Iraqi culture misrepresented at last year’s Heritage Festival

5177350.jpgEdmonton Journal
A crew raises one of the pavilion tents for the Heritage Festival in Hawrelak Park. Some cultures are not well represented and some do not have a presence at all at the event, letter writers say. Photographed by:
John Lucas, The Journal, File, Edmonton JournalRe: “Let Edmonton be a multicultural role model; Heritage Fest can highlight cultural mosaic after Norway massacre,” by Paula Simons, July 26.

The Heritage Festival should be an authentic representation of ethnic groups living in Alberta, and not just a social outing for family fun. It should present truthful representations of a particular people.

Many Edmontonians and organizers of this event are unwittingly ignorant of the history of Iraq.

As an Iraqi Assyrian, I am deeply troubled and concerned by the misrepresentation from last year’s Iraq pavilion. This pavilion represented the Gate of Ishtar as the front entrance to the Arab pavilion.

On first seeing this I immediately thought that the Assyrian and Babylonian community in Edmonton was somehow involved. But then I realized this was not so.

I was further shocked to see pictures and documents of my Assyrian and Babylonian heritage represented on PowerPoint as though my heritage was Arab Muslim.

A young Muslim woman talked about the Golden Days of Assyrian and Babylonian heritage and said we are now a minority in Iraq. When I asked her why we are a minority and when did we become a minority, she did not answer.

The Iraqi Muslim Arab pavilion does not represent the Assyrians and Babylonians who were the indigenous people of Iraq.

Arabs came to the Middle East in the seventh century and it was not until the 11th century that Muslims became a majority in Iraq.

We feel Assyrians should not be represented by the very people who have been persecuting us for centuries.

As Assyrians are predominantly Christian, we have been the target of radical Islam.

I came to Canada because I valued freedom and freedom of speech, but why are there many Assyrians here who are afraid to speak out in fear of retaliation from Muslim aggression?

Are they afraid because they do not feel the Canadian support?

And how can Canada support us in the truth if Canada itself is ignorant of the facts?

And even if Canada becomes truly aware, will it even care?

I hope Canadians will see the importance of what has been said in the Iraqi pavilion about our people’s continuity and stability.

We want the facts to remain true and not be lost through gross misrepresentation.

We don’t need Arabs to represent us at the Heritage Festival.

We do not want to lose our heritage any more than we already have.

Anna Mikhaiel, Edmonton