The followings are three letters on the subject of Census 2000, written by Mr. Ghassan Hanna in which he describes in them the process of how the agreement was reached on the Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac categorization as well as answers the angry response of members of the Assyrian community who rejected the new classification.
First Letter, sent 5/8/99 to Atour.com website and others.
Census 2000: Facts vs. Fantasies
Dear Mr. Sargon Aprim,
I received your email about your planned protest letter to the US Census Bureau. I have the following to state:
As a member of the joint Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac committee that made the proposal to the Census Bureau, I can assure you that I am extremely proud of our achievement.
You might not see things as they're, but that's your right. Just remember neither you nor any other organization have the right to impose its preferred name on other communities of our nation (something that the extremists members of the Assyrian community are yet to face in reality). Reality is the Chaldeans (apart from few people like myself) do not identify themselves as Assyrians. The same is true with Syriacs. Those who identify themselves as Assyrians do not represent more than 10% of our nation, with close to 80% of them living in Diaspora and not in "Assyria" or Beth Nahrain. Another reality check for the extremists to face.
Our historical decision on April 26, 1999 was made after we were faced with the option of either allowing the Census Bureau to tabulate the Chaldeans as a separate ethnic category (which I am sure the Assyrian extremists, Baathy government and the Kurds would love to see) or go for the compromise of the Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac category with its powerful implications that we are one nation, one ethnic group, one code, and one total. Add to that, statistics will not be published to show how many will register as Assyrians, Chaldeans, or Syriacs. Part of our joint agreement that to do so will be counter productive, and against our belief that we're one indivisable nation with its different communities identifying themselves with different names.
Most of all, our decision is based on a mutual agreement that we'll be forming a "National Name Committee" compromising of scholars and religious members of the different communities of our nation. That committee will meet and agree CONSCIOUSLY on an acceptable name that will be the official name our nation will be called by. The task of the committee is to conclude prior to Census 2010 so we can go back again to the Census Bureau and submit our SINGLE, AGREED BY ALL, name. (Here, you can use your resources to lobby for the Assyrian name, but you must convince other communities to accept it and not impose it on them).
Our decision will have the greatest positive impact on our people in Iraq (where it matters most). Our signal is clear to the Kurds and Baath government and its opposition that Chaldeans (who compromise 75% of our nation there), Assyrians, and Syriacs are ONE NATION. This signal is sent not by what some small Assyrian political groups are claiming, but by the MAIN STREAM Chaldean, Assyrian, and Syriac representatives. Such message is more powerful (and with positive consequences) than your agenda of "keeping the purity of the name intact". What matters most is the UNITY of our nation and not the PURITY of the name. What matters most is to add the resources of the MAIN STREAM Chaldean and Syriac communities to work hand in hand with the members of the Assyrian community to achieve our national rights. That is, instead of wasting our resources fighting over the name issue and in direct collision with each other.
Finally, and again since I was (and still is) an active member of the Chaldean, Assyrian, and Syriac communities of our nation, I can assure you that what we did on April 16, 1999 will enter our nation's history as the brightest, long due decision for the survival of our Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac nation. One nation.. (currently) different names.
Time will heal the name-division, but hate statements, imposition of will on others, and ignorant acts will only serve to deepen the divisions in our nation. All to the delight of the racist Baathists and their Kurdish counter parts. It's your choice which side you want history to count you on.
Our nation's march towards complete unity has just begun!
Member of the
Joint Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac Census 2000 committee
PS: Let your members read my statement, so they could make a decision based on facts and not emotional fantasies. Please, post my message next to your Census 2000 website. Please, forward my message to anyone else.
Second Letter, Sent 5/14/99 to Zenda Internet Magazine which was published.
Zenda's "No Compromise" and the Real Questions
I am reading with interest this emotional outburst about the subject of Census 2000. It's clear to me that this outburst is based on ignorance of the facts as well as on concentrating on the wrong question and the wrong issue.
I am also quite perplexed that the "Assyrian" side is just starting discussing a 2-years issue. I know the "Chaldeans" have been holding meetings with their community for the past one full year. Mar Orahem came to Turlock and talked about it many times on TV (where were you guys??). I don't believe its a problem with only the leadership of the "Assyrian" community but rather with the current existing mentality among the followers of the Church of the East. That is, they attended meetings (and listened to Mar Orahem), however, they always declared the "purity" of their position against the "contaminated" (Chaldeans). Concluding that, they went home happy that everything is honkey donkey.
On April 26, 1999 some woke up and realized that "the other side did not buy their argument". Now what shall they do? Call me and other Committee members "traitors" or should they blame themselves for falling in the trap of the "self righteous" and refusing to deal with the Chaldeans and Syriacs as the latter see themselves and not as how those "puritans" see them and define their name?
As a member of the committee who was closely involved with the decision making process and in close contact with all concerned parties, I am hereby, and once again, making it clear what's at stake for our nation:
The question that seems to be missing from Zenda "piece" of "no compromise"
(and those who subscribe to its line of thinking) is NOBODY seems to ask
and answer the question: DO YOU WANT TO BE TABULATED DIFFERENTLY THAN THE
CHALDEANS? i.e. WILL YOU (FOR THE SAKE OF KEEPING THE PURITY OF YOUR NAME
and all your other "emotional needs") RATHER TELL THE WORLD THAT THE CHALDEANS
ARE NOT OF THE SAME ETHNIC GROUP AS YOU (the glorified Assyrian)?
That is the $1 million question that neither "Zenda's piece" nor any of you seems are willing to answer. In other words your options are:
A- Keep the Assyrian category strictly for Assyrians, while the Chaldeans will go their separate ethnic identity.
B- Go for the compromise of Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac with its clear message that WE ARE ONE NATION WITH THE REALITY OF DIFFERENT NAMES. In addition to the many other positive consequences that follow from this MUTUAL-RESPECT for each other needs and peculiarities. You CAN NOT solve any problem if you come to the table believing the other side has to change his/her name because YOU believe it's wrong. In other words, YOU HAVE TO respect the Chaldeans and Syriacs CHOICE and LOVE for THEIR name if you want to deal with them (i.e. they know about "your argument". They just don't buy it!!). Only with mutual respect we can open the doors to solving our nation's problems.
Please, do not answer me with answer number C (i.e. keep the category as 1990). Answer C DOES NOT EXIST. IT'S NOT ON THE TABLE. PERIOD.
Remember the Census Bureau MADE A FINAL DECISION giving the Chaldeans a SEPARATE ETHNIC category. Remember also, the Chaldeans (after making the compromise) REJECTED (again REJECTED) the decision of the Census Bureau (thanks to my efforts and those great nationalists on the Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac Census 2000 committee).
Once you clearly and thoughtfully think of the consequences, I am sure you'll come back with one of the two choices; either you go your separate way than the Chaldeans and Syriacs (and with that you show us your true "nationalist" color or more acurately proving to all that "Assyrian means Church of the East members only") or you'll join me and celebrate our great achievement of April 26, 1999. THERE IS NO OTHER WAY.
Finally, to those who are invoking the memory of our martyrs, I say, please, stop insulting them by claiming that they died for the sake of the "name" and not for sake of "their nation". I also hope that some of those "Assyrians only" remember that the delegation under the leadership of Agha Putros went to the League of Nations to ask for the rights of the "Assyro-Chaldean" people and not for "Assyrians only". Are you MORE nationalist than Agha Putros?
The UNITY of our nation is always MORE important than the PURITY of the name.
Third Letter, dated 5/21/99 and sent to Sargon Aprem, Webmaster of Atour.com and others.
What happened with the Census Bureau?
I thought by now your two questions are answered in many places and
by many people.
Here is my side of the story:
1) What prompted the Census Bureau to change this classification this
2) What were the names of the individuals the Census Bureau spoke to that prompted the Bureau to consider changing/adding the classification?
ans: Let me first give you some background:
In 1990,the Chaldean side was not happy with being tabulated as a sub-group under Assyrian. Then they tried to do something about it but didn't have enough time. They believe that their name is as good as the Assyrian. They are going by the name of the last Mesopotamian empire, that of the Babylonian dynasty of the Chaldeans (whose name all our people were referred to at the time). The Assyrian section is going by the name of the earlier Mesopotamian empire (the Syriacs are going by the "Christian" name our people were known by after the fall of our empires). It's a simple "name preference" and not "ethnic problem" i.e. no one there is claiming they're of different ethnic group than the "Assyrians". They do not believe their name is religious because as Fr. Sarhad Jammo puts it "the Chaldeans were pagans so how do you claim that our Christian Church's name takes after them??". Bottom line is "their name is as good as yours, and they will not be a subgroup of you"!! I am here simply stating their position.
Now, came Census 2000, two years ago they formed "Chaldeans for Census 2000" committee supported by the Chaldean church. The Chaldean church, finally aware of the Arabisation problem facing its constituency decided to emphasis the "Chaldean" identity versus the "Arabic" (yes, there are some priests who are also using it against "Assyrian" but none of them is our US Chaldean Bishop Mar Orahem Orahem (Ibrahim Ibrahim) nor Fr. Sarhad Jammo. They both are very nationalistic with clean intentions. I know of other Baathi-supported Chaldean priests in our community.
Around a year ago, Mar Orahem went to Chicago and met with certain representatives of the "Assyrian" community and asked for the Assyrian/Chaldean category. He was rebuffed. Another group from the Chaldean Federation went and faced the same response. They got "pissed off" (which exactly what happened), because they believed they were treated in a "very arrogant and disrespectful manner" (as one of them put it to me). So they decided to use their power and influence on the US Census Bureau to go their separate way, which finally they did. They invited the Census Bureau to Detroit to meet with them and in a tour of the city to meet with the people there. They went to Washington, DC. They used their relation with Senator Abraham of Michigan (who's due for re-election and needs their money!). In response, the Census Bureau put an extensive team to study the issue. They requested to meet with groups from the Assyrian side, employed researchers to study the history of the two communities. Read dozens of articles (including mine: One Nation..two names: The Assyrian/Chaldean Dilemma..could be read on (http://www.jps.net/ghanna/ghassan/dilemma-part1.html)). The Assyrian side of Chicago elected Dr. John Michael to be the US Census Bureau contact on the issue (that is over Mr. Carlo Gengh who was taking a long nap during the entire period. I never heard of his name, neither did the Chaldeans, nor the Census Bureau, nor did he ever bother to call John during the entire 8 months John was involved in the process (not even once!)...Now, he signs his name as "Assyrian Federation Census 2000 PRESIDENT". No one heard of him till TWO FULL WEEKS after April 26, 1999 decision. What a "president"). Who elected John Michael? Everyone I talked to from Sargon Lewie to John Nimrod told me to deal with John. Neither of the two asked me to talk to Carlo Gengh. Dr. Michael brought the Census Bureau to visit Chicago and meet with representatives of the community there. Which they did four months ago. Where was Mr. Carlo Gengha then? In other words, everyone in Chicago KNEW that Dr. Michael was "their man" with the Census Bureau.
I joined the committee 6 months ago when the "Assyrian" side was looking for "Chaldeans" to counter the argument of "Chaldeans for Census 2000 committee". So I got the call from Dr. Michael to join a group of scholars (Dr. Eden Nabby and Dr. Abdul Masseh Saadi) on a conference call to give them our understanding of the situation and our position of "keeping things as 1990 category". After that conference call, the "following up" and "keeping the pressure" on the Census Bureau became John's and my responsibility. We made tons of phone calls with the Census Bureau and other Chaldean and Assyrian individuals (me also closely with Bishop Orahem to keep the line open with the Chaldean side. To my disappointment, the two sides hardly spoke with each other. They did..but not seriously, with the Assyrian side "betting" that the Chaldeans will lose. That's why they never thought of an alternative to "what if they win? Then what?" That's why you see the current mess on the Assyrian side. They want NOW to discuss what to do!!)
The Census Bureau finally requested a final meeting with us to get their decision. The meeting was agreed on April 26 and to be joint with ALL concerned parties. On Wednesday April 21, John and I made a personal call to Census Bureau and were told that a decision is in the making to give the Chaldeans a separate ethnic category. Next day, April 22 Thursday morning we were faxed a letter from the Chief, Population Division stating "At this time, our research and consultations provide substantial support for recognizing Chaldeans as an ethnic classification".
John called me and asked me what's next and "that's a disaster for our people". I told him we should not accept that. Yes, that's disastrous to our people especially in Iraq. ZOWAA could be completely written off by the Kurds. The Bathists will make a "monkey of us and say "you could not even agree among yourselves even in America" .etc..etc.. The decision will have international implications against our people. We should try for the "slash" option to keep the message we are one ethnic group after all. We agreed that he'll push in Chicago, while I'll try again with Detroit. Next day morning, Friday April 23, I secured a decision by the Chaldeans that they'll accept to drop the separate category if the Assyrian side will accept the "slash" option. In the afternoon, Abger Mallol of M'Takesta exchanged phone calls with me in addition to another Assyrian individual. They both agreed on the "slash". John came back with "agree" decision. Next day, Saturday, April 24, I arranged a phone conference between Chicago and Detroit. The meeting was attended by Fr. Sarhad Jammo and Sam Yono (previous Chaldean Federation president and its current new candidate). On the Assyrian side, John Michael, Eden Naby, Abger Malol, Abdul-Maseeh Saadi, and Norman Solkha. It lasted 1.5 hours. We concluded with a joint position towards the Census Bureau with the Chaldeans "refusing to accept the Bureau's decision" and all agreeing on the "slash" category.
Monday, April 26, conference call was attended by 11 members from the
Joseph Kassab, Fr. Sarhad Jammo, Sam Yono, John McKay, Julie Hakim
John Michael, Eden Naby, Abger Malol, Abdul-Maseeh Saadi, and Norman Solkha.
It started with census bureau telling us their final decision of considering the Chaldeans as separate ethnic group than the Assyrians. John then asked me to respond and speak on behalf of the joint Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac group. I stated our joint position and agreement on the "slash" option. Fr. Sarhad confirmed it, followed by John, then by Abger (for the Syriacs). We stated we want no statistics to be published to indicate how many will register as Chaldeans, Assyrians, or Syriacs. That it should be one code with one total count. That this is a temporary decision till 2010 when we'll come back (hopefully) with one national name without slashes. The Census Bureau, Chief of Population division congratulated us, followed by other Census members who wished our people all the best.
Missing in all of this is one very powerful US organization which was watching the process behind the scene and hoping we'll not be that stupid and destroy ourselves into different categories.
Hope you got the answers to your questions.
ps:1. Wilfred al-Khas of Zenda and Carlo Gengh went "jointly" on our local San Jose Assyrian Club TV last Friday, with Wilfred calling openly for separate categories for the Chaldeans and Assyrians and Carlo attacking the decision. Many people here were outraged. Both got several phone calls. By the way, the priest of San Jose Assyrian Church of the East told his parishoners of the decision two weeks ago. He fully supports it.
2. My cost: I can easily say I spent no less than $700 worth of phone calls on the Census issue. Hundreds of hours of my time, and lately hate messages and insults. However, no regrets, I did that because I love my people and nation. I know most of the people (sooner or later) will appreciate our committee's work.