Assyrians in Australia celebrating Assyria Day

Sydney – 3 July, 2013.
The 2013 Assyria Day conference was held on the Sunday 30th of June, 2013. Just over 150 young Assyrians from all over Sydney, as well as from Canberra and Melbourne, gathered at Nineveh Lounge for the 3rd annual Assyria Day conference, making it the largest Assyria Day conference held in NSW. The theme for this year’s conference was ‘Return to Assyria’.

The conference was officially opened by The Hon. Chris Bowen MP, Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia, and member for McMahon. Mr Bowen thanked the organisers and emphasised the importance that The Young Assyrians were hosting this conference. He reaffirmed his personal position supporting the establishment of an “Autonomous Assyrian Homeland” in Iraq. Mr Bowen went on to say that he understands that if granted a homeland, not everyone would return, but that Assyrians should have the right to return. Speaking of an Autonomous Homeland, Mr Bowen said “Ive reached the view that it is essential so that Assyrian people can live in peace and freedom in Iraq”. He went on to say that he believes “that day will come”. And “That things on the international stage do not come automatically, but rather through pressure, activism and involvement”. He concluded by congratulating the Assyrian Universal Alliance and The Young Assyrians, wishing them all the best for Assyria Day.

The Young Assyrians’ Chairperson, Mr. Ninos Aaron said the conference gave him “great hope for the future of the Assyria”.

This year, the conference featured keynote speakers from different areas of expertise. Speaking at the Assyria Day conference were Ms. Lydna Ben-Menashe, NGO Relations Manager of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies; Ms. Suzy David, of David Legal, a solicitor and barrister admitted to the NSW and High Court of Australia; Dr. Racho Donef, an historian and researcher.

Lynda present on the establishment of the State of Israel. Detailing the legal rights/grounds of Israel as well as the challenges faced then, and now. Drawing parallels between the Assyrian people’s struggle for statehood, safety and security in their ancestral homeland and that of Israel.
“I couldn’t believe the parallels” said Simon, a 18 year old attendee. “The betrayals, the struggles and the passion of the Jewish people, it was like looking into the future of Assyria, unbelievable.”

“Lynda’s presentation was my favourite by far” noted Sarah David. “She spoke so well, and with passion. She even could see the similarities between our two peoples”

Following Lydna, Suzy David presented on the legal grounds and rights of the establishment of an Assyrian State. Affirming the right of Assyrians to exist in harmony, peace & security with their neighbours by exercising the Right to Self Determination and all other international conventions and treaties.

David Solomon commented, “ This presentation absolutely changed my whole perspective on whether or not we can get our nation back. It’s no longer a matter of can we, but rather will we. It’s possible, and today I’ve been made a believer.”

“A big thanks to The Young Assyrians” said Len Yousef, “you guys did a great job. I was blown away by Suzy’s presentation, she was so thorough, so meticulous, it was what we all needed to hear”.

The final presentation was by Dr. Racho Donef who examined the many terms that have been used to define Assyrians such as Syrians, Jacobites, Nestorians , Chaldeans and Arameans.

“This is the type of information that the whole nation needs to know. This is what will unite us. It was historical and factual, no nonsense. I wish I had brought some friends along” said John Boulus.

Mr Aaron said the speakers were a key part of the conference as they provided participants with necessary intellectual information.

He said young Assyrians were sometimes derided as dreamers for pursuing nationalistic aspirations.

“But I found the opposite to be true ¬- that a nationalistic mind is the most realistic mind there is, it takes a first-class mind to be a nationalist.” Mr Aaron said “Today a lot of people became convinced of the fact that an Assyrian State is possible”

“We are filling the void of much needed, hard hitting and informative events, empowering our youth and our people with the knowledge required to bring about change” said George Dadisho, Vice Chair of The Young Assyrians.

“Overall, and from what I gathered from the attendees, it was a smashing success” said Susan George, The Young Assyrians committee member and MC for the event. “People seemed very happy to be a part of such a professional conference. It makes me proud to be involved in something that uplifts my people.”
The day’s events continued on at Nineveh Reception, where the Official Assyria Day Celebratory Event took place, beginning at 5:00pm.

The event began with an official speech delivered by Mr. Hermiz Shahen, Vice Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance. Mr Shahen detailed the exodus of Assyrians from their ancestral homelands, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey during the last century up till the modern tragedy of the Gulf War. Mr Shahen emphasised the importance of Assyrians not forgetting their land, though they have been driven out. “Assyria Day binds us to our homeland” he said. “This is the importance of Assyria Day”. He spoke of his gladness of youth participation. Mr Shahen detailed the success of having two motions passed in the State Parliament of NSW recognising the Assyrian Genocide. He also spoke of the triumph of passing two motions in the Federal Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, one for the protection of Assyrians and the other for the establishment of an Assyrian Autonomous Homeland, the first of its kind in the world.

Mr Shahen was followed by speeches from Mr David David, President of the Assyrian Australian National Federation; Mr Shlimon Haddad, AUA Regional Secretary, Western Europe; Mr Simon Essavian, President of the Assyrian Charity and Educational Community; Mr Tammuz Tammuz from the NSW Babylon Cultural Association. The speeches were followed by a two poems by the famous Assyrian poet, Yousip Menashi.

Afterwards, speeches were delivered by members of the Assyrian Universal Alliance Youth Association, The Young Assyrians. First, the Vice Chairman, George Dadisho outlined the importance of Assyria Day 2013 in connection with the motion passed in Federal Parliament calling for an Assyrian Homeland. George was followed by Anna David, committee member of The Young Assyrians, who spoke of the past, present and future of Assyrians.
Mrs Carmen Lazar, Principal of Diqlat Assyrian Schools of the Assyrian Australian Association, spoke of the importance of Assyrian Day as a catalyst for unity within our Nation and congratulated the AUA on such an important and valuable initiative in establishing Assyria Day.

She was followed by a speech by one of the hundreds of students of Diqlat School, Catherine Haroon. Catherine gave a moving speech on what it means to be Assyrian, as well as the importance of learning the Assyrian language. Her speech was based on the stories told by her mother about life in the homeland.

Finally, a show stealing performance by about 50 students of Diqlat Assyrian School, closed the program. A short composition of Assyrian students envisioning a future Assyrian State weaved together with western and eastern thinking. With an emphasis on learning and cherishing our language and traditions as well as our homeland. The performance culminated in a powerfully moving song performance by the students which had the crowd standing, clapping, cheering and waving Assyrian Flags.

The celebrations continued through the night with the third part of the Assyria Day celebrations. A concert by two of Australia’s most loved singers, Charles Tooma and Randa Yacoub started at 7:00pm. The two stars performed single sets as well as duets. Their rendition of “Ya Broona d’Shimsha” being one of the night’s most memorable performances. The attendees danced and celebrated their Assyrian identity, culture and Nation through the night.

The Young Assyrians
Assyrian Universal Alliance-Australian Chapter
PO Box 34, Fairfield NSW 1860 Australia.