Archive for May 2009

An Iraqi Assyrian Soccer Legend has Passed Away: Ammo Baba (1934-2009)

He was regarded as the best coach in the history of Iraqi soccer. More than that, he is credited with taking Iraqi soccer to the next level, and bringing many cups and titles to the country. He is Ammo Baba (officially Emmanuel Baba Dawud) and with heavy hearts we received the news of his death, at the age of 75, after a long battle with illness.

Ammo Baba, who began his career as a player and later as a coach, is one of the most recognized faces, not only for the Assyrian or Iraqi people, but the entire Arab world.  His presence behind the Iraqi team bench was enough to put fear in the hearts of the opponents, which no wonder helped the Iraqi national team win many Arab, Asian and international titles under his coaching.    In fact, his name was so big and respected in Iraq, even the notorious Uday, the son of Saddaam Hussien, would listen to him and obey his final instructions regarding team formations and planning.   Now that is pretty special for a Christian, let alone an Assyrian Christian!

All of which explains why this is such a big loss for the Assyrian, Iraqi and the footballing world in general. He is, with no dispute, the best Iraqi coach in the 20th century, and his record speaks for itself.  As an Assyrian, he has been one of the most popular and recognized personalities in the last 50 years,  if not more popular than such recognized names as Mar Dinkha, Evin Agassi, Agha Petros, Younadam Kanna and others. To be put in the same category as these names says a lot about Ammo Baba.

To read more about this legend and his career, visit one of the following websites:

Preparations are already under way by the Iraqi government to stage a big and national funeral for him, at the famous ‘People’s Stadium’ in Baghdad, a place where Ammo Baba coached thousands of games and players, for close to 4 decades.

As Assyrians, and despite this being a sad moment and great loss, we should still use Ammo’s death to remind Iraqis and others in the region about what Assyrians have given to their country of Iraq. And what better example to demonstrate this loyalty than the great legend? He gave Iraq everything he can, and did everything in his power to keep Iraqi soccer on top of the Arab and Asian world.  Despite being of a very old generation, his ideas were still quiet applicable to today’s fast-paced and athletic soccer.

It is my hope that Iraqis and the Iraqi government in particular recognizes his Assyrian identity, and on the least, put an Assyrian flag on his coffin, beside an Iraqi flag of course.  That wouldn’t be much to ask for.  Realizing that the news of his death and coverage of his funeral will be all over the region, putting an Assyrian flag would send a very powerful message.  A message of appreciation and recognition.

May your soul rest in peace.  With every ball kicked in any Iraqi soccer field, you will be remembered.  That is how great your impact has been.

You truly are ‘the father of all coaches’

You have worked hard enough, and now is time to rest in peace.

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What can Assyrians Learn from the Tamil Protests in Toronto?

If you live in Toronto or Canada, you have most likely heard and seen it all. If you haven’t, let me fill you in. For the last few months, thousands of ethnic Tamils have been protesting in the streets of downtown Toronto, trying to bring public and government attention to their people’s suffering in the homeland at the hands of the Sri Lankan government.

And as the fighting between the Tamil Tigers (considered a terrorist organization and outlawed by Canada) and the Sri Lankan government has intensified, so have the protests and the number of protesters. And as of May 10 on Mothers’ Day, it is now starting to take a dangerous turn, almost literally.

On May 10th, thousands of protesters unexpectedly took over the Gardiner Express Highway (one of Canada’s busiest highways), and in the process bringing traffic to a complete stop. Worse, and having been staged on mothers’ day, hundreds of drivers were cut off from their destination and families. And as if storming a highway wasn’t bad enough, those who stormed the highway used their infant babies and females as human shields.

Should Assyrians go this far? While we lack both the numbers and passion that the Tamils have, we can certainly learn a lot from them.  Although we have staged many protests in the past, all around the world-and some attracted large numbers-I don’t recall or know of any that was truly as captivating as those of the Canadian Tamils.

On one hand, such loud and popular protests do bring a lot of attention from both the people and government, and in some rare cases action too. In the case of the Canadian and Ontario governments, they have agreed to raise the issue at the UN and send money and aid supplies to the people effected by the war. But you got to be loud enough and with an ‘in-your-face’ approach to achieve some goal and bring a desired change. Do Assyrians have what it takes to stage similar thunderous protests?

But this could also backlash as we saw with the recent Tamil protests.

To protest peacefully is one thing, but to protest by storming a major highway and bringing traffic to a halt, is a whole different story. By doing this, you are crossing a very critical thrash hold beyond which people lose any sympathy they may have had for you. In other words, you risk alienating people more than you can gain their support.

The key is to strike a balance between the two. While Assyrians have the right to protest just like any other group, and even more deservingly so, given the suffering of Assyrians in Iraq, they have to carefully examine the Tamil example. A lot can be learnt from it. While public order and law should always be respected and abided by, Assyrians should be smart enough to know how to grab enough attention while still doing it within the boundaries of the local order and by-laws.

Endurance and persistence pays off at the end. Although, and as I write this article, the Sri Lankan army has finally been able to defeat the Tamil Tigers- a war that has gone on for 26 years- it doesn’t mean the Tamil protests didn’t accomplish anything. They certainly have, at least for raising public awareness to the plight and suffering of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. Doesn’t that sound familiar to you with our own Assyrian situation and people in Iraq?

In this day in age, wars are rarely fought in a real battlefield. It is all about the media and political lobbying powers and suppprt you have. Assyrians should take a note of that.

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Assyrians are Googling themselves

Assyrians are Googling themselves and their history more than ever before, and that is a good thing. In talking to Assyrians online, reading through forum discussions and looking at stats for this very website, it is becoming apparent that Assyrians are utilizing the power of Google and search engines for a better use. They are searching and finding answers to questions about Assyrian history, and Assyrianism in general in the world today.

In reading through this article, three questions come to mind: what is so special about this whole thing, what are they searching for and what trends can we conclude from it all?

What is so special about Assyrians using Google and search engines? After all haven’t people, including Assyrians, been using Google for over a decade now? The difference is in what they are searching for. There is a serious and an Assyrian flavor to their search queries.

While they are still searching for ‘chat‘, ‘music‘, ‘pictures‘, and other liesure-based activities, a lot of their searches are increasingly serious in nature. This includes things like ‘Assyrian history, ‘church’ , ‘language’ , ‘culture’ etc. And while some of this search activity is conducted by non-Assyrians -an indication of an ever increasing awareness of our existence by others- the majority of it is being conducted by our very own. So they are not just searching but actually finding answers and in the process increasing their knowledge and information about their identity and history.

What conclusions and trends can we extract from all of this serious and increased Assyrian use of search engines? For one, it is an indication that Assyrians are no longer taking what they hear at face value. Instead, they are taking an extra step to research and verify what they hear. Another trend we can observe is an increased interest to learn more about themselve and history so they are better equipped and more ready to tell the world who they are and where they come from.

The hope is that Assyrians will be able to balance their leisure and serious-based searching. Search engines after all were made to help people find anything and almost everything out there and there is no need to restrict your search to one or the other. But with this wealth of knowledge, literally at our fingertips for free, why not use it to our advantage and to further our knowledge of our history, identity and the state of Assyrianism in general in our world today? “know thyself’ uttered one famous Greek philosopher, and what better way to do that than to start from a simple search box?

Happy Assyrian Googling!

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7 Questions that could have Altered the Course of Assyrian History

Assyrians like to dwell on the past but often don’t really learn from it. Here are 7 questions whose answeres, if done differently, could have completely and dramatically changed the course of Assyrian history. Of course, it is easy to add the “what if…” question to anything, and it is even easier to do this with events in history.  Our purpose is not to re-write a better history for ourselves, after all, we don’t have a time machine to do so.  We simply want to be able to learn from our rich history and avoid the same mistakes in the future. Although not all of the questions below were mistakes, nevertheless, if they had taken a different turn, things would have been a lot different now. For example, we could have been playing the role that the US, China or other great powers have right now.

  1. What if Assyrians hadn’t changed from Akkadian and adopted Aramaic in the 8th century BC?

  2. What if Assyria was successful in uniting all other nations in Mesopotamia under the Greater Assyrian Empire? (Modern day Iraq)

  3. What if Assyria didn’t embrace Christianity?

  4. What if Assyrians didn’t have to live under three consecutive Roman, Islamic and Ottoman empires?

  5. What if the church split of 1551 never took place? (or any other church split for that matter)

  6. What if the massacres of late 19th and early 20th century never took place?

  7. What if the Middle East had a better future for Assyrians, particularly in Iraq (stop mass exodus)

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