The first photo with the sign, “Save Us From Extinction” is probably the most powerful of all. Here I am, as a first generation American and I’m fighting for my culture’s survival thousands of miles away from the homeland. It seems like it’s become a second job to make sure I’m involved with every organization that is sending money overseas to help my fellow Assyrians during this time of war. The problem is… it’s never ending. The wars are never ending. My culture has never known peace. I wrote a brief history of the three most recent wars that have targeted my Assyrians in the middle-east in a previous post. In 1915 there was a genocide called Seyfo meaning “sword” in my language that targeted the Greek, Armenian and Assyrian cultures, most popularly known as the Armenian genocide… though most people are unaware that two other cultures were targeting in this war as well. Nearly 20 years after Seyfo, there was another Assyrian genocide in 1933 called the Pramta d-Simele committed by the armed forces of the country of Iraq, who, systematically targeted the Assyrian people in northern Iraq… which later pushed thousands of Assyrians to migrate to Syria (who’s now undergoing a civil war).Presently,there is a terrorist group that’s targeting the Christian minorities in the northern part of Iraq and Syria, called ISIS, who’s sole purpose is to eliminate anyone who does not agree with their religion or cultural beliefs (ISIS started in small Assyrian towns before expanding and landing national news broadcasts due to their killing and beheadings of American journalists).
So here I am, as a first generation Assyrian fighting for my people’s rights and fighting for a safe haven for them by conducting marches and reaching out to government officials. Unfortunately, there is a limited amount of things I can do from here. The second photo is of my friend Martin who had planned out a speech that was later televised and broadcasted on Assyrian and local television news stations. The photo of my little cousin Tommy holding the Assyrian flag is merely a symbol for what has kept us going over thousands of years. These three photos I took recently at an Assyrian march that was held in downtown Phoenix to raise awareness to the atrocities happening in the middle-east, currently, to our Assyrian people (by ISIS).
The next photo is a selfie (yes, a selfie) of me standing in front of The Code of Hammurabi inside the Louvre Museum in Paris. The Code of Hammurabi is a law of code dating back nearly 2,000 years B.C. Some of the laws included judgments that would occur under any case of slander, theft, and even a law that made it illegal to sell food without obtaining a receipt of the transaction. This simple artifact that change this era of civilization and created order at such an early age is just breathtaking. Although the Code of Hammurabi is 300 years younger than the Code of Ur-Nammu (also from the Mesopotamian region), both are know to be the oldest in legitimate legal text. The next photo is another large clay tablet taken by me in the British Museum not long ago. This tablet shows writing in Cuneiform, which is the world’s earliest form of writing and was invented by my ancestors, cool right? This is just another reminder that my culture, my traditions, my people do not deserve to be simply killed off or to be continually tormented. It’s painful to see my people undergo such stress for the lack of help we cannot provide to our people back home.
We’re losing ourselves in our fear of staying alive. As incredibly dramatic as that may sound, it’s also incredibly accurate.
I’ll end on a lighter note and throw in a photo of a pot of grape leaves I helped prepare with my mom for Thanksgiving. Indeed, even our American traditions have been altered to accommodate our own culture. So we had grape leaves and kuba sitting next to a big turkey and mashed potatoes…. and I’m not complaining. All of these photos make up who I am today and what I struggle with, underneath it all.