AUAF’s Bizarre Behavior Continues…

one womanOn International Women’s Day, March 8, 2017, a tribute to 12 Assyrian women was posted on the Assyrian Universal Alliance Foundation’s (AUAF) website penned by a young woman,  Reine Hanna. Shortly thereafter, in a haste, AUAF leadership including president Tiglat Issabey allegedly ordered the removal of the tribute. This action resulted in an immediate outcry from the Assyrian community around the globe as evidenced by the multitude of posts and comments on Facebook and Twitter.

In a bizarre plot twist, rather than issuing a heartfelt apology, AUAF threw Ms. Hanna under the bus by having her issue a forced letter of apology for her role as the villain in this macabre tale.

AUAF is one of the oldest Assyrian institutions in America. Today it is a male dominated “boys club.” There is only one woman, Ms. Helen Badawi, who holds a seat on the board while the president and the balance of the board members are men: Mr. Tiglat Issabey (president), Mr. Joseph Badalpour, Mr. Tiglad Ashorian, Mr. Billy Mendo, Mr. Ed Yonan, Mr. Edmond Ebrahimi, and Mr. John Guliana.

In the aftermath of the AUAF’s alleged decision to pull Ms. Hanna’s tribute, they eventually capitulated to issuing a formal apology. But the apology was far from genuine as it did not come from the president or the board. A misguided clumsy attempt to address the issue distorted Ms. Hanna’s intent and used her as the scapegoat in this grotesque fiasco.

Ms. Hanna’s genuine attempt at elevating a handful of women of her nation by way of a beautiful tribute has been perverted by the men of AUAF. Would it not have been more productive to applaud her initiative and encourage her to continue to highlight the accomplishments of other Assyrian women from around the world?

A simple apology by the AUAF leadership would have gone a long way to swiftly put this entire episode to rest. Instead they chose to hide behind the skirt of a young woman and make her apologize for her supposed misdeeds in writing the tribute in the first place. How dare she write about a few fellow Assyrian women? What about the rest? I’m really surprised the men of AUAF haven’t stoned Ms. Hanna yet.

In an attempt to save face, Mr. Issabey has clearly coerced Ms. Hanna to issue the ridiculous apology posted on AUAF’s Facebook page. Judging from all the comments this has now turned into a contentious issue. Perhaps Mr. Issabey will issue yet another executive order for the removal of the comments.

I will always hold Ms. Reine Hanna in the highest regard. Her heart was absolutely in the right place and when the men of AUAF couldn’t bring themselves to utter the words “we apologize,” she was unnecessarily and unfairly burdened with the responsibility.

Stay strong and hold your head up high, Reine Hanna. We have your back.

/RMY

AUAF Removes Tibute to Assyrian Women on International Women’s Day

IMG_6866In late 2005, I was in Chicago promoting my book, The Crimson Field. One of the stops on my tour was at the Assyrian National Council of Illinois on Peterson where I met a lovely 13-year-old Assyrian girl with beauutiful inquisitive eyes. Her name was Reine Hanna. After my presentation, she approached me and we spoke at some length about Assyrian history and the Assyrian Genocide. I autographed Reine’s book and made her promise to never forget our history. As I watched her walk away, I wondered if our paths would cross again.

She is in her twenties now and as fate would have it, we did reconnect after all these years. I am so proud to see how she has blossomed into an articulate and caring young woman and a passionate and dedicated activist.

March 8, 2017, on the occasion of the International Women’s Day, this thoughtful young woman decided to honor twelve Assyrian woman she selected from around the world by writing about their accomplishments and highlighting their contributions to the Assyrian community. I was honored to be included in her list and delighted to be amongst the other fabulous women whom I already admired as strong role models for the Assyrian youth. I don’t believe any of the women selected knew this was coming. It was a surprise to us all.

On the morning of March 8th, the tribute was posted on the Assyrian Universal Alliance Federation’s website and linked on Facebook. Within an hour the post went viral and then suddenly the link to the AUAF page disappeared leaving a lot of unanswered questions. Family and friends who had grabbed screenshots of the individual articles, began to tag and share them. Soon the tribute was back on Facebook in bits and pieces. Like a jigsaw puzzle, everyone was piecing it back together.

As the day wore off speculations floated around as to why the link to the page at AUAF was no longer working. Clearly it wasn’t just a technical glitch. Everyone was posting theories as to what was going on. Eventually we learned that the AUAF Leadership had ordered the tribute post to be pulled. What they failed to consider was that it was too late to un-ring the bell. The post was already flooding Facebook news feeds and Twitter.

When on the occasion of International Women’s Day, AUAF Leadership ordered the tribute to Assyrian women be removed, not only did they insult those 12 Assyrian women, but also insulted all Assyrian women around the globe by sending a message that denigrating women was acceptable. Their callous disregard for the women of their own nation was inexcusable and at the very least a public apology should have been in order. However, I have personally decided to forgive AUAF’s lack of sound judgment and instead choose to stand tall with my Assyrian sisters because that’s what a strong women would do.

Assyrian women are the heart of our nation. Without them, the heart will beat no more. They should be celebrated everyday and not just once a year. I hope that the thoughtful young woman who created the 2017 tribute to Assyrian women will expand the list and continue to honor other women as well. What a wonderful way to get to know all the fabulous Assyrian women around the globe. I would encourage her to create a Facebook page where she can promote Assyrian women from all walks of life and do so without fear of censorship or retribution.

“Never look down at anyone unless you are extending a hand to lift them up.”

/RMY