Kerry Kennedy

It was such an honor and privilege to read posts on Facebook and Twitter from Kerry Kennedy who included me in Women’s History Month Spotlight. Thank you, Ms. Kennedy, for this unexpected recognition.

Kerry Kennedy is the President of Robert F. Kennedy Center Human Rights and the author of “Speak Truth To Power” and “Being Catholic Now.”

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12 Incredible Assyrian Women Around the World

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By Reine Hanna

March 8, 2017 marks International Women’s Day. Here are 12 of many Assyrian women inspiring positive change across the globe. (The list is not in any order)

Attiya Gamri (Haarlem, Netherlands)

Born in Tur Abdin, Turkey, Attiya Gamri is an Assyrian member of parliament in the Netherlands. Attiya is also the President of the newly established Assyrian Confederation of Europe, and as such is the leading voice for more than 500,000 Assyrians across Europe. In this new role, Attiya advocates forcefully for the rights of Assyrians in the homeland, and looks to build stronger diaspora communities in European countries.


Rosie Malek-Yonan
 (California)

Rosie Malek-Yonan is a woman who wears many hats. She has gained international recognition as an actress, author, and activist—among many other things. Born in Tehran, Iran, she is a descendant of one of the oldest and most prominent Assyrian families. Rosie has dedicated much of her career to advocating for the rights of Assyrians, using her platform to bring attention to the Assyrian Genocide of 1914-1918. She has starred in major Hollywood films. As a human rights activist, Rosie has challenged world leaders for their failure to protect Assyrian communities in the Middle East.

 Jonta, “Yimma d’Nahla” (Nahla, Iraq)
Photos of Jonta bravely standing up to Kurdish police were all over Facebook and Twitter when Kurdish police attempted to block a protest organized by Assyrians. The protest was with regard to ongoing theft of Assyrian land in northern Iraq in response to attempted encroachment in her beloved hometown Nahla. Known a affectionately as “Yimma d’Nahla” meaning the mother of Nahla, she risked her life by demanding that Assyrians from Nahla be allowed to pass in order to reach Erbil and join the protest, proving no one is tougher than an Assyrian woman.
Helen MalkoHelen Malko (New York City, New York)
Dr. Helen Malko is a Research Associate at the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University. Born in Iraq, she received a PhD in archaeology and anthropology from Stony Brook University, and a Master’s degree in archaeology of the Ancient Near East from Baghdad University. She also holds a diploma in Historic Preservation from Rutgers University. Her current research is focused on the ongoing deliberate destruction of monuments and historical landscapes in Iraq and Syria, and she was recently in Iraq doing fieldwork. She has also testified in U.S. Senate Hearings to address the cultural heritage crisis in Iraq and Syria.
Nineveh Dinha (Salt Lake City, Utah)

Swedish-born Assyrian Nineveh Dinha is the founder of HER Magazine. She spent a decade working as a journalist for local television stations in Arizona (KYMA, NBC) and Utah (KSTU, FOX) and made appearances on Fox News, before pursuing her dream of launching her own digital publication. Through HER Magazine, Nineveh seeks to recognize the pioneering achievements of today’s women – who are forging the path for others to make their mark.

Muna Yaku (Erbil, Iraq)

Dr. Muna Yaku is a Professor of Law at Salhaddin University in Erbil. She is a widely respected advocate for Assyrian rights in Iraq. She was elected to serve as the only representative of Assyrians on a committee formed when the Kurdistan Regional Government began drafting a new constitution in 2015. Members of the KRG Constitutional Committee sought to reduce the rights of minorities during the process. Despite the pressure, she fought forcefully for the rights of Assyrians. When it became clear that her demands would not be met, she bravely walked o the committee in protest, saying “These are my principles, and I will never betray my people. I will not take part in the exploitation of my people.”

Sumer Homeh (Nairobi, Kenya)

Sumer Homeh is the founder and CEO of LocalAid, an organization that strives to empower vulnerable children and marginalized communities in Kenya. Under Sumer’s leadership, LocalAid has established a number of sustainable development projects which are aimed at ending poverty, such as the LocalAid Community Health Clinic, providing free services for people living with HIV/AIDS, and the New Horizon Family, a home for former street children, providing all of their basic needs and practical education in sustainable agricultural skills. An Assyrian native to Australia, she is a long way from home.


Savina Dawood (Ankawa, Iraq)

Co-founding Etuti Institute is just the latest item to be added to Savina Dawood’s resume. A beloved Assyrian activist, Savina has made a name for herself by voicing human rights violations against Assyrians in Iraq and Syria. She has dedicated her life to humanitarian work, entering conflict zones and providing food, shelter, water, and medicine to internally displaced people. Through Etuti, Savina works to empower Assyrian children and young adults in Iraq and Syria—in the hopes of creating a new generation of leaders in the Assyrian homeland.

Atorina Zomaya (Chicago, Illinois)

Atorina Zomaya is the founder of Assyrian Kitchen—an interactive cooking show based out of her hometown Chicago. Assyrian Kitchen explores traditions and ingredients that make up the Assyrian cuisine. Known for her contagious smile and entrepreneurial spirit, Atorina has recently partnered with the Oriental Institute to host Assyrian cooking classes. She was also recently featured on Windy City Live for her newest product, Buried Cheese. Outside of the Kitchen, she has been involved in a number of cultural and humanitarian projects related to Assyrians.

Maryam Shamalta (San Jose, California) 

Maryam Shamalta has quickly become a household name in the Assyrian community worldwide. The host of “Khayla d’Attayouta” or The Assyrian Feminine Power on Assyrian National Broadcast, Maryam uses her weekly television program as a platform to empower Assyrian women. Each week, she invites inspiring Assyrian women onto her show to talk about their achievements in their various fields. In a community that has traditionally has been dominated by male personalities, Maryam has changed the game.

Kara Hermez (Stockholm, Sweden)

Kara Hermez is an Assyrian activist based in Sweden known for her courage. She is an international advocate for Assyrian rights in Iraq and Syria, representing Swedish Assyrians in the Assyrian Confederation of Europe. She has been featured in a number of television programs and various publications regarding her work as an Assyrian. Just last month, she returned home to northern Iraq with two Swedish journalists highlighting injustices faced by Assyrians in the region.

Samar George (Khabour, Syria)

Samar George is barely recognizable now as a soldier in the Assyrian Khabour Guards. In 2016, photos of Samar kneeling over her husband’s casket went viral after he was killed in action just months after they’d married. Not long afterwards, photos surfaced of Samar in uniform, training with the Khabour Guards. She decided to honor her husband’s sacrifice and carry on his mission by taking his place on the battlefield, defending Assyrian lands against terrorism and other threats. The Assyrian region of Khabour in northeastern Syria saw its darkest period when ISIS invaded its villages in February of 2015. It is said that Samar now carries her late husband’s gun.

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This article is re-published with permission from the author, Reine Hanna.

To Wikipedia Editors & Biographers

March 7, 2017

It has come to my attention that a Wikipedia editor who goes by the named LouisAragon is at it again trying to change my Assyrian identity to Iranian on a Wikipedia Article about me and then proceeded to add me to various Iranian groups. There is no dispute and it is not up for discussion by anyone that my nationality was not, is not, and will never be Iranian. It is not for LouisAragon or anyone else to alter this reality or make misrepresentations as this Wikipedia so-called editor has been doing for a few years. LouisAragon’s obsession with me, verging on cyber stalking, is extremely alarming and Wikipedia needs to put a stop to it immediately, restore my nationality to Assyrian-American, and remove me from any and all Iranian categories, and groups on Wikipedia.

Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that Everyone has the right to a nationality, and No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

My birthplace does not define my nationality. I am a U.S. citizen and I choose America as my home where I have lived much of my life.

So to all you so-called Wikipedia Editors and Biographers who continually try to alter my nationality based on your limited knowledge of who I am, just stop. 

Since Wikipedia has blocked me, and my representatives from making corrections to an article that is about me, I will post responses to its so-called editors here on my Blog, Twitter, Facebook Fan Page, and my Personal Websites. I will not be misrepresented and bullied by Wikipedia.

March 8, 2017 Update to My Post

Wikipedia’s all-knowing-so-called editor, LouisAragon, continues to argue/rant that he/she knows my nationality better than I (being the subject and primary source), assumes to know how many years I’ve spent in Iran and now further assumes to knows the birthplace of my parents to be Iran. Is this how these so-called editors contribute to Wikipedia? By assumption or bullying? Really? LouisAragon can best serve Wikipedia by refraining to inflict his/her views on biographies of living people. Perhaps this so-called editor’s skills should be exercised on biographies of the dearly departed. There’s bound to be less objections at least directly from the subjects of the articles.

NOTE: My next post Listen Up, Wikipedia will continue to develop and update  this post on Wikipedia’s Anti-Assyrian bullies.

/RMY

Assyrian Martyr’s Day

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In August of 1933, the Simele Massacre would become the first of many massacres committed by the Iraqi government against the Assyrians of Northern Iraq. The systemic targeting of this Christian nation rapidly extended throughout 63 Assyrian villages in the Dohuk and Mosul districts resulting in the deaths of 3,000 Assyrians.

The Simele Massacre would also become the inspiration for Ralph Lemkin who would later coin the term “genocide.” In 1933, Lemkin made a presentation at the League of Nations Conference on international criminal law in Madrid. His essay on the Crime of Barbarity as a crime against international law was presented to the Legal Council. Based on the Simele massacre, Lemkin’s concept of the crime would later evolve into the idea of “genocide.”

Today, Assyrians around the world commemorate this event on August 7th as the Assyrian Martyr’s Day.

Akitu, Assyrian New Year 6761!

Happy Assyrian New Year, Akitu! 6761 years and still standing strong!

Akitu, is the Assyrian New Year Festival. In Assyrian it is also called Kha b’Neesan which translates into “the first day of Spring.”

The Akitu Festival began with the Sumerians. The word Akitu means “barley” in Akkadian. The Sumerian calendar had two festivals one in the Autumn beginning in the month ofTashritu in celebration of the “sowing of barley,” the other in Spring, beginning in the month of Nisannu celebrating the “cutting of barley.”

The Babylonians celebrated Akitu but only in Nisannu, a festival that lasted eleven days in honor of the supreme god Marduk and his crown prince Nabu.

The Assyrians also adopted the Akitu Festival when in 683 BC King Sennacherib built two Akitu Houses, one outside the walls of Assur, and the other outside Nineveh.

Modern day Assyrians continued to celebrate the festival but called it Kha b’Nisan, the first day of Nisan or Spring, however, it is usually observed on April 1st, which corresponds to the start of the Assyrian calendar. In recent years, the Akkadian name, Akituhas been re-adopted by Assyrians and is the most important national festival.

After the invasion of Babylon, the Persians adopted many Assyrian and Babylonian customs and practices. The celebration of Norooz (new day) on 21 March, has its roots in the Akitu Festival.

© 2011 Rosie Malek-Yonan. All Rights Reserved.

Fox News: Christians Persecuted in Iraq

FOX 11 News video report.

Published : Tuesday, 21 Dec 2010, 2:49 AM PST

Reporter: Christine Devine

Posted by: myFOXla.com

Los Angeles – Christians who live in Iraq are targets of terror, and becoming an endangered species. That’s the disturbing message coming from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, where leaders of many faiths came together to call attention to what’s happening.

On October 31st, suicide bombers attacked a Christian church in Baghdad, killing 68 people.

The Christian community says al Qaida has targeted them, and that the church bombing is the latest of many incidents.

Thousands of Iraqi Christians are leaving the country.

Rosie Malek-Yonan, author of The Crimson Field, the story of the massacre of Assyrian Christians a century ago, weighs in on whether history is repeating itself.

Related Articles The Christian Post and Christian Today Australia:

Faith Leaders: Stop Religicide of Iraqi Christians

Assyrian Christians will be among those minority groups that will not be free to worship as they choose this Christmas, according to Rosie Malek-Yonan, Assyrian activist and author of The Crimson Field, which chronicles events of the Assyrian genocide in Iraq.

“They will be playing a game of Russian roulette,” Malek-Yonan said. “They never know when they leave home to attend church if that is going to be their last mass, if that is going to be the last time they will leave home.”

YouTube Link

Rosie Malek-Yonan Speaks at the Simon Wiesenthal Center

(Los Angeles) – In the aftermath of the October 31, 2010 Massacre at the Church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad, the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, California, hosted a Press Conference at the Museum of Tolerance on Monday December 20, 2010, to expose the crisis that the Assyrian nation has been facing in Iraq.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States.

Assyrian activist, Ms. Rosie Malek-Yonan, and religious leaders of various faiths were invited to attend the conference to call attention to the extermination of Assyrian Christians in Iraq.

Conference speakers included Ms. Rosie Malek-Yonan, author of The Crimson Field, Dr. Carl Moeller, CEO of Open Doors, Fr. Alexei Smith, Director, Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, Imam Jihad Turk, Director of Religious Affairs of the Islamic Center of Southern California and Swami Sarvadevananda, Assistant Minister of the Vedanta Society of Southern California.

Also in attendance were Randolph Dobbs, Secretary of the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of Los Angeles, Nirinjan Singh Khalsa, Executive Director of the California Sikh Council and Joel Pilcher, V.P. of Communications for Open Door.

In his introduction, Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, director of Interfaith Affairs at The Simon Wiesenthal Center noted that the systematic campaign of persecution of Christians in Iraq, namely the Assyrians, was a repeat of what happened to the Jews in the1940’s.  He thanked Ms. Malek-Yonan for bringing the plight of the Assyrians in Iraq to the attention of the Wiesenthal Center and said,  “We call on all people of faith, and all Americans, to speak up for the embattled Christians of Iraq and against the disturbing pattern of violence against other faiths and places of worship.”

In her media address, Ms. Malek-Yonan thanked the Wiesenthal Center and Rabbi Adlerstein for hosting the press conference but stressed the importance of not reducing the Assyrian Nation to a mere religious designation as it only served to further eradicate the Assyrians from their crumbling ancestral homeland.

An outspoken advocate of the Assyrian identity, Ms. Malek-Yonan said, “Assyrians were in the region long before Iraq was a country and long before the advent of Christianity.”  She spoke of the personal nature of the Iraq War against her nation.  “This war is personal.  It is my nation…my blood.”  Her heartfelt comments struck a chord with the attendees as I glanced around the room and witnessed the quiet nods in solidarity. “The Assyrians in Iraq will be playing a game of Russian roulette this Christmas.  They never know when they leave home to attend church, if that is going to be their last mass.”

Ms. Malek-Yonan spoke of the crimes committed against the Assyrian nation in Iraq since the beginning of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.  She criticized the silence of the western media in the face of the ongoing atrocities committed against her vulnerable nation including sixty-six bombed churches, massacre, kidnappings for ransom, murder and the total devastation of lives.

Ms. Malek-Yonan also touched upon the Assyrian Genocide of 1914-1918 and the Semele Massacre of Assyrians in Iraq and explained that the term genocide was coined as a result of the Semele Massacre.

The conference attendees called on the U.S. House of Representatives to pass HR 1725, a resolution “condemning and deploring the murderous attacks, bombings, kidnappings, and threats against vulnerable religious communities in Iraq.”

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the day came at the conclusion of the Conference, when Imam Jihad Turk, Director of Religious Affairs of the Islamic Center, expressed to Ms. Malek-Yonan his disdain for the maltreatment of the Christians in Iraq.

Ms. Malek-Yonan asked, “Why then do you not stand with us and make public statements condemning the acts of violence and aggression against Christian Assyrians?  Why have the peace loving Moslems not attended any of the Black Marches around the globe in opposition to the Baghdad Church Massacre?

“We didn’t know what was going on in Iraq.  No one informed us,” Mr. Turk replied.

“So now you know, Mr. Turk.  Now you are informed,” replied Ms. Malek-Yonan.

In a follow-up to the Press Conference, Ms. Malek-Yonan, was interviewed by Fox News that aired the same evening in a live broadcast.

The YouTube link to the Fox News interview can be found here.

After leaving the Museum of Tolerance, I sat down with Ms. Malek-Yonan to ask her a few questions.  She graciously obliged.

Miller: I noticed when you got up to speak today, you had a prepared statement but then you folded it and spoke from your heart.  Can you elaborate on that?

Ms. Malek-Yonan: I was very honored and appreciative to be given the opportunity to speak at the Conference, but I was also getting annoyed that the Assyrian identity was kept out of the equation by all the westerners.  Yes we are a majority Christian nation, but that is separate and apart from our national identity.  I had to address that fact and it became necessary to dispense with my prepared statement and speak from my heart.  I am very much involved in the Assyrian fight for recognition.  I’m part of the movement.  I live it and deal with it daily.

Miller: If you can describe Assyrians in one word what would that be?

Ms. Malek-Yonan: Tolerant.  And how befitting that the Press Conference was held at the Museum of Tolerance.

Miller: Why do you say tolerant?

Ms. Malek-Yonan: Just look at what Assyrians are enduring and yet they don’t retaliate against their oppressors.  When they bomb our churches, we don’t go bombing their mosques.  We remain tolerant.  Perhaps one day our oppressors will learn to be tolerant as well.  They will have to in order to become a democratic society.

Miller: What is your view on the Iraq War?

Ms. Malek-Yonan: You haven’t done your homework if you have to ask me this question.

Miller: I think I know your view.  I want others to know it as well.

Ms. Malek-Yonan: I am absolutely anti war!  I was against the Iraq War from the onset.  War was not the answer because there was no pending question that warranted the attack or invasion of Iraq.  Weapons of Mass Destruction was just a cover story.  Unfortunately the Assyrians and other minorities in Iraq became casualties of a senseless war that has caused devastation and loss of precious life on all sides.

Miller: What about the non-Assyrian or non-Christian Iraqi casualties of war?  Do you ever speak for them?

Ms. Malek-Yonan: They have louder voices and resources than the Assyrians.  There are enough activists and politicians fighting their cause.  But Assyrians have no voice.  As I said before, war devastates all sides.  It’s only natural that I speak for Assyrians.

Miller: What will you do next?

Ms. Malek-Yonan: Continue to write, speak and educate.  Continue to call upon Congress and the European Union to address the crises Assyrians are facing.  Though I know those calls will fall on deaf ears as they have in the past years.  But for the sake of the Assyrians in the homeland and the multitude of refugees still struggling in Iraq’s neighboring countries, we must speak out at every opportunity.

Miller: What keeps you going day after day?

Ms. Malek-Yonan: The belief in the basic goodness of humankind.  I hope that one day we will in fact witness democracy, equality and tolerance not just in Iraq but also throughout the world.  It many not happen in my lifetime, but one has to hold on to hope and work towards bringing that dream, that idea to fruition.  Assyria will never be abandoned because I am not alone in the peaceful battle for her.

Miller: Thank you for your candor and Godspeed.

Ms. Malek-Yonan: My pleasure.

by T. Miller

20 December 2010

Photo of Rosie Malek-Yonan Courtesy of John Chimon