Archive for March 2011

Nineb Lamasso: an Assyrian like no other

Assyrians’ history spans thousands of years, more than anyone can study or be able to know it all. Therefore, I generally like to categorize the Assyrian history into different eras and periods, starting from the great ancient empire of 3000 years ago, up to the latest period which started in the late 18th century.

While we may have Assyriologist and experts into the ancient Assyrian empire, there are not many experts on the Assyrians of the last 200 years, especially those in the region of Hakkari. There was the great late Hormiz Abouna, but he passed away 2 years ago.

Meet Nineb Lamasso who is the new expert on Assyrians and their existence in the Hakkari region in the last 200 years. In fact, he could very well be the most authoritative voice on Assyrians history in the region of Hakkari.

Born in the Assyrian city of Kirkuk in Iraq, Mr.Lamasso has made more than one trip to the Assyrian region of Hakkari in Southeastern Turkey and Northern Iraq. I was one of the lucky ones to attend his two lectures here in Toronto over the weekend, where he demonstrated it all.

There, he documented, interviewed locals and took pictures of various Assyrian villages – abandoned by Assyrians for over 100 years now- and other places of extreme significance to Assyrians. He was able to get to such villages and churches that we have only heard of in legend stories, songs and read about in books. But virtually no living Assyrian had seen them, until Nineb Lamasso made his research trips to the region.

Which is why I like to refer to him as the ‘Assyrian like no other Assyrian.’ Literally!

His work and research should culminate in a book to be published in the future.  His book, using modern GPS technology and various other archaeological equipment, will help map where all former Assyrian villages and churches were, complete with high-def images that he was able to take.

While his work is currently part of his own academic research and thesis completion, it could lead to better and bigger things. For one, they could pave the way for Assyrians to go back to the region, whether for visiting or to live there again. In fact, certain villages (i.e Gaznakh) have seen a wave of Assyrians coming back to live in them. The war situation between the Turkish government and the Kurdish rebels may not help, but the hope is that it will slowly return to normal.

While it is great to have someone like Nineb Lamasso, working to document and certify our history, we need more like him. Better yet, people have to support him, whether it is by going to his lectures or buying his future work publications.  He may not be a politician, lobbyist or a wealthy Assyrian, but his effort could prove more valuable to the fate of our nation and its future in the region. After all, it is  strange and unfortunate that virtually no Assyrian has visited this area for close to 100 years, despite it being the land of our ancestors and of close proximity to where our other villages in Nineveh and Nohadra happen to be.


Assyria Loses a History Giant: Mourning the Passing of Archaeologist Donny George

It is always nice having people studying and specializing in the field of ‘Assyriology’, where the focus is on the ancient civilization and Assyrians’ contributions to humanity. And when you have an Assyrian working in the field of Assyriolog, then that is not just good but a great service for the field.

That was the case with the late Dr.Donny George, Assyrian archaeologist, curator, author and former director of the Iraqi national museum, who suddenly passed away to a heart-attack in Toronto’s international airport. He was 60 years old.

Dr.George’s sudden and unexpected death has left the Assyrian and international community mourning for a giant of Assyrian and other ancient Mesopotamian history, including Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian and others.  Not to mention, his extraordinary effort as the former director of the Iraqi national museum, and his work after the war to restore all the thousands of pieces of looted artifacts.  Unfortunately, his efforts weren’t appreciated and was actually threatened to quit his post. In 2006, he did just that and left Iraq for the diaspora. In the last few years, he settled in the USA and taught archaeology and anthropology at various universities.

While we have lost a true legend and giant, the real question is, do Assyrians have someone of his knowledge and passion, that is ready to replace him? now or in the future. Our nation has  lost a lot of greats in the last few years, including author Hormiz Aboona, soccer coaching legend Ammo Baba, painter and professor Hannibal Alkhas and now Dr.Donny George. Are they gone forever, or will we be able to replace them with others who are just as good and passionate about their field of expertise and in the service of their nation?