Posts tagged ‘support assyrians’

The Spark that started a revolution: Navigating Four Crucial Trends Post the Assyrian Wedding Fire in Baghdada (Qaraqosh), Iraq

By Ashur Sada, founder and webmaster of Assyrian Voice Network

Can the town of Baghdeda (Qaraqosh) take more hits?
In the 2010 Baghdad church massacre, a lot of those affected were from this town and surrounding areas in the Nineveh Plain region. Then a few years later, the town and the whole region in general was invaded by ISIS, causing unimaginable destruction and hundreds of thousands of people to flee for years. And after a few years of relative stability, where a lot of people went back to their homes, we thought things are finally turning around. Not so fast! There was something as bad or worse than all previous hardships and tragedies: a deadly fire that would kill 110+ people, in a happy occasion like a wedding out of all places!

The recent tragic and catastrophic fire at an Assyrian wedding in Baghdeda , north of Iraq, has left an enduring mark on the hearts and minds of not just the Assyrian and Iraqi communities but has resonated globally. A local man from the town said it best: “even during the 2014 ISIS invasion, we didn’t suffer this much. At least back then we had a warning and most of us could flee. Not so much with this fire”

While it may be premature or even insensitive to make any conclusions or make predictions about future implications, it is an unavoidable topic. Given the magnitude of the tragedy and the unimaginable suffering people have experienced and will experience for a long time, this will mean changes, new adjustments, and a frankly a revolution from the old way of how things were done. Here are 4 shifts that I think will result or change as a result of this. This is not to suggest these are all good changes, but simply changes that will come out of this calamity.

Celebrations
While it’s true that not all weddings and venues are unsafe, especially in the diaspora where safety measures are more enforced and strict, this wedding tragedy prompts people to reconsider large celebrations. Regardless of safety concerns, the focus shifts to the joy derived from smaller weddings, with fewer attendees and in more intimate venues, creating an overall more intimate experience. While there was already some traction towards smaller celebrations in the west, this will eventually gain traction in Iraq and the middle east in general as well. Not just the size and celebration, but the whole approach to weddings and how complicated they have become in recent times. A wedding should be a cause for celebration and joy – something to look forward to – and not something we dread or makes us feel exhausted.

Immigration
As mentioned earlier, people in the region can only take so much. After enduring terrorism, ISIS invasion, political infighting, a lack of services, and now this horrific tragedy, residents may ponder, “What comes next is not a question of if but when, as we feel this region is effectively cursed, denying us peace even in our happiest moments.” The town of Baghdeda (known as Qaraqosh in Syriac or Hamdanya in Arabic) in the Nineveh Plain region lies at the heart of the dwindling Assyrian presence. If immigration resurfaces as a threat, the region won’t withstand further population loss, having already seen hundreds of thousands depart since the 2003 U.S invasion of Iraq. While Assyrians exist in other parts of the country, the Nineveh Plain is the heartbeat of the Assyrian nation. If this heartbeat stops, revival becomes challenging. While people will not leave because there was a very tragic and deadly accident at a wedding – accidents happen everywhere – it is about the broader picture, and how corruption, lack of safety measures etc. could have led to this very preventable tragedy.

Safety
This segue into our next and very important topic: safety
Safety is a shockingly strange concept in Iraq.
While reading foreign coverage and discussion of this tragic fire, I was struck by some online commentary on pictures from the aftermath. These were some of their reactions, which puts the whole thing into prospective:

I’m looking at the pics and those guys just walking around with the roof hanging like that !??  oh naw”
“Right? The guys walking around fire wreckage with sandals on are going to tell us that indoor pyrotechnics are safe…”

These two comments truly puts how safety is approached in Iraq in a whole new prospective. Imagine, even in the aftermath of such a historical fire, people are still paying no attention to safety whatsoever. By safety, we are not talking wedding safety only, but the way people live and operate in Iraq and the middle east in general. The incident underscores the need for a thorough review and potential strengthening of safety and building codes in Iraq. It highlights the importance of having stringent regulations in place to ensure the safety of public gatherings. Future implications may involve more rigorous inspection processes and increased enforcement of safety measures during events, especially those involving large crowds. The incident may prompt a reevaluation of certain traditions, such as the use of fireworks indoors, whether or not they eventually are found to have caused the fire. People should refuse to hold their events in venues that don’t have basic safety and fire code requirements, such as sprinklers, adequate safety exists and signs and a proper emergency plan. We really take these things for granted when living in the west, and while it is not perfectly safe here, the idea is to be mindful of what it takes to be safe, while enjoying the occasion.

Services
Imagine this: in response to this horrific tragedy, it took some time for a fire truck to finally arrive on the scene. Even more shocking, the truck had a limited water supply, and it eventually ran out. In other words, they arrived both late and inadequately prepared! Some reports allege that the second truck sent also faced similar issues with an insufficient water supply. We place our faith in governments and civil defense forces to assist us in times of need, but, in reality, they often fall short. In this instance, when firefighting services were most needed, they failed miserably, at least in the crucial first hours of extinguishing the fire and rescuing people. This easily explains why the death toll is so high, in addition to the initial safety red flags that have been pointed out as a cause. This all goes back to the broader discussion of services, or lack thereof. While Iraq has had a lot of tragic accidents in recent two decades since the toppling of the previous regime, this one should hopefully renew discussion about basic services the government offers to the public, how good they are, and whether they meet their basic needs. More importantly, in a country where bribes are rampant and public firings are used as a dress rehearsal to show an intent to make a change, getting the government to pay more attention to how it delivers services to its citizens is the least we could ask for. It is starts with more ownership, responsibility and accountability from all those involved, be it business, government or even those using these services and venues. People are already hopeless and think like many tragedies in the country in the last few years, this one will soon be forgotten and the findings will not get to the bottom of what really happened.

While it might seem inconsiderate to suggest, in a country like Iraq where positive changes are rare, it often takes a once-in-a-lifetime tragedy to ignite meaningful transformations. Unfortunately, many of us harbor doubts about the likelihood of such changes occurring. With the government more focused on rhetoric and public image than on taking tangible actions for genuine improvement, individuals may find themselves compelled to take matters into their own hands. Regrettably, this could involve the difficult decision to leave the country and seek refuge in the West. Let us fervently hope and pray that the tragic spark that led to this devastating fire will, in turn, spark positive changes rather than further negative consequences for our people in the region.

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Buy from Assyrians

Let me start by asking you this simple question, whose answer may not be an easy or accurate one to find out: how many Assyrians live in your city or region? if you are in a city like Detroit, Chicago, Sydney or Toronto, chances are, there is more than a few thousands Assyrians living in your area. It is also very likely that you share the same postal code with some hundreds of them. Now the next question is: how many Assyrian businesses exist in your area? none, a few, or maybe many of them? let us take Toronto or Detroit for example. How many Assyrian auto mechanic shops are there? how many Assyrian/Middle Eastern restaurants are there in Detroit? I am sure there is more than a few.

Now the next question is: with so many thousands of Assyrians living in these big cities, and with lots of established Assyrian businesses and franchises, why not bring the two closer together? that is, why not have most Assyrians buying from Assyrian businesses, while the Assyrian businesses to tailor their services and products for these Assyrian customers? In other words, Assyrians are going to buy and spend money anyways, so why not spend it in Assyrian stores and businesses where possible? those businesses in turn will support community events, social and religious charities etc. So it is more of a self-enforcing cycle; the Assyrian consumer supports the Assyrian business and vise versa.


In talking to people, I have noticed that some of them have had a negative dealing with Assyrian businesses at times. This may be true but it should in no way prevent an exchange between the two. After all, if we can’t establish trust between our own community members, how can we trust the world? more trust should be built between the two. In fact, Assyrian businesses should promote themselves to the Assyrian consumer more often.  This can be done through traditional advertising or public campaigns, channeled through community mediums.

Now you may be wondering, why focus on the Assyrian customer, don’t these businesses already have their own customers? they probably do, but imagine these made-up examples

-Sydney, Australia has 5 Assyrian hair shops. Sydney has some 30,000 Assyrians living in them. If one third of this population was to use these Assyrian hair stylists, we would be giving them business like no other.

-An Assyrian auto mechanic in Chicago: now Chicago has got, arguably, the biggest Assyrian population outside of the middle east. With at least 10,000 Assyrian drivers in the city, and some 10 Assyrian auto service shops, we could be creating a fortune for these guys, if a big fraction of these drivers went to these mechanic, as opposed to non-Assyrian ones.

-A food super market in Toronto: if 500 Assyrian families were to buy part of their monthly shopping from one of the many Assyrian food stores in Toronto, these businesses would profit greatly.

In other words, it is really easy to help our businesses, and help establish a virtual Assyrian economy which spans boarders and time zones.  In fact, if the above scenarios were implemented and applied, we could easily create new Assyrian millionaires, which is not a bad thing at all.  So what should you, as a consumer, do to help? well you can do a lot. To begin with, make sure you try to give your money to an Assyrian businesses as much as possible. Try to tell your friends and relatives about all Assyrian businesses in your area. Note that, by this, we are not calling of a boycott of non-Assyrian businesses and products. We are simply giving Assyrian businesses a priority.

And finally, www.AssyrianVoice.net , a website of which I am a part of and its founder, has dedicated “July 1st”, to be an annual “Buy from an Assyrian” day, where Assyrians are encouraged to go out and buy something from an Assyrian. So mark this day on your calendar and make sure you go out and buy something on this day, from an Assyrian. In fact, you should make this habit, and buy something from an Assyrian, at least once every month.

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