Assyrian-Americans Celebrate the New Year

13.jpgParade in Chicago’s West Rogers Park section is a cultural cornerstone for local community.
By Quintin
At Warren Park soon after the parade, a young girl stood with her mother under an umbrella with the symbol of the Chaldean sun as an Assyrian student group posed for a photo during Sunday’s festivities.Credit Caitlin Botsios
At around 1 p.m. Sunday, the busy intersection of Devon and Western avenues was shut down as throngs of people–many Skokie residents–congregated behind police barriers and floats crawled by decked in a different kind of red, white and blue.

The Assyrian flag was a ubiquitous sight for most of Sunday afternoon along the busy stretch of Western Avenue, between Peterson and Pratt streets, as Assyrian-Americans from across Chicagoland gathered in West Rogers Park neighborhood along a stretch of Western known as honorary King Sargon Boulevard, named after an ancient Assyrian ruler.

The parade was held to celebrate the Assyrian New Year, also called Akitu or Kha B’Nissan, which ushered in the year 6761 on April 1. The holiday is considered an integral cultural festival for Chicago’s Assyrian-Americans.

About 40 religious, cultural and political organizations participated as hundreds gathered along Western, moving into Warren Park before the festivities ended around 4 P.M.

An indigenous minority ethnic group, Christian Assyrians and Chaldeans have long experienced persecution in their homeland of Iraq. In the last 30 years, they were oppressed by Saddam Hussein’s regime, and are now threatened by extremists, such as the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), an Al Qaida affiliate. The persecutions have led to exoduses that have left the Assyrian communities scattered across the Middle East, Europe and the U.S.

More than 10,000 Assyrians now live in or around the area with major population centers on Chicago’s North Side, especially Rogers Park and Andersonville neighborhoods, and in suburbs such as Niles, Skokie, Morton Grove and Maine Park.

As one parade participant, Ninos Lazzar, put it “Assyrians are now an endangered species . . . We’ve been here for at least 2,000 years before Christ, but who knows if we’ll be around for another 200 years.”

Regardless, spirits were high in Warren Park as Assyrian-Americans came together to ring in the New Year with a show of solidarity as hundreds gathered to dance, chant, sing and fly the red, white and blue Assyrian and the purple Zowaa flag.




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