Lies and propaganda of Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis

By William M. Warda

In recent months ankawa.com has published several articles by Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis whose biography indicates that he is of Turkish origin, living in Greece, and is known by some as propagandist. Judging from his writing his recent mission is to redefine our Assyrian identity (a.k.a. Chaldeans and Syriacs ) as Aramean, to confuse our history, heritage and identity.

Turks, Arabs, and Kurds who in the past often resorted to massacring the Christians living among them in recent years have found it profitable to use historical misinformation and propaganda to divide and disposes them not only of their homeland also to undermine their culture, history, heritage and identity to facilitate their assimilation. It was to this end that Saddam Hossain forced Assyrians to sign identity correction statements to identify themselves as “Christian Arabs” and he had the history texts rewritten to define ancient Mesopotamian civilizations i.e. Assyrians, Babylonians and Akkadeans as Arabs though there is no historical evidence to support such claim.

In fact the first mention of Arabs was by the Assyrian Monarch Shalmaneser III. He lists them as part of an alliance of several states which he defeated in 853 BC. The Arabu whose homeland was in Arabia had provided a thousand camels to the rebel forces, from then on Arabi or Arabu were mentioned in the Assyrian inscriptions as subservient to their Assyrian overlords to whom they paid tributes consisting of camels and other animals.

The suppression of the Assyrian identity in Iraq began after the 1933 Semil massacres. By the end of the British mandate Assyrians who had helped Due to that tragic event on top of the greater World War One massacres of their people 25 years earlier Christians of Iraq were so traumatized that many were afraid to identify themselves as Assyrians.

Aprim Shapera writes:

“The Syriac Orthodox Church’s documents and memorial evidences show that nearly all its clergies who were born in the northern part of Iraq (Assyria) proudly titled their names or surnamed by “The Assyrian” ­ Al Athouri – including the Patriarch who was known as Mar Ephrim Barsoum Al Athouri. But sadly, after the Semail massacre and the physical, national, legal and political tragic consequences which befell the Assyrians of Iraq, all clergies began to delete the title of Assyrian from their names including Mar Ephrim, who was well-known as a nationalist following WW1. After the Semail event, and particularly after Mar Ephrim ascended to the Patriarchal See, [in 1933] he became an anti-Assyrian attacking anyone claiming Assyrian identity or involved in the national case, including Mar Shimoun Eishay the Patriarch of the Church of the East who was involved with the Assyrian national case. …. Mar Aphrim [Barsoum] started promoting Arabism and became known among Arab nationalistic circles as ‘ The priest of Pan Arabism’ and ‘The great magnate of Arabs’ as described by the Metropolitan Mar Ishaq Saka in his book (The Syrians ­ Faith and Civilization, Aleppo archdiocese publications, Syria, 1983, P.145).”(1)

A prominent member of the Syrian Orhodox Church from Iraq in a 1939 letter to Farid Nuz’ha; an Assyrian nationalist, member of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Argentina who had established the ‘Association Asiria” for his community and published a magazine called the”Asiria” [Assyria], suggested that he should change the name of his magazine to Syrian because his government [Iraq] was against anyone promoting the names Assyria or Assyrians.(2) In Reply Farid Nuz’ha reasoned: such appeasements can lead to other restrictions and future difficulties.

“What you will do if your dictatorial master said to you pull out the cross from the door of your church and if he forbids the Christian community from ringing the bells? What you will reply to him if tomorrow he said to you that Syriac teaching is contrary to the official education system? You do not expect such disasters to occur! However, since you submitted to him with subservience and cowardice, this will encourage him to greater immoderation of oppression and absolutism. Tomorrow he will say to you; Hey, you Syrians if you are faithful to your country and government, then the only way to demonstrate it is by replacing your Syriac language with Arabic. What will you then give as a reply to your government?”
He also explained the folly of sacrificing ethnic identity for the sake of denominational supremacy:
“A religion or faith could be shared by many nations, as it is our status with Copts and Ethiopians, but there is no sharing of ethnicity. If we deprive the ethnicity from our people what will remain of their singularity? I am sure you will say: religion. I say, they can get the same religion elsewhere, such as Egypt and Ethiopia and that is happening because of your teachings. If Syriac is nothing more than a religion or denomination then I truly say we are not in need for it.”

Nuzah also wrote:
“Anyone with a minimum knowledge of language and history knows that Syrian word is originated from the Greek term “Assyrian” which is same name as “Ashori”. Apart from that, everybody knows that Assyrian is not a religious name….”
He ended his reply by stating:
“However, if the name Assyrian refers to those who had rejected merger with or melting in Arabism and resisted the oppressive governments, and who consequently suffered murder,

persecution, looting and all kinds of injustices & horror, that is an exclusive great honor to them. Future generations will commemorate that martyrdom and will remember those disasters committed by the foes of God and humanity as long as there is a human being on this earth.” Signed: Syriac Writer (Farid Nuz’ha) Buenos Aires, February 1939.

Whether due to external pressure or other reasons in 1952 patriarch Aphrim Barsoum of the Syrian Orthodox Church began a campaign to eradicate the Assyrian identity of the members of his church. He reasoned that the Syrian Orthodox Church had been known as Syrian but since this title was used by the Rum Orthodox (Antiochian) Church in North America, to avoid confusion, he recommended the name Aramaic to be adopted for the Syriac language and the term Aramaean to refer to the Church. (3) In other words this name began to be promoted starting in 1952 by a patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox church for irrational reasons primarily to separate members of that Church from the other Assyrian denominations. The name Aramean is presently promoted by some hard core members of the Syrian Orthodox Church not only in reference to members of their church also to others who since time immemorial have been known as Assyrian. See ;
 http://christiansofiraq.com/joseph/reply2.html

Mor Barsoum’s claim that members of his Church are Arameans was contrary to existing historical facts also to how past patriarchs of that church during many centuries had identified their people as. For example Patriarch Michael the great (1126-99) in his history writes:

[When]The Greeks were offending the Jacobites in the first half of the 9th century by saying:
  ‘Your Syrian sect has no importance neither honor, and you did never have a kingdom, neither an honorable king’. The Jacobites answered by saying that even if their name is “Syrian”, but they are originally ‘Assyrians’ “and they have had many honorable kings.” This is in line with the contemporary Assyrian claim that the terms Syrian, Suryoye applied to them mean Assyrian. He further wrote: “..Syria is in the west of Euphrates, and its inhabitants who are talking our Aramaic language, and who are so-called ‘Syrians’, are only a part of the ‘all’, while the other part which was in the east of Euphrates, going to Persia, had many kings from Assyria and Babylon and Urhay. (4) The Greeks evidently directed their comments to the Jacobites of Syria therefore Michael differentiates between them and those who lived east of Euphrates, whom he considered of the Assyrian and Babylonian origin. He wrote:
  ” Assyrians, who were called ‘Syrians’ by the Greeks, were also the same

Assyrians, I mean ‘Assyrians’ from ‘Assure’ who built the city of Nineveh”. (40) This concurs with his contemporary Gewargis Arbilaya’s [from Arbil] and others before and after him who have identified their people as Assyrians and Babylonians.

In fact, even Patriarch Aphrim Barsoum in a petitionm, during the Paris peace Conference of 1920 had identified his people as Assyrians.

“We have the honor of bringing before the Peace Conference the information that H.B. the Syrian Patriarch of Antioch has entrusted me with the task of laying before the Conference the suffering and the wishes of our ancient Assyrian nation who reside mostly in the upper valleys of Tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia…” (5)

The 1927 issue of the Worcester Telegram and Gazette reported that on other occasions Mor Aphrim Barsum had proudly identified his people as Assyrians. (6)

By promoting Aramean as the identity of the Assyrians (including Chaldeans and Sriacs) Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis is exploiting a misguided intercommunity event as a pretext to divide our people and assign incorrect identity for them to hide the fact that Turkey was responsible for the massacre of the Assyrians of Turkey, the north west Iran and the mountains of Kurdistan during world war one. In his writings he mentions the 1915 genocide of the so-called Arameans but fails to reveal that it was done by his Turkish forefathers with the help of the Kurds. He also fails to mention that between 1983 to 1990 a hundred thousand members of the Syrian Orthodox Church who proudly call themselves Assyrians were driven out of Turkey, forced to migrate to Europe where they often protest Turkey’s past persecution of their people. It is Muhammad Shamsaddin’s intentions and that of Turkey’s government to confuse these people’s protests by
 pretending that they are Arameans to silence their protests since there were no reports of Arameans being massacred during world war One because that name was not in use at that time.

Teaching of the Syriac language is still illegal in Turkey, parents are forced to give their children Turkish names, most of the Assyrian churches and monasteries have been nationalized, even now part of the land belonging to the Mor Goriel monastery is in danger of being confiscated, but Muhammad Shamsaddin has nothing to say about these justices. See: http://www.aina.org/releases/20081223215249.htm

In another dishonest example of his writings Muhammad Shamsaddin in behalf of the so-called “Aramean nation” appeals for help from the President-elect Barack Obama by writing: “The result of this was that a part of our nation started identifying itself as “Chaldeans” (since the 16th century) and another part as “Assyrians” (since the 19th century)” Such a claim betrays either his ignorance of history or is due to intentional dishonesty. Thousands of references attest to the fact that inhabitants of Mesopotamia who later became Christians were known as “Assyrians form the fall of Nineveh to the present.” Some of these references can be found at the following web-site: http://christiansofiraq.com/facts.html

1- Ahprim Shapera, “A Great Message from a Great Assyrian Man,” http://www.aanf.org/America/assyrians/great_assyrian_man.htm
2- Ibid.
3- Edip Aydin “The History of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch in North America: Challenges and Opportunities,” Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Crestwood, New York
4- (History of Mikhael The Great” Chabot Edition (French) P: 750) as quoted by Addai Scher, Hestorie De La Chaldee Et De “Assyrie”)
5- Sebastian De Courtois, The Forgotten Genocide, Gorgias press 2004, appendix 128
6- Edip Ayden ibid.
and: http://christiansofiraq.com/joseph/barsoum.html