educational needs in Atra. This year’s proceeds will be discussed based on the final count and the immediate need. There are many projects in need of funding, like day care centers, electrical generators for the dormitories, vehicles for the transportation of students from villages, medical needs; orphan care...the list is endless.” Mr. Fred Isaac, Treasurer of AAS-A Central Valley Chapter, was responsible for reviewing contracts and marketing the event. “With titles and positions aside, the AAS-A is about commitment and lending a helping hand to our people who are less fortunate than us. It all started with a vision from the Chapter President Mr. Tony Khoshaba for the first part of the program. We were not sure if our people were ready for a classical opera but the end result speaks for itself. Without any doubt, it was definitely worth the wait and I would do it again anytime.”

The captain of the ship, so to speak, was none other than Mr. Tony Khoshaba, President of AAS-A Central Valley Chapter. He was the main coordinator and producer of the Melodies from the East Concert along with the other committee members, Mr. Kooroosh Hormozi, Mrs. Rita Mulhim, Mr. Albert Mulhim, Ms. Susan Rasho, and Mrs. Bata Yonan. Mr. Khoshaba worked with composer John Craton on the orchestration of Rabi William Daniel and Rabi Nebu Issabey's music as well as creating a Gilgamish Assyrian Opera scene. After a very successful event and execution of his vision, Mr. Khoshaba says this, "With this event, we have raised the expectation of our community with regards to music and have merged two important missions of AAS together: promoting Assyrian culture and heritage and helping Assyrians."

Mr. Pierre Noghli, famous Assyrian drummer, was the music director for the second act of the concert along with singers Walter Aziz and Ashur Bet-Sargis. He says, “I worked on this historical production day and night for almost four months. It was my dream to give my Assyrian people beautiful music and an unforgettable night.” He adds, “Any time you do something you work hard for, your expectation is big. I hope other Assyrian musicians will learn from this and start to have concerts and set the bar high for our music, and then it will be worth it.” Mr. Noghli describes this concert in one sentence, “A historical Assyrian concert was made the year of 6758 and I ask our children to make this a tradition for years to come.” A simple request from one of our wonderful musicians is to see more of these concerts that will not only help our needy people but also embark on a new mission to restore our music and brighten our culture.              

The VP of AAS-A, Central Valley Chapter, Elki Issa, was responsible for reservations and seating assignments. Late 2007 was the beginning of this new vision and the planning started in January 2008. When I asked Elki if the hard work paid off and if it was worth the wait, she said, "Absolutely! I have a tendency to second-guess myself, and was extremely anxious prior to the event. I simply cannot tell you how happy I am with how the evening went. It completely exceeded my expectations and the feedback we've received has been overwhelmingly positive." With over six hundred people present, AAS-A supporters came from all over California, Arizona, Nevada and even Illinois.

The youth and students are so proud to experience the celebration of our culture in a new light. There is no one else to thank but the Assyrian Aid Society of America (AAS-A)-Central Valley Chapter for the transition of their vision into reality. What is the importance of this event without the support of the youth and students who are the light of our future? Suzan Younan, Social VP of CASYCA, shared some of her thoughts with me regarding the involvement of youth and students in this concert, "AAS approached me and asked if there are youth members from Central California that wanted to volunteer. Students from the Central Valley and the Bay Area were immediately interested in volunteering their time to help during the concert. The youth were in charge of check-in and being attendants for the live and silent auctions." She adds, "There was not only harmony among the musicians that night, but also among everyone who planned and attended this wonderful concert.” No cultural event will be successful without the presence of the enthusiastic youth whom want to preserve their culture. This is what Mrs. Mona Malik shares with us about the youth, “I was very moved by the whole evening, but two things stand out. One was the enthusiastic participation of our youth; I was so proud to be working next to all of them and seeing their contagious excitement. The best was seeing the joy in Walter Aziz and Ashur Bet-Sargis as they sang with a 22-piece orchestra.”

These youth members attended and provided their help on the Mesopotamian Night: Suzan Younan, Arbella Rasho, Shaun Toma, Sargon Maisom, Ashour Maisom, Joseph Danavi, Peter Ibrahim, Rosemary Mulhim, Ramsin Mulhim, Nineveh Babella Nissan, and Natalie Babella. Much appreciation and praise goes to the honorary committee with Mr. Nebu Joel Issabey, Mr. Assurhadoun Khofri (conductor of the second act of the show), Mr. John Craton for composing Gilgamish, Erik Buck Townsend of the Townsend Opera Players and its Principal Conductor Mr. Ryan Murray, Dr. Sharokin (Rami) Yelda for his sponsorship and Dr. Arianne Ishaya for translating another yet to come “Folkloric Opera” by the name of Qateeni Gabbara. In the end, we want to honor and give a standing ovation to the contributing artists: Lorraine Davis, Rene Daveluy, Ryan Murray, Walter Aziz, Ashur Bet-Sargis, Pierre Noghli, Robert Noghli, Ronik Ital Sporghan, Ninos Dikko, Tiglat Palasar Issabey, David Betsamo, and John Gove for contributing so much of their valuable time and presenting an unforgettable concert in the history of music. Much appreciation goes to Mr. Abrahim Giliana of Atlanta, Georgia who translated two epics, Gilgamesh and Qateeni, including all of Rabi William Daniel’s songs. Last but not least, a thank you to all the sponsors of the evening who made this beautiful concert happen.

As an admirer of the AAS-A endeavors and supporter of their mission, I extend my gratitude to all the volunteers in the AAS-A Central Valley Chapter for sharing their dream with us, the talented artists and musicians that brightened the night, the supporters that graced us with their presence and the beloved sponsors that contributed what they did. August 23rd has marked two great memories for me; one of the Mesopotamian Night and one of my late grandfather, Dr. Wilson Babella (March 15, 1934 - August 23, 1996) who passed away eleven years ago. Sitting in the theater, I remembered his charismatic soul and imagined him by my side singing and enjoying the celebration of the night. To the one who taught me to sing and dance and for the cheerful, loving, and nationalistic person that he was.  May he rest in peace.


Good Morning Assyria
News From the Homeland


Christians Flee Northern Iraq City of Mosul


(ZNDA: Mosul)  Attacks in October in the Iraqi city of Mosul forced thousands of Christian families from their homes.  Mosul is home to the second-largest community of Christians in Iraq after Baghdad.  More than 15,000 Iraqi Christians, or 2,500 families, have been driven out of Mosul.

In recent months Mosul has become the most violent city in the country but Christians had been relatively safe. Many Christians driven from Baghdad between 2004 and 2007 had settled in Mosul. Canon Andrew White, the vicar of St George's church in Baghdad, observed: "Christians are being killed in the only place they felt safe."

A precursor to the events of last month, was the abduction of the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, Paul Farraj Rahho. He was abducted during a shootout in which three of his companions were killed as he returned home from celebrating mass on February 29. Two weeks after the abduction the body of the Archbishop was found in a shallow grave.

Duraid Mohammed Kashmoula, the governor of the northern Nineveh Province, said that most have taken shelter in schools, churches, monasteries and the homes of relatives in the northern and eastern fringes of Nineveh.

The flight came as Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako said Iraq's Christians were facing a campaign of "liquidation" and called on the US military to do more to protect them.

A wave of attacks and religiously targeted killings left at least 13 Christians dead since September 28.

Iraqi police in the city located 360km northwest of Baghdad reported finding the bullet-riddled bodies of seven Christians in separate attacks.

It is not clear who is behind the campaign against the Assyrians; some suspect Al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups, but a spokesman from Iraq’s interior ministry said there is no evidence to support this.   An Iraqi Sunni MP claimed that Kurdish militias are responsible for the attacks against the Christians in Mosul.  Osama al-Najifi blamed Iraq's Kurdish Peshmerga militias and the Asayesh intelligence service from the neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan region for carrying out the attacks, reported Iraq's Independent Press Agency.

Al-Najifi claims the militias want to change the demographic balance of Mosul, which is located in the Nineveh Province, to serve Kurdish interests.

He accused the Iraqi government of being absent from the area, by having made political agreements which prevent the national government from having control over the province of Nineveh.

Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, Mr. Yonadam Kanna, also a member of the Iraqi parliament, confirmed to reporters that the assailants were wearing army uniforms. Adding to the suspicion, five known sunni insurgent groups, including Al-Qaeda, issued statements denouncing the attacks and denying involvement in them. Observers told that the attacks, have occurred in the Eastern side of the city of Mosul, which is controlled by Kurdish forces. Assyrians living in the Western part have not been harmed. Some media reports have described the recent attacks as retaliation by Islamic Groups because of Assyrian demonstrations against the removal of their quota rights in the provincial councils. Assyrians have, however, protested and taken to the streets several times since the row started.

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki ordered National Police forces to Mosul to protect Christians and secure their churches.

The killings follow protests by Christians, Turkomen and other minorities against the removal of a provision in the provincial elections law, adopted last month, setting quotas for minorities in provincial councils.

The protests created anti-Christian feeling among communities already tense because of the Kurdish demand that the mixed city of Kirkuk should be annexed to the Kurdish region. Some elements accuse Chaldean and Assyrian Christians of seeking to establish an autonomous region in the north of Nineveh.

Others who have condemned the violence targeted at Christians in Iraq include the Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Bakir al-Nassiri of Iraq, who said aid should be given to the Christians fleeing Mosul and the Iraq government should do all that is necessary to protect them.

On September 24, 2008, Iraq’s 275 member parliament passed the provincial Election Law but in a move that has stunned the minority citizens of Iraq, particularly the Assyrians and has drawn criticism from the United Nations, members of the Iraqi Parliament removed Article 50, a key clause that would have reserved seats on Provincial Councils for Christians and other minorities.

Despite calls for restoration of the measure, Article 50, from the top UN officials and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, a three member presidential council moved the bill forward, setting the stage for January elections.

The Iraqi Parliament claimed that Article 50 had been dropped because it was impossible to know the size of the minorities and therefore how many seats they should be allocated.

Suspicions of Kurdish involvement are also strengthened by the unspoken aim of the Kurdish leadership of annexing large parts of the Nineveh Plain province into their semi-autonomous region. The obstruction of the local police force in believed to be a result of this.

While hindering a legitimate police force from providing much needed security for the minorities in the Nineveh Plain, the Kurdish political parties are ushering in armed groups, under the disguise of “Christian Defense Committees”, the goal is to maintain Kurdish control in the area and coerce the inhabitants into voting for the annexation to the KRG in future referendums.

Several Assyrian Bishops from the Syriac Orthodox Church, Chaldean Church and the Church of the East have voiced calls for the establishment of an administrative unit in the Nineveh Plain, in accordance with Article 125 of the Iraqi Constitution, in order to guarantee protection for the dwindling Assyrian numbers.

The Archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Scandinavia, His Eminence Gallo Shabo, condemned the recent killings of Assyrians in Mosul and renewed his call for the establishment of an administrative unit for the non-Muslim Iraqi minorities in the Nineveh Plain, east of Mosul.

In a statement released in 24 October, the North American branch of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM), the largest Assyrian political party in Iraq, called for an Assyrian administered area in Nineveh Plain, in North Iraq. As previously stated, the Iraqi constitution allows for the establishment of local rule for the minorities where they have considerable numbers. The Assyrian Democratic Movement, announced during a 2003 conference in Baghdad it endorses the idea of making the minority dense Nineveh Plain area into an administrative unit according to the Iraqi constitution; since then, an increasing number of Assyrian representatives from the political and religious sphere have supported the plan.

This new stand point is considered a serious defeat for the Kurdish leadership in Northern Iraq which has spent much effort attempting the annexation of the Nineveh plain into the Kurdish region. Kurdish soldiers carried out a search operation in Assyrian homes in Mosul between 15 September and the beginning of October confiscating weapons the families were keeping for protection.

The confiscations and searches were only carried out in Assyrian homes, especially in Al-Sakr and Al-Bakr neighborhoods. One man speaking in anonymity, said in an interview to the Assyrian International News Agency, he was the only non-Muslim in his neighborhood.

Soldiers from the mainly Kurdish Second Army unit in Mosul came to his house in three military vehicles, ordering him to surrender any weapons he had. They did not approach any other residents of this neighborhood. Agents from the Kurdish 'Asayesh' Intelligence Service confiscated ration cards of families who had fled from the violence in Mosul to the Nineveh Plains. The families are told the only way for them to retrieve their ration cards is to remain permanently in the Nineveh Plains.

On October 19 Iraqi MP Yonadam Kanna, a native of Northern Iraq, said 90% of the attacks occurred in the areas which are under the control of the second army in Mosul unit in Mosul which is composed exclusively of Kurds.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked her for a briefing on the situation of the Christian community in Mosul and what the State Department is doing to ensure the Iraqi government is protecting Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities.  U.S., United Nations and Iraqi officials have condemned the attacks.

The exodus of close to half of Mosul's Christians shows the fragility of security gains, especially in areas where cultures, religions and ethnicities collide. It also raises the specter of violence ahead of provincial elections that could alter the power balance in strategic cities like Mosul.

Seats on the provincial governing council are held mostly by Kurds after most Sunnis boycotted the last provincial polls in 2005. But the balance of power in Mosul is expected to change when provincial elections take place by late January.

Unrest in Mosul is exacerbated by a jobless rate of around 60 per cent and years of delays in fixing basic services like electricity, sewage, proper health care and education.

The central government in Baghdad is exhorting Christians who fled to return to their homes. At his meeting in Mosul, Deputy Prime Minister Issawi called the attacks “terrorist acts” and pledged to compensate Christians for their losses. Baghdad is offering about $900 to every family that comes back. At the same meeting, the Christians delivered additional demands, including better security, greater development at the government’s expense and that the 12 slain Christians be treated “just like any other Iraqi martyrs.”

Some Displaced Iraqi Christians Ponder Kurds' Role

Courtesy of the National Public Radio (NPR)
28 October 2008
By Corey Flintoff for "Morning Edition"

In northern Iraq, thousands of Christian families remain displaced from their homes in the city of Mosul.

Many are living with relatives or taking refuge in churches and monasteries in an area north of the city that's known as the Nineveh Plains.

As they struggle to adapt to their new circumstances, many are questioning why they were targeted for violence and threats. Some say they see themselves as pawns in the struggle for control of their ancestral homeland.

Displacing Christians

The religious cleansing in Mosul began with graffiti, some saying "get out or die," on the walls in Christian neighborhoods. Young men drove through the streets with loudspeakers, shouting at people to leave.

Then the killing started.

Christian refugees are packed into a meeting room at St. George's Assyrian Catholic Church in the village of Bartillah.

"My brother came home from work that day," says a 44-year-old Christian man identifying himself only as Abu Sara. "He went to a nearby shop, where suddenly gunmen turned up and asked him for his ID. Then they told his friends to step aside. They shot him dead and left."

Abu Sara and his family are staying with relatives in a Christian settlement north of Mosul. He is a mathematics teacher, and he weighs his words carefully. He says it's difficult to be certain why the attacks are taking place now, but the word among Christians in Mosul is that Kurds may have a hand in it.

Abu Sara says all the attacks on Christians happened on the side of the city that's dominated by Kurdish troops, yet the Kurds did nothing to stop them.

Um Reyan is a Christian woman whose family is now taking refuge in an Assyrian Catholic church.

"We heard the people from another Christian neighborhood describing how these armed men stormed the houses and shouted at people to get out," she says. "They were speaking in a kind of pidgin Arabic, not like a Mosul accent at all, but like Kurds, trying to speak Arabic."

Expanding Kurdish Territory?

These are startling observations coming from people who are, in effect, living on Kurdish generosity. The settlement where Abu Sara and his family are staying was built by the finance minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government — a Christian named Sarkis Aghajan Mamendu.

The church where Um Reyan is staying is also receiving money from Sarkis.

Why would the Kurdistan regional government be involved in attacking Christians in Mosul, yet protecting them once they've been displaced to the Nineveh Plains area?

"The Nineveh Plains is these people's ancestral homeland," says Michael Youash, director of the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project, based in Washington, D.C. "But in today's Iraq, it is an area being contested by the Kurdistan Regional Government, seeking to absorb that area into an expanded KRG, and these people are caught in the middle of it."

Youash's group advocates for minorities in Iraq — not just Christians, but other sects, such as the Yazidis and Sabeans.

Youash says the Nineveh Province Council, which includes Mosul, is seeking to weaken the Christians by preventing the establishment of a local police force to protect them. The council is dominated by Kurds. Youash is calling for a U.N. investigation and a multinational force to protect the Christians in the plain.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Abeeb says a government investigating committee has come to a similar conclusion: that the Kurds are seeking to use the displaced Christians to expand Kurdish territory.

Kurds Deny Playing Politics

Adnan Mufti, the speaker of the Kurdistan Regional Government's parliament, says the notion that Kurds are playing a cynical game to dominate the area is laughable.

"It's irresponsible talk," he says. "Really, there are some people, if they hear that any crime, any plan is [conceived] outside of Iraq, they are ready to say 'that's the plan of Kurds.' "

Mufti acknowledges that the Kurdistan Regional Government is supporting displaced Christians through its finance minister, but he says that's because the Kurds themselves know what it's like to be the victims of ethnic cleansing under Saddam Hussein's regime, and they're acting from humanitarian motives.

Mufti also points out that the protection of Christians in Mosul is the responsibility of Iraq's central government. He says the Kurdish troops there are under control of the Iraqi army, and if they didn't respond to the threats against Christians, it may be because they were ordered not to intervene.

Ancient Sect On Board with Kurdish government

The Baba Sheik is the leader of Iraq's more than 500,000 Yazidis, a sect that bases its beliefs on ancient Zoroastrianism. The Yazidis share a similar plight with Iraq's Christians.

A foreshadowing of the Christians' role in the Nineveh Plains may be seen in the example of the Yazidis, a sect whose beliefs stem from ancient Zoroastrianism. The Yazidis were the target of the worst sectarian slaughters in Iraq just last year, when nearly 800 were killed in a coordinated suicide bomb attack.

Their spiritual leader, the Baba Sheik, says his people have since been protected by the Kurdistan Regional Government. Robed and turbaned in white, the bearded leader urges the Christians to join with Yazidis in voting to extend the Kurdistan boundaries to include the Nineveh Plains.

"We want the borders of the Kurdistan Region to expand," he says, "to include all the areas where these minorities are living, because the Kurdistan region is secure."

Even in those Christian communities where people suspect Kurds may be behind their displacement, some people say they will support the Kurds' aims to gain security.

"Let me tell you that we are now taking their side, because they helped us and opened their doors to us," says a refugee Christian woman. "When I am desperate for help and someone reaches out to aid me, he will gain me to his side."

This same woman, a displaced Christian living with 28 other people in a church conference room, says she believes the crisis will be over as soon as Iraq holds its provincial elections, early next year.

Protestors in Nohadra Demand Self-Administration,
Return of Article 50

Courtesy of the Earth Times
2 October 2008

(ZNDA: Nohadra)  More than 10,000 Assyrians demonstrated in Nohadra (Dohuk) demanding self-rule in North Iraq and restoration of a clause in the new elections law that would guarantee their representation in provincial councils.

"The demonstrators will present an official memo to the local authorities in Dahuk province to back their efforts and help them demand the rights of our people," Jamal Zeno, the chief of the Chaldo-Assyrian Popular Council, told the Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency.

He added that they would intensify their efforts to restore Article 50, which the Iraqi Parliament removed on 24 September during a session to adopt a new provincial elections law.

Parliament's decision to remove Article 50, which specifies a quota for minorities in provincial councils, has sparked a heated reaction from several political blocs representing the country's Christians and other minorities.

While the new law sets a fixed quota of 25 per cent for women, it snubbed other Iraqi minorities such as Christians and Yazidis.

Some 5,000 Iraqi Christians demonstrated against the change a week ago in the Nineveh province.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki expressed his concerns on Sunday about the removal of the disputed article.

In a statement released by his office, al-Maliki called on parliament and the Iraqi High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to address the concerns, feelings of injustice and the sense of exclusion felt by some segments of Iraqi society.

Under the new law, elections will take place in 14 provinces, but not three northern Kurdish states and the oil-rich multi-ethnic province of Kirkuk.

The new law bans parties from campaigning in mosques and using religious figures to get votes.

Yonatan Bet-Kolia Elected AUA Secretary General

Member of Iran's Majlis, representing the Assyrians of Iran, Mr. Yonatan Bet-Kolia, was elected as the head of the Assyrian Universal Alliance in September.  Photo courtesy of assyrie.nl.

(ZNDA: Tehran)  The 25th Congress of the International Union of Assyrians was held in Jonkoping, Sweden between 4 and 7 September.  The AUA delegations from around the world appointed Mr. Yonatan Bet-Kolia, as the Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance for a three-year term. 

Mr. Bet-Kolia is a member of the Iranian Majlis (parliament), representing the "Assyrian and Chaldean minorities" in that country.  He has been holding the title of the AUA-Asia Secretary for several years.

With the appointment of Mr. Bet-Kolia, the office of the Assyrian Universal Alliance was completely transferred from the United States to Iran, where the organization was founded in 1968.

On 10 September, Speaker of Iran's Majlis, Mr. Ali Larijani, congratulated Mr. Yonatan Bet-Kolia on his appointment and addressed the formal session of the Majlis with remarks about the Assyrians and Mr. Bet-Kolia's appointment.

The make-up of Mr. Bet-Kolia's Executive Board and Committee are as follows:

Secretary General Yonathan Betkolia (Iran)
Deputy Secretary General Hermiz Shahen (Australia)
Executive Secretary Ninoos Benjamin (USA)
Treasurer Joseph Jingo Sarkis (USA)
Regional Secretaries Carlo Ganjeh (Americas)
Hermiz Shahen (Australia)
Shlimon Haddad (Europe)
Edwin Babeleh Khanshan (Asia)
Executive Committee Arsen Mikhaillov (Armenia)
Baito M. Chikko (USA)
David David (Australia)
William Piroyan, PhD (Iran)
Executive Board Members William Piroyan - Member
Baito Giwargis Malek Chikko - Member
David David - Member
Youra Tarverdi – Alternative Member
Joseph Tamraz – Alternative Member
David Adamov – Alternative Member
Khawa Khoshaba – Alternative Member

AUA Secretary General Letter to Iraqi President
on Mosul Massacres


Yonathan Betkolia
Secretary General
Assyrian Universal Alliance

Hon. Jalal Talabani
Federal Republic of Iraq

Re: Your Intervention Urgently Required to Stop Bloodshed against Assyrians of Iraq

Dear President Talabani,

On behalf of the Assyrian Nation, the Assyrian Universal Alliance is appealing for your urgent intervention to immediately halt the atrocities and injustices perpetrated against innocent Assyrians in Iraq.

Unfortunately it seems that the human, civil and political rights of minorities are continuing to disintegrate; we receive reports daily from relatives and friends of the most heinous crimes: threats of violence and oppression, and acts of murder, kidnapping and rape. We have received news from Mosul of organized and deliberate killings which target Assyrian citizens. Families across Iraq are being forced to flee from this terrible situation with absolutely nothing, forsaking possessions and their very livelihoods to barely escape with their lives.

A large number of Christians, including Assyrians, have long called Iraq home.

Now, because of the attacks, these Christians are being forced to close their shops and flee the city for fear of being targeted by armed radical Islamic groups. These appalling crimes take place frequently, despite the Iraqi government’s claims of control over the national security system. Thus far the latest waves of displacements and murders perpetrated against the Christians of Mosul have all been ignored by the Iraqi government, ruling political groups, parties and organizations, as well as by the

Accordingly, we call upon your leadership to take urgent measures to stop these vicious attacks against the Assyrians and to deal with this enormous humanitarian crisis that threatens the most ancient and indigenous nation of Iraq. We ask for your attention and support of the following:

  1. To demand severe and immediate action from the Iraqi and United States governments to stop the bloodshed against both Assyrians and Christians, and to provide emergency protection for them.
  2. To provide economic and financial assistance addressing the immediate humanitarian needs of the forcibly displaced Assyrian refugees in the northern cities of Iraq.
  3. To support the establishment of a national Assyrian security and police force and provide them with the arms and training necessary to secure and safeguard the Assyrian towns and villages from terrorist attacks and harassment by militias.
  4. We call upon your wise leadership’s intervention and influence on the Iraqi government to agree to the critical demand of Assyrians for an Assyrian Autonomous Region in the historical and ancestral Assyrian lands in Northern Iraq as part of the modern day Federal Republic of Iraq. This newly formalized Assyrian region shall be administrated and protected by the Assyrians under the jurisdiction of the central government of Iraq. The establishment of such a region is most crucial to the security and survival of the Assyrians in Iraq by allowing greater local Assyrian control within the context of their sovereign state as an integral part of Iraq. This action will also encourage the Assyrian refugees, whether those internally displaced in the homeland or those scattered in Diaspora, to return to Iraq.

On behalf of the Assyrians worldwide, I thank you for your support. We eagerly await your positive response and plan of action detailing the support for the rights of our people and strategy for halting their bloodshed.

Yours faithfully.

Declaration of AUA's 25th World Congress

Jonkoping - Sweden
September 4 - 7, 2008


The 25th Worldwide Congress of the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) took place in Jonkoping, Sweden from September 4 through September 7, 2008 with the participation of Assyrian representatives from around the world. After extensive, elaborate and open discussions on the condition of Assyrians both in the ancestral homeland and in the Diaspora or exile, the following resolutions were unanimously approved.

WHEREAS, AUA, an umbrella organization for Assyrians worldwide

     a)  is deeply and acutely concerned about the condition of Assyrians in the homeland, where Assyrians are not recognized as the indigenous people of the Federal Republic of Iraq, but rather a religious minority;

     b)  reaffirms that Assyrians are entitled to an Autonomous Region in their ancestral homeland, as an integral part of the Federal Republic of Iraq;

     c)   confirms its intolerance of the continued denial of Assyrian rights in Iraq and deplores all acts of persecution, terrorism, beheadings, kidnappings and killings committed against Assyrians, and particularly Assyrian religious figures, causing massive and disproportionate internal displacements and forced migration of Assyrians from Iraq; and


  • the genocide and persecution of Assyrians before and after WWI;
  • the denial of Assyrian political and national rights during the Lausanne conference and by the League of Nations, post WWI;
  • the persecutions and transgressions committed against Assyrians, particularly the massacre of Simele in 1933;
  • the subsequent oppression and persecution of Assyrians by the former Iraqi regimes; an 


  • AUA’s unwavering condemnation of all acts of terrorism worldwide.
  • Assyrians’ inherent identity as the most indigenous people of Iraq.
  • The unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Iraq.

NOW THEREFORE, the AUA declares the following:

  1. The government of Iraq must grant the Assyrian unequivocal right to an Autonomous Region, encompassing the Assyrian ancestral lands, located between the Greater Zab and Tigris rivers with international borders to the north and west, as part of the Federal Republic of Iraq and under direct protection of the United Nations.
  2. The urgent need for the federal government of Iraq to formally recognize Assyrians as the indigenous people of Iraq with the right to an Autonomous Region, and the right for full and equal participation in all national affairs of the Federal Republic of Iraq.
  3. Its appeal to the federal government of Iraq to provide for Assyrian human, social, political, religious and economic rights throughout Iraq by explicit constitutional amendments that provide full legal basis to protect and preserve Assyrian rights in the Federal Republic of Iraq.
  4. Its appeal to the federal government of Iraq to provide for all necessary accommodations in order for the displaced and refugee Assyrians to be able to safely return to their homes in Iraq and serve Iraq’s social and economic interests.
  5. Christians in Iran Today
    Its appeal to the federal government of Iraq to provide the security and security assurances necessary for all Assyrians’ safe return to their ancestral homeland, to benefit fully from their national rights as citizens of Iraq, prevent any and all forms of discrimination, oppression and transgressions against Assyrians, including deprivation of the privilege of self determination that is available to other sects and ethnicities of Iraq.
  6. Its appeal to the federal government of Iraq to take affirmative measures to ensure immediate restoration of all Assyrian communities, villages and churches.
  7. Its appeal to the federal government of Iraq to ensure an equitable allocation and distribution of Iraq’s revenues, resources and fiscal expenditure for infrastructure to Assyrians and the Assyrian Autonomous Region.
  8. Its appeal to the federal government of Iraq to ensure the provision of all necessary and sufficient reconstruction aid equitably, whereby the Assyrians’ share is distributed directly to Assyrians.
  9. The necessity that in the forthcoming census of Iraq there be an accurate account of all Assyrians, whether those in Iraq or the Diaspora.
  10. The necessity for the federal government of Iraq to take all necessary measures to safeguard the rights of Assyrians in future elections in Iraq, not as part of the religious minorities but a deeply rooted ethnicity of Iraq.
  11. The necessity for the federal government of Iraq to take all necessary measures to safeguard all future censuses by providing for the supervision of the process by international and human rights organizations.
  12. Its appeal to the federal government of Iraq to take all necessary measures to save and protect Assyrian archaeological, sacred and historical sites.
  13. Its gratitude to the government of Iran for its recognition of the Assyrian Nation as a distinct nation. AUA acknowledges the freedoms of Assyrians in Iran where Assyrians have lived for centuries and have contributed to enriching Iran’s history, culture, prosperity and security. AUA urges the continuation of Iran’s path toward furthering the principles of freedom and democracy in the region, and recognize the necessity for the Assyrian Autonomous Region in Iraq.
  14. Its appeal to the government of Turkey to provide, enhance and assure political and cultural rights of Assyrians in Turkey, recognize the necessity for the Assyrian Autonomous Region in Iraq, and to extend its full support to Assyrians and their organizations in Turkey.
  15. Its appeal to the government of Syria to provide, enhance and assure political and cultural rights of Assyrians in Syria, recognize the necessity for the Assyrian Autonomous Region in Iraq, and to extend its full support to Assyrians and their organizations in Syria.
  16. Its appeal to all countries neighbouring Iraq to extend their continued support to all Iraqi refugees, where Assyrians comprise a large number of the displaced, and to advance incentives for their voluntary and safe return to Iraq, and recognize the necessity for the Assyrian Autonomous Region in Iraq.
  17. Its appeal to the international community to recognize Assyrian rights and discontinue its historic neglect by encouraging, motivating and demanding from the federal government of Iraq to secure Assyrian rights by appropriate constitutional amendments, and to grant Assyrians their inherent right for regional self-determination, and recognize the necessity for the Assyrian Autonomous Region in Iraq.

ADM Calls For Assyrian Administered Area in North Iraq

Courtesy of the Assyrian International News Agency
24 October 2008

In a statement released on October 24, the north American branch of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM), the largest Assyrian political party in Iraq, called for an Assyrian administered area in north Iraq. Citing the violence against the Assyrians of Mosul, in which 14 Assyrians have been killed and 15,000 driven out of the city (AINA 10-16-2008), as the latest in the ongoing campaign against Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs) in Iraq, ADM is calling for an Assyrian administered area in the Nineveh Plains in north Iraq.
Here is the ADM statement:

Recent events in Mosul are confirming the need for a self-protected area for the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac people in Iraq. In the past five years the Christians of Iraq had suffer tremendously. Churches have been bombed, Bishops, priests and residents have been kidnapped and murdered, people have been threatened and recently 2500 families have escaped the killings in Mosul and flee to the neighboring cities. Due to our status as minority in Iraq the toll of these events is much grater than our counter parts. Therefore, a self-protection for the Nineveh Plains and surrounding areas is necessary to maintain peace and balance amidst Iraqi political and security conflicts. These protection forces will consist of official law officers from local residents of selected areas. The Iraqi government has approved a regulation to have a formal legitimate police force in the Nineveh Plains in June of 2006.

This Iraqi Government order requiring a Nineveh Plains local police force came about after relentless work by the Assyrian Democratic Movement. The ADM is fighting for equal opportunities for all defenseless minorities to have official policing and self-protection for their areas. The June 2006 original order was blocked by the prejudicial policies of neighboring parties who say they will protect our people with their militias while denying us the right to policing in order to keep us dependent on them. In March-April of 2008, the Iraqi order for Nineveh Plains official policing was revived and 269 officers out of 711 were hired in the Nineveh Plains. Until today there has not been any development on this issue and the remaining 442 officers are blocked from protecting their communities, as the dominant parties controlling the Nineveh Governorate deny us our basic right to security.
Reality in Iraq shows that all Iraqi citizens feel safer having local citizens protect their communities, and feel intimidated and threatened by different ethnic forces seizing their areas. The current situation proved that both Iraqi and KRG police/security forces have completely failed in the mission to protect Christians and areas where they exist in great numbers. Also, the Christian militias funded by the KRG in the Nineveh Plains are illegal and only necessary because the Nineveh Governorate itself is blocking the creation of formal policing. We call on the ruling parties of the Nineveh Governorate to demonstrate their concern for our People's security by removing the blockages to a Nineveh Plains local police force.

The Chaldean/Assyrian/Syriac, Shabak and Yezidis areas have been deprived of self-protection; therefore we are asking for a larger policing force to protect these areas. A minimum of 5000 officers are needed just in the Nineveh Plains. In other parts of Iraq, especially in Baghdad and other southern states, there must be an effort to significantly increase the number of Chaldean/Assyrian/Syriac Iraqi police than there is at present. These local legitimate policing forces provided by the minorities needs to be fully supported by the Iraqi government and the Multi-National Forces. In the Nineveh Plains, a special protected area consisting of Multi-National Forces and official Nineveh Plains local police is essential.

Assyrian Democratic Movement, USA and Canada Branch

In pictures: Turkey's Assyrian wine-makers

Turkey’s tiny Assyrian Christian community plans to revive its ancient wine-making tradition and bring their product to the global commercial market.  To see more photos click on the photo above.  Courtesy of BBC.

News Digest
News From Around the World

A statement from the National Council of Churches in Australia


Violence and persecution against minority groups in Iraq continues, including communities of Christians which have been in existence for over 1500 years. The Assyrian Church of the East, as one of the Churches most affected, has mobilised itself worldwide to call attention to the crisis, and seek help where help can be found. Other Churches under extreme duress are the Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, and Chaldean.

Prior to 2003, 4% of Iraq’s population was Christian. Yet 40% of Iraq’s 2.2 million refugees are Christian, which indicates the seriousness and disproportionate degree of violence and persecution to which Iraqi Christians are being exposed. “No one has been untouched by grief either by personal loss or to see their country torn apart by violence,” said Bishop Mar Meelis Zaia, Australian head of the Assyrian Church of the East. According to Church sources this exodus is the result of a campaign of violence, murder, terrorism, threats, and intimidation targeted at the Christian minority.

Attacks have escalated since September, when the electoral law was changed to remove the system of quotas that ensured minority groups representation on provincial councils. The result of government investigations and the arrest of about 12 people in relation to the latest wave of attacks are being awaited.

The international Assyrian Christian community is raising money to help. Local parishes are collecting money to help the Assyrian Church of the East Relief Organisation (ACERO) provide aid for people in the city of Mosul, where the recent escalation of attacks has been most severe. In the long run the hope of those fleeing the country is for a self-governing administrative region within Iraq.

The National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) stands in solidarity with Iraqi Christians, and the Assyrian Church of the East which has been a member Church of the Council for many years. “We are distressed to hear of the suffering of Christians in Iraq, and the deliberate and targeted attacks which they are experiencing,” said the Rev. John Henderson, the General Secretary of the NCCA. “We continue to ask the Australian government to take this situation into account in its consideration of support for Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan, resettlement plans for Iraqi refugees once the country finds peace, and support for repatriation when it is safe to return.”

We urge the Australian Government to:

  • Increase the level of aid to Iraq’s internally displaced people and Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria, and; 
  • Increase Australian refugee intake levels for the affected population.

Statement by UNPO General Secretary Mr. Marino Busdachin

Andrew Swan
Project Coordinator (Brussels)

Email: unpo@unpo.org
Tel.:    +31(0)703 646 504
GSM: +32(0)472 577 518
Fax:   +31(0)703 646 608
P.O.Box 85878
2508 CN The Hague
the Netherlands

Following the removal in September 2008 of Article 50 of the Iraqi Provincial Law, and the subsequent political stalemate, UNPO has issued a statement calling for the reinstatement of this crucial article and has communicated its concern to key embassies in Europe and Iraq urging for a swift resolution of this impasse.

To view the statement issued by the UNPO General Secretary, Mr. Marino Busdachin, please consult the UNPO website: http://www.unpo.org/content/view/8775/81/ or the PDF version of the statement which is attached to this email for convenience.

UNPO will continue to monitor events closely, but would welcome feedback on events as they unfold from affected parties.

11 October 2008

On 24 September 2008, Iraq’s Council of Representatives voted to eliminate Article 50 of the Provincial Law - an article that had passed into legislation only two months earlier, on 22 July 2008.

Article 50 would have reserved a total of fifteen seats in provincial councils for ethnic and religious communities such as the Assyrians, Mandaeans, Shabaks, Turkmen, and Yezidis, all of whom are groups that form an important, but threatened, part of Iraq’s rich cultural mosaic.

The removal of these reserved seats will severely weaken the representation of these groups at the provincial level in Iraq. It will also be a set back for Iraq’s ambition to develop a pluralistic, tolerant, and democratic society.

Iraq’s minorities have shared the suffering with the other groups in Iraq during the years of the dictatorship and have sought to be active participants in the democratic process of the new Iraq. The decision to remove Article 50 will limit this unnecessarily.

UNPO therefore calls on the government and the Council of Representatives of Iraq to reinstate Article 50 as soon as possible and urges the United Nations, European Union, and United States of America to support Article 50 and its aims.

Los Angeles Assyrians Protest Iraq Election Law

Courtesy of the Christian Post
6 October 2008
By Ethan Cole

Photo by Rosie Malek-Yonan

On Sunday, 5 October, in Los Angeles about 400 Assyrian Americans demonstrated against a recent election law passed by the Iraqi Parliament that removed Article 50 that reserves seats for Christians and other minorities on Provincial Councils.

Protesters, who gathered at the Federal Building in Los Angeles, demanded the Iraqi Parliament to reinstate Article 50, which was dropped from the provincial election law on 24 September.

“The Assyrian nation is making an appeal not just to the Iraqi government, the United States and the United Nations, but to the citizens of the world to stand with us to reclaim our rights and the right to representation,” said Rosie Malek-Yonan, an Assyrian actor, director and author of The Crimson Field at the rally.

Malek-Yonan emphasized that Assyrians are the indigenous people of Mesopotamia, or modern-day Iraq. She also noted that the group, which was one of the first nations to accept Christianity in the first century A.D., still speaks the language of Christ – Aramaic.

Now, after living in the region for some 6,000 years, minority Assyrian Christians in Iraq are denied their “most basic human rights,” said Malek-Yonan.

“Our churches have been targeted and destroyed because they represent Christianity,” Malek-Yonan lamented. “Our clergy have been brutally dismembered and murdered. Our children have been victims of hate crimes. Our women have been kidnapped and raped. Our men have been kidnapped and killed. Our businesses and homes have been destroyed.”

Islamic extremists have forced Assyrians to leave Iraq in droves through systematic attacks, relentless abductions, death threats, and destruction of Christian-owned properties.

The new election law will further silence the already extremely oppressed Assyrian population in Iraq, protesters argue.

Opponents of the new law pointed out that there is a fixed quota of 25 percent for women, but no other Iraqi minorities.

“We are calling on Iraq's Presidency Council and members of the Iraqi Parliament and lawmakers to immediately reinstate Article 50,” Malek-Yonan said.

U.N. special representative Staffan de Mistura criticized members of Iraq’s parliament last week for dropping Article 50, and has called on lawmakers to reinstate it by Oct. 15.

“With the removal of Article 50, so-called ‘democratic’ Iraq will shift back to being a conservative Islamic State that will no longer recognize the rights of its minorities, particularly the Christians,” Malek-Yonan warned.

“The reconstruction of Iraq cannot succeed when the rights of the country's minorities are stripped from them.”

Before the 2003 U.S.-led Iraq war, there was an estimated 1.4 million Assyrian Christians. Now the number has plummeted to less than half a million. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Christians make up nearly half of those fleeing Iraq even though they make up only about three percent of the country’s population.

Ms. Rosie Malek-Yonan's Speech
© 2008 Rosie Malek-Yonan. All Rights Reserved.

My name is Rosie Malek-Yonan. I am an Assyrian. Today I stand before you on behalf of my Assyrian nation in Iraq.

We Assyrians come from many communities and belong to various churches, denominations, political groups and speak many dialects. But today we have come together in a voice of solidarity.

The Assyrians are the indigenous people of Mesopotamia, presently Iraq. Today’s Iraq is our ancestral homeland. It was our home long before the Arab invasion and long before Britain carved Iraq out of the remnants of the Ottoman Empire in the 1920’s. Our handprint is everywhere in a region rich with Assyrian history, culture and tradition.

We Assyrians still speak the language of Christ and were the first nation to accept Christianity in the first century A.D. We have lived in the region for the past 6,000 years even after the fall of Nineveh, our capitol. The Assyrian nation is deeply rooted in the region and has managed to maintain its identity for centuries despite political, historical and geographical changes throughout the centuries.

Ms. Rosie Malek-Yonan speaking on the Assyrian identity and lack of human rights for Assyrians in Iraq before the Federal Building in Los Angeles.

Since the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003, the Assyrian nation has been under siege, facing far greater danger than the average Moslem Iraqis. As minority Christians living in Iraq, not only have we been denied our most basic human rights, but Islamic extremists have been forcing Assyrians out of Iraq through various tactics such as deliberate and systematic attacks and continuous abductions by merciless kidnappers who leave Assyrian families mourning their loved ones even when a ransom is paid. Assyrian lands and property are confiscated and families driven out of their homes.

Our churches have been targeted and destroyed because they represent Christianity. Our clergy have been brutally dismembered and murdered. Our children have been victims of hate crimes. Our women have been kidnapped and raped. Our men have been kidnapped and killed. Our businesses and homes have been destroyed.

We have been paying ransom to our captors since the beginning of the war. Our community has been dispersed but our spirit is still not broken. We will not be severed.

Our 1.4 million population before the Iraq War has now been dwindled down to less than half a million. Assyrians still living in the interior of Iraq, are subjected to violent hate crimes and their human rights are disregarded. But we have not given up hope. We are still standing and have not sought revenge. We have not fought violence with violence.

Assyrian refugees who have crossed the border from Iraq into Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are living in squalor conditions. Where they were once productive members of society, they are now reduced to living as refugees in poverty and neglect. We, who have gathered here today, speak for them. We are the voice of members of our Assyrian nation in Iraq who cannot be heard

Recently Iraq’s three-member Presidency Council approved and adopted a new and long-awaited Provincial Election Law, removing the final stumbling block for polls to proceed in early 2009. This law will allow the new Provincial Councils to push ahead with economic reconstruction in Iraq.

On September 24, 2008, Iraq’s 275-member Parliament passed the Provincial Election Law but in a move that has stunned the minority citizens of Iraq, particularly the Assyrians, and has drawn criticism from the United Nations, members of the Iraqi Parliament removed Article 50, a key clause that would have reserved seats on Provincial Councils for Christians and other minorities.

The new law allows a fixed quota of 25% for women, but other Iraqi minorities, such as Christians and Yazidis, have been omitted with the removal of Article 50.

We are calling on Iraq’s Presidency Council and members of the Iraqi Parliament and lawmakers to immediately reinstate Article 50.

On Thursday October 2, 2008, Staffan de Mistura, a UN special representative, disapproved of the removal of Article 50 and called for it to be reinstated by October 15.

Despite the fact that this bill is now effectively a law, the Iraqi Parliament can amend the legislation.

The Assyrian nation is making an appeal not just to the Iraqi government, the United States and the United Nations, but to the citizens of the world to stand with us to reclaim our rights and the right to representation.

With the removal of Article 50, so-called “democratic” Iraq will shift back to being a conservative Islamic State that will no longer recognize the rights of its minorities, particularly the Christians.

The reconstruction of Iraq cannot succeed when the rights of the country’s minorities are stripped from them.

As the indigenous people born in the cradle of civilization, the Assyrian identity must be recognized and preserved and, therefore, Assyrians demand representation in the Iraqi Parliament as an integral part of Iraq’s future.

Regardless of their numbers, the Assyrians will always remain in the region and will continue to call the land between the Tigris and Euphrates their ancestral and rightful home.

The Assyrians are entitled to fundamental rights and to representation in the government of which they are citizens.

Democracy in Iraq will fail if it does not treat all members of its society equally under the law. The removal of Article 50 will ensure the failure of democracy in Iraq and will ensure not only discrimination against Assyrians in their ancient homeland, but will treat them as 2nd class citizens.

Assyrians have already paid a heavy price since the beginning of the Iraq War. The liberation of Iraqis must encompass all its citizens, including the Assyrians, and not just the Sunni, the Shi'ites and the Kurds.

The removal of Article 50 suppresses the rights of Assyrians and other minorities. If this is a means to remove the ethnic structure of Iraq, it will not. The removal of Article 50 will not erase the diversity of cultures, religions and ethnicities that make up Iraq. But what the removal of Article 50 will do is to revert Iraq to the old path of dictatorship in dealing with its minorities.

Assyrians from all corners of the world, including Iraq, have come together in peaceful demonstrations in a voice of solidarity against the removal of Article 50. Today Assyrians of Southern California are adding their voice to our brothers and sisters around the globe. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, have stated in various interviews in the past few days that they will be amending the change in the law immediately.

Though one cannot always count on the promise of politicians, the Assyrian nation is counting on them to do the right thing and to restore Article 50 in order to ensure that the law protects the rights of Assyrians and all minorities.

If the removal of Article 50 is meant to act as a final blow to the systematic attacks on Assyrians to ensure a complete uprooting of these Christians from Iraq through mass migration or assimilation to result in a complete loss of the Assyrian identity, be rest assured that the Assyrian identity will never be lost.

Mr. David William Lazar's Speech

Our gathering here today is to protest the latest round of injustice and discrimination against our nation in the new and supposedly “democratic” Iraq by its parliament and the Presidential council headed by the Kurd, Jalal Talabani. This Kurdo‐Islamist parliament that was elected in 2005 has been for the most part of its life a dysfunctional legislative body laden with sectarianism and ethnic fascism. While it has failed to improve the lives of ordinary Iraqis because of deep divisions between its two main factions controlling it, it has and on numerous occasions managed to legislate laws marginalizing the rights of smaller ethnic groups such as the Chaldean Assyrian Christians, Yazidis and Shabaks.

At this time I would like to take few minutes and look briefly at some aspects of the history of relations between Kurds and our nation.

I’m almost certain that everyone here is aware of the history of massacres committed by Kurdish aghas and their tribesmen against us, from the days of the criminal Bader Khan and his ruthless campaigns against the autonomous Assyrian tribes of the Hakkiari region to the cowardly killing of Mar Benyamin Shimun, Patriarch of the Church of the East by Simko and his gang of thugs to the massacres of 1933 committed by the Iraqi army under the leadership of Bakir Sidqi, a Kurd, and the Kurdish irregulars that joined in and actively participated in the frenzy of murder that lasted several days , these brave Kurdish souls are always gallantly ready to kill women and children whenever the opportunity arises. I don’t want to dwell on these events because it will take too long and we would be dwelling on the past.

Many of you are aware that Kurds and until this day refer to us as “Falah”, which means a farmer or someone who toils the land. Please don’t be fooled by this term. The early Ottomans, the overlords of the Kurds and after their conquest of Byzantium with the sacking of Constantinople made it mandatory for every irregular Kurdish fighter that participated in the Ottoman military campaigns of mass murder, pillage and looting, to have at least one “Falah” to work his land and feed the Kurdish irregular and his family. This was in addition to Jezziah imposed on Christians by Islamic shariaa law, for all practical purposes this “Falah” system was slavery. This went on for several centuries until the defeat of the Ottomans at the hands of the allies and the removal of the last Caliph from his throne in Istanbul. Some of you will ask how this relates to the removal of article 50 that guaranteed us seats in the upcoming provincial elections. My answer to those of you who are wondering is that the mentality of the present day Kurdish tribal leader has not changed; he still considers us “falah” and wants to continue to make our decisions for us. He knows that he can’t own us like his ancestors did but he wants to own our political decision and our ancestral land. They want to annex what is left of our homeland to their Kurdish region under the false pretext that they can protect us from Islamists and Arabs and that we can practice our Christian religion with complete freedom. As a matter of fact they already refer to us as Christian Kurds.

You ask why they want our land when they have so much of it. Again the answer is very simple, the tribal mentality of the current Kurdish leadership represented by Barzani and Talabani (or for short , a compound name, Tarazani) is not very different from that of Bader Khan, the one –eyed warlord of the 19th century, basically to grab as much land as possible and remove the rightful owners by eliminating them or force them into Islam, the only thing different these days, is that they will allow us to keep our religion, because it will make them look as progressive and moderate Muslims to their Western allies, however, we will have to forget our ethnicity of thousands of years and proudly call ourselves Christian Kurds or use the newly invented, hip and improved name “Christian Kurdistanies”. The other reasons that Tarazani want to annex the Nineveh plain region is that they want to be able to link up with what they refer to as Eastern Kurdistan which is in Syria, if and when they secede from Iraq and declare their province an Independent Kurdistan. Another good reason is that there are proven oil and perhaps natural gas reserves in the Nineveh plain and they want to lay their hands on it. My dear friends, gone are the days when a Kurdish agha’s wealth was measured by the size of the flock of sheep that he owns, today, an agha’s wealth is measured by the number of oil wells he owns.

Is there democracy in the Kurdish province? The KRG wants the world to believe that there is. Let’s examine few facts. There are two main Kurdish political parties that have been around for many years, one is the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the other is the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Both organizations have had the same person as their secretary general for more than twenty years and they will more than likely continue in their positions until the day they die. How can they govern a region democratically when they don’t practice democracy within their own political parties? Democracy doesn’t happen in a region, or a country by waving a magic wand and “poof” democracy is created. Democracy is a foreign concept to the province, because if there is democracy, there would be freedom of press and speech and trust me when I tell you there is no such thing as freedom of press or freedom of speech. If there is democracy there, then there would be independent student organizations that don’t belong to one of the two parties. If there is democracy in the KRG controlled province, then there would be others that don’t have Barzani or Zibari as their last names, running the regional government. If there is democracy there, then, there should be an independent judicial system that would bring the killers of Francis shaboo, Helen Sawa, Edwar Khoshaba and many other s, that I don’t have their names, to justice. If there is democracy in the Kurdish region, then our people would get back their lands that were grabbed by Kurdish usurpers. Where there is democracy there is justice, in the Kurdish province, the law of the jungle prevails, where the weak falls prey to the strong.

You ask why we should care if there is democracy in the Kurdish province. And my answer is; we should care, because we want the Kurdish population to have better leaders and only by establishing real democracy they can achieve that. We care, because they have suffered as much as we have suffered at the hands of their aghas. We care because we want to open a new page in the relationship between our two nations.

Therefore I call on the Kurdish population to demonstrate in solidarity with us and ask that article 50 be restored immediately, because in a true democracy, it’s the majority that protects the rights of a minority. I call on the Kurdish population to rise in solidarity with us, because we were there when you needed us, we helped you in your struggle against the successive brutal regimes in Baghdad, we opened our homes and fed and housed your peshmerga, we joined your movement’s ranks and our young men gave the ultimate sacrifice and became martyrs for your cause, it’s now your turn to return the many favors. No other nation has given for the cause of another as much as we have sacrificed for yours. We did it because we saw injustice committed against you. We sacrificed for your cause because we believed that together we can achieve equality and justice for both of our people on our lands. We did it because we believe that the majority of the Kurdish people are good at heart and that only their leaders are corrupt and wish us ill.

In the end, I say to Jalal Talabani, you wrote few lines in your book apologizing to us on behalf of the whole Kurdish nation for the treacherous act of murder of our patriarch Mar Benyamin shimun by the thug Simko, well, we never asked for an apology from the Kurdish people, because the Kurdish nation didn’t commit that despicable act of murder but rather a corrupt lawless tribal leader did. Simko killed our religious and temporal leader of the time; your actions of the past few days are killing the future and survival of our people as a nation on its ancestral lands. I wonder how long we will have to wait before another Kurdish Agha writes a book about Kurds and Kurdistan and in it dedicates few lines to us apologizing for your treacherous actions.

To Masoud Barzani, is this how your father the late Mullah Mustafa Barzani would have treated us, his allies? Do you think that he would have rewarded us for struggling side by side with you by taking our lands, terrorizing our villagers, murdering and raping our women? I don’t believe so. Why do you then turn a blind eye to such crimes committed by gangs of thugs that belong to your political party? Why do you continue to undermine our national aspirations by conspiring with others against us? Why do you think that appointing present day falahs’ amongst us to positions of power will advance the national interests of your faction of the Kurdish people? Why do you insist on ostracizing our political will? Masoud, if you don’t reverse your policies of injustice and Kurdish fascism your name will be in the dust bin of history, next to that of the other infamous Kurdish murderers such as the likes of Bader Khan, Simko and Bakir Sidqi.

Long live our nation on its ancestral homeland.
Long live the republic of Iraq free and united.

U.S. Senators Voice Concern Over Mistreatment of Assyrians

(ZNDA: Washington)  On 17 October, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), the second highest ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate, sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, urging her to brief his office regarding what the U.S. has been doing to protect Iraq's Assyrians.  The letter was submitted in response to the Assyrian American National Coalition's request for immediate action.  Senator Durbin's response was swift.

The following is a copy of the letter received at Zinda Magazine's office in Washington:

On 29 October in a letter spearheaded by U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Senators  Carl Levin (D-MI), Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Mel Martinez (R-FL) urged Jalal Talabani, President of the Republic of Iraq and Nouri al-Maliki, Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq, to take all necessary measures to end the violence in the north against Iraqi Christians.  According to the United Nations, thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled Mosul in reaction to the increased violence and intimidation.

“This violence is emblematic of a larger pattern of severe persecution by extremists that threatens to deprive Iraq of her non-Muslim citizens.   It also highlights the possibility of increased violence ahead of provincial elections,” the Senators wrote.

They went on to write, “We urge your government to take all necessary measures to increase security in the north on behalf of all Iraqis.”

Full text of the letter is below:

Assyrian Church of the East Patriarch Calls for an Administrative Unit in North Iraq

Courtesy of the Assyrian International News Agency
20 September 2008

His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV (right) and Mar Hazail Soumi in Brussels after a joint prayer session on 16 September.

(ZNDA: Brussels)  On 16 September the head of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, conducted a prayer service at the Syriac Orthodox Church in Brussels.  After the service His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, asked that all Assyrians work together to establish an Assyrian-administered unit in northern Iraq's Nineveh Plains region.  His Holiness emphasized that the Assyrian administrative area must comply with the Iraqi constitution and the United Nations regulations.

The Patriarch reiterated that Assyrians are under attack in the Middle East and thus it is necessary for the Assyrians from the different Christian denominations to unite.

Two weeks earlier Bishop Ablahad Gallo Shabo of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Sweden, in an interview with Ishtar Television, called for an Assyrian self-governance in the Nineveh Plains region.

On 7 August of this year, during a speech given on the occasion of the August 7th Assyrian Martyrs' Day in Chicago, Mar Dinkha IV told a crowd gathered to dedicate a statue to the memory of the Assyrian patriarch, Mar Benyamin Shimmun (assassinated by a Kurdish warlord in 1918) the following: "Today in Iraq, especially in Bet-Nahrain, a "council" has been formed by Mr. Sarkis Aghajan from the Chaldean Church, the Syriac Church, and the Church of the East.  This council is working as one people and has requested a single leadership for the Nineveh Plains.  This is a beautiful effort.  We bless this effort and this conduct.  We hope that all political parties and civic groups will join in to support this good work and take part and responsibilities, to work together.  Because we too have rights as do Kurds, Arabs, and Turks in our homeland as Assyrians in Bet-Nahrain, Iraq (click here to view video).

Mor Hazail Soumi, Bishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Belgium and France, in a speech after the prayer service said: "We are one nation but history has divided us; it is time we work for unity".

In a show of solidarity the prayer service was conducted by clergy from the Apostolic Church of the East and the Syriac Orthodox Church.

The calls for the Assyrian rights in Iraq and Assyrian unity by His Holiness Mar Dinkha are adding momentum to requests made public by several other church leaders from different Assyrian church denominations.

AANC Congratulates New AANF Officers



Assyrian American National Council
Washington, DC


To the newly elected board of the Assyrian American National Federation:

We would like to formally congratulate you on your newly elected board: Adad Ashurseen (President), Zeena Tawfik (Vice President), Leonard Jacob (Assistant to the President), Marlene Khamoo (Executive Secretary), Youel Isho (Assyrian Secretary), Linda Babagouin (Treasurer), Janey Golani (Editor-in-Chief of the Assyrian Star Magazine), and Board Advisors Hawel Hawel and Atour Golani.

This year, at the Jubilee celebration of the 75th National Convention in Hartford, there were no losers.   It was clear to all those who attended and participated in the gathering that Assyrians from all over the country can work hard to hold our Diaspora nation together, and they are an example for all of us in the next generation.  The debt we owe you, and those who came before you, is incalculable. So we owe you not only congratulations but thanks.

We also want to congratulate you for putting the disagreements, quarrels, and hurt feelings of the past behind us, and also for recognizing that the unity of our nation is more important than any one institution, any one person, any one belief, or any one issue. There simply is no disagreement or ideological split that can be more important than the survival of our nation through the unity of its leadership. Your ability to move forward together is a testament to the durability of our nation. If you had failed, and allowed the fleeting details of today to further dissolve the bonds that hold us together, a terrible crime would have been committed not against one another, but against many generations of Assyrians to come. Your commitment ennobled you.

We work for our nation not simply to pay tribute to those who came before us, nor to benefit ourselves.  We do it for the Assyrians that are not yet born.  In a mere handful of generations, most if not all of us will be forgotten - but every day we create the world that our descendents must live in. Will we hand them a nation broken by pride, spite, and hard-heartedness? Or will they rather inherit a Nation united by eternal principles of brotherhood and sisterhood, cultural preservation, equality, and love?

By pledging to put the arguments of yesterday where they belong—in the past—and preparing a new generation of leadership to lead our nation to a unified tomorrow, you made a solemn commitment. We do not doubt that you will honor it, and put the unity of our nation above the fleeting details of today’s disagreements.

Sincere Regards,

The Assyrian American National Coalition (Washington, D.C.)
ChaldoAssyrian Syriac Youth Council of America (U.S.A.)
Assyrian Preservation Society (Arizona)
Diyarbakir TurAbdin Assyrian Association (New York)
AtourChaldo Youth Nationalistic Association (California)

ZindaWooshTo learn more about AANC – please register at www.aancoalition.org.  Become a member today and receive regular Congressional updates, join in on quarterly conference calls, receive annual report, and much more.

Assyrian Medical Society Formed, Independent of AAS


Assyrian Aid Society of America
Michael E Bradley, Administrator
T: 510-527-9997
F: 510-527-6633

BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA: The Assyrian Aid Society of America is today announcing that its Medical Relief Committee is now an independent and autonomous organization, the Assyrian Medical Society, that will continue to provide life-saving surgeries and medical treatments for needy Assyrians overseas.

“The Medical Relief Committee has been so overwhelmingly successful in bringing Assyrian patients to the United States and to hospitals around the world for these life-saving and life-transforming operations that it is crucial for them to now have their own dedicated organization,” said AAS-A President Narsai M. David. “We look forward to even more amazing achievements from this remarkable team, and AAS-A will continue to do whatever we can to assist.”

Dr. Samir Johna adds, "We are grateful and indebted to AAS-A for giving us the unique opportunity to start this novel project, and we look forward to continued cooperation between these two sister organizations for the sole purpose of helping Assyrians worldwide."

The Medical Relief Committee was originally a project of the AAS-A Los Angeles Chapter and will remain in Southern California. The committee was funded and later chaired by philanthropist Albert Davidoo with Dr. Samir Johna serving as Medical Director, Youkie Khaninia managing logistics, and AAS-A Director and Chapter Liaison Mona Malik.

The Medical Relief Committee’s most famous case is probably that of Baby Kirillos, the three-month-old Assyrian infant from Baghdad born with a hole in his heart and successfully treated last year at Loma Linda University Medical Center. In the following eighteen months, we were able to provide lifesaving interventions for thirteen additional Assyrians.

The Assyrian Aid Society of America is a charitable 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to assisting needy Christian Assyrians in northern Iraq and around the world. Over the past 17 years AAS-A has raised over $5.5 million to build schools, staff and supply medical clinics, facilitate life-saving surgeries, rebuild homes, irrigate farmlands, bring electricity to villages, and implement a host of other vital programs and services.

International Partnership for Iraq Heritage

(ZNDA: Washington)  In a ceremony on the 16 October at the Iraqi Embassy in Washington the American First Lady, Mrs. Laura Bush announced the launching of the “International Partnership for Iraq Heritage”, a project to be lead by the Department of State, represented at the ceremony by Assistant Secretary of State for Cultural Affairs, Ms. Goli Ameri.


The event was also attended by the Iraqi Finance Minister, H.E. Bayan Jabr, Ambassador Hamid Al-Bayati, Iraq's Permanent Representative to the United Nations and a number of High-ranking U.S. officials and some of the Iraqi community figures and senior staff of the embassy.

H.E. Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie, Iraq’s Ambassador to the U.S, delivered a speech welcoming the First Lady and the other honored guests, highlighted the importance of Mesopotamian heritage not only for Iraq but for all humanity and expressed appreciation to the government of the United States for its ongoing support. He added that such help and collaboration, will also bring our two people closer together and will help heal the wounds of war.

Following, that, Mrs. Laura Bush, made remarks formally launching the Iraq Cultural Heritage project which she said would also promote national unity by highlighting the rich heritage that all Iraqis share. She urged everyone to participate in preserving this great Heritage.

The goal of this project is to assist in the preservation of the ancient history of Iraq, through assistance towards the renewal of the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad, helping Iraqi archaeologists re-engage with the world and develop their own indigenous capacity after they have been largely excluded from the larger professional arena for generations. In addition, it aims to implement measures to protect Iraqi archaeological sites and stem illicit trafficking in Iraqi antiquities.

$1.6 Million Shipment of Medicines Delivered to AAS-Iraq

The Assyrian Aid Society of America, in partnership with the International Medical Corps (IMC) of Santa Monica, California and Washington, D.C., has delivered a $1.6 million shipment of medicines to the Assyrian Aid Society-Iraq for distribution to clinics, pharmacies, and other medical facilities throughout Northern Iraq.

AAS-Iraq and IMC partnered earlier this year is providing emergency assistance to approximately 500 Assyrian families in the Nineveh Plains region.

Established in 1984 by volunteer doctors and nurses, IMC is a private, voluntary, nonpolitical, nonsectarian organization. Its mission is to improve the quality of life through health interventions and related activities that build local capacity in underserved communities worldwide.

A second shipment, this one composed of medical supplies and equipment, is currently enroute by sea and is scheduled to arrive later in October.

The Assyrian Aid Society of America is a charitable 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to assisting needy Christian Assyrians in northern Iraq and around the world. Over the past 17 years AAS-A has raised over $5.5 million to build schools, staff and supply medical clinics, facilitate life-saving surgeries, rebuild homes, irrigate farmlands, bring electricity to villages, and implement a host of other vital programs and services.

Michigan No Longer Land of Promise for Iraqi Refugees

Courtesy of the Detroit News
3 October 2008
By Gregg Krupa

(ZNDA: Detroit)  Michigan's economy is so bad that State Department is sending fewer Iraqi refugees to the area because of concerns that their future would not be bright.

After a request by relief workers, the policy of bringing Iraqis to Metro Detroit if relatives or friends live in the area was changed to allow only those with immediate family to settle here, according to the State Department.

"The State Department has taken the measure of things and decided it would be better to send them somewhere else, where they might be self-sufficient, instead of coming to Michigan, because the economy is very bad here and we have the highest unemployment in the country," Belmin Pinjic of Lutheran Social Services of Michigan said. The agency is one of several designated by the federal government to provide relief to the refugees.

The war in Iraq has displaced 4.4 million people, according to the United Nations. Two million have left Iraq. The Christian population of the country is under intense pressure, as extremists root them out from villages and homes, officials say. But Muslims, especially those who have been employed by the United States in Iraq, also are seeking refuge in the United States.

Hanna hugs Ibrahim Yousif Dawood at the airport. About 3,000 Iraqi refugees arrived in Metro Detroit just last year. (Velvet S. McNeil / The Detroit News)

About 3,000 of the 13,000 Iraqi refugees resettled in the country in the last year arrived in Metro Detroit, which is the home to about one-third of all of the Iraqi-born residents in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

State Department officials said the policy change was implemented in late June partly because relief workers were having difficulty finding the refugees jobs. The officials, who declined to be quoted by name, citing department policy, said relief workers in Metro Detroit were becoming overwhelmed by the numbers.

"We made the change because people from the agencies were expressing concerns," said an official, who asked not to be named.

Despite requests, he said, the policy change will not be reviewed, because the department does not want to spur a significant new flow of Iraqis to Metro Detroit, he said.

Michigan is home to 35 percent of all Iraqi-born residents of the United States, according the Census Bureau. The vast majority of them live in Metro Detroit, where the Iraqi Muslim community numbers perhaps 12,000 and there are about 90,000 to 105,000 Chaldeans -- Iraqi Catholics -- according to sources in those communities.

That is the largest population of Chaldeans outside of Iraq.

Officials for local relief agencies, selected to handle the refugees, and local Iraqi-American leaders said some of the refugees placed in other states come to Metro Detroit, regardless. Because the financial assistance funneled from the State Department through the relief agencies does not follow them, it will compound the difficulties of resettling them.

In addition to providing $420 as a one-time stipend for each refugee, the State Department also designates an agency to help refugees find housing, employment and educational resources. That approval for assistance from an agency does not travel with a refugee who chooses to relocate, officials said -- even if the agency in another state has a branch in Michigan.

Joseph Kassab, executive director of the Chaldean Federation of American, said he raised the issue with officials from the State Department.

"I explained to them that no matter what you do, if those people are sent somewhere else, they will end up here, no matter what you do," Kassab said, of the federal officials. "If they don't have kin or relatives, they are still coming to Metro Detroit because our people like to live together and we support each other.

"We have people who own businesses who are willing to come forward, and they are doing that now to help them, to provide jobs until they are settled," Kassab said.

Chaldean owners of hotels in Metro Detroit have provided shelter for the refugees, often free of charge, Kassab said.

Meanwhile, the Chaldean Federation is organizing a job fair and will begin providing some automobiles to the refugees with low-cost loans and easy payment terms.

Relief workers say the lack of public transportation in Metro Detroit is often the most difficult barrier to resettlement, because it affects the housing, employment and education of the refugees.

Last year, municipal officials in Warren expressed concerns that a massive influx of refugees would challenge government services, but they said few problems have arisen.

The enrollment of the Warren Consolidated School District has increased this year by about 250 to 15,453, but officials said it is unclear how many of the new students are refugees and that other factors -- like the first year of daylong kindergarten in all of the elementary schools and an influx of former private school students in a bad economy -- may account for much of the increase.

State employment officials say the current number of unemployed in Michigan is 190,300. If all 3,000 refugees are unemployed, that would account for 1.5 percent of those counted as not having jobs.

"The refugees are doing well and prospering," Kassab said. "We are extending our arms to them. The only problem is the transportation issue and we are preparing a program so they will have cars."

Christian Iraqi Refugees Settle in Turlock

Courtesy of the Modesto Bee
30 October 2008
By Adam Ashton

(ZNDA: Turlock)  Samuel survived the ambush, but his attackers got rid of him just the same.

Hours after a round of bullets strafed his cab, Samuel and his wife decided to leave Iraq, joining an exodus of Assyrian Christians who no longer felt safe in their country.

"We suffered a lot in Iraq," said Samuel, 44. "I didn't want the same for my children."

Samuel and his wife, refugees who arrived in Turlock three months ago, spoke with The Modesto Bee through a translator on the condition that the paper not publish their real names because they feared for the safety of relatives in Iraq.

It took them more than four years to land in California since that January 2004 evening, when armed men shot up Samuel's Mitsubishi sedan on his way home from work as a taxi driver in Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city. He sped through the trap and escaped without injury.

His city in northern Iraq has grown increasingly dangerous for Assyrian Christians since the war started.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees last week estimated that more than 13,000 of them -- half the city's Assyrian population -- fled Mosul just this month. Threats and attacks appear aimed at driving the Assyrians out of the city, according to the refugee commission.

Some will find their way to Turlock, drawn there because of the city's nearly century-old Assyrian community.

About 250 Iraqi refugees settled in Stanislaus County in the past year, according to the International Rescue Committee. Most are Assyrian, although a few families are Muslim.

Some refugees are losing hope that Assyrians will have a place in Iraq after the war ends and the U.S. soldiers leave. "I don't see any way where we can live over there, where we can claim what was ours," Samuel said.

Samuel left Iraq with his wife, father and three children. They live with his wife's brother, a truck driver who also supports relatives in Iraq. The family receives some government assistance.

They're enjoying the calm they find in a roomy house with a white picket fence. They don't want to return to Iraq. "How could we be unhappy with a television like this," Samuel said, laughing as he gestured to a wall-sized TV in his brother-in-law's living room.

Their son, age 10, and daughters, 4 and 8, cling closely to their parents, showing a stranger shy smiles and deep brown eyes. They're picking up English with partners at Turlock elementary schools.

Looking for a job Samuel is eager to work. He hasn't held a job since he stopped driving the taxi in 2004. He'd like to become a translator when he masters English.

"I worry about it every day," he said.

Samuel rides a bike around town. Shamiran, his wife, walks their kids to school. Both of them are taking English classes in an adult education program.

Shamiran, 33, worries about her family in Mosul, but she managed a joke about how glad she was to see her brother. "I missed him so much, I left everyone else in Iraq," she said.

"There's no fear," Samuel said. "I can go outside, go shopping, ride my bike. I'm at peace."

The tranquility they feel in Turlock often appeared unattainable in the years after the war started in Iraq.

The family couldn't leave Iraq immediately after the ambush Samuel survived. They hid for a month in a village that was known to be safer for Assyrians and returned to Mosul when they heard Kurdish militias had restored some order.

They lived in a state of near-house arrest while they gathered money from relatives to hire someone to take them across the border into Syria. Samuel's children didn't go to school in those 19 months.

"The only people they were allowed to play with were relatives that came to our home," he said.

They'd walk to a market to buy groceries but only in daylight. One Assyrian neighbor, Samuel and Shamiran said, was shot to death in front of his home.

God kept them safe on long journey Chaos in Mosul, a city of 1.8 million, in a way was more threatening than Saddam Hussein's regime. Samuel described the time before the war as one of fear for Assyrians, but one in which they were fairly stable.

He rejoiced with thousands of others when Saddam fell, thinking the ouster of the dictator would clear the way for a better Iraq. That euphoria had passed by late summer in 2003, when the sound of celebratory gunfire was replaced by seemingly continual explosions around Mosul, Samuel said. "There was no government, no police," he said. "There was no law."

Samuel and Shamiran spent about $20,000 to escape Iraq in August 2006. They carried with them clothes, pictures and silverware.

"We didn't sell anything," Samuel remembered. "We didn't load anything in the car because we knew we would be in danger. There was no announcement. We left in secret."

They found a sort of purgatory in Syria. Samuel couldn't work there. They had little information about their status as refugees, although they were appealing to join Samuel's relatives in Australia or Shamiran's in Turlock.

A U.S. representative interviewed them for a refugee visa in late 2007. They discovered early this summer that they'd get a few of the 12,000 slots the United States has earmarked for Iraqi refugees this year.

"We couldn't believe it," Samuel said.

Samuel and Shamiran consider themselves lucky. None of their immediate relatives died in the war. Their family had enough cash to guide them from Mosul to Turlock.

They know thousands of others aren't so fortunate.

"I felt God was with me throughout, and he kept us safe and allowed us to come to the United States," Samuel said.

Hollywood Produces Films that Undermine Assyrians

(ZNDA:  Los Angeles)  A growing concern over how Assyrians are depicted in two major film productions are pointing to the film industry's unjust treatment of Assyrians as barbarians in the past and terrorists now.

Will Smith will act as Taharqa, the Nubian King in "The Last Pharaoh"

Earlier this year Hollywood star, Will Smith, asked Randall Wallace to write a screenplay for a new film titled "The Last Pharaoh".  Mr. Smith will be playing the character of Taharqa, a Nubian king and the son of Piye, the Nubian king who first conquered Egypt.   Taharqa was not the last Pharaoh of Egypt, but was mentioned by Greek historian Strabo and is believed to be the King of Ethiopia referred to in the Old Testament who fought against Sennacherib (704-681 B.C.) , the Assyrian King, on his quest to calm the rebellion in Jerusalem.  Moreover, Taharqa did not win against the Assyrians, rather was driven back to Nubia and the Assyrians conquered Memphis and established a new dynasty in Egypt.  The screenplay is said to depict Taharqa as the victor and Assyrians as the defeated bloodthirsty conquerors who attempted to destroy Israel and Egypt.

"The Last Pharaoh" is slated for a 2010 release.

Another film which was released in 2006 and has been banned in many countries depicts an Assyrian man as a possible terrorist linked to al-Qaeda and the fictional assassination of President Bush in 2007.

"Death of a President" (click here for trailer) is hot as faux documentary, set six years after the day George W. Bush was assassinated in Chicago. Through interviews with talking heads, Secret Service agents, and those involved in the subsequent investigation, the film gradually unravels the mystery of who shot the president. We learn that an Assyrian man with possible ties to al-Qaeda was arrested, but it soon becomes clear that another man may be responsible, and now-President Cheney has been politicizing Bush’s death to advance his own agenda.

After its premiere at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival, the film aired in Finland and UK. However, a boycott by major chains nearly killed its US release, and the Japanese government attempted to ban it outright.

The film won the International Critics Prize (F.I.P.R.E.S.C.I.) at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival.

Newmarket has paid one million dollars for the U.S. distribution rights.  "Death of a President" is slated for cinematic exhibition in U.S. cinemas on 20 January 2009, the day of Barack Obama's inauguration.

Ancient Assyrian Treasures at the Boston MFA

Courtesy of the Providence Journal
30 October 2008
The Trustees of the British Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

(ZNDA: Boston)  At the height of his power, he ruled an empire that stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf and included parts of present-day Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt. Though trained as a scholar, he was also a fearsome warrior who boasted of cutting off the hands of his enemies and who had a simple solution for dealing with prisoners of war: turn them into human shish-kebobs. An avid hunter, he also claimed to have killed more than 300 lions.

Still, when the Assyrian king known as Ashurbanipal (668-631 B.C.) began building a new palace overlooking the Tigris River, he insisted on some basic safety measures.

At his request, the palace’s interior walls were covered with dozens of carved-stone reliefs depicting Assyrian gods and heroes. The reliefs, which were intended to ward off evil spirits, were especially numerous at two locations: corners, which were regarded as the most likely entry points for harmful spirits, and the royal washroom, where the king was considered most vulnerable.

Today, many of the stone reliefs from Ashurbanipal’s palace reside in the permanent collection of the British Museum. But for the next few months, a selection of these magnificent works is on display in “Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum” at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Beautifully installed in the MFA’s main West Wing galleries, the exhibition features more than 250 objects, ranging from the heavy stone bas reliefs that were used to decorate Assyrian temples and palaces to more humble pieces such as cups, bowls, jewelry and glassware.

As an added bonus, the show features one of the British Museum’s most famous holdings: a small ivory plaque showing a lioness attacking a young man or boy. Created by an unknown artisan some time during the 8th or 9th centuries B.C., the plaque is notable both for the fineness of its carving and for its striking subject matter (from a distance, the boy and the lion look like lovers locked in a passionate embrace.) Discovered at the bottom of a well, where it was presumably thrown in an attempt to keep it hidden, it’s considered one of the greatest masterpieces in all of ancient art.

(Sadly, a nearly identical plaque didn’t fare as well. It was among the hundreds of pieces looted from Iraq’s national museum following the American-led invasion in 2003.)

This Assyrian artifact, Statue of the King, is made from magnesite and is part of “Art and Empire: Treasures From Assyria In The British Museum,” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Taken together, the carvings and other materials paint a surprisingly intimate — and at times harrowing — portrait of what’s known as the Neo-Assyrian empire.

The show’s opening gallery, for example, features works created specifically for Assyria’s ruling elite. They include several large stone bas reliefs that once adorned the royal palace at Nineveh, near the present-day city of Mosul in northern Iraq. Carved from heavy slabs of gypsum, they depict stylized gods and warriors whose presence was thought to help protect against evil spirits.

Another highlight is a small but finely carved statue of Ashurnaspiral II (883-859 B.C.), considered the founder of the Assyrian empire. Fashioned from a solid block of magnesite, a rare stone that was most likely brought back as a piece of war-booty, it shows the king wearing a short-sleeved tunic under a cape whose fringed edges fall in rhythmical folds across his thighs and legs.

In a show of humility, Ashurnaspiral’s head has been left uncovered. But in other respects, the statue is a testament to the king’s power in worldly and spiritual affairs. An Assyrian viewer, for example, would have immediately recognized the mace that Ashurnaspiral holds in his left hand as a reference to the king’s role as an agent of Ishtar, the Assyrian goddess of love and war. A cuneiform inscription on the king’s chest, meanwhile, includes an account of a successful military campaign.

Besides showing off the skills of Assyrian artisans, such works also highlight one of the main themes of the exhibit — that in ancient Assyria, the realms of art, power and religion were deeply intertwined. Of course, the same thing could be said of many other cultures, but the Assyrians seem to have taken the mingling of art and propaganda to new levels of sophistication.

Art and politics also lie at the heart of one of the show’s most dramatic pieces: a huge stone mural depicting a battle between the Assyrians and their southern neighbors, the Elamites. Carved on a series of horizontal panels, the mural is crammed with scenes worthy of a Hollywood swords-and-sandals epic: rival armies advancing with swords and spears at the ready; fallen soldiers, some dead with others writhing in pain; panic-stricken horses fleeing across fields littered with dead bodies.

Yet the mural also has a story to tell.

In a series of smaller vignettes, we can follow the action as the Assyrian cavalry attacks and overruns the Elamite positions. We can watch as the chariot carrying the Elamite king and his son crashes, spilling its occupants to the ground. And we can cheer — or not — as Assyrian soldiers surround the two men and, after killing them with axes and maces, gleefully chop off their heads.

Though not as finely carved as some of the other show’s other works, the Battle of Til-Tuba, as the mural is known, is certainly one of the most striking. Indeed, its scene-by-scene layout feels surprisingly modern — a distant ancestor of today’s comic books and graphic novels.

In addition to Ashurnaspiral II and Ashurbanipal, visitors to “Art and Empire” will also meet several other notable figures from the ancient Middle East. One is Ashurnaspiral’s son, Shalmaneser III (858-824 B.C.), whose reign is commemorated by a striking set of decorative door hinges. In typical fashion, the hinges (actually, thick metal straps that ran across the front of the doors and helped hold them together) are covered with scenes from Shalmaneser’s military campaigns.

Another important figure is Sennacherib (704-681 B.C.). It was during his rule that Nineveh became one of the greatest cities of the ancient world — a fact confirmed by the Old Testament’s Book of Jonah, which refers to Nineveh “an exceedingly great city.” A few pages later, of course, the same Book of Jonah predicts that Nineveh will be destroyed by an act of God

That’s when European explorers — led by the great British archaeologist Austen Henry Layard — began a series of excavations of Nineveh and another city, Nimrud. Over a span of about 10 years, Layard and his colleagues uncovered thousands of objects, ranging from huge temple statues weighing hundreds of tons to smaller pieces of pottery, glass and jewelry.

Layard’s contributions, which also included several popular books that helped spark public interest in the Middle East, are chronicled in a separate gallery attached to the main exhibit.

“Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum” runs through Jan. 4 at the Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston. Museum hours: Tues. and Sat.-Sun. 10-4:45 and Wed.-Fri. 10-9:45. Exhibit admission: $25 adults, $23 seniors and students, $9.50 children 7-17 and free under 7. (Note: prices include general museum admission; all tickets are for reserved date and time only.) Contact: (617) 267-9300 or visit www.mfa.org.

Archaeologists Uncover Ancient Governor's Palace In Turkey

Courtesy of the Science Daily
21 October 2008
Adapted from materials provided by University Mainz.

Discovery of a rare treasure trove of more than 20 bronze vessels under the paving stones in the courtyard. (Credit: Ziyaret Tepe Archaeological Project)

(ZNDA: Diyarbakir)  Within the scope of an international rescue excavation project, a team of four archaeologists specialized in Middle Eastern affairs headed by Dr. Dirk Wicke (Institute of Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies) have unearthed parts of a Neo-Assyrian governor's palace dating back to the 9th to 7th century BCE in a two-month excavation program amongst the ruins on Ziyaret Tepe. The discoveries were extraordinary.

The site in the south-east of Turkey (Diyarbakir province) is at risk from the construction of the Ilisu Dam. For several years now it has been investigated by teams from the universities of Akron (Ohio), Cambridge, Munich and Istanbul (Marmara University) in a joint excavation project. Sponsorship by the research funds of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in 2007 and 2008 gave its archaeologists the opportunity to become involved in this international and multi-disciplinary project. There are plans to continue the project for another three years.

The Upper Tigris region came under the sway of the Assyrians in the middle of the second millennium BCE. They established their provincial capital in Tushan which is identified today as Ziyaret Tepe. According to historical inscriptions by the Assyrian ruler Assurnasirpal II it is certain that the construction of an administrative palace in Tushan dates back to the year 882 BCE. The excavation area of the Mainz team comprises the topmost parts of the acropolis, which must have been subsumed by the governor's palace. Parts of the private residential area and a courtyard have already been uncovered. The main rooms were well equipped - amongst the findings were colorful wall paintings and a facility for an oven on wheels.

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But the most unusual discovery was the excavation of cremations in pits within the extensive courtyard area. Five installations have been found to date, two of which were undisturbed and contained opulent burial goods. In the rectangular graves of approximately 1.50 m x 2.00 m in size, for example, a considerable layer of ash and burned bones as well as numerous bronze vessels, sumptuous stone and ivory receptacles, carved ivory objects, seals, and beads were found. These items indicate the high status of the people buried here. They are believed to have been residents of the palace. These objects are very similar to those found in the Assyrian capitals of Assur and Kalhu/Nimrud in modern day Iraq.

In addition to the cremation remains found this year, a rare treasure trove of more than 20 bronze vessels was discovered under the paving stones in the courtyard. These include a jug, a wine ladle, a sieve, several bowls and cups, mostly made from embossed bronze, which are now waiting to be restored. This will reveal their elaborate ornamentation which can already be made out under the corrosion layer.

The archaeological research project at Ziyaret Tepe (Turkey) undertaken by the Institute of Ancient Near Eastern Studies of Mainz University, which was set up 10 years ago, adds a new field archaeological portfolio alongside the excavations in Haft Tappeh and Tchogha Zanbil (Iran). It enables its students to work in the region in which they specialize and makes them part of an international research project.

Assyrian Artifact Finds New Home at Cal State University Stanislaus

Courtesy of the Turlock Journal
30 September 2008
By Sabra Stafford

For over 40 years a rubbing reproduction of an Eighth century Assyrian monument hung in Samuel Ayoubkhani's home as a treasure that only friends and family saw.

Now, the artifact of two cultures is on display for all to see through Ayoubkhani's donation to California State University, Stanislaus.

Photo contributed Susana Gajic-Bruyea and Carl Bengston unveil the Assyrian artifact donated by Dr. Samuel Ayoubkhani to California State University, Stanislaus during a Friday evening ceremony.

The rubbing reproduction of the Nestorian Monument was unveiled Friday night to an overflow crowd at the university's library and there it will hang for all to enjoy.

"It has made me very happy to give this to the university, because first of all, it's educational for the students and because there are thousands of Assyrians in Stanislaus that can now come and see it," Ayoubkhani said.

The Nestorian Monument was erected in 781 AD in China during the Tang Dynasty. The black marble monument was to recognize the work of Assyrian missionaries, who 150 years earlier, had helped introduce Christianity to China. The monument bears inscriptions in both Chinese and Syriac that were composed by an Assyrian priest. It's believed that the monument was buried by Christians in 845 AD as a way to save the stone from destruction during a religious persecution by Emperor Wa-Tsung.

It's date of rediscovery is up for debate as well as the exact location. Most scholars now believe it was found in 1625. Some accounts say it was found when a Chinese family was digging a foundation for their home. Other stories said it was found 30 miles away.

The monument's rediscovery in the 17th century raised considerable excitement for the Jesuit missionaries in China. The emperor at the time had railed against Christian teachings and had banned the practice because it was a new religion. Missionaries used the monument to prove Christianity had been in China a thousand years earlier.

The discovery of the rubbing reproduction of the ancient Assyrian artifact was itself a monumental moment for Ayoubkhani.

It was 1965 and he was a post-graduate student at Manchester University in the United Kingdom. His landlords would often invite him over for visits and conversation. One day, the chat turned to Ayoubkhani's ancestry and language. As Ayoubkhani described the Aramaic language and how it is written right to left, a twinge of remembrance came up in the man's eye. He shuffled off and a few moments came back with the rubbing.

"I was amazed the first time I saw it," Ayoubkhani said. "I knew it was about my ancestors."

Ayoubkhani bought the rubbing for 500 pounds, paid for in three installments.

It was at the May 2008 Mayor's Prayer Breakfast that Ayoubkhani first had the notion of donating the treasure.

"Dr. (Ham) Shirvani was reading from a passage in Jeremiah and it came to my mind the best place for it would be at the university," he said.

The mounted and framed monument rubbing will be displayed in the library along with other Assyrian artifacts that include a rare Assyrian Christian book collection donated by the Rev. Eshoo Sayad and a pair of bronze sculptures of King Ashurbanipal and Queen Shamiram, the last rulers of Assyria during the 6th and 7th centuries BC. 

"It is in a place now where it can really be useful to the young people and all the knowledge can be shared with our neighbors and friends," said Lazar Piro, who spoke at the unveiling.

Digitizing Syriac in Kerala, India

Courtesy of the Hindu Magazine
14 September 2008
by K.P.M. Basheer

Preserving Syriac: 
Prof. Istvan Perczel

(ZNDA: Kerala) Prof. Istvan Perczel’s study of ancient Syriac documents in Kerala throws interesting light on the state’s past.

A Hungarian scholar of medieval Christianity is on a mission to preserve a slice of India’s Syrian Christian past. A slice that is written from right to left in a near-dead West Asian language and lies scattered in Kerala’s church attics, seminary vaults and ancient homes.

“There is a remarkably rich heritage of Syriac in Kerala, particularly from the 15th to 19th centuries,” says Istvan Perczel, who teaches at the Central European University, Budapest. Enchanted by this heritage, he has been digitising Syriac documents, correspondence and religious writings. “Syriac thrived in Kerala even while this sacred language was fading away from its place of birth,” Prof. Perczel notes.


Chicago's Oriental Institute has posted a video documenting the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary (CAD) project now that is winding down. The CAD is one of the greatest achievements within Humanities research in the previous century. It was started in 1921 and was intended to be the authoritative dictionary/lexicon of Akkadian. It certainly has accomplished this goal. Furthermore, the history of the project is quite exciting with many twists and turns, personality conflicts, and achievements along the way.  Click  the image above to view this fascinating documentary.

But, Syriac, which contributed several words to the Malayalam language, has all but vanished, mainly because most churches replaced it with Malayalam as the language of worship.  Tonnes of centuries-old Syriac manuscripts are being gnawed at by termites and Time. Prof. Perczel has, over the past eight years, visited several seminaries and homes looking for manuscripts. Old seminaries that kept invaluable manuscripts in their vaults allowed him to photograph, copy and digitise. “The number of hitherto-unknown Syriac texts we uncovered is virtually uncountable,” he said. One is a 17th century poem written by Kadavil Chandy Kathanaar, a prominent clergyman who was known as “Alexander the Indian”. There have been families who specialised in Syriac learning and teaching.

Based on the study of the manuscripts, Prof. Perczel now questions the received wisdom that the Portuguese missionaries burnt most of the Syriac religious writings at the Synod of Diampur. The synod — held in 1599 at Udayamperoor, some 20 km from Kochi, at the behest of the then Portuguese archbishop of Goa, Alexis de Menesis —was a landmark in Kerala’s Christian history. The Portuguese, who thought the practices and liturgy of the native Christians heretical, burnt the texts and sought to replace them with Latin liturgy. Following the 1653 Coonan Cross Oath at Kochi, the Syrian Christians revolted against the Portuguese missionaries and temporarily seceded from the Roman Church. The fact that the researchers could find “heretical” Syriac texts, according to Prof. Perczel, shows that several such texts could have survived the synod and that the burning could even be a “myth”.

Pazuzu Atop London's Institute of Contemporary Arts

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times
14 October 2008

Roberto Cuoghi's statue of Pazuzu on the roof of the ICA. Photo: Zoe Franklin.

(ZNDA: London)  Workmen install a fiberglass statue of the Assyrian god Pazuzu onto the rooftop of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.  In Assyrian and Babylonian mythology, Pazuzu was the king of the demons of the wind and son of the god Hanbi. The statue is part of the exhibition "Suillakku," the first U.K. solo show for Italian artist Roberto Cuoghi.

Šuillakku is an immersive, hugely evocative sound installation filling our lower gallery. Italian artist Roberto Cuoghi undertook an imaginative journey back to Mesopotamia in the seventh century BC, when the Assyrian empire was falling into ruin and the city of Ninevah (the site of which is in modern-day Iraq) was ransacked by its enemies. Inspired by Assyrian lamentations to their gods, this intense aural landscape gives the visitor the impression of being surrounded by hundreds of people at a time of great suffering.

To create Šuillakku, Cuoghi spent two years immersed in the language and rituals of the Assyrians. The soundtrack he composed draws on this research and is enriched by his imagination. The work employs a huge range of musical instruments, many of which were recreated especially for the piece. Of equal importance to Šuillakku is its vocal aspect: a vast chorus which Cuoghi created by multiplying and mutating his own voice into an extraordinarily potent, cacophonous assault.


In the process of his research Cuoghi frequently came across the demon Pazuzu, a metamorphic being with the head of a dog, the horns of an antelope and the tail of a scorpion. Pazuzu was one of the most feared spirits in the Assyrian pantheon, and images of him were used as charms, placed at entrances and gateways to drive away lesser spirits. The final element in the exhibition is an image of this demon, looking out over The Mall. Ironic and disturbing, Cuoghi’s invocation of a civilisation in crisis operating under a fearful irrationality offers a new perspective on our own moment in history.

Listen to an extract from Šuillakku. (mp3)

Cuoghi has worked with a wide range of techniques including photography, video, animation, painting, drawing and sound. He is famous for his acts of transformation and at the age of 25 he embarked on a seven year process in which he took on the image of his father, including wearing his father’s clothes, turning his hair grey and gaining more than 50 pounds.

The exhibition is curated by Marcella Beccaria and organised by Castello di Rivoli, Museum of Contemporary Art, Rivoli-Turin.

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Genocide Awareness Day 2008- Canada

A report by Alhan Oraha
ACSSU of Canada, Public Relations

Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs) have endured and survived many atrocities, which mainly targeted their religious and ethnic identity and resulted in hundreds of thousands of lives being lost over two centuries.  The victims of these of Genocides are commemorated annually by Assyrians around the world on August 7th. The commemoration serves many purposes: it brings the community together to remember and pay respect to the rivers of blood shed and it highlights the main lessons to learn from the past. More importantly, the commemoration provides a chance to raise awareness of the ongoing attacks targeting our people until this day and to call for more proactive solutions to stop history from repeating itself.

Part of the audience at the event.

This year’s Genocide commemoration took place on August 10, 2008 at the Assyrian Society of Canada hall in Mississauga (Ontario) with an audience of more than 450 (including clergy from the Chaldean church and the Assyrian Church of the East, politicians, and Assyrian and Canadian media (see Stephanie Taylor’s article in Mississauga News: click here)). This year’s organizing committee consisted of the following organizations:

•  Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union (ACSSU) of Canada
•  Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) – Canada
•  Assyrian Society of Canada (ASC)
•  Assyrian Aid Society (AAS) of Canada
•  Assyrian Women’s Union of Canada
•  Assyrian Cultural Association and Administration of Ontario
•  Shamiram Association

The masters of ceremony of the evening were Daniel Oraha (presenting in Syriac) and Nahreen Gorrges (presenting in English). The evening started with a group of Hamurabi Scouts lighting a candle on each table to symbolize our hope for a better future. This was followed by the angelic tones of a saxophone performance by our renowned player Johnson Aghajan.  A moment of silence was then observed to remember all the ones that gave their lives to ensure that our religious and ethnic identity is protected. Reverend Yousip Sarmas of the Assyrian Church of the East blessed the evening with prayers for our martyrs in Syriac and English. This was followed by a welcoming speech given by Shmail Daniel on behalf of the organizing committee.

Mariam Georgis presenting an overview of the main genocides and campaigns that targeted our people from 1843 until 1988.

A short documentary was played to shed light on the current situation back home. The documentary was filmed during a fact finding trip of a Dutch delegation of politicians and journalists to the Assyrian region in north Iraq between March 28 and April 5 of 2008. Mr. Joel Voordewind, a member of the Dutch parliament, and Attiya Gamri, a Dutch politician of Assyrian origin, were part of the delegation. Witnesses of the horrific deadly assaults against our people were interviewed. Agonizing stories about family members being killed and tortured were told by grieving survivors.

Honourable David Sweet, conservative MP for Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, and Westdale spoke on behalf of the Canadian government. He promised to keep the Assyrian case on the government’s agenda.  

Mariam Georgis, an active member of ACSSU, presented a historical overview of the main acts of genocides and murderous campaigns that targeted our people from 1843 until 1988. In her presentation, Mariam discussed the 1843-1846 Turkish attacks under the leadership of Bedr Khan Beg, the Seyfo Genocide in 1915-1948, the Simele Massacre in 1933, Arabization policies of the Arab Ba’ath Party, and the Anfal campaign in 1987-1988.  

Honourable David Sweet, conservative MP for Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, and Westdale.

The evening’s main speaker was Mr. Fred Aprim, a renowned Assyrian historian and the author of many books. Mr. Aprim started his speech, titled “The Genocide from mid-nineteenth century to today”, by defining the word Genocide and elaborated on how the campaigns that targeted our people fit this definition. He also discussed the factors attributing to the lack of awareness of the Assyrian Genocide during World War I. He then explained the impact of the Kurdish presence in northern Mesopotamia on Assyrians.   Mr. Aprim provided an overview of how our people continued to suffer during the 1991 and 2003 Gulf wars. He then presented several demands to ensure that Assyrians’ rights are respected and protected, thereby bringing the mass exodus of the Assyrian people to an end. Mr. Aprim stressed that the disappearance of the Assyrian Christians from Iraq will be the greatest loss to Iraq’s rich history. He concluded his speech by stressing on working together to accomplish our goals: “United we stand…divided we fall”.

The event also included emotional poems by Fahad Isaac (titled sahda et omta (martyr of nation) and agarta qa yima (a letter to a mother)) and Nora Isaac.

Assyrian historian Fred Aprim presenting “The Genocide from mid-nineteenth century to today”.

Sargon David of ACSSU concluded the event by appealing to the Canadian government to help build a sustainable democracy in Iraq. This is achieved by implementing the related constitutional rights of Assyrians as stipulated by the Iraqi constitution, allocating funds to aid minorities in Iraq and by ensuring that they are directly transferred to local NGOs and grass root organizations, and allowing internally displaced Assyrians and other minorities to resettle in their ancestral homeland to ensure they do not become refuges in neighbouring countries.

May our martyrs rest in peace.

Rally in Support of Article 50

A Report Written by Ashorina Lazar
ACSSU of Canada – Public Relations

On 5 October the Assyrian, also known as Chaldean and Syriac, community of Canada rallied at the Nineveh Club of Ontario in Woodbridge, Ontario to voice their disappointment in the Iraqi Presidency’s decision to delete article 50 from the Provincial Election Law.  Article 50 guaranteed representation in all provincial councils for minority populations such as the Assyrians, Yazidis, and Shabaks. 

The rally began with a short message from Reverend Yosip Sarmas who poignantly mentioned that, “…a single snowflake will melt before it hits the ground, but many snowflakes have the power to cover towns and cities.”  He encouraged all Assyrians to stand with a single united voice against the injustice these latest events have caused.

The keynote speakers included Mr. Munir Hormoz, Director of the Chaldean Democratic Union – U.S. and Canada Chapter, and Mr. Alan J. Mansour, Director of the Assyrian Democratic Movement – U.S. and Canada Chapter.

Before Mr. Mansour began his talk, he stood for a moment of silence in memory of all the Assyrian martyrs.  He likened the abolition of article 50 from the Iraqi Provincial Election Law as the transformation of Assyrians and other Iraqi minorities into “last class citizens”.  He went on to state that what has happened must be brought to the attention of the U.S. and Canadian governments as well as all forms of media.  He encouraged everyone to spread this information to others rather than keeping it an issue internal to the Assyrian community.  

Miss Mariam Georgis, Vice President of the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union (ACSSU) read a petition to be presented to the Canadian government signed by the organizing committee of the rally.  The committee included the following organizations:

  • Assyrian Democratic Movement – Canada Chapter
  • Chaldean Democratic Union – Canada Chapter
  • Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union of Canada
  • Assyrian Aid Society – Canada Chapter
  • Assyrian Society of Canada
  • Assyrian Women’s Union of Canada
  • Assyrian Cultural Association and Administration of Ontario
  • Shamiram Association of Hamilton

4th Annual Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union of Canada General Body Meeting, Elections and Meet & Greet

Ashorina Lazar reporting for ACSSU of Canada

On 19 September 2008 members of the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union (ACSSU) of Canada came together for their annual General Body Meeting followed by a Meet & Greet dinner at the Open Cork restaurant in Mississauga, Ontario.  The night began with a review of the ACSSU 2007/2008 committee accomplishments.  The following are a few highlights:

  • Mezaltaa Project – 2007
    • Mezaltaa is a newspaper published by the ChaldoAssyrian Student Group of Iraq. Due to a lack of funding, publishing was stopped
    • ACSSU raised an astonishing $6,100.00 USD through fundraising and donations, which was used to purchase cameras, scanners, computers, desks, and other newspaper supplies.
  • ACSSU of Canada Lecture Series – 2007/08
    • This year’s distinguished speakers included:
      • Dr. Matay Arsan - “The Syriac Orthodox Community of Tur-Abdin and Europe”
      • Dr. Hermis Aboona - “Early Demographic Changes of Northern Iraq”
      • Dr. Amir Hassanpour - “Assyrians & Kurds in the ‘Zone of Genocide’”
  • Luke Isaac Scholarship – 2008
    • $1000 to a deserving student of Assyrian (also known as Chaldean and Syriac) decent.
    • Established in memory of Luke Isaac, York University alumni who tragically passed away months after he graduated from his bachelor’s program.
  • A Night with Vincent Oshana – 2008
    • As part of ACSSU’s fundraising efforts, we invited Assyrian comedian Vincent Oshana to do a comedic routine with all profits going to the Mezaltaa project, including a donation by Vincent Oshana himself.
  • ACSSU Graduation Picnic – 2008
    • ACSSU congratulated eight graduates of the 2007/08 school year.  Both bachelor and master degrees were conferred in a wide range of fields from various universities across Ontario.

Prior to the ACSSU elections for the 2008/2009 academic year, the current committee outlined several objectives, which they advised should be on the forefront of the new committees’ agenda.  They included the following:

  • Annual Aid Projects for the ChaldoAssyrian Student Group of Iraq
  • Establishment of ACSSU Branches at Ryerson and Windsor Universities, GTA colleges and high schools.
  • Expansion of the Luke Isaac Scholarship Fund to $2000
  • Continuation of the ACSSU of Canada Lecture Series
  • Creation of a new concept for the ACSSU Career Night Event

Elections began with voting on a few amendments to the ACSSU By-Laws.  All amendments were agreed upon and passed.  Click here to read the new ACSSU by-laws version 4.0 including all amendments.  Elections proceeded and the new 2008/2009 executive committee is as follows:

President Lema Yousif
Vice President  Mariam Georgis
Treasurer Matthew Gharibo
Secretary Nahreen Gorrges
Educational Event Coordinator  Renya Benjamen
Social Event Coordinator Michael Gharibo
Public Relations Coordinators

Ashorina Lazar
Reame Isaac-Daniel*

Webmaster Ashur Sada
ACSSU Clubs Liaison Sandy Shlemoon
High School Liaison Riva Gewarges

*This position was filled after elections were completed, as per the requirements of ACSSU’s by-laws.  

Elections were followed by dinner wherein new and existing members met and networked amongst each other.

We congratulate the new committee and have the utmost confidence in their performance for the next academic year.  They will bring ACSSU closer to the objectives of the Union and the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac people as a whole.  They will further entrench the importance of student unions in our committee as well as strengthen the connection between the Diaspora and the students in Iraq.

Musing with My Samovar
with Obelit Yadgar


From Alap to My Taw

On my birthday I gave myself the gift of my language.

I resolved to learn to read and to write the Neo-Aramaic (Syriac) language that I, an Assyrian, have spoken all my life. I only wish I had made the attempt earlier.

On this birthday, I also wish I were 27. I am not. I am as old as the Assyrian infantryman’s sandals. As old as the Assyrian relics dug up from the mound at Kuyunjik. As old as the Assyrian stamp on the lands of Mesopotamia. Yet how little I feel my age matters as I set out to discover the written language of my ancestors. I shrug off the mere reference to age. What age? The eagerness and the focused dedication that charts the course of this new journey is what matters. After all, this is the gift of the written language from my Assyria.

On this, my latest birthday, soothed by cups of sweet tea, I have mused on the wide scope of encounters and realities in my life. Some things that I have not thought about for years suddenly fight to see who or what goes first in line, as if the bank were handing out pots of gold. But then what better time to hold a conversation with yourself than on your birthday? In doing so, my thoughts have lingered in many places along my life’s path. No stop, however, has been longer than where my language lives in my heart.

Here, I also face one of my biggest regrets in life. 

Despite failing to achieve all the dreams and goals I set for myself early on, admittedly some realistic and some improbable, I am grateful for what I have accomplished. Meager as these accomplishments may be, I am still inclined to bow to myself for at least trying my best at whatever I set out to do. Yet I confess that the one thing in my life that I should have accomplished, one of the most important things, I failed to do so, partly because of circumstances, but mostly because of my half-hearted attempt at trying. Whatever the reason, I blame no one but me. I could have tried a little harder for it, as I have for everything else in my life. I did not.

I never learned to read and to write this language that my ancestors passed on to me, the same language to which Assyrians have held on through thousands of years of history. I have nothing but admiration for those of us who read and write our language. The written language is the nation’s signature passed on from one generation to another: parent to child, teacher to student. Yes, I do speak our language, but as many other Assyrians, I missed out on the written part. The bigger crime against myself is that I failed to realize the importance of my written language in my life as an Assyrian. Until now. But it is not too late. It never is.

English is my adopted language and I love it. I make my living with it as a writer. Aramaic is my ancestral language and now, on my birthday, I realize how much I do love it – and have always loved it and didn’t know. In my own way, I also see myself as the guardian of this precious and most descriptive of languages: to love it, protect it, promote it and, yes, to use it as properly as I am able to within my limited literary knowledge. 

“I am always sorry when any language is lost, because languages are the pedigree of a nation,” said Samuel Johnson, the English man of letters (1709-1784).

My Aramaic language goes back to almost the beginning of civilization. It is the root of many languages today.

The responsibility I have as an Assyrian for learning my own written language is not only for the joy of reading Assyrian writers and hoping someday to humbly join their ranks, but also for the committed purpose of preserving it. “Language is a living thing,” said Charlton Laird, of the University of Nevada, Reno, in his book “The Miracle of Language.” “It must survive in men’s minds and on their tongues if it survives at all.”

For if I, an Assyrian heart and soul, do not keep my written language alive, who will? If we Assyrians, collectively, don’t nourish it, who will? I have thought a lot about this in the past few months, while wallowing in a muck of guilt and regret for the failure in mastering my own language.

No more. I stopped drowning in self-criticism and founded my own classroom in my study at home. “Where are you going?” my wife wonders as I drift toward that sacred little room. “I’m going to school,” I announce, and sink at my desk for the next couple hours. My school is in session seven days a week, and I love every moment spent on the grammar and the actual writing of this Neo-Aramaic script. My beloved fountain pen was made for this language.  
Growing up in Tehran into my mid-teens, I studied Farsi in school and spoke my own language at home. If there were schools or churches that taught Neo-Aramaic, our language, I was not aware of them. I assume neither was my family. Realistically, though, I probably would have hated that school, too, as I did my regular school. In America, in schools or churches that I knew of, no one taught our language either. Just as well, I suppose, because I would have had to be dragged to the classroom. I have always disdained school, where I felt like a robot being programmed, and that’s why I did some of my best daydreaming in the classroom.

By disliking school I don’t mean to minimize my hunger for knowledge: for reading, writing, music, art, theatre. No, on the contrary. Without these precious gifts that life gives us we might as well blow around aimlessly in the wind like dry leaves. What I mean is disdain for the formalized classroom, which for me has been both a blessing and a curse.
No, this private school that I embrace nightly is unlike any I have experienced. It is almost not of this world. On the wall above my desk, I hang a framed print of the Aramaic alphabet – from Alap to Taw – as a permanent reminder that my life remains incomplete without a working knowledge of what these letters create when we combined them into cohesive units – into words, sentences and paragraphs. That is the magic of the written language.  

When I began to explore my written language, I was sure some Neo-Aramaic studies probably were offered in Chicago, 90 miles south of where I live in Wisconsin. I would attend them if I could, assuring myself that this time around, the task of a formal classroom might be more agreeable. Distance, time and travel expense were a concern. So the likelihood of an Assyrian language class in Chicago was out.

I then launched an intense search on the Internet for Neo-Aramaic study programs, grammar books and dictionaries. I did find some things, however, that gave me a good start, notably a study program written by Robert Oshana (learnassyrian.com) that set me on the right course. This was enormous help in teaching me the 22 letters (atwat’e) and the seven vowels (zow’e) in the Aramaic alphabet. The online material is well organized, with examples of letters, word combinations and pronunciations. I thank Mr. Oshana for such a useful tool for an Assyrian hungry to learn my written tongue.

Now I was on my way.

Next, I dug around for books of grammar in Neo-Aramaic with English translations and instructions. Whoa! Driving an Assyrian war chariot for Tighlath-Pileser might have been easier than looking for such books. There were scholarly books, sure, but I wanted a basic book of grammar with some examples. No such luck. I mean trying to find a Neo-Aramaic book of grammar or a dictionary isn’t exactly like looking for a romance novel, you know? Although for someone familiar with the material, I assume, it could be relatively easy. In the end I did come across three books that might prove useful to me.

First, I found an English-Neo-Aramaic (Syriac)/Aramaic dictionary by Alexander Joseph Oraham M.D., which Mr. Oshana had recommended. I found it at Al-Itekal Bookstore in Chicago (773-463-4135). Dr. Oraham, who had immigrated from Urmia in his teens, published the dictionary in Chicago, in 1941. This is a gem of a find. I not only refer to it continuously, but I also have started reading one page a day from it until I finish it – cover to cover.

The other two that I found are books of grammar. “Grammar of the Modern Syriac Language,” by David T. Stoddard, who was missionary in Urmia in the mid-1850s, was published around 1854. Atour Publications has re-issued it in soft cover and made it available through the publishing company Lulu: http://www.lulu.com/atourpub.

A hard cover re-issue of the book is available from Gorgias Press: http://gorgiaspress.com. The second book is “The New Syriac Primer” by George Kiraz, the president of Gorgias Press. I am sure both books will be of enormous help to me in learning to read and to write my own language.

All this has led me to, perhaps, a surprise discovery that has me soaring in a thousand clouds. For years I had searched for the writings of Binyamin Arsanis (1884-1957), my great uncle and an inspiration to me as a writer. Rabi Arsanis – Mam ‘Yameh, to me in my childhood in Tehran – was a prolific Assyrian writer and intellectual. Even though I could not read his books without knowing our language, I wanted them for my library. Much of his published work has been lost, however. This colossal discovery for me is a recently published collection of some of his works, as well his biography, by the Assyrian writer Youel A. Baaba. The book, “Cultural and Historic Writings of Rabi Binyamin Arsanis,” is available from http://www.lulu.com.

Already able to pick out a few words in Neo-Aramaic through my studies, I manage to read about a half a page from the book everyday. It’s a struggle, yes, and I miss a lot of words, but that is only for now. By next year I am confident I will know enough to read and understand it, cover to cover. That’s a promise to myself, and a fabulous reward for learning to read and to write my own language. I already know it’s a great book. So thank you, Mr. Baaba, for this gift of Binyamin Arsanis.

Thus far my solo Aramaic journey has proved a glorious undertaking. I find myself on a plane I have never known, like the first time I awakened to an ethereal dawn under the warm covers on my grandmother’s balcony in Urmia. That I already speak our language has definitely lessened the difficulty of learning it in its written form, and I shamelessly gloat over my achievement. The day I completed the Aramaic alphabet, just a breath shy of this special birthday, I celebrated with an extra glass of wine. 

King Ashur Uballit I (1363-1328), whose name I proudly bear without the Ashur prefix and definitely without his distinction in launching Assyria into a powerhouse, would be proud of his royal subject’s conquest up to this point. I hesitate to say his royal “scribe,” because some of those characters were eunuchs and I don’t fancy the idea of being a eunuch, especially on my birthday. How long will this journey of exploring my written language take is of little importance. Probably a long time, because I want to become as literary as possible in my knowledge of it. The journey is what’s important. To me it’s everything. 

I don’t know if I will ever achieve the dream of writing an essay, a short story or a novel in Neo-Aramaic. But if and when I do, it will amount to one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. There is no time limit or age in the pursuit of knowledge, especially for me as I try to master my language. How far I go and how long for me to get there are questions I don’t think about, because I am on a sweet ride and, believe me, what makes it so sweet is that it comes from the heart.

Surfer's Corner
Community Events



Narsai's Taste of the Mediterranean 2008:
Reserve Your Tickets Now!

Narsai's Taste of the Mediterranean 2008, the seventh annual fall fundraising dinner for the Assyrian Aid Society of America at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco, will take place this Friday, 14 November.  Click on the logo at left for a ticket reservation form.

The evening's featured speaker will be Edward Y. Odisho, Ph.D of Chicago, Illinois. Assyrian singer Walter Aziz will provide the evening's musical entertainment.

Celebrity chefs for this year's gourmet dinner are Gerald Hirigoyen (Piperade and Bocadillos in San Francisco), Haig Krikorian (Fonda, Jimmy Beans, Lalime's, Sea Salt, and T-Rex, all in Berkeley), Assyrian chef and three-time NTOTM veteran Justine Miner (r n m, San Francisco), Faz Poursohi (MacArthur Park in Palo Alto, and Faz in Danville, Pleasanton, and Sunnyvale), and Kaleo Adams of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, San Francisco.

The live and silent auctions will offer guests an opportunity to bid on items including exclusive dining packages, vacation getaways, fine wines, Assyrian art, and other items.

Individual ticket prices start at $325 ($250 tax deductible). Sponsor tables start at $5000 for ten people ($4250 tax deductible). Checks, credit cards, and money orders accepted.

Bus service for guests in Modesto, Turlock, and San Jose will again be available.

Since the first dinner in November 2001, the Narsai's Taste of the Mediterranean events have raised approximately $900,000 for AAS-A humanitarian projects in northern Iraq. This year's goal is to achieve a grand total of over $1 million from the seven fundraisers.

The Assyrian Aid Society of America is a charitable 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to assisting needy Christian Assyrians in northern Iraq and around the world. Over the past 17 years AAS-A has raised over $5.5 million to build schools, staff and supply medical clinics, facilitate life-saving surgeries, rebuild homes, irrigate farmlands, bring electricity to villages, and implement a host of other vital programs and services.

Give to the Assyrian Refugees from Mosul:   Nineveh (Mosul) is under attack.  Never before have the Assyrians of North Iraq been in more dire need of our help.  In October a campaign was launched against the Assyrians of this ancient symbol of the Assyrian historic identity and as many as 15,000 of Assyrians were forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in the already devastated towns of the Nineveh Plains.  They need our help for the most basic essentials.  Put aside your religious and political biases.  These families need our money, not our political opinions.  Even if you cannot attend the Narsai's Dinner, please send a donation to the Assyrian Aid Society Refugee Fund.  Your $100 will save a family for an entire month during the cold winter days ahead.  There are many of us around the world and here in Washington working tirelessly to help these families and hopefully prevent further attacks.  Until we find a solution to their miserable condition, we need to feed them, warm their shaken bodies, protect them from the cold and from further attacks of the enemies of our Assyrian identity.  Zinda Magazine urges you to send your donation today. 

Assyrian Students:    To get your discounted ZINDA tickets to this year's Narsai's Taste of the Mediterranean email zcrew@zindamagazine.com today.

Assyrians in Toronto, Canada:  ACSSU at McMaster University will be holding a week long demonstration in front of McMaster Student Centre to shed light on the situation of Christians in Iraq, where over one-third are refugees. ACSSU students will be setting up a refugee camp at the student centre to show how our people are living and to raise up money to help them. All donations will go to the Assyrian Aid Society.

Gorgias Press Year-End Sale

Gorgias Press is announcing an exciting sale. All Gorgias books are on sale for 30% off the list price through Gorgias BiblioPerks™ (i.e., when you login to check out, the discount will automatically apply), and every tenth order placed through our website will win $3 per volume pricing. In addition, every purchase made through our website will be entered into three drawings to win a Kindle: Amazon’s Wireless Reading Device valued at $350.00 each.

The sale will end on midnight, December 31, 2008 US Eastern Standard Time. The Kindle winners will be announced early in the New Year. Following is a link to the new catalog:

Download the latest 2009 new catalog

Editor's Pick


The Gilgamesh Games Interview

On the eve of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games one of Zinda's own reporters from Australia, David Chibo, published an archaeological article, with help from Assyriologist Professor Simo Parpola, showing that the ancient Olympic Games were in fact based on the older Gilgamesh Games (click here). We managed to secure this exclusive interview with David Chibo on this startling revelation.

1. What exactly does the Gilgamesh Games thesis reveal?
My article focuses on one of the pillars of "Western civilisation," the Olympic Games. Using original cuneiform and Greek sources I show that the ancient Greek Olympic Games were in fact based on even older Middle Eastern funerary games established in honour of King Gilgamesh.

2. How did you make this discovery?

Having an Engineering background I confess that I have had no formal training in archaeology. I have however always been a great fan of our ancestor's ancient epics and myths. Over the years while reading I came to discover that other pillars of ‘Western civilisation' had been quietly acknowledged but not publicised for years. This fascination with our undisclosed history made me curious to know more.

And so it was with this mindset that I stumbled across Professor Andrew George's translation of the Death of Bilgames[Gilgamesh]. The passage below first sparked the conviction that the Olympic games were indeed influenced by the rituals of the Ancient Gilgamesh ceremonies.

The Dream God Sissig, son of Utu,
shall provide light for him in the Netherworld, the place of darkness.
Men, as many as are given names,
when their statues are fashioned for future days,
the warriors, the young men and the onlookers shall make a semi-circle around a doorway (lit. form a doorway like a crescent),      
and in front of it (or them) wrestling matches and trials of strength will be conducted.
In the month of Torches [Abu], the festival of Ghosts,
without him being present light shall not be provided before them.

This paragraph alone distinguishes the three main similarities that tie the Gilgamesh Games to the ancient Olympic Games. Both took place in the month of August; consisted of ‘feats of strength,’ including wrestling, and were conducted during a torch-lit ceremony.

3. Who assisted you with this thesis?

I originally wrote up a very brief article describing the similarities above. I then contacted Assyriologists throughout the world and asked if any would be interested in co-authoring an article with me.

Needless to say I received a couple of responses that were very negative towards my main contention connecting Eastern and Western civilisation.

There was however one person who actually listened and gave me encouragement and advice on pursuing my main contention further. That was none other than Assyriologist Professor Simo Parpola from Helsinki University. Professor Simo Parpola had previously proven that the Jewish Kabbalah had roots in ancient Assyrian mysticism so he was more easily able to take the ‘leap of faith’ and question what had previously been unquestioned historical fact.

He then proceeded to send me a list of numerous Mesopotamian athletic event sources that he suggested may hold further evidence. I spent months incorporating these links into my article and upon completion he proceeded to edit the article before we released it for publication in Nikephoros, an ancient sports magazine.

4. How is it that trained Assyriologists studying the same text for years had never connected the two historical events?

The answer to your question in two words is, Historical Orientalism.

Over the last two or three hundred years, the history of ancient Greece has been grossly distorted. At the distant beginning of Western civilization, according to Western tradition, Greece stands as an insular, isolated, near-miracle of burgeoning culture.

Until modern times, the foreign origin of ancient Greece, according to ancient sources continued to be acknowledged. That trend changed with the advent of European nationalistic tendencies of the eighteenth century, which began increasingly to highlight Greece as the "cradle of civilisation."

The Western world's geographical and historical distinction between the "West" and the "East" was first crystallised in the Greco-Persian War of the fifth century BC, when Athenian historians drew a sharp, distinguishing line between their civic culture and Persian despotism.

The late Edward Said explained this prejudiced and distorted historical interpretation of Eastern histories, cultures and peoples by Westerners in his theory of Orientalism which purports that Western history functions primarily to serve colonial and political ends.

The majority of Assyriologists have unfortunately been trained within this distorted framework and are unable to see that civilisation cannot be categorised into Western or Eastern compartments.

There is in fact no such thing as Western civilisation.

The belief in Western civilisation is the illogical belief that the elements of civilisation began – not at the natural confluence of three continents over the course of 3,000 years under the Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian Empires - but miraculously in the isolated mountainous terrain of Greece within a span of a couple of hundred years.

Even Zacharia Sitchin’s science fiction ancient astronaut theory of human origins purporting that aliens gave the Sumerians the gifts of civilisation is more plausible than this misguided theory.

5. What message would you like to convey to Assyriologists?

In no other field can a layman walk in, literally off the street, and make such an astounding discovery. How is it that I, a novice, was able to make such a startling breakthrough?

The answer for this is simple.

For the past couple of hundred years most Assyriologists have unintentionally viewed their work through Orientalist glasses. This now needs to stop.

The discovery of the origin of the link between the Gilgamesh Games and the Olympic Games should be a wake up call for them to not only go back and reread their cuneiform texts but to also stop framing ancient civilisations along the same retrograde nationalistic framework that was first used to define the modern nation state.

6. Could this discovery be misused?

I expect some Western historians, authors and writers to persist in maintaining the Western civilisation myth. In a few years time once this revelation has had a chance to circulate I believe that a search of the internet will find them calling the Gilgamesh Games the ‘primitive-Olympics,’ or ‘proto-Olympics’ or even make the absurd claim that the Gilgamesh Games “anticipated” the Olympic Games. Those that define the Gilgamesh Games in this manner are persisting within this outdated Orientalist framework.

I also expect that a minority of Assyrian nationalists will use this discovery within the Eugenics framework to insinuate that Western civilisation began with their ancestors, hence making them genetically superior to the Greeks. In doing this they will be repeating the mistakes of Western scholars and merely substituting an Orientalist framework for a nationalistic framework, while reinforcing the same racist ideals.

It was never the Greeks who claimed that civilisation began with them. Ancient Greek sources attribute their knowledge to Middle Eastern sources. It was Colonialism that constructed the framework of Orientalism and along with compliant Western scholars was responsible for spreading this myth.

It was always inevitable that civilisation would eventually trace its roots back to the Middle East, just as the human race can today trace its ancestry back to Africa. This will not be due to ethnic or racial superiority of its indigenous inhabitants but due to the Middle East's prime location at the confluence of three continents; Asia, Europe and Africa.

7. Are you doing anything to promote this new cultural link between East and West?

I intend to contact the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and send them a copy of the published article for consideration with the hope that one day they will acknowledge the true origin of the modern Olympic Games.

I also intend to send the European Union (EU) a copy and keep them updated on the origin of this “pillar of Western civilisation.” This is important as one of the drafts of the preamble to the European Constitution included a line about "drawing inspiration from Greece."

Meanwhile I have also contacted Dr Jorg W. E. Fassbinder who believes that his team may have discovered the ancient tomb of King Gilgamesh in Uruk. Anyone familiar with the Death of Bilgames [Gilgamesh] will know that upon his death the river Euphrates was diverted and the water-proof tomb of Gilgamesh was sealed before the river was again allowed to flow over the tomb concealing it forever. Using magnetic scanning, he has managed to identify what appears to be a tomb like structure in modern day Uruk. It is his belief that they may have discovered the ancient tomb of King Gilgamesh - the founder and judge of the ancient Gilgamesh Games, the antecedent of which is today's modern Olympic Games. He has since been forced to withdraw his team from Iraq due to the US neo-colonial invasion and occupation of Iraq and its covert policy of destabilising the country.

8. Are there any other discoveries you believe are yet to be made connecting the East to West?

I think we live in a time when the final pillars of so-called Western civilisation have come crashing down. It has been well known for quite some time that writing, the alphabet, mathematics, medicine, science, astrology and astronomy were all inherited from the ancient Mesopotamians. But today even the Western concepts of democracy, athletics, religion and philosophy are not considered safe and can be traced back to the ancient Middle East.

I have joined with a team of like-minded individuals and we intend to continuously update the Gilgamesh Games site with mew discoveries and evidence of other Middle Eastern discoveries that have been erroneously claimed by the West.

Iraqi Parliament Removes Article 50 from the Provincial Elections Law, Marginalizes Assyrians

Fred Aprim

On September 24, 2008, the Iraqi Parliament passed the Iraqi Provincial Elections Law of councils for governorates, districts and sub districts after 4 months of discussions and after 6 months of preparations. The Provincial elections are anticipated to take place no later than Januray 31, 2009.

There will be no elections in Kirkuk (as per the agreement between the various groups) and in the three Kurdish dominated governorates of Arbil, Sulaimaniya and Dohuk. However, the large coalitions in Iraqi Parliament voted as well to eliminate article 50 from the Provincial Elections Law. This article guaranteed the indigenous Chaldean Syriac Assyrian people quotas (at least 13 seats as such: Baghdad 3 seats, Nineveh 3 seats, Arbil 2 seats, Kirkuk 2 seats, Dohuk 2 seats and Basra 1 seat) in the 6 goverorates that these indigenous people live in with considerable numbers. This was approved on July 22, 2008. The Provincial Elections Law passed the Iraqi house of representatives (Iraqi Parliament) on July 22, however, the Kurdish coalition rejected it (because of Kirkuk issue mainly) and the Iraqi Presidential Council that includes Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and his two deputies, did not approve it; therefore, the law was referred back to parliament for further debate and modification. Other objections by the Presidential Committee were: Not satisfying the 25% women quota guaranteed by the Iraqi Constitution and making sure that mosques and shrines were not used for election purposes.

The Kurdish coalition played a negative role in this new episode (removing article 50) as usual. The Legal Committee gave the reason (excuse) for removing Article 50 as being the absence of accurate statistics and criteria or database about the (Chaldean Syriac Assyrian people). This excuse is baseless because no group in Iraq has its real statistics and population known since there has been no fair census in Iraq. In fact, Mr. Younadam Kanna (ADM) did submit a study about the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian people during the discussions. The other problem was the two seats assigned for the Shabaks and Yezidis. The Islamic groups are against the Yezidis for having a seat, because Islam does not recognize the Yezidi religion. The Kurds were against this Yezidi seat as well, because they claim that Yezidis are ethnically Kurds (many Yezidis disagree of course), therefore, the Kurds say that the Yezidis do not need a separate seat.

Furthermore, the Kurds protested about the one seat assigned for the Shabaks in Nineveh. They claimed that the Shabaks are ethnically Kurds as well (Shabaks disagree of course). However, the Arab Shi'aa groups rejected the Kurdish claims and reasoning and said that the Shabaks are Shi'aa; therefore, they deserve a separate seat. A big disagreement followed between the Kurds and Shi'aa groups and the lesser and smaller groups suffered at the end. Some try to divert the international public attention from the real reason by stating that article 50 was removed because the various Christian groups did not agree on who would occupy those seats. However, that is far from the truth. 

Members of Iraqi Parliament Younadam Kanna and Abd al-Ahad Afram Sawa protested against the action on the floor during the vote. Meanwhile, U.N. rep. in Iraq Mr. Staffan de Mistura met with Head of Parliament Mahmood Al-Mashhadani and criticized the law and later demanded restoration of the article. Later, many Iraqi groups issued declarations rejecting the law and condemning the removal of article 50. Many Chaldean Syriac Assyrian groups began demonstrating against this action.

Martyrs in Iraq

Ken Timmerman
Washington Times
26 October 2008

Assyrian Christians are fleeing Iraq in record numbers, following a spate of recent bombing attacks and targeted killings of Christian families in the northern Iraqi city ofMosul.

Over the last month, 13 Assyrian Christians have been murdered in targeted killings in Mosul. A week ago, three Assyrian homes were fire-bombed. Al Jazeera reported last Monday that 15,000 Assyrian Christians have been driven out of Mosul in the last two weeks, some 2,500 families in all.

Failure to prevent the mass exodus of Christians from Iraq will lead to an Islamicized Iraq, a tragic legacy for the presidency of George W. Bush. This can only be averted by taking urgent steps aimed at "anchoring" the Assyrian Christian population in their historic homeland.

Gen. Michel Kasdano, a top aid to the Chaldean bishopric of Beirut - where some of the Christians forced to flee Iraq have sought refuge - met with congressional staff and with members of the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom, to appeal for urgent help. "We're seeing a new phenomenon since the murder of [Chaldean] Bishop Faraj Rahho in late February," he told me.

Until recently, Christians under attack in Baghdad and Basra fled to the relative security of the Nineveh Plains in the north, where many found shelter with family members, thinking they could tough it out until better times. No longer, says Gen. Kasdano. "Now, even old people are getting ready to leave," he told me.

I have visited northern Iraq and refugee families in Amman, Jordan, twice over the last year. The level of despair among refugee families was acute even before the murder of Bishop Rahho. But when I returned to the region in mid-April, it had reached agonizing proportions.

None of the refugees I met in Amman in April expressed any confidence in the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and none wanted to return to Iraq. They preferred the squalor and uncertainty of life in exile to what they felt was certain death if they returned home.

Many of these refugees "will never be resettled but will remain trapped in neighboring countries," Gen. Kasdano told me.

The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has taken the Assyrian Christians in Ankawa and in the Nineveh Plains hostage in their efforts to win more territory in the coming votes on the status of Mosul and Kirkuk.

On Oct. 17, Iraqi security forces arrested six men in connection with the most recent targeted killings of Christians, and found four of them had ties back to the KRG militia, not al Qaeda.

While Kurdish leaders protest they have made efforts to protect freedom of religion and have allowed evangelical Christians to proselytize in Muslim areas, nevertheless they are engaged in a cynical effort to use the Assyrian Christians as political pawns to expand their own power.

To avert an Islamicized Iraq, President Bush should take the following steps:

  • Pressure the Iraqi government, and especially the KRG, to uphold their commitment to allow the recruitment and training of 770 Christians into the national police force. For nearly two years, the Kurdish deputy general of the Mosul governerate has blocked this program. Without immediate security, the Assyrian population in northern Iraq will simply flee.
  • Support efforts by Assyrian lay leaders, the Chaldean Patriarch and others to convene a meeting in Washington, D.C., of Iraqi minorities, to forge a consensus on how best to anchor and protect Iraq's Christian population, whether through an autonomous region in the Nineveh Plains, firm guarantees of minority rights under the federal constitution or some combination of the two.
  • Fulfill the pledge made in July by National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley to Mr. al-Maliki to transfer $100 million in development aid to the Nineveh Plains. Until now, the United States has delayed the transfer over concerns that the KRG will pocket the money, as in the past. Instead of transferring fresh funds to Arbil, the United States should make the money available directly to local town councils through US AID, without Kurdish control.
  • Pressure the Iraqi national government to guarantee representation of minorities in the upcoming parliamentary and regional elections, under Article 50 of the constitution, which was recently suspended.

Christian leaders learned recently that the State Department has been secretly planning to hold a "summit" meeting on Nov. 19 at George Washington University to decide their fate, in tandem with Muslim groups whose motives remain suspect. This is no way to determine the future of Iraq or of Iraq's Assyrian population.

Have we become so politically correct that we will protect Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq but allow one of the world's first Christian populations to be snuffed out because we are afraid to come to their aid?

ZindaWooshKenneth Timmerman is a contributing editor for Newsmax Media, and has visited Iraq twice over the last year.

We Must Protect Iraq's Christians

Tariq Alhomayed
Asharq al-Aswat

Tariq Alhomayed

There seems to be an organized campaign targeting the Christian population of Iraq, which prompted the President of the Chaldean synod, the Archbishop of Kirkuk and Mosul, Louis Sako to remind Iraqis of the words of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) regarding the rights of neighbors towards one another.

In an interview the Archbishop spoke of the importance of protecting Iraq's Christians, and touched on a serious issue which needs to be addressed. He said ‘What we have seen from the persecution and oppression is that it’s goals are political...those who target us are looking to make gains, either to force us to leave, or force us to ally with parties we do not wish to’. Archbishop Sako added that this violence is conducted behind ‘regional and internal plans which is a part of the chaos intended for Iraq, which regrettably has resulted in it turning into an arena of ethnic cleansing, making the situation complicated and overlapping.'

The question then is who are these parties that want the Iraqi Christians either to join them, or be murdered and displaced? We all know that Al Qaeda's criminal ideology is as far removed as possible for it to ally itself with Christians, or even grasp the game of politics for that matter.

And as Al Qaeda continues to torture Christians it is important to note that a Shi’ite coalition of MPs has already rejected a draft law which protects the Christian minority. This is strange since Iraq is proud of its Assyrian and Babylonian heritage, and the Iraqi Church associates itself with them, calling itself the Chaldean Church of Babylon. The Shi’ite alliance voted against Article 50 which deals with the representation of minorities in the provincial council, contrary to the promise of Abdulaziz Al Hakim, the new law was incomplete and disruptive giving only the minimum of political rights to the Iraqi minorities, like the Chaldean Christians.

This is a strange paradox since it was Saddam Hussein’s regime that suppressed the powerful, but did not concern itself with minorities, while the first thing the democratic Iraq of today did was to disregard the rights of the minorities who do not carry arms, and are not affiliated with a particular clan or tribe to defend them.

Archbishop Sako confirmed that ‘Christians in Iraq do not have militias or tribes to defend them’ and added ‘I feel a sense of pain and injustice because innocent people are being killed and we do not know why. We cannot put together an armed force to protect us because this will not solve the problem, only exasperate it’.

The targeting of minorities, including the Iraqi Christians, will mean Iraq's disintegration and a breach of its internal structure, culturally, and politically, and who can guarantee that the matter will end with minorities, and moreover the targeting of minorities will open the gates of hell, which could easily be done, but not undone.

It is remarkable when taking into account the words of the Archbishop regarding the results of this aggressive oppression. He said ‘the population of Christians before 2003 was around eight hundred thousand, but the targeted violence against the Christian population in Mosul, Kirkuk, Baghdad and Basra has led to a mass-migration of some two hundred and fifty thousand. While the death-toll from the campaign of explosions, kidnappings and murder, targeted against the churches of Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk has led to the deaths of over two hundred’.

It is the duty of all Iraqis and not just its government, to protect the Iraqi Christians from murder and displacement, and all forms of oppression, particularly when taking into account that they have always been patriots and have never been apart of any alliance against their nation, and moreover they suffer more then any other Christian demographic in the Middle East.

ZindaWooshTariq Alhomayed is the Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, the youngest person to be appointed that position. Mr. Alhomayed has an acclaimed and distinguished career as a Journalist and has held many key positions in the field including; Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, Managing Editor of Asharq Al-Awsat in Saudi Arabia, Head of Asharq Al-Awsat Newspaper's Bureau-Jeddah, Correspondent for Al - Madina Newspaper in Washington D.C. from 1998 to Aug 2000. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs including: the BBC, German TV, Al Arabiya, Al- Hurra, LBC and the acclaimed Imad Live’s four-part series on terrorism and reformation in Saudi Arabia. He is also the first Journalist to conduct an interview with Osama Bin Ladin's Mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a BA degree in Media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, and has also completed his Introductory courses towards a Master’s degree from George Washington University in Washington D.C. He is based in London.

Obama can Revive U.S. Soft Power by Protecting Iraqi Christians

Geoffrey P. Johnton
The Whig Standard
7 November 2008

Barack Obama has captured both the White House and much of the world's imagination with his soaring rhetoric and eloquent promise to re-establish the United States as a shining beacon of hope in a world rife with despair and conflict.

The president-elect now faces the daunting challenges of governing a declining superpower crippled by a financial crisis while fighting dirty wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the never-ending war on terror.

Having raised the expectations of a world weary of President George W. Bush's jingoistic unilateralism, the first African-American president of the United States must now formulate a constructive foreign policy that protects the strategic interests of the U. S. while stressing diplomacy over confrontation.

However, if Obama fails to live up to his election night promise to support those in the world who seek to live in peace and security, his international credibility will be irreparably damaged and America's soft power will not rebound from the depths of the Bush administration.

Soft power, a term coined by Harvard University professor Joe Nye, former assistant secretary of defence in the Clinton administration, is defined

as the capacity of a country to influence others through the attractiveness of its values, principles and conduct.

Obama clearly understands the importance of soft power, pledging in his victory speech to restore America's greatness by demonstrating to the world the "enduring power of our ideals." He should start by reaffirming his campaign pledge to stand firm against genocide and ethnic cleansing. And the most logical place to take that stand is in U. S.-occupied Iraq, where Assyrians - an ancient Christian people indigenous to northern Iraq -are the victims of a jihadist campaign of ethnic cleansing.

The U. S. must accept some blame for this crisis. By deposing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the U. S. unwittingly unleashed sectarian forces that are bent on destroying religious pluralism in Iraq.

"The 'Leave or Die' message regularly delivered to the Assyrians of Iraq by the [radical] Muslims is a daily reminder of the instability the U. S. has created for that Christian nation," says Assyrian-American activist and author Rosie Malek-Yonan.

Malek-Yonan isn't exaggerating the brutality that her people must endure. In a 2007 report by the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Most Rev. Thomas Wenski, chairman of the committee on international policy, confirms that "Christians continue to suffer a rash of killings, hostage-takings for the purpose of extortion, destruction of churches and adjacent properties, and specific threats against Christian communities."

Last month's jihadist terror attacks in Mosul, which killed scores of Iraqi Christians and drove thousands more from that northern city, demonstrated yet again that the U. S. isn't doing enough to protect Christians there.

Providing for the security of Christians and other religious minorities in occupied Iraq is the responsibility of the U. S. under international law. Meeting that obligation ought to be a top foreign policy priority for the incoming Obama administration.

Nina Shea - a Washington based international human rights lawyer and a member of the U. S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent organization that advises the U. S. government on matters of global religious freedom - alleged in December 2007 that certain ministries in the Iraqi government have been infiltrated by extremists who are "working in collusion with militants outside the government to chase out the Christians, to rid the country of Christians."

In his latest book, The War Within, celebrated American journalist Bob Woodward levels similar charges against the government of Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, noting that a U. S. official concluded in 2006 that "the new prime minister was protecting Shia militias engaged in murders and torture of Sunnis."

The Christian minority isn't safe in Iraq, which is why the Assyrian diaspora is calling for the establishment of an autonomous Assyrian enclave in northern Iraq. Such a province would be modelled on the Kurdish Regional Administrative Government established by a U. S.-led coalition after the First Gulf War in response to Saddam's ethnic cleansing of Kurdish villages.

To better understand the current Iraqi situation, Obama should read Michael Ignatieff's still-topical 1993 book Blood and Belonging. By establishing Iraqi Kurdistan, writes Ignatieff, the international community endorsed the notion that the protection of human rights takes precedence over the observance of the principle of national sovereignty.

"If Kurdistan works," concludes Ignatieff, "other nations that believe they can abuse indigenous minorities with impunity may see such enclaves hacked out of their territory."

One of the first acts of the Obama administration should be to carve out a small homeland for the Assyrians on the Nineveh Plain in the north of Iraq, the traditional lands of that once-mighty nation. Doing so would, according to Malek-Yonan, save her people from "complete obliteration" and encourage refugees to return to their ancestral homelands.

The Obama presidency promises to be a hopeful chapter in world history. However, just as former president Bill Clinton's inaction in the face of the Rwandan genocide of 1994 is a bloody stain on his legacy, Obama will have the blood of the Assyrians on his hands if he doesn't prevent their looming annihilation in Iraq.

The Assyrian National Cause Entering a Cul-de-Sac

Dr George Habash
United Kingdom

The modern Assyrian nationalism is roughly a hundred years old and the long and bitter march to assert this nationalism has seen high and dashed hopes. It began in the throes of the Great War (1914-1918) when the Assyrians felt that there is no choice but have to take sides and by this believing that the time has come to usher an upheaval that would set the downtrodden nation free and bring back the Biblical great power along Judea, Israel, Egypt, Persia but this time living side by side in peace.

Prided with one geographical landscape extending from Van Lake in the north to Nineveh Plain in the south and from Al-Jazeera in the east to Urmia in the west, this proud nation ended betrayed by the Allies and was left to be felled in 1915 by the Ottoman “Scythe” in their final push for de-Christianisation of “Anatolia”; with the total abandonment in 1917 following Russia’s October Revolution that altered the balance of power.

Post 1918 Victors failed the Assyrians and their national cause-the establishment of Assyrian homeland in their land of ancestry. Assyrians in the succeeding years were overlooked in jamborees like Sykes-Pico (1916), Paris Peace Conference (1919), Sevres (1920) and Lausanne (1923).

With the final demarcation of boundaries and re-settlement of the surviving Assyrians, the centre of gravity of the Assyrians shifted to the northern part of the newly created State of 1921 centred in Baghdad under Kingship of Faisal bin Hussain.

The discovery of vast hydrocarbon fields near Kirkuk in 1927 and the dream of bountiful coffers strained the Britannic-Assyrian relations in favour of the ruling Arab elites and this was manifested in the treaty of June 30, 1930 when the Assyrians were sacrificed and no longer assumed “the small ally”. That treaty was the final nail of betrayal by the Britannic imperial power.

In November 1932 the Britannic Mandate of the State ended and the Assyrians in June 1932 valiantly pre-empted the new regime by demanding recognition of the Assyrian national rights within the State but the new regime championed by Ghazi bin Faisal, a loopy and precocious Arab ultra-nationalist in pre-Nasser era, attacked the Assyrians mercilessly in their heartland of Simele in August 4-11, 1933 killing thousands and destroying many villages. Many escaped with their lives across the borders to Syria and Lebanon. The ultra-nationalists did not think that they battled their own people but triumphed in a war against their worst enemies.

In the second half of the last century things started to move apace so in 1957 the Assyrian Democratic Organisation (ADO or Mtakasta in Assyrian) was formed in Syria and in early autumn 1961 individual Assyrians joined the Kurdish revolt in the north against the nascent Republic of Baghdad.

A few years later in 1968 the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) was formed among Diaspora Assyrians mainly those based in the United States. Eleven years later in 1979 the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM or Zowaa in Assyrian) was established in the homeland within the borders of the State of 1921 despite the iron fist and the police State of tyrannical Baghdad. Both latter organisations work for the revival of the Assyrian national identity and the recognition of the Assyrian national rights but do converge in their aim and methodical approach.

The Assyrian Democratic Movement enjoyed a presence in the north of the country within the Kurdish-controlled “Safe Haven” which is outside the sphere of central Baghdad that was established in 1992 following the first Gulf War and “liberation” of Kuwait in 1991.

In April 2003 American forces swept through Baghdad’s streets ending a tyrannical and failed regime and establishing a new order unparalleled since the establishment of the State in 1921. Everything has been altered and many things have evolved and this of course affected the Assyrians and their struggle for their national rights.

After decades of injustice, inequality and persecution the Assyrian faced the new realities of “Islamic terrorism” and the absence of effective central government. Both factors combined resulted in mass migration within and out of the country, kidnap, murder, rape, ethnic cleansing and church bombing.
These factors combined caused the average Assyrian to think that the only way for salvation is to seek the recognition from the State based in the Kurdish option and that is the establishment of an Assyrian province with autonomous status in the Assyrian heartland equitable with the Kurds.

In the last two years the Assyrian voice for such Assyrian province with autonomous status has become louder and is widely approved by the majority of the Assyrians. Average Assyrian cannot entreat the central government about the matter but that can only be done through the offices of the Assyrian parties and their leaders.

There are different types of Assyrian parties, the first are the Diaspora parties like the Assyrian Universal Alliance which uses its offices by means of petition and organised campaign to assert the Assyrian national rights.

The second are the home-based parties like the Assyrian Democratic Movement and multiple of other new (recent) but smaller parties which are either Assyrian or denominational/confessional in character.

The approach to the Assyrian rights varies from one bloc to another for example the Assyrian Democratic Movement which is led by Yonadam Kanna (nicknamed Rabbi   and member of Majlis) advocate a minimised version of the Assyrian heartland that is united administratively but remains within the current Province centred in Mosul. It is like a united Assyrian district but within a larger county. Here the Assyrian gain is trivial and that is meant to preserve or not disturb the past and the present order in order to please the central government’s platform of Greater Arabia-cum-Islam at the expense of the Assyrians of course.

Some other new smaller parties, Assyrian and denominational/confessional ones adhere to the principle of Assyrian autonomous province but within Greater Kurdia. The proponents argue that this option will keep the entire Assyrian heartland together without splitting it into two (Yonadam Kanna’s approach). These advocates are showered by the regional Kurds and hold various positions in their regional administration.

The methodical approach to the recognised Assyrian national homeland within the State is mooted as pro central government led by Yonadam Kanna, the head of the Assyrian Democratic Movement and pro regional Kurds of the new (recent) and smaller Assyrian and denominational/confessional parties.

Yonadam Kanna is an arrogant figure for reasons that he heads the somewhat largest and reasonably rooted Assyrian political movement (but to a limit), is the only Assyrian elected by Assyrians (by proportional representation) to the 275-member Majlis and originally was the only Assyrian member of the “Governing Council” under Ambassador Paul Bremer that was established in July 2003. He adopts a pro central government’s line.

Yonadam Kanna is petrified by history and thinks that punching above the Assyrians’ ability might bring adverse consequences, therefore he cajoles the centre while at the same time keeps his line of communications open with the regional Kurds but to a lower level. This makes him acceptable when he sits among the 275-member Majlis who are mostly radical Muslims and by this he dons more Arab Islam than Assyrian Christianity. This also neutralises the threat of liquidation.

The central government rewards Yonadam Kanna by including him on official foreign missions exploiting his charisma, Christianity and fluency in English to reflect abroad a false image of a regime that it thinks is at least diverse and representative.

Yonadam Kanna knows well that Assyrians are overlooked and marginalised but hide it away and despite that he opposes the notion of an Assyrian province with autonomous status. He is certain that without him and his movement this project can not see light. He also works by fatwa and outbursts or example he describes such Assyrian demand as “chauvinistic and sectarian”. He recently stated that an Assyrian province with autonomous status would not stand because the Assyrian heartland is poor and under-developed. His memories here are short because all this deprivation was the results of the “chauvinistic and sectarian” policies of the successive regimes ever since the creation of the State in 1921.

Is Yonadam Kanna myopic in vision? I am sure he is not because he knows well that he is the only one in the entire government who says he is Assyrian. Furthermore, in the entire upper structure of the current government there is no other Assyrian for example the current executive government in Baghdad of 37-member (28 April 2005) there is no Assyrian representative at all. Possibly there are two ministers and two other members of Majlis who confess Christianity but were nominated or adopted by Muslim Arabs or Muslim Kurds. Yonadam Kanna knows well that the roots of this exclusion lie on the foundation of the State and I dare to say paraphrasing what was said before that the formation of the State of 1921 was a mistake.

Yonadam Kanna is currently indispensable in his organisation because he is a senior figure to be challenged by the younger generations for a leadership contest but he is walking on water and his attitude and manoeuvre could backfire plunging himself and the entire movement with him into oblivion. It is hard and sad what we see, but when he marched to the fore I have had great hopes for the man; he has overreached himself and by this alienating himself and his movement and creating within his people more enemies than friends.

All pro regional Kurds are dwarf and lack stature in that they have little Assyrian power base and therefore they can not stand on their own. Those who stood for the last elections never made it apart from the ones enlisted among the Kurds.

Their problems are either of being small Assyrian parties, new (recent) denominational/confessional parties or new comers into patriotic business after leaving and abandoning previous political lives-here their images tarnished.

Adopting a pro regional Kurds make these paper tigers acceptable to their masters as long as they keep shouting Greater Kurdia.

I personally adhere to the Kurds our neighbours but we have to reciprocate our existence and respect our aspirations and live side by side without encroachment from any side. We both suffered from the centre’s mal-practise and we both have to walk unshackled and free.
The majority of the Assyrians and with them are other small genuine Assyrian parties who so far did not shake the political ground reject the above two options of surrender to Greater Arabia or Greater Kurdia but seek the true solution for the Assyrian national rights.

In this time of grab they demand the formation of autonomous Assyrian province in the Assyrian heartland that is [roughly] the land subtended by the Tigris and Upper Zab rivers. This may not please the centralists or the regionalists but it is the Assyrians’ right to demand in post April 2003 new reality.

The Assyrian national aspiration is based on the Lebanon-style model (multi-ethnic and multi-religious) where every citizen’s right and existence is guaranteed and every citizen acknowledged and represented. Of course the Assyrians will be emancipated and more empowered.

The Assyrians now do not have the demographic weight they had in the late 1980s and will certainly dwindle in the coming decades unless the sleeping Assyrian giant asserts itself and demand without hesitation or fear the formation of Autonomous Assyrian province.

Gone are the days of the military onslaught to dislodge a nation and this nation once it had obtained its recognition from the centre and neighbours, it will be supported by the international community and by the Diaspora’s Assyrians. Don’t forget the obligation and contribution of the central budget according to norms.

Assyrians still talk, continue to write and demand but when the matter starts to drag for long my fear is that those at the top (mentors) intend to fudge the plan altogether and that cause me to think we may be entering a cul-de-sac.

Autonomy: The Only Hope for Assyrians to Have Peace in Iraq 

Sargon E. Sapper

It is said that no man plans to fail, he simply fails to plan.  In fact, without a working plan and specific goals to achieve a project cannot prosper. 

In a peaceful and carefully planned manner, during the year 1971, Chaldeans, Syriacs, and Assyrians united to argue a case for an Assyrian autonomy in Iraq.  Our goal was to provide to our people, helplessly scattered throughout Iraq, a territory to call their own; to establish a foundation upon which ours and future generations would have the power to govern and protect ourselves.  We believed then, as I do now, that autonomy was and is the only everlasting answer to the Assyrian question in Iraq.  Our concern was that without protection from the inhumane and unjust treatment we were consistently subjected to, Assyrians and Christians would be driven out of Iraq for good.  Circumstances surrounding our people have not improved, making this belief as true now as it was 35 years ago.

I believe, now more than ever, that the time has come for Assyrians to be given back our rights, as well as our historic homeland.  It is the only chance we have to finally return to living in peace and improving our economic conditions.  Assyrians deserve the same national rights as other ethnic minorities in Iraq.  With the cooperation of the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi Central Government, our people can once again have the ability to govern ourselves in the historic homeland of our forefathers.  And like our forefathers, we will call this proud land "Assyria," taking back what has been rightfully ours since the beginning of time.

The center of the Assyrian autonomy should be in the very heartland of the region of Nineveh, encompassing what is commonly known as The Assyrian Triangle, or Mini-Assyrian; a portion of which lies in the Nineveh province, controlled by the Central Government, and the other in Dahok, connected to the KRG.  By reestablishing this land as one administrative unit, and returning it to its indigenous ethnic citizens, Chaldeans, Syriacs, and Assyrians, we can make certain that future generations lead lives predominated by equality, security, and prosperity.  Critics of our cause will undoubtedly point out that Assyrians no longer comprise the majority within this sacred region.  True, but how could we?  For decades our people have suffered massacres and looting, been subjected to oppression and intimidation, and basically forced out of the region.  And although we can never forget the atrocities perpetrated upon us, we can forgive.  For the time has come to step out of the shadows, return to our home, and rebuild our land and lives.

Let me remind you all that some thirty years ago autonomy was granted for the Kurdistan region of Iraq.  Was the central government that existed at that time weak?  Perhaps, but it was the Kurds taking destiny into their own hands that really made the difference.  The Kurdish people were strong, their leadership was passionate, they believed their struggle was honorable, and they endured blood shed and sacrifice for the cause.  Thus, it was their resolve that forced a weak Iraqi government to accept the reality, acknowledge their rights, and grant their autonomy.  Today the political landscape has changed, and while Assyrians can learn from the plight of the Kurds, we need not create bloodshed to achieve our goal.  Instead of war we can choose diplomacy, a mutual cooperation between Assyrian people and our government, a belief in a democratic system, justice and respect for human life.

The recent declaration by the Kurdistan Regional Government to establish constitutional autonomy to the Assyrian people in the Nineveh plains is, most certainly, one opportunity which can and must not be missed for the mere possibility that this time it may be true.  It is a firm and legal plan toward establishing national rights in our historic homeland.  Thus, the time has come for us to lead our people back to the peaceful environment, equality we all so richly deserve, and have struggled to achieve for far too long. 

Today there has been a visible improvement in both the attitudes and actions of the Kurdistan Regional Government toward Assyrians in the region.  Ideologies of hate and confrontation are steadily being replaced with tolerance and cooperation.  The Kurdistan Regional Government seems more intent than ever on obtaining stability, security, and prosperity throughout the region and has undertaken several initiatives in this regard.  While Assyrian Christians have long been a prime target for escalating violence of extremists initially in central and southern Iraq and now in the northern city of Mosul intended to drive them away from their homelands, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) now welcomes Christians fleeing religious persecution.  And now, the KRG is pursuing an open policy toward ethnic minorities designed to share administrative responsibilities and establish autonomy.  It seems as though the KRG has learned, from mistakes committed by other regimes, it is unwise to neglect the national rights of ethnic minorities in Iraq.

Hopefully, the declaration to establish constitutional autonomy for our nation will be followed by the required legislative law necessary to ascertain the exact boundary of the territory covered by the autonomy as well as the appointed date for its application.  Indeed, in a recent news conference following a joint meeting of the KRG and KNA, Mr. Barzani and Mr. Mufti declared that the national rights of all ethnic minorities in the Kurdistan region are lawful, and that they were close to finding the right form for establishing autonomy for our people too.  Although we should be tremendously grateful for opportunity to enjoy autonomy in the Nineveh plains, we should also stress the importance of sharing the responsibility of determining how the autonomy is recognized.  Clearly, this challenge will take every bit of our collective effort to overcome.  But, as I see it, there exists the rare chance to change the course of history for future generations of our people in Iraq, and to demonstrate to the world what it means to persevere. 

The time has come, my friends, for us to dedicate ourselves to the unity of our nation.  Unanimity of voice is our only hope of effectively condemning the politics of divisiveness and confrontation.  So, I would like to propose following suggestions to be carried forth:

  • Let us call upon the organizers of conferences recently convened in the Kurdistan region and abroad to join in a united national conference to be held in 2009.  We are certain such a conference would serve as the largest gathering of our people and any conclusions which may be drawn from this conference would clearly reflect the opinions of the majority, as well as help form the basis upon which the autonomy should be created.
  • In the time leading up to the united national conference we should agree that any and all attacks and counter-attacks between Assyrian sectors, individuals, and organizations exchanged in the media cease and desist. 
  • Propose a working plan to the UNC to include the following headings:
  • The Name of Our Nation: Keep in mind that we are one people, one nation, and should therefore be known by one name.  Recognizing our nation, the way we currently do, ChaldeanSyriacAssyrian, is more indicative of divisiveness than unity, and unity is our most powerful weapon.
  • The Autonomy:  Constitutionally declared right for the indigenous Assyrian nation, predominated by equality, security, and prosperity.   
  • The Autonomous Territory:  A unique area, part Nineveh province, part Dohuk, well defined by its geographical occurrences in the north, the Iraq-Turkey border, the east flanked by the great Zab river, and west by the Tigris river. 
  • The Name of the Autonomous Territory:  To be known as Assyria.
  • Restoring Solidarity Between Our Communities Abroad and Those in the Region
  • Election of a United National Assembly:  To be of the highest authority in our land.
  • Election of a United College Leadership:  Ambitious and honest leadership to restore national unity, establish national rights, and lead our charge.
  • Election of Two Follow Up Committees:  One for Iraq, and one for abroad, to pursue the implementation of conference resolutions under the command of the United College Leadership.
  • Call to Action:  To call upon the Iraqi Central Government and the KRG for the prompt and swift establishment of a constitutional autonomy for our nation.

Thank you for your time and attention.  God bless you, and God bless our united people!

Assyrians at Their Best

Hannibal Alkhas Honored in Tehran

Courtesy of the Tehran Times
21 October 2008

Assyrian painter, Hannibal Alkhas, was honored in Tehran for his contribution to modern art in Iran.

(ZNDA: Tehran)  Assyrian painter Hannibal Alkhas was honored at the opening ceremony of his painting exhibition at Tehran’s Ishtar Gallery on the evening of Sunday, 21 October

MP Yonathan Betkolia, the representative of the Assyrian and Chaldean Christian communities in Iran's Majlis and the newly-elected Secretray General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance made a speech at the ceremony and handed Alkhas the honorary plaque of the Assyrian Association of Tehran. 

Alkhas also expressed his gratitude and gave a short speech about his childhood and his pleasant memories of the past. 

He regards painting as the most natural art of mankind in the world and asked that all the parents keep their children’s drawings and paintings, and hand them the artwork on their wedding day, “This would be the best gift to review their past”. 

“Painting is for children and is a return to childhood. We all like to slip back to our childhood and the more we recall those days, the more we enjoy art, painting, and writing,” he added. 

“Painting is a special art with a unique language which I recommend every one learn. It is the only art which is embedded in every body. You can show me your children’s paintings and I will tell you what inner talent is hidden within them,” he concluded. 

A total of 20 paintings are on display at the gallery located on Mokhaberat St. off Ayatollah Kashani Blvd in the Shahr-e Ziba neighborhood. 

The son of Assyrian writer, Adai Alkhas, Hannibal was born in 1930 in Kermanshah, Iran, and spent his childhood and teenage years in Kermanshah, Ahwaz, and Tehran. 

It was in 1951 he moved to the United States. From 1953 to 1959, he attended the Art Institute of Chicago where he earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in fine art. 

In 1959, after the death of his father, Hannibal returned to Iran where he taught at the Tehran School of Fine Arts for nearly four years. 

In 1980, Hannibal spent twelve years teaching art at the Assyrian Civic Club of Turlock, the University of California at Berkeley, and a number of private schools. 

He is now teaching at different campuses of the Islamic Azad University in Iran. 

Paul Alex Youhanian Scholarship News

Rebecca Simon
The Paul Alex Youhanian Scholarship

On Sunday July 27, 2008, an enthusiastic audience of Assyrians gathered at the Assyrian American Association of Southern California hall to celebrate the Paul Alex Youhanian Scholarship award ceremony. The crowd of families, friends, and just interested Assyrians were excited that once again they could witness the outstanding accomplishments of seven Assyrian college students. The ceremony started with the introduction of Paul Alex life. In 1996, Paul Alex was murdered by an unknown drive by shooter when he was only 12 years old. Paul’s father and uncle, Sargon and Lawrence Youhanian, set up the scholarship to award Assyrian students in memory of their lost son and nephew.

In attendance were Sargon Youhanian and Paul Alex’s aunts, Florence Constantine and Margret Yousefie.  Five out of seven scholarship recipients were present. They were introduced one by one. Their biographies were read and then the students read their essays to the audience. One could feel the hall thundering with raw emotions. The laughter and joy, deep silence, sighs of wonder, or sheer exuberance were what made that afternoon a memorable event for the students and all others. Assyrians left the Association with a sense of realistic hope that our future is in the hands of capable patriotic youngsters who will do more for our nation than their parents had the opportunity to do.
The winners of the scholarship were:

  1. Peter Khooshabah- top winner of $2,000. He is obtaining his PHD from UC Santa Barbara in cognition, perception, and cognitive neurosciences psychology.
  2. Demsin Lachin- top winner of $2,000. He is obtaining his masters degree from Biola University in linguistics with concentration in classical Hebrew.
  3. Sharokina Danipour- winner of $500. She is working towards her bachelors degree from UCLA in history.
  4. Augen Batou- winner of $500. He is a first year medical student at Western University of Health Sciences.
  5. Korosh Hormoznazlou- winner of $500. He is a senior at Cal State University, Northridge majoring in history.
  6. Adrina Gabriel- winner of $500. She is a sophomore at Cal State University, Stanislaus majoring in biology.
  7. Elena Akopova- winner of $500. She is a graduate student at San Francisco Conservatory of Music majoring in solo piano.

Congratulations to these high achieving students and their parents.  Many thanks to:

  • The Youhanian Family for making this scholarship fund possible
  • The scholarship committee, Dr. Polissian, Mrs. Takhsh, and Mr. Lachin
  • The Assyrian Association of Southern California
  • 2008 contributors to the Paul Alex Youhanian Scholarship Fund:
    • Mr. John Jacob  $1,000.
    • Mr. Melis Lachin  $300.
    • Mrs. Kelarice Rayhanabad $300.
  • Mrs. Florence Constantine $200.
  • Mrs. Margret Yousefie $50.

The Los Angeles community is looking forward to another year of discovering diamonds in the rough, the amazingly gifted Assyrian college students.

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
Waleeta Canon Washington
Tomy Doomany California
Mazin Enwiya Chicago
Ishtar Issa California

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