CHICAGO, Illinois — The largest pro-American rally to happen in the United States to date was held in Chicago this past Sunday by thousands of Assyrian-Americans who support the U.S. operations in Iraq.
Assyrians are the indigenous people of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon. They come from the vast area that was once known as Mesopotamia, with the heart or capital of their original homeland being located between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, in what is now modern day Iraq.
"There are about 95,000 of us living in the Chicagoland area," said Peter Dagher, an Assyrian-American who ran for Blago's vacated congressional seat as a Democratic candidate. "My brother is a U.S. Air Force pilot," he continued. "It's great for us to see how he went from being a typical kid with a messy room to a Lieutenant Colonel. We're all very proud of him and the others who are over there doing this terrible work and risking their lives."
Eddie Nissan, President of the Assyrian Social Club on North Pulaski Avenue, said many of his in-laws were able to get out of Iraq just before the bombing started, gaining safety across the border in Jordan. Born in Iraq with an advanced degree in engineering, Eddie stated, "I don't understand the protestors. They have no idea what it's like in those countries, particularly in Iraq under the Hussein regime. People disappear for no reason. They are tortured and murdered every day. I can't see why these kids protest when our American troops are doing good by getting rid of Saddam and his Ba'ath Party."
Talking to the Assyrians at this rally and at the Assyrian Social Club was an educational experience for this reporter.
They are serious about their lineage, origins and religion. All Assyrians are Christians and they come from many different lands. Regardless of where they were born, they consider themselves Christians first, Assyrians second, with individual nationalism (place of birth) taking a minor position in their lives. Iraq is the home of the Garden of Eden, which is the birthplace of Adam and Eve and beginning of mankind. The Assyrians are the original inhabitants of these lands with a calendar that dates back over six millenniums. This is their New Year and they are celebrating number 6,753. Their calendar is older than the Jewish and Chinese calendars.
Ancient Mesopotamia was conquered by Muslim forces and Islam was installed as the official religion in the region. The Assyrians refused to renounce Christianity and have suffered hundreds of years of torture, genocide and exile as a result.
Iraqi Foreign Minister, Tariq Aziz, is an Assyrian and Christian. Inquiring about him brought a mixed response from the people at this rally.
Some acted as though he was a traitor to his family, while some expressed regrets about his actions, dismissing them with an understanding tone.
"Tariq Aziz was a young man when the Ba'ath Party took over his village in Iraq," said one Assyrian man. "He had to assimilate or perish. It's that simple. Many were trained in the same way the Nazis trained the Hitler Youth."
"Getting rid of Saddam Hussein is a thirty year dream come true for Assyrians," said Marine Shapira.
Eddie Nissan said it all.... "People in this country should be happy to live here and enjoy these freedoms. Many have no idea what wonderful rights they possess."
To learn more about the Assyrian-American Community, visit their website at: http://www.aanf.org
Peter Dagher and Marina Shapira advised they started putting this rally together three days ago, just by making some phone calls and spreading the word. Imagine what a crowd there would've been if they had just a little more time to organize.
While the U.S. news media focuses on the negative, hoping to have poor results that will harm President Bush politically, Assyrian-Americans are proud of the efforts made by Bush and his administration.
“God Bless President Bush, the brave troops and the American People!” shouted one man in the crowd. This was met with loud chants of... “USA! USA! USA!” Video