Posts tagged ‘iraq’

Shame on Iraq for Allowing the Attacks on Christian, Assyrian Churches

In a series of coordinated attacks that took place on Saturday July 11, 7 Christian churches -many of which belonged to the Assyrian and Chaldean churches- were bombed by extremists and terrorists.

There has been a very public and loud condemnation of these attacks, from Assyrians and Christian Iraqis everywhere.  Most have been very sad, upset and enraged by what happened, and rightly so.

This is more than a terrorist attack on the innocent Assyrian Christian people of Baghdad and Iraq in general.  It seems like some high planning would have gone into it, not just from the terrorists themselves, but well beyond it.  This begs the question: what do these attacks, the fourth of such horrific nature since the US war in Iraq started in 2003, mean for the Assyrian and Christian presence in Iraq? is this a hint from our haters that we are not welcome, and that those who are left, or thought of returning, should think twice about staying or returning to Iraq?

In addition to all the scare and terror it puts in our already fragile community, these attacks are more than what is needed to make the remnant of our community, to pack and leave.  As I mentioned before, Assyrians and Christians in general have been targeted hundreds and hundreds of times ever since the US war in Iraq ended and the insurgency started. But of these countless and senseless attacks on the Christians in Iraq, 4 have had a very big and lasting impact.  They caused a big wave of Assyrian exit from the affected region or the country altogether:

  1. A series of coordinated attacks that targeted several churches on July 1st, 2004.

  2. The freely-moving insurgency in Doarh in 2006-2007, aided by Al-Qaeda, which terrorized and pretty much emptied the city from its Assyrian and Christian residents

  3. The attacks on Assyrians in Mosul in late 2008, which caused thousands of families to flee, most of whom are yet to return, if ever.

  4. The latest attacks on July 11, 2009

It seems like every time there is a calm and hope for the Assyrian Christian population to return to normal, something of this magnitude happens.   We know the security situation in Iraq has generally improved recently.  But the so-called ‘security improvement’ is a relative phrase.  All it takes is one bombing to make our fragile community rethink its eternal decision to be part of Iraq, let alone a series of bombings targeting our most sacred and holy places.  If the terrorists or whoever is behind these attacks, is provoking us and making us think about staying, they are having some limited success.  Success in the short term at least.  Iraq without its native Assyrian population and the salt of the land, the Christians, is not worth much.  With all due respect to all the other good and great people of this country.

So I will say it as an Iraqi Assyrian myself: shame on Iraq and Iraqis in general for allowing such thing to happen to their Christian compatriots.  Sure they can’t do much about it, as their own mosques and even government institutions  have been bombed, but there is more to it than to just stop a terrorist from bombing a church.  It is about the public opinion overall and how Christians are looked at in the country, and whether they are of a second class or equal to the average Iraqi?

As stated before, it doesn’t take much to weaken our already fragile community in Iraq.  Which is why the Iraqi government, as well as the Iraqi people in general, should make it a priority to protect the Christian community.    Not just protect it, as there is more to life than to just be protected from danger.  They should help them thrive in this country which is rightly theirs.  A country they have contributed so much to.  Why are all their contributions and goodness forgotten all of a sudden? for personal and political interests? we all know these won’t last forever.

Our people, even as tolerant Christians, can only have so much patience.  Eventually, they too will either pack and leave or have a response to what is happening to them.  Protecting the native sons and daughters of Iraq, the Christian Assyrian population, will pay you dividends in the long term.

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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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Emptying Baghdad of Assyrians, One Region at a Time

Not too long ago, it seemed like the serious violence in Baghdad, wasn’t a serious deterrent for Assyrians to leave their homes in the Iraqi capital and depart. In fact, even now, it takes much more than violence and threats of killing and kidnapping to drive the resilient Assyrians from their homes, in mostly Sunni Western Baghdad. With the city of Dora being the epicenter of this new violence against Assyrians and Christians, things have been moving at a very rapid pace in the last few weeks.

Although Sunni insurgents have been the dominant force in this formerly peaceful region of Baghdad, things have changed dramatically. Unless serious action is taken against these insurgents and terrorists groups, Dora and other parts of Baghdad could risk becoming empty of Assyrian inhabitant. This could mean a serious blow to decades, even centuries old of a beautiful mix of different ethnic Iraqi groups living in one city.

It all started about a few weeks ago, when terrorists groups led by Al-Qaeda elements, started giving the Assyrians in the area three choices: to either leave and not collect any of your belonging. Or stay, and pay a monthly Jizya (Islamic protection tax from the times of the Khalifat and Abbaisen rule) Or you can stay, be protected and pay no protection tax, but pay the ultimate price for your soul: convert to Islam from

“If not stopped immediately, this could eat into the very unity and foundation of the Iraqi society”

Christianity. You wonder what would give these groups these extra powers to rise and demand this of the Christians in the region. Last time I checked, Dora is in the city of Baghdad, the same city where there has been a 3-month old security crack-down between US and Iraqi security forces. It is mind-boggling that extremists and Jihadists would be left to roam in the area freely, as it is it an island on its own. Dora is not a small city, relatively speaking. But it deserves every bit of attention from Iraqi and coalition forces, to pacify it and declare it back to its rightful owners and the Iraqi government.

Assyrians may have to leave the city or parts of the city for now. But there will come a time, when these inhabitants who have lived in this city for decades, are returned home and be given all that they owned and had before. Moreover, the same goes for our churches in the area, which have been abandoned, and its crosses and other of its religious symbols removed and ransacked. Again, last time I checked, we are living in the 21st century, and in the city in question is part of Baghdad. So when will the US military turn its attention to this city? A city whose recapture is vital to the victory in Baghdad, and a huge psychological boost.

Things continue to deteriorate. Assyrians and Iraqis alike, living outside of Iraq, feel helpless. But there is a few things we can do. For one, we have to raise the voice of reason, and let the world know about what is happening. People have a general idea about the violence in Iraq and Baghdad, but can’t be bothered by the specifics of it and who the victim of this violence is. Assyrians need to raise hell and pressure the US and Iraqi government to do something. Sooner or later, we will need to build not one, not two but three or more Baghdad Walls, to separate amongst all of its various ethnic and religious communities.

Ironically, this is also a time for our churches to come together and unite, because this hits home and close. More can be done by the Sunni community itself as well. A lot of pressure has to be put on Sunni states neighboring Iraq, especially Saudi Arabia, to denounce such terrorist and racist acts. As well, pressure has to be put on Harish al-Thari, the influential Sunni head of the ‘Association of Muslim Scholars’ who has ties to the insurgency. A simple public denouncement from him against the acts of violence against Assyrians, can go a long way. Al-Thari has been out of Iraq for over a year now, and is wanted by Iraqi authorities on charges of supporting the insurgency.

The threat is real and serious, and some have expressed concern that Christians in Iraq today, could become the Jewish of Iraq from last century: both going extinct. There are many differences between the two, which will not make a total exit of Christians from Iraq, a very likely future scenario. But it is serious enough for the UN, Iraqi government, US government and world governments everywhere to do something. Iraqis have also got to realize that this violence against Christians has already been committed against Shiites and other ethnic groups. Shiites have largely and long abandoned the Dora region. So if anything, this concerns all Iraqis, because their very national unity is at stake. If not stopped immediately, this could eat into the very unity and foundation of the Iraqi society

As I write about the damage being done to Assyrians and their churches in the Dora region, I could feel my father shaking in his grave: he happens to be the Assyrian engineer who built the beautiful St.George church in Dora.

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