in Bet-Nahren, Assyria
Assyrians Celebrated their New Year with Mass Wedding
Syria (AP) â€“ With a historical pageant evoking the glory of the ancient Assyrian
empire, more than 25,000 members of Syria's Assyrian community saw in their New
Year of 6752 on Monday.
They also celebrated Nissan, as Assyrians call the April 1st festival, with the
wedding of 16 couples performed on a stage in an arena in this northern city,
550 kilometers (345 miles) northeast of Damascus.
The brides and grooms
entered the arena behind a two-wheeled chariot bearing a canopy decorated with a
sun, an Assyrian imperial symbol.
The couples were escorted by men dressed in the uniforms of the royal guards of
the Assyrian empire, which, at its zenith between the 9th and 7th centuries
B.C., stretched form the Gulf through modern-day Iraq, Syria and Turkey to the
â€œBy acting as king, I revived history,â€ said Osama Yakhanis, 31, who drove the
chariot in royal costume along with his â€œqueen,â€ Nanar Younan, 27, who was
dressed as the mythical Assyrian queen Semiramis in a red dress with yellow and
The sense of history was not lost on the bridal couples.
â€œI participated in this
mass wedding for the greatness of the day for Assyrians,â€ said groom Senharib
Gabro, 33, a member of the Syrian Orthodox Church.
bride, Shamiram Eskander, 26, said: â€œI loved this wedding because it was not
â€œI feel very happy today,â€
Another groom, Zuhair
Michael, 30, a mechanic who follows Assyrian Church of the East, said, â€œItâ€™s a
distinguished day.â€ His bride, Marina Mamo, 21, said, â€œI have always dreamed of
wedding in nature. Nissan, or April, is natureâ€™s wedding.â€
The Bridegroom, khamo Quryaqus al-Youssef, 28, from the Chaldean Church, said,
â€œmy bride and I have promised each other to wed on Kha Bâ€™Nissan,â€ and added, â€œI
feel very happy that we could make our promise.â€ Beilit Younan, his 17-year- old
bride, said, â€œitâ€™s a terrific day.â€
One of the two Muslim Arab couples
of the wedding, Mustafa Muhammad Abdulah, 33, a government employee, and Sheerin
Ebrahim, 21, participated in the wedding to â€œjoin Assyrian in their days of
joyance.â€ Anwar Korko, 48, Master in Sciences, and the chief of the organizing
committee of the mass wedding and new yearâ€™s ceremonies, told the Associated
Press, â€œThe wedding and the new year ceremonies cost 3 million Syrian pounds,
â€œThe money was donated by Assyrians from all towns of al-Jazeera, (or Hasaka
province that include the farthest northeastern city of Qamishly),â€ he added.
Gorgo said, â€œThe wedding
couples have been offered house furniture.â€
Archbishop Mar Afram
Athaniel of the Assyrian Church of the East, told The AP the mass wedding â€œwas
to mark the Assyrian New Year, which was celebrated by ancient Assyrians of the
era before Christ and other April Celebrations.â€
â€œThe church doesnâ€™t mind celebrating this historical day as I canâ€™t deny it that
I am an Assyrian
(ethnically),â€ he added.
To the question: who are Assyrians, Athaniel answered, â€œChaldeans, (Orthodox)
Syriacs, Maronites, the followers of my church and other churches constitute the
Archbishop Dionysius Behnan Jajjawi, 72, Syriac Orthodox retired bishop of
Jerusalem and Jordan, said, â€œin 452, in Auphisus ecuminical Synod, the first
schism in church took place dividing the Church of the East into two churches,
Syriac and Assyrian or Nestorian.â€
In 1552, a group of
Assyrian Church decided to seek union with Rome. In early 1553, Pope Julius III
proclaimed Youhana Sulaka as Patriarch Simon VIII of the Chaldeans. Eventually,
Sulakaâ€™s group returned to Assyrian, or Nestorian Church of the East. As late as
1830, Pope Pius vlll confirmed Metropolitan John Hormzidas as head of Chaldean
Catholics, with the title of Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, with his see
in the northwestern Iraqi city of Mosul.
â€œThe followers of the Assyrian Church are about half million all over the
world,: Athniel said, adding, â€œAbout 70,000 of the churchâ€™s followers live in
Chicago, making up the largest Assyrian community in the United States.â€
Abraham, 38, a free worker, said, â€œKha bâ€™Nissan is a call for love, life and
peace on earth.â€
â€œEverything looks beautiful in April 1st, the nature, the animal and the human
being,â€ he added, hoping peace â€œfor the Palestinians who suffer of Israeli
Souria Yousep, 70, an Assyrian resident of Chicago, the United States, said,
â€œApril 1st is a message of love for all humanity.â€
She said, â€œI came here to join my relatives in Syria to celebrate the Assyrian
Michael W.Gilson, 55, an American from Santa Barbara, Ca, said â€œitâ€™s very good
festival for spring and changing from the old year to the new just.â€
â€œItâ€™s good to see Assyrian people celebrating their national heritage in such a
meaningful way,â€ he added.
The Assyrians are spread across the world, with about 70,000 in Chicago. The
head of Assyrian Womenâ€™s Union is Sweden, Elisabet Nison, had come to al-Hasakah
to attend Mondayâ€™s celebration.
â€œNissan is a
message for all the world that we,
exist,â€ Nison said.
Meanwhile, in qamishly, 85
kilometers (50 miles) north east of Hasaka, some 5,000 Assyrians celebrated the
New Year on a heavily raining day.
The Assyrian population of Syria is estimated at more than 150,000 people, of
whom about 90,000 live in Hasakah. While they enjoy freedom of worship, some
Assyrians seek minority status in order to promote their language, Syriac, which
is currently only taught in Assyrian churches.
â€œWe call on the government to recognize Assyrians as a national minority, not
only a religious one,â€ said Aziz Aheh, and executive of the Assyrian Democratic
The rituals of the ancient Assyro-Babylonian New Year celebrations signified
renewal â€“ renewal of life, nature, and of the inhabitants of ancient
Mesopotamia. For 12 days, beginning, different enactments performed by the
public, the priests, and even the king conveyed this important message: death is
conquered; life has once again risen from the cold and dark days of
winter; spring has returned and good has won over the evil.
Through their long historical existence, Assyrians have witnessed many
massacres. The last was in August 1933 in Semeleh, a northern Iraqi town. The
massacre, perpetrated by Iraqi Rashid Killaniâ€™s government, is believed to have
claimed the life of 5,000 Assyrian women, children and men.
The Assyrian Calendar begins with the first recorded year of the â€œbeginning of
civilization.â€ The ancient inhabitants of Assyria, Babylon, and Sumer believed
that civilization was a â€œgift from the godsâ€ and it was marked from the time
â€œkingship was lowered form heaven.â€
The earliest sign of municipal administration (kingship in pre-historic sense)
appears during the Halaf Period in Mesopotamia (over 7,000 years ago).
The most notable characteristics of this period are the sitting goddess
figurines indicating a
goddess-worshipping culture and the distinctive colored potteries with geometric
designs pointing to the existence of a high- culture civilization in