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We Will Rise Again

Abbey Writing

A Poem By Abbey Mikha

“To the one in the highest, King of Heaven and Earth, and on his order humans have been created, accept my requests and prepare for me and my Assyrian nation a merciful judgment because I am Ashurbanipal your follower. I present to you my request and lift my prayer to you…”-Ashurbanipal King of Assyria

In this blessed season as in the beginning of civilization, similarly to the ancient Assyrian Dumuzi/Tammuz, Jesus the Christ was born again…

And even our Assyrian New Year coincides with the time of the rebirth of spring and this we must also explain…

Our Christian culture developed from our more ancient Assyrian roots…

And this is something we have to seek, discover, and learn about and never pollute….

The most important thing for an Assyrian is to be proud of his culture and identity and to never deny his ancestry!

Or else his Assyrianism is only a fantasy…

We must all work diligently to spread the Assyrian truth, message, and struggle…

Because without every Assyrians effort our dream of our human rights and of a homeland will crumble….

Rise up every day and say to be an Assyrian is an honour!

Wear your knowledge and passion as an Assyrian as an armour…

We have struggled for survival for thousands of years and are suffering now, but we will rise again…

And each unrecognized Assyrians work won’t be in vain…

 

 

 

 

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Human?

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 By Abbey Mikha

We are all “human” beings of one human race right? That is what I always tell myself as well. Lately though seeing how people of some cultures are treating true human beings of the Assyrian culture and the various Christian faiths from Iraq, Syria and Egypt (the Coptic workers who were recently slaughtered in Libya) I cannot but help to ask myself, “What does it really mean to be human and why do some individuals have so much hatred in their heart?”

In my first year of university I told a Philosophy professor that what it means to be human is vague. He disagreed with me. I explained to him that people have various levels of spirituality and morality and for that reason just saying, “I am human” is vague, mysterious, and elusive! He never believed my reasoning and I did not get the point on my exam.

Nowadays terrorists are killing innocent people who have done nothing wrong to them. For example the Coptic men who were recently killed in Libya did nothing wrong to these criminals. The Coptic people are known to be a deeply religious and peaceful people. The children of Assyria have also done nothing wrong to these delinquents and they are at war with us in Iraq. So are these terrorists human? Yes, I guess they are according to some. If it was up to me I wouldn’t call them human, but I guess they are humans who are at a very very low spiritual and moral levels. I wonder what my professor would say today. Is human vague or not considering everything that is going on the world now? Are these people who slaughter children, women, and men human? Are they reasonable and normal? If they are human certainly they are ill, very ill.

Anyway, I pray for peace. I pray that people of various cultures, religions, and skin colors will find a way to harmoniously coexist upon the Earth. It is time for the world to become one, but right now people and nations are extremely divided. Humanitarianism needs to spread across the world and humans should grow in spirituality and morality in order to truly deserve the tittle “Human”. Jesus Christ always says it best, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

In these difficult days for the human race while I am thinking about what it means to be human I cannot but help to think of a great man like Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” I believe in unconditional love as well, but I’m not sure what will happen between now and the “final word”.

God help the good people of the world and may those whose hearts are filled with evil and darkness be defeated by the children of light in order for there to be a new world and a new earth and a new Human.

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Inspiring the Spirits of Children to Love Education

By Abbey Mikha  

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all who read at Assyrian Voice!  I want to share with you an essay I wrote a while back for school.  What kind of teachers inspired you in your life?  Do you remember your teachers?  Did you have a teacher who never paid any attention to you?  Did you also have some great teachers that you will never forget?  Have you ever had an Assyrian teacher?  What kind of teachers made an impact on your education and your life?  The following is my Teaching Philosophy if I was to become a teacher. 

 Hope whatever you dream job is you will also get it and hope life is treating you all kindly…

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Becoming a teacher has always been my dream.  I have been working diligently towards this dream that some said I would not be able to accomplish.  The main reason I want to be a teacher is that I always wanted to positively influence the next generation.  When thinking about where I could do the most good in the world I always knew teaching would be the right path.  My teaching philosophy is that teachers are there to help students improve their abilities and to inspire their spirits to love education.  Students will always do better when a teacher is there to guide them through the obstacles.  When a student has difficulty with schoolwork whether it involves numbers, letters, or eventually the more complicated things, the wise teacher will help them work through these struggles.  She knows that helping all her students not fall behind will increase their confidence for the entire grade and into the next grade.  This will be a stepping-stone towards the rest of their educational careers.  In this teaching philosophy Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development theory will be defined, my opinion in regards to it being a good model for learning will be developed through various examples from the past, present, and future.  A teacher is one of our first adult friends in life.  If I was to become a teacher I would want to encourage my students from a young age creating for them a creative and pleasant environment whereby friendships can be built.

Supporting our Children

The zone of proximal development is important part of my teaching philosophy.  It has been defined as, “The distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotsky, 1978, p86).  Vygotsky especially believed that a child’s early understanding came from the support that they were given by interacting with knowledgeable adults. Such support allows a child to function outside regular independent abilities. When a child is given such support they are then able to make further development.  This approach suggests that teaching should emphasize activities within this zone, since it is here that learning growth is occurring (Martyn, 2000, p. 35).

The Model of Proximal Development a Good one for Learning

I believe that the model of proximal development is a good one for learning and must be part of my teaching philosophy because it is fundamental to my beliefs of what it means to be a good teacher.  Students have natural ability, but do better when a teacher guides them through a task that they find difficult.  A child is lead by the teacher and eventually develops the ability to complete certain tasks without help.  What children can accomplish independently and what they can complete with adult assistance is this zone of proximal development.  Young children cannot complete tasks without guidance.  Over time children may be able to complete complex tasks with just a bit of help.  Concentrating on education, zone of proximal development is a very useful reminder to educators that through their help students can expand their knowledge to reach many more educational goals.

Teaching Styles and Foreign Students

My ideas about teaching styles is that various people have different approaches, but as long as teachers are sensitive to their students, are always encouraging them, and willing to help, then all will be well.  I attended school in Lebanon, Germany, and Canada.  I was lucky to be able to witness different teaching styles and philosophies from various countries and I experienced how the zone of proximal development works.

In Lebanon even in kindergarten the nuns began seriously teaching us and it was a strict environment.  The nuns spoke to us and taught us in Arabic and French.  This experience showed me that children could be taught from a young age to pay attention and to follow instructions.  The nuns were very supportive and they made sure to help all of the students who were having difficulties with learning the alphabet and numbers.  If a child was behind one nun was assigned to work with that child until they caught up.  This is exactly what the zone of proximal development proposes because through guidance most children will develop in their learning.  It may take some children longer than others but they can all eventually reach similar levels of understanding if a knowledgeable teacher helps them.

In Germany I had the same teacher from grade one to four in the small town of Hostenbach.  She was kind and also had her own style.  She taught us on all subject matters but she took special time for encouraging our creativity through Music and Art.  She organized a choir for us and taught us songs like “Shalom Chaverim” which is a Hebrew melody that has historical meaning for the Jewish people.  Although I am Assyrian this song stayed in my mind for the rest of my life, especially when learning about its significance.  I always felt good singing this song because I felt like the Hebrew language was close to my Assyrian language, which I could understand pretty well at that time.

Also in Germany, at Christmas time we used to make various types of paper angels and paint pictures of Santa Clause.  My German teacher also created an area in the classroom with a really comfortable sectional sofa and it was designated just for reading.  This really made the students feel comfortable and at home and I liked that about our classroom.  What I learned from the experiences from this class was that music and art are very memorable for children and can influence their feelings in regards to school a great deal.  This teacher also made sure that her students were always caught up.  I remember being in her class and when learning to subtract in grade one I continued to do addition.  I guess I did not want to subtract.  She explained to me the difference and I was subtracting fine after.  This all has to do with zone of proximal development because it was through her help and through her taking time to explain to me about subtraction that I learned and progressed.

In grade four my teacher also organized our communion.  This was always a very good memory for me.  I was the only foreigner amongst my German friends.  My teacher had me standing at the front center bench in the church.  I always wondered why she did that since I was one of the more taller girls.  I guess she wanted me to feel like I was also a special part of the ceremony.  I thank her still for that special feeling she gave me.  It is a day I will never forget.  It must have been 1989.  The following picture is from that day in Hostenbach.

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In Canada I had the bulk of my education.  My grade five teacher gave me the nickname Abbey because she could not pronounce my real name 3abeer.  I liked that she did that because my name is difficult to pronounce in English and it would have given me a difficult time in school.  It is nice of teachers to help foreign students like me who are Assyrian and new to the country especially when they are really young.  Some students come from poor troubled countries; others have never attended a formal school.  I would also keep all of this in mind and heart if I were to become a teacher.  Making such students feel included and like they belong is very important, since many times these students have come from foreign countries, which were in very difficult situations like war.

My Canadian teacher taught us various subjects like English, Math, and Science, but we also had special classes in French and Italian.  She also tried to help us learn by playing leader games.  She would tell us a story and in groups of three we had to continue it and try to collaboratively develop it unto a final conclusion to show which one of us was the most flexible person and leader in the game.  This was another approach to learning and also had to do with zone of proximal development since she helped us in the beginning by introducing the story but let us continue the main part and then conclude it.

Inclusion in the Classroom

I believe that zone of proximal development can also be used to teach students with disabilities, and if I was given the choice I would prefer an inclusive environment in my classroom if I were to become a teacher, whereby children who are called disabled, gifted, down syndrome, learning disabled, and average could all learn together.  Inclusive education believes that students can all discover together in a supportive community.  The individuals may have various learning needs and rates of learning but they will still be appreciated, acknowledged, and inspired to be the best that they can be.  Within an inclusive environment children will learn that other children may be different but they are still special and deserve respect.  Although zone of proximal development may be reduced for students with disabilities depending on their abilities there is still always that room for improvement and growth no matter how minute.

Poetry, Songs, and Creating Books

If I were to teach I would read poetry and sing songs with my students.  I would encourage them to care about the environment by introducing them to books about the earth.  I would also introduce them to subjects like Ancient History and Astronomy.  I would concentrate on important subjects but also make time for creative subjects like Art and Music. I would also create books for my students.  Doing projects like a book with each class a year would be very fun and educational.  It will make students feel like they accomplished something as a group and create a good memory for them that they could keep forever.  This has to do with zone of proximal development because through this collaborative effort the children and I will have created a story collectively, which reflects what we learned and found meaningful that year in class.

Concluding Thoughts

Teachers have the ability to influence their students and can help tremendously by working patiently on tasks that the students find challenging.  A teacher must give their students confidence that they will be able to complete more difficult tasks by being persistent.  By giving them these tools to complete such tasks they give them the key to the future and the door to their learned self-masterpieces.

Learning about the zone of proximal development can help all teachers and this should be encouraged since it is such an effective theory.  Inclusion is important to me and if I had the choice I would allow for an inclusive classroom whereby children with various abilities would be allowed to participate in regular classes.

Support is always beneficial for students.   All students can develop their abilities and talents with some guidance on their teachers part and effort on their part.  If I were to become a teacher I would also try to acquire parents help and involvement in the education of their children especially for those of children who are struggling.  This would make a big difference.

Vygotsky was correct in that there is a level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers.  What a wonderful thing it is to know that science agrees with the fact that teachers can help students and will improve their abilities more than what was ever possible for that individual on their own.  We should never leave any student behind because this can affect their confidence for the rest of their life.  Every child deserves to be educated and helped as much as any other child.

I remember the names and teaching approaches of all the teachers who have influenced my learning positively.  I hope that even if I were to become a grade one teacher I would be the kind of teacher that my students remember as always helping them through their educational struggles and never leaving them behind.*  If I got the chance to be a teacher my goal would be to have the kind of class environment that my students reminisce about in the future.  It would be a joy for me if they wrote letters to let me know how they are doing in their life, what career paths they have chosen, and how being in the classroom of an Assyrian teacher inspired their spirit to love education.

 

Works Cited

 Long, Martyn. (2000). Psychology of Education, The. Taylor & Francis. Retrieved 12 October 2012, from <http://lib.myilibrary.com?ID=40425>

McLeod, Saul (2012), Zone of Proximal Development.  Retrieved 15 November 2012, from <http://www.simplypsychology.org/Zone-of-Proximal-Development.html>

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What It Means To Me To Be An Assyrian

 

By: Abbey Mikha

Shlama, ow Shlomo, greetings to you in the dialect of my father, in the dialect of my mother, and in the dialect of the ancient rivers and mountains which my people hailed from time immemorial. To think, to live, to feel Assyrian is not for me an occasional remembrance, it is a passion and a duty. True, we are all human beings, from whatever nation we come from, and true, we are grateful citizens of our countries of adoption, where we try to build a new life with new dreams, but as Assyrians we cannot but carry with us, everywhere we go, the song of our old language, the memory of our lost past, and the pride that kept us alive to this day.

The turning point in my life as an Assyrian was when I realized how little known my people are to the outside world and how fascinating their story is. I marveled at my nation’s instinct for survival, the struggle of an old culture, which defied centuries of foreign rule and refused to surrender. I felt deep injustice, I cried in pain for all Assyrians who, in the last two centuries, were sacrificed in terrible genocides, uprooted from their motherland and forced to err in never ending exile because they just happened to be there on their ancient land, after so long, and because they still stood, not moving an inch even though they were very different from the peoples around them. I took pride in those Assyrians surrounded by hostile nations who fought against all odds for an independent state in Assyria and I felt anger when I learned how superpowers such as the English, during the World Wars, gave us promises, which were never fulfilled. I then understood that nobody really cared for our suffering and that we the young Assyrians, like our forefathers, should proudly keep fighting for our rights, or lose our identity and disappear.

I started to feel the pride associated with my Assyrian heritage at a very young age and as I grew older it grew stronger within me, and as I grew wiser, I realized how important it was for me to carry my people’s name. Being an Assyrian means being united within my nation and being united within myself. I am very proud to be an Assyrian with heritage from Alqosh, Zerineh in Jilu, and Mardin in Tur Abdin, which is one of the main reasons my friend’s call me the United Nations of Assyria. There is an inseparable emotional bond between my nation and I.  I accept all of my people even those who are not well aware of our history, loving all Assyrian communities, singing in eastern and western dialects, traveling in time and space from the clay tablets of Ashurbanipal’s library, below earth, to the ancient monasteries, above the mountains and feeling the pride in being the daughter of a nation which gave birth to the first civilizations of humankind.

Today I remembered all Assyrians who fled the homeland, the image of my great grandfather who walked from Turkey to Kiev, which at that time was a part of Russia.  Wherever we live, those of us whose ancestors were lucky enough to escape the Seypa Genocide of 1915 share an indestructible thread, which binds us as one, in addition to history, religion, culture, and language; the story of our common suffering and of our strife to remain and resurrect again.

When I realized that our people, who contributed so much to the world and contributed so much to who I am, had been forgotten, I found my Assyrian turning point. This is when I started to want to prove that Assyrians do exist today, and that I am one of them. At one point in time one of my history teachers told me that Assyrians are extinct, he said there is no such nation, that the ancient Assyrians amalgamated with other cultures, and that we did not survive. Ever since that day I have wanted the Assyrian culture and identity to survive within me, since I knew in my heart and in my mind that he was wrong. This is when I found out that not everything which is written in history books, is true, especially about my people. This is when I understood that truth was relative, and that if we do not stand for who we are, our truth will never be known.

I believe I was born to be Assyrian and to be proud of being Assyrian. One of my favorite pastimes is to share the Assyrian culture with people who are not from our background; food my mother taught me to cook, songs in our language, stories from long ago:  Gilgamesh, Enuma Elish, The Epic of Inanna and Atra Hasis, tales of kings, queens and shepherds, memories of ancient glory and recent sufferings. I am proud of who we were and who we are today and who I am as part of this nation. I will never let anyone deny me the right to call myself Assyrian and to honor my ancestors and their dreams.

Being an Assyrian means to me not only to defy time, but also defying everyone who thinks that our nation did not survive. To be an Assyrian is to know that it does not matter which church we are from, because we are still one nation, one people who speak one language, the same that Jesus Christ spoke. To be an Assyrian means to let everyone in our nation help in the building of our home, a home with a foundation called nothing other than huyada, or huyodo, unity. Our minor differences, as Assyrians from different communities or dialects, are only due to our long history. Instead of fighting, we should accept one another because every one of us has something to offer our common home, which is the Assyrian Nation.

What I will do to preserve my Assyrian identity is to try to educate myself in whom we were in ancient times, as well as who we are today, and what we need to do in order to survive in the future. An identity can only be preserved through the heart when people relate to what they are preserving and when they share true love for their nation. When sincere love exists, the preservation of one’s culture and identity becomes natural even for Assyrians who never lived in the homeland and never grew up around their countrymen and countrywomen.

How can I not feel pride for a people who survived so many acts of cruelty and were literally crucified, yet still are living and breathing today on the earth? We, Assyrians, are survivors, and there shall hopefully be Assyrians on earth till the end of time! Whenever I discuss with fellow Assyrians our situation today, some people mention the theory that because of living in diaspora, Assyrians will be extinct in a few generations, as will our language, and our culture and heritage. My answer to these thoughts is and always will be: I was not born in my homeland, I did not even grew up around Assyrians and if anyone should have lost his or her Assyrian identity, it would be me, but if anyone has found it and kept it, it has also been me.  This means that the children of Assyria will find their way home, and they will never forget who they are or where they came from…

Here is the video:

 

 

 

 

 

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The Assyrian Girl who Drowned and never Found

It was a beautiful summer morning in Northern Iraq. It was a morning not unlike any other good and fun summer day, especially for kids.  Assyrian kids, teens and even adults, were busy playing in the little river that passes this Assyrian village. A village that sits at the most remote tip of the province of Barwar.

Amongst those playing in the local river, there was two young female cousins. They were having the time of their life, swimming and just playing with the water. It is one of those innocent and pure moments of childhood that are as pure as they can be. The two treated the river as their friend, who was there whenever they needed to have some fun and enjoy their time.  Never did it cross their mind that the river was motionless, and doesn’t understand how they feel towards it.

As everyone was busy playing and having fun, one of the two cousins stepped away from her spot and went deep into the river. Moments later, this fun and beautiful morning would turn into a real tragedy! The girl was gone in seconds, swallowed by the rapid moving river. The cousin didn’t realize what had happened, until she looked around and her cousin was nowhere to be found.  Suddenly, the children and everyone else playing in the river started screaming and pointing in the direction of the girl who was being pushed by the river. Few moments later, the girl had already been taken far enough to be invisible to the eyes of the shocked crowd.  News of her disappearance quickly spread, and few minutes later her family had come rushing to the river in hopes of finding her. They quickly spread, and each started looking in one direction of the river.

Hours and days passed by, and the family was still looking. They followed the path of the river, for as long as they could, and found no traces of her. They scoured every hospital and any relevant places for any signs leading to her, but to no avail.  It is hard to give up, but at the same time, it is hard to keep your hopes forever. And in fact, some twenty years later, the family has still not given up hope totally.  The girl’s disappearance was such a shock to the family and local village people, people came up with some crazy and weird theories as to what happened to her.

Some think that she simply drowned, and was found later by others who in turn buried her.  At that time and in such a place, there is nowhere to report to and find the whereabouts of a dead body.  Another interesting theory believes that the girl may not have been dead after all. Rather, she was in a comma when she got found by some people, who took her in and cared for her. To make the theory even more interesting, her head may have hit several rocks as she was being pushed by the river, and that has impacted her memory and consciousness.  Therefore, when the person found her and picked her up, she may have already forgotten who she was, who her family was etc. The last theory states that the girl was dead in seconds after her drowning and that creatures living in the river simply fed on her body, hence why there has been no traces of her body till now.

Whatever happened, it hurts to know that had this happened in a more developed country, the girl would have been found, be it alive or dead.  Even if found dead, there would be more comfort for the family, than to still be clinging to a thin hope that the girl may still be alive.  Thanks to psychology’s concept of ‘Classical Conditioning’ the family has developed a hate not just for the river or rivers in general, but anything that remotely resembles a river or water. That river which was a playground for the young girl had turned into her own grave!

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Assyrians don’t Mind Teddy Bears nor Real Bears

In our world today, especially here in the West, Teddy Bears are very popular and have come to symbolise love and care. For both the young, the old and those in between. But it is not quiet the same with real bears, who are usually feared by pretty much everybody; including those who work with them as a career. Few weeks ago, I was watching a TV program in which some animal trainers spent years and years, just trying to get used to being close to wild bears in the mountain. And even with this intense training, they still had to wear protective suits to shield them from the risk of being attacked and mulled by the bear.

But if we go back in history, we will find that there are some people who don’t mind bears. Those people are the Assyrian people, and I am one of them; but I do fear bears! In fact you don’t have to go back long in history to see people who don’t fear bears. Those brave Assyrians I am referring to, are people who lived in the mountain of Hakari and Tyari, from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Although there have been various tales of Assyrians coming into direct contact with bears, one sticks in my mind; it is one that one generation after another remembers and wonders about.

One day, an Assyrian man from Tyareh was out, working on his farm. His son was working with him too, but then took a break and left him to go in the wilderness in the nearby mount. But the son took too long, and didn’t come back. Curious and worried, the dad decided to go look for him. As he climbed the small mount, he saw a grizzly (no pun intended) scene: his son was battling a big bear, almost twice his size. His dad couldn’t believe his eyes, and run towards his son, to try and help him, although fear had controlled him. Seeing a bear is scary in itself, but seeing a bear trying to kill your son is the ultimate fear. By the time the dad got there, the son managed to get away from the hard fist of the bear and get loose. The son escaped with little injuries. In fact, he had managed to give the bear a run for its reputation and power!

As the dad got to his son, he started wondering how this all happened, and how scared he was. The son looked OK and extremely calm, given the situation. He then started talking and telling his dad about his battle with the bear. He told his dad, and this has become a famous quote: “dad, it was a strong bear, I couldn’t defeat it…” The dad was amazed at the fact that his son was not happy for being safe. Instead, he was sad because he thought he lost the battle against the bear. In other words, he thought he had a chance against the huge bear.

This is not just a real story. It is also a story that teaches us real courage and bravery; something that our current Assyrian generation seems to lack, and must work hard to restore. Of course, this is not a call to start fighting bears. It is simply a call for Assyrians to move on, while looking at their ancestors and how unfearful they were, of almost anything! Including bears, and real ones, not teddy bears!

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