Archive for January 2014

Against all odds and thousands of years of disappointment, Assyrians poised to get some autonomy over ancestral lands

By: Ashur Sada

 

What are the odds of this happening? A great empire, after complete cultural and military domination for centuries, is finally

On January 21, 2014, the Iraqi government declared, in principle, that Nineveh Plains would become a new province, which serves as a safe haven for Assyrians.

On January 21, 2014, the Iraqi government declared, in principle, that Nineveh Plains would become a new province, which serves as a safe haven for Assyrians.

defeated.  Its people go on to live thousands of years with no place to call their own, subject to constant intimidation from neighbors, wars, oppression, cultural subjugation, terrorism and even a genocide.  Yet, despite all of this, the people-though scattered and oppressed-don’t die.  Most of them remain in the same areas and around where their former empire and its capital once stood.

And let us further imagine that after all these thousands of years of demographic changes, forceful migration and land grabbing, these people remain defiantly rooted in the lands of their great ancestors. And at the end of it all, against all odds, they finally get rewarded with something simple for their efforts and persistence: they can claim something back and call it their own. At least symbolically…

If you guessed  ‘Assyrians’ for these people, you are right!

Recent news of the Iraqi government agreeing in principle to turn the ‘Nineveh Plain‘ region-the ancestral homeland and center of the former Assyrian empire-into a province was a dream for a lot of Assyrians in Iraq and worldwide.  In reality, nothing has yet been implemented or passed as a real law in the constitution. But we are now closer than ever before to seeing this dream turn into reality. Sure, Assyrians are not getting their own country back and few are asking for that anyway. Nonetheless, this is a good first step to ensure Assyrians-and Christians in general-are protected and their cultural rights are guaranteed within a multi-ethnic and federal Iraq.

Getting a province or some sort of semi-autonomy for the Christian Assyrian (also referred to as Chaldean and Syriacs) population in Iraq won’t magically solve all their problems. Nor will it help in solving Iraq’s many problems. But it is a good first step. For one, it will help in stopping the indigenous Christian population of Iraq from migrating to the west. At least we hope it will! Since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the number of Christians in Iraq has gone down from 1.3 million to less than 750,000 at the moment. An Assyrian province, one that is safe, coupled with a good and vibrant economy for its residents, will go a long way to ensuring some stability for Assyrians in the the country.

Assyrians have been extremely patient and suffered through so much since the fall of their empire. Yet, they remained defiant and persistent in their effort to survive and stay relevant and rooted in their ancestral homeland. Getting their own province is the least thing that can be done to reward them for their resilience.

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My visit to the Mesopotamian Section at the Royal Ontario Museum

By: Ashur Sada

 

Recently, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) hosted an exhibition of hundreds of exceptional artifacts of Sumer, Assyria and

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) hosted an exhibition of hundreds of exceptional artifacts of Sumer, Assyria and Babylon

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) hosted an exhibition of hundreds of exceptional artifacts of Sumer, Assyria and Babylon

Babylon from the British Museum. For a limited time, people in Toronto and near-by cities had a historical opportunity to witness the innovations of ancient Mesopotamia. Innovations that truly changed and made our world what it is today.

As an Assyrian living in Toronto, and having never been to any of the world famous museums that host a lot of our ancient Assyrian treasures, I thought this was like winning the lottery. I mean, I already live in Toronto, I am Assyrian and are interested in my history: it would be crazy to miss it. Not to mention, the exhibition ran for months and there was no excuses to miss it. I actually made my visit a bit late, just a few days before this temporary section at the ROM was to close and its artifacts returned to the British museum again. Cameras weren’t allowed inside which was unfortunate but understandable.  Most of the items at the museums can be found online, though it is nothing like seeing it in person.

 

The Visit

We made our way to the ROM on a Sunday, right after Christmas. Though it had been running for a few months, there was still a significant number of people there to visit the Mesopotamian section. The section was divided into three parts, by chronological order:  Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonia. Interestingly, the Assyrian section, from my observation,  was the largest of all. The exhibition overall had some very interesting and priceless pieces,  including the Epic of Gilgamesh, a portrait of king Ashur Banipal hunting lions, replicas of the Code of Hammurabi, relief panels from king Ashur Banipal’s library, statue of King Ashurnasirpal II and so much more.  The museum did a good job of explaining things through text and audiovisuals. Another interesting feature the museum had in place was the ‘stitching’ of related bas-relief sculptures into one video to make it easier for people to understand what is exactly happening. One such illustration was king Ashur Banipal hunting lions. Originally, this is depicted in three different bas-relief sculptress. Using video illustration, the museum shows and makes it easier for people to understand what is happening.

 

Assyrian Pride and implications

I am please to report that a lot of Assyrians I know here in Toronto did go and visit the museum to witness the new Mesopotamian section.  It would be foolish to be proud of such a great civilization but not take the effort to witness it in person. . For the duration of this exhibit, close to a million people would have seen the Mesopotamian section or at least been exposed to it indirectly (ad, radio, web etc) . Imagine a lot of these people later searching for Assyrian related material online. And imagine their shock when they visit websites like Assyrian Voice and others and realize that Assyrians are actually still alive.  It is nice to remind these people that Assyrians exist beyond this museum and history books.  Some 2500+ years may have been passed since the fall of the Assyrian empire but as people, culture and language, we are still here.

The feeling of pride is priceless. The world is paying homage to our civilization. A civilization that has helped define and shape our world as we know it today.  But as always, as great as the past is, the present and future is what matters now.

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My 3 Assyrian Wishes and Resolutions for 2014: a list that will shock you!

By: Ashur Sada

 

Did you notice that when it comes to our Assyrian resolutions and wishes for a new year, they almost always sound the same? Worse yet, they mostly fall short and don’t end up happening.

Let us try a different approach to our Assyrian resolutions for 2014

Let us try a different approach to our Assyrian resolutions for 2014

For 2014, I have decided to make the list and its wording a bit different this time, injecting some humor and sarcasm into it and looking at things from a different angle. Maybe, just maybe, this approach will be more effective this time. It is time we used an ‘outside the box’ type of mentality for our difficult and eternal problems.

 

1-Let there be no peace in Iraq, Syria and the rest of the Middle East

Yes, you heard that right. Let us use some reverse psychology. Maybe it will work this time. Better yet, let those who want no peace to keep doing what they are doing, as long as they don’t harm our peaceful people back home. Leave them alone and go on your destructive bombing and killing spree. And leave other innocent people alone too, whether they are our people or not.  Eventually, you will tire of your evil ways and quit. Why not just quit now?

 

2-May Assyrians remain divided

We have been asking for unity for years and decades now. Have we achieved it yet? while we have made some progress, we are far from a perfect or ideal unity yet. For this year, my resolution is for us to stay divided as people and political parties. As long as we can get things done. Really, think about it: if we are still effective without having to get united, let there be no unity.  In organizational behavior literature, we are told that certain individuals perform better on their own than to work within or with a group. How about we started applying that model to Assyrians? Let us give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that Assyrians work more effectively disjointed and individually rather than in groups?

 

3-For Assyrians to continue moving away from knowledge and education

There has been a bad trend amongst Assyrians here in Canada: getting less and less education. Those with a college or university education are becoming extinct. I am not sure about other countries but at least that applies here. And my wish for 2014 is for this trend to continue: more and more Assyrians getting less education and knowledge. Let them waste their valuable time on Facebook, sipping coffee at public places and so on. If that is what they want to do with their free time, who am I to judge and ask them to do something valuable instead? We know that humans instinctively and naturally like to do what is best for themselves. So maybe, just maybe, some Assyrians are made to only work and have fun. Education is just not their thing. And while education is of paramount and extreme importance in our society today, some uneducated Assyrians-and other billionaires-have done much better with their lives and careers than the best educated amongst us.

 

I have more Assyrians’ related resolutions, hopes and wishes for 2014. But I will keep it to this short list. But you get the idea here. It is time we tried and did things differently. It hasn’t worked for us doing things the old-fashioned way.  It wouldn’t hurt to do things differently. After all, what have we got to lose? Think of this as one giant lab, doing different experiments and comparing the results to see what methodology works best.

Let the experimentation on these 2014 resolutions start…

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