Skip to comments.Opening Eyes To Plight Of Assyrians
Posted on 11/25/2006 7:03:26 PM PST by Alex Murphy
Growing up in Iran, Sharokin Betgevargiz remembers diving into ditches at the sound of approaching MiGs during the Iran/Iraq War. In the apartment she shared with her parents in a Tehran suburb, shelter was found under beds and in doorways. Black tape crisscrossed the windows in case of flying glass.
Now 36, Betgevargiz lives in New Britain and teaches the history of graphic design at Central Connecticut State University. She has not forgotten her childhood terror, nor how she says it felt growing up as a Christian in a mostly Muslim world.
That is how she explains her passion for calling attention to the plight of Assyrians: a less visible, seldom mentioned group than the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds now caught up in the bloodshed ravaging Iraq.
Yet these mostly Christian descendants of the ancient Mesopotamians are frequent targets of fundamentalist Islamists who see them as the face of the West. Abductions and beheadings are common, she says. Men go to work and never return. Women are terrified to leave their homes.
"We equal George Bush" in the eyes of the enemies, said Betgevargiz.
She and other Assyrian Americans living in New Britain have organized events on Sunday and Monday to highlight the struggles of Assyrians in Iraq. Both events will feature films by Lina Yakubova, an Assyrian ethnographer and documentary filmmaker living in Armenia.
The first, scheduled Sunday at 12:30 p.m., is at the Assyrian St. Thomas Cultural Center, 92 McClintock St., New Britain. The second is set for Monday at 7 p.m. at the Torp Theater at Davidson Hall at CCSU.
New Britain has one of the largest Assyrian communities in the Northeast, with 250 households. In Connecticut there are about 5,000 Assyrians, representing about 10,000 estimated to be living in the region, according to the Assyrian National News Agency.
Nationwide, there are an estimated 300,000 Assyrians, the agency says. Most are concentrated in Chicago, Detroit and California. Many are doctors, lawyers, engineers and other professionals who have fled the numerous conflicts in the Middle East since World War II.
Atrocities against Assyrians in the latest Iraq war include the decapitation of a priest last month, the abduction and murder of 15 women and the crucifixion of a 14-year-old boy, according to news reports and local Assyrians.
The origin of the community in New Britain dates to the arrival of 70 Assyrian families sponsored by Presbyterian missionaries at South Church in 1904, Betgevarigiz and others say. Today, this thriving but low-profile community boasts a church, St. Thomas Church of the East, and its own cemetery.
The events Sunday and Monday are part of an effort to establish a safe zone in northern Iraq. A march in Washington is planned Dec. 4; Assyrians from throughout the U.S. are expected.
"When you talk about Iraq, it's not just Muslims," Betgevargiz said. "These are real people with real differences. I don't just want Assyrians to come to these talks. I want everyone."
Imagine that one day Father says " hey family lets move to hell on earth " "we were all excited until we found out there wasnt any plumbing there"
I hope that they have kept their ancient faith and have not converted to protestantism.
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