On 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.