[Europe Section, "Mtakasta"]
40th Anniversary Celebration of ADO in
by ZENDA, May 21, 1998
On Wednesday May 2lst, the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) hosted a function celebrating the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Mtakasta - the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO). The event, held in the Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock, was hosted by the Assyrian Universal Alliance and featured Mr. Ninos Gaboro, the representative of ADO in the United States and Canada.
Mr. John Nimrod, the Secretary General of the AUA introduced Mr. Gaboro and spoke about the recent meetings between AUA and ADO in Europe. He mentioned that ADO has been involved with AUA since its beginning.
Mr. Gaboro opened by providing the audience with a brief history of ADO and its accomplishments: ADO is a national Assyrian political organization and was established in Qamishli, Syria in 1957. ADO traces its roots to the nationalistic teachings of Martyr Ashur Yusuf and Naom Faiq, who in the late 19th and early 20th century were instrumental in the national awakening of the Assyrians in Beth-Nahrain.
The speaker called ADO a "School of Nationalism" and noted its fundamental tenets as population, education, and economy. He continued, "ADO is the first Assyrian political organization that has sought to unify all segments of the Assyrian nation, regardless of their denomination or geographical origins. ADO has supported the education of hundreds of our Assyrian students in our homeland and continues to do so today. And ADO has worked on improving the economic conditions of our people in our villages. "
The audience has also been informed about the current ADO project of supplying drinking water to the 33 Assyrian villages alongside the Khabour river. Turkey in recent years has been damming and diverting water from the Khabour river. The flow of the Khabour has dropped significantly, increasing the concentration of pollutants and making the water unsuitable for drinking. This project was initiated by donations of nearly $20,000 raised from Assyrian individuals and organizations in the U. S. and there are plans to raise another $20,000.
The speaker then discussed ADO's work in Europe: "with the immigration of significant numbers of Assyrians from Turkey and Syria to Western Europe from 1960's on, ADO has been at the forefront of establishing Assyrian organizations in Europe. Currently there are three Assyrian federations in Western Europe. ADO has opened channels of discussion with European governments and currently works with the Assyrian Universal Alliance to represent Assyrian interests in the Unrepresented Nations and People's Organization (UNPO). "
Turning to a map of Bet-Nahrain, Mr. Gaboro sought to clarify that North Iraq is only a small portion of the Assyrian homeland, which has historically included Syria, South-Eastern Turkey, and parts of western Iran. He emphasized that it must be the duty of every Assyrian outside of the Middle East to support the Assyrians in the homeland and encourage them to stay. "Without Assyrians in our homeland, we will lose our national rights," he declared. Mr. Gaboro stated that it had been a general rule for Assyrian organizations not to involve the Assyrian people in the national affairs; that the only people left in the dark about such matters had been the Assyrian people themselves. He acknowledged that this had been a deeply flawed policy and said, "we have to stay true to our people, level with them, and let them be the judge. "
The speaker informed his audience of nearly 200 that ADO was no longer part of the Assyrian National Alliance, known as -Awyutha". He pointed to the fact, that it was Mtakasta which in 1985 invited all Assyrian political parties to establish a platform for mutual cooperation. Unfortunately, the Alliance, entrusted with the task of establishing this platform, was not able to come to terms with its mission.
Mr. Gaboro then discussed the post-Gulf War events in northern Iraq. "When the Assyrians fled to the mountains during the Kurdish uprising, ADO was the first Assyrian Organization that came to the aid of the Assyrians, as the Assyrian organizations in the West were totally unprepared," he said. "ADO has continued to support our people in northern Iraq. Yet there are disagreements between ADO and ZOWAA, the Assyrian Democratic Movement. ADO does not agree with calling the liberated area Kurdistan. If that is their Kurdistan, then where is our Ashuristan?" he asked. "The blood of our Assyrian people is not being spilled for the Kurds to call our homeland Kurdistan," he added. Moreover, he stated that there was no security in North Iraq for the Assyrian inhabitants; that the Kurds had continued to intimidate the Assyrian population and violated their rights. "If the region is truly liberated", then the question is: "by whom and for whom?", he asked. He added that "it is not enough for Assyrians to teach their language, hold Kha b'Neesan festivities, and celebrate Easter and Christmas in northern Iraq; we could do those things under other authoritarian regimes ruling our homeland. We have not been able to raise our voices to the Kurds," he declared.
He further stated that the one term allocation of only five seats in the parliament for the Assyrian inhabitants of the North was not enough. In the 1950's, he noted, before the Kurdish uprising against the central government resulted in large scale displacement of our Assyrian villagers who were caught in the cross fire, North Iraq was one-third Assyrian.
In the final segment of his speech, Gaboro spoke of the divisions that have split the Assyrian nation along religious lines in the past 1300 years. "Until 6th century, there was one Assyrian church. Since then, schisms have split our nation into five major churches; the Jacobite Church, the Maronite Church, Church of the East, the Chaldean Church, and the Melkite Church. These divisions, and their minor offshoots, have eroded our national identity and caused our people to distance themselves from each other," he said.
Gaboro, a long-time representative of the ADO in the U. S. and Canada, closed by stating, "the lesson we have learned in the past forty years is that we need numbers. We cannot demand our national rights in the Middle East with 50,000 or 100,000 people. We need to start with a lowest common denominator to build a consensus of all five million of us, irrespective of all the different names we have learned to call ourselves. We are the same people. "