Assyrian Groups: Will fight the rising Iraqi Chaldean Nationalist Movement

 

 Chaldean News Agency - Chicago, January 26, 2003

In a sign of the growing frustration of Assyrian political groups with the rising tide of Chaldean nationalism, members of the Assyrian community in the United States launched a major anti-Chaldeans campaign intended to intimidate and provoke Chaldean nationalists into giving up their so far successful push to rally members of their community into taking a more assertive role in defending their ethnic, political, and cultural rights in Iraq.

  A petition, authored by supporters of the Assyrian Democratic Movement and other Assyrian groups, is currently circulating against one of the major figures in the Chaldean church, Mar Sarhad Jammo, bishop of St. Peter Diocese of the Western United States. Bishop Dr. Jammo and in a recent lecture in Detroit, strongly supported the rising tide of Chaldean nationalism and rejected the claims by Assyrian political groups in acting as representatives of the Chaldeans who constitute close to 80% of Iraqi Christians.

  The core of the petition against Bishop Jammo highlights the major problem between the Assyrians and Iraqi Chaldeans. Taking advantage of the (till recently) absence of Chaldean political groups, and in an attempt to bolster their influence, Assyrian organizations engaged in wide acts of lies and deception by claiming that Chaldeans are somehow a “religious sect that belongs” to their small Assyrian community.

  Towards that end, hundreds of articles with falsified statements attributed to Chaldean intellectuals and clergy were widely published. An example of which was the outrageous falsification of a statement by the Chaldean Patriarch, Mar Raphael BeDaweed, who in response to a question on the Lebanese LBC TV station, defended his church by stating that its Chaldean name does not mean that it’s restricted to a certain ethnic group, and in reality is a “non-ethnic church”. That statement was quickly distorted and widely distributed, as “Chaldeans are not an ethnic group”!! That is despite the public protests of the Patriarch against such unethical tactics.

  Assyrians in the United States are composed of four groups; those from Iran, and an equal or smaller number from Iraq, and tiny groups from Syria and Lebanon.

  Most Iraqi Chaldeans and Assyrians can comprehend each other’s dialect of Aramaic, an ancient language spoken by both communities. However, comprehension between Iraqi Chaldeans and Iranian Assyrians is almost non-existent, one reason behind the stronger animosity towards the Chaldeans, by many Assyrian activists from Iran. Ironically, many Iranian Assyrians are Catholics and members of the Chaldean Church, a point that’s well exploited by the Assyrian political groups who present those Assyrian Catholics from Iran as “Chaldeans” to the outside world. In reality, Assyrian Catholics hardly make up more than 2% of all members of the Chaldean church worldwide.

  Iranian Assyrians are very active in the United States and have successfully lobbied the US government to support their Iraqi brethren. Taking advantage of the ignorance of many Iraqi and US groups as to the true composition of the Assyrians in the United States, the ex-Senator of the State of Illinois, John Nimrod, and an Assyrian from Iran was able to attend the recent meeting of the Iraqi Opposition in London as an “Assyrian delegate”!! Senator Nimrod has never been to Iraq.

  Other Iranian Assyrians who strongly lobbied the US government for the Assyrian cause in Iraq, and who have recently joined the anti-Chaldeans campaign are:

  1. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo of California's 14th Congressional District
  2. Mr. Atour Golani, President of the Assyrian American National Federation
  3. Most of the leadership of the Assyrian Universal Alliance of Senator John Nimrod’s
  4. Assyrian Iranian activists, such as Jackline Bejan of the Assyrian Club in San Jose, California and Wilfred alKhass, publisher of the Internet periodical “Zinda” magazine, and many others.

  Recently, and in a provocative act that underscores that animosity, Assyrian Catholic members of the Chaldean church in San Jose and Modesto, California forced their Chaldean priests into canceling an educational play by members of the Chaldean Academic Society of Detroit, Michigan. The Chaldean churches in San Jose and Modesto, homes to major Assyrian concentration, serves mostly their Assyrian Catholic members from Iran and Iraq. To satisfy those members, the parishes names in those two towns were changed from "Chaldean Church" to "Assyrian Chaldean Catholic Church".

  In addition to the support of their Iranian brethren, Iraqi Assyrians get a tremendous support by members of the Syria-based Assyrian Democratic Organization, who use their knowledge of the Arabic language to publish hundreds of articles in Iraqi and Arab newspapers and on Internet websites, supporting the Assyrian cause. All while masquerading themselves as simply “Assyrian writers” without stating whether they’re Iraqis or non-Iraqis.

  Recently, a Chicago-based Assyrian from Lebanon was successful in recruiting the services of an ex-Congressman from the State of Illinois to act as an Assyrian lobbyist. The efforts by that misinformation lobbyist resulted so far in having several articles on Iraqi Christians published by major US newspapers, such as the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, and others all containing the false claim that “Many Iraqi Christians are Assyrian Catholics, known as Chaldeans”!!

  This meddling in the internal affairs of Iraqi Christians by non-Iraqis has led to many Iraqi Chaldean nationalists complaining that they will resist such interference and ask the US government and Iraqi Opposition groups to reject the pressure of those groups in promoting their Assyrian brethren as the sole representatives of Iraqi Christians. An act that was strongly demonstrated in the recent meeting of the Iraqi Opposition in London. That is when the representatives of the Assyrian groups voted 6 out of 8 in favor (including the Iranian Senator Nimrod) of working towards the exclusion of any statement that refers to Chaldeans rights from being mentioned in the final press release of that meeting. An effort that was partially successful. The main reason behind the current galvanization of the Chaldean nationalist movement towards securing their people's rights in the post-Saddam Iraq and its subsequent assertive dealing with Assyrian groups.

  Many Chaldean political activists are perplexed as to “how could a whole community such as the Assyrian simply convince itself that it owns or even speaks on behalf of the much larger Chaldean one?” as one of them put it. “It’s like a mass self-hypnoses that refuses to accept reality”, exclaimed another.

  Mr. Ghassan Shathaya of the Chaldean National Congress puts it as “Chaldeans and Assyrians are of the same Mesopotamian roots, however, they’re two separate communities with their own self identification character. What we have is similar to a case where an Egyptian who based on being an Arab, decides on his own to call all Iraqis “Egyptians” and then gets upset when Iraqis refuse to be identified as “Egyptians” and worse gets offended when they reject his claims that he represents them and could speak on their behalves!! This is the case of the Assyrian political groups when dealing with the Chaldeans. Something that Chaldeans will simply not tolerate.”

 

 Chaldean News Agency